Mist of Pandaria – Looking Back

We’re in that odd gray space.  The last content patch for Mists has been released, and we have no firm news on what the next expansion will be.  Seems to a good time to complain about everything Blizz got wrong in Mists.

For me, the expansions have been going downhill for a while.  Burning Crusade rocked.  Wrath was good.  Cataclysm over promised and under delivered.  Mists?

Mists… is a problem child.  There are some aspects that I really like.  For instance, graphics in Warcraft have never looked better.  Um.   There are pandas?  I think that’s a good thing…  Let’s start at the top.

The Look

Why did *everything* have to be oriental themed?  Is it cool?  Sure.  I guess – in moderation.  Its like Soy Sauce.  I love Soy Sauce, but I only need a bit of it at dinner.  If I had to put Soy Sauce on everything, every meal, every day… my god.  I’d be tracking down some Soy Sauce factories to take them out.

And it isn’t just that its ‘all oriental, all the time’ – it’s also that it’s all badly stereotype oriental, all the time.  I’ve cringed more than a few times at the constant bad Asian accents that most of the Pandarian NPCs speak with.

Of course, Blizz tends to go overboard on the ‘themes’ for their expansions anyway – I’m remembering all the ‘scourge’ based raid armor sets from WotLK.  Maybe they need to step back a bit from that in general.

The Mechanic Changes

The new talent system?  I don’t think it worked as well as they were hoping, and I’m expecting yet another Talent system change for the next expansion.  I’m really not a fan of the concept of ‘change your talents for each boss’ mechanic,

As I’m sure you are all aware, I hate hate HATE the changes to travelling in Mists.  “Have Group, Will Travel” needs to come back.  This was an incredibly useful perk for Guilds.  Ghostcrawler beats the ‘We need to get people out of cities, and into the world!’ and “We want people to see the beautiful world we made!’ arguments when this comes up.  Problem is, people – once they hit 90 – either hang out in a city waiting for LFR now, or go to the current Daily Quest hub.  Not a lot of travel and exploring happening there.

They also need to allow flying for all once you die and need to run back.  The most frustrating thing about it is that their isn’t because the game can’t handle it – but because they ‘want to encourage people to explore the world’.  Um.  Once I’m dead, I’m not doing ANY MORE exploring!  Don’t really care what it looks like, just let me get back to my body.

The entire conceit of ‘We want people to see the beautiful world we made!’ also seems narcissistic at best.  Yes.  The design team did a good job.  But.  If you need to *force* us to walk places to make us look at the scenery, then maybe your story/quests for that area need a bit of work?  Make us *want* to be there – don’t make it a place where we trudge through only because we have to.

The Lore

Which brings us to the weakness of Mists – the Lore.  I’m a huge Lore fan for Warcraft, and I feel cheated.  Burning Crusade rocked hard because it *continued the story*.  Wrath rocked hard because it *continued the story*.  Cata, well, didn’t really continue anything – but a sudden Apocalypse that interrupts everything?  That kinda rocks.  Except for this whole Thrall is a Demi-God fan-service storyline.

Mists, though?  WTF?  Let’s look at this within the context of the world.  EVERYTHING had almost been destroyed.  NO ONE has the resources to continue to fight, and both factions are busy trying to recover.

So what do we do? Find a new island and dedicate resources into exploring it.

What the hell?

And this Sha thing?  And Garrosh?  And what?

It feels contrived.  Blizz wants it to be epic, and it just isn’t, in my opinion.  Beyond ‘Hey! Look at this place we discovered!’ there just isn’t a reason to care about it, let alone even be there.

Beyond, of course, Blizz placing the new Raids there. :)

I also get that we’re supposed to feel bad about how the war let the Sha out, and how we made a mess of things, and etc, etc… but again – that presumes that we care about Pandaria in the first place.  And – really – I don’t.  To be honest, I’ve never bothered to complete all the quests there – I’ve gotten as far as the start of the Dread Wastes (I think that’s it), hit 90 and then I promptly stopped caring about whatever the hell was happening there.

