Complicated Past

On the Aggrochat podcast this week we all talked a bit about our various histories with World of Warcraft and why it sometimes sounds like it physically pains us to speak about that game today. One of the things I didn’t go into on the show was a huge part of my relationship with WoW. Not too long after I started playing I was struggling with medical issues and in particular chronic pain. WoW was a source of comfort and companionship no matter what weird hour of the night I found myself needing it. I even found folks who were going through the same thing as me, and had a bit of a support group of blood elves with medical problems. When I was stuck home on medical leave and recovering from surgery, WoW helped me feel like I was still connected with the outside world. To this day it is still a comfortable refuge when life is crappy, even though the game itself has changed dramatically, and even though I lost touch with most of the people I was friends with in that painful past. It also means I can’t think or talk critically about WoW and its history without remembering what I was going through back then, and all the friends I gained and lost.

Not Missing Much

Oh no! I’ve missed a couple of days worth of posts! Good thing this year is the super chill version of Blaugust, and there’s no repercussions of a few missed days. I’ve had some medical stuff come up (don’t worry, I’m fine!) that makes sitting at my desk for long stretches a problem. Thus I haven’t done much gaming to speak of the past few days and don’t have much to say here.

I have found that Diablo 3 is pretty great for squeezing a little gaming into small doses. I can pop in and run a rift in 15 minutes or so and then take a break. I’ve even managed to get myself through GR69 and do a T12 rift in under 6 minutes for the season journey, so I’m almost finished the Destroyer rank. D3 isn’t as fun solo, but playing solo means I can walk away and pause the game at any time so it has been working out for my needs this week. At this stage I believe the only things I have left to do for the stash tab are 2 conquests and a T13 rift in under 5 minutes. Maybe I will get it this season after all. It is definitely looking like there’s more D3 in my future than I had planned, anyway.

Book Challenge #100: C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy

So when I thought about doing this challenge, I got all excited about the long list of amazing books I was going to read. Then I looked at the list and saw that the first thing I’d be reading was C.S. Lewis and I almost decided to quit before I’d even started. To say I have a negative opinion of this author is a huge understatement. However, I hadn’t read this series in particular, and it did make the list so I figured I would give it a shot. I did resent shelling out four bucks for the privilege.

The Space Trilogy is Lewis’ attempt to reach adult audiences with his The first book of this series is Out of the Silent Planet, published in 1938.

This series’ inclusion on this list smacks of “well we can’t include Narnia since it is technically children’s fiction, but we have to throw some C.S.Lewis on there somehow.”

In this story, the protagonist, Professor Ransom, walks through the countryside until he is drugged, beaten, and abducted by a childhood acquaintance and a famous scientist. They steal him away to another planet where he’s meant to be given to the natives for presumably nefarious purposes. Instead, after they land Ransom escapes and runs off, eventually meeting the planet’s inhabitants and learning about their world. By the end he is reunited with his captors, and they discover the reason why the aliens wanted a human in the first place.

The first 2/3 of this book is boring but passable. It sets up the story and gets the protagonist from Earth to Mars. Addition of alien language comes across as grammar lesson instead of compelling part of the world. Portrayals and reactions to women, “simple” people, and “savages” are awful and incredibly off-putting.

The last 1/3 of this book was a condescending, thinly-veiled religious allegory. I have no problems with allegory in general, but here there’s no subtlety or novelty about it whatsoever. A book about ending up on an alien planet and uncovering their social structure and religion could be interesting. A book about going to Mars to hear a retelling of the bible is incredibly boring.

My copy came with a free preview chapter of the 2nd book of the series. I declined to read it.

TL;DR:

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

Rating: 1/5 stars

Verdict: Would not recommend, unless you are interested in being bludgeoned about the head with christian allegory.

What I’m Playing: August 21, 2016

Another week of nothing but Diablo 3 and World of Warcraft. It should be depressing that I haven’t played more games, but honestly I’ve been having tons of fun with these old comfortable titles.

WoW: I got my baby mage to 100 this week via the invasion roller coaster. I also got my legendary ring on my druid, so I can say I saw that story on at least one character this expansion. The story quest they added this week as part of the lead up to Legion was also really fun. It wasn’t as epic as the Broken Shore quest but it was nostalgic and entertaining. Now I’m just leveling various alts and enjoying myself in these last few days before the expansion. In addition to the baby mage I’ve gotten a warrior from 1 to 64 and a DK up to 79 with invasions. It will be interesting to see what the total level count from this event will be.

