Monday, December 5, 2016

WoW Weekly: Dear Lord, It's Been a While

WoW Weekly is a biweekly-ish, self-absorbed look into the things I've been doing inside the game and out. From mount farming and raiding, to music, movies, books and other games.

Thus ends Feckless Leader's posting drought. 

Man, it's been a while, hasn't it? I knew I'd been neglecting this space for reasons I'll get into shortly, but when I realized it's been over a month since my last post I became extra grateful the spirit chose to move me this morning. Because that's really my MO. Like when writing music, I don't often approach this with discipline, but rather opt to wait around patiently for the muse to drop onto my shoulder, or at best, will the muse to touch down somewhere in the neighborhood. 

While the muse has been at arm's length this whole time, other things have taken precedence. I'm playing a hell of a lot more Legion than I was playing Warlords. But I'm also playing a lot less Legion than I did Mists of Pandaria. That's mostly due to real life business, and partly to do with the fact two other Blizzard games have been demanding my attention. 

Ok, two paragraphs in, seems like the right time to get to the main point of this whole post: have you guys met Mehlody? I don't think you have. I did what 99% of other players did and rolled a demon hunter at the start of the expansion. Then, I put her on the shelf so I could focus on gearing up the enhancement shaman main. 

A few weeks ago, I reached the point with my main where I could start to consider alts. That point for me, mind you, was finding and equipping a second legendary. He's been geared up to the teeth thanks to the guild's weekly raid, so outside of achievements and finishing Karazhan, he's doing all right. 

With Mehlody, I learned that if leveling is your main goal, things go by pretty quickly. As a double-gatherer, I chose to start out in Stormheim and Highmountain due to Fjarnskaggl and Foxflower herbs. Figured it'd be a good way to furnish some of my main's raid supplies, because flasks and potions are expensive, people! I quickly abandoned that idea with the advent of the Blood of Sargeras vendor, since gathering would just slow me down. I finished the main storyline in Stormheim, most of it in Highmountain, and just a snippet in Val'sharah before I dinged 110. Thanks to the work done by my trusty main Elepheagle, my Flight Master's whistle was instantly delivered and I set off to Suramar. 

Prior to last weekend, I was faced with the gearing slog: reach 810 in order to be able to queue for Heroic dungeons. I was well under that, and the prospects of running with the guild's Sunday alt run were unlikely. Thanks to some crafted gear and a couple of lucky world quest upgrades, I was just shy of 810 prior to raid start. I used pull that only a raid leader has and inserted myself into the off-tank position that night. Luckily, we only had one other tank that night, so I had to do it, you know? 

It was rough for me at times---I feel for the healers---but we managed to clear Normal Emerald Nightmare in about 75 minutes. Yes, we were stacked with superstars from our Thursday main raid, but still. I lucked out on gear, and a couple people chuckled when at raid's end I declared that I was ready for Heroic dungeons. I only did run a couple of those between last week's alt run and this week's, but still managed to pull my ilvl up to 830. Special nod to the legendary necklace I pulled from a Highmountain cache last night.

As for the alt run this week, we only managed to make it through Cenarius, but the loot gods were kind again, granting me over 10 ilvls. I think now I'm technically ready for Mythic dungeons, a prospect that excites me as a tank. 

I'm happy with the amount of time I put in on my main to get him to where he's at, but I'm also surprised at how quickly it felt like I got Mehlody to a respectable point. There's definitely some alt-unfriendly mechanics in this expansion, and I would NOT want to juggle the resource acquisition and order halls for 3+ characters. I look at Mehlody and feel like she's geared enough. I can fill in as raid tank if needed, tank any dungeon at this point...what's left? 

Roll another alt? What else can I say here...

