This week was a very interesting one, and it made me feel compelled to write about it. I’m eagerly anticipating both the expansion and scenario accompanying it. I’ve been a Jaina fan since Warcraft 3, and I am planning on buying the book as soon as possible as well. Pandaria is, well, amazing. I played on the beta for a few months, and stopped at level 87. I didn’t want to see the rest, and I was a terrible game tester, so it was a good time to stop. But the continent of Pandaria and the Wandering Isle are breath-taking, and I’m extremely exciting to get started.
So far the Death Knight class is kicking serious ass in the new patch, and dropping 42k DPS in my Blood spec on Ultraxion while forgetting to put on my special Ultraxion gear set was the first indication that it was time to make my paladin Holy/Ret in Mists. The second was how much fun I wasn’t having working on my action bars and selecting talents as Protection. When it comes to WoW, if it isn’t fun, I’m not going to bother.
Which brings me to my next thought. Shadowmourne. I love this weapon. I love the story, and once upon a Wrath when I had some free time on my hands I participated in some GDKP runs in ICC (which is a good way to really appreciate the people I was raiding with, rather than the players from a well-known guild whose vent chat was horrific. It was like stepping into an internet meme. I had to shower afterwards). Through these runs I managed to complete the Shadowmourne questline up to the infusions. Three weeks ago I completed the infusion quests (before the ICC bugs) with my guild during a run to get another member his achievement drake. Now I have 49 more shards to go, and I can’t decide whether I’m annoyed. On one hand, outdated content is easy, and on the other hand ICC is in no way soloable. Basically with the horrific drop rate, the requirement for a 25 man raid, and the lack of bosses you can solo, if you want Shadowmourne, you are stuck dragging 10-12 more people with you. This kinda sucks. I anticipate that Blizzard will someday lift the restriction on legendary transmogrification, and when they do I want to have axe filled with the souls of the vanquished, I just don’t want to subject my friends to the same grind.
/s Torn am I, conflicted, yes.
I made the plunge into the E-Sports scene last evening, although as a beginner I made the smallest splash imaginable. Playhem is a website that hosts daily Starcraft 2 tournaments with cash prizes. The Bronze and Silver Tournament has a measly $6 pot ($3 for first, $2 for second, $1 for third), but the open bracket is $75 on the weekdays and $100 on the weekends, meaning the first place winner gets enough to take their boyfriend, girlfriend, or cat out to dinner. That last one was a joke, but what is it with cats on the internet? Dogs are so much better. I digress.
I can’t tell you how exciting it was to login and find my first opponent. I play the Terran race (Leodar#370 for anyone interested in practice/fun matches), and my first opponent was a well mannered (yeah, it matters in Starcraft 2 as well) Zerg named Rezknello. I was sweating profusely (which admittedly is not difficult for me) and nervous as hell, but I was also thrilled that I remembered my practice sessions and was able to execute my opening and transition into a successful 10 min push. I won the first army encounter, macroed behind it, and scouted his third expansion. After taking down the expansion, I rallyed with another set of units produced from my main base and moved up to his natural expansion, engaging his army and crushing it a second and final time. Two minutes later my opponent surrendered with a ‘GG’ and I took what felt like my first breath in 12 minutes. It was an incredible rush and an awesome feeling to win my first ever competitive match.
The next match was against a Protoss named Plasma who was a league above me in the ladder system. I had been working on creating my own build versus Protoss and executed it. Unfortunately I lost both games to lose the match 2-0. I was still pretty thrilled with my play because both times I out-macroed my opponent, had the superior army supply, and the stronger economy. Plasma had to use some deception to succeed which can be successful at the lower levels (with players like me ) because less experienced players have trouble dividing their attention to multiple places. He may have won, but my fundamentals were much better, and I executed my plan pretty well, almost winning the second game in spite of the opponent’s misdirection.
After this experience I started to think a lot of spectating in competitive gaming. Podcasts I’ve recently listened to have lamented the lack of an ‘observer’ feature in Warcraft that made it very difficult and ultimately unsatisfying to watch professional arenas. I agree with that sentiment completely, but I’m not sure that its enough. Arenas have no flow, and the abilities strike so quickly that casting the game must be a nightmare. If Warcraft PvP has any chance to compete (or even co-exist) with Starcraft 2, League of Legends, and DoTA 2, it needs to be in battlegrounds with an observer camera and tools to make casting easier. It’s not impossible, but it is a big challenge. I still think it would be worth Blizzard’s time to make PvP more spectator friendly. I would absolutely watch professional World of Warcraft players in an Alterac Valley game (although not for 3 days like some of the vanilla crazies lament missing), and it would help random battlegrounds because it would develop metagame strategies that could be shared with the community at large. We have excellent PvP websites and bloggers that handle this (Cynwise, Olivia Grace at WoW Insider, etc.), but I have a feeling they are underused. Enhancing the visibility of battlegrounds would make people more interested in learning how to play them properly.
Let me paint a picture of how this could look using aspects from LoL and SC2.
Team [Random Web Sponsor] vs. Team [Random Telcom Sponsor], Best of 5
Battleground Pool: Arathi Basin , Twin Peaks, Battle for Gilneas, Eye of the Storm, Alterac Valley (15 player version)
First Battleground: Arathi Basin
Loser selects next battleground until one team wins 3 battlegrounds.
A mix of 10 and 15 player battlegrounds would give each team strategic decisions to make based on how many players they can bring, which map is being used, and who their opponent is. Awesome , no? The only problem is that it would create some serious problems deciding what to watch every night.
New (to me) podcasts that I am thoroughly enjoying: “Starcast: The Starcraft Podcast” and “This Week in Blizz” are done by the same two guys and they do a terrific job. They are sponsored by a company who is absolutely getting my business as soon I have enough money for my next computer, Doghouse Systems.
Good Luck, Have Fun, and let’s go pwn some Horde on Tuesday.