Tag Archives: Joyia

Who matters most?

So apparently it’s a thing right now, where because a Mythic World First Guild decided to stop being a Mythic World First Guild that people are clamoring that Blizzard do something, because won’t you think of the poor Mythic World First Guilds?

As usual, I have some strong feelings about Mythic Raiders, raiding in general, and Blizzard’s “catering” to players.

When things come up about Group X vs Group Y in WoW, it always boils down to one thing – Whoever is talking thinks they deserve something, and the other side thinks they don’t deserve that thing.

So. Who deserves a thing in WoW?

Who deserves the gold? Who deserves the gear? Who deserves the mounts? The pets? The Titles? The Legendaries?

Does anyone disagree the answer is – People who spend time and money?

Those are literally the two most important things in most people’s lives after all. Time and Money. They are a weird balance board. It fluctuates at high and low ends of the spectrum obviously, and has weird connections to seemingly unrelated things. But despite how much I hate goblins – they aren’t wrong. Time IS money.

We can’t say “Well anyone who pays for WoW deserves all the things.” (Though I do actually think that SHOULD be true.) Because… well, we all pay for WoW right. If I have to run Stratholme 166 times to get my Baron Rivendare’s Charger, I don’t want someone else getting it just for logging in. (Honestly, I really don’t care, as long as *I* have the mount.)

So for WoW, the real thing isn’t money. Because we can’t BUY a thing straight up. And it’s actually not “fair” to gate things behind money like that. See, WoW is based on the precursor to Mobile Games Monetization. (It really is, even if they don’t have a direct route to a la carte purchasing – which they should if they wanted to make bank, but again I digress – the ability to buy with Dollars things that can be traded or sold in game for everything means that it’s doable.) Mobile Games are based on two ideas – more players is always better, even if 90% of the players pay nothing. And two (this is the important one for this conversation) Players are either going to give us time or money. That’s why all the “currencies” in mobile games are used to speed things up.

Do you want to spend a month farming a thing – or pay $10? As someone who earns more than $10 an hour – it’s TOTALLY worth it for me to throw $10 at a game (especially if I like it, support your game devs) over waiting a month. (Also I am wildly impatient.) There are people like me who don’t mind the money. There are other people who are super proud of reaching the same achievement without spending a dime.

But in WoW, this transaction – money to thing I want in game – is not direct. It’s very roundabout. I have to buy tokens, wait for tokens to sell, then trade gold for carries. For the sake of this discussion though, let’s assume this is not REALLY doable (since it’s cost prohibitive, and limited by Blizz since you can only buy so many tokens.) (Also, it’s how it was BEFORE the tokens, and I feel it still holds true.)

So then, if we all pay the same amount of money into Blizzard, shouldn’t we all get the same amount of stuff? All the mounts? All the pets? All the gear?

Hurm. That’s not very fun though is it? We enjoy the seeking, the striving to get a thing we want. So the currency Blizzard is asking for isn’t money, it’s time. They want us to spend TIME getting an item. Here’s where the breakdown happens though: Elitism – and players who think they deserve something because they “worked harder” for it.

If we go back to the mount example. An Elitist would say “Because I ran the dungeon when it was current, because I got the mount when it was a 1 in 1000 drop, I deserve it more than someone who farmed it at level 80.”

But they didn’t earn it the same way I did. They were just LUCKY. At 15 minutes a run, times a 166, it took me 2490 minutes to get my mount. That’s 41.5 HOURS. At minimum wage (in California), that’s over $400! FOR PIXELS! Someone who ran it at level, could have gotten it on their first run (okay probably not but rng is rng).

So which one of us DESERVES it more? Hint – both of us – we both worked for it, just in different ways.

Ah. That’s the key right there. We got the same result – we just got it in different ways. Also he got his like 6 years earlier than I did.

People talk about Mythic Raiding like it’s the people Blizzard is making the game for. It’s not. They make the game for all of us. If it was just for Mythic Raiders, do you REALLY think Pet Battles would be a thing? At all?

People talk about Mythic Raiding and say “Well if you were willing to devote the time to it, you could do it too!” Actually, it’s not about time. It’s about skill, what we find fun, and willingness to be unhappy while working towards a goal. How much time does a Mythic Raider spend playing WoW? 40 hours a week? Like a job?

My slash played, since 2005 when I started playing, averages out to 5 hours a day. That means in a week – I spend 35 hours playing – on average. Obviously some weeks are more (Legion launch!). Some are less (Person 5 get here faster!). But in the end, I spend almost as much time playing WoW as I do working.

The real question is – why is their 40 hours of play being valued at a higher rate than mine? Why is my 40 hours leveling and capturing pets not a valid path to a best in slot piece of gear? (Since that is ARGUABLY the goal of a game like WoW, a loot treadmill.) Why isn’t it valid that someone who PVPs 40 hours a week earn gear on par with Mythic Raiding? It is just a loot treadmill right? Aren’t we on the treadmill? Why don’t we get the loot?

