Battle for Azeroth

Jaina (TCG)

(Image from the WoW Trading Card Game, whose body is buried in Hearthstone’s back yard)

It’s a bit more than a week since the big reveal at Blizzcon – Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth will be a thing.  The theme to this expansion will be that of faction warfare between the Horde and Alliance.  I, on the other hand, just call it The Jaina Expansion.

Jaina (BlizzCon 2017 Key Art).png

(Image from Blizzcon 2017 key art. Cosplay by Taylor Swift)

The theme of this one is that for some reason, the Horde has decided, after working with us for some time to save Azeroth from countless nasty things, that the time has come to wipe  us out.  Word has it that Sylvanas has a thing for Stormwind, which is why she turns around and burns down Teldrassil.  You’d expect Silvermoon’s finest Ranger to have better aim than that, but there ya go.

(By the way, it’s been officially confirmed that Sylvanas shot first.)

As a result, the Alliance strikes back at Lorderon.  I won’t spoil it for you, but who won this one has also been officially confirmed.

(I’m not a member of the undead night elf fetish club, but the way, but the vice actor for Sylvanas has one of the most interesting voices in the genre.  I could listen to her read the phone book.)

Aw, hell, I can’t get away from giving it away a little … the upshot is that Alliance ends up with exactly one base in Kalimdor – the Exodar – and Horde with one in the Eastern Kingdoms – Silvermoon. Sorry, haters, but it’s kinda fundamental to discussing what we know, ya know?

Jaina (WotLK Ulduar)

(Image from Ulduar announcement cinematic. I always liked big-nose Jaina the best.)

First things first. We don’t know yet how much this affects contended areas like Gadgetstan or Booty Bay, but I seriously doubt it will affect them at all. They were contested before, they still are now. Fine.  That also means that I suspect that little outposts, such as what’s left of Theramore and Revantusk Village, will remain largely unchanged, though security might get beefed up.  I doubt there’s a good lore-related reason for this, but in terms of game mechanics, I imagine it would be a lot more work than they have time for, unless release date is sometime in 2020.

They already have enough to do.  The losses of two major capital cities is going to likely re-arrange the political geography of much of the two continents.

Teldrassil’s loss will likely lead to the loss of Darkshore and Ashenvale.   Which is a shame since it seems that all that Horde does with woods  is cut them down. Don’t get me started.

Lorderon’s loss will likely lead to re-integration of the two Plaguelands (already partially integrated, but maybe they’ll remain contested), Hillsbrad, Alterac, Silverpine, and Tirisfal. It is also likely that Gilneas will be fully restored, and I suspect that this will become the new capital city of the Worgen and Night Elves, since the Night Elves hosted the Worgen up to now. I have no idea where the Forsaken will end up hosting, but I suspect they might be pushed into the Ghostlands (somewhat appropriate), thought that might involve Blizz having to rework a BC zone, which they seem very reluctant to do (which is probably also why the Exodar and Silvermoon are left alone in this expansion).

Jaina (BfA Reveal Vid)

(Image from BfA announcement cinematic. Is it just me or has she been working out?)

As always with these expansions, there must be land to … expand into. This time around, it’s Kul Tiras – Jaina’s homeland – and Zandilar – home to nasty trollses. As you can imagine, the former has me more interested than the latter, but there are a few things that the announcement cinematic revealed about both.

We know a few things with regards to Kul Tiras. (1) It’s Jaina’s homeland. (2) It’s nautical. (3) Jaina’s dad is dead (Jaina sorta let that happen). (4) Jaina’s mom is still alive, and they have probably had “one of those talks”.  (“Jaina, have we learned not to let ravening Orcs have their way with our parents now?” “:: sigh :: Yes, mother.”)  I really hope they don’t go for the all too predictable trope of “Jaina’s mom is mad with loss and will be a raid boss” or something like that.

Speaking of expanding, Stromgarde Keep is coming back, being rebuild, just in time to be repeatedly attacked by the Horde. This seems odd since I could swear we were kicking the bums outta our turf, but maybe Hillsbrad turns into a pocket of resistance or something?  Hard to say, but the fact remains that without a foothold, it makes zero sense to see Horde attacking someplace that is so far within the heartland. I mean, sure, there’s a pirate cove nearby (not gonna be touched, I can pretty much guarantee), so Southshore is the next closest point of entry.  (I wonder if there is a corresponding Alliance stronghold in the middle of Kalimdor?)

