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Blizzcon 2013 Reactions

Yea, yea. I told you I’d have them posted and I ain’t no liar! Except all those other times.  But those weren’t lies.  They were just coming Soon(tm) and then we were shelved because we didn’t feel the reward of reading those posts was worth the time investment in developing them.

CAN YOU TELL I’VE BEEN OBSERVING BLIZZCON?

Okay, let’s get this right out of the gate:

Vry’s Favorite Blizzcon Moments:

Chromie & Mekkatorque crash the Costume Contest:  Oh they didn’t even get the honorable mention, but this pair won my heart.  The gear shield, the wrench mace, the pure unabashed gnome love.  There was nothing to not appreciate about these two.  Especially since, unless that was damn impressive make up, they looked to be a bit up their in the years.  Older WoW players cosplaying GNOMES?  SOLD!

Conan O’Brien Attacks Arenas: If you didn’t have a chance to watch the Arena matches, you probably missed this.  Thankfully my girlfriend caught and showed it to me because oh my titans it was hysterical.  Conan O’Brien commenting on Arena matches without a clue in completely serious deadpan voice.  Jay Mohr WISHES he could have touched this performance.  The best part? “Of course I know what the global cooldown is. I find it condescending that you would even think I wouldn’t know that.  Now tell me who won the match because I don’t have a clue.”  Oh I won’t be forget those guffahs anytime soon.

Chris Metzen’s Voice:  THAT VOICE.

Garrisons: I’ll talk more about this further down, but I have always wanted a chunk of a MMO world to call my own.  A place that I could customize to some extent and make it feel like it was mine.  Well, Garrisons are it.  And just when I thought it was “oh that’s cool, all the need is like a trophy wall where you can unlock and show off cool stuff” BAM. That’s in there too.

New Expansion: Warlords of Draenor

NOTE: This section of my reactions contains SPOILERS for the story elements of the next expansion.  If you wish to avoid that, skip to the next sections where I simply discuss the mechanical changes to the game.  If you don’t want that spoiled either, you probably should just stop reading now.

So from how they’ve been describing this one, I’m guessing it will be uh… Savage?  So for those who haven’t heard the big WoW news, the next expansion is the speculated Warlords of Draenor.  Essentially the set up is thus:  Before standing trial, Garrosh escapes and with the aid of an unknown time traveler (Some have guessed Wrathion, I suspect Kairoz) and traveled back to around 2 years before the orcish clans drank the blood of Mannoroth on Draenor.  From there he has begun to unite the clans into a single ‘Iron Horde’ and rebuilt the Dark Portal to serve as a time/space gateway to modern present day Azeroth to conquer it with a united Horde in its prime just like he was told in the bedtime stories.

I don’t really have that much of an issue with that plot.  It actually kind of seems like a cool next chapter in the tale.  Unlike a lot of people, I haven’t had the issues with Garrosh’s characterization.  He’s an orc that idolizes the Horde of yesteryear, who completely missed out on all the bad crap that happened because of it, and wants to recapture that old Horde bad asses-ness.  The time travel aspect does intrigue me though.  The Devs were quick to point out that Time Travel is more of a ‘How’ and not a ‘What’ of the expansion, and as such will not be the main focus.  Still I’d love to see some Bronze Dragonflight in-fighting, rips in space and time appearing as events, and things like that.  It will be nice to go back and see some older aspects of Warcraft lore fleshed out with a more modern problem we are trying to solve.

Some of the questing news intrigued me as well.  The idea of sparse questing, icons on the map where significant story quests are located versus the optional side chains, and more focus on leveling through random events (ala the Timeless Isle) or dungeons is calling a lot of flashbacks of Guild Wars 2.  That’s not bad, I suppose.  But I am curious how it will work.  Will leveling become a tedious mob grind because everyone is hunting events so fast that there is no chance to grab them unless you are camping them like on the Timeless Isle?  Will the hidden treasures be character specific like on the Timeless Isle?

On the note of quest, I suppose the announcement of ‘hardly any dailies’ isn’t much of a surprise.  Blizz seems like it always acts in giant swings of a pendulum.  People complain about nothing to do?  HERE’S A ZILLION DAILIES!  Oh, that’s too many dailies? NO DAILIES AT ALL! Which is sad for me, because as I’ve noted so many times I actually liked having the dailies to do.  It’s something I actually enjoyed.  Except the Golden Lotus which just felt unbalanced and long.

