Mine Mine Mine – Work Work

For once, I read a thing on WoWInsider that I completely disagree with. Like not a little disagree with, but at least think they have a point; this is full on I think they are wrong.

Professions in WoD are not broken. With one *minor* complaint, they are better than they have ever been.

Statement 1: “As the game stands right now, you could never touch professions and you’d miss almost nothing of importance.”

Except for the huge piles of gold and gear. Nope, nothing of importance. Adam makes the statement that all of the crafted gear is easily replaced with LFR drops, and seems to be missing a few steps of logic.

I have run LFR every lockout on my main, Joyia. Not a single piece of gear has dropped. For that matter, I have 23 boss kills across all difficulties and world bosses and I have a grand total of 4 pieces of gear from all of that. I have two from Missions. And I have 3 crafted pieces. The purpose of crafted epics is to upgrade pieces you need that you can’t or haven’t gotten drops for. It’s a way to ease the pain of the random loot system. (Just like valor, which is why I am still cranky that’s gone.)

Why are crafted pieces actually MORE awesome this expansion than others?

First, they are no longer limited to a few slots. In MoP, as a tailor and clothie, I only got to upgrade/replace my legs and belt. But legs and belts were both SUPER common. I sharded multiple ones along the way. I didn’t get shoulders though until literally the LAST Garrosh kill of the expac. And even then only because the priest HANDED them to me because it was so absurd I still didn’t have them. It’s a lot like everyone felt with the cloak drops… they were worthless because everyone was working on the legendary. But now in WoD – if I get a great cloak, leg, and chest drop, I can make epics for 3 other slots! If anything, this has made crafting epics MORE valuable than ever before. As raiding progresses, the prices should stay fairly solid across all pieces too, because there will always be a need for that one piece that just won’t drop for someone.

Second, they can be upgraded. No, it’s not cheap – but then, it really shouldn’t be. Item level (ilvl) points make a much larger difference this expansion than previously. I went up 4 ilvl points and gained over 5k dps. And even at market prices, it’s still cheaper than buying a BoE epic of that ilvl.

No battle pets? What are the Elekk Plushie and the Soul of the Forge then? Chopped liver? And the mounts! My leatherworker is seriously eying her crafted mount instead of leg armor.

Also, the fixes don’t actually *fix* the problem he has detailed. He wants professions to be important. To have something to do with the mountains of ore and herbs he is stockpiling.

Fix 1 – more gear – Um… what professions is HE looking at? Because my tailor HAS a set of level 98 gear that is perfect for gearing up for dungeons. So did my Leatherworker and Blacksmith. It’s about the same as the gear I could get from quests in Nagrand, so really it works. The epics, built off of the daily cooldowns, are the source of steady gold this expansion. I sell at least 2-3 epics a week, each for 10-15k, which is far more than I ever made from blue dungeon gear in MoP.

Fix 2 – eliminate the need for daily cooldowns. First off – this is ALREADY HOW IT IS. My blue tailoring patterns don’t require the daily cooldowns.¬† Hurm, neither do my leatherworking ones. I bet the blacksmithing ones don’t either. The epic items are the only ones that need the daily cooldowns.

Also he seems to be missing the point entirely. The daily cooldowns are the things DRIVING the work orders in the garrison. They are adding purpose to having the buildings that match your profession. But once more, it’s better than it has ever been before, because you don’t have to have the profession to make an item from it. My rogue can finally make her own gear, without having to drop Engineering or Mining! My mage can make robes without dropping Alchemy and Herbalism! Also, by limiting it to 3 crafted pieces, they ease the entry to raiding, without making dungeon running and early raids completely pointless. No walking in, dropping 100k gold and being decked out in epics.

Fix 3 – the mine and herb garden… So he wants to go back to the dark ages of riding around fighting over nodes? No thank you. Yes, the ore and herb drops the first two weeks (three?) were FAR too high. And unfortunately, many of us built massive stockpiles during that time. But even so, the fact that I can mine my own ore, easily, without having to fight over it, means I have made far more crafted plate than ever. More gems have been cut than ever! I am actually leveling alchemy! These two inclusions have changed the default state of professions from gathering being the professions chosen just for gold making purposes to actually crafting things to use. Which arguably, is the whole point. And oh, the joy of not having to ride all over Draenor since we can’t FLY to get herbs and ore.

