Category: Pets and Mounts


No one who pays any attention to community forums in WoW could have failed to notice the hue and cry over the fact that Blizzard saw fit to plonk a new mount on the game store yesterday, right after it was announced that subs had dipped by 3 million. Many have seen this move as a cold-hearted effort by the company to claw in some dosh in the face of lost subs. I personally don’t think this is the case, since the mount itself – the Mystic Runesaber – was datamined as long ago as the last patch. It was always destined to be a store mount – simply by the look of it (and that’s another matter) – so *when* it appeared is irrelevant in a way, although it could be said that Blizzard committed a faux pas by releasing it *this* week. Still, if it was a week before or after, or even months, a lot of people would still have shouted that this was a callous attempt to milk money from the remaining player base.

I’m lucky – or some might say stupid – in that I can afford to buy the store mounts when they appear, 2 or 3 times a year. There’s no doubt that these mounts are far flashier than most that appear in the game, and those who can’t afford to buy them for real money have a legitimate reason to be annoyed, or at least disappointed, about that. The new mounts put into WoD itself are pretty poor, aside from the Poundfist (gronnling) and Rukhmar (golden dread raven) drops, which are both very rare. As many have said, why couldn’t store only mounts like the Grinning Reaver and the Iron Skyreaver have been put into the game as rewards for getting exalted with one faction or another? The mounts you currently get for such endeavours are too boring to bother grinding for. There is a precedent for cool mounts in game in the Nether Drakes of Burning Crusade, and the Flameward Hippogryph of Cataclysm. Both required lengthy quest chains and dailies to acquire, but I don’t remember a massive amount of moaning about that.

I have no problem with store mounts in principle, but it’s not good when new mounts provided in the game are so woefully inferior. I’ve often winced at the big, bulky ground mounts, such as yaks, which just scuttle along like poodles. I never ride the ones I bought because of that. The Core Hound was great in that it had a long, slower, but ground-covering stride – exactly how an elekk or yak should move. But the new boars have the undignified scuttle that spoiled many other mounts, including the camels – who should also have had a long, loping gait. In the face of a dearth of content at present, would it really have hurt Blizzard to have put a mount of the Runesaber’s calibre into the game itself – attained through a lengthy quest chain, or a slew of dailies… or something? It would have given bored players something sparkly and desirable to work for. Admittedly, the Blizzard shareholders want their dosh, and store mounts are always a golden goose for the company. However, as a business person myself, in Blizzard’s position, I would have considered providing two distinctly different colours or variations of the Runesaber – one for purchase, one for earning in game. Those with the money and the desire would most likely have bought the store mount anyway, as well as gone for the different coloured one in game. It would have been a win win situation really – those who won’t or can’t buy the store mounts would have been given a pacifier and maybe – just maybe – there would have been less ranting and dissatisfaction.

Sometimes, I’m baffled by Blizzard’s decisions. To my mind, it’s best to keep as many of your customers as happy as you can, even though it’s impossible to please everyone. I wouldn’t continue to rile customers up so much, when obvious solutions are so visible. (Well, I wouldn’t upset customers to that extent in the first place, but then I’m a *small* business, so all my customers are valuable to me.) Certain things get WoW players up in arms, and glossy store mounts is one of those things. Other things, such as changes to classes or talents, are another matter – they have grey areas – but store items are pretty black and white. The fact that Blizzard charge an awful lot for these items is also galling. I can’t help thinking that if they were more generous about the whole issue, making the store mounts cheaper, as well as offering a different but equally attractive alternative in game, it would pour a whole tanker-full of spilled oil onto troubled waters. Those who can’t afford game store mounts, or won’t buy them on principle, would still feel valued as customers, because they could work for an alternative in game. Those who don’t feel that way would buy the new mount as they always do. Mount collectors and fanatics go for all variations of a mount. I know: I’m one of them. Those who would like to buy store mounts but regard them as too expensive would most likely feel the cost was justified – and affordable – if it was £10 or so less. (These mounts are just pixels, they don’t cost much per unit to generate, if anything, beyond the initial design cost.) At a cheaper, fairer price, more store mounts would be bought, more players would find less reason to complain. Why is this such a difficult concept for Blizzard to get their heads round?

I know WoW players can exhibit a ridiculous amount of entitlement, and complain about anything, but sometimes their frustration is justified. I play other MMOs that have game stores, and their prices are far cheaper than Blizzard’s. The sad fact is that it all comes across as Blizzard having contempt for their customers. There is never any generosity. I remember one festival time in Rift – I think it was Yule – when, after an inworld ‘warning’ to alert the players, GMs spontaneously appeared in major cities on all the different servers and literally threw loot pinatas into the air for 10 minutes. Items would just appear in your inventory. People got all sorts of loot, and no one went away empty-handed. Free gifts from Trion, the developers. People were happy and excited. GMs were there among them, their characters visible to everyone, and everyone felt part of something, and valued. It was a small gesture but extremely effective. I could never see Blizzard doing anything like that. OK, their game is far bigger than Rift, and has hundreds more servers across the world, but even so… there are a host of other things they could do if they got their creative heads together and thought about it. Happy customers, who feel valued, are the most important thing to any business, and customers who feel valued will inevitably be less inclined to complain, or indeed abandon the product. Changes Blizzard have to make to the game sometimes will always cause upset, ranting and peevishness. But store items shouldn’t come into that, because ultimately they are not an important part of the game. They might be important in a monetary sense to the company, but they could have their cake and eat it, if they were more accommodating.

I’ve written this piece from the viewpoint of someone who can afford the store mounts and doesn’t object to buying them – but who also sees the downside and unfairness of them. WoW players pay a sub, not like in the free to play games that rely on game stores to exist, so why in WoW should the most shiny things be game store only? I actually felt somewhat nervous getting my new Runesaber out in game last night. I knew that some players I might pass by in Draenor would in some way see my purchase as traitorous, encouraging Blizzard’s meanness and greed, perhaps even to the extent of spitting on my character. It happened with the first store mount, the sparkle pony, which was – and still is – a great mount, but the shine of owning and riding it was diminished by the anger of players that it was a store only item. Some people were kicked from raid groups for wearing the risibly over-priced store helms that came out some time ago. It’s not just because of envy – although that must inevitably play a part – but I think it’s more down to the fact that players feel cheated, or taken for fools. Why pay £10 for a cosmetic helm, when in other games, they cost pence? I worked out that a full transmog set in Rift, including all gear slots, came out at 38 pence per item. £10 for one item? Oh, that’s simply greedy! And players see that, and conclude Blizzard must just think they’re stupid. Game stores obviously can work, but items within them should be balanced with items in game, at least in a sub game.

WoW is the biggest and most successful of MMOs – at least in the West, I can’t speak for the Far East – but the way Blizzard often behave simply comes across as them feeling unassailable, all-powerful, and having a streak of arrogance because of that. My opinion might be completely wrong, but what Blizzard spokespeople say in the face of fierce criticism rarely gives any other perspective.

So, last night, I took my new mount – which flies – out on my Horde DK, who’s only level 78, and flew around Northrend. It’s a beautiful mount, a purple glowing cat, armoured, and with spectral wings, although you’ll only see the best of it in expansions of the game earlier than WoD. I wrote my previous blog post about flying, or lack of in WoD, so I won’t go into that again, but even as I was flying around, admiring my Runesaber, I couldn’t help feeling that it should have been a game reward, not just something you slap on a credit card. How much more sense of accomplishment would I have felt if I’d known I’d just completed a long and difficult quest chain to acquire it?

My last two blog posts have been centred around aspects with which I’m dissatisfied, but I do still love the game and enjoy my time in its virtual world. I don’t want to be a constant moaner, but sometimes you have to let off steam. My next post will have a more positive tone!

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(A shorter version of this post appeared in the comments section of WoWinsider’s article ‘Warlords of Draenor: Gameplanet Interviews Alex Afrasiabi’ on 9th March 2014.)

