Friday, November 28, 2008

Update on Profession Approach

I've put my professions on the backburner for now. A lot of internet resources haven't caught up with updating all the new recipes, set items and efficient-leveling techniques for the new expansion yet. Plus my leveling plan for my characters is more focused. I'm going to level my druid Moneyball to 80 first and start planning my Naxx starter set. Since a lot of that is group focused, I'll be able to spend my free time working on alts and my profession empire. So it looks like:

Druid --> then (most likely) Mage/Rogue/DK concurrently (with an emphasis on the mage perhaps to get everyone good bags and since the mage is my cook/fisherman).

That said, I have leveled my druid's leatherworking slightly past 400, to keep my LW-bag uncongested if anything. LW is an easier profession to get the early points on, so it hasn't been time-consuming. But, Blizzard is on record as saying that they don't plan on making the early crafted gear from items as powerful as they were in TBC. This is a disincentive for me to farm, since I don't really like it and do it mostly for rewards.

So when it comes to capping LW, I'm going to compare the crafted gear to the pre and Naxx rewards, and if there is better gear I can get more easily than crafting then I may do that; and just get LW high enough for the drums I want and the bracer augmentations (I can already do fur lining at 400). If the crafting gear is on par then maybe I'll just stick with that, since soloing doesn't force you to rely on others (unless they're tagging your mobs). Once I cap or finish my major crafting assignments beyond things like future drums or fur linings, then I anticipate dropping skinning for enchanting. The ring enchants are great for healers and I'll always be able to DE in instances. The only other option is Blacksmithing for the extra sockets, but that seems kind of unusual to me to do.

I've also been storing necessary trade mats on the character who uses the profession. I might however take an alt, give it a "guild bank" and then use that character as a storehouse for all my wares. This way I can mail everything to one source, and then that source can parcel it out. Then I only need to buy bag space on one character instead of all of them, too. That said, there are some rather expensive vanity mounts in Wrath (the choppa! the elephant! flying mounts!) so I may play my cards close to the vest for the time being. Time to start brain-storming cutsey guild bank names. How about, the Nouns of the Modifiers But In Latin?

Leveling Speed a lot faster than first impressions

as I'm sure most people have discovered by now, leveling in Wrath of the Lich King "feels" like it speeds up dramatically after level 70-72. Right now I can't call it anything but an impression since I haven't looked at any XP numbers or rates to confirm (I will when leveling my second character), but the feeling is definitely there. Originally it seemed like it took 8 hours or so for every level (so 80 hours to level 80!), but after hitting 72 my pace has quickened. There are some possible explanations for this, some may explain why it's faster, and some may explain why it just feels faster:

1) I've built up more rest experience lately due to the Thanksgiving holiday, my fiancee's family visiting, and a few days where I lost my Internet access.

2) I only did roughly one instance run from 70-72, but since then I've run Nexus 3 times (cry), and the first two Nerubian instances (AK and AN) once each. Instances give sizeable more experience than soloing (about 2-3x as much). However I haven't run an instance in a level or so and it still feels fast.

3) Quest completion bonus points increase past the starter zones, perhaps to make people leveling in BT/HF pre-70 take longer to catch up.

4) Gear changes. While I haven't replaced all my gear, I have replaced a few pieces (my TBC gear on the druid was mostly badge/ZA/late-KZ with some T5), which may help. More importantly, all my "balance" gear going into Wrath was former healing items, so most of my upgrades are really sidegrades, like trading regen for crit. I keep some healing-slanted items in my bags for 5-mans but my character is more like a boomkin now than when I started.

5) While most of my new talent points have gone into boosting the resto tree rather than the balance tree (I'm doing balance to boomkin and the rest in resto basically), I have received new spell ranks, which might be increasing my damage output.

One Great Quest Chain

Everyone leveling Alliance in Wrath should definitely ensure they complete a particular quest chain. I've linked the whole quest listing start-to-finish here in case you need it, and this is the very first quest if you're brand new to the zone and don't want to read the later quest-names.

I'll do my very best to pitch the quest without spoiling the content. It entails...