But even so, ore and herbs still sell well on the AH. 150g per stack of ore? For almost no work involved in collecting it? 300g per stack of herbs? Sure! As for too much of every material, they give 2-3 per node now. Yes, on level 3 mines and gardens, that adds up to a large amount, but it also cost almost 4k gold to get to that point. And the recipes require large amounts of all of it. My tailor uses 10 flytrap a day. So does my other tailor and leatherworker. I need those gardens to feed that.

People also keep asking for the ability to turn in herbs and ore for Savage Bloods. Um. You sort of can? Sell the herbs and ore to earn gold to buy the bloods? Make epic gear and sell that to buy the bloods? It’s all part of an economy! Or goodness, go and get the barn and farm your own savage bloods (I sell mine for 1k each, which is a steady flow of gold!)

 

This all makes sense. It’s a nice system that allows players to be self sufficient, and make lots of gold. I would even say I am exploiting it – with 5 mines, 3 herb gardens, 2 barns, and six crafters doing profession cooldowns every day. I am crafting more right now than I have in the last three expansions put together. Usually after the first month I am only making bags and gems.

Now. Professions and crafted gear DOES have ONE problem. FUCKING RANDOM STATS. (Sorry, I HATE RANDOM, THE CURSING IN WARRANTED.) It shouldn’t be easier for me to sell an epic on the AH with junk stats to buy the one with stats I do want. Especially with the removing of reforging. And the reroll items? WAY too expensive since you still might get the same bad stats. If anything THOSE are what shouldn’t use the daily cooldown items, and instead should just use massive amounts of regular mats. Actually, that one change would address all of Adam’s issues too, without hurting the way I and others use them.

I disagree Adam, I think as far as gearing and goldmaking, crafting professions are actually important. If anything, herbalism, mining, and skinning have been nerfed to unimportance and are likely going to get replaced for some of my alts, just to be able to make more of the daily cd items. Crafting has leapt into the position of actually being a useful gearing tool instead of something I only use for my main, then never again.

Promoting Better Play

“We’re not above bribing you to be nice to each other. And frankly, neither are you.”

They said this at the BlizzCon they announced Warlords of Draenor at. And I remember thinking… That will be a neat trick. In the words of our tank Xxiv, “You can grief someone at anything, says the guy who was griefed in Journey.” (Journey has no chat, matchmaking etc, you just move through the world with another player. But apparently his match didn’t move. They just stood still.)

As a game designer, I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to convince the player to do what I want them to do, without just flat out telling them. And sometimes with just flat out telling them. It’s funny, because it kind of crosses over into being a parent. How do you get the toddler to do what you want, without forcing them to do it.

As all parents and pet owners know, there is positive and negative reinforcement. Positive is rewarding them for doing what you want. Bonuses, treats, special treatment. Negative is punishing them for doing things you don’t want them to do. Spanking, time outs, etc. Blizzard is pretty good at getting a majority of people to “play” the way they want us to play. They want you to quest instead of grind just killing mobs? Make the quests have better rewards, take less time, and give more experience.

Torgo answered the question “Does WoD promote better play?” and he answered the question from his pov. But the game designer reads that question very differently.

This question is asking a lot of things. And play is a very loaded word for a designer. So I wanted to answer it, with my designer cap on. Play is not just about with other people, but everything you do within the game. other people are going to come into it more because it’s a multiplayer game.

Yes. And oh god no.

I am sure you are all surprised at my dichotomy.

Promoters!

– Garrisons do an AMAZING job of promoting play. People logging in at weird hours and staying up late to check missions, discussing buildings endlessly trying to figure out the best ones, helping with invasions, even working together to get achievements to get the guild banners! Further, they provide a very REAL reward in the form of bonuses, extra gear, extra materials. Very much a positive reinforcement to get us to play and play with all the parts.

– Flexible raid size. Our team of raiders is 15, just within our guild and real life social group. Now 2-3 of those might drop or wander away, but that would still leave us with 12. 12 is an awful number of raiders in the old system. In WoD – no worries. Even so, if you add our partners in crime, we are at potentially 32 raiders. THIRTY.TWO. That’s a ton of players and far beyond what I ever expected us to be at. So many people to play and have fun with. No man or woman left behind!

