My Games Played for 2019

I realize that we’re only a few days into December at this point, leaving almost 8% of the year left to go, but there are also only so many days in a month and I had nothing else brewing for a post, so I am going to run with this a bit earlier that usual  This is where I look at, in a broad sense, which games I ended up playing in 2019 relative to what I thought I might play.

Back at the start of January I wrote a post about what I thought I might end up playing, so this is the nearly end of year follow up to that post.  There is something of a tradition around here with this sort of post, going back years at this point.

The list used to be largely about new games that I was going to play.  And then at some point it became clear that I don’t really play that many new games anymore.  But that is the essence of MMORPGs, that they want to keep you playing for years.  Op success for them I guess.  So now it is more about which stale old title I am going to linger on for yet another trip around the sun.

Back in January I broke my picks out into a few bands of likelihood.  Up first were the safe bets:

  • EVE Online
  • WoW Classic
  • WoW Battle for Azeroth
  • Lord of the Rings Online

And, I was pretty bang on with that list.  EVE Online got play time through the whole year.  WoW Classic has been a big play time favorite since it launched in late August.  WoW Battle for Azeroth was not neglected, though I still haven’t unlocked flying for the expansion, the measure of whether or not you really played by some accounts.  And I did kick off the year still invested in the LOTRO Legendary server idea, though that faded at some point in Moria.

After that there were the “somewhat likely” titles, which were:

  • EverQuest II
  • Project: Gorgon
  • Minecraft

EverQuest II was a last minute winner, getting more play time last month than anything else.  And I did dive into Minecraft when searching for stuff that came with the Village and Pillage update.  But Project: Gorgon, that remains unplayed.  I think it might be time to admit that I am just not going to find the time for it.

Finally, there were the wildcards, things I thought that might find their way into my rotation.  That list was:

  • EverQuest
  • Atlas
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Camelot Unchained
  • Destiny 2
  • Diablo III
  • War Thunder and/or World of Tanks
  • Something Else New

Out of that list I played EverQuest.  I jumped in and played on a live server for the 20th anniversary in March, explored some new places, struggled with the layers of interface options the game has accumulated over two decades, and generally had a good time.

And that was it.  I never touched AtlasTorchlight Frontiers and Camelot Unchained remain as yet unrealized.  I am at the point where I’m wondering if I should apply for a refund on the latter.  It doesn’t seem like it will be a thing anytime soon.  Activision gave me a free copy of Destiny 2 and then it went away before I could be bothered to even launch it.  Diablo III I’ve played enough of.  War Thunder I am just so terrible at that I couldn’t be bothered to install it again, and I thought about Word of Tanks, but never pressed the button.

As for “something else new” I must have been making a joke, right?

Well, as long as we get away from MMOs and such, I did try a couple of new items.  On the other games list I said I would probably play the following:

  • Civilization V
  • RimWorld
  • Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings

And I did, in fact, spend some time playing all three of those.  But I also played:

  • Path of Exile
  • Diablo (via GoG.com)
  • Microsoft Solitaire
  • Defense Grid: The Awakening
  • StarCraft (original)
  • Dota Underlords
  • Teamfight Tactics
  • Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin

Those all came and went in short bursts of activity, usually centered on some event.   Path of Exile had a new season and some friends wanted to play.  However, the people in the group who were into it raced ahead and those of us who hadn’t touched the game for a few years ended up somewhat lost in the new mechanics added over time.  For me PoE isn’t as compelling as Diablo III or WoW to play solo, so I let it drop.

The original Diablo got a GoG.com remaster, which means they made it work on Windows 10, so I ran through that.  It was good fun.  StarCraft got a Carbot skin, which was enough for me to drag it out and play with it for a bit.

Microsoft Solitaire is pre-loaded with Win10.  I tried it for a bit as something to do while waiting for an op to get going in EVE Online.  It wasn’t all that special, and when it started prompting me to pay, I was done.

Then there was the late summer Auto Chess/Auto Battler round up, where I tried out Dota Underlords and Teamfight Tactics.  They are kind of fun, but in using the heroes from their respective parent games, DOTA 2 and League of Legends, remained a bit too close to their core player base to interest me.

I got Defense Grid: The Awakening, a great tower defense game, during the Steam Summer Sale to earn a badge by unlocking an achievement.  I think that explains a bit of Civ V as well, though you can never play just a “bit” of Civ VAge of Empires II HD probably came in as part of that as well, though there was also the launch of the Age of Empires II Definitive Edition that might have sparked some interest there.

