Sunday, October 28, 2012

Return to Azeroth

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I’m all outta bubblegum.”

Two weeks ago I began playing the (in)famous game World of Warcraft again. Despite my list of pros and cons having the cons slightly ahead, I ended up heading back into Azeroth for another round of adventuring and questing. The last time I actively played was during the expansion Wrath of the Lich King, specifically, patch 3.2 “Call of the Crusade”. Since I said my goodbyes to my Guild back in January 2010,  two expansions have come out - Cataclysm (October 2010) and Mists of Pandaria (September 2012), with “MoP” putting the game patch version at 5.0.x. Cataclysm made some pretty major changes to the game, especially in the layout of some of the zones and the ability to use flying mounts in Azeroth proper.1 So much has changed, that I almost don’t know where to begin. For example, it’s rather embarrassing, being that I play an Orc, to say that I now get lost in the Orcs’ capital city of Orgrimmar because it’s changed so dramatically since last I played. Not only have classic zones been revamped, but the game system itself has changed quite a bit as well.

Class and Race Combinations:

To briefly summarize, for those that may not be familiar with the game, classic, “vanilla”, WoW included eight playable races. For the Alliance - Human, Night Elf, Dwarf, and Gnome; For the Horde - Orc, Troll, Tauren, and Undead . There were also nine classes - Warrior, Mage, Druid, Priest, Shaman, Hunter, Rogue, Paladin, and Warlock. Burning Crusade (patch 2.0) added two races; Dranei for the Alliance and Blood Elves for the Horde. Adding Blood Elves to the Horde also gave that faction a race that could play the Paladin class for the first time.  Wrath of the Lich King (patch 3.0) added a new class; the Death Knight.

Cataclysm (patch 4.0) added two new races to the game - for the Alliance, the Worgen and for the Horde, Goblins. These races, most notably Goblins, had always been present, just not as a playable race. This expansion also added several new options for Race-Class combinations, such as Paladin as an option for the Taurens, giving the Horde two races who could play that class instead of just one, and compared the the three races within the Alliance that could be Paladins. There are several other new combinations as well with classes being added as options for races that previously were not possible.

Mists of Pandaria (patch 5.0), which I have not purchased a license for yet,3 adds a new playable race, Pandaren, as well as a new class, Monk. Yeah, I know - apparently the folks at Blizzard watched a lot of “Kung Fu Panda” while working on ideas for the fourth expansion.

New Zones, Rearranged Zones, and Flying Around in All of It:

A few months after Cataclysm had come out, and roughly a year after I had quit playing, I was offered ten days of free game time as an enticement. I took the ten free days because I wanted to see what had changed about the zones. Ten days wasn’t nearly enough time to explore all of it, though. But the new ability to use flying mounts almost everywhere certainly makes it a bit easier.

First of all, flying mounts were previously only usable in Outland, which was introduced in patch 2.0 Burning Crusade (which also introduced flying mounts to begin with) and Northrend (patch 3.0 Wrath of the Lich King) once the Cold Weather Flying skill was purchased. Now, though, flying is available anywhere, even in the classic zones, once the character has purchased the skill called Flight Master’s License (a mere 250 gold).4  Getting the Flight Master’s License is, without a doubt, a necessity to be able to quest and explore for higher level characters.

There are, frankly, too many changes here for me to try to go into all of them, especially since I have had the time to explore it all yet. Some of the more notable (to me) changes are Orgrimmar, the capital city of the Orcs and the Barrens. Orgrimmar looks completely different now and is multi-tiered with lifts to get to the upper tier. There’s been new construction under the new Warchief as well. The city is actually larger now, and I mentioned before, I get lost in it, but I’m learning my way around. The Barrens has been split into two zones, Northern Barrens and Southern Barrens, instead of just one huge zone. I’m pretty sure that prior to the Cataclysm, it was the largest zone in the game. I hated questing in the Barrens, just because of the sheer size of it, and at levels that were too low to be able to get the riding skill and a mount. Now that it’s been split in two, with the Northern Barrens being a lower level zone and Southern Barrens being a mid-level zone, it’s not quite as bad and questing in that zone from levels 10-20 gets completed a lot faster. For more information, check out the WoWWiki Cataclysm page.