Less than 1% of players saw Naxx. So they remade it for Wrath. And nerfed it. People were pissed. Why? Blizz was “catering to casuals”. No – Blizzard was catering to PLAYERS. People who paid money for their game, paid the sub, and likely spent just as much time as everyone else in game – but maybe weren’t driven to focus on raiding as the end all be all of the game.

Do I think people running a raid 40 hours a week deserve mounts/pets/titles/legendaries? Oh yes. Do I think people running dungeons 40 hours a week deserve mounts/pets/titles/legendaries? Yep, them too. Do I think people leveling pets 40 hours a week and beating the Celestial Tournament deserve mounts/pets/titles/legendaries? Hell yes, that shit is hard.

“But Joyia, if you make it so that people can get the best gear from running dungeons – people won’t run raids!”

Ahhh, that’s where the Mobile Game Monetization comes back in.

Mythic Raiders == the Whales. They put up with all the “pain and suffering and omg why would you do this this isn’t fun at all” and get the loot fastest. Us “filthy casuals” who spend just as much time in game if not more – we get it too. Just slower. And over a greater length of time. The currency here is just pain and suffering.

That’s why the progressive buff in ICC was such a great thing. (The Mythic raiders don’t need it or care, my little casual guild can progress to the end!) That’s why Badges of Valor were such a great thing. (You got it in a drop, that’s cool, but if I keep killing bosses I will get it in 3 weeks!) That’s why NOT REMOVING CONTENT LIKE THE GROVE WARDEN AND ICC MOUNTS IS SUCH A GREAT THING. (Seriously Blizz, put that shit back.)

We ALL pay to play the game. We ALL pay in time – casual and hardcore is NOT determined based on time spent – but rather the bullshit required to defeat a SINGLE aspect of an impossibly large game.

We ALL deserve the rewards and cool things that comes with it.

This is unacceptible.

Updated: Follow up post here.

I think it says something that in 9.5 years of playing, I have been forced to contact Blizzard Support more since WoD launched than I ever have before. In fact, prior to this time, I have never had to contact them for an item issue at all. 90% of our contact is me reporting someone for circumventing ignore, which is pretty much me just sending a message and letting them take care of it.

But this time. Oh boy, this time it’s awful.

Back in December, after hitting gold cap, I bought a trinket – Sandman’s Pouch. It’s crafted, and really good, so I decided to splurge and get it for my Warlock. I bought the cards and made the item. (About 7k gold, this will matter later.)

Once I got my scribe up to the point where she could make War Paints, I started saving them to create the upgrade items for this trinket. It takes about 35 days to make both upgrade items.

The mats:

The mats for  Inferno Tarot:
150 X  War Paints
30 X  Sorcerous Water (450g)
15 X  Savage Blood (15000g – at the time of creation)

The mats for  Molten Tarot:
200 X  War Paints
40 X  Sorcerous Earth (1600g)
15 X  Savage Blood (10,500g)

Apparently though, I made a mistake when I made the first upgrade item – you see, there are 4 different upgrade items for scribes to make. Two work for trinkets and two work for weapons. I made the wrong one. That’s stupid, but that was my mistake. What happened next was Blizzard’s fault. I used the Weapon Crystal on my trinket (or I believe I may have, I don’t really remember, that was in December, but it’s plausible, and others seem to think that is what causes the bug.) And it WORKED. It upgraded my trinket to the 655 version. So I went back about doing my thing and continuing on raiding and kicking ass.

Now, here at the end of January, I finally got my war paints to make the second upgrade item. I made sure to find the one that said it upgraded from 655 to 665 (really 670, but they haven’t updated the tooltip.) I made the item. And instantly realized I made the wrong one. Again. I made the weapon one. So after much cursing, I decided to list the wrong one on the auction house, eat the 5k price difference and buy the molten tarot off the auction house. I sent the molten tarot to Joyia, and grumbled a bit, but fine. I would have my upgraded trinket.

“This item cannot be modified.” – That was the message I got when I tried to upgrade my trinket. Uh. NO.

After triple checking, I went to the web and found this thread full of people with the same problem. The first post was over a month ago. A MONTH. (This is also where I found my info on the crystal issue.)

I submitted a ticket, waited my two days and this is the exchange:

My Sandman’s Pouch isn’t upgrading to 670 with the Molten Tarot item. My Sandman’s Pouch is 655 and should be eligible, but instead it says “This item cannot be modified.” I spent 30k on the upgrade item. You need to either give me the 3 of 3 Sandman’s Pouch, or refund all the mats used to make the trinket and both upgrade items.
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/15700050462?page=2 <— here’s a whole thread of other people having the same issue.
OH, if you do decide to refund the mats to make the trinket and the two upgrade items they need to be sent to my alt, Summerriver on this account because she is the inscriptor that can make it.
Really it would just be easier to take my Molten Tarot, my current sandman’s pouch trinket, and jsut give me the correct 3 of 3 Sandman’s Pouch trinket.

-1 day ago – Adhaglaudock Customer Service Representative     
Hey there -,

We’re currently aware of the Molten Tarot not upgrading trinkets to level 3 as they’re supposed to and are working to get it fixed. Our Quality Assurance team should hopefully get a hotfix for this released soon, if not it will be rolled into the 6.1 patch once released.

