Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 10, 2010
Archeology and other Cataclysm thoughts

Archeology is a complete waste of time. I love it! This is exactly the sort of sub-game a MMORPG like World of Warcraft needs. Not strictly required for progress, but with nice fluff rewards in the long term. A simple mini-game, but well integrated into the world and lore of Azeroth, and playable for weeks and months. I especially appreciate how well Archeology ties in with the make-over of Azeroth and the ability to fly in the old world: Flying from dig site to dig site allows you to rediscover Azeroth in its new shape.

But of course at the moment I'm mostly busy leveling up my "main" to 85. I made level 81 on the first day, and that was just doing quests and a few dungeons in an evening session. Level 82 took two sessions. Unlike Wrath of the Lich King it appears that in Cataclysm each level takes longer than the previous one, which I find sensible.

I'm still somewhere in the middle of Vashj'ir questing, but that zone is already getting on my nerves. While I don't mind smaller quest hubs and being guided from one spot to the next, I think that this guidance should be optional, and include the ability to skip quests or whole quest hubs, like it is in new Azeroth. Vashj'ir is not only extremely linear, it also forces you through that linear tube without any freedom to skip ahead. You get to some cave, do half a dozen quests for the NPC quest givers there, and get sent on to the next cave. I must be on the tenth or so cave of that sort, and it is getting old.

Dungeons are somewhat more fun, although it takes time to getting used to wiping in a dungeon on normal in spite of full epic WotLK gear. Those epics are getting replaced by greens now, even if sometimes the benefit is somewhat doubtful. But to get to the third and fourth dungeon of Cataclysm requires you to have the new built-in WoW "gearscore", now expressed in the game as the average iLevel of your gear. The stat distribution is noticeably different than in WotLK, so my priest in new "level 79" green gear now has more health than my warrior still in his old "level 80" WotLK epics. I haven't been very lucky with finding blue gear in dungeons, I only got one or two pieces yet. Better luck next time.
You are so right - Vashj'ir is awful. Looks amazing, really innovative, but let down by a dreadful phased quest structure. I am actually bored of levelling there after about an hour and I have to go and do something else.
Interesting take on Vashj'ir, mostly of interest to me because it's almost the same impression I had during beta when I attempted the zone. I couldn't even bring myself to finish it at the time given how relatively high I held Hyjal to be at the time.

Nonetheless, I went and gave it another shot on live and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the place. There is no arguing it's one of the most linear zones I've ever seen, but I do think that Blizzard uses it to great effect to tell the story of the area rather cinematically.

I posted my take on it Here if you're interested.

I didn't think it all sunshine and puppies, but still, for the most part was not nearly so bad.

This view point kinda surprises me a little, because the same was said to excuse FFXIII's design, and I wasn't having a bar of it then. xD
I love the innovation in Vashj'ir, but you're right, the linearity's a problem.

If you're on a PvP server, it's an even bigger problem, because two competent gankers camping one quest mob can shut the entire zone down for levelling.

Mount Hyjal is a bit better, but still suffers from "complete all these quests before you get anything else" syndrome.
because of that, Vashj'ir is less populated, so i could quest rather peacefully tuesday there, while my buddies were fighting in hyjal to find any foozles not already camped :)
I can't stand how linear Vashj'ir quests are either, but otherwise I really love the design of the place. And it's great fun as a druid b/c swim form is practically as fast as the seahorse.

Hyjal was insanely over crowded. Once you get past the first few hubs in vash, it becomes much less populated, and IMHO much more pleasant that the other over crowded areas.
I actually, mostly, like Vashj'ir--though I worry about its replayability. It is a grand experiment in telling a huge, zone long story.

I do think its an error to lock out the next part of the story on play throughs after the first.

I guess I would put it like this--the first time though a zone I don't mine an amusement park ride, but after that I want to be able to choose.

And it feels much more heroic for me because, unlike Ice Crown, I am playing a much bigger part in a smaller story (rather than the epic clash between 2 armies).

That said, I think 140ish quests to tell that story is a bit much. I have felt that story needs to be shorter.
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I think I'm gonna skip Vashj'ir on all my characters. I don't dig the 3D combat thing.