Oh yeah. I attended for the fifth time this year. The things I wanted to say were meant for a standalone post, but so much time has passed I'm not sure that'd be relevant. So I'll do it here in shorter form.
  • The biggest thing I noticed this year was how little of the con's focus was on World of Warcraft, and how much was on esports, specifically Overwatch. It is a much different beast than the event I first attended six years ago. That said, the evolution feels natural. It's getting to the point where I feel like I could head to Anaheim for a vacation that just happens to coincide with the con, buy a virtual ticket, and do all the after-hours stuff with friends. Which leads me to...
  • I did a terrible job of connecting with the community this year. This was due in part to the fact our group was staying a little farther off-campus in a house that had all the amenities you could wish for on a vacation, including a large, partially covered outdoor patio with a swimming pool, hot tub, foosball table, pool table, gaming center, dartboard, and bar. 
  • Hodor (Kristian Nairn) can spin. I haven't really given EDM much of a chance, purely personal preference. But it was a lot of fun hearing and seeing live. Songhammer is Songhammer. Consistent fellas, even if the gig is getting a little old. Weird Al was a pleasant surprise, but Foo Fighters still remains as the only Blizzcon concert I saw through completely. A buddy and I opted to try out the Diablo Necromancer because we knew there'd be little to no line and we heard everyone who tested got a commemorative token.
  • I had an incredibly awkward experience on the flight home. Ask me about it sometime.   

One inevitable effect from Blizzcon is having the desire to play other Blizzard games, at least for me. I'd sort of cooled on Overwatch during the lead up to Legion. I didn't have too many friends playing and I was busy getting all of my toons to level 100 in Warcraft. Seeing all of the Overwatch at Blizzcon lulled me back into the game. I've also found more friends to play with in the mean time, which makes the game more enjoyable on multiple levels. I'm not a fan of the shooter genre, but I'm a big fan of this game. 

Heroes of the Storm
While I didn't need any extra urging to jump back into Heroes of the Storm post-Blizzcon, the Nexus Challenge makes it extra worthwhile. Though it's seemingly a ploy to get Overwatch players to check out Heroes, I and many friends have taken advantage of the promotion. Now that I've played my 30 games I've opted to take it easy and devote non-WoW game time to Overwatch, but you can be sure I'll be making regular appearances in the Nexus.

After those last two paragraphs I must say, damn, Blizzard makes good games. I like knowing that when life gets too busy for WoW, or even when WoW is no more, I won't have to look far for my gaming entertainment.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It's a Small World (of Warcraft)

Who likes an unrelated header? Yes you do! Yes you do!
I don't know the best way to frame this, so I'll start with what I'd normally tack on at the end: have you discovered any interesting real-world connections with players you've found in game? I'm not talking about finding someone who's favorite food is also beets, or someone who doesn't enjoy both Star Trek and Star Wars. This is more from a six degrees of separation standpoint.

I've got two.

Three years ago I'd just joined the guild I'm currently in, along with a couple of friends. We aimed to have more organized PvE-opportunities and it was proving to be difficult with just the three of us on a server that was better known for its PvP activity. Contrary to the server's motto "where PvE comes to die," we were able to recruit enough people to field a raid.

One of these recruits had been on the server for a number of years---much longer than I. I'll call him Bobby. One night, several of us were chatting in Mumble and we got to talking about where we were all located. When I said where I was from, Bobby said he knew people from my city. Now, I live in medium-sized city in Wisconsin, and unless you've been here or know someone from here, you've likely never heard of it. So the info was a bit of a surprise. Turns out, he had been playing with some guys I'd known for several years, guys I'd met via the local music scene. Small world, right? It gets weirder.

Right around the same time that I merged with this guild, I landed a new job. If this detail seems out of place right now, it won't in a minute. The job was open because the previous web manager left for greener pastures (#russ).

Last June, a group including myself, Bobby, and nine other guild members got together in Colorado for our annual meetup. The topic of Bobby's connection to my city came up again. After a short while, we learned the connection was even weirder: the web manager who I replaced was in fact one of his best friends in-game. She'd actually come on a couple of our early raids when we were short on people.

Little did I know, on the mornings after those nights, I'd wake up and go to work only to sit in her former chair!

Now, the second one, this one happening more recently.

We received an application from an interested member. Given the type of guild we are, we like to get a sense of the person as well as the player, so we ask questions that provide the opportunity to do so. This applicant was pretty involved in the NYC music scene as an educator/mentor/engineer. He volunteered a healthy dose of information about himself, enough for Google to do the rest---it wasn't creepy I swear, he wasn't freaked out.

