Patch 5.4 – Mad about Moon Moon

Moon Moon the wolf falls on his wolf friend.

This is one of the least objectionable Moon Moon meme images.

Trigger warning: ableism discussion and terms.

The first Patch 5.4 notes and PTR came out this week and with it, all the fervor over our first real peek at the content that’s been talked up since Pandaria came out. People have been going gaga over set bonuses, new boss models, but what caught my eye was something way less exciting – a battle pet. Originally when I saw listed that there was a Moon Moon pet dragged out of the datamined content files, I thought it was just something stuck there that wouldn’t have anything meaningful around it.  Contrary to my belief,  Moon Moon is a pet dropping from a new Darkmoon Faire boss and will most definitely be in Patch 5.4. This has me pretty annoyed, if you could guess from the title of my blog post.

Moon Moon is a reference to this meme that got started on Tumblr. It is yet another meme that capitalizes on the mental differences of someone, with a host of veiled ableist insults and terminology. What is ableism? It’s specifically discriminatory actions and language towards someone’s physical or mental disabilities. Ableism usually and casually often occurs to making fun of people with learning disabilities or being on the autism spectrum (“spergin'” “retard/ed”), or for mental illness (“crazy”/”schizo”/”bipolar”/”hysterical”), and physical disabilities (“crip/cripple”, “spaz/spastic”, etc.) or using those terms against others as a negative.

Given that the person who started it all said that Moon Moon would be the “most retarded wolf”, it’s not surprising that everything else has followed suit. Memes, due to nerd culture in general, really like to constantly revolve around this sort of everyperson (or animal) that has speech impediments or some sort of mental “slowness.” It’s gotten so casual to the point that most people don’t realize that it IS insulting, but the reason these jokes proliferate is because denigrating people’s mental capacity has always been a trope for humor, because people consider themselves “better” than others for that reason. It’s hurtful, in short, but very few nerds really care.

Since Blizzard has a really inconsistent policy on including meme fodder in their game (Nom Nom Nom as a druid talent got scrapped, but we have this, plus look at how many Slapchop references there are), the fact that they felt it necessary to make a battle pet (as well as a raid boss, really) dedicated to a fairly recent,  insulting meme is frustrating to me. Meme culture is persistent but often long after it is actually funny, on top of the fact that a lot of them are generally offensive in some way. Did we need this? Not really. I’m sure this is considered by some to be a very petty gripe, but popular culture making its way into World of Warcraft doesn’t always mean it is good.

 

Insane in the Membrane: PART TWO

Epithet the rogue climbs through Lower Blackrock Depths looking for marks.

Insane in the Membrane: PART ONE

Welcome to Part 2 of my lengthy saga of how I acquired the “Insane in the Membrane” feat of strength, wherein we make billions of cards and stab a whole ton of orcs. Where we last left off, it was the day of the Cataclysm pre-patch, wherein we met the dragon what come and blew fire and things. I had finished up both my Shen’dralar and Goblin rep that day, and now it was time to finish up the last two reputations. I was not expecting it to take another year and a half.

Darkmoon Faire: 5,200 Card Pick-Up

The Faire was a lot harder of a reputation to grind out before Blizzard gave it the revamp. Anyone looking to rep up with this group only had a handful of profession quests (which capped out at Friendly) and turning in decks. There wasn’t really much to do at the Faire other than buy some materials off vendors, eat some food and turn in decks for trinkets that didn’t start becoming really good until Burning Crusade. Similarly, this is most of what we did in order to get to exalted – turning in thousands of card decks. Both Myth and I took the recommended action of leveling up scribes for this reputation, as it would have cost us thousands more in cards if we had not. The reason that people did this as you literally would spend hours farming herbs, milling them, and turning them into cards and this was considered the easiest way to the end. Working on Darkmoon Faire was by far the most RNG-filled out of any of the Insane grinds. Myth and I had two scribes working on this, as well as a shared bank guild. This is due to the fact that all the decks had between 3-9 cards (particularly the trinket decks) and you were never guaranteed to make the ones you needed, so you were always scanning the Auction House for the cards you needed cheaply. I let my more anal-retentive personality characteristics run free here, because organization was key here. There’s no way you would make it through this part of Insane without literally going insane if you didn’t really get your shit together. (I also had considerable help from add-ons such as Altoholic, Postal and Auctionator.)

It’s no surprise that Myth and I shared a Google Wave (remember that?) full of materials we needed for every rep and where we were at in all of the reputations.