I’m looking forward to getting out of Pandaria, and back into traditional lore content – fighting the Shadow Council.  Exploring the Emerald Dream.  Taking on Azshara. Kul Tiras.  Things that we’ve heard about, and that have been teased for years – instead of something that honestly started as an April Fool’s Joke.

Been Quiet.

Life has been busy.  And stressful.  And things.

No excuse, I know, but there it is.  Anyway – time to move on.  Quick rundown for those keeping track at home:

WoW – Still Playing (on Thorium Brotherhood and Moon Guard)
Star Wars: The Old Republic – Not really playing.
Rift: Kind of playing.
Flight Sim – Still Flying, about 2-3 times per month.
Work – Still working, thank goodness.
Other Stuff – No major change.  Still married.  Still have kids.

To elaborate on WoW – I am still playing, but I’m caught trying to have fun.  I want to play my Mage on TB, but there isn’t anything for me to do there.  Sure – I can grind Rep or grind Heroics – but I’m not much in a grindy mood.  And that really is about all she wrote for WoW at lvl 90: Grind, Grind and then Grind some more – all so you can Raid and grind on the Raid trash and bosses.

It can be aggravating.  So I’m trying to cast about to find things to do.  RP?  Maybe.  There isn’t much on Thorium Brotherhood, and the folks on Moon Guard sometimes take themselves WAAAY too seriously.  Quest? Meh.  I hit 90.  Don’t really want to.  PvP?  No, No way.  I hear enough about how awesome people think they are, no need to go to a BG to hear more of it. Raid? Ugh. See my earlier though on that.  Grindy McGrindfest.

The other problem is that I’ve been so… distant.  I don’t log in to people saying ‘Hi!’ anymore.  I’m more the quiet background guy that’ll log in and then log out after a bit without anyone really noticing.

Sometimes, that appeals to me.  Most often, it doesn’t.  I enjoy talking to folks, and hanging out – and that is one thing that I’ve certainly lost.  I could get it back on TB by hanging out there more, but there just isn’t anything to do there.  I could get it back on MoonGuard by hanging out and RP’ing, but damn – those stories just move too damn fast for me these days.

So I feel a bit stuck.  I’ll log in, and poke around at things – but I won’t really do anything.

Do I play WoW still?  Yeah.  Do I know what I want to do there? Nope.

Free 2 Play: You’re Doing it Wrong.

So Electronic Arts, desperate to find a way to pay off the development costs for Star Wars: The Old Republic, has taken the game ‘Free to Play’.

When I first heard, I was terribly excited. I even ran out and picked up the game on the cheap, intending to let the subscription expire and just collect one month worth of ‘Cartel Coins’, their in-game currency you can purchase for $$$.

Let me just say that I’ve loved the game so far.  Loved it.  It is fun, and refreshing, and I look forward to playing it.

Let me also just say that their Free to Play system sucks.  It sucks hard.  It should be held up as an example of how not to do a thing.

As a ‘Free to Play’ or ‘Preferred’ player you get: Next to nothing.  You can experience the basic storyline, but there are limits on everything else.  Have an epic drop? You can’t get it until you pay Cartel Coins for the license for it.  Want more than two quickbars? Cartel Coins. Want to continue to earn your full experience points past level 10? Cartel Coins.  Want to whisper, or trade before level 10? Cartel Coins.  Want a 30 minute cooldown on your hearth instead of four hours? Yep. Cartel Coins.

EA has monetized *everything* in game, and is selling the game piecemeal.  Which is the worst possible way to do this.  Over the long run, it’s going to alienate players that may want to take part in a micro-transaction based game, and EA will be left having to depend on a dwindling subscriber base.

Instead, I think that EA should have looked to Cryptic, and modeled their Free to Play model after how Cryptic handled Star Trek Online.

