So, back in August I posted a little piece about the latest addition to casa de Grimmtooth, a little kitten that we named Jaina, who had been diagnosed with a deadly disease and yet persisted in living la vida loca long past the projected, um, deadline. Here’s a little update.
We’ve had her to our regular vet to be spayed, and there was no evidence of FIP from the vet. Still, we worried. She still has a rather chunky bod, and she was so active that I just didn’t think it was due to overeating. So I kept researching.
It was as if I was looking at a picture of our little lady, but it wasn’t a Tonkinese – it was a Birman. As I read up on the Birman breed, I mentally checked off all the boxes but one – the little gloves that a Birman is supposed to have, but Jaina does not.
The most important trait from my perspective is the body shape. While tonks tend to be slender, Birmans are not. They have what is described largely as "a square body shape." Another was the voice. She has a sweet, mellow voice, not a brassy Siamese twang, which Tonks are said to have.
So what gives me hope is that Jaina is actually a Birman cross, not a Tonk cross, and her size and shape is perfectly normal for a cat of her lineage.
She continues to be healthy and active and keeps us on our toes. She’s also developing a more affectionate demeanor as she matures. When she wants attention she still goes and gets her favorite toy and starts to sing. She loves the long hallway in he new place and will spend a lot of time zooming up and down it, often behind some unfortunate other cat that was just ambushed.
So, we’re feeling very hopeful.
Oh, one correction from the original post – I’m calling it Fire with Arcane offspec, not the other way around.
One of the benefits of having multiple max level toons on the team is that each contributes in his or her own special way. I make flasks and potions, and do transmutes for sale. Illume makes glyphs for sale and our own use. Jas runs the auctions and provides bags. Each of us provide armor and weapons as we can make them.
Illume has some pretty sweet items in her bag of tricks - the fan is already mine, but the staff requires Spirits of Harmony, an item you can’t just go buy or mail to an alt.
So, what to do other than start grinding with the mage and get her inventory full of Spirits. The goal is to get her to 90, then get her grinding the Tillers so she can plant songbells. This will keep things moving along for future stuff as well.
The point of this is to get my iLevel up to where I can queue for things like daily heroic scenarios and stuff. I’ve been grinding the Darkspear weekly when it makes sense, but weapons are not part of the rewards, alas.
It’s kinda weird going at it from two fronts like that, but whatever works, works.
While we were offline, events that affect us all took place. Our guild managed to get its first T141 boss down, without Jasra’s healing touch. The question came up, did they want her back, or a DPS? I was told, get Flora moving.
So move I shall.
‘Undergeared’ is not exactly the most descriptive term I’d use. I still have several greens. ‘Undergeared’ doesn’t seem to be a strong enough term! Dutifully, I drafted a gear plan, and it was unsettling.
Part of the reason for this is the addition of several flavors of random-enchant epics for completing daily heroic scenarios; there is also a random-enchant quest reward from the Darkspear Rebellion. Both of those usually outstrip top-end T15 gear.
So, the Rebellion appears to be the place to be, but there’s a problem – the main quest is a weekly, so once you’ve gotten your 150 bits of various mats, and turned them in, all that’s left is additional collection. It’s rather daunting, the massive and tedious grind that the next few weeks seem to have in store. I’ve bitched about dailies, but this seems to be something designed to convince us that dailies aren’t really so bad, after all.
The other half of this is getting my rotation down; Demonology is just plain odd, with the Demonic Fury resource system. Still, I’ve done my homework, and I have something that’s at least passable, even if I have to look down at the keyboard from time to time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, thank the Light for WeakAuras and/or PowerAuras.
While Thunder Isle appears to be outgeared by the Rebellion, now, I still have some work there; the Green Fire quest is triggered by a book that drops over there, of all places, so I need to grind dailies there until I get that, at least.
It’s funny how much content is completely irrelevant, though. Sure, there are upgrades to be had from Shieldwall and Thunder Isle, but why waste time there when the biggest payoff is to be found in Northern Barrens? The irony of WoW is that 95% of its content is irrelevant to a raider.
Still, it’s fun to fly the Warlock flag once again. Even if I derp it like a noob.
