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.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Week in an MMO Life: Ready to Boost

Brief visit back to Silithus
I remember spending a lot of time in Silithus in World of Warcraft getting Nature Protection gear and gathering Silithid Carapase Fragments for our guild.  It is a zone that changed very little with Cataclysm, which gives it a stronger sense of nostalgia than many of the zones I visited. 

To go back to where I left off, I completed the demon killing quest line in the Blasted Lands which included a visit to the Altar of Storms.  I remember seeing it on flights, but I had never done this quest line, so it was interesting to finally see why it was there and overall it was fun even if there was a lot of back and forth to the quest giver in a cave.  Surwich was a very odd addition to the zone.  It added a very different appearance and a totally separate quest line about a misguided druid to the zone that had been pretty consistent up to that point.  I received my zone achievement before I completed the quests but I went ahead and completed them so I could see the end of that quest line.  I will avoid the Surwich quest if I ever come back again.

Once I finished the Blasted Lands I was almost at 60 and the easy thing to do would have been to take the portal to Outland and finish up there.  However, I decided to use my Moonglade portal (given to all druids), take the long flight to Un'Goro Crater and then run to Silithus from there.  In Silithus was nice to have the same quests and quest givers that I remembered, but the first quests are quite a grind and some people were wiping out the Twilight Geolords almost as soon as they appeared.  After a few pack and forth trips, during which I hit level 60, they left and I was able to complete the early quest lines.  Still, like in the Blasted Lands, it was nice to see a busy zone.

One thing I noticed is that when I reached level 58, Flight form appeared, but since I was still in Azeroth, it required a Flight Master's License to use it.  This is another incentive (at least for druids) to visit Outland right away, but I am still much more interested in seeing the post Cataclysm quests than the early Outland quests that I've done 5 times before.

Now I'm ready to use my Level 90 Boost, but I'm still not sure when I will buy the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  I don't particularly want to have a 5th farm and I plan to take my priest and hunter into Draenor first, so I'll keep my money until anticipation gets the best of me.

With that primary objective accomplished I started leveling my death knight, Kinter, in the Borean Tundra in Northrend so I can use his Inscription profession.  This is my fourth time doing those quests, but they are some of the best quests in World of Warcraft.  Once I hit level 73, the mobs turned green (less experience), so I went to Dragonblight, another great zones for quests.  I look forward to making it to level 75 there and then I'll be ready to finish the quests in Sholazar Basin, the last I will need for my Loremaster in Northrend.

That will give me 3 out of the six Loremaster achievements, but I don't see myself ever finishing Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms.  It says something about persistence as well as the ease of leveling that a casual player like me will soon have 5 max level characters and another in her 70s.  I have considered leveling both my shaman and a monk, since I know little of those classes, but I, like most of the other World of Warcraft players, am ready for something different now.  Bring on the Warlords.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Week in an MMO Life: Catching up

It is nice having others playing, but can't you loot the corpses?

I haven't been posting much and I'm not sure why.  In any case, the good news (if you are me and want to write or if you want to read what I'm writing) is that I have three more posts in process.  I wonder if having more to read has meant less time to write.  In any case, in honor of the end of Blaugust (and Labor Day holidays), you get two posts in three days.  Congratulations to all those who participated!

Be the Cat

For the last few weeks my focus has been leveling my Druid, Kantree, in World of Warcraft to 60 so I use my instant 90 and have a max level Leatherworker (and Skinner) but only to do it when I am rested.  When I spoke about this last I had just started Feralas, which had been one of my favorite zones, and since then I've done the full Feralas, Thousand Needles, and Ungoro Crater zones and I'm about half way through Blasted Lands at level 58.

After being impressed with the changes in earlier zones, I was disappointed to see that the Sprite Darter quest series is gone in Feralas.  Overall, I guess there was more continuity to the zone, but that quest chain was one of my favorites and I like the old Feathermoon Island that is also no longer an Alliance town.  I spent many days fishing there in Vanilla and it's just not the same.  

