Tag Archives: Warlock

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.

Transmorgrify!

Blizzard announced stuff about new 5 mans, a new raid, and cross-realm raiding. Is anyone talking about that? No. Why? Because they also announced a thing that changes very little, and yet somehow changes *everything*.

I remember getting an armor dye drop back in DAoC. It was black, and for metal. It sold for about 100g. A veritable fortune at the time in that game. My healer wore a rather lovely mix of dark green armor, so it was worthless to me, but amazing for someone else. When I later started playing WoW, on my very first character, I got some hideous brown robe and immediately asked my friend “Oh god, where do I get dye? This thing looks like baby poop.”

“You don’t.” He said, then explained that everything in WoW was set. I was exceedingly happy a level or so later to get a green robe to replace the other. Now, I am aware that many people think this is a girl thing, but it’s not. I even know a rather masculine man (he was a football player, so huge) who refused to wear any “of the Whale” items, because that implied he was fat. But regardless, for many of the same reasons people chose certain races or sexes in the game, we wish we could chose gear.

Guild tabards are hotly debated among officers to “look good.” People will match their pets to their mounts. (My hunter was furious when they took away her pet while mounted.) Everyone who went from Vanilla, with lovely armor sets, to the rainbow barf that was leveling in Burning Crusade had some moment of thought along the lines of, “Ugh, my character looks ridiculous.” Our characters are an extension of ourselves. We wouldn’t go out into public looking like that, why would our characters?

So why did Blizzard insist on limiting the armor colors and styles? Why didn’t they have an appearance tab like LotR Online and other MMOs? Why didn’t they add armor dyes? Why didn’t they give the community what was begged for?

They claimed the reason was dedication to the art. They wanted things to look correct. No pink hello kitty Darth Vaders here. And the Silhouette theory. This is best explained by looking at just the outlines of characters. Can you tell what kind of character it is by the outline? Then the Silhouette theory is working. The idea being that you could just glance at someone and tell, are they friend or foe. Are they Horde or Alliance? Heavy or Medic? This is why the shoulders in all the armor sets are so distinctive and large. So that player can not only tell at a glance who is who, but also how well geared they are.

It was a good argument… With a few gaping holes.

1. What about Noggenfogger? It changes everyone’s silhouette! As does Deviate Delight. Arrr!

2. What about Orb of the Sin’dorei? I love my orb. I used to be a Blood Elf. But then I faction changed to play with friends. I miss being a blood elf. So I use my orb with shocking regularity. I love using it in Tol Barad. Has it ever saved my life? Not even once.

3. Rated Battlegrounds.  For those who don’t run them, every so occasionally your team will get matched up against a team of the same faction. So it just slaps a buff on you that says “Horde” or “Alliance”. That’s it.

The other comment made was that with the armor sets being static, you could tell someone’s “epicness” just by looking at them. Which was great, back in Vanilla. But ever since Wrath, and the great design shift to allowing everyone to see raids, this has created a huge problem. Yes, those shoulders DO look cool. And everyone else and their BROTHER is wearing them. It was the sparkle pony all over again. Everyone looked the same. (I think this is also the time that “town gear” also rose to wide spread popularity, where you carried a set of gear just for wearing about town.)

Apparently though, Blizzard re-thought their stance and came up with an amazing compromise. No, we still can’t dye our armor. BUT we can make it look like another piece of armor in the same armor class. And the masses rejoiced.

I have never been so glad or my hoarder mentality of tier sets. I have never been so glad I have my bank stuffed to the gills with old and interesting armor. There is literally NOTHING in my bank that isn’t soul bound. Everything else sits on my bank alt.  Joyia has all 24 slot bags, and not a single space to spare. But she also has all the warlock sets. I will have these ugly tier 11 shoulders looking like tier 5 so fast it will make Joyia’s head spin!

Ah Corruptor Raiment, I have missed you. I cannot wait to have my shoulders bedecked with skulls once more. My hunter is gonna wear this one. And I will no longer have to deal with the fact that my dps is lower because I refuse to use one of those noisy guns! I may even try to raid with her now! I have all the starter DK gear sitting in my DK’s bank. My priest will be looking all angelic in this set. I am already excited about wearing these armor pieces again. I am already thinking of running old instances to get nifty looking gear.