That is not a typo, we’re not exactly pushign the envelope – or at least not THAT side of it. [↩]
We’ve already heard this, of course, from closer to home, and we’ve also seen this in the 5.0 – 5.1 – 5.2 – 5.3 release cycle. More frequent updates are par for the course, now.
The top echelon of consumers, those that burn through it with only one goal – the endgame raiding experience1 – can keep up with this.
People that have less time to spend or want a more complete experience of each patch, however, are going to have a hard time keeping up. The so-called "lapsed players" will have a choice between being behind the curve as they play catch-up, or will have to skip entire swathes of material to catch up with their friends / guilds.
Will this virtual firehose have the desired effect of bringing people back, or will it discourage them even further? I don’t know.
What I do know is how it affects me. Having "lapsed" for close to two months, I have the choice between being way behind my guild, or skipping content. At this point, Shieldwall and Isle of Thunder are getting shoved to the back. Flora will hit the latter to get the book for her green fire quest, but that’s about it, until content slows down a bit.
So, is there no way out of this vicious circle for Blizz? Which side of the "more frequent" line shows more subscribers? Do they lose no matter what?
Unlike some, I don’t see the death of WoW or even the grinding to a halt of it – it’s a money machine, plain and simple. Even at a million subscribers, that’s fifteen MILLION dollars of guaranteed income PER MONTH. I doubt OpEx costs come even close to that, so consider that there’s a big profit to be had for quite some time.
But, regardless of their ownership of every byte of data that hits the servers, the analysis tools that we mere mortals do not have, and an allegedly deep understanding of subscribers’ habits, Blizz keeps hitting one off note after another. There are times that it seems that they succeed in spite of themselves.
One can’t help but wonder.
And I suspect as a result that 5.3 will be very unpopular with the top raiding crowd, and thus (since they’re loudest) 5.3 will be largely considered a failure. [↩]
After close to two months off the grid, this is what I returned to
This is the downside of using mailboxes to keep your stuff organized between you and various mules; anything not in bags evaporated into the Twisted Nether.
On the bright side, my nemesis appears to have disappeared again, and glyph prices are up from where they were when I left. I’m guessing that the number of glyph mongers have decreased faster than the server population as a whole.
Well, off to rebuild. Has anyone seen the ‘Open’ sign? It’s under this stuff somewhere …
We’re online again, though we had to wait until payday before we could actually re-enable our account. Blast and damn, not offline long enough for a Scroll of Rez, so no freebies for me or mine.
So what to do in between loads of freight? Looking around the F2P playground, I remembered that Neverwinter was in motion, so I’ve rolled up as Floramel-like a toon as possible, a control wizard that I hope to bend to warlock-like habits.
Character creation allows for a lot of individuality. It even allows for chunky body types, adjustment of individual face and body attributes (there are like seven nose adjustments!). My model is one of the more slender ones, so as you can see, no Barbie dolls here. Overall, very good.
Outfits are somewhat less flamboyant than one is used to in endgame WoW. However, I would point out that I actually like the models of the lower-level stuff in WoW better, as well, meaning that the higher level stuff in NW might suffer from the same ridiculous effects. Time will tell.
It’s also possible that the outfit models are limited1 at this time to a select set of looks. Through level 20, all outfits looked pretty much the same. Mogging2, however, is baked in to the basic interface.
Armor dye is also supported, though from the looks of it you will have to cough up some cash to get it, since it requires the "Zen" currency, and best I can tell, that’s a cashy money thing.
Some of the NPC character models suffer from what I would call "mannequin syndrome". So realistic, they look plastic. This is a Cryptic Studios product, so it probably shares a lot of DNA with City of Heroes and Star Trek Online – the former looks very similar to this game from a character and model perspective, including the character model creation process.
Graphics and visuals
Graphical details are sharp and clear, maybe too much so. WoW catches a lot of crap for its looks, but one thing that it has a lot of practice at is making things stick out in obvious ways. It’s not too difficult to find a mail box, or a vendor, even in a crowded room. And while I give Blizz hell for abolishing Night from the worlds, realistic and dark shadowing makes everything kind of bland and difficult to deal with.
It’s real easy to walk into a mob, too – no little nameplates over their heads!
