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I bit the bullet and started leveling an undead priest; this weekend, I got the 1 – 20 stretch done, which got me all the way through Silverpine and dropped me neatly at the start of Hillsbrad. Once I recover from the trip I will bravely continue forward, but for now, a bit of commentary on the experience:

Holy crap!

I don’t think I included any spoilers, so if you’re being cautious I think what follows should be safe for you to read.

In short, nearly everything has seen some degree of change. The maps are the same, but different; things look better (Stillwater Pond, for example, is really pretty now) individual areas have been remodeled, mob groups have been lightly redistributed, that sort of thing. Many of the NPCs that used to populate the 1 – 20 stretch are still around, but they’ve been moved to different quest hubs or shifted to occupy a new space in their original quest hub – some have even been given new gear, so they look a bit different than before (that’s neat, IMO). Seeing the same people/mobs helped me maintain a sense of familiarity which (ultimately) wound up making it easier for me to take in all the otherwise glaring physical & plot-based changes.

So much has been built. The Forsaken settlements are all styled like Northrend’s New Agamand (which I think is fantastic), and tons of buildings, blockades and outposts have been added or fortified. At first I didn’t quite know how to feel about it… Am I supposed to assume it always looked that way (i.e. retcon), or is all of that actually supposed to be new? I’m a bit confused about past V.S. present, and the quests aren’t entirely helpful; some quests are very similar to quests I remember from old-Azeroth (e.g. I’m pretty sure I remember Executor Zygand asking me to kill Captain Perrin before…but I guess he’s back now), while others are totally new and clearly show the world moving on past WotLK. Makes it really tough to tell what saw a retcon and what didn’t!

That aside – and taking into account the fact that I am woefully bad at keeping plots/events straight in my mind – it’s still enjoyable. The quests are way, way more linear than before. While that may not be some folks’ cup of tea, I certainly like it (please see what I just said about my ability to record events)! All quest text has been rewritten in order to provide new/more/updated context, and you’re never left wondering where to go next. Some of the original quest chains that were either quite long or straight up annoying have been clipped or removed entirely, and the new chains they put in are entertaining. Amusingly enough, all the quest rewards have changed as well! They look much nicer now (both on your character and the actual icons for each piece), which is always a plus; smart idea, too, given that the first 20 or 30 levels (or perhaps even the first 10) is when you want players to bond with their character & get hooked – and I’d think you’d be shooting yourself in the foot if they have to perpetually stare at ugly gear.

The Silverpine quest chains are of particular note; some of them are ‘directed’ like mini-movies. Those that revolve around Gilneas and the Forsaken’s efforts there are lots of fun to work through and give you a huge chunk of story. While I’m not super-keen on taking quest after quest from my faction leader (I can’t explain why, either – it’s like, if it’s not a raid quest, I don’t want to hear from you), I suppose I can accept it for the sake of getting a decent understanding of WTF is going on in the world. I was very pleased with the information I got from the variety of quests I did while in Silverpine; I now understand the Worgen and Gilneas and all that jazz far, far better than I did before. I even know who the new Shadowfang Keep bosses are and what they’re all about! I’m actually thankful for that, ’cause there’s nothing like running an instance or a raid without understanding a single thing about it.

Despite all the learning, there are some things I’m still confused about:

  • How many val’kyr does Sylvanas have, exactly?
  • The val’kyr can only raise humans? What?
  • This deal that Sylvanas has with the val’kyr – does it apply to all her val’kyr? Why would they agree to that?
  • Why oh why was the Royal Apothecary Society not disbanded after Wrathgate?
  • How did that Darnell fellow get so big?

Something else that jumped out at me? Rep gain. It’s massively increased (or, at least, it was in the undead 1 – 20 quests). I can remember 2 quests that got me 1000 rep with Undercity – that’s wild! Back in the old days, the most I remember being awarded for any single quest was 500 (e.g, the main Scarlet Monastery quest, though the rep gain there was faction-wide). That’s amazing! I wonder why that is, though… They added home-city tabards that allow you to collect rep from instances (any), so I’m curious to know why there’s a sudden push to get people to Exalted (I’m guessing) on presumably all home factions. Hmm.

On a side note: when next you roll an undead character, pay close attention to the language used in all the quest text. Notice a lot of questionable terms? I do. I’ve seen stuff like hell, god damn, bastard and bitch (this last one was even voice acted). Personally, I don’t care and I think the grit is great (especially for the undead, I dunno – it just fits), but…don’t kids play this game? Then again, I have no clue what’s considered acceptable language in media today, so perhaps that’s all OK. I did jump out at me, though.

There are a small number of quests that contain elements that are full-on Blizzard making fun of itself/its player base. For the most part, I think these are funny, but sometimes they sort of shatter the illusion (especially when it’s a joke quest as opposed to a joke element in a quest)… I’m torn. I feel as though they should almost only be used as ‘intermission’-style quests, where they don’t interfere with an actual (story) chain and are only there to provide you with a little break before you plunge into the next chain (e.g. the cute ‘be a quest giver’ quest you get right as you enter Hillsbrad). I suppose it really depends on your sense of humor.

Overall, I think the redo is impressive. We’ll have to see how quickly it gets old/what the replay value is on it all, but for now I’m more than satisfied.

I enjoyed the 1 – 20 experience enough that I rolled a new ‘lock in the same zone; now that I am familiar with it, I can go comb the new landscape and farm it to death. That’s neither here nor there, but…did you know that pet class characters can’t (fully) control their pet ’till level 10? Does anyone know why that is?  Has it always been like that and I just don’t remember?

