Monthly Archives: September 2010

Cynwise’s Battlefield Store

You may recall the topographical battleground maps I did a few months ago; maps that showed the logical flow of the battlegrounds instead of the actual terrain.  The feedback I got on the designs was great and much appreciated, but I kept thinking that I needed to do more with them.  Maybe a series of introductory posts to each BG, or a detailed analysis of various strategies used in each fight.

But every time I sat down to write such a thing, I ended up staring at the damn maps, thinking that while that use was all well and good, it wasn’t quite right.

Apparently, I needed to put them on some clothing instead.

Introducing Cynwise’s Battlefield Shop,  where you can get your favorite map and simple strategies… on stuff.  There are a few designs available:

  • I <3 Warsong Gulch, with the map and the following sayings: “The Flags are your only objectives,” “Either help the FC, or hunt the EFC,” “Control midfield for the flags, not the HKs,” and “Complains first, least skilled.  No exceptions.”
  • I <3 Eye of the Storm, also with the map and “3 Bases > 1 Flag.”
  • I <3 Arathi Basin, with the map and the mantras: “Fight at the flag,” “No, really, fight at the flag,” and “Get off the road.  Fight at the flag.”
  • I <3 Strand of the Ancients, with the map and advice: “Defense: focus on killing Demolishers.  Hit them on the Beach,” “Offense, melee drive, ranged ride. Ignore the South GY,” and “It’s all about the Demolishers.”
  • I <3 Isle of Conquest, with the map and strategies: “Take the Docks, use the Glaives to get into the Keep,” “Forget the Docks, take the other two, kill the Glaives.”
  • I <3 Alterac Valley, with the map and advice: “Control the Graveyards to control your opponent,” “You can’t win by controlling the Field of Strife. Capture a tower instead,” and “A strong defense stops a strong zerg. Every time.”
  • I <3 Wintergrasp, with just the map.  I couldn’t break down my advice to pithy sayings, so I’ll leave it up to the wearer to explain the best strategy.

I won’t be going to Blizzcon personally, but if you catch anyone wearing these shirts there, send me a picture and I’ll post it!

Enjoy!

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Friends and Foes

I enjoyed my time in the leveling Battleground brackets with Cynwise.  I call them leveling brackets now, but back then they were just the non-endgame brackets, the place where people would go to let off steam and grind some Marks of Honor.  Since you didn’t gain any experience points in them, your characters could stay in a bracket indefinitely just by sticking around a major city and not going anywhere.

Your character may not have gained experience, but you, the player, certainly would.  You’d meet the same characters over and over again, both on your team and on the other side.  Having a smaller, more stable PvP population meant that you would get to know your fellow players.  Not well, mind you.  But you’d chat about how the other BGs were playing, get a sense for people’s strengths and weaknesses, and even find enemies you’d enjoy facing – even if it’s because you wanted to settle a score.  When people would level out of a bracket (always in Alterac Valley) there would be congrats and farewells.

There was one troll rogue in particular – Waternoose from Stormrage, though I can’t find him in the armory to be sure of the spelling – that bedeviled me throughout the 69 bracket.  He would make it a point to come and gank me at least once every battle, and I would make it a point to Fear him around whenever the opportunity presented itself.  It was a lot of fun zoning in and going, oh crap, it’s Waternoose.  Other clothies had similar opinions of him.

Once you get to the endgame the population swells, and it’s harder to get to know people.  It’s also harder to form a sense of community in the leveling brackets, as players move through the levels so quickly that you have maybe a few days to get to know fellow battleground enthusiasts, if that.  From what I’ve seen the twink brackets are the place with the strongest sense of community and player recognition – several times in the past few days I’ve gotten detailed precis of opponent’s behaviors in /bg chat.  (Like, spooky awareness of player behavior – “he’s losing, he’s going to /afk… the he goes.”)