Level 90 Boost

OMIGAWD THE SKY IS FALLING! SELLING LEVEL 90’S!  PAY TO WIN! PAAAAAY TOOOO WIIIIIIIN! Okay, okay, joking aside I actually dig on this idea.  Skipping right to the current content is great for those who have fallen behind or those of us who were tired of dragging every alt they want to play with through a gazillion levels.  Maybe the lower level content is fun for the first few times, and I will happily say the story stuff is fun to experience pretty much always for me.  It DOES get tedious.  And it is a bit of a disuasion to those who look to come back and think “My buddies are all 90, my highest toon is like 64.  Why bother?  I’ll always be behind them now.”

Is there room for abuse in buying 90s?  I suppose.  That really depends on how you define abuse.  Is it going to ruin the game for me if other people can just drop wads of cash to boost their army of alts?  I honestly can’t say that it will.  I tend to worry about my gameplay and not what other people are doing.  So if they want their sparkle ponies (okay, I do have one of those.  It’s name is Twilight DOOMSPACKLE.  Capitalized just like that.), or level 90s, or anything like that – let them.  I personally don’t care.

Garrisons

All I can really say is FINALLY.  Player Housing comes to WoW at last.  And right on the heels of hearing a rumor that a dev mentioned that ship customization in SWTOR will likely never happen due to the fact it is used in so many cutscenes (*sneez*BS!*/sneeze* Oooh pardon).  Not only will you be able to access other professions, send your followers on missions – even offline – that might result in loot for you, and customize an entire town to suit each character needs and wants, then add things like trophies and other vanity things earned by acheivements and whatnot to make it look cool.  Add a dash of being able to bring your friends in to see it and you’ve got a killer feature that has my attention instantly.  THIS is what makes the expansion worth it for me.  This is everything I’ve been wanting for years!

UI Improvements

Adding a toybox for all the fun items, and an heirloom interface for truly account wide heirlooms?  Potential for built in tabard storage?!  AND TALK OF FUTURE POTENTIAL IN A DIABLO III LIKE TRANSMOG SYSTEM WHERE YOU DON’T HAVE TO KEEP THE ITEMS TO TRANSMOG THEM (Granted, won’t be there for the expansion launch, but they’re still talking about it at least) ?!?!?!  It’s like christmas for the backpack space starved Vry and his minions of ever collecting crap alts.  This will free up so much bag space reserved for my toys and hopefully tabards.  Plus allow me to use those heirlooms on the three different servers I play on!  Oh happiness!  Oh joy of joys!

Some of the other things they’re adding is just slightly more conveinent stuff like letting crafting mats stack up to 100 to save space and the ability to craft from the bank.  It’s nice and all, but I wish they’d just rip off the account bank from Guild Wars 2 that has specific slots for each type of crafting item separate from your normal bank, let you craft from that, and have the button in your bags to automatically deposit all your crafting goods to that crafting bank from anywhere in the world.  That’s convenient! But one step at a time I suppose.  I guess just mimicking their questing system is enough for now. Hee hee.

Itemization Changes

Wow.  Talk about an overhaul.  This is really where Blizz stands out in comparison to companies like EA/Bioware Austin stand out.  The massive sweeping changes to things like the core mechanics and gear in their game.  For instance: Hit, expertise, dodge, parry?  All gone.  Intellect plate? Gone.  Now your armor changes primary stats to fit your spec.  A pally’s armor will instantly go from strength to intellect if they swap specs from Retribution to Holy.  And if that’s not convienent, I don’t know what is.  Instead it seems that the focus is going to be creating diverse bonuses to gear.  Not everything has a gem slot.  Gem slots don’t give bonuses, aren’t part of the budget, and gems are gonna be way more powerful.  Not everything can be enchanted.  Enchants will be diverse and powerful and give more selection to the items that can be enchanted.  Items will have tertiary stats like life stealing, cleave (adds AOE damage and heals), movement speed, or sturdiness (no durability loss) and won’t be included in the item budget.

Honestly what it sounds like is that items will have a randomized ‘third spot’ for things like tertiary stats or a gem slot or an enchantment slot.  Kind of like in Diablo III (honestly, WoW seems to be borrowing a lot from Diablo III in this expansion.  Not bad at all either.)  Which makes me wonder if this will apply to raids too outside of tier armor.  Like one week you get Shatterstorm, Bad Ass Sword of Some Orc with a gem slot, the next week Shatterstorm, Bad Ass Sword of Some Orc with the Cleave stat drops instead.  None of these are part of the item budget, so you could have a set item with a randomized spot on it so there’s more variety in the items that drop.