In a recent interview with gaming news web site Gameplanet, Blizzard Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi slipped in a little morsel about the contentious issue of flying in WoW. For some time I’ve been reading the arguments for and against flying in the game and Blizzard themselves have apparently spoken of regret about its inclusion in the first place. The main arguments against flying mounts concern the world being made ‘smaller’ or players not being so immersed in the detailed landscapes Blizzard have created. Some anti-flying players even go so far as to say flying mounts trivialize the game, making it too easy to avoid hazards on the ground, such as mobs you might have to fight through to get to a destination. The pro-flying brigade has its own arguments, of course. I’m among the latter and will give some of my reasons below. Speaking of flight restrictions in the game, (areas such as Isle of Thunder and Timeless Isle), Afrasiabi’s words were “I feel like we can learn from this, in that is there a world where we have no flying, but people love it? You know? Is it a possibility? I think it is.” I’m not sure if what he said came out exactly as he intended – he did *appear* to imply Blizzard are thinking of a world entirely without flying, or perhaps he just meant Draenor – but there are lots of reasons many players would be unhappy with such a decision.

First, (but not necessarily the most important), people have paid real money to buy flying mounts from the Blizzard store. If flying was removed from the game entirely, which I sincerely hope was not the implication in Afrasiabi’s words, would those mounts disappear from players’ mount collections or just still be there as ground mounts – in some cases immense, awkward and totally inappropriate for ground travel? Anyone who’s tried to ride Heart of the Aspects or the Iron Skyreaver on the floor must surely agree they are not the most… er… elegant of ground mounts. No one in their right mind would use them for anything other than flying. That’s what they’re designed for, as are many other mounts in the game. I think it’s highly unlikely Blizzard would refund disgruntled players who’d bought flying mounts from the store if they were suddenly grounded or – worse – removed from or made inactive in the mount journal.

It can’t be denied or ignored that a lot of people really love their mount collections. I assume the alleged 50% who are eager to see flying go don’t care about collecting mounts, so their removal or greater restriction wouldn’t affect them one bit. And as is often the case with some, usually vocal, WoW players, if they’re not into something, they have no consideration whatsoever for those who are. If a player doesn’t like flying, they’re not forced to do it. They can still potter along on the ground if that’s their wish – so they shouldn’t try to impose their preferences on others. I know I’d be far from alone in being gutted if I lost all the beautiful flying mounts I’ve spent so long farming for, or had them reduced to wing-clipped, lumbering-about-on-the-ground travesties. If flying went, it would please those players who want to go back in time to when travel was tiresomely lengthy, but it would infuriate all those who think flying is one of the best additions the game ever had.

I find it hard to believe that players are split right down the middle on this issue. Just among my friends in WoW alone I know it’s more like two thirds enjoy collecting mounts – especially flying ones – and a third aren’t that bothered about them. And of that last third, I can’t think of one who’s said they want flying totally removed. Players still flock to kill Huolon on the Timeless Isle, more so than the other rare mobs over there, and that’s not just for the skinning potential, is it? No, it’s for the Thundering Onyx Cloud Serpent he might drop.

Once players have been given something they like, it hurts to have it taken away. Mass summoning springs to mind; our guild misses that a lot and we still grumble about it as we’re trying to congregate somewhere quickly. But that pales in comparison to the issue of flying mounts. As many players have said, if we’d never had flying, or the awesome mounts that came with it, we wouldn’t miss it. But we *have* had the convenience, and the sheer buzz of taking to the air. We *have* had the awesome mounts. We’ve had the showy phoenix of ‘Ashes of Alar’, we’ve had a host of different types of beautiful dragons, we’ve had gryphons, and hippogryphs and sinuous cloud serpents. Taking all those away would be a huge and controversial step by Blizzard. I imagine it would cause uproar and subs would take a damaging hit.

Another thing to consider is that not everyone wants it to take five times as long or more to get to a destination. Flight path taxis can take you all over the place on the ‘scenic route’, or they might not drop you really close to where you want to be. I’m sure a lot of people log on sometimes just to do a short stint of archaeology or to farm mats for their professions. Flying certainly helps to get the best of your time with that. And whether the purist players agree with me or not, I don’t want to go back to having to hack my way through lots of annoying little mobs to get to a mining node or an archaeology site.

Flying is fun for a huge part of the player base. Pretty much everyone will agree that it’s fine to restrict flying while leveling so you’re more immersed in the landscape that first time through it. I had no objection to that in any of the expansions that included such a restriction. But I do want to fly when I hit top level. I want to admire the mounts I’ve collected and enjoy riding them. And again, as many have and will say, the leveling content gets pretty exhausted in the fun department when you’re doing it on your fourth alt and beyond. It’s not unusual nowadays for people to have more than one account with a bunch of alts at top level. I can’t help thinking that Blizzard are just being stubborn forcing players to go through a whole expansion again and again without the convenience of flying. Once, yes, twice or maybe even three times… but after that, it’s just tedious.

Ultimately, I’m rather gob-smacked about what Afrasiabi said. If Blizzard are so against flying, why are flying mounts almost exclusively the prestigious rewards for completing difficult game content? Why do so many tricky raid bosses have flying mounts in their loot table? Why are flying mounts even on sale in the store if Blizzard are hoping to discourage their use?

Never mind the players, I have a feeling this argument might have been going on for some time between the developers, and maybe *they* are split right down the middle about it. But even so, ‘Mists of Pandaria’ was chock full of new flying mounts – fabulous ones at that – and we had quite a few new ones in the Blizzard store during this expansion, not to mention the fact that the Collector’s Edition of ’Warlords of Draenor’ will include a flying mount. This doesn’t make any sense to me. If Blizzard are so against flying, why do they keep feeding our addiction? If that’s simply to take it away, I’d really have to think seriously about whether I’d continue to play. Mount collecting is one of my favourite things in the game, and I’d feel devalued as a customer, if not betrayed, if that enjoyment was axed simply to please those who dislike flying or to force me to have a worm’s eye view of the world every minute I’m playing. We should all have the choice to play how we want to play. We pay for that privilege, don’t we? Blizzard do so much to improve the game and provide more and more content, which has resulted in a rich and complex world, and with many more players having access to a greater amount of content. I simply can’t see why they’d want to take this backward step and rile up a lot of their customers in the process.

I’m trying to convince myself that Afrasiabi just worded it a bit wrong in that interview. I hope he simply meant flying will be restricted until top level in the new expansion, and all of our alts will have to wait until then too. At worst, perhaps he was telling us in a roundabout way that Blizzard are still considering whether flying will ever be allowed on Draenor, even though previously we’ve been advised it will be reintroduced with patch 6.1. The idea of it being removed altogether is pretty much unthinkable when you consider all the points I’ve explored above. Whatever the outcome, while I’d prefer something similar to how it was in Wrath for alts’ to obtain flying, I’d rather wait to get it on every single one of my alts than see it go altogether.

This has been in my mind a lot recently as, while MoP winds down, I’ve been spending a lot of time on alts on a realm different to where my mains live – these alts are all well below level 90.
I have thought at times, while struggling with farming leather, that the only thing that needs to be retained about crafting professions is ‘making things with stuff.’ The rest is certainly open to improvement.

The main problem is that crafting hasn’t changed a great deal since Classic WoW, which has resulted in crafting below level 60 being virtually useless, other than a means to level the profession. Lower level crafted pieces, unless particularly desirable for transmog, can’t be given away on the AH. You probably wouldn’t even shift them if you suggested *you* pay the customers to get them off your hands.

Once you leave Classic WoW and venture into the expansions, you find that the only decent crafted gear is for what was then top level, and can’t even be made in most cases until the professions are maxed. The only reason you’d bother to try and get some of those patterns and recipes – apart from being a completist – is if they’re for useful items like the various types of bags that can still be sold on the AH or used to equip alts. Inscription always remains relevant, (perhaps the only prof that does), but the recipes for all the others are useful only for the expansion they were created for.

Added to this is the inescapable fact that you no longer spend over a year in an expansion’s zones, but only a couple of weeks, which means that you far outlevel the areas, and are looking to move to new horizons, long before you’ve farmed enough materials for your professions to move on with you. I have a druid who is ready to go to Northrend – apart from the 500 (at least) knothide leathers she needs to make the items to get her out of Outland. I don’t want to be going back there to farm, and on that realm don’t have much spare gold, so can’t buy mats on the AH, so have no choice but to stay there killing things and skinning them. Her skinning, incidentally, is almost at the top level required for Northrend crafting, so no problem there. But from what I’ve experienced recently, only skinning seems to keep pace with leveling. Herbing and mining still have their problem areas.

I’ve seen so many good ideas from players, many of which I’ve thought of myself too, so can’t list everything here, but these are my main suggestions for crafting improvements.

