Connected Realms – 1 Month Review

I was initially a little bit critical of the whole Connected Realms phenomenon when Blizzard announced that their first connected realms were going to be the US realms of Boulderfist and Bloodscalp. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of this and I think it’s a great way to merge populations without all the hassle of people losing or changings guild and characters names, nor do they “shut down” servers, thereby avoiding the negative associations that come with shutting down servers. It’s really a genius idea. My concern was really limited to the reasoning behind connecting those two realms, in particular.

It’s been just over a month since Boulderfist and Bloodscalp were connected and, I have to say, things look much clearer after a few more of these connections have gone through.

Blizzard has since added Maiev and Dunemaul to Boulderfist and Bloodscalp, with Stonemaul coming to that group soon. They’ve done a lot more, but let’s focus on this initial cluster of Connected Realms for now.

Boulderfist + Bloodscalp gave an approximate total population of about 112,000 (characters, not players!)

Adding Maiev to those two added another 60,000 characters or so, totalling around 172,000 characters. Dunemaul was also another 60k characters, so the rough total of characters on that cluster is 232,000 characters. Remember, again, this is characters, not players. The actual population is likely a lot smaller than that. Stonemaul is slated to join them next, bringing about 41k characters, so that cluster will have approximately 273,000 characters. (I don’t think anyone except Blizzard has numbers on how many players that means, though.)

My initial hesitation was that they were starting with two servers that, at least in character population, weren’t too badly off. I questioned leaving Chromaggus, Balnazzar and Gul’dan to languish.

Since that first realm connection, Chromaggus and Garithos have been linked, while Gul’dan will be joining the cluster with Skullcrusher/Black Dragonflight. Balnazzar has been linked with Warsong. Great to see!

I also had a lot of questions, many of which have been answered.

1) How many realms will be in a Connected Realm? At least five, by the looks of it. This could theoretically be a LOT, especially if subscribers decline substantially at some point in the future.
2) With which realms will others be connected? Are they going to tack Chromaggus on to Tichondrius, for instance? Or will they do it by lumping together five to ten low-pop realms to be one large Connected Realm? Lumping together low-pops seems to be the plan.
3) Will Connected Realms have names? Not as of yet. That said, they’re considering making forums for each connected realm, which I would think would earn them a name. Imagine going to the Boulderfist/Bloodscalp/Maiev/Dunemaul/Stonemaul forum… I would guess we’ll see forums (and thus, names) closer to when certain clusters are “done” with adding connections.
4) Will players be able to transfer to a Connected Realm (and then get randomly dropped on a server within that VR) or will they continue to transfer to individual servers? I think things are still server-specific at this juncture.
5) What is the ideal population size of a Connected Realm? I don’t think this has been mentioned.
6) When will the actual lower-population realms start to be connected to others? Very shortly after the first two realms were successfully connected, apparently.
7) What’s the approximate cutoff that makes a realm “too big” to be connected, if such a number exists? Unknown.
8) Is there any interest in making sure factions are better balanced? Not exactly, no.

After seeing so many realms be connected in such a short period of time, I started wondering if connected realms were limited to battlegroups or even datacenters. The answer appears to be no. Dethecus and Detheroc are connected, but Dethecus is in the Rampage battlegroup and Detheroc in the Shadowburn battlegroup. Granted, those are both in the Chicago datacenter. However, on the list of connected realms are Laughing Skull (Vindication, in Chicago) and Auchindoun (Retaliation, in New York). Unless they’re moving servers to different datacenters during these connection maintenance periods, it looks as though there is no technical limitation regarding server location or battlegroup, which is great. It really allows Blizzard to examine which realms are in need and address that without worrying about other factors, like that one of the servers is across the country from the other.

Something else that’s interesting is that PVE realms are sneaking into these connected realms. The first few connections were all PVP realms but Nesingwary and Vek’nilash seem to have been connected this week and Winterhoof and Kilrogg will be connected in the next round. All four are PVE realms, so I would presume this means we’ll see more PVE (perhaps RP?) connections in the coming weeks. The lack of transparency as to the actual population of various servers is bothersome (I’d love to know if Eldre’Thalas is going to be connected anytime soon, for instance) but the connections tend to happen within a week or so of the announcement, with new connections happening every week. I would imagine most connections will be done, barring catastrophic technological failure, before the end of the year. I’m sure they’ll keep an eye on things and will add realms to connected clusters as needed, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t have the majority of servers who need population boosts taken care of by the end of the year.

Overall, I think this whole project is going swimmingly and I think it’s a fantastic idea by Blizzard. Of course, what I’m entirely incapable of discussing is how the people on these realms actually feel about these connections. Any of you out there on a connected realm? Problems? Good thing? Bad thing? Let me know! :)

While you’re here, would you do me a favour and take a second to fill out a quick survey for me, please? It’s really just one question: what do YOU want to know more about in regards to being a kick-ass raider? Thanks so much! :) In case you can’t tell, I’ve been working on my forthcoming Kick-Ass Raider guide and have a new Sneak Peek up!

And finally, the Epic Giveaway I’m hosting on Facebook has literally six entries so far. Your chances of winning are spectacular! All you have to do is like the Facebook page (before 11:59pm ET on November 3) to be entered for a chance to win the full epic version of my GM Guide. Go ahead, you know you wanna!

Being a Kick-Ass Raider & an Epic Giveaway

As anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows, I’ve been working on a series of “kick-ass” guides. The first was about being a guild master and the second is in progress. It deals with being a kick-ass raider and I’ve already got my first free Sneak Peek up over at Kurn’s Guides.

While I already have a basic idea of what I want to talk about (skill/knowledge, gearing, logs/parses, etc), I want to know what you want to know more about when it comes to how people can improve as raiders. If you’re interested in helping me out, here’s a handy-dandy embedded form for you to fill out!

