Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Star Wars: A Return To The Old Republic - Day 2

Day 2, Entry 1:
It turns out that Quesh was not a new planet, and was just the next place my storyline took me. After completing my objective there, I found out I now had to go to a planet called Belsavis. This one I had certainly never been to before, given the level range put it as the next planet immediately after clearing Hoth. So now I'm continuing the Sith Warrior story line, and I've reached level 41. The EXP booster is more effective than I had first thought yesterday.

The new planet, Belsavis, is fairly easy on the eye compared to Quesh and Hoth. Belsavis is a mix of snowy environments and lush meadows and small hills with trees scattered here and there. It actually reminds me of some parts of Northrend in World of Warcraft. I've only seen a few parts of this planet so far, and I look forward to seeing what awaits me as I explore it further. 

Despite the turmoil on the planet, Belsavis is quite pretty.
 As far as gameplay mechanics go, I have noticed a few changes. There are now achievements in the game, and they are fairly subtle compared to the ones in World of Warcraft which basically shoot off visual effects all over you when you earn one. There appear to be a boat load of achievements in Star Wars: The Old Republic, with some of them awarding Cartel Coins if the in-game text is to be believed. Also, I don't know if this is a change from the 1.0 days of this game, but apparently planetary commendations can now drop off of mobs.

I also decided to check out Strongholds, as it seemed like they were a big feature in the game now. I purchased the apartment for five thousand credits, which is nothing compared to the prices for having a stronghold on Tatooine (costs 2.5 million credits). As I arrived at my apartment I could see the clear Empire influence in its design. It was dark and dreary, but I like the visual effect of the rain on the windows.

Inside your “Stronghold”, you can completely customize how it looks and what kind of furniture and decorations there are. Many basic furnishings were handed to me upon arriving at my apartment, but you can also acquire more unique items through a variety of methods. Apparently Flashpoints award some trophies and other decorations for your Stronghold, so I'm thinking of running a few of those in the near future. That and I have a quest for completing a Flashpoint when using the Group Finder, so I suppose I now have several reasons to jump into that content. 

This is what the editor looks like in a Stronghold.  It allows you to place objects and arrange their positioning.

And this is what it looks like while it is not in edit mode.
Another feature that caught my eye is Conquest. Conquest appears to be a week long event filled with objectives and all kinds of rewards for participants. I'm not sure how it works, but there appears to be a leaderboard of some sort for guilds on each server. The more the members participate, the more points that guild gets. At present, I don't know if there are any rewards for those who rank high on this leaderboard. Today a new conquest event has started for this week involving a planet known as Corelia. The objective is to stop the spread of the Rak'ghoul plague, a nuisance that I remember quite well from leveling on one of my characters. I have a quest that will allow me to partake but I don't know if I'm at a high enough level to do anything beyond the intro quest. At the very least it is worth quite a lot of EXP, so going there may not be a waste of time.


Day 2, Entry 2:
Not much to report for this entry. I attempted to use the group finder to do some Flashpoints. Unfortunately every time I got a group some guy always declined the invite. This happens all the time in other games like WoW, but those cases are usually people who went AFK while using the group finder tool. When you get an invite you have 30 seconds to accept it, but in SWTOR you have two minutes to accept. In all my cases, someone deliberately declined the invite. I cannot fathom why you would queue in the group finder if you weren't sure if you would have time to do a Flashpoint. I'll attempt to use the group finder another time.

After running a few low level Flashpoints solo just for kicks, I set a course for Belsavis to continue my class storyline and the march toward level 55.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Star Wars: A Return To The Old Republic - Day 1

I could tell you what this article will be about, although you probably know already given what the title is. However, I thought of a decent and completely unoriginal way to introduce this feature. So prepare yourself.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

(Insert Star Wars Opening Music Here)
STAR WARS: A RETURN TO THE OLD REPUBLIC

Several years have passed since Paul departed
from The Old Republic, in search of greener pastures.

After seeing the news about the upcoming expansion,
and after rewatching several of the older Star Wars films with his family,
Paul decided it was time to return to The Old Republic and see what had changed.

So Paul took lightsaber in hand once again and jumped back in,
completely unaware of the shenanigan riddled misadventures that awaited him...


Forgive me, I couldn't possibly resist. That said, I decided it was time to go back to Star Wars: The Old Republic and provide my thoughts on how things have changed since the game was released back in December 2011. However, one mere article would not be enough to do this game any justice. As a result, this return to SWTOR article will be broken up into several parts. Tentatively, I'm thinking maybe six or seven.

In case you hadn't heard, there will be an expansion for SWTOR called Shadow of Revan. The level cap will be increased to 60, and will feature Revan as both the Empire and Republic seek to put a stop to whatever it is he is planning on doing. As expected, there will be some new flashpoints and operations (AKA dungeons and raids) for players to do as well. I haven't decided if RBFB will be providing coverage of the new expansion, but time will tell.
Without further ado, let's get started.