When <Sweet Cuppin Cakes> was started, I took over two tabs of our bank guild in order to order all of the decks and cards we had in individual rows, in numerical order so that it would be easy for me to see what cards we had duplicates of, which ones we were missing, and then turning all completed card sets into decks. There was also the matter of holding onto all these decks until the Faire came around that month. We’d race to the grounds and turn them in the first day, then attempt to sell off the trinkets to recoup money. There was also much spamming of Trade Chat to have people let us turn in their trinket decks for them just for the rep. This would have been easier if we were on a more populated server that wasn’t already overrun with Insane-grinders, I believe.

For a while, this was my daily routine:

  • Bank alt goes to AH, prices out and finds cheap materials for six different kinds of Darkmoon Cards via material shopping lists I built into Auctionator.
  • Buy out herbs and inks as cheaply and in gross as possible (using AH pricing data), including many stacks of herbs that had no business being sold that low.
  • Check bank guild for missing numbered cards.
  • Check AH for said card shopping list using Auctionator.
  • Buy any cards listed reasonably (although near to the end, the yardstick for “reasonable” started moving quite far) as well as cards on shopping list. Duplicates bought cheaply would be put towards future decks.
  • Empty mailbox of herbs, primals, inks and cards. Mail materials to scribe. Take cards to bank.
  • Order cards in bank using set/numerical layout. Turn any finished sets into decks. Set decks aside.
  • Clear out glut of decks and mail even number to Myth and my main.
  • Hop onto scribe and mill all herbs.
  • Turn herbs into ink.
  • Take inks and primals and make as many cards as possible.
  • Mail cards to bank alt.
  • Arrange cards into various slots in the bank guild.
  • Dynamically update card list.
  • Do this several times a day.

I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I spent a lot of time and money on this particular part of our grind. The fact that anyone can achieve exalted reputation with Darkmoon Faire via dailies now is mind-blowing. I sunk in excess of 20,000 actual gold and countless more in gold-hours from farming, buying, and putting everything together. Near the end I was spending thousands a day and kept myself financially afloat by some of the other financial ventures I was into like soloing and making money via raiding. (Did I mention that I was still a progression raider throughout this grind?) But honestly, it was fun. It was fun trying to watch for deals and shop very smartly. This was the reputation that Myth and I spent the most time helping each other out with since we had gotten into this mess together.

Ravenholdt

This was the final showdown and ultimately where I proved that I didn’t quite have the fortitude to finish as quickly as Myth did. While she crossed the finish line last year in September, I dawdled around until April. A lot of it had to do with the fact that Myth had already a rogue, but even when I had finished up leveling a rogue for just this purpose, I had so much more work to do. One of the ways to save a lot of time turning in lockboxes as simply grinding out Ravenholdt rep by killing swaths of Syndicate mobs in Alterac Mountains, Hillsbrad and Arathi Highlands. What she had done was do loops around Hillsbrad at the Lordamere Internment Camp killing the Syndicate there, but by the time I was ready to that, Cataclysm had hit and those mobs were gone. I did, however, find an alternate solution in Arathi – do loops around Northfold Manor and Stromgarde Keep. My rep sat between Honored and Revered for a very long time. I didn’t want to grind lockboxes, I didn’t want to pick off mobs for 5.5 rep a piece.

So I didn’t.

Sure, I kept planning to. But other things came first or go in the way. I’d half-heartedly say that I’d do it but tab out of WoW and go AFK in Stormwind. All those things I would sit around talking in guild chat could have been times I was killing mobs. Eventually I did though and hit 11999/12000 Revered. Then I knew it was time for the hardest part: pickpocketing lockboxes. You don’t necessarily have to do it all yourself but if you want any control over the speed/process, you’ll want to. A lot of people buy lockboxes in bulk and if this were a bigger server, I might have been able to con a rogue into doing it for me. But given that I had wasted all the time leveling up a rogue to do it, I conscripted a couple guildies to help me for the last bit on their rogues (for some cool money) and did some of the grunt work myself. The two best places to do this are the Blackrock Stronghold (with the packs of quest mobs lined up) and LBRS. I chose mostly Blackrock Spire as it was an instance and I wouldn’t run into other rogues hoping to farm lockboxes as well. However, my farming fatigue is super high, especially after having done that marathon stretch in Dire Maul. Still, I plow through a couple days worth of loops around LBRS, watching Adventure Time episodes as I go. I have an amazing system down even: clear through the end of the instance, drop down one level from the end and re-pickpocket back to the beginning, reset the instance, and mail off 75 lockboxes when my bags get full.