The other thing I wanted to talk about is that I have finally set up a Kurn’s Guides presence on Facebook. If you like the page before midnight (ET) on November 3rd (which is next week!), you’ll be automatically entered in a giveaway where the prize is one free copy of the Epic full version of my Kick-Ass GM guide, which is actually my best seller. Normally $59.99, you can get it for free and all you have to do is like the page!

Oh, speaking of free stuff, the Thanksgiving Happy Moose Spectacular was so awesome that I’ve extended parts of it! The basic (rare) version of Module 1: Starting Up from my Kick-Ass GM Guide is free until November 8th, with the epic and legendary versions of that module sitting pretty at just $2.99 and $4.99 each, also until November 8th. Take advantage of the offer and learn how to start up a guild — just in case you may be in that position one day!

Finally, I really appreciate everyone’s support in my various endeavours. My Twitter followers, and dedicated RTers in particular, never fail to make me smile and remind me how grateful I am that everyone’s been so receptive to my guides. :) Good luck in the Epic Giveaway and thanks for your support here at the blog, over at Guild Chat, on Twitter and now on Facebook. :)

The Thanksgiving Happy Moose Spectacular!

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all my fellow Canadians! To the Americans out there, sorry you still have to wait another month or so. ;)

In honour of Thanksgiving, I’ve got a sale going on over at Kurn’s Guides: $10 off every version of the full kick-ass GM guide when you use the code HAPPYMOOSE and $10 off Module 1‘s versions, as well. Except that the rare version of Module 1 is usually $9.99, meaning I can’t take $10 off that price… so that one is just absolutely FREE for this weekend only! (The Epic and Legendary versions of Module 1 are $2.99 and $4.99 respectively.)

The sale ends on Monday, October 14th at 11:59pm ET, so take advantage now and have some awesome reading material for the long weekend (if you’re Canadian) or just your regular-length weekend (if you’re not).

And while you’re reading, I plan to spend most of this weekend writing up my Kick-Ass Raider guide before I go to my parents’ for a turkey dinner with the whole family.

Have  a great Thanksgiving Happy Moose Spectacular, everyone! :)

Various Current Thoughts

I have something like four draft posts that I’ve written chunks of in the last couple of weeks that will probably never see the light of day, simply because they’re no longer timely or perhaps even relevant. (One might question the actual relevance of ANY of my blog posts, though, I suppose. ;)) That said, I’ve obviously wanted to blog, so here I am.

New on Twitter

One of the blogs I’ve been reading for, oh, forever, is Blessing of Kings. It’s written by Rohan and every time I see he’s updated, I run to his blog to read his thoughts. We don’t always agree on things and there are some topics (SWTOR, for example) that I’m not interested in at all, but he’s a smart guy who writes very well. Happily, he’s now on Twitter! Go follow him, ASAP: @rverghes

New (to me) Blog

So I started up my Guild Chat forum a couple of weeks ago (go, read, ask questions, post your guild recruitment ads, etc!) and one of the members introduced himself and joked about me not following him on Twitter. I searched my emails to see if it was someone I knew or whatever and I saw a couple of emails exchanged between us — and it turns out that the guy is the amazing individual who runs WoW Lemmings. Not only is he awesome for running that site (because that site has SAVED MY GUILD’S ASS more times than I can count), but he’s got a WoW blog. It’s called “Eight Years in Azeroth: Memoires of a Casual/Hardcore Raiding Guild Leader“. Basically, he tells the story of his guild, from its inception to… well, he’s up to somewhere in Wrath now, I believe. I’m only a couple of entries in, but I’m really enjoying it. He’s a good storyteller and, of course, he’s currently talking about Vanilla, so I’m enthralled. ;) (Hilariously, I just noticed the URL can also spell out “Eighty Ears”, but I’m pretty sure it’s “Eight Years”. ;))

First entry is here: http://eightyearsinazeroth.blogspot.ca/2012/03/1-1.html

Hearthstone

I admit it. Since losing my King Krush card in the wipe, I’ve been a bit sad. I LOVED that card. Sure, I could craft it — if I had 1600 Arcane Dust lying around. I have, oh, 380. I’ve already spent some cash in the beta (pre-wipe), so I’m not particularly inclined to spend any money right now, so I’ll just have to deal. That said, I do still quite enjoy the hunter deck. It feels really good and I think it’s got a lot of synergy.

I do plan to post something about card synergy for hunters, but, well, not today.

Hearthstone 2

The hot topic today, I expect, will be the fact that Hearthstone ranked players have just experienced their first rank wipes. Prior to the patch and general overall wipe last Tuesday, I’d made it up to Platinum 2 with some half-hearted playing in the weeks beforehand. I got to Gold 3 this last week with some occasional play and experimentation with new hunter deck builds. And yet, I logged in today and it was like “Last week, you hit Gold 3!” And I’m now apparently back to the start. Since I haven’t put in a lot of effort, I’m okay with that. But I can see why some people are annoyed.

On the one hand, if you hit the top rank (Masters 3, I think?), what else are you going to do if ranks don’t reset on a regular basis? Plus, eventually, most people will be somewhere between Gold and Masters, I would imagine, leaving newbies to die hideously. There would be too much of an advantage for the older players, no? Something like that.

