Archive for wrath of the lich king

Shoryuken!

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2009 by Mark Pannell

Let’s just be honest here. Anytime I pulled off that move in Street Fighter II, it was a complete frickin’ accident. I had no skill at that game whatsoever. While my buddies were effortlessly rattling off combos like they were going out of style, I mashed buttons. If I pulled off some kind of miracle once in a while, inadvertently nailing a combo, it only prolonged my inevitable defeat by about 1.5 seconds.

sf21

To a certain extent, Northrend makes me feel like a button-masher all over again. There are elements of confusion, frustration, and a complete lack of control. When I first hit the Borean Tundra, I was questing to beat the band. I just couldn’t wait to ding again. I was probably about 30% of the way to level 71 when it occurred to me that the last time I got repairs was in Stormwind before taking the boat to Northrend. My durability was down to 76%.  I even had to ask where to get repairs in Trade Chat. Ya know what? I’m not above rehashing old material to get a laugh, even if it is only from Vonya and Hannelore. It made me feel like a cow-punching noobtard. There! I said it.

By the time Wrath came out, I finally got a handle on all of the BC factions, their rewards, and how to increase reputation with them. Now, I’m back to being clueless. As Predatore cruises across Northrend, I’m constantly tabbing out to see what my reputation gain just went toward. I’ve spent more time reading WoW Insider than ever before. After reading the Lichborne column Reputation Rewards for Death Knights in Wrath of the Lich King, I decided to start grinding Kalu’ak rep so I’d have a Whalebone Carapace waiting for me at level 76. The item required Honored with The Kalu’ak, so I figured I’d just grind a little bit before moving into Dragonblight. Before researching what quests would make nice with the little tuskarr, I decided to log in to find out where I stood with them. Much to my surprise, I was already Honored. Oh snap!

I also find myself more dependant on Thottbot lately. I’ve never hidden the fact that I use QuestHelper. As I’ve acknowledged a number of times, I am, in fact, a noob. But even after reading the quest text and galloping off to QuestHelper’s little dummy marker, sometimes I still don’t know what’s expected of me. Again, I tab out and do a little reading. Like a complete moron, I frequently forget to relocate to a safe place before doing so. I’m usually welcomed by an ass-whuppin’ already in progress or a corpse run when I return to gameplay. Doh!

OK. So figure out how to complete the quest. Check. Figure out what the associated reputation does for me. Check. About half the time, there’s some type of reward other than gold and XP that comes with the turn-in. But what are these new stats and why have the ones that I’ve come to love  become so… random? Equipping the right combination of items is like hoping for a button-mashed Shoryuken. Well, it was at first. I quickly accepted the fact that Blizzard hates Mages. Why? Stamina + Spirit? You bet. Intellect + Spirit? Of course. But Stamina + Intellect? No way in Hell. Why, Blizz? Why?!? Predatore had slightly better luck with Strength and Stamina-rich plate items dropping like snow in Northrend. That’s probably the biggest reason I’ve chosen to level Predatore over Devv.

Every time I log in, I learn a little bit more about the subtle nuances of Northrend. It’s a good feeling to answer questions for fellow players going through the same growing pains that I experienced. But I’ve got a long way to go before I reach the comfort level I enjoyed in Outlands. When I finally ding 80 and enter my first endgame raid, I won’t be surprised if The Archlich Kel’Thuzad busts out a Sonic Boom!

Familiar Faces, Familiar Places

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2008 by Mark Pannell

Let me start by saying F Northrend. That’s right! Screw that place. While the graphics are certainly better and the quests are superior, I’ve had enough of the latency on the technical side and the mob ninjas on the human side. I’m not in any huge rush to get to 80, so Northrend doesn’t hold any magical key for me at the moment. Our GM is only at level 74, so I’m not feeling any real pressure. Yeah, by the way, I made my way into a new guild. I guess that’s as good a place to start as any.

I rarely respond to guild recruitment messages unless I’m on an alt who happens to be without a guild at the time. But there was something a little different about a message that Stormblaze posted. His description of his guild was exactly what I was looking for: mature, fun, and casual. More importantly, no words were misspelled and all of his capitalization and punctuation were correct. I knew this was the guild for me. After a couple weeks of membership, I’d have to agree that the guild is exactly as advertised. In my short time playing WoW, my multiple toons have been in many guilds. Sadly, in most guilds that I’ve been in, gchat is usually little more than fart and dick jokes, noob-calling, and QQ accusations. Who the hell invented “QQ” anyhow? That got played out with a quickness. Anyhow, Devv and Arpeggio have found a happy home in the Stormwind Guardians. If I miss the fart and dick jokes or want to be called a noob or told to QQ more, I log into Predatore. His guild will remain nameless… and in the rear view mirror soon.

