Sep 022013
 

Well, I basically stopped playing WoW because during cataclysm the game started losing it's luster for me and by Pandaria I just wasn't enjoying it anymore. These days – I play neverwinter and what draws me to it is that the playstyle is so much like WoW was back in the Wrath days.

However we have confirmation now that the long-awaited WoW movie will start filming in January and will be based on the Arthas storyline that concluded in Wrath. I may go watch that out of pure nostalgia for what WoW once was.

That said, there is almost no information available on it yet – so I thought I would list some of the people I would cast to play in this movie if I was the one making it.

  • Ville Valo – making his acting debut as Arthas. 
  • Rob Zombie in a cameo as Hemet Nessingwary
  • Robin Wright-Penn as Jaina Proudmore
  • Sean Connery as Uther Lightbringer
  • Sean Bean as Varian Wryn
  • Hugo Weaving as Deathbringer Saurfang
  • Megan Fox as Blood Queen Lana'Thel (because that would be hillarious)
  • Jodie Foster as Syndragosa (because I think she'd  make an awesome villian and it's about time she got to play one)

Updates (this section will keep changing as I have more ideas):

  • Scary Spice as Sylvanas Windrunner
  • Val Kilmer as Putris
  • Robert Downey Junior as Darion Moghrain
  • Guy Pierce as Tyrion Fordring
  • Andy Serkis as MekaTorgue
  • Michelle Pfeifer as Lady Deathwhisper
  • Rob Lowe as Hellscream
  • Alfred Molina as Thrall.
  • John Rhys-Davies as Muradin Bronzebeard.
  • Christopher Eccleston as Thasarian
  • Emilia Clarke as Chromie (because she HAS to play a dragon and there aren't enough gnomes on this list)
  • Christopher Lambert as Bolvar Fordragon

Post  your suggestions (and dissagreements with mine) as comments – this could be fun.

Sep 282012
 

So Mists of Pandaria's pet battles are finally around. If you're on the rush for 90 (or already there) however, you will have discovered that the Pokemon-esque mini-game has a bit of a fatal flaw for you. While Pandaria is litterally scattered with awesome petlings to capture, it lacks anything under level 23, which means you need to grind up some serious old-world levels on your pets before you can catch anything there.

This is obviously an opportunity to try and speed up the grind. Since pets are shared over your account, you can gain a bit by playing the lower-levels on a lower-level alt who is in the zones where you find enemies of the level you are looking for of course. That said, there are basically two core ways to get your pet-levels up that I have found, and thought I would share.

The XP farmer

This is the way that most obviously spring to mind – have a lot of fights, win them and get XP and level the pets in your battle team that way. There are however some tricks you can use to speed this up. Firstly using the "find battle" feature you can probably speed up getting into fights – and do it while standing beside the nearest stable-master for quicker response. On the other hand pvp pet battles tend to take longer due to the need to sync turns between two players – and are harder to win. If you would prefer to play in the world, I would recommend finding areas with plenty of spawns in the level range you seek close by a stable-master. You want to look for pets that exactly match or are one, maybe two, levels below your team's approximate level. That way wins are easy to farm and you can get more than one battle in between heals. Organize your team with the lowest pet first, and the highest pet last, this way you are giving your XP where it's most needed. If two pets are on the same level, put the one with the fullest XP bar first – that way you'll finish levelling him quicker – afterward swap to put the now lower pet at the top. Then play them in order. If your low-level pet is about to die, swap out urgently because you get no XP on a dead pet, rather share some XP with another team member than lose out entirely.

The catch-up

This one is the higher-risk for higher-reward approach that may not immediately spring to mind. The idea here is that instead of levelling your team-  you level your stable. What you do is assemble a team of your highest pets. Then go to an area where you can battle pets a level or two higher than them. If you're using (for example) a level 6 pet against a level 8 – you almost certainly won't win the fight (let alone the enemy pet's team member) but that's not the goal. The idea is to use your level 6's to wear him down, the entire team if needed, until you can, on your last pet, capture him. As soon as he is caught, swap out your lowest pet with the newly acquired level 8. Repeat until you have a level 8 in every slot of your team, then head somewhere else and collect some level 10s.

