Saturday, October 30, 2010

An Ode to a Daniel Serbicki

I nearly forgot! When I began this blog, I promised that I would write an ode to the first person to comment here. So, in such accordance, here is my 'Ode to Daniel Serbicki':

O Daniel, the wisest of all wond'rous ones, 
who notes the anachronisms of a Psychic Turban, 
may you feel beneath the warmth of the plaintive suns,
and ne'er feel the force of the Crab's hammer of ban. 
Picture a ninja upon a space station of gold
with none but his trusted aids, a raptor and a tornado, 
and can raze the world with a single Knaakian spell.
Who counts among his ranks Saurfang the old,
Norris, Crowley. Try to imagine this, then, so
that you might see the man who wants to be Daniel.

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Basic Template!

Hey, as you may notice, I changed the site design, from a pretty awful looking premade thing, to a less awful premade thing. Whoop-de-do! I may, at some point, try and write up a personalized theme for this blog, if I ever get inspired to do so.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Solokin: Zul'Gurub

Hey all, hope you are having/had a good time at Blizzcon (if you could go, unlike I). I, instead of frolicking around as elves and spacegoats with like-minded individuals, set down to the hard work of grinding Zandalar rep before it gets turned into a Feat of Strength in Cataclysm. And, as you may be well aware, one of the prime pieces of grinding Zandalar reputation is doing the dungeon, Zul'gurub, which is also getting removed in Cataclysm. You may be even more less aware that I am a moonkin, and perhaps even the least aware that I didn't want to group with people, so I'm doing it solo. So... yep. That's the title.

Zul'Gurub: The Background

ZG, as it is abbreviated, was a raid instance, added in patch 1.7. The first raid that was neither 40-man nor world, it paved the path into the 10 and 25 man raids we know today. The lore behind it follows the ancient troll empire called the Gurubashi, who were in great desperation after the Sundering. In order to help with their troubles, a group of Gurubashi Priests called the Atal'ai enlisted the aid of one Blood God Hakkar (who has nothing to do with a Knaakian Houndmaster) to help them. But, as blood gods are prone to do, he wanted a load of sacrifices which the trolls weren't too keen on. They sent in those priests to try to kill Hakkar, but they got enslaved, and eventually everyone who wasn't enslaved fled. Now, the Zandalar tribe is recruiting adventurers to go destroy Hakkar, in an attempt to rid the trolls of him once and for all.

The raid is on a 3-day lockout timer and is not reset as per the weekly schedule. It has 5 priest-bosses which need to be destroyed before Hakkar if you wish him not to gain special abilities. For soloing purposes, just kill the priests then him. Also, there are 4 optional bosses per lockout, one requiring fishing and a questline done (Gahz'ranka).

Picture from Wowwiki's DarkRyder


The entire raid took me about 2 and a half hours to complete, but that was with two optional bosses, learning the strategies, and killing extra trash for rep. After a couple of tries, I'd imagine I can speed it up to under an hour. I should mention to solo this, you need to be in a raid - I logged on to a second account, invited them, and then disconnected off of that account. If you have a friend who isn't questing, that's another alternative.

A couple of brief notes: Starfall is handy, but be careful not to pull too many groups. Thorns is now deadly, so keep it in your rotation. Typhoon with daze can be a godsend, and if you're alliance, use and over-use that shadowmeld. 1-stack lifeblooms were, I found, the most effective healing technique, with a rejuvination on top of that if you need a bit more punch till the bloom comes around. Anything requiring more than that, and you're better off killing the damage-doers.

First, you are met with a bit of trash in the path going forward. They're pretty easy to kill, but the Axethrowers can get you into trouble if they're left alive for too long - they have a nasty 10-second or so channeled stun. Dotting them up is a simple, but effective, way of removing this threat. Barkskin + Hurricane + Typhoon your way to the first fork, where you'll take a right to the first boss: 1, High Priestess Jeklik (Wowhead). She's a pretty simple tank and spank, but she's a little hard to find if you don't know where you're looking - she's standing on the wall where you'll be looking as you come in. "/tar High" if you're really having trouble.

After her comes 2, High Priest Venoxis (WH). Just run back down the road to the fork, and go straight until you hit the room filled with snakes. clear the snakes and burn him down. Simple simple tank+spank.

Next is 3, High Priestess Mar'li (WH), the Spider boss. Go out of the snake room, follow the main road, and take the next right. Take a right at the next fork and from there follow the cobwebs and skitterers. Oh, and don't use Starfall in this room. Just... don't. She's now much of a challenge, but it makes sense to kill her adds so they don't get big, which they do if they're left alive. She'll turn into a nerubian at the end, which can be pretty shocking if you're zoomed way in. Yea, that's you, Myebika.