Where was I? Ah, yes… familiarity. In lieu of questing in Northrend, I’ve been spending some quality time in Outlands. And for the record, I don’t care if you call it “Outland” or “Outlands.” Even Blizzard employees have referred to it as both, so take a sedative and leave my “s” alone. Anyhow, Predatore is dinging like a grandfather clock at midnight, cruising to level 66 since his creation one month ago today. That’s right, folks. Wrath has been out for exactly one month today. When Devv was leveling through Outlands, she required help from at least one other toon to take down the various elites along the way. Predatore, on the other hand, has soloed every single elite that he’s encountered. Even elites that are a level higher have posed few problems once I worked out the proper attack rotation. Along the way, my Human DK has leveled Herbalism to 375/375 and Inscription to 360/375.

When Predatore is accumulating rested XP in one of the many fine inns of Outlands, Devv is grinding rep with Sporeggar. I had initially decided to wait until level 80 to go back and grind out the Naga slaughter. But then I remembered that the pattern for Mycah’s Botanical Bag only required Revered with the funny-looking little swamp-dwellers. Since Predatore’s bags are constantly filled to capacity with herbs, the reward more than justifies the investment in time.  The old girl is at about 5500/12000 through Honored and the Naga bodies keep dropping. While she’s grinding it out, she’s also killing the cooldown for Primal Mooncloth. The four pieces required to make the massive Herbalism bag will take just shy of two weeks. By then, Predatore should have dinged 70. As he is also boycotting Northrend until at least the new year, he’ll be sent back to the mainland to gather lower level herbs for profit. With students from elementary school through college off for most of the tail end of December, many will be power-leveling Inscription. It seems like the ideal time to take advantage of the market and make a little gold for a flying mount for ol’ blue eyes.

So, we’ve covered the familiar places. But the more exciting part for me is the familiar faces, one in particular. I’ve gotten to a point where I pay very little attention to my chat box. It sits nestled in the lower left hand corner of my screen and I rarely look at it. So, I apparently missed the “Kotasky has come online” message when I was cleaning out some bank slots. The first indication that she was online was a whispered, “Boo!” If you’re playing along at home, Kotasky and Devv were two-thirds of the founding members of my former guild, Cool Kids. A fellow female Draenei Mage, K and Devv did about a third of their leveling to 60 together. Last month, K went into semi-retirement. When her paid time expired, she didn’t renew. She said she would be back when she could get a new computer, but nobody knew for sure when that would be. I was pleasantly surprised that she was back sooner than I had expected. I was also happy to discover that she had created a Death Knight, cleverly named Kotaski. The old duo could finally do some questing together again.

The time that I’ve spent questing with K this past week has reminded me that the social aspect of WoW was a huge part of my attraction to the game in the first place. I’ll never forget following Kotasky through Tanaris on our Elekks. She always trotted in a straight line to her destination, oblivious to the mobs gathering around her. By the time we got back to Gadgetzan to turn in our quests, she had trained half of the population of Tanaris across the desert. Somewhere, I have some screenshots of the mayhem. I had always carefully weaved my way through the minefields of mobs before meeting Kotasky. Ever since then, I’ve plowed right through just like my fearless friend. I’ve gotta say, in general, it’s a much more efficient way to travel. There will be those times when a mob stuns you off your mount and a corpse run becomes inevitable. But by and large, she had the right idea.

So, Wrath of the Lich King has definitely renewed my interest in the game. And I’ve barely spent any time in Northrend. How weird is that? I’m sure that I’ll fall in love with the continent when things calm down a bit. But for now, I’m happy in Outlands. Part of it is the newness of slaughtering mobs en masse in a way that I never could do as a clothie. I think Devv is living vicariously through Predatore. But the other part is the human aspect. Between a guild that I truly enjoy and the ability to spend time with an old friend, nothing seems like a grind anymore. This game has made me realize that I’m a very goal-oriented person. I love leveling professions to the max. I get excited as I close in on Exalted with different factions. And I can’t go to bed if I’m five bubbles or less from the next level. I’m always after that dangling carrot. Blizzard might do a lot of things wrong, but they get how to make this game addictive. For all of the server down time, screwed up mail system, and frustrating nerfs, we keep coming back for more, money in hand. I’m sure other realms are slightly different, but experiences are probably pretty similar across the board. For me, the familiar faces and places of Silvermoon-US more than justify my monthly investment. And if you’re reading this, K…. welcome back!