And this brings up the main gist of this expansion – the two factions fighting.  There will be a lot of focus on PvP-like activities, but there’s good news for us care bears.   All the PvP-like activity is against (apparently) NPCs. So they might be flying the flag of the enemy, but they’re really just innocent bots that take pleasure in being slaughtered by the thousands by us god-like players.

Jaina (Blizz Website)

(Image from Blizz’s old fan art site, no attribution provide by them, sadly.)

And that brings me to what I don’t like about all this.  We’ve spent a couple of expansions now being told that we are the greatest thing since sliced bread by every friendly NPC that we meet. In Draenor we were elevated to military commanders, up to Admiral / General in the end.  In Legion we were given command of our entire order.  Set aside for the moment the massive danger there is in granting one supreme authority in both the military and religious spheres (that’s as close as I can come to describe what we are to our orders). The real issue here is that we keep getting more and more preposterously powerful amongst our peers.

And now – we’re foot soldiers in a number of PvP skirmishes?  What a downer.

The whole theme of this thing, really, comes across as some seriously weak tea. Even the reason is weak. Why would Sylvanas suddenly want to go after Stormwind? And why would she then go after Teldrassil instead? Seems kind of random. The Alliance’s motivations seem more obvious – looks like they’re retaliating for this random violence on their shores. But Sylvanas has never, even once, come across as being a randomly violent entity?  Did we get it wrong all along?  Is Sylvanas the Dreadlord instead of Jaina?

The more I look at the set up – and I concede that “set up” may be entirely too accurate – the less engaged I feel.  Many on the interwebz have called this a “filler” expansion done by “the B team”, and there are times when I have no ammunition with which to refute that. This seems to be rather drab and uninspired (even the logo is washed out).

I dunno, what do you think?

Jaina (nap time)

(Image from naptime (sometime in 2012))

Yeah, I’ll probably play, and hopefully rejoice in the restoration of our lands after all this time.  On the other hand, visiting Kalimdor is likely to be heartbreaking.

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Feature Fashion Victim

So, there was a lot going on at BlizzCon 2017.  I wasn’t one of them, but that’s probably for the best. I’ll have more to say on other topics from that event, but if you’re impatient there are, well, about a zillion other actual blogs (and falling), and an exponentially increasing number of Twitch streams, you tube channels, and vlogs that will be more than happy to blurt out their thoughts, as well.

But one thing that jumped out me was at one of last night’s Q&As. Someone asked the very reasonable question, would Blizz be considering options for clothies other than robes going forward? The answer was something that sat me back on my haunches – “Whenever we find a way for clothies to look awesome wearing pants, we’ll do it.” Or words to that effect.

Well, okay, I’ll admit that they nailed it for healing cloth in Legion.

Jas Casting

But there’s nothing wrong with a good pair of sturdy jeans, and warlocks can pull it off without even trying very hard.

flora casting

As can fire mages.

Illume Casting

One assumes that Arcane and Frost can pull it off as well.

Just because I haven’t found an outfit that screams “Disco” and isn’t robe-based yet doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. And I hate to say it, but what I heard in that pull quote from the Q&A was “We haven’t figured out how to make that happen”.  Here’s a hint – try to move away from the clown suit esthetic.  Imagine your wife / girlfriend / sister wearing it.

Which rules the Mageweave stripper pants out, and I’m good with that.

My Buddy, Where I Go, He Go

The quest line Visage of the First Wakener takes you on an adventure that eventually gets you a new appearance for Skull of the Man’ariThal’kiel’s Visage.  He’s a chatty fellow, but also, with his new fleshly accoutrements, He’s quite the expressive fellow.

There’s the yawn.

Screenshot 2017-10-28 08.52.46.png

There’s the slack-jawed yokel.

e

There’s the yawn.

Screenshot 2017-10-28 08.52.56.png

Okay, you know what? He’s actually kinda rubbish. All that’s missing is a string of drool hanging off his chintacles.  Let’s “face” it – he’s ugly with a capital UG.

Ephemerality

Aggramar Attacks!

There’s a questline in Krokuun where you take down the big bad in Nath’raxas Hold, and right after you do that, there’s an awesome cut scene.

After that, there’s this awesome cut scene. I’ll put in a break to keep from spoiling it for anyone.
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Irmagerd – gaming in the wake of a hurricane

irma

Casa de Grimmtooth exists in the path that Hurricane Irma took, and as a result we lost internet connectivity for over a week.  Fortunately, I have plenty of games loaded up on my PC that have received little love while I was playing WoW, and do not require The Internets.

