Monday, December 15, 2014

A Day in an MMO Life: Level 100

Kanter flying on a flight path since no flying otherwise in Draenor

Recently Kanter reached the new max level,100, in World of Warcraft.  As is the case these days, this isn't as much a sign of completion as an ability to start many other things.

Before I go into the future, I want to talk about questing.  I liked the Yrel story as much as I've seen it.  I've done all the quest achievements except for Nagrand and I have no desire to do the 'Bonus Objectives,' areas where you kill so many of different kinds of mobs for a reward.  That said, I liked the Pandaria quests better.  I seem to be in the minority, but I liked the stranger in a strange land setting and I think the time travel is something of a cop out, though I understand why they did it.  More on that in another post if I ever get to it.

The Garrison has a lot to keep me busy, maybe too much.  I feel compelled to get all my herbs and ore every day, along with the daily crafting activities.  Kanter is doing the Alchemy dailies, Kantra, the Tailor and Jewelcrafting ones, and Kantree has just started the Leatherworking ones.  Note that they mostly aren't daily quests just daily activities at the garrison station and daily cooldowns for core crafting components.  That is an improvement from Pandaria:  you don't feel overwhelmed with dozens of dailies once you reach max level.

Kanter picked the Lumber Mill  as his first middle size plot item and harvesting has been happening pretty naturally along with quests.  It does seem to keep my garrison stocked with the supplies I need.  I've only had to wait overnight once to build or expand on a plot.  I'm also looking forward to getting the Follower who works in the Lumber Mill.

When I improved my garrison to level 3, I received three new plots and got the Stables, Trading Post, and Salvage Yard.  I really like that the Stables displays a random set of my mounts every day.  I also like the quests to raise more mounts, but it's becoming too much now with four mounts I'm working on at the same time.  I'd rather they would have serialized them.  You don't have to take all the quests but it'll be difficult for me to not work on all of them and with six to work on, that will be a lot.  The ability to gather while mounted is very helpful and with it and the speed buff at level 3, I don't think I'll ever get rid of it (particularly since I can play with the other buildings on my alts).

The Trading Post has been neutral.  As of now it's just a way to turn gathered ingredients into garrison provisions.  I like the Lumber Yard better for that, but I may eventually not want to wander around and I can get the components her from the Herb Garden and Mine located in the garrison.  The Auction House would be nice to have, but it looks like it won't be easy to get it.

So far, the Salvage Yard has been a bust.  Only some of the garrison quests yield salvage and I haven't gotten anything interesting from it.

I'm also not very happy with the Garrison quests.  I've only tried to solo quest and it seemed too crowded and took too long.  The second time wasn't as bad because there were fewer people, but I still don't like it.  I had the option for a similar quest with the same 800 Apexis Crystal reward at Socretar's Rise but when I completed my quests there, I was only 18% done and couldn't be bothered to grind the rest.

I've always found Fishing to be a relaxing diversion in WoW even though I don't like it in real life.  I'm using the dailies to get my 100 fish of six different types for Draenor Fisherman achievement.  After that, I can work on getting Nat Pagel as a follower.

When I started, I thought I would probably advance my Hunter and Priest close together, but I've been focusing on my Hunter, Kanter, so far, probably a sign that I'm not that interested in group quests.  I would like to have my Mage, Kantrina, have access to the Enchanting and Engineering plots, but I don't have any incentive yet to bring my Warrior since mining isn't an issue with the Garrison mines and nothing is compelling me to get Blacksmithing at this time.

In summary, I'm enjoying Warlords of Draenor, but I'm not sure I'll do much group content.  The Garrison works well integrating a base into the game and the quests have pulled me along, but so far I can't be bothered to gear up for the normal end game content.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Embracing being Casual in Warlords of Draenor

Newly groomed Kanter and Iorek enjoying his Level 2 Garrison

So after some contemplation, I decided 1 week after the release of the Warlords of Draenor (WoD) expansion for World of Warcraft was a reasonable time to wait until I bought it.  I knew I couldn't keep up with others, so buying it early or on the first day seemed to not be acknowledging how I am playing the game.  By waiting a week, I not only missed the issues people were having the first few days (although I did have a queue one time trying to farm) but it let me avoid the rush mentality.  Thanks to Erinys for commenting on my earlier post and letting me know I'm not the only blogger who doesn't have to start on the first day.

At this point I have brought three characters into Draenor.  My Hunter, Kanter, pictured above, was always my first character to do anything and still is the most comfortable character to solo.  He is now level 92, has completed the quest achievement in Shadowmoon Valley, has a level 2 Garrison and is ready to go to Gorgrond.

