Cataclysm Impressions … What Hath Deathwing Wrought (1 of 2)

(please see above for part 2 of this article.)

As referenced previously, this ultra-casual player is back in the Game now to experience all that is new and fresh in the post-cataclysmic world of Azeroth.  And, impressions so far are generally positive.

I’m not taking in the top-tier level content, as I haven’t the chops nor the time to invest in those endeavors.  … at least not until the path has been well trod by my fellow gamers.  Instead I have started 3 new toons, all different races and all different classes, to experience the stories in lower-level zones and to come up to speed with the game-play as it currently is implemented.

Like anything else, I see some good, some bad, and much that is tepid in Cataclysm.

For the ‘good’, the breakaway triumph for me is the music.  That’s right, I said music.  I love music, and the way to my heart is through my ears (in addition to through the ribcage, as the female trolls like to quip).  For example, several movies that I consider favorites, I like primarily for their soundtracks.  I watched “The Mission” about 4 years ago;  Couldn’t tell you what the plot was, but I can still hum the theme when the Jesuit walks into the ‘native’ church built in the jungle.  (Stop looking at me like that.  Even Jack Black’s character in “The Holiday” makes reference to “The Mission”‘s soundtrack.)

Nathan Allen Pinard, the composer who provides scores for Oxhorn’s machinima, expressed the same thoughts in this interview with WoW Insider.  And, I tell you, the new music is wonderful.  Blizzard did a good job with some of the zones in Wrath of the Lich King.  Grizzly Hills and Howling Fjord spring to mind.

It’s now even better in Cataclysm.  My troll warlock is currently parked at Ratchet’s inn, waiting to catch the flight to Dustwallow Marsh.  Occasionally I log on, listen to a bit of the inn’s jig, which I think has not changed since at least The Burning Crusade, but then step out into Ratchet to hear the new, bouncing, orchestral music of that town.  It strongly reminds me of the main theme from the original “Pirates of the Caribbean”, without being a copy.  Fun!

WoW 2 – Irvine, We Have a Problem

With reference to my previous article that postulated Cataclysm was actually a ‘soft’ roll-out of WoW 2, successor to the original World of Warcraft game, I think we have identified some issues.

Now that I am active in the Game again, I’ve been checking out some of the new story lines in the level 1-60 zones, specifically the Tauren, Troll, and Undead initial quests.  And, I can vouch that they are interesting and (mostly) new.

But, what I am finding disconcerting is that all of the NPC’s are fixated on the Shattering and the events surrounding it.  Every conversation and quest is all “The Cataclysm caused” this or “After the Cataclysm we had to” that.  Did I actually hear intermittent weeping at Camp Narache and in Sen’jin Village?

That is bad.  Seriously, how long is this plot line going to remain relevant?  The longevity of the original game was about 6 years.  Are we going to spend the next 6 listening to all the NPC’s complaining to our toon about the horrible events of the Cataclysm as it drifts further and further into the past?  Will every quest still make overwrought references to the Shattering when those events are several years behind us?  I mean, even New Orleans pulled itself together after a while and moved on.  But, instead, WoW is going to be like “Groundhog Day” repeated the events of “Deep Impact” ad mortem.

That’s going to wear thin pretty fast.

Overcrowding in Azeroth

In real life, I live just 3 train stops south of one of the most densely populated places in the world, Mong Kok in Hong Kong.  But, even around my apartment, the pace of everything when you are out in public is frenetic and, as one of my colleagues describes it, very much “in your face”.

Now, normally I would not seek out crowds of people.  Wherever the people are, I am usually not.  And that has worked just fine for my gaming in WoW as well.  Because I am a very casual player, I just want to get on with whatever I am doing in the Game without fuss.  No, I’m not going to race you to that mining node.  No, I’m not going to see who can skin the grizzly bear first after its corpse has been looted.  No, I don’t want to turn this way and that until I see an opening between crowds of toons to click on the mailbox.  I’m not here for that.

I’ve also never inhabited top-level content in the Game, which, statistically, appears to be where 45% to 55% of the toons on each server are, until quite recently.  I started playing shortly after The Burning Crusade was released.  I got to Outlands for the first time several months after Wrath of the Lich King was out, so Shattrath has always been a ghost town to me.  And, I finally got to see the glorious Dalaran (after the silly mages got it unstuck from the mud in Hillsbrad) just a few weeks before Cataclysm.  So, except for late in 2010, the bulk of my servers have always been in distant lands, far removed from where my humble toons were running around.

