Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cookin' Dinner

Took a short break from leveling Tal last night to work on his cooking.

My last burst of cooking enthusiasm took him up to about 375 skill, where there's a pretty nasty little doldrum in skill increases. Basically, your choice is to either (a) do the Dalaran cooking dailies in order to earn enough Dalran Cooking Awards to get a cooking recipe that uses something other than fish, or (b) spend some time fishing in Northrend.

Going to Dalaran... well, involves going to Dalaran. Every. Day. No thank you! I suppose that with a little bit of foresight, I could have done the cooking dailies there while I was in Northrend, but honestly - I was too busy plowing through content to make that work. I mean... was I in Northrend long enough to do the dailies I would have needed? I'm not even sure of that.

So, I spent some time on the AH in Orgrimmar, looking for the rare posting of Borean Man O'War or Imperial Manta Ray. In the meantime, I did the Cataclysm cooking dailies, which was enough to get me a few points in cooking here and there, along with the Cooking Awards that I'd (eventually) use for higher-level recipes.

Last night, I realized that meant it would be about a week, at best, before I was able to make any more progress on cooking. Since I'm hoping to start running dungeons once Tal hits 85, I wanted to make sure that I could at least whomp up some +hit or +agi food when that time came. So... I took a detour to the Borean Tundra, and Tal, with his massive 7 fishing skill and cheap little kid's fishing pole, went looking for fish.

That's actually not as bad as it sounds. Since fishing from pools now guarantees you a catch of a specific type of fish (as opposed to random junk), it was just a matter of making 2-3 passes along the Borean coast, looking for pools along the way. I ended up fishing enough to get a stack of Man O'War, two stacks of Manta, and a handful of fishing achievements to boot. All in all, it took about an hour.

At that point, I had enough fish in hand to cook up a couple of stacks of food, which pushed Tal's skill up to 415, and the out of the cooking doldrum. A quick trip to a vendor and the trainer in Dalaran gave him the mats and skill to brew up Darkbrew Lager, which took him to ~430. At that point, he was able to learn how to make Blackened Surprise. Since I'd been saving the Toughened Flesh I gathered while questing in Cataclysm zones, I already had a stack of meat that I was able to use to get him up to 450 skill.

As I had been doing the Orgrimmar cooking dailies for a while, I had a nice stash of cooking awards - 12, in fact - that I could use to get the recipes I needed for the final push. Since I was really interested in getting to 450, and didn't much care how I got there, I scoped out the AH and saw which mats would be the cheapest to buy in bulk for purposes of levelign before I bought my recipes.

On my server, it turned out that Snake Eyes, Blood Shrimp and Dragon Flanks were particularly cheap, so I bought a stack or so of each raw material. Total cost, less than 500 gold. A quick trip to the trainer in Orgrimmar, a hastily assembled cooking fire, and Tal ended up with a bunch of Salted Eyes, Hearty Seafood Soup and Grilled Dragon... and cooking skill maxed out at 525. Woot!

To celebrate, Tal blew his last 3 cooking awards on the recipe for Skewered Eel, sprung for a stack of Fathom Eel, and cooked himself up a stack of +90 agi food. Mmmmm mmmm good!

So now he's halfway to level 84, with a bag full of food he can use for +60 mastery, +60 strength, +90 hit or +90 agi, as circumstances warrant. Which kicks the snot out of the +30 haste food he had been choking down. He may not be Ready For Raiding just yet, but he's at least prepared to wander into a regular Cataclysm dungeon and whomp some sense into a death cultist or too.

Onward - through culinary science!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eighty One

Made level 81 on Tal after 5 days, 9 hours, 7 minutes, and 12 seconds played.

Total gold earned (most of it from selling materials on the auction house) - in the general region of about 14,500. Both professions (mining and herbalism) are above 500, well before Tal's hit any areas where he'd need to have his skills that high level to gather herbs or ore. Nice!