This is a landscape shot of Dromund Kaas I had taken back in 2011.

Day 1, Entry 1:
As many of you know, SWTOR went free to play awhile back. I remembered reading how limited the free to play version of the game was, even for former subscribers. So I decided to pick up a 60 day time card so that I could play the game without any restrictions. As I tried to log into my account on the official website, I remembered that I had gotten one of those authenticators for my SWTOR account. I searched all over the place for it, but couldn't find it. So I had to go through a few hoops in order to detach the security key.

When SWTOR went free to play, a micro-transaction system was put in place that used something called Cartel Coins. I hope that Cartel Coins can't be used to purchase raid gear or anything like that, but that remains to be seen. As I checked my account, I discovered that having an authenticator attached to my account was giving me 100 free Cartel Coins a month. As a result, my account had over 2000 Cartel Coins. So now I basically have free in-game money to use as I see fit. I never made it to level 50 on any of my characters, so perhaps I could make use of some EXP boosters if they are available on the in-game store? 

EA is involved in this game, so the fact that micro-transactions came into this game is not surprising at all.

After my account was set up, I downloaded the SWTOR client and got it installed. It took a minute to figure out which server my main characters were on given that my home server known as Thana'vesh was gone, lost to the void when SWTOR went free to play after the game's population dropped drastically. Now I am on Shadowlands, which seems to have a population that ranged from 'light' to 'standard'. I wonder how many players are actively subscribed to SWTOR now?

When I reached the character log in screen I selected my Sith Warrior character. Upon logging into my level 39 character, I was greeted with various messages talking about stuff that had changed along with updates to the graphics. My skill tree was reset and at the time of writing this entry I have yet to set it back. To be honest the first hour or so of gameplay has just been browsing through all the new stuff. When I left the game, the legacy system had barely been implemented beyond being able to gain experience in it.

Now there are a bunch of systems and mechanics that I barely recognized. I wonder if this is how a WoW player feels when they return to the game for the first time in years, because I felt completely overwhelmed as I gazed at countless amounts of new information, updates, and content. Now there is reputation, a bunch of legacy perks, and several messages in my mailbox. Despite the fact that I have not been an active player since early 2012, Bioware was nice enough to give me various event gift packages in the mail. This included some anniversary packages, titles for content updates, five currency tokens for starter end game gear, and even a astromech companion that was a reward for Star Wars day (May 4th). 

Here is the astromech in question.
I noticed one big change to the UI as well, which was a giant flashing Cartel Coin which proudly labeled itself as the in-game store. I browsed around the store and noticed the wide variety of content that was being sold. Now that the game has gone free to play, I suppose that they had to do something to get some money. At present I've only bought a pack of EXP boosters so that I could try to catch up with whatever the end game content is.

While we are discussing Cartel Coins, I noticed that they can be used to purchase things like inventory slot upgrades and legacy perks at significantly lower costs than credits. I only have about 110k credits to my name at present, so Cartel Coins give me another option while I earn more credits.

There is even the option to fully customize the UI, but the editor does not seem particularly friendly. So I'll need to play that and decide on what my spec will be for my Sith Warrior. It could actually take a few hours before I'm able to get back into the game in terms of actually playing it. Speaking of the game, I apparently have the first expansion involving the Hutts completely free of charge. I don't know if this is true or not, but I saw it listed as a game I own on my account. 

When I first saw this on the editor, I had no idea what to make of it.
 
Day 1, Entry 2:
It took some time, but I think I finally found a UI setup that I like. I found a good leveling build for my Sith Warrior as well. After I completed all that, I headed straight to the Imperial fleet to see if there was anything I could buy or any skills I could pick up. As I arrived and left the dock area, I was greeted by many an unusual sight. There were quite a few vehicles/mounts I had never seen in the game before. I could have sworn I saw a guy riding around on a small Rancor, but I must be mistaken as there is no way a creature like that could be a mount.

One thing that caught me by surprise was how populated Shadowlands is. I was expecting the fleet to be rather ghost town-ish, yet that was not the case. I have included some screenshots to show the population of the game in this particular area. Of course, the screenshots I had originally taken didn't register because the SWTOR screencap function is bugged. So these other images will have to do for now, I'm afraid. 


So after looking around I started visiting vendors as I came across them. Apparently all the commendations you get from doing quests on planets have now been consolidated into one currency, and that is a wonderful thing. There were way too many currencies back when I played, and it is nice to have only one kind of currency to worry about. To make things even better, all my commendations were combined so I could afford a new helmet for myself and one of my AI companions and still have some more commendations to spend.

I encountered an area which talked about Strongholds. After reading some of the descriptions, it sounds like Strongholds is basically player housing. I could easily afford the apartment on Dromund Kaas, but for now I want to focus on leveling up my character and continuing the story. There is a lot of content that a mere level 39 character cannot so much as even glimpse at, so I have my work cut out for me. Thankfully I do have some EXP boosters, so that should speed up the process a little. Speaking of Dromund Kaas, I got an item in my mail which will allow me to create a weapon if I turn it into a vendor on that planet.