And every once in a while when I feel like something akin to old school table top war games I drag out Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin, perhaps the best game in the Combat Mission series.  I’m not a fan of their new engine and they no longer sell the old games, support being an issue.  But my copy still works.

With all of that, here is that annual chart that shows what I played and when.

2019 games played by month

I tried to shade partial months when time played was lot.  Also, this is clearly not the hours played evaluation that my usage of ManicTime has made possible.  I will have to wait until the new year to sum that up.  What I played is easier to do early than something based on real numbers.

EVE Online I played some every month.  There is some pressure to get credit for the corp by going on some ops every month, and I help out with that.

I am a bit surprised by how much retail WoW I played.  I guess I did get into the new content and leveled an alt to 120 and all that.  But that pretty much fell off a cliff when WoW Classic hit.

LOTRO also fell off a cliff once I got into Moria on the Legendary server.  I loved the original content, even in its modern form, and even Moria isn’t so bad, but everything after that is pretty much dead to me.

I figured I would play some EverQuest II, but I wasn’t sure if I would find some way to enjoy EverQuest during its 20th anniversary.  But I found a way.

RimWorld remains a solid time eater when I pick it up.  However, it does suffer a bit from the mid-game problem.  You hit a point where things are pretty balanced, you have supplies to last you through downturns and your defenses are good enough to thwart attacks and you’re just kind of waiting for research breakthroughs.  I started a primitive tech game… well, I started about a dozen until my group didn’t die out in the first two years… but that just pushes the mid-game back some, so eventually there is refrigeration and defense turrets and assault rifle production and you’re just working your way to the end game.

So that is what I played in 2019, for a specific definition of the word.  I decided not to bring mobile into the mix… Pokemon Go would just be another 12 month bar and I don’t record when I play anything else… and I left off a few where the play time was so small as to fall below my own mental threshold what ought to count.

Top Five Rejected WoW Squish Ideas

We know Blizzard isn’t exactly a font of new ideas.  When they find something that works, they like to re-use it, to hone it, and to stick it in completely unexpected and inappropriate situations.  We have had the stats squish twice already, and what essentially adds up to a server squish on retail. (They don’t merge servers like failing games! But suddenly two servers now behave like one.)  At BlizzCon we were told that the level squish is coming coming with the Shadowlands expansion next year.  So squishing is clearly a thing at Blizz.

As it turns out, there was a leak recently that showed some of the other things that Blizzard has been considering squishing as part of an attempt to revitalize the game.  A few of them have made their way to me.

Jeff Kaplan hearing about more leaks…

  • Gold Squish

The economy has been a big concern for Blizzard.  They put in easy gold faucets so that casual players can obtain enough gold to stay afloat, but hardcore players exploit and farm every such faucet.  Even after boosting the cap on gold, more and more players are ending up at the 10 million mark.  The various sinks do not absorb enough gold as most of them tend to be one-time purchases and players with maximum gold tend to distort the auction house.

So the idea of a “gold squish” was floated.  The plan was to simply cut the amount of gold on every character by 50%.  The whole thing was easy to understand and affected everybody equally.

However the idea was scrapped when feedback from focus groups indicated that reinstating Blitzchung’s original year long suspension, taking his prize money away again, and incorporating the flag of the People’s Republic of China into the Blizzard logo would be more popular with fans than taking any of their gold away.

  • Alt Squish

Name usage and database size are big issues when it comes to a game the size of WoW.  People make alts, roll up on multiple servers, and generally use up all the names and hoard stuff in their banks until the database tables runneth over and a new player cannot show up and roll up a new toon without putting special characters in their name.

A management consultant group came up with the idea of “squishing” player alts that had been idle for a specific amount of time into a special “conglomerate” character that would total up all the currency, experience, and inventory into a single meta character.  If a player returned, they could activate that meta character, selecting sex, race, and class and collect all of the combined assets into one new character.  Names would be freed up and the idea of being able to get a new, revitalized character might bring people back to the game.

However, somebody pointed out that this might cut into level boost sales while the database team complained that there wasn’t a lot of benefit to them unless there was also something like an inventory squish as well, so the whole idea was scrapped.