You will likely find you lose more than you win, and often have to go back and recover dead pets. This is high risk -but the reward is that as soon as you do get a catch, you rapidly get a pet 2 levels higher. I can be a much speedier way to level your team as a whole, at the cost of leaving pets behind. By the time you're done you'll have pets of every possible level along the way.

Combining the styles:

So what do I do  ? A bit of a combination of the two really. The catch-up works best if your whole team are very close in level (because that allows the most accurate judgements of what enemies you could potentially capture with their combined power), so if one is behind I would XP grind him to bring him in line before continuing to doing the catch-up. Of course even while XP-grinding you still get XP if you capture rather than kill, so if you're fighting a pet you dont' yet  have, feel free to add it to your collection anyway. 

With the right approach the pet battles are serious fun, that I am truly enjoying. It's a relaxed and somewhat silly break from the heavy planning and strategy that is most of the WoW universe – a minigame that is just plain fun and gets you cute pets to boot. 

Dec 132010
 

So as it stands RavenJet is on level 84 and quite a way into it, so he'll probably reach maxlevel tonight, which means it's time to think about how to play him in the new heroics and endgames. Most of this is partly my own experimentation, and partly from reading elitestjerks' forums. None of this is final or absolute – you need to work out your own style. I will probably post follow-ups about gearing, gemming and enchants in due time for now just the basics on that:

Spell power doesn't exist anymore as such, so look for highest possible Intelligence values. I am still a big believer that warlocks should spec Intelligence+Stamina on gear – but haste is also important for us, moreso with the changes in Cataclysm (and harder to plan for), personally I think haste should be your primary gemming spec – this is once more subject to change once more data on cataclysm endgame gear is available.

Glyphing is easier – there are well published lists of glyphs out there. Currently it seems that the fell puppy is out of it for the moment, the minions of choice are Succubus or Imp – and that's because they have glyphs with big boosts. Succubus is the preferred demon for a more traditional affliction rotation using shadow bolt as your filler spell. 

But the changes in cataclysm made it just as viable to use Drain Life as a filler spell instead. In that scenario the Imp makes a better demon than the Succubus, not least for offering the better buff. I can add that I have been using the Voidwalker as my pet of choice for solo-ing. The Voidy is designed as a personal tank – with strong taunts and this is very useful when you're playing solo.

Now personally – I am leaning toward the drain-life based rotation rather than shadow-bolt based even though they both have roughly equal typical damage there are three reasons for this:

1) With the removal of Soul Burn + Unstable Affliction, there is now no DoT with a Soul Burn benefit. Nearly all the Soul Burn effects for damage spells are on Destruction spells. The only affliction spell with a Soul Burn effect is Seed of Corruption (which however gets an awesome one – more on that below). Drain Life however gets a powerful Soul Burn effect - and it's spec-neutral, so it works very well (double the damage in half the time + double the healing).

2) One thing that is clear from not only the Cata design but the published word from Blizzard is that survivability is important, healing is going to be hard. Damage mitigation matters, and so does self-recovery. Drain Life is the warlock's most powerful self-healing spell (even a non-burned Drain Life does almost 5 times as much healing on a full channel as a health stone does – though I didn't test it with a glyphed healthstone yet) and that means Drain Life based rotations will have inherently much more survivability – while feeding our life taps as well (remember that Dark Pact is gone for ever now) – essentially, I think affliction warlocks should be draintanking on raid bosses, even if we aren't tanks.

3) With Cataclysm – Shadow Bolts no longer trigger Everlasting Affliction - this means it gets a lot harder to keep Corruption running. Haunt has a long cast time and a travel time, so it's tough to do it with that, before the boss is under 25% Drain Soul is weak – so not a good choice, but Drain Life also has an EA  potential – and you can cast a lot of them, more-over it works the moment you start the channel unlike Shadow Bolt which only works after Cast+Travel time – meaning the odds of getting Corruption in time if it runs low is much, much better. 

 

So what should we be doing now ? Well first off – trashmobs. Trash had been the bane of an affliction lock's existence for most of Wrath – that is until Seed of Corruption became accepted. It remains the best trash handling spell I've found for 2 or more mobs. Single mobs, Corruption+Bane of Agony – spam shadow bolt or drain life.  If it's multiple mobs you now have two choices. Depending how far you are from the boss and how much prep-time you'll have. You don't want Soul Burn to be on cool-down when you get to a boss, but unless that's an issue you want to Soul Burn it, and then spam it. But spam it on a single target only. Why on only one ? Why forgo the mass-chain effect you can do with SoC's ? Because with Soul Burn it will apply Corruption to all targets hit, if you target switch you will then remove the corruption – losing some of it's ticks. Instead spam it on your primary target – so the blasts gets added to the existing corruptions until your target dies, then switch to another. At this point you can see how far along the corruptions are (on your new target) if they are not too far along, spam him down as well else start doing rapid tab-and-cast as we always did. If you're not soulburning, do that in the first place.