Prot’s been excited about Cataclysm since its specifcs started popping up on the various websites she follows. For the last little while, she’s been telling me all about how this & that’s gonna change and how it’ll affect her enjoyment of the game. She’s been gushing about the new races and starting areas and how cool it’ll be to roll a new alt (or five…) in order to experience the new content. She’s even had a fit of premature tank rage over the fight mechanics on some great big flying genie-esque boss we saw in a PTR raid video – as though our tiny, most-folks-don’t-even-play-any-longer guild was in any sort of position to begin raiding in Cataclysm when the content opens up.

And that works for her. On Tuesday? I was happy to be in heroics. It’s not that I’m not interested or excited or that I don’t think all the Cataclysm changes (most of which were implemented this week) Prot told me about aren’t neat – it’s that they fill me with a weird breed of dread. Cataclysm is, I feel, a much bigger expansion than its predecessors and brings a ton of changes to many areas of the game. I feel a bit – no pun intended – shaken up by it, to be perfectly honest with you. As a result, all of the great news and neat stuff that Prot’s brought to my attention and that I’ve started seeing in-game since Tuesday has left me feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

There’s so much of it to see & discover…I don’t know where to start, or how best to approach it all. It’s like a gigantic mess; picking up that one Kleenex near the bed doesn’t really get you that far ahead. Since Tuesday, I’ve basically been staring at it from the door, taking it all in – but that’s inaccurate. I’ve been acknowledging it, I think. Yes – just acknowledging that all the strange, foreign stuff I see when I hit the ‘M’ key or watch the loading screen is my new WoW reality.

My mind has been working a mile a minute in a futile attempt to calculate the safest, quickest path through the onslaught of changes. Part of what makes new content of this magnitude so terrifying for me is that I am a profound lover of systems and order; in short, my new WoW reality is not my old WoW reality, and I am no longer master of my environment. That’s stressful. My brain is being petulant about it; it’s trying really hard to huffily turn its back on the fact that it’ll need to focus and re-learn everything – even if it knows it’ll probably enjoy the process. I’ve been craving a new game (or, more specifically, the act of learning a new game) for some time now, so there’s no reason for me to have frozen up the way I have this week.

That being said, it is what it is. I just have to power through it.

As a devout farmer, my first concern is the nodes and level ranges of the new map configuration. I used to know where to find each and every type of plant or ore, and I knew the level ranges of all mobs in any area – but not any more! Many maps have been re-tooled and Horde/Alliance levelling paths have changed, so I’ll need to run (I guess it’s more like ‘fly’ now, come to think of it – oh man, what if that turns all of Azeroth into Sholazar Basin, where the skies are darkened by hordes of ill-mannered protodrake-mounted farmers?!) out and survey the world to get all of that straight in my mind. I enjoy levelling professions, so knowing where to get things is paramount!

In the same vein, knowing that the profession cap will be raised in Cataclysm freaks me out as well. There’s nothing I can do about it right now, except maybe save up some mats to help finish up whatever professions haven’t reached 450 yet (they tend to put in these cheap little catch-up recipes after they raise the profession cap, which handily get you up to speed without need for any huge cash droppage, but I don’t know whether or not those recipes will require the use of old mats or new mats…hmm) and keep some gold stashed away for the initial upgrade cost and first few recipes. Getting my first profession to 450 in WotLK was quite the adventure; tons of cash and time (many, many thanks to all the guildies who sent – and still send – me mats, and to the one guildie who spent an entire morning killing undead in Icecrown for me) went into it, and I know it’ll be the same in Cataclysm.  Am I ready for that?

Weird, isn’t it? You sit at the top for a while and as soon as things change you’re uncomfortable and scrambling to get back up there. Thing is, I’m not entirely sure why it matters that I be ‘up there’… I enjoy the process of levelling, gathering, building, etc. far more than the ‘being up there’ part. It’s like any trip – I generally enjoy the journey more than whatever happens once we get to our destination. In WoW, I tend to pick a goal and then race towards it…only to get instantly bored again as soon as it’s over. I have time and time again threatened to wipe my entire character list and cried to Prot & Save about how I have nothing to work on or build or what have you and that I need a challenge, so why would the promise of new goals in Cataclysm appear so…unsexy to me?

Confusing, I tell you. Despite having repeatedly threatened to wipe my characters, I haven’t done so (yet – I will relapse, Prot, I promise you. It’s only a matter of time!). In fact, I was thinking that one way to cheap out on having to deal with all the new content would be to grab my main and just level her to 85 after Cataclysm comes out. That way I could ignore Azeroth entirely (save for wherever my hearth is; I could just choose a city that hasn’t seen any changes and pretend like it’s the good old days) and act like this is BC or Wrath and not all that much has changed. It’d be like a quarantine. A safe zone.

But it wouldn’t last. Alas…I fear I must come to terms with the new WoW, even if it’s just a bit at a time.

I rolled a lowbie Horde priest on a different server on Tuesday (we went to Brill last night, by the by. Did you know that it’s been fortified? Watch out, Scarlet dudes – the Forsaken are pimp now!). It’s the opposite strategy to the taking-my-main-to-85-with-blinders-on one I mentioned above. I figure I will subject myself to as many Azeroth changes as I can prior to December, so that I’ll at least be able to navigate the world when the expansion finally comes out. Reacquainting myself with the world map, I think, will be a good, strong step towards feeling confident again.