Day 1, Entry 3:
Well the item turned out to be a waste of time, so I moved on and set a course for Hoth. I still had a few quests left to finish there and I'm a little under the recommended level for the next planet in the story. There aren't many quests, but it should be enough to at least get me to level 40 and possibly half way to 41.

As I landed on Hoth and started doing some quests, I realized that the gameplay for SWTOR hasn't really changed much. Kill X amount of bad guys, collect this, activate that, same old stuff. Compared to WoW, leveling is a little more challenging given you do have to pick and choose your fights to some extent. But with a decent spec and a good rotation, the difficulty is very much manageable.

Even in the distant past, Hoth was a frozen hellhole.
I only wish that the EXP booster gave more than 25%, but there are other ways to boost how much EXP I gain. The legacy system has several perks I can purchase that boost EXP in a variety of activities from class missions to flashpoints. However, my legacy level is only five so there is only so much I can purchase. Granted I can use Cartel Coins, but I'm trying to use mine sparingly.

As I write this, I'm very close to level 40. In the next entry, I will likely be well on my way to level 41 and possibly on a new planet.




Monday, October 20, 2014

How Destiny Could Improve

Destiny has been out for a little while and, despite some of the issues it faces, it has been very well received by gamers. People are playing the game everyday, and the tower always has Guardians coming and going. Every day more and more players are clearing the Vault of Glass. At present, it seems like players will have to wait until the release of the first expansion this December in order to have new content. That said, I figured I would put together a little wish list of things I want to see changed or added in Destiny be it in the expansions or sequels. 

More Loot
It's so... beautiful!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this comic proves that to be true (thanks Ctrl+Alt+Delete!). Destiny is rather stingy with the loot drops. There is always something satisfying about seeing a bunch of loot drop while playing any loot based game like Diablo and Borderlands. It doesn't matter if the majority of it ends up being junk that you sell or break down for parts, and I feel like Destiny would benefit from the same thing.

More loot should drop, all kinds of loot. Why stop at weapons and armor? Why not have items like plasteel plating and hadronic essence drop as well? Why not have ship schematics that can drop from enemies? I feel that Destiny would benefit from making it rain loot upon the player, and it would make exploration and just playing the game feel much more satisfying for loot addicts. Seeing a bunch of engrams in the infamous loot cave was pretty cool, so why not increase the amount of loot that can drop?

Performance = Better Chance At Loot
Not the best example since I got rewards, but imagine this image in reverse.

 One of the many issues with loot in Destiny is the sheer cruelty of the RNG. Granted, RNG is not new when it comes to loot in games. However, I feel there should be a system in place that rewards skill no matter what game mode you are playing. It is ridiculous that a player can do really well in the crucible and get absolutely nothing every single game, while some guy who consistently gets 0 kills and 18+ deaths while watching Netflix gets showered with loot and exotic weapons. I feel there should be a system in place that helps prevent this. Certain crucible medals like killing sprees, strength of the pack, and killing multiple players in small amounts of time should boost a player's chance of getting loot at the end of a match. One medal alone would not boost this chance much, but multiple medals together would make it much more likely for a PvP diehard to walk out of a night in the Crucible with a decent little goodie bag of loot.

Even just simply handing out an engram after each match would feel much more rewarding for players than the current system. With the way the game is right now, I don't blame people for not wanting to try in the Crucible given that their performance in the match does nothing at all beyond look good in their overall stats. It seems like Destiny really wants to be a loot game, so why not reward skilled players with some loot?

Better yet, why not have cosmetic items like class items, shaders, emblems, ships, and vehicles that can only be acquired by doing consistently well in the Crucible? Say those who have a certain K/D ratio or have a certain amount of kills with a particular weapon would be able to buy exclusive items that other players would see and know instantly that the wearer is a formidable ally/opponent in the crucible.

More Dynamic Events
"Stay calm, it can probably smell fear."
 The public events are a neat mechanic, but I feel that there should be more going on out in the exploration zones of Destiny. There should be more reason to go out there than to just run generic patrol missions over and over again. For example, there could be powerful boss level enemies that spawn in certain areas once a week. These bosses would be difficult, but upon being killed they would drop plenty of loot for players along with have a chance to drop class items, shaders, and emblems that could only be acquired from that particular boss. This system could also be expanded to having extremely powerful raid level bosses that spawn on each planet once a month. They would not be easy to kill, but the reward would make them worth it. Their loot table would include ascendant material, a chance at exotics, and possible exotics that can only be acquired from those bosses.

Beyond world bosses, I think that Destiny should have periodic invasions by other enemies in the game. For example, say the Vex suddenly show up in the Cosmodrome in large numbers. Players would be given the option to participate in the effort to push them back, and they would be highly rewarded at the end of the event.

