Blog Archives

In Defense of Housing

One thing that seems to be a perennial topic of conversation is player housing, and I still don’t quite understand Blizzard’s staunch disregard for the concept. I think the developers might be thinking a little too narrowly when it comes to housing. They think of a house and not of the context of that house, or of the content that goes into truly great housing systems.

Their usual argument seems to be “we want players out in the world, not sitting in a house.” Or some variant of that theme. Yet, in Warlords, they tied us down to the garrison feature so inexorably that the primary complaint of the expansion was that we aren’t getting out in the world.

I’m perplexed, friends. Really perplexed. Because I think player housing can be an absolutely stunning feature brimming with potential for world wide engagement. So, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to expound on that idea  a bit here. Who knows? Maybe a bored Blizzard developer will stumble accidentally upon my ideas and see their merit.

Player Housing

The first thing I want to make clear about my concept of player housing is that it is 100% interactive, social, and tied to the game world as a whole. Housing should be a vast and expandable system that encourages players to get out into the world to collect and explore. It should not be (as the developers fear) a means by which players become insular and anti social.

The second concept I want to establish is that the housing system should be fully integrated into other aspects of the game. It should be connected to professions (more detail on this soon) and progression and social aspects of the game. It should require players to put in effort out in the world through a variety of activities. It should be connected to the game as a whole, and not simply to its self. Housing should draw from everything else available, not exist in isolation.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, housing should not be tied to one specific expansion and then become obsolete when that expansion ends. It should exist as a feature all on its own, expanded upon with every update, in order to maintain its relevancy and impact. If housing is “this expansion’s big new thing!” that’s fine. But it should tie in with every expansion both retroactively and progressively.

Location

If player housing is to continue to be relevant after it is introduced, I firmly feel that player houses should not be located on the latest expansion’s land mass. No houses on Pandaria, Draenor, or the Broken Isles. Once we are done with those locations, they become obsolete and inconvenient. I feel that player houses should be located in the old world, probably near the capital cities for each race. If plots were available for purchase (one per character; you can’t have multiple houses for one character) at each major racial city, that would keep them tied in to current content the same way that Stormwind and Orgrimmar are always tied in to current content. That is, people still visit them regardless of expansion. If players would rather purchase a plot more out of the way, they can pick Silvermoon, Darnassus, etc.

In my ideal world of fully customizable player housing, I would love to see plots available in every zone in the game. Every. Zone. But you can probably see why that would be a little absurd. For the sake of simplicity and sanity, one per capital city should be fine.

So you purchase a plot of land in Elwynn just outside of Stormwind. It is a literal blank plot of game world, entirely yours to customize. Now what?

A New Profession

I think that player housing would be the prime time to introduce a new secondary profession. Call it woodworking, or something to that effect. Everyone can learn it the same way you learn every other profession. Go visit a trainer (for the sake of our example, this trainer is located in the logging camp in Elwynn Forest) and pay the fee. We already have the basis for this profession on Draenor. It’s called the lumber mill. Woodworking would have a gathering component in much the same way. Trees appear around the world that you can click on to chop down, and wood is stored in your inventory like any other profession material. Alternately (and I do like this idea better), woodworking materials are stored on a profession pane much like currency and do not take up bag space.

So now you run around Elwynn happily chopping down trees. You gather wood and maybe purchase some nails from a profession vendor, use the woodworking profession interface to select your little level 1 house, and build it. Maybe building houses takes a few hours, similar to how building stuff in your garrison takes time. A small level 1 house probably takes 5 minutes. You wait 5 minutes. Your house finishes. You have a house! You get a special hearthstone that allows you to teleport to your house once every 30 minutes. The house even gives resting bonus. Hooray!

Woodworking should be the profession you use to customize everything in your home. The walls, the windows, the architecture, the floors, the furniture. Everything. But it should only come with a few basic necessities, like maybe a simple wooden frame bed and a small chest or dresser, a chair maybe, or a wooden fence. If you want better items made out of nicer stuff, you have to go out in the world and track those patterns down.

Let’s say you want a dining table made out of that pretty bluish-purple wood from the elvish areas around Darnassus. Since you are an Alliance character, you have to go to Darnassus and hunt for the recipe. Maybe it drops off of mobs in that area. Maybe it comes as a quest reward in a night elfy zone. Maybe it is literally sitting on a table in a building and all you do is click it. The point is, different recipes should be earned different ways that make sense for the recipe. If you want a stone table, maybe that comes from the Dark Iron dwarves in Blackrock Mountain. If you want pretty hanging lanterns, you have to go hunt for the recipe somewhere in the world that has pretty hanging lanterns.

Woodworking, like all professions, will require you to skill up in order to collect higher level materials and craft nicer and rarer things for your house. So if you started in Elwynn chopping down level 1 trees, you will eventually progress to Redridge, chopping down level 2 trees, and then to Darkshire for level 3 trees (the levels are just an example. I imagine the trees scale up the same was herbs and ore nodes do)…and so on. Chopping down low level trees gives Simple Wood. The next step is probably something like Better Wood, then Superior Wood, then stuff like Black Oak and Elvish Walnut and rare woods like Polished Teak and Glowing Draenic Maple. See where I’m going? If you went to the Barrens, you might find the rare Dry Acacia, or you might have to scour the jungle for Zandalari Ebony, and if you had a recipe that called for Twisted Scourgewood, well…you can probably guess where to find that.

I think all trees should be a personal tap item. You can harvest it and so can anyone else who spots it. It despawns on your screen but not on theirs until they harvest it. That way rare trees don’t cause upset, and people can go at their own pace. No need to turn wood chopping into a PvP brawl.

So you have built your level 1 house in Elwynn, you’ve leveled up your wood chopping so you can craft a few nicer items. What else is there to do?

Everything.

Let’s say that each time you hit the expansion skill cap for woodworking (profession levels 300 for vanilla, 375 for Burning Crusade, 450 for Wrath, etc) you gain a new house model to craft. Now you can upgrade your floorplan, not just your furniture! So you hit profession level 300 and unlock a level 2 house. This adds more rooms to your existing house. You don’t have to delete the level 1 house, or worry about losing anything inside it. You gather the materials to craft a level 2 house, craft it, and your house is upgraded. Let’s say it takes 1 hour this time to crate the new house. During that time, the original level 1 house is still accessible. You can continue to decorate and rearrange while the additional room is being built.