But that just changes me right? That doesn’t change the whole of WoW. But it does. I already have friends who are planning on re-subbing when the patch hits. They are already planning THEIR ARMOR SETS. The invites for old school raids have already started. People are already compiling lists of nifty items and where to get them. Oh and the Destiny sword I have been listing for a month that hasn’t been selling? Gone for 500g. So I listed a Brain Hacker. I couldn’t sell it for 100g 3 months ago. Today, it went, in 15 minutes, for 500g. Lovely Dresses (despite not having stats so possibly not being eligible for the transmogrification) all sold for 100g each. This feature isn’t even in yet and people are already creating ripple effects in the game.

The best part about this change? It sets a precedent. Blizzard said no and gave reasons. Then later came back and said, okay, we found a compromise. No Pandaren? No dual faction races? There could be more compromises. Breaking the armor silhouette sets them up to break the race silhouette. This could be the beginning of a whole new World of Warcraft.

Now, I have to go stare lovingly at my t5 warlock set, sighing over the thought of wearing such lovely gear again.

On being Legendary

As with every shiny new raiding tier, Cataclysm has brought with it a shiny new Legendary. There are currently 8 Legendary weapons in World of Warcraft. (A few other flavor items, but no armor. Weapons are Legendary and so all Legendaries are Weapons..)

Legendaries are amazing things. Having one, even from old tiers of content, is a way of showing how amazing, persistent, and dedicated you are. At tier, they show that not only are you a hard core raider, but also that your guild is amazing and supports your awesomeness. And of course, with each new Legendary, guild leaders groan, knowing that the mere possibility of such an item will cause strife, anger, and likely a few losses, if not entirely destroying a raiding group. See, the thing with Legendaries are, they take a great deal of time, effort, and gold. And generally, it takes a few MONTHS to get ONE. That one Legendary, goes to ONE player. Not to the guild or raiding team that helped farm up the shards. Not to the crafters that help farm up the mats. The one player who was lucky enough to start the quest. In most guilds I have been in, this is usually an officer, if not the guild leader them self. Lower ranked raiders are likely to feel left out, passed over, or un-welcome.

It’s a sad state of affairs. I understand the logic. Legendaries are supposed to be Legendary. It’s not quite as cool if every player has one. But there are so many problems with them, I am to the point where I have to say, there needs to be a change.

1. Only 1. It’s sad really, that generally only one player in a raid group gets one. Despite the fact that it takes an intense amount of work from all the players in the raid group. I don’t know how to solve this. I really don’t. Part of me says make it as such that if you always run with the same 10 people, then after 3 months, you *should* have had sufficient time to earn the legendary for every person in your raid that it is specifically itemized for. To explain that and example.

I am a Warlock. That means, spellcaster DPS. I look for Intelligence, Stamina, Spellpower, Critical Hit, Haste, Mastery, and the most godly of all, Hit. A well itemized weapon for me would be +Int, +Stam, +SP, +Haste, and +Hit. Sharing with me perfectly would be any Mages. Now… having said that, if the caster item chosen were a staff (they usually are) a staff, itemized towards me would logically also be appropriate for Shadow Priests, Balance Druids, and Elemental Shaman. Now, let’s go out on the limb and say these classes don’t count. So that gives us two classes. Now in a 10 man raid, generally it is a fairly good idea to only have one of each class. It is also common to have 2 tanks, 2-3 healers, and 5-6 dps. It’s also a good idea to have dps split fairly evenly between melee and ranged. This puts us at chance of having the “correct” class for the Legendary pretty high. Even, probably, that there would be two in the raid. It’s possible to have 3 or more, but more likely that the raid would have two, provided it is a pure dps ranged staff. Let’s just say for simplicity that there is one mage and me. The staff is exceptional for both of us. We are both exceptional and consistent raiders. We are both likely to continue playing with said guild for years. Which of us gets the staff? My answer is that after 3 months, consistent clearing of the entire instance (beginning to end boss, each week), and assuming that the person with the steps is on the ball and immediately works at completing the step they are on so as not to lose any time, then a consistent raid group should be able to complete two staff Legendaries. Likely one much earlier than the other.

To round this up to 25 man, where there are 2 tanks, 5-6 healers, and 17-18 dps, then likely, a raid would have 4-5 of the proper class to take the staff. (My current 25 man has exactly 5. While my former 10 man had exactly 1. The math works out for the most part in my casual experience.)

