Tag Archives: cataclysm

Call to Arms: best WoW blog fodder of 2011 so far

I’m sure I needn’t tell you about the implementation of Call to Arms or the uproar it has caused in the WoW blogging community.  Others have covered the subject with greater invested effort that I plan to make, most recently at WoW Insider by Matt Rossi.

During a boring, day-long workshop last month, I tried some rudimentary ‘root cause’ analyses to test whether I could draw out different conclusions than other bloggers have made.  But, no, I cannot….

Fundamentally, the purpose of this change is to encourage more tanks into the LFD queues.  And when I worked on the source of that issue, I reached no novel conclusion.  There are just too few tanks using LFD.  I would preferentially use the following words to describe the root cause of the problem that Call to Arms is designed to address:  “Since the arrival of Cataclysm, tanks have become squeezed between increasingly challenging content and the unchanged talent pool, attitudes, and expectations of the Game’s players.”  I guess it is an off-putting position to be put in.  So, tanks are withdrawing from that field of game-play.

With this analysis, I’ve hatched a new idea for an experiment.  I have considered starting a tank and recording data, metrics, on the experience.  Is it really as difficult as people claim?  Are all the other players of WoW as obnoxious as is popularly believed?  As I’ve not tanked before, I would enter as a ‘noob’ and would need to learn as I went.  We could track the performance of a new tank and how much grief I attract, another subject frequent covered in blogs like this fun item from World of Matticus.  I’d also not have any qualms about naming players who exhibit good and bad sportsmanship, which would make the whole effort even more interesting.

Who knows … perhaps it will start a trend of accountability for one’s actions on the internet.

(*gasp*  Did he just say that?  Let’s ignore it and move on.)

Alas, my work and travel calendars dictate that I will be away from the Game until at least the end of May.  But, I will continue to toy with this idea in the interim.

Of Cataclysms in the Real World

First there was the Shattering of Azeroth.  Then there came the Shattering of Honshu.

I know there’s no need for me ask whether you’ve seen the photos and videos.  The drama and trauma of the earthquake that struck Japan this past Friday is mind-numbing.  I’ve been glued to my computer each lunch at work looking for new pictures and stories.

As anyone who’s been here before knows, I live in Hong Kong and play WoW on US realms.  It transpires that a fair portion of the cross-Pacific internet communication went through Japan.  Not a majority, I’d say.  But, enough so that in the weekend following the earthquake it was nearly impossible for me to play the Game.  The Technical Support forum confirmed I was not the only one, with heavy complaints registered from gamers in Australia, Singapore, and Manila as well.

Great RiftAt one point I successfully logged in to discover 14000 ms lag on ‘World’.  (That’s 14 seconds of lag.  Anything over 400 is noticeable and over 1000 is unplayable.)  That was tough.  The pre-dawn hours were at the rough end of playable, but after 9am and through the night it was impossible.  In ill-advised enthusiasm I tried to continue questing with my Tauren shadow priest, but quickly realized that any random mob would probably kill my toon before I even realized I was being attacked.  At its worst, I ran through Orgrimmar to the scribe’s shop, then went to get a drink while I waited for the NPC’s to warp in to the room.  I couldn’t even buy parchment from the supplier to write a glyph. 

Oceanic realms seemed a bit better, but only after I had passed through the US battle.net log-in.  To fill in the time, I started dabbling on Kaz’goroth with the idea of a new shaman.

So, the cataclysm in the real world critted the gameplay of probably hundreds of gamers this past weekend.

But, wait.  What am I talking about?  Me, a lone game addict living in a high-rise flat above Hong Kong is frustrated that I missed a weekend of playing the auction house?  I’d better go find more pictures of the devastation in Japan to make another reality check.

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

(Please see below for part 1 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.  As with anything else, I see some good, some bad, and much that is tepid in Cataclysm.

Being a pessimist, it is easier to pick out the ‘bad’.  And for me, the worst element is the proliferation of ‘mini-games’ within World of Warcraft.  These things just keep popping up in greater and greater number, and I don’t like them at all.

The first mini-game that I noticed was in The Burning Crusade, when my Alliance toon needed to take gryphon rides to drop bombs on things.  It was not bad, but since I don’t play with a mouse (due to repetitive stress injuries in my wrists) my targeting is very imprecise.  It took several runs for me to accomplish what someone else could probably do in a single run.

Then it all turned sour in Zul’Drak in Wrath of the Lich King.  The quest The Storm King’s Vengeance had me frothing at the mouth for hours and reading all the comments that users have put on Wowhead in search of successful strategies.  It had a heavy investment of time, and I suffered at least eight unsuccessful attempts.  I wasn’t raised on a Nintendo (was just a little too old when the original came out), so I don’t have the ridiculous hand-eye coordination of everyone younger than me.  These mini-games are too tough.

What’s worse is that each of them is also a jarring break from the normal flow of the Game.  I cut my teeth on some of the original, great computer role-playing games.  Finishing “Ultima VI” was like an epiphany for me.  I would have gotten further through “Morrowind” if I could figure out how to make the game understand my WACOM tablet’s input.  And, playing WoW for me is just participating in a big, colorful, but not terribly deep RPG.

These mini-games have no place in a role-playing world.

So, what is the source of my current frustration, you ask?  First Be Raptor followed almost immediately with Swabbing Duty.  Judging by comments on Wowhead, it looks like I am not the only one whoOhgan'aka is spitting nails about the unwelcomed inclusion of these mini-games.  Be Raptor would have been forgivable if we had ended up keeping Ohgan’aka as a pet.  At least Blizzard added a work-around for Swabbing Duty that costs only 1 gold.  Well worth it, I say, to avoid the irrational click-fest required to complete this mini-game.  Very much well worth it.

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.

Deathwing Comes to China … sort of

As mentioned in my “About” page, I am a player of WoW who lives in China, in Hong Kong to be precise.  So, I play the game at some pretty odd hours.  People will sometimes misinterpret and ask whether I’m pulling an all-nighter in the Game.  Then I say, no, it’s the middle of Saturday, and I don’t live in the US.  Then they ask where I do live.  Then I have to say “CHINA-BUT-I’M-NOT-A-GOLD-FARMER” before they put me on their “ignore” list and report me.

I’m sure we have all read about the troubles WoW has had with the distributors/hosts in China and the craziness that has gone on there.  I admit that I had some concerns about whether I would be able to continue playing WoW after I moved.  (Yes, I was offered a promotion and an exciting job in a foreign country, and I was worried that I might not be able to access a computer game.  Now, everyone, look up the definition of “addiction”.)

But, everything was ok.  I’m still playing with the game I bought in the US, using a US client and on US servers (which does my lag no favors, let me tell you).  The first time I tried to log in to Battle.net, it repeatedly forced me to the Taiwanese Battle.net site, which of course was in Chinese and had no option for English language.  (And, if you don’t find that a little odd, please read up on the history of modern Taiwan.  But, it is true that Hong Kong and Taiwan have always had a less … complicated, I could say, relationship than Taiwan and the rest of China.)  But, once I forced it over to the US Battle.net site, all was well.

Cataclysm Advert in Hong Kong

Cataclysm Advert in Hong Kong

About two weeks before Cataclysm went live, posters began showing up in subway and bus stations around Hong Kong advertising the game.  I thought they looked really sharp.  Apparently, Cataclysm was playable over here on December 9, 2010.  But, the posters are still directing players to a Taiwanese web site.  Interesting.

Therefore, it seems Deathwing has officially arrived in this one corner of China, but, I’m guessing, nowhere else.