  • Guild Squish

As with alts, there are many idle guilds with inactive membership roles littering Azeroth.  Similar to the alt squish, the plan was to create something like an unnamed meta guild and push together sets of inactive guilds on individual servers into them.  Which ever member of any of the guilds logged on first got the meta guild, could name it, and was named leader, after which they could do with it as they pleased.

After much discussion it was decided that it was easier to just stick to the current plan where the database team would just delete inactive guilds and if anybody called customer support about such a guild, a flag would come up to prompt the agent to tell the caller that it looked like one of the member accounts got hacked, took over the guild, then was deleted for suspicious activity, then lecture them about the importance of account security.

  • Battle Pet Squish

In a little over nine years Blizzard cranked out almost 1,250 battle pets in WoW.  Nintendo and Game Freak have been at Pokemon for more than 20 years and across eight game generations still haven’t crossed into four digits.  Some at Blizz were starting to feel that maybe they had gone too fast and that, perhaps, some of the battle pets were not very… special.

A proposal was made to tighten up the battle pet roles by doing what was at one point called “the bug squish,” largely because the roach and moth battle pet population were two of the main targets.

The idea was to squish down the number of battle pets who share the same model and abilities (and have nearly the same name in many cases) to a more discreet number.  Who needs, for example, a dozen variations on the cockroach?  Roaches, moths, frogs, and a few other common model/ability families were facing the squish.

And then the Shadowlands art team spoke up and said that there was no way they were going to be able to produce 200+ new battle pets for the expansion and meet their schedule if they all had to be unique.  Already pressed for time, the idea was dropped.  Expect some new, yet very familiar, roaches, moths, frogs, and whatnot in the next expansion.

  • Expansion Squish

We heard at BlizzCon that the the company felt the path to level cap was too circuitous and confusing.

Before they decided to go the Chromie route, allowing players the initial plan was to mash the expansions together to make the path through to the current expansion more clear.  However, the whole idea fell apart when the group looking into it could not come to a consensus as to which expansions to mash up.

For example, the group seemed fine with Pandaclysm.  However, the strict orderist faction felt that meant you had to either mash up the base game and the first expansion, giving you something like The Vanilla Crusade, or leave the original game alone (good plan) and end up with Wrath of the Burning Crusade.

More radical suggestions included lumping together the three Draenor/Burning Legion related expansions into Legion of the Burning Crusade Warlords, though there was a strong argument made for just  disappearing Warlords of Draenor altogether.

At one extreme point towards the end of the life of the working group it was being proposed that they mash ALL the expansions together into something like Wrath of the Burning Panda Cataclysmic Vanilla Warlord Legion of Azeroth when one wag at the back of the room suggested that maybe they shouldn’t mash any of the expansions together and just make them all scale across the the same range of levels so the player could decide.

You get to choose

The idea was accepted, the working group was disbanded, and we got the result at BlizzCon.  It was an expansion squish of a different color, but one all the same.

The Test of Righteousness

At some point around when we were doing the Fire Hardened Mail quest, Skonk had mentioned that we ought to make sure and do the Paladin class quests, which culminate with a nice 2H weapon.

This all starts out with the Tome of Valor quest chain.  Skronk had done that already, but I went out and got it in the bag pretty quickly.  The action takes place out in a corner of Westfall and I was able to solo the combat event at level 20 on the second try, the first giving me the insight of how I needed to approach things.  Daphne, who you are there to defend, is pretty tough so you can get away with letting her off tank for a bit while you clear out the rest of each wave.

That done, you can start on the Test of Righteousness quest in Stormwind.  That sends you to the right person, Jordan Stilwell outside of Ironforge, where you get a task to go collect four items for him.

Skronk and I got out our paladins, Fergorin and Wilhelm, and tackled two of the items immediately.

The first was out in Loch Modan.  It is just a box you need to pick up in among the elite ogres.  You do have to stop in Thelsemar first, where you will find a quest to get the box.  Once we had that, the ogres were not much of a problem.  The box is out in the open rather than being deep in one of the caves, so we only had to knock down a couple ogres to get it.  Then it was back to Thelsemar to finish that quest, leaving us with the first item in our inventory.

On a roll, we ran off for the next item, which is in Shadowfang Keep.  We had recently done the run there with a group and were able to get through the first boss with just three of us, so felt we could probably get to the item we needed.  It was just out in the courtyard, in the stable area.  We managed that without too much drama.

After which we called it a night and sort of forgot about the whole thing for a couple weeks, until Skronk mentioned it this past weekend.  Having had both Fergorin and Wilhelm out for the various group mixes we ran, it seemed like time to carry on.