Non-Promoters!

– Items in dungeons not dropping from the final boss. Oh man… do you know how many times I have gotten into a Shadowmoon Burial Grounds run, the tank has been just terrible… we get to the first quest item and bam – he’s gone? Only to realize he was a dps, who had a tank offspec and used it just to rush to the item? It’s in the double digits already. Even worse – I had to run Grimrail Depot TWICE because I forgot to pick up the quest item off the ground, and even though I had a lockout where I had killed all the bosses, it wouldn’t let me back to that spot. So far actually none of the rumored “incentives” to keep playing together have been clearly communicated. And furthermore I have actually found it MORE difficult to succeed in a group of friends because we don’t get the luck of the draw buff.

– Proving Grounds. These were flawed to begin with. Players don’t really learn about their class in them. They don’t learn how to raid. They don’t learn how to move out of the stupid. All it does it gate the content. And what if my friend I want to drag along on heroics can’t do it? That doesn’t promote play, it promotes frustrated and upset people. This is a heavily negative reinforcer. It’s not good at all in that it makes players feel like crap and like they shouldn’t even be trying to play.

– No Flying. I haven’t done one bit of archeology or farming because oy is it HARD to get around Draenor. It’s very clear they wanted to gate and limit the player’s movement, but did they have to make it SO MUCH in every zone? It’s a very strong reason for why I don’t want to do these parts of the game. I don’t want to use a glider, I want to fly. Fiddly one off mechanics over a system wide ability I paid a great deal of gold for… yeah.

– Melee unfriendly fights. I already know one casualty to the melee unfriendly encounters of Slag Mines and Shadowmoon Burial Grounds. It is only a matter of time before we get into raids and find them there. Too often Blizzard seems to think the answer to making a fight “difficult” or complex is to make it insanely busy. There are a dozen different things to keep track of. And poor melee have to worry about huge swaths of downtime as they move. They have done this to a lesser extent to ranged, by taking away our ability to have some spells cast while moving. This is so negative. Especially for my guild groups, which are melee heavy. We would queue for a dungeon, get halfway through and be unable to complete it, despite having all done it singularly with pugs. The luck of the draw seems to be the deciding factor here, and we all miss it by playing with our friends. Bad choice.

In the end, I think WoD is just as good and just as bad as most expansions at promoting play both alone and in groups.

Warlords of Draenor First Impressions

WoW is a big thing for me, so in preparation for the new expansion, I flew my mother out to watch my toddler, stocked the house with snacks and Coke Zero, and took Thursday and Friday off work.

Here we are, 5 days later and I have a level 100 warlock, a level 92 monk, and a level 90 priest in her garrison. What do I think of WoD?

Amazing

Garrisons. I have my laptop set up at work so I can pop over and check mine before work, during lunch, and during break. At 8am, a time no one in my guild ever plays, there were 7 people on, checking before going to work. I have been moving characters into Draenor just to get to the garrison and start stockpiling resources.

Story. Holy cow. I really can’t say much without giving away spoilers but PALADIN TAUREN.

Good

Bonus objectives. The bonus objective areas are interesting and a clever way of having areas that are just “kill the things” without having those quests. I am a bit disappointed I can only do them once.

Rares and treasures. Once more we have brought back the MoP treasures idea and I really like it. It gives me a good reason to go poke my nose around in all the nooks and crannies of the expac.

Bad

Garrison dailies – the “strategic” ones. Could these be any LESS explanatory? They don’t give you any information about what you need to do. It turned into a cascade of people asking in guild what to do for the quest as the day went on.

Inn Quests – These are awesome, but it makes the inn feel very mandatory. As does the Stable. As does the Trading Post… In fact, it just feels like every building is fairly vital. Are they planning on expanding garrison? I deeply would like to have more of the buildings and I hate feeling like I have to choose between one content and another.

Outpost stuff – I was unaware how important some of those choices were. And now I find out it’s 10k gold to change them? OOF.