1) An extremely long (but cohesive) chain in both Dragonblight and Azeroth, there are a total of 20 quests to do.
2) It's also an example of how dramatically Blizzard has improved the quest system, it is an extremely accessible chain that is fun, varied, and doesn't involve tremendous travel.
3) You get to interact with some notable NPCs through the chain, including Bolvar Fordragon, King Varian Wrynn, Jaina Proudmoore, Alexstraza of the Red Dragonflight, and even Thrall and Sylvanas as well.
4) You get a lot of experience with the new vehicle system, you get to pilot gryphons, drive a steam tank, and assault the scourge on the back of a dragon.
5) It includes the first ever "in-game" cutscene. While it is not an FMV it is much more sophisticated than the typical "stand there and read two characters spamming /yell at each other" in the past.

While the famous (and now removed) "Great Masquerade" Onyxia quest will long live in people's hearts, this chain (which I'll refer to as The Wrath Gate chain until/unless the internet settles on a superior one) is an amazing (both in gameplay, lore, and technique) creation in WotLK.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Sorry I haven't updated in a little while. I lost my internet for a few days and have of course been WoWing it up too. Here are some updates

1) Druid on the cusp of 75.
2) I've done 4 of the dungeons, they're all decent although I'm not sure if any are start-to-finish amazing.
3) Howling Fjord was > Borean Tundra overall, does this mean I need yet another blog name change??

Stay tuned zero readers!

PS. Quantum of Solace ... 7/10

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Early Impressions

I've played through the DK "campaign," got to 71 on my druid on Howling Fjord, and about halfway to 71 on my mage on the Borean Tundra. Some quick impressions, because I'm tired:

The Good:

1) Artwork. Man, these two starter zones blow the art in all of TBC right out of the water. Northrend looks and feels positively epic.

2) Quest clumping. So far, I like how they've centralized their quest hubs. I feel like in each area there are like 10 quests to do, but not too much long-distance travel yet. There are a ton of quest hubs though (see the bad).

3) The Deathkight sendoff. Anyone who reads this blog (haha) who hasn't started WotLK yet, DO the Deathknight area first. It definitely sets up the overall plot for this expansion, reintroduces you to Arthas, and the overall quest design and progression is marvelous. The whole innovation of having the locations change in activity and appearance as you complete quests seems so simple on the surface, and it is superbly executed and implemented. Furthermore, this change may very well sow the seeds of the "next big thing" in MMOs ... finally implementing genuine change in locations as players progress through it.

The Bad:

1) The grind. It definitely is taking a lot longer to level in Northrend than in the previous expansion. 70-71 took me a lot longer than 60-61, and I bet my main characters are better-geared than their pre-TBC counterparts. While this is fine for my first character, by my third or fourth leveling is going to be a tremendous disincentive.

2) The zones are massive, almost too big. While the zones are well-designed so far, there is so much real estate, so many spread-out quest hubs, and quite a number of long traveling "cutscenes," I almost wish these zones were subdivided a little bit.

3) The DK questline was so great, I have no idea where I'm supposed to go now since there are no further orders, and it would've been great to have a "Cakeordeath, go here!" quest to direct my efforts.

The Ugly:

1) Server queues. I'm on a fairly high-pop server, and it has taken me as long as 30-40 minutes to get in during peak times. I wish they'd add Aerie Peak to the free transfer list so some of the detritus would leave my realm!

2) Our server's first level 80 just capped this evening, only about 2 days after the expansion was released. Even if you're account-sharing, that's sick.

3) The whole falconer questline in HF is stupidly designed. On first read it sounds like it's going to be great, who wouldn't want to be a falconer? But between foraging for reagents to do the early quests, to the horribly time-consuming second part of the chain, to the poor quest description for the third part (it took me ten minutes and finally going to wowhead to figure out that you had to stand next to an object to start the third part of the chain, even though I was *literally* standing on the eagle eggs needed), it's just sloppy. Plus the final quest in the chain is written in a way that makes people try to navigate some dangerous cliffs, where you can fall and have an irritating ghost-walk back; I know this because I saw another guy beginning to make the same mistakes I did before I figured it out (I saved him the frustration by sending a whisper). Here's the first part of the questline, to see what I'm referring to.

more to come!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Almost ... there...