But on the other hand, why bother playing ranked if your progress is just going to vanish on Tuesday? That’s… it’s sort of like levelling a WoW toon for a week and hitting, I don’t know, 77, and then getting it wiped. There’s talk about “weekly tournaments” or rewards or whatever, but I haven’t seen too much info about this yet (not that I’ve been looking particularly hard). Still, one needs to ask what kind of rewards are viable for each type of player. Card packs aren’t useful to players who have all the cards (and there are people who do — or almost all of them). Dust isn’t useful to those people either. Gold, then? Gold allows Arena entry, so that’s a possibility, but ranked play is very different from Arena play. Ranked play is all about you customizing your own deck and painstakingly tweaking it and testing it out. Arena play is “hey, here are three heroes. Pick one. Oh, good, you picked one! Now, here are 90 cards, pick the best 30 you can and, by the way, you have no idea against whom you’ll be playing, GOOD LUCK!”. Arena play is basically throwing you into the deep end, because you can’t change your deck and you can’t even choose your hero (okay, you can, but the choice is one of three — if a hunter, for example, isn’t offered as a choice, guess what? That’s right, no Rexxar for you.). You have to be really familiar with all the classes and all their abilities in order to do well in the Arena, IMHO. (This would explain why I’m not good. Yet.)

So my question is, what kind of rewards would be good for BOTH new ranked players that would get them to work to be better in ranked play AND highly-ranked players who have clearly mastered ranked play and have the vast majority of cards in the game?

Good God, it’s like Blizzard’s replicated the WoW “casual vs. hardcore” in Hearthstone, too! ;)

World of Warcraft

It’s been a year since I got back from my trip to Italy which means it’s been about eleven months since I last played WoW (barring a 30m quick bit of testing on a trial account – on my laptop – for Module 2 of my GM Guide, to properly ascertain which Horde race can get to Trade Chat the quickest). I last properly played on November 10th and, I admit, with all the talk of 5.4, it’s tempting to go back and screw around a bit, maybe form some flex raids or some such thing.

Then again, it’s not all that tempting.

But Proving Grounds seem interesting. And it’s tempting to see how long it would take me to get a legendary cloak, since I’d be starting from scratch…

Yet every time I get the urge to play, I question if it’d be worth it. I know myself well enough to know that I’d play a LOT until all the newness has worn off and then I’d be like “why am I even PLAYING if I’m not RAIDING?” and honestly, do I want to learn boss strats? Nope, not particularly. And since I don’t have the client on my desktop, I’d be in for something like a 17GB download, which is enough to dissuade me from impulsively signing back up.

I will go back at some point — apart from anything else, I’d like to try to get server-first skinning in the next expansion, which has LONG been a goal of mine — but I don’t think that time is now. Plus, going back now seems silly when I’m so close to a year without playing. Maybe after NaNoWriMo, when it’s December and it’s cold and snowy outside.

Speaking of Majik

Majik and his wife are coming up to Montreal in November. Those two, plus my brother, Fog, and his wife, and I will all be going up to our parents’ cottage in mid-November for a three-day weekend. Should be fun, although cold. Plans currently include a lot of board game playing: The Resistance (which I just picked up this week), Pandemic, Settlers of Catan and possibly more. We may also get to canoe if it’s not TOO cold, perhaps have a short hike up a small mountain (assuming my brother and I can remember where in the hell the mountain is and where the path is) and possibly have a bonfire while keeping an eye out for the shooting stars stemming from the Leonid meteor shower. It should be a good time. And maybe I’ll get him to SING for the old Blessing of Frost podcast listeners.

(I still have a very short mini-episode thing I need to finish editing, one of these days, that was recorded back on Maj’s wedding day.)

Kick-Ass Raider’s Guide

Writing my GM guide this summer was a fantastic experience. I was really into it and very passionate about what I was doing and wrote a lot. I haven’t found the same energy for my raider’s guide, but I do plan to get some serious writing done this week. I feel like I keep saying this, but hopefully I’ll have a sneak peek for you guys Soon ™. Right now, it seems as though each time I try to write, I end up going through my GIGABYTES of screenshots, trying to find examples for what I’m talking about and then I, invariably, get caught up in old memories. Not useful for writing something, surprisingly. ;) Anyhow, you should sign up for my announcement list at Kurn’s Guides for info on when things are launched and released. :)

Okay, I think that about sums up what’s up with me and current stuff. Maybe I’ll get some guide writing done, now. :)

Introducing Guild Chat

Last week, I was working to try to launch something frantically before Tuesday arrived. I had almost everything set for this project’s launch except this one tiny little feature I desperately wanted to include.

Alas, MySQL errors exploded on my screen and I said to hell with it and delayed the launch for a week. I haven’t been too outspoken about it bcause I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to finish all the little bits and pieces needed for a smooth launch, but hey! I did. (And I have this Thing about launching on Tuesdays when it comes to WoW stuff, because, you know, Tuesday is the start of the WoW week. I know. I’m weird.)

So what am I launching?

It’s called Guild Chat and it’s a forum where people can talk about various issues facing them and their guilds and get advice from the other members. It’s over at:

http://kurn.info/forum/

You do need to register in order to see most of the forum (and in order to participate!), but it’s free. You’ll need to verify your email address when registering, so be sure to use a real email address, too — and to check in various folders or tabs (Spam, Social, etc) for the registration confirmation mail. If you have problems while registering, comment here or email me and I’ll work with you to get you registered. :)

The “tiny little feature” has been redesigned. Originally, I was going to use a mod for the forum that would allow registered users only to post anonymously in a specific forum. (If I let just any anonymous user post, it would end up being 99.99999% spam.) So I decided to maintain the spirit of the idea and created a special user (with special permissions) that anyone should be able to use to end up posting somewhat anonymously, should they feel the need to do so. Sometimes it’s hard to obscure information and since anyone can register for the forum, there’s the possibility that the guildies you’re complaining about will read what you’re saying, so in order to get around that, this special user should allow you to post somewhat anonymously. (I say somewhat because I will still probably be able to tell which post is linked to which user just via IP addresses, but I’m the only one.)

