My nominations for the Piggie Awards 2011

Don't know what the Piggies are? Go read this. Only a few more days left to get nominations in too, so if you were planning to add yours and haven't done so yet, it's time to get cracking! In fact, I haven't seen any other nominations posts yet this year, but maybe people are just sending them in by e-mail (I hope).

The Melting Pot is trying to spice things up a bit this year by accepting nominations for all MMOs, not just WoW, which sounds like a sweet idea in theory, but I'm a bit concerned how well it will work out in practice - after all WoW is still by far the biggest game out there, so it's likely to have an edge simply due to the amount of players that are familiar with it. I'm not sure how much enthusiasm there will be for including other MMOs in nominations. Not to mention that I'm not sure all MMOs are equally comparable... but we'll see how it works out. Myself, I'll mostly stick to WoW since that's what I know, and maybe make the odd point about SWTOR here or there where it strikes me as relevant.

Best raid instance

This one is easy for me and my vote goes hands down to Blackwing Descent. It didn't really have anything to truly amaze like other great raid instances of the past, but it was definitely my favourite of Cataclysm's offerings. It recreated some of that old school Blackrock atmosphere, the difficulty was nicely tuned in my opinion and all the bosses were interesting in their own way.

Least successful raid instance

My first instinct is to say Firelands, simply because that seemed to be the raid where most people had something to complain about this year, whether it was the bosses being too dance-y, too hard, or too easy after the big nerf.

However, I've said in the past that the truly unsuccessful raids, in my opinion anyway, are not necessarily the ones that people complain about, but those that they don't even bother with. In that category I think the winner should be Throne of the Four Winds. It being an instance with only two bosses that felt kind of out of the way of everywhere, even with portals to Uldum available in the cities, and crappy loot with random stats, I got the impression that few people ever went there once they had killed Al'akir... or even if they never killed him, they simply might've forgotten about it completely. (I know our raid group always scheduled raids for either Blackwing Descent or Bastion of Twilight in tier eleven, Throne was a complete afterthought that only came up whenever someone whined about wanting to go because they had never even seen a Conclave kill.)

Best small-group instance

I think Cataclysm has had some pretty nice five-mans in general, but this is where I'd like to give a vote to SWTOR's The Esseles, which I've seen people compare to the original Deadmines elsewhere - and it certainly gave me that same epic feeling that I got from the old Defias hideout back in the day.

Least successful small-group instance

Like with the least successful raid, this kind of depends on your definition of success. The Zuls got everyone riled up with their repetitive valor grind, but Halls of Origination sticks in my mind as "that instance where most people don't even want to bother killing half the bosses". A shame too.

Most longed for instance

I think the Dragon Soul five-mans were the most longed-for, simply because people wanted to have an excuse to get out of the Zulroics.

Silliest gold sink

LarĂ­sa gave this award to the Sparkle Pony last year, and in line with that I would give it to the Winged Guardian this year. The whole craze about store pets and mounts reminds me a lot of fashion trends in real life, which are something that I don't care for either.

Biggest game addition / improvement

I think the single biggest addition to WoW this year has without a doubt been the raid finder. However, since I'm still not convinced that this will actually be an improvement to the game in the long run, I'd nominate transmogrification instead - something nice that finally allows people to give their characters some individuality again, and there really is no downside.

In a more general sense, I think that SWTOR's more interactive quests and group dialogues have really made a difference to how people will perceive questing in the future.

Best quest

I can't think of a single quest that stood out above all others, but Silverpine Forest as a whole has been rewritten in a very compelling and interesting way.

Ugliest new piece of outfit

Probably hunter tier 11. There is trying to be creative and then there's trying to pass off a murloc suit as epic armour. Priest tier 11 with its shoulder bird baths was pretty awful as well though, especially since up until then priest sets had never been truly ugly.

Favourite non combat pet

I loved Mr. Grubbs and his silly bouncing when I picked him up in the Plaguelands while levelling new alts! Though an honourable mention has to go to the Lil' XT that was gifted to me by a guildie and that finally provided me with an easy way of getting rid of annoying train sets.

