First Impressions: Dipping A Toe In The Rift

I never follow adverts on websites, iPhone applications or anything like that – well almost never. Whilst lurking about in the curse client updating my addons a few days ago I spotted an advert for a game called Rift which happened to mention that there was a public beta going down. Well that’s a little hard to avoid so popped over to Trion’s (the publishers) site, created an account and signed up for the beta which is running until Monday 21st. Yikes not long left. Half an hour later I got an invite, wow that was quick!

Having mentioned this to Becca I suddenly found myself making promises about articles, so here I am.

After the inevitable seven and a half GB download, numerous patch updates and even a graphics driver update I finally managed to get myself into the game for a look around. I’ve not done a beta test since The Burning Crusade closed beta so I was really looking forward to this.

Here’s a little trip through the first hour or so of my Rift experience.

Character Creation:

The first thing you get asked is to choose a realm, fairly standard MMO behaviour. As per usual we have a choice of PvE, PvP, PvE-RP, PvP-RP. Interesting that there’s definitely a push here for RP servers. I went for Firesand PvP-RP since this is the style of server I’m used to from WoW these days playing almost entirely on EU-The Venture Company (H).

So next up we choose a faction, I’d done a little bit of research before leaping into the game here, basically there are two factions: Guardians (read goodie-two-shoes holier-than-thou-art busibodies – a.k.a. The Alliance) and the Defiant (not so much like the Horde as you’d expect, far more messing about with machines and magic and combining the two, of course the Guardians being a bunch of fanatics done like this and brand the Defiant a bunch of godless heathens… yay!) Needless to say I chose Defiant.

Having made the choice between state and church, sorry, Defiant and Guardian, we move on to race selection. There’s three races in the Defiant to choose from: The Eth, basically humans by their appearance, from the desert; The Kelari, a bunch of elves who’ve been exposed to raw magic for a long time (sound familiar?) and the Bahmi who seem to be descended from a race originating in the Plane of Air. The models look like you’d expect to be honest, slender women with lots of leg and breast and huge blokes with lots of everything (brains questionable).

I chose a female Eth for want of making a random choice and the need to “get on with it” and was taken to the class choice screen where you get a lovely display of the clothing you’re character won’t be wearing depending on your class choice. There’s only four choices: Warrior (leather trousers and plate bikini), Cleric (knee high leather boots, fitted chainmail top and very unfetching tunic), Mage (mini-sarong) and rogue (barmaid outfit).

The character customisation panel is very flexible. You’re presented with everything from a face shape morpher to eye colour picker (30 shades of each blue, green and brown). Whether this level of detail is really needed is questionable in itself – but it is fun nonetheless.

Diving in:

Hurrah, cinematic intro next with the standard dodgy voice acting and general overview of why you should even bother caring about the events going on in game at all. Not a lot to remark on there – forget I mentioned it in fact…

So when we finally jump into the game the initial impression is one of immense familiarity. There’s a character unit frame up in top left, a minimap and action bar at the bottom with buttons from “1” to “=”. All the panes you can call up are very similar too, the character pane, talents (known as soul tree) pane, achievements pane, the list goes on – yet to find much difference from WoW here.

Starting to play:

Even the quest panes look the same: long description, summary, rewards. You start off (running up to the first person you see with an exclamation mark over their heads) with the usual “go and talk to this person” (who conveniently has a question mark over their head) type quest. After a couple of these the lazy sods who are standing within 50m of each other realise you’ve got a weapon and send you off to kill thing. Not before you are asked to choose your first “soul path”… eh? Oh, talent specialisation you mean? Right! Well for a mage there’s eight to choose from and you start bunging talent points in right from the offset… seriously, how am I supposed to know? Elitist Jerks need to get on this ASAP.

The game looks really cool in my opinion, the cast animations are dead cool with lots of spinning your weapon around and faffing about to cast a simple fireball. The backdrops are nice and eerie too obviously a lot of hard work has gone into the art here – if only I could actually run it on a higher spec machine to really appreciate it. After a while though the grind takes over and all these things go reasonably un-noticed.

Kill quests again are pretty standard, there’s aggro mobs (red names) and neutral mobs (yellow names), zap them, go to the hand in, get XP, cash and lewtz (which is apparently soulbound – really guys, could you not think of a different word?)

Early levels seem to fly past as per usual, my /played time was 52 minutes when I stopped to write this article and I’d reached level 4, that was with a lot of faffing about to see how things actually worked.

Some nice bits:

In the options menu there’s a screen for completely reorganising your UI, that’s really helpful if you dislike the standard layout which I can imagine would be a real pain later on as you start to do more raiding/PvP or whatever your favourite MMO passtime is. I didn’t look and see if there was an easy way to put addons in, there’s certainly a macro editor so I’m guessing writing addons may not be out of the question.

As I mentioned before the game looks very nice and I’d say the graphics are a cut above the WoW graphics even after the updates with Cataclysm.

The game is very playable, personally I love the familiarity of the interface and play-style. There are many interesting feature of Rift, namely its Planes and the possibility of planar rifts opening pretty much anywhere do indeed sound like they add spice to even familiar pieces of landscape. In my short experience of the game of course, I didn’t experience any of these.

The Crunch:

Will it replace WoW? Well who can tell? In my opinion Rift differs very little from WoW, indeed I’d say it was nothing more than WoW‘s more enthusiastic younger brother. It seems in this day and age “there can be only one” MMO that huge chunks of the population play and that, at the moment is WoW. Rift has missed the window of opportunity to steal bored pre-expansion-blues-affected WoW players and with server fees still undecided but inevitable I’m guessing that it will not be stealing enough of the Warcraft player base to be noticable. Which is a shame because it looks like a good game. Will I be playing it? Only if all my WoW buddies do… there’s the answer I think you’ll find across the board.

After thought:

Hi to Rofllolbabz from the starting zone: I think I met your cousin once.

_((You can find the Rift homepage here – it’s also where the images came from))_

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Why MMO Bloggers Talk About Alton Towers And Building Sand Castles All The Time

I’m still a newbie. I’ve played WoW for three or four years now and I’ve charged headlong into other MMOs whenever I’ve found a few minutes to give them a try. EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, A Tale In The Desert … most of them I’ve only peeked round the edge of the newbie zone to get a glimpse of the  big bad content waiting for me, but haven’t had time to stick it out.

