The Blind Approach

Ugh. This was half an hour after I ignored the first one.

After talking about Cross-Realm Zones yesterday and how the ideal solution would be to allow us to toggle them off or on as we see fit, another switch popped into my head.  Guild Interest.  On my toons that have no guild, I’m getting an absurd number of blind invites these days.  Heck, I’ll get three from the same person in a one hour period.  At least, I used to.  I finally found out (because it never occurred to me to look until AFTER I started writing this) there’s a way around this.  In the interface options you can choose to turn off guild invites.  Amen!

I have yet to figure out if it blocks blind signature requests for a charter though.  I blew a gasket at another player about a week and a half ago.  I was running my auction scan and it was in the final ten seconds of an eight minute scan (because I accidentally closed the window after the quick scan).  Suddenly everything closes and I’m looking at a guild charter request for signature.  After tearing a strip off said player (who I don’t think was at all ready for such a response), I flat out told them had they just whispered me and asked for the signature, I would have happily given it to them.  Instead, they sent the request blindly without a care for what the person is doing.

And that’s one of those things in-game that just irks me.  You’re so desperate for someone to help you out or beef your guild numbers, yet you can’t even take the time to be courteous about it.  I actually have had players invite my Mage to a group and when I ask why it’s “I need a port.”  Then they wonder why I drop group and put them on Ignore.  A little bit of manners is all I’m asking instead of taking for granted that people will just jump through hoops for whatever pittance of service you seem to need in that moment.

Even the guilds that do send a whisper with their invites.  It’s generic as can be about how they would love to have me and they just know I would be an asset to them.  Um, how so?  You’re a level 25 guild that raids 3-4 nights a week and you’re talking to a level 14 bank alt.  At least the RP servers get creative and suggest my character has been presented with the opportunity to be a part of said organization (generic paraphrasing here, of course).

It’s to the point where if someone actually whispers me with a kind and polite request, without a guild logo flashing on my screen…I’m almost dumbfounded.  Very rarely do I actually accept the invite, but at least in this case I will reply and make a point of praising the courtesy they showed me by actually making the effort first.  In the long run, that actually makes the guild look better.  If I change my mind and decide I do want to be a part of a guild, I’m aiming for that girl, rather than the spam-esque folk.

I realize people are jerks behind a computer screen, and I know I’ve discussed it at lengths.  I suppose I just continue to be amazed at the deterioration of common decency and courteousness.

Cross-Realm Hot Topic

I was quite excited the first time I saw someone pop a Blingtron4000, and then disappointed when Semblance here was too low to use it (80 and up, in case you’re curious).  Fortunately someone had the tiger out as well so she happily bounced upon it for a little while.  As she sat there rocking away, I was reading up on the latest on Cross-Realm Zones.  Before I delve into them, let me just say how much fun it’s been to fly out of Stormwind 8 feet past the gates and then sit and wait while the new zone loads, allowing me to work on Hallow’s End stuff. 

1. Time Zone Jumps
CRZ’s are currently capped where the realms that tie into the zone are no more than three hours apart.  I honestly didn’t know that and while part of the reason is for day/night jump limitation and the handing in of timed events, three hours is still three hours.  One solution being discussed is what sounds like a flatlining of the zone times.  Not 100% on how that’ll succeed, but it could be better than the current setup, that’s for certain.

2. Lag And Tech Issues
Resources, NPC’s, buffs and more can occasionally be non-existant when you change zones.  Blizzard admits this and is working on it.  Well, that’s a start.  As is finally acknowledging the horrid frame rate problem that many have reported (myself included) when hitting a CRZ.  A few people have suggested the zones weren’t ready to go live and these issues show that.  However, no one in their right mind should think this ever would have launched without any difficulty.  If they can sort it out, bonus for the game.