Skronk had some free time after out run on Sunday and went and picked up a third piece, the one in the Deadmines, and did it solo, though he described it as quite the slog even at level 29.

By Wednesday night I had worked Wilhelm up to 28 and was on questing when Skronk got on and told me the tale of his assault on the Deadmines, then wanted to know if I had time to go with him for the fourth piece, the purified Kor Gem.  I was keen, as I still needed it as well, so we met up in Menethil Harbor to take the boat to Auberdine.

Paladins at sea

Once there you need to pick up a quest to retrieve a corrupted Kor Gem.  The reward for that is the purified version for the main quest.  Then corrupted gems drop off of naga in and around the Blackfathom Deeps instance, which is one we have actually skipped so far.

Quests in hand we headed on down the road to Ashenvale where you can find the instance on the coast.  Fortunately the two of us were more than a match for any of the elites outside the instance and the item drops from nagas there.  We had to kill a few, but the corrupted Kor Gem dropped soon enough.

Then we had to stop ourselves from stoning back home because this wasn’t the gem for the main quest.  Instead we trotted over to Astranaar (which is a somewhat shorter run than going from Auberdine to BFD, so use the flight point both ways if you can) and flew back up to Darkshore, where we turned in the sub-quest and got the purified Kor Gem.

Now was the time to stone back to Stormwind.

At that point Skronk was done, but he offered to run through the Deadmines to help me get the last item.  With the two of us we expected it would go easier.  So it was off to Westfall again.

Heading towards Moonbrook

Once inside the mines at our level… Fergorin was 29 and Wilhelm was 28… you find that your aggro radius is pretty small.  You can squeeze up to the wall and watch elites walk past down the middle of tunnels.

Watching an elite mage walk past

You can’t get past them all, but you can slip by more than a couple of them.  And then there are the miners, which are easy non-elites, but who are strewn along the edges of the tunnels.  You have to carve a path through them, though you can do it one by one since, again, aggro radius is small once you level beyond the instance range.

Beating one miner while another just works away

The effort comes when you have to get past the first boss, Rhahk’Zor.

The ogre boss of the Deadmines

Skronk described his solo encounter as quite a long slog.  He managed it solo, but he was forever on the edge of being out of mana, just able to get a heal in often enough to keep going.  For the two of us it wasn’t a complete walk-over… I used a potion at one point… but we dispatched him and his two helpers in what ended up being about a four minute fight.  Long enough that mana started to fade from heals as he does hit boss hard.

After that it was more clearing through up to the room with The Shredder.  You don’t actually have to fight another boss, you just have to get one of the goblins from that room.  They all drop the item if you have the quest.  We ended up with two goblins, but they were easily managed.

One Goblin woodcarver down, one to go

Goblins down and looter, we were done and ready to hearthstone back home.

Except, of course, this wasn’t retail WoW and our hearthstones didn’t have 20 minute cool downs nor did we have three stones to choose from.  With half an hour left on the recall clock, we had to walk back out.  Walking places is the theme of WoW Classic in its way.  That meant a bit more fighting, but I also was able to grab a couple more tin mining nodes for Wil along the way.

Out of the Deadmines and the caves, it was off to Ironforge to speak with Jordan Stilwell.  And he isn’t just one of those vending machine NPCs, he takes your items and goes off to craft you a weapon.

Jordan Stilwell working on my hammer

The downside of that is only one person can do the quest turn in at a time.  When Jordan Stilwell is acting out his part he won’t accept any new requests.  That isn’t so bad on a special quest like this, but you want to use this sparingly on quests that everybody does, a lesson Blizz no doubt learned.

So Fergorin had to wait a bit before it was his turn.  But he still got his hammer in a short enough time.

And a hammer for you

And there we were, quest done, hammers in hand.

Posing with Jordan Stilwell

That was another quest chain I never did back in the day.  I was far too fixated on getting forward in levels back then, which seemed the ultimate goal, to stop and work on some of these class quests.

The hammer itself is pretty good.  I got a decent hammer as a quest reward from our Gnomer run on Saturday.

The Mechanic’s Pipehammer

But this hammer, Verigan’s Fist, was a considerable step up from that.

Verigan’s Fist – Paladins only please

I’d still drop it for the Manual Crowd Pummeler from the Crowd Pummeler 9-60 in Gnomer, but we might be done running Gnomer at this point, so Verigan’s Fist will probably be my weapon for a while.