As far as the items go, as the trinket was created back in December we won’t be able to return it to the mats as you have used it for over a month. Returning that to the mats would be unfair as you got so much use out of it so far.

In regards to the Molten Taro, as you bought it off of the auction house we will be unable to refund the purchase. All auction house purchases are all sales final and can’t be refunded as we’re unable to reclaim the gold from the other player and if we didn’t we would be hurting the economy by duplicating gold.

So you will need to wait for the hotfix to be released. We’ll get it released as soon as we can though!

Thanks for contacting me and if you need anything else, feel free to let us know!
#4 –  
Please READ what I wrote before responding. Others who have encountered this same problem say that rebuilding the trinket from scratch and upgrading it properly (using the Inferno Tarot and Molten Tarot instead of the Crystal item, which is why it breaks and will not upgrade properly). I am not asking for the mats to sell. I am TRYING to get my trinket I SHOULD have Sandman’s Pouch 3 of 3 upgrades.

Your solution – wait for the patch – is unacceptable. I am in a raiding guild. I have spent a great deal of time farming the mats and gold to make this trinket and upgrade it. Telling me to deal with having a subpar trinket when I should have a better one due to Blizzard’s bug is not an acceptable response.

If you cannot refund me the mats for all three items – the trinket, the inferno tarot, and the molten tarot – while removing the trinket and the molten tarot – then you need to replace the trinket. I have the 2 of 3 version of the trinket and the molten tarot in my bags. Take those, and send me the 3 of 3 version of the trinket.

For those who might not play WoW, let me explain that Trinkets are a high upgrade slot. Even a “small” gain like this could mean 10-20% better performance. That could mean the difference between my guild downing a boss or wiping all night. That could mean the difference in me being on the raid team and not being on the raid team.

The fact that the CSR’s response was “Oh sorry, we are fixing that bug, wait for 6.1!” is absurd. 6.1 could be 2-3 months off! In addition I am now holding a worthless item I bought for 30k gold! The cost of replacing the trinket would be 37k, if I had the materials on hand. All of this because I can’t be assured of a drop off a boss that is equivalent. (The 670 trinket I would need only drops from the last boss of Highmaul on Heroic. Yeah. That’s going to happen any time soon. *eye roll*)

Blizzard has based their end game on running content and grinding for gear. As such the acquisition and use of this gear is the most important part of lasting dedication to playing the game. Asking someone to wait to use an item they have already earned is extremely rude considering the time investment into getting these items is what KEEPS THE GAME RUNNING. Especially when the lack of this item either means another great expenditure of gold or losing their raid spot?

It’s extremely frustrating. The correct response would have been – well honestly back in DECEMBER when this was discovered, rushing a hotfix to prevent the bug from happening in the first place and fixing it on the broken end. As that is apparently not a priority, the GMs correct response should have been, let me check, grab the bad trinket, the Molten Tarot and mail you the correct 3 of 3 trinket. Apologies for the wait.

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.

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.

WoD Beta Impressions

I am fortunate in that I got to play the WoD build at BlizzCon last year, and then got into what appears to be the first wave for the WoD beta.

First things first – When I saw WoD back in November, I remember thinking it wasn’t nearly as far along as MoP was at the same time. (I also got to play MoP at BlizzCon when it was announced.)

It was clearly unfinished, textures missing, no world critters, very little set dressing. Only two zones, both of which felt very empty.

The beta isn’t much better. They re-wired the way the area starts. There is a strange event at the Dark Portal, then an event in the Tanaan Jungle, then it’s off to Shadowmoon Valley. But oddly, instead of going to Karabor immediately, as we did at BlizzCon, it was a crash landing on the coast. We started by building our Garrison Outpost and questing into Draenai territory. Why are the Draenai okay with us hacking down their trees and building an outpost? We’re just as bad as the Horde in Ashenvale here.

The beta is buggy, unstable, and there is a ton of missing stuff. (Enchanting mats, trainers, etc.)

Here is my bullet list of issues though – not QA issues, but player issues:

  • The animation on the follower when dragging them from the follower pane to the mission pane in the garrison needs to be LITERALLY anything else. The strangle animation is NOT the one to use here. I picked up the night elf and she was literally struggling for her LIFE. No no no.
  • Why change the order that things are added to bags? Why not allow up to decide which direction it goes in? We have been playing one way for 10 years – you can’t just change it now.
  • So objectives are just like…. quests without the quest text?
  • The way things complete is wildly inconsistent. Some mobs are multi-tap, some aren’t, some items are player specific, some aren’t… Seriously guys, we have solved this problem. PICK a solution.
  • Reminder – Escort Quests are the WOOOOOORST.

Now about Garrisons…

I haven’t played Wildstar, but I see the pictures. These Garrisons are not comparable. Blizzard is strangling player choice in the name of their desire for telling their own story. The Garrison was supposed to be optional – now it’s a part of the storyline as it progresses through Draenor. The Garrisons are a pale shadow imitation of the player housing in other games. And the way it looks/feels in the Beta does NOT comfort me that it will get any better.