Having tried that many and been writing about MMOs for a while now, my gamer pride says I should know things at the whoosh of a dragon’s wings. By osmosis, maybe. But there was something this week that I read about, realised I’d not grasped before, and went “There are different types of MMO. That explains the constant references to Alton Towers-alikes. Doh.”

It’s no surprise, really. I’m still learning about MMOs, and that’s how it should always be. There’s no point of knowing everything or stopping picking up new knowledge about a topic. Then I figured… I bet there are other newbies like me out there. And I bet there’s nothing that explains these topics to them.

So, for MMO newbies, veterans and otherwise hadn’t-understood-this-yets out there: let’s have a seat by the fire, crack open the secret cookie stash between us and chat about themepark MMOs and sandbox MMOs. Cos well, did you know there were different types of MMO? I didn’t.

Theme park MMOs

What happens when you go to a theme park? You go with a group of friends or maybe your family and gradually work through all the rides you want to do. Some of them terrify you, some of them get your imagination churning, some of them take a while to get through but are worth it in the end for the rewarding rush of an epic twist, long drop or stunning visual scene.Perhaps there’s a theme or overriding story you participate in as you go round the themepark.

Maybe while you’re at the theme park you’ll take some ‘you’ time to explore bits of it by yourself, or some downtime to watch the world go by as you chat to the folks you’re with. You might even be sent on a quest to find the ice cream truck.

Right, WoW. These are exactly the kind of experience theme park MMOs provide. You see the sights, you get the stunning visual scenes, you get rewards, be  that the achievement of completing a particular ride raid, getting the loot you wanted or having the rush of downing a boss. You can wander off and explore, pushing the boundaries by yourself if you want to. And they’re usually a social activity.

WoW, as mentioned, is #1 culprit for being a theme park MMO (as though there’s anything wrong with that). LoTRO, DDO, Rift – they’re all theme park MMOs too, and there are lots out there.

Sandbox MMOs

All right, let’s be honest – for most of us it’s probably a good while since we were in a sandbox in real life. And let’s not talk about the terrible surprises you’d find in there, like your favourite teddy stuck up to his neck. But wait, you put him there so you could come up with imaginative, ingenious ways to get him out. It’d keep you entertained for hours.

Then there was all the building with whatever materials you could find. Sand castles with stick drawbridges, grass guards and a carefully engineered moat that was actually wet (in sand?) and you have no idea how you achieved?

All of that is what a sandbox MMO is. You’re free to do what you want: not many rules, not many pre-defined goals. It’s not that they have no goals or ways to progress, it’s just that how you want to play is a lot more up to you. Quite often you’ll be able to build yourself things you want, and you’ll need to engineer them just as carefully as you did that moat but you’ll be proud of it once you’ve achieved it. And quite often you’ll come across hiccups in the operation, like your stuck teddy, but you’ll set your mind to it and come up with creative solutions to get yourself back on track. These ones are where your imagination runs free and you do what you want to do.

Examples of sandbox MMOs are A Tale In The Desert, EVE Online and Minecraft. Unlike most themepark MMOs which are, at their core, quite similar, sandbox MMOs can be quite different. You tend to have more no limit of choice in what you do in a sandbox MMO. It can be quite confusing if you’re used to theme park MMOs (which is why most of them have wikis you can explore, but how you’d automatically know that if you’re a newbie I don’t know). I guess that’s the thing about no limits: they’re not on rails. In one sandbox you can easily get lost in catacombs while trying to find the way back to the tower you built, in another you can be part of an economical powerhouse among the stars.

What about you – is there anything MMO-related you learnt recently that surprised you, or had you too not figured sandbox vs. theme park yet?

The basics covered, here’s some further reading of folks talking about themeparks and sandboxes:

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Editorial: Did I Fall Asleep?

Contains some minor spoilers for recent events.

Let’s get something out of the way before I start here: Orgrimmar is really very pretty indeed right now. I took the flight from Orgrimmar to Thunder Bluff this morning, and it was stunning. I love the new stuff. The Blizzard Art and Design teams have hit it out of the park as far as I’m concerned.

I should also emphasise that I’ve only played for about an hour or so since The Big Patch Of Ultimate Changes, so I’ll acknowledge that there’s plenty of stuff I haven’t seen yet.

Nevertheless, I’m very unhappy. I went to bed last night and woke up to find that the world had been entirely destroyed, burnt to ashes – shattered, in fact – and then totally rebuilt. All of this in the few hours I was asleep.

It’s really thrown me. It’s not that I didn’t know it was going to happen – of course I did – it’s just that I (perhaps foolishly) thought that I might get a chance to see it happen.

Remember when details of the proposed changes for Cataclysm first started to leak out? Remember how exciting it all was? Orgrimmar is going to be destroyed! Thousand Needles will be flooded! The Barrens will be split in two, with a huge volcanic chasm running down the middle! Thrall will get a new outfit! Some people were upset, some people were excited … but everyone agreed: this was going to be awesome. Personally, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. The most tumultuous and (literally and figuratively) world-changing event in Warcraft’s history: I couldn’t wait to experience it.

Unfortunately, I can’t. It’s already happened, and I missed it.

Do you have a favourite TV series? One that you watch faithfully week after week? One that has you literally bouncing on your seat with excitement at every brilliant plot twist? What if your friends were having an all-night marathon during which they planned to watch the whole of Season Three, one episode after another? It sounds great, but the problem is you’ve only just finished watching Season One. You don’t know what happens in Season Two, but you do know that there are major plot changes. It’s set in a different country, a few of the major characters actually die, and the whole feel of the show shifts into something much more epic. Much as you do want to watch Season Three, you’re probably going to turn down the invitation until you’ve caught up on Season Two.

Well, that’s how I feel. I’ve been looking forward to the shattering for months. I wanted to see Deathwing drop from the skies to rain destruction down on my old familiar haunts. I wanted to wander through the smoking ruins of Orgrimmar marveling at the destruction. I wanted to see the world being gradually rebuilt. In short, I wanted to play the game, rather than watch Blizzard play it for me.