But you know what would be nice? If Blizz stopped resetting my talents. Please just stop. Stop. It’s driving me insane and making me curse the day dualspecs were implemented. Also, it’s not helping the whole stress thing; I keep rereading the shaman/priest/paladin trees each time and running back to my trainer, just in case something big’s happened. And I don’t even want to think about the whole 12% damage nerf to warlocks that I kinda quickly saw (and immediately looked away from) in the latest patch notes…I think it’s best that I permanently keep the blinders on for that one.

So it seems the key to retaining my sanity during this period is setting new goals for myself. I can do that:

  1. Get one of those awkward-looking camel mounts for my priest.
  2. Run the new AQ (I cannot explain to you how excited I am that Blizz kept this raid).
  3. See (just see – I’m not even going to think about actually running it) Uldum.

There. I think I can be happy again.

So, as you might have noticed from my general blogospheric absence, I have been in something of a slump in terms of WoW. I’ve played here and there, off and on over the summer and into the fall, but not with any kind of regularity. I kept up the PvP for the most part, right up until 4.0.1. We still have our regular five-man group once a week, and every now and then layte will rope me into a heroic PuG or two (which typically leave me a slavering mass of rage and hate). And we still hop onto our alts every now and then to muck around in the old world.

But that, I think, was a large part of the problem. The old world – and, in fact, the “new” worlds of BC and Wrath – is old. Like a nice, rock-hard chunk of stale bread, too far gone to even use for croutons. I know some people are still enamoured of its charms, and I will admit that even for me it has its moments, but the fact of the matter is I’ve been playing this game for almost the six years it’s been in existence. I have deleted more alts than most people have made. I grow more concerned by the 50-character cap as time goes on.

I have six 80s (five of them tanks, including one of every class that can tank – woo! At least one pre-Cataclysm goal achieved!). I can now officially say I’ve PvPed with some degree of seriousness. I’ve raided up into ICC, dungeoned, soloed. I’ve played every class in the game to at least level 40, and the vast majority of them up past 60, and a chunk up past 80 now. I’ve played all of the races (though I freely admit my tauren have never even made it to 20, poor bastards). There isn’t a map to be found that I haven’t beaten my face off of at least thrice. Certainly there are physical corners of the game I have not at least peeked into, which is to say a few of the old world and BC raids, but that’s it.

I’ve played this game. I’ve played it to death. If I have to make the run from Goldshire to the Eastvale Logging Camp one more time I am going to cry. For serious.

I’ve wished more times than I can count over the last few months that I could go back to my early WoW days – back when I thought Intellect was an awesome stat for warriors because it increased my weapon skill, and I would taunt monsters while soloing because why would they put it on my bar if I’m not suppose to use it maybe threat is a special kind of damage, and I thought add-ons were the devil because they were probably illegal and Blizzard would ban my account the instant I installed one and besides they would probably give me viruses and I could never figure out how to work them anyway.

I was so new back then, everything seemed so complex and vast and beautiful. I read my quest logs because I wanted to understand the world and what I was being asked to do; I studied my talent trees in deep, loving detail so that I could make the absolute wrong choice 100% of the time; I blundered about Azeroth flailing ineffectually at boars and gnolls and whelps and had a deep-seated phobia of murlocs and fell off a lot of cliffs and towers from whipping my camera around while auto-running to get a better look at some pretty tree or amazing sunset or cool looking mob. I left a lot of corpses around Azeroth, most of them mine.

For a long time now, I’ve been a long way away from that. I haven’t read a quest log in ages, because I know all my favourite quests off-by-heart and no longer care about the others. I know more about the lore than I ever thought I would. I throw my talents in where I’ve always put them, knowing full well it’ll be good enough until end game and when I get there I can compare against the cookie-cutter build then. I’m decked out in so many heirlooms and GB blues and epics that I don’t really die at low levels anymore, even if I manage a terrible pull or blunder into a camp of gnolls just as it respawns. I’m not afraid of anything in the game anymore. And neither am I constantly awed (though again, there are still moments). And neither am I very interested.

And then 4.0.1 hit and for a brief, blissful window, I was interested again. They’d completely revamped the talent trees, and in some cases the mechanics of the classes. I loaded up my 80 paladin and panicked, not understanding anything on his bar or how it worked, so instead I made layte roll a pally alt with me to re-learn the class from the ground up, rather than trying to figure it out at 80 with too full a toolbar. Forgiving the sheer OPness of the low levels right now (1-shotting three targets at level 10 with Avenger’s Shield…Jesus Christ…so awesome, and so not awesome at the same time), it’s been fun. Plus the new talent trees briefly allowed me to overlook how repetitive and boring and trivial heroics have been lately on my warrior because I wanted to try out my two new warrior builds.

Rend! On a prot warrior! Who’d’a thunk it?

(Aside: One of my warriors has a Blood and Thunder build, and the other doesn’t. Currently I’m leaning toward really liking the Blood and Thunder mechanic. I’ve always been kind of sad about rend. It was like this pretty little button I never pushed and severely neglected and it stared dolefully up at me from my toolbar, as though to say “why do you even have me here if you’re never going to push me? Relegate me to the Bar of Suck with Slam! Do it! You heartless monster!” Now Rend and I are totally BFFs. And it makes me push Thunder Clap more, which I should have been doing anyway. And then that makes me Shockwave more, which I was actually doing anyway, except now it’s more fun because it’s all synergized with TC. Buffs come up, buffs go down. I like it. Also, a DoT on all my targets is sort of useful, what with no one understanding that they’re supposed to actually kill the skull first, not last.)

