The More Things Change [MoP]

Tobold is burnt out on WoW and is quitting the MMORPG genre for the foreseeable future.

Nils is back, having previously rage-deleted all of his characters and vowing never to play again. Joking aside, it’s great to see this blogger back on the scene, who has offered some excellent insights in the past.

As for me I have finally reached the new continent with my monk, a month after the release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion.

It has been an interesting journey that has given me further opportunity to reflect on the Cataclysm content. I had originally intended to give the Cataclysm stories my full attention, as my previous experiences levelling alts had always led me to push for the optimal xp gain/time.

However on this occasion, heirloom-free, I would take my time to smell the roses.

Sadly, this was not to be.

The combination of a fast levelling speed and an end-game that is 90 levels away (Who had the bright idea of not making monks a hero class?) served to drive me from zone to zone without ever completing a story. Indeed it became a relief to discover that I could use the Enlightenment buff which provides monks with 1 hour of double experience gains per day. Or least it should do, if it wasn’t bugged to give you that buff until you die or log out.

Yes, Cataclysm did change the world, but did it go far enough?

Imagine yourself in a cave in Winterspring farming yeti furs, the burning tiredness behind your eyes reminding you that you have been and done this many times before.

It is this feeling, combined with the carrot of ‘new’, which drives the burned-out veteran back to the expansion content rather than enjoy the journey. What Cataclysm needed was fun dailies (perhaps using new vehicle tech?) that were not level-specific or buried behind other chains of quests that involve killing the same mobs repeatedly or hoping for the same rare drops.

Unless I am talking into Recruiting another Friend, this will be the last time I can see myself undertaking the 1->expansion journey.

The Barrens, even with volcanic fissues, will always be The Barrens.

 

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The Return to Outland Preview [WoW]

Mists of Pandaria has been out for a few weeks now and is old news. By now you have no doubt cleared all of the quests, blasted through the heroics and are now banging your head against the first raid.

It’s time to look at what is next for WoW: the 5th expansion, entitled The Return to Outland.

Both Cataclysm and Pandaria were targeted at attracting new players to the aging behemoth. The former tidied up the early game experience, particularly addressing the 1-20 period where triallists are still questioning whether an online game charging a subscription is better than the free Facebook games and wealth of casual titles at tiny prices on the AppStore. The latter introduced an eye-catching new race that would appeal to a younger demographic, as well as providing alternative end-game mechanics (pet battles, farming) for players that have little interest for raiding. In addition, all end-game content is available at all difficult levels, a move which Blizzard will hopes will cater to the hardcore (Challenge Modes), just as much as to the casuals.

From a lore perspective, we have now toured all 4  major landmasses of Azeroth, as well as the 4 elemental planes. Where to next?

Return to Outland will be the expansion that resumes where The Burning Crusade left off. Sargeras has sent Kil’Jaeden to have another crack at forming a portal to Azeroth, through which the demonic hordes can be sent. The Alliance and Horde, still recovering from the death of its Warchief, must venture back into Outland and explore further landmasses of Draenor.

Features include:

-A new ‘continent’ of Outland, twice the size of the Burning Crusade environments. A ‘Nagrand’-esque zone is guaranteed.

-A new neutral race. One we haven’t encountered before.

-2 new companion pet types

-A demonic invasion event to herald the new expansion

-Changes to the Burning Crusade content to reflect Cataclysm and subsequent events

-A new mechanic where you can downscale your level to that of a friend/zone, whilst still collecting rep/gold/xp rewards.

-Several new battlegrounds including a naval battle

The aim of the expansion to attract back old players that left at the end of The Burning Crusade era. Return to Outland will be thematically darker than the previous 2 expansions and will resume the feeling of fighting in a heroic campaign against a ‘Big Bad’ villain, whilst simultaneously maintaining the advances in accessibility and variety of endgame activities that were introduced since TBC.