Most charming games company employee

I listened to a long interview with one of the people behind SWTOR the other day, but unfortunately I lost the link to it so I'm not even entirely sure what the guy's name was. I do think it was Daniel Erickson, the lead writer, and he sounded like an utterly charming fellow.

Best podcast

The Instance continues to amuse and entertain me at a level that is unparalleled by any other podcasts I've tried. I don't always agree with everything they are saying, but it's refreshing how the hosts always remain both positive and professional.

Most memorable blog post

Are 400 Pull Kills Good Design? Are They Fun?
by Beru.

Most noticed blogger breakthrough

Stubborn from Sheep the Diamond. He made his entrance sneakily by leaving thoughtful comments all over the place at first, and if you then clicked on his name you'd find an even more thoughtful blog, written in an interesting and unique style.

Most solid content provider

Nils from Nils' Blog. He just can't stop talking, but I'm very grateful for that because it gives me new things to read all the time!

Most hugged blogger

Probably the Gold Queen after that horrible ordeal she went through one and a half months ago.

Best writing

I would give this one to Stubborn as well, because he really has a way with prose. I don't think I've read a single post of his that didn't make me crack a smile at a pun or unusual turn of phrase. We need more teachers in the blogosphere...

Biggest controversy

I always suck at remembering these for some reason, though I always follow them with interest while they are current. Probably the Mists of Pandaria announcement.

Most appreciated announcement

That SWTOR wouldn't launch with a dungeon finder... *cough*

MMORPG Company of the Year

I want to say Bioware, because regardless of how SWTOR turns out in the long term, they've delivered a very smooth launch for a highly anticipated and so far very fun game.

Most “Er… what?” moment in MMOs this year

The announcement of Mists of Pandaria.

People’s Choice: Blog Post

Same as above.

People’s Choice: Games Company

Same as above.


Since some people asked for it...

Any further thoughts I have on SWTOR will now go here. Enjoy!


Fair Warning: World of Star Wars

Like many people in the WoW blogosphere, I'm currently trying out Star Wars: The Old Republic. For me this is a big step though, because unlike many other bloggers, I've never really tried out any MMO other than WoW. To be honest, none of them ever looked interesting enough to me to make me want to play them, and none of them looked like worlds I'd want to immerse myself in. Observing various MMO launches over the years and seeing pretty much every single game go from the hyped up Next Big Thing to just another small fish in a big pond hasn't really enthused me towards trying something new either.

SWTOR has been different for me however. I wasn't interested in it at all initially, but the closer it came to release, the more I learned about it that had me really intrigued. Now I even ended up in the early access for preorders, and I'm positively hooked. People are already nitpicking about all kinds of little things, and I can't honestly say that they are wrong, but a lot of it strikes me as akin to criticising a painting for the brand of colours the artist used and completely missing the actual picture. I imagine that very few people ever quit their MMO of choice because the chat window wasn't in their favourite place or the crafting system felt a bit bloated. And TOR's big picture is great in my personal opinion. In fact, I'm very much reminded of WoW the way it was when I first started playing: a beautifully stylised world, vibrant and teeming with activity; general chat full of people looking for groups, answering questions and sharing their thoughts on the experience. Group content that can actually kill you; elites out in the world that you have to keep a watchful eye on. People bonding in guild groups where nobody minds if one member gets lost on the way and takes a while to actually arrive. And to spice things up, some comparatively minor new features like more interactive quests and companion crafting.

Anyway, before anyone feels sickened by my gushing, let it be said that I won't be doing any more blogging about TOR on here. This was always meant to be a blog about WoW, and that's what it's going to stay. I think I'll be happy just enjoying TOR "blindly" for a while, without overthinking any of it, but if I do eventually feel the urge to talk about it more, I'll make a new blog for that.

To be honest, I initially expected to cancel my WoW sub by the end of this month. I still think that it's a great game in many ways, but over the years it has changed too much for my taste - the only issue was that I wanted to continue playing an MMO and until now there wasn't anything that looked even remotely like a viable alternative to me.

