Monday, March 11, 2013

Throne of Thunder: Week 1

I can't remember the last time a tier hit with this much content. New dailies to grind, trash to farm, and a massive raid to run in a huge complex.  It's enough to make a busy person swear off the game for some rest and relaxation! I was actually looking forward to time alone where I could just sit in a chair and read for a while and let my son play with his puzzles nearby, but alas, I had so much stuff to do in game.

Anyway - I managed to have some luck this week. For one, the egg I farmed up in the Isle of Giants dropped a mount - the Red Primal Raptor. I know it's very similar to the basic mounts but for a very recent ex-Alliance player, a Raptor mount is a freaking big deal. I also managed to get the 3 stones together for the special summoning quest (haven't done it yet, though) as well as a couple of Elite NPC items and a key to the Thunder King's Vault. So - not a bad haul for the first week.

Oh, the raid? Right, there was a raid too, wasn't there? We extended our raid week by one night to 12 hours. I know - hardcore! Right? Hardly... I wish we could've raided at least 20 hours this week, but c'est la vie.

Anyway, we used those hours quite productively, if not as productively as we'd hoped - 5 bosses down, and while they seemed fine for the most part, Magaera, the fifth boss, was very onerous to work through. Magaera seems a tad over-tuned and is perhaps meant as a gear-check gate-keeper boss, but it took a hard, punishing two nights of raid to get it down with nearly 30 attempts. All other bosses went down in 6 - 12 attempts at the most. We worked up to the sixth boss, but with minutes to go on raid time only had two pulls. Ji-Kun seems remarkably more manageable even with just some test attempts, so I'm confident next week will see us push further in, especially as we do have an extra night planned there as well.

One of our healers, Aliena, has been putting out some amazing guide videos, and they should be good for anyone who might need a bit of help with these bosses. It's so odd to see my name in Aliena's videos after studying her videos back in Wrath to learn how to kill the ICC bosses.

As for my impressions of the raid.... I don't know, I don't feel that gut-churning oomph yet. Nothing has grabbed me by the gut and wrenched my attention the way Icecrown or Karazhan did.

Not to say there isn't a lot of good here:
  • It's a massive, absolutely gorgeous raid. The environments are regal, evocative and richly detailed, the  pathways are a bit linear but disguised well so it doesn't feel like one long corridor, and after seeing only half of it, I feel it's on par with Black Temple, Ulduar or Icecrown Citadel in terms of the sheer space it occupies.
  • Further, I love the way the raid has different environments, the first 3 bosses are in the external courtyards of the castle occupied by the Zandalari forces. Then, we move into the underbelly, crawling through sewers and caverns, battling against the forgotten and lost and ignored creatures who happen to have mutated by accident in the vicinity of the Thunder King's power. Next will be the flesh-shaped experiments in discarded experimental labs and then finally the inner chambers of the palace itself. This staggered layering of the environments is just amazing for the architecture nerd in me.
  • The bosses are challenging and no walk-overs (except the first one, maybe). The troll bosses are linked thematically, I love seeing Gar'ajal back for the Council fight and the Horidon fight has some fun elements to it - I always love fights with streaming adds, it feels very much more like a fight than just fighting one big guy. Plus, Horidon is a huge dinosaur and a very intimidating presence. Tortos is just a speed kill, and while Magaera is over-tuned, it is actually a fight I can see myself enjoying once we get the gear to topple it more easily.
  • I like having a reputation grind back in a raid - it feels connected to the external world and there are Valor rewards associated with it, and that always takes me back to Karazhan and the rings and Arcane Resist trinkets that came from the Kirin Ton rep.
  • If I had one thing to complain about, it would be the sheer amount of trash. And the gimmicks build around some of these - the bridge in particular is egregious in its implementation of trash mechanics, not to mention the trash leading up to Ji-Kun - holy shit that trash is annoying to deal with.
And still... I don't feel a tug in my belly about this raid. Not yet. Maybe as we go deeper, I'll find something to hook me in.

Right now, I would say this looks like a very successful raid, it looks to be shaping up to be one hell of a tier, and I look forward to spending a few months in here, pulling apart Lei-Shen's secrets.

Monday, March 4, 2013

3 Years or "The Most Stressful Tier Ever"

Three. Years.

 There's not much I want to say or can say about writing this blog for three years. Sometimes I feel as if I should wring something out of all these thousands of words about a video-game that I've thrown onto the wall here. But - writing is its own reward, and I take more joy in writing than in anything else, even if the words are as banal as the ones that I've poured onto these pages. Over the years, this blog has gone through a number of phases.

When I started writing, it was like a journal - just stream of consciousness channeled into the ether with no consideration for who might or might nor read. Slowly, I became aware of a small audience - I've never been a popular blogger, not that I set out to be one, but still, once I knew people were reading, I wrote many tank-specific articles and raid-strategy guides back in Tier 11 and 12, even a bit into 13 but I've avoided that completely this time around. My writing has become more and more personal again.

Partly it is because the last half-year in Warcraft has been a very stressful one, and it has kept me very busy with actually gaming.  Tier 14 was long, and thick with content, and it will go down as one of the best, and one of the absolute worst, tier I've experienced in this game.

There is so much to love - from engaging mechanics and design of the actual fights, to the gorgeous architecture of the Vaults and Heart of Fear, the actual Tier was just a win in every way. The staggered release of the dungeons, and the slight difference in gear-levels all made it very worthwhile and I've had the time of my life when I've actually been raiding. Further, I've also played with some of the best players I've ever known in the game; progressed on Heroic bosses in both 25 and 10 player mode, nearly snatched the #1 ranking on WoL on a few fights, and pushed harder to complete the tier pre-nerf than I ever have before. After last night, I will be 13 Heroic bosses down, going into Tier 15. While Heroic Sha and Heroic Empress kills would have been nice, I'm certainly not bothered in the least with where I am.

I've also gotten to raid with some exceptional people - good players, yes, but also just really great people to hang out with over Mumble late into the night. Many of those voices have gone silent now, especially since I left Infinite Turtle Theory, Occasional Excellence and Tidal, but I remember them fondly and hope that I'll get to play with some of them again.

And I'm grateful to whatever string of luck landed me in my current guild - it's just chock full of awesome people, and I'm super glad that life after Tidal was worth living. I seriously didn't think I'd find a guild that matched the level of play and progression we had, with the maturity and understanding that I need as a parent with a job. Turns out playing with other married, working parents is the solution.

And, despite all the good I listed up there, here is a brief history, in graphical format, of why this was also the worst and most frustrating tier for me:
Now keep in mind, I helped found Infinite Turtle Theory in January, 2010. That's over 2.5 years of continuous raiding in the same guild with a majority of the same people. After being promoted to Raider rank in Methodical , if I don't have to look for a guild before I delete my account on some far-flung future date, it'll be too soon.

But three years. I've wondered if I have anything useful to say or if I'm just doomed to repeat myself over and over like some kind of Greek myth, unable to learn a lesson or forced to endure the same punishment for some sin I committed. My hands certainly aren't clean in the game - I've been guilty of hurting many people, intentionally or not, and I regret those events, and now I tread as carefully as I can, to try and avoid even disturbing the grass.

So is there anything left to say? I don't know. But I'll try.

At least one new trend has emerged - I manage to slip into Emo self-reflection faster than you can cue up a sad song on Spotify. And so, here I go, continuing to be Emo about all things Warcraft, dithering over my choices and looking backwards with a yearning for people and feelings that no longer exist in the game, yet hungry for what lies over the horizon, in the new Tier.

Ugh.

I feel like my blog name should probably have been, "Raiding While Emo." Too late, now. Too late by far.