More Enemies
The Darkness - With 100% More Pyramid Ships
There may be lots of enemies in Destiny, but a lot of them are too similar to one another. There is little difference in the AI of a Vex Goblin, a Fallen Dreg, and a Hive Acolyte. So I feel there should be new enemies added in that keep the player on their toes. Perhaps this new enemy would be able to switch weapons and then use different tactics to try and defeat the player. Say there was a Fallen of some kind that was able to do that. At long range it would try to snipe the player, but then switch to that more powerful heavy weapon used by Fallen Archons when the player gets closer. Or perhaps it would suddenly go invisible and try to ambush the player with a melee weapon.

That and just having more enemies to fight would also add variety. This would be a good time for Bungie to bring in the Darkness and allow Guardians to fight it directly rather than through the minions. It has been depicted that there is a fifth enemy lurking out there somewhere, but this is assuming that hasn't been cut out of the game like so many other things have been.

More Locations
Nice place, too bad it's barely used.
 Let's face it, there needs to be more locations to go to and explore. Sure there is plenty of space to run around in on Earth and all the other planets, but I feel like those could be expanded to allow players to go to other areas. There should be some more variety of places to go. As it stands now, everything in the story seems to always happen in Old Russia or small parts of other planets. It seems like the same thing will occur with The Dark Below. If the Hive are trying to prepare Earth for the return of Crota, why do they keep going back to Old Russia? Shouldn't they find somewhere else on Earth where there aren't hundreds of Guardians patrolling everyday?

Also, Mercury should be added as an explorable PvE environment. It feels like a waste to have an entire planet dedicated just to small PvP matches. So if an expansion could add a patrol mission, a strike, and some story missions there, that would be appreciated.

More Variety in Weapon Design
Some diversity would be nice...
 Exotic weapons excluded, a lot of weapons basically use the same design only with different colors. There is little difference in appearance between a Marshal-A, Galahad-E, and Shadow Price beyond stats and color. Legendary Weapons should have unique designs of their own that set them apart from the regular greens and blues. Bungie more or less does this for armor, so why can't they do that for Legendary quality weapons? If there is any group of legendary weapons that should have a unique model, it would be the ones from Vault of Glass. As it stands now, the only way to tell when someone has Atheon's Epilogue is when you see a stream of purple bullets being fired, and that is rather disappointing.

More Variety in Story Missions
I wonder if the Ghost hates his job.
Go here, activate this. Go there, kill something. Listen to Peter Dinklage monologue your ear off. That is basically every single mission in Destiny. There is no variety and no big moments that a player can look back on and say: “That was awesome!”. It isn't like Bungie can't do this, because they clearly can. There are countless moments throughout all the Halo games made by Bungie that stood out as memorable experiences. Yet that seems oddly absent from Destiny beyond that one mission where you get to wield a sword. I don't really care about what they add, so long as they do something that mixes things up.

More Story In The Missions & More Characters
"I wish I'd been given better dialogue, little light."
Despite being called a story mode, the amount of actual story in Destiny itself is rather lacking. Sure bits and pieces of the grand scale story are told through Grimoire cards, but that information should somehow be also woven into the story of the game. Just because Destiny is going to be a 10 year project does not mean that Bungie can just tell a little story, explain nothing, and think people will be content with that. Every story in Destiny as a series should be a self contained story with a clear beginning and end. At the same time, they should also fit together into one large picture at the end. Players should not have to wait until 2024 to be able to understand the first story. That isn't a ten year plan, that is just bad story telling.

In addition, there should be more characters that play active roles in the story. The only characters that actually do much of anything are the personality-less player character, the Dinklage bot, and the Exo Stranger (AKA Ms. I don't even have time to explain why I don't have time to explain, because the writing in this game is on par with the garbage in Resident Evil). Through some dialogue in the game and information from the grimoire cards, it is clear that there are plenty of characters that would be great additions to the actual story. Why not have someone like Cayde-6 or even the Exo Stranger accompany you on a mission or something like that? Better yet, why not have an encounter with Toland or Osiris so that the story and the grimoire cards feel a little more intertwined.

These are just a few things that would help improve Destiny, and I'm sure there are others that I haven't thought of. If you have any suggestions of your own or comments, feel free to send them my way. Expect to see more coverage on Destiny as December gets closer and more details about The Dark Below are (hopefully) released.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Found This While Digging Through My Archives

While I was going through my archive folder filled with a variety of articles I've written over the years, I found this one that I had written for my guild in World of Warcraft at the time.  It was a journal I had been writing based on my experience in the beta for World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.  I figured I'd share it with everyone, so here it is.  Enjoy!


The Beta Chronicles: Mists of Pandaria

April 19th, 2012 – 12:15 AM:

Roughly an hour and a half ago, I heard news that more beta invites for Mists of Pandaria were being sent out. Out of curiosity I checked my Battle.net Account and saw that I had indeed gotten my invite into the Beta. I eagerly downloaded the client and began to install the beta. It's still currently installing as I type this, of course it didn't help that I chose to play in the middle of that. I couldn't resist I suppose.

