There was a moment last week, around Friday, that I was kind of bummed out because I was sure that this—”this” being Children’s Week—was going to be the event that finally unraveled my hopes at getting the Violet Proto-Drake in a year. The reason for the discouragement was that I didn’t even log on to the game for several days following the posting of the last Edition due to an illness that plagued the females in my household leaving my wife unfit to care for our daughter and her, in turn, needing extra care and attention due to a raging fever and a very sad shift in her personality wherein she seemed to be frightened at the external forces acting upon her body. The good news for us is she doesn’t get sick much thus far. Needless to say, I essentially forgot about the game for two or three days and took care of my family.
When I did log back in I realized that I still needed School of Hard Knocks, the PvP achievement that has apparently derailed more than one person’s attempts at the year-in-the-making mount. Given my setback in number of attempts, it looked pretty bleak.
Somehow or other, though, I buckled down on Saturday morning, at times ruefully because the attempts numbered in the dozens and toward the end I really just wanted to log in as a different character and do something fun for a change. And at last I completed the requirement for Warsong Gulch and nabbed the achievement that completed the event requirements. I won’t say it was a hollow victory because I was very pumped when I finally was able to return that silly flag, but it did have the semi-unfortunate effect of making me a bit sick of PvP for a little while, especially Alterac Valley (which I wasn’t crazy about to begin with) and Warsong Gulch (which somewhat sadly I really liked for a time). The good news is that I had neglected the other toons all week in an effort to get the dumb achievement so I had plenty of reason to catch up with them after the event ended and give myself a break from all that PvPing.
What the whole encounter did prompt me to do was read ahead a bit on the rest of the World Event achievement lists to see what else was likely to interrupt my quest for the mount and it looks like, unless Blizzard changes something, the two most likely to trip me up are Sinister Calling and Fa-la-la-la-Ogri’la. The latter was one I missed last Christmas because of the reputation requirements for getting the Ogri’la dailies so in theory it should be doable as long as I spend some time between now and the end of this year rep grinding with that faction, plus the comments thread on Wowhead indicates that there may be a shortcut built in that doesn’t require the reputation grind as previously thought but I’m not positive about that. The Sinister Calling achievement looks like a RNG battle with a limited number of attempts possible. That’s a big bummer but at least it doesn’t look like anything that everyone else playing WoW is exempt from; it’s a source of frustration all around. The other ones I was worried about that are PvP-based actually look easy enough now that I’m more PvP-oriented with the Warrior; they seem to require simply getting X honorable kills while dressed in some event garb or another. There are a couple more of the “Do something to a select subset of the game population” such as Turkey Lurkey, which could be difficult as well though none of them seem to have the same number of requirements as Shake Your Bunny-Maker which had the odd distinction of needing a race/gender combo and a minimum level requirement. I suppose with something like Turkey Lurkey there’s nothing stopping an Alliance player from rolling an Orc Rogue and parking it outside Stormwind, for example.
I am worried about that Sinister Calling thing though.
Just One Drop/The Waffle
I’ve reached a fairly frustrating plateau with my Mage recently where I need to move on to the next level of content in order to facilitate my gear improvement but my current gear and situation is just sub-par enough to make that transition difficult. I’ve talked about how I couldn’t queue into the new dungeons last week because my item level was just below the requirement and getting in there actually matters because the loot in those dungeons is much better than the other heroics from patch 4.0.x. Well, at the tail end of last week I finally got a minor upgrade to a 333 item that boosted me the last point over the edge and I had the chance to try the new Zul’Gurub.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that just squeaking in over the requirement limit meant I was way undergeared for the content and I died a ridiculous amount on three bosses. In fact I ran out of time and never did see if they got the final boss down. On the plus side I got a Spiritcaller Cloak (which was an upgrade but is hideous to the point that I hit the “Hide Cloak” option in the preferences once I put it on) as a random mob drop but I can’t say I was really tearing it up in there. Part of the problem is that I’m just not pulling down 10,000 DPS on a consistent basis against heroic level mobs and other than continuing to grind Valor to try and speed my transition from heroic-level blues to epic gear pieces, I’m not sure how to cross that threshold reliably.