1. A thorough overhaul that keeps professions relevant to level and zone, with better return from gathering professions, i.e. more herbs per node, more skins per beast, more ore per node, more cloth per drop.

2. Crafted items to be competitive with quest rewards, with blue items that require more effort being competitive with dungeon rewards. Do people bother making any of the epic items from the earlier expansions other than for transmog? I doubt it, so these should no longer require raid materials or recipe drops from raids to make. Add the recipes to a vendor once an expansion is superseded by the latest one. If it’s deemed right to keep in the various orbs or whatever to make the items, have these on the same vendor. I think it’s ok to make players pay, but in the majority of cases their time is more precious than their gold. Only the current expansion’s level of profs should require out of the way effort. Let people scratch their transmog itches with the earlier stuff!

3. Crafted items below the current expansion should not require outrageously difficult-to-get or rare mats, and the amount of mats required, (especially the dreaded leather), to be reduced per item. Get rid of the hides from Leatherworking – just make the items require leather or improved leather. The same goes for rare ores – it’s fine to have those in the recipe list, but not when it means you hit a leveling wall because of it, which you can’t get past easily until you have enough of them.

4. When a new expansion comes out, top level crafted items from previous expansions could be shuffled down the recipe list so that characters don’t have to be maxed in their professions to make them. These items, being fairly decent, would help characters without heirlooms level in the zones they’re questing in.

5. In addition, players could craft their own heirlooms, so that you don’t need currency to purchase them. This would add a further bit of point and interest to crafting profs.

6. Allow crafters to ‘disassemble’ items they make so that they can salvage materials from them – not the full amount that made them, obviously, but some. This would be a handy alternative to just vendoring them.

7. A wider selection of node levels within zones. On a herbalist, I hit the problem of transferring from one zone to another and finding that the herbs were predominantly too high level to pick. Yet the herbs in the zone I’d left behind were either no longer or rarely giving me leveling points. Coupled with the extra population from Cross Realm, this made herbalism annoying to level. I had to swap continents and venture into a zone far higher than my character was in order to farm herbs, so she could go back and pick them where she was actually questing, which was several levels lower. I’ve no doubt I’ll find similar when I level my Blacksmith and Engineer. Some thought needs to go into node quality distribution and their abundance throughout the zones.

8. Engineering needs a radical overhaul. The fiddliness of the mats now seems silly for the lower levels of the profession. Streamline it, and leave the headaches for the current expansion’s engineering requirements. Again, this is just a relic of the prof not having changed at low level since it was implemented. It’s woefully out of date.

9. Enchanting suffers from being pointless until top level. You don’t really need enchants to complete questing zones or indeed while doing dungeons to level. Enchanting scrolls less than current can’t be sold either. Perhaps more toys, pets and mounts could be introduced into the profession, such as in engineering, which even has a few of these at low level. New enchantments could be introduced that players *would* want, such as boosts similar to what you find on heirlooms – experience gains, enhanced loot drops, extended rest time, rep boosts and so on. Doesn’t have to offer massive increases, but enough to make players think they’re worth having. And when you replace a bit of gear you’ll want a new enchant for it, so this ensures demand.

It would also be an improvement if older enchanting materials could be upgraded in the same way you can currently combine dusts and essences of the same level. Or it might even be better to do away with all those different Classic materials and just have one dust type, one essence and one shard for 1-60.

10. Jewelcrafting could also do with a big overhaul, for the same reason Enchanting does. Gems are irrelevant for everything except current expansion content. They’re not needed to complete leveling content, and players won’t buy them because they get through gear so quickly while leveling. As gems will be going through a big change in WoD, it would clearly be a good time to reinvent the entire profession. I expect Blizzard already has ideas for this, but my thoughts are that items could be introduced such as necks and rings relevant to level throughout and made with easier to find mats. Pets, mounts and toys are always desirable to players, and perhaps BoE crafted temporary pets like totems that provide a buff or a heal. These ‘idols’ could look cool so that people would be more inclined to pop them out while questing or in dungeons. How about items similar to the one dropped by Kang in the Vale that turns you and your mounts into stone for a short while? I’m thinking of ‘costumes’ that make a player appear they’re made of diamond or rubies. In our guild, people are forever getting their toys out to change their appearance. They’re clearly very popular, so would make a good addition to professions.

I think I could go on forever listing improvements and ideas – the scope is limitless – so I’ll stop now before this list gets too long!

On the whole patch 5.4 has been a big success for our guild. We’ve teamed up with another guild to do Flex raiding and our two visits so far to Siege of Orgrimmar have been a lot of fun. We’ve got the first couple of bosses down and nearly got the third the other night before people had to leave because of work the next day. For a new team getting used to working together we’ve done really well, and most importantly we’ve had some enjoyable evenings’ play and have made some new friends on the server. While we’ve struggled over the past few months to get 10 people together for a raid, this Tuesday we had 19 in the team. Some people who’d given up formal raiding in favour of LFR have come back to the team and because people can come and go from the raid without affecting everyone else, guildies who have to start late or finish early could also join us. The difficulty of the encounters adjusts to however many are in the team. This is such a great feature for people who get home late from work, or have kids to put to bed or, at the other end of the night, have to leave especially early for whatever reason.

As well as getting together with another guild who’d been suffering the same problems as us, we’ve also picked up some new guildies who are friends of existing members. I know from experience that the state of guild rosters can – time and time again – change dramatically for the good and the bad, and I’m happy we’re now going through a good time once more.

The Timeless Isle has also been fun to explore and at the start was an absolute gods’ send for alts. I’ve geared up quite a few already with the bind on account epics that can be found in treasure chests and from mob kills. It seems now the drop rate for epics has dropped quite a bit, but the initial week was great. The only thing that’s spoiled the island for me and my friends is the PvP aspect. Yes, we get that Blizzard loves PvP and occasionally, (legendary quest line, Long Strange Trip achievement), likes to force it on players who hate it, and yes, we get that many players actually like it and want it, and we also get that the Timeless Isle is supposed to have a world PvP element to it. But the amount of griefing that goes on does nothing to change my mind about mixing PvP with PvE. For example, late the other night a couple of friends and I decided to team up and find some rare mobs. As we were killing random creatures around us, a group of Horde, all flagged for PvP and all riding huge Traveller’s Tundra Mammoths, congregated on top of us as we were fighting, clearly with the aim of making one of us accidentally hit them. They were taunting us as much as possible with emotes, supposedly to make us even more annoyed with the situation. When these tactics failed – we simply moved to a different area – they followed us and grouped up on our kills as we were looting, again with the clear intent of making someone click on them by mistake and thus initiate combat. There are enough Alliance actually wanting to get involved in PvP, so these idiots should go and pester them instead. If this is world PvP then I don’t think it belongs among PvE players. Also, how brave they are in numbers! It’s not something they’d try alone or in a small group. Cowards.

But anyway, apart from that aspect, which if you don’t like PvP you just have to take a little extra precaution to avoid, the island is a fun addition to the game. Not sure how long that fun will last, but there are at least a lot of pets to collect off rare mobs, which will extend the interest for some. For those not into pets, I don’t imagine there will be much left for them to do once they’ve earned the timeless coins to buy the items they want. As with all content, the island won’t have an infinite allure – things get used up and players move on. I’m trying not to use it up too fast. Some people are obsessed with grinding the rep for the Emperor, and that’s all they do. But once it’s done, and if done too quickly, what will be left for them? I think it’s better to pace yourself and make the most of the content, rather than gobble it up and then complain about having nothing to do.

I’ve not tried the Celestial Tournament pet battles scenario on the island yet, as I want to get more of my pets to level 25 before embarking on it. Also, you need to put aside quite a few hours to do the scenario while you’re learning it. Friends who’ve done it have taken up to six hours to complete it, (not necessarily succeeding on their first attempt either) and at the moment I don’t have such a chunk of time to devote to one activity. One friend had got almost to the end – bearing in mind you cannot heal or revive any of your pets throughout the scenario – and then failed on the last fight because he literally ran out of level 25 pets to do it. (He has around 100 of them.) He’d spent four hours getting to that point. You can’t ‘save’ the fight – you have to complete the whole scenario or start again. Another friend, who completed it on the first day, has 250 level 25 pets, so as I only have 70 or so, I know I need a far bigger stable of available pets before I attempt this challenge. Once you have learned the fights and if you have enough of suitable pets for the battles, then it takes less time to do the scenario. One friend completed it in 40 minutes today, when he was taking hours to do it last week. I dare say more and more strategy guides will appear for the fights as people complete them, and I’m content to wait a while until others, through trial and error, work out the best teams. I’d rather do the scenario in a couple of hours than in the equivalent of a working day!

