Love is in the air

I got this achievement on the last day of the festival on Viconia – my discipline priest. I had completed all the world festivals achievements required for the 310% mount and master riding, on my paladin last year before I took a reprieve from wow and had decided that my focus for PvE achievements would be my paladin, and I would focus pvp achievements on my priest. However, now that my priest is my main character I thought i’d do the achievements anyways. Unfortunately, I decided this late in the afternoon on the last day of the festival, and thought that I wouldn’t get this achievement with less than 8 hours left before it ends. However, this achievement is very easy to get in a single day without having to do dailies everyday. Getting love tokens is easy if you had a couple of hours to spare for grinding love charms in one the level 80 dungeons (doesn’t have to be heroic). I spent about two and a half hours to get 680 love charms to make all the bracelets I needed and traded them for the love tokens. From my calculations you need exactly 520 love charms, if you are lucky to get all 4 types of chocolates from the same box of chocolates for the achievement sweet tooth. Unfortunately, I had to buy 3 boxes for 10 tokens each to get the Sweet Tooth achievement :(. Even though it looks like the Be Mine achievement requires a lot more chocolates, it is easier than the sweet tooth achievement, since the box of heart candies sells only 2 tokens and on an average you need 3-4 boxes to complete the Be Mine achievement.

The best place that I could find to farm the love charms was Halls of Lightning dungeon in Ulduar, Storm Peaks. Since this place is instanced, you don’t have to deal with any competition and trying to tag the mob first. If you are level 85 you can skip most of the trash and skip the first boss to come to the room where slags will continuously spawn every few seconds. It would be very easy to just collect all of them and AoE them down, but after a while I got lazy of running around in circles in the area and asked a friend who was going to go afk for a bit to come and stand at the point where the slags spawn. He also summoned his pet and made the pet stand on the opposite spawn point. This way as soon as the slags spawned, I could just do a cheap heal on my friend’s dk and pull aggro from him and his pet to aoe them down without having to move much. After two and a half hours I had all the charms that I needed after which it was pretty easy to get all the achievements. The following image shows the positions that I, my friend and his friendly pet RootGobbler were standing in to minimize movement, while getting all the slags except one to come attack me.

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The rest was just finishing the meta-achievements and performing quests. You will get some more love tokens from completing quests required for Nation of Adoration, which will also be needed for getting the Love Fool title. Wow wiki and overachiever have excellent guides to look up what exactly needs to be done for each of the festival achievements.

The most difficult thing was finding an alliance warlock. I did battlegrounds for hours and I didn’t find any alliance players playing warlocks, let alone a gnome warlock. Lots of gnomes running around but no warlocks. It seems like warlocks are not really a popular class in alliance anymore, which seems odd, since we have a lot of warlocks in horde. Finally I had a friend who created a gnome warlock and I flew to Dun Morogh to shower him with a handful of rose petals. If you do this, be careful of level 85 NPC flying above Ironforge and level 85 players in general roaming around the area.

Finally, you can roam around the world proudly displaying your newly received title announcing yourself as a love fool.

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Disgracin’ The Basin

Got this achievement day before just in the nick of time. I had assaulted two bases during the game, one – the gold mine – at the start when all the bases were neutral and black smith when the alliance had already controlled it for a while. We were doing pretty good with defending our bases and horde had about a minute left to win when I realized that I needed one more capture to get this achievement. Standing at black smith I could see that there was only one Alliance player defending the stables. Seeing a silver lining I ceased the opportunity and a friend and I ran up to stables. Lokregar attacked the alliance player and I cast psychic scream when I got near him. When he was distant enough I started capturing the base. As soon as  alliance player was  out of the incapacitating effects of my fear came running back but my friend death gripped him just in time to keep him from interrupting me. He also further interrupted his run towards me by chaining him in chains of ice giving me enough time to finish the capture. All this while, I was slowly capping the base, while the timer for horde winning the battle kept going. With one second to spare, I finished the capture, and the achievement popped up along with the notification that our team had won. It was a great feeling to not have missed this achievement after coming so close to getting it. Woooot!!!

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Thank you Lokregar for helping me get this achievement in the nick of time. Amazing work at keeping the alliance defender away from me while I took away the glory Smile

Goodbye, Star Wars : The Old Republic.