Now how about bosses. With bosses the opening rotation needs to change. Previously I went for Corruption – then haunt. This makes less sense now, as Haunt's real power depends on other DoT's and it's own damage has been rather reduced. I would suggest: Corruption, Bane of Agony, Curse of X*, Haunt, Unstable Affliction  – in that order. The first two being instant gets them up quickly (and you can move around if you need to), the last two completes the process. Follow up with a Soul Burned Drain Life.

At this point there use a shadow bolt if Shadow Embrace is below 3 stacks. Then drain life until it's time to renew your first DoT. 

From there is the usual – watch your DoTs, fill in with Drain Life and Life Tap as needed, when the boss gets below 25% health – hit him with Drain Soul. Dying under Drain Soul restores all 3 shards, so whenever Soul Burn proc's – hit another Soul-Burn + Drain Life.  There is one more catch – both Corruption and Drain Life have the potential to trigger Nightfall. So you've doubled your odds of that happening. When it procs, don't interrupt a Drain Life to get it up – finish the channel then throw your instant cast Shadow Bolt after it. If a DoT expires while your busy channeling, and Nightfal procs, still fire of the Shadow Bolt first, then the DoT – only half your DoTs are instant cast, but an instant Shadow Bolt is a nice DPS boost for near zero cast time and well worth it.

One last thing: at level 83 you gain the Dark Intent spell, which is an awesome buff.  For yourself and one friendly target. Soloing cast it on your pet, in raids cast it on whoever has the highest likelihood of critting. The buff works both ways – with your crits giving each other boosts, and should you die – it boosts further. Best of all -it buffs you as the warlock on Haste which is a very important spec for us, and that's just the baseline without crit bonusses.

Okay, that's the theory as it stands now – my rotation will be based on this from now on, and after I've refined it more, I'll report back. In the meantime – have fun torturing your enemies to a slow and painful death.

*Which curse you should be using depends on what else is in your party. In most setups Curse of Elements is a good choice as it boosts everybody's damage, but Boomkins and Blood-DK's both apply identical effects as part of their normal rotations so if you have either in your party you would rather look at something like Curse of Weakness.

Dec 072010
 

With the sheer amount of new things happening now, I reckon the only way I'll get to enjoy Cataclysm while retaining a relatively sane level of time-management in-game is to plan my next few days ahead of schedule.

So here is my list of things todo – and the order to do them in.

  1. Visit Stormwind on RavenJet and get my old-world flying, and check out what's happening
  2. Start leveling, questing and dungeoning RavenJet in the new zones – do much mining to cash in on new seams, also pick up lots of the pretty new gears.
  3. Repeat the above for pwnies fairly concurrently
  4. Once RavenJet and Omgpwnies both hit 85, start up a worgen character. Probably a hunter.
  5. Start running new dungeons with pwnies as tank.
  6. Get  pwnies and ravenjet's crafting profs maxed out to be ready to cash in on the new raid-gear
  7. Figure the rest out as a I go.

 

In short, it's a hectic few weeks ahead, and probably at least 2-3 months before we'll be doing cataclysm raids. I may or may not decide to go back and finish kingslayer at some point, doubt it though.

Sep 272010
 

My first MMORPG was a little free game with terrible graphics and a horrible levelling experience. I played it for a while and then got bored after killing my hundredth rat. I had never heard yet of things like raids and dungeons. Then I started playing WoW. I’m by no means and old-timer – in fact I’m a wrath-baby but I have become quite an adept raider I think and I came to love my time in the game. I like the community, I like the infinite variety of things to do and the complexity of the world and it’s varied population.

Then on thursday I had a touch of bad luck – my computer’s power supply broke. I went to get a new one and while chatting to the shop-assistant I mentioned that I’m a wow-player. He told me he played DDO and then waxed lyrical about how much better it was. I had my doubts but decided to spend what was destined to be a very quiet weekend on WoW trying the game out – seeing as it’s free to play – and find out what it’s like.

