Category Archives: Meta

Talented

Prayer of Mending

Following up on some mock-ups, Blizz has started releasing information about the new talent trees for Dragonflight.

The first one that got my interest was Priest – I suck at the first two that they released, and that’s okay, folks, try not to be so judgey.

But I truly perked up and came into my own when they released the specs for Hunter – and WoWHead added it to their simulator (1).

This is not your daddy’s talent tree

First of all, let’s be clear – the talent trees of Cata and earlier are not going to happen. This is a new thing.

There are four key differences.

  1. There are actually two talent trees, with two “pools” of talent points to draw from. One which is just $class, and one which is relevant to your designated specialization – for Hunters, that is Beast Master, Survival, and Marksman, for example.
  2. In case it was not clear, each Specialization has its own talent tree, plus a generic $class tree.
  3. As you may have gathered from (1), there is none of this nonsense of going into a different spec’s talents for a specific talent.
  4. There are a LOT more talents to choose from, roughly 30-ish for each talent tree (class and specialization), for a real possibility of some fine-grained differentiation(5).

Okay, let me ‘splain (2) a bit. Let me ‘splain it in BM Hunter terms.

Back in The Old Days™, we’d go into the Survival spec to get a specific talent (Clever Traps, if you’re interested) and otherwise focus on BM talents.  In the case of Dragonflight talent trees, this is not a possibility – you can’t ‘borrow’ talents from Survival. However, since several talents have been mainlined as simply “hunter” this may change things a bit. Though I don’t see Clever Traps as a talent in the generic pool, that doesn’t mean that that won’t be the case at release date, or that we can’t effectively reach that same outcome with what we have in the “Hunter” tree.

The same applies to other classes as well, though the only one that I am interested in so far is Disco Priest. Yes, I do run an Outlaw Rogue, but since I suck at Outlaw Rogue, I am going to keep my big mouth shut on that topic and stick to what I know.

Disco Priest

To start with, Disco has the Disco again, baby. Prayer of Mending has become a baseline Priest ability, and I am all a-tingly over this. I mean, it’s not even an OPTION, you just get it as a priest. I don’t care if I have to share it with Holy and Shadow(3), I am just happy to have it back.

Long-term Beef Time. Ever since they relieved Disco priests of the ability to fling the Frisbee(2) around, I have been pretty emo about it. Disco without the Disco is just wrong.  Disco priests should be flinging the frisbee around, and if you don’t agree, feel free to go play FFIV or whatever that’s called. I’ll be here to accept your apology when you come crawling back. And you will.

Anyhoo. I’m sure at this point that there is someone out there dunking on me mentally because I am sooooo hyperfocused on Disco. And that’s fine. I am. Get over it. There was a time that I found Disco / Shadow to be an interesting and provacative dual spec, but once they made Disco survivable on its own, Shadow was kicked to the curb. Good luck being third-tier DPS, guys, I feel ya, but only a little bit since if you wanted to play Afflock you shoulda rolled Afflock. Which I did.

Cutting Cookies

I am not gonna prognosticate on the One True Way for Disco priest or BM Hunter. Not at this point. It’s clear that these talent trees are changing based on feedback, which is as it should be. But, also, I have little in the way to offer until I can actually bring up toons with these talent trees and test them.  I am not a mental theorycrafter. I am a grinder. A person that just grinds away at the work at hand until it is done. This was recently presented to me as a compliment, and I accept it in full appreciation of the perspective that informed it. There are people that excel at the theory and make it work for them, and there are people that try the theory out and iterate on it until it works.  That’s me. Put me in front of a training dummy, I’ll start to give you some decent real-world feedback. Show me a chart, I’ll tell you it’s pretty.

But I will say this. There will eventually be identified specific cookie cutter talent specs for every class. In some cases there will be multiples. I recall deeply the Destro Warlock variations of yore, which, I must be honest, basically were all the same on the combat logs, but it was great to  me to see that there were so many paths to excellence for Destro Locks at the time.

Let me be a bit less apocryphal, in the form of BM Huntery which I am the most invested in.

In the past, there were a couple of different routes to maximum effectiveness for BM hunters. One was a pure DPS spec. I’ve always been of the opinion that that spec was a poor substitute for a MM build that focused more on DPS than anything else, and was less effective. You wanna go MM, go MM, man. Ain’t no thang.

You may be asking, what is there to offer in a DPS spec, other than DPS? And the answer is, utility. This is an ill-defined term that can be used – or misused – in several ways. My own experiences in Karazhan are a good example, as exemplified by BRK’s own example. Basically, one of the things that classic BM Hunters excelled at was utility. You can see this in BRK’s video, which showed him using his pet as an off-tank for the sub-bosses in the Moroes encounter. Using his trapping and pet, he was able to occupy one of those four adds while assisting the rest of the team in burning down the others one at a time. As I mentioned earlier, Clever Traps figures into this largely. BRK was my BM daddy, I admit it. I was nowhere near as competent at this dance as he was, but, given his example, I volunteered to fill that role in the raid, and I more or less fulfilled it. (we will not discuss That Time Grimmy Pulled The Whole Room)

So like I said, there are some cookie-cutter aspects to this, Fer Shur. But I ask you, in the current system,  how is that not also true? The whole cookie cutter thing is a red herring. 

