Dino hunting for fun and non-profit: Are World of Warcraft’s micro-holidays hitting the spot?

This past weekend in World of Warcraft was the latest “micro-holiday” that the game has sported since Patch 7.1.5 came out earlier this year. Players drifted over to Un’Goro for a little targeted monster hunting over a period of three days (which is actually on the longer side of these new events).

As I had missed the last two micro-holidays, I made it a point to get out to Un’Goro to join in the festivities. It was remarkably straight-forward: Look at the map for red Xs representing big level 113 elites, take them down with a group of players, and perhaps die a lot due to interesting mechanics. But as with most of the micro-holidays so far, there is little incentive behind such activities, just three-day buffs (called “adaptations”) that bestow interesting effects. No achievements, no pets, no permanent loot, nothing else.

And as we took down mega-fauna after mega-fauna, I contemplated on the mixture of opinions that were swirling about inside of me. Was this a wholly pointless exercise, some sort of elaborate ruse to keep players busy for the sake of keeping them busy (and perhaps keep them from their daily moan-sessions on the forums)? Or do micro-holidays require a shift of viewpoint that is alien to how World of Warcraft has trained us to date?

The thing is, in WoW and in other MMOs, most everything you do that’s designed by the devs offers progression, recognition, and rewards. There’s incentive to go outside of your daily routine to partake in these events, and while we say that we’re doing it for the fun and experience first, are we really? Or is the allure of prizes what truly gets us to show up, after which we find ourselves seduced into having fun as a bonus?

Micro-holidays are an interesting testbed for events that offer an experience without tangible reward. The activity is the reward, in other words. You do it to get a fun story (or in my case, an easy Monday morning blog post), to engage in a communal activity, and to bend your conception of MMOs as always needing to be feeding you rewards and backpats.

I’ll admit that, yeah, it’s kind of hard to do, especially when all you typically do with your limited gaming time is bent toward progressing your character in some fashion. I’ve bumped into this before when I’m invited to purely social events in-game, such as parties or concerts. Suddenly finding that my character is spending hours without anything tangible to show for it makes a part of my brain scream. It can be hard to downshift to enjoy these things.

But it’s good, too. Un’Goro Madness might have been without any big reward, but I’ll tell you that my kids all gathered around the computer as I told them about this zone and we went dino hunting (and dinosaurs are always big with the 4 through 7 demographic in our house). They shouted advice during combat (“Don’t die!” “Dad, why are you still dying, stop it!”). And we cheered when a dino went down. I also thought that it was a neat touch that the buff that you loot is used on both you and another player, which reinforces (in a small way) that you’re part of a social, communal experience. It’s not just you; it’s us.

And if nothing else, it’s something different, something new, and a welcome diversion when we get too tunnel vision in our gameplay.

10 things that rock about my WoW Warlock

It’s been a good long while since I played a Warlock in WoW with any regularity. Even in Draenor, where I had the splendid Terrorguard, my ‘lock was still number three behind the Death Knight and the Hunter. But now that my DK is in maintenance mode until 7.2 and I’ve lost all interest in my Hunter, it’s the Warlock’s time to shine.

As I’ve been taking her through the leveling areas, I’ve been compiling a list of things I’m starting to appreciate (or re-appreciate) about my Affliction lock:

1. Speed boost on demand: While my DK and Hunter both have an every-so-often speed boost, Burning Rush is always available to use on my Warlock to get around inside and out for as long as I want it (with no cooldown!). It’s a massive boon in places that I can’t mount, and when I have the huge regeneration going from eating a hearty bowl of fighter chow, I keep regaining any lost health from the skill.

2. DoT central: Apart from the pets, being able to throw down a host of instant-cast damage-over-time spells on enemies was always my favorite thing about this class. It’s so immensely satisfying to see an enemy flail about in vain, knowing that it’s going to give up the ghost in just a few more seconds.

3. Impossible to kill: I forgot how hearty Warlocks are, especially as a cloth-wearing class. Even when I’m not using a tank pet, I don’t have to worry too much, because I’ve got a high health pool, healthstones on demand, and even a soul stone as death insurance. So far I might have died two or three times total in Legion, and that’s mostly been from overpulling due to a sense of invincibility.