I feel like there’s a whole bit of the game that everybody else has played and that I missed out on. I feel like I’ve been away from the game for months, not days. I’m reliably informed that “it all happened in the book”, but that’s not good enough. I don’t mind Blizzard sidelining more and more of their lore into the various spin-off media. This isn’t lore, though: this is a massive upheaval. It’s a change that is absolutely guaranteed to fundamentally affect every single character in the game, player and NPC alike. More to the point, I was looking forward to it as one of the most exciting things ever to happen in the game. I played through the Elemental invasion, and enjoyed it, but only because it felt like an ominous precursor of things to come.

Now, I just feel cheated. We’ve gone straight from “The Cataclysm will happen” to “The Cataclysm has happened”, without passing through “The Cataclysm is happening” on the way. I feel distanced from the game, in a way that I never have before. My suspension of disbelief just isn’t strong enough to allow me to accept that the grunts built New Orgrimmar in just a few short hours. The Barrens have indeed been split in two by a rift of molten destruction, but it’s no problem. It just gave the Alliance a chance to built a big stone keep at the edge and stand around looking smug. It’s all fine now. Crisis over! As usual, the NPCs have sorted everything out, and as usual they didn’t need you. When Deathwing finally does die, I fully expect to be stood in the doorway holding the coats while Hogger has a ten-minute monologue and then deus-ex-machinas the dragon to death.

Don’t even get me started on Cairne and King Magni. This is how you do an off-stage death.

All I can really say is: Blizzard, can I have a turn now?

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Editorial Feature: Half The Expansion In Advance?

So the word on the ether is that the Shattering will hit us on Tuesday. The world will never be the same again, the end is nigh, doom is upon us. And so on and so forth. ‘Tis true that the Shattering looks to be changing the world and the zones we’ve come to know and love will be, well, shattered. Torn asunder. Sprinkled into itty bitty pieces that settle in the dust as new zones with new quests and new, terrible dangers.

I’m looking forward to it. No really, I am.

But it feels like we’re getting half the expansion in advance of… y’know, the expansion. And it don’ feel right, mon.

Let me say right now that I’m one of those weird people who’s kept themselves away of most of the information about Cataclysm. I’m looking forward to it but I want to experience it all shiny and fresh, not have read about it first. I want the surprise and the magical feeling of exploring what will be a new world. So that in mind, I fully accept that I might have missed something obvious. Doh.

Which is why I’m putting this thought out today. I’m puzzled and I’m hoping you’ll help me out: am I right or wrong? If the Shattering hits on Tuesday and the world changes, the zones change, and presumably the new quests are all put in – because I doubt the questgivers are going to stand around in the same places or have the same cares if the ground’s opening under their feet – then aren’t we essentially getting a large chunk of the expansion two weeks in advance of December 7th, the actual release date?

Of course, if this is the case there’s no point doing any of the new quests until we have our hot sticky mitts on the Cataclysm box (or download) on December 7th, because that’s when we can all level to 85, role a goblin or a worgen, and… um, well, presumably there are other things coming in Ye Actual Expansion. Archaeology! That’s it. (I’m really looking forward to that, actually).

But yeah. Half the expansion two weeks in advance? Doesn’t that stagger the magic just a bit? YAY stuff’s happening and the world’s changed and we’re not comatose waiting anymore! But… but… there’s not that much point doing anything for two weeks. Oh. Back to bed, then.

If it was to hit us just one week in advance of the expansion I’d feel better about it. But two weeks seems a long time. I don’t know – am I missing something – have I got the details of what we’re getting in the Shattering and what we’re getting in Ye Actual Expansion wrong? Or am I right and this is exactly what’s happening? In either case, how do you feel about the Shattering? I’m really interested in this and talking about it seems urgent, given the imminence of this Tuesday.

…Oh, and I’m really hoping the kobolds stay around. I just want to hug them and give them some candles.

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One Stop Shop For Your Class/Spec In WoW Patch 4.0.1

(Editor’s note: post still being improved as information becomes available, scroll down for your class or search for ‘update’ to find new sections).

AHHHHH! Patch 4.0.1 is upon us and the world is changing! Well, not the world, just yet. That comes when we all have Cataclysm boxsets in our mitts. But classes are changing now, all of them, including yours. But there’s plenty of help out there.

Don’t have time to wade through everything and find the best thing for your spec? I’ve gone through all the class/spec guides I can find out there and I’m listing the single best one for for as many classes and specs as I can. I’m aiming to help you, the player, keep your patch day read-up simple at an otherwise chaotic time.

If you’ve got more time and want to read more guides, there’s also a section at the bottom giving details of a complete class-guide list by Windsoar. I’ve also posted a much shorter list of general resources for other, non-class related changes coming in patch 4.0.1: find it here.

For now, break out the cookies and hot cocoa and get your reading goggles, for it’s time to scroll down to find your class/spec resource:

Death Knight

Death Knights … I’m afraid resources appear a bit sparse for you. Daniel Whitcomb’s column over at WoW Insider does a good job of covering mechanics and talent changes for all three classes. Have a read of that, but be aware it doesn’t go into smaller practical things like glyphs, gems, stat changes and such.

As for specific spec advice, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of concrete information outside of very informative but long and possibly complicated Elitist Jerks forum threads, which I’ll link anyway. (please do correct me if there are other resources)

  • Blood – blood becomes the death knight tanking tree. Not much specific on this yet.
  • Frost – Elitist Jerks’ long and thorough guide here
  • Unholy: Update – Lady Erinia of Moments in the Life of a DK is talking to you, Unholy death knights, and she’s telling you what you need to know in the post-4.0.1 confuzzlement. She’s got everything from how reforging affects you (with a very well done graph to boot), stats you need, gems, talent build, glyphs, rotation. She’s even got tips on what presence you need now and a macro rounding it all off. Great guide for Unholies just picking themselves up after the shake-up.

