Gimme Gimme Gimme These 5 Upcoming games

This has been a bit of a dry year for me in terms of gaming; – mostly due to my tighter budget and the lack of titles that interest me. I have really eclectic taste in games, so there are periods where nothing I’m interested in is on the table, and then other periods where the stars align and shower me with new titles. And honestly, when you don’t have as much disposable income to spend – you become really conscious of what you’re buying and how long it may or may not last.

There have been a couple games that I liked enough to spend money on, Wildstar being the most recent. But this Autumn into Winter has a lineup of games that I’ve been keeping a close eye on while drumming my fingers together going: “Soon. Sooooon.” I figured I would share a list of 5 of them in case there are any other eclectic gamers like me. Most of these games are for the 3DS, so don’t be surprised. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that handheld/traveling gaming is much more convenient when it comes to non-MMOs.

1) Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse by Wayforward Games – release date TBA Q3

I came across the Shantae series by pure happenstance in the 3DS e-shop one day. I wish I had known about it waaay before then because it is SUCH a great platforming series. It really takes me back to the oldschool NES/SNES days when I would sit together with my best friend and our babysitter and try to beat whatever game she had brought over. We would fight over turns until we came to a particularly hard part and begged our babysitter to beat it for us. She was good, too. She was the reason we were able to see the ending of Super Mario Bros 2.

The initial Shantae games focused on her being a half-genie and using shapeshifting powers to plow through beautifully designed levels and fend off her rival, the piratess Risky Boots. The latest game takes it in a different direction by removing the magic from the equation and instead focusing on feats of weaponeering that achieve the same kinds of effects.

Also, look at the art. LOOK AT IT. In the worlds of Molly Shannon from one of my favorite SNL skits: “I LOVE IT I LOVE IT I LOVE IT.” *kicks legs off chair* I have a weakness for well-done spriting and this is just…I mean, not in my wildest dreams could I hope, as an artist, to achieve this kind of work. If you want to reward good art and fantastic gameplay then these people deserve your money. I know they deserve mine. *throws dollar bills at the screen*

2) Harvest Moon - The Lost Valley (Natsume)/Story of Seasons (Marvelous USA)-  release date TBA Q3 for both

(As a note, I sure would love to link actual company pages for these two games but neither Natsume nor Marvelous interactive have them listed on their official NA/English websites, so I settled for the biggest HM fansite instead. If anyone FINDS an official link so I can source it, please post it. Otherwise shame on you Natsume and Marvelous for not promoting your own games on your own websites.)

I’ve been a fan of the Harvest Moon series for literal years. It’s one of the few series that I will purchase new games from without even questioning. I love the simulation aspect of it as well as the time management requirements. The series is a micromanager’s dream, and that is me so helloooooo entire HM series.

Story of Seasons originated in Japan under the title “Connect to a New World” due to its heavily emphasized street pass farm visiting functions. During its localization in the US, the name swapped and as far as I know – some of the connectivity features are being done away with as well. SoS is what I would consider the next general step in the HM series. It’s not really bringing anything new to the table. It’s just a new Harvest Moon to play with a new town and new characters. And since I like that kind of thing, I’ll be buying it.

The Lost Valley was created from the ground up by Natsume to bring a new style of gameplay to the Harvest Moon series. People at E3 called it a combination of Minecraft and Harvest Moon. Initially that didn’t seem appealing to me, but I’m willing to give it a shot. The art style is a little…stylized…even for a Harvest Moon game. But hopefully the new worldbuilding features will make it a fun experience.

3) Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire by Gamefreak - release date November 21st 2014

I mentioned above that I am prone to buying series games that people think are otherwise repetitive and Pokemon is really no exception. Game Freak has nailed the pet RPG battle formula and just continues to tweak it in ways that make it seem familiar but fresh. That is why I will forever preorder Pokemon games as soon as they are announced.

Obviously Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are remakes of the original Ruby and Sapphire games. While those weren’t my favorites in the series, I’m looking forward to the revamp with the updated 3D battle graphics and other general improvements as well. Out of all of Nintendo’s developers, Game Freak are the ones who have made online connectivity the most accessible, which makes trading, battling, or just farting around watching your pokemon have tea with friends fun as ever.

The coolest part of OR/AS is the complete overhaul of the secret base system. If you ever wanted housing in a pokemon game then welp. You got it. If anyone invades your base, your can set up your character to battle them with a specific team of your choosing. You can also recruit people from your friend list to “guard” your base as well. The major pitch for the new bases is that it’s a way for players to FINALLY make their own “gyms” in a sense. You can set traps, theme your pokemon, etc.

Also mega-sceptile okay. Just…mega-sceptile.

4) Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS by Sora Ltd. – release date October 3rd 2014

Hello yes ask me how long I’ve been waiting for a game like this on a portable console because the answer is “a while.” I DON’T mean “game like this” as in a fighting game. I mean an easily accessible fighting game that emphasizes playing with your friends at a distance through wireless connectivity.

The Smash series is notoriously easy to pick up but difficult to master, much like a lot of Nintendo’s multiplayer games. The ease of access makes me hope that my friends who have a 3DS will be picking this up as well so I have as many people as possible to play with.

I never thought they would port Smash to a portable console. Not in a million years. I guess that’s why Nintendo is considered one of the biggest revolutionary companies in gaming. When I see all the features they’re adding to the 3DS version all I can do is marvel that they can fit THAT MUCH into a single game.

Also I am going to pretty much kick everyone’s butt using Charizard. JS.

5) Warlords of Draenor by Blizzard Entertainment – release date ????? “Soon”

I mean. Come on. You had to see this coming.

Warlords is. Ah. Hm. Well.

Let’s just go with “Savage” and call it a day.

Ultimately I’m looking forward to a jampacked Q3 and Q4 in terms of gaming. I can’t wait to dust my 3DS off and really fall into that land of gaming where you’re so into it that you don’t realize it’s 4am. I just hope my wallet can handle it!

Garrisons: Stop Expecting the Expected

Garrison GatesLet me be blunt and get this out of the way immediately: Garrisons are NOT player housing. I have played FFXIV and Wildstar, and THOSE are games with player housing. If you go into Warlords of Draenor expecting the same kind of experience with garrisons, you are going to be disappointed and that’s unfortunate. It would be better to instead go into WoD looking for a different kind of experience, because there is a LOT of good here. Unfortunately that good is trapped under the shadow of the “Housing HOUSING HOUSING!!” monster.

I COMPLETELY understand the appeal of regular player housing. Trust me. My Wildstar home is decked to the roof with all kinds of neat stuff. There isn’t really any of that customization with garrisons. You’re not going to have neighbors, and you’re not going to be able to change the roof/walls/flooring of your buildings.

“How can it possibly feel like home, then?”

pets pets PETSThere are other ways. For example, once you open your pet menagerie following a brief pet battle questline, the pets from your pet journal will wander around your entire garrison. Occasionally they’ll stop and chill with you.

If you choose to build a stable building, your mounts will wander around that area as well.

innIf you choose to build an inn, you can go in and see your followers and garrison workers enjoying a nice meal together. It gives it a very homey feel. In a way you could almost think of the followers as your customizable furniture, but…that’s awful. It’s kinda true though, since they’re the main feature of what brings the garrison to life.

left right leftThere are also the NPCs that will wander throughout the area, giving it a sense of hustle and bustle. Most of these NPCs are followers you’ve picked up throughout your questing travels in WoD. So I know that they seem like strangers now, but by the time you finish certain questlines you’ll be glad to welcome them to your stronghold. If they spot you walking by, they’ll either greet you as a friend or commander which is pretty nice.