As I had mentioned previously, I leveled my Druid, Kantree, to 60 so I could use my instant 90 on him and also get a max level (pre-WoD) leatherworker and skinner.  I wanted to see how that worked and let two of my daughters watch as I went through the intro series of quests on him.  My daughters like the new armor, but it was pretty much all replaced during those first few quests.  Also, even though I had reasonable size bags they were all replaced and the content ended up in my mail.  This was a good thing since I didn't need most of it.  One observation, my BoP bags were no longer bound, so I could use them on another character if I wanted to.

When I first took him to Draenor he had the same set of quests as Kanter, but he only started with three abilities.  As we went through the quests, abilities were added three or four at a time.  I didn't see much benefit to this for me and it was rather annoying to only have travel form when the quest chain was almost over.  There was no explanation on how to use the skills at all.  Kantree has his level 1 Garrison with a Leatherworking building and hasn't done much other than send Followers on missions since then.

This does bring up one thing I wish I knew before I started WoD.  After doing the initial quests, I tried to find the profession trainers, even flying back to Stormwind to see if they were there.  It turns out you get the max level gathering (skinning, herbalism, and mining), archaeology, and fishing skills by using them.  For me, they happened within the first few times I used them (certainly it was not more than 5).  The archaeology one came with the first time I built an artifact.  All the other professions (First Aid, Cooking and the other primary profession) came from drops before I hit level 91.

Finally, I've always wanted to try a healer in groups though I've only ever done a few dungeons.  Still, I have started leveling my priest, Kantra, as well and she also has her level 2 garrison with her Tailoring and Jewelcrafting buildings.  Once she hits level 92, she'll go directly to Gorgrond and I'll plan to alter completing zones between the two of them.

I've been having fun with all the new content.  Yrel (a Draenei NPC) is a good conduit to seeing someone stand and grow in response to the Iron Horde and I liked the plot of Shadowmoon Valley.  I don't love the whole time-travel aspect of it (that will probably be another post) but you don't really see any of that as you are playing.  I have been caught up in the garrison mini-game, putting all my followers on missions each time I play.  It has taken my management playtime, so I stopped playing The Tribez that I mentioned in my last post.

I hope all of you who have chosen to play WoD are having fun.  For those of you who aren't, hopefully this gives a little view of what the first few days were like for this casual player.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Other Games While Waiting

Definitely not an MMO
While waiting for Warlords of Draenor to come out and trying to decide when I'll actually buy it, I've been playing other games more.  Now, on the day it has arrived, I figure I'll post about it.

About two months ago, as my time in World of Warcraft was becoming less, I started playing Civilization V again.  I played the original game and Civilization 2 a lot but have only played the others sparingly because each game takes so much time.  I at least finished two games, but it may take too much time for me to really get into it.

I was looking for a game for my cell phone that is more involved than 2048 or Sudoku and Tobald mention The Tribez as an aside in one of his posts, so I decided to try it.  As a typically city builder, there are built in delays on how often you can do things, so it works as a two to three times a day game and has a minor plot and quests to keep you working on goals.  However, like many of these games, the time increases as your cities grow and the goals take longer to reach.  I'm still playing, but as some point soon I might decide that it is more of a chore than fun.  The free to play model is very fair.  I've thought about paying to speed up some things, but never have and don't feel any real need to do it.

I downloaded Plants vs Zombies soon after I got my original Kindle Fire and eventually played through 'Doctor Zomboss' and stopped.  My youngest daughter discovered it and youtube 'Let's Play' videos about it and it got me interested again.  A relatively basic tower defense game where most of the levels are not too difficult but they throw in ones where you can only use the plants they provide which can sometimes be impossible based on what you get first.  Still, it is enough fun that I've played through it again, on my second, more difficult fight against Doctor Zomboss and playing with the mini-games.

Finally, I picked up 'Cook, Serve, Delicious' on a recent Steam sale for $5.  I had read some blog posts about it (I wish I could find them) where people were having fun playing it together.  It requires you to press specific buttons in a sequence to cook food and perform other tasks like cleaning the dishes.  During 'Rush Hour' it's fast enough that I can't get them all done correctly, but it's amazing how the muscle memory forms.  I haven't played it that much yet, but it has a real 'just one more turn' hook and was a game I stayed up too long one night playing which is a recommendation in my book.

