Well. Wow. Hi guys! So you know, there was this expansion that launched this weekend and… I figured it was time to come back to the blog!
Ana Sucks at Leveling
Ask my guild. They will all tell you I have a -50 to Leveling handicap. I knew I had to seriously put my nose to the grindstone if I was going to get myself prepared for raid next week in a timely manner. So I took tuesday through thursday off work this week, a glorious vacation indeed. Over the weekend, I stocked up on chips, beer, coke, smokes, frozen meals, and tons of coffee– obviously I was following Derevka’s Stay Healthy tips here. Besides some very questionable looks at the grocery store, I was feelin’ good about my preparation. (OK, I feel the need to note, I was not a complete failure; I also prepared & stored a couple meals involving at least one vegetable).
I also prepped myself with a leveling group. Obtaining a healer was my first goal. I went straight for the super awesome Dayani (of new healing blog Healiocentric) – she’s an app in Something Wicked, so I knew I could play off this and guilt her into carrying my sorry ass through at least two levels. She also lives 14 hours in the future, so she had no problem being on at launch! Once armed with a healer, locating DPS was quite easy, and friends Settesh, Eyliria, and Zaey signed on.
Monday night: I got a quick nap in before launch. Launch itself was stunningly smooth- the quest popped at 2:55 AM, and we were off! So rare considering we generally expect the servers to fail for hours when Blizzard launches anything. Grats Blizz! And then… well, seven straight hours of Jade Temple and Stormstout Brewery. Wow. 85 to 87. I love all my four leveling buddies, but that was a little bit repetitive. Regardless, we got ahead of the pack and around 10 AM I hit up Chick Fil A for some well deserved breakfast.0
Tuesday: Solo leveling 87 to 88 went fairly well, but I definitely bogged down at 88 and aimlessly wandered around in the afternoon. Have you ever had that feeling? When you’re way too tired to be awake, but you passed the whole “I’m exhausted” moment too many hours before? I was way past tired and into zombie mode. About half of tuesday was a total waste, and I finally crashed around midnight.
Wednesday: I woke back up at noon, refreshed after my twelve hours, and went back to the grindstone. I hit 89 in mid afternoon and decided to power through to 90 that evening! I grouped with friends Settesh, Eyliria, and Theck for large chunks of 88 through 90. Finally, well into the evening – in fact it was about 4:45 AM – Eyliria and I both dinged 90 while doing that horrendous underwater Paragon quest in Dread Wastes.
All right!! I was pretty damn satisfied. I subsequently went straight to bed and slept, secure in the knowledge that despite my own lack of leveling focus, I’d managed to get to 90 in the completely respectable time table of 50 hours after launch.
I wonder how many of my guildmates lost bets on me being the last to 90 when I logged in on Thursday? I hope I get a share of those winnings!
Fun Party Times with Cross Realm Zones
While I was leveling on Tuesday, I spotted Theck – who actually is like, a real life professor, and can’t take off work – online and trying his best to get through the start zones. He had previously lamented the massive, massive Horde imbalance on his PVP server Blackrock, which makes leveling rather difficult for Alliance. Although I watched him take down a couple horde with expert ease, no amount of PVP skill will save you when you are ganked over and over, or when 10 Horde decide to jump you in the middle of town before the guard can even move.
I sympathized. I remember the PVP shenanegains from my Cataclysm launch leveling on Lightninghoof back when I played with WI paladin writers Matt Walsh and Dan Desmond. Battles over spawn points, gank after gank, fear upon finding the other faction near you, spotting horde and continuing quietly about my own business while hoping they’d not bother me, leveling with a buddy to present a less tempting target … I remember all of this a bit fondly, as it was quite exciting, but mostly with a huge sense of relief that I don’t have to put up with it all anymore. PVP servers can be fun, but PVE servers are just easier.
Fortunately Blizzard has now built a fix for friends like Theck and I who are located on different servers. One party invite to him later, and he phased out to my PVE, Alliance dominated server Whisperwind! I’m sure the Horde who were chasing him were confused when he vanished. And so Theck leveled with myself and my guildmates for quite a while over the last few days. Theck: officially a friend of Something Wicked!
As awesome as it was to level with Theck, some of the technology behind CRZ concerns me. It’s just a bit too easy. Part of me wonders how large of an impact CRZ had on the race to realm first. Our guild took it very seriously, with six class realm firsts, five coordinated to share Realm First 90, and three more classes beat to the end within a bubble of taking it themselves. We love that kind of competitive shit. I suck too much as leveling to go for Realm First myself, but I was cheering on my guildmates through their race. So this made me think: PVP server powerlevelers would have had a much easier time CRZ’d with a friend on a PVE realm, or people on a highly populated realm CRZ’d to one of the emptiest.
I was happy to find that it only worked when the party leader was equal or higher level, but I also wish that they’d put a zone restriction on it, so that you had to be somewhat near your leveling buddy – like the exp boost from Recruit A Friend. There are also a couple of exploits still floating around. Blizzard turned off all the Fishing contests, but I’m hearing that reputation grinds where you are offered X quests from a limited selection each day can also be exploited with CRZ. These have been reported and will hopefully be fixed.
However, on the whole, CRZ is very cool. I was really ticked pink to get to hang out with Theck and other Real ID friends just by grouping up with them. Well done, Blizzard! I just hope that the exploit problems and implications get through through thoroughly by their quest designers now and in the future.
Would I do it again? Absolutely and without question. I love every bit of the launch day excitement and I don’t think I’ll ever be too old to stay up for launch. I’m impatient! I want to see everything right when it opens!