A few days ago I unsubscribed from Star Wars : The Old Republic. The event coincided with subscribing back to World of Warcraft, however, the two decisions were made very independent of each other.

Star Wars is an excellent game, but it is still lacking in a lot of respects. I think after playing WoW for a couple of years, the expectations of a smooth game were a bit misplaced on my part, especially with a launch of a new MMO. I wasn’t around the time when WoW was launched, so I can’t compare the two, but from what I have read on various forums, I understand that Blizzard had a hard time as well at the time of launch. Even then, Star Wars did have a lot of good things about the game which made it the only game I’ve played day and night for the last two months since it launched.

Before I get to why I quit star wars, I would like to point out the good things about the game which would be the main reason why I would come back to it in the future.

The Good:

  1. Personal class quest: The full story line from the time you enter the game until you reach level cap was very unique. Unlike wow, I actually felt like I was doing something worthwhile in the universe, and was not just another character among millions killing different levels of boars and wolves at every level. There were some annoyances here as well with some instnaces of unnecessary travel and a few bugs when you are in a party while doing class quest, but not completely game breaking. As an example of unnecessary travel, consider this part of my class quest. At the end of act 1, my Jedi Knight had to go back to the Republic Fleet for ‘Rest and Recuperate’, before I could continue with my class quest. I , like many others raging on forums, thought that there would be something there to do, something on the lines of soaking in the culture on the republic fleet, talking to people, maybe a flashpoint, figure out my next steps and lay the groundwork for Act 2 etc. However, as soon as I got there, I clicked on the person I was supposed to talk to and then quest completion window popped up without him saying a single word to me. So much voice over acting all over the game, and this felt so impersonal and unnecessary. They made me travel all the way back to the fleet and then on to the next planet for nothing. Going through two loading screens (loading republic fleet and then loading the ship again – see point 5 in ‘the bad’ section below for more raving), should be at least worth something.
  2. Engaging planet quests: The planet quests were very engaging, and though they also had the ‘kill X of Y’ kind of quests, I never had to go back and forth for them. These type of quests would start in the area when I killed my first enemy and would end after a series of quest with an item to drop in a mission drop box. Lots of travel time avoided in the game just to report success on each part of the ‘kill X …’ quests. The quests on each planet were unique and hence, I was not in a hurry to reach level cap, which was a huge difference when compared to wow, where as soon as I was level 10, I had stopped reading the quest text that was given to me and just follow my quest tracking pointer to complete the quest to get to end game. The voice over acting for the quests and their relation to the Republic (or Imperial if you are playing one), was very well done and I wanted to do all quests on every planet. I completed all quests in the first couple of planets but I soon realized that I was out-leveling the other planets this way and stopped. If I hadn’t unsubscribed I would have probably gone back and completed them. I had never thought I would say this for MMO quests, but they were really a lot of fun.
  3. Companions: Companions were a great addition to the game and their conversations put a smile on my face from time to time. Each companion had a unique trait and they never felt forced upon. I was always excited to see the quest marker on one of my companions, because it meant more laughs.
  4. Crew-skill missions: Loved how leveling crew skill missions was easy and took away the hours of grinding that would have been otherwise required. It is probably the only reason why my crew skills were all capped even before my character had reached level cap.
  5. Getting to Datacrons: Call me crazy, but getting to some datacrons was really fun. Never thought I would jump on pipes for hours on end just to get a +3 strength boost. The datacrons on Nar Shadda were in very hard to reach places, but while I raged every time I lost footing on the rails, it was extremely satisfying when I got the datacron.

The Bad:

