Direction

I usually try to avoid meta-topics when it comes to WoW mainly because I generally don’t have the first hand experience to base my opinions on, but occasionally a topic will crop up where even my outsider perspective is worthy to share. Tonight I’ll attempt to share my feelings and speculation on the direction Blizzard is heading with WoW.

First and foremost let me state that I am not a progression raider. Hell, I rarely raid period. I have very limited experience with end-game content, not because I can’t hack it, it’s just that I don’t have the time to dedicate to progression raiding. So take my opinions as an outsider looking in, although I’m not trying to discredit my opinions as I feel they are valid.

Okay, now that that is out-of-the-way, let’s get on with it.

Wrath of the Lich King has served as a monumental sandbox for Blizzard to try out new ideas with end-game content. From loot systems to “hard modes” each content patch has brought a new idea to the table. Some ideas, such as hard mode, have been extremely successful and well-received, while others such as Trial of the Crusader have lots of folks scratching their heads.

While hard mode has been wildly successful, it’s starting to cause problems with how the end-game systems have played out. Blizz has accelerated the iLvl tiers for these modes to make them worth doing for the hardcore raiders while keeping the normal modes accessible for the larger population of WoW.

With each major content patch it seems the gap between normal and hard mode grows larger and larger. As this gap grows larger, it puts many “middle-road” progression raid teams in a hard position where normal mode isn’t challenging enough and hard mode is just too punishing. In this situation morale and motivation suffers from raiders burning out on running the same “faceroll” content and can’t find the motivation to keep throwing themselves at a brick wall.

This problem wasn’t quite as prevalent in Ulduar because there were a number of encounters with a variable difficulty to them which were controlled and triggered by in-game mechanics. With the introduction of an UI toggle progression raiding will be either “faceroll” or “brickwall.” To me this is a shame and seems like a step backwards from evolving and interesting gameplay mechanics.

Hopefully Blizzard rethinks making hard modes a UI toggle and brings back variable triggered hard modes ala Ulduar, but otherwise I think they’re on the right track. Changes such as top-level head/shoulder enchants becoming BoA are a godsend to those of us with alts at max-level without the time nor drive to grind out reputations.

There’s also the plan to allow BoA items to be transferrable cross-faction which will help some folks out, but I’m holding out for cross-realm BoA transfers to become available. My character slots are 100% horde on Cenarius and I don’t plan on creating an Alliance alt on Cenarius unless they increase the character limit per realm. (Pretty please Blizz!)

Yet I forsee one more aspect that Blizzard could continue to make the game more rewarding for the time invested: BoA emblems. Currently this would be difficult to implement since emblems are currency, but I see an easy work-around that currently exists in the game that could be modified to allow for this. Create a new BoA item that can be purchased by emblems and then be redeemed for emblems via a vendor.

You can already purchase BoA items that can be redeemed for honor, so it shouldn’t be difficult to expand this idea for emblems. This would make life much easier for those of us with multiple max-level toons, but don’t have the time to gear each toon up.

One could argue that you should have to invest that time on gearing up alts, but let’s think of the benefits of allowing BoA emblems. Raid teams wouldn’t be burdened with gearing up other people’s alts and should the need arise for toon swapping, toons being swapped in would be on average better geared.

Then there’s the issue of tanks and/or healers that have DPS alts that have all their BiS equipment, but are constantly called upon on their mains to run something. Now instead of feeling like they’re wasting their time and not getting anything out of running the same content, they can still gear up that DPS alt.

I can only think of one downside to this system: lack of familiarity with your alt geared through BoA emblems when running high level content. Even then, the downside isn’t that big, especially if you are consistently running high level content, it wouldn’t take much time to acclimate.

So are there any other possible downsides to allowing BoA emblems? There might be, but I honestly can’t think of any others and whatever downsides there might be are greatly outweighed by the benefits of such a system. Perhaps even the downside I did present could be dealt with only making base level emblems BoA and not the current tier of emblems.