The only "problem" that remains are that social ties are hard to sever. I still owe someone a Sulfuron Hammer for which I need to grind Molten Core trash every now and then. My rated battleground team is still ace. For these things alone I'll stay subscribed to WoW for now. But I expect that I'll be playing a lot less, and as a result this blog might become quiet as well, as I'll have nothing much to talk about.

In the meantime, I hope that we can all continue to have fun in the game(s) of our choice.


Holy Priest PvP Patch Notes for 4.3

Yes, I know that I'm a bit late but I wanted to actually play around with the changes for a bit first to make sure that I knew what I was talking about.

In PvE, the general consensus seems to be that holy got a big, fat buff this patch. I think part of that is actually just the fact that unlike Firelands, Dragon Soul seems to be shaping up to be very "holy-friendly", but more than anything else PvE holy priests have been boosted by the buff to Divine Hymn.

Unfortunately this does very little in PvP, where interrupts are so prevalent that you're lucky if you can get a Flash Heal off. Channelling a spell for over seven seconds? Get real. There are exactly two occasions in PvP where I do use Divine Hymn: One, when I'm already dead, in Spirit of Redemption form and thus safe from interrupts, and there are lots of people around me who need heals. This doesn't tend to happen more than once a game, so it's not really worth investing extra talent points into it. Two, when High Commander Halford Wyrmbane in Isle of Conquest does his crushing leap and most of the raid inevitably fails to avoid it and gets hurt really badly. Yeah, not really worth spending points on either.

Still, holy has been buffed for PvP this patch, via the reduction of Holy Word: Serenity's cooldown. I hit that baby pretty much every time it's off cooldown, and I used to attempt to hit it when it was still on cooldown as well. Actually, that still happens even now, but less so than it used to. More instant healing? Yes, please!

On a side note, the patch notes also state that the developers reworked the functionality of Spirit of Redemption, presumably to address issues such as people not getting achievement credit for some things while in spirit form. Good plan, but in PvP this has apparently resulted in a bug that causes our deaths to never show up on the score board at all. It's silly, but I actually get a bit of a kick out of it. Oh really, you killed me five times? Well, you can't prove it! Zero deaths, see? I'm invincible! The thing that would really interest me is whether it's just a display bug or whether it actually affects the death counter on a functional level, as that would mean that holy priests could now potentially "cheat" their way towards getting achievements that require you to do certain things without dying (such as Ironman). I haven't really tried it.

Also, one stealthy change that wasn't mentioned in the patch notes is that they changed the Levitate animation so that when you run while levitating, your legs don't move anymore and you just float. I cast it on our warrior in Arathi Basin and he spent the next minute floating around the Stables flag going: "Boo, I'm a ghost!" Now that is clearly broken.


Deathwing is dead

I braved the raid finder a second time last night because I wanted to see how the story of the Dragon Soul ended. The following post contains spoilers for what happens in there if you're concerned about that kind of thing.

Once again I was thrown into a run that was already halfway done, so I was immediately faced with a brief cut scene of people jumping out of an airship (wait what) and next thing I knew we were on Deathwing's back. Can somebody tell me how you measure your progress during that fight? I sure couldn't figure it out at the time. People just killed tentacles and oozing blood over and over, and the raid leader said stuff like "just one more time" and then Thrall apparently kicked Deathwing into the Maelstrom.

Pro tip as an aside: If you want to be successful in the raid finder without having a clue, queue up as a healer. Seriously, I've now seen the whole instance and there wasn't a single fight where any healer was required to do anything but spam their AoE heals. I still don't know half the mechanics and it hasn't really been a hindrance. Occasionally a tank will die when they suffer from a damage spike and nobody bothers to provide them with extra healing, but since there is no identifiable tank healer, it's hard to place blame. Not to mention that that's what combat resses are for. At worst someone will decide to initiate a vote kick on whichever healer currently has the lowest hps (yes, I've seen that too), so you should be fine as long as you're not at the very bottom.