D3: There’s been slow but steady progress this week. I’ve gotten 3 legendary gems up to level 60, and managed to clear GR68 solo. The pants I screwed up a while back have been fixed, and 2 more pieces of ancient legendary gear have been augmented. I just wish I could find or craft an ancient bow, it is the one huge thing holding me back right now. I’m leaning more and more toward not bothering with the stash tab for this season, but I think I would at least like to finish the step of the journey that I’m on right now. I just need one conquest and a TXII speed rift to finish up.

 

Screenie Saturday: Wrapping up WoD

Minor spoilers for Legion intro quests.

This week has been all about wrapping things up in Draenor and getting ready for Legion.

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I finally got my legendary ring. With over a week to spare before the quests disappear!

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Legion seems to be the expansion of maximum nostalgia. This intro quest (after the broken shore) was no exception.

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I can not wait to come back here at 110 and see what happens to the place.

What I’m…Reading?

I am fortunate enough to have some extra down time in my days when I’m not working and playing games and making ends meet. I suppose I could use this time to be productive. I could wash the giant pile of laundry that’s waiting for me, or finish painting my office, but no. Why would I do those things when I can lose myself in a good book? I’ve been trying to step away from the computer each night early enough to read for at least a half hour before bed. This week I remembered that NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books list exists, and that I keep meaning to work my way through it. I figure Blaugust is a perfect time to get started on it, to give me more blog fodder and to keep me honest and see if I’m still making progress.

I chose this list instead of any of the billion other lists of top sci-fi and fantasy because I generally trust NPR as a curator of interesting stories, because 60,000 people voted on it, and because it is easily accessible. I do acknowledge that it is 5 or so years old now, so it is probably missing a few amazing recent works.

The list cheats a bit, in that many of the items are series, not single books. If a single book of a series is listed alone, I’ll just read that one. For listed series, I’ll read the first book and leave the rest up to personal discretion. If I enjoyed the first one or if I feel like it is worthwhile to me culturally to keep reading I will. Even if I’m really loving a series I will probably stop after 3 and come back to it later because if I get myself bogged down in The Wheel of Time or some other long series I may never finish this list.

I also recognize that this is a very long term project. If I did no other reading it would still take ages to get through this entire list, so I’m only going to require that I finish one of these per month. That way I can alternate between these classics and whatever new shiny novel Seanan McGuire wrote this week or other thing that catches my fancy.

So here are my full ground rules for this challenge:

  1. Start at #100 and work up the list to #1
  2. Must attempt every book
  3. May skip books after reading at least 25% if they are just awful or upsetting
  4. May stop series after reading the first book
  5. Must track progress and rate each work
  6. Must complete one book each month

I did the math before writing this post, and I’ve read about half of this 100 already. Some of them recently, some of them decades ago. I’m curious to see if they hold up to my vague memories of them, or if age gives me a bit of perspective and makes them even more enjoyable.

Item #100 on the list, and hence my first for this challenge, is the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. I’ve never read these, but I’m not a huge fan of C.S. Lewis’ other work. I don’t really know anything about this one at all, though, so I’m curious to see how it compares.

Interested in joining me on this challenge? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

The Invasion Roller Coaster

It’s no secret that I’ve been having some fun with the pre-Legion events happening in WoW. The new quests are interesting and chock full of lore, and the invasion events are entertaining, quick, and showcase some pretty sweet new tech that we’ll see more of in the expansion. Those invasions have gone through some major changes since they went active, though. While my enjoyment of them in general is still high and I do still think they are a success, the whiplash-inducing speed at which xp gains have fluctuated has been troubling. It showcases what appears to me to be the usual Blizzard motif of making huge changes, reversing them, then eventually settling in a middle ground that nobody asked for. See: flying, daily quests, etc.

When the invasions started last Tuesday they gave almost zero XP for leveling characters. I did a few on my baby mage back then. While the scaling tech was cool and getting level-appropriate gear out of the treasure chests was nice, without any XP there was no incentive at all to farm on low level characters when I had perfectly good 100s around that needed gear.

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Not-so-baby-anymore Mage’s new arcane transmog for level 100!

Then the invasions were hotfixed to provide XP. Oodles and gobs of XP. Delicious XP as far as the eye could see. A single full invasion could give multiple levels worth of XP for lowbies, and even at 90+ they still gave a huge fraction of a level. During this bounty I leveled my baby mage from 61 to 100. For the last 10 levels I held onto my boxes, and when I dinged 100 I had almost a full set of ilvl 700 gear, including a fully upgraded ilvl 725 weapon and a couple of warforged 710 and 720 pieces. Truly it was a glorious time to be a baby alt.