The controls take getting used to. Part of that is just the usual "this is a different game" thing, but there are elements that just stink of "let’s do something different just to be different." You are seriously constrained on what you can have on your action bar, too – unlike the ten or so action bars with ten buttons each that you get with WoW, you get one action-bar-like interface in this game, and it’s very small as well.
Aim matters. You don’t click on a mob and then start beating / shooting him, you have to aim and then whatever you are aiming at is hit. Fortunately, there’s no friendly fire outside of PvP. Right-click actually defaults to an attack, so for a former WoW player, ‘F’ to interact is a bit awkward.
In combat, activity is pretty lively. I’d love to have some countdown timers visible at eye level, but on the plus side you can move your action bar – which does have countdown timers – to wherever you want.
Similar to CoH, a sparkly trail of lights appears to direct you to the next point of interest in your current quest. This is highly intelligent and also a rebuttal to the trope that Blizz has nerfed the game too much. Others are way ahead of them in some ways.
Lootable items are very clearly denoted, including caches you might find in your travels.
Interaction between the map and the world is pretty wretched. You can’t click a location and see the trail light up for it. And it’s a highly accurate replica of the real world, meaning it’s gloomy and low-contrast and difficult to read. Again, others win in this area.
Combat is very like any other game I’ve played – there is a strong emphasis on "don’t stand in fire" and button pushing and stacking debuffs and such. The big bads also have a very in your face element to them, and sometimes the graphics engine can’t keep up (though that may be my system more than the engine). Good example is the "treasure trapper" creature.
Other than in interaction with my companion, I really didn’t see much in the way of aggro mechanics, but what I saw was unsurprising and familiar.
Crafting includes the gathering of resources, and the creation of items from them, much like other games. Where this differs is interesting.
Gathering is done from caches. Caches are coded to skills that are native to specific classes; dungeoneering is tied to fighter types, arcane to wizards, religious to clerics, thieving to rogues, and so forth. You can buy kits to enable looting of caches outside of your class, and the kits drop from mobs as well.
Creating items is done by proxy. You hire a craftsman to go do things, and gather the results when they’re done. This can be administered from the web page for the game as well.
The gathering game seems to be more in service to itself than anything. "Oh here’s a random cache, oh, it contains a random pile of stuff."
Neither the crafting or gathering experience feel organic. But you could get used to it.
One difference in this game is that of companions. If you’ve played other Sword Coast games in the past, you’re probably familiar with the concept of companions. You get your first at 16, and it can be from one of the main classes. I chose a cleric because that seemed wise. 3
The best unintended benefit of having a healer companion is that you start learning aggro management right away – or rather, how to keep aggro off of her. A dead healer heals no damage.
It appears that in each zone there is an ultimate dungeon / instance activity with five party members, and you don’t get the final lore payoff or zone closure if you don’t do them. Very WoW-like. I would have thought that they’d've noticed how many people would be thrilled to see instance scaling so that one to five people could share the experience rather than be stuck at five.
I didn’t participate as such so no further comment would be useful.
Well, this is where WoW is falling short, according to what I keep reading in the blogospheric echo chamber. Our "community" is becoming populated by a bunch of spoiled, lazy, racist, sexist, haters, is what I hear.
I am not going to delve into details, but I will say that until you have seen general chat in Neverwinter, you have no idea how bad it could be.
The community per se is no better or worse. What the big difference is that we’ve become pampered by the Blizzard Nanny State; any aberrations tend to stick out.
Sometimes you have to swim in the sewers to remember what shit really smells like.
It really does "feel" like Neverwinter. It also, however, feels a bit chaotic and frenetic. A lot of this, I’m sure, is due to the beta nature of the game at this time. Heck, I’m not even sure if the appearance of the armor in the game is due to design or because we’re still in beta and they haven’t completed all the models. I’m leaning towards the former because money.
And that brings me to the elephant in the room for this sort of game – how hard are they pushing to sell you cash shop items. Right now, for example, it looks like the only way to change your armor color is to buy "Zen" and then spend it on dyes. "Fine," you say, "cosmetic isn’t a big deal." Problem is, the kind of player that gives a game a soul tends to invest in a character, and care about appearances, and something like this could be discouraging to them.
The other items I saw were such as mounts and companion items, but no game-changing armor or weapons. So pay-to-win, not so much at the moment.