And I liked this.  I was tickled a couple weeks ago when I read another blogger (embarrassingly, I cannot remember who) writing with a similar sentiment.  Now that Cataclysm is out and I’ve popped back into the game for another month, I’ve started a new Forsaken to experience that updated story-line.  I’m also getting to grips with the new Troll warlock, which is a race/class combination that we should have had long ago, in my immodest opinion.  However, I have not looked in on any of the high-level toons that slumber, either unknowingly stranded in Dalaran or mystically relocated to make room for The Shattering.

In the end, I am delighted that the majority of my servers have rushed off and are enjoying their game-time in locations that I am unlikely to see for another year.  More power to them, and I hope that they write some good guides for me to read on the internet.  But in the mean time, the other 95% of the map is mine now.

Choose Your Class

Has this ever happened to you?  You go to a restaurant, one that you’ve heard good things about.  You order; you get a meal that doesn’t really interest you.  Maybe you sample from the plates of some friends or maybe you return a few times and order different things, but always with the same disappointing results.  All the while, everyone you dine with is quite pleased with their meals and want to come back from more.  How about next week?

Not only does that describe my relationship with the American restaurant chain, P.F. Chang, but it also portrays my problems selecting a player class in WoW.

I’ve never found the class that had a style of game-play that made me stand up and shout, “This is the one for me.”  If I ever do, I will probably risk serious addiction to the Game.  Also, I would volunteer to write for WoW Insider.  But, in spite of many attempts, I have not discovered my Azerothian soul mate.

I pushed a Fury Warrior all the way to level 80.  (Remember, I am a casual player.  That feat too most of 2010 for me.)  It was done just to complete one faction’s quests (The Alliance’s) before Cataclysm came out and changed everything.  But, melee isn’t really for me.  I’m more a ‘big picture’ person and prefer to stand back from the action … you know, at a safer distance.

I leveled a Holy/Discipline Priest to 69.  It was interesting.  Nothing really worried me, with all the defensive capabilities.  But, golly, it was slow.  As a Shadow Priest, I could never tolerate the miniscule rotation at the early levels, so that never lasted more than one day.

Level 40, or so, is as far as I ever got with a Mage, a Rogue, or a Warlock.
 – Aside, along the lines of the standard tripe, “A guy walks into a bar … and says, “Ouch.” …:  A Warlock, a Rogue, and a Mage walk into a bar.  The Warlock says, “Curses.”  The Rogue says, “Where’d that come from?”  And, the idiot Mage posts an angry diatribe on the forums claiming that bars are OP.  … Now back to our regularly-scheduled program. –
The Mage was a distaster from which my ego shall never recover.  The Rogue just wasn’t any fun at all.  I’d try a Warlock again, though.

I have had Druids, Paladins, and Hunters into their 20’s.  For all of the Druid’s vaunted flexibility, its damage form at that level is only a cat, which is a Rogue, which doesn’t do it for me.  The Paladin never made sense because it was slow (like my Holy Priest) and there were no buttons to push (like a Shadow Priest).  Worst of both worlds.  Just start attacking and go get a drink from the kitchen; you’ll be fine.  And, the Hunter was also a bit dull, but greatly enhanced by the opportunity to have a highly-customizable sidekick (a.k.a., your pet).

Worst of all is the one class that I tried first.  Having read all the literature, I was convinced, before I ever downloaded the Game, that I was the perfect match, in temperament and interests, for a Tauren Shaman.  OK, right.  Several tries later, I don’t think I have ever gotten a Shaman past level 17.

So, what does the future hold for my class indecision, that is when I get back to playing WoW again?  I’d try a Hunter once more, since it really has been a long time.  But, I already know I will spend more time trying to get an ideal pet, some rare spawn probably, than on questing.  I certainly plan to work on a Warlock again.  The early game-play was shaping up well in patch 4.0.1, which was the last time I was on the Game.  And, I would like to give another chance to a Shadow Priest, but as of 4.0.1, that was still a very limited style of play.

Has this ever happened to you?

When It’s Just the Gold Farmers and You

As mentioned in my “About” page, I live in Hong Kong and play on US servers.  That puts me in the game at some unusual hours … to the extent where I don’t know what some zones look like in daylight at all.  (Zul’Drak, I’m looking at you.)  I also don’t see the typical player population of the server, as most normal people would not still be awake.

In this past autumn, I pushed my first toon all the way to level 80.  It was 3 or 4 weeks before Cataclysm went live.  That opened up whole new vistas for me but also dropped me in the middle of many of the frustrations that I had heretofore only read of on other blogs.