Part of me thinks that I’m spending too much time on heroic dungeons and not enough time working to get into a raiding situation. After all, the work involved in Valor purchasing individual epic pieces is something like four and a half weeks (for key slot items that cost 2,200 VP) which presumes hitting the normal heroic dungeon Valor cap each and every week, something I’m not likely to do. If we’re just talking about the core gear slots (that is, ignoring cloaks and rings and trinkets and such) that’s eight slots that need to be filled which would take three full years to do. On the other hand, most raid bosses seem to have between 15-20% chance to drop something I could use each time they’re downed suggesting that if I could get into a raid group that downed even two bosses a week I’d halve the time it took to gear out.
And herein is my struggle because I very much like my guild but they are not really pushing the raiding envelope with much gusto at all. Sure there’s idle chatter about getting raids going but by and large the focus in the guild is on achievements and leveling alts. I’m not saying I have intentions of becoming a hard core raider but I’m starting to get to the point where I see my priorities diverging from those of the guild. It’s really little things, like the fact that there isn’t much going on guild-wise outside the game: There are no active forums, the website is a ghost town and ventrilo is only ever populated by the same dozen or so players. Part of the blame does fall on myself, I realize. I originally leveled the Mage to be a better DPS in what was becoming, at the time, a fairly regular 5-8 man group, one which could easily have been fleshed out into a raid team. But as circumstances changed my play schedule became more erratic and I no longer log in reliably at the same basic time each evening. Some of that is chicken/egg: If I had a regular weekly raid appointment I could probably work out that schedule. Lacking that, I play when I have time here and there and I don’t think people in the guild think of me as a steady presence and even though I’ve expressed interest in raiding they don’t seem to think of me as a number to be counted on when they’re deciding if they have enough for raiding.
I can think of two options: I can try to wedge my way into the guild a bit more and volunteer some of the precious little time I have for various guild-improvement activities such as fixing up the website, working on getting the forums more active, volunteering to organize a raid team, basically trying to make my current guild match more closely what I want out of it. The other choice is to shop the Mage around and see if there are other guilds that I could switch into that are already doing the kinds of things I like to do.
There are pros and cons to each. A big con of working on my current guild is that it would be a non-game time sink. Typically if I have time to be doing World of Warcraft-y things, I like to be playing the game. The only reason this blog gets updated is because I have to do something on Tuesday mornings while the maintenance window is ongoing. Other than that I’m playing or doing other things, so fiddling with a website and trying to be active on forums (something I’ve never been great at) sounds kind of blah. Not to mention that I’m new enough to the game and the guild that I don’t want to be seen as someone trying to horn in on anyone’s authority: I know the guild leaders work pretty hard to try and do the best they can with the guild and even if I sometimes think I could do better, I’d never presume to know what it takes to do what they do. The downside of shopping around is that I’d lose the DPS toon I specifically rolled and maxed out to be my damage-dealer in this guild, plus there’s the very real possibility that such an endeavor would result in a paid realm transfer: A $25 fee that would not only mean ponying up more dough for a frivolous virtual service than I could ever feel comfortable with, but my current server of choice would lose it’s resident 85 Herbalist/Alchemist and I’ve been spending an awful lot of time trying to get the profession bases covered in my stable of alts to cut out a couple of 525 professions just like that.
So I don’t know what, if anything, I ought to do. One alternate thought I had was to try out a couple of other guilds on some of my non-affiliated alts (like the Death Knight) and see if I can do a try-before-I-buy kind of deal, possibly focusing on other guilds within the same server. Once I’m out of the DK starting zone I do plan to try out the Looking For Guild tool and see how well it works, so there’s something that could come from that.
I’ll Sleep When I’m Healing
I made it up about five more levels on my Shaman over the weekend mostly by running various wings of Scarlet Monastery which is a good suite of instances to run. I personally find them to be pretty enjoyable and they have a lot of drops that are good for Tailoring like Silk Cloth. It actually got me thinking about what makes an enjoyable instance versus a drudge and I came up with the following. Note that these apply to the low-level Vanilla instances for the most part, because newer dungeons (basically Wrath onward) kind of operate on a different set of game paradigms.