Some time ago, I wrote a post concerning community in WoW and its rather execrable state. All sensible players bemoan the fact that behaviour from others is often disgusting, and many bloggers have been musing about how it could be improved, myself among them. But what I saw tonight made me feel positive about the WoW community for the first time in years.

Blizzard’s decision to allow the powerful rare mobs on the new Isle of Thunder to be taggable by faction, and thereafter available for fisticuffs to any player of that faction, is a marvellous one. Tonight, a few of us in the guild decided to do some group work on the Isle. We’d hunt rare mobs, help each other out with a few quests requiring more than one person and so on. First thing we noticed was how many players were around and not only that… they were talking. We didn’t have to greet the sight of dozens of other players of our faction with a despairing sigh, thinking ‘oh well, there goes my chance at the rare’. Because everyone could join in on the event and get loot from it, there was no need for anyone to be unpleasant or selfish. While we waited for spawns we could… mingle. Unheard of, I know. I chatted to a few people about the new mounts they were on, and about various aspects of the area. I really applaud this new feature and think it should have been instituted well over a year ago, like when Rift appeared with this feature at launch. GW2 took it further. Albeit that game does not have factions, but even so, *any* mob in that game works like the rares do on Isle of Thunder. There is no competition whatsoever for quest mobs. You can casually work with any player who’s around without even having to team with them to share mobs. You can also heal each other without teaming. Admittedly, more of the mobs in GW2 require this type of co-operation because they are not pushovers, but I really think Blizzard should go further than they have and implement similar in WoW. Also, let’s do the same with resource nodes while we’re at it. If you harvest a node of any type in GW2, it disappears for you for a while, but not for other players. How is this not a great thing? Reasons for players to be mean to each other are swept away entirely and if there’s one thing WoW needs it’s those reasons to be swept away.

Another thing occurred to me as we were messing around on the island tonight. If a server has a population imbalance in respect of factions, the lower populated faction will be disappointed and frustrated by the new area, simply because the more numerous faction will control all the tagging on rares, and even if they don’t, if a player hasn’t got a lot of friends around to help with the mobs, they won’t survive, so the larger faction will simply take over once they’re dead. It’s really going out on a limb to suggest this in respect of WoW, I know, given how deeply the faction rivalry is embedded in the game, but I did think about how it wouldn’t hurt for the rares to be taggable by *anyone* who’s there, irrespective of faction, such as we find in Rift.

WoW really needs something to improve its community spirit, and what’s happening now is a small step towards that. Perhaps Blizzard is experimenting and observing the results and will take it further if it appears to work well. I really hope so. All I know is that I had a fun night with far fewer reasons to get angry and annoyed at other players. I spoke to people I didn’t know in a way I never do. The opposite faction was a minor annoyance, since we outnumbered them so much, (must have been crappy for them, though), and some of them did try to get their sport by messing up our fights if they could. But if there’s only 2 or 3 of them against a couple of dozen of us, even if they tag a rare it’s not going to be tagged for long. That’s why I think the faction aspect should be approached differently, but that would be game-changing in the extreme. The lore of WoW, and its (virtual) thousands of years of politics would be challenged, to put it mildly, if Horde and Alliance became more co-operative with each other. I’d quite like it, but a lot wouldn’t. I have noticed though that for one of the dailies in the Court of Bones you are asked to free captives of either faction: those poor sods in cages. That’s another little inch towards what I’m talking about, isn’t it?

We also visited the Isle of Giants tonight, the new Jurassic Park of WoW. Love all the massive dinosaurs and tamed myself a couple on my Hunter. Pity they shrink like socks in the wash once you’ve tame them, but never mind. My only complaint is that the flying pterrorwings aren’t tameable. They look amazing and do turn up as temporary, secondary combat pets when your Hunter uses the Dire Beast skill. So why they’re not tameable I don’t know. The new dino non-combat pets were virtually spilling from the corpses of the dinomancer Trolls too. We all came away from the place with a nice haul of goodies, not least the dinosaur bones you have to collect to buy the white raptor mount there. I expect the drop rate for the mini pets will take a bashing very soon, so get them while you can. Best to go with at least one friend though, because all the mobs on the island are level 90-91 elites and pack a hefty punch. The immense Primal Devilsaurs do a lot of AOE damage, so it’s advisable to go with a fairly organised group if you want to take those on, including a tank and a healer. You don’t have to fight these big ones, and can avoid them, but one reason you might want to fight them is that they drop a lot more bones, and as you will need 9999 of them to get the mount, that’s as good a reason as any. There’s also a rare mob to be found on the boat that’s moored off the island. The boat has a big Devilsaur on the lower deck and an awful lot of dinomancer Trolls all through it before you even reach the rare. They respawn quickly too, and caused us inconvenience while we were fighting the Big Bad. Fun fight though, and this island is certainly worth a visit for Friday night fun.

For those not yet initiated into the mysteries of this island, it’s found off Kun Lai Summit, north of Zouchin Village. You can’t fly all the way there, and have to watch out for fatigue setting in once you’re unceremoniously thrown off your mount and dumped in the ocean, but it’s not too difficult to reach dry land before the fatigue kills you. If you have the Anglers’ Water Strider mount even better, or of course Death Knights can use their Path of Frost for themselves and team members to travel over water quickly.

I really love the new zones, and am looking forward to more of the Isle of Thunder opening up as time goes on. I especially love the Saurok quest area where you become a Saurok for the duration, along the lines of how we became Nagas in Vash’jir in Cataclysm. Only this transformation happens every day for your quests. And it’s not just one appearance either. You can have the big lizard ruff, or one of the metal masks they sometimes wear, or a fairly regular lizard face minus ruff or mask. There might be others, but so far have just noticed these three. The Saurok can leap miles and I mean really leap miles. Be careful when pressing the space bar to jump; you never know where you might end up. But they’re very agile so take no damage when falling off that mountain you just landed on. I defy anyone not to want these saurians as a playable race after doing these dailies. Try out some of the emotes on them; it’s great fun. They can’t dance, which we found really funny. If you type /dance, they stand up straight and look sort of stunned, as if they can’t bear the humiliation of dancing. But they can do quite a few of the emotes, such as /cower and /flex, both of which are hilarious. As I’ve written a story in which the Saurok make a kind of appearance, though somewhat changed and not called Saurok, (as it’s not a WoW story), I was delighted to find these quests. Just have a soft spot for the race and am really pleased they’re included in this way for players now.

So, 10/10 for the Isle of Thunder. I really look forward to going there and doing my dailies as and when I can. And it’s not often you’ll hear me saying that about dailies!

Come patch 5.1 there will be a new mount achievement to obtain 150 mounts. For most mount fanatics, their collection, (even if they’re not particularly hardcore at it), will probably be hovering around 160 mounts already, assuming they’ve bought some of the MoP ones. The really serious collectors will no doubt not be far off the 200 mark, but they are the minority, albeit comprising a fair few players.

I’ve read a lot of lamentation on forums about the reward for 150 mounts, which appears to be a Pandaren Kite. I believe it’s the green Kite that some NPCs you rescue during Shado Pan dailies ride off on. I must admit, although I do think the colour of that kite (if indeed it is that) is rather nice, I’m a bit disappointed this is the reward for collecting 150 mounts.

A lot of people aren’t that impressed with the Albino Drake reward for collecting 50 mounts, which first appeared way back at the end of Burning Crusade when achievements were initially introduced. Maybe it is a bit ‘meh’ to people now, but you have to bear in mind that when that achievement appeared there were NO drake mounts in the game at all, just the Nether Drakes, which are utterly different. To be able to ride a mount that was of a model only lent to us in the Caverns of Time Durnholde Keep instance seemed amazing at the time. I can remember us doing that instance and people saying, as we rode our Bronze Drake NPCs to the start of battle, ‘wouldn’t it be fab to have these as mounts?’ We got our wish later on with the Culling of Stratholme instance, where that mount could be won on a timed run, but before that… it seemed like an impossible dream. Few serious mount freaks would be seen dead on a Bronze Drake mount now, they have become so common, but the idea of getting one at the start of Wrath seemed fantastic. So, point number one: whatever later achievement-gatherers might think of the Albino Drake now, back when it was first introduced, it was pretty special.