I bring up these old war stories because they highlight a problem in battlegrounds and, to a lesser extent, the Dungeon Finder tool. Communities are built through repeated personal contact.  The changes to battlegrounds in Wrath have increased convenience (and therefore appeal) but lessened the sense of community.  If battlegrounds go cross-battlegroup in Cataclysm, thereby massively expanding the pool of available servers each BG pulls from, it could all go out the window.

But it doesn’t have to.

THE PROBLEM OF SERVERS

The biggest problem is crossing servers; there’s no way to talk to people that you’ve just worked with in a battleground or dungeon run unless you use RealID.  You can’t add them to your /friend list, because the list doesn’t work that way.

I read an interview with Ghostcrawler where he pointed out this was one of the biggest challenges of Warcraft – you meet someone at a social gathering, discover you both play WoW, and then discover you play on different servers.  Bummer.  You can’t play together.

RealID is a step towards solving this, a bit.  You could exchange IDs and at least talk to each other, if not actually play together.  But you couldn’t raid together, or queue up for a BG together.

Earlier this week I was talking smack to @morkuma on Twitter, and since we’re in the same battlegroup but play different factions, we decided we were going to try to face each other in a BG.   We tried for almost two hours to get into the same battleground but couldn’t.  Even something like Alterac Valley, with long queue times, was impossible to coordinate.  It was really frustrating to want to face someone in friendly competition but to be completely unable to make it happen.

The worst part was realizing I could /ignore Morkuma and the system would prevent me from ever grouping with him, but I couldn’t /friend him to get a matchup.

/FRIEND, /FOE, AND /IGNORE

What we need is a better way to manage who we group with in the randomizer.  Both the Dungeon Finder and the BG Finder work in fairly similar ways: you can join by yourself, or as part of a party, or as a complete party.  You have control over who you don’t want to group with cross server through the /ignore command, and control over who you group with on your server with your party.

What we need is an inverted /ignore command for your friends … and your enemies.  Here’s how I see it working.

  • Expand your /friends list to include cross-server friends.  There doesn’t need to be any RealID-like functionality added here – you don’t need visibility to see if they’re on.  This is just to set up a list for use in the queues later.
  • Create a /foe command to ‘friend’ characters from the other faction.  Again, this is just building a list.
  • Add a “Friends and Foes” checkbox to your queue. When checked, this would check your /friends and /foes and see if any of them are in queue, too.  If they are, you’re treated as tagalong to their invite and the system attempts to put you into the same battleground.  If not, you get a small delay added to your queue to allow your friends to queue up too – and then you’re placed as normal, with a warning that no F&F are available in this instance.

You can think of this as giving you priority to certain random which contain /friends and /foes, without guaranteeing a spot in them.

The idea here is to try to group you with your Friends and Foes before inserting you into a normal queue.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds; the queue will need to take into account that the target may be in normal mode, and should queue as quickly as possible, while you are in F&F mode, where you’d prefer to wait to queue with a friend (up to a point).  There’s also the question of delay: do you look just at the people queued for battlegrounds right now, or poll them periodically for 2 minutes to see if someone joins?

Perhaps one solution is that if you have mutual /friends (or mutual /foes) then you’re treated as a single unit within the queue, and placed only in battlegrounds that have space available on both sides. If it’s one-sided, however, then the placement delay kicks in.

I look at this as a nontrivial problem that appears trivial to outside communities.  There are a lot of complicated use-cases that the queuing system needs to account for, and the inner workings of their logic may make this well-nigh impossible to do.

But it would increase the fun of the game.  Playing with friends on the Internet is what this game is about; removing the server restriction would be worth it.

STALKERS AND GRIEFERS

As I was mulling the /foe idea over in my head, eventually I settled on one main problem – griefers.  I enjoyed my fights with Waternoose, but he won an awful lot of them.  What if he’d chosen me as his /foe, but then kept singling me out for camping?  And what if this behavior carries on beyond the battlegrounds and dungeons of Azeroth?  This isn’t like following someone on Twitter; you can actively ruin someone’s fun by griefing them.

The best solution I came up with is to have /ignore work cross faction, and /ignore trump everything else. As soon as I realize someone is deliberately trying to ruin my gameplay, click ignore and I never see them again.   Done.