But even that didn’t last long for me. Ultimately the warrior doesn’t have any sweeping changes to the feel or mechanics. Short of tapping rend at the start of a fight, my priority list is basically the same, the threat distribution is the same (there’s just less of it to go around), and both my warriors are already geared to the point where I don’t have to stretch my brain too hard on gear choices yet (which means I actually haven’t adjusted to the lack of DEF yet and probably won’t ’till Cata). The baby-pallies remain fun and new in terms of mechanics, but ultimately they’re running back and forth across Elwynn. Which I’ve only done a hundred thousand times.

I clung to it as long as I could though and it got me through to yesterday. 4.0.3.

I was beside myself with hope and excitement and eagerness all day. Then layte sent me an e-mail and told me the servers weren’t expected back up until at least 8PM our time. Kill me. Seriously. I had already plotted out half my new alts with the class/race combos and which zones I wanted to play in and so on. Then, around 6:30, I idly opened the remote AH to check my auctions, forgetting I can’t do that when the servers are down, except the servers weren’t down and I’d made 33g 52s on auctions.

Back up the stairs we went to log in. I rolled a baby undead hunter and gleefully watched the totally new opening narration for it and exulted in every single difference I found. I didn’t know where anything was, I couldn’t find the quest givers, I was an undead hunter. It was new! Everything! All of it!

IT WAS NEW!

And then, fifteen blissful minutes later, I had to log off and log onto my warrior (not even the one who gets to push Rend) for our regular guild 5-man dungeon-run. Of Northrend dungeons. Which I have run a hundred thousand times and see in my sleep. And have absolutely nothing new about them as a result of this patch.

Insert the sound of me chafing and banging my head on my keyboard and biting at the chomp.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those runs and that group, but there was new stuff out there! And it wasn’t to be found on my 700th run of DTK! /cry

But I did manage some time running around and gawking at Orgrimmar. Cue OCD-raging at Garrosh because he’s standing where my bank is supposed to be, and running in circles around the new zep tower and flight master unable to find my way down.

Did you know there are flight masters now at all the little towns and quest hubs? Holy shit. I don’t know why this wows me as much as it does, but it does, it so does. I right-clicked the new FM in Razor Hill, got the “You have discovered a new flight path!” message, and just stared at him in awe for a moment.

After our dungeon runs were done, I logged onto my little 40ish hunter and – after consulting a vastly different Zones By Level list than I’m used to – ran down to the Bulwark and into the Plaguelands. Which have, you know, farms and shit – like actual farms where they grow things that are not the Plague. And like…living bears. And foxes and flowers and grass! And Koltira is there and he’s all emo and I guess that’s not really new, but he’s in the Plaguelands now! And they’re not level 60! And Andorhal didn’t chew me up and spit me out! And I tamed a Mastiff! And I looted like three hundred Blindweed which isn’t new but it kind of is because they didn’t used to grow there! And ALL THE QUESTS WERE DIFFERENT! And when you click on a quest in your log it shows you a picture of the person you’re supposed to kill! AND I KILLED THE RAVENIAN FOR THE TWELVE HUNDRETH TIME ONLY THIS TIME HE WAS IN A TOWER IN ANDORHAL INSTEAD OF IN SCHOLO!

The whole damn zone is basically a level bracket below mine (I’m supposed to be in EPL, not WPL) but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave even though the gear was all crappy for me BECAUSE IT WAS NEW and there were chain quests I’d never done before and I was actually READING MY QUEST LOG. What if there were quest chains that spilled over into the EPL?! How could I start the EPL when I didn’t know what happened in the WPL?! I actually DIDN’T KNOW what happened in the WPL!

Apologies for the rampant abuse of CAPS, but I think I may actually be getting excited about WoW again. From a mere forty-five minutes worth of play in a single zone on a character that is far from my favourite.

Fuck raiding. Fuck heroics. Fuck Northrend and Outland*.

Oh Azeroth! I’m home!

*With apologies to Northrend and Outland, both of whom gave me many, many, many hours of joy – probably more joy than angst, whatever else I may say – up until they got as stale as Elwynn.

Excuses, Excuses

With regards to the looooonnnngggg stretches between posts, suffice it to say that between the vagaries of real life, the fact that I am no longer reduced to a puddle of incoherent rage on raid nights (due to there no longer being raid nights for a while), and the general, all-encompassing state of Waiting-For-Cataclysm, I haven’t had a lot to say on the topic of WoW. I figured silence was better than boring everyone – a policy I will likely maintain in the future.

Trying New Things (TM)

In the gap between now and Cataclysm I have tentatively been Trying New Things (TM). Things like a Warlock. Which has been going surprising well, pet pathing issues not withstanding. Also, a rogue. That one’s not going so well. See, I have a 40ish rogue, and you might think, gee Protflashes, that’s really good given that your previous record was level 17 with that class. But then I’d be obliged to point out that between level 17 and level 40ish a guildie basically chain-dragged my heirloom wearing ass through instances, and…now I’m level 40 and my toolbar is a vast and desolate wasteland of buttons I don’t know how to use.

Combo points are scary, leave me alone.

I also started a new warrior, which has, of course, been going delightfully because that class, I can do. You might think that this doesn’t really constitute under the Trying New Things (TM) thing I’ve been doing, and you would have been right up to a point.

