Wednesday, November 24, 2010

First Impressions of the Shattering

After reading that maintenance had been extended until 8 PM EST, Lal and I settled in around dinner time to watch the season six finale of Deep Space 9 which we've been renting from Netflix.  However around 6 PM we got notification from several sources that the servers were up! So we logged on to have a look around at the newly destroyed world.

I logged in on Elionene in Ashenvale at the graveyard right next to Astranaar.  The town was on fire, and a horde outpost was just a stone's throw away. Ack! I checked on the NPCs and they seemed to have things under control, so I rode over to the Raynewood Retreat and helped pick off so orc invaders and talked to the druids defending the tree.  From there it was on up to Felwood.  Oddly enough Felwood seemed like it was about the same as it had been.

I checked my hearthstone, and realized that it had been set to Teldrassil.  From what I could see, every one of my character's hearths had been reset to the racial capital city.  So off to Darnassus I went.  The new Worgen area of the city was kind of cool, and there are fancy new flight points all over the place.  I paid my respects to Malfurion Stormrage, back from the Emerald Dream. He's up holding court with Tyrande in the Temple of the Moon in case you were looking for him.

From there I took the boat to Stormwind. I have to give props to the designers for the Stormwind overhaul.  It's huge, and as one of my guild mates put it, it feels more like a real place.  There's more going on, and there's more NPC movement and activity.  In particular, check out the huge graveyard North of the cathedral, and look for the memorial to Varian Wrynn's deceased wife, Tiffin.  Speaking of Varian, the keep is newly redone as well with a giant statue of the King in front.  Anduin Wrynn is all grown up, which is probably a good indicator of how much time has passed.  In game time, it's probably been at least two to three years since we went North to fight the Lich King.  Since then, parts of the city have been renovated, and others destroyed.

During this time, other guild members were looking at other zones.  One of them mentioned he had seen foxes, which are new with the patch, and tamable. At first I went to Redridge to get a fox, but all of them were black. Instead I had to make my way to Loch Modan to find the red foxes.  It's  not much of a loch anymore actually. The dam is busted and the water is all gone, but I found the foxes and got one or my very own.

Foxes are unique pets in that they have a "play" ability which just causes it to jump up and dance on its hind feet. It wasn't long before I realized that you can tell the fox to play and then send it in to attack something and it will continue the play animation while it's attacking things.  After checking out the new Deadmines, we decided to have some fun with the fox, and Marilee was able to capture it for You tube. I'm still laughing. Beware dancing foxes!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Waiting for Deathwing

It's here! The Shattering is happening this very moment.  Deathwing will be destroying Azeroth from 3 AM PST to 11 AM PST and when we log in we'll get to see everything that's changed.  Did you do anything to prepare? Throw any late night "End of the World" parties? Where did you park your characters to await the end of the world? Somewhere practical like Stormwind or Orgrimmar? Or maybe somewhere sentimental like the Barrens, Darkshore, or Hillsbrad?

I moved Salthier to Stormwind and set his hearth there as well. I sent a couple of my other characters to Ironforge to see what the Dwarves are up to.  But for Elionene, I took her to Ashenvale, so the first thing I'll be able to take a look at when I log in tonight are the changes to what I think of as her home and one of my favorite zones.  For the rest of the night, it will probably be running around and saying, "ooh look at that!"

I was going to write about some of the things that are changing with this patch and what things still won't be available until you install Cataclysm on the 7th of December, but WoW Insider already has a pretty good summary up.  Check it out here. Of the things that are mentioned in that article, here are the ones that stand out to me.

- Those NPCs that took cloth in exchange for city reputation are gone.  In their place you can buy city tabards that will provide reputation from dungeon running, just like the Northrend faction tabards.  

- Experience from level 71 - 80 is reduced by 20% making it that much faster to reach the level cap before Cataclysm actually hits.  My lone horde Death Knight is currently 78, so this will help give me incentive to push on to 80.

- New hunter pets and new pet skins for old pets.  Monkeys! Foxes! Beetles! Oh my!