The days off were key. My job isn’t exactly flexible – I run operations at a retail firm – but I work a lot, and I wanted these days and requested them off long ago. I was really glad I’d taken them, and I came back to the office today feeling refreshed and happy beyond belief. The dungeon running from 85 to 87 was a bit painful. I don’t know if I’d do that again. Doing so in the company of friends was definitely fun, but wow… that was a lot of Temple and Brewery, over and over and over! I don’t even want to do the math to see how many times we did each one because damn. It was too many times. That’s all. But being up all night was totally worth it. I’d do it again anytime.
My First Impressions of Mists: the Bad
Here’s what I’ve told all my RL friends who ask me about Mists: the lore is stupid beyond belief, but the rest of the game is fantastic.
I’m sorry. I tried, I really did, but I still can’t take the pandas seriously. I get that they’ve existed (as a joke, but existed) in Blizzard games for years, but that doesn’t make them an awesome idea for an entire expansion. I know Blizzard makes games for kids, I know Warcraft is meant to appeal to the under 18 crowd, but I’ve never had it driven home quite as hard as when I look at the title for this expansion. Pandaria? They couldn’t come up with a better name?! The constant generic Asian references are also so cloying as to be borderline offensive, and this is coming from someone who’s always been pretty obsessed with Asian culture.
Basically, Mists of Pandaria is no Cataclysm. I generally want really bad (like, laughably bad) high fantasy melodrama from my MMOs, and MOP is light on the drama and heavy on the cute and kid friendly. Don’t tell me there’s super important war drama going on, because I’m just going to point at those cheezy commercials. Even the oh-so-heartbreaking war is rendered laughable when resolving it involves playing farm with the pandas. MOP is pretty much a Disneyworld ride through a land of huggable stuffed animals, rice paddies, and oversized vegetables. And beer. Lots of beer, but in that LOL BEER IS FUNNY WHEN ADULTS DRINK IT! way. Point being, I constantly can’t shake the feeling that I’m about ten years too old to be playing this game.
So you might say that I don’t like the “lore” behind Mists. How fortunate that I’m enjoying just about everything else!
My First Impressions of Mists: the Good
I am floored at how much I’m enjoying an expansion I still mockingly call WOW: Hello Kitty Island. Sign me up for raiding with the pandas if the class design and quest design is any indication of raid quality.
Paladins didn’t even get a huge overhaul this time around and I’m still very happy. Blizzard constantly iterates their class design with small tweaks between expansions and occasional sweeping redesigns at expansion time, and I believe Mists reflects a full 8 years of polish. I know some people really hate to have their class change out from under them every few years, but I firmly believe that these class designs and redesigns have helped this game endure and only improve for so long. The best way to deal is to think about each successive expansion as a whole new game, and that’s why WOW remains scarily popular despite being scary old.
Having said that, I’ll point out that Paladins didn’t get a redesign for MOP. We got our massive overhaul in 2010 with Cataclysm, and MOP mostly tweaked. I was happy with the redesign overall – I certainly loved what it did for ret, but prot and holy never really meshed quite as well with Holy Power. I think it’s fair to say that I overall enjoyed the Cata paladin changes, but I really didn’t end up enjoying the way Prot played throughout Cataclysm.
Fortunately MOP has finally provided the designers with the moment they needed to overhaul prot, and they done good. They done real good.
MOP style Prot Paladins are awesome. I was prot for about half my journey to 90, and I was stunned at how much fun I had. I can’t tell you how much I love the new style prot rotation. I don’t have the words. I remember tank expert Kihra tweeting a month or two ago about what he thought, and now I agree completely. The rotation isn’t nearly as lolworthy as it was before– in fact, lolworthy is definitely not how I’d describe it. We might have the most complex tank rotation out there right now. It’s really nice. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of how to play prot effectively, and that’s really a nice way to feel. I haven’t wanted to tank in a long, long time…
I won’t be raiding as prot much. There’s a lot more to tanking than just the spec and although I like the spec again, DPS is definitely my favored role. But hybrids with offspecs tend to be in high demand when expansions launch, and I’ve always liked being a useful hybrid type. I knew I’d be tanking a bunch as MOP launched, and prepared myself for that… but I was certainly not prepared to enjoy it quite so much.
Well done, Blizz. Well done. I’m pretty damn happy with my class.
Anyways, that’s it for now.
I will end this blog post by sharing a classic moment with you all.
Around 3 PM yesterday, the most hardcore power level group we had took their well deserved Realm Firsts. Our favorite twitter personality Esoth was ahead of the pack, and waited a bit for the rest to catch up so they could share the credit. We watched as Esoth and his group – Derevka whom you all know, Omegal whom you should definitely know, warlock Zaythan and rogue Torima shared Realm First 90. I popped into mumble to grats them (of course!) and they tiredly and excitedly accepted.
To my surprise, none of them left to go to sleep … not a single one, although I think Derevka took a break to open a celebratory bottle of wine. I found all five of these crazies still sitting in vent an hour later, talking excitedly about dungeons, heroics, professions, and daily rep grinds. I couldn’t believe it and asked, “When are you guys going to sleep?”
I got the response: “Are you kidding? Now we get to play the game!”
Damn straight. Now we get to play the game. The journey has just begun!
Good luck everyone still working to 90! Take your time, don’t rush like us crazies! And if you’re already 90 and alliance side, hit me up for some heroic farming. I don’t like to post my Battletag publicly, but feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on twitter. Good luck all, and have fun!