Anyway, unsurprisingly Deathwing wasn't dead yet, which led to the last encounter where he was sort of clinging to some rocks in the Maelstrom and you basically stab him in the toes. Above anything else, this fight led me to the conclusion that Deathwing is simply too large. I can appreciate Blizzard's attempts to directly correlate size and epicness, but there's a tipping point where you start to feel like an ant chewing on someone's ankle and that's just not cool. In this particular case I couldn't really see any part of Deathwing other than the claw directly in front of me, and that despite of having my camera set to maximum zoom. He pretty much makes Kologarn look like a midget. I heard the NPCs shout and I got warnings from DBM, but it was really hard to see what was going on. This is not good.

We wiped twice on this encounter, at which point about half the group left, but the raid filled up again within a minute and we simply tried again. I wasn't bothered by the wiping except that it always forced us to repeat a huge portion of the fight where there wasn't really much to do for me, which felt quite tedious, until we got back to the point where we'd all die very suddenly. (It was always when we were assisting the last dragon aspect, Kalecgos in our case, and the AoE damage would ramp up very fast and very suddenly.) Someone said that it was due to some tentacles not getting killed, but I don't think that anyone paid attention to them when we eventually did kill him either. The third time I just made sure to have Divine Hymn ready at the worst point of it and then we made it through. (Not saying that I single-handedly saved the group, but it did feel like it made a difference.)

After the final cinematic had finished playing, which I'll comment on at the end, I requeued once again to see bosses number five and six. I already said it in my last post, but I think it bears repeating that the type of storytelling Blizzard uses in this raid really suffers when the raid finder throws you at the bosses in an almost random order during your first visit. I mean, I had no idea why I had got from Wyrmrest Temple to the Maelstrom, but hey. I wonder what percentage of raid finder users could give a coherent summary of what they just played through at the end of a run. Not that many I bet.

Eventually I did find myself back at Wyrmrest Temple to face off against Ultraxion with a new raid, the infamous "button boss" I had heard about. I was nervous about messing up on this one, but in the end the button mechanic turned out to be really obvious anyway. (Just wish DBM hadn't constantly covered my button with timer bars which I then had to frantically click away every time I needed to access it.) Again we wiped twice, and people complained about button-push failure, though from what I could gather hardly anyone died to that. In the end it just seemed to once again come down to the healers saving all their big cooldowns for the very end, and once I made sure to do that, we won.

Deathwing then showed up and broke the Horde gunship (what is it with Horde airships getting shot down, damn Alliance bias), which is why we ended up on the Alliance one. A-ha! There we then had to fight off some Twilight attackers, which qualified as the third boss fight. This one actually had a bit of movement, but other than that it was once again just more AoE healing and Warmaster Blackhorn died on the first attempt.

And that's how I ended the Fall of Deathwing, by killing the boss just leading up to the Deathwing fight. Yeah.

Back in Wrath I wasn't very happy with the way my first Lich King kill turned out, but killing Deathwing through the raid finder was a completely different experience altogether. I was neither frustrated nor excited, I simply felt completely detached from the whole experience. In a way it doesn't really matter how epic Blizzard tries to make a boss fight if I end up doing it with a bunch of strangers who think it's a smashing idea to drop a train set just as the entire raid is gathering in front of the boss for the pull. It can't end up being anything but a joke.

But even that aside... seeing the bosses in a random order was a bit of a mood killer. There was also a lot of emphasis from the NPCs about how we, the players, were a bunch of goddamn heroes, and the only thing that was missing was Alexstrasza turning to look straight at the screen and pointing at me to emphasise that yes, I am the saviour of Azeroth! Go me! I suppose that's a step up from being reduced to the Lich King's plaything while Tirion Fordring saves the day, but it still felt a bit awkward. Just having someone say "You're a hero!" doesn't make me feel heroic if I didn't actually do anything particularly exciting. (And spamming Holy Word: Sanctuary really isn't that much of a feat.)

