25/10/2014

New Character Models

A friend pointed out to me that Blizzard was offering seven free days of playtime for lapsed players right now, and even though I hadn't received any kind of notification about it, the promotion was sitting in my Battle.net account as well. I wasn't willing to re-sub purely to check out the new character models, but for free? Sure, let me see how my "old friends" are faring in this brave new world of higher polygon counts.

First off, let me say that the new WoD loading screen instantly made me feel a pang of nostalgia, considering how similar it looks to the BC loading screen I grew up with (just with a different colour swirly in the middle.)

First I checked on my old main and her brethren, the female trolls. It seems to me that they look a little edgier and grumpier than before, but this feels fitting considering that they are, well... trolls. Overall they seem to have fared well in regards to the revamp.

Sadly my second favourite Horde race, the female tauren, have not been so lucky. Their new models are a pretty big departure from what they used to look like. In fact I would say that the dog-like noses they were given cause them to not even look like cows anymore. In a race based on minotaurs I consider that a pretty big failure. I physically started when I took my hunter's (on the left) helmet off and saw her new face. It's sad because this problem was very evident from the very first preview Blizzard gave of these models and people gave plenty of good feedback on how the worst issues could be fixed. Sadly Blizzard chose to ignore it.

I've seen some complaints about the updated models for the Forsaken, but personally I was pleasantly surprised by them. My own undead ladies at least looked pretty close to their original versions - just a little more badass than before maybe, but that's hardly a bad thing.

In all my years of playing WoW I never made an orc because I don't like their pug faces, but I did make a male troll once. His model, too, looks like a substantial upgrade that's very true to the original. I like how the tusks feel a lot more substantial now.

On Alliance side, I logged into the very first character I ever created, a human paladin, and miscellaneous other human ladies. They looked pretty good, though like the female trolls I feel that they look a little... edgier, older now. I suspect that this is a side effect of the more detailed textures, which took away that soft smoothness that many of the faces used to have. Their facial expressions also seem a bit odd, like someone spent a lot of time tugging at the mouths and eyebrows in an attempt to recreate the facial expressions of the original models, but the results look a bit unnatural. Still, overall I feel that this is a good update that I could get used to.

My old Alliance main and her brethren, the night elves, seem to have come out of this update pretty well too. My priest (on the left) felt like an extremely faithful update. My druid (on the right) looked a little off - and not just because I caught her mid-blink - but it seemed to me that her hair had lost its bounce and her mouth had shrunk. I reckon that's something that could be ameliorated with a visit to the barber shop though.

My Draenei ladies, probably my favourite Alliance race these days, were updated in such a subtle fashion that I hardly even noticed much of a change on most of them. That's not a complaint though.

The race that really seems to have got the short end of the stick on Alliance side are the female dwarves. This was somewhat surprising to me, as I thought that the previews for these looked pretty decent. They are not nearly as horribly off as the female tauren, but all the faces have extremely wide noses and heavily lidded eyes now, which definitely wasn't the case before, and it makes them look kind of old and tired. I went to the barber shop to check if there were any options that didn't have this problem, but they all had the same issue.

Speaking of the barber shop, I never noticed that they have all these wigs on male goblin heads - that made me smile.

I was going to say that I never played a gnome either, but then I remembered that I rolled one for a blogger project back in the day. I don't have much of a connection to her, but I don't recall her looking quite so deranged and murderous before. Those eyes...

I also have two token male characters on Alliance side. Wilson the human warlock seems to have survived the changes pretty well, though the eyebrows of this face make him look angrier than before.

Iyan the night elf warrior actually looks sleeker than before, less... malformed than male night elves used to look, which is a good thing. His new running animation looks really weird though.

I generally didn't check out the animations in great detail, though I noticed that all the running animations seemed to have gained a bit of a "cartoony bounce" that wasn't there before, or at least not to the same extent. I didn't seem too bad on most races though, with the male night elf being the noticeable exception.