3. “We’re Blindly Happy With It.”
Sorry, I don’t know how else to paraphrase it.  The exact quote from Rygarius is as follows:

Despite a few lingering technical issues, we’re happy with how CRZ is populating the leveling areas with other players, and helping to once again foster MMO social experiences in the 1-85 content.

For the most part, I think some players would agree with this.  In the grand scheme of things, I might be one of them.  But the cynic in me can’t help but think node and mob stealing, npc pvp camping and more are not the MMO experiences I would want to be fostering. 

In fact, just recently Cheetah Dave was questing in Theramore and a Horde Druid was just camping a pirate needed for a quest.  He was doing nothing else, except sitting there at level 85 killing this pirate that anyone else in the zone would need.  Fortunately he had someone like myself who invited him to my group so that he could visit the quest location, but was guaranteed to do it on my server -which the Druid wasn’t on.  Not everyone has that option.

I’ve backed off the quasi “sky is falling” opinion I had when the Cross Realm Zones first came in, but that doesn’t mean I loathe them any less.  They have their place in the game but until a number of issues are fixed, being able to turn them off should be an option and probably the most viable.  Alas, that is the proverbial wishing on a star based on Rygarius’ latest (and still appreciated) comments.

The Theramore Mop

I’m not going to call it the Fall of Theramore, because in all honesty it wasn’t.  Not by a longshot.  For all the hype and possibility, it was barely even a “quick cleanup of Theramore.”  Also, I refuse to refer to it as a pre-Mists event either.  That’s not what it was and Blizzard has made it clear it was never meant to be.  But having now done the scenario, there’s a clear reason it was never on the PTR.

Had Blizzard put this out to the players to test under the label “Fall of Theramore,” there would have been the exact outcry we’re already seeing.  This way, they could throw it out there a week before Mists of Pandaria hits and hope to Illidan that people forget about it when all the new shiny comes.

I wasn’t there for Ahn’Qiraj.  I wasn’t even there for the Dark Portal.  But I was in Stormwind when the Lich King’s forces invaded, when the plague swept over the city, and then when the Twilight Cultists caused a whole mess of grief leading into the Cataclysm.  The point to be made here, is that Blizzard has knocked it out of the park with the epic feel of each pre-expansion event.  Not only are we not getting one, what we got in its place is a piece of lore farce.

Alliance side, you just go and show up.  You know nothing about what has happened, save for a single cut scene.  Even that would suggest it was the Goblins who are responsible for the attack.  Yeah, Jaina’s mad at the end and you can tell that anger is directed at Garrosh -but unless you read the book you have no clue as to why.

And there lies a big problem.  Blizzard has let the book set up Mists of Pandaria instead of doing it themselves.  Unlike previous expansions, where players learn in-game just what many of the major issues and stories are, we really don’t have the foggiest unless we go buy the book.  You need to spend more money on the side if you really care about the story at all.

I don’t think I would be nearly as frustrated with that if not for the fact we have had zero new content in ten months.  That’s a year Blizzard had to work on Mists of Pandaria and its subsequent buildup.  Except there is no buildup.  We got a great cinematic (even if not for me), but the more I pause and look…the more it feels like in the steps towards Pandaria we players are watching from some far off land, instead of being the driving force -the Heroes that we are.

Yes, I’m honestly beyond disappointed in Blizzard’s lack of effort in even bothering with a buildup to the expansion.  We got a trailer and they hope you read the book.  That’s it.  Who knows?  Perhaps those of us passionate about such things are in the minority and the developers feel it’s a waste of time.

On to the scenario itself.  I’ve made my content thought clear, but let’s look at the mechanic and execution.  Everything is pretty straight forward.  It’s clear what you have to do, where to do it, and if necessary how to do it.  My first group had an Arcane Mage, a Frost Mage, and my Holy Priest.  The one Mage died during Phase 3, because he wasn’t paying attention to the Horde’s targeting machine.  Otherwise, it was challenging but we could do it.  I imagine that had to be one of the worst build variables possible and we did it.  That makes me think that the level of failure will be very far and few between.  As an introduction to how the system works, it clearly succeeds.  It will be interesting to see how the scenario mode is implemented throughout the game post-Mists launch.  The idea is interesting, if not long overdue in my mind.