PS: A few days after I started writing this, I saw one of our “premier” MMO blogs posting about why the new talents were Bad and the tiered talents were Good. Ignoring, of course, that if something with 45,000 possible combinations could be cookie-cutter’d, then something with 30 possible combos could, as well, and would be 10000x more likely to be.  But I is not a Big Time Professional Blogger so please ignore me.

Can’t Get There from Here

One thing I’ve noticed from the talent trees is that you can’t get all the top-tier talents, at all. You can get, generally, two out of six or so, maybe three but I’m thinking that won’t happen unless you’re super-focused on those top-tier talents. This in a way simulates one of the features of the Classic trees, in that you had to make some choices along the way and that pretty much set your “specialty”. Nowadays, Blizz is more “tell don’t show” in their approach so rather than having your choices determine your specialty, your specialty determines your possible choices. Funny ol’ world.

I like it

At this time, in this place(4), I like what I see. Sure, there are many unanswered questions, such as:

  • Fluidity – as in, right now, the talent trees presented may change. That’s fine. Alpha is kinda like that, troopers.
  • Changing specs – will WoW preserve our builds, or will we need an addon?
  • Will we be able to save and swap out builds, or will an addon be required?
  • Will Specialization be a thing in 11.0? Okay, maybe that’s a long game question. But with the new talent trees, maybe we just chuck that concept. Specializations are, after all, an artifact of the tiered talents we currently have.
  • What’s the 11.0 game? Will new talents be added or will the current trees be re-scaled in a form of “level squish” sort of operation?

Some of these questions are abstract, others more relevant to our upcoming experience within the next four and a half months. Most are along the lines of “will I need an addon to get around this possible issue?”, I guess.  There’s actually a lot of room for a good addon here, I suspect.  I doubt I have the skill to write it myself, though I can see its outline in my mind’s eye.

But overall I feel like this is a step in the right direction. A way to make talents interesting and applicable again. I mean, you can trot out all the arguments in favor of the “tiered” approach, but the relentless unremitting response will be, and always will be, NOBODY CARES. Imma go to Icy Veins and grab my talent specs and that’s the end, because there’s nothing there to tinker with.

I have in the past been critical of “the illusion of choice” vis-a-vis the Legion weapon trees which were not trees and really were not choices other than in what order you went. This here is a different animal, and, while it may devolve down to cookie cutters, there is still the potential to be an individual and blaze a trail, no matter HOW WRONG it might be. As a BM Hunter, Disco Priest, and Demo Warlock, I’m used to people choosing wrong, and forgiving them. It takes all kinds, folks.


  1. Be aware, there are pending changes to all specs. What you see is not what you get.
  2. Apologies if I got the link wrong. As previously stated, these things are fluid. Trying to link to future abilities is dicey. Always in motion, the future is.
  3. I am somewhat intrigued at what a Shadow version of the Frisbee might do.
  4. As of July 14, the alpha launched, and we are getting, as they say in Mexico, mucho feedback.
  5. There are actually more than 30, but you get more or less 30 points to spend in each tree.

Deja Vu All Over Again

image

If you play this game long enough you start to see things repeat themselves.

I don’t mean in-game, but in the Blogospheric Echo Chamber(1) that we all operate within. There are themes, observations, and opinions that keep coming back. Sometimes, even on the same blog.

I’ve been hard on myself, trying not to be one of those blogs, where occasionally I circle back onto a topic and retread it. Though, of course. when you’ve dropped as many words as I have over the last dozen or so years(2), you’re bound to hit on similar things eventually. Hell, I’ll wager that I’ve used the title of this article before(3).

That being said, one does expect other long-timers – as few of them left that still blog –  to also remember how things were and not start going on about how this is neat or that is bad without realizing that it’s nothing new.

The same can not be said for players that aren’t, exactly, new, but haven’t been here for the duration. Say, that guy that started playing as a Panda rogue and just now discovered something that old timers would recognize as a riff on Reforging, for example, but which they feel is a Significant Discovery.

It is hard not to be cynical about this. How it seems that the only thing that you can count on is that someone else is getting mileage off of something that you’ve seen others – or yourself! – writing about years ago.

But how can this be avoided? You can’t just yell at people to do better research. First of all, how would they? Are we literally expecting them to go back and re-read all of Big Red Kitty before having an opinion on Beastmastery Hunters?  I mean, assuming it was possible, which I don’t think it is?  Heck, you can’t even point people to go read back-issues of WoW Insider’s Guild Watch column to get an example of “your guild’s not as bad as you think, this shit was happening long ago.”

I don’t really have an answer. It’s not really feasible to take on the mantle of “rememberer of things” if nobody actually wants someone to do so. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen someone on The Internet say “Boy I sure wish there was somebody around that remembered how things actually were.” People are more invested in providing their own interpretations of how things were and will actually argue with someone that was THERE about how wrong they are. Talk about “alternate facts.”

Now, with some of the new features for Dragonflight, we’re getting Deja Vu. The new talent trees, as an example, are going to present some of the Same Old Problems and these are going to be run up the flagpole as Fresh New Scandal. As an example, I’m sure we’re going to see “cookie cutter” specs come out of this change, where people look up a spec on Noxxic or Icy Veins or WoWHead even, and use it rather than do the thinking for themselves.

Us Olds are gonna say yeah, seen it, done it, and it was fine. And besides, how were the previous tiers any different?  But yeah the kiddos not going to get it, or appreciate it, and, likely, resent that we’re even saying that.