Wrath also introduced the 100 mount achievement, which to start with was punishing, since you’d need rare drop mounts, expensive mounts and possibly TCG ones to hit that figure. As Wrath progressed, and especially with the introduction of the Argent Tournament and its mount piñata, that figure became more easily attainable. The reward for it was a Dragonhawk, red for Horde, blue for Alliance. Initially, there were no Dragonhawk mounts in the game, apart from a few taxis you could take. When I finally got mine on my Alliance Druid, I thought it was a fantastic mount. There was no other like it. Eventually, when I levelled my Horde characters, I got my main Hordie the even better black/red Dragonhawk from Argent Tournament dailies. When mounts and their associated achievements became account wide, all my Hordies found they had a nice red Dragonhawk too, (thanks to Alliance characters and their mount collecting), as well as every one of them being able to use the AT Dragonhawk. But again, when the 100 achievement first appeared, the mounts associated with it were different from all others and could be considered special.

So, the Kite. You can get one as a reward by raising all Mists factions to exalted, and to be honest I haven’t really read anything about players being enormously excited about Kites.  They’re ok as taxis, but I’m not into them myself. I think if my characters could sit on them they would be better. I have the same beef with flying carpets. I find that standing on this type of mount in a surfing pose just looks ridiculous. So I agree with all those who are QQing a bit about the 150 mount reward – if indeed it does prove to be the Kite, although from what I’ve read it’s almost certainly that, well at least it’s that on the PTR. Maybe it’s not such a milestone mount because so many will just log on the day after the patch and get that achievement immediately. But for those players who’ve only recently managed to get 100 mounts, (or not even that yet), perhaps the idea of getting another 50 is somewhat more daunting than it is to those of us who’ve been mount freaks for years and have already got over 150. I personally think all achievement mounts should be special to start with. OK, we have tons more Drakes in the game now, and several Dragonhawks, if you include the TCG one, but the fact remains at the time of their appearance they were fairly unusual. I don’t find Kites that unusual or exciting, and it appears a lot of other players feel the same, although of course there are going to be others who think they’re great. It’s just down to personal opinion again.

I also think it’s odd Blizzard haven’t put in a 200 mount achievement yet, since for the serious mount collector this would be something to strive for, as we strove for the 100 mount one back in the day. The fact is, it’s not difficult to get 150 mounts now, if you’re prepared to grind faction rep and shell out for the mounts at exalted. Admittedly, if you were starting from scratch this would make a massive dent in your gold reserves, or would require a lot of saving up. I do know that a couple of people in our guild, who aren’t that serious about mounts, but have pottered about getting them casually over the years, already have well over 100 and won’t find it that difficult to hit 150 for the next achievement. So to me a 200 mount achievement would have been good to include in the patch too. When new pet collecting achievements came out some time ago, Blizzard added a couple at once.

As to what would have made a nice 150 mount reward, I’ve read some interesting suggestions. An Infinite Drake – yes, I’ve always wistfully thought of having one of those. A recoloured Heavenly or Thundering Cloud Serpent – again, good suggestions, don’t think anyone would complain about that, even though we already have a few Cloud Serpents to collect. Cloud Serpents have certainly been a big hit with our guild, with some saying they are the best flying mounts ever introduced. But how about something that’s not yet a mount we can acquire? My personal vote would be for the Arcane Wyrms/Serpents in Coldarra of Northrend, who fly around outside the Nexus/Oculus/Eye of Eternity structure. Every time we go over on a Friday to have a go at Malygos I think how fabulous it would be to have one of those Wyrms as a mount. Missed opportunity there, I say. They’re not that different in shape to the Cloud Serpents so surely wouldn’t be that hard to turn into mounts. There are other flying beasts in Northrend who have never been utilised as mounts, such as the Ember Wyrm and a certain type of Frost Wyrm, but perhaps these are a bit old hat, so not really suitable for the Pandaria era. I don’t think the Arcane Wyrms fall into the same category, but I admit to being biased. If we want to think really bizarre, how about a Fel Reaver mount, which can also liftoff vertically and become a flying mount? That would be pretty awesome.

Something else about Arcane Serpents. I was looking up these creatures on Wowhead to get their correct name and made the happy discovery that on the PTR there are four different colours of wyrm now, (blue – arcane wyrm, purple/pink – arcane serpent, white – spirit of the north, and red – crazed mana wyrm). They have been transformed into beasts from dragonkin, and three types (not the red) will be tameable by Hunters. What excellent news – subject to nothing changing when patch goes live, of course! Now if Blizzard could only take that one step further and make them mounts…

An Arcane Serpent

An Arcane Serpent pic I got from WoWhead

There is much debate going on at the moment about the fact that once you’ve got your main character through to 90 in Mists, it’s rather a pain for your subsequent alts to have to ride on the ground through all the zones. Flying is not allowed until 90 and many think that for alts it should be allowed, via Heirloom Tomes for example. While I see both sides of this argument, there are some pros and cons to consider.

 Ground Mounts are Just a Pain When Levelling on Alts

Yes, they are. There’s no doubt that a certain – rather large – level of pain is involved in fighting through tons of mobs to get to a quest objective, only for some other player to ninja it off you while you’re fighting. Sometimes, with no ninjas in sight, it’s just wearisome to fight in and fight out through a swarm of fast respawning mobs – all the time. I get that. And I hate it myself. Being able to swoop in on a flying mount directly to where you need to be and who you need to kill is fabulous.

But there is something to be said for experiencing this really beautifully-designed expansion from the ground. I think a lot of players rushed their mains to 90, almost blindly. To be frank, I did so too really. The first alt they level is the one who will have the time to investigate and explore the new continent. This is obviously more interesting and realistic from the ground. For this reason, I think flying at lower level should be held off for a patch or two. It didn’t hurt in Northrend. I levelled several alts the hard way back in Wrath. Although I must admit that the first alt I levelled with Heirloom flying – my rogue – was like a silky dream. No more fighting through annoying mobs to get to a quest objective. No more fretting that some other ‘considerate’ player would pinch my quest item as I was fighting a path through to it. It was blissful. But that said, I’d be happy to wait for that in Mists. While I’m an impatient player, I could bear waiting a couple of patches before we get Eze-mode for alts. The land is more realistic from the ground, and it’s beautiful to quest through.

Ok, some players really hate questing. It’s not their objective for the game; they just want to get to top level, gear up, and raid. Any impediment to that is just going to annoy those people. They did it all on their main character, no doubt cursing all the way through, so why shouldn’t they be given leeway on their alts? Why be forced to do it all again and again the hard way. I understand this complaint.

The solution, I think, is to allow flying at earlier levels like they did in Northrend, but not immediately, and everyone’s first character should experience the content to 90 without flying. Just enjoy it. Trust me, it’s fun, if you forget the stress of gearing up and raiding. I personally would be very happy if two patches down the line, an Heirloom flying tome came in. But in the meantime, I’ll also be happy to level my alts slowly and look around.

This expansion is going to be with us for two years. Forget what they say about expansions being released quicker; we know this won’t happen. We have plenty of time.

 PvP Concerns

For some reason, some people want to play on PvP realms and then weep over the consequences. Sorry guys, but why? One concern that’s been voiced is that level 90 players being able to fly inflicts hideous ganking harm on those who can’t fly, so everyone should be able to. I can’t really sympathise with this. If it bothers you, why the hell are you on a PvP realm? Why would anyone want to level on a PvP realm, without being accepting of ganking and all that shenanigans? The idea, frankly, is just ridiculous. It’s amazing how many people are upset about what happens to them on these realms. What do they expect? PvP worldwide is just license to be a dick. And every dick on the realm will happily take advantage of that. Change to a PvE realm, guys, and just enjoy playing WoW without all that stupidity and exposure to the worst element of players. Leave PvP realms to the dicks who enjoy inconveniencing each other for the hell of it. Unless you’re one of them.