Do I think the player base needed this scenario introduction right before the expansion’s launch?  Not at all.  If that was truly the purpose, then why was there an ilevel entry?  That one really baffles me.  Fine and dandy you had to be 85 to take part in the first place, but then you’re going to cull the participants even further?  *head shake*

Any of the issues people have with the so called “Fall of Theramore” would be somewhat acceptable as an individual issue.  But there’s just too many things here that combine to disappoint people in a big way.  Nowhere have I seen anyone stand up and applaud the developers for delivering on this one.

When you combine this end result with the fact it was never even on the PTR, you have to wonder if Blizzard knew what the response would be, and pushed it through anyway.  The idea being that players would have a week, tops, to experience it before all the new and exciting features came into play.  The hope that most would even forget about their frustration over what was presented to them by Winter Veil.  They’re probably right.

For me, the scenario play is easy to understand and it executes as it’s supposed to.  As the prelude to Mists (not event, just essentially the stepping stone storywise), though, the Fall of Theramore feels like someone took a dump on my front porch.

Cross-Realm Makes Me Cross-Eyed

Property of

The other day I was flying on Liouxpold and all of a sudden I noticed his Skill Levels listed themselves in the chat window.  I thought it was pretty weird, but didn’t think anything of it.  I’ve since learned that’s the tell-tale sign you’ve entered into cross-realm phasing.

I won’t lie, when I first heard the idea I immediately thought “Guild Wars” ripoff.  GW 2 basically only requires a server for WvWvW PvP.  Otherwise, you can do most things cross-realm.  Again that was merely a knee jerk reaction.  I followed that up with “hey, I’ll finally see people in the low zones now,” and then “but why don’t they just merge some of the low population servers?”  Let’s face it, there’s servers out there where 2-3 of them could be merged and they’d still only be half a population.  I’m not knocking them, I’m just making said observation. 

Instead Blizzard has taken this phasing route and as I thought about it more it occurred to me this is great for group quests.  Then I realized there are barely any low level group quests anymore.  Sure, Horde get a series in Tarren Mill but it isn’t long before you can solo them (and still within the frame where it’s a decent xp hunk to do it).  Having taken two toons from level one into the 80’s, on both sides, I can’t think of too many cases where you needed a group -especially prior to Outland.

So the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize what a nuisance this could be for folks gathering.  Now the flip of that is what mats could start going for due to sparseness.  But you know what I never really thought of?  Exploitation.  I’m not even going to go into great detail on this, because Grumpy Elf covers it incredibly well in his random thoughts for today. 

You can’t help but read some of that, and then think of the recent Deathcharger fiasco (which you’ll recall I foolishly learned about only recently).  Apparently there’s rumblings of more items appearing in such fashion.  Part of me starts to feel a little dirty playing Warcraft.  Granted I’m not part of the problem, but the more prominent it becomes the less appealing things are.  Between fear of getting a hacked item and having someone griefing you because they can are not reasons to keep returning to Azeroth (and unfortunately some of these situations are unavoidable under the current circumstances).  That’s not me crying “the sky is falling” either, just how I feel at the thought of it.  My brain tells me it’ll all get sorted out over time.  By January I’m sure it’ll be forgotten.

I’m hoping by then cross-realm phasing is smoother as well.  To elaborate, I find I have a lower frame rate in a phased zone than I do in a city or raid.  That seems backwards.  Also, as Grumpy Elf pointed out, we should actually have the option of whether we even want to be part of a mixed zone.  Some people actually like, and desire, the peace and quiet of no one being around. 

At this stage I don’t know if it was a good idea or a bad one.  I stand by my thought that merging some realms would’ve been a more efficient move.  In six months, I could be proven wrong.  For now though, even Blizzard can’t argue that the system is not without its issues…many of them.