I also noticed that characters change their facial expressions now when they run around and use abilities, which is neat but also a bit... weird. Like, when my night elf casts a healing spell here, she looks angry enough to want to bite someone's head off (watch those canines), which struck me as slightly over the top.

Overall I think Blizzard did a good job with these though, with more good results than bad. Still, it's a shame about the female tauren and dwarves. Knowing Blizzard, I think it's unlikely that they will go back at this point and make any more changes though, even if people post mega-threads on the forums begging them to do so.

16/08/2014

World of Warcraft Cinematic Reactions Over Time

Vanilla WoW



Cinematic message: This is Azeroth, a world full of varied locations and fantastic races who get into badass-looking fights with each other.

My Reaction: This looks amazing, can I be a shape-shifting elf lady too?

Burning Crusade



Cinematic message: Here are some new races you can play. Don't worry though, the old ones are still badass too. Watch a mage sheep a guy and a warlock incinerate murlocs. Hilarious! Also, something about entering the realm of a guy who says that we're not prepared for him.

My Reaction: I have no idea who that demon guy is, but still: looking great! Bring on those new races!

Wrath of the Lich King



Cinematic message: Watch this guy who looks like Sauron raise a skeletal dragon from the ice in a faraway frozen land. He also has a zombie army. The narration implies that he was once a good guy and that there's something like dramatic irony at work.

My Reaction: Well, I'm not sure what this has to do with me, but I guess someone's got to fight that zombie army.

Cataclysm



Cinematic message: Watch a giant, angry dragon wreck the world.

My Reaction: Oi, I was still using that! Quick, let's get him while he's still in Stormwind!

(I wish.)

Mists of Pandaria



Cinematic message: An orc and a human fight each other in a foreign jungle, which seems quite foolish considering that they are shipwrecked with nothing but the clothes on their body. A panda appears and kicks their butts in a humorous fashion.

My Reaction: So, are pandas the bad guys? And will this usher in a new age of peace between the Horde and Alliance as they unite to fight a common foe?

Warlords of Draenor



Cinematic message: Some orc in the past is about to do something very unwise by drinking green goo. But then things don't go as expected and the orcs beat up the big demon and the clearly evil guys.

My Reaction: Go orcs, I guess? Whose side are we on anyway?

The bottom line is, for an MMO trailer to inspire me, it has to make me feel like I want to be part of the pictured world. I can kind of understand why Blizzard moved away from the "look at random characters engage in cool fight scenes" style of the first two trailers, as it probably would have been hard to keep making them that way without things getting repetitive and boring after a while. But especially the trailers for the last two expansions have felt increasingly directionless to me. Why should I be invested in this as a player? This isn't advertising for a movie, where I'll be happy to watch someone else's story play out for two hours. I need to know what this expansion means for me.

Sure, some lore fans will go nuts over seeing Grom again, and seeing him refuse the demon blood and survive. But I reckon that for a lot of people, this is just going to be a bunch of orcs doing stuff that doesn't really relate to anything.

11/08/2014

10 Years :: 10 Questions

Via various sources I've found myself directed to this post on the ALT : ernative blog, which encourages both current and former players of World of Warcraft to answer ten questions about the game, both as a kind of community sharing experience in celebration of the game's upcoming tenth birthday, as well as to serve as a sort of survey of things that have mattered to WoW players over the years. Since it was explicitly stated that the thoughts of ex-players were welcome too, I thought I might as well put my answers up as a blog post here.

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

I remember the concept of MMOs coming to my attention when I discovered the website of the back then upcoming but still unreleased (and now shut down) Warhammer Online. The idea of a virtual world in a fantasy setting sounded amazing, however the game wasn't supposed to launch for another two years or so. World of Warcraft however offered a similar idea and was readily available to play. I also had at least one friend who was already playing it and recommended it to me as being a decent amount of fun. I believe that the South Park episode had also just come out around that time, so I got a sort of humorous preview of what the game was going to be like. All these factors combined got me intrigued enough to want to give the game a try, even as I worried a little about the supposed addictiveness of MMOs.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

A female human paladin. As someone who had never played a Blizzard game before, the variety of races seemed kind of confusing. What makes night elves different from regular elves? Orcs are not evil then? I was under the highly misguided impression that since the genre was called "MMORPG", everyone would be expected to have some sort of roleplaying background, and I was terrified of being caught unaware of what it meant to be a member of one of the (in my eyes) more eclectic races. Human seemed like the safest choice simply because it was the only species I could actually relate to.