Within a couple days of guildie help (thank you to Relkir, Myth, and especially Trangie!), I reach my goal and become Apple Cider the Insane.

The Insane

This was a test of my dedication towards achievements. What really made this fun though was the fact that I had a friend. Doing something this dramatic with someone I enjoy being around made the more lonely parts enjoyable. Is this a metaphor for life in general? I think it could be taken as such.

Over the past 2 years or so, I’ve definitely burned out a lot of my capacity to sit and camp things, farm stuff up. It was a huge goal of mine on my “WoW bucket list” to complete this though, so I feel accomplished in that regard. Other people have done this with more brevity than I, but I don’t care. I got it when it was still “hard” and that’s good enough for me. I would never do this again, though. And I doubt that Blizzard is going to ever have a Feat of Strength like this again. They are moving towards a model of game that doesn’t require lengths this profoundly complicated to go through and most of the reputation changes have indicated this. All of the reputations now only require kill grinding or turn-ins or even dailies. While there might be another carrot dangled in front of us achievement crazies, I doubt it will ever be as sweet as this one.

However, you bet your sweet bippy I’ll be finding all 10,000 waterfalls in Mists.

 

Insane in the Membrane: PART ONE

Apple Cider dings the achievement "Insane in the Membrane"

It’s true; I never thought I’d actually finish this notorious Feat of Strength. I had put it off, procrastinated, and simply shot my foot in so many places that I did not know if I’d limp across the finish line. However, expansion doldrums always tends to drive me into a frenzy of trying to do the impossible. It is what got myself and a guildmate started on this road 2+ years ago – Wrath of the Lich King. I didn’t do this the “easy” way in the slightest and stretching it out over a long period of time did nothing for me other than force me into day-long grind sessions  at times and benefit from almost no changes to the mechanics of obtaining reputation.

It started innocently enough too – I don’t think most people say they are going to go for Insane. It’s one of those far-off dreams you always say you want to accomplish. The day that it truly takes root in your brain, though, is when you spy something on the Auction House or on an alt and you tuck it away for the “eventual Insane grind.”  That is when it has taken your brain in its feverish grip and doesn’t let go. Oh, sure, you might think you’re doing other things, like raiding or PVPing, but you’re really just putting off doing the Insane.

This is my story – it is long and definitely not without the concerted efforts of one Mythraidates, my insane partner and my guildmates, for putting up with my craziness (literal and metaphorical.)

Tips for Insane:

  • Have some way of watching stuff while playing WoW: A second monitor, laptop, TV, or overlaid video files on top of WoW will make this a lot more painless.
  • Friends/guildmates/employees: A lot of people can help out for stuff like Ravenholdt. I paid guildmates 1k gold to get me a chunk of the lockboxes I needed for the tail-end of Revered -> Exalted.
  • WoWjuju.com: Their reputation calculator is invaluable here. It tells you how you can rep up with every single reputation in-game in a concise manner and tracks your personal progress with breakdowns on kills or turn-ins needed, as well as individual item counts.
  • Don’t loot bodies: If you’re doing kills for rep, do not waste time looting a body.

Bloodsail Buccaneers

I believe this is where I started. It’s really hard to tell at this point but the completion date on my Feat of Strength indicates 4/20/10, meaning exactly 2 years and the first rep I finished. It was by no means the first rep I started, but this was the accepted place most guides recommended. Ideally, when attempting to do Insane in the past, you were constantly gathering materials for some of the more turn-in heavy reputations (which has been mostly negated now, save for Ravenholdt) even while you were working on kills-only reputations. Bloodsail is suggested as the easiest  just because you can clean through it in a couple hours at most, even spread out over a couple of days. It helps if you have friends to do this part (since you can share the reputation) and it also lessens downtime to regen health or mana. However, even at 80, I still cleared through most of Booty Bay’s NPCs (skipping guard spam as much as possible) quickly on my circuit and needed to wait for respawns.

Keeping away from the auctioneers and other high-level NPCs would keep guard swarm low. You don’t want to get overwhelmed. Also, after a while, your reputation will cause you not to be able to go into any Goblin towns or use varied mailboxes or vendors until you repair it.

An interesting side-effect of doing the grind was that while I was hated by Booty Bay, I could kill the innkeeper in the bar. Doing this on a Sunday would, in essence, prevent people from binding their hearth there for the fishing contest. However, this is griefing and makes you a giant dick if you do this over and over intentionally, so don’t!