For all of you playing Warlords of Draenor, have fun!  I'm still behind on reading my news feed but I'll be interested to hear your impressions and will be there eventually.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New Expansion Malaise

The bank and bags were almost full 2 seconds earlier!
The time just before an expansion should be exciting.  All that new content just around the corner when there have been so few changes for so long.  For me, that hasn't been the case since Burning Crusade.  In fact, for every World of Warcraft expansion since then, I took a break at the beginning of the expansions before burning through the content rather than afterwards.

As a casual gamer, I know I can't keep up with the people who quickly level their characters so they can get to the max level content.  I'm fine with that.  I remember joking with someone that it took me three weeks to level my first character while it took him three days in Burning Crusade.  However, even though I am OK with the amount of time I have to play computer games most of the time, it is difficult not to get caught up in the excitement when an expansion comes out.

This is why I took a break just before Wrath of the Lich King came out.  I knew I had been playing more than I should and I knew I'd just want to play more if I got the expansion.  I was able to enjoy that break and bought the expansion when the price came down and enjoyed it without experiencing much of the end game content.  When Cataclysm came out, I thought I had developed the right balance and bought the expansion right away, but almost immediately unsubscribed when I wanted to play more than I could.  That led to my decision with Mists of Pandaria to look for a more casual friendly game and then to wait again until the price came down and enjoy the leveling and other parts of the game like professions.

A month ago I was of the opinion that with the new Flex raids, I would get the expansion at the start, go through my normal casual leveling pace, and still enjoy a weekly casual raid with my guild.  Now that the pre-patch is out, I'm finding I don't want to play and really have very mixed feelings about getting the expansion at the beginning.

This malaise has caused me to play very little and not post for almost three weeks.  I've also almost stopped reading blog posts as well, something that I normally really enjoy.  I played through the pre-patch quests on one character, looked at all the new models (I'm fine with my Dwarfs, Humans, Night Elves and Draenei, but I had to change my gnome and still wish I could find one as cute as she was pre-patch), and found the magic of larger stacks and the resource tab button that creates huge amounts of bag and bank space.

Ironically this makes it easier for me to quit, because as a pack rat, I normally have many mails being sent between characters containing all the food and crafting materials I don't have a need for but can't bring myself to sell.  Now with the guild bank space in my new personal guild and all the extra bag and bank space, I've already retrieved most of my mails and it'll be easy to get the rest without having to make any hard decisions about what to sell.

As a non-MMO player, my wife would like to get me the expansion as a Christmas present, and thinks it would be something fun to look forward to.  As an MMO player, I know that'll mean several weeks getting even further behind other players and, more importantly, missing out on the excitement of the first few days and weeks.  With the way I'm feeling now, I'm not sure that it won't be more frustrating than enjoyable if I get the expansion and that therefore it would be better to wait.  I'm sure there will be a lot of casual players who will get the expansion as Christmas presents, so why shouldn't I do that as well.

I don't know what I'll decide to do, but this is why I started this blog:  to talk through the conflicts of being a casual player who is still very interested in computer games, particularly MMORPGs.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Week in an MMO Life: Loremaster of Northrend

Avatar of Freya zapping out flowers to kill the Scourge while Kintri looks on
The Loremaster achievements in World of Warcraft are an obvious one for a casual player who likes to quest.  Finish (almost) all the quests in a zone and get an achievement, complete it for all the zones in an expansion or continent and get a meta-achievement and finish them all for all expansions and continents and get a meta-meta-achievement.

This probably would have been doable for me except they didn't start until the Wrath of the Lich King pre-patch came out so you didn't get credit for most things you did before then.  It is one thing to do the quests as they come out and another to go back and re-do quests to get an achievement.  In any case, I find it convenient because it tells me what quests I haven't seen completely, so I can go back and see it with my alts as I bring them up.

As I mentioned a few times already, the last zone I needed in Wrath was 'Sholazar Basin.'  I'm not at sure why I hadn't done this zone up until now.  I had done a lot of it with Kanter, my hunter, since I wanted to get the toys you can get with Oracle reputation there.  Once Kintri, my Death Knight, hit level 75 and was able to level her Inscription profession, her next goal was to finish Sholazar Basin to get the Into the Basin achievement which would yield me the Loremaster of Northrend achievement.  That is what I did over the last two weeks.

There are three major threads in Sholazar Basin:
1. Nesingwary's Safari, which was also in the original game and Burning Crusade,
2. The conflict between the Oracles and the Frenzyheart Tribe and
3. The guardians left by the Titans fighting back the scourge with Freya above being the most obvious manifestation.