The Philosophy of Sidegrades and Cow-Punching Noobtards

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , , on November 26, 2008 by Mark Pannell

A few days ago, Vonya over at The Egotistical Priest wrote an interesting post about the idea of upgrades in Northrend. As a relatively seasoned raider, her PvE purples outshined anything that I’ve ever equipped. But the point she made even applies to less seasoned players like me. Some of these alleged “upgrades” that we were promised in the brave new world seem more like sidegrades. If you’ve read more than a post or two on this here blog, you know that I did just about zero endgame raiding at 70. So my purples were a mix of welfare epics and world event epics. Either way, the stats were as impressive as anything I could have acquired given my complete lack of raiding experience. I assumed that as I headed into the frozen continent to the north, I’d be picking up greens with stats so mind-blowing that I’d vendor my Merciless Gladiator gear and never look back. Not so fast.

What I’m finding, just as Vonya found, is that most of the new goodies are “sidegrades” at best. Note to… well, you guys: all credit for the term “sidegrade” goes to Vonya. Just so we’re clear. Back to the diatribe. As a Fire Mage, I loves me some Intellect, Stamina, Spell Power, Crit, etc. When one of these new-fangled antarctic armor pieces drops, it may give 20 more Stamina than the piece I have equipped, but it’s at the expense of 15 Spell Power. The really tough choices are the ones where I’d gain about 40 of one stat, but dump a ton of another in its place. Bah!

Hopefully you’ve all read Vonya’s post by now. If not, this paragraph will be a spoiler. In the end, she makes the decision to go ahead and equip the sidegrades. After all, we’ll eventually be replacing every piece of our 70 gear anyhow. Plus, if Blizzard thinks that I suddenly need a ton of Haste rating, who am I to argue with them? But it brings another issue of mine into the spotlight. Maybe it’s not all about the stats for me. I think the second half of the equation is the negative stigma associated with wearing greens again. As a late bloomer, I was proud to have finally worked my way into mostly purples with some blues. I never had to go through this at level 60 because I was already in Outlands by then. So when I dinged 70, I started accumulating some purples and equipping them with a quickness. For once, I wasn’t embarrassed to be strolling around Shattrath.

Let me go ahead and tell you a seemingly unrelated story that will make more sense when I tie it all together in the end. Why? Because I love when writers do that and I don’t have the tact to do it without holding up a huge banner that says, “Check this out This is some quality writin’s right here!” Ya know what? If I eliminated all of the unnecessary banter from my posts, I could probably host this blog on Twitter. Back to your regularly scheduled ramblings.

Earlier this year, a co-worker friend of mine took up WoW. He rolled a Human Warrior and quickly made his way to level 5. From 5 to 10, he slowed down a bit. I don’t mean  that he slowed down due to the increased XP required to level. I mean it seemed like it took far too long for him to ding 10. Then, getting from 10 to 20 was an absolutely ridiculous amount of time, even for a new player. A few of his friends and I started asking him investigative questions in an attempt help him figure out what he was doing wrong. But we couldn’t get a feel for what was holding him up. Finally, we all partied up to help him level a bit. We stopped off at an armor merchant in Ironforge to get repairs before heading out. A friend asked him if he needed repairs. He replied, “Repairs? What do you mean?” Mystery solved.

Turns out, our pal had no idea that he needed to repair his items from time to time. He just ran around killing mobs until either the durability of his weapon hit zero or a new one dropped for him. If the former happened, he started punching critters for XP since he could no longer take on mobs of the same level without a weapon. If you beat enough cows to death, they’re eventually gonna give you a world drop sword. I’m not even kidding here.

What’s the point of my story? Putting on greens again makes me feel like a cow-punching noobtard. I just have a hard time stripping off purples to equip greens. As a player who started post-BC, I never had the experience of replacing Old World epics for Outlands greens. For seasoned veterans, my argument probably seems ridiculous. And when the next expansion drops, it will probably seem ridiculous to me too. But if you happen to be playing on Silvermoon Alliance side and see a Draenei Mage standing out in the middle of the Borean Tundra with the telltale <AFK> lingering above her head, leave me alone. I’m thinking.

How to Level to 80 Quickly in World of Warcraft

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2008 by Mark Pannell

Don’t do what I’m doing. Seriously. OK, I’ll admit it. The title was a cheap trick to see how much search engine traffic I could grab from people too lazy to download QuestHelper or Carbonite, which is technically lazy to begin with. By now, I’m sure most of those poor misled individuals have stopped reading, so back to my small group of dedicated readers.