Finally, the item squish is happening.  But they’re assuring everyone that they are gonna to take care to make sure that solo-ing old raids and whatnot continues to be a viable past time what with its recent rise in popularity with transmog and battle pets since the first time they talked about the item squish (when soloing old raids was something that they didn’t mind but weren’t gonna go out of their way to support with future changes).  Honestly, I am indifferent to the item squish.  Big numbers, little numbers, as long as the bosses die I’ll be fine with it.

Raiding Changes

The big changes here is the whole LFR/Normal/Heroic (Formerly LFR/Flex/Normal) is all flex, with the super heroic “Mythic” mode being 20 person only.  I don’t do heroic raids.  I just don’t.  Never have.  Unless it’s two expansions old and I’m farming titles, chievies, mounts, or transmog stuff.  My bigger question is that all non-Mythic modes will be ‘Flex’ and scale from 10-25 people.  That includes LFR.  Does that mean as long as we have 10 people in the LFR group that the stuff will scale to it?  I can see that being good and bad honestly.  As a primarily LFR raider (Yes it’s raiding. I’m a raider. I enter a raid where raid is a group that exceeds the group size of 5.) I can see having a flexible size being great for late nights when gathering 25 isn’t nearly as easy as it would be at peak hours, but it also means that as long as there’s 10 people in the group, there’s less safety from being kicked.  No more is there this “Oh if we kick them, we’ll have to wait for more people.”  Oh no.  Now it will scale.  Kick all you want, and we’ll keep plowing through.  It’s a double edged blade for sure.

New Character Models

If you want to see the thing that flat out sold me on the next expansion, here:

bconArtOfWoW052

Oh yes. New gnomes.  I’m there.

Final Thoughts

Warlords of Draenor seems to be a pretty cool expansion.  It’s not a “THIS WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING!” expansion like it kind of felt with Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria were.  Which is good.  Because those expansions didn’t change everything, so maybe a little less hype and a bit more ‘Ooh this will be neat’ this time around will do the game some good.  This expansion FEELS like an expansion, and not a revolution.  And that’s okay.  I’ll be interested to see where it goes and what happens as we move forward to it.  It definitely has some features I am looking forward to trying, and is whispering of some very big changes to questing that I am excited to see.

I know I didn’t really go into Starcraft or Diablo III: Reaper of Souls much here, because honestly I don’t follow them nearly as much as I do with WoW.  There’s a Diablo III expansion coming, it’s adding a bad ass transmog system that WoW needs to steal like yesterday.  Starcraft II has a third installment coming.  I don’t think they announced anything about it.  There ya go.

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The Answer to Snakes, Bigger Snakes and Everything!

A little over a year and a half ago, I wrote about something that had my imagination all abuzz with the number of possibilities it presented.  I compared maps, I crafted theories – Heck, I was a regular Pseudo-Rades.

And since even before I wrote that post, I was trying to figure out what the story behind the Giant Snake Tail of Gundrak was.  Because you know, stuff like that is what I write about.  Actually now that I think about it, there are a lot of giant animals with no explanation.  The snake tail in Gundrak, the giant dragon skeleton south of the Dragonblight, and the giant bunny skeleton in Tirisfal Glades (I’m getting to that one, don’t worry).

Every Blizzard Q&A I would ask – regardless if the Q&A was about lore or why we shouldn’t buff paladins – and every Blizzcon I would plead with people to try and ask to get an answer about that damn tail.  It has driven me mad with curiosity.  If I were a cat I would be dead from it by now.

Well, this year I got my wish.  This year, Jesse Cox (Jessecox.com Twitter: @JesseCox, thanks to the always  lovely Robin Torres for the tip) went before the might and fury of Chris Metzen to ask the question about what that giant tail was, not only that but he also brought a screen shot.  Now my friends, thanks to this courageous soul, we shall have our answer to the question that has bothered me so:

“That is not the thing that is driving the trolls. Its a super secret WoW storyline. Thrall is going to leave Aggra and start dating Jaina.. in all seriousness I have no idea what it is but its really awesome! Sometimes really awesome stuff shows up ingame and we scramble to explain what it is. Welcome to developing video games. We put the WHAT in WHAT.”

…O.O

FFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-

[Sorry, folks! We’re having some technical difficulties.  Apparently Vrykerion tried to drive a butter knife through his monitor.  He’s currently being rushed to the hospital for 3rd degree burns and a mild case of utter insanity.  We should be back to our normal posting schedule soon, but while you wait try some Johnny Awesome’s Apple Sauce, official sponsor of the Land of Odd! You can’t wait to get some of Johnny’s sauce in you.]