This window of time gave me ample opportunity to fully evaluate and compare some games that had especially languished while I went and did other thingys.

Here, then, are some mini reviews and in some cases, final reviews.

civ6

Civilization 6

Of all the games I’ve recently purchased, this is the one I was most eager to get.  I’ve been playing it on and off since before Blizzcon 2016, and yet I have not finished a single game.

Once we got power back after Irma, this was the first one I fired up, and played it for three days solid (in between things such as cleaning up and stuff).  Finally, I’ve had time to come to the realization that Civ 6 is no where near the game that Civ 4 was.  Civ 5 also suffered from that, but it grew up to be a much better game with a few DLCs. Civ 6 isn’t even as fun as Civ 5, though.

The problems with Civ 6’s core mechanics, however, will never allow for basic improvement unless some core mechanics changes come with any future DLC. It’s a lovely game, with some interesting takes on the original, but in the long run it just isn’t Civilization. It’s a game that looks like Civilization but isn’t Civilization, made by some company in China looking to rope in a few rubes.

The next time I get some time for extended play, I’ll go back to Civ 5, to see if I’m just growing disenchanted with the series and misremember my experience with Civ 5, or if Civ 6 truly took a wrong turn.

Sorry, Sid.  But this wouldn’t be your first miscue.

rrt3

Railroad Tycoon 3

My existing copy of RRT3 is only on CD, along with the Coast to Coast patch. It was the final game I picked up during the outage. Even with its terrible graphics, I feel it holds up over time. I really wish I had bought it via some service like GoG, but I hadn’t.  (Of course, if there are no improvements with the GoG version, why bother, amirite?  Weeellllll … I had to go dig out the “play” CD just to run it, so maybe it is. Hm. /ponder)

I mentioned Sid Meier’s previous miscue earlier, and here it is. The successor to this game was a game called “Railroad!”, which was so horrible that it took very little time to kick it to the curb. Even the master can mis-read the curve.

It was so bad, I didn’t even keep the discs. And I never throw anything away. Just ask Mrs Grimm.

sins

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion

Here’s an oldie but a goodie that got acquired by Stardock, which also makes a rival game (Galactic Civilizations). Hopefully that does not bode ill for SoaSE, because I’ve tried both but only bought one of them.  And it wasn’t GalCiv.

This game is often described as a cross between the 4X genre and RTS genre.  I’m not sure how that’s really applicable – once you hit RTS territory, you’re an RTS.  Any 4X elements are secondary at that point. Besides, every RTS I’ve ever played generally has elements of the other three X’s in it, so it’s not really a distinction I care to make.

Having said that, here’s the prognosis. Whether or not it’s a true 4X game, I really do like playing it, and it has enough challenge to it without ROFLstomping your ass at ever turn, but you don’t get a free pass, either.  It’s balanced, and fun, and that says a lot for any game.

Which brings me to the final one.

stellaris

Stellaris

I had really high hopes for this one, but never really spent enough time with it to get a handle on it.  This down period gave me ample opportunity to give it a thorough examination.  And in the end, I was really, really disappoint.

I never really got out of the opening game. Ever.  I’m usually pretty good at this stuff, but the tech tree was so opaque, the diplomacy so ragged around the edges, and the gradients between “best friend” and “deadly enemy” so steep that there was never a point where I found myself in a position to be able to survive in the galaxy even as an inoffensive empire. I could spend every spare credit on improving my space fleet, upping the warmonger ante as much as possible, and every. single. time. I would be ambushed by a far superior fleet of ships, far advanced to mine and far superior in numbers.

There wasn’t a single game in which I didn’t find myself hopelessly mismatched somewhere in between when destroyer and cruiser tech were discovered.  I’d meet two or three alien races, we’d say “hi” and form cordial and friendly relations between us, and then the next one would come along and rattle its sabre, at which point any of the three possible responses (“hi”, “don’t hurt me”, and “die, alien scum”) resulted in almost instant attack and the enemy entering my homeworld’s space without any sign of scouting – an impossibility for myself since in order to attack something, I have to know where it is. In other words, it really looks like the AI is cheating.

This happened every time. Without fail.

I reiterate, I don’t suck at this genre.  I’ve played 4X games enthusiastically since they first appeared on 8-bit platforms (Reach for the Stars, anyone?), and I am here to tell you that this game lacks some serious balance.  A good 4X game will challenge you enough at low levels so that you feel like you’re encountering some resistance, and yet give you at least a random chance to win every now and then.