I finally got the expansion installed (more on that fiasco later), and it's almost time to dive in. Sitting in my server queue atm, about 350 people to go. See you in there!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obligatory WotLK Gamegasm

ZOMG [expletive deleted] WRATH OF THE LICH KING OUT TODAY [expletive deleted][expletive deleted].

Get to the store, buy Mountain Dew, cancel work/school/social life and pad your chair. New WoW expac today!

I'll be getting my copy tomorrow evening. I still haven't really decided the paths to take in the game, but what I'm looking forward to the most is:

1) Doing all available dungeons in a 10-man format. I prefer 25s, but having the easier-to-assemble option is great.

2) Hopefully experiencing a better raiding-curve in Wrath. I feel like the difficulty curve in TBC started out too steep, and I'm hoping for something more gradual in Wrath. Comments by Blizz seem to confirm this (at least by thought, we'll see if it's true by action).

3) Defeating Arthas. Hopefully in a 25-man raid, but I'll settle for 10. I felt a little disappointed by missing a lot of the later content in both old-WoW and TBC, and I want this one to be different. He must fall! Maybe then I too can retire from this often-amazing but awfully time-consuming game.

Tomorrow afternoon I'm going to tweak add-ons and get psyched, then I'll begin a binge-fest playing it tomorrow night. I'll try to blog every day with my impressions when I can!

TIE Fighter, Left 4 Dead thoughts

Recently I just finished TIE Fighter, a great space simulator from Lucasarts that puts you in the role of an Imperial Pilot. The game originally debuted in the mid-1990s, back when a lot of people played various flight simulators, and it was the sequel to the classic game X-Wing. TIE was not just a sequel, but a major technical facelift, both in terms of technology and adding a lot more gameplay options and a much deeper experience. In 1997 PC Gamer even rated it the number one PC game of all time, although admittedly for PC gaming this was BHL (before Half-Life!). I picked it up again not just for nostalgia (the original came on floppy disks!), but because I never did play through all the expansions and I wanted to see the whole thing through.

The main thing I want to highlight about the game is its surprisingly intriguing overall story throughout the original title and its two expansions. You see, during the flight missions you have your main objectives as explained to you by an Imperial officer's briefing. However, there are alternative "secondary objectives" given to you by a shadowy cloaked agent of the Emperor. As you complete these secondary goals you gradually learn that the commander of your ship is becoming increasingly involved with the Rebellion. But even better than this, during a mission where you plan to finally trap the remnant of this mutiny, you get double-crossed by another segment of the Imperial fleet, who attempts a coup against the Emperor. Since the overall plot of the game takes place between Episode V and VI of the movies, it's a great subplot to the overall Star Wars universe. Finally, not only do you get to work alongside expanded-universe uber-fan-favorite Admiral Thrawn, but you get to fly missions with Vader himself. A must play for all Star Wars fans, probably the best SW-based video game to date.

That's an old game. Now to talk about a new game - Left 4 Dead. Today I just downloaded and sampled the demo. Simply amazing. Every since I first played Doom multiplayer, I've yearned to play a great co-operative multiplayer FPS. This game basically puts you in a 28 Days Later/Dawn of the Dead-Zack-Snyder-remake zombie fest alongside 3 other people (either bots or other players). It feels very arcade-inspired, you only use a couple weapons at a time, hordes of enemies, maximum of 4 players, etc. This simplicity however is great, as it shifts the emphasis from solving "monster puzzles" (fire weapon #45 at monsterC's knees!) to just outright mayhem and saving your buddy when they get surrounded by angry, hungry, zombies.

Even though I could only taste two levels, it was a ton of fun, and the experience is tripled when you play with friends instead of the bots. Furthermore, it was developed by Valve and one of their recently-purchased developers, so it uses the fantastic HL2 engine, replete with realistic lighting effects, physics, and atmosphere. I've played the two levels multiple times now, and I'm still hearing snippets of banter between the characters for the first time. Once I get some money together, I can't wait to buy the full version.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pre-Expac To-Do List

Here are the things I either did or tried to do in anticipation of Wrath, done over the last month or so of the game:

1) Sell outdated items -- I had well over 200 badges saved and nothing hugely pressing to spend them on. So I converted them all into epic gems and sold them on the AH. Even though the price had dropped a lot from when they were more useful, I still got a few thousand gold from it all. Additionally I've managed to sell off all my miscellaneous stored items that will be replaced very soon. Things like old TBC leather, Aldor/Scryer stuff, even unnecessary potions. The only thing I've held onto is a bunch of ore, both original WoW and TBC stuff. I figure those things might rise in price once people are capped and I'll sell them then (or whenever I need the space).