Other Stuff of Note:

There are lots of other things that have changed that I am continuing to discover, but to be honest, this blog post would begin getting out of hand (or turn into a two or three part blog over the next few weeks) if I started trying to detail every little thing. There are new guild recruiting and search tools, certain things, like mounts, etc. that were previously “soulbound” to a character are now account bound and useable by any character. Flight points, which previously had to be discovered, are now automatically added as a character levels up so they know them for the zones that are level appropriate to them. Patch 5.04 added something called “Pet Battles” wherein companion, non-combat, pets that were obtained more to get an achievement for collecting them, can now be trained for do battle (albeit, only with other battle pets). Gathering professions such as skinning and herbalism no grant experience points. Speaking of experience points, the experience gains from from quests and combat seem to have been dramatically increased (at least at lower levels). Drop rates have improved - I refer here most notably to the previously mentioned zone, the Barrens, where you’d have to kill four or five beasts to get the one hoof or horn or whatever the fuck the quest called for. Now it’s more like kill two to get one (much much better than before). Archeology was added as another secondary skill - the previous list of secondary skills was First Aid, Cooking and Fishing.

I’ve only been back in the game for a couple of weeks, and I haven’t even bought the most recent expansion yet, so I’m sure I’ll uncover more fun new stuff that wasn’t there before. But for now, I’m just enjoying the adventure.

~ JC


1. By “Azeroth proper” I mean the original zones located on the continents of Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. Flying mounts were introduced in the first expansion, Burning Crusade, and were only usable in the area known as “Outland”. They were also allowed in the area “Northrend” which was introduced in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Cataclysm allowed Blizzard to completely revamp and rewrite the code for the original areas making flying mounts possible there.

2. Previously the only Horde race that could choose Paladin were Blood Elves (compared to Human, Dwarf and Dranei for the Alliance).

3. In other words, while I have access to most of the new content, purchasing a license for the most recent expansion would allow me full access to play a Pandaren or a Monk as well as new dungeon and raid content.

4. I could go into a whole rant about how certain things in the game are obviously designed to be a huge gold sink while other things have been extremely reduced in price since I first started playing, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I really wish Blizzard would make up their mind about how much the riding skills will cost in terms of in-game currency because it still seems unbalanced to me. I mean, really - 5,000 gold to learn fast flying and another 5,000 for very fast flying - Why?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What the Puck!?

At the end of the 2003-04 hockey season, my fiancée and I were given tickets to a single-A minor league game. It was the first time that either of us had been to a hockey game, and we were both pretty hooked (more me, than her, probably). Alas, the very next season, 2004-05, was the infamous NHL lockout and player strike that resulted in the entire season being lost.

You would think the NHL and NHLPA would have learned their lesson from that debacle. But apparently not. As of September 26, the league has once again locked out the players due to a lack of a Collective Bargaining Agreement. The pre-season was completely cancelled, and as of October 19, the first few weeks of the regular season have also been cancelled through at least November 1 (the season was supposed to have started around October 12).

What’s more, the CBA that was negotiated after the 2004-05 season was a total wash, apparently expired in mid-September. Here’s my question - why the fuck wasn’t a new CBA already being negotiated during the summer in order to avoid the loss of the pre-season and (so far) the first four weeks of the regular season? Ok, maybe it was, but from the press releases on, it almost appears as though they waited until the last possible minute to start talking about it.

Do the parties involved in this not realize that without the fans, there is no league? Cancelling games and risking losing yet another season is not exactly a great way to endear your selves to the people who buy the tickets to the games and all the swag and merchandise that generate revenue, now is it?

Player strikes and league lockouts in professional sports never make sense to me. According to Yahoo! Sports, the average NHL salary is $2.4 million per year. Figuring a season of 82 games (not counting the playoffs), that comes to just over $29k per game. According to Social Security Online, the the national average wage index in 2010 was just over $41.5k. In other words, these guys make more money in two games than the average person makes in a year, but yet they whine for more? WTF?

I know some will disagree with me on this and go into arguments about the pinnacles of their profession should be paid well, and I don’t completely disagree. But this business of millionaires complaining about needing more money to play a freakin’ game starts to get a bit ridiculous in my opinion.  So, dear NHL and NHLPA - get your shit together and let’s drop the damn puck already!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Last (?) Temptation of Uhnk

A few weeks ago Blizzard Entertainment released its most recent expansion to World of Warcraft titled Mists of Pandaria. When last I played WoW, Cataclysm was in the works and about a year away from release. The last time I actually logged into my WoW account via the game client was right after Cataclysm was released, and that was only because Blizzard gave me a free 10-day trial and I decided to check out all of the heralded zone changes in that expansion. Ok, and so I could try my hand at playing a Goblin since that was one of the two new races (would’ve tried Worgen too, but I don’t like to play Alliance toons).