Look Like Panda, Talk Like People…

Man, oh man. Did you see that Heart of the Swarm trailer? Wasn’t that…  oh.  You don’t want to hear me talk about how Kerrigan is awesome, do you? You want to hear about the fuzzy wuzzies don’t you?  Fiiiine.

So like most folks yesterday, I was frantically trying to keep up with the news flowing out of Blizzcon – to the detriment of my job, naturally (WoW > Job, yes?).  I had been telling people for weeks that ‘Yes, there will be pandas.’ Now, how those pandas manifested was unsure.  You couldn’t just give them to one side.  So they’d have to do something wacky with a neutral race or they would be a NPC faction/enemies.  Honestly, the idea of a bunch of pandaren kung fu masters snatching up members of the Alliance and Horde and dragging them off into the recesses of the dark wilderness would be pretty cool.

However, I had no doubt in my mind – not a smidge – that the next expansion would be the Mists of Pandaria.  My guess from back when the great old one known as the internet unveiled a vision of a copyright being registered was that World of Warcraft was possibly going to start moving away from “Here is your villain, this is the story” and focus more on “Here is this new place, lets see what there is to find here.”  I was however, not expecting the continuing advancement of the Alliance and Horde war consuming the globe.  It makes sense, but it had never occurred to me to push that.

Otherwise, here’s my two silver (my opinion is worth that much! Don’t laugh!) about the rest of the stuff announced, in a convenient bullet point list!

  • Pandaren: They’re big and fuzzy. Here’s hoping the females look good. Can’t be hard. Just copy the Jack Black movie. They did alright with male and female pandas in the second one.  The neutrality thing is neat, and I’m curious about the story leading into making the faction choice.
  • Monk Class: A new tank/melee healer/melee dps class?  Hmm…  No auto attack?  Uses Light and Dark energy to fuel its attacks?  That sounds familiar. HMMM…  Honestly, it’s not shocking with the Pandaren being added that this would come too. There’s some neat ideas behind the class, and I’m interested in how a melee healer would work.  Also, gnomes can be monks. So that’s pretty awesome in my book.
  • Pet Battle System:  It’s Pokémon.  This is not a bad thing.  Pokémon has survived the initial backlash from its surge in popularity and has becoming appealing to a range of people because it is fun to collect and the battle system is fun and requires strategy.  This should be a fun addition to the game.
  • Challenge Mode: You scale down your gear and time trial dungeons for transmog gear and valor points.  Not a bad idea. I foresee lots of complaints about ‘rehashing content’ with this. Could be a fun activity.
  • New Heroics and No Normal Dungeons: Yes, apparently there will be no normal dungeons in Mists.  Apparently that will be made up with endgame questing and dailies.  How exactly you have a ‘heroic version’ of a non-existent normal dungeon is beyond me though.  Also there was some news that Heroic Scarlet Monastery is a new lv 80 heroic and Scholo is lv 90.  I wonder if that’s a typo honestly. Seems odd to add a Wrath level heroic in.
  • PvE Scenarios: A fascinating concept really. Small group events without the need of dedicated roles for VP?  I really like the idea. But they can’t be like dungeons.  You can’t just have 5-6 of them and then say “done”.  Because from what they’re proposing, without a sense of freshness being injected now and then or enough total to avoid excessive repetition, these could more annoying than dungeon grinding.
  • Level 90 Cap: Five levels don’t bother me if there’s stuff to DO at the end.  If all the above pans out, this won’t be a problem for me.
  • More focus on Endgame PvE: They said this about Cata too.  It was supposed to be the trade-off for only having 5 levels.  In turn we got a couple of daily grinds, 5 new heroics post-launch over the course of at least a year, a couple of amusing but short story quest chains, and 2 new post-launch raids.  I’ll be happy if they can deliver, but I’m not holding my breath.

So, I’m sold right?  Put me down for that silly 12 month contract?  Uh… no.  Sorry.  As much as my finger twitched over the renew button on my Battle.Net account page, I am still going to let my subscription lapse in late November.  Why you ask? When so clearly this is a dream come true for the casual, PvE orientated, semi anti-social, achievement hunter like myself?  Because I remember.

I remember Blizzcon of years past.  I remember the ideas proposed for Cataclysm.  That there was only going to be five levels for more focus on endgame content, that there would alternate progression paths through the Path of the Titans, and all the wonderous potential and fun that Archaeology would bring to the game.  Call me jaded and cynical, but Blizzard has earned my interest with all of this but not my trust.  I will withhold giving them any money until I see what actually becomes of all this – the stuff that actually makes it in – when it goes live on the servers.

At best, coming back to WoW for a few months has become a definite possibility when I tire of other games.  Which is more than it was getting before the announcement.

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