Overall, I like this game. It’s not yet complete, so time will tell if it has legs, and endgame content will drive a certain kind of player’s expectations. Disregarding that, the game is solid, and the leveling game thus far has been fun.
My time in Neverwinter is at an end; the WoW account is up and running, and we have some picking up to do.
Today, patch 5.3 drops, in which things ramp up towards an ultimate confrontation with the Big Bad in 5.4 or later. This is the first patch day I will have missed since Vanilla, in that I am using a tethered cell phone for network, and my game time is currently zero’d (no point in paying for something I don’t use).
I had barely gotten into 5.2, which my experience thus far leads me to regard it as a vary bad idea1. All signs point to 5.3 being more of the same, with a different location.
Well, I won’t pan it until I’ve tried it, which will be in a week or two, depending on how our move goes this weekend.
Those that wanted more frequent updates, well, they’re getting what they asked for. I feel a little rushed, though – I barely had time to explore the 5.1 story line before 5.2 dropped, and I didn’t have a change of location to blame for that one. I was still getting caught up with 5.0 things!
The question remains: does the increased frequency in patches also carry over to an increased frequency in expansions? I’m thinking not likely … Blizzcon is the most likely time to announce it, and if they wait until then, the next expansion will be out on approximately the same schedule as the past ones have.
I am NOT one with the doomsayers that say that the last two quarters’ numbers indicate that WoW will be dead by 1Q15. First of all, two datapoints is a stupid wrong way to draw a trendline. As an example, if you take the past THREE datapoints, WoW ends 1Q14 – a whole year earlier – instead. Even they aren’t being that bold, possibly on purpose. One should only choose the data that supports one’s foregone conclusions, after all.
The one valid point of the we’re-doomed crowd is this: if the next two quarters don’t look better, or at least level off, Activision will likely try to pull the plug. I realize that the ultimate optimists at Blizz’s core management team claim that Activition would NEVER have that level of control, but I assert that Bobby Kotick’s an assertive enough asshole that he’d make it happen by coup. Never underestimate the power of a determined asshole.
A final question I have – a hypothetical – is how far Pandaria goes? Is 5.4 the end, or will there be one more? 5.4 is rumored to be the one where we settle Garrosh’s hash – and who doesn’t like that – but what we don’t know is if that is the end of the matters as far as Pandaria is concerned. I’m not sure it is.
Well, happy patch day to you. I’m off to replace a heating element in my new place’s water heater.
I am quickly joining the camp of people that think that dailies are a lazy, uncreative way to fill players’ time so that they’ll keep paying, rather than other more satisfying approaches. [↩]
Fojar: Following the fall of Garrosh, will the Alliance be turning its attention to reclaiming its lost territory in the Northern Eastern Kingdoms? I speak primarily of Lordaeron, Gilneas, and Stromgarde.
Fargo: This is something we struggle with, because after Cataclysm we seriously question the time-investment of re-doing old zones. Presumably, from a lore standpoint, the Horde is going to have to back down from areas on the edge of conquest (particularly Ashenvale.) But we don’t want to re-do that zone – it’s an important Horde level-up area. And even if we DID re-do it, we’d still have to have quests – it couldn’t just be night elves /dancing. On a related note, would you guys be willing to sacrifice a new zone in the next expansion for us to re-do Gilneas? As an Alliance only zone? What gameplay would we get out of it?
So it’s an open question for us, how we show the impact of the war without re-doing zones that we just re-did for Cataclysm.
Kamrian Green: A fear many Alliance players have is that everything that the Horde has done to the faction up until this point will be laid on Garrosh and all will be forgiven. Can we safely assume that this will not be the case? To the Alliance, the Horde has a lot to answer for without Hellscream.
Fargo: I address this somewhat in an above answer1- how SHOULD we depict Alliance justice without deleting a bunch of old zone content? Also, we still need to make sure a Horde EXISTS after Garrosh falls, because, you know, they’re half our players. But certainly going forward into the next expansion we can carry forward the themes of Horde trying to rebuild itself from an absolutely terrible war and the Alliance – a unified victorious juggernaut – taking the initiative in the challenges that lie ahead.