This all stems from the fact that, about eighteen months ago, I wanted to put together a very closed group dedicated to GMs and officers to talk and where they could safely vent their frustrations, but that never took off and then I stopped playing. But writing my guide made me realize just how few resources there are for GMs and such out there. The forum is for anyone, whether or not you’re part of a guild’s leadership, and I welcome people from other games which have guids, but the goal is for people to really sit down and chat with each other about the problems they’re seeing in their guilds.

Whether you’re an officer or a new recruit, part of an RP social guild or a Top 100 raiding guild, all are welcome. Let’s try to find some solutions to people’s problems, shall we?

And though it probably goes without saying, considering this is me we’re talking about, Guild Chat is a respectful environment. Read the rules and policies, respect them and all will be well.

Hope to see you on the new forum! :)

(PS: There’s just 24 hours left on my $77 and $97 Specials over at my guide site, in case you wanted to take advantage before they vanish.)

Nerfs in Mists of Pandaria

I was reading a great post over at Alternative Chat today, about how if you don’t love World of Warcraft, you shouldn’t play, essentially. If, for example, the game makes you angry or frustrated, it’s probably time to step away.

As I’m human, I immediately started applying what The Godmother was saying to my own experience playing World of Warcraft.

If I had to pick a single thing about Cataclysm that frustrated me, over and over again, to the point of not even wanting to play, it was the constant nerfing of current content. My rage about Firelands’ 20% nerf is extremely well-documented.

When it was announced that Dragon Soul would also receive nerfs, despite the existence of Raid Finder (LFR), I was still angry but I was more resigned. That’s when I realized that my Firelands-era rant about not wanting to play was something that was continuing into the final tier of content.

So I stopped playing. I let my sub run out in November of 2012 and promptly took six months away from just about anything to do with the game. I barely blogged, was absent on Twitter for the most part. My guides are what drew me back and what keep me interested in the state of the game, plus it’s been fun to reconnect with members of the WoW community, too.

One of my fears regarding quitting when I did has to do with nerfs. I was scared that they wouldn’t nerf anything in Mists. I knew they would be implementing Cutting Edge and Ahead of the Curve achievements (for those who would get heroic and normal clears, respectively, prior to the release of a new tier), so that indicated to me that maybe they wouldn’t nerf things that were current. This concerned me a bit because if one of the major reasons I wasn’t playing Mists of Pandaria was because of Blizzard’s recent habit of nerfing the crap out of everything, why wouldn’t I be playing if they weren’t nerfing things?

It dawned on me that Blizzard has been nerfing things, and not just after each new tier comes out (although there’s that, too — apparently the T14 raids on normal and heroic have been nerfed by 10% and Throne of Thunder has been nerfed by 20% since 5.4 was released).

Kurn, what the hell are you talking about? There weren’t any current nerfs to the content in T14 or T15.

Sorry to say it, but there were nerfs to the content. You know them as the 5.1 and 5.3 Valor Upgrades.

Admittedly, it took me a while to realize it myself and to realize why I had initially viewed the Valor Upgrades as something other than a nerf.

One of my biggest problems with the nerfs in Cataclysm was that the nerfs were to the base encounter: “The boss has 20% less health, does 20% less damage.” That’s a nerf to the encounter.

While I wasn’t altogether a fan of the ICC buff, where people did increasingly more damage and healing, at least, I reasoned, the onus was on the player to perform better with these buffs. A 30% buff still wouldn’t make up for an idiot hunter who just auto-shotted throughout the encounter and didn’t use a pet. A 30% buff (even to health) wasn’t guaranteed to keep you alive if you stood in the fire. (Obviously, it bought you time to move out of the fire, but it didn’t really save you from Heroic Sindragosa’s Frost Bombs and stuff.)

The Firelands nerfs came in after the instance had been open for four months (June 28th-September 19th = 12 weeks).

The Dragon Soul nerfs began being applied after the instance had been open for 9 weeks (November 29th-January 31st).

In the case of the Valor Upgrades, these appeared with the mid-tier patches of 5.1 and 5.3.

5.1 came out on November 27th (about 8 weeks after the expansion’s launch) and 5.3 came out on May 21st, 11 weeks after Patch 5.2 (and thus, Throne of Thunder) came out. Valor Upgrades mean that you can upgrade Epic-quality gear twice for four item levels each, using Valor Points. So the Shattered Tortoiseshell Longbow from Tortos in the Throne of Thunder starts out as ilvl 522. If you upgrade it once (for 250 VP), it goes to ilvl 526. You then gain 60 agility, 89 stamina, 40 expertise, 38 hit and 216.2 ranged DPS.

If you upgrade it again, for another 250 VP, it turns into a 530 item level bow and you gain an additional 61 agility, 92 stamina, 43 expertise, 39 hit and 224.2 ranged DPS.

That’s a total increase of:

121 agility
181 stamina
83 expertise
77 hit
440.6 ranged DPS

The basic difference between one level of gear and another is about 13 item levels. The normal T16 chest for a holy paladin, for example, is Breastplate of Winged Triumph and is ilvl 553 and the heroic version is 566.

So getting an 8 item level boost is more than halfway to the next step of gear. 8 item levels is more than the difference between normal and thunder/warforged, which is 6 item levels. It’s more than the difference between heroic and heroic thunder/warforged, which is also 6 item levels.

If you upgrade the vast majority of your gear (as, I believe, is expected for most heroic raiders), if your whole raid team does that, guess what? You’ve just nerfed the instance. By about 7-8%.

One of the major problems Blizzard had with the ICC buff (as a nerfing mechanic) is that they didn’t like that people felt “less powerful” outside of the instance. It’s true — people who went merrily roflstomping their way through ICC at, say, the 30% buff, got their asses handed to them on Halion in the Ruby Sanctum.