What if it were a caster staff, but didn’t have hit or spirit? So suddenly it was viable for all 5 classes? Personally, I think this would be irresponsible design. Itemize to Caster DPS and create a second Weapon for Healing. Someone might say, well what about all the Hybrids? Do they not deserve a Legendary? Well, yes, but the assumption would that a Legendary should be created that appeals to that hybrid class more than the pure classes. So anything with spirit, but with a proc off damage.

Now obviously this means more Legendaries running about, but this also assumes a consistent group, clearing the entire instance, over 3 months. Not a simple feat.

2. Legendaries get replaced.

This is the saddest truth about Legendaries. Thunderfurys sitting in banks. Warglavies trotted out for showing off. Valynrs only pulled out to play around in old raids. After all that time, effort, gold, and destruction of guilds to have the item cease being useful is just sad.

A possible, and the one I like best, solution, is to have all Legendaries have the potential to upgrade. Let’s take Thunderfury, for example. Run Molten Core until eyes bleed? Check. Gather the exceptionally rare and expensive mats? Check. Made weapon. Yay! Now. Level to 70. Start a new quest, that includes running all the new raids. Collecting even more crap. Gather more materials. Do more bosses until eyes resume bleeding. And at the end, turn in the level 60 Thunderfury, for the now level appropriate, and amazing, Thunderfury, Level 70. Yay! Now level to 80. Rinse, repeat, and once more, Thunderfury, level 80. And for the final trip, again, eyes bleeding, pockets to let, bosses on every tier downed… Level 85 Thunderfury. A Legendary for someone with Legendary patience and perseverance. Of course, at each stage the weapon gets a bit more ornate, adding a proc, and making it a truly Legendary item.

This would also fix the third big issue.

3. With only 2 Legendaries per expansion, how does Blizzard decide which class it is intended for?

Two melee dps legendaries. A caster dps staff (now removed from the game). A bow. Two swords (for melee dps). An Axe (could be tank for DK, but really more melee dps). And a mace, specifically designed for healers. The newest is a caster dps staff. Seem unbalanced? It is.

But if the old weapons could be “upgraded” then with the addition of two tanking Legendaries, the removal of the class limitations on the Warglaives, and bam… every class, with each spec, would have a decent viable Legendary.

It would make the quality of life for everyone a bit better. There is an argument to be made that they should be super super rare, and maybe they should be so insanely difficult even hard core guilds only get one. But really, where’s the fun in that?

Games I Played This Week

I really should have considered prior to deciding that I wanted to do a weekly post about games I played that it does happen I get stuck in playing several games that are very enjoyable.

I am still cracking away on DQ9. I now have multiple grottos available and am clearing out at least 2 every day. Sadly, my characters don’t seem to be leveling very fast. In other DQ9 news, I convinced my mother to purchase the game and she is *quite* addicted at this point. She keeps calling me and asking me questions so I am able to track her progress quite well. This game is definitely going on my list of games to suggest for people who have parents that play DS.

I will likely be grinding on the multiplayer while at home with her in May.

I am also still playing a game or two of the Pokemon TCG trainer every day. I finished with the Fire Deck and I am now halfway through with the Water Deck. I am also noticing that they keep having “overloaded” messages, so clearly I am not the only one who is loving it.

I have been playing quite a bit with my 3DS, mostly showing stuff off at work. Also I am loving the Street Pass, though it makes me long for PAX where there are more people to encounter.

In WoW both my Priest and Shaman are now getting in on Alt runs for Tol Barad. My server has reached critical mass for being able to field successful pugs for TB which is a huge help for my alts. Our guild has also started some TB alt runs. I managed to down Atramedes on two different toons this week, thanks to needing a healer for our 10 man run on Saturday and then needing a DPS for our OTHER 10 man run on Sunday. My guild is actively recruiting.

Joyia finally got bracers from BoT trash and exceptionally luckily managed to get the +spirit wand off Chimareon. Two upgrades in one week! We made some fairly serious attempts on 25 man Elemental Monstrosity, the RNG fight of doom. (Not from Hell, that’s Al’Akir.)

I also volunteered to get a new guild website set up for OLN. I decided to use WoWStead and it took me all of 45 minutes to get everything up and running. Bonus points for WoWStead’s usability.

Finally, I have taken some time this week to start re-reading some Julia Quinn, to inspire me to work on some of my writing. I had a fairly dramatic plot break through on Wasteland, which I hope wraps up the inconsistencies and allows the story to have a conclusion that isn’t completely depressing.

I’m sorry, Do I know you?