Orgrimmar is going to be a bloodbath.
There seems to be the perception2 that the zone revamps of Cataclysm were, by and large, a failure. There are many reasons given, but by and large, the finger usually points to execution – it was in general done poorly.
One example would be the added real estate that remained, by and large, dead. Go to EPL and have a look at the highlands in between the northwestern and southwestern halves of the zone. Lake, devoid of life. Hills, devoid of life.
There are other examples to draw upon, of course. How questing was "on rails". How you ran out of XP headroom before you ran out of quests. How the lore was treated disrepectfully in some cases. The retcons. And so forth.
But there were some good points, too. The whole Wrathion storyline issues forth from one of those revamped zones. Oversized zones3 were cut into manageable sizes. Things moved forward as time passed (WPL, to some extent).
In general, if you ask someone how they feel about revamped, updated, or modernized zones, as a thing, they’ll be positive. But if you ask them how they feel about how Blizz executed the revamped zones, the response will be overall negative.
Now, let’s look at the above quotes again. Fargo gives the impression that, yeah, they want to modernize zones, but, because they didn’t work out, they don’t feel that putting resources into it is a worthwhile thing.
The thing is, I think that the response to the bad execution is being taken as a response to the whole idea of zone revamps, and I have to disagree with that perception. I think that if they had done a better job of it, the response would be far, far more positive, and Blizz would probably see this as a thing worth pursuing.
Right now, moving the lore on Old Azeroth forward seems to be held up by their unwillingness to try to revamp a zone again. Look at the comments above; yeah, would be nice of Alliance took back Gilneas, but that would require a zone revamp. Yeah, Alliance justice would be interesting to depict, but we’d have to revamp a bunch of old content. Yeah, Alliance would probably assert itself in Ashenvale again, but that would require a zone revamp.
Eventually it stops sounding convincing. Eventually it sounds like a bunch of weak excuses.
The lore should move forward. If that means revamping old zones, you do it, or things start to fall apart. Eventually you’re not going to be able to staple all the old lore to new expansions’ lore without some change.
On a lighter note:
Guest: Turalyon and Alleria are still absent after all these years. Did they find a portal to a tropical island planet and are sitting on the beach drinking cocktails with the little umbrellas in them right now or something?
Fargo: I LIKE that answer! But I suspect they opted to do something heroic instead. We’ll come back to them when the time is right.
Keep in mind where it is that we lost track of these two, and we see some foreshadowing that points towards Outland once again. Goody!
Astute readers will have noticed a distinct lack of activity here in the past few weeks. The answer is simple: network access is minimal at best. Grimmtooth Actual is in the process of moving to new digs … network’s on at the new place, but our FIOS contract at the current apartment is up, so what access there is, is via the cell phone hotspot, which is not all that useful for WoW-ing. Four to six weeks, we’ll be back in the groove again.
Life marches on. Eff the Ineffable has been stalled on the first tier of raiding; a solid block of people don’t have the patience to let us get execution down on, say, Elegon and thus have simply stopped showing up. I Joined Eff the Ineffable because a bunch of my friends where there. They moved on, and I stayed for the raiding. Now that that’s not happening, I’ve decided to move on to a new server somewhere to hang with some friends again2. We might raid, too, but maybe that’s not so important to me anymore. More on that when it happens.
Jasra’s guild, the Vorpal Bunnies, managed to down their first boss shortly after I went offline. This seems to be a trend; I don’t show, and good things happen Given that they seem to have a decent healing team going now, I’ve asked if I need to dust off Flora or keep Jas geared. Hard to say where that’s going to go. I’m flexible, at any rate.
Prior to the enforced downtime, I was asking myself if I was ready to leave the game; the 5.2 content is frankly a downer, with the focus of dailies in place of new content, and the probability that we’ll see the same in future. However, this extended hiatus has not in any way diminished my desire to play, "World of Dailycraft" or not. Truth is, jaded, cynical, or not, I still find plenty of reasons to enjoy the game, and hundreds of things still to do. So, we’ll be back.
See you then.
I can’t explain it; OK Go just makes me happy. [↩]
GM has been notified, via Twitter, or at least I hope she got the DM, otherwise this is a rude surprise for which I apologize in advance. [↩]