Archive for expansion


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.


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!

World of Warcraft: 2008 in Numbers

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2008 by Mark Pannell

Calendar year 2008 is almost in the books. In just shy of a month, a monumental year for WoW players comes to a close. Looking back on 2008, some interesting statistics stand out. According to Google Insights for Search, the most queries for “World of Warcraft” occurred on November 9th. That was the Sunday before Wrath was released. Six days after Patch 3.0.2 was announced, WoW hit it’s low point of the year. Less people performed searches for our beloved game on August 31st than any other day this year, only matched on October 5th. The date that amazes me is September 15th. Only 5% more people were looking for WoW on that date than on the lowest point of the year. What’s the significance of September 15th? The release date for Wrath of the Lich King was announced. And the searches took a tumble again, coinciding with the September 18th release of Warhammer Online, bottoming out on October 5th. But you can’t keep a good MMORPG down! A huge spike in searches occurred on October 12th, just two days before the release of Patch 3.0.2. As I mentioned before, November 9th was the busiest day for WoW, search engine-wise. But the searches took a plummet from that point on, dropping 24% in ten days.

So who’s doing all of these searches? The US accounts for the biggest chunk, but the runners up came as a bit of a surprise to me. Number two on the list is Georgia. We’re talking about the former Soviet Republic here, not the state. In a dead heat with Georgia were Sweden and Norway, followed closely by Denmark. Scandinavians apparently loves them some WoW. Rounding out the top ten are the Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, Estonia, and Hungary. Will Oceanic servers be experiencing some of the same population issues that we’ve been dealing with at some point?

As big of an entity as WoW is, there will always be others riding on their coattails. Much to the dismay of WoW purists, add-ons were the real winners of 2008. The term “quest helper” experienced a 4050% increase in searches compared to 2007. Let’s assume that 100,000 people searched for QuestHelper in 2007. I don’t have any solid stats in front of me, but 100,000 seems like a safe guess. At any rate, that would equate to over 4 billion searches this year. That, my friends, is insane! Others enjoying significant search engine lovin’ over last year were MMO Champion, WoWscape, Wowhead, and WoW Private Servers. While some may consider users of QuestHelper to be “cheaters,” what they’re doing is perfectly within the confines of Blizzard’s ToS. Users of WoWscape and the other “wow private servers” are not. WoWscape experienced a 170% increase in searches over 2007. Granted, with an ever-growing player base, any IP is going to see an increase in its pirates. WoW is no exception.

So, what do all of these numbers mean? In a year when Age of Conan and Warhammer Online joined the fight and Lord of the Rings Online and Everquest II offered expansions, WoW remains firmly in the driver’s seat. Although many speculated that Blizzard’s new, improved Refer-A-Friend program and PvE to PvP transfers were signs that WoW was in trouble, the numbers don’t support that claim. Oddly, neither of those two search strings made it into the top ten “search terms related to world of warcraft.” In fiscal 2007, Activision Blizzard enjoyed an operating profit of $303 million. That’s not revenue, that’s profit. I’m interested to see how 2008 turns out as the first full year that the merger will really benefit both parties. One way or another, the numbers for 2008 favor WoW and the players who love it. Well, every number except “total server downtime.” Better luck next year.

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.