Dwarven Outlaw Rogue Transmog

As I mentioned last week, I’m going to spend a lot of time in the barbershop after World of Warcraft Shadowlands drops. I’m likely to change not just some details of my toons’ appearance but also some of their transmogs—I like to rotate some of my characters’ mogs since I don’t have an absolute favorite, and for others I’ve never found anything particularly fitting. So I thought I’d save a few mogs for posterity by posting them online.

Here is my female dwarf outlaw rogue.

BfA F Dwarf Outlaw Rogue Transmog1

BfA F Dwarf Outlaw Rogue Transmog2

I hid her headgear and cloak, and the bracers aren’t visible, but other pieces are all mogged, including the shirt.

BfA F Dwarf Outlaw Rogue Transmog Roar

The roar above looks more like an anguished cry of “Why in the world do I suffer this way!” or something, LOL!

If interested, you can have a look at the set in Wowhead’s Dressing Room.

Images: World of Warcraft screencaps

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

WoW: Shadowlands Character Customization Options

Details of Shadowlands, the next World of Warcraft expansion, have continued to slowly accumulate. Blizzard Watch and Wowhead, among others, have kept track of new character customization info.

Wowhead Shadowlands F Human Screencap

Here is an incomplete list as a note to self:

New options include new skin or fur tones (inclding black skin—finally!) and hair styles, makeup for human women, heterochromia (eyes of different colors), body tats or paint, cataracts, facial scars or markings, vines with leaves (Elven hair), some ear or tail size options, and the separation of beard and moustache sliders.

Wowhead Shadowlands F Dwarf Portrait

Not all options will be available to all races / classes, which might be annoying, but I understand the need for limiting options.

There’ll also be new special armor depending on which covenant you choose.

Shadowlands Night Fae Covenant Armor F Pandaren

We still don’t know all of the, er, detailed details, and of course these customizations may change or simply never be available in the finished game. But what we do know is already enough for me to realize I’ll be spending quite a bit of time in the barber shop after Shadowlands drops! LOL!

Images by Blizzard Entertainment: Female Human faces and hair via Wowhead (screencapped). Female Dwarf portrait via Wowhead. Night Fae covenant armor (cropped).

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

WoW Warrior Transmog Loosely Inspired by Ancient Greece

Hanging around World of Warcraft and taking advantage of the Winds of Wisdom buff inevitably leads to new transmogs. Here’s my new female gnome arms warrior mog:

WoW Arms Warrior Ancient Mediterranean Mog1

WoW Arms Warrior Ancient Mediterranean Mog2

I was idly flipping through the various leg slot possibilities when I noticed that one of the plate legguards has this short skirt-like fold at the top. I was able to find a color-matched chestpiece to go with it, and noticed they vaguely reminded me of ancient Mediterranean garb. I then turned off the head, shoulder, cloak, wrist, glove, waist, and boot slots; in the end, the only pieces I mogged were chest, shirt, legs, and the weapon.

WoW Arms Warrior Roar

Awesome roar, right?!? LOL!

If interested, you can have a look at the set in Wowhead’s Dressing Room.

Image: World of Warcraft screencaps

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Gameplay vs. Lore: Faction Conflict in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is a game steeped in lore, with stroylines spanning thousands of years and major expansion themes playing out the emotional lives of lore characters. Nevertheless, it’s a common refrain that gameplay trumps lore (a few discussions of the idea here, here, and here). There are many examples: player characters can come back from the dead, while NPCs (mostly) can’t; heroes who defeated a godlike manifestation of evil at the end of the last expansion may struggle to kill an overgrown crab at the beginning of the next; leveling up from 1 in the game as it stands now is a dizzying exercise in time travel through fifteen years’ worth of story, all of it still happening “now” in the zones of the various expansions. These breaks from lore fidelity make the game more fun and more playable, so even those players who care about the lore in depth generally accept them. The story is there to create background and flavor and give us a reason for going out, killing monsters, and taking their stuff. Whenever the lore threatens to get in the way of the monster-killing, stuff-taking fun, it just steps aside and gets out of our way.

With one big exception: the faction conflict. The conflict between the Alliance and the Horde is the product of lore, not gameplay, but for years it has been allowed to overwhelm gameplay and make players’ experiences worse in a way that no other lore element has.

The faction conflict in WoW is a holdover from the Warcraft real-time strategy games. In the RTS context, a red-vs.-blue battle serves a good gameplay purpose. In the early years of the World of Warcraft massively multiplayer role-playing game, it made sense to carry over the familiar elements of the setting that fans of the RTS franchise would know, but WoW is no longer bound to its RTS roots and it hasn’t been for years. The defining game mode of the Warcraft universe is now an MMORPG. It’s time for the game to reflect that fact.

As a multi-player game, WoW is built around groups of players teaming up to take on difficult challenges. While there is plenty to do in game as a solo player, the endgame content that everything builds towards is all geared toward groups of players banding together. By dividing the player base in half and arbitrarily preventing them from playing together, WoW is working against its own game mechanics.