Now that Blizzard has released another expansion, one featuring the first ever neutral, playable race (Pandaren) and a new class (Monk), I’ll admit it; I am a bit intrigued, and even a bit tempted to take Uhnk1 out of digital mothballs (otherwise known as archive) and start playing again. And so now, I have to go into the pros and cons and convince myself, once again, why this could be a bad idea.


  1. It was fun - hell, it’s a game; games are fun. It was something to do in the evenings and on weekends and I enjoyed it.
  2. Guildmates - I developed several online friendships playing WoW, some of which I still maintain via Facebook.
  3. Being able to take out frustrations - we all have crappy days and seeing as how actually choking or stabbing someone would land you in prison, playing a game like WoW and engaging in virtual combat was a way to let off steam and reduce stress.
  4. Boredom - let’s be honest here. I really don’t watch that much television anymore. Except for a couple of nights out of the week, there’s not that much on that interests me. The other nights, I end up mindlessly surfing the internet with the TV being really nothing but background noise. I have, frankly, considered starting up WoW again (or some other game) just to have something to do in the evenings.


  1. Cost - there’s the monthly fee for starters ($14.99/month), which I was able to save a little bit on by buying six month’s worth of game time for $77.94 (which breaks down to $12.99/month) when I actively played. Then there’s the fact that I am now two expansions behind, so if I want to actually level up my toon(s) past level 80 I would have to buy both at $39.99 each (maybe not at the same time, but still - that’s an $80 layout of funds that are needed for things like, you know, bills and groceries). Then there’s the fact that I still have an old character on a different server than what had become my primary server. While it appears that Blizzard no longer charges to move a toon, they do charge for a faction change, and I would need to do that since my first toon was Alliance and Uhnk is Horde.
  2. Time - I lost so much free time to playing this game that at one point it took me a year to read a book by my (at the time) favorite author. Now that I don’t play games like this anymore, I actually get through a book in a week or two (or four plus if it’s written by George R.R. Martin). Then there’s also the fact that I now live in Atlanta, where there’s almost always something to do (plays, festivals, sporting events, etc.).
  3. “The Grind” - all MMORPGs share this problem. Quest, level up, rinse, repeat. And then, once you reach the maximum level, all that’s left is “daily quests” for reputation, tokens, gold, gear, or whatever. If you’re lucky enough to be in a good Guild, there are raids, but sometimes getting a group of 10-20 together to raid is like trying to herd kittens. After awhile, it just becomes repetitive and almost starts to feel like it’s your second job instead of a hobby or pastime.
  4. The In-Game Economy - this could be considered part of “The Grind”. As you gain levels, you gain the chance to learn new abilities, but these aren’t free. You have to pay your trainer in virtual gold. This leads to another kind of grind for currency in addition to levels. You have to get your gear repaired, buy a mount, etc. So, you end up selling stuff in the Auction House - but of course you have to go grind for the materials to sell in the auction house. See how this becomes a cycle and what I meant by the game becoming more like a second job?
  5. The Guild - I know I already listed Guildmates as a pro, and the friendships I had with them were awesome. But, the problem with being in a guild is the constant feeling of letting down a bunch of people if you’re not logged on. That’s not to say that my ego made me think that the guild couldn’t function without me, but I know what it was like to try to fill raid spots when someone wasn’t logged on. The fact that my rogue was typically in the top 5 for DPS2 during raids and instances certainly made me feel needed and made me even feel a little guilty if I wasn’t online, especially on raid nights.
  6. The Game has Changed... a lot - I’ve been reviewing the way talents are now calculated in version 5.x.x, and at this point, it appears that I would essentially have to completely re-learn how to play my characters, not to mention retrain and redo their specializations (aka “respec”). For that matter, the Cataclysm expansion changed the zones around so much, that I’d probably get lost pretty quickly.

What about the freebies or just another MMORPG instead? There are free to play MMORPGs out there. In fact, I recently discovered that even WoW has a free-to-play version now (limited to level 20) and it seems as though all of the subscription ones I knew of have all gone to some kind of free version which allow you to pay for extras if you want. I’ve played a couple of the free ones when I was weaning myself off of WoW3; the idea being that I could get my gaming fix while not feeling quite as obligated to play since I didn’t feel like I was losing money by not playing and I didn’t have a bunch of guildmates waiting on me to log on. They were ok, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. The free-to-play games and/or versions of game tend to be very limited, which leads to either it becoming really boring really fast, or being enticed into going ahead and subscribing or buying things from the game’s online store.