Devv is only halfway through level 71. Predatore is still stuck at 58. And Arpeggio is up to level 10 now. Wait. Who? Yeah. I know. Of all the things I could have done to make best use of the forty bucks I dropped on Wrath, I’m leveling a new alt; a Dwarf Hunter, to be exact. Arpeggio has been stuck at level 5 ever since Kaddisfly prompted me to create a Hunter to level. I knocked out the quick quests to get from level 1 to 5, then let him sit in Coldridge Valley for several weeks.

The Hunter class is at its most boring from levels 5 to 10. Up to level 5, you almost level just from walking into a new zone. After level 10, you have a pet to keep you company and to do most of the grunt work for you. But the grind from 5 to 10 is unbearably slow and boring. For starters, you’re knee-deep in melee combat. Beyond level 10, a Hunter should never be getting involved in melee combat unless they’re getting themselves out of a bad situation. Oh sure, you can open with a Viper Sting, throw in an Arcane Shot and try to kite Auto-Shot until the mob drops. But the sad reality is that at some point, you’ll be face-to-face with any mob that’s within a level or two of your own. Even Raptor Strike seems to be more about Blizzard showcasing a cool little animation than the damage it actually deals. It’s not until you acquire Concussive Shot that you can finish an entire one-on-one fight ranged. But the key words here are “one-on-one” If you get adds, you’re still playing Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots with the cuddly critters and humanoids of *Insert Starting Zone Name Here*.

But I digress. Actually, this entire blog is a digression. Never mind the man behind the curtain. The point to be made here is that I’m really not getting my money’s worth out of the expansion. If I spent a lot of time with Devv out in Northrend, my investment would be justified. Death Knights can’t be created without purchasing the add-on. Leveling Predatore would make sense. What am I doing? Leveling a character who I could be playing even if I didn’t own Burning Crusade. That makes sense. So what started this whole mess? I decided that I was… wait! It seems like I should start a new paragraph.

Cool. I decided that I wanted to level Ellyza so I could get her Enchanting up to the point where I could disenchant the drops that Devv was picking up right before Northrend. Enchantress (bank alt #2) is sitting on full bank tab and two 16-slot bags full of goodies that require Enchanting level 275 to DE. When I logged into the old girl, she had 11 talent points free and a clean slate. I decided to ditch my Disc leveling idea and throw all of the points into Shadow. I took her out to Redridge Mountains to finish up the quests that she still had open before sending her off to Auberdine. It took me all of about five minutes for me to realize that leveling a Priest sucks. Sure, they can melt faces later on in life. And if you manage your health and mana accordingly, you can survive long fights. But at level 20, Priests just seem like underpowered Mages with the ability to Rez and Heal. I really hope I didn’t offend any Priests out there. It’s not that the class sucks. It’s that I suck at playing the class. I think I’m gonna need some advice from Pugnacious Priest on this one.

So, back to Arpeggio. I quickly got frustrated with Ellyza, had no interest in enduring low framerates in Northrend, and wanted nothing to do with jockeying for position for my turn to kill mobs in Eastern Plaguelands. So I logged out to the character select screen and noticed my old pal Arpeggio chillin’ at cinco. It took me just shy of two hours to get to level 10. After the pet taming questline, I decided to pick my first pet. I made the conscious decision to pick a pet that appealed to me personally. At the highest levels, pet selection can make a massive difference. In PvP, your pet can make or break you. But as a “just for fun” leveling alt, I decided to bypass the Petopia research and just go with something fun. With that in mind, I tamed a wolf just north of Kharanos. Sticking with the musical theme, I named him Allegro. OK, OK. Here’s the story. Shot rotation is half the fun of being a Hunter. The distinction between the different flavors of shots is much like an arpeggiated chord. Allegro, on the other hand, likes to go rushing in to whup some ace.

When I went to bed last night, Arpeggio and Allegro were nestled snugly in their beds in Ironforge. The former learned a little Mining and Engineering before calling it a night. His pet made it clear that he is notgonna eat bread before getting some shuteye himself. So, yet another distraction enters the fold. If I can stay focused enough to actually level Arpeggio beyond 20, I’m sure I’ll become even more addicted to reading Pike‘s thoughts than I already am. Even if you’re not a Hunter, her blog is one of the better ones out there. Do yourself a favor and check it out. As for me, I’ll get the Armory listings for Arpeggio and Predatore added when I get home later tonight. If anybody on my roster makes it to 80, it’s gonna be a frickin’ miracle!