Another thing, as @Marathal pointed out, is how some of the features of the new crafting resemble nothing less than the old Reforging feature, and remembering the big bruhaha over Ask Mr Robot’s role in demystifying that feature(4).

Nobody cares. Not that it happened before, nor that we remember.

Pepperidge Farm Remembers - Album on Imgur

Yeah yeah. Go back to sleep, old guy(8).

All that aside, there’s meat in them oysters, and I’m limbering up for some – at least personal – theorycrafting. I will not be competing with these young whippersnappers in that regard. They fancy with they slicked back hair and backlit keyboards and solar calculators. I can’t compete with that.

But maybe I can apply a bit of perspective as compared with what we had before. Though, as I’ve said, I doubt it will matter. If they’re too lazy to rez up a toon in TBC-Classic (or Wrath-Classic later this year) to see For Reals what it used to be like, then they’re not going to be interested with someone deconstructing their carefully constructed constructs of How It Was, I Just Know It.

The most annoying thing about this, if there is to be an annoying thing(5), is the possibility that Blizz is counting on this.  That there exists a Machiavellian intelligence at Blizz that thinks that, if only they get enough “churn” in the playerbase, they can pull off a revisit to old game systems without anyone calling them into question, because the ones that remembered that have either moved on to other things(6) or are so few in number that nobody really pays them any attention(7).  To them, it isn’t about loyalty – it’s about numbers. They don’t care that there are 1,000,000 loyal customers, only that there are 1,000,000 customers. Done and done.

You won’t find me in the “Blizz has a Machiavellian Intelligence” camp because I don’t think The Suits are that smart, but they’re good enough at Faking It that they will claim credit for anything, be it good or bad, just to make it look like they’re smarter than a lump of coal. You can go along with that if you want, but I’m voting for the lump.

=======

  1. You’ve seen it a lot even if you don’t know what to call it. One blog espouses something, then another riffs on that, and then another riffs on that, and so forth. Eventually you have fifty blogs all talking about the same thing, only different.
  2. Not gonna look, not gonna look …
  3. Not gonna look, not gonna look …
  4. Called out by some as “cheating”.
  5. And there always is, isn’t there?
  6. /waves to FFIX players
  7. Hi.
  8. Hey!

Understanding the Assignment

Ever since the release of Riot’s Arcane series on Netflix, I’ve been looking at a previously unviewed store of dramatic vids from the people at Riot, and I have to say, I am impressed. Start with the two trailers for the series. This …

and this.

League of Legends has always, to me, been somewhat of a shallow game in terms of lore.  You have 140 heroes, sure, but they have about two paragraphs of lore – each – and that’s about it. Jinx is “the loose cannon” and takes delight in gleeful destruction and explosions. Vi is a brawler, stoic and gruff.  And, well, that’s about it.

Or, so I thought.

Now, I don’t want to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass here, obviously this new series didn’t bloom from “all” of that lore, rather it IS the lore. But a lot has to be said about this new lore; it is a compelling story with a lot of heft to it.

But I’m not really here to praise Arcane, but rather Riot’s efforts to crank up the hype.  We’ll start with this, an actual full-blown music video for the “theme” of Arcane, from none other than Imagine Dragons.

I have a lot of observations here. The production studio, Fortiche, is the same that did the series. But this video is all-original animation, not clips from the series itself. This conveys a sense of massive commitment to the series, as well as LoL itself in proxy.  In the episode “Everyone wants to be my enemy”, the band appears in the story, performing the song.  And in the 2021 “worlds” introduction, they appear, live, performing the song embedded in Zaun in a seamless bit of live action and animation. Riot didn’t leave anything on the table, is what I’m saying.

Production house Fortiche, by the way, is no stranger to LoL.  Here they are doing a video for 2018 “worlds” – which I gather is something like the competitive world championship for LoL – featuring current and past competitors in a  super-hyped fantasy setting.  And I don’t care what universe you’re from, this will get you excited.

The commitment is here once again, with The Glitch Mob, Mako, and The Word Alive contributing (I’d have been happy with just The Glitch Mob, tbh, the rest is frosting).

LoL is no stranger to dramatic intros for its games, either.  Do we have something like this for WoW’s “seasons”?  I think not. Behold, the 2020 Season trailer for League of Legends.

Or the 2019 trailer.

What am I on about?  I’m on about the simple act of hype that is expressed in each of these videos. It’s not like I’m going to play this game, but even as an uninterested observer, I’m excite! These do a great job of bringing excitement and engaging the intended audience.  Go read the comments on these.  The hype is palpable.

I am not here to dis Blizzard’s cinematic chops. Far from it.  Since WoD, they have really upped their in-game cinematics, for example. Show of hands, was there a dry eye in the house when Ysera snuffed it? (or when she unsnuffed in REDACTED)?  Anyone saying otherwise probably claims to not have cried at the end of Ol Yeller either.  Anyway, this is to say, Blizz can rip out a righteous cinematic.

But these all share a similar thing – they’re very much “in the mode” of being part of the game in some way.  And that’s where Riot is eating Blizz’ lunch (or one of the places – sorry, I don’t have time for the whole buffet here). In each of the above vids, Riot has inspired their player base by just whipping out the AWESOME over and over again. In both of the “season” vids, for example, we have three scenarios playing out in front of us, each very much in question even as the vid ends, but all of them awe-inspiring. In RISE we see a continuous backdrop of non-descript epic imagery. What are those statues? Nobody gives a shit – they’re AWESOME. Who are those characters? No idea. But they’re kicking ass!