The idea of the garrison is less about homey personalized housing and more about building a military foothold on Draenor. You’re not going to invite neighbors over for a BBQ, but you are going to defend the base from attacks, help it grow, and utilize it for strategic missions. You are, in essence, taking control of your own quest hub.

salute me!Yes. For once you get to be the maniacal taskmaster that sends hoards of minions out on dangerous missions. From your command table within the town hall, you’ll be doling out various forms of strategery to the followers you’ve amassed throughout your questing escapades. These “missions” (queeeests) range from 25 minutes to 8 hours and reward anything from new followers to gold to gear appropriate for your spec.

command tableDo…do you feel that? That’s the power. The power that NPCs like Varian and Thrall have wielded for all these years. Ah, yes, it feels so nice. Dance, my little minions, dance!!

You also get to kind of sort of customize your garrison by picking out the specific buildings you want. Certain buildings like the pet menagerie, herb garden, and fishing shack exist for everyone and must be unlocked via quests. Others like the barracks, inn, stables, and profession tents are chosen by the player. It’s like a sim game on rails, and long time players of strategic or sim games aren’t going to find anything challenging here.

SsssstablesAnd that’s okay. Because this is a multi-player game that shouldn’t be made or broken based on tiny buildings in one area of the game. The garrison profession buildings provide a nice bonus, for sure, but there’s a careful balance to maintain between “necessary” and “fun but gives a small bonus.” Once things start falling into the “necessary” range, people get shoehorned into doing things in order to progress more smarterer or betterer. As it stands now, I’d wager that every progression raider is probably going to have the dwarven bunker once they cap as it allows an extra raid bonus roll per week. Imagine if the garrison were FILLED with “must haves” instead of “want to have” and you can see why they put it on rails.

herbgardenRight now the garrisons are still a work in progress. There are parts of it that are clunky. Specifically you need to return to your garrison while questing to send your followers out on new missions. You’re provided a special hearthstone for this task, but having to hearth and then fly back to resume questing is a bit of a pain. Other games manage this by allowing you to teleport to the housing map and then teleport right back to the spot you initially left. Unless any changes are made, you’re probably just going to set things up to run, quest, and then return once you hit an area that has a flight path. This sometimes means you lose time on sending followers out on new missions.

But it’s still very early in beta and things are always subject to change. Hint. Hint hint Blizzard. HINT HINT HINT.

PondOh, and I should also mention that the alliance garrison is FRICKIN’ BEAUTIFUL. Seriously. I know we lost the ability to build wherever we wanted, but I think the alliance garrison in SMV more than makes up for it with its own ambiance.

So again I say – cast off your expectations or hopes for this to be WoW’s answer to player housing. It’s not. This is a different genre entirely. Perhaps someday WoW will add in real player housing, but poopooing the garrisons because they aren’t on that level is like comparing apples to coffee beans.  I think with enough polish and adaptation for it at endgame, this could be something that keeps WoD interesting well throughout the expansion for players like me. We’ll certainly see.

 

 

5 Outdated MMO Tropes That Need to Go!

MMOs are a growing and evolving genre. It’s amazing to see how well they’ve progressed in the last couple of decades. And yet, despite all the growth there are still some nagging issues built into the core idea of what an MMO “should” have. MMORPGs tend to build on the ideas of games that came before, but unfortunately sometimes that means they take the negatives along for the ride.

I wanted to write a short list of some of these features that have aged so poorly, I feel it’s about time they be retired.Some of these can be attributed to insufficient coding abilities – which I think is less of an excuse than it was 5 years ago. Others can be attributed to just plain developer stubbornness, which is ridiculous given the growing scope of the MMO playerbase. Anyway, I can’t think of a good segue so…on to the list!

1) Factions.

I HATE UOkay, I wanted to get what I figured would be the most controversial item out of the way immediately. Why do I think factions are a waste in the modern game-scape? Let me put it this way…

If a player downloads your MMO and their first thought is: “Gosh, I really want to play with my friends, but I also really want to play the race I like the most. Since they’re on opposite factions, I guess I have to choose.”

Then that is a failure right off the bat. Playing with friends, or playing a character you feel you can most identify with and potentially enjoy longer. Hmm. See the problem here? There are several inherent issues with factions but this is the biggest one. Anyone who has experienced that indecision and sadness when first playing a factional MMO can tell you how much this kind of choice sucks.

“But Gloria, factions add another layer of storyline and content!”

Actually – I would argue that they don’t. Factional content in MMOs is usually relegated to the EXACT SAME kill/fetch/gather quests on BOTH sides. It’s the same mechanics, just with a different bit of flavor text added. You’re still killing the same bosses in dungeons, you’re still exploring the same zones with the same quests. It’s all EXACTLY the same with the exception of the storyline blurbs. And it NEEDS to be exactly the same because both sides have got to maintain balance, otherwise you end up with accusations of favoritism.

Imagine if the time spent essentially copying quests for both factions in the same zone went into building a second brand new zone instead? Or a new dungeon? And you could experience it with all your friends. In fact, you’d have more access to these dungeons because an entire half of the playerbase isn’t arbitrarily blocked off from you. That means lower dungeon finder queue times.

Factions initially were a way of extending samey-content to give the game an illusion of having more depth. After years of this, I really think factions do more harm than good and any time a new MMO uses factions as a feature, I immediately drop it a peg lower on my, “I GOTTA BUY DIS!” list.

2) Ownership/Tagging Quest Mobs

WELPLet’s all fight over the same 6 spawned monsters in a starting zone at the launch of an expansion or game. Boy that sounds really fun. That’s how I want to remember my first foray into a new world. Oh and that guy who runs up and taps all of them only to just AOE each and every mob down before you can get there? That is a cool guy. Yep.

I guess I don’t really understand the point of mob “ownership.” If people are in the area, it’s reasonable to assume that everyone is trying to get the quests done. Pitting people against each other in a race to be first for what is inherently a grind just adds a layer of unnecessary frustration.

“But people will take advantage of it!”

Look, if I’m killing a quest mob and Johnny Q Magey comes up and hits it with his wand just to get credit and then afks while I do the brunt of the work…I don’t care! Because I’m still getting my quest credit! *throws confetti*

3) Lack of body shape options.

THREE WHOLE OPTIONS?!In this the year of our lord after the year of Luigi 2014 we are still experiencing MMOs that have a single body option for male and female characters. And in most cases your options are generic thin lady and hulking manbeast. Above all else I find this sad. Customization for a character can truly make it identifiable for the person playing it.

There’s nothing wrong with “pretty” models – or even the ones that are super boobalicious. What IS wrong is the lack of choice given to players. Even Nintendo Miis can have their body shapes customized – and the most you use those for are streetpasses, let alone diving into an immersive role playing game.

What’s even worse is that in a lot of these games, the NPCs have a wide range of body types. You value your NPCs enough to give them variety but you don’t value your playerbase enough to give them that same option? Come on.

4) Expansions for subscription-based games.

And you'll pay it, too.Okay, I knew this would be the other controversial one. Allow me to explain my reasoning -

If I am paying a subscription fee each month, I know that I am paying to access content. In order for me to keep my fee active, I need a steady stream of content. In my years playing MMOs I’ve found that the idea of expansions stunts the flow of content rather than improves it. You wait and wait and wait and then this huge pile of new stuff falls right into your lap for you to rush into and enjoy.

Instead of having points of small content releases like patches and then dumping a HUGE BUNDLE O’NEW’SHIT on people in the form of expansions, subscription MMOs would do better to simply stagger medium content patches throughout the lifecycle of the game. A steady stream of new content is better than nothing…nothing…nothing..LOTS OF SOMETHINGS! ESPECIALLY when people are paying MONTHLY for said content.