Bizarro World (Or Why Dungeons Aren’t As Sexy For Levels)

If you know me, or have been reading AA for any length of time, you know that I love the old dungeons.  Shadowfang Keep remains one of my favourite 5-mans, and I’m one of the few people happy to tear through Blackrock Depths.  I still go back to farm for recipes or just the feel of the place.  What I want to do less and less (outside my own guild and friends) is run them for experience. 

Don’t get me wrong, the amount of xp you can snag in dungeon runs (plus quests inside) is solid.  Unfortunately, so is the level of absurdity in PUGs.  There’s more people just going in and going through the motions or simply doing whatever they please, without a care in the world.   Call them on it and they basically just shrug you off with some absurd vulgar noob remark.  That’s if they even have stat appropriate gear to call you a noob in the first place.  I’ve seen more Rogues with Spirit Leathers and Hunters in Strength Mail than I’d care to. 

Also, if you’re really lucky and you’ve queued as a tank, you get the pleasure of usually having at least one person decide they’re going to pull/charge/do some crazy stunt that has you fighting to get aggro back even before you’ve started building it.  Quite often if I’m tanking with my Warrior or Druid, I find myself switching to dps simply because my philosophy is if you want to tank then tank.  No point having two in a 5-man instance.  If my wife’s healing, then I take it a step further and just sit down and watch the fight.  Also, in fairness, I warn people first.

The funny thing is, I think the ones that do things like this that grief the tank or even the healer sometimes, have never played either role.  Now that I play a tank (or three) and know a bit more about the role, I’m a better dps or healer because I know what kind of things they need to be doing and what I have to do to help or not hinder that.  I’ve also seen the same thought process from people who don’t do these silly things to me.  I’ve shared a novel’s worth of whispers on the subject.

I don’t know if it’s quick alt leveling, or new players, but I try to be polite and work with people as best I can.  I just find it to be more of a lost cause some days.  Is it any wonder I’ve found a bit of a PvP love as a result?  If all goes well, I can get a level in about 3-4 random bg’s (just two heirloom pieces).  If we struggle, it’s a different story but I’m ok with that.

In all honesty, I’ve found  the battlegrounds to be more appealing lately.  Nevermind the PvP love I’ve discovered in recent months (we’ll save that for another day), but on the whole they aren’t as bad as I remember them.  There’s a few clowns that talk like they’re the top rated PvP player on their server, even at level 37, but one expects that.  There just seems to be more communication than before on Alliance side.  People are actually working together, which is a rather significant element needed for success.  I’d rather fail working together than succeed while pulling my hair out because someone’s being an asshat for no reason other than they can be.

Is There A Player Catacylsm?

The Bane Of Many

There’s a growing sensation among the masses.  Once again it’s revolving around dungeons.  No, it’s not the difficulty of Heroics, as I discussed here last week.  It seems more and more players are fed up with each other.

As has been discussed extensively, dungeons (specifically Heroics) are harder again and involve more teamwork than ever.  If you browse the internet, most bloggers and average forum posting people have no problem with that.  They come to expect it.  However, these same people are getting tired of going into the random dungeon finder and ending up in a group that includes other players who go postal on folks whenever something goes wrong. 

Whether the target(s) of said attacks are even at fault for any party shortcomings doesn’t seem to matter to these types.  They’ll chew someone out, kick them, drop group, or any combination there in.  It’s no surprise most of us don’t want anything to do with that.  Sure, some have thick skin and just shake their head or ignore the situation, but a large part aren’t or possibly can’t. 

I’ve heard some people say they’re afraid of dungeons to begin with because they know the difficulty has been increased.  Combine that with this new hostile attitude towards anything short of instant success and you can understand why people are just sticking with questing for as long as they need to, or until they can muster up a guild/friends run.