An argument sometimes made in favor of the faction divide is that, although it is detrimental to the player-vs.-environment aspects of the game, it is essential for the player-vs.-player elements, but this argument is manifestly untrue. One of the accommodations Blizzard has made in recent years to the faction divide is the introduction of “mercenary mode,” which allows players from one faction to temporarily join up with players of the other specifically to play in PvP content. If the faction divide can be wished away in the parts of the game that are specifically designed to pit players against one another, what purpose can it possibly serve in the parts of the game that are supposed to bring players together?

Even as a lore-dictated design element, the faction divide has never contributed much to the game story. How many expansions have we seen start with “Oh no, the Horde and the Alliance are at it again, and this time they mean it!” and end with “We have learned our lesson and must put aside our petty differences to work together against the greater threat”? Even in Battle for Azeroth, which has taken the faction conflict more seriously than any expansion before, the Horde-Alliance war has ended up being no more than a big speed bump on the way to fighting the big threat of N’Zoth. The core of WoW‘s gameplay has never been about the Horde vs. the Alliance; it has always been about killing monsters and taking their stuff. The important stories in WoW are about where the monsters came from and why we need to kill them, not about why we can’t kill them together.

The faction divide seems to survive largely for the benefit of a small base of fans who like having something to argue about on the internet. So far, Blizzard seems to be calculating that keeping that small base of fans happy (or, rather, continuing to give them things to get angry about, which seems to be their version of happy) is worth more than making a better game for everyone else.

Perhaps someday the faction divide will finally be removed and my Tauren and Eppu’s Dwarves can go kill monsters together. Until then, we live with a game whose gameplay is subject to an out of date, unproductive relic of lore.

Image: Screenshot from World of Warcraft

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

World of Warcraft Views: Northern Lights-esque Sky from Drustvar

My 2020 started less than optimally with a cold / flu (jury’s still out). The good thing, though, about being awake at 5 a.m. and incapable of much else, is that flying around Azeroth at a time you don’t normally see shows a whole different side to things.

BfA Drustvar W Coast Early Morning Sky Lights2

This view is westwards from the northwestern shore of Drustvar. Very Northern Lights-esque and pretty!

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

WoW BfA: Flying Again!

My human mistweaver monk and Erik’s paladin were able to open flying for us early last month, and it’s glorious!

To celebrate, I got myself a Stormsong Coastwatcher mount.

WoW BfA Flying Stormsong Coastwatcher

Now we’re slooowwly working on the Honeyback Harvester mount. There aren’t enough fuzzy bee butts in my life yet!

Speaking of flying: I understand most of the arguments on both sides of the flying vs. no flying discussion. Personally, though, even if I strongly prefer to have flying, I think the current solution (introducing the Flight Master’s Whistle with a short cooldown once you hit level cap) works fine. I’m glad they added and kept it.

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

On the Finicky, Fussbudgety Facts of Faction Fighting in WoW

Writing on the patch 8.2.5 story for the World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth expansion, Robert “Bobby” Davis blogging at Kaylriene puts into words what I’ve long thought: while I understand the need for a company to put the best positive spin into talking about their own products, Blizzard really needs to stop deluding themselves about the quality of their storytelling. Here’s Kaylriene on the topic:

“Saurfang says what I’ve thought about the writing of this story the whole time – the faction conflict is stupid and outdated, because Blizzard tries to pretend there is a depth and nuance to it that doesn’t exist in their writing. The Horde are villains, outright – every time this cycle comes about, the Horde does something awful and atrocious that pushes the world into conflict, the Horde leaders who suddenly have conscience about it reject the action and rebel, we storm up to Orgrimmar to depose whomever the despot is today, and then we move on until the next time it happens. He makes clear in-lore precisely what I’ve felt about the faction conflict the whole time – it was set dressing that no longer serves a meaningful purpose.” [emphasis added]

I’m not inclined to be generous to a story that repeats the same gimmick ad nauseam. Granted, you don’t need to look farther than our own human history—and not very far at that—to find nigh-endless faction conflict. But this is supposed to be fantasy, a genre that can have anything happen.

It’s been years since I logged back to WoW for the story—these days I play for completely different reasons than following the plot du jour. Not being a PvPer the faction conflict never was a big draw to begin with, but it used to have at least somewhat interesting turns.

Now, I also understand the difficulty of a rotating team trying to keep up with past writing, storylines, character arcs, details, all of it. There is, however, a lot to be said for storytelling, continuity, and proactive quality control, especially in case of a billion(!)-dollar tech company, lest you end up looking rather like an incompetent fool.

Flickr Robert WoWScrnShot_091106_234735

Image: World of Warcraft screencap by Robert on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Not Flying Yet

The latest patch for World of Warcraft, which makes it possible to fly in the Battle for Azeroth zones, has been out for a while now, but we’re still earthbound. Not because we don’t want to fly—we love flying both for the convenience of getting around and for the visceral pleasure of getting to see the beautiful artwork of the game world from new angles—but because of what it takes to get it.