You cannot dump a ginormous single content patch on people and say, “Now now, this needs to last for a while so don’t go experiencing it all at once!” because…hello? Have you ever met humanity? That’s not how our species works. Even worse is dumping said large content and then gating it off just outside of reach until a designated amount of time has passed.

Spread that content out – like a nice even coating of peanut butter on PB&J. That way you don’t have people who swallow entire mouthfuls and get sick of the taste.

5) Linear leveling.

neeeiiigghhhhWhat I mean by linear leveling is essentially when your character is dropped from starting zone A to questing zone B. You then quest through B and go to questing zone C. From there it’s off to D, E, F and so on and so forth until you’ve reached level cap. Zones are usually relegated to character level. So if you’re level 4 you’re gonna stick to the level 1-5 zone because it’s a killing field anywhere else.

This means that from level 1 to whatever, our characters are put on a little quest train that follows the quest tracks and gives them a safe and properly organized tour of the leveling content. Wee.

A necessity borne from the days of coding restrictions – this is something that needs to GOOO AWAAAAYYYY. Especially with the new scaling technology most MMOs have available.

Imagine your fresh-off-the-docks lowbie arrives on a new continent and it’s time to level. And what’s this? EVERY zone is available to you because the mobs are going to scale to your level when you get there! So where do you want to go first? WHO KNOWS! The exploration potential is unlimited!

“But Gloria, how would this work with the removal of mob tagging?”

“…shut up.”

Anyway, enough prattling from me. Obviously these are just thoughts I had bouncing around in my head.  Aaand I can’t think of a way to end this soooo. Bye!

5 WoD Pet Related Things to Get Hype About!

Man, it took me like 20 minutes to try and come up with a title for this article that wasn’t a mouthful. I just couldn’t do it, I’m sorry people. A master wordsmith I am not.

Before I get into my list I want to say that everything posted here is my own speculation based on tweets by devs as well as blog posts and information from Blizzcon. Take it all with a grain of salt because I very frequently have no idea what I’m doing at any given moment. (I’ve been known to install simple things like vacuum cleaner handles upside-down, for example.)

With WoD around the corner…a very large corner…but around it nonetheless, I think a lot of the pet community has been hungry for morsels of information about what is to come in WoD. Anyone who enjoys pet battling should be using warcraft pets as their go-to site, but a lot of information gets lost in translation amongst the many dev twitter accounts and fansites and yadda yadda. I wanted to hop aboard the hype train and add my own special brand of fuel to the fire with my ideas. So here’s my list:

5) Let’s get this obvious one out of the way – NEW PETS.

peacock

I mean yeah if you weren’t expecting new pets in WoD I have no idea what to tell you. A few of them have been datamined so far, but the one that has ruffled many feathers thus far has been the peacock pet.

CERTAIN pet battlers have been ah, asking? Demanding…pinning notes to pet battle dev doors with knives…or how about – requesting? Yes. Requesting. That a peacock pet be added in since the models were first datamined ages ago. Here we go. They’re there, woop woop. My own ~~~speculation~~~~ is that this bird is going to be the new pet collection achievement reward. Collect a gaboojillion pets and you get a peacock. Hah. Or it could be tied into the new Arrakoa content.

But besides that there are plenty of other pets in the pipeline. Much excite.

4) New pet related achievements.

mothimage

Okay maybe it’s not FAIR to have this and the new pets be separate categories but they kinda are. With a new expansion we’re looking at another tier of pet achievements. This means another collection achievement, another leveling achievement, probably more new dailies or tournaments to do, and another tier of prior content raid pets – looking at you ICC.

Very few new pet achievements have been datamined so far and that’s good and bad. Good because there’s still an element of surprise and bad because one of the ways people get more information about in development content and what it entails is by looking at the achievements that have been put in for it. But I KNOW they’re coming. They have to be, right? RIGHT?

3) Pets in your garrison.

best pic i've ever drawn

Pets are going to be tied into the garrisons via the stable building. (Sidenote, if you haven’t seen Alternative Chat’s garrison guides yet, it’s worth a look.) So far we know that’s where the mounts and pets will go, and the devs have hinted on twitter that there will be a traveling/visiting pet trainer to your stables to train with. Rotating weekly? Daily? Monthly? Living on your couch until you finally get up the nerve to tell them they’re stinking up the joint? I don’t know.

My hope is that you’ll be able to have some of your pets just kinda sittin’ and chillin’ in your garrison as well to add some ambiance. Nothing says home sweet home like your ghostly skull or filthling laying by the fireplace. Aw.

A while ago developer Corey Stockton also asked on twitter for suggestions for pet battle related titles that could be tied to garrisons, so that’s also a thing. Maybe a nice, “the rescuer” title for everyone who adopted pets out in the wild. Or a, “really effing patient” title because living with pets that are constantly leaving poop and fur everywhere is a waking nightmare hahahaha not that I would know.

2) The potential for a breeding system down the line.

petcombine

Okay so, I was hype at blizzcon when I got to talk to Corey Stockton a bit about the pet breeding system. To me, it was glorious. I have played….a lot…of pet battle related games. The system they were developing for WoW sounded a lot like the old Monster Rancher system of combining monsters.

You take two monsters/pets and combine them in a special room and a new monster is born with some of the attributes of its parent monsters, though those parents are lost in the mix. That sat just fine with me, because if you’re trying to build the perfect pet, you have to scramble a few eggs. Wait. That’s a terrible analogy.

Either way. In the WoW system you would take Pet A and Pet B and mix’em. Pet B would be lost in the mix and Pet C, babby pet, would be created. Hopefully with the stats and pet family you were hoping for. You’d keep Pet A and now have Pet C to add to your lineup. As long as the two pets were from the same pet family (elemental, dragonkin, etc.) they could be combined. This means that you could just go out and catch fodder pets in the world to combine with your beloved favorite pets. So some risk, but ultimately still a safe system.

Like I said, I’m used to the system from past games so I was good with it. Others weren’t, and that’s okay. And since it’s a HUGE amount of coding to undertake, the devs decided to wait until they could get the feedback to make the system just right for everyone. That means it may not come in WoD, but my sincerest hope is that it will.

Now that I think about it, a LOT of WoW pet battle stuff reminds me of Monster Rancher. All those frustrating days doing tournaments in Monster Rancher and having a 99% chance to hit in battles, only to still whiff every move you dished out.

….weh.

1) You knew this was coming, right? New pet items.

such a punchable face

Hey uh, so uh, hey. Yeah uh. So uh. There’s an item in WoD that will be able to make grounded pets fly. It uh, it MIGHT be named after someone familiar maybe? I mean, I dunno. *thumbs suspenders* Must be someone pretty cool.

Okay wait stop, no, I’m not that egotistical. (Yeah I am.) But let me explain -

There are a few pet related items that have been added or named due to feedback from the pet battle community. The meaning of this is twofold. One: It’s really fuckin’ cool. Two: It means that the pet battle developers are not turning a deaf ear to their customerbase. They are listening, they are interacting, they are encouraging. You see that a little bit in WoW when it comes to armor or item references for theorycrafters or upstanding community members (There needs to just be an entire city in game dedicated to the people who work at WoWhead JS.) but the pet battle devs take it to a whole ‘nother level.

Given that I think some expected pet battles to be a cute little side game that people maybe did once in a while, the way it has blossomed both on the player side and the dev side has been really encouraging. It’s been fun to watch how it’s kind of…evolved into its own thing.

And that kind of sums up my feelings about the pet related WoD hype. The most exciting thing about pet related WoD stuff is THAT IT’S THERE IN SUCH A MAJOR CONTEXT. Okay? See, I went somewhere with it all.

The term I used before? Really fuckin’ cool? That fits. Fits pretty well.