You maybe see my point here?

There is a lot to be said for functionally relevant cinematics, and something else entirely to be said for exciting the player base. In the latter, I believe Riot has managed to do a far better job of it than Blizzard.  Bringing in outside talent, actual animation studios, and saying to hell with the lore, they’ve managed to raise the bar far above what Blizz can do right now.

In the end it isn’t a matter of how “good” your animation is.  I can animate, with great fidelity and resolution, the mother of all chrome balls floating over a chess board. Who gives a shit. But there are entities out there – Fortiche for example – that could make an animation of that ball that would have me tapping my toes and looking for a sequel.

And Blizz needs to start looking for that now.  Assuming they manage to dig out of the shitshow that is their current labor relations nightmare, turn the truck around on Shadowlands, and basically start on the road of recovery, they’re going to need a few triumphant return videos.   Imagine Dragons is done. But there are a lot of cool talents out there that would love to bring some epic love to the screen, I just know it.  Now’s the time to start looking,  planning, and writing.

Word has it that Riot is working on an MMO.  Right now, seeing the videos above and more (and there are many, many more) I have to say that I’m intrigued.

You might say, they understood the assignment.

Alexander the Great’s Chief Eunuch has gone to meet his master

Theme Demo

(That’s a Red Dwarf reference, which I suspect he’d get)

Yesterday, I was faced with a terrible post on Twitter.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

For those that didn’t know him, Rades was a pillar of the online WoW community. His humor, love of lore, and love of the genre itself was legendary. He blogged at Orcish Army Knife for years (and it’s probably supremely ironic that his blog right now is getting more hits than it has in a decade). He invented the neon beer sign causeway in Wildstar. He invented Fabulor, the flaming hawtest Blood Elf evar. He engaged his followers on Twitter as NPCs in his ongoing D&D campaign.  He coauthored From Draenor with Love (sadly, hacked) with Vidyala (quoted above).  He authored a column on WoW Insider for a while. He created custom Weak Aura macros to play Disco Inferno when Fabulor had Hot Streak active. The list of things he did, really, stretches out as long as WoW has been around. Hell, I even featured him and his guild in a Filk (near the end).

The hole he left in our lives cannot be described with small words. But I’ll try to related something that comes near the point.

Back in the early 80s, just before I left my home on my Great Adventure (I’ll let you know how it ends when I get there), my father passed away from a heart attack. At his burial, I looked up and realized that the line of people waiting to get into the cemetery stretched all the way out to the highway, a good quarter to half mile of road. It was at that point that I finally realized the impact my father had on his community.  To me, he was just “dad’.  But to our small community, it was Rodney, or “Bogey”, a good friend, steadfast ally, city councilman and church deacon, hard worker for our town’s annual July 4th celebration, tireless campaigner for our democrat politicians, and occasional Santa Clause at our church’s Christmas dinner.  He touched so many lives, and people responded with love and sympathy for my family, all  in his memory.  Hell, a sitting US Senator, who he was a great proponent for, even stopped by to pay respects.

Mike “Rades” Eng has made a similar impact on the WoW community at large.  We don’t know it, possibly, until he’s gone, but he did.

Rest in peace, Rades. May your flame burn as flamboyantly in the next world as it did in this one.

(PS: yes, I stole that image right from his website. Steal from the best, friends.)

I was not prepared?

image

As is customary in my WoW life, every two months or so I poke my nose back into Classic, continuing the epic adventures of a Dwarven BM hunter and friends as they advance through the ranks. My experiences thus far have been mixed – I like the game mechanics better, but also you can’t futz around – or you’ll find out.  Classic WoW is a lot more dangerous than Retail.

I haven’t been on since before TBC rolled out to Classic, and when I last left my guy, he was struggling through a bunch of Elite quests and areas in the high 30s to low 40s.   Pretty much everything green was Elite, and everything that wasn’t Elite was pretty much yellow, orange, and red.  With the limited toolset of the Classic hunter, there was a lot of struggling.  Not impossible, but I worked for every bit of it.

So I was nowhere near max level anyway (or even 58, when the cheaters head to Hellfire) so regardless of when TBCC rolled out, I wasn’t too concerned. And that was pretty much how I was thinking about the transition from Classic to TBCC. Probably have to reset talents, but no big deal, ya know?

In my defense I did not recall a lot of the differences between Vanila and TBC – I quested to around 54 on my highest toon in Vanilla, then quit, and didn’t return until just before the TBC launch, where I started all over again (we didn’t have character restores back then).

So I was not prepared for the complete night-and-day contrast between Classic and TBC Classic.

Hunter pets are more resilient. They hold aggro far better. Shot rotations are far less cumbersome. Hell, even mounts are cheaper! Those elite quests? Far more in line with what I expect for a BM hunter (i.e.: no sweat). Yellas, pretty much same thing.

Also, remember this gal? Wonder what she’s up to these days?

imageAlso, I’m very annoyed that Disco priest is so unpopular that the more popular strategy sites (looking at YOU, Icy Veins) don’t even HAVE a Disco guide.

That’s all right, I’ve been doing Disco longer than Icy Veins have been around. They can suck it.

 

A specialized Rogues Gallery

image

I’m not generally one to patronize streamers – hot tub or otherwise – or other people that just talk to a camera, offer to write your name on their head, or change outfits for money (one assumes off camera but I’m not falling for that one again).