The starter quest from Dalaran sends you to Nesingwary's Safari and so it's the first set of quests you do though they all get interspersed.  As in the other two continents, these are primarily a kill a bunch of animals to get some quest to kill some special animals.  These do get a little repetitive, but there is enough humor thrown in to keep it interesting.  The final quest was the best, even if I didn't complete it as I was supposed to.  Wrath was the expansion where they introduced the ability to ride special vehicles for quests and in this one you get to ride an mammoth with Nesingwary aboard and use it to help kill a dragon.  The whole theme of capturing a mother dragon's babies in order to be able to kill the dragon makes me uncomfortable, but it was kind of fun to run around on the mammoth trying to lead the dragon onto traps.  I actually didn't realize Hemet Nesingwary was dropping traps until too late, so the mammoth died and I had to fight the elite the rest of the way without her help.  Fortunately, I was a little over-level by this point and Death Knights are strong even though I don't know what I'm doing with her, so I was able to finish her off pretty easily.  This also netted me the Hemet Nesingwary:  The Collected Quests meta achievement for finishing all three sets of quests.

The Oracles and the Frenzyheart Tribe are both pretty adorable and amusing so their quests are fun.  I do remember it getting a little repetitive doing the Oracle quests with Kanter so I could get the toys, but when you are just going through the opening sets of quests, it is fun to play both sides.  The Oracles are the 'better' side since they want peace and are trying to get along, but the Frenzyheart are a lot of fun with their proud attitude.  At the end of the quest line in order to kill a boss you have to either kill the Oracle or Frenzyheart with him.  The one that remains makes you honored with that faction and hated by the other.  Since I was already revered with the Oracles on Kanter, I chose Frenyheart for Kintri, but it doesn't really matter unless I eventually decide I want to get the exalted reputation achievement.

Once I finished those quests I was only a few quests away from having the Into the Basin achievement and finished that with some quests helping Freya with the Scourge.  Those quests also got me to level 80 as well, so it was actually a pretty nice way to get the last four levels in Northrend to be ready for the Cataclysm zones.  Freya eventually sends you to Un'goro crater in Kalimdor and if you weren't already aware of the similarity of the two zones, they make sure you get it.  I actually didn't have to do that quest to get the achievement and I'm pretty sure I already did it on Kanter, but I'll do it again to see the ending.

Now the question is what to do next.  My guildmate is pretty confident the pre-expansion patch will drop in the next two weeks and that makes sense, so I don't want to do anything that takes too long.  I could work on getting the Silver Healing Proving Grounds achievement, but it's going to change significantly with Warlords, so it seems like a waste of time.  I could try to take Kintri through Cataclysm so I'll have a max level in every profession, but I don't think I can bring myself to do those quests again after having taken Kantrina and Kantro through them recently.  Also, it'll take a long time to get my other five toons to use their professions in Warlords, so who knows when I'll get to the last one.  I could try to get some more mounts.  I'm close to 100 at this point.  I could finish off the Draenor starting quests with my shaman, since it seems a shame I haven't seen them all.  The fact that Wilhelm named it the worst zone in World of Warcraft isn't exactly encouraging but it should be pretty easy to get done it two weeks.  What to do.  I could just take two weeks off and only do my farm when I feel like it.  There will be plenty to do soon.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cannot Be Tamed Gaming Questionnaire

I'm not sure, but I believe this is what I play Pong on for my first video game.
As if often the case, I'm way behind the times, but I saw a number of interesting answers to the 'Cannot Be Tamed' questionnaire, so I thought I'd finally add my answers to the mix.

