Thursday, July 31, 2008

The future, according to some scientists, will be exactly like the past, only far more expensive.

A fascinating post on Allakhazam's forums claims to detail a years-old PDF, attributed to Blizzard, listing five possible expansion sets, the first two of which have actually manifested -- the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. Is this for real?

Draenor Set

Azuremyst Isle - 1 to 10
Bloodmyrk Isle - 10 to 20
Eversong Forest - 1 to 10
Quel'thalas - 10 to 20
Hellfire Peninsula - 58 to 62
Zangarmarsh - 60 to 64
Terokkar Forest - 61 to 65
The Deadlands - 63 to 67
Nagrand - 64 to 68
Blade's Edge Mountains - 66 to 70
Netherstorm - 67 to 70
Shadowmoon Valley - 69 to 70

Northrend Set

Borean Tundra - 67 to 70
Howling Fjord - 67 to 70
Dragonblight - 69 to 72
Grizzly Hills - 70 to 73
Crystalsong Forest - 72 to 75
Zul'drak - 73 to 76
Sholazar Basin - 75 to 79
Storm Peaks - 76 to 80
Icecrown Glacier - 78 to 80

Maelstrom Set

Gilneas - 77 to 80
Grim Batol - 78 to 81
Kul Tiras - 79 to 82
Kezan - 81 to 86
Tel Abim - 83 to 85
Zandalar - 84 to 87
Plunder Isle - 86 to 88
The Broken Isles - 87 to 90
The Maelstrom - 89 to 90

Plane Set

Pandaria - 1 to 10
Hiji - 10 to 20
Wolfenhold - 1 to 10
Xorothian Plains - 10 to 20
The Green Lands - 88 to 91
The Dying Paradise - 91 to 94
The Emerald Nightmare - 94 to 97
The Eye of Ysera - 97 to 100
Deephome - 88 to 91
Skywall - 91 to 94
The Abyssal Maw - 94 to 97
The Firelands - 97 to 100

Legion Set

K'aresh - 96 to 99
Argus Meadowlands - 97 to 100
Mac'Aree - 99 to 100
Maw of Oblivion - 100+
The Burning Citadel - 100+++

The "Deadlands" zone is speculated to be today's Bone Wastes in Terokkar Forest. And note that the "Plane Set," i.e., the Emerald Dream, would introduce Pandaren and Worgen.

Some chat on Elitist Jerks challenges the post. One cynical retort claims that the story of the Draenei is too poorly integrated with WoW's lore to have been planned out. Another points out that it's odd that some expansions would introduce new races, while others would not. Yet another condemns the material as being assembled from companion material like the Warcraft RPG Source Books.

Other opinions have come forth in support of the supposed roadmap, pointing out that Worgen have recently received new animations, that Hero classes could make up for the expansion phases that lack new races.

I admit, I find it doubtful this is real. As Metrosexuelf of the EJ forums points out, "It's no secret that eventually they will have to turn to the Maelstrom/South Seas, Emerald Dream, and possibly the elemental planes for future content." But it's certainly food for thought.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wisdom comes with winters.

Wrath of the Lich King has entered into beta, putting an end to the non-disclosure agreement that veiled the Friends and Family alpha. ...And there was much rejoicing.

Any talk about the LK beta should of course mention the WotLK Information Wiki, which aims to be the definitive repository of knowledge for the forthcoming expansion.

Of particular note to melee hunters:
  • We are not receiving a "melee tree." While I would have liked to see a choice between Survival and BM/MM represent a choice in class functionality similar to other hybrids, Gweryc will press on as he always has, making do with what's available. In truth, this is just fine with me. As I mentioned before, it's the "Aspect of the Hacker" facet of playing a melee hunter that really keeps me interested.
  • New ability ranks for Kill Command, Counterattack, Explosive/Immo trap, Raptor Strike have been added. Wing Clip and Mongoose Bite are, thus far, conspicuously absent from that list.
  • The "Improved Tracking" ability will replace Monster Slaying and Humanoid Slaying, increasing damage done to targets being tracked by 1/2/3/4/5%.
All hunters should take note of the radical changes to the pet system. I won't cover it comprehensively here, but highlights include the use of pet talent trees instead of skill points, the removal of the "pet loyalty" mechanic, and the fact that pets will only have to be leveled "a maximum of five levels."

Engineers: looks like we're getting motorcycles! This will be an awesome mount for Gweryc. I think it really suits his personality.

Inscription. There's finally some information available on this. A new "glyph interface" will be added to the player's spellbook. Up to six glyphs, most of which can be traded or sold, can be added to the glyph system. Each player can add up to 6 Glyphs to their interface: 2 Greater Glyphs, 2 Lesser Glyphs, and 2 Minor Glyphs.
  • Greater Glyphs provide major upgrades to spells. Examples that have been given are the addition of stuns or DoTs to spells, increased damage, or knockbacks.
  • Lesser Glyphs provide upgrades to spells similar to Greater Glyphs, but are not as powerful.
  • Minor Glyphs provide small upgrades, or cosmetic improvements. Examples that have been given are the removal of reagent requirements from spells, lowering spell costs, or changing spell graphics.