The brief time I spent in Beta was as a cute little Blood Elf Monk named Reivan on the Lost Isles US server. Only got the little belf to level 2 at present, but I haven't really spent much time playing. One mysterious D/C later, I transferred my Death Knight over to the same server. I tried to start testing the new content right away... however I still had about 8 GB of data that needed to be installed judging by the fact that everything froze in place and I was unable to talk to anyone.

Sadly I have a test in the morning, so I will not be able to dedicate much time to the beta this evening. I will get the beta fully installed and once I have more to talk about I will add a new post to the Beta Chronicles forum topic.



April 19th, 2012 – 12:50 AM:

Only 3 GB left to download and install, and since I had no trouble playing the beta on my monk, Reivan, I logged in a little later to play some more and send heirlooms over to her from my main. I know, I know, I said I wasn't going to play all that much and I will stick to that. Probably gonna go to bed soon after typing this up.

Already in the beta there are a couple things I've noticed that are worth mentioning. First: Class Trainers seem to be not used anymore. At level 3 I learned a new ability for my Monk automatically without having to buy the new ability. Second: They may have changed the scale of the cub mobs out in Eversong Woods. I don't know, it's been awhile since I was out here in Blood Elf territory and I don't recall the cubs being as small as they are now.

Once I have played more of the monk I will dedicate an entire entry on that very subject. Tomorrow's priority will be checking out the new level 85 content out in Pandaria. No worries, I will make sure to omit the spoilers.



April 19th, 2012 – 12:43 PM:

I was approached by a most unusual creature this morning. I am told this creature is a Pandaren. He told me that he had a once in a lifetime opportunity just for me provided by the Lords of Blizzard themselves. I was both suspicious and intrigued by this offer and I asked a few questions. He told me that he could teleport me to the mystical land of Pandaria. My curiosity got the better of me and I took the offer.

A few seconds later, I found myself standing in a quaint village in the middle of a lush green forest. The architecture of the buildings is unlike anything I've seen. Unlike Orgrimmar, Pandaria is filled with buildings that re far more aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps the Horde could sign a contract with the Pandaren to overhaul Orgrimmar?

I saw no tasks or quests in the area, so I got on my bike and traveled west, deeper into the Jade Forest and Pandaria. The Jade Forest is a work of art. It is vibrant and filled with interesting things to stop and look at. I found an Archeology dig site nearby and began searching for fragments. Interestingly enough, the dig site did not despawn after finding three collections of fragments. Perhaps it is because it is the only one that is available in the Jade Forest? It is around this time that I realized I had not acquired the new skill ranks in my professions. I decided to explore Jade Forest a little more and then use a nearby portal to return to Orgrimmar.

There are many strange creatures in Pandaria! In my travels I saw a strange looking creature with blue fur and enormous spines that stuck out of its back. These spines look very sharp, like they could skewer a dragon, I'd suggest caution if you choose to approach such creatures. But as long as you don't bother them they won't impale you. I've seen birds with long stick-like legs, tigers, and frightfully large spiders.

While fleeing from pissed off bi-pedal monkeys (I kinda sorta ran into their village thinking it was a friendly area), I made it back to the town with the portal back to Orgrimmar. At this time I made the discovered that the portal could not be used without a Rune of Teleportation Reagent. Thankfully, a fellow Horde player had one of those Mammoth mounts that has the vendors. I was able to buy plenty of Runes of Teleportation in case this change is applied to all portals in Azeroth. I also found a food vendor, a Pandaren selling culture food. I bought some rice cakes shaped like gears and springs...? Beta is beta so weird stuff will happen I suppose.

I returned to Orgrimmar, bout the new ranks for archeology, mining, and engineering. Once I was ready I took a portal to the coast of Pandaria. I found some NPCs with quests that need my help with various tasks. I will write more soon.

April 20th, 2012 – 1:35 AM

I've certainly had quite the adventures in Pandaria today. Some fun, some not so fun. And of course I've seen plenty of strange stuff as well. I'll start off with some of the miscellaneous stuff I did today. I took a quick break from quests in Pandaria and returned to Eastern Kingdoms to check out Scholomance since it had been updated. That dungeon is so much better now, granted I had to do it at low level since the heroic requires to be level 90 and the current level cap is only 87.

First off, the lighting is away better and the mobs are basically either ripped out of ICC or are running around in Tier 10 gear. I guess Blizzard decided that they might as well use the art assets since they are there in the game. Getting back on topic I fought and killed the first boss, and found something that surprised me. During the fight the boss will cause ice spike walls of doom to shoot up from the ground and move closer to the players... even after the boss has died. This mechanic is designed so that if you even so much as touch a pixel of that ice wall it will outright kill you. You read that right. Even on normal, level 40 dungeon mode, this mechanic will KILL YOU if you walk into it. This made me happy.