The overuse of the term "Cataclysm" also felt kind of fourth-wall breaking to me. I thought the Cataclysm as an in-game event was what happened when Deathwing broke out of Deepholm and broke everything. We can still feel its after-effects, but generally speaking it's over and done with. Having Thrall say stuff like "The Cataclysm is over now" just feels weird, as if he's proclaiming the end of the expansion. Also, "Deathwing begins to cast Cataclysm"? Really? Destroying the world is simply a matter of casting a spell? Again, that just seemed odd to me.

That the final cinematic showed the dragon aspects becoming mortal was a surprise to me. I wonder what they are going to do now? I can just picture Nozdormu settling down in Silvermoon and Ysera chilling in Moonglade.

Oh, and whatever happened to the young dragon that came out of the purified black egg from the Badlands? Does he only show up in the rogue legendary chain? That would be a tad disappointing. Also, in which book did Kalecgos officially become the new aspect of Magic anyway? It's a bit sad that the more attention I pay to WoW's lore, the less I feel I understand what's going on...

Anyway, in summary there's nothing outright badly done about the Fall of Deathwing, but I found nothing to get excited about either, and that's quite impressive for a last raid of the expansion. I just spent a lot of time standing around spamming my AoE heals while listening to NPCs talk and watching cut scenes. I suppose it's a fitting ending for what most people seem to consider the game's worst expansion so far.


So I tried out the raid finder after all...

... and it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. I mean, my initial predictions for this new feature were pretty dire, but the reality actually wasn't nearly as bad. There was a lot of rotation as players continually dropped out and were instantly replaced, but it all happened so fast that I barely noticed. A couple of people said rude things, but it wasn't anything particularly out of the ordinary for WoW (as sad a statement as that is to begin with). I didn't really look at the time, but I think I completed the whole Siege of Wyrmrest Temple in a little less than two hours and with only one wipe. On the whole I would say that the entire affair felt a lot like an average dungeon finder run - which isn't exactly glowing praise, I know, but I hope you get what I mean. It's not really particularly fun if you're looking to socialise, but if you just want to "get things done" and collect some loot, it definitely works as intended.

To start at the beginning, I had just completed a random heroic with a guildie and he mentioned wanting to "do a raid finder" next. I asked to come along since two guildies vs. 23 puggers is still better than a single person vs. 24 puggers, right? As we queued up, I had a brief moment of worry as I realised that I knew pretty much nothing about any of the fights, but I quickly reassured myself with the argument that this was probably perfectly in line with the audience the tool had been designed for.

We got into a run in progress and zoned in just as people were clearing the trash leading up to one of the squidiphant bosses. A few people said something about stacking and spreading out, but I didn't quite catch whether we were supposed to alternate this pattern between trash packs or during different parts of one pack - not that it seemed to matter. I noticed a mechanic that temporarily removed all my mana and then returned it later, but couldn't figure the details of it out on the fly.

In a way, these early trash packs were an amusing throwback to more old-school raiding for me, as one or two people died pretty much on every pull. Just being in a bigger group again was nice too - I do kind of miss the twenty-five-man atmosphere sometimes.

Then we got to the boss and he was pulled with no explanation. As a healer I just healed whoever took damage. Again, people shouted something about stacking up every now and then. I deduced that the tanks did some taunting at some point, purely because one of them died and then whinged at the other tank for not taunting at the right time. The main mechanic of the fight seemed to be a bunch of coloured blobs that spawned in different corners of the room and then crawled towards the boss. I gather that only one of them has to die, and someone was always kind enough to spam a raid warning macro to yell "Purple!" or whatever and as long as at least a few people were confident in their colour choice, the rest followed them anyway. Things seemed to go quite well until we lost the main tank a second time after a few minutes and then we wiped. A couple of people immediately started shouting abuse at whoever they thought was to blame. My guildie said that he wanted to try again from the start and left. I followed him and was surprised to not get any kind of debuff.

In the end my guildie ended up having to log however, and I was intrigued enough to requeue on my own. Since my healer queue was instant, I tried to requeue a few times to see if a fresh run would pop up, but there just seemed to be several different ones in progress. Eventually I just accepted a 2/4 and found myself clearing trash to Mr Squidiphant once again. This time things went more smoothly however and he died right away. Much to my surprise I ended up winning a pair of tier leggings.