2) Centralize my money supply. Most players probably already do this, send all their cash to one character who they then use to sell and buy AH items. Since I had a mage as my main character this was never a big issue for me, just teleport back and forth. But with a new expansion and 3-4 characters to level, I need to centralize things a bit. So I've sent most of my gold to my bank character, and my other characters each have about 500-1000g pocket money on them for training skills, repairs, and random expenses. Since I might (haven't made up my mind) level all my chars at once rather than one at a time, this will make it easier to send all my "saleable" goods to one location too.

3) Clean up mods! This is something I hope to do tonight. I need to go through every mod and decide if I really need it for WotLK. My main UI has always been X-Perl+WoW Default Action bars. But I've been toying with either moving to Pitbull or using Bartender, or a combination. I think I might try to start using Bartender but stay with X-Perl, I don't see a huge difference between it and Pitbull and I'm more familiar with the former. Last, I need to dump all my saved Auctioneer data a week into Wrath and start recompiling new information since all prices are likely to be affected.

4) Clean up bags! I've already done a good job slimming down my character's personal inventory (my mage has 51 free slots!), but I need to clean up the bank. The worst offender is my druid, who has his resto set and 3 partial sets of balance, feral dps and feral tanking gear in his bank. I need to decide whether to junk all the feral gear (since I'm gonna level balance/resto) or only junk as things are replaced. My mage needs to go through all her archived gear, decide which to hold on to as mementos, and vendor the rest. The rogue's in a decent place, although there are still a lot of low-level cut gems clogging up the bank.

5) Decide on which zone to start off leveling in. Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra are both available. Well, look at the name of this blog. I guess I know where I'm going.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Laissez Faire WoW

One of my earliest goals for Wrath is to position myself to make most of my money passively. I don't care about racing to 80 or being the first one to kill Sapphiron, as long as I'm in a good position when it's time.

So with my mind on my money (and my money on my mind), this is how I'm going to set it up; through having access to a wide variety of professions. While some professions are great for making money, others offer wonderful BoP options, and since I'm greedy I need access to both. This means I need to come up with a fourth character to make the logistics work. How will I do this?

The plan hinges around the "free" level 55 Death Knights we're all getting in Wrath. Currently I have 3 characters who I can easily get to 80. My mage (herbalism/tailoring), druid (skinning/LW), and rogue (JC/mining). But with the DK, I see that as 2 free profession slots, so I'm going to use my DK as a profession bot and level it up to the minimum level needed for the profitable crafting recipes. So my plan is to...

1) Purchase epic mounts for my mage and rogue, as they have the main "gathering" professions. The mage already has one, I'll get one for the rogue if I decide to farm ore rather than just buy it.
2) I've been researching the mats needed to powerlevel Alchemy and Inscription to 350 (the min. Wrath profession skills start at 350). I already have all the mats for Alchemy and about half of the Inscription ones. My DK will take Alchemy and Inscription since their BoP offerings don't seem as amazing as some other options. Plus otherwise I'd have to re-level certain professions and I'm just not interested in doing that.
3) When Wrath hits, I'm going to level all 4 chars simultaneously, including the DK, taking as much advantage of rest experience as I can. I'm going to emphasize the druid.
4) Then get all the professions leveled up to whatever "profitability" level is needed.
5) Once this is done I'll have a tremendous "money train" I can establish:

--> buy/farm ore --> prospect it into gems --> then cut/transmute metas --> AH
--> buy/farm herbs --> mill it for ink/pomace (or make pots and AH) --> then make glyphs/enchanter scrolls --> AH
--> buy/farm leather --> turn into drums --> AH

Last, I might turn my druid into a LW/Enchanter (esp. if I end up healing as a main), in which case I can be mostly self-sufficient for Gems, Glyphs, and Enchants, saving more money. The best part of all this is, once the market decides what's most profitable, I could even buy the raw mats, convert them, and flip them without having to do any farming at all. The next closest thing to free money, and freeing up most of my schedule for what I really care about ... raiding.