(Making /ignore account-wide would be awesome, by the way.)

Ultimately, the possibility of abuse is the biggest concern I have with Friends and Foes queuing.  It could lend itself to some bad behavior in the battlegrounds as well as the dungeons.  Imagine trying to queue as a tank but getting healers all from the same guild on a different server, all who refuse to heal you?  All because you vote kicked one of their guildies?

Bad times.

REAL ID TO THE RESCUE?

Perhaps this is where RealID comes into play again.  The whole idea behind RealID is to allow you to connect to real-world friends, to have control over who friends you – and who doesn’t.

There’s something to be said for adding an additional layer of personal contact to the random queues. If I know someone outside of the game – met them at a party on Ghostcrawler’s yacht, got challenged to a duel on Twitter, etc – then I presumably have a way to exchange information to set up RealID outside of the game with that person.  Easy enough to do, and easy enough to set up.

But what about the people you casually meet in the BGs and LFDs of this world?  The ones where you’d like to PvP or run a heroic with them again, but don’t really want them to know all about you?  There’s a gap here that the systems don’t really fit.  Either you’re close, or you’re completely isolated.  Where’s the middle ground?

The battleground communities that existed when I was leveling Cynwise still exist.  They’re out there. You’ll strike up a conversation in the flag room during preparation, or maybe tell a joke while guarding a flag in Arathi Basin, or find some really inspiring leaders in the Isle of Conquest.  It’s just hard to find them, and harder to keep them going when you do find them.  Removing battlegroups will make it even harder, as the sheer number of people will make it increasingly likely you will never see any of those people you spent 20 epic minutes with ever again.

And that’s sad.  It’s not fun.

This isn’t a simple problem for Blizzard to solve.  I know it’s not.  While I, personally, would like the ability to create an ad hoc community of my own to PvP within, there are some serious, viable concerns with how it could be implemented.  There’s the rub.

(Though, seriously, Blizzard: consider account-wide /ignore lists as a start.  Please?)

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Twink Titles

There are at least five titles you can get on a level 19 character: Ambassador, The Diplomat, The Noble, The Explorer, and Of the Horde/Alliance. There are possibly others, but I’ve seen Armory examples of these five.

  • Ambassador I’ve covered on some detail, though I’ve since discovered there are three ways to the title: faction change, Chen’s Empty Keg, and the AQ War buildup quests. This last one required a lot of materials, but also required incredible foresight (since the title didn’t exist back in vanilla) or server transfers to new servers where the Gates of AQ were still closed during early Wrath. As all new servers start with them open now, that method doesn’t work anymore.
  • The Diplomat is an extension of the method twinks have used to get the Furbolg Medicine Pouch for years. Group up with a high level friend and let them kill the rep-granting mobs while you follow them around. Traditionally, twinks followed as a corpse, to avoid gaining XP, but that only works up to Revered for the Timbermaw.  After then you’re going to have to turn in Firbolg necklaces.
  • The Noble is the only holiday title without a level requirement – no dungeons or BGs – so it’s a good candidate for level 19 twinks. The hardest part is getting to Un’goro, which is really just a warlock summons away.
  • The Explorer is a lot easier now with the advent of the RAF two-person flying mount. You used to need a Warlock to summon you to the inaccessible regions of Outland and Northrend; now, you just need a friend with time and a sweet ride.
  • Of the Horde/Of the Alliance is rewarded for getting 100,000 honorable kills. There’s no level requirement, so all you have to do is grind out a lot of HKs.

Cataclysm should bring some more titles level 19 characters can get; I remain hopeful that Master of Warsong Gulch will grant a title. But we’ll have to see what makes it onto live.

So those are all the ones I know about.  Did I miss any? Any that you’re looking forward to in Cataclysm?

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The Level 19 Ambassador Project

Cynderblock takes a moment to appreciate Eversong Woods.

A funny thing happened to me during my time playing Cynderblock as a Horde; I rediscovered the joy of questing.