But let's back up again. Years ago, I discovered an indie band via a SXSW sampler CD. I heard the one track and went to find more. I made a point to see them any time they made a pass through the Midwest, even if that meant making the two-and-a-half hour drive to Chicago. When you're playing at the bar or club level as a band, you tend to recognize familiar faces in the crowd. By the end of show two, I had struck up a bit of a camaraderie with with their bass player and their drummer. We kept in touch, on and off, well outside of the one-time-per-year we might brush elbows.

Back to the present: this recruit is a perfect fit for the guild, that's without question. But as a musician myself, I'm more interested in learning a bit more about his professional resume. I stumbled across a video on YouTube of testimonials from his current and former students. About halfway through watching, who do I see on screen? The friggin' bass player from that indie band...he was one of this recruit's former students!

I almost fell out of my chair.

It's fun to think these connections are all around us just waiting to be discovered. So, I'll close how I opened: do you have any similar stories?

Monday, September 12, 2016

I Don't Wanna Raid...

...I just wanna quest in the world all day.

That's the sentiment going through my head as I gallivant across the Broken Isles seeking the latest World Quest to offer armor, with the aims of slowly boosting my overall ilvl. I'm at point A and can see point B, no problems there. The issue lies with all the little points in between A and B: the side quests, rare mobs, other world quests.

They call to me. They've called to me since I first stepped foot onto the Broken Isles. And I answered pretty much every single one I ran across. That is, until I hit level 110. Because then, a little switch flipped inside of me, and a new primary goal materialized: keep having fun get ready for raiding.

In order to get ready for raiding, I had to be eligible to earn gear from heroic dungeons. While these can be run with a full group regardless of one's ilvl, a busy real life and sporadic play schedule dictates that I reach the 810 ilvl group finder requirement independently. In order to reach 810 ilvl, I had to do world quests and/or normal dungeons. But in order to do world quests I had to wrap up some Nightfallen questlines.

Suddenly, there was all this stuff I had to do, and for the first time since I've been raiding, I realized that the stuff I had to do put a little bit of a damper on the amount of fun I was having. A part of me wishes I didn't have to worry about raiding for a few weeks so I could fully experience the game in the way that Legion just begs to be experienced: slowly, erratically, a journey personalized by the choices the player makes or doesn't make.

Now granted, this urgency to drop everything and focus on gearing is mostly self-imposed. But as a raid officer for the guild, it's understandably expected that I'm in shape for Raid Night One. But for the first time since I started raiding with friends, the feeling of disappointment over having to rush or bypass content is greater than than excitement I have for the first raid.

Maybe this is partly coming about because I've been afforded much less play time compared to my guild-peers since launch. Is anyone else out there feeling this?

Monday, August 29, 2016

WoW Weekly: Luke 8 Verse 30

WoW Weekly is a biweekly-ish, self-absorbed look into the things I've been doing inside the game and out. From mount farming and raiding, to music, movies, books and other games.

Oooooooooohhh-weeeeee the excitement is palpable, is it not? The fact that we're a half a day away from having our login attempts throttled by DDOS attacks is something that always ushers in the warm fuzzies. At 12:01a Pacific time, I will be sleeping. No time off of work to level this week; what remains of my vacation days is going towards Blizzcon. I entertained waking in the wee hours Tuesday morning to get some time in before work, but again, I'm anticipating the servers will be dealing with a lot of extra crap at first. It's likely that I won't sit down with Legion until the lunch hour on Tuesday---servers allowing.

It's going to be a busy week. There's band practice, a wedding, other obligations, and a gal out there who likes to see me from time to time. So in preparation I'm hashing out a bit of a schedule and setting some goals for the week.

That's today. Today I'm just trying to concentrate on work but this post here is Exhibit A in a slew of evidence pointing toward the fact that I'm failing at the concentrating thing. In a perfect world I would've taken a week off but this is America and vacation days are a hot commodity around here. Those lucky enough to have paid vacation tend not to have a lot of it. I'll shut up now.

I do envy those who were able to bank off some time; to me, it's not about being answerable to the Dev's release schedule. It's about the shared, collective experience we have at an expansion's launch: for a couple of brief weeks, the vast majority of players are engaged in a single activity---leveling up their toons. I saw someone refer to today as this year's first Christmas Eve. Very apt. It's also about putting myself into good status when it comes to raid-readiness. I'd also like to explore the possibility of leveling up an alt concurrently with my main, instead of waiting for a lull.