If Blizzard does this – releases Garrisons as their answer to Wildstar – I am afraid Wildstar is going to win the argument. And unfortunately, that will be the beginning of the end. You can’t be the 600lb gorilla in the room, if everyone else has corgis and kittens and you keep insisting they play with your gorilla.

Players in MMOs want choice. We want to make our characters look the way we want to look, dress the way we would dress, live in places we would live. Every choice you let the player make is validating them and allowing them to be a part of the story and game. Every choice you take away because you think it should be about you not the player is a stepping away point. And so many players are stepping away. The thing that made WoW the 600lb gorilla is the people playing who convinced their friends to play, drive them away – and you lose those pounds.

The Price of Progress

When writing for a site that earns money based on hits, the best thing you can do is write a controversial and slightly inflammatory post you KNOW is going to get commenters riled up over.

Bravo Holisky, you did it perfectly!

200 comments and still growing. *slow clap*

That being said. I totally agree with you. More than that, I honestly believe it is PAST time for World of Warcraft to implement a buy a character store.

So let’s review the arguments people have for why there SHOULDN’T be a character store then review the arguments for why there SHOULD.

This is a terrible idea!

1. You need the 90 levels to learn how to play your character correctly!

There are more ways to level than ever before. You can level through PVP, Pet Battles, being power leveled, etc. Even so, playing at 90 is very different from leveling. It’s two different games. People who come for the leveling will still level. People who come for raiding will get to jump right to the meat. Pve is not the same as Pvp, so why would someone assume leveling is the same as raiding?

Two stories – The first is about me. I leveled a hunter to 60 in vanilla, then leveled a mage to 60, then a priest, then a warlock. What can I say, I like ranged DPS. When Burning Crusade hit, I leveled the hunter to 70, then the Warlock. Once my warlock hit 70, I was a part of a raiding guild, and one night they drug me along to Karazhan. We were fighting the trash before Moroes, and one of the healers asked, “Joyia, why aren’t you Life Tapping?” I responded, “Why would I do that? It just leads to me dying.” I had never used Life Tap. I didn’t even have it on my bars. I had leveled that character, but had no idea how to raid with her. Fortunately, our other warlock took me under his wing and taught me how to play as a raiding lock.

Second, in Wrath, I was running random heroic dungeons on my priest. I got into a dungeon with a level 80 DK. He started pulling and I had the hardest time keeping him alive. I was an ICC geared healer, and this was one of the starter dungeons. It should have been cake. I looked at the tank’s gear. He was wearing a mix of spirit plate and other plate (maybe dps or tank, I don’t know). He had not spent a single talent point. I asked, “Dude, what’s up with your talents?” His response – “What are talents?”

Leveling teaches a player virtually nothing about playing well at level cap. Especially since some of the most important spells players only get at level cap, or the rotation relies on secondary stats being at a certain level.

2. You will miss all of the STORY!

Way back in vanilla, there was a mod *everyone* had. Everyone. I played for 20 minutes, before my friend helped me download and install it. It did several things, but mostly it made the quest text instantly appear instead of slowly appearing. That way I could just click okay and follow him to the locations. Even now, I rarely if ever read quest text on my first run through. I am blitzing my warlock to level cap as quickly as possible. Especially with all the new map and tool tip stuff.

People don’t read quests. They don’t watch cutscenes. I know people who didn’t know who Tirion or Bolvar were in ICC.

Not everyone cares about the story.

3. Professions/Gold/Gear

For about 30 seconds I thought this was a good argument. Then I remembered… It’s not. I have power leveled professions on multiple toons. It’s *always* easier at level cap. Also, dailies make earning gold a snap. As do scenarios, dungeons, and LFR. All of which give gear too. They will likely start the players with a set that is equal to the lowest dungeon blues, but that’s fine. It will get replaced rather quickly anyway.

Even better, this would help server economies, as there would be tons of people buying up all those low level mats. OR even better than that, Blizzard would implement a catch up systems like Thanksgiving for all the professions. (Actually they kind of did with Ghost Iron recently, remember?)

4. Everyone starts near the top, there is no one to help. (Really? What game are YOU playing?)

Wow… so someone tried to say that players like helping new players and that if this is implemented there won’t be anyone to help or the only people to help will be mouth-breathers. UM. First off, what game are you playing? Because as far as I can tell WoW is definitely NOT a game where people like to help strangers. Guildies, of course. RL friends, always. Strangers? GTFO NOOB. Also, they make it sound like those level 85 players won’t know anything and that’s a bad thing. How exactly is it different from a level 10 asking where the auction house is compared to a level 85? Level is just a number at that point. Will it be rough for the first 3-4 months? YEP. But then the good people will come out of the woodwork and the newbs will help other newbs…

5. Guilds will suffer from bad players!

They already do. Even worse, they have to keep the bad players because that’s the ONLY option they have. The influx of new accounts to WoW following a character buying system would lead to hordes of players, including many who would learn quickly and potentially become excellent raiders.

Let’s say 1 million people join the game just because they can skip leveling. If only 10% of them are decent THAT’S 100,000 NEW RAIDERS. That’s 10,000 NEW RAID TEAMS. As a guild officer, that idea positively makes me want to shiver in excitement.