Not leveling, mind you, but questing – seeing the World of Warcraft through the stories told through the quests you’re asked to do by various people. Leveling is different; the slow accumulation of skills, gear, and abilities through gaining experience is entirely different from just wandering around stepping into people’s narratives.

While questing is almost always the most efficient way to level, it’s not the only way. But they’d gotten conflated in my mind, and it was good to be reminded that the two activities are very different.

Silverpine, where Tauren go to take a break from the Barrens.

It turns out that I don’t like leveling. Or, more accurately, I don’t like leveling without a purpose. If I set a goal – get my banker to this level so I can get my tradeskills up to this other level, or level up to 19 to start building a new twink – I can usually do okay. But my server friends will tell you that I’ve rolled dozens of alts, gotten them to their teens, and then deleted them, all because I don’t feel there’s a purpose behind them. I get bored.

With Cynderblock, that was not a problem. She’s XP-locked, never to leave level 19. Her skills are all maxed (except Fishing, but it’s good enough to get her a Hat.) Her gear is literally the best it can be, for nearly every situation she can be in. And since I’d never quested or leveled completely through any of the Horde zones, I was really enjoying doing every quest I could find, experiencing the other side through her eyes.

So... where ARE the ropes? And shouldn't there be a counterweight?

Then I looked at my reputation tab, and saw that hey, I’m actually racking up quite a bit of reputation here. Maybe I could go for Ambassador!

Wait, what?

THE REPUTATION PROBLEM AT LEVEL 19

Strange Tauren in a Strange Land.

The Ambassador title is rewarded for bringing all five of your faction’s city reputations to Exalted. The strategy for it is actually pretty simple:

  1. Do all the starting area quests for each specific race.
  2. Do all the quests in the second and third-tier zones (levels 10-30), including dungeon quests.
  3. Fill in any reputations that are lacking after all that with cloth turnins: Wool, Silk, Mageweave, and the repeatable Runecloth.

Once you have an epic mount and are level 50 or so, this is pretty simple and just takes time to do the quests. The key is the repeatable Runecloth quest - with it, all you have to do is farm stacks of Runecloth and turn them in for small rep gains. For some of the less-represented factions – Gnomes and Trolls – this makes it so you don’t have to worry about finding every last quest. This quest becomes available at level 50, while the other ones open up at various earlier levels.

At level 80, getting Ambassador is even easier due to the Argent Tournament. Champion’s Writs can be turned in for 250 reputation, so you can just do dailies to get your reputation up to Exalted. It’s really an easy way to get your home faction reps up if you’re already at 80 without Ambassador.

But Cynderblock is not level 50, or level 80. She’s level 19. And the problem at level 19 is that there just aren’t enough quests to generate the reputation she needs. Consider the steps above:

  1. She can do the starting areas for all the races. Check!
  2. She can do all the quests in the second tier zones (10-20). Check!
  3. She can do a few of the early quests in the third-tier zones (20-30), mostly chains that start early on. Problem!
  4. She can turn in Wool cloth, but not Silk, Mageweave, or repeatable Runecloth. Problem!
  5. She cannot participate in the Argent Tournament. Problem!
  6. She does not have a mount, let alone an epic mount. Inconvenient, but not really a problem.

I may not have Plainsrunning, but at least I have speed enchants.

Wowhead has some great filters that let you determine how much reputation you can get with a given faction. Here they are, broken apart by continent, filtered for level 19s:

I’ve included the World Events because you might get lucky with your timing. One thing about doing this right now, pre-Cataclysm, is that the troll quests reward reputation, while the gnome ones do not. This makes me scratch my head a bit, just because of the nature of those quests. (Taking a package to a random gnome should not reward more rep than liberating their home city.)

If you take a look at all of these quests, you’ll find that you can get to Revered with most all of your factions, but not Exalted. It can’t be done with 5 factions; the numbers just aren’t there.

So the only logical solutions are to add more quests, or add more factions. Since the only way to add more quests is to wait for Cataclysm (a viable option, by the way), changing factions was the way to go.