But one kind of people I’m always glad to help out when I can are those that do things – I mean, real things, things you can download and view and stuff. Artists fit right into this category. Kruithne is one of those artists that also does software and other interesting work. They do a lot of on-commission 3D art of WoW characters and, coincidentally, is one of the few 3D artists that also shares information on how they do the deed, albeit behind a Patron paywall (obviously not an issue for me).

It was that knowledge that drew me in, so I joined the Patron for what I could afford and immediately gained knowledge (mind you, the procedure they provided blew up my Python install, but, being a steely eyed Python boi, I was able to get that squared away).

Creation of WoW 3D art outside of the model viewer is not an easy or trivial task, but Kruithne works hard to make it achievable if you put a little effort into it. As a techie, as a former 3D artist in another era, and as a WoW fanboi, I highly recommend them and encourage you to throw a few gp into the till.

To my surprise and delight, recently we patrons got a bonus, an artwork with all of the first 100 patrons (that wanted to be) in it, as a group photo.

Can you spot the Grimmtooth?

https://www.kruithne.net/home/files/patreon/art/patrons-1080.png

Neighborhood of Warcraft

50 the dudeI’ve often said that the people claiming that leveling up a new toon were making too much of a big deal out of how long it would take to get from level 1 to max (currently 50). So I rolled up a new toon just to measure how long it would take.

I was also curious about the leveling experience once Shadowlands rolled. Shadowlands was our first ever level squish, meaning we start Shadowlands at level 50, and everything else is squished in between level 1 and 50.  So this experiment is also commentary on that.

The toon in question is a Night Elf mage named Tride (I tried, er, tride to get the name Trial, or Trile, but they were taken).  I went with Frost spec as I felt that would be more challenging than Fire, and I know squat about playing Arcane.  As it turns out, that choice was revelatory.

The rules are simple: leveling at the most casual rate possible.  No dungeons or raids, no instances of any kind that WoW didn’t railroad me into. Follow the natural progression of the questlines only.  No special events.1

Getting Started

03 Shadowglenn

The starting experience posed an immediate choice to make. In Shadowlands they introduced a new, generic starting area for all new toons.  So I had a choice between that and going old school. While I was curious about this new starting area, I elected to go old school and start in Teldrassil.2  By the time I was level 10, I was camped out in Darnassus.

Once based out of Tree City, I had a few decisions to make. The results were as follows:

  • Mining and Herbing, because raw materials always sell.
  • No to fishing, I don’t need to give up a bag slot and it’s a waste of time.
  • Maybe on cooking, to keep a little buff going.3

There was a little bit of cheating. I logged in on Jasra and bought myself some good healing potions and bandages with her money.

10 Teldrassil

Darkshore

13 Lor'danel

Once out of the Tree, it was time to get moving.  I’m still annoyed that we’re dealing with the post-Cataclysm world here instead of based out of Auberdine, and the broken landscape is beyond frustrating.4

However, even at level, this part of the world doesn’t pose too many real issues.  There was some dying, yes, especially when I got my aim off and blinked into something nasty.

The Tower of Athalaxx was the only intractable quest in that zone, and this illustrates the first problem with the new leveling experience. Namely, scaling.

In all zones now, mobs are scaled to match your level. If you’re level 25, expect to see level 25 mobs all around.  And that’s fine, to an extent, but in the case of elites like the denizens of that tower, you either need to group (a no-no for this experiment), or get beefy and outlevel the boss.  And now … that’s not possible. Blizz need to tune some of the beefier mobs out there to work better with the leveling experience.

Ashenvale

28 Ashenvale

In Classic, one of the quests that gets you out of Darkshore and into Auberdine is “The Sleeper Awakes” or something like that. I am glad that one’s gone. Hella annoying it was, and on several toons in Vanilla / BC / Wrath, I just skipped that one completely.

Another difference is that pre-Cata, you get sent to Astranaar first thing, but post-Cata you get sent to Orendil’s Retreat for a mini quest-hub and then it keeps progressing you further in until you do end up in Astranaar.

31 astranaar

This is where your home base will be for a good 15 levels at least.

Chromie Time – I hit a wall

30 Stonetalon

Here’s where a big disconnect happens.

Pre-SL, progression in these zones progressed normally.  Post-SL, when you hit level 30, everything just … stops. No XP from killing anything. All mobs are level 30. Quest completion offers a fraction of what it did.  And this applies to all mobs, in all eras. Go to Shattrath, and everything’s level 30. Go to Northrend, same dealy.

There aren’t many bread crumbs here, but the answer is that you really need to be on Chromie Time. What that is is that you speak with Chromie in Stormwind5  and select an era that you want to play in. You then get an introductory quest to get you started in the era you wish to quest in, and then off you go. So if you choose Burning Crusade, for example, you could proceed immediately to Hellfire and start leveling there.

And if you choose not to go to Hellfire, well, all mobs in all zones now scale from levels 7 to 50.  So you can continue to level on Azeroth.  One annoying thing about this is that Chromie doesn’t offer this as an option, you just have to guess. The other is that if  you don’t start in Exile’s Reach, you end up having to figure this out on your own – the Command Board did not light up with a quest marker on the map, but it DID have the quest available to go see Chromie.

So I’m not sure at what point you’re supposed to pick up Chromie Time, but I do know that you have to do so no later than level 30.

This throws a huge error into my numbers – I spent over an hour figuring this out.