  1. Companions: While I enjoyed having companions by my side, I thought that like other Bioware games (Dragon age, Mass Effect to name a few), there would be a companion quest of which I would be a part of. However, I was disappointed when the companions just said they had something to do, went away and the screen went black for a while before they returned about news on how it went. Very lackluster and disappointing. Another thing that bothered me about the companions was the romance. The romance and the sudden need to get married felt a little rushed, and I wouldn’t have been disappointed if that was left for the future expansions. Now I wonder if the companion story line is over and there will be no more companion related quests and conversations in the future.
  2. Crew-skill mission completion: Why does the window have to pop up in the middle of the combat ? It was really distracting and I raged a few times when all of my companions returned one after another exactly when I am in combat just to tell me that they have completed their jobs.  It is a fight to the death in pvp and here they are happily returning with some green goo (I was doing bioanalysis and green goo was just one of the various forms of goo you could get from analysis). Are their jobs more important than my life here ? Usually when you are in conversations, the mission completions go to the pending bar at the top right. Was it so hard to put all the crew skill mission completions in the pending bar while I’m in combat ? Well, I filed a ticket for this, so lets see how it goes.
  3. Unbalanced PvP: PvP felt largely unbalanced, especially huttball, where any class with a charge or a pull had not trouble getting across the map. If a map becomes easier for certain classes but is difficult for others, it is not a good map. I played a Jedi Guardian so this was not a problem for me at all. I could select any enemy player and force leap to them, even if they are on higher rails, but there were a lot of other players – my friend included – who didn’t have any abilities, and all he could do was get charged or be thrown or be pulled by players who could. Another reason that made PvP unplayable was the lack of deserted buff, which allowed people to just leave the warzone as soon as there was a hint of trouble leaving the rest of the team towards certain defeat even if we could have otherwise won. This has become much of a nuisance more recently and becoming worse day by day. I wish Bioware would do something about it soon. I think there is a also a bug right now which can allow you to get 10 players on your side, instead of 8, and I’ve seen a few teams use this exploit in the warzones. This is a deal breaker and must be fixed immediately.
  4. Huge planet sizes: Planets were ridiculously huge, and not that I mind it, by definition planets are going to be much larger even when you compare them wtih the areas in other games. But the planets themselves didn’t have a lot of content to justify their huge size. Quests were far apart, separated by a wide expanse of nothing and it took 20 minutes to just get from one place to another. I think Tatooine was by far the worst of all planets but except for starter planets all planets were empty and large.
  5. Long load times: With larger planets came longer load times, and you could practically browse for a few minutes, go to the bathroom and come back and it would still be loading. I don’t have an SSD so maybe it was too slow for me, but a friend who had installed the game on his SSD, still complained about it. His load times were definitely faster than mine, but not by much. This was very annoying and time wasting, especially when I had quests which required me to go to places for absolutely nothing (see the example in personal class quests above). This actually made me wonder why Bioware was loading the entire planet all at once, rather than loading it in parts like Halo Reach did ?
  6. Everyday patch fixes: I am not annoyed by the fact that they are doing patch fixes everyday. In fact I’m glad that they are listening to all the feedback and are busy fixing them. Working in a service myself, I can imagine what their work life balance would be and it makes me shudder just to think about it. I’ve been there and I hope they get out of the rut soon. However, they took down servers at midnight everyday for patches for the last two months, and being in the pacific this really cut into my game time. I am a late to sleep, late to rise kind of a person, and usually play until 2am on weekdays and until wee hours of the morning on holidays. The early patch fixing schedule took away almost 2 hours from my game time and sometimes, when I forgot to check the forums, made me leave my flashpoints incomplete only to find them reset the next day.
  7. Lack of economy in the game: There was absolutely no economy in the game. I had a lot of money, and after I had bought the speeders and their higher ranks, there wasn’t much that I could do with my money. Even though I wasn’t a millionaire, I read about a lot of people who easily got to be millionaires with nothing to spend their money on. I doubt it would be a very difficult task. As a slicer myself, even after the slicing nerfs, the missions are extremely profitable. The auction house – or the Galactic Trade Network to be precise, was another disappointment in the game, and the UI was lacking as well. I feel that not many people were using the GTN for trading, but instead preferred to advertise in the general chat.
  8. No combat log: Combat logs are very useful, even if the game does not have a strong log parser like recount. They help understand how to improve your class  with respect to damage, defense or in case of pvp, your opponents class so that you can use  the right tactics to counter specific classes, without resorting to hours of reading on line on how class or boss fight mechanics worked.

One more reason which prompted me to unsubscribe was the lack of friends who played Star Wars. I had two friends who bought the game, and I leveled my characters with one of them, however, the vast majority were still playing WoW and had no plans to subscribe to two MMOs at a time. This by no means was Bioware’s fault which is why it is not mentioned in the list above and if it hadn’t been for the reasons above, I would have definitely stayed and joined strangers to play – that is the whole point of an MMO anyways.