FACTION CHANGING MAKES YOU POPULAR

Barrens Chat was surprisingly quiet.

When I faction changed Cynderblock to get BiS gear, I didn’t consider reputation. I looked at base stats (to maximize twinking) and a general sense of who ‘block was, and came up with two options: Orc or Tauren.

(I admit, it’s a little strange seeing the Alliance Knight’s Colors appear on Horde races.)

I went with Tauren, which turned out to be an extremely lucky choice later on. However, one thing to keep in mind is that Blood Elves are the only race with a completely restricted starting (1-5) area. There are no quests there for other Horde members, so your Silvermoon City reputation will always lag behind if you’re not a Blood Elf. ‘block is a Warrior, though, and Blood Elf won’t be an option until Cataclysm comes.

Here’s the key about faction swapping: your reputation comes with you, but your quest log does not. The home city rep that you’ve gained from questing is changed into an appropriate home city rep of the other faction, but all of the new quests are still available for you to complete. By faction changing, you effectively double the number of quests available for each home city reputation grind.

In other words: instead of ~400 quests, you now have ~800 to generate reputation.

And that’s more than enough.

As a Tauren, I managed to do almost every single quest available to me, 393 in total. There *is* a repeatable quest for rep, Chen’s Empty Keg, the only repeatable quest available to level 19s that rewards reputation, but I skipped that to see if it was really necessary.

Cynderblock says goodbye to the Horde where she first loved it, in Eversong Woods.

SWITCHING BACK

Switching back to Alliance, there was one clear standout for which race I should choose:

The Human racial ability Diplomacy makes reputation grinds much, much easier. Once I’d established that the goal was Exalted or Bust, this choice was no choice at all. No matter what other stats apply, a +10% bonus to reputation gains cannot be turned down.

The last thing to consider in faction changing is how rep transfers between cities with an eye towards the weakest ones: Gnomeregan and Darkspear Trolls. Blizzard has a handy page which shows how each race’s reputations transfer to the opposite faction. I took ‘block Dwarf -> Tauren, which moved my substantial Gnome rep (I’d leveled in Dun Morogh) over to Troll, which was good. When I took ‘block from Tauren -> Human, however, my Troll rep transfered to Ironforge and my Orgrimmar went to Gnome.

Oh, the sights I've seen!

So I came out of the Horde with low Ironforge rep and really, really good Gnomer rep. (My Exodar rep was also very low because of that Blood Elf issue.)

For an ex-Dwarf, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

SPILLOVER REPUTATION

I don't have to check the signs to know where this boat is going.

I was nervous but excited when I returned to the Alliance, my 5 Revered reputations in hand. My Ironforge reputation really had me worried, so I checked Loch Modan first and discovered that I had never quested there before.

But even after exhausting the quests there, I hadn’t hit Exalted with Ironforge – not even close, really. I’d erased the Troll deficit but had a ways to go. So I went after the new lowest rep, Exodar, and went after the Draenei starting zones.

Azshara totally looks like Xtina. You know I'm right.

The key on the last stretch was spillover reputation. See, every quest you do for your five home factions gives a certain amount of rep for the city in question. You go fetch water in Mulgore? +500 Thunder Bluff reputation shows up in your log. What doesn’t show, however, is that you get 25% of that reputation to the other 4 cities, too. That 500 rep for Thunder Bluff was also 125 reputation for Org, Darkspear, SMC, and Undercity.

And if you’re Human, every single one of those spillover gains gets an additional 10% bonus.

So doing all those easy quests in every starting area pays off for you, and the more questing you can do the better off you are. Going with the starting zones introduced in Burning Crusade means you can do more questing in less time, and still be gaining rep with your other cities.

That’s what happened to me. I got Exalted with the Gnomes, Exodar, Darnassus, and Stormwind while questing in Azuremyst and Bloodmyst Isles.

AMBASSADOR CYNDERBLOCK

Level 19 Ambassador of the Alliance, Cynderblock

In the end, it was a fedex quest to Stormwind that got me the achievement. It awarded 250 Ironforge rep, with +25 for Diplomacy, when I was 262 away from Exalted. So I knew this quest would do it, and lined up the shot appropriately:

And there you have it.