I got better

One reason I chose Frost for my spec was that canonically, right now it doesn’t hit as hard as other specs, and, as I mentioned, I had no clue how to play Arcane (I’ve tried in the past). And I did, I struggled a lot early on, even using some Fire spells out of desperation.

But as I progressed, so did my toolbox. The big one was when Brain Freeze became available, this opened Flurry as an insta-cast, and later on that allowed it to buff Ice Lance. Between those two, as well as the Frozen Orb, by level 35 I was really kicking butt.

So this underlines a huge flaw in the Frost spec, and maybe others – at lower levels they’re really not up to the task that they’re assigned. It isn’t until you’re halfway through the talent tree that you can really feel like you’re getting somewhere, and, I suspect, all zones are currently designed as if you have access to all talents and spells.

Bottom line: that was a lot of work, retuning the old world to work with the level squish. But you really need another pass, Blizz, this time with toons at appropriate level.

Desolace

41 Desolace

Having gotten my leveling thing worked out, I finished off Stonetalon6, and forayed into Desolace at level 39, where I dinged level 40 and quickly ported over to Stormwind7 to get my fast flying8.

Again, as I gained levels I gained in power. This is one good thing that Blizz has accomplished, is the notion of spell ranks once again, but this time it isn’t just scaling – each spell rank can (and usually does) bring additional effects with it. So, as you progress in levels, you genuinely do feel more powerful, one of the key values of leveling.

As a result, clearing out Desolace was a pretty trivial task, though I did bite off more than I could chew on the ghost magnet quest. Other than Stupid Hunter Tricks (as payed on a Mage), Desolace was a cake walk.

One thing that puzzled me was that while I was expecting to be sent to Feralas once I completed that zone, instead I had no choice to go resume my questing in Southern Barrens.

Southern Barrens and Theramore

49 Theremore

As I completed the final quests of Southern Barrens, I dinged 49 and was directed to Theramore, where I picked up a bunch of quests to go kill things and save a surprisingly ancient hermit and come to the rescue of some Goblins (no, really!). My journey to 50 was almost complete, and I realized at this point that I had been cheated.

Specifically, the World of Warcraft had shrunk.  I had slavishly stuck to my home continent as I leveled up just to see what would happen. What happened was that I only barely saw Thousand Needles and Feralas in passing, with Tanaris, Un’Goro, Felwood10, Azshara11, and Silithus completely missing from my quest log. I suspect that the same would have occurred had I chosen Ironforge or Stormwind as a starting point.  And that’s really sad.

While the level squish is mostly done well, barring a couple of technical issues which I suspect will never be fixed, it emphasizes exactly why I was against such a move.  The problem I just described above has always been there since Cataclysm. When they revamped the zones for Cataclysm, then never went back and adjusted things so that you could visit the whole world. Quests would go gray before you were finished a zone, and you’d be off to Outland long before you completed other zones. Hell, Winterspring was so infrequently visited that I even forgot about it in the previous paragraph.

And that was never addressed, and that will never be addressed. The World of Warcraft is reduced to your general neighborhood. The Neighborhood of Warcraft.

Thoughts and Conclusions

49 Feralas

At the end of the day, I ended up at 54 hours /played to get to Level 50. Subtract an hour for my confusion at level 30 if you wish, but I won’t hold it against you if you don’t.

What this adds up to is if someone played 8 hours a day it would take just under a week. A more realistic 4 hours and we’re talking around two weeks.  I’d call it three weeks of dedicated playtime to get to the point that you’re ready to start leveling on whatever the new expansion is.

My conclusion here is that while it’s certainly not a gigantic burden to level up to 50 in a reasonable time, three weeks is probably longer than the endgame-eager “hardcore raider” mindset. Hell, ONE week is probably longer than they’d be willing to put in, and any time put in for this sort of thing is probably done grudgingly.

I still think that paying for a boost is appropriate in this case. I am forever worn out and tired of Blizz bending over backwards to a tiny sliver of the population and wish they would spend time making the journey to endgame more interesting. There are years’ worth of adventures locked away behind a poorly designed and paced leveling experience, and it’s a damned shame that nobody has any reason to visit them – much less enjoy them – other than the completionists out there dragging their max-level asses through content that they don’t even appreciate because how can you if you’re life isn’t in danger?

Tride the Frost Mage’s days are over, and I thank him for his service. I understand the process better now, and will no longer feel that people that don’t want to do even this  little bit of leveling are necessary lazy or unwilling to put in the time. It’s a not insignificant amount of time that obviously I don’t begrudge12, but others might.

A new player just getting started will forever be missing what the rest of us experienced, for good or ill. How to explain to someone in the future that all these Chromie Zones were once played in sequence?  I’ll leave that up to wiser heads than myself.

My adventures as a leveling toon ended when I dinged level 50. Chromie let me know that I was about to be kicked out. She gave me a countdown, and then booted me to present day, at the courtyard of Stormwind Keep.   When I tried to port back to Darnassus, I was dropped at Darkshore, where all that was once our home lay smoking on the horizon13.  With a heavy heart, I sighed and ported to Ironforge where I sold all my stuff, mailed the cash to Jasra, and quietly ended the enterprise.