When Tal dinged 80, his average iLevel was about 161. The first Cataclysm mobs he had to deal with felt like they were somewhere in between a tough Wrath mob and a weak Wrath elite mob. I could take on one fairly easily, two if I was able to plop down totems and blow through cooldowns.

By the time he hit 81, the quest rewards from Mount Hyjal had pushed his average iLevel to 238. The only items of his that I haven't been able to replace with Cataclysm gear are his trinkets and his belt. Quest mobs were still on the somewhat tough side, but with totems down and cooldowns ready, they went down readily enough. Handling 3-4 at a time was a challenge instead of a death sentence.

Attack power? Went from the vicinity of ~1380 to 3153. Yowza.

Off to finish Hyjal now...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Waiting Stinks

"Let me tell you who I am, on the chance that these scribblings do survive ...

"I am Murgen, Standardbearer of the Black Company, though I bear the shame of having lost that standard in battle. I am keeping these Annals because Croaker is dead, One–Eye won’t, and hardly anyone else can read or write. I will be your guide for however long it takes the Shadowlanders to force our present predicament to its inevitable end..."
Grrr... I wants me A Pitiless Rain, I does. My precious. If you've never read any of Cook's Black Company books, go ahead. Seriously, I'll wait. I spent a good bit of time in Icecrown thinking about the Limper and the Hanged Man, and flinching every time a geist bounded towards me.

Part of me wants to see Suvrin as Captain, part of me wants to see Sleepy again. Since I can't get my favorite mercenary fix, though, I need something else to do. So I want to hit level 80 on Tal tonight. I'm close - just dinged 79 last night, in fact - and I've been managing about a level a night for the past week or so... so it's definitely doable.

In terms of cash flow, I have to say that dual mining/herbalism rocks. I've managed to buy riding skills just short of Master Riding (~5000 gold), a double handlful of glyphs (~2000 gold), enough raw materials to level cooking to ~ 385, and I still have ~4500 gold on hand. Not bad at all. Maybe I'll spring for Master Riding after all.

I'm going to push for 80 in Icecrown - there's still plenty of quests to do in Sholazar Basin and The Sotrm Peaks, but they're all (so far, at least) things I've seen before. I want to see what the assault on ICC looks like from the Horde side before I wave goodbye and head for Hyjal.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Random Thoughts are Random

It's been a week since I've done the Firelands quests on Aeth. Leveling Tal is so much more fun, really. At least when I play him, 1/4 of what I see (quests, story elements, etc.) is at least somewhat new. As opposed to getting the next 25-30 Marks, which involves doing the same thing I've done for the last 2 weeks straight... ugh.

Hey, Blizz? How about daily quest chains that build on one another and expire? Day 1 - do quests A, B, C. Day 2 - oh, look, now you've got A, B, C, D. Add a new daily quest every day, until you get to a certain point... then you continue to add quests, dropping others. So on day 7, you might have A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I. On day 8, quests A, B, C are "done" - so they drop off, but that's no problem, since there's a new quest giver with quests J, K, L.

Make it a story, man. Extra special bonus points if doing different combinations of dailies unlocks other quests, daily or otherwise. Doing a "gather the herbs" daily 7 times might unlock a "gather additional materials for a potion" questline that in turn unlocks a "deliver the potion" daily quest... but "gather the herbs" might be exclusive with "gather the ores", which unlocks a different questline and different dailies at the end.

tl;dr - Hey, Blizz? Make dailies more interesting, plz? kthxbye!

Tal is 3-4 quests from level 74. Questing in Northrend without heirloom gear and a high-level guild to give me that bonus 50-60% experience? Ouch.

Artisan riding is, indeed, worth it. If you can't manage to scrape up 5K gold by the time you hit the mid-70's, then you've got some serious cash-flow problems. Stop buying those Mysterious Fortune Cards, m'kay?

Leveling cooking, without leveling fishing, apparently runs smack-dab into some sort of doldrums in the 295-300 range. I spent an evening on Tal running around trying to pick up the recipes and mats that I'd need to get his cooking up to BC levels, only to top out at 295/300. Really, Blizz? Sheesh...