Either way, I hope Blizzard is thinking about this and decides to implement it. It sure would make my life trying to gear up my DK for tanking a lot easier 😉
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Merits

Tonight one of my fellow guildies brought up an interesting conversation piece revolving around the merits of WotLK as an expansion compared to TBC and the carrot dangling in front of us: Cataclysm. From his standpoint WotLK doesn’t hold a candle to TBC from an end-game perspective and I can see his argument. In TBC we had Karazhan, Zul’Aman, Gruul, Magtheridon, Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, Black Temple and finally Sunwell Plateau. So far in WotLK we have had a retuned Naxxramas, Malygos, Sartharion, Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader and eventually Icecrown Citadel.

So on quantity he definitely has a point considering that ToC is quite possibly the worst raid content that has been put into the game … even if it is an experiment and fits in within the context of the raid’s purpose. (Maybe ToC should have been itemized as a side-grade or very slight upgrade but not given a completely new tier level of itemization) I cannot argue on terms of quality given that I didn’t raid in TBC and have only barely raided in WotLK, but from the taste I did have, I really enjoyed Naxxramas (other than the safety dance) and Ulduar. So even if Icecrown is the greatest raid content ever created, chances are WotLK is going to fall short on the raid content quantity compared to TBC.

But is that really all that bad? While WotLK will likely fall short on straight numbers, I don’t think he’s taking into consideration the new raid mechanics introduced in WotLK. Hard modes and the associated achievements can radically change raid encounters from their normal counterparts. Shouldn’t hard mode encounters be considered as extra content within the confines of the raid instance?

Regardless of the amount of end-game content, I think he wasn’t giving credence to the most important aspect of the content itself: the fun factor … which leads us back to the quality aspect of the argument. I still stand behind my stance that WotLK has been absolutely rewarding in terms of feeling like you’re apart of the storyline. Hell my rogue helped Putris develop that damned plague bomb and I’m a sucker for the lore behind the Titans and Arthas.

But again, I’m not a raider, and likely never will be. So for me WotLK has been awesome and hearing someone with an opinion very strongly contrary to my own astonished me. Maybe he’ll come around with Icecrown, but his skepticism is not shared on my end. I know Icecrown Citadel will rock … you get to board the competing faction’s airship with rocket packs … that’s AWESOME. Even if I don’t get to see much of Icecrown at first, I know I’ll be running those 5 mans a lot, and I enjoy 5 man content far more than 10/25 man.

Rebirth v2.0

At some point an itch becomes so unbearable that you just have to scratch it. You know the right thing to do is to just ignore it and it’ll pass, but instinctively your fingernails claw at the quivering flesh. I really thought I was on the precipice of leaving WoW behind me, but patch 3.2 pulled me back in. Actually I’ve been back on Cenarius for about 2 months now, but 3.2 was the reason I came back.

The idea of the mini-gear reset piqued my interest in coming back to Azeroth. The ability to get tier 8 and equal quality loot through badges from running heroics and Naxxramas meant I’d be able to pick up with my rogue and progress at my own pace and possibly be geared enough to run Ulduar and Trial of the (Grand) Crusader in preparation for tackling Icecrown Citadel.

I was able to get a small taste of Ulduar(10) prior to 3.2 with the now-dead Omega raid group in Awry. I just wasn’t geared enough to provide the DPS needed, and trying to find a 3rd group of 10 progression-centered folks proved to be just a little too much for the ill-fated raid. Much of the problem was that many of the folks filling out the raid were using their alts and the group-organizer was hoping for Omega to be a non-alt run.

Needless to say after the 1st failed attempt, motivation diminished and attendance fell apart for the remainder of the attempts. We did at least down Flame Leviathan and XT no problem, but had issues with Razorscale and Ignus. It’s almost a shame that Omega was pushed and then shelved when it did, because I feel that now 3.2 is over a week old, many of us who wanted to run Ulduar are now geared enough to run it with better results.