Most of the bad points that I have mentioned are not really game breakers. They are minor fleeting annoyances, which can be fixed eventually. Bioware just needs some more time to get their act together. Looking at the issues they’ve been having, I think they released the game a little too early than they should have, but I guess shipping off an MMO is no easy task and errors are bound to happen. I’m, however, impressed with the rapid pace at which they are fixing these issues.

So what I’m saying after a long harangue is that while I have currently unsubscribed from star wars because of these issues, this is not the end of it. Bioware has yet to disappoint me, even after a horrible Dragon Age 2, and I plan to give Star Wars another try after a few months, when most of these issues, if not all, will be hopefully fixed making the game fun enough for me to convince most of my friends to move as well.

In the meantime, I will be keeping a close eye on the game development and forums, as well as cheering for Bioware as they fix issues, release more end game content and ship Mass Effect 3 Smile

So long Bioware and good luck!

Best compliment ever.

“Finally, I don’t have to play against Alannah in HuttBall”

Friday was a real good day for PvP. A friend of mine and I were playing PvP for hours as republic and our team was consistently winning every match in a row. One such match was HuttBall, where my friend and I were generally annoying the opposing team and kept them busy near their base, while our ball handler carried the ball undisturbed to the finish line. After we won the match, we re-queued for another warzone. We joined Alderaan warzone immediately afterwards and someone said the above words. It made my day! Thank you kind stranger. Hope I didn’t annoy you too much. No hard feelings!

WoW Come Back ?

Am I going to be one of those who could not escape the clutches of world of warcraft ?

I unsubscribed from WoW almost a year ago, after I was unimpressed by cataclysm expansion. Due to a vacation which coincided with the release of the expansion, I could not get my character to level 85 in time for the raid groups to be decided, making it very difficult to find raid spots in the guild. At the beginning of the expansion, with the newly added guild bonuses during raids and guild achievements, pugs were hardly taking off and even then it meant wiping for hours only to finally give up without any success. So, finally I bid goodbye to all my friends and guild mates – some of whom I had come to know very well, and quit.

After spending a few days contemplating on my decision and replying to emails and chats requesting me to come back, I soon realized that this was the best thing that I had done in a while. I had so much free time on my hands again that I could do a lot of things that I had planned for over year but hadn’t gotten around to just because I was busy playing world of warcraft. I could finish the pile of books in my bookshelf which had been gathering dust since the day they had been bought. I could play and actually finish some of the games that I had been buying during Steam sales (I’ve got to learn some self-restraint during Steam sales!). I also got back to writing as a hobby and on a whim, participated in the National Novel Writing Month the goal of which is to complete 50K words in the month of November averaging about 1667 words per day. I was stoked when I actually finished NaNoWriMo with 65K words. It was an amazing feeling and even though till date my novel stands incomplete, I can say that I am a budding author and a novelist, something that wouldn’t have been possible if I were still busy running around in circles around the town of Orgrimmar in WoW and checking the auction house for the umpteenth time. When the year 2011 finally came to a close, I could actually say that I had “accomplished” something in my personal life.

So why am I now contemplating going back to world of warcraft ? Because I miss interacting with my friends and playing with them. While the game had become slightly mundane and I wasn’t doing much towards the end of it, I still saw (online of course) friends who are are in distant parts of the country. These were good times and it has been months since I have talked with some of them. They also in turn have mentioned and contacted me saying that they would like to have me back, if not for hardcore raiding and regular game time hours, but instead just for casual gaming. This is the only appeal the game has for me now, being able to play with friends and have a good time. The story and gameplay became unimpressive with Blizzard resurrecting old vanilla bosses and dungeons and I am tired of raiding regularly which added more stress to an already stressful job.

I hadn’t washed my hands off of MMOs when I quit wow, so I started playing Star Wars: The Old Republic when it released. it is an excellent game and the questing is done very well as compared to WoW. It is not as good as Dragon Age quest line, but as an  MMO it is very well done and is quite engrossing. however, the game lacks in end game content and PvP is sub par, especially without any deserter penalty in place, people leave the group as soon as the opposing team scores even in Hutt Ball. There are times when the scoreboard shows 16 allies throughout a game which has a max of 8 players and  lasts 15 minutes in total. Also, with no friends interested in playing the game, since they are still quite occupied with wow,  I might unsubscribe from the game very soon after my current character – a Jedi knight – gets to level 50.

What I still need to decide is, should I re-subscribe to wow even after quitting the game has helped me accomplish so much ?