It seems simple in retrospect, but to be honest I didn’t know if it could be done while doing it. I never broke things down into a spreadsheet, because I didn’t want to destroy my questing motivation while playing Horde. I had a lot of questions about how the quests would transfer, about how many quests I’d done on the Alliance side, and if it would work.

But it did. It’s possible. It can be done.

All that worry, for naught.

EPILOGUE

Gathering herbs in the Wetlands is best done with friends. Especially friends with choppers.

I know I’ve said this a lot, but I don’t think it can be said enough: I’ve had a lot of help in making Cynderblock the character she is. Fynralyl spent many hours helping on both the Alliance and Horde sides, running me through quests that I had no business attempting, and driving me around to pick herbs in zones where no sane level 19 considers entering. And Psynister got me into this whole twinking business; his advice and help have been invaluable.

Thank you both.

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Faction Changing For Fun And Profit

Sylvanas looks a little bored with the photo op.

Gearing up a twink at any level requires a lot of flexibility; you will need to quest, run dungeons, PvP, buy gear off the AH (or farm drops), level professions, and get heirlooms in order to get the absolute best gear for your character. It’s actually a very well-rounded way of gearing up, one I’d love to see more in the endgame. You can’t just farm badges or points for twink gear; you’re going to have to go to great lengths for some of it.

And even then, there will be gear that is out of reach. Or was out of reach, until recently. I’m talking about faction-specific gear, rewards from quests that have no equivalent on the other side.

With the introduction of the faction change service, a complete set of BiS gear is now possible. You can sport both a Seal of Sylvanas and a Seal of Wrynn on the same character – the only trouble is you may forget which base you’re supposed to carry the flag into!

I’d hit the point on Cynderblock where there were only two more things to do for gear: farm the Arena Grand Master, or change to Horde to get the remaining BiS gear.

So a faction change is what I did.

I recently faction changed my warrior from Alliance to Horde for three items: the Seal of Sylvanas, the Deadskull Shield, and the Steel-Clasped Bracers. There are a few other quest rewards I wanted to get too, like the awesome-looking Sin’dorei Warblade.

Changing your character’s faction costs $30, so this may not be for everyone. You might look at the gear upgrades and go, is it actually worth spending real money to get an additional +10 Stamina or so?

The answer to that question I leave up to you. People faction change for a lot of different reasons, so getting optimal gear doesn’t seem all that outlandish when you consider the spectrum of motivation.

If you decide to do it, here are some tips from my experience.

  1. Roll on the opposite side you want to end up on first. If you want to play Horde, roll your twink as Alliance first. This way you only have to change once.
  2. Get every faction-specific quest reward you think you’ll ever need from one side before switching. That means doing the ring quest for both sides, the Westfall quests for Alliance, the Hillsbrad quests for Horde.  Take your time and do your research.
  3. If you are Horde, don’t forget to pick up the Throat Piercers in the Ghostlands. These twink weapons are much more expensive Alliance-side than on the Horde, and are well-sought after by rogue twinks.
  4. You can take up to 300 gold with you when you transfer. Consider loading up your bank with valuable goods to sell on the other side. Faction-specific goods (like pets or clothes) offer a good return on very little investment. Don’t forget the White Kittens and the Black Cats!  You have 7 bank slots; use them all!

I actually made a lot of mistakes when I faction changed.  I started on the side I wanted to end up on (Alliance, where my main resides) so I ended up shelling out for two faction changes instead of one.  I took over a lot of Stylish Black Shirts, an Alliance-only vendor item, only to discover that pets outsell clothing 10:1 on the other side.  I didn’t research the gold cap at all and was waaaaay over it, scuttling several plans I had to get money from one side to the other.  And the list goes on.

But ultimately, I found it very rewarding, and Cynderblock very much appreciates her shiny new ring and shield, as well as some gorgeous weapons from the blood elf starting area.