My conclusion – it’s just not good enough. There are a number of things blizzard got right with WoW that DDO just doesn’t. In theory DDO should be a briliant online game- it’s got the power of the most popular and advanced RPG fighting system behind it, the storytelling power DnD is famous for and it’s got all this in an online game with enormous character uniqueness and customization capability.

So why doesn’t it work ? Well there are a few reasons I picked up, but I think they mean that DDO will always be a niche-market game while WoW stands with 11-million active subscriptions, and they aren’t the reasons that you may expect.

1) A matter of scale:

DDO tries very hard to stay as true as possible to it’s tabletop roots. The trouble is, this doesn’t work for an MMORPG. It just doesn’t. It’s one thing to have "raid" defined as maximum 12-players when you’re in a tabletop setting, it’s quite another online. It’s one thing to have every quest in a dungeon when every player is your friend who is playing with you right now – but it backfires in DDO.

In WoW you are questing out in the world – you don’t even enter a dungeon until level 15, as you quest you meet other players, some will help you with quests some will just pass you by but 90% of all the things you do happen outside in the world. You’re interacting with people all the time. In DDO every time you start a quest, you get cut off from everybody who isn’t in your party (so if you solo quite a bit while levelling to get used to playing your class – you may as well be playing diablo – the fact that it’s online becomes irrelevent).

This is why, perhaps, I’ve yet to see a mount in DDO (I think they don’t exist) – while in WoW they aren’t just nice – they are incredibly useful. Because you’re traversing the world, what fantasy hero doesn’t ride on his quest ? Well unless you’re Tolkiens hobbits – nobody else wants to walk everywhere. It also means to get between areas you have to fly/take a boat. You can’t walk and explore because the city exits lead to combat zones – that don’t have another exit. To make DnD work online you would have to break some of it’s traditions – not the things that define the game, but the things that are essential when it’s 5 close friends playing at home and horrible when it’s 5000 playing online.

2) Free to play done wrong.

Blizzard has a store where you can buy things for use in game. They do so little to promote it that many players don’t even know it exists. The things you can buy are: pets, a mount that can only do what you already can (but all-in-one).

There is nothing there that has any practical value in the game. Nothing that will give those who spend money in the game anything but purely cosmetic results. You cannot buy yourself a stronger character. You cannot buy better gear. You have to earn it.

DDO because they don’t have a subscription fee pushes the store in your face all the time. True you can earn storepoints just from playing but that comes pretty slow and so far I’ve spent mine all on healing potions. If you don’t buy you will soon find you cannot compete with those who do. That ultimately slants the game in favor of those with the most cash to burn instead of those with the most skill – and it annoys the hell out of you – especially as a newer player.

3) Balance

Blizzard developers probably spend more time on the forums talking about class-balance than any other topic. If the WoW developers have a golden rule it’s this: when two players meet for PvP or dueling – the one who plays his class and spec the best should win. Your playstyle should determine your class entirely by itself, there should never be a case of "but if I choose this class I can’t be competitive" – and that goes just as much for PVE as PVP. Now sometimes this is hard to do – occasionally a class is overpowered and can expect a nerf, sometimes one gets underpowered and can expect a buff – but that is the constantly pursued ideal.

In DDO even as you look over the paths there are ratings on how difficult it would be to play what you are looking at. The most interesting looking one for me was necromancer – but it was rated "Expert players only" – I opted for the Elementalist path instead, which was only rated "challenging".

The lack of balance is partly a result of the major amount of customization. Multiclassing comes in to push things even further aside – but all this means that you can’t be sure your character can keep up, can even survive, without a ton of research. Some have massive advantages -paladins especially while others are incredibly hard to play or level.

4) Too much downtime

A DnD tradition is that spellpoints can only be recovered at designated rest points. This is a good system in tabletop gaming, as it forces the group to plan their approach to a quest – when to use casters and what they should aim at. In DDO especially while solo’ing it just becomes a drag. As a wizard I should be able to rely on my spells for a purely ranged combat approach, even when soloing. Instead I need to save my prescious spellpoints over almost every battle as there may very well be a boss – and then I’m in trouble if I don’t have any left. So I have to risk my very low HP in close-combat with a staff or sword instead… yeah that’s not a good thing.