3 Battle Pets that Never Let Me Down

As we get closer and closer to the next expansion, leveling battle pets has just become routine for me. I’m not even sure why I still do it at this point since I have so many, but I just want to be surrounded by as many cute level 25 pets as possible. Once garrisons come out I expect that opening the front door of mine will result in an EXPLOSION of pets just spouting out the door. (Though this comic is probably going to be a more realistic prediction of my behavior come WoD.)

If you’ve dabbled in pet battles or haven’t really picked them up yet, now is a really good time to get into it. The market for pets is good, and the charms, valor, and gold you get from the battles and daily quests can still be put to good use. Since the level cap for pets is NOT increasing in Warlords, any pets you get to level 25 now will remain “current” in the next expansion.

With all the leveling I do, there are a few pets that I use on a consistent basis that I think are going to continue to be useful into WoD for pet leveling. Obviously we don’t know what the new tamer spreads will be just yet, but the pets I have in mind cover some pretty broad bases and are very useful now. I see no reason for them to lose their utility in the expansion.

Everyone has different opinions on pets and which are the “best.” These are not the “best” pets per se, but they are the ones I use most in my daily rounds of pet leveling due to their movesets and other useful factors. I tried to keep this list restricted to easily acquirable pets. “Easy” in my mind means easy to farm, or reasonable to purchase on the in game AH. So let’s get started!

1: Anubisath Idol

I’m going to just flat out say that ANY pet battler you meet will tout the usefulness of the anubisath idol, especially when it comes to pet leveling. Sandstorm alone is an incredibly useful move because you can swap in low level pets on tamers (like Aki the chosen) who use pets with swarm moves. With sandstorm active the swarms do 0 damage, and your leveling pet can absorb the damage and then swap out to get the exp without any real danger.

Deflection is also a great defensive move, and then you can spend the rest of the battle crushing your way to victory while the humanoid passive (health renew tick every turn) keeps it alive. The anubisath idol is not a FAST killer – but he’s a RELIABLE killer. And that is critical when it comes to putting together initial teams for 2 vs 3 leveling squads.

The idol drops from the Twin Emps in AQ40. They can sometimes sell for quite a chunk of change on the AH, but they are worth every copper. Farm it or buy it, if you don’t have one of these at level 25 you are – and will continue to miss out.

2. P/P Yellow Moth

Out of all the flying types this poor moth is sometimes overshadowed by all the darkness/nocturnal strike combos. But I like this little guy since he doesn’t rely on a setup and still really holds his own. Well rounded and deadly, this little bugger is my go-to for any and all aquatic pets INCLUDING annoying turtles.

Cocoon strike is a great defensive move when you know a dive or headbutt is coming. And it has a shorter cooldown than lift-off, though it does significantly less damage. Moth dust is high damage and also has the chance to put enemies to sleep, and alpha strike is high damage against most mobs since very few can beat the flying type’s speed advantage.

Given that this moth has the flying racial, it gets that automatic speed boost over 50% health. That means that since this thing has a p/p breed, it’s a little flying mothy powerhouse and I love it so much.

This little dude comes from the pet vendor in the exodar. It has several breeds, so it might take you some time to pick up the p/p option. It also starts out at uncommon quality, so if you have a battlestone you’re gonna want to stone it right away and then go level it!

3) Darkmoon Tonk

With all the beast pets in the world, having a mechanical pet on this list was a given. I usually keep my tonk in the 3rd pet battle spot for most tamer battles, including little Oondasta and the darkmoon tamer Jeremy Feasel because while it isn’t the biggest SUPER OMG AWESOME powerhouse, it makes a good finisher/clean up pet.

Ion cannon is a great finisher move, and minefield and shock and awe are great too. Mechanical pets in general are always good to keep around. Their racial is pretty wicked, and most of their moves to heavy damage. A lot…a LOT of tamers also use beast pets in their rotation, so the type bonus is really good to have as well. In terms of accessible and easy to use mech pets, the tonk is your guy! …robot….thing?

The tonk is sold for darkmoon tickets at the darkmoon faire, but they also sell for decent prices on the AH as well. It took me a while to finally pick one up, but now that I’ve got one I use it more often than not.

With the main 3 pets out of the way, I wanted to also add in two runner up pets that are extremely useful in their own ways.

The zandalari anklerender is one of the best critter farming pets you can have. It does great damage, and devour ensures that you won’t need to make any trips back to the stablemaster. Swap your leveling pet out for this lil’guy, go to down, devour, move on. If you’re out of tamers to 2 vs 3 and still want to level, take your leveling pet and this cutie out to the valley of the four winds – turn on some music – and grind for as long as you want.

The anklerender and its raptor brothers are all found as drops on the isle of giants. But they’re also usually up on the AH for fairly cheap. Worth the purchase!

Lastly, the rocket chicken pet is honestly one of the best battle pets I use on a daily basis. He would have been 3rd on my list, but as a TCG pet it doesn’t really fall into the realm of “easily available.” If you have one, luck into one of the cards, or find one cheap on the AH or BMAH, they are worth the purchase. The combination of flying and mechanical moves along with having launch AND a decent speed stat…yeah. I love this little thing.

With WoW’s TCG being phased out, I don’t know what is going to happen for future collectors looking to get ahold of a rocket chicken. I’m sure they’ll continue to pop up on the BMAH, but they’ll go from rare to OMGICANTFINDTHISTHINGANYWHERE which kinda stinks since it’s such a useful pet.

The ONLY other pet that has launch (which is a mechanical version of lift-off) is Grunty, who is also a limited edition pet. I’m a fan of keeping PETS rare, but not keeping MOVE AND STAT SETS rare. If Blizzard wants to make a rocket chicken clone with a different model available in WoD with the same stats and moveset available, I will be VERY pleased because it means more people will get access to an awesome and highly useful pet.

So I think that’s about it. If you need me, I’ll just be over here in my gigantic mountain of pets, wondering where I went wrong with my life.

petshaaa

Thrall – What Happened, Man?

***As a note, this entry discusses model updates in Warlords of Draenor. If you are trying to avoid spoilers about those kinds of updates, you may want to take a pass on this one. Fair warning.***

It’s hard to preface this post because Thrall – as a character – is such an integral part of the World of Warcraft. Some love him, some hate him. Like Jaina, he’s very polarizing amongst the playerbase. Whether that makes him a good character is debatable. Some (MEEEEE!!) would argue that negative attention is still attention and any character that gets lore discussions going means the writers of the game are doing their jobs. Others would argue that flat writing (Garrosh, for example) doesn’t do the story any favors even if it gets people talking…or venting as the case may be. I can see both sides of the situation.

Thrall is…haha. Oh boy. I would argue that if “main characters” existed in the Warcraft Universe, Thrall would be central among them. In a world where there are countless NPCs and storylines that stretch into the fathomless Ether, Thrall and several other characters sit like the anchoring trunk of a tree. If there were Warcraft themed cereals, Thrall O’s would be right there on the shelf next to the Tyrande Wheaties. HE’S AN IMPORTANT GUY IS WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY.

With the start of the Cataclysm expansion, Thrall started to take a much more central role in the storyline. He essentially became a “free agent” which in the warcraft universe means that he was more useable in the plot. If you fly solo and have less responsibilities, you can do more in a story. The reason we see Tyrande or Jaina in less “solo” roles is because they CAN’T do that. They have people to lead, places to guard, Malfurions to ignore. Jaina can pop in now and then in a siege or two, but she doesn’t have time to go on a life altering journey of discovery because Dalaran would be sans glorious and beautiful leader.

Why they chose Thrall of all characters to be the more leading faceman of Warcraft, I don’t know. People speculate, they mock, they infer. I have my thoughts on that too. But for all the, “God WHY does Thrall keep popping up?” discussions that happen in story circles – there you go. He’s a solo agent of progressing the story. If you look back through the Warcraft franchise – he always kinda was like that. (Along with other leading characters.) Nothing has changed for him except he gave up the mantle of Warchief – which was preventing him from continuing the same role he had as a character in the RTS games.