Faster Ground Mounts

This is a great idea I’ve read about, but sorry guys, the fact that WoW is both PvE and PvP means you’ll never get it. PvP spoils a lot of PvE play again and again. It’s hugely annoying for PvE players. Yes, having ground mounts go at 150% or 200% would be great, and probably a lot would happily pay for that to help with PvE levelling and get it over quicker, but it will never happen, because of the implications – apparently – in PvP battlegrounds. This is what I’ve read so can only assume it to be true. There’s enough previous form to suggest it’s right. I’ve seen the class of my main character – a Hunter – be butchered time and time again because of PvP concerns, which just emasculates him in PvE. I’m going to see it again imminently with the nerf to Lynx Rush, for no other reason than PvP players whining about Hunters being overpowered. It’s not like Lynx Rush puts Hunters way at the top of DPS meters in PvE. It’s just a great skill I’ll be sorry to see so diminished for burst damage, which is helpful in raids, never mind on all those sodding dailies I have to do, when I sometimes get swamped with fast respawning mobs. I wish PvE and PvP would separate forever, be different games. It won’t happen. So we just have to suck it up – continually. Some classes more than others. It seems unfair to me that Blizzard always listens to the PvP players and nerfs classes because of their moaning. It doesn’t happen the other way around. At one time, during Wrath, I had to stop playing my Hunter completely in raids because of what PvP adjustments had done to his DPS. I’m not bitter… noooo. But anyway, *cough*, where was I? Oh yes, faster ground mounts will never be.

Conclusion

I think we will see alts being able to fly earlier eventually. It will be like in Northrend, and it will come at the right time. Flying isn’t always the answer to everything as players doing all the level 90 dailies will be able to attest. Other ‘considerate’ players will still ruin your day whether you can fly or not. So with that in mind, levelling to 90 without flying isn’t really that much of a bind.

That said, questing through Townlong Steppes and Dread Wastes without flying is really quite horrible. It seems to me those zones were designed for players who could fly, because of the amount of mobs and their fast respawn rates. My recommendation is to do every zone before that with your alts so you get to 90 before those last two zones. It is far more pleasant, even if it does take a bit longer. And with alts, there is surely no rush to get there.

What with all the things I’ve had to do in WoW, and real life work I’ve had to do, I’ve not had time to write about the new expansion. Remiss! So here it is.

Mists of Pandaria has lived up to my expectations and more. It is a far more polished expansion than Cataclysm was, with a ton of activities for top level. There are one or two things I’m not so happy about, but much of that might be down to personal likes and dislikes. I don’t expect any MMO to be absolutely perfect, tailored to my desires alone.

I was somewhat astonished that some players somehow zoomed to level 90 in a day and then started to complain they were bored. For those of us who raid, there was some incentive in getting our main characters to top level fairly quickly, simply because once they’re 90 we need to gear them up for raids. But in our guild, most of the team only started hitting 90 around 2nd Oct, and the remainder and other guildies continue to do so on a daily basis. Many people just wanted to take things easy and progress slowly through the zones, experiencing everything to the full. I and a few others got our main characters to 90 over the first weekend, but then I’d given myself a week off work to do this. After I’d hit the top level, I spent the rest of that weekend looking at all the things to do. I devoted a couple of hours to doing the Lorewalkers achievements to get to exalted with them and therefore able to purchase the Red Cloud flying disc mount. I started on Tillers rep to be able to cook decent buff food, and worked on my new farm for eventual self-sufficiency. I also started Order of the Cloud Serpent rep with an aim to secure myself a beautiful Cloud Serpent mount, but am not too stressed about any of these rather relaxing rep grinds. I’ll take them as they come and just enjoy the new content. There are quite a lot of reps to work on. I will talk about the Golden Lotus rep grind later; that is a different matter.

I really loved levelling, even though it was over fairly quickly. But this was my choice, simply because I wanted to start getting my main character raid ready as soon as possible. That said, most of the process was fantastic. The landscape is gorgeous, the majority of quests are interesting and fun to do, and I had a lot of fun exploring. I’ve enjoyed the dungeons I’ve done so far, normal and heroic. They are easier than Cataclysm dungeons certainly, but there is a fun factor that was missing in the Cataclysm instances. Mists ones are more enjoyable to do, with quirky little mechanics here and there. The ‘normal’ modes are levelling dungeons. That means they are able to be tackled by players of all levels of skill without too much trouble as they rise from 85 to 90. They are not supposed to be cutting edge, hard content. Neither are the heroic versions that come at 90. There is a new aspect of dungeons in the Challenge Modes. These are for people who like their instances punishing and taxing. So in my opinion there is absolutely no reason for such types to moan about the lesser difficulties being available for other people.

A few in the guild have had one quick bash at doing a Challenge Mode dungeon so far, but we are not quite well geared enough for that activity yet. We were slightly below the iLevel of 463 recommended for them. If anyone’s gear goes above that level, it is brought down if they enter a Challenge Mode dungeon. They are designed to stay difficult and people won’t be able to outgear them. Still, despite not being ready for the Challenge yet, what we managed was great fun and, as was announced before launch, much more like the old-fashioned Burning Crusade heroic level of difficulty. I can see that it will be of benefit for the same teams to work on them, devising the quickest routes and pulls, and how best to work together for success. I expect there are already comprehensive walk-through guides on the internet, but we didn’t look for them before we went. We decided just to have a look and see what a Challenge Mode will be like. We really enjoyed it, even though were unable to complete the challenge on a first try.

I can’t say I was overjoyed on the journey to 90 for being on the ground, i.e. having to use ground mounts not flying mounts. It was a great relief to be able to fly again at top level. This is because I’m not the most patient of people and it began to get on my nerves having to fight my way through a load of mobs to get to an objective and then back again because they’d all respawned in my path. It’s just a personal thing; I prefer to fly over irritating mobs that often only drop useless loot like a couple of fangs. Another downside was player over-crowding, but you have to expect that at the beginning of an expansion. Player behaviour wasn’t as bad as I saw it at the beginning of Cataclysm but that might be because Horde and Alliance were separated at the beginning, so less PvP shenanigans, and Blizzard seems to have learned from the past and implemented some player-friendly systems from the start. Remember how eventually named mob kills for dailies in Tol Barad completed for anyone who managed to get a hit in on them? Most named mobs/mini bosses needed for quests in Mists are the same. That is a wonderful improvement.  Mobs and quest items are usually plentiful enough – although there are unaccountably some quests/areas where this is not the case – so there is less griefing and selfish behaviour.  There is still *some*, but that’s inevitable in an MMO. I did find myself getting progressively angrier as I neared 90 simply because of the competition with other players who, to be fair to them, were probably equally as eager to get that last level as I was. People were more cut throat and selfish in the last two zones.  But before that, it was all pretty blissful. I’m going back to finish a couple of zones now for the Pandaria Loremaster achievement, and they do seem less fraught and busy than they were in the first week of playing in them.

The atmosphere of Pandaria is equal to Northrend, if not superior. I adored the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, simply because I felt immersed in that world, became part of it. Mists is the same. We can look upon Cataclysm as a hiccup, perhaps a needed one to belch up some wind, as it were, because the old world *did* need that massive overhaul. There was a lot I enjoyed about Cata, but for the first time ever in my history of playing WoW since Vanilla, I got bored and ran out of things to do. This is with a host of alts as well. With Mists I want to take things easy with the alts, so that never happens again. Looking at the expansion from where I stand now I’m fairly confident it will last two years as Burning Crusade and Wrath did – if we don’t rush through everything with all our alts. I confess to a slight prickle of urgency over professions on some of my alts, since I like to be self-sufficient in terms of enchantments and gems, but as we’re not raiding yet, and a couple of other guildies have maxed out on these professions, I will accept their generosity. It’s a part of my nature that I
like to do things myself, or at least be able to offer things in return to people, but my main is a Leatherworker, so I will at least have leg armor to hand out and can make a couple of half decent cloaks for the newly-dinged 90s. Plus there is the inevitable PvP leather-working gear that will help guildies flesh out a sagging iLevel to be able to get into heroic dungeons.

Now to what I don’t like. There isn’t much, but what there is, is annoying. As I said above unaccountably some quests are far more difficult than others simply because there are no mobs around. One or two players might come along and decimate the desired creature, then the mobs don’t reappear for ages, or else there are too few of them to start with. Same goes for a couple of quest items. Most quest objectives are quite the opposite, in that there are often too many mobs for a comfortable experience, (which is how they tend to be tuned at the beginning of an expansion, to accommodate player load), so it’s strange some are utterly different. Also, on a few of these quests, which are for dropped items, the drop rate is appalling, so you have a) few or no mobs around, b) a lot of player competition, and c) a dreadful drop rate. This has resulted in me spending half an hour in one case completing what should have been a quick and easy quest. If it was just the odd one or two like this, it wouldn’t be so bad, but I’ve been held up on several occasions, which is just frustrating for everyone there and incites bad feeling among the players trying to complete their objectives. We have enough grrs between players in WoW as it is, so Blizzard, please fix these quests.