Since I hadn't seen any other part of the raid except for this boss's room, I was a bit lost and blindly followed the throng of people through a portal and up to the top of Wyrmrest Temple. A lot of well-known NPCs were there and seemed to be having a talk about something important, but I didn't dare to pause and actually listen to them because I had enough trouble following what was going on with the raid. Suddenly we jumped through a portal and were in the Eye of Eternity. Bwuh? Really made me wish I had listened to the NPCs after all.

We started Hagara the Stormbinder with no explanation as usual. To be fair, someone had asked whether everyone knew the tactics, but nobody spoke up either way (myself included). I suppose it served me right that I died to an ice wave pretty early during the fight, along with about ten other people. One or two players suggested to wipe it since they weren't going to beat the enrage timer with half the raid dead, but in the end they kept going. I leaned back in my chair and continued to watch the rest of the fight for five minutes or so, in order to at least learn something, and yes, they did beat it with half the raid dead. I was actually kind of relieved that this one didn't drop any loot for me, because I would have felt bad about rolling on gear that I hadn't really earned.

After the group had disbanded, I immediately requeued again because the whole experience hadn't taken very long, and I now wanted to see the other two bosses that I was still missing. Presumably other people were doing the same, as I got into a fresh run right away. This helped to put the story of the raid into context somewhat, but I still found it very hard to pay attention to what was going on with the NPCs while trying to keep up with my group ploughing through the trash. Morchok really was just tank and spank with a detour behind a pillar every so often. I got a ring from him.

There seemed to be a bit of disagreement about which of the two squid bosses to take on first, but in the end the majority pulled the group towards the one I hadn't done yet (yay me), the General Vezax lookalike. I thought that this one would have some sort of mechanic to him (something about bouncing a ball around?), but someone said that this didn't matter in the raid finder and we just stood there and spanked him, except for the couple of times when everyone had to stack up on him to avoid dying in the void, or something. Basically, similar to the last boss of Grim Batol, only easier. I also dispelled some debuffs occasionally, but I don't even know whether that was actually necessary. My loot luck continued and I won a new trinket as well. Afterwards I left though, as I had seen everything there was to see in this half of the raid.

Three new pieces of loot for relatively little time investment, not too bad a deal. Even though I had no clue about how any of the bosses worked, I only suffered a single wipe. In a way that sounds way too easy, but after having experienced it myself, I have to say that this strikes me as as a decent enough difficulty for a pugging tool like this. In a way the reduced reliance on individual performance is actually very "old school" - I can still remember when you would sometimes down a normal raid boss with half the raid dead, like my group did with Hagara, but in normal raiding this isn't something that's generally possible anymore as far as I know.

So, is the raid finder a success? I honestly don't know. I can see how this must be awesome for people who like to use the dungeon finder but don't usually raid. No commitment but you get to fight more epic feeling battles with lots of people (the number of players does make a difference in that regard), see the bosses and gather tier gear. But if you're not that keen on the dungeon finder... it's really more or less the same, just scaled up in size. The whole experience has little in common with raiding in the classic sense: no camaraderie, friendly banter or the sheer joy of overcoming a challenge together. In my opinion you can't even experience the story properly because in typical "gogogo" fashion you constantly have to scramble to keep up with the rest of your group. Is that really "getting more people into raiding"? Not by my own definition, but your mileage may vary.


Impressions of Darkmoon Island

It took me a few days to realise that the new and revamped Darkmoon Faire still seems to follow the same old pattern of only being available for one week per month. It's easy enough to make the portals unavailable I suppose, but since the new Island is a dedicated zone instead of a temporary addition to existing scenery, I can't help but wonder how limited it will really be. What happens if you log out on the Island before the Darkmoon Faire is supposed to end? Do you get teleported out? Can you stay but find the whole site abandoned? Or will you be able to do dailies all month if you're insane enough to never leave the area? There's probably a very simple and straightforward answer to this, but I haven't seen anyone mention it yet.