I had also read the little manual that came with the game (I know, right?) and paladin sounded both like a class that I thought I'd feel comfortable with in terms of its character as well as extremely powerful. I had no concept yet of how combat and health bars were going to work and assumed that the only way to heal injuries would be to see a healer. The idea of rolling anything but a class that was able to heal itself seemed foolish.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

I described the train of thought that led to me rolling a human paladin, but I already rerolled the next day to start levelling with two friends. We were Alliance because the most experienced of them had recommended it to us as "the more newbie-friendly faction" or something like that. About a year later I switched to playing mainly on Horde side, also after having been coaxed into it by the same two friends.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

There are too many to count, but most of them are undoubtedly from my early days of levelling and exploring the in-game world. Being overcome with wonder every step of the way in Elwynn Forest. Falling off Teldrassil. Flying across the ocean for the first time to get to Darkshore. Getting myself PvP flagged by accident and getting ganked by a high level player. Exploring the seemingly endless forests of Ashenvale. Grouping up with people to tackle difficult content together and having a blast. Travelling back and forth across both continents and constantly discovering new things. Getting invited to tag along to a raid, even as I had no clue what I was doing. Rolling on an RP server and getting engaged in random roleplay out in the world.

Experiencing the release of Burning Crusade and levelling a group of Draenei with three friends. (Looking back at that, I have no idea how we managed to stay relatively in sync, seeing how we had no real life connection to each other.) Joining a guild and getting to raid properly. Experiencing many exciting boss kills.

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

This one is a bit hard for me to answer as an ex-player, since I don't have any particularly strong feelings about any aspect of the game as it exists right now. I know I used to love exploring and tackling challenges with other people, but as those things became harder to come by, I also found a lot of enjoyment in activities like levelling alts and engaging in PvP.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

The cities in which I spent most of my time always have a certain feeling of "coming home" to them. That would be Stormwind and Darnassus on Alliance side, Orgrimmar and Thunder Bluff on Horde side, as well as Shattrath in Outland, as Burning Crusade was undoubtedly the time when I genuinely enjoyed myself for the longest stretch of time.

As far as open world zones go, my fondest memories are probably of Outland, and Nagrand in particular. When I first unsubscribed, I parked my main in Nagrand before I logged out for the last time.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I obviously can't check this without being subscribed, but I was continuously subscribed for over five years. I dropped my sub a few months after the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic and haven't really got back into the game since then, even though my pet tank gifted me some play time at the end of last year and we spent a couple of months levelling a pair of alts together.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

Yes, and I don't think I'll ever really understand why so many people don't, not even the first time.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

I think there was definitely a time when I was more focused on the game than was healthy, and while I wouldn't go so far as to say that I wish it hadn't happened, it did have a negative impact on my real life at the time. I also kind of regret not being more open-minded about other MMOs earlier. While I got several years of genuine enjoyment out of WoW, I think that before I finally unsubscribed, I also spent a fair amount of time playing - and not actually being happy with the game - simply because it was all I knew. I think it would have done me good to become a more informed and selective customer earlier.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

Quite the effect. I made more than a few friends inside the game whom I visited in real life as well, and I met a special someone for whom I moved to a different country. While we're not together anymore, I don't regret where WoW and our relationship has got me.

WoW also helped me secure my first job in the UK, as it came up during the job interview and it turned out that the interviewer (who was also my manager-to-be) played as well. I pretty much knew that I had got that job the moment that came up.

10/04/2014

You Knew This Was Coming...