It was a pretty exciting day. Patch 4.0.1 was a BIG deal. It was the change from Wrath to Cataclysm. It should have been a day of celebration, exploration, and excitedly discussing things with guildies. But the day was marred by the unexpected.

I logged in, double checked my gear and immediately dove into specing my new talent points. Alright, all done, summon up my felpuppy and start heading… wait a tic.

“Who the hell are you?”

The felhound standing at my side was called “Rhuudym”. MY felhound is called Phryluum. This… IMPOSTOR… was wearing the tag <Joyia’s Minion> below it’s name.

“You are not.”

Weirded out by this impostor, I decided to summon my Imp. Maybe Laztip would know what was going on. At the end of my spell, Paztog answered my call.

“Ahhhh! What happened to Laztip?!?” The imposter imp said nothing. I was really feeling terror now.

“Blue, don’t fail me…” Calling my voidwalker into existence. Poof!

“Oh thank the gods, Klath’dok! What the hell dude?!? Where did everyone go?”

“Sorry mi’lady. There was some catastrophic event that ripped through the nether. We all seem to be hearing different names and voices calling through the magics to us. It’s bedlam down there.” It was all I could do not to hug the big blue guy.

“I have a raid tonight. Arthas and all that. What am I supposed to do? I don’t know that felhound! He might try and take my hand off.” Klath’dok had no advice for me. I mean, I know I am a warlock. We are inherently evil and not to be trusted. Even the very demons I was trying to call were originally enslaved by my fel powers. But in some twisted form of Stockholm Syndrome we had become friends. We trusted one another. We worked as a team. We were connected, and not just by soul link, but by health funnel and dark pacts!

I summoned back the impostor, who just glared at me balefully.

“Alright you. I don’t know you. You don’t me. But I have this thing to do tonight. It’s lots and lots of killing. You should like that right?” He seemed a bit more interested.

“So truce then? I’ll take care of you for now, and we can both just muddle through until the Nether Guardians get this ‘mix-up’ figured out.” He blinked his eyes, but made no other response.

“Either agree, or I am gonna have a new felhound pair of boots. And I’ll use the imp instead.” He chuffed, and finally bowed his head and tentacles slightly. Good enough, I thought.

It would eventually take a week for my friends to return. Their return was met with joy and celebration, on both sides of the bond.

This event resonated several important things within me. First, Warlocks do have a heart, despite it being madly in love with destruction. Second, we knew their names. Not just one, but all of the demons we enslave. They are as much a part of us as our spikes, skulls, and bloody robes (not our blood). Third, despite years of howling for the ability to rename these little snots we had become accustomed to their names. We knew them. And when they were unexpectedly changed, we rebelled in one voice to change them back. There was the most heartbreaking thread on the forums, Warlocks looking for their lost minions, asking that someone, anyone care for their loved companions until at such a time this error could be reversed.

Welcome back Phryluum, you were missed you ugly little mutt you.

BlizzCon The Aftermath

EDIT: This post was mostly written the Monday after BlizzCon, but wasn’t posted due to the hacking.

One thing about conventions, you are always gonna sit in line. We started our BlizzCon experience sitting in a massive line outside the convention center. Everyone standing around had their passes on, many with their names. Most conversations started with the question “Horde or Alliance?”. Then asking about classes, number of 80s, and if you raid or pvp. Of course this caused small groups to break off and discuss their specific World of Warcraft love.

An hour later, after meeting several interesting people, a liar, and witnessing an e-peen contest, we were on the move towards the doors. First greeted with a huge statue of a Terran Marine and large sign marking it as Blizzcon. In the distance was a second sign proclaiming Starcraft 2. The hall, extremely massive, had been divided into 4 sections, a Main Theatre, Diablo, Starcraft and Warcraft. We knew the opening ceremony was soon, so we just glanced at the huge banks of computers as we moved towards the main theatre. There about 10,000 chairs sat in front of a huge array of massive screen. We managed to find a seat near the back and waited for the event to start.

Being there, in a room literally filled to the brim with people who were fans of all the same things I was. Of course we noted the interesting costumes. We talked excitedly about what we hoped to see. I looked through the schedule planning on what all I wanted to see that day. Veterans of the event kept telling us to go to the Loot Elemental or this or that.