So what they did here, and I really do have to take my hat off to them for this, is they elected to nerf things through the players. The responsibility to upgrade your gear is on YOU. The responsibility of earning enough VP to do so is on YOU. As a reward, you get to be more powerful, not just in a single raid instance, but everywhere. They only introduced this in the 5.1 and 5.3 patches, which meant that they waited until the tier was about halfway over before allowing players to nerf it by outgearing things.

Of course, these valor upgrade NPCs are still around now that 5.4 has hit. That means that you can upgrade all your shiny new LFR/Flex/Normal/Heroic gear ASAP. And since Valor Points weren’t converted to Justice Points either, well, hey. That means that a lot of people can get their upgrades going super-quickly to help them mow down the first several Siege bosses much more easily than they would have been able to otherwise.

In other words… Instead of waiting for a 5.5 patch to nerf things via Valor Upgrades, you can just start out with a nerf to the instance right off the bat.

This leaves me wondering… will they do a blanket nerf midway through the tier? Will 5.5 bring with it another nonsensical nerf? Will there even be a 5.5? Will they just nerf stuff halfway through without a mid-tier patch?

For the last four tiers in a row, Blizzard has introduced a nerf mechanic to the current raid instance while about halfway through the tier. Firelands was the 20% flat nerf. Dragon Soul was the 5% nerf, gaining every 4 weeks or so. Tier 14 was in the form of 5.1’s Valor Upgrades. Tier 15 was in the form of 5.3’s Valor Upgrades.

Does the fact that Valor Upgrades are possible in 5.4 mean that there will be no nerfs in Tier 16? Or does it mean that an even bigger nerf is looming? Well, it’s common knowledge that this is the last raid encounter of the expansion. At the change from BC to Wrath, there was a 30% nerf that went into effect for ALL RAIDS and ALL BOSSES. In the last six months of ICC, we had a stacking 5% buff-type nerf. It seems to me that the question isn’t will there be an additional nerf to Siege of Orgrimmar, it’s just what form will that additional nerf take?

Remember, we’re probably looking at Siege of Orgrimmar being the instance until June, 2014, which is when I anticipate the new expansion will drop. I would think, therefore, that a nerf effect might be applied sometime in December at the earliest and February at the latest.

I could be wrong, mind you. This is all conjecture. But another nerf mechanic in this, the last raid tier of the expansion, only seems logical when you look at how Blizzard has consistently nerfed current content (and, specifically, final tier content) over the last several years. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

(Remember, my Limited-Time Specials at Kurn.info are ending this Tuesday, so be sure to check them out! Also, don’t hesitate to sign up for the affiliate program and earn 50% commission on every sale you’re responsible for!)

Affiliates and Specials

So after some poking around, I set up an Affiliate Program for Kurn’s Guides. The bullet points:

– If an affiliate refers someone to my site and that someone buys something, the affiliate gets 50% of the proceeds. That’s right, 50%. I figure that the sale wouldn’t have happened without the affiliate, so why not thank them for their help in making the sale?
– Payment goes out near the start of each month. Period. You’ll get paid in the first week of the following month

That’s basically the size of it. Read up on how to sign up for my Affiliate Program if you’re interested. :)

And speaking of Kurn’s Guides, my limited-time $77 and $97 specials are coming to an end in one week! Both offers expire on Tuesday, September 24th at 11:59pm ET. Several people have taken advantage of these limited-time offers and I’m really enjoying them, but they do take a lot of time out of my schedule. There’s no telling when (or if) they’ll ever return, so if you wanted to buy the full guide and get some one-on-one time with me about guild stuff, now’s your chance!

Finally, I may have a new Sneak Peek for you as early as next Tuesday. I’ve started my Kick-Ass Raider guide and should have something worth showing people next week, but possibly the week after. Either way, I’ll be sure to shout about it from the rooftops. ;)

And maybe I’ll even have another Hearthstone post coming up, soon! So many things to do, so little time to do them all!

More Hearthstone Thoughts

So I got a Hearthstone beta key the other week and, while I haven’t been playing it as much as I would have liked to, I’m quite enjoying it.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Hearthstone is properly known as Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and it’s a digital CCG (collectible card game) that Blizzard is working on. It’s currently in closed beta. It is, in a word, fun.

There are nine decks, one for each of the original World of Warcraft classes, each represented by a different “hero” of that class.

Druid: Malfurion Stormrage
Hunter: Rexxar
Mage: Jaina Proudmoore
Paladin: Uther (the) Lightbringer
Priest: Anduin Wrynn
Rogue: Valeera Sanguinar
Shaman: Thrall
Warlock: Gul’dan
Warrior: Garrosh Hellscream (post-5.4 spoilers, perhaps!)

What’s interesting about this is that, basically, the decks don’t need a hero associated with them, but having them there means that you can use all kinds of lore and story affiliated with those characters. There’s a hunter card, for example, that will summon a random beast companion, and these beasts are well-known pets of Rexxar’s. It gives great flavour (and fun) to play as/against these “heroes”. (Although, let me just say that perhaps Garrosh wasn’t a great choice, given that the 5.4 raid is the Siege of Orgrimmar… But who else? Cairne or Baine Bloodhoof? Saurfang? Grom Hellscream? Lothar? VARIAN? Meh.)

So you have a deck of 30 cards and, using these cards, your goal is to bring down the opposing hero from 30 health to 0. In these decks, you have various cards that will do various things. You can basically break them down into two types of cards:

1) The ability card. This type of card will generally not leave a minion on the board. A prime example is the hunter’s Multi-Shot card. All this does is three damage to two random enemy minions.

2) The minion card. While minion cards will often also have an additional effect, this is the kind of card that just drops a minion on to the board for you to play (typically the next turn). Here’s an example of a plain, basic card.