Sure, I’ve had opening scenarios that landed me on worthless starting planets and poor luck in exploring, but never so consistently.

At the end, it was a completely unfun game and I’m pretty much on the edge of uninstalling it for good.

Don’t be that game.

Aftermath

At the end of the day, the most fun had was with Railroad Tycoon and Sins of a Solar Empire.  Both are strong entries in their genres, and present challenges no matter your skill level, with the means to adjust as you get better at it.  I am especially fond of SotSE’s depiction of space battles, which feel epic and meaningful and urgent all at the same time. In many ways, it reminds me of Gratuitous Space Battles, only with depth and situational awareness.

The real funny part of the Internet Crisis of 2017 is that once service was restored to our area, we were still out of service. It turns out that we had an amp hooked up to an external power socket that had a GFI breaker in it, and when the power did its final flicker, it popped that breaker. Here I am, the mighty Electronics Tech of days past, and I didn’t even think to look at that. Yeah yeah, I wasn’t actually aware it was there, but point is I didn’t even look. What eggs that didn’t get pitched, were on my face 🙂

The internets and WoW have been embraced within our loving arms, and we’re back to letting our souls drain down a coax cable. So life is back to what passes for normal around here. I’m just glad to have alternatives.

For the next go-round, I plan on getting the GoG edition of RRT3 and downloading some mods for SotSE (Star Trek, Star Wars, and Babylon 5), and maybe getting up to speed with The Settlers on Steam.  That was always one of my favorites.

Right now I’m looking at Hurricane Maria, as it grinds on the edges of the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico has been clobbered, may not even have electricity for three to six months.  So I’m not winge-ing over a week without internets. In the long run, we were supremely lucky.  If you pray, pray for Puerto Rico and all points in the path of Maria.  This is a gaming blog, about gaming shit, but real life Doth Intrude from time to time.

Xe’ra should learn the meaning of "consent"

Screenshot 2017-08-29 19.51.56.png

Why so Handsy?

You may have seen the  cinematic that deals with “The Fate of Xe’ra”.  Here’s a link if you want to watch. Note it contains spoilers for the Argus campaign, which you may wish to experience in pristine purity of the pure. In which case, close this article now and come back when you have been pristinely enlightened purely.

We’ll wait until you leave …

Okay, here we go.

 

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Look! Up in the Sky!

After Kil’jaeden is defeated, Illidan uses a magic crystal to open a portal between the worlds so that they (and, presumably, we) could get back home. But, what’s that saying? A door swings both ways, I blieve?  While we could see Azeroth from over Argus … we can see Argus from here!

Initially, only those that brought down KJ in raid could see it, but this Tuesday, they opened the final wing of The Tomb to use LFR-ers (uh, “Raid Finder”, they say over at Blizz).  And on that magical day, Argus appeared everywhere.  Except for Northrend!Dalaran.

Be warned! Lots of pics and a video below!


The old capitals had a good view.

DarnassusIronforgeStormwind

But, sadly, Exodar missed out again.

Exodar

Kaz Modan …

Booty BayWestfall

… and Kalimdor …

FelwoodFeralaseMoongladeTheramoreUn'GoroWinterspring

Sometimes it showed in the most unusual and interesting ways …

r

And while I couldn’t see it from Northrend!Dalaran, other places in Northrend had a good view.

Borean Tundra

Even Pandaria had a good view, now that the mists have cleared.

Pandaria

And, in case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the cinematic that explains this little bit of fel candy in our skies.

What’s in Your Wallet? – Amulet of Spirits

If you’ve been playing this game a while – and I have – you tend to accumulate some stuff in your bank that people just don’t see any more. Some of it is for quests that don’t exist anymore, some of it for endgame content that nobody bothers even doing any more.  For my own amusement, I’ve decided to torture you with an occasional foray into my junk bin. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane!


Amulet of SpiritsEvery now and then, you receive an item required to complete a quest, then complete the quest, but then, when the quest is done, the item is still in your possession. The Amulet of Spirits is one of those items.

This item was part of a quest in MaraudonThe Pariah’s Instructions.  In this quest, you had to find five Centaur Khans and kill them for a specific jewel they were carrying. The Amulet was used to make them corporeal enough for you to actually attack them, because they were ghosts.

Once you had all five of the jewels, you combined them with the Amulet to create the Amulet of Union, which you then turned in for a tasty trinket, Mark of the Chosen.  This was a big deal at the time, because trinkets in Vanilla were pretty rare, and you rarely had one before level 40 or so. In fact, I think this was my first ever trinket, and had it equipped well into Outland.