Finishing this grind up to Honored rewarded me with a sweet hat and outfit, along with a title. However, because I’m such a weirdo softy, I do not like wearing said outfit very often because Bloodsails are corrupt! However, I believe the hat CAN be transmogged, if you want to show off your piratical pride.

This had to be, by far, the easiest part of the grind and the least time.

All the Dang Goblins 

After getting Bloodsail, the efforts to get the Insane title kicked into serious effort. There was no going back now, unless I really wanted to never set foot in goblin towns ever again. Efforts to collect and gather materials for both Shendralar and Darkmoon Faire were going on concurrently. However, I made a rookie mistake and had started using what-was a recently implemented NPC that allowed you to “fix” your goblin rep easily for people who were interested in Bloodsail Admiral but wanted to not be smooshed by bruisers on a regular basis. What this does however, is dial back your Bloodsail reputation. You have to have Bloodsail stopped at Honored in order to gain the meta achievement, so this won’t work. You have to do it the hard way.

The hard way, at the time, was predominantly running Dire Maul to do the Free Knot! quest. This was the most efficient way just due to how it worked in tandem with collecting some of the items for the Shendralar grind. Librams frequently dropped off mobs or were found on the floor, as well as access to the elders for turn-ins. The alternative to this was spending hours upon hours killing tons of low level pirates for 5 rep a pop. I chose Dire Maul and had to run it many, many hours. Back then, having access to an engineering mailbox and a Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth was crucial, as well as binding your hearth in Feathermoon. The reason for this is because you could only carry one Gordok Shackle key (a random drop off ogres) on you, which would be used to free the goblin, Knot. This meant you always wanted to be carrying one key on you, so you’d be guaranteed at least freeing the goblin.  Before you let him go, you wanted to maximize how much rep you got per instance reset with doing Ogre Suit quest. How many suits you could make depended on how many materials you had on you (you could pick up tannins inside the instance, but needed outside materials to create them), as well as how many you could comfortably destroy or mail off (hence the mailbox) since suits were Unique.

So this is how a perfect Dire Maul run would go:

  • Run in with Gordok Ogre Key.
  • Kill ogres, hoping other key drops.
  • Key drops somewhere close to the goblin.
  • Scurry to clear up to the ogre tannin and back to the goblin before the key despawns.
  • Turn in as many ogre suits as possible, destroying or mailing them off if you had a mailbox/Argent pet available.
  • Free Knot.
  • Scurry to pick up key.
  • Rinse, repeat until instance limit kicked in.

A lot of times runs were not perfect. Extra keys would drop that I couldn’t loot, I’d run out of materials for the suits, my hearthstone wouldn’t be up to empty my bags in Feathermoon or I had to wait out the instance cooldown.

On the last day that Dire Maul was available to do this part, I ran the dungeon for 18 hours straight. I’m not  in a hurry to ever do anything like that again. I consider it a dark, shameful moment in my WoW career.

Nerdy Librarian of Shen’dralar

I’m glad that I got the Feat of Strength for this as I feel this is what really separated old Insane grind from new Insane grind. And not in that “badge of courage” sort of way, like most achievements. Mostly throwing people who were involved in this ridiculousness a bone. By the time that Shen’dralar became a “meaningful” reputation just via the Insane, most of the materials to grind it had already fallen well into disuse (Librams, Pristine Black Diamonds) and scarcity. What you did was have to basically scope the Auction House (which I already was doing every day, most hours of the day for Darkmoon Faire) and do dungeons and run around zones for mats. Why? Because the only method of gaining rep aside from the class quests (as any vanilla player will remember) was turning in librams/materials for enchants. The librams were a rare zone drop from Dire Maul itself. The materials were another story entirely.

  • Libram of Focus: 1x Pristine Black Diamonds, 2x Large Brilliant Shard, 1x Blood of Heroes
  • Libram of Protection: 1x Pristine Black Diamond, 2x Large Brilliant Shard, 1x Frayed Abomination Stitching
  • Libram of Rapidity: 1x Pristine Black Diamond, 2x Large Brilliant Shard, 1x Skin of Shadow

The PBSes were exceedingly rare world drops and usually went for a fortune in the Auction House now that people had dumped off their large supply of them post-vanilla. (We started doing this in Wrath, remember) The value of them due to scarcity and demand was up pretty high. LBSes were easily the cheapest of the bunch but still required a lot of time spent disenchanting things or just plucking cheap lots of them off the AH. The rest of the time was spent going through Scholomance, Stratholme (thankfully we could solo or duo this reliably now), or the occasional zone run-arounds in Western/Eastern Plaguelands. Thankfully Gatherer/Gathermate had data for treasure, which is what the Blood of Heroes counted as. The only problem is they had hundreds of potential spawn points and usually only 7 up at any one time.  At any point you might be working against other people as well (our server has a high amount of Insane people, interestingly.) So we mostly spent a great deal of time in Scholo, as Stratholme took a little longer.