I suppose it’s all the same however, Ulduar is still being run on a frequent basis in Awry and I’m sure should I want to drop in for the 25 man nights, I could probably land a position, if only as a replacement for someone else that is burned out on running it. Besides Blood Ring v3.0 … er I mean Trial of the Crusader seems like it might be fun in that it’s purely boss fights and should be a growing raid in the guild.

I really want to see Icecrown Citadel and hope that prior to the next expansion I will get a chance to defeat the Lich King. It’s been a goal of mine to see the real end-game content while it is still fresh and I’ve always been behind on the gear curve to do so.

Patch 3.2 has provided me with a lot of opportunity to catch up and fortunately ONE Naxx25 run boosted my rogue to being Ulduar-ready. I’ve always had horrible luck when it comes to loot rolls, but karma had to have been in my court last weekend when I won not just one, two, or three rolls … but SIX rolls.

I think by the 3rd piece of loot I won, (btw the loot rules were CLEARLY stated prior to the raid starting) another rogue in the raid QQ’d and whispered me “lootho” before leaving the group. Sure I could have passed on a couple of pieces, but they were HUGE upgrades for me and by the 3rd win, it became a “game” to see how many pieces I could “lootho.” (BTW, this was pretty much a 60-75% guild Naxx25 run and the rogue that QQ’d was a non-guildie)

I’m somewhat kicking myself for actually passing on the 6th piece that I won, [Calamity’s Grasp], but a guild enhancement shaman was #2 on the rolls and my “lootho’ng” guilt got the best of me so I told the ML that I’d pass the loot down to the shammie. If that was the only Naxx25 run I was planning on going to I’d be a little more QQ about it, but I’m sure I’ll be downing Kel’Thuzad in the near future again and will have another shot at getting it … that is if I don’t end up getting something better out of Ulduar or ToC.

On another very interesting, and by interesting I mean absolutely world-shattering and changing mind-blowing interesting, my wife finally decided to give WoW a shot and she appears to genuinely enjoying the very brief experiences she’s had so far with the game. We decided to roll 2 human warlocks on Whisperwind (my sister’s server … which she has abandoned) but may end up rolling horde on my server, Cenarius, if she really starts to dig it and we pick up the WoW-Battlechest so she can roll a Blood Elf.

*Crosses Fingers*

Fail

After a 2 week long obsession with pvp on my rogue, I’ve started hating rogue pvp again. Well okay, I’m still combat spec’d and don’t get to ShS (back before TBC I spec’d for ShS and absolutely loved it … but that was when ShS + Ambush was still moderately useful). I’ve contemplated many times on respec’ng for ShS, but I really really love AR and dropping warriors in s1/2 gear (s3 wars are still ;_; for rogues). Then of course there are horrific horde PuGs that can’t seem to pvp … but I digress.

Season 4 is now on the horizon and now I’m at a crossroads of what to do with my rogue. I despise the s2 rogue gear, but will probably replace the few pieces of pvp gear I have. I would like to join an arena team and get some s3 gear, but I’m not /that/ serious about trying to get s4 gear. (Side Note: the s4 gear has actually grown on me and I like it quite a bit)

Yet from what I’ve been reading, t6 gear serves a rogue a lot better for arena (simply because of the incredible dps t6 gear provides) but I’m not geared for raiding right now. There is badge gear to fill those gaps, but I’d prefer to run heroics with my guild; which is problematic with most nights dedicated to raiding.

On top of that, kara runs have been falling through and it’d be really hard for me to get in on a ZA run. *Shrug* In the grand scheme of things getting geared right now isn’t all /that/ important since we’re looking at WotLK by the end of the year and we’ll be going through another gear-reset somewhere between 70-80. My rogue right now is so much better geared than he was at 60 prior to TBC, so I’m pretty happy with that.

With the PVP wearing down on my rogue and the motivation to raid continues to be non-existant I’ve been spending some time on my paladin. Blizz definitely improved the leveling rate in the old-world and the conversion of many elite to normal npcs makes many quests fairly simple to solo. So my old goal of getting a paladin up to 70 to tank seems like a good diversion while I continue to be undecided on my rogue.