It prevents me from playing to my own class’s nature and strengths. Unless I run the same quest five or six times to learn exactly what the dungeon layout is like, where rest areas are and how best to spend them… but these are just quests – you do that with big raids, you don’t want to do it with a simple levelling quest. It’s boring.

There are potions that can restore spellpoints during play – but guess what, you have to spend money to get them… basically if my hireling is doing more damage than I can because I’m a weak little wizard fighting with a stick rather than daring to cast a spell… then the game isn’t working. Now this apparently gets much better as you get to higher levels, but then the game designers should make it a little easier to recover in earlier quests by giving you more rest areas and making them a little easier to find.

5) Not enough variety of attack

Having to prepare spells at a tavern then use on those small selections in quests – sucks. I am a wizard – I know lots of spells, I chose wizard over sorceror to get more, now you tell me I can’t use any of them except what I chose based on a general "this is what I expect to do" basis. I end up generalizing – choosing my best defense, best crowd control and best nuke spell and go in with that. No rotation, no experimentation – just the same 4 spells. You though WoW had fixed rotations ? To an extent but at least there are other spells you can and must use regularly to survive. A warlock who doesn’t have soulshatter handy is asking to die no matter how good his rotation is – we have bars and bars of spells. Some we cast all the time, some only now and then, but we got them handy when we need them and this means that fights can be more varied, require more tactics. You don’t have a one-size-fits-all-bosses-in-this-dungeon approach and that means the bosses can be more different than they are in DDO, than they ever could be.

6) Lore

Yeah, I seriously think WoW has better and more immersive lore than DnD even if a large part of the player population doesn’t care, it’s there. In WoW from the moment you start your character – you need to choose a race, and in so doing you are choosing a side. You’re picking your side in the major overarching conflict between rogue and alliance but also in several other political and military events. Forsaken may be choosing horde but they are also choosing a specific hatred against lordaeron and gilneas and even the rest of their own faction.

If you play a gnome you are choosing a race that didn’t join the alliance because they agreed with them in particular (they don’t really care about politics at all really -they choose their best inventor to be their king) they joined because their friends the dwarves did. Had the Orcs found them and befriended them first, they would have joined the horde.

So your are choosing a character from a culture – and that culture defines his political outlook. For a gnome loyalty to friends matters more than honor or glory or any of the other things. For an orc honor is all that matters at all. You are immediately part of the overarching story, going back thousands of years, you’re not just a bitplayer – right from the start, you are a part of history a small but ever larger part.

As your reputation grows (literally) you become allied with factions and though you are usually effectively a mercenary – you are honored for your endeavours and get chosen for the most perilous missions, and sometimes you take orders from the most important people in the land. People you come to respect for their nobility and their faillings alike. You participate in events that shape the future, when you do the wrathgate quests in Ice Crown you watch as the Horde and Alliance team up to challenge the greatest threat to life on Azeroth… and lose. See them knocked back and then betrayed by a subfaction of one of their own side groups as the forsaken rains plague barrels on Horde, Alliance and Scourge soldiers alike.

In the aftermath, Alexstraza the dragon queen asks you to visit your king (sorry I haven’t done this on horde), and you do so. Then you fight your way into the undercity with both Varian Wrynn and Jaina Proudmore fighting side by side with you. You watch as Variann comes within inches of killing Thrall in cold blood, and as Jaina talks him out of it (and suddenly that moment when Varian lets Saurfang pass to get to his son’s corpse – the son you had to slay from undeath after he fell at the wrathgate) has so much more meaning as you see how Wrynn had grown as a person and a king after those events.

And that’s just one story, there’s a world of them. All tied together and appart just like real history – you see pieces, you are a part of many pieces – you have a story, a legend that you build up.

In DDO – you are a mercenary adventurer who takes quests. If there’s an overarching story – you are never really pulled into it properly, more a case of little local stories. There’s no great secrets to unfurl with every quest. No bigger picture to fit into.

There may be lore, it’s even good lore and the voice of the gamesmaster is kind of a cool idea… but it’s not immersive lore. You’re a bitplayer doing jobs for money… you are not a hero of the alliance, a soldier of the horde. You have none of the experiences of your people’s joys and suffering that you get in WoW to make you a part of them…

In fact I can sum it up like this: Every one of WoW’s races have their own starting zone where your introduction to the game is intimately tied into the lore of your race. In DDO everybody has the exact same starting zone and quests. WoW wins this one hands-down.