Imagine if Sylvanas didn’t have to stay in the Undercity to keep the Forsaken under her thumb? Yeah, there you go. Responsibilities are like, such a drag, man.

On this, the year of our Lord Warlords of Draenor 2014’s eve, the alpha client has launched and the fruitful delving and plundering of the expansion’s assets has begun. With that has come the preliminary character models – Velen and Thrall included.

I try to keep an open mind, and I also want to add the caveat that: ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALPHA ALL THINGS SUBJECT TO CHANGE!!!

But my preliminary look at Thrall’s model made me say, out loud: “Man, what happened to you, guy?”

The model is of a vaguely orc-like looking guy in a trenchcoat…robe…thing. The outfit is interesting, but now Thrall stands completely erect. Shoulders back, neck held high. The main thing that marks Thrall as an orc at this point is his green skin. He actually looks more like a human than an orc. If you don’t believe me, here’s a side-by-side image comparison of the new male orc model, Thrall’s new model, and Gilbert the improverished (He just needs a little more time to find himself, okay?) human warrior:

like malcolm in the middle but less funny

like malcolm in the middle but less funny

(With credit to mmo champion for the image of Thrall’s new model.)

Look at that and tell me which one Thrall more closely resembles. It’s like, right there. *grabs your head and smushes your face against your computer monitor* See? SEE?!

This model update is the latest in a long line of updating the art to make Thrall appear more humanlike in appearance when compared to other orcs. If you trace the artwork of Thrall back to the RTS games, you see him gradually lose his hunching posture, his body fills out more naturally, and his face gains a more human appearance as well. WHY?!

There are a couple of possible explanations, and I don’t like either of them. The first is that he was an orc raised by humans; Blackmoore specifically. Trained to be a gladiator but taught by human hand, it might explain why Thrall has begun to subconsciously emulate the humans he spent so much time around. But…there were orcs in those camps too. Also, like, the horde has orcs and he spent a pretty long time around them? Soo.

The other explanation could be that Thrall has spent so much time on his own lately finding himself, that he’s just naturally adopted the new, less orclike posture because…I don’t know? Shaman magic and the journey of self discovery and enlightenment? Lol. *throws notecards in the air*

The obvious answer here is that they want a way to make Thrall distinctive from all the other orcs, especially now that we’re going to alternate Draenor where orcs flow from mighty waterfalls and rain from the skies on cloudy days. But I have got to say – that sucks. Both for all the other orcs, and for Thrall himself.

The guy was already going to stick out because he had green skin. Making him so human in his appearance doesn’t really serve a helpful purpose – except to make him more identifiable by the players. The age old idea of people subconsciously feeling more of a bond with him because he looks more “human” than his fellow orcs. This is the same logic applied to the dimorphism of a LOT of the female models in game. To be “attractive” is to have that more ideal human physique. But this is a world where little rat men scurry through tunnels holding candles, and bird men can be attorneys at law. What I’m saying is – was doing this to Thrall even necessary?

Here’s my main issue with these subtle changes to Thrall over the years. Thrall, the orc, was very proud and fierce. The dude fought alongside Rexxar and Grom Hellscream with orcish pride. He slung the doomhammer and Lok’tar’d to the Heavens. He was an orc then. He looked like an orc, he acted like an orc, and he was an ORC HERO.

Now he’s a humanized hero, in more ways than one. Since he’s been pushed more to the forefront, he has sacrificed a LOT of his orcish features and essentially become human. He was an orc when they needed him to be an orc, but now that they need him to step up and be a more neutral hero – he looks the part of a bland human everyman so people can “identify” I guess.

PLUS he stands among the other orcs in the horde, all hunched over. Garrosh is hunched over. The orcs in the siege of Orgrimmar are hunched over. It almost makes you equate that hunchy thicker orcs = bad and stupider and Thrall with his superior posture and physique = paragon of light and intelligence. It’s a leap, but can’t you kind of see that? And now he’s going to meet his father Durotan and his mother Draka (sort of) looking…almost like he came from a completely different race.

Honestly, I get it. Thrall has ALWAYS been a different orc. He has fought to maintain his identity as an individual and an orc in a hostile world that would see him hang because of it. But I think that is the part of his character that resonated with people so much. To see such a key part of him changing and going away just makes me feel…sad. I don’t think this new model is badass. I think it flies in the face of how a once proud orc and warrior of the horde has dropped intriguing and harrowing parts of his personality and by proxy physique as the story has gone on. And it’s a shame. If a more humanlike Thrall is what the writers want, so be it. But I’ll just sit here and miss the Thrall that once was.

What it takes to be a Lady Lore char in WoW

You’re a fresh recruit, right out of the Stormwind army’s training camps. Bright eyed, you want to make a difference in this mixed up Azeroth! You think you can do it – after all, plenty of women have worked their way up the ranks to become leading lore figures!

But as a leading lore character, what are your options? Well, take a look at this handy chart and decide which path you’d like to follow:

lady lore chars

(And to note: This isn’t even touching on how crappy it is to use insanity or mental illness as a plot device for villainy in this game. I take real issue with that, but it’s a complaint for another time.)

Look at that! A whole 4 options for you to choose from. What’s even nicer is that every choice you make, you’ll have a fanbase at your heels constantly calling you a “psycho bitch” or “whore” regardless. And you’ll have a development team that doesn’t particularly care how the fanbase reacts, because they openly admit to certain parts of WoW being a “boys’ club.” Or they encourage it by writing in quests where a leader openly calls a lady leader a bitch as well.

Okay, hyperboles aside, the above stuff was meant to prove a point. Do I think the writing team purposely portrays women this way? No. I just think they aren’t sure what to do with their women characters, and they have an increasingly hostile fanbase that twists their words to a point where any time Jaina Proudmoore is brought up, the first word uttered is “Alliance bitch.”

It’s hard for some people to understand, so let me put it this way. When Varian is brought up, he is not called a whore because he had feelings for Tiffin. (Unlike Jaina and Arthas.) When Garrosh is brought up, he is not called a psycho bitch for his genocide against Theramore. (Unlike Sylvanas and her motives. While his behavior isn’t excused, it’s usually justified by his lust for power, not his “bitchiness” or “unstable emotions.”) Thrall isn’t called a wuss for seeking neutrality.

So why the disconnect? It’s a symptom of the disrespect people have for these characters. It is the exact definition of a double standard. And the only real difference is the genders of the characters and the way they are perceived.

Let’s take a quick look at the major lady lore figures in the warcraft universe:

- Azshara: Queen of the ancient and beautiful highborne. She was renowned for her beauty, vanity, and lust for power. In fact, she embodied vanity and greed. And thus led to the downfall of her entire race.

-Magna Aegwynn: A guardian of Tirisfal. Incredibly strong, hard headed, and powerful. Blunt to a fault, she single-handedly fought off the fallen Titan Sargeras. She largely disappeared from the public eye until she sacrificed herself for her grandson, Med’an. A woman who DEFEATED A TITAN sacrificed herself so her grandson could kill Cho’gall, a beginner tier raid boss.

-Sylvanas: Leader of the forsaken and a force the be reckoned with. Deadly with a bow, and more than a match in wits for the lich king himself. Now considered to be on a power trip, players discuss how they can’t wait until she’s a raid boss and can be killed, and even in game Garrosh calls her a bitch with no repercussions.