In Star Trek Online, you get the full game experience.  You earn full XP the entire time and can access all the chat features.  You get access to your inventory, your bank and even a guild bank – but you have a limited amount of storage.  You are still limited to two characters total, but can buy additional slots.

They may their money, instead, off of themes and ships.  Want the Enterprise-A for your ship? You’ll need to pay cash for it.  Heck, want the bridge module, uniforms and the ship from Deep Space Nine?  You can get that – but you’ll have to pay.

You aren’t paying to get through the game – you’re paying for how it *looks*.

And I think that EA could have made a killing doing that.  Imagine if they made a new type of ship for each class, but made it so you had to purchase it.  Would you purchase the Millenium Falcon for your smuggler, if you could?  Would it matter that it cost $25.00? Would you purchase a modification to make your droid look like an R2 unit?  I think that players – both Free to Play and Subscribers – would have gone nuts for stuff like that.

That would have been a good, steady, income stream – while providing Free to Play players the opportunity to actually experience the game properly.  Instead, they feel like they’ve been conned, and after a brief taste are simply drifting away.

Hopefully EA will realize quickly that this strategy just isn’t going to work.  Already, they’re modifying the number of Quickbars players get for free – so hopefully they’ll be able to continue to tune this system.

An Ending is Only a New Beginning.

Last week, I pulled my last character out of ‘Order of Malorne’.  For now, I’m adrift on Moon Guard, not quite sure where to go next.

I started to type up my issues with the Order.  But, really?  What’s the point.  I had grown away from OoM, and OoM had grown away from me.  We just weren’t a good fit anymore, and that type of thing happens.

It sucks, and it’s frustrating, but it does happen.  I’m not upset with anyone in the Order, and I wish them nothing but success and all the awesome RP that they want.

I am concerned that a few of my friends there may be upset with me, and I will be circling back around to them to make sure they’re ok.

I am not quite sure where to go next on Moon Guard.  One Character is in ‘Shadow Dancers’.  Another is in ‘Salvation’, though I may pull her from ‘Salvation’ soon (just may not be a good fit).

Not quite sure whether to continue to focus on Moon Guard, or not.  When I roll my Monk – I keep going back and forth about which server to do it on.  I can’t do it on both – it’s getting kind of silly to have pretty much duplicate characters on TB and MG.  One Mage, or one Priest should be enough, you know?

Xenophobia

I’ve been struggling with how to RP my Kaldorei lately, and with how most players view the Kaldorei culture.

Particularly, the Xenophobia aspect of it.

I’ve seen a lot of players tend to (in my opinion) over-react to it lately, and that has bothered me of late.

This may be more for myself, than anyone else – but I thought I’d share it in case anyone else had insights.

Kaldorei society is often called ‘Xenophobic’, which I’d agree with. I just haven’t been sure how to best portray that. Swinging by Wikipedia, I found this:

“The second form of xenophobia is primarily cultural, and the objects of the phobia are cultural elements which are considered alien. All cultures are subject to external influences, but cultural xenophobia is often narrowly directed, for instance, at foreign loan words in a national language. It rarely leads to aggression against individual persons, but can result in political campaigns for cultural or linguistic purification. In addition, entire xenophobic societies tend not to be open to interactions from anything “outside” themselves, resulting in isolationism that can further xenophobia.”

I think that really describes the Kaldorei at this point in their history. After ten thousand years of isolation, they’re suddenly thrust back into the world almost against their will. It isn’t that they dislike any other race, they just want to be left alone – and they want their culture to remain ‘unsullied’.

I think that, to most foreigners, Kaldorei would be polite and accommodating. Maybe not exactly ‘trusting’, but still – they would strive to be good host/hostesses. I think that they would readily assist the alliance, especially when defending Kalimdor against the Horde. I think they’d be a little less enthusiastic about defending the Eastern Kingdoms against the Horde.

I think that most would make it a point to speak Darnassian, and only Darnassian. Culturally, I don’t think that a lot would bother to learn any other language unless ask specifically to do so.