Druid

  • Feral (bear) – ThinkTank’s your place for a run down on 4.0.1 teddy-spec, glyphs and gear. Bear (hahah) with the post though, as it shares info for all specs and classes. Let me know if you find something more bear-specific.
  • Feral (cat) – your best bet for feral kitty is Alaraon’s Fluid Druid post. He’s giving some details on a 4.0.1 kitty talent spec option, what reforging means for moggies, and takes a look at glyphs. He also has some notes on raiding after 4.0.1 hits. What he doesn’t cover is an explanation of what your new talents mean, nor does he go into too much depth explaining how stats affect you, like ThinkTank does (oops, did I give kitties two links?…)
  • Balance – there are a lot of good 4.0.1 moonkin guides out there, but Qieth’s Quips is the best place to go if you need everything in one place. Qieth covers everything from the basics of gems, glyphs and enchants. He also covers talents, rotation and what stats and caps lazer chickens should aim for now. But it’s in Qieth’s extra sections on professions, consumables and how eclipse is affected that his guide stands out just a tad ahead of other guides out there.
  • RestoLissanna’s guide over at Restokin should be your first port of call for resto druid changes. Her guide has a three-part look at how to heal as a resto druid after 4.0.1, as well as the fundamental information on how talents, glyphs, stats and consumables are changing. The only problem here is that I seem to be having an issue getting to her guide sometimes: if you do too, let me know. Resto druids are incredibly well represented and there’s a lot of info out there so I can link more if needed.

Hunter

Hunters, you’re a bit under-represented at the moment sad to say! WoW Insider does have you generally covered with some tips on what to expect, how to re-gem, and what new pet info you should know. Meanwhile over at MMO Champion there’s a general FAQ which will tell you practical things like glyphs, stat priorities and possible talent builds – most of them aren’t definite and are subject to change, but it’s a good place to start.

Mage

Paladin

  • HolyKurn’s got what every holy paladin needs to know going in to 4.0.1. She’s going through the changes to talents and spells, explaining various talent choices and what benefit each of them gives you. She also has a look at gear and stats, and takes a look at glyph options. The most crucial thing though? Kurn explains the new paladin resource Holy Power, and how you use it.
  • Protection – Rhida at Righteous Defence has an in-depth guide of all things prot pally. He’s covering things other classes don’t get, like both new and changed mechanics from holy power to seal useage, spell changes (not the same as the behind-the-scenes-mechanics working), new procs you need to look out for. He’s also got the news on what glyphs, stats and spec you can or should go for.
  • Retribution – Retpally over at Livejournal has currently the best retribution guide out there. Retpally covers everything you need to know, from new talents, how to use holy power as retribution, your stats and rotation, seals and auras, all in a concise and well-laid out manner/ Seriously, I’m impressed with this guide. Lucky retribution pallies to have this.

Priest

  • General 4.0.1 priest tips by Dawn Moore at WoWinsider – this post will help you clue up on gems, reforging and global cooldown bits n’ bobs for the patch.
  • Discipline – Malevica at Type H For Heals has pretty much everything you need to know for going into the patch with a disciplined approach (see what I did there?) She covers potential specs, stat changes – including gems and enchants, spell changes and tips on both raid and tank healing in the new eetup. A very thorough post.
  • Holy – Tales of a Priest covers the core things a holy priest needs to know, from useful specs to reforging and glyphs. Derevka also goes into healing mechanic changes. This article also looks at a couple of bits of discipline info but most of it’s aimed at Holy.
  • ShadowWoWInsider’s Fox Van Allen takes us through the changes to stats for shadow priests and an explanation of talents, finishing up with a suggested shadow build. It starts off with an explanation of what the patch is, so if you just want the shadow priest information scroll down to get your goodies.

Rogue

Updated: First off, go and have a sneak peek at Elitist Jerks’ surprisingly concise 4.0.1 rogue FAQ, which will give you a talent spec for each tree and some guidance on new stat ratings. Then, just go and read everything in the past 48 hours from PvE rogues, tied together in a handy guide. Each post addressing something you need to know for 4.0.1 as a rogue from rotation to gems to hit caps. As to individual specs, I’m afraid subtlety isn’t well spoken for but…

  • Assassination (read: mutilate) – Garona over at PvE rogues is taking assassination/mutilate spec rogues through their newly designed talent tree and going over why you’re using which talents. Concise post, but focuses solely on talents.
  • Combat – Garona’s also got a talent build along with a great explanation of what’s going on in combat as of the patch. It’s a solid article for combatants, but doesn’t cover things like glyphs, stat changes, gearing.

Shaman

  • Elemental – WoWinsider’s Sarah Nichol is the best guru for elemental shamans to look to right now. Her sub-headings are a little unclear, but the meat of the article covers what you need to know from how your rotation changes, the new Lava Surge mechanic, and what stat changes to look out for. She also touches on practical things like glyphs, talents and why you should really wear mail.
  • EnhancementMyrddin’s guiding enhancement shammies everywhere through the first steps on patch day. Then he’s  giving you various playable specs, a list of glyphs to get and explaining what your core stats are – and, helpfully, why. He also has a word or two to say about what’s happened to your mana. He rounds off this excellent resource with a video showcasing how the UI’s changed and your new spells.
  • RestorationVixsin’s got the essential guide for resto shamans. She’s got explanations on stat changes, talent builds, glyphs, mastery and reforging. She also talks about totems to use, and has extra notes on how raid buff changes will affect you. Vixsin gets extra points for giving us a convincing reason for resto shamans to drop leather/cloth armour and clink around in full mail again.

Warlock

I’m afraid things are a bit thin on the ground for warlocks at the moment. If anyone feels inspired to go write a 4.0.1 guide for a warlock spec for our fellow players, let me know about it! Here’s what I’ve managed to cobble together per spec for now, and overall the best general warlock resource is Saresa’s guide to warlock builds over at Destructive Reach.