50 this dude


  1. Okay, the Lunar festival was running at one point and I cleared a few Elders because those unanswered quest markers on the map were driving me MEGA HELLNUTS CRAZY.
  2. So sue me, the War of the Thorns is still fresh for me, OKAY?
  3. At some point I did cheat and bought stuff off the AH to level cooking.
  4. Why is it that the Night Elves are getting it in the teeth every other expansion and yet somehow we’re supposed to feel sorry for the Orcs and be okay with them cutting down every tree that they can see and then some? Give me a break.
  5. Of course, Stormwind. Always, of course, Stormwind.
  6. Having never visited the peak, once a must-have! (addendum: a later quest took me there. Duh.)
  7. Of course, Stormwind. Always … wait, I’m repeating myself.
  8. No, that’s not cheating – neither the teleport, which is a Light-given Mage perk, nor the fast flying. The assumption here is that I’m leveling an alt for … whatever the leveler needs that level 50 toon for. One assumes that the leveler already has mounts, and, as you are well aware now, SIR, mounts are account wide9.
  9. If someone was leveling a new toon, this would be very, very sad.  I’ll essplain later.
  10. Where even is the bread crumb for that zone?
  11. Same question.
  12. Obviously not, I just blew three weekends on a silly experiment.
  13. As I said, War of the Thorns is still a bitter memory for me.

What Classic gets right (or very wrong)

image

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been puttering around on my Hunter and Priest (started five levels apart) and really enjoying myself.  It’s painful, inconvenient, slow, grindy, and painful. And yet I have not felt at all unhappy about it.

We’re looking back at a version of WoW that had perfected the Skinner Box model without realizing it, or taking much trouble to hide it.

If you’ve never heard the term, “Skinner Box” is named after a psychologist that theorized a thing called an Operant Conditioning Chamber, which is a fancy way of saying that it trained animals using mostly positive reinforcement.  Push the right button, get a cookie.

In WoW, this is illustrated by the  nearly constant positive reinforcement mechanism that kicks in after level 10. Every time you level up, you get something, often many somethings. You always get a talent point. And sometimes you learn new spells or abilities.  If you’re a Hunter the phenomenon is doubled thanks to your pet.

Contrast this to BfA and Legion, where I believe it’s fair to say that aside from the changes to the core game at the start of the expansion, you gained nothing new.

Hell, the last time I got a new Talent is at level 100 – the end of WoD.

Did leveling up mean anything to you in Legion or BfA?  I mean, did they even lock out zones based on your level? (spoiler alert: they didn’t).

The modern niceties of modern WoW are sometimes a curse in disguise.  A game based on conflict that has basically greased the rails to max level doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Yet here we are.

But … about that Skinner Box thing.

The Skinner Box scenario is generally looked down upon by most “serious” gamers. It’s the perception that, instead of making a good game, the team has created a grindhouse in which you respond like … well, like a rat in a Skinner box.  Green light goes on, you hit the button. A pellet of food comes out. Green light comes on, hit the button again.  Eventually, what you’re conditioned to do is to press the button whenever you see a green light, and expect a pellet of food.

This reminds me of one of my favorite stories about “sick culture” work places. It goes like this.

Imagine a cage. In that cage are five monkeys.  It’s a big cage, don’t worry.

Now, hang a banana in one end of the cage.

Now, whenever a money approaches the banana, ALL the monkeys in that cage get hosed with a firehose.

Eventually, you’ll train them to never approach the banana.

Now, replace one of the monkeys with a new one.

The new monkey will approach the banana.  But instead of hosing the monkeys, you let the trained monkeys do your work: they beat the hell out of the new monkey until he too won’t approach the banana.

Keep doing this until you’ve replaced all the monkeys, then do a complete rotation again.

Now, you have a cage full of monkeys that have never been hosed, but won’t approach that banana.

And if they could talk, and you could ask them why they won’t go near the banana, they’d probably tell you, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done things.”

I wonder if Blizz did us a favor by getting away from the Skinner Box approach?

That Water Strider business; it’s all about control.

Imma not gonna lie, I never got the Water Strider mount  until BfA, and even then it was the Welfare Water Strider.  I was in no hurry, but until I got it I didn’t realize why so many people wanted it.

Take yourself back to Burning Crusade and the massive effect that flying mounts had on day to day questing. Now, there was a big difference between then and now. Then: you had to gain the flying ability per toon. Today: one toon gets it, all toons get is.

But there was a gate, and flying was that gate.

Before flying, you had to slog your way through any number of BC quests (flying didn’t apply to, well, anything on Azeroth), and that taught certain values about the value of flying in landlocked environments. Most importantly: quests that were difficult for landlocked toons were cake for those with flying mounts.

For some time now I have been ruminating on how water striding mounts fulfil the same role that flying mounts did, only instead of flying they offer the means to move freely in areas that water constrained the area of free movement.

And in the course of those ruminations, I have come to realize that water striding mounts fulfil the same role that flying mounts did on areas that relied on the behavior of ground mounts to restrict and control movement in a zone.

You see, this is all about control.

Control, and the complete lack of foresight on the part of software developers that are paid well to foresee such things.

The whole point of controlling flying in zones is to control the flow of the activities in that zone. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is bullshit. The design of a zone that has flying as a factor must take flying into account, or the zone design itself is a failure.   So far, every zone that Blizzard has presented is a failure when it comes to flying. Flying overcomes all constraints designed into the zone. No zone designers thus far have designed with flying in mind. And as a result, we end up with artificial constraints on where you can and cannot fly. Shame.

shame

Water Striders are the next generation of this shit-show of design. When they were introduced in Pandaria, they were a cute little end-game perk for players that endured an endless shit show of a rep grind. The short-sighted designers of these mounts failed to foresee how useful they would become in future expansions, for the design didn’t have any level constraints.