We listened to the opening speech, excited beyond measure. Even the Demon Hunter video, for a game I likely won’t play that much, was thrilling. Once it was done Pinecone and I decided to take a pass of the convention floor. We walked the whole thing. There were huge statues from the various games scattered throughout the halls. And so many people. Lines snaked and meandered through the room, none of them seeming to even have ends, though one can assume they knew where they were headed.

We found our way to the Steel Series booth after browsing the halls and met up with the woman in charge of the contest. She took our picture (it was later posted on Facebook) and then asked us if we had time to go around to the partners booths. We figured we had nothing better to do, might as well. She also dug out two of the SteelSeries Cataclysm mousepads. You know, the giant ones that are specially designed to just work better? We both thanked her profusely. I snagged the Worgen one, and handed the Goblin one off to Pined. (I love the Worgen, but wish all the Goblins had drowned.) We followed JoJo through the crowd winding over to the Brady Games booth.

Apparently at BlizzCon they do a “Quest”. Where each day you go to all of the booths, and if you do, you get a little tag that lets you scratch off and maybe win a prize. Brady Games was our first stop. We just walked up to the table, bypassing the HUGE line of people waiting. The Brady Games rep gave us two scratchers, insisting we need not do the quest. We scratched and got Green, (the colors were based on the item colors in WoW) and so got patches. They were so swamped the rep asked us if we could come back later when they weren’t busy. We agreed, and headed over to Jinx.

A bit of background… I love Jinx. I am a Champion of Jinx’s site, mostly from purchases. I order at least one huge order every year and occasionally small ones. They are the reason I can go for 3 weeks wearing nothing but WoW shirts without repeating. In fact my t-shirts all come from one of three places: Jinx, Think Geek, and Woot.Shirt. I own all of their WoW hoodies. The Jinx booth, as the others had a huge line. They, once again, jumped us to the front. The nice guy from Jinx smiled through me gushing about the company and how much liked it, while handing us order forms. This is what I was here for. I quickly marked several of the new t-shirts and a hoodie. I couldn’t *wait* to wear my shiny new murloc hoodie. I pulled out my credit card and waited with a smile. Pinecone marked an item or two and handed his form back as well. The rep looked at my form and nodded. Then looked at Pinecone’s and goes: “Uh, dude, don’t you want more than that?” Pinecone looked a bit surprised, as I thought, wow hard seller here. After making some comment that he couldn’t quite afford more than that, the rep laughed and says “No no dude, it’s all free. Here.” And hands the form back. I blinked. I had almost $200 worth of stuff marked already. He made more waving motions. Well, if you insist I thought…

We walked away from the Jinx booth with quite the load of gear, both of us, wildly shocked and a bit dazed. We made our way over to the arena competition area and got some lunch. As we sat and ate we watched one of the pro arena matches. Now, I am one of the first people to say that people getting paid to play WoW is just absurd. But what got me was the fact that the team was a druid, shaman, warlock. I have played all three. I played a warlock at 70 raiding and 80 raiding. I played a shaman at 80 raiding as heals and elemental. My MAIN is a warlock. And I could *barely* follow what was happening. He was using spells in ways I had never considered.

After this, we wandered the hall a bit more and then headed over to the main hall once more for the Dungeons and Raids panels. Three cheers for being able to admit that you built some bad ideas and correcting them. After this, I was quite exhausted and wanted to head back to the hotel to drop off our loot. Once done there, we headed back to the convention center, and stopped in to the Lore panel. (Yes, I saw Red Shirt guy ask his question, it was pretty funny to be present for that.) We then camped our chairs for the Live Raid, and met Murky, a wonderful girl. She and I talked about mini pets and such for quite a while. I also stopped by the WoW magazine booth and renewed my subscription for a lovely green murloc.

The live raid was hilarious, despite not really being a raid, or even that interesting as far as mechanics. We went back by the Brady booth, now cleared out and introduced ourselves again. The rep was excited to see us and gave us free Razer headphones and a SteelSeries mouse. Once more loaded down with loot, and thoroughly excited, we decided to search for food.

Pinecone and I headed out, and decided to eat at Mortons. While exceptionally good, I am fairly sure I like Boca better. We then took a stroll down to Disneyland’s entrance, stopping along the way to talk to WoW-ers and take pictures of costumes.

Thus ended day 1 of BlizzCon. We headed back to our hotel room and took the time to log on and run Horseman from my teeny Netbook. (Did I mention I had installed WoW on a Dell Netbook, so we could make sure to run the Horseman event every day? It’s hilarious playing WoW on a screen that small, but I got the horse on TWO of my 80s, so it was worth it.)