  • Update: Affliction – Gingerlei over at Destructive Reach now has a guide to speccing Affliction in these new interesting times. Go check it out – he explains what talents you need and why. It is a purely spec-related guide though, so you won’t find information on glyphs, stats and suchlike here.
  • Demonology – the Forsaken Few guild have a publicly viewable guide to going demonology in 4.0.1, written by their guild master Tamarantha.  The guide gives an overview of changes to the class and covers changes to your talents, spec, and what glyphs you should go for – and explains it all in a decent amount of detail. It doesn’t go into much detail on rotation or stat changes.
  • DestructionUpdate: Latus over at Undercity has everything a destro warlock needs for patch day preparations. He’s got information on reforging, how your stats have changed and what gems to grab, and talks about talent spec and rotation. In all cases he explains what things mean, and his final thoughts section includes an explanation about why your rotation doesn’t look much like a rotation, persay, as a priority system. He’s got a seperate post on glyphs here.

Warrior

Warriors have a dearth of  resources for 4.0.1 I’m afraid. Yes, sad face, I play warriors too and would really like to see some more info (shout if I’ve missed anything or if you’re going to write something pre-patch).

The only thing I can dig up that’s of practical use for warriors is a post by Naithin of Fun In Games, which focuses on Protection with asides into useful Fury and Arms talents. Still, he does talk about a wide range of useful things from stat changes, reforging, glyphs and protection-specific talents. He also has a good section on “how to play now”, and a video supplement at the end.

Update: Herc the Merc has a general Q&A FAQ guide for all three warrior types. Yep, all us stabby-stabby me smash types have something to cast our eye over. Herc answers things like what spec to use, why to take some talents over others, what each spec’s rotation is, and what stats to go for. He also looks into reforging and enchants.

All classes: extra resources

If you have a tad more time and are interested in reading as much as you can about your classes/specs, Windsoar over at Jaded Alt has a fantastic grab bag of 4.0.1 class guide links. Some classes are better represented than others around the blogosphere so he’s got more links for some classes than others, but if you’ve got the time I definitely recommend browsing his list. If you don’t have so much time, I hope my concise “this is what you need” list above helps.

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Update: PvP in 4.0.1: Okes, so maybe there’s a side to the game that hasn’t been addressed in this guide so far. Well, no more! If you’re into your PvP and don’t know which way is up (usual state for me in PvP), Cynwise has a 4.0.1 guide to battleground PvP gear.

Have I missed anything, or are there more resources out now that weren’t out an hour ago?

Doing this has made me dig up a whole lot of blogs I didn’t know about, which is great – more choice! Anyway, expect a big update to MMO Melting Pot’s blogroll for your perusal later in the week.

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One Stop Shop For General Changes In Patch 4.0.1

The Cataclysm’s on its way for World of Warcraft and its advance guard patch 4.0.1 is about to drop on us with some of the bigger game-changers. Quite possibly tomorrow, or Wednesday for us Europeans.

Given it’s going to change the game as we know it now, you need to be armed and ready for it, and the blogosphere’s full of people trying to help you. It’s my job to tell you where to find them. So if you need 4.0.1 general argh what the nitwibble is going on help this is your one-stop-resource, and will be constantly updated anytime I hear of something new that should go on it.

I’ll be posting a seperate one-stop-shop for class resources as well, so keep your eyes peeled for it. …no, locks, not literally peeled

Changes to existing features

  • 4.0.1 badge currency conversions – Elkagorasa the Casual has a concise guide to how the old badge currency will be converted into the new currency.
  • Flexible raid locks – If you don’t know about not being locked into a raid on zoning in and other tidbits after 4.0.1 drops, this is your raid lock workings primer from WoWinsider. It’s fairly neat and concise, and they include relevant blue poster statements for anyone who wants more info.
  • Gem conversions – Angelya over at Revive and rejuvenate has a solid guide on what your current Wrath of the Lich King gems will become when you log in to 4.0.1, and what the new gems will mean in terms of stats.
  • Redesigning ui in 4.0.1 – WoWPhiles is taking the opportunity to suggest some addons for a fresh looking 4.0.1 UI. Some interesting choices, and hopefully pointing out some that will still work after 4.0.1.
  • Changes to glyphs – like the raid-lock primer above, WoWInsider’s got a post summarising the changes to how glyphs work. You might find it saves you some confusing glyph surprises later this week.

Levelling post 4.0.1 patch

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  • Levelling observations 4.0 – Blessing of Kings is taking a look at how classes are changing at low levels – real soon now – and how that plays out in levelling. Of course, we’re not going to see how low level characters interact with the new quests which will arrive with Cataclysm itself, but this is a good roundup of how low level characters will play after talents and such change this week.
  • Levelling as a druidLissanna is taking a practical look specifically at druids and how their new talent and ability setup, come 4.0.1, will affect them levelling out in the big pre-Cataclysm sundered world. Her guide has something for all specs (except bear), and mostly focuses on abilities you’ll be using and suggested talent builds. (Edit: Restokin.com seems to be having occasionalproblems this evening. Try googling specifically for it, that seems to work).

Have I missed anything? No seriously, I suspect there are probably things changing this week which I’ve not mentioned, and resources for them. If you’ve seen these resources, ping them to me at the contact form above, twitter or the comments section. Same goes for the class resource list which will go up very soon. Reward for submitting extra links is a cookie, and the definte knowledge that other people will probably appreciate the heads up.

Although I might have to eat the cookie for you if it doesn’t fit down the router.

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Editorial: Seriously, your guild runs have … no healers?

In shocking news: Rebecca, Johnnie, I, and the rest of our WoW-playing regulars have been experimenting with a new guild, and we think – whisper it – we’ve found a way to make levelling dungeons fun and challenging again.

I assume everyone else is finding this problem – that, certainly at low and mid levels, dungeon runs are so insanely not challenging as to be a total joke?

WoW in challenge FAIL shocker!

I’ve seen SM Graveyard completed in about 3 pulls, with a random PUG group that didn’t over-level it, and speaking as the healer (Balance, not Resto druid) I was sitting there thinking “we could do this much faster”. I’m pretty sure that we could have done it in a single pull. Maybe two.

In an Razorfen Downs run the other day (mobs between 34 and 37), healing as a level 33 Balance druid (after I persuaded our former healer, a 35 Balance druid, to swap roles since he could actually hit the mobs), I was encouraging the (L37, certainly not over-geared) tank to go for two-group pulls minimu, because in single-group pulls I barely had to bother casting a spell.