This easily was the most annoying part of Insane, given how much money I shelled out for stuff or dungeons I ran to gather mats. It was always down to RNG and money and time. When I finally finished this off, I was glad. Keep in mind that this reputation and the methods of obtaining it went into the ether at the same time as the old Goblin rep quests too, so part of that large chunk of time that I spent in Dire Maul was racing to get this done as well (as far as I can remember; that day is mostly a blur.)

Blizzard had originally planned on removing the Insane grind in 4.0 for Cataclysm, but recanted when enough people shouted that they needed more time or had come to the game late and wanted to try and complete it. They ended up removing just Shendralar from the meta and gave all of us who were stupid enough to try and get that reputation to exalted an extra Feat of Strength for our troubles.

This is everything I got done before Deathwing came and breathed fire on all the land.

Part 2 of this wacky, Herculean effort.

Thoughts on 4.3 – Transmogging, Casual PVE, Darkmoon Faire and More

Apple Cider pew pews Mannaroth in Well of Eternity.

It’s been a week, WoW fans. A week and we’ve already gotten our teeth deep into 4.3. I have been enjoying myself, especially now that I can enjoy a patch that offers me gear, dungeons and not have to worry about raiding much on top of that. This is my first new content patch where I haven’t been raiding since Burning Crusade started. It is a weird feeling, to be honest. Thanks to the efforts of my social-but-very-enthusiastic guild, we’ve been working on retro raids for transmogging gear, achievements and even stepping foot in Firelands to get me siphoned essences to finish my legendary*.

Overall, I’ve been having fun and have a lot of thoughts to what 4.3 has offered us thus far.

My priest stands in T6 gear at the character screen.

Transmogrification

I have always relished the idea of transmogrification. Even though I never played any MMORPGs prior to WoW, where such things as vanity layers or costume layers existed, I have been deep in my  heart a fashion nerd and roleplayer. I like having appropriate clothes for the occasion, especially since my real life self is a little too self-conscious and destitute for such things. My earliest memories of gear on my mage was that they “all matched” and being chided gently by guildies that I needed gear that was better than what I had on, rather than just all was the same color. (You can’t take my Mistscape Wizard Hat of the Owl AWAY FROM ME!)

However, when given the world of armor to play with, I found myself falling a little short on ideas (No gnome jokes, please.) Everyone else had must-have sets and creative uses of color, style and theme. With the exception of my priest, even my RP character concepts didn’t lend themselves to “iconic” gear for their personality. I had reams of gear in the bank saved because of how it looked and memories it held, but I’m still not sold on most things to wear. It has been fun to play with and to disguise horrible gear in the case of my shaman, who had a lot of trollroic armor. So while transmogging is quite possibly the best thing to happen to WoW in a long time, I feel so disappointed that I’m not taking advantage of it as whole-heartedly as everyone, even if I am the perfect person to do so. I will endeavor a little harder to come up with pretty sets, but I am glad that Blizzard implemented the feature anyways.

5 Man Dungeons – End Time, Well of Eternity and Hour of Twilight

In a word: exciting (and I get to be TALL!)

While I feel that some of the trio are less exciting than others, when taken all together, they are a very nice mixture of new boss mechanics, immersive storytelling and gameplay. The very obvious standout is Well of Eternity, which I have a feeling was supposed to be part of the rumoured War of the Ancients raid. It feels so complete and filled to the brim with interesting things that it feels almost a little out of place with the other two dungeons, which are still laid out around Wyrmrest on familiar ground. They also aren’t nearly as punishing as heroics have been immediately upon release, unlike in the past. Sure, I’ve seen a few PUG groups wipe on Tyrande, but nothing like the hours of frustration from trying to learn Ozruk.