6. It’s pay to win!

You can already do it. It’s just difficult. You can already pay for power leveling. This just streamlines the process. This takes it from being illegal and makes it legal. This protects the players by making it a Blizzard offered service.

Also, if you agree that the “winning” of WoW is downing the last raid boss, then actually it’s not. It’s pay to skip the grindy bits to get to the real part of the game. Everyone says the “real” game begins at level cap. Well, let’s get to the real game then.

7. It doesn’t take any time to grind to 90 ANYWAY! Just do it!

Well, if it only takes 2 days, then why gripe if someone skips that? Also people love to bring up heirlooms, forgetting that totally new players wouldn’t have those. Nor are they likely to be in a guild with the leveling buff.

Real arguments against it:

Button overload! – This may even be worse than starting fresh and facing x amount of hours to 90. There are a ton of buttons in WoW at level cap. It would be very daunting.

Solution – Perhaps a scenario like the DK one, that teaches and adds abilities as you go. Honestly WoW could use a “solo scenario” set that is directly targeted at teaching players to play their class and spec well. Match the player with an NPC of the same class and spec who leads them through a dozen or so scenarios to teach them skills, talents, glyphs, etc. I would like this EVEN NOW, so I could really learn to play a melee class well.

No additional leveling content or updates.

Oh this is actually a good one. If everyone can skip the old content, there is no reason for Blizzard to update or add to it. But then… have they really done that much anyway? Other than Cataclysm, have they *ever* added mid level content since Vanilla? And even with Cataclysm, how many people replayed all of that content? Blizzard has the stats. Clearly it wasn’t *that* great or they would have updated more or updated Outland. (Now what, Friday they are going to announced updated Outland.)

So why should they do it?

1. They sort of already do allow it with Scroll of Resurrection.

2. They have exp gear and potions in China. Precedent has been set.

3. Sudden influx of *tons* of players BOTH OLD AND NEW.

I sit next to a guy at work, who would love to play WoW. He doesn’t though because he doesn’t have TIME to level a character. He would raid with us, two nights a week for 4 hours total, but he can’t play anymore than that. He’s a smart guy. He would learn fast.

I am an officer in a casual guild. We have existed as a raid team since May of 2013. Now, 5 months later, we are 2/14N and 10/14 Flex. Why are we not further along on Normal modes? Because we only have 11 players. 2 tanks, 3 heals, and 6 dps. If ONE of our tank/heals is out, we *have* to flex. And life gets in the way all the time! We recruit nearly constantly and yet our gains are almost always met by losses. New babies, new jobs, new school schedules… there is always something. WE NEED MORE PLAYERS. That is the truth. I can’t wait for our realm to be coalesced with another one.

4. The average age of WoW players is increasing. These people have lives, jobs, kids. They don’t have time to play a game for a month just to get to the real game, and gear for a month, then to be able to play with their friends. It’s too much of a time sink. To hook new players, you have to lower the barrier to entry. Lower barriers equals more players. Which would you rather have – a game bleeding subs year over year, or a game with tons of new players every month?

I also don’t think there should be “requirements” like having a max level character. Maybe limiting it to the “previous expansion cap”. I could get behind that one, but really this service needs to be more for new players than for old. Old players are hooked. They have the heirlooms. They have the experience of knowing leveling zones, dungeons, friends, etc. This service should be targeted at new players to draw them in, get them into the game, and then they will stay here. WoW is at heart a peer-pressure driven addiction. Why does it continue to be the 800 pound gorilla? Because even if there are better games, WoW is where your friends are. Your friends pull you back. Now let us pull in new players and get them to the cool stuff asap.

I can’t believe that just happened

Your most memorable experience in World of Warcraft… GO.

When I first read the title, an event popped into my mind. I often tell that story as the coolest thing that ever happened to me in WoW. The more I thought about it, the more events that popped into my mind. How could I chose just one?

I have been playing WoW since the fall of 2005. That’s alot of time to cover. That’s alot of playing. Every expansion, raiding, pvp, soloing, nearly every class… I have built a large number of WoW experiences, many of them quite memorable.

I’ve talked about the Corrupted Blood Plague before. I also talked about the Zombie Invasion. Both of those were amazing events. I will never forget going to Ironforge to see this “plague” that was killing everyone, then dying to it myself. (I was level 30-ish.) The sea of bones, the spam of messages in trade. What a day. I will never forget forming the raid of zombies and going into Stormwind and turning it into a scene from 28 Days Later.

I’ve been to the Crypts of Kara three times, and I am seriously considering yet another venture.

I invaded the Outlands. I tanked Illidan. I defeated Vashji, Kael’thas, Arthas, Kel’thuzad, and even Deathwing. I have seen the natural beauty of Kalimdor, the burning wastes of Silithus, and the lush tropics of Stranglethorn. I have flown with Val’kyir, I raised dragons, I saved orphans.

The first story that always pops to mind though… it’s nothing a designer sat down and planned though. In game design there is always the argument of systems versus scripting. Do you script and plan every event, or do you create systems that then interact? Player Stories vs. Designer Stories and all that.