The update this Tuesday pretty thoroughly derailed this XP train. Yes, you still got XP for invasions, but only a fraction of what they gave last week. Yes, technically there was more XP available in any given 4-hour window for one toon, because there were more invasions spawning. Unfortunately it required much more work, traveling around getting to each invasion and completing 6 instead of 2. During this time, I’d say that invasions were still worthwhile for lowbie characters, but only to do a few times to earn specific rewards you might be chasing, or fill in time between dungeon queues. There was just way more effort required to get the same amount of reward as last week. This led to even more people than usual afking to get the stage completion XP, instead of actually participating in the event.

More recently there’s been yet another adjustment to try to address the afk problem. Now XP from killing mobs in the invasions has been substantially increased. I get that this is to try to encourage people to actually participate, but it has some nasty side effects. The XP gets split depending on contribution, and depending on how many people are attacking a given mob. That means that big bosses with dozens of people hitting them still give almost no XP, and even smaller mobs that you could solo will have their XP reward halved if someone else touches them. This encourages people to hunt down smaller mobs to solo kill in hidden corners of the zone, and to get belligerent if anyone comes along to try to help. It seems like exactly the opposite of what you would like to see in terms of people working together to take on these big social events. It is also extra rough for lower level characters, since with no or only slow flight it is hard to get out of the main town and contribute in phase 3.

I’m not sure why they felt the need to keep changing things so drastically. I honestly would be fine with either of the first two XP options they tried. The first way, with no XP to speak of, at least let lowbies participate and see what all the fuss was about, while encouraging people to gear up their level 100s. The second way, which worked the most in my favor, let people get to 100 quickly and get ready for the expansion. Since it is such a limited time event I’m not sure why Blizzard sees it as so bad that people are excited about the expansion and want to have their toons at max level to be ready to see the Legion content. It seems like it would encourage expansion sales, although I guess it would probably hurt the sales of level boosts.

All of the additional changes this week have mostly served to annoy me. At this point I have no idea what to expect from invasions from day to day, and what the most useful and profitable way to participate in them will be. While I could use the ilvl 700 gear on some of my alts, I don’t need anything else for cosmetic purposes, so maybe this is just the point where I stop bothering with invasions altogether? If everybody starts feeling this way though, we’ll get to the point next week where invasions are popping up everywhere all the time, but nobody cares enough anymore to bother trying to stop the Burning Legion. That would be a bummer of a way to start off a new expansion.

Barely There

I worked on greater rifts in D3 yesterday. For the uninitiated, Diablo 3’s adventure mode gives you access to two types of rifts. The normal “Nephalem” rifts have difficulty that is set when you set the game difficulty for yourself overall. They are procedurally generated dungeons that take on the appearance of various places from the story, and are populated with random monster sets. As you kill monsters you fill up a progress bar, and once it is full the rift guardian boss is spawned. Rifts are great because they have a higher chance of dropping legendaries, and the rift guardian drops greater rift keystones.

Greater rifts have the same random tileset and monsters, but none of the normal monsters drop any loot or gold. Instead, you are trying to beat a timer, filling up the progress bar to summon and defeat the guardian before 15 minutes are up. Doing this nets you loot from the guardian plus legendary gems with special powers. Each completed greater rift gives you the chance to level up those legendary gems and make yourself ever more powerful. Greater rifts also have a more granular difficulty setting that you can choose when you open a new rift, and they’re not capped at Torment XIII like normal rifts.

8sec

Yes, I really finished that rift with less than 8.5 seconds to spare.

All this is a really long introduction for the fact that yesterday I attempted GR65 (functionally a few tics higher difficulty than TXIII) and won. Barely. As you can see in my screenshot I had less than 9 seconds left on the clock. On that run I died a few times to dumb things early on (stupid effing bees in long narrow hallways), fell behind, and almost just gave up and reset. In greater rifts when you’re fighting against the clock you also get increasing penalties when you die, forcing you to wait up to 30 seconds until you can rez again. I wish that there was a way to instantly rez and just deduct that time from your timer instead of having to sit still for 30 seconds and think about what you did, but at least watching those bees hovering around my corpse filled me with enough determination to continue. So let this be a reminder that even when things look terrible and you’re surrounded by evil bees, there’s still a chance that you can make it through okay!