Thousand Needles had probably the biggest change in any zone when the Cataclysm happened since it's flooded now.  However, I think the changes are good.  The earlier race track quests were amusing and I remember enjoying the griffin ones in the other area, but they were totally disconnected from each other and not very long.  The new set of quests gives you a boat to travel around in  (unfortuately, it only works in Thousand Needles) and I found it entertaining even if the quests were rather spread out.

The quests in Ungoro Crater seem very similar to what I remember when I leveled my warrior there during Burning Crusade.  That is probably a good thing, since they were fun then as well.  There is again a little more continuity and you get to turn into different creatures including a dinosaur (that someone used to kill one of the quest givers when I was trying to turn in a quest).  Fun zone!

I was amazed at how busy Blasted Lands were when I started questing there.  As a skinner, it was nice having all the extra skins to gather though it seemed like often times people wouldn't loot the corpses (as was the case in the screen shot above).  So far I've been enjoying it and I've been amazed it is so busy, but not so busy that it is difficult to complete the quests.  Anyone know why?  In any case, I'll reserve judgment until the end.   So far I've liked all the quest changes except for Feralas.

Death Knight Easy Mode

When I wanted to play and my rested buff hadn't built up on my Druid, I have been leveling my Death Knight, Kintri from 65 to 72.  I'd like to get her at least to 75 before Warlords of Draenor since she is my only character who has Inscription and I've built up many Inks and Herbs for her to use.  While I feel like I've learned my cat form while leveling up my druid, for my Frost Death Knight I just press one of three (now four) keys, which ever are available with an effort to hit them when they are lit up.  I guess I should look to see what they and others do, but things die so quickly with this method that there isn't any incentive to do it.

It says something that I don't remember most of the leveling I did from 65 to 70.  I did spend 68-70 leveling in Netherstorm since it is the only area in Outland that I haven't completed.  Now that I've switched to Borean Tundra in Northrend I am enjoying myself more.  I'll keep playing here until the quests or mobs turn green (less experience).  I'm not sure where I'll level except that I must do Sholazar Basin (once I get to the right level) since it is the only zone in Northrend where I don't have the quest achievement.

Next?

So I'm pretty close on my immediate goals of getting my Druid to 60 and my Death Knight to 75.  I'm not sure what I'll do next.  I might try to learn healing on my Priest, but that might be too much work.  I'm very close to having 100 mounts so that should be an obtainable goal.  Any suggestions?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

One Night in Final Fantasy XIV


Near one of the 'portals' in Final Fantasy XIV
Initially when I start this blog, I spent a day playing several games trying to figure out if they were right for me.  I spent some  time playing Lord of the Rings Online before returning to World of Warcraft and playing it since then.  However, I still want to try out new games in my casual style.  I did it recently with Wildstar and when Final Fantasy XIV (FF XIV) offered two weeks to play for free, I decided to try it for a night and see what it was like.  Belghast was an influence since he's been talking about the game a lot recently.

Typically when I do this, it is a day or two after I played, but I became sick the day after I played the game and now, three weeks later I'm coming to write my post (and it was four weeks until I actually finished it).  I apologize in advance that it will be my impressions vague than I'd like them to be.

Some background first:  For someone who has played video and computer games since the 70s and has played a lot of RPGs, it is somewhat surprising I've never played any of the Final Fantasy games.  I have watched others play them briefly, but I wasn't ever really a console gamer so they weren't really an option for me until recently.

Character creation

I created two characters.  The first was a Hyur, the 'human' option.  The second was a Miqo'te (don't ask me how that is pronounced), the 'cat-girl' option for my daughter.  In both cases, there were two branches that had slightly different appearance choices and quite a lot of options.  There were a few options that changed your appearance significantly like hairstyle, but others seemed to be very similar.

There was a 'magic' and 'not magic' option for class and then under those were a lot of options.  Some classes didn't seem to be very different.  I just picked a melee DPS class for my first character since that is usually the easiest option.

Gameplay

I picked Limsa Lominsa to start in.  There was a little intro video with a fellow traveller that tells you something about the game.  It was better than just be thrown into the game but not very exciting.  When I started my second character with my daughter in Gridania, the same traveller was there giving me information about the new location.