And then all of the zone designers after Pandaria worked water into the constraints of the zones that they designed, because somebody had already removed flying from the constraints until endgame, and, surprisingly, nobody had notified them that someone on the MoP team had designed a mount that would blow right by any water-based constraints. I mean, they can’t be expected to play the game and, well, read WoWHead, right?

And, unpredicted by anyone except us filthy casuals, water striding mounts became the most popular mounts in the game. Why? Because they broke the constraints imposed by the Master of the Universe Top Men programmers of all zones after  Pandaria. The Top Men said “you can’t go here unless you fight through zillions of aquatic assholes” and we were like “lol I water stride the fuck over your heads motherfucker.”

I mean, this was the deal no matter your level. If you were able to earn enough rep to buy an Azure Water Strider (about a month’s work) then you had the ability to bypass a large part of any zone’s constraints that were based on water. You could just “fly” over the aquatic mobs’ heads and call yourself a mf’ing hero.

Listen, I’ve been doing. So don’t trot out any holier than thought bullshit. No time, no patience. It’s a thing that happened, and any player that employs maximum efficiency will do the thing. it’s natural.

What I’m getting at is that the changes to water striding in the 8.2 patch are kinda predictable. WoW isn’t about making game mechanics more fun, it’s about maximizing the amount of time the can keep you playing and Water Strider mounts don’t really help with that.

Now. Changes to the Water Strider mount are kinda weird in that light. What we’re getting right now is that the mount won’t be able to do the thing it was bought to do  – walk on water – until the character that uses it is level 100.

Okay, I get that, if the max level for the current expansion is 100, that makes perfect sense.

But it’s not. Current max level for BfA is 120.  So if you are level 100 and playing BfA, you are not in any way constrained when it comes to water walking mounts.

So I am in many ways questioning the changes to water walking mounts in 8.2.

Listen, I’ve been of the opinion that water walking mounts blew the level design of all zones since Draenor. But I’ve always envisioned a solution that … addressed the problem. As in only applying to max-level zones, not zones of the past.

The current solution is bullshit. Wrong. Punishing people other than the intended audience.

Though I have to say, if your mechanics design hinges on punishing people, maybe you’re in the wrong line of work.

Or I’m playing the wrong game.

Getting close to option B, friends.

Inscription is Facked.

FACK

I’ve been long delayed in my report on BfA inscription.  A large part of that delay has been Blizzard’s delay in implementation of a reasonable system for Scribes to create Glyphs.

Lemme essplain.  No. Is too much. Lemme summarize.

Starting in the expansion following (3.0) the introduction of Glyphs (2.0), Blizz offered a mechanism for Scribes to create glyphs that were introduced in every expansion. In short, the Ink Trader.  The Ink Trader allowed you to exchange whatever the current expansion’s primary ink for inks from previous expansions.  So, for example, if you were in the Cataclysm expansion, you could exchange Blackfallow Ink for any ink required to create glyphs in Vanilla, BC, or WotLK. In MoP, then you could exchange inks from that expansion for older inks. And so forth. I hope you’re keeping up.

Which brings us to the most notable absence from the current expansion.  Normally, at the introduction of the x.0 patch for an expansion, the Ink Traders in all faction hubs (Stormwind, Shattrath, etc as an example) would provide an exchange of whatever that expansion’s most common ink was for any other ink in the game. For example, in Legion, we could exchange Roseate Pigment for inks from previous expansions.

But now we’re in weird territory.

When BfA rolled, we expected an Ink Trader in the faction cities to accept one of the inks from the current expansion (we figured it would be Ultramarine Ink) for inks from previous expansions. But we found nothing. At that point, the previous expansion (Legion) still held sway. So the only way to create inks for all expansions was: farm Legion inks (Roseate Pigment) or go gather herbs on the continents from the previous expansions, and mill them. This was less than optimal. In a world where we expected to exchange Ultramarine Ink  for other inks, we were met with disappointment, at a massive scale. And now we are in 8.1.0, and there is still no sign of an ink Trader in Boralas, much less Stormwind.

So what we are doing, here in the first content patch of BfA, is farming Legion herbs.  BfA herbs are almost useless – there are three Druid glyphs in this expansion, and that is it – so we are currently either selling them off – a poor financial investment – or banking them against an expected future where they are actually useful.   At this point, I am becoming cynical.

So what is actually going on?  Those that are willing to attribute an  actual plan to all of this are welcome to comfort themselves in the actual market, but those of us that are embedded in the current market are doubtful. Currently, Dreamleaf (https://www.wowhead.com/item=124102/dreamleaf#comments) is the king of the Inscription market due to its secondary conception of Roseate and Sallow (especially Sallow) pigments. BfA Inscription is pretty much dead. And the WoW customer service accounts are pretty much silent on the topic after multiple pokes.

That is: currently. Aside from Cards of *, it is currently impossible to turn BfA herbs into a profit. And Blizzard doesn’t seem to care even so much as to stroke your ego. Sorry.

BtW: in case you were thinking of switching to Alchemy:

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Herb-related crafting in BfA is, to be quite brutally honest, a cluster-fuck.  You’re best served in just selling the herbs (especially Legion herbs) than trying to make a profit at Inscription or Alchemy.