So, there you go. There are days that I wish I still played WoW, or at least something like it (like rainy weekend days or nights when there’s nothing on TV of interest to me, for example). But, there are plenty of other things to do (reading, building and painting models, movies, and most importantly, spending time with my fiancée) that it makes the thought of journeying into Azeroth again questionable. Then again, the more I read about the changes, the more intrigued I become. ;-)

Oh, who the fuck am I trying to kid. Yesterday I downloaded and installed the game client4 and plan on trying to get at least 30 days of game time within the next week, possibly even today. As for the expansions - we’ll see if I still like it enough to actually go that far after I’ve spent a few days playing it again. Hell, somehow I even managed to have never deleted the folder that had all my saved addon data from the last time I played it, so I’m not even going to have to do all that much to get everything set up the way I remember it. Truth is, I’ve also already been checking online, including Ebay, for good pricing on the expansion packs.

~ JC


1. The name “Uhnk” exists for multiple characters across the various WoW servers ( I would, however, like to go on record that I have used that name since I was 13 for one of my all time favorite D&D characters and two WoW characters; an Orc Warrior on Shadowsong (deleted) and an Orc Rogue on Blood Furnace (level 80 and archived). It’s also one of the online handles I have used for several years. Case in point, my twitter name is Uhnk13.

2. DPS = Damage Per Second - a measure of the damage dealt by a person or group over one second. DPS is a more practical measure of damage output than plain damage, as it allows characters of differing levels and classes to effectively compare their damage output. (

3. Most notably, I played D&D Online, briefly, and Runes of Magic. I recently tried to log into my RoM account, but it’s been so long it’s already been deleted. Interestingly, my DDO account is still active, my characters are just archived like my WoW characters. I wrote a couple of blogs about these two games if you’re interested:
D&D Online - 1st Impressions” - Sunday, November 1, 2009
WoW, I Really Like RoM” - Sunday, April 25, 2010
More recently, I tried a browser based game called Drakensang, but found it very very lacking (didn’t even play it enough to warrant a blog post about it). Thanks in part to some recent blog postings of my old college buddy, Sam, I’ve even considered Star Trek Online.

4. I will say this - it took close to 14 fucking hours to fully download the 20ish GB of content. That did not endear Blizzard to me at all. Then again, if I had not uninstalled the game from the last time I had free trial time, then I probably wouldn’t have had to go through that.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Save the Tatas

Make no bones about it, I love boobies (no pun intended.. oh, bullshit! of course I meant the pun about bones - they’re boobs for crying out loud!). Now, before you go accusing me of being a complete pervert (even though, I kind of am), the purpose of my acknowledgement of my very typical heterosexual male response to breasts is to bring attention to a very important fact. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Having an aunt who is a survivor and a best friend whose aunt passed away from it, it is something that is important to me for more reasons that one (or, rather, two *grin*).

All kidding aside, according to, one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2011 there were 230,480 new cases expected to be diagnosed, with another 57,650 cases of non-invasive breast cancer. In the U.S., the death rate for breast cancer is second only to lung cancer and, other than skin cancer, it is the most diagnosed form of cancer in women. Around 39,520 women were expected to die from breast cancer in 2011. And lest you think men are immune to it, 2,140 new cases of breast cancer in men were expected to be diagnosed last year.

There are many organizations that raise funds for breast cancer research. I encourage you to support them as much as you can. Even if all you do is tell your cashier at the grocery store “yes” when she asks if you would like to add a dollar to your total to support whichever organization that store is supporting, do it! It’s only a dollar, and it’s a very important cause. I don’t often add the dollar, but when it’s for breast cancer awareness, I always say yes. There are also several organizations that raise awareness by selling t-shirts, bracelets and other items that you can use to show your support. Pick one; send them a check; buy a t-shirt - do something!

And remember - boobs are proof that men can focus on two things at once ;-)

Organizations and Charities that Support Breast Cancer Awareness and Research

Susan G. Komen for the Cure -

Ford’s Warriors in Pink - - you can buy a t-shirt and designate which charity/organization you prefer the proceeds to go to

Save the Tatas - - t-shirts, bracelets, stickers, etc. to show your support in a whimsical sort of way

Save Second Base - - another whimsical set of shirts and accessories

If you know of other organizations (as I’m sure there are more than the ones I’ve listed here), please share in the comments.

~ JC