Secondly, this dungeon is clearly still a work in progress. There is no map for the dungeon and you can see large neon green splotches on the mini-map. Then of course there are the buggy achievements that exist in this dungeon. They are supposed to be obtainable only in Heroic mode, yet I was able to get them by playing normal level 40 version. I'm assuming this is a bug, since the achievement says “Heroic” in it. Overall, new scholomance is awesome and I can't wait to see the heroic version eventually.

I did try to get into a run of the Temple of the Jade Serpent Dungeon located in Jade Forest. Unfortunately, I think one of those little Sha critters got into the LFG system somehow. When I got into a group and entered the instance I got a message that said I was not in the group even though I was and was almost immediately kicked out. The same thing happened to the majority of my group while one of other guys got D/Ced almost instantly. It goes without saying that this group did not last long, didn't even make a single trash mob pull before it fell apart. You win this time Sha critter thing, you win this time.

Not wanting to get back into questing right away I decided to explore more of Pandaria. I went west, looking for a way into the nearest zone which was Valley of the Four Winds. Valley of the Four Winds is..... huge. It is also as beautiful and vibrant of a zone as Jade Forest, Blizzard really outdid themselves with the design of Pandaria. One thing in particularly that caught my attention was the outside of the Stormstout Brewery, a dungeon in Mists of Pandaria. Unlike the outsides of dungeons we have seen in the past, this place was HUGE. It really looked like a real building with an interior that could be explored... if only it allowed people in. I ran around, did some sight seeing, and then decided to try and go south into another zone. Unfortunately this place is still 'locked' and Blizzard has the anti-Explorer debuff active.

For those unfamiliar with the no-mans land debuff, it basically activates and teleports you away from an area that is designated as a place you should not be able to enter at present. Generally it will teleport you out to the nearest entrance of the zone you were just in before going into “forbidden land”. This new debuff is way harsher. Not only did it teleport me, but it teleported me to the other side of Jade Forest which was two zones away from where I was. Rather harsh if you ask me.

While exploring Valley of the Four Winds I found a strange mini-zone known as the Secret Path Way or something like that. It was a narrow stairway into the mountains that seemed like it had nothing of interest at first. Then I discovered what appeared to be an entrance to a raid of some sort. Naturally I walked into it, and went past the portal to see the uninstanced interior. Unfortunately this lead into another locked zone and resulted in me getting kicked out to Jade Forest again.

I spent some more time leveling my blood elf monk after that. While my monk is only level 13 at present, I am getting a better idea of what the monk class is going to be like. In fact it reminds me a lot of the Diablo III monk. Why? Because the current rotation and the abilities I have is essentially fast pace martial arts. The damage on Fists of Fury is insane and it can hit multiple targets at once, almost guaranteeing dead mobs. Not only that but there has been little to no down time between mob pulls. I can basically decimate an entire group of mobs in less than a minute and be finished with a quest in no time at all.

My only regret is that I did not buy bags on my main on live servers to transfer to my monk. Fortunately I was able to procure some smaller bags that I can use while leveling and I'll see if I can find some 16-slot bags as I go. Once I have spent more time playing monk I will give an updated opinion on the class, but so far I'm loving the new class.

I finally got back to doing the new level 85 to 90 content on my Death Knight. I am about half way to level 86 by now and some of the quests are kind of enjoyable later on. They were boring at the initial start, but then they got interesting as I progressed through the Jade Forest. Some quests are bugged to hell, but that is not too much of a surprise really. Beta is beta after all.

Anywho, with this game in Beta it's common to see some... strange things at times. For example, I saw a hunter who was using the tamed Chrommagus pet from Blackwing Lair. Normally the size of these pets is reduced, but Chrommagus was his full size. And then I saw either a large mountain gron or maybe Gruul himself running around in Orgrimmar a few hours ago. Not sure how the player behind that pulled that off, but it was certainly entertaining. Beta has it's sights of interesting stuff. Giant Tauren's wearing tuxedos, silly place holder messages, Heart shaped fire works attached to dev note 'abilities', and many more things.


April 21st, 2012 – 2:12 AM:

Blizzard seems to be shooting themselves in the foot in this beta. They want us to test, and I assume they want people to provide feedback. But some of the choices they have made do not make this doable in many regards. Player population is insane right now, which makes me wonder if the whole annual pass giving beta access was a good idea. Especially with quests where the spawn rate of quest critical objects is insanely slow and there are 40 people trying to compete for the same items.

In both PTR and beta, Blizzard has always had a UI that allowed people to submit feedback and report bugs. Yet for some reason, this is not the case in the Mists of Pandaria beta. They added changes into patch 4.3.4 that created a bug submission UI. This would help with testing, but for some reason it is unusable in the beta. What is the point in testing if we can't report any bugs we find? Does Blizzard not trust it's beta testers to write good bug reports? I don't think they will ever do a beta on this scale ever again, and I hope they don't. I doubt it is good for much testing beyond stress test of the servers.