I was playing on a PVP server, with friends, during Vanilla WoW. I was a priest, level 32. Of course, I was specced holy, since I was generally running dungeons to level. World PVP is the worst, and so I generally avoided it.

One afternoon, I was killing trolls in Stranglethorn for their ears. There are three camps of trolls, but I was at the largest one. You have to collect 25 ears, and not every troll has them apparently, so it usually takes 50-60 troll kills to get them. I was merrily smiting trolls to death, when a warrior ran up and attacked me. He was Horde, I was Alliance, this is how these things go. I successfully defended myself and defeated him. I hugged his still warm corpse, and continued killing trolls. A few minutes later, he showed back up, then sat and drank while watching me sit and drink. Of course, as soon as I pulled another troll, he attacked once more. It’s a good tactic. Now I have to fight him and the troll. But sadly for him, I am an amazing priest. I defeated them both.

Despite the fact I was on a pvp server, I had no desire for battle. I am not terribly aggressive when out leveling. But after a few months on a pvp server, I knew exactly what would happen. This warrior was determined to beat me. As he couldn’t on his warrior, he would be back. With friends. Or maybe with another one of his own characters. The troll camp didn’t mean that much to me, there were two others after all. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and headed west, towards the coast, for one of the other camps. As I was passing by tigers, another player rode up from the south.

This player was level 60. Raid geared. And epic. You can tell, as the raid gear matches, and looks quite impressive. His skeletal horse had armor, mean he had epic riding. The gear immediately tipped me off that he was a mage. I was dead. Oh, he hadn’t killed me… yet… but I knew I was a dead priest walking. The chances of me even fighting him off were nil. I only had one chance. The chance that he would decide I wasn’t worth the effort to kill.

No luck. He dismounted right next to me, and used his Frost Nova ability. (It freezes enemies in place.) I pressed my Psychic Scream ability. (It causes enemies to be feared – they run in random directions for 4-10 seconds.) In WoW, players have the ability to resist spells cast at them. Miraculously, I resisted his Frost Nova. Even more miraculously, he did NOT resist my scream. This had to have been a one in a million shot. At his level, his resist should have been so high, my spells should never land. At my level, there should have been nothing more than a sliver of hope that I wouldn’t be frozen in place.

But he did fail to resist, and I succeeded, so while he was running about like a chicken with it’s head cut off, I ran the opposite direction. I rounded one of the huge trees and hit Shadowmeld. Shadowmeld is a racial ability that let’s a Night Elf “fade” into the shadows. It’s a stealth. The mage appeared mere moments later, spamming is aoe attack. He knew I had likely shadowmelded. The only way to find me was to break the meld by doing damage. The thing was, he was too far forward. I was too close to the tree.

After several minutes, he finally gave up, and moved on. Leaving me hiding. I immediately crowed about my accomplishment in general chat. Ninja priest for the win!

This encounter could not have been scripted. But because of the systems in place, well designed, I was able to do something extraordinary, that I tell people about all the time.

When /G goes silent

Last night, I did my usual evening routine. I put my kid to bed, I grabbed a beer, and I logged into WoW. I spawned in and typed my normal greeting: /guild Hey guys! How goes?

<You are not in a guild.>

Wait. What?

Sure enough, I was unguilded. No more Villainous tag under my name. What happened? I opened my friends list and pinged my RealId friend who had also been in our guild.

“What happened?”

“Oh hey, yeah, Spart logged on and just booted everyone today. We are trying to figure out what to do.”

I felt like the rug had been yanked out from under me. The floor disappeared as the floor on Lich King could vanish. I didn’t even have my friends on my friends list. Why would I? They were in my guild. Finding yourself un-guilded, unexpectedly, was bad enough. But the night it happened… that was worse.

In December, 2012, I got a whisper from a RealId friend asking if I was still working on the legendary staff from Firelands. I told him I was, and I was halfway through Stage 2. He asked if I wanted to go? “Does the pope wear a funny hat?” Of COURSE I do. So I jumped in. Turns out, this close knit group of friends ran old content most every night. Just for fun, achievements, and titles. After 3 weeks, I decided I should transfer servers. After all, these 9 people were helping me get a legendary staff, I should share the rewards, specifically, the mini-pet that the guild gets from the guild achievement for having someone with the staff.

$25 later, I was on a new server, leaving my 21 alts behind. (I have 9 level 85s, and 19 toons over level 70.) We rolled through all the old content. Everything from Ulduar drakes, to Sinestra, to ICC LK Heroic. It was great fun. Most of the guild were people who were friends in real life. Over the course of the two months, I progressed into Stage 3 of the quest and got a few dozen other achievements from other raids. Then, I realized, I was ONE clear from the Staff.

I pointed it out and everyone got excited. We actually PLANNED the night we would run Firelands, instead of just winging it like normal. That way, everyone who wanted the pet, and wanted to see the event could be present.

The night we planned to run Firelands – that was the night our GM logged on and booted everyone.

Heartbreak. I am sure everyone felt much the same way I did. We logged on, ready to have fun, ready to celebrate our guild doing something Legendary, and instead, we were met with abandonment and betrayal.

It’s just a game, but it felt shockingly similar to being laid off at work. The worst part was asking in TRADE CHAT if we had missed anyone in our guild.