- Dalaran and Shattrath portals are being removed, and replaced with class trainers.  If you're someone like me, this might not affect you much because I don't do much in game besides leveling and running dungeons and raids. However, if you're doing dailies, and using the auction hall a lot, then the next two weeks are going to be very inconvenient because the quests and AH are separated by a lot of land and sea with no easy way to get back and forth.** If I had a level 80 mage, I'd park myself in Dalaran and advertise portals for all of the people that forget to set their hearthstones in other cities or are stuck in Dalaran after the patch.  Might stand to make a few gold. 

- What we won't be able to do until Dec. 7th is anything Goblin or Worgen related.  The newest archaeology profession is not available.  Old world flying is not going to be purchasable until the expansion is installed. Guild leveling and achievements won't be implemented, and of course, the new 80+ zones will not be accessible.

It seems like even with all of the changes there aren't a lot of new things to do with patch 4.0.3a unless you want to roll one of the new race/class combos like Dwarf shaman or a Tauren paladin. I'm not really interested in rolling any new toons until after I get my mains to 85 and start raiding. So tonight I'll just be observing the changes, and maybe knocking out the last few levels on my Death Knight. Incidentally, if you were farming the Cataclysm bosses for loot, Blizzard has made them available around the clock  So there's that, oh, and a holiday world event. You can roast your turkeys over the burning coals of what used to be Stormwind!

**Edit: I was just reading this article on PC GAMER.  Apparently there will be an auction hall in Shattrath and Dalaran. So even if you have to bribe a mage or take a plane, train, and boat ride to get to and out of those cities, at least you should have all the resources you need at hand while you're there. The article has a lot of other cool information straight from J. Allen Brack, Blizzard's Productino Director.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Coming Up Next, The Shattering

The latest patch is hitting the servers today. That would be 4.0.3, and as many sources will tell you, this is not the patch that will bring the shattering of Azeroth and thus the new zones and quests.  That will happen with 4.0.3a which is expected in a couple weeks, shortly before we all install the expansion proper. Still, the fact that 4.0.3 is going live is exciting! The Elemental Invasion is going strong on live servers currently.  Lal and I participated in the defense of Stormwind and Ironforge last night. It basically consisted of attacking large elementals and then waiting a few seconds to see if those attacks actually worked.  The sheer amount of people in the capital cities, combined with all of the fighting made for some heavy latency.  Somehow we prevailed, and we got to fight some pretty neat bosses in various places around the world with our guild.

Speaking of our guild, we've recently started our own. Theoretical Novelty on the Moon Guard server. Our goal is to be a solid ten person raiding guild in Cataclysm, but not hardcore.  I like the description I've heard tossed around of "Skilled Casual" in that we have limited time to raid (two or three nights a week), but we're no slouches when it comes to knowing our classes and learning to work together as a team. I look forward to facing these new challenges with the new guild, and seeing how it all pans out. Along with the raiding, many of us are role players in some fashion, whether that's in character stories, in game events, or elsewhere.

When we started it was hard to keep interest in running raids since we were just shy of a full team, so many of us turned to more relaxing game time distractions of rep grinds and alts while we wait for the coming Cataclysm. Lal and I finally got Bogdan and Nadya to level 80. And a few other members have been diligently working on disappearing reputations and other achievements that may or may not be available once Deathwing comes.  With the release date of December 7th looming ever closer, the excitement for seeing new zones, running new dungeons and raids, and playing Worgen and Goblins is building.  Activity levels of our members are starting to increase bit by bit. Hopefully recruitment will pick up with the expansion so we can field a full ten person team for Cataclysm raiding, and hopefully we're up to the challenge of doing those raids.