What?  Like I’m going to tell her no, she can’t take them with her?  :-)

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The Level 19 Ambassador

Perseverance.

You’ll hear me talk a lot about perseverance in my posts and videos.  I think more than any other personality trait you can have, sticking with something and seeing it through to the end is what makes people successful in life.  Luck is random.  Tenacity is not.

In PvP, perseverance is vital.  You get killed, you get back into it.  You get owned, you get back into it.  You figure out what went wrong, you make changes, you adapt, you get back into it.

But it’s not just for PvP.  You want something?  Go after it.  Embrace your constraints, set the biggest, most audacious goal you can think of and go for it.

That said, may I introduce Ambassador Cynderblock, level 19 Ambassador of the Alliance.

It took 394 Horde quests and 259 Alliance quests to complete this reputation grind.  It’s only possible with a faction change, and a lot of help from friends.  You should consider how the races will transfer over when doing it.

At level 19, you will pretty much need to do approach it like Loremaster – do every quest you can find, no matter how hard or obscure.  I’ll have full details of how I did it on Green Tinted Goggles soon.

But it is possible.  Just stick with it.

Update: the how-to post is now up on GTG.

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Embracing Constraints

There’s never enough. Time, people, money, focus, whatever it is – there’s never enough of it to go around.

If I had enough time, I am sure that I’d be Arena Battlemaster Loremaster Cynwise, the Light of Dawn, goldcapped several times over. More time would mean more opportunities to do those things necessary to reach the pinnacle of every aspect of the game.

But I don’t have unlimited time, and neither do you. We all have limits.

And limits are wonderful thing, because limits create focus.

When you can’t have everything, you have to choose those things that matter the most to you and discard the rest. If I want to do X, I can’t spend that time doing Y; so which one is more important to me?

Without constraints, you don’t have to make choices. Yet our choices make us who we are.

Work with what you have. Don’t reject your constraints: embrace them.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT

A little while ago I realized that time was running out on the World of Warcraft as I knew it. I mean, I’d known intellectually that major changes were coming, but I was pretty content to pass the time doing what I enjoyed. I’d pvp some nights, raid others, play the auction house others. (Okay, who am I kidding, I played the AH every chance I could.)

I was content.

But then the Beta came along, and more of my friends and acquaintances started playing in it. And the pre-expansion blues hit, when folks went back to school, the markets stabilized, but folks were on less, maybe leveling alts, maybe doing… things?

And then came the Fall of Zalzane/Operation: Gnomeregan, and now the 4.0.1 PTR, and something became very, very clear.

I had two, maybe three months tops, to do everything I want to do in Azeroth before it all goes away. No more delays, no more tomorrows. I’d get maybe a day or so warning – a week if I was lucky – before Cataclysm hit the live servers.

Here it is, the biggest constraint of all: the world you’re playing in is doomed. It’s like we’re players in a Greek tragedy, and the Chorus is telling us that our fate is coming to meet us.

On top of having to find time to play amidst real life, of finding people who are interested in doing the things you’re interested in too, comes an unalterable deadline: Soon this will all be gone.

It’s not the time to panic. Now is the time to get to work.

KNOW YOUR MOTIVES

In my first version of my Cataclysm Bucket list, I had a lot of goals that seemed big at the time. Go fishing in zones that are getting changed! Run old classic dungeons! Level a bunch of alts!  Ony Ony Ony!

You know what? I went to Azshara to fish, and the fishing there sucks. The beaches are hard to get to, there are grumpy turtles and Naga everywhere, and the pretty places are just acres of unfulfilled promise; scenery, like Crystalsong Forest, only more disappointing.

And Onyxia was fun to duo at 60, but she’s now a loot pinata at T10 gear.

In the year since I’d written that list, my priorities had changed. I couldn’t force myself to level alts that I knew I’d abandon; travelling to places I’d already been didn’t interest me at all. So what was I left with?

I wanted to experience the Horde from their perspective, before it all changes.

And I wanted to kill the Lich King.