And let’s not even talk about the horror of being stuck in a group where you outlevel the mobs. An Razorfen Kraul run the other day with us a couple of levels above the content has put me off Looking For Group levelling runs for at least a week – not because the group was bad, at all, but simply because it was patently obvious there was virtually no way we could wipe. Our Shadow-specced healer subsequently commented that he could quite happily have completed the entire dungeon playing with his nose, because he only ever pressed used Power Word Shield – and even that was about once a minute.

( Can anyone remember when the levelling dungeons got so trivial? We levelled a group after the Great Nerf a bit before Wrath, and they were still challenging – albeit only when we hit Zul’Farrak at level 40. My best guess is around Wrath time.)

We Have A Cunning Plan.

So, anyway – we Have A Plan. We’ve started a new guild, Knew The Risks (as in “Yes, he just got instakilled by that 40 foot demon, but your character ”) – initially, it was planned as a guild with no tanks, but that rapidly proved to be about as challenging as a duellist with no hands, no gloves, and no witty French quips. (TL:DR: Not That Challenging). Aargh. What to do?

Then we considered the next option: No healers. In fact, what the hell. No healing. And no tanks, to boot.

Lols, we all just DPS.

Initial reactions from the guild were, shall we say, not entirely enthusiastic. Even Rebecca and I weren’t that certain – would it just be completely impossible to get anywhere?

But we dived in there and gave it a go – and speaking personally, the 3-man run of SM Library (Level 32 Fire mage, Arms warrior, and a Balance druid with all heals unbound) was one of the most fun times I’ve had in WoW lately, combining my old-school love of dungeons (I just prefer small groups to great unwieldy raid groups with man-management issues) with a raider level of challenge.

With no healer, it’s not a simple case of “one guy gets hit, one guy sits there keeping him alive, everyone else blasts” – you’ve got to think fast and hard, adapt, and generally Do Fun Stuff. Having to consider both health and mana to be a non-renewable resource really changes the feel of play – Rebecca and I have been playing the awesome PS3 game Demon’s Souls lately, and no-heal dungeoneering has very much the same edgy, tight, very-limited-resources feel. It actually makes dungeons feel dangerous – you have to think, you have to plan, you have to use crowd control abilities and even threat generation abilities wisely to ensure that no-one takes enough damage to kill them. Even the mail-wearers don’t feel invincible – they can get hit for a bit, but it can’t go on forever. Sometimes it’ll even make more sense for a clothie to take the damage.

You might actually want to consider running away as a viable option – or overaggroing. Sure, normally your Balance druid’s agrro might be a problem, but when there’s something large and ugly that needs to get off your mail wearer NOWNOWNOW so he can bandage, suddenly everyone’s cheering as you spam Starfire and your aggro shoots up like Iggy Pop at an all-the-heroin-you-can-inject party. (Of course, then you’ve got the fun moment where “hurrah, I’ve got aggro” turns into “Oh, crap, I’ve got aggro runwwwwwwwwwwdddwwww…”)

Plus, no-one even has time to look at a DPS meter.

Mind you, you’ve still got to be punching above your weight. Our follow-up run, RFD with the same group plus a 31 Shadow Priest (still no healing allowed), was perfectly doable and awesomely good fun, culminating in a desperate battle against the level 37 Tuten’kash that ended with the boss dropping as our last two members alive hit 20% health.  We were aggro-swapping, we were maneuvering, we were kiting, we were yelling across Skype, shouting, swearing, cheering – it was awesome.A lower-level dungeon, or more people, still wouldn’t have been as cool. But even level-appropriate content is much, much more interesting when you can’t rely on the bored druid who’s repeatedly spamming Rejuvenation with one hand and channel-surfing with the other.

We’ll be keeping going with this philosophy, I think – we’re currently debating whether it’s “no healing at all”, whether it’s “no healing specs” or whether it’s “only long-cooldown heals (Tranquility, for example)”. But either way, it’s taken action this drastic to make the levelling experience challenging again – and it really is now challenging.

If people are interested, I’ll write some follow-up posts as we go through the levels with Knew The Risks. But for now, I’d like to know – has everyone else been finding the levelling experience as boringly easy as us? What have you tried to make it more interesting? And do you think it’s going to become harder to level – not to do endgame content, but low-midgame stuff – with 4.01 and in Cata?

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Help A Noob Day: WoW New Player Starting Pack

_This ‘ere is a guest post for Zug Gaming’s Help a Noob Day carnival. Thanks very much to Derek for asking me to contribute to the carnival; it’s a real pleasure. I hope this new player starter pack’s helpful to anyone just starting out on their adventures in World of Warcraft!_

So I hear you’ve just created your character and watched the introductory cinematic. You’ve heard the kindly voice condense your character’s racial history into a few minutes. The camera’ panned slowly down to you – your character, your Azerothian face in the game. Be it pointy eared, green and warty, or looking like it should be in a garden equipped with a fishing pole and curly hair instead of a dagger and a mohawk.

Whatever you’ve chosen, you’re here playing World of Warcraft, and are starting out on a grand adventure. But where do you start?

I’m not here to tell you what to do (although right clicking the guy in front of you with a yellow exclamation mark is a good place to start). This is your adventure, and your world to explore. I’m not going to know what quests you take up or what pitfalls of gameplay you need help with, unless I’m watching over your shoulder (I’m not).

But what I can do is give you a bundle of resources to help you make sense of Azeroth by yourself and at your own pace. And I mean at your own pace: this post is long and meant as a flick-through pack to find what you need when you’re on the run from the troggs and trolls.

Oh, and before I forget: Welcome to the game, I hope you have a blast.

Topics we’re looking at here (scroll down to find what you need):

General help

Making sense of items and quests

Dungeons, other palyers and manners in WoW

Addons

Making gold in WoW

General help:

If you’re just getting started then you’ve probably already seen the WoW site, and seen that it’s big n’ sprawling. Let’s start by pulling out a couple of useful sections of the site like the How To Play guide, which introduces you to the first stages of the game and concepts like dying in game. It also has a glossary explaining some acronyms and game specific terms you’ll start seeing in chat channels.

You can also find the official WoW forums on the WoW homepage, although at the moment I’d recommend avoiding them as they’re fast paced and confusing. Exploring them is a quest to undertake when you’re more experienced with the game and at home with the social side of WoW.