4. Fel-doggy: Yes, I miss my Felguard, my two-in-one tank and DPS machine. But it’s a good trade-off to go to Affliction, and it’s made me appreciate my demon doggy a lot more. It does decent damage, especially against DoTted targets, and I like how I can keep switching targets to DoT up while the doggy continues to chomp away at the first guy. It’s a good battle companion to have.

5. Bonus pets: I love how I have two more limited-time summons available. I use my grimoire of service to pull out a voidwalker every 90 seconds (for 25 seconds) when I want an instant tank or just a smidge of bonus DPS, and there’s the doomguard every 3 minutes for a nice burst of ranged damage. Three pets out at once, and I’m not feeling the loss from demonology much any longer.

6. Relaxed range: As much fun as the Death Knight is, I still have to close into melee range to realize my full DPS potential. With the ‘lock, I’m rediscovering how relaxing it can be to just attack stuff from range, especially in dungeon runs. As an added bonus, the range for my spells is absolutely huge — I’m always surprised how far away I can attack things now.

7. Special snowflake status: From observing and taking a peek at some class census charts, it appears that Warlocks are still (as they’ve usually been) among the lesser-played classes in the game. And while it might be silly to feel this way, I love connecting with a great class that isn’t overpopulated. Being set apart from most of the crowd is kind of cool.

8. Pet options: While I mostly run my doggy for a bulk of my adventures due to the designed synergy with Affliction, it’s nice to have the option of the other three pets if I need a tank, ranged DPS, or a melee charmer. Plus, there’s the infernal summons, which can be an AoE spot tank if needed.

9. Gnome sweet Gnome: For some reason, Gnomes and Warlocks have always gone together so well for me. Maybe it’s the overall package that looks small and odd and unthreatening… until it burns you from the inside-out while a demon chomps on your skull.

10. It feels subversive: Taking on the Legion, I’m in my element. I’m not only fighting fire with fire by throwing demons back at these guys, but I’ve got skills to handle demons better than anyone else. If I’m bored, I head off to a demon area and enslave myself a new pet for a while. Your adorable bear has nothing on my towering hell nightmare.

World of Warcraft: Getting to know the Pandas

So I’ve gotten to a point with my Death Knight that she doesn’t really have any normal quest lines left to complete in Legion until 7.2. Everything in my quest log is either raid- or mythic-related, so I guess I need to start dipping into that content a little more than I have been. Haven’t even done that Illidan thing yet because I need 80 dungeon doohickeys that are mostly shelled out in mythics.

I went to look for mythic runs the other night but came up wanting, which is when a guildie reminded me that most people were probably doing all of the Mists of Pandaria timewalking dungeons this week. And even though I wrote a news piece on that earlier this week, it had slipped my mind. So I jettisoned my mythic aspirations and went timewalking instead (bonus: the LFG works so much better for timewalking dungeons than mythics).

For many players, getting MoP timewalking into the rotation was a blast from the past. For me, it’s a brand-new experience. I wasn’t really around for the end of Wrath, all of Cataclysm, all of Pandaria, and the first year and a half of Draenor. There’s this huge gap of personal experience in WoW that I have, which means that dungeons everyone has run a billion times before are still wondrous to me. Guess I can solve that right quick by chain-running them!

There wasn’t really anything I wanted or needed with the time badges, but I figure that (a) it can’t hurt to stock up for when I do want to spend them, (b) it’d be neat to see Pandaria dungeons, and (c) transmog, transmog, transmog. My wardrobe options are limited and I’m a little too lazy to be doing dungeon runs where I actually have to travel to where the dungeon is.

I did a string of five runs for the weekly quest (which netted me a very nice titanforged ilevel 885 boots), and in that time, I feel like I sampled what it must have been like at the end of Pandaria’s expansion cycle. Everyone knew the dungeons by heart, no one talked, everyone blitzed, and I was gamely trotting along and trying to look like I fit in while secretly taking screenshots and being a total tourist.

I’m kind of ambivalent about Pandaria even today. I think it was a pretty enough expansion and more cohesive than Cataclysm, but the heavy dose of eastern aesthetic and design feels weirdly out of place in World of Warcraft. Almost like it’s a different game. And I never warmed up the Pandaran race, either. I don’t hate them, but I’d never voluntarily pick one to play and I honestly don’t see many running around in Legion.

Interestingly enough, almost all of my runs featured a Monk healer, which has sort of renewed my interest in leveling one. The spell effects look cool and there’s enough HoTs in there to appease my healing style. But dare I add a third character to my play schedule or bump one of the other two to the backburner? Eh, it’s all a game.