Ugly

No flight at 100. I decided to go do the daily in Spires of Arak yesterday and it took me 20 minutes to find my way there. Once I got there (after dying from fall damage) I was greeted by a few HUNDRED people all trying to do the same daily. 20 minutes later, I gave up and went back to my garrison, with 10% of the daily complete. This is NOT how I want to spend an hour of my game time.

Follower Mission Levels. These scale based on the player level, not the follower level. Which means my blitz to 100 has led to me having a ton of low level followers with no ability to level them. (Edit – they fixed this.)

Waiting to be a Hero

I didn’t get the chance to raid in Vanilla WoW. I wish I had. 40 man raids seemed like an insane and exciting thing to participate in. Pandemonium. That’s what I would expect. I did raid in a 25 man guild in Burning Crusade though, so I can imagine the headache of trying to get 25 people logged in, geared, and ready to go, scaled up to 40. OW.

In the 25 man guild I was in, we had about 30 raiders. (Or up to 35 at various other times.) There were 3 guild ranks, just for raiders. They were ranked, the highest being called Thunderfury. If you successfully posted above a certain amount of DPS or HPS you would earn that rank. When forming the raid, Thunderfuries were accepted first, then the middle rank (Sulfuras something) and Warglaive as the bottom rank. Anyone who had all blue/purple gear of the appropriate level could be a Warglaive. The problem was, once you were a Warglaive, the only way to advance your character was through raiding… so you had to wait for a night when not too many Thunderfuries showed up to raid to hopefully get in. If there were 6 spots, and 7 raiders waiting, then you had to roll against each other and hope you weren’t the lowest roll. The system mostly worked, except it was very hard to ensure you were always getting to raid unless you were very lucky or very dedicated.

When I left that guild and converted to Alliance, it was a bit different. I joined a guild as a tank, and eventually switched to healing. But we were a 10 man guild. This changed everything in that we had a fairly solid core of 9 raiders who were always present. Generally we could fill that final slot with any pug and do fairly well. However, over time we gained a few lost a few raiders, as always happens and started having issues with having 11-12 people showing up. When you can only take 10 raiders, this leads to the guildleader having to make very painful choices.

Do you take your friend? Do you take the high powered, but also very annoying person? Do you take the sweet, but oblivious person? Do you take the undergeared so they have a chance to get loot and improve or the overgeared so the raid has the easiest time of it? And oh goodness don’t take them, we already have four people fighting over cloth and no one to take the leather drops…

When I left that guild, I ended up in OLN, a 25 man guild that had about 35 raiders. So each night they would draw lots and split into 25/10 raid teams. That worked for Wrath, but Cataclysm was a different story. We lost some big players, had other players drift away, but couldn’t find *anyone* to recruit. I even talked about our insane solution to this event before. It was absurd. 16 raiders squished into a 10 man hole. By the time we hit Dragon Soul we were firmly down to 10 raiders. It was the end of that guild. We couldn’t recruit, we couldn’t bulk back up, we couldn’t get people who were willing to be on a waitlist just in case.

And that’s the problem with tightly tuned raids. When you can’t just carry one or two people, you have to have a finely tuned team to consistently show up to raid. When life happens, you lose a raider and it could be the beginning of the end for your team.

When I formed a guild with Misstorgo, recruiting was our first and main issue. We had to recruit people who wanted a casual experience, were willing to raid only 2 nights a week, and not cause drama. Through a series of lucky events, we ended up with several of my co-workers forming a core raid team. However, as we progressed through MoP we had several events that lead to losing a FEW raiders and not being able to replace them.

I think over the course of the expansion we changed more than half our raid team three times. More often than not, we would find interested people – but oh they couldn’t play without their two friends… Do you have any idea how awful it is being the 11th member of a 10 man raid team? You feel selfish if you say “No, I want to raid.” knowing it means someone else will have to sit out. You feel terrible not showing up because of course, that’s the one night that someone else can’t be there and then no one gets to raid.

But then, the Third Great Change came from Blizzard. Flex – the ability for the raid to scale based on the number of players – was implemented to all difficulty levels (except Mythic, which is fine because we aren’t hardcore like that) of raiding. 11 raiders? You’re good to go with all 11. 14? Yep. 19? YEP.