Your job is to make sure your deck of 30 cards will be appropriately balanced between abilities and minions to get you to kill the opposing hero. What’s awesome is that how you go about doing this depends largely on your class.

For example (and this is my experience, so I could be very wrong), I find that Rogue decks are very much tuned for direct damage and they also have a lot of great defensive moves. By that, I mean that it feels as though they have a ton of ability cards. You could build an entire deck around just abilities, though it might not be very successful. There are 17 ability cards in a Rogue deck and you can have two of each in your 30-card deck. Among them are cards like Assassinate, Sap and Vanish.

By contrast, Hunter decks (again, my experience) seem to be a decks that work very well with lots of minions, specifically Beasts (which only makes sense), and there’s a lot of synergy with the hunter-specific cards. The Starving Buzzard lets you draw a card when you summon a beast, the Scavenging Hyena gains attack and health when a beast dies, while the Houndmaster gives a friendly Beast extra attack and health AND a taunt.

So one of the things I like best about the game is that each deck really feels like the class they’re named for. I feel like Rogues are a bit squishy, but can do great crowd control and fantastic damage. I feel like Hunters are at their best when taking advantage of all the synergy with various bonuses for beasts. I also feel as though the Paladins are slow to start, but have great staying power and will eventually overwhelm you.

It all just feels very “right”, if that makes sense.

So, as I said, your goal is to take a 30-card deck and kill the opposing hero. Each hero starts with 30 health and no one can have more than 30 health (although some characters have shielding abilities which means you’ll be required to hit them for more than 30 total damage for them to die).

The other part of the game that I very much enjoy is that it’s like a chess game. There are good times and bad times to use certain cards and a long-term strategy is likely required when you’re planning out your deck. However, that strategy isn’t always available and you will end up changing ideas as you progress through a match because your awesome opening cards could be at the very bottom of your deck! Every time you pick a card, things can drastically change. Every time your opponent plays a card, things can drastically change.

Then there are Taunt cards to deal with, Charge cards, cards that spawn MORE minions, Deathrattles and more mechanics, all of which can completely screw up your plan. So it’s a chess game, but with a few separate elements of surprise thrown in.

Here’s one of my earliest matches:

And you can find more on my YouTube channel (here’s the direct link to my Hearthstone Playlist!). Occasionally, I may also stream over at Twitch, so you can mock me. ;)

Next time I write about Hearthstone, I’m going to talk about going first, going second and The Coin, including some really interesting information about how it helps even the playing field, posted by one of the devs.

On Connected Realms

Back when I first started playing World of Warcraft, I, like everyone else, was faced with a choice. At the time, I was completely unaware of how important this one choice was. I doubt most other first-timers had any idea, either. That choice was, of course, selecting a realm.

The realm I chose was Eldre’Thalas. Why? There were two reasons. The first was that it was a “Normal” server, meaning it was PVE. I had (and still have) no desire to be ganked unexpectedly.

The other reason why was because I thought it “looked cool” by virtue of having an apostrophe. That’s it. That is the entire reason I chose my home server, among 45 other PVE realms. Subsequently, that is why I met a bunch of awesome people in the guild of Fated Heroes, why I stuck with them to form Apotheosis (BC-era) and why I came back, post-Wrath, to bring Apotheosis v2.0 to life.

Because the server name looked cool.

When I look back on things, I recognize how huge a choice that was. At the time, there were no character transfers. Even now, character transfers cost $25 to pop from server to server (and believe me, I have spent a fair amount of money on transfers!), so the choice of a server is still a fairly important one. True, it no longer takes 20-30 days played to get a single character up to level 90, much less level 60, but server choice is still important, though it’s becoming less so.

With the release of Patch 5.4, Connected Realms (previously known as Virtual Realms) are being tested and implemented. Nethaera informed us on Wednesday evening that the first two realms that will be connected in this fashion are the US realms Bloodscalp and Boulderfist.

According to the US WoW RealmPop site, here are the statistics for both of those servers.

Bloodscalp:
Server type: PVP/Normal
Server timezone: MST
Alliance population: 13,581
Horde population: 32,167
Total population: 45,819

Boulderfist:
Server type: PVP/Normal
Server timezone: PST
Alliance population: 21,887
Horde population: 44,472
Total population: 66,459

I admit, this first connected realm confuses me a little bit. The Connected Realms FAQ explains that they wanted players from two (or more) lower-pop realms to play together. So why Bloodscalp and Boulderfist first? Looking at the list at RealmPop, Chromaggus has less than 16,000 characters in total. Garithos isn’t much better off, sitting at 17k. Balnazzar and Gul’dan are around the 18k mark. All four of those realms are PVP/CST realms. It seems to me as though the logical thing to do would be to group those four up pretty quickly, no?

Then again, maybe they want to start slowly, in the sense that they might want to try out this technology with just two (instead of four) realms to begin. And just two of those servers connected together would only be a total of about 32-33 thousand characters, which isn’t ideal. (Hell, all four of them merged isn’t a great population, either!) So I can understand that.

The other reason I’m confused is that they’re looking to create such a LARGE connected realm. ~46k + ~66k = ~112k characters. Either I missed a conversation/blue post out there, or I was extremely wrong in thinking that Eldre’Thalas, with its estimated population of ~74,000 characters, would remain a standalone realm. I was very surprised to see Boulderfist included, with just about eight thousand fewer characters on it than my original, home server.

The idea of Connected Realms was really interesting to me, on a community level (which I’ll get to in a moment), but it was all academic to me, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that I haven’t actively played since November of 2012. However, the idea that Eldre’Thalas may be included in this, at some point, brings it home. It’s not that good ol’ Eldre’Thalas can’t use more people (I’m sure that the Horde of ET, the few of them that remain, would agree with that sentiment), but the instant that you connect two or more realms together, the community changes.