Isn’t it tragic that the masters of mythology-geeks greatest fun – DnD in the online game utterly failed to capture that spirit ? That in fact it turns out that this approach to mythology only works for small groups of friends playing together treating every new adventure as seperate and cut off from all others ? That a game with it’s roots in an RTS (mind you, the first RTS to ever have any story at all) – turned out to be a greater story to be part off ?

Sep 242010
 

So cataclysm is around the corner and if there is on consistent message from beta testers it is this: dungeons and especially heroics are about to get much more difficult. Not being a beta tester I haven’t tried these things myself but I’ve tried to keep up with the news on how fight mechanics are changing – and I’m going to try and sum up the basics here – in a quick and “be ready for it” kind of way.
Wrath made dungeons tactically simple. Tank pulls everything he can, DPS nukes AoE, Healers keep everyone at full health – none of this will apply in future. Cata is reviving the pre-wrath dungeon focus on tactics and skilled cooperation. Crowd-control is much more important than AoE and the rules are going back in many ways to where it once was. For starters – I am not planning to use the dungeon finder at all for pugs ever again – because frankly it will be a nightmare until most people have figured out that you simply cannot do what you did in Cata or expect what you got from it.

So how is this really changing – like I said- I will go over the general changes in design so I’ll go by roles.

Healers: The days of keeping everybody at full health are over. No healing class has nearly enough mana to do that. All healing specs however are getting talents that allow them to mana-free DPS (essentially talents where damage done lets you regain the mana spent to do it). Why give healers the ability to do damage without spending mana ? Well firstly it should make levelling a healer a much easier thing. In dungeons this is probably meant to allow healers to do their share of crowd control and occasionally provide a damage boost when there is a gap. There will be gaps – because keeping everybody at full health is no longer a priority, or in fact a possibility. Of course being out of spec abilities their efficacy is reduced but if a healer can do 40% of the damage a specialist does with an out-of-spec DPS attack – then suddenly raids have a lot more reason to consider perhaps a third healer who can DPS when raid-heal or OT-heal isn’t needed. Fundamentally though – as a healer you will get frustrated until DPS players learn to actually avoid damage again. One healer’s advice from beta-testing was “never heal anybody with more than 50% health”.
Tactical healing, with well-chosen spells and spell-levels will be crucial to success in cata.

Tanks: damage avoidance is becoming much bigger of an issue in Cata. You will have to spec for dodge rating. More importantly – the size of pulls even the best tank can handle is simply smaller. Tactical pulls, corner-pulls, selective pulls – they are all going to come back. The message from beta testers is “no tank can keep aggro on more than three mobs” – pull a fourth = wipe. I can tell you this. When I do start tanking again in Cataclysm – I am starting my dungeons by announcing in party chat: “Any player who says ‘pull more’ gets kicked on the grounds that you don’t know how to play cataclysm tactics. No exceptions’.

DPS: The days of mindless AoE is over – it’s sooo very over. Tactical DPS is going to be a major concern. Damage avoidance is going to be crucial. The days when “the guy who stands in the fire” died is over- now that guy will wipe the group. Avoid all damage you can – make life easier on your healers because it’s going to be hell for them. Talking of damage avoidance- we said tanks can’t handle four mobs at once- well it used to be that the rule was “if a DPS pulls aggro – everybody shouted at the DPS”. Aggro management is not the tanks job – it wasn’t in all of WoW until wrath and it won’t be after Cata. As DPS – it’s YOUR job to keep your aggro below the tank’s. That means sometimes holding back on damage, it means switching targets and sticking to the kill order -it means thinking and learning tactics – even on trash mobs.

In short Blizzard wants to encourage groups of friends and guildies to stick together and learn to play very well as a group before you can succeed. PUGS will be for stuff you are already overgreared for. I expect absolute havoc and a lot of QQ-ing when Cata comes out, some of which will be adjusted over time as numbers are tweaked (every expansion has that) to keep things challenging yet fair. But the old 15-minute HC runs are gone – this is going to be a time when dungeons are tough, taking skill, effort, time (we got lazy – remember how dead-mines used to take about 3 hours to run ?) and teamwork. It’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

Sep 222010
 

And the great Archmage Aethas Sunreaver looked into his crystal ball as patch 4.0.1 was preparing to drop and looked ahead to the year which on the realm of earth is called two-thousand-and-twelve and asked "What should we expect in patch 5.0.1, what oh timelords of the bronze dragonflight will the next expansion after cataclysm hold ?"