In the mean time, I'm checking out what others are saying here in the 11th hour totally concentrating on work real good. Qelric has an excellent piece over at MMO Games on her impressions of the Legion leveling experience. I didn't think I could get any more excited for Tuesday, but her post brought it up another level.

The holy day. Or demonic, perhaps. After writing that last section and working through my feelings of jealousy, a 5- or 6am alarm clock doesn't seem so crazy. Only trouble is Tuesday is my long day---I work the day job from eight to five and then host an open mic event from six til around midnight. Shaving off a couple of hours of sleep might come back to bite me.

So the AM playtime call will be made in the moment; I'll for sure get to see something over the lunch hour on Tuesday, and perhaps briefly after work. If the servers are stable, I'm hoping to at least find my artifact weapon and knock out a few quests.

Technically I don't have to be at the day job until noon, but I generally come in between nine and ten. I might milk that this week and get a couple of hours in before work. Following work is band practice, but that should wrap up by 8p, leaving a solid three or four hours open before sleep. I'm hoping to be in the 102-104 range by Wednesday's end.

There may be noon-hour shenanigans. If not, I'll still be left with a generous amount of time: Thursday night is traditionally the guild's raid night, so I already have that time blocked off for Warcraft! Then again, I may not play the whole night, as a few weeks into September my Thursday nights will be reclaimed by progression raids. I'm hoping to be somewhere around 105-107 by the end of the night.

This will be the night where I'm truly prepped. Beer and lazy food items will be on the menu. Probably pizza. Yeah, pizza sounds good. Gonna opt for delivery methinks, a real treat. Taco pizza. Mmmmmm. Probably some nachos as a late-night snack. I hope to be near max level by the night's end---which could stretch into the wee hours of the morning provided I don't have much for plans on Saturday.

Planning on a hearty breakfast of sausages, eggs and OJ whenever I roll out of bed, though it'll probably be sometime in the 10 o'clock hour since I start to feel guilty if I sleep later than that. I should probably let my local friends know I'm alive; perhaps I'll head over to @kennylogouts' house for a LAN party. :D

I'm hoping to reach max-level at which point I'll concentrate on any remaining profession leveling.

My baby sister gets married. Please don't kill the Legion without me.

Free day, as it's a holiday here. I may be burned out on long play sessions by this point and/or possibly hungover from the night before, so I haven't quite planned this day out. Regardless, I mean to head into next week at max level, so if need be I'll finish that off. But probably not much else.

How about you? What's your first week of Legion going to look like?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Can I Just Say I'm Stoked for Legion?

Cause I'm gonna whether you think I should or not.

I'm stoked for Legion.

I had to look back to see if I'd noted any sort of excitement during the lead-up to Warlords of Draenor. I'm sure it was there, but this seems entirely different, more palpable. Yes, we're hearing the same old lines about how this will be the "best" and most "content-intensive" expansion we've had to date, but this time around not only do I want to believe them, I feel I should believe them.

But in all honesty, aside from maybe patch 6.2, I don't care if the cycle looks like Warlords. Given Blizzard is promising much more than that is encouraging, but for now I'm cool with surveying the landscape around me own my own time: demons invading, factional losses, political upheaval---some real story.

The environment just feels like Warcraft again, and it's been perfectly exemplified by demon invasions. If I wasn't in a guild, the isolation of the garrison and the convenience of the self-service ready-to-raid tools might have left me feeling like I was the only real live person playing. And that's perhaps why I reacted in mild surprise when, while waiting on a boat to get to Undercity the other day, a player asked, "Hey, can someone with a dual mount fly me to the invasion point?"

I looked at the white text above their head with mild curiosity, then realized, "Oh shit! A real, organic quest!" Then I noticed the other dozen-and-a-half players waiting on the boat as well (who all were incidentally doing their best NPC impressions and not acknowledging this player). The game felt alive! I quickly mounted my rocket and sidled over to the player. Later that day, I found 100g in my mailbox. There was no note, and I don't remember the character's name, but I don't care. I'm saying that came from them.

Granted, Legion isn't quite out yet, so it might be premature to ask how Legion's treating you. But really, based on what you've seen, what do you think so far?

I can't wait to see the final product on Tuesday.