Sunday, April 8, 2012

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Beta - First Impressions

The other day I got an invite to the Mists of Pandaria beta (at last!) and thus, these last few days, I have spent a bit of time on the beta and wish to share my impressions thus far. I haven't really done much besides make a Pandaren character, scout Darkmoon Island (for the rabbit, to no avail), and look over the changes to character customization and so on.

Importing Characters and the Selection Screen

Before even starting up the beta (thank god for streaming technology, by the way), I copied my Hunter in. There are 5 character copies and 3 "template" copies, the latter of which I believe allows you to create level 85s immediately. I was surprised to see there weren't exactly that many servers (4 servers to service the hundreds of thousands of beta testers) and I found I made the mistake of copying a character into a very high population server (and without my money too). Fortunately, I haven't run into any queues yet but I do hope they can get a couple more servers up, especially to accommodate upcoming waves of beta testers.

The character selection screen seems to have some strange lightning graphics. My hunter, in particular, looks somewhat demonic as the lightning is heavily tinted with a reddish-orange, as you can see below:
In fact, graphics in general just seem a bit off. Maybe they're just a little sharper and/or something on Blizzard's side got updated, but I digress.

Character creation is also a bit more streamlined. I know others have already mentioned this, but there are "templates" for each race and gender that can be chosen. I didn't really try to explore customizing it yet, mostly because I wanted to experience content before going too much into smaller details. I assume, however, that full customization like now exists or will be implemented.

Talents, Glyphs, Other Class Changes

The next thing I looked at was the changes to classes. So far, I've only really explored Hunters (and even then not by much). One thing I rapidly noticed was that it wasn't possible to unlearn a specialization choice, which I think is really inconvenient, as it makes testing specializations pretty difficult. Also, my copied Hunter only had one of his specializations reset, so now I'm walking around with two Marksmanship specializations. Resetting talents is supposed to also reset the specialization, but that just doesn't seem to be implemented.

Talents have changed since I last looked at them. For instance, Hunters now have "Murder of Crows," which has a 1 minute cooldown, but resets if used when a target has under 20% health (Hunters now have access to two execute abilities, apparently). I haven't actually done much testing of the talents themselves. In fact, I did little when it came to combat testing for my Hunter. I would list all the talents I found here, but numerous other sites have extensive lists already and I doubt even half of this will make it to live.

I also looked at abilities. I noticed a lot of Hunter abilities got pruned or changed. For instance, Hunters no longer have Concussive Shot (don't panic! I almost got pissed off by it until I saw the glyphs) and Aspect of the Hawk (as has been mentioned in other places), now scales off the Hunter's Attack Power (a change I've been pushing since Cataclysm began). Other abilities became specialization-related as well.

The spellbook got an overhaul as well. It is now split between "active" and "passive" abilities. This includes racials (but not profession abilities). Since the list of abilities is now much smaller, I don't mind this change.

The Hunter pet talent tree is gone. Hunter pets just get the talents automatically now (sort of like specializations). I find it a shame that this implementation only lasted for two expansions, but at least it's not gone forever. Speaking of pets, it seems some Hunter pets lost their abilities. Also, a warning to people copying Hunters over: you may lose some of your stabled pets. I lost the first 5 pets in my stables, so be careful!

Glyphs have seen a lot of change. There's a lot of choices (for Hunters, anyways) of glyphs to choose, from what I can tell. I think they've done a good job on this so far (Arcane Shot glyph causes Arcane Shot to slow enemies, which I think is overpowered even though it essentially replaces Concussive Shot, but I digress).

Pandaren Starting Area

This was where I spent most of my time on the beta so far. When I first created and logged onto my Pandaren Monk, I was immediately met by a mountain of framerate decrease and lag. I found that my video settings were higher than I usually run my live client at (High as opposed to Good), but it didn't help much regardless of what quality I set it to. There were just so many Pandarens running everywhere.

This especially came to a head just a few quests in, as you can see below:

This quest, known as "The Lesson of the Burning Scroll," is one of the worst quests I encountered on beta so far. It just requires you to burn a scroll. Not so hard, right? Wrong. When I went up to burn the scroll the quest mentioned, I promptly had my chat log filled with spam from people spamming "/c interact edict of temperance" and there were easily hundreds of other players standing right in front of the scroll. After half an hour of frustration and searching the forums, I did finally get it, hence the video, but this quest could've been designed much better. To make things worse, I discovered some game functions didn't work, such as Report Spam.

With that said, I would like to offer some tips to players trying to do this quest as well when the time comes (and this doesn't get fixed - as of this posting it still hasn't been):
  • Make sure you actually loot the flame from the quest giver (this may take a little patience).
  • Don't spam chat. The /c interact macro does absolutely nothing. Add people who do it to your ignore list if you can.
  • Turn off friendly nameplates (Menu > Interface > Names > Uncheck "Friendly Players"). It helps when it comes to seeing the scroll you have to burn.
  • Try to do what I do by standing near the doorway to get a better vantage point.
  • Blizzard may have fixed this, but if not, highlight your mouse over the nails on the scroll until you get a "cogwheel" and then right click.
  • You can use Alt-Z to hide your interface. It also hides chat bubbles, which is extremely helpful and cuts performance decreasing by a bit.
  • Watch how other people do it. That's what my, and other people's, videos are for.
I'm also going to offer a few suggestions on how to fix this quest, among other things:
  • Put an invisible wall around the scroll and maybe even some of the quest givers in the starting area to prevent crowding to the point it's impossible to interact.
  • Make this quest give credit to every player in the vicinity. The scroll's spawn rate isn't remotely quick enough to account for thousands and thousands of beta testers swarming through a quest hub, causing a bottleneck.
  • Have a GM clear out people who spam or at least re-implement the Report Spam function to cause the temporary ignoring of the offending player.
  • Fix the scroll if it's not actually fixed yet. It shouldn't require a player to click in such obscure spots.
  • Maybe run a few more servers. The entire starting zone is really laggy, to be honest.
Beyond that, I really liked the starting area (even though there was obvious server lag, which made it hard to use abilities). The aesthetic looks very tranquil and serene in some parts. It actually really reminded me of Nagrand near the beginning, for instance. I also enjoyed the zone's music and the generally Asiatic theme of the starting zone and hope to see the actual zone of Pandaria. Some of the quest design is also pretty interesting as well. There were the typical kill/gather quests, but some were amusing and others were more about spatial awareness than just killing mobs. I have yet to complete the entire area (I'm near the end, I believe), and I know not everything is all there, but I still think they did a pretty good job and hope they get to fixing the Burning Scroll quest and finishing it up.

Also, happy Easter and Noblegarden to everyone.

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