Now of course we all know just how reliable mages are. They can be relied on to stand there like guppies when you silence them with Spell Lock before giving them a full set of DoT’s casting a death coil and watching them die while still screaming in fear. They can be relied on to be whiny, bad losers as you torture their helpless bodies to death and grind their calcium deficient bones into dust beneath the hooves of your felsteed. They probably can’t be relied upon to get predictions about cataclysm right – or for that matter even memories of it after it happens so I would take everything they tell you about what to expect in the next expansion with about 40 stacks of deeprock salt.

Still let’s make a note of these predictions anyway, so that when the time comes we can look at which ones didn’t come to pass and mock them mercilessly for it (not that we’ll ever run out of things to mock mages for but one more couldn’t hurt… well it will hurt them but it won’t hurt warlocks like me I mean).

  1. We can possibly expect a new class – there hasn’t been one since the death knights of wrath, and indeed it may be the next hero class. The most likely candidate if they go there will be a monk class – on the basis that the class already existed in warcraft and it’s nature is well known and easy to fit in lore-wise. Monks would be a cloth-wearing class unable to wield any weapons but with a major boost to melee hand-to-hand combat. They will also likely have very large stamina or some special damage mitigation ability to make up for being a melee class wearing nothing but cloth. They will definitely have the option to be DPS, and possibly to be WoW’s first cloth-wearing tanks. Depending how they are implemented their power could be dependent on certain restrictions perhaps – so that say if a Monk eats any meat dish or consumes alcohol they would get a very debilitating 10-minute debuff not unlike resurrection sickness perhaps. Race restrictions are likely to limit them to Humans, Orcs, Draenei and Trolls – no other races really make sense for them I think.
  2. Possibly new playable races ? There is a wealth of races in Azeroth that would at least have the potential to have a faction go from neutral to membership of either the horde or alliance without major lore problems and thus became playable races. In fact the presence of at least one new race per expansion and in fact two in cataclysm shows that historically races have been expanded far more often than classes have. This makes sense as racial abilities are limited to a small number and have very little impact on end-game raiding or pvp ballance. My predictions for likely candidates: Furbolgs, Oracle and Vrykul – probably two of the three one for each faction. Vrykul would best fit in with horde due to their similiar value systems I think – but Furbolgs and Oracles could fit in either faction. Classes: Just sticking to what these races have in game now gives us: Vrykul (Mages, Warlocks, Warriors, Hunters), Furbolgs (Shaman, Mages,Warriors,Rogues) and Oracles (Shaman, Warriors,Mages). Beyond that classes that are probably easy fits for all would be rogues and palladins. I can certainly see druids as an option for Oracles and Furbolgs as well.
  3. What would be the great new world of the next expansion ? Well when wrath came out the general predictions for the 2010 expansion focussed on one of three things – the emerald dream, other planets in the warcraft games and the maelstrom. Cataclysm did in fact end up choosing from that list – since the maelstrom is where Deathwing breaks through. That leaves other realms and the emerald dream as our most likely locations for the 2012 expansion. I would tend to vote against other realms. This was the focus of outland in TBC – a large part of why it was so predicted for 2010 and by and large TBC is denounced as a far worse expansion than wrath was. Somehow nothing in outland is quite as appealing as what is in Azeroth. Hellfire loses it’s shine long before you can move on, the swamps are just plain boring – in fact the only really enjoyable zone in the entire expansion is Nagrand and even then only for the Hemet Nessingwary quests. What about the emeral dream then ? Seeing the emeral dream as a raid or instance has been a clamored voice on every wow related website ever since launch – and without exception everybody who has said it has had a druid as their main. The lore is just so incredibly class-centric there – that it’s hard to imagine Blizzard basing an entire expansion on a final raid that only one group of players care about. I can see it possibly being a dungeon or raid somewhere in Cata or the next expansion but I don’t see it ever being the focus of an expansion by itself. This leaves us with the two remaining 2008 predictions both largely ruled out. What other focusses can there be then ? Well a return of Sargeras to Azeroth would be my bet – Illidan may be dead but Kil’Jaeden is still active in outland, and if the aftermath of deathwing’s cataclysmic return isn’t the opportunity Sargeras has been waiting for ever since the sundering I don’t know what is.