But at level 40 I decided I wanted a title. In fact, I set my heart on a title. It is no longer a case of want. I absolutely have to get this title for this character. It is perfect for him. He must have it. He will have it.

I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently I picked the hardest fucking title in the whole god damned game. Nor was I fully cognizant, when I first chose it, that it doesn’t exactly happen in my neck of the woods, so to speak.

The title I am so dead set on earning for myself – cue drum roll – is Justicar.

Cue three-year-old temper tantrum – IwantitIwantitIwantit!

For those who don’t know, earning the Justicar title involves grinding to Exalted with three old-world Factions, each associated with one of the three old world battlegrounds (Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, Alterac Valley).

Battlegrounds…you know…PvP.

That thing I don’t do. The Land of No Tanks.

Okay, says I, no problem. I just have to get rep with the three vanilla PvP factions. Easy peasy. I did Warsong Gulch for a little while years ago. Even Arathi Basin once or twice when I was feeling brave. They give these little tokens, whether you win or lose, and you just hand those in for rep.

All I need to do, I told myself, oversimplifying in the interests of curbing the ever-present combination of fear and derision PvP invokes in my chest, is grit my teeth, suck it up, die a froopopapilliion times, and boom! Justicar.

I did some “research” into the title, which consisted of looking at a single forum thread and confirming that Warsong Gulch is the hardest one to get. So I decided to start with that one (having only two options at level 40ish). If it’s the hardest to get rep from, let’s get it out of the way before the novelty wears off. Plus it’s the only one I can really say I have any degree of understanding of since I have actually done it before (however poorly).

So I hit H, pop into the queue and three seconds later I’m in a game already in progress. Approximately three seconds after that – I’m not even out of the flagroom yet – I am assaulted with a summary screen that I vaguely remember means the game is over.

Did I mention I’m Alliance? Apparently we don’t win much.

Anyway, I shrug and think smugly to myself: fastest token ever. I open my bags and begin to look for my little thing I can hand in for rep. There’s nothing in my bags even remotely resembling a PvP token.

Vague memories of a set of patch notes saying blah blah blah tokens blah blah blah rep blah blah blah sucks to be you.

Queue panic.

I head for Google again, this time intending to look a little closer at just why this title is supposed to be so hard to get. Apparently the tokens I was banking on no longer exist.

The only way to get rep with the Silverwing Sentinels is by capturing the flag. 35 rep per capture, 45 on a Call to Arms weekend.

To put this into perspective for you, I have been stubbornly PvPing since I decided I want this title (all of a week or two now), and of somewhere between 50 and 100 games I’ve played, the vast majority of them end with a score of 0-3 for the Horde.

I can play a game for 30 minutes and the Alliance will not cap a single flag. If we don’t cap, I get no rep. I’m not just talking about a possibility, here, I’m talking about something that happens on a regular basis.

I added up the total of what I will need to get the title – basically 126,000 rep, split across the three factions. I’m currently at 1700ish. I’m not even Friendly with Silverwing.

I’m going to be at this a while.

Fish out of Water

So far I’ve only tried my hand at Warsong Gulch. I recognize I’m going to suck for a while (maybe even forever), but I’d rather not suck because I’m an idiot and couldn’t be bothered to at least look up what I’m doing. Long years of raiding have taught me that a bit of research goes a long way, especially in a PuG where one out of a hundred might actually be willing to take the time to explain something to you.

I already knew the basics of WSG, I read the article in the last WoW Magazine, I hit up WoWWiki and took a look at what they had written down in terms of tips, hints, and general strategies for winning.

It’s a shame that the strategies employed by the groups I’ve played with resemble absolutely nothing I’ve read….

I’m nowhere near experienced enough to start actively speaking up with regards to strategies or making statements about what we should or should not be doing in the chat itself, but the lack of communication, coordination, and common sense is already causing my raid-lead-instincts to twitch. I have, on several occasions, begged for someone to give me instructions. I have also gotten into at least three or four fights with people over the severe lack of utility inherent in waiting until you are dead and the flag has been returned to scream for some kind of support. Also over throwing in comments about teamwork, when you’re the twit who sauntered off down into the Horde base alone, without a word to the rest of us, as we desperately beat back a wave of five rogues, three shamans, and a fucking priest in our own flag room.

PvP is a chaotic, dirty game, and it’s so incredibly not the one I’m used to playing. There’s no real leadership in the PuGs. Even in a PvE dungeon PuG, the pace still needs to be set by the tank pulling and going in first. Even if there’s no official leader, there’s a recognized order to events that should be observed if one does not wish to die in a fire.

In PvE the strats are static, inflexible things. You find one that works with your group make-up and skill level and you fucking stick to that thing like glue. If anyone deviates from it you bark and snarl and nip at them like you’re herding sheep back into place. Everyone has a fairly rigid role in any given fight, responsibility is compartmentalized, assigned out to individuals, and is down in the weeds in terms of details. The field of play may change, but it does so at predictable, regular intervals.

In PvP – and take this with a grain of salt, for they are the words of a noob – there are strats (that nobody follows, but hey), but they are in no way inflexible. They can’t be. The field of play in PvP is a big roiling mass of players, doing whatever suits their fancy right now, in this moment, because honestly? I’m dead in two seconds anyway. So, assuming you have some kind of coordination, your strategy becomes a very high level, agile thing. Instead of a list of chronological events and the required reactions (PvE), it’s more like a priority list – a series of “if, then, else” statements. All the pieces are moving, all the time.