It won’t be long before you’re ready to venture to other resources. There are plenty out there and your next port of call should be WoWInsider. It’s a huge site but don’t let that worry you; you can explore it at your own pace. For now, take a look at their rookie guide. Some of the posts you might find most useful to get you started are this one keyboard shortcutswhat talent points are and how to choose them, and what instances are.

Psynister’s Notebook is also a great resource for you. Psy focuses on helping you level and giving you some idea what to do as you explore Azeroth. Some of his best posts are this one on gathering professions, this on the first class that made him interested in WoW, and his notes on other players in low level dungeons. But if you’ve got specific questions that you can’t find answers to on his site then he’s very friendly and approchable.

Psynister’s Notebook is an example of a blog that might be useful to you. There are many other WoW blogs – not many of them focus on new players, but some of them sometimes talk to new players and give helpful tips or recommendations, like this post from Redhawk’s Gaze. Others focus on one class specifically, like Big Bear Butt for druids or PvE Rogues for rogues. Have a poke around in their archives and keep an eye out on their fresh articles, you might find something useful.

If you’re looking for a bit more detail or advice straight from other players fresh from the battlefield then try WoWWiki. It’s a wiki of all things WoW and is edited by players. For now, you might want to have a look round to get used to the site – perhaps start with their newbie guide. It’s particularly awesome and welcoming, and covers all manner of topics from identifying friendly and unfriendly units, to getting better, to practical tips for new players.

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Making sense of items and quests**:

Wait a minute I hear you cry, why am I doing this questing thing again? WoWInsider has an overview on that too, in their questing 101 guide.

If you’re running out of quests and don’t know where to find more or are stuck with your current quests, there are lots of resources to help you with questing. One of the most detailed and well written guide is James’ Levelling Guide. Psynister also has levelling guides aimed at each class, and WoWInsider have their own class-based guide. Both Psynister and WoWInsider update their information for different classes at different times, so have a look at both and see which fits you best.

In all cases I’d recommend trying to find your own way and using the guides just to get yourself unstuck, rather than following them to the letter.

World of Warcraft is a huge game and there’s a lot of items and quests to keep track of. If you’re stuck on a quest or you’re not sure what that do-hicky item in your backpack is for, then you can look it up at WoWhead. It’s a database of all quests, game characters and items, and each entry has details on where to find the quest or item, what to do, and discussion boards where players share knowledge about the quest or item in question. If WoWhead is down then Thottbot does a similar thing.

Dungeons, other players and manners in WoW:

You may see other players killing monsters near you as you start questing in the zone you started in. At some point in your adventures you’re going to interact with other players – talk to them, group up with them to do hard adventures, maybe make friends.

Interacting with other players is a big part of the game, and it’s not hard to get the basics right. Apply common sense rules like not swearing, or not begging for help or money. The sort of way you’d mix with your friends or acquaintances in real life. Do that with players you meet and you’ll be off to a good start.

Once past the basic everyday manners, WoW does have some ettiquette that isn’t immediately obvious. Little things, like if someone else not in your group is about to hit a monster, don’t hit it before them; you’ll steal their kill and that’s counted as bad manners. Don’t panic, though! You’ll get the hang of it fairly quickly, and there are some resources out there to help you.

For example, if you group up with other people, particularly in dungeons, there are some specific behaviours about picking up loot. Happily Wowgrrl has a thorough guide right here, taking you through what to do and not do. Her Warcraft Looting Rules part one is a particularly fine introduction to the whole loot shenanigans.

There are a whole lot more tips you can get for how to behave in dungeons, too. It’s not all about the loot! People will react better to you in a group situation if you make an effort. WoWInsider has a great article which gets you started on how to be part of a group, and links you on to anything you need to know after that.

If, in time, you decide you want to interact with other players more often, you could join a guild. There are lots of ways to go about this. The first time I joined a guild happened because I met someone while I was questing on my first character and they kindly invited me to their large, social guild. WoWGrrl has something to say on finding guilds, too, so go check it out and keep it in mind for later. If you’re feeling up for a challenge you could use the new LookingForGuild website here, which lets you browse through increasing numbers of guilds. You’ll need to search for guilds on your own server, and it’s best to go for a guild that sounds right for you rather than the first one you see, but once you’ve found a guild it can be like a home.

Addons:

_W_ait? What are addons? I’m a new player!

No wait, come back, I’m not trying to overcomplicate things and make you run away in terror. I’m just going to suggest a couple of small programs you can download from a safe source that you save and unzip/extract into your WoW > Interface folder. It’s a small annoyance to do, but the benefit is that once you have the addons they will improve your gameplay.

There are a lot of addons out there and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by them. For now, let’s take a look at just a couple to get you going:

  • Acronym guide – when someone uses an acronym in chat this addon will turn the acronym into a link which you can click on or mouse-over to see an explanation of the acronym. Very useful if you’re not up on your 1337speak and trust me, no-one would blame you if you’re not.
  • NeedToKnow – this will allow you to keep track of abilities of a short duration. When you start playing a new class it can be hard to work out what abilities you need and when. Once installed, NeedToKnow will put a box on your screen that allows you to watch times for any abilities you want. The box has several lines, if you right click on one of them you get an options menu where you need to set the ability’s name and whether it’s a buff or debuff (the tooltip on the ability in your spellbook should say). You can also customize the box in other ways, like giivng each line a different colour so it’s easier to see. Once you’ve finished setting up the abilities you want to track, type /needtoknow again and the box will disappear – it’s ready and will reappear when you use one of the abilities you’ve set it to watch.

Making gold in WoW

The currency in WoW is gold, with the smaller denominations of coins being silver and copper. At low levels you’ll not have much gold but with a bit of trial and error you can start earning some gold. Having some spare cash will prove useful as it’ll let you buy new spells from your trainer, new equipment from the auction house, and mounts later on in the game.

Some people view making gold as a minigame within WoW. It doesn’t matter if you do or not, but the fact that they do means that there are plenty of resources out there for making gold. One of the best resources is the website Just My Two Copper, run by Markco. Have a look around his site: he posts gold making tips daily. He has some good advice for new characters, particularly this one on auction house basics, and this one on making gold when you enter a city.