Progression

From the very first moment of playing WoW it held hope of reaching the end-game without the need of a steady static party. FFXI was my first true love of the MMORPG genre, but the bitterness of sitting in Jeuno with my LFG flag on for hours only depressed me. WoW promised the ability to solo to 60, and that alone convinced me to take the plunge. I still remember the day that my rogue, Nevik, hit 60. What a momentous occassion, I felt like I had accomplished something that eluded me in FFXI.

At that point I felt like the rest of the game was open for me to experience. However as the months toiled on and the time commitments of Molten Core proved too daunting, it became apparent. The true nature of WoW doesn’t start until you hit 60, progression through equipment by raiding. Now 18 months later I can finally say that I’ve started the true progression of my first (and still only) level 60 character.

A week and a half ago I finally ventured into Zul’Gurub with my guild, Awry, and had an absolute blast. We cleared everything except for the fish boss, Jin’do, and the Edge of Madness due to the lateness in which we started (this was the night 1.11.1 went live in primetime). I even won two items during the night: [Zulian Slicer] and a [Primal Hakkari Aegis]. Winning the sword only helped reinforce just how good of an idea it was to pick up skinning again and once I finally hit revered with Zandalar I’ll be able to immediately pick up my chestpiece.

The best part of that night wasn’t the fact that I won some “phat loot” but rather that I got to experience true end-game content with my good friends in the guild. It had been far too long that I had been 60 with the only “end-game” content I had experienced being UBRS. My GM was ecstatic that I was finally able to join in on the fun and have a great time. Hell, I was ecstatic that I no longer felt gimped being that I came in 2nd on the damage meters to our former HWL shaman, Zydan.

So even if that were the only end-game progression I had made, I’d still feel accomplished … but there’s more …

Last wednesday I came home after work hoping to run ZG again. Unfortunately my guild decided to do an impromptu run on July 4th and cleared everything except EoM and the fish boss. Instead we decided to do a guild run of Ahn’Qiraj (20 man). Considering I needed Kurinaxx’s venom sac I quickly set aside any disappointment of not running ZG and joined in for the AQ20 run. We only cleared 3 bosses, (Kurinaxx, Rajaxx, and Buru) due to a bad raid composition, but again I won some “phat loot.” A [Qiraji Sacrificial Dagger] dropped off of Kurinaxx which I won along side with his venom sac that I turned in to get a [The Thunderwood Poker].

Ahn’Qiraj was a blast, I especially enjoyed the General Rajaxx encounter. It actually felt like I was taking place in an epic battle. Buru was refreshing in that for once I felt like WoW was a video game using familiar mechanics. I only hope that Blizzard keeps this trend up and the expansion includes some 5 man content that uses other familiar mechanics that break up the monotonous feel of MMORPGs.


Well at least rogues are useless during this encounter >.<

Yet there’s still more …

Thursday I got my first taste of 40 man content with a horde coalition in which Awry is a member of, (well by far the largest member of). I took my rogue and finally made good on my solo attunement run for the Molten Core. I’m glad I experienced MC last, as quite frankly MC is a horrible instance. Drab, uninteresting, and monotonous. It’s easy to understand why many love to say goodbye to MC. Regardless, it still was a new experience, and I actually came away with something, my tier 1 gloves: [Nightslayer Gloves].

Finally on Friday a group of guild officers including the former GM of our sister guild ran LBRS so that I could get my tier 0 Shadowcrap gloves. Why on earth would I even bother getting them? I’ve been working on the dungeon 2 set quest line as the [Darmantle Belt] would be an upgrade. Also I figured slapping +5 Skinning on the [Darmantle Gloves] would make for great farming gloves. Fortunately for me, Vosh’gajin dropped my gloves and Nevik is now sitting at skinning 315! ^^.

Well that’s about it, tomorrow will be yet another improvement for Nevik as I’ll be able to turn in my Elementals Deck for a [Darkmoon Card: Maelstrom]. With that Nevik will be a proc-mastah!