Biggest adjustment for me? Well, actually, there are two. The first is that there are no tanks. There is no threat. “Aggro” is gained through an arcane mechanic involving some combination of how easy you are to kill, whether you have the flag or not, and whether some jack ass on the other side has decided he’s going to pull your damn pigtails for the next thirty minutes, by which I mean detour unfailingly to beat the shit out of you behind a bush somewhere, not ten feet from the flag carrier he’s supposed to be caring about.

In fact, it almost works the exact opposite of the way it does in PvE. In PvE, aggro is gained by being the most threatening thing in the field of play. In PvP, we’re all a bunch of damn cowards. If I have a choice between chasing down a level 49 paladin, bristling in platemail, with a big-ass two-handed sword, and his bubble off CD, or a level 42 priest wearing Kleenex and standing all by her onsies off to the side in the hopes of avoiding notice….

I know who I’m going for. Sure the pally will kill me in the end anyway, but I’m taking that priest with me. An eye for an eye, an HK for an HK.

The second, and perhaps hard difference to wrap my mind around, is that life – any life; yours, theirs, whatever – has no value whatsoever. In PvE, success can actually be very generally described as living. The more people alive at the end of a fight, the better you did. If you die, you lose. You eat massive repair bills. You gimp your raid group as they try to finish the fight without you. There are heavy consequences for death.

In PvP you are put on this earth for one thing and one thing only, and that is to cause as much bloody inconvenience to anyone with a red name over their head as you possibly can before you go down in a blazing ball of poison, fire, and fucking DoTs. This whole process will take a grand total of – at maximum – two minutes. Within a maximum of 30 seconds you will be rezzed, automatically, at no personal cost to yourself or anyone else (whether monetary or manatary), and are free to rain destruction down upon your enemies for another two minutes.

Assuming you can get past the rogue camping the graveyard, but you get the idea.

There are no consequences for dying. Not only is it not the end of the world that you die, it’s part of the game. If you never died, it’s sort an eyebrow raising, where-were-you-when-shit-was-going-down-in-the-tunnel kind of thing. It happens, of course, but it is fairly rare to my inexperienced eye.

Nobody notices. Nobody mourns. Nobody screams and rants and rails. You don’t even care. Sometimes I actually find myself muttering “hurry the fuck up and kill me already so I can get back to my own base and fuck up the EFC before he gets off the ramp”. Or, in the case of a caster, so they can get their mana back.

The whole thing – the flexible nature of PvP strategies, the lack of sole responsibility for controlling where damage is coming and going (i.e., tanking), the complete and total renouncing of my overactive sense of self-preservation – is at once frightening and exhilarating; it’s strange and incredibly chaotic and it all feels so, so wrong…

But I think I like it.

And that scares me more than anything else.

Layteknight and I were chatting about Cataclysm the other day (who isn’t these days, I guess). The conversation ran the gamut:


  1. Cataclysm is a panacea that will heal all wounds, give sight to the blind, raise the dead to the living, and cause the lame to walk again!
  2. Lifegrip sounds very, very, very dangerous. I trust Blizzard, I do. But man. I spend most of my time in a group screaming for the DPS to run toward the tank if they pull aggro. Reinforcing the awayness of their usual plans doesn’t seem wise to me. To say nothing of apparently removing even the small personal responsibility the DPS have traditionally had for staying out of fire / watching their aggro.
  3. I was really excited by the class previews, then read them, then realized I won’t actually understand how any of that is supposed to work until I can physically press the buttons, then was generally pouty and bored with them.
  4. We are not excited at the moment about 80-85. At all. We are excited about getting 1-60 back and playing it again and having it be new. I cannot wait. I can haz alts!
  5. Manifold goblin/worgen class combinations and which we would play and how we would play and so on and so forth.
  6. Then we looked up the Goblins – did you know their intelligence is pale in comparison to their race’s old smarts? And that they’re losing it more and more every generation? This is why their shit blows up – they’ve got the old schematics, but they no longer understand how it actually works. This is fascinating to me.

So then I started thinking about Goblins. I have long liked the Goblins as a foil for the Gnomes. Forget Horde/Alliance, the real conflict for me has always been Goblin vs. Gnome. It started when the option was first put to me to be a Goblin or a Gnomish engineer – complete with the following descriptions:

You want to know about Goblin engineering? Try asking one of their best and brightest engineers about it – I think his name is “Nubby Stumpfingers.” Want to know why he’s named that? THAT’S Goblin Engineering. (Ringo Tragediction, Gnome Engineer)

Know that feeling you get when you finish making something and turn it on for the first time to experience the power and joy of invention as your device springs to life? Gnomes don’t. (Nixx Sprocketspring, Master Goblin Engineer of Gadgetzan)

There was just something in those quotes that described in fantastic detail to me the rivalry between the two races. That was the moment I gave in and picked a side. I was immediately and properly offended I had even been offered the choice. I was a Gnome. What did they think I was going to pick?

And I harbor a secret hate for Goblins and Goblin engineers to this day. I turn up my nose when I pass the Goblin trainers. I get huffy when I see other players – God forbid a Gnome – talking to them. I named my Mechanostrider “Goblin Killer 3000.” It’s like the rivalry between two schools in the same town – and I bought into it hardcore a long time ago.