You could probably already guess from my lack of posting here as of late, but I thought that I should make it official: my current WoW sub ran out at the end of March and it looks like my pre-WoD stint with the game has come to an end. I enjoyed my time in Pandaria and it was nice to see Blizzard go back to a slightly more "worldly" zone and quest design on that continent, with optional mini quest hubs similar to the ones in Northrend, and more "hidden" surprises out in the world that were worth discovering. (That time my pet tank unexpectedly fished up a Lurker-lookalike rare mob out of a giant fishing pool for example was awesome.)

I didn't exactly run out of things to do, as I still had a bunch of goals that I could have worked towards - but I just wasn't drawn in enough to prioritise WoW over other things. By the end I was only logging in to do a certain amount of "chores" every day and eventually I asked myself: why am I doing this when I'd rather be doing something else? To what end? And that was that.

One statement I often see when people go back to WoW after a period of absence is how it feels like going home, or how they think that WoW is still the best MMO out there. For me, this simply wasn't the case. For me, the experience has been more alike to meeting someone who used to be your best friend in childhood, but while you're happy to see them, you've developed into completely different directions in adulthood and it's pretty much impossible to have a non-awkward conversation about anything that isn't "the good old days". Really, that's me and WoW in a nutshell.

For example, WoW just feels too fast for me these days, in pretty much every respect. It's like the player base's unofficial motto is "wherever you are and whatever you're doing, you would rather be somewhere else already". I'm not expecting people to listen to every NPC conversation they've heard ten times before, but there are... gradients. There was this one time I decided on a lark to queue for a random dungeon on my lowbie ret paladin. I got into the last part of Maraudon with a tank/healer duo in full heirlooms that were clearly working together and were absolutely racing to the end, AoEing trash pulls on the go and skipping all the bosses but the last one. It seemed like every time I paused to loot something, they were already a mile ahead again, to the point that I spent most of the dungeon just jogging after the rest of the group and not actually hitting anything. I'm sure many people would have considered that a great run. Lots of XP for little effort! Me? I absolutely hated it. In fact, I was so disgusted that I didn't even want to touch my paladin for a couple of days afterwards, as if she had pug cooties or something. Every game has both its clueless players and its jerks, but if even getting into a pug with competent and not unfriendly people results in something that feels like a horrible experience to me, then I'm clearly playing the wrong game.

I also think that, in general, my standards of what I expect from an MMO have become higher. There have always been things about WoW that annoyed me, but I used to accept them simply because I didn't know anything else. Nowadays I know that WoW is not the gold standard for everything. Depending on what matters to you in an MMO, there absolutely are other games out there that do certain things better. For example I know now that playing a healer doesn't have to mean living on a constant rollercoaster of massive nerfs and buffs and play style revamps. I've also had friendly commenters chime in with genuinely well-intended advice such as "you just need to watch some videos / read this guide" or "you can download this addon" when I expressed annoyance about simple aspects of the game, and all I could think is: why should I have to do that when I can play other games without needing that amount of outside resources to "make" it fun? (For what it's worth, I was happily addon-less during the last four months.)

All these are things that matter to me and that seem to pretty firmly put me outside of WoW's target demographic these days. I still plan on checking out Warlords of Draenor eventually, if nothing else to have a look at this alternate Outland and to check out my old characters' new looks after Blizzard revamps the character models. I'm just not sure if I'll bother right at launch.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to comment in the last couple of months, both old bloggers who still had this site on their blogroll and new readers that found me by clicking a random link somewhere. It's been nice to chat.

05/04/2014

Account-Wide

(Hm, apparently this has been sitting in my drafts folder for over a month but I never posted it... might as well.)

One of the big changes to the game in Mists of Pandaria is that a lot of things that used to be bound to a specific character are now bound to the account/player instead. Now, as a general rule I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of this. I always feel for Bhagpuss when he's trying to explain to people why it matters that characters are their own - well, characters, and not just different puppets for the player to mess around with, even if you're not a roleplayer. I've always felt the same way really and never thought of that attitude as very peculiar... but apparently there are a lot of MMO players out there to whom these things don't matter. Still, to me it feels kind of wrong that a pet that I buy on one character should suddenly be available to any of my characters - without any kind of explanation anyway. However, I think WoW gave up on in-game explanations for convenience features a long time ago, probably around the time they introduced the dungeon finder. Anyway, with that out of the way...