-Jaina Proudmoore: One of the most powerful mages alive. Continuously does what she thinks is best for her people and faction, regardless of the toll it takes on her. Though she could have destroyed Orgrimmar in a tidal wave as payback for Theramore’s destruction, she resisted. She even refrained herself from smacking Thrall upside the head when he told her to get a husband to even her emotions out.

-Tyrande Whisperwind: Leader of the night elven people and a powerful priestess/warrior in her own rite. Waits dutifully for her husband Malfurion, and follows his commands to the letter despite the traditional NE idea that priestesses are to be led by the head priestess and only druids are to be led by the archdruids. Can best be summed up by the quote: “Hush, Tyrande.” and now seeks to wage war wherever she can.

-Maiev Shadowsong: Staunch in her duty, she led the powerful NE wardens for centuries including keeping the jailed Illidan in line. Appears at the end of black temple to help strike the killing blow. Later re-appears and takes issue with the fact that Malfurion let the highborne (see Azshara) back into NE society. It’s not so subtly implied that she is off her rocker, and thus she falls into the annals of “insane villainess” history.

-Aggra: Appeared in a book to teach Thrall. Had a single questline. Served her purpose by having Thrall’s son. Never seen again.

-Moira Thaurissan: Held under the thumb of a father that was angry she was not born a son. Told throughout her childhood that she would not amount to a good leader because of it. Ran away and found true love with a Dark Iron king who treated her as an equal. Said king was then assassinated at the command of her father. When she returned to claim her rightful spot on the throne with her legitimate heir son, she was almost assassinated by Varian Wrynn. Probably one of the characters most frequently referred to as a “bitch” by the general playerbase because no attempt to explain her motives exists in the game.

There are some exceptions to these characterizations in the game. Namely Alleria, the dragon aspects, and Shandris Feathermoon. (Please, Gods of WoW lore, do not take Shandris from us!) but overall I think you can see the running theme here.

It’s bad that these characters are pigeonholed into these roles. It’s even WORSE that the community will continually resort to gendered insults whenever any of these characters makes a move. I think Sylvanas could sit down and have a tea party and someone, somewhere, would call her a bitch because of it. And that’s really not right. And it’s not fair.

Thankfully, Pandaria was full of awesome characters, both men and women. It was certainly a step in the right direction! Except the mantid society. What was up with that? Helmed by a powerful queen that existed merely as a figurehead, kept constantly in check by the Klaxxi. It’s like they took the idea of insect biology, specifically bees, and warped it into some bizarre amalgam that only half worked. It was still a good storyline, but the idea of it annoyed me on some level.

Do I have hope for change in Warlords of Draenor? Not really. I am absolutely thrilled we’ll be getting a new leading lady in the form of a draenei priestess. But I don’t have much hope for her not following the footsteps of her predecessors. Or even worse, she will be subject to a fanbase that presumes to call her a bitch or a whore regardless of any choices she makes. I find that really, really sad.

On their face, the issues with the characters don’t bother me as much as the reaction of the community to them. Nothing is worse than having a good discussion about Jaina on twitter and someone randomly butting in to call her a bitch. Thanks for your input, random person, and thanks for reducing an entire character down to a stereotype about her gender. I would hope, deep in my heart, that kind of thing would be obnoxious to the writers of the game as well. They spend time trying to build up characters, only to have them and their motives explained away by PMS. But you’d think that id it did bother the writers, they would be trying to affect some change in the way they, themselves, treat and regard their own creations.

All I can say is that it does bother me. It should bother everyone.

Customer Service in WoW, What People Don’t Know

Aaah, you expected a blizzcon wrap-up post, didn’t you? Well, I’ll do one eventually but a lot of what I found was already covered by warcraftpets.com and WoWinsider. I am working up a post about Warlords of Draenor, but I wanted to post something else in the meantime. This is a topic not many people have broached, but it’s one I think is worth exploring.

I was a fool and lost my blizzcon loot card during the general Q and A. I was standing in line and must have dropped it at some point. Sucks for me, rocks for the person who found it and probably immediately listed it on e-bay. I figured it was a lost cause, but I submitted a ticket on the battle.net site anyway. Lo and behold, with some identity verification, they were able to help me out! Huzzah!

And that’s when I got to thinking – as players we deal with Blizzard’s customer support on a daily basis, but how many of you have actually sat down and thought about their quality of service and what they do on a daily basis to make the company run on a face to face level?

Everyone is more than willing to give oodles of credit to the big name devs like Chris Metzen, Mike Morhaime, Cory Stockton, etc. but the fact of the matter is, you’re more likely to deal with the tier 1 Blizzard customer support agents than any of them. You get the faces of Blizzard’s community team in people like Zarhym, Bashiok, etc. but the tier 1 customer service people are the unsung heroes of Blizzard. They are the ones that are actually helping you get what you want.

I have worked in customer service for an embarrassing amount of my professional career. Does anyone really dream, as a child, of growing up to answer questions from pissy customers all day? Probably not. I wanted to be a dinosaur veterinarian. Customer service is thankless, demanding, and physically and emotionally draining. Some of you reading this probably work in the field too and are nodding your heads. Mhm, I get it, trust me.

The general idea of customer service is that if a customer needs to reach out to you, it’s because they have an issue. They’re not calling or emailing to ask how your day is. So you go in every day with the knowledge that every person you speak to is at varying levels of distress over a problem that may or mat not be caused by their own mistakes. And that’s fine. That’s what customer service is, after all. But take a second to appreciate what that means, mentally, and what it would take to cope with dealing with it for 8-10 hours a day.

The golden rule of customer service is that you are not supposed to take anything personally. An upset customer is not upset at you as a person, they’re upset at the issue they’re having or the company you work for. Fair enough. But I think we’ve all seen the twitter, reddit, general forum, etc. posts where a smug customer brags about how they completely shit all over some unsuspecting CS rep for not bowing to their immediate whims. When that happens it’s hard not to take it personally, and we as a consumer culture need to stop rewarding people for doing it.

That’s not so say people who have genuine issues that aren’t addressed shouldn’t go to social media avenues to find solutions. I know I’ve personally gone head to head with an ISP company on twitter over a mistaken $300 charge. It just becomes a matter of distinguishing whether you are trying to get your issue solved, or if you’re trying to embarrass/shame a customer service rep. That’s personal. That’s wrong.

The meat of this post is thus – if you have ever skipped out on filling out one of those surveys you get after a GM/CS rep helps you, please don’t do that. If you haven’t worked in the industry, I’ll let you in on a little trade secret – it’s called: NPS or Net Promoter Score.

Net Promoter Score is what companies use to gauge their customer service levels against other companies. It comes directly from you, the consumer, and the surveys you fill out. Every time you answer a phone survey after you speak to your power company, or you do a survey on taco bell’s website, they have a team of analysts going over it within minutes.

In customer service, people who have an average or positive experience are about 80% less likely to tell a friend about it. Compared to someone who has a negative experience and will tell at least 30 people and all their twitter/facebook followers. This is why you take things like Net Promoter Score into account. You want to know how many people have had AMAZING experiences so that they’ll recommend your company to friends and family. It’s free advertising!

(Funny story, the industry term for people who have negative experiences is: “Brand Assassin.” So when you write a bad review of your local pizza hut on yelp, make sure you shout about using stealth and not having enough energy, etc.)

Here’s another industry secret – a lot of companies game their NPS by making it so that anything that IS NOT A PERFECT SCORE on a survey counts as a NEGATIVE score. So if you are not marking all “5”s or “Excellents” your results are basically counting against the person you are rating, or they’re not counting at all. Companies want to be able to say, “Wow, look at that, our NPS is over 60%!” and if that means that have to throw out the average ratings to get to the point that their score looks better to shareholders, they’ll do it.