I tried to start questing there but for some reason the very first quest in the zone was broken or bugged or something because I couldn't complete it. So I gave up. I only went there so I could discover the entrance of Throne of the Tides. I hate that Blizz is forcing us now to discover those dungeons first. What if I don't want to explore their crappy new zone?

Archeology IS a massive waste of time. I'm kinda liking it but it's beginning to get old. I doubt I'll level it on more than 1 character. And the nature of it practically requires flight, and epic at that.

As for gear, you must have crappy epics if you're replacing them with greens from the first zone. I'm not the best equipped but I'm having a hard time replacing anything over ilvl 245 with dungeon BLUES. That's mostly because my old gear is enchanted and gemmed.
I'm loving archaeology. I figured I'd eventually max it anyway, so I'm using it to level. The xp is rather good. I'm already 83 and I've only got it up to 375.
After spending the entire evening in Vashj'ir and only completing 45 quests (out of 160 for the achievement!), I am tired of the zone. Yes, it's gorgeous: My groupmates and I marveled continually over how well Blizzard designed the zone visually. But I couldn't agree more that the linearity, and the similarity, from hub to hub is draining.

However, I did enjoy several of the quests quite a lot, especially Budd's questline, just for the amusement factor.
I agree Vashj'ir was linear but being a druid I found it to be really exciting with the swim form and with it being less crowded I enjoyed leveling up there over Hyjal.

There isn't many areas that made your class/race choice feel like a perk but this was one of them.
Vashj'ir was nice at first, but it just kept going on and on and things did feel out of whack a bit. Sad thing is that they cut back some of the quests they had. I got to the submarine part and left to go do Deepholm, which was much better.

I like archeology too. It's pointless, easy, kills time, but there is something relaxing about it. It's a time out from the crazy rushing. It's also what dinged me 85.
"I must be on the tenth or so cave of that sort, and it is getting old."

And to think - this is the STREAMLINED version of what was in beta.

Vashj'ir could have done with more variety, but I enjoyed it more than Hyjal. Hyjal lacks epicness, except for a few small parts.
Well seeing as how I pretty much started over levelling when the old world was ripped apart, I'm far from Vashj'ir still.

However, after my disappointment with Dustwallow Marsh (which is basically unchanged), I did like Thousand Needles tremendously so far. The Grimtotem questchain feels truly epic, has some very nice encounters and is just a blast. In some places they really nailed it.

Looking forward to getting a next zone and seeing how that was changed..
I am at 125/160 now through Vashj'ir and too find the zone gorgous to look at but too linear questwise. Good stories but it feel too guided.

On topic of item level for dungeons: you can trick it by keeping off-spec items with higher ilvl in your bags. The average is calculated by the highest ilvl for each slot you own, not wear.
And btw, you can also form a group and just fly to the entrance. Walking in isn't restricted by DF limitations. Our main tank was 84 quite fast and couldn't use the DF for the beginner dungoens anymore.
I agree that Vashj'ir was too linear. In general, this is a problem with the new design idea of phasing everywhere (perhaps a post on the pros/cons of this design would be in order?), but Vashj'ir seems to take it to a new level. Otherwise I did enjoy the zone quite a bit -- a nice way to get verticality into combat play, really. I liked Hyjal better, mind you. I think that one of the other reasons you see more players in Hyjal than in Vashj'ir is that Vashj'ir is relatively remote -- that is, you can portal there from the faction capitals, but (unless I missed it) there isn't a portal *back* to the faction capitals *from* there, as there is in Deepholm and Twilight Highlands (for Horde at least), while Hyjal is a short or (for alliance) relatively short flight to a capital for training.

Archaeology also seems designed to encourage more people to spend the cash on the 310 speed upgrade (which is pricey relative to the boost, really), because the flying around is the main timesink for archaeology.

The game still provides copious amounts of cash, so I think Blizzard would like people to use to 310 sink to flush some of this out of the economy. I was leveling a new character when 4.03a released, and just kept leveling that one through to 85. By the time that character hit 85 yesterday, it had ~5500 gold, and that is *net* of the cost of buying 280 flying in the 70s, and I still have almost all of Uldum, about 1/3 of Deepholm left in terms of cash uptake, never mind daily quests. There is a need for people to use the 310 sink, I think, for the economy not to get completely out of whack going forward.
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