So there are the pie in the sky predictions I think we may see in the future. I could be dead wrong – blizzard could replace WoW with a spin-off game before we even get there but this is after all – just for fun. So if tell me what you predict ? Do you think I got anything right ? What would you love to see ? What would you hate to see ? And am I the only one who would think it’s hillarious to have a one-handed-white-glove item to drop from a dancing ghoul mob named "Jichael Mackson"* ? Use the comments – it’s what they are there for.

*Provided he is disabled during Children’s week.

Sep 092010
 

The legend of RavenJet:

Now it has been quite a long time since I wrote my first (and last) adventure chronicle. The reason being that well – it takes a long time to prepare for the kind of combat I engage in. Combat preparations aren’t exactly gripping reading and I would rather wait with my next letter until I have something more engaging to write about than "I did another 50 mercenary jobs to earn emblems to buy leg-armor with".

Today – I have such a story. I received a letter from the High Tinker himself ! Rumors had been going around among my fellow gnomes all over Azeroth for some time now that Mekkatorgue was planning an offensive to retake our stolen home. It was all rather hush-hush to be honest – not least to keep our great enemy Thermaplugg the betrayer from knowing it was coming.

Like so many other adventurers I had ventured back into the irradiated halls of our beloved home, from whence we had fled in my youth to attack him once before. Like so many others – I had believed I succeeded, and like so many others – I had been duped. Still the home of my childhood remained a forsaken wasteland. Still we lived as refugees in the cities of Azeroth. Still we wept for our lost loves – the lucky ones dead, the unlucky ones struck by the leprecy of the irradiation.

Not even the best happy-a-tronic-smileator could decrease our sorrow. My road as a warlock had begun with the desire to avenge the loss of my home – it was always, for all of us… mecha-nical.

This letter was written in the typical boisterous tones for which our High Tinker is so well known – and it said simply this: we’re attacking Gnomerigan and taking back our home. Come all gnomes and fight for us, come all alliance members and lend us your assistance as we lent ours to you in the wars against the scourge and burning crusade. Come help us reclaim what is ours.

Without a moment’s hesitation I dropped what I was doing and set off for Ironforge to answer Thermaplugg’s call. I helped recruit soldiers to the cause, helped test our battletanks and helped measure the radiation levels. I even helped refine the tinker’s battle-speech. Finally – we gathered around our king on the slopes outside Gnomerigan and prepared ourselves for war. There were many gnomes and many more adventurers from all over azeroth. Every race in the alliance had answered our call.

And thus we stormed the halls of our beloved home, we fought back the leper gnomes and we slaughtered the trolls – each of us fighting, risking our lives, some of us fell and died but we fought our way through the upper levels of our home until we reached the command center – where Thermaplugg was not. His brag-bot instead taunted us, with another radiation bomb – somehow word of our assault had reached him and we had been betrayed.

As we stood and listened – it became clear that we could not reclaim the lower levels yet – the bomb was about to wash over them. We had to fall back, but we did not weep. The upper levels of our city are reclaimed – we will rebuild them better and more spectaculatory than before ! In the upper levels of Gnomerigan once more the gnomes will have a place to call home and from there – we can launch new assaults on the lower levels.

One day the betrayer will die, the lower city will be reclaimed. We will have our city back ! For now – we have won a battle, a partial but very crucial victory that opens the door to a better future – and more importantly, means that the next generation of little gnomelets will get to grow up among the innovation and engineering wonder that is our heritage. They will know a home of their own, not just a refugee room in the halls of a kindly neighbour.

I did my part today, and so did many others. The Draenei, the Dwarves, the Night Elves and the Humans. All of the alliance stood behind us – and it became a day that will forever live in glory. This was the start of the reclamation of our home. Already the reclame-atrons are cleansing the irradiation from the upper levels, already we are preparing homes and shops and all the amenities to make it possible for our people to leave their small refugee area in Ironforge with a final bow of thanks to the Dwarves who had offered us a shelter in our hour of need – and once more live in the halls of our ancestors.