Gnomeregan Again but Backwards

Did I say we were done with Gnomeregan?  Clearly I was in error.

Gnomeregan Establishing Shot

Sunday saw us online again.  The weather outside was foul, with heavy rain and high winds, so my plan to go out and hang the holiday lights on the house was postponed.  Time for games. (It was a bountiful Thanksgiving week for that.)  We got together to decide what instance we ought to do, since we had five of us on. (It was Monday morning for Earl in Japan, so he was off the list.)

The discussion went around, but Moronae still wanted that staff, the Manual Crowd Pummeler, from the Crowd Pummeler 9-60 boss in Gnomer.  And I can’t blame him, it is a great item.  I’d love one for my pally.  So we figured we would just run in through the back door, get to the Crowd Pummeler, and take him down.  Easy days.

But then we needed a group.  Skronk and Ula wanted to go with their alts, Fergorin and Scscla, so I rolled out Alioto, who managed to survive our Scarlet Monastery graveyard run, giving us a group that looked like this.

  • Alioto – level 26 night elf driud
  • Scscla – level 28 gnome warrior
  • Fergorin – level 28 dwarf paladin
  • Obama – level 29 human warlock
  • Moronae – level 31 night elf druid

And with this group we had some fresh faces for Gnomer.  Alioto had collected up some of the Gnomer quests the day before when there was a question as to where we might head and what the group composition would look like.  Scscla and Fergorin had some as well, so we shared them out amongst outselves.  After all, going in the back door meant going past Techbot, and that would be a quest done.  And you have to fight your way in there, so you’ll probably get the white punch card, so you might as well start that quest off.  And, who knows, you might get enough “coke machines” along the way to finish that quest off.

So off we went.  Alioto, still not quite 27, made some early decisions for us, along the lines of, “should we kill this mob?” just as Alioto managed to proximity pull the mob with his aggro radius of doom.

As expected, we managed to pick up the white punchcard and upgrade that at the first set of machines.  Then it was off to wait for Techbot to spawn.  Despite those who rushed to level cap in the first month, there are still a substantial number of people running lower level instances.  Techbot has been dead whenever we have run by.  And he was yet again.

We were crowded around the spawn point, but a group having just left and another lurking around nearby.  Not content to wait quietly, Obama started calling the other group “Republicans.”  He is young, and in youth you find many things funny.  But he has also gotten a fair share of grief for his name choice.  At least my druid’s name, also political, was just that of an SF mayor.

My reaction to events

Anyway, that didn’t turn ugly and we took down Techbot, finishing that quest, and headed over to the back door.

The back door has mobs too

At this point I do not recall the first time that Alioto died.  Nor do I recall the situation of most of his deaths during the run.  I just know that Recount says he died 6 times.  Two of those were wipes, and one was a special case, but the other three were all pretty much the same scenario, one that occurs often in Gnomer.

A lot of the trash in Gnomer consists of groups of non-elite mobs, often centered on one elite main mob.  What happened those five times was that Scscla would go in and get everybody on her.  Then the rest of the group would join in, focused on the elite mob, which was the main threat.  At some point I would need to heal Scscla, often a big heal as the mobs would be beating her down pretty aggressively.  A rejuvenation just wasn’t going to cut it.

So I would toss our a regrowth or, if things went south fast, a healing touch.  And as soon as I did I would end up topping the aggro chart for some of the non-elite mobs who would rush me or start throwing wrenches at me.  Gnomes, right?  With the mage plus warlock group this gets handled with fire and ice, but with no Ula we just have fire and a bunch of loose gnomes running  around.

All fire, no ice

Even at level 26 I could probably handle one of these level 28-30 non-elites, but when two or three started in on me, I was in trouble.  It was time to run to the tank, say “save the healer!” on voice coms, and try to heal myself.  That I only died to this three times was probably a good sign.  An additional heal from Fergorin or Moronae was often the margin needed to keep me alive.

So I died a lot.  fortunately Fergorin could also ress me.  I’ll bypass the trash mob deaths and stick to the more memorable ones.

We made our way to the Crowd Pummeler which, relative to the trash mob fights, was easy to heal through. Aggro isn’t an issue with just one mob, though Moronae’s DPS was enough to pull aggro from the tank now and then.  We even pulled him back into the tunnel to keep the tossing about to a minimum.