This literally changes the most painful and difficult part of running a guild into a non-issue. If we get down to around 12 players, easy, we just recruit a few more. No one has to sit, so there is no danger of them getting bored and finding another guild. The fights seem to actually be a bit easier with a few extra bodies. Missing a person? It’s fine, we have more. Your buddy who only plays a month or two then takes a 3 month break? We can bring him, when he decides to show up, and not worry about having to replace him.

WoW is most fun when playing with friends and now it doesn’t ask you to rank your friends and boot the ones who don’t fit into a 10 man hole.

How WoD Raid Lockouts Work

If you are the raid leader, the raid will despawn bosses until it reaches the first boss you HAVEN’T killed.

So if you joined a raid at Paragons, killed it, then go back later, it will start you at Immerseus. Every boss will be present, the only difference is you will not get loot/be eligible for loot from Paragons.

If you want to create a “Garrosh Lockout” you must have someone who has killed ALL the bosses – without skipping ANY – up to Garrosh. This character now has a Garrosh Lockout. If that character wants to HOLD ONTO that lockout, they need to invite their raid, zone in, then transfer leadership and leave.

They will then continue to hold a lockout.

PSA – If you have a lockout like we did, where a toon had killed ALL of the raid except Paragons, we zoned in, at Paragons. That toon did not leave, but stayed for Paragons, she now has a lockout (despite extending the other one) that has her ONLY saved to Paragons. So if she tried to raid lead again, it would start at Immerseus.

Starting at

What are Raid Lockouts, why do they matter, and how do they work?

Whew, what a loaded series of questions!

Raid lockouts were originally a Raid ID that said “This raid is this much completed, and can be completed later.” The problem was, people would raid on Tuesday, get X# of bosses in, then plan on coming back the next day, or later in the week. Then some a-hole in that raid would come back early, with different people, and clear to the end. Blizzard fixed this by effectively giving each person on the raid team a unique lockout. So when you can back, the raid leader would zone in, and that was the same raid they had worked on before.

Players could run raids that had downed bosses they hadn’t, but not raids that went earlier than their own lockout. Yes it’s confusing, so here’s an example:

Trial of the Champions – 10 man:

There are 10 raiders and they raid on Tuesday and killed the first 2 bosses (Beasts and Champions) on Tuesday. Wednesday, they come back, but two of their raiders are out. They grab a guildie and a pug. The guildie hasn’t cleared ANY bosses, but because the raid leader is one of the original 8, he zones in to see the Valkyr up and is asked if he wants to be saved to 2/4. The Pug has cleared Beasts, but not Champions, so he also zones in to see the Valkyr up and is asked if he wants to be saved to 2/4.

This gives the players a clear picture of what is going on, where they are starting, and what they are potentially skipping. So the guildie in this example is passing up the chance of loot from the first two bosses. Once he kills the valkyr, he would not be able to go back and do them later. The two members who DIDN’T make the raid could zone in with an entirely new group and would also be 2/4.

Raid lockouts matter to players because it allows us to take the raid in a series of chunks that are better for our specific playstyle. So like Weeping Angels, we raid 2 nights a week, 2 hours apiece. If we don’t clear the raid in that time, we don’t clear the raid. No running over, no extra nights. We all have kids, and spouses we want to see. WoW is a big deal, but not the highest priority. When we got to Garrosh, we held the lockout even when we would have reset because we wanted to kill him without starting all the way at the beginning of the raid.

So how did this change in WoD?

Well, it got a lot more complicated for one. (Bad designer, no twinkie! Simplicity is a goal over complexity.) Now, the lockout is per BOSS per character. So to reuse the above example, I decide to go into a raid that is 2 of 4. We kill the 3rd boss. I am now “saved” to the third boss. But I have to go, so I leave. I am saved to JUST the¬†Valkyr though. So if I try to start a raid later, it puts me at the FIRST BOSS I haven’t defeated. Which is Beasts, the first boss. When I get to the Valkyr again, I just don’t get loot, but I still have to kill them again.

This is a TERRIBLE design.

Players use raid lockouts to skip bosses they need nothing from. So a guild will run SoO, get to the final “wing” and switch an alt out. This allows that character to “hold” the lockout. So the next week, they can start at Blackfuse and finish the raid faster. Get to the meat and potatoes faster. Get to the new loot – FASTER.