Most of the dungeons feel fun and invigorating for a couple of reasons, I believe. First – less trash and it is more pragmatic and directed. In End Time, you basically make a big ring to clear out the boss area, or push forward to where the boss is, not long twisty hallways to get to a small room. It feels like a progression, not a crawl. Secondly, there’s a better mixture of mechanics designed to mess with ranged vs. melee, healers versus tanks, and some that just require smart use of mechanics that can be done by most group compositions. Not every fight requires heroism, not every fight requires 3 ranged. Most people have decent interrupts now and while some have been given longer cooldowns, most of the casts that need to be interrupted are on timers that don’t feel impossible to catch. There’s lots of stuff to not stand in, but it isn’t a 360-degree chain cleave, nor tons of puddles out at ranged while the melee gets to whack on the boss. Everyone feels responsible for their own mortality in some ways. Third, newness in both the fight mechanics and scenery. There’s things here we haven’t played with before – such as the hourglass feature on Murozond. It is commonly remarked as the most fun boss fight so far out of the three dungeons just because of it. I have even brought people back to life using it and I find that a little liberating, especially to people who are newer healers and feel pressured to keep everyone alive.

Additionally, there’s lots of nice new gear to be had in the dungeons and gotten with a minimum of fuss. You clear all three dungeons in roughly an hour and a half and due to less trash and less ridiculous bosses, it never feels like a slog. I’ve already managed to VP cap my mage and shaman for the week, which will make quick work of gearing up the other 85s I never play (due to heroics being boring as hell.) My only bone of contention is how limited the loot tables are for each item slot in your armor class. There’s not a lot of leeway for you if you only gear yourself via heroics, but I think that’s because of…

Looking For Raid

Now featuring Yor’sahj the Unpuggable!

Admittedly, my experiences so far with the Looking For Raid feature have been small. Last night, a small group of 8 or so guildies and I dropped ourselves into LFR (one of them as the main tank). We breezed through every boss (including said Yor’sahj) with nary a death or a wipe (until we lost a couple of people to the ice wall on Hagara) and finished in an hour and a half. This stands in stark contrast to some of my boyfriend’s exploits via the finder, which include every group wiping to Yor’sahj, but I digress. LFR seems like a reasonably good idea. It gives people the ability to legitimately see raid fights in a smaller, more forgiving environment, as well as collect gear and valor points. As my friend the main tank put it, “It is like pugging a heroic but with 24 other people.” I think that he had the right of it as well; while there may be more people, the atmosphere is roughly the same. Most people are quiet participants, there are occasionally boisterous and unhelpful ones and overall the experiences can vary. But it seemed to us last night that if you mix in a little bit of your own social group, that it can go quite smoothly and make it very fun to participate. One of us got two very good loot drops and I got to test my hand at raid healing without the stress of trying to learn Firelands fights or freak out that no one was directing assignments. Granted, I think our positive turn at the LFR was mostly due to a lucky bit of competency out of the raid (the other tank, most of the healers, DPS knowing how to target swap), but I think overall, this has the potential to ease people into raiding or give people end-game choices. I know some people who have long maintained that PUGging and casual raiding has ruined WoW, but I think my ability to have fun last night is more important than their opinions on the matter.

The Darkmoon Faire

Finally, after testing it extensively on the PTR, the faire is here. So far it is exactly what it promised to be – fun dailies, lots of vanity items like mounts and pets to acquire, as well as added mysteries and bonuses that you can gain while doing PVP and dungeons. Ticket generation seems a lot slower than I’d like for a week-per-month event, but as Rickiep00h from Something Awful posited:

If it were permanently open, it would be Molten Front 2. Enjoyable at first, but ultimately another annoying grind.

It’s a compelling point, and not just because of the fact that Molten Front fails in all the ways that DMF succeeds – the rewards are not meaningful to progression in quite the same way that MF put them at the time, especially to casual players. However, they are meaningful to people as much as they want to make them. People who enjoy vanity rewards or transmogging sets for gear make them purposeful and have value, those who do not enjoy them do not have to participate. It helps both alts and mains in different ways – one way is via trade skill points (imagine getting 5 points once a month to get you around a tricky spot between 285-300) and one is money and loot. This means you have different goals and reasons to bring more than one toon to the Faire, unlike doing the same dailies for the same thing in the Front. It also lays out the path of tasks very concretely and without much effort – the quests are short, fun, and require very little exertion in terms of killing mobs, even the Grisly Trophies quest. It doesn’t consistently open more and more dailies to keep you occupied, like in a hallway full of infinitely opening doors that lead to nowhere. DMF is a return to a lot of the old fun seen in earlier quest design and development before Titan was a thing – anyone remember Isle of Quel’danas? Sure, not quite the same carrot-on-a-stick there but I can feel a familiar tingle of the fun. The Faire seems to hold fast to the idea that it is a magical, mysterious and slightly sinister fair in the woods. Molten Front gave us an illusion of choice and individuality and left us with nothing but a bad taste in our mouth.