We meet again Crowd Pummeler

However, the Pummeler disappointed yet again, dropping the boots rather than the 2H mace.  Moronae already got the boots on a past run, so they defaulted to Alioto as the other leather wearer.  They were a big upgrade, though he needs to get to level 28 to wear them.

Having hit our primary objective, there was the question of what to do next.  Electrocutioner 6000 wasn’t that far away, so we decided to press on to get him.  When we got to the ring area around his platform we decided to clear clockwise.  He was 180 degrees off from us in the circle, and the first group to the left looked a bit easier that the one to the right.

More clearing then up the ramp to the Electrocutioner, where we brought him down in short order.  Again, a single mob fight, no problems for me.  He dropped the Lagnut ring yet again, going 4 for 4 on that now.  It went to Scscla, who had an empty ring slot and who could use it.  There we realized that we had cleared to the third punch card machine, but were missing a previous one back by the dormitory.  Obama had also finished up with “coke machines” and Alioto had picked up collecting those and was nearly done.

So to finish out those quests we thought we would fight our way back to the second punch card machine, picking up the “coke machines” on the way.  It was then that we realized that clockwise was the wrong choice previously.  It left the path to the tunnel we needed to get to still occupied.  So we started to clear our way there.

That was when we had our first wipe.  We managed to get two groups of non-elite gnomes plus two elites.  That led to me dying in the usual, happened five other times, way.  But it also left too much heat on the group to survive.  We all went down.

Complicating things, Fergorin, who had the soul stone, was in the thick of the remaining mobs, so his survival seemed unlikely.  But the soul stone is a “use it or lose it” proposition, so he used it hoping for some luck.

Dead and Fergorin is out in the middle there

There was no luck.  The wipe was complete and we had to release.

Back at the graveyard we began to run back, at which point I suggested that we might as well go in through the front door this time to revive, after which we could jump of the ledge, take on the Viscious Fallout, get the dormitory punchcard machine, and then work our way back to where we died, over by the Electrocutioner 6000, which had the third punchcard machine.  After that we would just need to go back to where the Crowd Pummeler was, use the lift to get down to the bottom floor, and get the final punchcard machine.  Piece of cake.

People agreed, so we went in through the front door, got ourselves together, cleared a few pesky troggs, and jumped off the ledge to the boss fight.  It was a close run thing, and I died there too.  I suppose it was slightly different that the rest of the five deaths I’ve lumped together because my aggro radius drew elite adds, but my healing still drew aggro and I went down again.

Me, face down in the toxic ooze again

However, the Viscous Fallout nicely dropped the Acidic Walkers again, so Obama got a new pair of shoes.

After that we made it to the punchcard machine, then to the gauntlet to fight our way back to the Electrocutioner 6000 area.  By that time Alioto was done with “coke machines” and Fergorin had picked up grabbing them.  We figured it was better for somebody to complete the quest rather than have a few of us mostly done.

We managed to get up the gauntlet fine and cleared our way to the Electrocutioner platform for another punchcard update.  Then it was back to where the Pummeler resided.  At some point Skronk finished up his “coke machines” and Scscla started in on getting her dozen.  Taking the lift down to the floor below the Pummeler, we got into the death I am declaring an exception.

We once again got into the situation of an elite mod with a group of non-elites on the tank who, when I healed Scscla, started to focus on me.  I ran to the tank and went to heal myself when there was an incident.

For healing I use an addon called Healium.  It is a simple addon that keeps me from having to make Skronk’s mouse-over macros for healing.  It just gives me the group list with their health status and some spells next to each name that I can click on to apply to that person.  It doesn’t prompt me, I still decide who and when to heal, it just gives me some simple buttons to mash to make sure I drop a heal on the right person.

The Healium UI

I still screw up, but less so than if I were manually targeting and healing.

Anyway, the array of buttons sits low on my screen, right above the hotkeys.  I’ve move the cast bar up to keep it from getting in the way.  But as it turns out, when somebody loots and there is need/greed dialog up, it blocks the healing buttons for the top two people on the list, which in this case were Fergorin and myself.

And, having set all that up, you can probably guess that somebody looted mid-fight, there was a green level item that popped the dialog, and that this happened just as I was going to cast a heal on myself.

I died.  But what is one more death at this point.  I was already getting the yellow paper doll warning after the last death and we were almost done.  Fergorin ressed me yet again, I got healed up, buffed up, and we carried on.