Let’s talk a bit about community.

Back when I started playing, in October of 2005, my server (and I can’t speak to other servers because I only had characters on Eldre’Thalas, at that time) had a bunch of personalities. As you levelled, you knew of pretty much anyone who was a good player, bad player, moron, genius, scammer, you name it.

There was Atlas, the rather infamous leader of The Final Sanctum, who was, by all accounts, a jackass.

There was Suttles, who you could always count on to be yelling inappropriate things.

There was Warninja, who was always happy to open your lockboxes on the Ironforge bridge.

There was Joejoemco, who was pretty much always responsible for insane feats of kiting. Like, if Borelgore (from Eastern Plaguelands) was sitting dead in Ironforge? Yeah, that was Joejoe’s fault.

There was Rastlin, the Horde shaman, who was awesome about creating flasks and rare-ish alchemy items for people, back when you needed to go to Scholomance or Blackwing Lair to find an alchemy lab to make flasks, even arranging things with Alliance folks via the neutral AH, if I’m remembering right.

There was Thack, the main tank of Eternal Force, who was That Guy standing in Ironforge in full Tier 3, on his black scarab mount, having been the guy to ring the gong on the server back when the gates to Ahn’Qiraj were opened.

Since, at the time, battlegrounds weren’t split between battlegroups, you also got to know cross-faction folks pretty well — or, at least, you recognized who murdered you brutally in Warsong Gulch. (Dar, the orc hunter, is who taught me what the hell Scattershot was by using it on me, causing me to exclaim “what in the fuck was that?!”. Elu, the tauren druid, showed me what a bear could do for flag carrying.)

Once you connect realms, the community changes.

However, since the peak of WoW’s population, back in late Wrath of the Lich King, since the introduction of Looking for Group and, later, Looking for Raid, plus the fact that battlegrounds and arenas are battlegroup-wide, there’s very little community remaining on many servers. Larger servers, such as Proudmoore (where I raided for nine months), had enough Alliance-side population to actually have personality. With pugs running constantly, plus gold DKP runs and pre-made groups, Proudmoore was a thriving community (disclaimer: I haven’t had a regularly-played character there since May of 2010). It was so different compared to Eldre’Thalas and its relative silence.

I came back to Eldre’Thalas after about an 18 month break during Wrath. I barely recognized anyone. People applied to Apotheosis, saying they’d been life-long ETers and I was like “who the hell ARE these people?”, although I did recognize the names of guilds they’d previously been in.

Even during Cataclysm, I didn’t recognize a lot of people. I still feel as though there wasn’t a ton of real community on the server. My guildies mostly stuck to in-guild activities, as did I. I tried a normal 10m pug of Dragon Soul on my hunter at one point. I was pulled in on Blackhorn (I was obviously replacing someone who had given up in frustration) and spent two hours working on that fight with these people and we couldn’t get it down. That and Baradin Hold pugs were pretty much the extent of my forays into server activities.

So, if  connected realms change the community of realms where there’s not a lot of community to start with, then this should be a good change, no? I kind of think so.

The other strange thing about Bloodscalp and Boulderfist’s imminent connection is that these are two Horde-dominant servers. Once connected, the total approximate Alliance population will be 35,468 characters compared to the Horde’s 76,639. And these are PVP servers. True, it’s not as though the Alliance aren’t already used to being completely outnumbered by the Horde on these servers, but good Lord, that’s more than twice the amount of Horde as Alliance. One would have thought that Connected Realms would not only bring up overall populations but seek to perhaps even out the faction imbalances, no? Well, I guess not.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Connected Realms are a good idea, even if the idea is not quite unfolding the way I had thought it would. Ultimately, linking realms in this fashion does not make life difficult for anyone (except auction house fiends) and, in fact, helps to build community (where there might not have been much) between separate servers that are now linked.

There are still some unanswered questions I have, in addition to the ones I posed in my last post on the subject:

Old questions:
1) How many realms will be in a Virtual Realm?
2) With which realms will others be connected? Are they going to tack Chromaggus on to Tichondrius, for instance? Or will they do it by lumping together five to ten low-pop realms to be one large Virtual Realm?
3) Will Virtual Realms have names?
4) Will players be able to transfer to a Virtual Realm (and then get randomly dropped on a server within that VR) or will they continue to transfer to individual servers?

New questions:
5) What is the ideal population size of a Connected Realm?
6) When will the actual lower-population realms start to be connected to others?
7) What’s the approximate cutoff that makes a realm “too big” to be connected, if such a number exists?
8) Is there any interest in making sure factions are better balanced?

Oh, and while I was poking around the official forums, looking for people’s reactions, I found this post in the Bloodscalp forums about Connected Realms and had a good laugh, so I absolutely have to share it! :)

Also, don’t forget to check out Kurn’s Recruitment Checklist, to better aid you in your 5.4 recruitment push, and if you need a bit more help, there’s always Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Guild Master! In particular, Module 2: How to Recruit is full of great recruitment info (as you may have already gleaned).

Finally, I’m starting work on my second Kick-Ass Guide! This one is targetted at raiders and will be a lot shorter than the guild master guide. I hope. Well, at 358 pages, the guild master guide is kind of massive, so hopefully it won’t be too difficult to release a shorter guide in a shorter period of time. The GM guide took me close to four months, so I’m aiming for half of that time before the Raider guide is out. Keep yourself up to date here or follow me on Twitter (@kurnmogh) or sign up for my mailing list over at Kurn’s Guides! :)

Round Up

One thing that I’ve always enjoyed about my blog is that it’s Kurn’s Corner. That’s to say that I feel free to talk about whatever it is I want to talk about. I usually try to relate it to gaming (generally World of Warcraft and other Blizzard games, because most of my audience knows me from WoW), but if I wanted to, I could branch out and talk about other things entirely. I really enjoy that freedom.