How to get to invasions in a hurry

I know I said I wasn’t going to do any guides this Blaugust, but I guess I lied. There’s enough folks wondering how to quickly get to the demon invasions that I figured I’d put together a quick guide. This accounts for both Horde and Alliance paths and portals, and has optional extra speedy options for specific classes. For the purposes of this guide I’m assuming you have set your hearth to your faction’s shrine in Pandaria for easy access to most portals. If you don’t yet have your hearth set there, make friends with a mage and get yourself a portal because some of these locations are a bit out of the way otherwise. Or better yet, just go roll a mage because they’re pretty great.

Westfall:

Alliance: Port to Stormwind just fly southwest. It’s not even worth grabbing the flight path to Sentinel Hill.

Horde: Port to Orgrimmar, take the zeppelin to Stranglethorn Vale, fly north to Westfall. If you really don’t want to wait for the zep you can take the portal to the Blasted Lands and fly northwest from there, but it is slightly longer.

Horde Mages: If you don’t feel like waiting for the zep, you can port to Stonard and fly west from there.

Dun Morogh:

Alliance: Port to Ironforge, walk out the front door.

Horde, with increasingly silly options: The fastest path requires you to have unlocked the portal to Twilight Highlands. You can fly due west from there. Otherwise you’re looking at a long flight from either Stranglethorn (via zeppelin), Blasted Lands (portal in Org), or Stonard (mage portal) to Searing Gorge, then north to Dun Morogh. If you’ve unlocked it you can also take the incredibly awkward pathway via Vashj’ir portal, seahorse to the flight path, to Searing Gorge, but if you’ve got that you probably have the Twilight Highlands portal anyway. If you’re extremely bored and have one laying around you can also try using a Direbrew Remote to go to blackrock mountain and fly north from there. All of these paths leave something to be desired but they will get you there, eventually.

Hillsbrad:

Alliance: Portal to Ironforge from the shrine, then hop a flight to Arathi Highlands and head west. Death Knights can also death gate and hop a flight from Acherus instead to save a little time. Aerie Peak is a nice close flight point.

Horde: Portal to Undercity and hop a flight to Tarren Mill directly.

Mages of either faction: Use your Ancient Dalaran portal to go directly to Hillsbrad. Just have your feather fall button ready! For the unaware, this teleport spell is found in the last room of Scarlet Halls (normal or heroic), after killing the last boss without letting him burn any books. It is on a shelf to the left of the door. The portal version is sold by the mage vendor in Dalaran once you have learned the self-teleport version.

Azshara:

Alliance: Portal to Stormwind. Take the Hyjal portal from there and fly southeast from Hyjal to Azshara. If you haven’t unlocked the Hyjal portal yet, portal to Darnassus, hop a flight path to Ashenvale and then fly east, or if you are a druid teleport to Moonglade and fly from there.

Horde: Portal to Orgrimmar and head out the back door to Azshara.

Northern Barrens:

Alliance: Once again the Hyjal portal is your friend, otherwise you’ll be flying for a long while from Darnassus.

Alliance Mages: Teleport to Theramore and laugh at the poor suckers flying all the way from Hyjal.

Horde: Portal to Org or Thunder Bluff and catch a flight straight to the Crossroads.

Tanaris:

Everybody: Portal to Dalaran. In the Kirin Tor tower there’s a portal to the Caverns of Time. Take it and you’ll be in Tanaris.

(edit) Thanks Mister Smath for the reminder about engineer gadgets:

“Gnomish Engineers can craft the toy “Ultrasafe Transport: Gadgetzan” for a quick trip to Tanaris. Goblin engineers have “Dimensional Ripper: Everlook” for a quick trip to Winterspring then a short flight to Azshara.”

Do you have any other suggestions for getting around Azeroth in a hurry? Share in the comments and I’ll be happy to update this list!

 

All the Fel

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My garrison was feeling left behind so I brought the demon invasion to it.

When the 7.0 patch hit I was surprised how much I still stayed in my garrison. There was cloth to make and missions to run to stock up on resources so I could buy fur so I could make more cloth…it was still almost as tedious and exhausting as it was before the gold missions got nerfed. I was starting to worry that I’d end up spending Legion still hearthing back to my garrison just so I could keep working on professions and making bags to sell. Fortunately last week’s demon invasions have thoroughly cured me of my garrison addiction. When I bother to check in on them, my garrisons are full of resources and waiting for me to restock everything. In between, I’m not thinking about them at all and that’s 100% fine by me. My baby mage is 92, she’s going to hit 100 this week, and the stretch from 60-100 will have been fueled largely by invasion events instead of questing. I’m going to squeeze all of the leveling goodness out of this that I can because I know it is going away at the end of the month. The only other question is, can I level another alt to 100 before it goes?