We got up the next morning and headed over, excited to see more. The line was much much shorter and as such we were fairly close to the beginning. Only this time we were surrounded by a group of idiots that were very clearly the source of trolling on their server. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait long and we were inside, once more bee-lining to the Main Theatre. We watched the Cataclysm cinematic panel in awe, from our great seats right up front. I, of course, got goosebumps at the Worgen cinematic. Nothing really beats seeing it on a 15 foot screen with an insane sound system. As we were still tired, and had *great* seats, we decided to sit, and took turns venturing out into the convention hall. During this time I took pictures of costumes, statues, computer banks, huge posters and so on. I also took a moment to pick up an item or two from the Blizzard Store.

The Q&A panel might have been more interesting if it wasn’t all about Pallys, so we got up once more, visited the large meeting stone, made our mark on the wall, then decided to head back to the hotel. Exhausted we decided to just head on back to the airport, so we wouldn’t have to rush. We packed up our loot (now our suitcases were near to bursting) and headed to the airport.

TSA has a shockingly understanding attitude about women dressed up as murlocs. They laughed, asked me what I was supposed to be, and waved me on through.

Our plane was delayed twice, though we got to play WoW on the Netbook, taking turns back and forth. It was great fun.

After PAX, I can say BlizzCon is a very focused show. It’s all about Blizzard products. I felt a bit bad, as I am not a huge Starcraft fan (and thus didn’t care Fruitdealer was there) or Diablo fan (the demon hunter trailer was cool at least). I enjoy PAX and I like that I can enjoy PAX with a majority of my friends. But really BlizzCon seemed almost lacking in that respect. I am very glad I took Pinecone, as my husband would have been quite annoyed to sit through all those panels, and likely would not have taken me bypassing all the SC and Diablo stuff with such grace. (Not to mention all the loot would have been lost on him.) I suppose it might be different if it were an expansion announcement year. Or if I took part in one of the contests. But I think, if I have to choose a convention, I will choose PAX. (And GDC of course, but that one is work related!)

I have to say though… if you are going to go to a convention, doing it as a contest winner is the way to go.

Loremaster Joyia

Loremaster

In simpler terms, completing the Loremaster achievement means that a player has completed 90%+ of ALL the quests in World of Warcraft. It is 90+ because Loremaster doesn’t count repeatable quests, dungeon quests, or sometimes just a random quest.

Not a big deal you might say. You do alot of quests when leveling you might say. I decided to do Loremaster on Joyia, my main Warlock. I had leveled her through all the major Horde areas doing quests. I like to quest. I like the quest text and I don’t mind “killing x of y” and “gathering a of b”. It might have something to do with watching TV while I play WoW, but repetitive just doesn’t bother me most of the time. So of course, I chose Joyia because she was the one who was most likely to have done a large number of quests. When I started she was over 600 quests away from *just* the Old World quests!

(For those who don’t play WoW: Old World is Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, the two continents that were the original game. Outland is the Burning Crusade area, added with the first expansion. Northrend is the Wrath of the Lich King area, added with the second expansion.)

Needless to say, I had quite the uphill climb ahead of me. So I turned on my Low Level Quest tracker and got to questing. As I slogged through dozens of quests I realized several truths right up front.

1. All the best quests in the game are hard as hell to find.
If you have ever played Alliance and done the Scythe of Elune quest line (both parts, one in Duskwood, the other in Ashenvale) you know what I mean. There are these utterly fascinating and wildly detailed quest lines coursing through the game, and yet, most start from some random item or odd place. As a game designer I am shocked they would hide their best work in such a way. To be fair, they have corrected this quite a bit in Wrath, but still.

2. Sometimes revenge is a dish best served at 80.
During my journey I traveled to Silverpine Forest. As I was killing spiders and bears, I saw out of the corner of my eye an Elite, Son of Argual. I started to move out of his path, without even thinking about it, then realized… I am level 80! This once fearsome creature may have been the bane of my existence at 18, but now… NOW is time for PAYBACK! I would be lying if I said I didn’t begin to think of zones that had particularly annoying patrolling mobs or groups with the thought of going there next to quest.

3. As you near the end of your quest for quests, you fall MADLY in LOVE with the “Go talk to that dude standing right over there. – Okay, here take this thingy to that guy right across the room for me, thanks.” Type of quests.
It is true, when leveling these quests are mildly annoying and even bothersome, as they seem like such a waste since you don’t get exp for them. But for the Loremaster wannbe, these quests are like diamonds, in truth not worth much, but so wonderful because of their rarity.