Once that room has finished construction, you have a two room house! Now you can build another table or another bed, or move the first bed into the new room and call it a bedroom. You have more space on the walls, more space for storage…the possibilities are endless.

As you level up woodworking, you also gain access to new crafting recipes from the trainer. You can build bigger storage chests (which would function like a bank or void storage access point) or learn how to craft different types of windows, or maybe even learn to craft a bathroom addition to your home.

Again, if you want specific aesthetics for these features you’d have to go out into the world and find them. But the basic bones of the house are craftable by default through woodworking trainers.

Now that you have a second room to toy around with, let’s discuss what sort of stuff you should be able to put in your house.

Accessorizing and Decorating

Aside from hunting down new aesthetics for the furniture in your home, I think the house is an excellent place to display trophies and achievements. This is how I think the house would best tie in with other professions. If you have tailoring, maybe you can make a rug or a blanket or a wall tapestry. If you have blacksmithing, maybe a carved obsidian figurine to decorate a shelf. Leatherworkers could hang beautiful animal hides on the walls while jewelcrafters can make glittering fixtures. The recipes for these items, too, should be found in the world. It would be counter to my idea for housing as an interactive, go-out-and-see-the-world sort of thing if you simply visited a trainer to learn how to craft Bear Hide Rug or Tourmaline Chandelier.

As for secondary professions, what about a place to display trophy fish on the wall, or the ability to display unique archaeology finds for all to see. The garrisons had a whole room for archaeology. It was a cool concept but it served no purpose. In a house, those neat artifacts can go on a pedestal or on the wall or sit in the garden outside.

The Garden

Oh yeah, there’s a garden. But not a garden where you grow materials needed for crafting. That was one of the biggest problems people reported with the garrison. The herb garden and the mine made people feel compelled to harvest in order to milk every last cent out of their garrison’s production. They also trivialized secondary professions in a way that hurt not only the economy but also professional enjoyment as a whole.

In player housing, nothing should be tied in to progression. You shouldn’t feel obligated to keep your house going just so you can min-max your character through end game content. Nothing about the house should tie in to end-game raiding advantages, or make you feel forced to do a certain thing in order to get ahead. Houses are for fun, for immersion, for the love of collecting and crafting and roleplaying. So the garden at the player’s house should be full of fun, unique plants that don’t impact the game at all. Except, of course, to entice you to find them, plant them, and enjoy them.

Let’s say you build your level 2 house with its two rooms. Suddenly a quest giver visits your house and remarks that it is coming along nicely, but could do with some curb appeal. Help me out, they say, and I’ll do you a favor by tilling the land in front of your house so you can plant a garden. You complete their quest (probably something easy, as leveling characters will be doing this fairly early on). In Elwynn forest this probably involves killing some Defias that have wronged the quest giver. Easy enough. Now the quest giver keeps his promise and you have a patch of freshly tilled land to play with.

Gardening

In the context of player housing, gardening should be fun. It should be relaxing and, most importantly, obligation-free. No coming back to check your plants every 45 minutes to water them so they don’t die. This isn’t fucking Farmville. We’re getting away from the garrison style of upkeep. Once you plant something, it’s permanent and upkeep-free until you dig it up and get rid of it.

How do you get plants, then? Well, some of them should be drops from herbalism. I think that just makes sense. If you’re an herbalist, maybe you get seeds once in a while as you gather. But if you were to gather, say, Peacebloom, the seeds that drop are not for planting Peacebloom. The seeds are something else entirely, like Foxglove or Bluebells. I think seeds gained in this manner should be rare enough that you don’t have bags brimming with seeds just from picking a few flowers out in the world. If you pick flowers in Pandaria you get Pandaren-themed seeds. If you pick flowers in Icecrown you get something that makes sense for a frozen climate. These seeds should be BoE, so they can be traded or sold to players who are not herbalists, but rare enough that the prices will be something to consider.

How else do you get seeds? Out in the world there should be rare plants that you can interact with, a lot like the rare treasures in Pandaria. Sometimes while you’re out gathering and questing, you’ll find a rare plant growing out in the world. If you click on it, you get seeds to plant it back at your home. Think about all the beautiful flower models in the game that are not used for herbalism. The glowing, dripping ten foot tall flowers from Maraudon come to mind. The seeds for these rare plants should be BoP, and the plants themselves should be one time click only. Meaning, if you spot the plant at the same time as someone else, only one of you can harvest it. Some of these flowers can be found in raids, too.

Other seeds can be found as drops from appropriately themed mobs, like dryads or those flower lasher things in Maraudon. They might even be drops from plant-like dungeon and raid bosses.

Planting these seeds will start the growth process and over a period of hours or days (or maybe even weeks for the rarest seeds) you’ll see it grow to maturity. If you want to move the plant to another spot in the garden you can do so without losing its growth progress or destroying it. There will be some sort of garden UI that lets you move and arrange things how you want, perhaps accessible by clicking a sign in your garden that says “SoandSo’s Garden.”

The garden should also be a place to customize to your liking. Add features like rocks or large gemstones (obtained by mining of course), elvish lamps (those tall street lamps made of vines like you find along the road in Teldrassil) or other aesthetic things like a fountain or an archaeology artifact. A big ol’ Arakkoa sundial in the middle of my flower garden sounds about right to me.

And if you want to tie the garden into other aspects of the game even more, then the rarest flowers will produce a combat minipet for you when they have fully matured. It could also be a place where your minipets can be seen romping about and playing, or you could find a hitching post recipe and then have a place to display a favored mount out in front of your home. If you enjoy fishing, you might be able to place a little pond in the garden where colorful fish swim.

Interior Decorating

Since the outside of the house is largely customized via the garden, the interior of the home is where other professions can shine. You should be able to move furniture and decor anywhere you like with a UI similar to the garden. Every bit of space can be changed to your liking. So you can hang stuff on the walls like I discussed above, or build windows to let in light, or totally redo everything.

Your home starts with standard wooden walls and floors, but there should be ways to make your home unique to your style. So scribes can produce different paints to spruce up the walls (they already make pigments, paints just make sense) and maybe blacksmiths can produce stone flooring.

Maybe the windows need to be changed to suit your tastes. You can take out the standard square windows and replace them with round ones, or big ones, or ornate ones. Maybe the secret to crafting stained glass windows lies hidden in the heart of Gilneas, and you might have to journey there in order to uncover it for your own use.

Other aspects of decor should come from the environment, not just from crafting. While you’re out in the world questing and killing and going about your business, maybe you come across objects that you can take for yourself. While questing in a furbolg camp you find a jar of bees sitting inside a tent and you take it home (for some weird reason*). Or maybe while running Black Temple you steal a couple of hookah pipes from Illidan’s concubines. Perhaps you find a painting in an abandoned house somewhere, or a dreamcatcher in a Tauren village. The game is full of really neat flavor objects all over the world that could easily become interactive. These objects should be looted once per click and then despawn. But they don’t need to be rare and should respawn again soon, though perhaps not in the exact same place.

Some objects could be rewarded to you from quests. Perhaps you complete a quest for the red dragonflight and are gifted a ruby dragon statue as a token of gratitude. Additionally, some decor items are rewards for reaching certain levels of reputation with different factions. Egyptian-style objects from the Tol’vir, really weird bug stuff from the Klaxxi, etc.

Aesthetics

I sort of touched on this before, but I’ll expand on it here. When you build your house it looks like a very basic house. Brown wood, nothing special. If you want different architecture, you have to work for it.

So, since we built our little level 2 house in Elwynn, it looks pretty much like any other level 2 house. It is brown and wooden and square and unremarkable. What if we want our little house in the woods to look like it was built by a night elf, or a pandaren? Well, we have to go learn their secrets.

Obtaining the ability to change your house from default to elvish should be an involved process. If you want elvish architecture, you should have to be exalted with Darnassus, and have the achievement for completing all quests in every primarily night elf zone (Teldrassil, Darkshore, Ashenvale, etc.). Maybe only then will the night elf woodworking trainer offer you a quest to learn how to craft a night elf building. And that quest, too, should requite a bit of work on your part. Collect a bunch of rare materials, prove you can craft a bunch of stuff properly, etc. When you finish the chain, you will have the ability to re-skin your boring old wooden house into a night elf house. Yay!

Alternately, the original house you build will be set to your race’s default architecture. So if your character is a night elf and you build your very first level 1 house, it defaults to a night elf house. If you character is human, it defaults to human architecture, and so on.

Either way, I think it is important to bring racial flare and identity to these homes. They represent your character, and should feel like something they would live in.

I don’t feel like Alliance races need access to Horde architecture or aesthetics. Not on this sort of scale, anyway. A night elf will never be able to build an orcish hut, nor will an undead character get to build a Draenic home. But smaller pieces of decor should be available that transcend the factions. So your night elf might have a Tauren dreamcatcher in her home, but her home won’t look like a Tauren built it. Hopefully that makes sense.

Leveling Up

So you built your little level 1 home in Elwynn, and you put in the work to gather the wood and materials to upgrade it to level 2. Aside from adding new rooms, how do we make these homes really feel like they’re progressing?

After a certain skill level I think you should be able to build a completely new story to your home. So levels 1, 2 and 3 add a room to your home, and level 4 adds a second floor. Then levels 5 and 6 add more rooms to that second floor. Everyone has access to these floorplans and everyone can build them if they put in the effort.

What sets homes apart from one another if everyone can build the same 6 levels of upgrades? What about rare building plans out in the world?

See, there’s a theme here with my housing ideas. Get players back out in the world. Players at level 100 or 110 who have “done it all” now have a reason to go back and poke around the open world. I think floorplans should be available to those who are dedicated enough to look for them.

Floorplans, unlike decor and gardening items, should be exceptionally rare and difficult to get. That way when you visit someone’s house (and you totally can) and you see they have an addition to the basic level 6 house, you know they worked hard to get it. If everyone has it, it’s not nearly as interesting. What kinds of floorplans, then, and how should they be obtained?

What about finding the plans to build a hidden room behind a bookshelf? Or plans to build a basement, or a master bath, or a hookah lounge?

Maybe while killing necromancers somewhere you get a rare floorplan drop. It teaches you how to build a basement, and once you gather the materials (which are also rare) you build a basement fully equipped with a freaky demon summoning pentagram and eerie purple candles. Or, a rare spawn mob out in the world drops an item that takes you on a quest chain across the continent to learn how to build a deck around your house from a master craftsman who is now living hidden in the mountains of Grizzly Hills. Other floorplans can be obtained as rare spawn items hidden out in the world. For example, an ultra rare book might spawn in one of the shelves in Dalaran that, when looted, teaches you how to build an arcane library in your home.

I’d like to stay away from a lot of rare housing goods dropping in old raids. That doesn’t help get people out in the world and engage with other players. It just facilitates raid grinding, and running Icecrown 400 times for a rare bone and ice light fixture isn’t nearly as fun as I’d hoped housing to be. Some stuff should certainly come from dungeons and bosses, but the majority of these items need to tempt players out into the world to explore. Adding more rare drop stuff to old raids that players have already burned themselves out on farming mounts and pets and transmog isn’t going to go well.

Holiday Decorations

The garrisons saw a neat version of holiday flair, in that you could use holiday currency to purchase decorations for your entire garrison. I love it. I want that to carry over to housing in the same iteration. Use holiday currency to purchase decor for your home and display it however long you wish. If you want Winter Veil lights up in June, go for it. It’s your house. If you enjoy the cobwebby, spooky look of Hallow’s End, that’s awesome. Decorate how you want.

Being Neighborly

Obviously the house is a phased place exactly like the garrison. You see your own house and not anyone else’s, and when you enter your property you vanish to other players. Like garrisons, I think you should be able to see other people’s homes if you’re in a group with them. “View Leader’s Home” is simple enough.

But beyond simply admiring your friend’s home and garden, houses should tie in to achievements to encourage people to poke around outside their own four walls. It could be as simple as “visit X number of player homes” or as involved as “visit player homes that have each of these objects listed below,” in which you have to go on a scavenger hunt of sorts to complete the list. It would encourage people to see other houses, meet other players, and give them something to work for. If they see a cool thing in a friend’s home, they’ll likely want to get it for themselves.

To further social interaction, I think most (if not all) of the housing stuff created by professions should be BoE to allow for trade. If you have a couple of extra Lupin seeds you picked up while gathering herbs and your friend who isn’t an herbalist has an extra Amethyst Doorknob (I’m kinda half joking with that example) then you should be able to trade them. Of course, selling items on the auction house sort of ruins the idea of neighborly trading. Maybe housing items can’t be sold on the AH but can be traded between players? I’m not sure if that’s possible, but it’s a thought.

There can be achievements for collecting all of a certain type or style of decoration, like “Pillow Fight” for collecting all of the throw pillows available, or “Draenic Decor” for collecting all items that are considered Draenic in style. This might also encourage people to cooperate a little bit. If they’re out in the world and they see a decor item has spawned that they don’t need, they might actually announce it so other people can come get it.

Meta achievements can be created to award special decor items as prizes. Collect and plant all of the rare flower seeds in your garden and you will receive a bird bath, or a fountain, or something along those lines. Collecting all of something might mean you actually have to cooperate with other players in order to fill in the gaps.

Trophies might drop off of raid bosses, encouraging people to raid together if it is a drop for everyone in the group.

I think there are a ton of ways to encourage cooperative social play when it comes to a feature like housing, that isn’t progression-related. This notion that player housing will turn people into hermits is absurd. If you do it right, a feature like this is overflowing with potential for social interaction.

The User Interface

While woodworking could use the default profession interface, your house would need a more interactive UI for customization. I could see something similar to the garrison UI, which gives you an aerial view of your housing plot and allows you to drag and drop stuff into your garden area from a visual panel that shows every plant you own. Similarly, clicking on the house will let you click through the rooms to move stuff around and add furniture. It would have visual lists displaying all your items in categories for easy navigation and selection. Decorating your home would be as simple as drag and drop.

You would use the woodworking profession UI to create items, and use the housing UI to place and arrange them.

As far as storing unused items goes, I haven’t really figured that part out yet. I think it would make sense that one of the first items you learn to craft is a chest that allows you to store housing items in it, like furniture and decor. You could learn to upgrade your storage over time.

BoE, BoP, BoA?

Trading objects and items between players would be necessary for people to get the items they want from professions they don’t have. But some stuff should be exclusive, in order to make it feel meaningful. This is just kind of a rough list.

Seeds found while herbing, as well as many items made by professions, should be BoE to encourage trade. Wood obtained by chopping trees could also be BoE, just like materials for any other profession. Recipes for crafting decor items should be BoE.

Rare items found out in the world such as decor items should be BoP. The idea is to encourage people to get out and explore, not sit in front of the auction house. Items that drop in a raid should be BoP, but able to be traded to other eligible group members the same as raid gear. Rare floorplans should be BoP, to encourage people to go look for them rather than spend 100k gold on them.

As for BoA items, I haven’t really figured that one out. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that seems like a prime candidate for BoA. However, I kind of feel like any floorplans you obtain on one character should be usable by all characters on your account. So if you stumble over a rare floorplan while playing an alt you don’t intend to play much, it isn’t a waste. Floorplans are unlocked by all characters, decor items are not.

Balance

One of the most important tenants of my housing idea is the notion that player housing should be a fun, optional activity that players can pursue at their leisure. It should never, ever feel like an obligation or like a chore. When you log into the game, your first thought shouldn’t be, “I have to go to my house first…” It should be, “I want to go to my house first!” The difference is crucial.

Garrisons felt like a chore to a lot of players. They felt obligated to log in and take care of the million different garrison activities. This obligation created resentment. They wanted to be out in the world doing something else, but first they had to manage their follower list, send followers on missions, take care of their buildings, pick herbs, mine ore…

It gets to the point where the entire game feels like it takes place inside the garrison. Log in, do garrison things, queue for raid, run raid, return to garrison, repeat. My main, Sylvestris, rarely leaves his garrison anymore. Once he was done leveling, he ended up parked there and I had to make a concerted effort to find non-garrison things to do**. The idea of player housing is exactly the opposite. It is a small hub that compels you to go explore the rest of the world, and return only when you have something you want to do. You don’t need to come back and pick herbs, or repair anything, or take out the trash. You come back because you found something cool in the world you want to add to your home.

I think the success of player housing falls squarely on its balance with other game activities. Player housing shouldn’t become a focus point, the way garrisons definitely are. Housing should instead be a flavor piece, an accompaniment to the rest of the game. Players should feel perfectly free to return to their home only when they want to, as opposed to planning their play time around when they feel they have to be home.

And finally, the player housing system should be entirely, absolutely, 100% optional. If you don’t want to mess with a housing minigame, you simply don’t purchase a plot of land. The end. No quests bugging you constantly to talk to someone about buying land. No reminders. No worries. If you don’t have a house you won’t even see housing items out in the world, loot them from bosses, or stumble over them during questing. Players should never, ever feel like the house is something they have to do in order to gain a competitive edge over other players in PvE or PvP. It should not be tied to gear progression, profession progression, or any other sort of progression except its own.

If you go on vacation and don’t play the game for a month, everything is there just how you left it when you come back. If you decide you don’t want to mess with your house anymore, that’s it. No consequences. No falling behind. Play with it when you want and ignore it when you don’t. It really should be that casual.

I feel like Blizzard is missing a golden opportunity to add longevity to the game by creating a housing system that encourages players to collect, share, and personalize. Systems like battle pets and transmog have already proven the success of collection-based side games. Most people love to collect. That’s just how the human brain works. When we’ve exhausted our current expansion content, run every dungeon, downed every boss, and saved the world, we still need something to do. I think housing can help fill that niche the same way pet and mount collecting fill it, and the same way achievement hunting helps give people something to do.

This isn’t a system that can be done half-assed and succeed. It needs to be fully integrated into the game world, tied in with other systems, and allowed to flourish well past its introduction. I think Blizzard can do it. They just need to stop resisting and arguing and digging in their heels. When the game goes more than a year between content updates and subscription levels dip to record lows, I don’t think it is in their best interest to discard content ideas. They need to be perfecting them.

 

* My house in Skyrim has like 8 different jars full of bees as decor. I have no idea why.

** I really liked the garrison feature, and I’m not one of those people who feels “compelled” or “forced” to do garrison stuff. But even I got kinda closed in a little bit and had to remind myself that I am capable of leaving the garrison if I so choose.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Dinosaurs!

I have been woefully absent from the game lately. I got sucked into Skyrim; my bad!

But I did get a chance to check out the new patch content. I finished grinding to exalted with my remaining Pandaria factions (August Celestials, Shieldwall, and Shado-Pan), which earned me the Pandaren kite mount and the 55 exalted reputations achievement. That felt good. I really do dislike the emphasis on daily quests so far in this expansion, but I thought the way Shieldwall and Dominance Offensive handled daily progression was well done. I hope this becomes the norm, with dailies giving way to storyline quests at certain reputation intervals.

I also liked the changes to reputation gains this patch. The work orders at the farm and the reputation gains for daily dungeons and scenarios was a welcomed change from simply doing a truckload of dailies every day. I wish I could just slap on a tabard and run dungeons to my heart’s content (the lack of rep gains has been a primary factor in my lack of interest in dungeon running this expansion) but this is a step in the right direction.

I ran a bunch of scenarios on Saturday with the ret paladin and got the Scenaturday achievement. We ran really close to running out of time, but we squeaked by and now we have an awkward title to show for it. Speaking of titles, I earned “the Relic Hunter” a week or two ago for finding 20 rare treasures in Pandaria. That was a lot of fun. It netted me a lot of BoA weapons to ferry between my alts, too, so that is a bonus. Next title on the list is “the Seeker of Knowledge”…whenever I get back into archaeology. I’m about half way through the achievement.

I made my first trip to the Isle of Giants this morning. I went on my hunter, who is poorly geared, because while my druid is decently geared he has no real damage output and I anticipated it would make killing elite dinosaurs a long, tedious pain in the ass. Even on my hunter, who does acceptable damage for her ilevel, killing a dinosaur is a matter of popping every cool down twice, spamming mend pet, and praying. Also some swearing.

I will have to find a group later, I think, and take the island by storm. Doing it alone is slow and not very exciting, and given my timidity I haven’t seen anything beyond the beaches of the island. I heard that the drop rate of the little raptor pets was very high, but it was hotfixed and I have no idea how hard they nerfed it. I killed maybe 10 dinosaurs and saw nothing but bones. No pets, no eggs. Sadness.

I tried running around on the Isle of Thunder killing rares for pets, but had no luck there either. In fact, thanks to a wonderful bug, I was unable to loot all but two rares I killed out of a total of, again, around 10. How a bug like that got past the PTR and onto live realms amazes me. Sometimes I wonder if quality control is a concept at Blizzard. It’s been fixed though (a week later…) so I may go back and resume my rampage. Running amok with fifty other people swarming rares is pretty fun. Not having to deal with CRZ is also a nice change, since I find the island crowded enough as it is with just my server to contend with.

For now, I think I will take a break from Azeroth and go outside. It’s a beautiful sunny day and there’s no excuse for wasting it. Enjoy the patch folks 🙂

Random Updates

I have nothing coherent to post but I dislike leaving this thing dead for very long, soooo…

I have been busy running the raid finder as a resto druid, so I can play a bit of catch up before 5.2 hits. I am nearly done with the first leg of Wrathion’s legendary quest line, just need a few more sigils. I have also been doing my dailies (finally) because I feel like a slacker not being exalted with everyone. I just got burnt out on dailies, but that seems to have worn off a bit. I’m revered with August Celestials and will be revered with Shado-Pan and Shieldwall tomorrow. Yay!

I started work on some of the archaeology achievements I neglected. There is a title I’m after, and if there is a title involved I tend to be pretty dogged. I have also been working on catching the last pets I need so that when summer rolls around I can get the Zoologist title.

I have been leveling my little priest on Madoran as fast as I can. I started her there because I wanted the Tarecgosa pet from the Warcraft Pets guild, but I’m enjoying the priest and the guild so much I plan on sticking around.

Speaking of pets, Mowse and his guild <Deal With It> on Shadowmoon (US-H) have been generous enough to offer me and many other pet collectors a spot to earn rep for the dragon hatchling pet. He also mentioned letting us nab the Heavenly Crimson Cloud Serpent too once his guild unlocks that. He gets my vote for hero of the day.

Let’s see, what else am I working on…

I am slowly leveling my warrior to 90 so I can work on his jewelcrafting, since I want the mounts and pets for my collection and I dislike spending a lot of money. I also thought I would level my warlock so I can have a high level tailor to make bags, but after almost an hour spent playing with my spec and my spell bar and getting utterly overwhelmed reading class guides, I gave up.

That’s about it I think. I have some ideas for actual real posts in the future. Happy collecting!

Bragging Rights

I have had the most incredible streak of luck these last few days.

I told myself I was probably done collecting minipets for a while, seeing as I got the 150 reward and the only ones left were rare drops that I didn’t want to farm…but then I started farming. And they started dropping.

Disgusting Oozeling – 20 minutes tops. Opened maybe 15 bags.

Fox Kit – 30 minutes tops. One and a half times around the island.

Dark Whelpling – 1 minute, if that. Dropped on the second kill.

Gundrak Hatchling – 100 kills give or take. Seven times around the circuit in Zul’Drak.

Sea Pony – 10 casts give or take. Got it within 5 minutes of starting. (I have some doubt as to the actual rarity of this pet, but some people report hundreds of casts and nada, so I dont know).

And it all started with the Crawling Claw. I have spent the entire damned expansion working on archaeology on and off, hours at a time, flying all over Kalimdor trying to get those four measly digsites to pop up in Uldum. I got the mount a long while back. I figured surely the pet will be popping up soon. Nope. It took me 65 Tol’Vir solves to finally find the little guy (which is far less than most people but still a significant investment of time). And like magic once that little paw was in my grasp I had a renewed interest in farming rare pets…

To be fair, not all of them came so easily. I actually farmed for days straight for the dark whelpling. I massacred hundreds, perhaps thousands of whelps for hours on end without so much as a glimmer of hope. And then one day I logged in and on a whim moonfired a few whelps before hearthing…and there he was.

And I spent days in Hillsbrad committing Yeti genocide in a fruitless campaign to add the black tabby to my collection. After days of wasting every living thing in sight I finally gave up and hunted down the little sucker on the auction house for three thousand gold.

So it hasnt all been easy, but it’s renewed my interest in tedium. When cute little pets are the reward I have more drive than you might expect!

Coming Up…

Winter Veil! Rumors of a new pet (a lump of coal) and I still have a little helper I have yet to collect.

Darkmoon Faire! I have 115 tickets stored up, but I will be buying the tallstrider mount first before I collect any pets.

And that’s it for now!

 

I Get High with a Little Help from My Friends…

That 29,000 gold purchase I mentioned I made?

RAWR!

Yup.

Dragon. Sandstone Drake, to be precise.

A big, huge, ultra-mega-thanks to my guild, who as soon as they heard I was whipping this thing up showered upon me all the help I could possibly ever want. Several people donated truegold, or mats for truegold, or cooldowns to make truegold. Others still crafted potions for me, or helped me hunt down an alchemist who could make the end result. It’s one of the many reasons I love my guild so much. I didn’t ask for help; I just got it. I couldn’t be more grateful. Honorable mentions? You bet.

Adra, The Boy, Manda and Alma for truegold transmutes and lots of them.

Adra again for making the potions (if I remember correctly…I dealt with a lot of alchemists…)

Nani and Syraeda for donating extra volatiles.

Aish for dropping a crap ton of truegold on my head. I feel like I owe her my first born child or something. Seriously crazy-nice donation.

And Barnaught, who was awesome enough to make the dragon for me once I got the mats together.

If it werent for these folks I’d probably still be farming mats. I cannot thank them enough. Free dragon rides for life! Just, please, no “mile high” club on my back…

The Process

If you’re looking into getting this mount for yourself, you’ll need to have bare minimum 29,000 gold. That doesnt take into effect goblin discounts, though, so if you’re a goblin or know one, the end price may be cheaper.

The dragon is only made by alchemists with a 450 skill in archaeology. Even then, they have to dig up and piece together a Canopic Jar from the Tol’vir artifacts and hope that it has the recipe inside. It’s only about a 10% chance, too, so expect the availability of alchemists who can make this to be very low.

The mats for this recipe are as follows: 12 truegold, 8 Flask of Titanic Strength, 8 Flask of the Winds, and 8 Deepstone Oil. Then you have to purchase a pyrium laced vial and 8 sand of time from Yasmin in Uldum.

That further breaks down into 36 pyrium bars, 120 volatile air, water, and fire, 128 volatile life, 128 whiptail, 64 cinderbloom, 64 Azshara’s veil, 16 crystal vial, and 8 albino catfish.

You’ll also need to purchase 1 pyrium laced vial for 4,000 gold and 8 sand of time for 3,000 gold each. See where the gold investment comes in? Ouch.

So you can understand now why farming these mats all on my own was a huge undertaking. I spent hours, literally, flying up and down the river in Uldum picking whiptail, and equally as long circling Tol Barad picking Azshara’s veil from the water. I spent hours over the course of two days fishing in Hyjal for volatile water, at a rate of maybe 1-2 waters per every 3-4 pools. I hijacked as much from my alts as I could, and then got small donations from guildies to fill in the rest.

I think overall about 60-70% of the total mats I farmed myself, with the remaining percent coming in from generous folks in my guild.

If you’re planning on making this and NOT planning on spending more money than you have to, here’s a bit of advice: get friendly with an alchemist and an herbalist. Maybe even a miner, if you’re none of the above yourself. I mean real friendly. I wont tell your mother.

Buying all those mats off the AH will turn a 29k gold drake into a one million gold drake easily, so unless you’re the richest bastard in WoW, I highly recommend farming as much of it yourself as possible.

Leave some room in your wallet for a tip.

Fun stuff: as a druid I can switch out of the dragon form high in the air, pop over to flight form, and let my poor passenger float all…the way….down…

Works especially well for the, ah, heavier passengers out there…

Ow, my back.

And…There it is.

I got my 100th mount tonight at about 10 pm. This past week and a half I have been working tirelessly towards the Mountain O’ Mounts achievement, collecting anything I could get my paws on. I grabbed the Drake of the West Wind from the Baradin’s Wardens, the final PvP mount from Stormwind, and one of the 100 seal mounts from the Argent Tournament. That left me at 99, with my last mount depending on a rare drop from something. If nothing else, I had the wintersaber lined up for completion in a week or so, but I was farming Tol’vir artifacts today and…up popped the scepter. It took me about an hour to complete and bag my 100th mount, the Ultramarine Battle Tank. I’m not certain how I feel about the dragonhawk model, but it’s flashy and exclusive and the only dragonhawk available to Alliance, so I am satisfied for my efforts. It’s been a long time in coming.

Many, many thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way, especially my guild who has been kind enough to lend a hand from the very beginning, and for staying up late with me running battlegrounds for my last 1000+ honor a few nights ago. You guys rock.

If you’re looking to farm for the Scepter yourself, a few things to keep in mind:

  • Tol’vir artifacts require max level archaeology to dig up. You won’t even see them on the map until then.
  • Consider completing your Night Elf rares first. If you complete every Night Elf rare, then you will have a decreased chance to see Night Elf dig sites pop up on your map, and since Kalimdor is like 90% Night Elf sites, this means you will have more Tol’vir sites pop up. Once I finished my last Night Elf rare (the doll), I started getting a lot more Tol’vir sites, sometimes 6-8 in a row.
  • The wowhead comments for the scepter suggest that there is a pattern involved in Tol’vir rares. Many commenters pointed out that they solved the ring first, then the scarab pendant, then got the scepter. This held true for me as well. Something to keep in mind while you solve.
  • Archaeology is my favorite thing ever, and even I will admit that it is…boring. Tedious. Grindy. Annoying. Consider distracting yourself with television or music while you grind.
  • Don’t ignore sites that are not Tol’vir. You have to dig up other sites to erase them from your map and spawn a Tol’vir dig site, so just dig them up. If you’re looking to make money, both the Night Elf and Fossil sites can produce trash that vendors for 200 gold (the silver scroll case and kraken tentacle, respectively) and the keystones from most of your races will also net some gold on the AH.
  • Don’t give up 🙂

Archaeology Guide

But first some random reflections. I started playing Cataclysm on launch night thanks to the handy online update feature. The servers were borked for about 30 minutes after which I was able to log on and play without any fuss. That’s not saying anything for my craptacular internet, which decided to pick launch night to throw a hissy fit and disconnect every five seconds. We finally called our ISP and had tech support send a technician to our apartment, who suggested we actually downgrade our service to solve the problem. We did, and the downgrade kicks in Monday so hopefully that will solve the issue of not being able to play WoW at the same time as my boyfriend. It really puts a damper on things now since we were going to level together. That brings me to my next point: my computer contracted a virus and was, in the course of about 10 seconds, effectively destroyed. I called my personal computer miracle worker (my grandfather) and he came up today to take a look at the damage. Good news: the virus is gone and nothing too valuable was lost. Bad news: we have to wipe the hard drive anyway. Oh well. The semester is all but over, with finals week starting on Monday. I turned in all of my projects and finished all of my work, so nothing was really impacted. It just came at a very bad time and I was unable to keep the added stress of a dead computer and finals and projects from tearing me up. BUT ANYWAY. I’m alive and kicking and ready to get back to this WoW thing as soon as my computer is returned and finals are over.

So now. Cataclysm.

Launch night was a lot of fun. For all the griefing and the disconnects and such, I enjoyed it. I didn’t play long but I got to do some Hyjal quests and a run through the Blackrock Caverns place, and that made me happy. Banded together with guild mates for a great night. Blackrock Caverns was easier than I had expected. I heard a lot of guff about it being a hell hole and a rude wake up call from Wrath’s AoE spam heroics, but it actually wasn’t so horrible. I tanked it, which likely accounts for the few wipes we had. I don’t think anyone really understands yet that a) a bear is not an AoE tank and cannot even fake being one anymore with the nerf to Swipe and b) Cataclysm dungeons are not meant to be AoE fests like Wrath dungeons were. But all in all we did very well and got a few upgrades for people. It is kind of a kick in the ego to replace hard-won ICC25 items with blues from a starter dungeon, but it is what it is. I am rocking a new tanking staff that was loads better than my old Ulduar one.

So now for the meat of this post. One of the things I really took to in the beta was archaeology. It’s a simple, fun, addicting little secondary profession that lets you take on the mantle of Indiana Jones himself and scour the dangerous corners of the globe in search of rare and ancient treasures. It’s as if Blizzard got into my head and poked around and found one of those little things inside me that really gets me going. So I have been diligently leveling it since launch in my (very rare) spare moments. Below is my version of a trade skill guild, to be updated likely as I find new things and new tidbits of information.

Archaeology

What is it?

Archaeology is a secondary profession like cooking or fishing that allows the player to dig up old artifacts from around the world and fashion them together to create items. Some items are vendor trash, and some are epic mounts and rare pets. Anyone can learn it and leveling it is fairly simple, if a tad time consuming. Finding an artifact appears to grant experience (as does “picking” anything for gathering professions these days). At level 80 I was getting a little less than 6,000 experience per artifact I found.

How do I get started?

Alliance players should visit Harrison Jones in the Library (near the Keep) in Stormwind. Horde players should speak with Belloc (get the reference? HAHAHA) in Grommash Hold in Orgrimmar. Training archaeology gives you two skills: Survey and Archaeology. Archaeology is like a spell book, you open it and poke around to look over your collections and keep track of things. Survey is the action (akin to the fishing button that lets you cast) that allows you to look for and dig up artifacts. I recommend you set it to a hot key for easy casting.

How does it work?

Once you have trained archaeology, open up your world map and take a look. There should be four shovel icons scattered around your current continent. Those icons represent digs sites. You can only dig for artifacts in those areas. Each dig site can be “dug” three times before it is considered dead, at which time another site will open up on your map. Hoof it to one of these dig sites. Once you are in the same zone as the dig site, your map will show you where the site is actually located. A fiery red overlay will indicate the boundaries of the digsite. You will receive 3-6 fragments per dig at first, but at max level you will get 6-9 fragments per dig for a total of 18+ per site!

How do I dig for artifacts?

When you enter a dig site, use your Survey tool (you hot keyed it, right?) to start the process. Using Survey will set down a tripod with two things: a telescope and a light. The telescope tells you in which direction you need to head to find the artifact; the light tells you how far you will need to go. The telescope’s bigger end is the one you need to follow; run which ever way it is pointed. A red light means the artifact is quite some distance away. A yellow light means it is in the vicinity, and a green light means it is very close. The size of the dig site dictates how far you need to run. Some of the sites are huge and you may have to run a very long ways on a red light, while some of the sites are pretty small and you wont need to run far at all even on a red light. Artifacts do not take up bag space! They are stored in the Archaeology tab its self.

So I dropped a telescope thing, now what?

Follow it! Use the telescope to line yourself up and then run a little ways, and hit Survey again. You will need to hit Survey several times in order to get to your artifact. Each time you lay down a telescope, the direction and light color will change to reflect the distance and direction changes. Once the light turns green, move in small increments (literally only a few steps) and keep hitting Survey on cool down until the fragment is revealed. Loot the fragment and repeat the process twice more to exhaust the dig site.A dig site’s contents are specific to you: no one else can loot your finds and you will always get three fragments from each sight regardless of how many people are already there surveying.

I have a fragment! …now what?

Artifacts come in ten types, one for each race represented in the Archaeology tab. You will start off with four races at first, and gain access to more as you level along. Each dig site has only one type of artifact in it, and the type generally reflects the characteristics of the site. For example, troll ruins in the Hinterlands have troll artifacts in them. Each artifact type requires about 30 artifacts to “solve” the artifact. Collect 30 (sometimes more) artifacts of one type and then open the Archaeology tab, find the race with the 30 artifacts, and hit “solve”. This will generate some sort of goody for you.

What does solving do?

Solving grants you five skill points and an item. Usually these items are junk that you can vendor for a few silver or gold, but as you progress you will gain better and better prizes from your efforts. The rarest items from archaeology include two mounts, various BoA (bind to account) epic items, and minipets.

Do I have to level in the lowbie zones? I’m 80!

Leveling archaeology is a lot like leveling a new character. You have to stay in Azeroth while you level up. At skill level 300 you may advance to Outland. At 375 to Northrend, and so on.

What are Rune Stones and all that?

Rune Stones and the like are uncommon (green) quality items that you have a small chance to dig up with an artifact. They act as a large bunch of artifacts and allow you to solve artifacts for their corresponding race faster. If you find one, it goes in your bags. You can then use it by dragging it into the little slot that appears next to the correct race in the Archaeology tab. Nifty.

I’m only level 50 in archaeology and everything is green and I’m not getting skill ups! Help!

Yeah, you stop gaining skill ups by about level 50. After that point, you will only gain skill points by solving artifacts. One way to bypass this is to hold off on solving anything until you get to level 100, and level only by surveying. Then once you hit 50, solve everything you can.

Is there a limit to how many fragments I can hold on to at a time?

Yes, actually, but I’m unsure of the number. You’re capped at about 200 fragments for each race, so your best bet is to start solving artifacts when you amass large numbers of fragments.

Pro tip: Druids can survey while in travel form, which cuts down on travel time between surveys. I assume this goes for a shaman’s ghost wolf, too!

Have fun!

 

Random Beta Observations

It is Wednesday and I hate Wednesday. Not dislike. Not “sigh and drag my feet” tolerate. Hate. It’s too long and not interesting enough to justify being so long and 5 hours of research psychology makes me insanely grumpy and tired.

Now that that confession is out of the way, I came home to find my Cataclysm beta client, which has been downloading an update most of today while I slogged through school, was done. Yippee!

I was reading the beta notes on the launcher and was startled to see that you are now required to purchase “Azerothian Navigation” to fly in Azeroth. WHAT IS THIS CRAP I bellowed to myself (inside my head of course. Boyfriend is sitting close by). I logged in in Dalaran and immediately popped through a portal into Stormwind to see if this was indeed true. I was able to mount up my Argent Dawn Hippo(gryph) and rejoiced! Obviously I could still fly! Hooray! But no. Your flying mounts now adjust their behavior according to your riding skill and what is permissable in a given area, it seems. Pressing the space bar did not yield flight. Instead, my hippo reared and tossed himself about regally or hopped, flapped his wings once, and then touched back down. Blast! I ran to the flight trainer (currently located near the flight master in Stormwind) and prepared to be sickened. I wasn’t. While I am thoroughly annoyed that you must pay to fly in Azeroth – because obviously the flight conditions in Outland and Northrend are so wildly different as to warrant more training! – the cost is a meager 200 gold. If you are any kind of competent, you can afford this. It’s stupid and annoying and all other forms of blah, but it isn’t insurmountable.

Now, I already have 310% flying on the live realms. I have the violet proto drake from the holiday achievements. It is my understanding, and every bit of Blizzard quotable evidence corroborates this, that if you already have 310% flying then you will retain that once Cataclysm launches. In addition, all of your flying mounts will then scale to this 310% benchmark without any effort required on your part. That is to say, you do not need to pay extra for a skill you already earned. However, upon poking the flight master to buy my Azerothian Navigation (grumble grumble) I noticed that “Master Riding” was listed, with a hefty cost of 4,000 gold (I am exalted with Stormwind which may or may not account for the cost). No doubt this is the upgrade to 310% flying that everyone was promised – but why am I seeing it? I already have 310% flying. What’s more, apparently purchasing this awards an achievement, “Breaking the Sound Barrier”, which I do not have. I cannot tell if my 280% mounts have scaled to 310% yet. It’s a hard thing to judge just by eyeballing. I’m a little confused. I am hoping this is clarified before launch, because if I still have to pay for a riding speed I already (painstakingly) earned there will be bitching.

Harrison Jones makes his comeback from Grizzly Hills to train students of Archaeology in Stormwind. He is seriously the most epic win of all WoW NPCs. I love Indiana Jones. I giggled aloud when I saw him. And of course I bought Archaeology training from him. I just wish I could sit in on one of his lectures and bat my eyes at him…

Anyway. I am getting the hang of Archaeology. Slowly. Supposedly there are only a few “dig sites” up on a continent at a time, and once you exhaust them new ones pop up. You set down a survey kit and it tells you which direction to go next and how far away the treasure is. It’s kinda neat, really, but I had a heck of a time figuring out what I was supposed to do to hunt down my fossils. You then dig up the fossil or whatever once you’re close enough and it is added into a little field journal thing which keeps track of your progress on yours finds. I can see this being very addicting.

On an ending note, I noticed my frame rate died in Cataclysm. I get 75 on the live realm running at close to max video settings. On the beta, I am lucky to get 25. It’s hovering around 20-ish right now. If this is just how it’s going to be once Cataclysm hits, I am going to be very upset. I just upgraded my system majorly and I cannot accept that Catacylsm is so graphically advanced that it is going to cut my FPS by almost half. However, I can’t seem to actually adjust my video settings on the beta. I attempt to, and then they reset themselves almost immediately. Still, it looks like I’d have to reduce them drastically to get a good frame rate. I’m already frustrated. Here’s hoping it’s just a beta thing, and will not persist after the live launch. Trading 75 FPS for 20 is unacceptable in my opinion.