So in short, get out there and fish yourself up a Sea Pony. I got both it and my rare fish achievement in the same hour. Many more are reporting the same thing with the Steelscale Crushfish, so get yourself closer to Salty!

*Art courtesy of Aly Flock.

Darkmoon Faire on PTR – Carnies, Cannons and Cannibals

View overlooking the Faire.

It was another boring Sunday yesterday, so when I heard that the new Darkmoon Faire had hit the public test realms, I scampered over and updated. Let me tell you – when Blizzard announced that they were revamping what was a fairly pitiful, forgotten “world event” that people only went to turn in decks and occasionally get their fortune read, perhaps engage in some world PVP, I was over the moon. I love fairs in real life, and the chance to port that feeling into World of Warcraft excites me.

This time around, the fair isn’t plopped next to Elwynn Forest, Shattrath or Thunder Bluff, but on an island shrouded in dark smoke far away. However, Darkmoon Faire NPCs make it very easy to get there. They will teleport you from capital cities to that month’s fair portal (not 100% sure about this), located in one of the spots where the actual fair had been before. The portal then takes you to the Darkmoon Isle.

Loading screen for the new Darkmoon Faire.

When I got there, I was not prepared for all the sights and sounds! There were NPCs scurrying all over, players trying games and lots of debris and supplies piled everywhere. It definitely felt like I was at a real fairgrounds.

Games

The fair has a lot of games of chance that act as dailies. Games tickets are purchased from NPCs at the start of the fair and don’t have a limit. The dailies have a certain objective to complete. However, given how they are structured (using a special vehicle UI, have timers), they often require multiple tries to complete the quest. This means that buying multiple tickets is a must. I went through at least 8 tickets just trying to get the Whack-A-Gnoll game right. (Go for the Hogger gnolls, they count for more!) Completing the quest objective or game mechanic in a exemplary way is how you get the individual game achievements. For example, if you got dropped into the target for the Cannon Shooting, you got an achievement. It was fun trying to do the games as fast and perfectly as possible, even though a lot of them required multiple tickets to learn. None of them felt like a slog though – even with the vehicle UI. This is no Jousting v.2! And like any carnival game, there was a certain element of “being rigged.”

One of the interesting mechanics that Blizzard decided to drop into the games portion of the fair was this “GET OUT” zone around the large space each game had. It meant that if you felt like running across the game area for any of the games (save for the Shoot-Out game), you would get teleported out and stunned momentarily, much like when you entered the various Shattrath faction areas when you weren’t supposed to be there. It kept most of the game fields clear so you could see what you were tossing rings at, whacking, etc. The only place that didn’t have it’s own dedicated area and anti-grief field was the Shoot-Out game. It was three small targets in a typical vendor tent and had no way of keeping all the idiots on the PTR back from standing on the tent or inside the tent on their giant mounts. The point of the game is to shoot whatever target is being highlighted and to win, you had to basically shoot blind. I made a suggestion to the PTR forums that they give this game its own space and bubble; there’s no reason that people should not have fun playing it because people just want to make stuff hard to see.

The games themselves include: a whack-a-gnoll game, human cannonball, shooting gallery, tonk challenge, and ring toss on a turtle.

Quests and the Darkmoon Faire Guide

Along with the gaming dailies, there’s also profession quests and quests that allow you to gain items from PVE or PVP content. The quests that you get are determined by what professions you have – I had quests for cooking, first aid, archeology, herbalism and alchemy. Some of the quests require you to go fetch items from inns or general crafting vendors back in the capital cities, but with city portals on the fair’s docks, it is a quick snap to go and come back. And the quests are fun! I was running around, picking flowers, bandaging up injured carnies, and mixing up fizzy drinks. (Why can’t we include brewing with alchemy, please?!)

As you can see, it awards  you five skill points, a token (for using at the games), and a prize ticket – the prize tickets are obtained from the quests and games and can be put towards many of the vanity items that are sold at the fair.

The other quest is called Test Your Strength and charges you, Darkmoon Faire Guide in hand, to kill 250 mobs or players that give you experience, reputation or honor.