Money Management

Raiding requires three things: (Game) Money, Time and Commitment. In WoW, monitoring these three factors just as important as your mana bar. To raid successfully you need to be willing to schedule 3-5 hour blocks multiple times a week, and you need the commitment and desire to stick it out through wipes, bad luck, and other members disappointing you.

Money however can be overlooked as being a significant raiding factor. Casual players spend the majority of their time on low risk/high reward activities (like soloing or short instances), where it's a lot easier to earn money and where you don't usually have to spend much. A hardcore player doesn't worry about it either since they invest so much time in WoW; while they may have high costs from raiding they also have the most revenue streams available to them (especially once content is on "farm"). However, money management is difficult for the "semi-serious" raider; since we spend most of our available time in groups (high costs), while not having much extra solo-time to replenish our reserves (low profits).

So how should a semi-serious player make money? In WoW, you can earn gold either actively (ex: daily quests) or passively (ex: buying and reselling something on the AH), or some sort of mixture (farming mats then selling the crafted item). In Burning Crusade I was quite adept at making money, but most of it involved working in Outlands, like completing quests at the level cap, grinding rather than buying faction rep, or daily quest circuits. Very "active" sources of money-making. But I also raided a lot more casually back then, so I had extra time which I won't have in Wrath. Since I want to spend most of my time seeing new stuff, I need to step up my passive money generation.

It's my theory that the best way to "passively" make money in WoW is to have access to multiple professions, which requires access to multiple high-level characters. My next post will explain how I'm going to manage this.

The First Post

Welcome to the Borean Tundra. Here I'll mostly write about World of Warcraft, but also whatever else is entertaining me lately, like games, movies, music, comics, sports, internet junk, or whatever else.

In terms of WoW, I have two main characters. My gnome mage Guppy (or Guppii on my new server), and my night elf resto druid Moneyball. I think for the new expansion I'm going to rename my druid Guppyball for continuity and to get the "y" back in my name. The mage was my principal character for over two years, but in Wrath I'm seriously considering playing my resto druid as the "main". Taking a healer slot makes it easier to fill groups, both for me and the other members.

I have a couple other characters I'm going to muck with too. I recently capped my third 70, my rogue Yuppie. She's fun to play, but I doubt I'll be raiding with her except as an alt or something. I mainly leveled her to add Jewelcrafting to my profession arsenal to make money. Additionally I'll play the new Death Knight to some degree, but just as a profession-bot. So, I'll probably just get the DK to the minimum level to reach the max-level profession recipes for Alchemy and Inscription, to help this whole money-making empire I have planned. However, I can't settle on a name. My three options are Cakeordeath, Cashbringer, or Sarahpalin. Tough choices! My earliest character was a 60 orc warrior, but I've played Alliance for so long I don't envision myself going back, even though I do like Horde more.

Lately I haven't played much WoW because I completed the rest of my pre-Wrath goals a little early. The primary objective was just to get the rogue capped, and that was done 3-6 days ago, plus JC is at the WotLK-minimum 350 level too. My other goal was to get the pre-expac WoW achievements that I wanted on my mage done. That was a lot more time-consuming and will take up a separate blog post someday.

Otherwise I've just been biding my time, the new expansion is only a week or so away. I have a couple RL things to knock out before I can buy it, but I hope to have that done in time for release. My other problem is I don't have a working DVD-Rom on my tower, so I either have to buy a new one or wait until Blizz offers the download option. With nothing to do in WoW besides auctioning some last TBC items I've been replaying one of my oldest most favorite games, TIE Fighter! It's a great space-simulator. A while ago I replayed most of X-Wing (the predecessor) but TIE is a lot more developed and advanced so I skipped ahead to play through it. I'm almost done with that, and then I'll move on to replaying X-Wing Alliance unless Wrath totally consumes my free time.

Last note, I named the blog after one of the new zones in Wrath because it sounded the coolest. I hope the zone is decent (it's one of the early ones), otherwise I'll have to make a name change!