Achievements

Now this is the one thing I don't mind becoming account-bound, because achievements have always been aimed at the player anyway. They don't really exist from an in-game point of view and are thus irrelevant to individual characters. When The Old Republic added an achievement system last year, they made it account-wide right away, and it's been working very well in my opionion. Once you're on your tenth alt in that game though, you won't see many achievements pop up anymore as you level, simply because you've already done it all - though there are still codex entries to collect on a per character basis (which are similar to achievements, but separate).

From that point of view, I like WoW's current idea of having both account-wide achievements (for the more difficult ones) and character-bound ones (for the easier ones). It combines the benefits of not feeling annoyed when you get a tough achievement while on an alt ("Why couldn't I have got that on my main?!") while maintaining a steady stream of flashy dings throughout the levelling process, even as you explore Mulgore for the fifteenth time.

The only problem I have with it is that the implementation in the achievement panel is wonky. For an example of what I mean, take the World Explorer achievement. That's labelled as account-wide, fair enough. The associated sub-achievements however are not, yet they still light up as already done even on a new character. Only if you dig deeper and check the sub-requirements for those achievements, they will show up as incomplete, and if you complete them, you'll get an achievement pop-up as if you'd never done it before. This is confusing and makes it hard to keep track of character-based achievements that are related to an account-bound meta. I kind of feel that they should have been able to find a better way to do that.

Mounts

Probably my least favourite new account-wide thing. It offers some convenience, sure - when my Worgen druid hit twenty, I could just pull out a random mount and use that instead of going to buy her a new one. (Well, strictly speaking I could have stuck with Running Wild on a Worgen, but I don't like that ability very much.) Not to mention that all my alts capable of riding have access to my Traveler's Tundra Mammoth now, meaning that they can pull out a vendor whenever and wherever they feel like it.

On the flip side though, that special connection between a character and his or her unique mounts is gone. When I looked at my new account-wide mount panel after having logged through a couple of alts for the first time, I was most surprised to find a Headless Horseman's Mount in there. I don't even remember when I got it, I'm guessing that one of my alts must have been lucky when I already didn't care that much anymore... but now I don't even know who it "belonged" to. And sure, I could ride my Amani War Bear on any of my characters now - but it'd feel wrong as they aren't the ones I earned it on. I just don't quite see the point other than bragging rights. Finding and earning the right mount for a new character used to be a rite of passage... but when you already have access to everything you've ever owned in the game, that journey is one that you can't really re-take.

Also, it feels like parts of the game haven't really been streamlined to take this new feature into account. For example if you do the Vashj'ir intro now, you still get a seahorse mount as a quest reward that you can't use and the only thing you can do with it is throw it away. (Delete a mount! The blasphemy!) I would've thought that the game should be able to recognise if you already have a certain mount and shouldn't clutter up your bags with pointless duplicates.

Pets

Like with mounts, I feel that there used to be a connection between characters and their pets, though I personally didn't perceive this as strongly as the link with mounts, as I've never been much of a pet collector. Still, this link is obviously gone now. However, I'm willing to be more forgiving with this one as I can see it being almost a necessity to make the new pet battle feature work - else you'd constantly find yourself running into rare pets on the wrong character. The fact that you can box some pets up and re-sell them also makes it an awesome way of transferring money between servers. Again, the only thing that bugs me is that some details feel unnecessarily clunky - such as that some pets are BoP until you learn them, at which point you can cage them and they become BoE. It's quite annoying when you already have three or more of a particular pet and instead of being able to sell it right away, you have to cage one of your existing pets and then learn the new one. Just seems... unnecessary.