I continue to applaud Blizzard making instances harder again, even in light of this situation.  But I do feel this situation has grown enough that it’s affecting more than just a small percentage of players.  Sure, you might not have had any problems, be it because you’ve done mostly guild runs or simply dumb luck in the dungeon finder, but guaranteed you know at least one player who has. 

Blizzard admitted during Wrath of the Lich King they wanted to focus on keeping new players (at the time, data suggested 70% of trial account players never went full version).  There are going to be a great many of them who might get to the mighty 85 (or earlier) and decide this game isn’t for them because of the one thing that’s out of the company’s control: the player base. 

As you can tell, I don’t really have any solutions to the problem.  It’s simply a case of some really bad apples spoiling the bunch.  However, if you’re on the side that’s being affected by this then I can only offer some advice.  Shrug it off as best you can.  Remember the reasons you play WoW, whether it’s a break from reality, the great lore, or some really great people you know in the game.  If you end up in a group with someone who’s really that bad, and you will, I would either go through it without encouraging the hostile ones or simply comment in party that you’re there to play a game and have fun.  If that doesn’t work, then drop group.  Life’s really too short to let this stuff get to you.

Some Things Are Unavoidable

I Hate Poor Taste Jokes

World of Warcraft mentions that online experience may change gameplay.  I’m certain that applies to the game’s rating, and more specifically just how bad it can get courtesy of other players.

To be honest, it’s hard not to get caught up in the nonsense on Trade some days.  There are trolls that are almost professional at what they do and quite honestly the easiest thing to do is either /ignore or simply leave the channel.  Even the new anti-spam features put into the chat settings by Blizzard provides only moderate improvements, so the options I mention are probably the best ones.

The bigger issue I have is actually in character and guild names.  I recently created a Guild called <Auction House Miner> because I really don’t have enough bank space.  Well, that and it’s cheaper to get three new guild bank tabs than it is to buy the fourth.  I thought it was moderately amusing and can’t possibly offend someone.  I do the same thing when naming characters.  So I get all “old guy on the lawn” when I see other players unable to do the same thing.  <Jesus Used A Soulstone> isn’t funny.  I don’t even say that based on my own religion.  It just isn’t funny.  Character names like Ballgayzer and his pet Poosandwich or Irontitz or some of the far worse ones I’ve seen aren’t amusing either and you can’t help but wonder what the thought process is when these come to be…or how they can even exist as level 80.

I understand some people just like to push the envelope on names, such as a guildmate who called himself Goochsweat.  Apparently he’s got others that are just as bad or worse and while he seems a nice enough guy, I always wonder: “why?”  I’m sure the mindset is to find that benchmark where Blizzard will draw the line and the player just figures they will simply have to change their name.  But what if the penalty was harsher?

I read this week, possibly on Mental Shaman, about Blizzard really throwing down the hammer in Arena play.  Inappropriate named characters or teams found guilty will be outright deleted.  I know many applaud this decision and as you might guess, I’d really like the powers that be to take this one step further and make it across the game.  While I suggested Goochsweat is a nice guy, I wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest if the toon was deleted, or if it happened to other players like him.  I’d also take comfort when guildies ask me what I think of their children learning the game, or even younger members of my own family did the same.  I’d know I wouldn’t get the “what’s a seveninchload” question because they saw it as someone’s character.  Or, possibly something even worse that I don’t even want to dream up. 

The biggest impact of all is that it might cut back on some of the overall immaturity in the game that’s not hard to find.  Imagine players doing a double take when they sneak that amzing Warlock to 85, nab some of the latest Teir Gear and then two days later *poof* character is gone.  Reason – inappropriate name.  Some would fight it.  Some would probably try to come up with some other means of trollishness or asshattery as I like to call it.  But let’s be honest, they couldn’t really deny the grounds for the deletion.  Some fluke might happen, but inappropriate naming is done just for that reason and the chunk of the populace that has anything resembling maturity shouldn’t have to be subjected to it.