For your entertainment: a cow riding a horse!

Took this while Tal was doing Fresh Remounts in Dragonblight. The fact that he didn't move properly with the horse really annoyed my wife. She likes a reasonable level of realism in her anthropomorphic cows.

Also, two dancing spirit wolves:

That's Tal, in the background, dancing with Nelha, a Draeni Shaman. We ended up running through the Obsidian Shire quests in Dragonblight pretty much simultaneously, so we were helping each other out along the way. I'd go down the left side of a hallway, she'd go down the right side, and we'd slaughter anything that got in our way, lending a hand where needed. Run back to the quest giver, lather, rinse, repeat.

Solidarity, my shaman sister! Solidarity!

Monday, August 8, 2011

First Rule of Adventuring

"Remember to not die."

Halfway there!

I managed to get Talaesin to level 70 over the weekend. In my mind, that's halfway to level 85 - I've made it through the Old Wolrd and Outland content, which leaves two expansions (Wrath and Cataclysm) to wade through to level 85. Time-wise, I think the split is more like 60-40 or maybe even 70-30, but those early levels come fast, so we'll just say it's halfway and be done with it.

Spent a chunk of change on cold weather flying, which left Tal with about 4,600 gold... not quite enough for artisan riding, but very close. Given the overall usefulness of a 280% speed flying mount for leveling, I'm going to be plunking down the cash for this as soon as I can justify it (that is, as soon as I can ensure I'll have ~1k cash on hand after the purchase). He's currently revered with Orgrimmar, so that should mean having to get to 5500 gold or thereabouts.

I've actually slowed down a bit now that I've hit the Borean Tundra. Leveling through Outland was a "Meh" experience - I've been there, done that, many times over, and there really wasn't anything new for me to see. Getting into the Wrath zones, though, I'm starting to see different story lines. Oh, there's still some overlap - the Tuskarr quests, for example - but there's more than enough that's different as a Horde player that I want to get a feel for the story line.

And I'm enjoying the story line.

The atmosphere and events around Warsong Hold are excellent. The overall feeling is one of having stepped into the midst of a gothic horror story. The Scourge are literally on the doorstep, and they're not just interested in killing the defenders, but converting them. There are fields of wriggling pupae that used to be Tauren and Orcs, strange mists off of the sea hiding the threat of the Kvaldir, and even the local farm animals have been poisoned or converted into scourge minions.

Overall, it's a pretty eerie setting. As a player, you get dumped into the midst of it all, and contribute to... well, not so much winning, but holding back the Scourge. There's a feeling that everything you've accomplished isn't really a victory. You may have managed to stem the tide for now, but off in the distance, you can definitely see that there's a storm brewing.

I ended up the evening at Taunka'le, getting to know my Northrend cow-brethren. Again, while there's some overlap in the quest lines, there are instances where it's interesting to see the story and how it accounts for "Well, yeah, we're going to have the Alliance and the Horde do the same thing here... but the motivations are different."

I'll admit to a little bit of annoyance at this, though not for the reason you'd expect. Game-wise, I see the value in being able to re-use quests and other game assets. Lore-wise... well, you'd think that sooner or later, the Horde and Alliance leaders would realize that there's actually quite a few points of agreement between the two factions. Something like, "Nine out of ten Horde and Alliance heroes agree: undead elemental death cultists are bad for children and other living things." Start a public awareness campaign, or something. Maybe get Abesik Kampfire to do a PR tour. He'd probably go for it; I hear he's campaigning for War Chief anyways. Given what I've seen of Garrosh, he's got my vote already.

Then again, that "we're not so different, really" realization just doesn't seem to happen in Real Life (TM), either. So, hey - kudos to Blizzard for managing to make a world full of wizards, dragons and heroes that's still as messed up as we are. I guess.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Resounding Response

Unless you've been living under a rock (and, face it - if you're reading this blow for WoW news, you probably are living under a rock), you've probably heard that Blizzard registered a trademark for the name "Mists of Pandaria". This has, in turn, lead to a whole lot of speculation about whether this is the name of the next major release for the game. If so, it seems to indicate that players will get a chance to learn more about the heretofore elusive panda-like race, the Pandaren.