I pinged my friend, and discussion was had about what we were going to do, but to be honest, most of us were just hurt. So we formed up a raid, and we only had 5 of our normal guildies. The others had disbursed. I almost cried. So close to the staff, and now so far. My triumphant night had been disbanded just like the guild. Our raid leader, contacted another guild, and asked if anyone would be willing to run Heroic Firelands. Five players stepped up. I cannot express the heroism of these 5 players. They all had Firelord. They had zero reason to help. They did anyway. They gave up 2 hours to help someone they had never met, never raided with. HEROES OF AZEROTH.

Silver linings and heroes aside, the night was still marred by the loss we had all suffered. A few people drifted to an alt guild. A few others ended up in alt bank guilds. Worst of all, the mini-pet I had transferred to allow people to get was no unavailable, to all of us. So now I am left trying to figure out how to guild hop between guilds to get all my new friends a pet.

Here I am, 24 hours later, and the one thing I can’t let go of… This should not happen. There IS a design solution to prevent someone booting everyone else in the guild and making off with a level 25 guild, with bank filled with mats, gold, and gear. Even if the guild had been okay with a dictatorship, most of us now aren’t. We don’t want someone else to be in charge. We want to be able to TRUST the person in charge. Our guild leader, he wasn’t just some guy. For most of the people in the guild, he was a REAL LIFE friend. He was a real life friend who got rejected by one of his other friends and decided he didn’t want to deal with it. He destroyed the guild because another guildie had flirted and then broke his heart. In return, he broke our hearts.

Why can’t we decided to have a guild that has a co-gm or council? Why can’t we chose our own leadership?

There has to be another way. Before the days of guild levels, it would be a simple matter of pestering a GM to restore our stuff and gold. But now, we have to start over or join another group. It’s like, hitting level 90, having your friend leave the game and suddenly you are level 1 again.

Once bitten, twice shy.

The Secret World – It’s all true…

“It’s an MMO, set in the Modern world. Conspiracies like the Illuminati and stuff, it’s all true. And the Secret World is spilling out into the real world. That’s where the player exists.”

That was the first description I heard of the Secret World. It was at least 3 years before the game came out. I was interested.

“It’s like Lovecraft, Poe, and Stephen King had a love child, and they made a game about it.”

OMG, this game is going to be awesome. I started to follow the game voraciously. Every tidbit. Every video. Every screenshot.

When the game finally launched in June, I had already made my pre-order of a lifetime sub. I not only wanted to play this game as much as I could, but also wanted to support it as fully as possible.

The intro tutorial quest was very… odd? Discouraging? Combat felt odd to me, and I really didn’t like the aggro mechanics. But I persisted.

And boy was I rewarded. If you do nothing else, get Secret World and play through Kingsmouth. It’s the first “zone” of the game.

Kingsmouth is a small coastal town that feels very New England. There are mines, junkyards, the shipyard, the old forest, and even a small municipal airport. The first thing that really struck me about the town, just on the surface, was how well a “real world” location actually felt to run through. As someone who started playing WoW when ground mounts weren’t available until level 40, I am well aware of what it feels like to run through MMO games. The town made sense, and the more I moved through it, the better I understood it. Normally I am one of the first ones to call games out for being “jogging simulators” where you are forced to backtrack over and over again. It took me about 4 hours to realize I had run back and forth across this small town at least a dozen times, and it STILL didn’t feel old. It just felt good moving through the world, jumping over trashcans, fences, and barricades.

Then I found it. The best quest ever put in an MMO. Funcom wanted to make Secret World different. They wanted it to be unique. And they succeeded 100%. The quests in Secret World are broken down into Main Story Missions, Action Missions, Investigation Missions, and Side Missions. Main Story are obviously varied missions that move you through the game’s main plot. This actually works quite well for keeping a coherent lore thread. Action Missions usually involve alot of killing. That’s fine, although I will get back to combat in a bit. Side Missions are pretty much fedex or fetch quests, nothing really standout. Investigation missions are what makes this game so.much.better. than all the rest.

The Secret World comes with a Google browser built into the game. Why does it need it? Well obviously, they didn’t want people alt tabbing while doing investigation missions. The Kingsmouth Code was the first quest where I really began to understand what Funcom had done. Most games, when presenting the player with a puzzle, include the answer in the game. In most modern games, the answer is 2 feet from the player at all times, outlined in yellow, and so simple even a 10 year old can get it. The dumbing down of games is a holy war I don’t want to get into, but regardless, Myst wouldn’t make it today, purely based on the insanity of the puzzles. Secret World went the complete opposite direction. Not only was the answer not in the game, but they actively expect you to use Google. (Best part, one of the NPCs responds to you and says “I don’t know! Google it!”) You have to pay attention to the most minute of details in the world. They will give you hints that really only get you about halfway there. Don’t know Latin? Better just keep a Google Translate tab open.