1. When did you start playing video games?
I would guess I was in 4th or 5th grade, so 9 or 10 years old.
2. What is the first game you remember playing?
I think this is supposed to be the first video game based on the rest of the questions.  My father bought us a 'Pong' clone.  I know it had pong, a hockey game (with two paddles for each side) and a game where you just hit the 'ball' against the wall and had different levels, so I think it was the one pictured above.
3. PC or Console? 
PC almost exclusively.  I played a Playstation 2 and SNES some but I'm two generations behind now.  My children are getting old enough that they are playing on Nintendo 3DS now and I'm thinking about getting a Playstation 3 to play with them.
4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii? 
Based on the answer above it's difficult to say.  I guess since I'm more likely to get a Playstation 3 than a Wii or XBox, I'll go with PlayStation.
5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
Civilization 2.  I played it over and over again and the improvements over the original Civilization were significant. 
6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
I'm tend to forget things that are bad (even those that are good, too, sometimes).  I also never played tons of games, so I tend to look at reviews before I get them.  I'm sure I played some bad ones, but don't remember them now.
7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn't like.
I've tried the Elderscroll games (at least Daggerfall and Morrowind, and maybe others) and never could get into them.
8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
As stated above, I tend to be pretty picky about my games and don't play many that are poorly received.
9. What are your favourite game genres?
RPGs and turned-based 4X strategy games are the ones I've played the most.
10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
I am going to steal my answers from someone else and say myself.  Typically in the games I play, I am the protagonist.
11. Describe your perfect video game.
It would both have an interesting story and have a lot of different ways to play it so I wouldn't get bored once the story is done.
12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?
I've had crushes on people in books, but never in a video game.
13. What game has the best music? 
I usually turn off the music to keep from disturbing my wife.  I know she will always remember the music from Warlords 2 and 3 because she still repeats it to me.
14. Most memorable moment in a game:
I still remember when I participated with my guild to kill Princess Huhuran for the first time.  I never was a core raider and this is one of the only times I helped in a first kill for our guild.
15. Scariest moment in a game:
I don't usually play scary games.  I guess you can qualify those situations in question 16.
16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
There have been a couple of times when I've either wiped are almost wiped a raid.  It is an awful feeling even though my guild is generally kind.
17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?
I still use Wowhead a lot, but I enjoy reading blogs more than any official gaming site.  May I refer you to my blogroll to the right on my blog?
18. What’s the last game you finished? 
I just recently finished a game of Civilization V.
19. What future releases are you most excited about? 
I will probably eventually get Civilization Beyond Earth, but I'll wait until it goes a pretty good sale.  I played Alpha Centauri a lot.  (Do I sense a theme here?)
20. Do you identify as a gamer?
Yes, possibly more so since it has been pulled through the mud recently with Gamergate.  I think we need to make sure it is defined in a broad sense by those who enjoy playing video games and not by a small number who want to exclude others.
21. Why do you play video games? 
It something I can do either with myself or with others that I enjoy and gets my away from my real life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Week in an MMO Life: Done with Dragonblight (almost)

Revisiting the Kalu'ak with my Death Knight
I didn't accomplish a lot in the last week, but I did reach my goal of level 75 on my Death Knight, Kintri in Dragonblight in World of Warcraft.  Looking at Wowhead it showed that Sholazar Basin is level 75-80, so I thought I'd reach level 75, go back to Dalaran and Stormwind, level my First Aid, Herbalism and Inscription up to Cataclysm levels and then head on to Sholazar Basin to finish up my Loremaster achievement for Northrend.  I did level my professions and I always find pleasure in doing that, even if it is relatively mindless.  However, it didn't work out like I expected because when I looked up the introductory quest for Sholazar Basin (near the Flight path in Dalaran), it required level 76.  So, I've decided to return to Dragonblight this week to get to level 76.  I'm not sure if I'll start Sholazar Basin yet, but I'm pretty sure that'll be my next goal.

So what did I do?  Pretty much the quests in Star's Rest and Moa'ki Harbor.  Star's Rest works pretty well as a quest hub.  There is another confrontation with someone talking to the shadow of the Lich King, just to keep our minds on the end goal, but it was generally your regular collection of kill, gather and visit quests.

I like Moa'ki Harbor more, which is good because it was one of the three quest hubs for the Tuskarrmageddon achievement that I finished with Kanter, my hunter, so I visited it a lot during Wrath.  As a pretty regular fisherman, I coveted (and eventually purchased) the Mastercraft Kalu'ak Fishing Pole, not just for the 30 additional fishing skill, but also the ability to breath underwater.  With it and the Reins of the Water Strider and the Angler's Fishing Raft from Anglers Reputation in Mists I have the option to swim under water, walk on the water/land, or raft of the water and fish.  These little things make me happy.

There is something very pleasant for me about the Walrus-like Kalu'ak.  I generally like animal races, but, also, in all their quests they just seem very centered.  I always feel uncomfortable with the repeatable quest to gather Snowfall Glade Pups and I had to do it many times to reach exalted with the Kalu'ak.  Yes, they try to justify it with saying that they are saving the pups, but killing their elders to take them away just seems wrong.

So that was this weeks brief visit to Dragonblight.  I should reach my goal for level 76 there next week and possibly I'll start working on Sholazar Basin.  I don't mind the thought of leveling to 80 in Northrend, but the thought of getting to level 85 so I can reach max level in my professions doesn't seem like fun at all.  I guess that says something about my experience with the Cataclysm questing zones.