I wish there was more good news I could post in this report but sadly there isn't much. I'm running out of quests to do and player population is not making it easy to do the ones that I can do. I'm going to see if I can get into a run of Temple of the Jade Serpent in the next day or two along with Scenarios if those are open for testing.

I might abandon any further attempts to test the 85-90 content due to the sheer headache it is right now and focus almost entirely on my monk and the pandaren mage I created a day or so ago. But right now I could use some sleep.



April 21st, 2012 – 3:35 PM:

Today is going to be one of those, nothing got done days in beta it seems. I leveled my blood elf monk up to 15 today and got my first talent point. I spent it on the CD reducer for the roll ability. After that I decided I had enough of the Blood Elf zones and decided to pick up the quest to go to Undercity and give Sylvannas her pendant.

That's when things began to go to hell in a hand basket faster than you can say Murphy's Law. I went to the Undercity translocator in Silvermoon City and I attempted to use it, but for some reason the device was not responding. The theory was that I needed a rune of teleportation to use it, but before I could find a vendor the Sha of Disconnect struck and I got kicked off the server.

I tried to reconnect multiple times but got immediately disconnected seconds afterwards. The Sha of Disconnect seems to be focused on me today. After uttering some colorful words I left the beta and decided I was going to do something else. Probably just log onto live server WoW.




April 22nd, 2012 – 5:15 PM:

My connection to the server has been 100% stable this afternoon, allowing me to make a lot of prgoress on the Blood Elf monk. I discovered that the translocator from Silvermoon to Undercity is either completely broken or deliberately disabled. I had two options: Delete my blood elf and start a monk elsewhere, or run through several level 40 zones to get to Undercity. I couldn't bring myself to delete the blood elf monk, so I took the hard route and began my journey south from Tranquil in the Ghostlands.

The journey through Eastern Plaguelands was surprisingly easy, I only had one death during the process. This is thanks to a combination of skillful and tactical use of Roll along with the sheer amount of open space in the Plaguelands. I moved from flight point to flight point unlocking them so that this trip would be easier when I had to return to blood elf territory inevitably to get my racial mount in 5 levels. For some reason, I do not have access to my account bound mounts like Tyrael's Charger.

Fortunately for me Blizzard's design team looked upon me favorably. Once I unlocked the Light's Hope Chapel flight point, the flight point for Undercity unlocked as well. Thanks to this I was able to reach Undercity with only 2 pulls of Level ?? mobs and 1 death. From Undercity I picked up a quest to go to silverpine.

Future posts will give more details about playing as a Windwalker Monk, once I feel I have enough experience to be a credible source of information about the class.



April 25th, 2012 – 10:52 PM

It's been difficult to get much done today in beta as I was hoping for. A new patch came in and I was looking forward to writing multiple entries about it. Sadly the Sha are growing stronger and have now spawned the Sha of Fatal Errors. Lost Isles US is currently plauged by the Sha of Fatal Errors and it's tendency to Fatal Error People out of the game seconds after they log in to the game.

I've always found it awesome to watch a game grow and develop as patches are added to the beta or new builds are created. It's great to see changes occur or see annoying bugs fixed. For example, the green gear I had picked up on my Death Knight in Pandaria were using place holder models up until now. So as a result, plate gear looked more like it was made out of leather which was kind of silly. Now the questing gear looks pretty cool. I will try to get a screenshot of it when I can actually log onto the beta for longer than 45 seconds without getting struck by the wrath of the Sha of Fatal Errors. Hell I plan to upload many screenshots at the end of this journal showing my journey through the beta. I've got some good ones already.

I haven't made much progress on the monk either since my last report. But I did level her up a little bit. I got this sweet ability called Death Touch where if a target's health is equal to or less than mine I can insta-kill them. The cost of this ability is 3 Chi. The only obstacle I face in leveling the monk is the broken quests that scatter Azeroth. But I will endure in the name of testing and stuff.

Hopefully in the next day or two I will be able to update this journal with more content. I hear blizzard is working on dealing with the Sha of Fatal Errors, as they had no plans of implementing that particular variant of Sha.



April 26th, 2012 – 6:58 PM

Unfortunately I have not been able to get much done today thanks to the Sha of Fatal Errors. It hasn't been attacking every few seconds like yesterday, but it still hits every couple of minutes. Which means I can get some work done, but not much. As it stands right now, I seem to have reached a dead end on my DK. I've done all the quests I had in my log, and I had to abandon one quest that didn't seem to be working. But now I cannot find that quest and without it I can't continue progressing through Pandaria.

Quests are not very well connected right now in the beta, and in order to find them you have to do some searching. A difficult task while the Sha of Fatal Errors is running rampant. I will have to hold off on any testing for the rest of the day and try again tomorrow. Hopefully by then the Sha of Fatal Errors will be more under control so that I can try and find more quests. I have a pre-made DK waiting in the transfer que, so hopefully soon I will have a back up toon in case I can't find any quests on my real DK.