Once the spiders are put to an end, you have the option of doing an extra boss - 7, Bloodlord Mandokir (WH). He has a chance of dropping a mount, so it's usually worth it. Take the alternate fork from where you went following the spiders, and take a left in the room filled with trolls. You don't need to kill them, but they drop coins and other rep-things that, if you can't use, someone on your server can (so stick those on the AH!). Clear the floor, and get ready for 2 minutes of travel form. The trick to him is that after 2 minutes, he hits for very little damage, making the fight a breeze. But before then, you have a high danger of dying if you try to just take it. The trick is to aggro him, set your trees and dots on him, then kite him around in travel form for two minutes while periodically breaking form to heal yourself. It can take a while to get used to, but once you do, it's a snap. After that, it's a DPS race, so blow up his face with all you've got.

A note here - there are some big trolls that run around and aren't to tough, 'cept they have a brutal knockback. Just keep it in mind when you're fighting - don't get knocked into the lake!)Next comes another optional event, 10, The Edge of Madness (WH, 2, 3, 4). This one's just bloody annoying - first off, you can't pull too many of the trash imps at a time, because they spawn portals that summon trough voidwalkers that (if you have too many) can overwhelm you or, you need to kite. Second, the bosses are summoned out of four, which are determined by the day you summon them on. Lastly, you need a now-never made item to summon them (oh, by the way, alchemists can click on the tablet on the wall to learn how to make said item). So... yeah. Not really worth it. They are, however, required if you want to make the ZG Trinkets.

This is followed by another brutal one - 4, High Priest Thekal (WH). I have not found a successful way to kill this boss, as a moonkin, without the now infamous bug. I'm not going to relate it here, but I'm sure you can find it if you look hard enough (it was on wowhead, might have been removed). Otherwise, you'll need to kill the two tigers (probably by Thorns) and simultaneously dps down the two adds, making sure they die at the same time. If you can do that without dying, I'm super impressed, and then you'll need to kill Thekal himself (who, once this has been done, is pretty easy). It's the high damage output that really gets you here, so +Defence food, pvp gear, maybe some Indestructible potions even. Comment below if you find a good strat.

EDIT: A strat has been found! See here for more info.

Next is another optional (Fishing!) boss by the name of 9, Gahz'ranka (WH). He is fairly simple, in that if you do enough damage to him before he kills you, he dies. I didn't attempt him because I forgot my Mudskunk Lure, which must be purchased from Nat Pagle in Dustwallow Marsh after completing a quest, started in ZG, which requires you to go to Nat and return his... measuring tape. You actually only need level 1 fishing to do this quest. To summon him, fish up 5 Zulian Mudskunks from pools nearby Gahz'ranka, and then combine them using the Mudskunk lure you purchased. Use it at Pagle's Pointe (9) and dps him down. Fishing him up also gets you an achievement (Deadliest Catch) which will become a FoS in Cataclysm. (Side note - he drops Tome of Polymorph: Turtle, a cool polymorph for mages, but this will NOT be removed in Cataclysm, and will be available through alternate means. Sorry, all you who were hording them.)

Next, run up the ramp from Pagle's and go down the main road on the other side of the lake until you see the big building guarded by panthers. Run/fight your way to the bottom, and you're at 5, High Priestess Arlokk (WH), a bit of a joke compared to the previous bosses. The one issue I found with her is that she likes to bug out. Often. So dps her down quickly, and there's a chance her panthers might not even attack you, so a few hundred panthers might jump you at the end. Have your typhoon key ready.

Next is the last optional boss, 8, Jin'do the Hexxer (WH). If you use trees here, he tends to mind control you and make you attack them. Other than that, I found fighting him on top of the dancing skeletons is a good idea, because then when he teleports you it doesn't require extraneous movement or potential buggery. Hurricane + barkskin or just thorns the skellies, and blow the Hexxer to bits. Oh, and little bit of annoyance can happen here if he decides to mind control you near the end. If he dies while a mind control totem is still controlling you, you will stay that way for 4 minutes until it despawns. Yep. Fun times.

Now, the main event. 6, Hakkar (WH), resides at the top of the temple in the center. Fight your way to the top (there's a couple of large trash packs, so don't be afraid to wait for cooldowns), and it's nice to face him on an open platform. He hits a little harder than the other bosses, but it's not much to be scared of. A rejuv or a lifebloom here or there will cover it.