World of Warcraft: Warlock and load

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Astute readers may remember that the original Syp was a 2006-era Warlock from World of Warcraft, made in preparation for The Burning Crusade. She had a good run, lasting me up through the opening months of Wrath of the Lich King, when I meandered off to Warhammer Online and other titles.

While Syp wasn’t my very first character, it was the one that I became the most acquainted with and fond of in those years. Warlocks were really rough at launch (but what class wasn’t, really), but by TBC they had started to shine. The Felguard was a beast and I loved it, and when I came back last year, I was quite enjoying upgrading that Felguard to a Terrorguard. I’ve always run a Warlock in a demonology spec, because pets are awesome, and it was nice to play a pet class that wasn’t the overpopulated Hunter.

If I had to point a finger at two major failings of Legion, they would be the general flop of the order halls and the sweeping class changes in the name of “class fantasy.” So many classes that I was enjoying in Draenor — Hunter, Shaman, Warlock in particular — were changed drastically overnight, and mostly for the worse. My DK came out improved, but the other three did not, and that has left me feeling a little sour. I miss my Enhancement Shammy with totems and pets. The BM Hunter had a smooth and fun rotation before 7.0, but now it’s cooldown city with very little emphasis on using your weapon. And the Demo Warlock went from having a few fun DoTs and a strong pet to this bizarre rotation that required, fight after fight, to constantly resummon a slew of pets.

Demo simply isn’t fun any more, and after giving it one last big try this past week, I came to the conclusion that for Legion, at least, it’s not going to be my spec. But I did want to reconnect with the Warlock and make it my alt, so I painfully leveled to 102 and then went back through the artifact quests to get the Affliction weapon.

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It’s generally been a good move. Affliction has a lot of what I’ve been missing with Demo, namely instant-cast DoTs and a rotation that isn’t as heavily dependent on soul shards. There’s even a really nice insta-AoE DoT that works well for large groups, albeit with a one minute cooldown.

The only major downside of all of this is the loss of my precious Felguard. I’m down to the base group of pets (plus the occasional Doomguard summon and any enslavements), and Affliction clearly wants you to run Felhunter for the bonus damage to DoTted up targets. I’ve been going back and forth between the Felhunter (for damage) and the Voidwalker (for a tank), but there’s so much healing with this spec that I’m generally not concerned about dying in most encounters.

As I ease myself into the questing experience of Legion, it’s an adjustment period from the Death Knight to the Warlock. Off the bat, it’s always hard to go from a fully fleshed-out and powered-up character to one still growing. Add to that all of the little things that I find I miss from the DK — not being able to walk on water, the AoE DoT for every fight — and it’s slow going at least initially. Have to push through all of that to see how the ‘lock shines on her own. I do appreciate having a speed boost on command rather than a cooldown, and it’s fun getting back to juggling DoTs in a large group. The rotation is so much less stressful and erratic than Demo, and the visuals are cleaner too (sometimes it’s fun to watch pets mob a guy, but sometimes it’s a little too chaotic, you know?).

We’ll see how it goes. She’s got a very long way to go to catch up with the DK, even in getting into world quests and whatnot. I have no illusions about being able to get my Warlock all of the way there before 7.2 drops, at which time I’ll have to prioritize gaming my DK to work through the new content.

World of Warcraft: Treading water

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Logging in to do my daily emissary quests feels a lot like treading water in World of Warcraft. I mean, I get wet, I cool off, and I can fool myself that I’ve gone swimming, but it’s not that impressive overall. I should suck it up and finish the last Suramar chain and then really focus on my Hunter for a bit, but I’m not feeling particularly motivated and I’m not going to push it. I also could be making some more money by picking up additional world quests (especially gathering ones), but again, not a lot of motivation.

I’m drowning in order hall resources right now, somewhere around 40,000 or so, because I only spend them on missions for gold now that my champions are all maxed out. Gold-making missions are very unpredictable; there might be days in a row without seeing any, then two or three on a given day. Trying for the right combination to get the 200% bonus is the only challenge there.

I did have a stroke of good fortune this past Thursday, as my emissary quest paid out my third legendary. Now, to my great dismay, I’m going to have to choose: my auto-bubble shield, my beefed-up magic shield, or this new one, which lets me shoot out an AOE fireball every 1:20. I decided to ditch the magic shield (auto > situational activation), since the fireball packs a huge punch and has a cooldown that’s low enough to use every other fight. It did require me to go hunting for a new cape, since the loss of that legendary left the slot open, but thanks to world quests, I got a replacement in minutes.