All in all, I think I've accomplished most of what I was hoping to do before the expansion.  The last thing I can think to do is get my Death Knight to 80. He's almost 78 at the moment, and he would be my first Horde 80. I don't get a lot of time to play him, but my hope was that I'd be able to do some of the more lore centric quests from the Horde point of view, and so far it's been a lot of fun. Aside from that, I'm making sure to do all of the pre-Cataclysm events, and really understand the lore behind what's happening with the world.  It's a lot of fun, and it's great fodder for future blog posts.  I'm fairly sure not everyone is familiar with who Cho'gall is, and what he has to do with the Doomsday Cult. And what ties all of this to Deathwing? Will there be another Old God to deal with, and what will his, her, or its part be in all of this? Some of my more popular posts have been the Lessons in Lore stuff I used to do, so look for more or those, and more frequent posts in the near future!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Home Sweet Ashenvale

This week's Blog Azeroth shared topic asks us about our in game home.

What does 'home' mean in your book? Do you have a particular home in Azeroth - a place you feel you belong, that you know like the back of your hand, or that you feel more comfortable in than anywhere else? Would this be different for different characters or different factions, or is there just a place that really resonates with you? Do you think Cataclysm will prompt you to find new and different turf, or will you be heading back there first thing to see what might have changed? If it is destroyed, how do you think that will affect your experience of the game, or your characters' lives? Or do you think the whole idea of having a home doesn't even really apply to a game?

As the question goes, it's fairly broad. There are many things that can be considered home about Azeroth. The first aspect that comes to my mind is about my characters and their backgrounds. Surprisingly, out of all of my high level characters, only one of them has a significant link to her home, and that is Elionene, my main. Of the others, most are displaced such as the Draenei, Bogdan, and Khristin. And Salthier has given up his idea of home and become an ambassador of sorts to the humans of the Eastern Kingdom. He could call the Night Elf lands his home, but he travels so much, it's not really a concern to him. (Caution: Minor Cataclysm spoilers ahead, if you're trying to remain ignorant of everything that is about to happen.)

But Elionene is different. She was born and raised in the forest of Ashenvale, and it will forever be a place of peace and restoration to her. It's where her fondest memories of her family are. It's where she learned the skills to be a hunter, and it is the heart of the Night Elven lands where many of her faithful pets come from. When she needs to get away from the battles in Northrend, the tumultuous nature of Outland, or the constant presence of people in Azeroth, she can find a secluded area of Ashenvale and find a refuge unlike any other.

Little does she know the Cataclysm is going to take this home away from her. When Deathwing makes his debut, Ashenvale will erupt. Literally. A volcano will appear in the middle of the land. The orcs of the Horde will take advantage of this turmoil and take more land from the Night Elves in Ashenvale, cutting down the trees for their barracks and fortresses. The Night Elves will be pushed back to Astranaar and be constantly berated by scouting parties from the East and the West. Ashenvale will no longer be the refuge it once was for Elionene and others like her.

How will this affect her? I can see it hardening her a little bit. It will further antagonize her towards the Horde. She's already distrustful. This act may very well make her hostile. It certainly gives her motivation to lead a charge against Deathwing, and the Elemental Lords who will be ravaging the land. Luckily for her, she has a band of adventurers and friends willing to fight along side of her to protect the world they hold so dear, and the people in it.

Personally speaking, when I think of home in Warcraft, I also think of the Night Elven lands. More specifically the atmosphere and music of Teldrassil and Darkshore. Whenever I find myself in those areas with any character and the music starts to play, it immediately takes me back to when I first rolled Elionene and played through the Starter zones. And then when my wife and I rolled Salthier and Lal to play through those same areas, it just intensified the feeling that this is where it all began. This is where my roots in the game are. It's kind of like remembering when you first played the original Super Mario Brothers, or why geeks like me get all nostalgic for games like Centipede, Dig Dug, and Pac-Man. It brings back a time when things were simpler, and you were just learning how to do everything. It was all new and wonderful.

After thinking about the topic for awhile, I'm encouraged to work on the concept of home for some of my other existing characters, and especially for some characters I expect to roll in the near future. What will my Worgen consider home? What about the Gnomes as they attempt to take back what many of them consider their home? Home is an important concept, and I think the Cataclysm expansion is an ideal place to focus on what it means for us and our characters.