I think they’d be eager to share the highlights of Kaldorei culture with others, but would be resistant to accept teachings from other cultures. They’d probably treat a lot of what they hear from other cultures as ‘Well, that’s nice that you believe in something, dear.’

As noted above, I don’t think that the Xenophobia would result in a lot of anger or violence against a person. I think that if some non-Kaldorei was in Darnassus and was being a poor guest, that we’d simply thank them for their visit and ask them to leave.  If they refused to leave, I think most would leave them be, but would keep a distrustful eye on them.

I don’t think that most Kaldorei would feel the need to go on about how many times we’ve saved the world, or get into other races faces to tell them off – I think we’d just try to be above that.

I think that I’ll be focusing my Kaldorie characters as:

* Being Polite and Accommodating to foreigners, and try to play a good hostess.

* Speaking only Darnassian, while she’ll understand Common as well, she’ll choose to respond only in Darnassian.

* Quietly confident in the superiority of the Kaldorei, but respectful of the contributions the other races make to the world as well.

Any thoughts?

US Airways Flight 1719 – Charlotte to Orlando

I picked up the Captain Sim 757 base pack for FS9 this week, and finally had a chance to try it out last night on a quick flight from Charlotte to Orlando.   (Vataware Flight Link)

I have to say, I’m impressed.

The flight itself was fairly easy, and the plane performed adequately.  I’m not familiar with either the Charlotte or Orlando airports, and changing the arrival runway and approach when requested to do so by ATC was very easy with the FMS.

The only real problem that I had was that I had left the electric hydraulics off accidentally, and remembered as I’m rotating the aircraft.  That was an easy fix, though.  I’ll write it off to being distracted by trying to get the engines started.

The cs757 feels heavy.  I felt that she was really dragging to get off the runway, especially compared to the much lighter A319’s and 737’s I’m used to flying.  It was also a job holding it on the localized and glideslope by hand.  I felt that I had to fight it most of the way in.  I don’t mind doing that, and there was a pretty strong cross-wind component (winds were 280 @ 7kts, and I was coming in on rwy 35L) but it was kinda cool to have to work to keep things lined up.

All in all, the flight went well and for all potential issues with the landing, I ended up landing at 122kts, -164fps – which isn’t too bad at all.

Will the last one to leave Silvermoon…

Growing up near Detroit, there was an old joke floating around in the mid-80’s, as the decline of the auto industry began:

Will the last one to leave Detroit, please remember to turn off the lights?

Having rolled a toon Horde-side on Thorium Brotherhood, I feel the same way about Silvermoon right now.  The place is abandoned.  Not virtually abandoned – literally abandoned.

Last half-dozen times I’ve been online, I’ve done a /who silvermoon as I’ve run through the empty streets.  The results, on average, have been two people – one of them being myself.

This is a shame, as I feel that Silvermoon is one of the nicest cities in Warcraft.  And it didn’t used to be this way, I remember running through TB’s Silvermoon about a year ago and not being able to find a quiet place to sit.

I know that the population on Thorium Brotherhood as dropped significantly.  According to WarcraftRealms.com, it’s down to 9,002 – for both the Horde and Alliance.  Comparatively, Moon Guard has a total population of over 34,000.

Is that all it is, or is this evidence not just that Thorium Brotherhood is no longer an RP realm, but more that the development of Looking for Dungeon and Looking for Raid has reduced cities to just lobbies where we wait for the queue to pop?

I also feel that Blizz could have done a better job with balancing out the capital cities.  I think it was a poor decision to only make Reforging/Transmogrification available in Stormwind or Ogrimmar.  Same with portals to all the new Cata zones.  Or, at least, if you’re going to do that then they should have had portals setup to all the other capital cities, as they once did in Shattrath.

Hopefully, some of this will be fixed in MoP.  In the meantime, though, I’ve got Silvermoon to myself.