Do you follow competitive WoW?

My first thought was, “Nope!”

But immediately after I thought, “Why not?”

Having done arenas and died, and then watched my teammates manage to pull off a win, or fight to the bitter end – arenas are really, really fun to watch, but only if you know what you are watching pretty intimately. I don’t really think that casual questing or even raiding is quite enough to get to that sweet spot where you can follow the action in a meaningful way. Let me be clear – that’s not meant to be demeaning in any way to folks who play in those ways! I’ve been a 35-hour a week super casual player in WoW for years. I’ve also forayed into PvP and arenas, mostly during Cataclysm. I played BGs until I mastered them, then moved on to arenas. I never mastered those, but I had a pretty good idea of what to do.

Watching competitive WoW, specifically arenas, is a great deal like watching fencing. Everyone waits. You see this great flurry of movement that’s entirely confusing if you’ve never fenced, and then it’s over. Wait, what?

But if you are a fencer, or a WoW PvPer in battlegrounds, or even fight on an arena team, that waiting has heavy meaning because you know exactly what it is that the players are waiting for. And when you see it, in that same moment that they see it – when they burst into a flurry of action and reaction, or better yet that second sense kicks in, the one that tells them what their opponent is about to do, and they counter it with speed you can’t believe, just as they should – when the tides turn and the losing team does something just right, while the team you thought was winning makes a critical mistake – and the rest is silence. How is that not exciting? Interesting? You get an adrenaline rush just watching their performances.

So while I don’t watch the competitions at this point, I’m looking at getting my DK back into PvP. As I get better, the matches I do watch will essentially move in slow-motion for me, each movement having meaning, building to their conclusion through skill and error. In conclusion, I haven’t in watching it, but I think I should be!

What would you buy from the WoW in-game store?

I buy two categories of products, though they can overlap:

1) Cosmetic items such as mounts and pets, usually when they go on sale for 50% off. I gift these sometimes, too.

2) Fundraiser items, such as the Cinder Kitten or Cenarion Hatchling, where the money is going to help people.

I don’t buy from the Blizzard store all that often, but then, I maintain a subscription. Three of them, even. So I don’t think I should feel obligated to buy anything from the store to play the game. With the expansion to the store that Blizzard seems to be contemplating, I would heartily encourage them to stick to cosmetic items: Pretty armor sets, mounts, pets, even player housing and the items for customization that invariably come with it.

While I do not think that allowing items on the store that affect gameplay is consistent with the way Blizzard has run the game so far, I do understand that things change and it’s probably inevitable eventually. If they were to introduce a Free to Play option, I’d like to see subs become a way to get unlimited or large amounts of goods that FTP players have to option to pay for a la cart, especially if these items affect gameplay – XP potions, useful items, etc. That way I don’t feel like I’m being hit twice, once for my sub and again for the goods I need to be competitive in game, but there’s an option for people who can’t afford a sub every month, and still ways for them to get the goods they want if the have the money.

I dislike the expansion of the store, but at the same time I understand it from a business standpoint. I do hope very much that as it is tested and rolled out, Blizzard seeks to maintain the same integrity they’ve shown in their years of running WoW by finding creative ways to make money while staying true to their mission, game-side.

Community Blog Post: Is leveling in WoW too easy?

In general, I’m fine with leveling speed. You can hit 90 very quickly if that is your goal. On the other hand, nothing is stopping you from taking your time and smelling the roses, so to speak. Nothing is stopping you from playing without heirlooms or a full set of bags, runspeed shoes, and a hundred gold or so sent over by your main, if you have one.

That said, it’s true that it’s really, really tough to die in a starting zone. They’ve even made all of those angry mobs yellow, so you have to be the one to start combat. It’s easier, sure, but that doesn’t make it more fun.

So, put those two together – what would I like to see changed about the leveling experience? I’d like to need to use my class or racial cooldowns to succeed. Not for everything, but maybe for the boss of the starting zones – maybe my Blood Elf silence is crucial for that fight. Maybe the Troll’s Berserk is really important for theirs. Later on, when we start getting more class abilities, make them important for specific points in leveling, as well. I thought that they started doing more of this at endgame, and I think they need a lot more of it woven into the leveling experience. It has the added pro of teaching us how and when to use those skills – a lot of the concern about speedy leveling seems to be that people don’t have a reason to really learn to play their class.

Blizzard is gunshy of spending too much dev time on leveling content due to the backlash they faced after Cataclysm, but I think they need to be very careful not to ignore it entirely. This is the very first experience people have when they start playing. Make it engaging, challenging without being impossible. Pay a little attention to it each patch or expansion to keep it well-cared for like a well-tended garden. You can’t pull all the weeds out once, after it’s grown wild, and expect it to produce anything worthwhile.

WoW Archaeology News: new race datamined!

Perculia over at a Wowhead has noticed a new build about to hit the PTR, and with it fantastic news. A new race, Mantid, has been datamined, along with the Mantid Amber Fragment to help speed things along.

While I found the near impossibility of completing all of the pre-Mists Archaeology finds to be frustrating, the Pandaren and Mogu races had the opposite problem – I finished them both within a few hours. Granted, there is Loremaster, and the turn-ins for Pristine items (the new race will work the same way, if you are wondering), but that just wasn’t the same as hoping for that next rare item.

Only eight items, none of them rare, have been datamined for the Mantid race at this point. However, it’s very early in the process, with the patch not even live on the PTR yet, so rare items may yet make their way into circulation.

Warcraft Tips for Idiots Like Me

This particular column will be recurring, because I never stop finding things that cause me to elicit a very Homer-like mental “D’oh!”

Today’s Warcraft Tip for Idiots Like Me involves the quest, “Pomfruit Pickup” which is one of the quests you can get in the second stage of Golden Lotus dailies out in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. I’ve spent many afternoons mounting, flying up to pull those annoying birds from the tree branches where they guard my precious pomfruits, then slaughtering said bird before carefully hovering below the branch while I pick up the fruit.

Required skill? Reading the quest in the first place. Apparently, I was given a firework to knock down the fruits without ever having to bother with the birds, or hover awkwardly under any branches. The worst part? I’ve done this quest so many times that I’m already exalted with Golden Lotus, and was just doing the dailies today for extra Valor Points.

Dammit.

As an aside, have you ever noticed just how many uses World of Warcraft, and the Horde in general, manages to find for fireworks? It never ceases to amaze me, though by now, it probably should. It’s okay, I enjoy being amazed.