- Good dungeons have an epic feel in a reasonably sized experience. A good example of this is Deadmines (Reg) and Scholomance, both of which have cool internal lore and seem a lot more sprawling and complex than they really are. Bad examples are Wailing Caverns and Gnomergeran which both just feel overly long.
- Good dungeons don’t punish players who have never run the instance before. Mauradon, with its confusing multi-level access to the various bosses is poor at this, while Scarlet Monastery is much better since it splits itself into separate wings with a progressive difficulty and a semi-linear progression that makes the distinct parts manageable while the sum is so much more without any of it being brutal for first-timers.
- Good dungeons have a nice boss-to-trash ratio. The magic number isn’t really quantifiable but I think more than a dozen trash mobs between bosses starts to get really dull, especially if there isn’t much variance to the mobs (ahem, Razorfen Kraul).
- Good dungeons always make working through them a joy rather than a pain. Sometimes this means having teleporters to get you deeper into the instance if you wipe and have to corpse run back in, sometimes it just means not getting overly cute with the progression mechanics so they get confusing (Dire Maul is bad at this, Scholomance is better). Typically any dungeon with internal quests is on the right track (Blackfathom Deeps, in spite of its reputation, for example), those without are not so much (Gnomergeran, I am disappoint). Honestly just that small carrot of the dungeon quest makes going through it matter and mean something as opposed to just being content designed to be 5-manned.
I think most of the old world dungeons, especially after the little changes in Cataclysm, are pretty good. And it doesn’t seem like Blizzard are resting on their laurels either, apparently they’re removing the maze from Wailing Caverns. It may seem controversial, but it really isn’t. Non-linear dungeons are good at making their progression fun rather than dull (see #4, also Blackrock Caverns) but awkward layouts aren’t non-linear, they’re just confusing and frustrating. Blizzard isn’t 100% on this (the revamped Sunken Temple for example was excitingly non-linear before and is now fundamentally Stormwind Stockades: Swamp Edition) but if they want to cut out the backtracking and group frustration inherent in places like Wailing Caverns and a couple of the Coilfang Reservoir wings, they won’t have an argument from me.
This really matters to me on my Shaman because I’m running instances as my means of leveling up and if I get dropped into a dungeon that should take 30 minutes and I’m in there for two hours, that kills my XP rate and so far, even with the full suite of heirloom gear and guild XP bonuses, leveling rate is the thing that is holding me back the most. My professions have consistently outpaced my actual level and I end up waiting to ding a few times so I can train the next profession level so not fiddling around with a group for three or four times as long as should be necessary when I’m just trying to heal people, collect my experience and go is a major win for me.
Speaking of healing, part of the impetus behind this dungeon-crawler experiment was that since the Shaman is intended to be strictly a healer (my off-spec is being saved for a different Restoration build, not an Enhancement or Elemental DPS alternative), I needed as much practice leading up into high-level healing as I could possibly get and I wasn’t going to get that working on solo questing. But it turns out that for most people leveling alts, they don’t really need a lot of healing most of the time. I drop Earth Shield on the tank, stand around and maybe triage a careless DPS with Healing Wave every once in a while. I tend to throw out a few heals at the tank, too, just to give myself something to do between boss fights because mostly the trash is manageable as long as everyone is doing their jobs.
There has been one or two cases where I actually had to work and use a bunch of my tools to keep folks alive and when that happens it’s very exciting. But while I’m still surprised to find myself enjoying healing I feel like so far I haven’t really been tested much at it which means it gets a bit dull at times and when it’s early or late I catch myself dozing more so than I ever usually do playing the game. I guess I could say that means it’s more of a soothing play experience but that’s not really accurate either because when Serious Healing does need to be done it’s as stressful and exciting as anything in WoW, it’s just that the lulls between the action are longer especially at this level range. Hopefully things start getting hairier as I push through the level progression but it seems more like it’s just a matter of getting the fundamentals down so when I hit Cataclysm range I’m good enough at healing to be able to keep up.