There was no question about what you were expected to do.  At first there were a lot of non-combat quests that allowed you to familiarize yourself with the controls and the city (which was rather large) before you got combat quests outside the city.  Even in the very first locations there were 'FATEs'.  FATEs are FF XIV version of dynamic events.  I participated in two of them, but they just seemed like a way to focus grinding.  I guess if you don't like the quests they are better than just grinding on your own, but I preferred questing.  Combat was responsive and I never felt like the controls or performance got in the way.

Performance


When I wrote my other reviews, I had an older desktop and performance was a definite concern.  Now I have a gaming laptop and while it isn't bleeding edge, it doesn't seem to be an issue for most games.  In any case, I had no issues with performance in FF XIV.  Along with the quests and the combat, everything ran smoothly, indicative of a well optimized game, not something that could always be assumed for MMOs.

Overall impressions

I enjoyed my time, but didn't think it was the game for me.  I was impressed with how polished the game seemed to be.  I wasn't able to get into the secondary aspects of the game like crafting that I enjoy, but if the main gameplay doesn't grab me, those won't be enough to keep me playing.  The art style, though beautiful, isn't my favorite.  I prefer more the cartoon-like characters in World of Warcraft of Wildstar.  If you played many of the Final Fantasy games, I could see how it could be nice to revisit some of the common tropes of those games, but I didn't have that incentive and I don't see myself picking it up again.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

10 Year 10 Questions


The Godmother on ALT:ernative Chat, in preparation for the 10 year anniversary of World of Warcraft, has asked people to answer the following questions about World of Warcraft.  As usual, I'm a little bit behind, but my answers are below.  You can find other responses at this link from ALT:ernative Chat.

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?
I have been playing computer role playing games since the 80s and had read about Ultima Online and Everquest, but never decided to play them.  After reading about World of Warcraft in Computer Gaming World, I decided I like to try it out (this was still during the beta test).  I found a guild (I think on a Blizzard forum, but I'm not sure), joined the guild and the beta.  I even went to my local Gamestop and picked it up at midnight rushed back and help my guildmaster create the guild.
2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

My first character (from beta) and still my main character is a dwarven hunter, Kanter.  I had decided I like playing dwarves in Warlords and I couldn't pass up the chance to have an animal fight by my side.  I also still primarily fight with my bear companion, Iorek, I picked up at level 10.3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?
Since I wanted to be a dwarf, I didn't have a choice.  Also the guild I joined was primarily playing on the Alliance side.4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?
As a casual player, I'm not sure I have a favorite moment.  One of my few end game raiding experiences was in AQ40.  We spent a lot of time gathering nature resistant gear for Princess Huhuran and I remember clearing working in our semi-circle (to minimize splash damage) until she finally fell.  She had the best Hunter weapon at the time (Huhuran's Stinger, which I still have) and it is the one thing someone whispered me to ask me about.5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?
I like being able to do a variety of activities.  I like the lore.  I like professions.  I like questing.  I don't like doing LFD or LFR, but I do enjoy group activities with my guild and I'm hoping I can do it again with WoD.
6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

I enjoyed exploring in Feralas and I completed the Sprite Darter Hatchling quest chain on four different characters there.  Sadly, the quest doesn't exist any more (though the Hatchling does).  I also remember running to Feathermoon Island as an underlevel character because it was where the only max level Alchemy trainer was.  When I got there, I was too low level to learn it, but it was a fun adventure and at least I had the flight point.
7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I have 125 days on my main character but I also have 3 other level 90 characters I haven't used the instant level 90 yet, so let's just say it's significantly more than that.  I have taken breaks of several months in all the expansions since BC (so three breaks).
8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

I usually read the quest text, but not always.  Right now I'm trying to level a druid to 60 and sometimes I just want to get on with it.
9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

There was a time, particularly during Burning Crusade, when I played too much and it interfered with my homelife (see below).
10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

Particularly during Burning Crusade, but also during Vanilla, I was playing too much and it interfered with my family responsibilities.  I took several long breaks so it I wouldn't get too involved and I think I have found a balance now.  This blog (MMO One Night a Week) was part of trying to find a way to play an MMO without letting it take too much time.