The next thing that I have issues with is certain aspects of the reputation grind. I don’t mind working for things, and seeing steady progress. It’s always great when you hit the longed-for exalted and can then get whatever reward it is from that faction for getting there, and I was delighted to get my cloud serpent mount tonight after working on the rep to acquire it. Blizzard has done a lot to make the grinds less tedious, with a lot of variety among the quests so you don’t get the same ones every day. On the whole I’m enjoying The Cloud Serpents, Tillers and Anglers dailies. Klaxxi aren’t too bad either. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Golden Lotus dailies. You need to get to revered with this faction to open up two other important factions, The August Celestials and The Shado-Pan. All of these supply gear that will help enormously with the start of Pandarian raiding, if not be essential.

The Golden Lotus dailies remind me greatly of the Tol Barad ones when they first became available in Cataclysm. The mobs hits like trucks, there are thousands of them constantly respawning and they take a long time to kill with average gear. There is also a baying mob of players at the quest locations at peak times, adding to the chaos and difficulty. With some of the dailies you really want others around to help keep the mobs off your back, while some quests make other players massive impediments to your own success, such as when you need to collect a particular item, or the quests where the mobs seem slow to respawn (not many in this case).  There are quite a few quests needing drops from mobs, and again the drop rate often isn’t good. For packed daily quest hubs, with so many players competing, this just seems like needless torment. The drops should be 100% guaranteed, or if that is really so dreadful a thought to contemplate for the developers, at least a 33% drop rate. There would be more mobs to go round, and players would finish their quests quicker leaving room for others to do theirs. As it stands, tempers fray and behaviour isn’t always exemplary. Out of sheer frustration perhaps, other players will steal your kills or your quest items as you’re fighting towards them. That’s not an uncommon situation with dailies, of course. But to add insult to injury, the amount of rep given for each of these annoying quests is 110 reputation.  On average, although I haven’t totted it up exactly, you get between 1000-1500 rep a day, once you get a few more dailies to do at Honored. You can imagine how long it’s going to take to get to revered, never mind exalted if you want the rewards that come from that. It’s 42,000 rep points to get from neutral to exalted. And many people can’t do daily quests every day.

I know from experience that daily quests that seem difficult in starter dungeon gear at the beginning of an expansion become a lot more forgiving when your character has been kitted out better. So despite the frustration I feel at times, I’m aware things will improve as I work through the different factions. But the sheer length of time it will take, given the paltry amount of rep you get, is more difficult to swallow. After an exhausting time clawing my way through the Golden Lotus dailies, I only see a hideously slow accumulation of rep points.  Luckily I’m doing them at the moment with a friend, and two people do have a much easier time of it than a solo player.

I’m aware Blizzard wants to make the content last, and if the Golden Lotus dailies were actually enjoyable I wouldn’t mind so much. But gritting my teeth to get through up to an hour of play I don’t even enjoy isn’t what I want to be feeling when I log on in an evening. You could have difficult mobs with good drop rates, or easier mobs with rarer drop rates, but for the gods’ sake, difficult mobs *and* bad drop rates is rather cruel. I don’t think the idea of ‘gating’ reputation factions is that good. Everyone is obliged to do the Golden Lotus quests if they want to progress to the other factions that might be more useful to them. And there is the risk that by the time they get to revered with the later factions, the gear they were striving for to help with raiding will already have been superseded by what they might have picked up in raids. Spreading the players out between all of the important rep factions would have been better I think; less crowding and hostility.

But aside from my grumbles about dailies and drop rates, I am loving the game at the moment. The pet battles are great fun, and hopelessly addictive, and there are a lot of sleek new mounts to collect that non-raiders will be delighted to know you can get from just playing the game and gaining reputation points with the various factions. There are tons of cool new mounts to get outside of raids. While I am a raider myself, I’ve never liked the way that raiders are given lots of stuff that others can’t get. I know the special snowflake types get their panties in a knot over ‘lesser players’ getting the same toys as them, but frankly I don’t care about it. I’ll ride a mount for as long as I care to, regardless of who else might, or might not, have it.

If I were to give Mists a mark out of ten, it’s 9 and a half. Only the level 90 rep grind has knocked off that half a point. I have a feeling that player comment will have some bearing on this and we will see beneficial nerfs to the grind, as we did in Tol Barad. But my minor gripes aside, I can recommend this addition to WoW whole-heartedly. I find it hard to tear myself away from Pandaria. Raiding will be coming soon for us, and then I’ll have more to say!

Mount collectors in WoW are an insatiable breed. I know because I’m one of them. Ever since TBC when Blizzard unleashed new mounts into the game –  a lot of them – and mounts became learnable ‘spells’, I was hooked.  In the early game, mounts took up bag space, and with this being precious enough as it is, most players would only take one mount out on the road with them (and one companion pet as well, if they were into those too). It was not the norm for people to collect mounts in the way we do now. First, there were far fewer of them about, second, reputation was far more difficult to earn with the home cities, third the aforementioned inventory/bank space was prohibitive to collecting anything really, and fourth, gold was harder to come by than it is now. You needed 1K for the level 60 riding skill (which at that time was only the 100% ground mount speed), and most players struggled badly enough getting the 100 gold together just for slow ground riding. The faster ground mounts were seen rarely in the game, and were in fact the prestige mounts of their day.

But TBC changed all that. The price of ground riding was slashed to a manageable amount, gold became more easily earned in the new expansion, inventory space was no longer a problem and oooh look at all these amazing new mounts!

The first were the talbuks you could get in Nagrand from your faction’s allies in the area. There was a choice of six different ones. You needed exalted reputation to buy them and at first they didn’t come cheap. Players would usually only buy one, or perhaps different coloured ones on alts. Some were more expensive than others, being armoured. This was the first bona fide rep grind in WoW for new mounts and most people I knew were happy to do it. We’d just not had exotic new mounts before, and the talbuks, or high goats as they were affectionately nicknamed, looked quite exotic to us at the time.

Later in the expansion we were given our first flying mounts, which were drakes – those from Netherwing ledge. Again, quite a grind, but we’d never imagined we’d be able to have drake mounts, so whatever it took we did it gladly. We were given another faction to earn rep with, the Shatari Skyguard, who also sold mounts – the nether rays. At the end of TBC, achievements were introduced in the pre-patch to WotLK. One of these was to acquire 50 mounts. It was doable, just, with all the new mounts in Outland, but it cost a packet.  As you needed all available mounts, it was a bankrupting experience to attempt that achievement at the time. I managed it by clearing out the bank accounts of several alts, but I wanted the reward for the achievement so badly – the albino drake – that I didn’t care. This was the first ‘proper’ drake mount in WoW, since the nether drakes were a species unto themselves really. They didn’t look like any other dragons we saw in the game and had rather ‘sharklike’ faces. That said, I still love them.

TBC also brought in a few rare drop mounts, such as the Raven Lord from Sethekk Halls, the Ashes of Alar from the Tempest Keep raid, the Fiery Warhorse from the Karazhan raid and the White Hawkstrider from Magister’s Terrace.  All of these were rare at the time, the Ashes of Alar phoenix particularly so, as the boss who dropped it, Kael’thas, was no pushover when he was current. I can remember the first time someone got that mount on our server – a Horde player – and they were riding it in Shattrath city. Everyone just clustered round him to gawp in wonder at this amazing looking mount. We’d seen nothing like it before. Silly rumours abounded, such as only one per server would be allowed. That was untrue, but it was still incredibly rare owing to the difficulty of downing that boss and the fact only a small percentage of players were actually attempting the 25 man raids back then.

WotLK brought in dozens more mounts and a new way to get some highly prestigious ones. These were the rewards from completing dungeon and raid meta-achievements. It gave guilds really good incentives to complete the achievements. Unfortunately, there was a hiccup with the raid achievement mounts. Two were awarded for completing all of the Naxxramas achievements (one for 10 man, one for 25 man), but Blizzard removed them from the game when they released Ulduar, the next tier of raiding.  They now realise themselves it was a mistake, even though elitist players who’d got those mounts were pleased about it, because they felt that owning them showed everyone around them that they had completed Naxx when it was at its most challenging. People who outgeared the place later had – and have – no chance of getting those mounts.