Maraudon at the time was a lot more complex and dangerous than it is now. Back then, the areas outside of instances were generally inhabited by wandering elites. Maraudon was in a class of its own, though. There was an entire complex leading up to the entrances to the instance – yes, two entrances – and pretty much all of the mobs roving around were elites. And this is pretty much where the Khans you needed to kill were found.  Two of them were just inside the instance itself, which was a little dicey.

Yes, there were challenges aplenty in Vanilla. Don’t get me started.

The final challenge was turning in the quest. The Centaur Pariah was a wandering mob located in southern Desolace. While stumbling across him to get the quest seemed simple enough, the turn in was kind of interesting because all databases and other help sites kept sending you to the wrong location. He was, in fact, roving the same path as when you original found him. I usually found him hiding behind an old sandstone column (1). But the first time around – and the last time around (because it had been a while) I was going nuts trying to find him.

Long, elaborate, difficult, and rewarding. Excellent Vanilla quest line.

Nowadays … well, the Pariah still wanders southern Desolace, but he hands out neither quest nor reward. The Khans are still wandering around, but they’re no longer elites, and, in fact, Outer Maraudon is just the area outside the real instance now, not dangerous at all. And Desolace is greening, no longer the desolate desert it used to be. And trinkets? It’s raining trinks, my friends, between jewelcrafters, alchemists, and scribes, it’s hard not to find trinkets in your breakfast cereal.

If you have the amulet, you have in your possession a relic of the past which no longer has any purpose, other than nostalgia trips like this.


(1) – Well, I liked to tell myself it was sandstone. Sue me.

It breaks the heart

Bulvinkel

Grimm spent weeks stalking and finding his first spirit beast, Gondria.  Since then, he’s been content with what he has, but always been on the lookout for additional members to the stable.

Unfortunately, that’s never happened.  Oh, we’ve seen plenty of other exotic spirit beasties in our travels, but never when logged in as Grimmtooth. Flora saw Skoll a couple of times while pugging, but of course Grimm was never nearby when it happened.

And now, this week, Flora’s encountered Bulvinkel, a spirit beast moose (as promised by Ghostcrawler). Grimm was half a world away, and, of course, by the time he arrived, the beastie had been tamed (or worse, killed).

Don’t be that guy

Jas Port 110

It’s amazing. Mere days after posting a link to one of my articles about How2Auction, I get an in-game chat from a guy that just doesn’t “get it” with regard to an item I was selling.

In this case, one of my side markets are the Tomes of Illusion that Enchanters can make.  The mats for each come from the expansions they correspond to, and some of those are a little pricey, especially the older ones from Azeroth or Outland.  I don’t mean vendor price, but what they sell for on the AH, which is considerable, if they’re even available.

So you’re looking at on average a cost per tome of around 1500 GP, and of course there’s going to be the traditional markup. If there were no profit, I wouldn’t sell it.

Thus the stage is set.

HIM: Your price for Tome of Illusions: Azeroth is too high

ME: It sells well enough at that price.

HIM: It’s just a cosmetic thing!

ME: But it takes rare stuff to make it

HIM: But the mats are easy to farm

ME: Well, if you bring me the mats, I’ll make it for the mats, though a tip would be cool.

HIM: Fuk u

And halt.

This reminds me of a recent series of threads on Twitter, in which artists were being yelled at because they wouldn’t provide free artwork “for exposure”.  There are a lot of tiny little twitch channel commandos out there that think they’re hot shit, and expect to be catered to as such, and no dumb bish “artist” will be permitted to dis them by not doing shit for them for free.

Entitled little weasels.

Here it is in a nutshell. If you want it, it has value.

I don’t make claims to even remotely the same level of talent of the artists I see day in and day out posting samples on Twitter etc and trying to scrape out a living doing what they love. But I feel in some small way the frustration they must every time some jerk yells at me for not giving away the goods for free.

Don’t be that guy.   If you want a thing in WoW, you can

  1. Pay market price
  2. Bring the mats and be nice to someone with the skillset
  3. Get friends that don’t mind your freeloading

If you want art/code assets from a person, pay them“Exposure” means fuck-all, and it doesn’t put food on anybody’s plate. If you can’t pay an artist to decorate your Twitch channel, or a coder to set up the front end for your database, go get a real job. Maybe even learn to do yourself.  Stack Overflow at least won’t charge you to tell you how to do for yourself.