Do I know 100% if Blizzard does this with their customer service surveys? No. But it’s the industry standard so I would assume that they do. What does this mean? This means that the GM you got that worked for an hour to restore the random lucky coin you got last year and happened to accidentally delete ended up having their survey thrown out or counted against them because you marked all “average” as a response.

Now, I’m not telling you guys that you should all give 100% excellents as feedback every time you get average/mediocre service. And if you DO have a bad experience, you should by all means say so. I’m just trying to point out how oft overlooked customer service feedback is, and what it means. CS reps often get blamed for things that are out of their hands – like wait times, etc. Yeah, it sucks to have to wait a day to get a ticket response, but that’s not the rep’s fault, so it’s not really something you should grade them on when filling out your survey response. That’s feedback that should be submitted to Blizzard as a company. It’s like blaming the guy behind the McDonald’s counter because the McRib isn’t on the menu anymore, y’see?

So going forward, I want everyone to be more conscious of how much customer service they receive in an average day. Do you thank your cashier at the store for telling you to have a nice day? You should. Do you thank the phone rep that fixes the huge billing mistake you made to your own account? You probably should. Yeah, it’s their job, but they deserve to be treated like human beings.

So when you do receive good customer service from a GM or Blizzard employee, make sure you fill out your survey. If you received EXCELLENT service, send feedback about that specific employee. (As a note, I know about the removal of the GM feedback email. I think it’s cruddy and it should be brought back.) “Good” customer service is relative, but I would argue that as long as you get a response to your issue that isn’t rude and gives you a solid answer whether positive or negative, you’ve been served well.

Much like the old saying about shit rolling down hill, a positive experience can turn a person’s entire day around. A CSR is nice to you? You’re nice back. You’re nice to the next person too, and then they’re nice to the next person! It’s a daisy-chain of niceness!

So yeah. A blizzcon post is incoming eventually, but I wanted to make this post to help bring some awareness to the community. Just remember it the next time you submit a ticket. :)

Complete Disengagement – But Why?

Here’s the thing – you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been completely silent for a while. I’ve been silent on the forums, this blog, and I honestly haven’t signed into WoW for about 3 months outside of here or there for a few minutes.

Why? Because I’m almost completely disengaged from the game. I always have a period of downtime between expansions, but with Mists it’s been pretty severe. An entirely new content patch was released and I still haven’t really signed on to take part in it.

In the meantime I’ve been playing other games. Animal Crossing, free to play MMOs, and I’ve especially delved into Final Fantasy XIV.

Throughout it all I’ve thought back to WoW and all I can wonder is why? Why did I lose interest so quickly? Mists of Pandaria was, arguably, one of the best expansions in terms of mechanics improvements. It had great, regularly updated content. Pet battles, farming, LFR improvements and now flex raiding…but why don’t I care anymore?

The argument can be made that I’ve grown out of the game, which is entirely possible. But I’ve been playing pokemon games with the exact same mechanics since I was a kid. I love Blizzard games. It’s why I’m going to blizzcon. So I can understand growing out of it to a point where I still log in to chat with guildmates, etc. but I’ve gone from semi-interest to “I’d rather go wash some dishes instead.” I still love talking about WoW on twitter…but why don’t I like playing it?

I’ve wracked my brain lately trying to figure out what about Mists was making me so disinterested. Now that I’ve thought on it, I have all these colorful swirls of half-created ideas and reasons floating around in my brain, and I’m going to try to put them to paper to explain my feelings.

Even though I was bored with Cata mechanics-wise, I was still very engaged in the storyline up until Thrall took over at the end. The world was literally about to end in a flash of fiery old God magic. Yeah, I was sick of my 85 sitting there with nothing to do, but I was hooked up until the very end of the expansion on just the storyline itself.

Fandral betrayed me, so I stuck around to see him die in Firelands. Deathwing was an omnipresent threat, and the heroic dungeons that accompanied dragon soul really pushed that home. There was such rich storyline everywhere I looked. Is that what kept me playing? I’m starting to think so.

Mists of Pandaria did not have a bad storyline. It had amazing writing and art associated with it. Here’s where things start to get murky in my explanation, because these thoughts are still all jumbled and muddied together.

We, as players, knew from the outset of the expansion that we were essentially going into Pandaria – a completely unspoiled land – to cause complete and utter chaos. From the very start I was uncomfortable with that key plotline. I want to be heroic, I don’t want to help unleash a Sha that destroys a decade’s worth of work for Yu’lon’s reincarnation. I don’t want to be a driving force behind Pandaren from the Wandering Isle turning their backs on their own people. That feels…gross. I can attest that throughout the questing in Pandaria, save for a few areas like the Dread Wastes, that I kept completing quests and kind of side-eying my computer at the resolutions I was given.

“Oh um…defeated this enemy, I guess…but the entire village was destroyed in the process and lots of people died…”

WoWface

(True story I made this exact face at least 50 times throughout my time playing MoP.)

We’ve gone to Draenor to defeat the remnants of the legion. We went into Northrend to battle the undead scourge and plague. We defended Azeroth from an aspect drunk on corrupted power. And now we went into an absolutely beautiful uncharted land to…despoil it.

And we did. We despoiled the heck out of Pandaria.

The other major draw to the Mists expansion was the Pandaren themselves. A race of gentle, balanced folk who treasure ideals of family, unity, and peace. They were pretty awesome but…and I feel bad saying this…a little boring.

I read the book about Vol’jin. It tried to hammer home the point of Taran Zhu and the Pandaren being a serene, balanced race so hard that I struggled to get through certain parts of the book. We get it. They’re awesome, ascended people who can fight with the grace of a lotus flower. Taran Zhu can kick a Zandalari troll’s head off without a single piece of fur being out of place. Chen is super lovable and haughty and knows how to throw some punches! Haha woo! He also makes good beer! Did I mention beer? BEER BEER BEER BEER BEER. There’s a whole lotta beer cause Pandaren loooove beer!

That’s not a bad thing, but it gets very repetitive and monotonous when it’s all you get for a 2 year expansion period.

When you look at the key characters that came from the Pandaren race you get people like -

Taran Zhu: It seemed like the overwhelming consensus among my friends was that we all strongly disliked Taran Zhu. The guy was a smug, self-superior xenophobe that was ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE. The really crappy thing is that he was completely xenophobic from the outset and WE PROVED HIM RIGHT. He never had his, “I was so wrong.” epiphany moment because we went in with every single faction stereotype blazing and lived up to all his negative expectations. Cool beans. No character growth there, no satisfaction, just a bland annoying character.

Chen Stormstout: It’s hard to find negatives about this guy because it seems like he was purposely written not to have any. That should say it all.

Emperor Shao Hao: We got to see his transformation into the full embodiment of Pandaren ideals. He banished all of his negative emotions except pride, and hoped that his legacy would live on in the Pandaren people. It did. If there’s one thing Mists of Pandaria hammered home to me, it was a complete lack of emotion on the side of the Pandaren.

Maybe lack of emotion isn’t the right way to describe it. One of the short stories – “The Blank Scroll” features a lorekeeper that perfectly embodies all the Pandaren ideals. She’s stoic, almost all-knowing, and exists solely to guide the other characters in the story to an inevitable conclusion and lesson.

And THAT is what Pandaria itself, and all the Pandaren are. They were a storyline that exists to lead the alliance and horde, and your own character, to a certain storyline conclusion. And that is one of the problems. That’s about as “on rails” in terms of a game/story that you can get.

The mogu and the klaxxi are absolutely fascinating in concept. In execution it was fairly lacking. The mogu got the, “We are the generic bad guys in this expansion. We exist to fill out your daily quests and an eventual raid.” and the buck kind of stopped there. Lots of little tastes of Titan and Old God lore throughout both the Mogu and Klaxxi stories, but not enough to really let us sink out teeth into it. Why were the Zandalari even there? It’s sort of explained in the book, but not to a satisfying end. They’re there for a daily hub and to fill the first wing of Throne of Thunder, I guess.