The first step toward flying came with the initial release of Battle for Azeroth, with the Pathfinder Part 1 achievement, and involved playing through the expansion’s content, exploring its new zones, and gaining reputation with its various factions. All of this we did quite happily. We enjoyed questing through the new expansion and seeing the sights. Reaching revered level with six factions was a little tedious at times, but watching for world quests made it quite doable.

Once that was done, it was a long wait for the latest patch with Pathfinder Part 2, which requires more of the same: questing, exploration, and gaining rep. This time around, though, we’re not enjoying the process at all.

The difference in our response to part 1 and part 2 largely comes down to the design of the two new zones: Nazjatar and Mechagon. Nazjatar is complex, confusing, and hard to navigate. Significant parts of it are full of tough elites that make riding through looking for quests annoying. The daily quests are often vague and unhelpful about what exactly we are supposed to do, and the mobs drop tons of non-trash loot that clutters up our bags without clearly telling us what it’s actually for and whether we should be keeping it or not. The companion we have to take out adventuring with us in order to get all the quests has the annoying habit of pulling more mobs than we want, getting in the way of the things we’re trying to click on, and standing right on top of our loot when we’re done with a fight. For us, Nazjatar is pure aggravation.

We haven’t looked into Mechagon much yet, but the very little time we have spent there has similarly loaded up our bags with things we don’t know what to do with but don’t dare get rid of in case we need them later. At least it is somewhat less annoying to find our way around there and doesn’t seem to saddle us with an irritating companion. We’re saving Mechagon for after we’re done with Nazjatar in the hopes that it will be something of a relief.

I can certainly see how the things that annoy us about Nazjatar could be great for someone else with a different play style. I’m sure that what for us is confusing and hard to navigate is, for someone else, an exciting new area to explore and learn about. What we see as useless crap filling up our bags is someone else’s intriguing new inventory management challenge. The companion who is always getting in our way must make it possible for other people to tackle content that would otherwise be out of their reach.

Nazjatar is like a lot of things this expansion (island expeditions, warfronts, mythic+ dungeons, war mode): well done for what it is, but not the content we want to play. The good thing about all those other things is that we can completely ignore them and just play the parts of the game that appeal to us. If we want to fly, though, we’re going to have to drag our way through Nazjatar and Mechagon. That’s why we’re not flying yet.

How are your adventures going? Are you soaring over Kul Tiras and Zandalar already? Are Nazjatar and Mechagon exactly what you wanted? Or are you still stuck in the slog with us?

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

WoW Classic “Not a Bug” List

On their forums, Blizzard shared a list of features that aren’t bugs in the recently re-released Classic version of World of Warcraft. The list has been out since May this year, but not being a special friend of the vanilla rendition I only came across it now.

PC Invasion WoW Classic Logo

Browsing through promptly hurtled me back to reminisce over things we’ve since lost. Oh, boy—some things on the list I couldn’t even remember!

Here are some of the things, not all mentioned on the list, that I absolutely wouldn’t take back:

  • The abysmal creature respawn rates. Sometimes in the later expansions it seems mobs just spawn way too quickly, but I’d rather not go back to the Classic speed, either.
  • Gold accumulation. It was just. So. Slow! (I don’t enjoy the current rate of inflation either, for the record.) And, in connection to that, how difficult it occasionally was to get your armor repaired. Remember the little armor image that was superimposed in the (right?) corner of your screen when you took enough damage? The one that first turned yellow and then red as the damage on each area increased? I actually remember at times having to pick and choose which armor piece to repair, even occasionally taking spare pieces with me to a dungeon to switch to when the pieces I wore got too damaged. At the time I was still new to the game, though, and playing a clothie with another clothie. Not very smart, perhaps, but it did teach me a lot. 🙂
  • Frequent bugging during escort quests. Aaarrgh! Nopety nope!
  • Limited bag space. Need I say more.
  • No tracking available on the minimap, either of quest areas or points of interest. As a visually oriented person and a map lover, I give minimap tracking my highest seal of approval!
  • Non-shared gathering nodes. Remember when ore nodes were only available for whoever got there first? In multi-faction areas it was sometimes impossible to mine on a lower-level toon. (I hate pvp, so I’m so out of luck in some places.)

I’ve come to enjoy the increased player character animation when looting or interacting with quest objects, so that’s nice. The graphical upgrades are also lovely, even if it took me time to get used to some of the new face designs. The new terrain and environmental design I’ve already talked about elsewhere. Finally, a few pragmatic details I love to bits in modern WoW include mass looting and the Flight Master’s Whistle. Wouldn’t change them for the world!

What about you? Chime in with your favorites, features you love to hate, or both.

Image via PC Invasion.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.