Getting more into mythics and raiding might be a possibility, at least for a sporadic activity, but for now I’m really hoping that 7.2 is nearer rather than further away.

World of Warcraft: Time’s up! (for cheap WoW Token prices)

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Those WoW Token prices, huh?

This week, Blizzard changed the functionality of the WoW Token so that it now can either exchanged for 30 days of World of Warcraft subscription or $15 of store credit for any of its games. This change has had a two-fold, good/bad effect:

  • Good: It’s allowed players to earn and spend these tokens on a variety of services, including realm transfers and chests in Overwatch.
  • Bad: With the surge of demand, the commanding price of a WoW Token has skyrocketed, doubling in value the first day alone with no immediate signs of slowing down.

If you were to ask me, I’m not overly thrilled that this is happening. Up until now, I was able to eke out a free sub every month with the gold that I brought in through world quests, the auction house, and order hall missions. Assuming that the prices stay north of 100K and gold income remains more or less the same, it won’t be doable. One every two months, maybe.

I get the flexibility thing and I know some people are overjoyed at being able to pay for name changes, realm transfers, and other Blizzard products with it. Honestly, if the prices hadn’t jumped up so much, I would be pretty pleased too. But it is what it is, so I have to make the best of it.

For me, the good news is that I had four WoW Tokens sitting in my bank, unused (and I had just bought that fourth one last week), with game time paid through the end of March from previous tokens. Normally, that would be four more months, but now that I can get $15 per token, I have the luxury of being able to shop for multi-month subscription discounts. I figure that if I can get one more token before March is up, I’ll be able to afford the half-year package, and that takes me through September. That won’t be too shabby.

Does this make me cheap? A little, I suppose, but then again, I’m playing WoW for maybe 30 minutes a day right now, and that’s close to my threshold of saying, “Nah, not worth paying a monthly sub.” But if I can earn it, it helps take the mental pressure off the situation.

Post-script: I wrote the above on Tuesday, and by Wednesday morning the prices in NA had dropped from 115K gold to a much more reasonable 61K gold (which puts it only a few thousand higher than it had been earlier this week). So obviously the market is volatile and we’re going to have to wait a bit to see how and where it settles — and if any promotions in other games or sales cause increased demand. But if it comes back to near where it was, that gives me much more hope for continuing to earn my sub through gameplay.

World of Warcraft: Do Druids poop in the woods?

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The long journey back to Druid life

In a recent WoW post, I talked about how I was searching for purpose and a goal in the game now that I’ve gotten Broken Isle Pathfinder Part One and pretty much have my Death Knight on auto-pilot doing daily emissary quests. There are some odds and ends to tie up with her, but until 7.2 arrives, my attention is starting to turn elsewhere.

The natural outlet would be an alt, but settling on one has been more difficult than expected. I’ve experienced this in MMOs, where I end up playing a class that’s so perfect for me that when I go to try others, I find them severely lacking and end up rejecting them all.

I gave several of my mothballed level 100s another try: The Beast Master Hunter felt dull and lacking a punch, the Shaman is just a mess and so much less interesting than it was in Draenor, and I can’t get into a good rotational groove with my Warlock. Then I got all fired up for a few days to create a new Monk — a class I’d really never tried before — and see what healing with that was like. Turned out that by the time I was running Deadmines, I found myself wistful that I didn’t have all of my Druid healing skills at my disposal. And that led me back, in a very roundabout way, to my Druid.

I have to say that I absolutely hate her name — Syppe — which I think I must have been punch-tired or something to not figure out a better version of the Syp nomer legacy. I might actually have to pay to change that one if I stick with this character. But it’s been pretty neat to come back to her and get things sorted out.

She just hit 101 last night and is in the early steps of opening up her class hall (such a confusing design, by the way) and forging through her first Broken Isles zones. It’s going to be… interesting to play a healer spec while questing, but I think I’ve figured out a good approach. She’s got the balance affinity, so that gained me the Moonkin form and some nice ranged spells. I’m not burning down things super-fast, but at least I can take them on at range and cycle through groups pretty well. Plus, I’ve figured out which healing spells I can use in Moonkin form (yay renewal), so I’m kind of hard to put down.