One thing I will never understand is certain players’ desire to keep prestige mounts away from others. This is because a prestige mount is only prestigious until the next slew of difficult to obtain mounts is released. All those players smugly preening because no one else could get the black proto-drake or plagued proto-drake any more probably wouldn’t be seen dead on theirs once they’d got their paws on one of the Ulduar reward protos. Really, why should they care what players who take longer to complete things do with content and mounts they’ve left behind? How many of them now ever get their black/plagued proto out of the stable? I can’t remember the last time I saw one; probably not since way before Cata. And yet we still see the complaints, and the demands from a certain type of player, that some mounts should remain inaccessible to the majority. I wouldn’t dispute that maybe some of these people are better players than those who follow in their footsteps, but again, why should they get riled about people getting rewards they no longer even care about? It’s just dog in the manger to me; selfish and puerile. Thankfully, Blizzard appears to feel the same way about it; they’ve not removed any meta achievement mounts since the Naxxramas ones. I still really hope they’ll put them back one day; I’m quite sure players would flock to do those achievements then, and most wouldn’t care who else got the mounts. They’d simply enjoy them themselves until they got a newer one they’d prefer to ride about on.

As a serious mount collector, I know that some mounts will be beyond me until I vastly outgear the content they’re found in. This is simply because few people share my passion, so getting a team together when the mounts are current is difficult, once our progression team has moved on to a new raid, leaving the mounts from metas and rare boss drops behind. That’s OK. The friends I have who share my collector’s gene know as well I do we’ll have to wait until just the few of us can tackle the content. It’s annoying but that’s just the way things are. But I don’t think that any mount in the game (with the exception of the Arena reward mounts, which are a thing apart) should ever be utterly inaccessible to players, or should be removed to keep selfish elitists happy.  No true mount collector minds hard work. While that lovely goddess Arenjee might cause us to lament and gnash our teeth occasionally, mostly we’re happy with what we do. We are not so much into the concept of prestige mounts – just… mounts. But for some, exclusivity is the only thing that makes a mount worth having. As far as they’re concerned, mounts are for showing off to other people in cities, in the hope everyone is green with envy, rather than to be enjoyed by the person lucky enough to get them. This is amply demonstrated by the reaction to the Blizzard store mounts (which the majority of collectors would have bought the moment they came out). Few would deny that the store mounts are pretty gorgeous, and if they were rare drops from raids or difficult metas you’d never hear a bad word against them. But simply because they can be bought, they are heaped with scorn by certain players. This is particularly the case with Heart of the Aspects. When that shiny gold drake/serpent showed up in the game data, and no one knew how it would be attained, you saw comments on forums from players virtually slavering over it. Most assumed it would be a drop or a meta reward from the Dragon Soul raid. Then we found out people could simply nip to the shop and buy it. Suddenly, as these mounts started to appear in Stormwind and Orgrimmar, it was a target for verbal abuse. Personally, I don’t care a bit. I’ll ride my Winged Guardian or Heart of the Aspects, or even the poor old reviled Sparkle Pony, whenever I want to, and am glad I can do so.

Mounts really do inspire some quite incandescent feelings among the player base; rage from those who want them kept exclusive, resentment from those who want a chance at them when they’re able to do the content, and wistfulness from the collectors who simply wish it was a case of nose to the grindstone to get mounts, not just down to the whims of Arenjee or insurmountable content pinnacles we have to wait years (in some cases) to climb. But it’s not all negative. Nothing can compare to finishing a meta achievement and getting the mount reward in the mail, or winning a roll on a rare drop, or even soloing content for years and then finally seeing that longed-for mount turn up in the loot. It’s also a great feeling when you get to the end of a rep grind and can go and buy the mount you’ve worked so hard to get. They’re only pixels, and yet they can invoke such emotions – crazy really.

I’m fully expecting that the beautiful new phoenix mounts in Mists will be the privilege of the hardcores for a couple of years, and they’ll no doubt be gratified by that, but I’ll be happy if I can get one eventually. It was quite a tease by Blizzard to give everyone in the Beta one of these mounts in their collection. I could hardly bear riding it, because I just knew it would most likely be a long long time before I could get one for real. Or maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Whatever happens, there are again dozens of new mounts in Mists and many of them involve only rep grinds. That, I can handle. I’m a hardcore rep grinder!

There is a goddess in WoW; her name is Arenjee. She is a capricious sort at the best of times, and even if you should heap her altars with offerings, or prostrate yourself to her in prayer a dozen times a day, the chances are she’s not paying attention, and is off somewhere, perhaps lying on a sofa reading a magazine, or pulling the wings off insects.

Arenjee is sometimes held in check by the elder god, Blizzard. She is subject to his whims, and sometimes he thinks she might have gone too far, gives her a rap across the knuckles, and removes whatever caprice she’s been inflicting on mortals.

What is Arenjee’s purpose, you might ask? Blizzard created her, and threw her into the world of his creation, in order to work mischief, much like Eris, the goddess of Chaos, in earlier pantheons. Theologists of WoW might consider that Blizzard had to create Arenjee because the mortals shouldn’t take things for granted. There is this other form of worship called ‘grind’. Without ‘grind’, mortals might not even believe in the gods any more. And there is one area of the sacred grind that is perhaps more sacred and contentious than others: The Rare Pet.

Listen now, for I have a tale.

Once upon a time, upon the world of Azeroth, there was a distant isle called Tol Barad. Upon this isle were many creatures and peoples, whose lives were mostly blighted by the followers of the god Blizzard invading their space and killing them. (Well, they knew this was their lot, even if they didn’t understand it.) Among the varied creatures of this isle was one known as the Baradin Fox. Mortals knew that slaughtering this lowly animal held a potential prize. It was the rare and much desired Fox Kit, this poor cubling wrenched from the still warm body of its murdered parent. But it was a rare and mysterious creature. Mortals might put one Baradin Fox to the sword (or spell, depending on their murderous preferences) and a kit might tumble forth from the corpse. Or they might kill over 12,000 of the unfortunate foxes and not one bleeding cadaver might offer up its progeny. The reason for this somewhat startling discrepancy between the likelihood of finding a kit among the entrails was down to one thing, or rather one goddess: Arenjee. She hovered over the isle, laughing, and when she’d downed a few cocktails of an evening, might decide to point her finger at a mortal and grant them success in their sacred grinding. Other times, she elected to make all the Baradin Foxes barren for months.

Blizzard, like Arenjee, can be capricious and rather random in his decisions. The winds of change and destiny blow across all worlds, even virtual ones. Blizzard had decided that mortals – who he after all relied upon to believe in him and thus ensure his existence – might enjoy pitting the many small creatures found upon Azeroth in battle against each other. He put much thought into this idea and created a fairly complex modus operandi for this illicit pleasure. Mortals, he knew, loved killing things. And if the things were small and squeaked in agony, or perhaps exploded in a mass of feathers with a dismal squawk upon death, even better. He cast his eye upon Arenjee’s favourite small beast: the Tol Barad fox kit. Well to be fair she had other favourites, but for some reason Blizzard forgot to notice them. “The mortals will like this playful little creature in their teams of beast death,” Blizzard mused, “but Arenjee has really put the little beast out in the ethers somewhere. I know, I’ll make it so that a humble merchant upon Tol Barad will have an endless black market supply of fox kits to sell. That should please people.”

But what do you think, my dears? Did it please people or not? Those of the sacred grind gnashed their teeth, tore their hair and daubed ashes upon their faces. “We worshipped Arenjee for two years,” they wailed. “And she stooped to bless us. We bled for her, we suffered the dark night of the soul of the Great Ennui. Our hands are raw with fox killing. In what crazy universe does a god say, ‘oh never mind, that task was a bit irksome, meet my friend Mr Merchant, he has foxes’?”

Other mortals said, “Oh thank the gods, I was beginning to feel like an ivory poacher. I actually rather like foxes, and killing twelve thousand of them made me feel rather nauseous. Cheers, Blizz, here are two offertory candles and a year’s subscription.’

It is not down to us mortals to question the ways of the gods.