Launch date: December 2014

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Lettuces [Quote of the Day]

“There are only so many human towns you can defend from centaur attacks before you think — oh, just take over the town, I’m off to pick lettuces.” Spinks

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WvWvZzzzzz in the Sea of Sorrows [GW2]

As a resident of the Asia Pacific region, yet someone can only understand languages in the Latin alphabet, my MMO diet consists on playing western games on US servers. The result is that most of the time, I am playing my MMO of choice when the main population (US) is offline.

So it can be no surprise to you to learn that where an Oceanic server exists (official or otherwise), this will be the one I opt for.

I am not the only one. The entire Guild Wars 2 populations of Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan unanimously agreed to all roll onto the Sea of Sorrows server to play together in a (roughly) time-zone unified harmony. Whilst the major guilds of Henge of Denravi and Tarnished Coast slept, we stormed their keeps and completely dominated the map in WvWvW. I think at the time that I logged off, we dominating 95% of the map and were farming NPC events for fun.

Naturally there will be some calibration in the first few weeks – stronger Worlds will have to defeat weaker ones until the best of the best are seeded to face each other. However I can’t see a way around the time zone issue until we reach a World which plays consistently through the night. Based the fervor I have seen from Jade Quarry enthusiasts, it may be the case that they are the ones to do this but we will have to see. They do have the advantage of pings under 300 ms…

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Complex stories, Simplified Gameplay [Quote of the Day]

“I find it oddly contradictory how games are trending towards more complex stories but more simplified gameplay.
I can’t help thinking that in five years, a pivotal moment in a game will boil down to ‘press X to experience a traumatic childhood.'” – A friend

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MMOs are like buses… [GW2/MoP]

Spinks asks the key question of the moment for MMO enthusiasts: How will you manage your playing time between Guild Wars 2 and Mists of Pandaria?

These aren’t the only titles that I’m planning to dip into in the autumn period (hello SWTOR, Crusader Kings 2, Sleeping Dogs and a myriad of Steam Sale games!) so it’s going to be tough to dedicate extended periods to just one game at a time. That said, I’m conscious that my enjoyment and the quality of my writing suffers when I’m juggling too many games. The temptation becomes to not read quest text, skipping side quests and generally blasting through the content impatiently.

So my plan is to dedicate at least the month of September to Guild Wars 2 and see whether I am ready to move on to MoP when it launches. I believe that GW2 is a game that benefits from being part of the initial wave of players, experiencing everything together for the first time in sync. To be honest, I am still not convinced that the heart events will be quite the same if experienced several months later by myself.

Conversely group questing in WoW is cumbersome, with players competing for limited mob spawns, limited quest items and so on. Being the first to 90 will give you an advantage in playing the Auction House but the gold making game has always been an amusing side pursuit for me, not a reason to rush through content that has taken 2 years of development.

Strangely enough, it would do us all a favour if Bioware waited until November for their next content patch…

Bernard

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Hell Hath No Fury [GW2]

In many thousands of years, when scientists trawl through the remnants of the internet circa early 2000s in search of nuggets of brilliance, one lucky scientist will come across Azuriel’s latest post on Guild Wars 2.

A pre-purchaser and participant of the game’s closed beta weekends, Azuriel calls into question Dynamic Events, WvWvW and the endgame, an act will is tantamount to sacrilege for the fans of the game.

The discussion that follows is a largely civil analysis of the pro and contra until Steve Mink Jr jumps in with the conclusion that Azuriel is a WoW fan who is full of cr@p. A post on another fan site later and the comments thread deteriorates into a cesspit.

Like Azuriel, I too have prepayed and preplayed Guild Wars 2. I look forward to the launch next week.

But I am conscious that many are viewing GW2 as the ‘savior game’.

You know, the one that rewrites the rules for the MMO industry and wins the crown from WoW’s head.

We have been here before and know well that these high expectations lead to joy, then disappointment, resentment and disillusionment. 

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