The only reason for changing this would be if Blizzard didn’t WANT players skipping bosses like this. But the problem is, their “fix” for that didn’t change that. it just made it clunkier! Now if we want to save a lockout, we have to bring an alt for the first 11 bosses, then switch that alt out, and have them be raid leader the next week, instead of just switching an alt out for a single boss.

I don’t understand the logic behind this. It doesn’t make sense in the scheme of raid lockouts and progression. Following the “new” method, it should just put the players at the boss directly AFTER the last boss the raid leader defeated. If we really wanted a fresh raid, we wouldn’t be extending the lockout! If we wanted a fresh raid later in the week, just have the raid leader be someone who hasn’t run!

I would even like to see the ability to “jump to wing” for raiding. As long as everyone in the raid has previously cleared all of those bosses, when we get ready to go in, the raid leader can choose to start at a specific boss or wing.

You met me at a very weird time in my life.

It never fails. Someone says “I cannot wait until we get a new raid… I am bored/hate this one.” This always sparks the conversation of favorite raids and most hated raids. (For the record, mine are Naxx and ICC.)

Someone always brings up ICC. You know how when you smell something distinct and suddenly you are launched backwards in time to a significant moment – that happens to me every time someone mentions ICC or when I step inside the instance.

I was raiding on the Alliance side for the first time. I was healing for my raid. I was raiding with co-workers. We worked at Sega and it was fun. We would play at night, then in the morning there would be long discussions about what we did, and what we should be doing.

During this time, we were a team of 9 players. We needed another dps, so we stopped by Dalaran, pinged trade chat, and picked up a warrior. How was I to know that the pug we just picked up would end up not only joining our guild, but so would his wife. They would become friends. Fortunately they didn’t live that far away, so we even got to hang out in real life.

Then life happened. Sega closed our studio. People went to new jobs, with weird crunch schedules. Things… drifted away. But from that point on, meeting Misstorgo, raiding ICC, downing the Lich King, and working at Sega on Iron Man 2, all of these things were intertwined in my brain.

The real oddity is… this has happened before. Black Temple and Hyjal are intertwined with working at Mind Control. Kara was when I was at TG. Since then, raiding Cataclysm was a period when I was at TfB, but not raiding with co-workers.

It is odd to realize I am in the midst of creating another connection. My TfB raid team, finishing SoO, finishing Trap Team… it’s all interconnected now. My life is a series of events blended with in game events.

When I return to these raids or talk about them, I will have that moment of nostalgia. I will have that reminder of my life from that time. I wonder if other players have similar experiences, both in WoW and in other games.

The Moment of Longing

As always, WoWInsider has inspired me to write a blog post, discussing WoW and how entwined my life is with it.

Expansion launches are always a weird time for me. I am so incredibly excited for the new thing. I can’t wait to meet new NPCs, see new zones, conquer new raids… But… I will miss the old stuff. Even now, I go back to Dalaran, and I have this moment, right when I load in, where I feel that familiarity. The soft comfort of a place I know well and rarely see anymore.

It’s like going home.

I return to my parents town and home, and everything is hearthbreakingly familiar. So similar to how it used to be. The pond is covered in green algae. The roads are as twisty as they have always been. The cows still munch at the edge of the road, balefully watching cars, trucks, and the occasional tractor drive by. That one guy still washes his old red truck every day and waves at cars as they drive down the road.

Everything seems the same. But as I look closer, there are small differences. The Walmart has been rearranged. There is a new restaurant in the old Shoneys. A new fast food place opened up on the edge of town (but it’s not very good my mother tells me). That one friend now has 4 kids instead of 3. So and so married so and so. Those people got divorced (are we at all surprised?) But even with the changes… it’s still that same place.

The feeling that always strikes me though… I don’t fit. I don’t belong here anymore. I haven’t lived there in 10 years. I thought at first it was the time I had been gone, but even spending a more extended time there, I realized… I was different. I had changed in my time away. I grew as a person, I gained awareness of others, I learned about the world at large, far beyond the microcosm of my home town.

In a way, I feel this same emotion every time I return to old expansions. These cities, zones, quests, and raids were once my home. But I have grown up. I have changed and seen bigger bosses, and bigger trials. I have explored more interesting zones. My old haunts, while still beautiful and wonderful in many ways… they are a place a visit. I don’t live here anymore. This is not my home.