My first impression of the new Island was actually very positive simply due to the sights evoking pleasant memories. The portal dumps you in a dark forest with scary eyes blinking at you from the bushes, with the faire in the distance, and the whole scenery reminded me a lot of Melee Island in the original Secret of Monkey Island, a game that I enjoyed very much.

A quick look around the place didn't really reveal anything amazing or surprising. The main impression I got was that the Faire as a whole has simply been streamlined and brought up to par with the rest of the game, so instead of trying to work out an obscure hand-in system for otherwise useless items, you simply do some dailies now. I reckon that Soft Bushy Tails and the like will soon be turned into greys - which is kind of a shame, as I still have tons of them, evil bat eyes, scorpid blood and whatever else there was, left in my bank.

The first thing I did was do the non-daily quests for professions. They are very simple along the lines of "pick five flowers" but award five profession skill-ups at once. Irrelevant to a level-capped character but probably nice for levelling alts. While they weren't dailies, I would be very surprised if they didn't end up being repeatable at least once a month.

The new daily quests are all little mini games which are decent enough fun. My favourite so far is Whack-a-Gnoll, which is incidentally also the only one where I can currently complete the whole daily in one go. I truly am a born healer. The only thing that bugged me a little bit was that I had positioning issues with some games. More specifically I would get an error message when trying to use the shooting gallery, telling me that I had to stand at the booth (even though I already was), and then I had to step back, forward and sideways a few times until the game would actually let me play. Not a big deal in principle but annoying when you have to pay for each attempt and it only lasts a limited amount of time, so time spent fiddling around in an attempt to find the right spot is wasted money too.

I was glad to see that they kept the big cannon, even though I'm terrible at it. I swear I got a bullseye once but the game disagreed with me and only awarded me three points.

They didn't completely get rid of the hand-in idea though, and I was pleased to see that there are several things that you can collect in PvP. I was just a bit disappointed that the drop rate for Grisly Trophies seems to be low and generally weird... I've seen comments from people saying that they managed to gather hundreds in a single dungeon run, but after a whole night of doing battlegrounds I had barely collected a dozen. At first I thought it was related to me being a healer and generally not scoring any killing blows, but I didn't notice myself getting any more trophies once I made an attempt to do more damage. In fact, sometimes I would still get them from enemies that I hadn't even touched, so I still don't really understand how it works.

Journals, banners and insignia dropping from enemy players in PvP is a strange adjustment as well, as I stopped trying to loot player corpses years ago (usually they are only a distraction and drop nothing but a few silver). Now it's suddenly worth doing again, but you have to be lucky to be the first one to click on a body and actually get a drop. I only managed to pick up one item all night but a friend was nice enough to gift me the other two needed for the Darkmoon Defender achievement.

Speaking of PvP, the new Deathmatch Pit is pretty fun. It's basically identical to the Gurubashi Arena except that you need to go through a click and a cast bar to actually enter it (presumably to avoid players falling in by accident) and that it's located smack in the middle of a new quest hub and thus always busy. In the Gurubashi Arena you can get lucky as a low level at a quiet time of day and grab the chest there unopposed, but I reckon that there's no chance of this happening at the Faire anytime soon. Even at 3am the pit was absolutely packed - I went in with a group of friends and we wiped everyone else out; I imagine that it must be very difficult to win this fight on your own right now. Of course only one person can actually get the loot, but nobody seemed to begrudge the mage in our group the achievement.

My absolute favourite part of the new Faire are actually the small things though, such as noticing a gnome mage NPC near the shoreline when I crawled out of the water after failing to hit the cannon target for the umpteenth time. When I clicked on him he offered to teleport me straight back to the cannon for a small fee of thirty silver. Thanks, Blizzard, for anticipating my repeated failure and giving me a shortcut to repeating it even faster!

And while I haven't really been playing Alliance very seriously in a while, there are some things that you never forget... and I actually burst out laughing when I spotted this little fellow in one of the animal holding pens: