Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Flying... Was it really a good idea?

Everyone loves dragons, right? Back while I leveled in BC, I used to sit in Shattrath and gaze longingly on the few people who had Netherdrakes. They were GORGEOUS, the only dragon mounts you could really get at the time; and on top of that one had to have epic flying. It seemed an impossible goal.

Now there's dragons all over the place. Everywhere. (Actually, there are 34 dragon type mounts in total, although some are no longer attainable!) In fact, flying mounts are everywhere- all over the roofs, in trees, sitting in the middle of streets, on top of mail boxes... Anywhere you can think to look, there's some winged or rocket powered beastie on top of something.

How long has it been since you've seen a max level character sporting a land mount? If the picture above is the  most recent one you can think of, you're not alone. I can't really remember seeing any character above level 60, the earliest at which one can get the Flight Master's Liscense, on a land mount recently. The only exception to this is when there is a new 'rare' mount released- When the camels were brand new, I occasionally saw people sitting on them in Stormwind to show them off, but as soon as they were relatively common, even the Camel Hoarder's disappeared.

The ability to fly has relegated the land mount to the realm of toons under level 60 and PVP'ers, who are unable to use flying mounts in battlegrounds of any sort. Just as the convenience of the portal hubs in Stormwind and Orgrimmar have killed the other cities in the game (Read my thought's on that here: Dead Cities), the players want/need for convenience and speed have also killed the land mount.

This makes me sad. It's simply so much faster and more convenient to use nothing but flying mounts that Land Mounts have virtually disappeared. Even I, whom use all of my mounts equally (I.E. I don't pick the most popular mount of the time and use it exclusively) rarely find myself using a land mount anymore.

This is a real shame, as there are a lot of gorgeous and interesting land mounts out there, especially now that even the regular mounts will run at epic speeds! But what else are we really losing by almost always being in the air?

There are some truly spectacular locations out there! From the ghostly, haunted forests of Duskwood, the windy, snowbound paths of Dun Morogh, the eerie and fantastical glades in Ashenvale.... There's a lot of world out there that most people never even get to see anymore. Sure we saw them when we leveled, but there's a whole land out there that's never used now, and now never even witnessed for most of the time. 

It's even worse for new players. Level up to 60, get the Flight Master's Liscense. Now you can fly in both Eastern Kingdoms, kalimdor, and right off the bat in Outland. Whichever continent you didn't level 1-60 in, your likely not going to really experience. Outland is a joke of flying from one location to another, never really seeing an of it. Northrend as well, as you'll be flying the moment you get there too! Sure, you'll see it all from above, but you don't really get to experience the majesty of the landscape from above; and much of the terrain in EK and Kal is covered in very dense trees so any above ground view is obscured.

One of the strongest memories I have from Wrath of the Lich king is the first time I entered Howling Fjord. You couldn't fly until level 78; I experienced most of Northrend from the ground up, riding my land mounts on the paths through caves and over mountaintops. As the boat from Menethil Harbor crosses on it's way toward the dock, it takes a small side trip through a gorge. If you actually sit on the boat for the whole little trip, here's what yous see:

These are some spectacular views! Combined with the dramatic and earthy music the perfectly compliments the landscape, it makes a pretty powerful experience if you sit back and enjoy it. Very few players ever notice this kind if thing anymore I think.

Now, Blizzard has done much to make the landscapes more friendly toward flying mounts- Instead of generally flat areas covered in thick trees and brush, we have more open areas with larger height differences, twisting canyons and massive waterfalls, even huge and elaborate architecture. This serves to make the game more visually appealing to people who are experiencing it mostly from above. It's much better then the boring cover of treetops one sees while flying over most of the old world. Yet it also seems somewhat unbelievable- some buildings seem ridiculously oversized, or the vast changes in height to give the land visual appeal come off as artificial.

The lowering of the levels at which one gets the different types of flying mounts, and the release of flying mounts into the older content of Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, has in my opinion marred the overall experience of the game. Attaining all my mounts, from my first mount at level 40, to the epic mount at level 60, first flying at level 70, then being able to fly in Northrend at level 78... to me these things were major milestones in my experience. Things I was proud to have achieved. Do new players get this same experience? It's not the 'dumbing down' of the game, or 'making it easier' that bothers me. It's how much we as a community lose through some of these changes; how much of the lore and wonder of this world that we inhabit for so much of our time that we simply bypass and do not notice.

Now, would I give up the speed and convenience of being able to use a flying mount at most of the locations in game? Ultimately no. I have mostly max level toons, which are engaged in other activities for which the convenience of being able to fly is too much of a draw. 

But then too, I also feel that perhaps I've earned these conveniences.

Brunnstag struggled through leveling up to level 40 on foot. He doggedly ran through a lot of the zones in Eastern Kingdoms. I was so thankful for my first ram, I could have cried. It was glorious when at 60 I could enter the new content on my new Swift Rams, going so much faster! Earning that first flying mount at 70 was such a huge milestone for me; struggling through on foot up to level 78, so I could then conquer the twisted crags and mountainous heights of the Storm Peaks and Icecrown... I'm thankful everyday for the ease for which my new toons have it leveling.

A lot of people seem to think that raiding and dungeoning is 'all that' of World of Warcraft. But it's not. The leveling experience should be just as interesting, fun and powerful an experience as downing those bosses. 

That's why I think that for the first toon on every new account for a new player, maybe it wouldn't be so bad to revert it to the original levels for mounts. Let them experience the game a little slower so they can develop an appreciation for the lore or wonder of the world they're in. With how much experience quests give nowadays, it takes hardly any time to get to level 40. After they've gotten their first toon up to level level 80 at least, unlock the now normal levels for mounts (20, 40, etc). Then perhaps we'd also have fewer 'selfish' and egotistical players.

As for the problem of our disappearing land mounts? Perhaps make cities no fly zones once again? Give more areas where characters tend to congregate where land mounts only are allowed? It seems such a shame for this menagerie of beasties to fall into near total disuse but for pvp and low level characters!

So what do you think about the lack of horses, rams and wolves? Do you miss seeing these hoofed and pawed earth-goers? Do you ever miss riding through the trees and seeing the land from the ground up, despite it's lack of speed?


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Behind the Keyboard...

So it's been forever since I've posted here. There's been a fair amount of business going on around here and I haven't been able to, or felt like sitting down to seriously play recently. This is hopefully changing! But here's some stuff that's going on, in case anyone is interested.

I recently changed jobs. I had been a Book Associate at a company called Hastings Entertainment for the last 3 years. The job was great when I started as I was still in college at the time, and it was incredibly flexible on hours. Mostly because you didn't get any... one generally hovered at around 20 hours a week which was fine as I just wanted a bit of extra cash. As it's gone on though, the hours got less and less, and they'd started a wage freeze about 3 months after I started there- I've been working only minimum wage for 3 years. Over the last few months they'd forcibly been keeping everyone under 25 hours so you couldn't get any benefits at all. I'd been scheduled twelve days straight through, going in for 3 hours a day. Three hour shifts are not amusing.

I finally had enough and applied around and picked up a job at Walmart in the produce department. I know, I know, it's not glamorous, but it pays the bills. At least with Wally World I'll be able to attain promotions, wage increases and have access to fairly good benefits- all things I should have been able to get at Hastings but was cheated out of by the company.

But anyway, with the job situation taken care of, it's a big load off my shoulders... Now at least I'll have a lil' bit of spreading around money! XD Not really, as both mine and T's student loans have come due now, so every spare cent is going towards them >.<;;;

Other then that have been some minor quality of life increases. T and I rearranged the living rom into something useful (Nevermind the fact he got a wild hair and decided to do it when guildie's were waiting on us to go on a heroic, go figure!) After getting the furniture aligned I went out and bought one of those plastic sets of drawers and got all of the Warhammer bits and pieces stored away. The living room is now usable! We've got a TV corner (Complete with Wii, N64, Snes, Xbox 360, and PS2), and a crafty corner with a table and chairs where I can work my puzzles, and lay out the table for Warhammer games.

Slowly slowly we're getting this tiny apartment turned into a home. I'm still hesitant to 'nest' in it though, as I'm hoping we can find something a little bigger soon. Maybe rent a duplex or something. This 2 room thing is getting a little bit cramped!

The very few WoW things I've done have either been popping on Brunn for a random or two occasionally, or leveling on Farmstag, or the new Undead Rogue named Turnip I started for shiggles. I LOVE the undead quest lines, they're simply brilliant- I'd leveled through them once before and just couldn't resist doing it again. I was surprised by how much fun i'm having playing the rogue though... Making stealth not cut your speed really does make leveling a ton more enjoyable!

So here's hoping for some less sporadic and more WoW based posting in  the future! Huzzah!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mountain O' Mounts

Last night I achieved something I've been working for in game for a very long time!

I've been stalled out on this for a fair amount of time, basically when I realized how close I was getting. I wanted the achievment and the shiny Blue Dragonhawk it included, but at the same time, what would I do after? I managed to net myself the X-53 Touring Rocket on Thursday, and then realized that put me ninety eight mounts. That's just too close not to get it!

I promptly went and farmed Baron Rivendare, and finally got his Deathcharger after probably over 100 runs of Stratholme. (I checked my statistics and realized they were seriously not updating, and seem to be stuck at 51 kills, even though I know I've done far, far more then that...) Then it was off to the Argent Tournament, where I intended to buy a regular land mount and be done with it. I realized I had 144 marks, so I toddled over and downed a few quests and picked up the Silver Covenant Hippogryph instead.

So what's next now? I've got a lot to choose from. I still have a lot of BC reps I need to finish out, rare spawn achievments, mounts I'm missing, Loremaster, and a lot of other achievements to go after. Maybe I'll even work towards Insane in the Membrane. There's still a lot out there! 


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New hunter pets- BM Only?

Bragi the Tallstrider
Yesterday was a nice day for hunters! I myself, as a marksman, got a bit of a nerf which was disappointing. But tacked on underneath that was this!

8 new rare tamable beasts have been added, each of which provides a unique taming challenge. Will you be the first hunter to tame Deth'tilac, the rarest and most powerful of them all? Players will need to progress through the Hyjal Regrowth and Molten Front daily questing areas in order to unlock access to the full gamut of taming challenges.

Woot! Some new love for hunters! A lot of hunters enjoy the challenge of tracking down and stalking rare and interesting beasts to tame. And for those of us who are also collectors, many endeavor to have every rare spawn hunter pet available to us! And pets that have a gimmick to tame? Something special we have to do? Great!

Loki the Fox
I saw today on Wow Insider an article detailing one of the new discovered rare pet . I was excited... It had a nice spectral skin... I delved into the post and my dreams were crushed at these two words- "Spirit Beast". Spirit beasts? Well, surely they won't all be exotic? I scrolled through the comments and found a link to one of the other discovered pets, an owl, also a spirit beast.

Forsetti the Dog
Why the disappointment? As a marksman hunter, I can't get spirit beasts. They're exotic, and require the 30 point talent 'Beast Mastery' to obtain, which is only available to hunters who play Beast Master. Survival and Marksman hunters are simply out of luck on these. But why, you might ask, would you be so concerned over one branch of hunter pets? True, there are indeed a lot of interesting pet skins out there that any hunter can get, some of which I've been showing off here from my personal collection.

But the pets with the most unique and interesting skins are all Exotic. Want a wolf that's imbued with lightning? A bear that looks like a veritable spirit of the north? A panther who's very being is made up of mist? Well then, you'll have to roll BM and tame a spirit beast!

Piggens the Felboar
Now many BM hunters in the comments on anything having to do with the annoyance of only one of the 3 hunter specs being able to tame these rare creatures, like to say, in their defense "But Spirit Beasts are the only thing BM hunters get!" Well, if by that, the only thing BM hunters get that the all other hunters can't get, then there you go. I have difficulty understanding this argument. All three hunter specs are the closest they've ever been to doing the same dps. All three specs are completely viable for raiding.

I could perhaps see this if the other 2 specs got their own unique set of pets as well. But besides our two unique shots, there's honestly not that much difference between the specs. To me, the beast mastery talent seems like a cop-out. They couldn't find an 'interesting' shot to give BM hunters at the time they made the talent tree changes, so instead gave them more interesting pets, which granted does somewhat go with the name. But my chimaera shot in no way makes up for my not being able to get a rhino if I want, or a devilsaur.

Tyr the Bird of Prey
Are the slightly unique buttons for Marksman and Survival hunters to press really a good make-up for our inability to obtain the more interesting pet skins? I honestly don't feel that they are. BM pets already do more damage then the other 2 specs pets, making them a very big part of their dps. I think perhaps it would be better to give them a more unique ability (Such as MM's Chimaera Shot and Survival's Explosive shot and Black Arrow) and to open up these 'exotic' pets to all hunters. It's simply doesn't feel fair, especially now when all three specs are so close together in terms of dps and viability, that 2 of the specs be denied such interesting pet skins, when very few skins of the same caliber as those of the spirit beasts exist for non BM hunters.

Now, Blizzard hasn't confirmed that ALL of the these new pets will be Spirit Beasts, and I implore them to not make this special treat only available to hunters who choose to play as Beast Masters. But to so far have 2 of the 8 pets be Exotic is disappointing. So please Blizzard, don't let me down!