Two different goals, but all doable in the time left to me.  The biggest problem would be motivation. I like doing content once, but going over the same thing bores me. It’s why I PvP so much: every battle is different, even if the maps are the same.

THE OTHER SIDE

I tried, and failed, to level alts on the Horde side of my server.  The best leveling area in the game, Eversong/Ghostlands, saw me get stuck before I finished any of the cool questlines, and I never went back to any of the other starting areas.  The highest I got was a level 17 mage, who I leveled the last few levels in Warsong Gulch, which kinda missed the point of it all.

This changed when I faction changed my level 19 warrior twink, Cynderblock, to pursue some best in slot gear.  I’m over there, grinding away some quests for a cool shield, when I realize — I could just go do all the starting areas. No pressure to level up a throwaway alt, no need to start out weak and gear up with the same crappy quest gear — just quest for the cool rewards and see what there is to see.

Then I thought… wait a minute, I could get all the reputation gains from the Horde quests, and then faction change back to Alliance and do the same… maybe I could get Ambassador?  Ambassador at level 19?  Is that even possible?

That crazy thought was exactly the motivation I needed.  I found out that I really did want to see all of the Horde areas, but I didn’t want to do it and never look back.  I wanted it to matter.  I needed to put constraints on my leveling to make it crazy, absurd, audacious.

Try for Ambassador at level 19?  Exalted with all 5 factions, without a mount?  SIGN ME UP.

Back at an old job we were asked to set BHAGs: big, hairy, audacious goals. These were goals to not just stretch yourself, but push yourself to do things you’d never rationally consider.

A BHAG was what I needed, a BHAG that embraced constraints.  Plenty of folks can, and do, level through the starting zones in a very short period of time.  I don’t enjoy leveling enough to do that to myself once, let alone five times.  But doing something on a character that you are going to keep, where you don’t know if you can succeed, and where there are some specific limits?

Yes.  By setting limits creativity flourishes.  And that’s what happened to me with the Level 19 Ambassador project.

Cynderblock has completed nearly 400 quests in every single Horde zone from 1-30.  Every quest that was available to a level 19 character and awarded reputation with one of the 5 main factions is complete.  The only exceptions were two of the rare beast quests in the Barrens (couldn’t find them) and the repeatable Chen’s Empty Keg quest in Ratchet.  I looked at that and said, let’s try this without that, and if we need it later we can come back for it.

I’ve started the faction change process again, this time to bring Cynderblock back to the Alliance as a Human — hopefully Diplomacy’s bonus will be enough to get her over the finish line.  If not, there are some daily quests during the Harvest Festival to try.  And if not.. we might be brewing beer in the Barrens.  Or we’ll wait for Cataclysm and do all the *new* quests.

All I needed to do was find the right constraints to get this one done.

THE COMING MONTHS

I still have a bit of work ahead of me on Cynderblock; I have to go visit all the Alliance starting areas, doing all the quests I’d skipped over the first time.  There are areas I know I skipped entirely (Loch Modan, Darkshore, Ashenvale) that are changing in Cataclysm, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again.

And there’s also the little matter of the Lich King.

I never expected to raid; when I first started playing, raiding seemed to be completely out of the question. I didn’t even run dungeons while leveling!

So I’m pretty happy that I found a guild who would take my PvP-educated self through heroics, and then 10-mans, and finally 25-mans.  It’s helped me grow immensely as a player, but there’s one thing missing.

After weeks and weeks and weeks in Icecrown… I still haven’t killed the Lich King.  Our guild has, but I haven’t.

I want Arthas down before Cataclysm.

And I will get him.

NARROW YOUR FOCUS

I’ve heard a variety of dates around Cataclysm’s release date: early to mid-November, late November, early December.  I don’t think anyone knows yet.

But I can look at the calendar and say, I have 6 weeks before the earliest feasible date, 2 months tops.  What are the most important things for me to get done?

Two titles: Ambassador and Kingslayer.  Everything else is a bonus.

Embrace the deadline.  Narrow your focus and make sure you get the things done you really want to get done.

Cataclysm will come soon enough.

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