I move forward to something new and exciting, and yet… I will do many of the same things. I will make new friends, and old ones will drift away. A new expansion is still just that, an expansion of the journey we have been on. The adage says – the more things change the more they stay the same.

Oh Pandaria – I loved you. Thank you for being my home for two years. A source of joy and comfort, a balm for my sadness and heartbreak. I will move forward, but you will stay behind. I will return on occasion – to visit, finish achievements, perhaps even to farm up a piece of gear… but it won’t be the same. I have outgrown you, and while that is sad, it is for the best. Let us enjoy this one last hurrah and see Garrosh fall a few more times. (Also give me an heirloom.)

Flying, Riding, and Exploring

It was announced that Warlords of Draenor would not include flight at “the beginning”. Players complained, as always, and discussions were had. Several things came up I wanted to think/write about.

In previous expansions, players had to get to level cap first, then they could purchase the ability to fly. This usually came a high-ish price. This is good design, in my opinion, for many reasons.

1. It forces the player to ride through the world for an extended period. It has been proven that people who fly from one place to another don’t feel the “distance” the way someone who drives does. By forcing players to level until they can get off the ground, they generally feel the vastness of the expansion world.

2. It allows for funneling the players to locations. Level design is all about how to get the player to stay within the game area and how to get where we want them to go. Keeping them grounded allows for this. It makes it so the designer can be reasonably certain the player enters a zone from a specific point, and the gameplay can be tailored to match the leveling player.

3. It’s a gold sink. If it’s something WoW needs, it’s more gold sinks. Anything that takes gold out of the economy is good.

4. They see the monsters, NPCs, hidden things much better from the ground. It goes back to exploring, but it makes it worth it to spend dev time on doing silly things like the hidden treasures of Pandaria.

Now, having said that… I am strongly opposed to the idea of waiting for flight until AFTER the first content patch of WoD. As any long time WoW player will say, the game is very different when leveling versus when at level cap.

So why is it a bad idea to be level cap and not have flying?

1. Playing with Purpose.

It’s pointless-ish for level capped characters to kill monsters. We get no exp, the gold and drops aren’t worth it, since we get more in dungeons, and generally, we are never in danger – so it’s really just a slog that takes up time. Level capped players who are doing dailies just want to get their stuff done and move on to more important things, like dungeon runs. So I timed it. It takes me about 20 minutes to fly over, do the Shado-Pan dailies, and get back to the flight path. If I only play WoW an hour a day, that’s a 1/3rd of my play time burned doing what is effectively a chore. To test, I decided to do it on mount/foot. It took me 48 minutes. MORE THAN TWICE the time. A majority of the extra time was spent riding over and back, and dealing with extra mobs in the way, since the bug island is DENSE with monsters.

2. Designed for Reality not for Flow

Stormwind is a very interesting city. So is Ironforge. Both of them are sprawling and believable cities. They have houses, shops, districts, and dozens of landmarks. But in the terms of playing a game, these are terrible areas. Logically, in a game, there would be none of the wasted space. The Auction House, Inn, Vendors, and Flight Point would all be gathered together right inside the door. Now that’s not to say they should change these cities, but rather that they need to “lessen” the impact on the players. The ability to fly over the buildings and canals in Stormwind helps ease the players passage while allowing the city to look realistic.

3. Travel Time is Wasted Time.

You know that one person, who is always late? They are constantly running behind, to the point you tell them to be somewhere 30 minutes early so they will be even remotely close to on time? Now imagine you are waiting on someone to run dailies… Or a dungeon… or a raid… WoW is a game best played with friends, but always having to wait on someone is just as frustrating as it is in real life. We have things to do! And waiting about, or just riding through the world is not those things.

Why do flight paths not fill this need? Well for one, there are never enough of them. Two, they take some of the most meandering paths. Three, it’s dead time. You can’t DO anything while flying. I am not here to watch a bird fly, I am here to do interesting things. Also, everyone has had the experience of accidentally clicking the wrong destination and having to wait even LONGER to get where you wanted to go. On my own mount, if I see an herb, rare, or battle pet along the way, I can stop and engage.