And once he's dead, you're a new Hero of this Realm. Congrats on your new soon-to-be-Feat of Strength, Zul'Gurub.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Brief History of Phasing

Hey all, I'm back and better than ever! Oh, and welcome to all of you that found this site through, it's good to have you here. A few bits of info before I get to the meat of the post:
First, this is now my dedicated WoW blog. Tangential postings will be limited.
Second, I think I'm going to keep to a posting schedule (gasp!) that will prompt further ramblings and helpful advice. So, you can check back here on Sundays and Wednesdays for posts which may intrigue the mind and inform the unknowing.
Third, my guild (finally) downed Arthas on Saturday! I must say, it's one of the coolest fights in all of Wrath, and it was triply awesome in that it was one of the last things on my checklist to do before Cataclysm! Anyways, on with the post.

Ah, Phasing. One of Wrath's biggest selling points - letting the world evolve in accordance to your actions, demand and create new challenges, and build an interactive story. One of the most hyped features by the fans, too - and yet, one that (in my opinion) fell all too short. Except perhaps on one account. But we'll get to that later.

What is phasing, anyway?

Phasing is, first and foremost, a shifting of your character from one 'phase' to another. Think of it as jumping sideways through time - something any quantum physicist can understand quite well. Essentially, you can see and interact with objects and players in your 'phase', and can't see or interact with things that are outside of it. It attempts to solve one of the greatest challenges in the making of any traditional MMO: player interaction with the world. By doing things, the world changes around you - if this were completely true, you would be left something like LOVE (not entirely feasible for a game like WoW) - but by using a structured approach it enhances player investment without an exorbitant amount of effort or re-designing things.

In the beginning...

In a couple of Blizzard podcasts, developers have noted that phasing began with a fun little quest implemented in patch 2.4 (Fury of the Sunwell/Isle of Quel'danas) called 'Intercepting the Mana Cells', which was the daily that initially opened up the portal to the Isle from Shattrath. The quest has you jump from one phase, where you can see mobs that have an item which lets you jump phases, to another, which has the objects in it but not the mobs. It was a neat idea, and made for an interesting daily (the first ten or twenty times). But 'phasing' as it is called began much earlier, with a quest I have written about by the name of 'You Are Rakh'likh, Demon', where, at one point in the chain, the questgiver (The Fallen Hero of the Horde) gins a new dialog option that allows you to summon a tauren who continues the chain. This early instance doesn't have the fancy triggers we know today, and relies on dialog trees to solve the issue of world-changing: clunky, but effective.

Dialog was lot the only way of escaping the staticness of WoW - another major way was using items as a trigger. Simple things like the Argent Dawn Commission 'phased' you into the loot phase where the argent dawn rep bits exist. It seems like a stretch, true - but when you extend this to look at things like the Spectral Essence of Caer Darrow, you can see half of phasing is present - you do a quest, getting an item thereby producing a trigger, and then can see new things and even access new vendors (a repair guy).

The phasing also existed in some more core ways: first, invisibility! It only shows you people that are invisible too, and effectively phases you 'out' of the rest of the world. Second, and most like the phasing we know today, is Death. When you die, you jump out of the 'Living' world of units and items and even abilities, into a 'Dead' world with units like the Kodo Spirits in Desolace or Gaeriyan in the Un'goro Linken quest chain. Whole quests had you jump between phases, including BRD's Shadowforge Key - this being the true birth of phasing. But there was only 1 of these 'true' phases, with dozens of half-phases, like the instanced Corrupted Ashbringer event. But the triggers for jumping phases were limited to these annoying events - instances, equipped items, death, and a painful dialog system.

Enter Wrath.

The Death Knight zone exemplifies Wrath phasing. It really is the shining point of Questing in general, but in this region it shines especially brightly. Units and items progress, it is true - but Blizz stepped it up a notch, providing phased units, items, speech, animations, events, skills, light masters, buildings, teleporters, events, ui (maps), group-events (like the Battle for the Undercity or the Fall of Zalazane), and much more. From being a cool on-death way of spicing up a fedex quest, to a new and interesting way of using consumables for Sunwell Dailies (or finding mobs in Shadowmoon Valley), it became a full-fledged zone development system.

And with Cataclysm introducing 'Terrain Phasing' - basically, not only units, structures and items changing, but the actual ground and foliage too - it only furthers the scope of possibility.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's not 'phasing' as a core mechanic that really developed much at all in Wrath, but the successful use of new triggers and new things effected (yes, I mean effected). It is interesting and exciting to see what they can do with all this new technology in Cataclysm and beyond - and, I mean, the Emerald Dream is the obvious next step.

(And I promise to update this with shiny pictures soon.)