April 27th, 2012 – 2:00 PM

I was able to find two quests I was unaware of while traveling around the Jade Forest. Unfortunately it was only two which isn't enough and didn't lead me anywhere else. Along the way though I saw many interesting things in the Jade Forest.

I found a hub for what appeared to be a faction that trains and races Cloud Serpents. Basically the WoW Art Team took a bunch of pictures of mythical Chinese dragons and made mounts based on them. There appears to be a questline of some sort that allows you to train your own Cloud Serpent and eventually you will have one as a mount to call your own. Unfortunately the questline is either not open at this time or requires me to be higher than level 85.

The next thing I stumbled upon was a large statue of a green cloud serpent roughly in the center of the Jade Forest. I went down to the statue to investigate, only to see something most unusual. The sky became a dark purple, and then at the very top of the sky was a bright circle of light that radiated strange black tendrils mixed in with gray clouds. I do not know for sure what that is about, but I have a good theory. The Sha. Right or wrong, that unusual skybox has an ominous tone to it.

Speaking of the Sha, the Sha of Fatal Errors still plagues the server. What used to be constant crashes every few seconds or minutes is now completely random. I can go up to ten minutes without a crash, while sometimes I can go up to five minutes, and then sometimes it crashes almost immediately after I log in.

The Weekend is coming, and there will doubtlessly be server ques. With the Sha of Fatal Errors running amok as well, this will cause down time between crashes to grow. It will be difficult to continue testing with the way things are now.


April 29th, 2012 – 9:00 PM

Thankfully the Sha of Fatal Errors has lost much of it's power and now only causes the game to crash rarely instead of all the time. But the Sha of Disconnect has returned in it's place. It is plaguing both quests and flight points. Complete a quest? Get Disconnected. Select a flight point? Get Disconnected. Good times.

I re-transferred my Death Knight over to the Lost Isles server. I saw no other alternative other than to start the pandaria quests all over again. It is unfortunate that I've lost all that progress but oh well, I will remake it easily. I will continue to level the blood elf monk as well, which is currently sitting at 25.

Oddly enough I have yet to enter a que to join the server this entire weekend. I wonder if enough people have rage-quitted from the Beta to put an end to that. Honestly I'd be okay with that, quality over quantity is important when it comes to QA testers. I intend to make up for lost time caused by the Sha of Fatal Errors.

I will focus on my Death Knight for now, and once I've done all available quests in Pandaria I will likely do the dungeons if I can get into a group. Then while I wait for more content to become available I will level the blood elf.

Account-Wide Achievements were added into the game during one of the recent patches, which is an interesting system to look at. Pet Battles are accessible only to level 90 players, so it will be some time before I am able to write anything about that system. I was able to get it on my blood elf monk before it was changed to level 90 required, so eventually I might be able to test it early once I can get a pet or two on my monk. Time will tell if that will actually work though.



April 30th, 2012 – 7:10 PM:

It was a wise decision to restart the Jade Forest quests on my Death Knight. Thanks to a patch they added in, I've been able to find not only more quests but they are starting to connect way better than they had been in my first attempt. At this current rate I should be able to get to where I was at AND I'll be able to hit 86 during this process as well. As you can imagine I'm pretty excited that I'm making progress in the name of testing.

I've also gotten to see more of the main storyline for the Horde in the Jade Forest. Let's just say some bad things happened, (NAME REDACTED) has somehow been captured by the Horde. What exactly (NAME REDACTED) is doing there I do not know. Either way, I'm not looking forward to when (NAME REDACTED 2) finds out that (NAME REDACTED) has been captured. It goes without saying this will not help matters since the Alliance and Horde are already in open war now as of the start of this expansion.

Once I've run out of quests on the DK I will refocus my efforts on trying to get into a Pandaria dungeon, along with work on leveling the blood elf monk who is currently level 27. I really want to write about the monk but I'm a bit limited by the fact I've only gathered 9 hours or so of total playtime on the toon.



May 1st, 2012 – 12:40 AM
I managed to reach level 86 today. Not only that but I'm nearing the end of the Jade Forest quests. I gotta say, the storyline for the start of Pandaria has been great so far. Especially with how they connect everything in the zone. You will even be doing quests in the uninstanced version of the dungeon Temple of the Jade Serpent, which is a really nice touch in my oppinion.

I also got to do some team work stuff today. While doing this one quest where you have to defend an NPC, the mobs were spawning way too fast and were a lot stronger than the last time I did this quest on my first DK copy over. There was a goblin mage who was having trouble with that quest, so we teamed up and completed that quest and the follow up. Always good to help others out every once in awhile. Especially if they are a fellow warrior of the Horde.

I am being lead into the next zone, the Valley of the Four Winds. Once I have completed the quests in Jade Forest I will head there. From what I saw of it in my initial scouting of accessible Pandaria, Valley of the Four Winds is huge. It's at least as big as Dragonblight if not bigger. Lots to do in beta, so little time.