Wrath of the Ice Cream Truck

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , on November 15, 2008 by Mark Pannell

When I was a kid, I lived out in the country. My house was surrounded by corn fields. The nearest city was about fifteen miles south of us. Cable didn’t run down our road. No pizza joints would deliver to us either. So, on the rare occurrence that the ice cream truck made it out our way, it was a big… deal! Whatever crops were planted in the field surrounding our house were usually pretty low to the ground in early- to mid-summer, making traffic on country roads visible for a mile. When one of the neighbors spotted the ice cream truck, it was on. Everyone made a mad dash for their mothers and their purses. Visions of crunchy cones, root beer floats, and orange creamsicles haunted us as the mobile sanctuary of dairy delights crept closer and closer to our homes.

Once the truck arrived, we ordered our goodies, then retreated to one of our porches to devour our treats. The first bite, lick, or sip always set the tone for the disappointment that was about to follow. Much like Christmas day, it’s not that the experience wasn’t as good as we expected. Rather, it was exactly what we had expected. I think kids tend to have fantasies that would do Charlie and the Chocolate Factory proud. We all knew exactly what we were getting, but when it failed to be the absolutely mind-blowing experience that no ice cream treat could ever live up to, then it was just an ice cream cone. Or a root beer float. Or a popsicle. But that didn’t stop us from getting ourselves worked up in a tizzy for the next time the ice cream truck made its rural invasion.

To a certain extent, my experience with Wrath has been a lot like the ice cream truck. It didn’t fail to meet my expectations, per se. Rather, the expansion is exactly what I expected it would be. I think there are shortcomings to living in the age of information. The biggest one is that we’re fed so much information, that nothing is left to the imagination anymore. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures, watched dozens of videos, and read dozens of blogs about the latest WoW expansion. By the time I got it installed and loaded up for the first time, it all seemed a little old to me. I think I absorbed too much information prior to the release date. And to be honest, it kind of took something away from the experience. Truth be told, I’ve played WoW for a grand total of one hour since Thursday morning.

While some of the problem is certainly information overload and maybe a bit of being burnt out with the game in general, there’s another factor worth mentioning. I’ve been meaning to do some upgrades on the old WoW console formerly known as my computer. As much as I hate installations and patching, I decided to pull the trigger and pop the hood on the ol’ girl before installing Wrath. I picked up a new graphics card, 2GB more RAM, a 21.5″ widescreen HD LCD monitor, and a new OS drive. When I fired up WoW for the first time, I cranked all of the settings, knowing full well that I had enough horsepower to do so. Imagine my disappointment when the visuals were choppy at best. A quick ctrl+R confirmed that I was topping out at around 25 FPS. I nudged the settings down a bit, but could still muster little more than 35-40 FPS. Turning in place nearly always dropped my framerate back down into the low 20’s. This is the part where I call on you, the readers, for advice. I’ll be scouring Tom’s Hardware and other sites for feedback, but I want to get this resolved quickly. It’s really bothering me and affecting my Wrath experience. LOL. Anyhow, here are my current system specs:

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+
  • Abit KN9 Ultra Socket AM2 mobo
  • Ultra X2 550W modular PSU
  • 4GB Corsair XMS DDR2-800 (5-5-5-18)
  • Western Digital Raptor 150GB 10,000RPM SATA 3G HDD (OS drive)
  • XFX GeForce 9800 GT 512 MB
  • ViewSonic 21.5″ Widescreen HD LCD @ 1920 x 1080
  • Windows XP Professional SP3

The only possible issues I can see from that setup are the processor and the power supply. I was running a PNY GeForce 7900 GS on a 19″ LCD at 1280 x 1024 before and consistently pulling down 40-50 FPS. I know that the increased resolution has increased the demand on the system, but I would have assumed that the 9800 GT could have more than handled that. Maybe the processor is the bottleneck. It just seems highly unlikely given the poor performance even with the settings all the way down. The other possibility is that the PSU isn’t supplying enough power to the graphics card. Well, it might be the 12V rail, not the total wattage of the PSU that’s the problem. I haven’t looked up the specs on my power supply yet, but again, I doubt that’s the problem either. Trying to eliminate all possibilities, I even uninstalled and re-installed the nVidia drivers three or four times. It’s getting really old. And yes, V-Sync is off. I didn’t drop all of this money to get piss-poor performance. If I don’t get the issue resolved in the next 24 hours, I’m replacing the proc with a 65W AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+. If that doesn’t work, I’m going to throw a 620W Corsair modular PSU into the mix. If that still doesn’t work, I’m calling XFX and telling them they can kiss my ass. The End.

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