If the idea of gold sounds good but you’re still not sure how to get it, you can also check out Lazy Sniper’s guide on The Art of Gold Making. It’s in two parts but the first one on getting started is here.

Well, there we go. We’ll stop there just in case your head is spinning. Don’t worry if it is – that’s no surprise, this is a lot to take in. You don’t need to remember it all at once, just think of this resource as a list you can refer back to as you’re learning.

Is there any topic you’ve come across while starting to play that I’ve not covered here, and you really wished I had? Or do you have any questions about any of these links, or anything I’ve said? If your answer to any of those questions is a resounding YES! then drop me a comment at the end of this post and I’ll do my best to help.

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Has this article gathering the best links for you been useful? I’m glad! You might also like MMO Melting Pot, where we gather the best blog posts from WoW and other MMOs and deliver them straight to you. Usually we focus on opinion related articles rather than factual links like here, so if you like what you see of the World… of Wacraft and want to immerse yourself more in it come on over and see what other players are saying about Azeroth._

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To bloggers: Writing For A Rainy Day, Or Pre Expansion Lull

It’s a rainy day here in Edinburgh and it’s settling in for the traditional British Wet Season Of Interminable Length.

What’s this mean to you? Well, we’re all in limbo at the moment. Especially bloggers. We’re waiting for an expansion that’s meant to be popping up in a puff of fiery doom sometime in the next two to three months, but we don’t even have a concrete release date for yet. We’re in limbo, and it feels like there’s a smorgsabord of trepidation, excitement and plain worriting going on over WoW and its future.

So I’d like to pause and make a few observations about where the blogosphere is, from my viewpoint underneath a drizzly-day conquering blanket.

First of all, some congratulations are in order. I’m seeing a lot of bloggers celebrating their guild’s first Lich King kill over the past week or two. Whether your guild was working on normal or Heroic it’s still a big achievement, so big gratz to all of you who’ve been focusing on your progression and letting us know how it’s gone.

The other big topic that’s been going the rounds is, of course, Cataclysm. There are some blogs doing single feature posts on their ruminations about Cata and how it will affect them and WoW, but there are a lot of blogs focusing solely on Cataclysm. And on talent builds that get tweaked every few days, and on technical playing issues.

We don’t feature Cata news and testing here at MMO Melting Pot simply because it changes too much, and is more fact-based than opinion-based. But if it’s what you enjoy writing, that’s great. Go for it.

But I’d just like to throw the idea out there that maybe, right now before Cata hits and when there are quite a lot of folks slaving over a hot beta-calculator, now’s the time to write something different.

Something you wouldn’t normally because you’re too busy playing live.

Something fun where you take the breaks off a bit.

Some folks already are. If you’re thinking about it – go for it!

Who knows? It might lead you to more posts, a new way of writing, or inspire you to a new thing to do in game. It might also help your blog stand out a bit and gain a few readers, as I think a lot of people would like to read content like this.

If you think that sounds like an a’ok idea but haven’t got any ideas, here are a few to start you off:

  • New/levelling players. Most of us focus on endgame content. Cata is going to encourage us all to go back and level again, whether we’re a new or old player. There’s also not many blogs that focus on or cater for resources for new players. If you like the sound of this but still need a bit of inspiration, check out the Help a Noob Day carnival held by Zuggaming but be quick, it’s happening this Saturday.
  • PVP. There are a few good PVP sites, blogs and forums, but they’re still in a minority. Maybe you could write about why you love or abhor PVP, or what weird tricks and secrets there are in a partcular battleground.
  • Capital cities. Do you like em? Why? Are you worried about the changes? Are you looking forward to Orgrimmar going boom? Do you think the dastardly green skins deserve it?
  • Misunderstood races of the world. Murlocs aren’t murderous maniacs and are really cute, cuddly things you wish you could keep as pets? There’s more to furbolgs than meets the eye, particularly the ones in that damn cave?
  • Different ways to approach the old content. Tell us about your soloing lifestyle. Your guild’s started a new group with no tanks *cough*? Your friend’s just joined andyou’re trying to two man mage-tennis your way through faction-unfriendly zones on a PvP server? Or if those sound silly, why?

Well, that’s my two copper. I’m not complaining, by any means. I’m still thoroughly enjoying reading what you guys write and feel honoured that you share your thoughts and feelings. I also get a spark of happiness every time I stumble over a new blog to put on my list. So, thanks everyone. This isn’t criticism, this is a friendly idea for anyone who fancies adopting it, and a celebration for anyone who already has been sailing the waters of slightly off-beat posts.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas you’d like to add to that list off the top of your head, or have you gone ahead and written something for a rainy-pre-expansion-lull? If so, let us know here!

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Editorial: Blizzard are a bit draconian

… in other shock news, the sky is blue and the grass is green.

Yes, we all know that Blizzard are hardly setting the standards for fairness and respect for privacy right now, but I was still a bit disconcerted to see the following new clause presented when I logged in to battle.net yesterday:

I consent to Blizzard monitoring and/or reviewing my personal messages

Full text here, for those who are interested.

Probably old news to a lot of people, and certain no surprise to many of us, but does stick in my craw a little. The spectacular own-goal fiasco of ReadID left me distinctly wary of Blizzard, and no longer prepared to take it on trust that my personal data was, in fact, personal … but this takes the biscuit. In a way, it’s refreshing that they’re being so upfront about it all. I mean, that clause may as well read “You agree that we at Blizzard can do basically whatever the heck we darn well please, as the humour takes us. Here’s a spurious and ill-defined justification. Now watch American Gladiators.”

You know what the worst thing is? I only signed in because a friend had decided to come back to WoW after a long time away from the game, and I wanted to use the Scroll Of Ressurection referral scheme to get him a few days’ free play. It was only after I’d signed the stupid agreement, logged in and sent the referral that we noticed this in the small print:

The Scroll of Resurrection can only be cast on a Classic World of Warcraft account. It is not possible to cast Scroll of Resurrection on trial, Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King accounts.

Seriously, Blizzard? What’s the point of that?

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