At one point in the quest you are given this clue: “Time is the province of Kings and Gods. The hands of time point to truths written by kings in the words of God. The path is open to the enlightened.” That’s it. I immediately looked around for the clock. Sure enough, there’s a clock with the time set at 10:10. I am a bit sad to say that it took me another 20+ minutes to figure out the next part. Did you already? Words of God. The Bible. Kings 10:10. Of course, this verse talks about a woman giving talents to King Solomon… How does that apply? It just gets more convoluted from there. In the end, the entire quest chain took me about 2 and 1/2 hours. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Seriously though, Kingsmouth Code (and by virtue it’s extension, Digging Deeper) are amazing quests. Almost worth it alone, if you can get the game for $20 or so. The other investigation quests are just as fiddly, deeper, and mind bogglingly obscure. (Do you know who composed the Four Seasons? Cause if so, you are going to do better than most.) The best part is, unlike games like Myst, where the puzzles are just obscure, the investigation missions in Secret World are all based on fiddly niche knowledge. Do you know where old churches list the hymns you will sing that Sunday? Do you know how to translate Morse code? Do you know how to dig into a company’s website to find info on their employees? When you know the answer, you quite possibly feel like the smartest person in the world. When it takes you three hours to figure something minor out, you feel like the stupidest person in the world. And it’s ALL AMAZING.

The game holds up through the second zone, the Savage Coast, but after that it starts to go downhill. The Faction Missions you get every so occasionally are superb and well worth the time, but once I hit Blue Mountain, it was like smashing into a wall. Which brings me to my big complaint.

Combat and the over abundance of choice. In Secret World you don’t pick a class. You pick a weapon. You earn AP points, which you can then spend to get skills in any weapon you want. There are 9 possible paths right from the beginning. I picked Blood, as it appealed most to my Warlockian nature. Turns out, you can’t solo as Blood. In fact, you really can’t do anything as *just* Blood. So I had to go back and pick up another weapon. So I snagged Shotguns (seems like a solid choice yeah? Zombies + Shotguns == always fun!). Only shotguns, being short range, really didn’t fit in well with my ranged magic. So then I switched to Blades. How? Well, in Secret World, you can’t respec, you just need to earn more AP. So they let you redo quests you have already done, and you get the same reward. I just had to go back and re-grind Kingsmouth’s quests until I could level my Blades skill up to match the monsters in the area I was fighting. The thing is… as much as I loved doing the Investigation Quests, they weren’t the quests you could re-do. It’s the Action ones… which require you to kill things… which I was having trouble doing… which is why I picked up a new weapon… which I couldn’t use effectively because I didn’t have the AP… that I needed from the Action Missions. Oh dear. For you WoW players out there, imagine getting to level 50, as a priest, realizing you really want to be a Shadow Priest instead of leveling Holy, and instead of just respecing and changing some gear, you have to go back to Westfall and relevel from 10 to 50 to gain access to your Shadow Spec. Seemed like a great idea on the surface. Fails in reality.

Once I got my blades up to skill level, I noticed something very disheartening. I was mowing through enemies like one of those oversized lawn tractors. Blades was *significantly* more powerful than Blood or Shotguns. Enemies I barely beat by the skin of my teeth before were dying from a single slice of my katana.

I never really appreciated the balance that goes into WoW class design. Yeah, I can argue that my warlock does twice the work of mages for half the dps, but in the end, I rarely feel as if I am just completely playing a wasted class. I felt that way with Blood vs Blades. The options seemed so numerous at character creation, but in reality they were few, you were just very likely to pick the wrong choice.

I am currently at the Egypt zones (having a child really cuts into the gaming time), and starting into them, but I can already tell the slow degrade of polish through the second two Solomon Islands zones is going to continue through the game. It’s very clear they worked very hard to nail the first zone, Kingsmouth, and as a result the other areas did not receive as much love. The Faction missions, which are scattered based on how much overall experience you have earned are clearly in the Kingsmouth polish category and do some really amazing things. (The first one sends all three factions to the same location, but each tells a different side of the story. And each are scary on Silent Hill levels.)

The Secret World doesn’t hold your hand. The community tools like Wowhead and Wowinsider don’t exist. Figuring out powerful solo specs requires a great deal of work and number crunching, as opposed to just stopping by Elitist Jerks. It’s a game that makes you work for it. In some ways that’s good. In others, it makes you realize how much WoW has spoiled us as gamers (I am looking at you Random Dungeon Finder). It makes me realize that any MMO that wants to compete with WoW can’t compete with WoW at launch, they have to compete with WoW as of today (or rather the day the competing game wants to launch). And that is an exceptionally tall order.

On the up side, it costs me nothing to take long breaks between playing. There have been small content patches, with bug fixes and new quests, every month. The game will keep getting better, and I will keep coming back. The Secret World is just as engrossing and enthralling as I had hoped. It just doesn’t feel like an MMO. It feels like a single player game. The social aspects weren’t vital to the game. (In fact some of the missions required solo instances and thus actively prohibited group play.) I can’t wait to see where they take it. I can’t wait to see plot threads picked back up and extended. And I can’t wait for more Investigation Missions.

Secret World is one of my games of the year and very much worth the initial investment, provided you can give it the time to play through Kingsmouth during your free month. Watch for sales on Amazon or Steam, and pick it up for under $30. The first zone is worth that much.