But what is the Faire Guide for? Apparently the guide is an item you keep in your bags (obtained from the Darkmoon Faire Information NPC at the fairgrounds), and helps you “discover” artifacts when you are out questing, doing raids/dungeons, or PVPing. Anyone of any level can use it as well. The actual blog post about it on WoW’s front page explained it better:

The Darkmoon Faire Field Guide

It’s your passport to riches, my friend. Y’see, we need a few things — just some junk, nothing valuable to a big hero like you. We call ‘em Darkmoon Artifacts, and there’s all different kinds to be found all over Azeroth. The Darkmoon Field Guide helps you discover artifacts while you’re explorin’ dungeons, slayin’ monsters, and fightin’ in Battlegrounds. Without a guide, you’d never notice ‘em, and it’ll help keep you focused on the stuff we want. Whether you just reached level 10, or you’ve crushed the biggest baddies in the land, we need somethin’ from nearly everybody. You won’t have to go too far out of your way to get ‘em and each month you’ll get a new opportunity to seek out an Artifact for us. What do you get out of the deal? Don’t you worry, you’ll get your cut. When you bring a Darkmoon Artifact back to us, you’ll get valuable experience (it builds character, you know!), earn a better reputation, and possibly earn precious Darkmoon Faire Prize Tickets too!

The field guide will help you unlock several artifact-based achievements by discovering all nine artifacts, so make sure to carry with you at all times.

Vanity Items – Mounts, Pets, Heirlooms and Much More

The prize tickets I mentioned before are the main currency for the rewards you get at the faire – and there are quite a lot. I found 3-4 vendors just selling cute things that would be of interest to anyone. One contained mostly pets that you can purchase at the fair (along with another balloon vendor), and one contained mounts, including the datamined Dancing Bear.

There were also two armor vendors; one sold the heirlooms that are still purchasable with both Argent Tourney tokens as well as Justice Points, and another sold the Dungeon Tier 1 set revival gear that people can use to skin their regular armor with via transmogging. I of course had to try the Magister armor on my goblin:

I try on the Magister's armor.

Don’t I look cute? It is funny but I had most of that set and trashed it once I got Tier 1 and 2. Mostly because I thought it looked very ugly and garish. Funny how nostalgia changes things! It looks right now that an upper bound of the tickets you can get in a full week of Darkmoon Faire dailies and quests is 175, meaning that you can purchase 2 pets, or one mount, or an assortment of your chosen dungeon set or heirlooms once a month.

Attractions

Peppered in-between the quests and various vendors are a few things that make the faire feel more than just a hub for dailies. It feels very alive and swims with things for you to see or do to your heart’s content.

  • Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain concert that plays on a special stage at the top of the hour.
  • Krolin the Dancing Bear
  • Deathmatch Arena – while the island is a sanctuary by design, there is a giant Gadgetzan-style arena cage where participants can jump in and bloody eachother.
  • Sayge’s Fortunes – gives you a buff!
  • Food Cafes
  • Pony and Ram Rides
  • Petting Zoo
  • Pavilions – under construction currently but should contain something later on.
  • Sandbox – pick one of your favorite tiger designs and get to riding!
  • Fire-eaters, Torch Tossers and Fireworks – lots of pyrotechnics on display here.
All of these things make you feel like you can wander for hours and relax while taking in the amusements and frivolities of the faire. My only wish is that one of the pavilion tents gets turned into a nickel-odeon where we can watch various cinematics! I tried out most of these attractions and even got pounded a pulp by 40 Alliance players that were sitting in a raid inside of the deathmatch cage. Ouch.
…Cannibals?
While out exploring the entirety of the island’s landmass (there’s a named cave on the map but it holds nothing as of yet), I heard a croaky voice hissing somehow in my ear.
“Come, my sweetling, come taste my delicious waresssssss….yesssss….”

I gulped and turned. Stinking of who-knows-what, I was face-to-face with a haggard gash of a smile containing moss-green teeth.

Beware Rona Greenteeth’s wares if you run into her. Sure, she may offer the most savory Troll tartare in all of Azeroth, but caution to those unaware adventurers who don’t know where the meat is coming from…

Jokes aside, I feel that Blizzard’s world event team has really been knocking it out of the park lately. Between the revamped Hallow’s End event and now what promises to be a bigger and better Darkmoon Faire, we are in for a real treat when 4.3 actually drops in a couple weeks. Prepare to put on your best dresses and plate and stomp down to the fairgrounds for an immersive, expansion and entertaining monthly event that has all sorts of achievements, prizes and acclaim for those who wish to seek it!

For full guides and videos on this event, check out WoWhead News, as well as Mat McCurley’s video guide over at WoW Insider.

For an intriguing look at Darkmoon’s creepy past, check out Mia’s Azeroth.