Titles


This one I have slightly mixed feelings about. I can see the point of people enjoying the ability to carry the bragging rights onto all their alts, though personally I (once again) wouldn't much fancy using a title on a character that didn't actually earn it. Sure, I was majorly miffed when I only got "The Undying" on my alt and not my main back in the day, but pretending that it didn't happen and wearing the title on my main doesn't "un-do" what happened. I also noticed that some titles, while account-wide, have retained a level restriction, which just strikes me as really random. If I'm going to run around wearing "Hand of A'dal" on a character that didn't earn it anyway, why does it still matter what level that character is? Either way, I don't feel like there is much of a loss to me from being able to wear a different title - they never felt quite as special to me as mounts for example.

One reason I do like the new account-wide titles is that it takes WoW quite a while to give you any titles as you level up, and this way you can pick something from your existing collection while levelling. I don't mind using something silly like "the Love Fool" or "Jenkins" on a lowbie for example, as I don't have a particular attachment to these titles and it does give my character a little more definition.

13/03/2014

Casual Endgame?

When I first logged back into WoW back in December, I was surprised by how many people on my Battle.net friends list were still playing. I guess that's one of the things that keeps bringing many people back to WoW time after time: always having friends to play with. I actually got several offers to join groups for endgame PvE or PvP, but politely declined as I had no interest in getting back into that aspect of WoW. I just wanted to have some fun exploring the new content on a casual basis with my pet tank. But hey, WoW is supposed to be the perfect game for that kind of thing, isn't it?

While we were levelling, this play style worked very well. We actually played quite a lot then, simply because we were having fun. Ever since we hit max level however, I feel that our engagement has been declining. Right now I basically log on to tend to my crops, serve some noodles, do a bit of archaeology and log off again.

I really loved the Tillers by the way. I loved to see the progression of the story and unlocking more parts of the farm. Once that was done, I worked on becoming best friends with all the individual Tillers. Once that was done, I maxed out all my cooking ways and did the various extra quests that popped up along the way (the whole noodle cart thing, cooking one of each max-level food etc.). But now that that's all said and done I can feel my interest waning. I continue planting crops every day to fulfill work orders, but it doesn't feel nearly as satisfying.

Dailies

I have quite a few factions left that need reputation, but I'm just not really a dailies person. That's not to say that I never do them, but even just a couple of days in a row tend to make me feel burnt out. I just don't do this whole "highly controlled drip-feed of content" thing very well. When I'm new to a faction and my interest is high, I'd happily binge play and do loads of stuff for them, but of course the game won't let me do that.

Timeless Isle

The Timeless Isle is a funny thing. I've noticed that once I'm actually there and doing stuff, I tend to have decent amounts of fun, but for some reason I really struggle to motivate myself into going there in the first place. I blame the stupid flight path that insists on going all over Jade Forest before actually turning towards the Isle...

Pet Battles

I haven't really said anything about pet battles aside from a brief mention when I first discovered the feature and that it looked pretty fun. I actually picked out my favourite pets after that and made an effort to level them, but around pet level twelve or thirteen my interest just fizzled out again as it started to feel pretty dull and grindy to continually swap pets in and out just to fight dozens of parrots. Switching zones for variety in opponents didn't really help either. I don't know... I don't think it's you, pet battles; it's me.

Dungeons

We did each Pandaria dungeon at least once, including the heroics (I think there might be one or two we haven't done on heroic left; not sure right now) but there doesn't seem to be much reason to do them beyond seeing the story once, as the gear drops become useless quickly and valor rains from the sky anyway.

Scenarios

There are actually quite a few scenarios left that we haven't done yet, but I haven't been too impressed by the whole feature anyway. I think my interest in queuing for them took a nosedive after the randomiser gave us one too many that seemed to be part of a bigger story somewhere that we didn't know anything about, leaving me with the feeling that I shouldn't queue up again until I've explored every nook and cranny of Pandaria and can be sure that I know the context. (This is an interesting contrast to the dungeons by the way, where I had no problem "jumping ahead" in the story.)