4. WoW Quest Designers were originally unorganized or needlessly shoddy.
Preface this statement with, and likely WILDLY overworked. WoW classic shipped with THOUSANDS of quests, thousands of items, a hundred or so zones, and dozens of dungeons. I am perfectly aware of the likelihood that they had dozens of designers working their fingers to the bone for this game. Also keeping a design team focused and on the same page is like herding cats in a rainstorm. However, when the ENTIRE Silverpine and Trisifal Glades areas are a part of Kalimdor despite being located in the Eastern Kingdoms… Really? Really? And so much so, that they simply classified quests as either Kalimdor or EK, so that you can’t have it broken down like the Outland and Northrend quests. On top of this there are at least a dozen non-dungeon, non-repeatable quests that don’t count for EITHER achievement.

At least with this one you can point to BC and Wrath where they improved. One hopes with Cataclysm this trend will continue.

5. Loremaster as an Achievement is WILDLY undervalued.
If you add up all the achievement points for getting Loremaster you get 50 total. 10 for EK, 10 for Kalimdor, 10 for Outlands, 10 for Northrend and 10 for the meta. For all the work, grind and sheer frustration for finding that last quest, this achievement should be one of the most rewarding in the game. That’s 50 points, just for the meta. 25 for each of the sections. Then we are approaching the level of detail and focus involved.

As of this point I have achieved Loremaster of Kalimdor, I am 2 quests away from Loremaster of EK, and I am about 30 quests away in Outland and about 100 away in Northrend. Here’s to Loremaster colors in the new year!

I have a soul. Look I have a whole bag of them.

“You have no soul!” accused a druid running along side me.
“Yes, I do.” I insisted.
“You enslave beings and cast curses!” The druid argued.
“I have a soul. I have a whole bag of them. Want one?” I responded. At this point I desperately wished I could emote opening my soul shard bag, reaching in and pulling out one of the bright pink shards and holding it out to the horrified druid.

Warlocks are a class playable in World of Warcraft. My main, that is the character I play the most and generally attempt to do the cool stuff on, is a warlock. The warlock class is focused on doing damage, or damage per second (DPS). In most games you have three main types of characters, tanks, who take damage, healers, who obviously heals, and dps, who tries to kill things as fast as possible. Warlocks are ranged, meaning they do most of their damage from a distance. They also have a pet, any one of seven demons that they enslave and call to do their bidding. These pets have some specialized skills like the Voidwalker can create a shield that protects the Warlock from a few thousand damage, or the Succubus who can seduce another player and essentially freeze them in place.

Warlocks do damage in a slightly different way than the other classes. A majority of their dps comes from Damage Over Time spells, or DOTs. DOTs are curses that are placed on a creature and then “tick” every second doing x amount of damage. Some DOTs are front loaded and do their damage early. Some build up over time. But best of all, most of these DOTs are instant cast spells, meaning they can be cast while running across the room dodging attacks from bosses.

So for four years I have played my Warlock, happily blasting things away, roleplaying my “evilness” and thoroughly enjoying myself. The only thing that mildly annoyed me was the soul shard mechanic.

Soul shards are warlock unique items that are used to do many of the things that makes a warlock special. The lore behind them is that a warlock drains the soul of a creature just before it dies and traps it in a small shard then uses this shard to power their spells. Soulstones (an item that allows a player who has died to immediately respawn with health and mana where they died), healthstones (like health potions, only on a different cooldown), demon summoning (the pets), player summoning, and even some of their damage spells all require the use of soul shards. They take up one inventory slot and do not stack. All warlocks carry a bag that is slightly larger than normal bags but only holds soul shards. So we lose a bag, and we have to “farm” soul shards by going out and killing creatures to drain the soul, just in case we get stuck in a situation where we can’t get more shards.

However at BlizzCon last weekend they announced they are changing this mechanic to be more like the Death Knight Rune system. Meaning that there will be 3 soul shard icons below the character portrait and they are used when a spell uses one of them, then they slowly recharge over time. Be still my fluttering heart! No more shard bag. No more shard farming. Now they will work as empowering modifiers to my spells!

I am scouring every post and bit of information about them and will continue to do so until Cataclysm is released. But I, for one, am glad to be a part of the new Warlock Overlord Class. 🙂