Little information is available on what glyphs can be used, and there are no known glyphs for hunters at this point. We can guess what sort of things will be coming though. For my Greater Glyphs, I'd likely be interested in either increasing the damage dealt by Raptor Strike, or better, decreasing the cooldown on it. Augmenting my Wing Clip spam with, say, a damage proc, would be delicious as well. I'm not sure how likely it is that I'll be able to do any of that. The known glyphs on the wiki all mention specific spells. I don't know that anyone will care enough to create, say, a Raptor Strike-specific glyph.

Life as a melee hunter does get lonely sometimes. A lot of my goals are personal, not group-oriented. That's where the highly laudable Player Achievement system comes in. I'll let Blizzard speak for themselves on this:

World of Warcraft's achievements system will launch with more than 500 individual achievements covering every aspect of gameplay, including world exploration, PvE, PvP, professions, and character development; from the purely whimsical to the truly epic, there will be something for everyone. Some achievements come with in-game rewards such as tabards, vanity pets, and titles. All of these rewards are purely cosmetic and just for fun, but you'll certainly stand out when you proudly display them.

And don't fret about running out of achievements anytime soon. The list is easily expandable, so you can expect additional achievements with each new World of Warcraft content update.

Honestly, it sounds like the Achievement system is the most significant development in the history of World of Warcraft. Cosmetic toys like the motorcycle are fun. The ability to customize your character with the Glyph system is of course welcome, and I hope I can abuse it efficiently. But the Player Achievement system is a radical development, with something to offer everyone.

When I talked about Nick Yee's player motivations assessment, I mentioned that there are three broad categories that describe gamers: achievers, socializers, and immersionists. Achievers have always had goals to pursue. These are the people that were rank 14 pvp'ers, the people that are Duelists and tier 6 raiders today. Blizzard's new achievement system brings new goals for these players, and puts additional goals on the table for players in the other camps. Socializers will find plenty of new goals to work on together beyond just completing quests. Immersionists, long neglected, should rejoice to find that World Exploration is specifically rewarded. Customized appearances will also be available -- one "whimsical" achievement goal Blizzard mentions is to get a shave and a haircut. The achievement system is a huge step toward making the game approachable to players with disparate motivations, and I highly commend Blizzard on this development.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Alembic Pentameter

A sonnet in iambic pentameter, dedicated to one of my more generally useless trinkets.

Infernal Power, thou art stalwart, true
Yet raiding calls for something stronger still
Resilient, blessing bearers mana blue
Mine enemies should fall before my will

Of trinkets, is it agi foremost bless'd?
Should retribution's crit my path so be?
A devil rogue's raw power manifest?
A mage's int, prolonging trickery?

Of thy heroic power I perceive
Thine star most brightly shines in PvP
For all I would my deficits relieve
When raiding, thou art little use to me

If in the end I would be bless'd by kings
I know that I should seek out other things.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The cure for boredom is curiosity.

Dorothy Parker apparently found curiosity a good answer to boredom. Little Gamer Girl, however, found a number of solutions. I may try some of them.

The Jargon File, the online version of The New Hacker's Dictionary, offers several definitions of what a hacker is, including this one:

7. One who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations.
I realized something about Gweryc, or rather, the reason I've enjoyed him more than any other character. He's a hack. A living, axe-wielding hack. (Funny enough, the Jargon File claims that the etymological origin of the word "hacker" was someone who made furniture with an axe.) I took something that wasn't supposed to work, and made it relatively successful. That was the challenge, and the fun.

The sad thing is, I'm running out of hacks. I don't believe I can coax much more dps out of Gweryc without better gear, and it seems unlikely I'll regularly see content beyond Karazhan at this point. As my guild progresses into more exclusive endgame content, leaving Kara behind, my feelings toward the game echo the ennui I felt at level 37. I'm a member of a guild full of great people that I have limited opportunities to play with. How frustrating.

What novelties are left to me? Taming Ghost Wolves, where once officially endorsed, is no longer possible. My Ravenholdt rep grind is slowly progressing. I guess I could work on my fishing skill, or "go corporate" and try manipulating Auction House prices. Maybe I could shoot for the Baron's skeletal mount, while my guild works on their ZA bears. If all else fails, I am on a roleplaying server...

Dorothy Parker had kinder words on boredom than Samuel Butler, who incised, "The man who lets himself be bored is even more contemptible than the bore." Am I contemptible in my languor? That seems an extreme position to take over a video game. Maybe the right thing to do is to step back from the game itself for a while. Or I could try ERP.

On the subject of hacks, Little Gamer Girl is wrong. The Deeprun Tram isn't the place to level up your weapon skill. It's the Blasted Lands. Attack the unkillable Servants of Allistarj, and afk your way to victory.