I was more interested in the story behind the Twin Consorts or the implications of it than I was in the burdens of Shao Hao.

Wrathion was a shining star in this expansion, so it wasn’t all negative. The guy is an incredibly interesting character, and I can’t wait to see how he handles future challenges.

Another huge problem is that we went into this expansion from the start knowing that Garrosh was probably going to be the big bad. That’s like being handed a book by someone who goes, “Oh by the way, the main character dies at the end.”

At that point, how you get there starts mattering less. We didn’t lose a single major lore character to death this expansion. That could be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. There wasn’t as much investment from me because I knew Garrosh was going to be set up as the evil big bad, I knew the alliance and horde weren’t going anywhere, and I knew that any major sense of loss would be handled by sacrificing Pandaria itself instead of losing Anduin or something like that. I knew this as I started leveling my first character to 90. And that was when the Sha of boredom first crept into and took root in my brain.

In a lot of ways, I think the overwhelming amount of spoilers and datamining has destroyed a lot of the magic behind WoW. There are sites and resources dedicated to spilling out as much info as quickly as possible before patches even make it to the PTR. Can these spoilers be avoided? I am honestly going to say that at this point, no, they can’t be. I had a friend on twitter who was desperately trying to avoid being spoiled on the warchief reveal when Garrosh was killed, and she was accidentally spoiled within 2 hours. It only got worse after a few days as more and more people discussed every semblance of the plot from all possible angles.

As players, we’ve caused this problem. We’re our own worst enemy. We strive to be so well prepared and are just so curious about the game, that we remove a lot of the magic behind it by discussing changes/lore plotlines ad infinitum before they’re even in the game. I honestly think this is why Blizzard has started leaning so heavily on the book franchise. It’s a lot harder for book spoilers to be leaked to MMO champion since you cannot datamine a kindle.

Part of why I enjoyed FFXIV was because I picked it up at early release without having played the beta or looking any of it up. It was all new, it was all magical. I can’t expect that from WoW anymore, obviously, but it might be nice if maybe, as players, we can have enough respect for one another that we don’t immediately dish out every new plotline the instant it’s posted to MMO champion.

This also goes for Blizzard. You can set up an expansion without giving away the ending. I absolutely want the lore and quest devs to be involved and answer lore related questions, but going into MoP the way they did was a mistake. We knew at the last Blizzcon about Garrosh. The element of surprise was completely gone, and with it – so was some of the magic of the game.

I don’t know. Like I’ve been saying, it’s really hard to put these thoughts to words. I think I’ve rambled on enough for now. I hope some of what I said made sense. And I truly hope that at some point in the future, the game will captivate me again the way it has for the last 9 years.

Mists of Pandaria Wishlist

As we reach the midpoint of the expansion, there are some interesting changes on the horizon. 5.3 is already in the works and has a lot of quality of life changes. After that should be the Orgrimmar raid patch. On top of all of this, the game changing feature that Ghostcrawler had mentioned a while ago still hasn’t been announced. I’m wondering if the latest changes to allow certain scenarios cross faction are a hint at what is to come.

Speculation aside, there are a few loose ends that I’m hoping they tie up before the expansion ends. These are generally minor plot related things, so I’m hoping they don’t get swept by the wayside as bigger content, like the overthrowing of Garrosh, take center stage. Anywho, here’s my wishlist!

1) Resolution to Chen Stormstout’s family reunion

If you quest through dread wastes you get to see Chen finding out what happened to his family, or what is left of them. The ending of Stormstout Brewery also leaves what happens with Uncle Gao fairly ambiguous….peppers! What a lot of people may not know is that if you get your rep with the tiller Ella up, she sends you on a quest to have Chen try one of her brews. He ends up enjoying it so much he invites her to come live in the brewery and join the Stormstouts. This is especially touching because both of Ella’s parents had passed away.

So! I want to see what happens! I want some REAL resolution for Chen and his family! I have no doubt he’ll be appearing in future patches to help with the siege but considering the situation with the brewery and the ambiguous ending for some of his family (the guy in Amber is clearly still alive!) it would be great to have a final questline to see his full dreams realized and his family reunited.

2) Let’s have a wedding!

Throughout the tillers questlines and raising the friendship rep, it’s clear that a couple of the tillers ladies start to develop small crushes on ol’Yoonie. It would be great if there were a questline to culminate the friendship storyline and help one of the pandaren women and Yoon find true love.

The entire Tillers questline was eerily reminiscent of the Harvest Moon games. One of the biggest parts of that series was finding a wife/husband to woo. So it’d be nice if you could speak with one of the tillers ladies at max friendship and find out that she has a big’ol crush on farmer Yoon. Then, following some more questlines to help them talk to each other more, start planning and gathering items for a wedding in Halfhill!

3) Continue the farming traditions.

We’re not going to be staying in Pandaria forever. As the next expansion launches, I wonder just how many people will still venture to another continent to use their farms. It would be great if there were an expansion ending quest from the tillers where they invite you to continue their farming traditions in other lands as an official representative.

This opens up the possibility of giving players a run down, empty area of land on whatever new planet *coughArgus* we end up at and working hard to build it into a new farm. So say you find this patch of relatively safe land. You start clearing the rocks, gathering materials, and building a small farmhouse. It still follows the original farming theme but allows more customization. As for seeds? Surely there could be a questline to broker with the area’s population to gain access to new planting materials.

I LOVED the addition of farming in MoP. I would like to see it become a feature of the game itself rather than just an expansion.

4) A pet battle daily hub.

I discussed this in an earlier post but as people move out of Pandaria it would be super to have an area in Azeroth that featured a pet battle daily hub. Putting it in Azeroth would also allow for lower level alts to complete the dailies as well.

5) A Klaxxi pet.

Okay, maybe not a Klaxxi since they’re sentient humanoids. (Even  though we get the hopling, sporeling sprout, etc.) but maybe our big Kunchong buddy from the daily quests could leave us a baby kunchong pet as a thank you gift for essentially saving the Mantid race from extinction.

6) Make Taran Zhu shut up.

This one is pretty self explanatory. Seriously, make the guy shut up. I’m tired of his smarmy lectures all the time. One of the biggest positives to MoP ending will be not having to see this guy anymore.

7) No Med’an ever.

Please, please, PLEASE do not ever put this kid in the game. PLEASE.

8) If they’re going to bring Illidan back to life, bring Aegwynn back too.

Seriously. If the limits of death do not matter in the Warcraft universe then pleasing the playerbase by bringing Aegwynn back should be a trifle. Aegwynn died so that Med’an could live on as a terrible character and that’s a damned shame.

9) Bring the Lorewalkers to the main continents.

Given Cho’s thirst for knowledge and love of spreading history, I fail to see why he wouldn’t open up a branch of the lorewalkers on the other continents and even invite other races to be founding members. Think about all the great lore areas in EK, Kalimdor, and Northrend there are. This would be especially cool if they added small lore items that played the cinematic movies from the original warcraft games.

A lot of newer players are not sure where to start when it comes to the history of the game. Solution to this? Put the game’s history IN THE GAME for them to find. A tossed aside crown item inside the throne room of Lordaeron that, when clicked on, plays the cinematic of when Arthas returned would just be amazing.

10) A FREAKIN’ CORGI PET COME ON NOW WHY IS THIS NOT IN GAME YET?

PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE KNOWS I WANT ONE IN GAME SO I’M STARTING TO TAKE IT AS A PERSONAL INSULT THAT THERE’S NOT ONE AVAILABLE YET.

Whew! So that’s my wishlist! What would you all like to see?