The community reaction to this has been... mixed, and strongly so. Some people love the idea of the Pandaren. Others take exception to their presence in-game, claiming that they're really nothing more than an April Fool's day joke that's got more legs than most. Overall, it's been a resounding response, both for and against.

What do I think?

It's fine.

Keep in mind, I was not a Warcraft player - so my totality of involvement with the "lore" of WoW is from WoW. I have no experience with the Pandaren, other than the one or two in-game quests and items that seem to reference them. If Blizzard does introduce a Pandaren expansion, I'm going to experience it without a whole lot of preconceived notions.

Very much like the Gilneans, for example. Or the Tuskarr. Or Ramkahen, Or... well, frankly, everything in WoW up to this point. Before I started playing, I had no idea what Night Elves were, how they differed from other elves, or how they were related to Naga. I had no concept of loa-worshiping Trolls who once ruled a massive empire, or anthropomorphic cows who travelled the world, finding interesting examples of life and eating it. I had no idea what a furbolg or a murloc or an arrakoa was, or any of another million little things that make up the World of Warcraft.

What I have read of them makes them seem like an interesting addition to WoW lore. The idea of exploring a new civilization, a new culture, a new part of the world is exciting and intriguing. If it's fun, if it's interesting, if it's entertaining, then really - I don't care where the Pandaren came from. If they started out as a joke and have grown beyond that, great! If they were always intended to be part of the story of the game, fantastic!

Though you'd better not make Pandaren a playable race before the Tuskarr, Blizz. You do that and it's on.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You Are Now Leaving Zangarmarsh

This is why I don't read quest text as much as I used to. After I got through Stealing Back the Mushrooms, Watcher Leesa'oh told me...

These are perfect! Oh, thank you, shaman!

You've been ever so careful not to disturb the natural order of things, and we've gathered so much information in such a short amount of time!

Did you catch that?

You've been ever so careful not to disturb the natural order of things.



I take it you didn't notice those few hundred dead critters? The heaping mounds of dead sporebats, marshfangs, marsh walkers, and giant fireflies?


You mean you overlooked the the corpses of the fallen bog lords, fungal giants, marsh hydras, and eels that kind of, you know, followed me about the zone?


Nothing to say about the scores of frenzies, clackers, feralfen, naga, and the occasional Alliance soldier that turned up dead in my wake, just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the right time?


What about the literal heaps of ore I've managed to rip out of the ground, or the baskets full of herbs that I've managed to exploit... er, I mean, rescue from this pristine wilderness?


You've been ever so careful not to disturb the natural order of things.

So... what have we learned here?

As for me, what I've learned from this experience is that the Cenarion Circle are a bunch of bloodthirsty, vindictive, heartless, indiscriminate killers who apparently think that killing something - anything - is one of the best ways to solve ecological problems. Oh, and apparently, they're either in complete denial over this, or they just lie throught their teeth about their motives.

Mind you, they pay well, so please don't look at this as a criticism, per se. More of a general observation, in a "know your employer" sort of way.

And that's the best possibility. Worst case, they're a bunch of clueless bumblers who have all the situational awareness of a dead rock. Given a flashlight and a map, they would very likely get lost while trying to locate their own posterior. The chances of them, and everyone around them, winding up dead in a ditch because they thought it would be a good idea to hand-feed poor starving velociraptors rapidly approaches unity as time goes by.

So, that's why I left Zangarmarsh. I've either been working for heartless amoral killers who - lets be honest - were probably getting ready to dispose of me, now that they've managed to use me to slaughter every creature within sight; or I've been working for some clueless drips who will, 100% guaranteed, ask me to do something incredibly stupid and deadly at any moment.

See ya! I hear Hemet Nesingwary is hanging out in Nagrand. Fun man, Hemet.

And at least he's honest about wanting to kill everything that moves.