One of the most curious issues I encountered was several rounds of competitive gathering with ‘lilmouse’ (now deleted or renamed), a gnome Death Knight, if I recall correctly.  This gnome was flying circles around Sholazar picking up mining nodes ad nauseum.  By itself, that isn’t odd.  I was doing the same thing, trying to level blacksmithing, and for that matter so where a handful of other players.

What initially caught my attention was his low-level griefing.  I think he would /follow me until I found a node and then try to race me to it.  Whoever landed the pick first, won.  Since he had an epic flying mount and I did not, he had a good chance of beating me to the first node.  But, while he was at the first, I would zoom in on a second and sometimes a third while he was still occupied.  Also, he appeared to avoid taking damage at all costs, so just 1 mob near a deposit would scare him away.  Anyway, overall, I didn’t do too poorly at all, but the little twerp made his presence felt.

No, what was odd was that at whatever hour I logged in, he was there … in Sholazar Basin.  I took to /who’ing him every time I entered or exited the Game just to confirm.  Without fail, there he was.

It got me thinking about what Blizzard could do to combat gold farmers.  Surely there are some tell-tale behaviors that indicate a toon is being used for illicit purposes … such as being logged on 24 hours a day, remaining in one of the high-level gathering zones (like Sholazar for sauronite) at all times, and, presumably, mailing huge volumes of trade goods back to an AH stooge.  Surely it is not difficult to screen for odd patterns like these and ask for a friendly chat with the suspicious character.

And, maybe Blizzard did eventually catch up with him, since the search for ‘lilmouse’ on the new battle.net armory came up empty.

So, what do you do,
when it’s just the gold farmers and you?

Blizzcon? Seriously?

Well, this was quite a surprise.  I got to my parent’s for Christmas on Dec.24, and listened as my sister casually dropped into the dinner table conversation that she visited Blizzcon this year.  Uh, … wut?

My sister and her boyfriend live in Silicon Valley, and apparently he is a regular raider in some major guild.  I’ve never really asked for the details.

Now, my sister’s knowledge of Warcraft is encompased within the 10-day free trial of WoW she downloaded in 2009.  With her boyfriend acting as tank, she actually got her Gnome mage (with pink hair, so cute!) to level 12.  I believe that Armory showed her toon had received 250 points of damage on her way to level 12, so he must have been doing all the work, running her around Coldridge Valley with one of his level 80’s.  I coaxed her over to my server for a head-bashingly frustrating afternoon as she tried to figure out how to stand at maximum range from a nightsaber and shoot it with her hunter.

So, yeah, she went to Blizzcon, the little philistine.  Not that I’m envious, really.  I’ve attended too many anime conventions and such when I was younger to know that a few fans gathering together to discuss their interest can be fun, but 10,000 fans packed into a convention center is an apocalyptic (and, before it finishes, distrubingly aromatic) freakshow.  Zero interest.

But, still, talk about injustice.

This year, I found that Santa brought me an Authenticator with unique Blizzcon-10 artwork.  So, I guess that was awfully nice of her.

Loot the North Pole

I do like the Feast of Winter Veil.  The decorations that spring up around the capital cities are nice, particulary in Ironforge, where it always seems a little too dark.  But, compared to other world holiday events, it falls a bit flat, I think primarily because it does not have a big boss.  And, by that, I mean a real boss, not the Dr. Seuss knock-off that we currently have.

Greatfather WinterI think it is high time we take a hammer to Kris Kringle, himself.  Set up some sort of feud between Greatfather Winter (who, so far as I can tell, just sits around waiting for cookies and milk to be brought to him) and Sinterklaas.  After being brainwashed by his worthless gifts, Winter can send out raids to bring down his rival.  That way Brewfest would have Coren Direbrew, Hallow’s End can have the Headless Horseman, and Winter Veil gets Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick … of Death!

Besides, the loot he would drop must be fantastic.

ahem
I Saw Daddy Tanking Santa Claus
(hummed quietly at your desk to the tune of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus“)

  I saw Daddy tanking Santa Claus
  Underneath the high Storm Peaks last night.
  It didn’t see him creep
  Into its lair to peep
  Until the dumb rogue popped Flurry and broke the mage’s sheep.

  Then, I saw Daddy kill old Santa Claus
  Shield Bash to his beard so snowy white.
  What a laugh it would have been
  If the Rudolph adds had come in
  When Daddy was tanking Santa Claus last night.