Not having flight wouldn’t bother me as much if I knew that it was going to be reasonably easy to get where I wanted to go. But spend some time in Pandaria and realize how unlikely that is. The flight path from the Shrine to Half Hill takes twice the amount of time as just flying over the mountains.

At 90 (and 100 in WoD) the player isn’t playing to explore anymore. They don’t need to kill monsters for exp. They are trying to get the things they need to raid or pvp. That does not include spending hours of time traveling about. Players will take the path of least resistance and it’s a designers job to make sure that path isn’t quitting playing. To give an example, I started playing Hearthstone one night while taking a flight path. I didn’t notice I had reached my destination until the game auto logged me out for being afk for 20 MINUTES. Having a long flight path and travel time meant I stepped away from the game, and potentially would not come back.

Time spent in the game is valuable. There is so much to do and so many goals, for players, time is at a premium. The designers need to take this into account when making decisions. Make a game, not a jogging simulator.

Gelatinous Cube Shots

In our weekly D&D group, we have a paladin dwarf. I granted him the ability to turn water into holy ale/beer as a silly ability that just adds to the flavor of the game. Very early in the game, he used this ability to turn a pool of water into holy ale and then the group dropped an evil skeleton into it. Of course, because I reward players doing wacky things, I let it do damage to the skeleton, who then rolled TWO consecutive 1s on the dice to climb out of the pool.

They still tell this story, almost a year later.

Now, due to work pressure, our group is filled with tired, overworked game devs who are literally giving up their only free time in a week to play D&D. So I have been far more lenient and letting them do all kinds of crazy and silly things with their characters and during battle.

This lead to a night fighting mobs of troglodytes and three gelatinous cubes.

After much battle, Davkul, the dwarven paladin is facing off against the Gelatinous Cube. A statement gets made that they are “mostly” water right?

Can you guess what he did next?

So now, my group of fearless adventurers are standing about a gelatinous ale cube. Sid, the drow rogue, made a joke to the effect of “Gelatinous Cube Shots!” and of course, this meant Davkul wanted to DRINK it. I had him make an endurance check – and he nailed it. It was over 35. Fine. Okay. You guys just DRANK a gelatinous cube. EW.

This lead me to Google and checking to see how one would go about making Gelatinous Cube shots. My search returned nothing. Surely not. SURELY someone has had this idea right?

Well here’s how to make Gelatinous Cube Shots for your Dungeons and Dragons drinking nights!

Ingredients:

2 Boxes of Jello mix – whatever flavor.

1 cup Vodka.

1.5 Cups Boiling Water.

1 Cap of Wilton’s Skeleton Bones Sprinkles.

 

I picked Lime and Berry Jello, so it would be blue and green cubes. I also made the Lime with Vodka and the Berry with Rum.

Put the two boxes of jello into a bowl. Boil the 1.5 cups of water. Add the boiling water to the jello and stir for 2-3 minutes. Once it’s good and mixed, add the room temp1 cup alcohol. Stir some more. Pour into a small glass pan, and refrigerate over night. When ready to cut, set the glass pan in warm water for about 5-10 minutes, until it starts to separate from the glass pan, then cut the cubes and remove.

Now – about those sprinkle bones. I got them because it’s just not really a gelatinous cube without some adventurer bits in it. I added mine about 30 minutes after putting the jello in the fridge, which was clearly too soon, as they all sank to the bottom. I imagine about an hour would be right, though it might mean having to poke the bones down a bit. Also, it’s possible to make two batches and let the first batch set, then pour the bones in, then add another layer with the second batch – but that would mean doubling the recipe and a much bigger pan. The sprinkles didn’t melt when added to the jello, but when we cut the cubes, they did start to disintegrate and ooze. Honestly, it made it better.

DSC_0002 DSC_0003 DSC_0004 DSC_0006photo 1 photo 21619115_10152098175185876_3484592911143001907_nThe sprinkles and rum!

 

 

 

 

The Jello!

 

 

 

First set, blue!

 

 

 

 

Second set, Green!

 

 

 

 

Two trays of green and blue shots!

 

 

 

 

See the bones!

 

 

 

 

Up close cube!

 

 

 

 

 

I should also warn you, these pack a bit of a punch and are deceptively tasty. Nom with care.