(Having said that, this particular blog post will still be about gaming. :) I just thought I’d share with you that I enjoy the freedom my blog allows me, which probably explains why, even 10 months after I stopped playing, I’m still writing at least occasionally.)

There are a couple of things going on in the Blizzard Entertainment world these days that are interesting to me. Tuesday brings us Patch 5.4 in the World of Warcraft and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is in closed beta.

First up, 5.4!

While the content of 5.4 is of less actual interest to me than it is to people who, you know, actually play the game, it’s still an interesting time for me because I’ve spent several months attempting to do my part to help solve (or at least alleviate) The Recruitment Problem. What IS The Recruitment Problem? It’s that guilds are constantly struggling to recruit. Recruitment has always been one of the most difficult things to handle in a guild. If you over-recruit, you may lose people who feel they’re not getting their fair time in guild events. If you under-recruit, you may not have guild events in the first place! It’s a difficult balance to strike. Plus there’s the turnover that causes you to almost always be searching for new players. So while I was writing my guide, Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Guild Master, I decided to start spotlighting guilds to help guilds get a bit more attention. While I had a ton of submissions up front, I’ve exhausted all of those and now need NEW submissions, so if your guild is recruiting, I will happily craft you a Guild Spotlight. Just go fill out the form. Did I mention it’s free?

Speaking of free, there’s also a brand-new addition to my guide site, over at Kurn.info! It’s called Kurn’s Recruitment Checklist and you can find it in the new Free Stuff section of the site. It’s a basic list of all the tasks you should be doing on a daily basis to maximize your chances as you attempt to recruit. They’re all tried-and-true methods — it’s what I did when I was recruiting for my own guild. (Speaking of Apotheosis of Eldre’Thalas, they’re currently ranked #1 on the server at 11/13 HM – they’ve been frantically working on H Lei-Shen to down him before the patch and still have a raid night to do it! – and they’re seeking rogues, windwalkers, warriors and a talented resto druid, though they’re open to other melee classes. Raid nights are Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday from 9pm ET until 12am. Check them out for quality 25m heroic raiding!)

And in not-so-free-but-still-discounted news… In honour of 5.4’s imminent release, this past week has seen Module 2 (How to Recruit) of my aforementioned Guild Master guide at 25% off! The sale ends Monday night at 11:59pm ET, so make sure you’re prepped for the recruitment rush at the start of this new patch! Check out Module 2 here!

In other guide-related news, my next project is not going to be Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Raid Leader. It’s going to be Kurn’s Guide to Being a Kick-Ass Raider. (The Raid Leader one will come eventually.) I just started writing it and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all Soon(tm)! (Probably a couple of months, although it’s going to be much shorter than the Guild Master guide. I hope.)

And now… Hearthstone!

I was extremely fortunate and won a Hearthstone Beta Key from Sas148 at Wowhead! Again, my thanks to Sas!

I’ve really been enjoying it. Hilariously, it plays well on my laptop, too, although a bit laggier (unsurprising), but considering this laptop is the one that granted me a blazing 3-6fps in raids in WoW, that it plays this game pretty well is impressive. They’re really casting a wide net in terms of system requirements, it seems.

I’ve got a couple of videos up (Uther vs. Uther and then opening up 15 packs), which you can watch over at this YouTube playlist. I’ve also streamed a bit here and there over at Twitch and really need to go through the streams I’ve done to pull out some highlights.

Overall, I’ve been enjoying the hunter (I know, it’s a shocker) and the paladin (also shocking). I really enjoy how the different decks really “feel” like the classes they’re supposed to represent. Paladins feel like they’re in plate, with lots of defenses. I feel as though they play a long game with buffs to their many potential minions and defensive moves. I feel as though hunters are very dependent on their beasts — lots of hunter cards for buffs to beasts in particular. On the flipside, you have Jaina (the mage, obviously) and she feels like she can deal an insane amount of damage, but has very little to help her last terribly long. Playing the mage deck makes me actually feel like a fire mage/glass cannon.

I haven’t spent a lot of time playing the other decks as of yet (although I’ve unlocked them all), but rogues seem very direct-damagey, while shaman seem interesting in the sense that you can kind of borrow against mana from the next turn (certain abilities will “overload” you and remove some mana crystals from use in the next turn). Warlocks are, typically, self-destructive, which cracks me up, but they’re very potent, from what I’ve seen. They seem almost OP the way the class was in Burning Crusade. Ah, memories! ;)

Something I really enjoy about Hearthstone is that so many things are familiar. There’s a card that’ll play a minion, the Acidic Swamp Ooze, which has a battlecry effect of breaking your opponent’s weapon (if they have one). I laughed out loud at that because there’s a mob by the same name in WoW, who drops a grey junk item called… Broken Weapon! Plus there are legendary cards like Gruul, whose special ability is that he gains one attack and one health after each turn, which basically mimics his actual, in-game mechanics. (Although gaining health in WoW would have been kind of counter-intuituve, it’s a great addition to his Growth ability in Hearthstone!)

So I’m enjoying it. It’s reminiscent of WoW without actually BEING WoW. I enjoy the ranked play (Platinum 2-star at this point) as well as the arena. (I am SO BAD AT ARENA, ahahahaha!) Overall, I can’t wait ’till the game actually comes out. I think it’ll be a lot of fun, especially with more players.

Okay, I guess that’s it for this post. Remember, Module 2’s sale ends Monday at 11:59pm ET and that there’s a new, free recruitment tool for you to download at my site. Not to mention that I’m still seeking submissions for my free guild spotlights!

Enjoy Patch 5.4 and good luck getting into the Hearthstone beta if it’s something that interests you!