Gearing Up

Ah, that old staple of MMO entertainment: if you've got nothing else to do, improve your character's gear! I recalled that working reasonably well even on a casual basis in WoW as it was before I left it, as you'd get justice and valor points for running dungeons and could then use those to buy gear that was only slightly worse than current raid drops.

How times have changed!

Bizarrely, valor is pretty much raining from the skies these days, as you get some even just for doing daily quests, but finding things to actually spend it on seems to be the tricky part now. I don't find myself saving up to buy valor gear, I find myself frantically searching for vendors because I'm about to hit the cap again and don't know what to spend my money on! I thought it was highly hilarious when I flew to a place where valor and justice point vendors were highlighted on the in-game map, just to find that the NPC labelled as "Valor Quartermaster" won't accept any currency but justice points. Instead, bits and pieces of valor gear are hidden away on various reputation vendors across Pandaria, if you can find them and if you have the right reputation level, but if you want anything close to a full set of "good" gear, it seems that the only way to get one is to run Looking For Raid.

Now, since the last time my pet tank and I went in there wasn't too bad, we decided to give it another go. And it still wasn't too bad, but frankly, as a "casual" form of endgame I think it kind of sucks. The problem is that if you factor in queue times, time to actually kill all the trash and bosses and the occasional wipe, just clearing one raid still takes several hours... so basically as long as a "proper" raid, only without any of the fun bits like socialising or facing challenging content. After spending a weekend in various LFR runs, we were utterly exhausted and once again feeling burnt out.

I think the end of my nostalgic revisiting of the World of Warcraft may be drawing near...

05/03/2014

Proving Grounds

Apparently there was a bit of a discussion the other week about a blue comment saying that in the next expansion, a Proving Grounds silver medal will be required to do heroic dungeons via the dungeon finder. I don't have much of an opinion on this as I'm only really interested in a "decent human being" filter if anything, and that's something that Blizzard will never provide. As far as random hoops to jump through go, they could have picked something worse to force people to demonstrate their skill.

I do feel that this whole thing has given me an excuse to actually talk about Proving Grounds though, which are once again a feature that's new in Mists of Pandaria. I have to admit that my first impression of them was very positive. I think that it makes sense to give people a challenge against which they can test themselves to practice their skills, and since Blizzard seems to have given up on the idea of levelling being supposed to teach you anything, having a substitute at endgame is better than nothing.

I managed to get the bronze healing medal easily, and only failed once on the silver one as I forgot to heal myself at a crucial moment the first time around. The behaviour of the NPCs I had to heal was both true to real life and amusing. My favourite moment was when two of them got into a discussion about my dispelling, with one of them urging me to dispel faster, while another took my side and stated that I was clearly already doing the best I could.

After that, I thought I'd switch to feral and try the dps challenge next. I managed bronze without too much trouble (though it did take me a couple of attempts), but silver soon had me running up against a wall. The bugs that conjure amber globs just forced me to lose too much dps time dodging their conjurations and I inevitably ran out of time. I got up to the last wave several times, but failed that one every time. Sometimes I also randomly failed on earlier waves again, as I just couldn't get enough clearcasting procs and had to helplessly watch the timer tick down while I was unable to do anything but auto-attack.

I've gone back to re-try the challenge several times now, but having to start on wave one on every attempt gets tedious quite quickly. It's like having to deal with the trash on ye olde Battle for Mount Hyjal, only without the banter and camaraderie. The inconsistency of my own performance is also frustrating, what with the random failures on earlier waves when I have no energy. I can't help but think that the whole challenge would be so much easier as a ranged class, or even just as a melee class that isn't designed around doing a large chunk of its damage via a long-lasting DoT that requires some build-up (and is therefore completely useless in Proving Grounds).

With that in mind, I can't help but think that - while not terrible - this isn't going to be a very fair bar to measure people against in Warlords of Draenor, unless they drastically change the design of some of these challenges in the expansion. Or maybe my continued failure is just another way of WoW telling me that I'm not good enough to play it anymore.