The place where this conflict plays out most obviously in game is in the Shimmering Flats, at the Raceway. I just…can’t deal with this place – it’s too awesome. Long, long ago, when I first started playing, someone told me about it and I walked (waaaaayyyy before mounts at 20) all the way there from Dun Morogh just to see it.

There’s a gnome camp, with their unnecessarily mechanical houses, and their gadgets, and their win. And a Goblin camp, with their pineapple wallpaper and far too many explosives in one place, and their other-kind-of-win-that-I-have-arbitrarily-decided-is-fail. And they’re racing each other to prove who’s inventions are better (the results of the races are also obvious if you know where to look, embedded in the stone walls around you).

Less. Than. Three.

But we’re losing the Shimmering Flats in Cataclysm – more accurately, they’re supposedly becoming a great big lake (/sob…my mining run in 1KN…how will I farm mining now?!). So where will the Goblins and the Gnomes find an outlet for their rivalry? Especially now that they’re actually on opposite factions?

But then I was thinking…

That’s how Blizzard could get me into PvP (which I happen to believe is one of their ultimate, super-secret goals – get Protflashes to PvP). I don’t care about the Horde vs. Alliance conflict because I think it’s massively short-sighted and completely ill-advised given the many, many, many, many, MANY shared enemies they have, whose main goals seem to be the destruction of all life on Azeroth.

But Gnomes vs. Goblins?

Fuck YES!

I will be the first person in the queue for that battleground. Hell, I’m already embroiled in that particular faction war. I want to Gnomish Death Ray a Goblin. I want to so bad. If I’m honest, I always have.

It’s just a stupid little subplot playing out in the grand scheme of things that is Warcraft, but I honest to God care about it. Maybe just because it’s one of the first sub plots I stumbled into. Maybe because Engineering was my first and my favourite profession. Maybe because it makes more sense to me than Horde vs. Alliance.

But what it means is that I don’t care if I die a million times, I don’t care if it means I have to learn WTF Resilience is, I don’t care if it means having to research ratings and how to get them.

I would get to Gnomish Death Ray a Goblin.

For Gnomeregan!

Darling;

Let me just preface this letter by stating outright that I love you. You know I do, I always have. You keep me safe on Defensive, obey my orders on Passive, and attack everything in sight including the murloc way over there on aggressive. I know you would like to be on aggressive more often, but, darling, you know how I feel about murlocs. Especially when my quest is for gnolls.

And I want you to know that the rather delicate issue I am about to raise does nothing to change my feelings for you. We’ll always have RFK, darling, I’m sure you remember. You tanked the whole instance that one time because the lovely warrior the LFD gave us seemed to think he was DPS. How many Voidwalkers do you know even get to see an instance? It was your chance to shine, and you truly did.

You will always be my favourite non-armour-wearing tank, you know that, but I have to ask…

Must you frolic when I am trying to kill monsters? This is serious business, darling. When I press CTRL+1 I want you to terrorize the damn thing, not spin it hither and thither, leaping and dancing and pliéing your way across the map.

FFS, darling, FFS.

Also, why do you carry it so far away? While it’s true I’m a ranged DPS, the fact remains there is a range to my range, if you see what I’m saying. I recognize I could perhaps start the fight from further away than I do, and that that may, in fact be advisable. But it’s hard, darling, what with me spending 90% of my play time in plate armour. Still, I feel 15-20 yards is perfectly reasonable when it’s just the two of us, and while I appreciate your concern at me standing so close to the monster, I really don’t think it’s necessary for you to pick the poor creature up while I’m trying to DoT it and carry it as far away as possible…

…and into that camp of murlocs way over here.

You know how I feel about murlocs, darling.

In closing, let me say this: you are my darling Voidwalker, my first tank, my lovely blueberry, and the only reason I don’t spend more time with my lovely clothie face in the dirt…but if you don’t fix your pathing problems, Yazfip is going to be getting a lot more playtime.

Love and kisses,

Protflashes

Also possibly because I ran out of time to write a real post:

A PuG’s an iffy, frightful thing at best,
Scarce worth the effort that it takes to run,
The drooling savage beats upon his breast,
And into pieces shatters all your fun.
“Link the metres!” cry the horrid beasties,
Frothing to see if they top o’erall.
Woe to those who issue stern entreaties,
To stop with all the fucking “gogolawl”.
Perhaps you wonder: why join at such cost?
‘Cause PuG or not – I want my Goddammned Frost.

So in the spirit of the Cycle of Burnout, I’ve moved from the “Sight of the Log-In Screen Makes me Burn Like the Sun with Resentment” Phase to the “Life is So Much Better Without WoW” Phase, and am currently entering the “Hmmm, I Wonder what my Warlock’s Doing Now” Phase.

I’m not quite ready to jump back into the fray entirely, but I’m getting there. More importantly, I miss my blog. Yes I do. Who’s a cute little bloggie? Who’s my cute little blog? You are! Yes you are!

/pet Blog

Anyway…

I half-took the very good advice of those of you who posted on my last Burn-Out Post (and though I’ve epic failed at responding to comments like I said I would, I read them all and they all helped me sort out my brain quite a bit). Probably should have taken it in full, but taking good advice is like eating healthy. I know I should do it, I know I will feel better for it in the long run, but God damn I want that burger.

In the end I wound up pretty much cutting out all WoW with the exception of the pre-committed raid/group nights (roughly three a week), and put certain plans in motion that will free me of the majority of those commitments at some point in the next few weeks. Knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel has done wonders for relieving the stress it was causing me.

Specifically, I took the advice of the lovely Tamarind, acknowledged that I am not the only tank in the village, and shacked up with Garrus for a while. It has been a much needed break from the grind.

Aside: if you haven’t played the Mass Effect games yet, you probably should. Like, for real. Even if you don’t like sci-fi/games where you shoot people instead of stab them. It has been a very long time indeed since a game absorbed me quite so completely as that one did. Also, it’s got Garrus. Garrus is win.

Though now that I’m starting to consider playing WoW as my main game again, I’m facing an intriguing conundrum – when I finally get back up to my computer room, load up the log-in screen, and hit “Enter World”…what do I do with myself? If I actually manage to extricate myself from the world of raiding and pre-determined commitments, and having to grind various resources in order to even play, what is there to do?

What did I do before I raided? What did I do before I heavily engaged in large-group play? Has it honestly been so long that I have trouble remembering?

I played alts, I know that much. But I was to the point where I’d look at my alts and see nothing but potential subs for our raids, possible buffs, useful professions – not a class, not a character.

What were my goals for them before they became little more than tools? When I first rolled them?

Did I ever really just play this game for shits and giggles?

Looking at my character screen kinda feels like I’ve just woken up. I blink and stare blearily at the list and go: Oh! Oh my God! That’s a Shaman! Not a melee-DPS slot, healer in a pinch. And holy shit! I’ve actually GOT a hunter there! Not just a ranged-DPS/kiter when required. And even the multitude of various tank-specced characters inhabiting that list have gone from being “alt-tanks for other raid groups if required” to being “my pally, my warrior, my druid, my DK”.

I’ve got my babies back.

The timing couldn’t be better, either. Last speculated date I heard for Cataclysm was September/October. That means I’ve got the summer to make whatever preparations I need to in order to be ready to jump right into Cataclysm at the points I want to – and I can enjoy the ride while I’m at it. I want to make sure I’ve got a few options at 80, on the Alliance and the Horde (one more 80 should do it. Maybe I could get my priest up…), a few options around level 40ish, and a few slots open for alts because while 90% of the rest of the game is running from 80 to 85 I fully intend to be picking Peacebloom in Elwynn or mining copper in Durotar and seeing what changes Blizzard’s made to the 1-60 game (which has long been my favourite part, no matter how stale it got after making the run 2 347 439 times).

Oh yeah, and I want a Worgen and a Goblin, because I have some kind of Pokemon complex.

I think I’d like to get either my rogue or my warlock into the 60 bracket a minimum, because I’ve never actually gotten either one past 20 under my own power. My rogue currently sits in the 40 bracket, but levels 20-35 were basically one big boost which means I don’t understand how to play him and that’s bad. They remain the two classes I’ve never gelled to in terms of playability.

I’d also like to get my mage into the 70 bracket. I don’t know if I have enough time for that, though. She’s in the 60 bracket, so not far off, but as I believe I’ve mentioned before, I spend a lot of time dead as a mage.

And the best part is, whatever I manage to achieve from that list, I won’t be doing it for the group. I won’t be doing it for the raid. I won’t be doing it for the guild. I’ll be doing it for me. And as selfish as that may be, I think it’s a lot of what I’ve been missing lately.

Oh Shits and Giggles, how I’ve missed you!

I am made of fail at commenting the last couple weeks – even at responding to comments on my own blog! I’ll get around to it at some point this week hopefully.

This isn’t helped by the fact that with the addition of SAN into my feed reader…well…let’s just say I’m keeping up, but barely. But there’s something deeply satisfying in knowing almost every time I refresh Google reader there’ll be something new, insightful, thought-provoking, amusing, and unfailingly entertaining.

On the upside, I discovered the “Star this post” option in Google reader a while back and have happily been starring away at posts I truly intend to comment on, but never get around to it. In lieu of said comments (which may yet materialize! I haven’t given up completely!), here’s a sampling of the posts I’ve starred (note: some of these may be older, but they’re still wonderful posts and definitely worth a read):


  • Expert Opinion on how to improve World of Warcraft – /agree completely
  • Don’t-Quit-Your-Day-Job Holy Paladin PvP – PvP, like RP, remains an aspect of the game I am completely unfamiliar with, but occasionally fascinated by. A very common sense set of tips from a PvE healadin on the basic brain-shifts required for PvP.
  • Sing, Azerothian Muse and A Whole New World – both starred for the intriguing insights into the differences between the Alliance and the Horde and what it means/feels like to be a member of either.
  • Tamadin – a painfully amusing look at the pally as a tank, from the perspective of the healer playing it.
  • Battling the Burnout – another look at burnout in WoW. In particular I find the idea of a burnout cycle, and the potential of being stuck in one forever, interesting.
  • Don’t go wasting your emotion – another Righteous Orbs post that hits dangerously close to home. Did a bit of a double-take and took a closer look at my own reactions to things after reading it.
  • Can someone offer the LK a lozenge? – because I’ve had this same issue on more than one boss, and though I doubt I’ll ever see the LK I am disappointed in advance. He’s the final bad guy, not just of this expansion but of the game to date! Crank it up a bit, Blizz!
  • If Thrall and Jaina Made a Baby – because Thrall and Jaina are totally making a baby.
  • Of WoW and languages – there are apparently a LOT of different languages in SAN-EU, and we’ve had some intriguing discussions in the forums and guild chat about linguistics.
  • There’s a better way – think before you comment. A very measured post regarding tone.
  • Purple-side Maraudon – this post is made of too much win.