The final punchcard machine was right there, so three of us finished off that quest.  We cleared a bit more to get to another of the “coke machines” and Alioto hit level 27 at last.  At that point Scscla just needed three more “coke machines” and she would be done.  But where to go and find them?

We did not want to go in the direction of the Dark Iron Agents.  That way lay madness and more wipes.  We also didn’t want to wander all the way back to the dormitory area.  We had enough back tracking for one day.  But looking at a map of the instance, it looked like we could take a tunnel to the floor area below the platform where the Electrocutioner 6000 lived.  Surely there would be a couple quest objects there.  So off we went.

And, there were even a couple on the way, so by the time we got to the big open area below the Electrocutioner 6000, Scscla needed just one more of the “coke machines.”   As we came to the opening to the area, we saw spread before us a multitude of “coke machines.”  It was the promised land for those looking to complete the quest.  Scscla just needed to run in there and grab one.

And therein lay the rub.  The open floor had a variety of mobs and groups of mobs criss-crossing it in overlapping areas of patrol.

Scscla spotted and opening and made a dash for one of the “coke machines” around the center pillar of the room.  However, she strayed to close to a mob and was in combat.  Taking damage we ran out to support her and managed to get a few more mobs on us.  We were quickly in over our head and a wipe seemed imminent.

At that point Fergorin had the foresite to flee back up the tunnel and die there, leaving him safe to use the soul stone to revive.  He could then ress us, though that was easier said than done.

Fergorin going down back in the tunnel

He was able to get Moronae, Obama, and Alioto easily enough, but Scscla had died by the center pillar near one of the quest objectives, and was out of ress range from the tunnel.  We would have to go out onto the main floor to get her.

We picked off a couple of the wandering mobs to thin things out a bit.  Moronae played with stealthing out to get close enough to pop his combat ress, which only takes two seconds to cast, but got himself herded away.  Eventually a big gap opened and Fergorin ran out to do a ress.  I kept just in range to be able to heal should it come to it.  He got Scscla and we retreated to the tunnel.

They were looking longingly at all those “coke machines” out in the center of the room still, but I had noticed, while laying dead out on the floor, that there was one just on the other side of a huge pillar that was next to the tunnel entrance.  You can see it at the far right of the screen shot above, in the dark, but still visible.  Further poking around showed that you could squeeze behind the pillar, well away from the wandering mobs.  We all shimmied past the pillar to get her final quest update, and we were done.

I don’t know why we all had to go past the pillar, but we did

After that it was back into the tunnel where we recalled back home.

Time to hearthstone once again

When I landed in Stormwind I went straight to somebody who could mend because I was red paper doll on a couple of my slots.  Then it was back to Ironforge to turn in the quests.

And so it goes.  Are we done with Gnomeregan now?  Moronae doesn’t have his 2H mace yet, so I won’t commit to an affirmative on that.

Current Guild MOTD

We’ve certainly been into Gnomer more times now in WoW Classic than we ever went as a group in retail.  Also, I guess our path wasn’t really “backwards” so much as multi-directional, or at least somewhat out of the usual order.

Now my task though is to get Alioto and Wilhelm leveled up a bit more so they are not such liabilities on these ventures.

Gnomeregan Quest Cleanup

After our run through the Scarlet Monastery graveyard Earl still had some morning energy in him in Tokyo, while most of us in California were not quite ready for bed yet.  Obama was done for the evening, but with the five of us remaining we could go back to a regular group and do something else.

Moronae was still after the staff from the Crowd Pummeler 9-60 in Gnomeregan, so we thought we might as well run back through that.  However, a potential return to Gnomer meant a shuffle of the team as both Skronk and Ula had quests to finish there as well.  With Skronk healing and tanking covered, I went looking for another alt.  The next highest likely suspect was Wilhelm, my retribution pally.

  • Wilhelm – level 26 human paladin
  • Skronk – level 30 dwarf priest
  • Moronae – level 30 night elf druid
  • Earlthecat – level  30 human warrior
  • Ula – level 31 gnome mage

Again I was way behind level compared to the group, so I had the huge aggro radius issue going against me, plus I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to put out any damage worth noting at level 26.  But it was that or a 32 hunter, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there.  Plus we were only planning to go in as far as the Crowd Pummeler, so why not get some time on the pally?

We ran on out of Ironforge and down to the instance.  Earl and I shared the quests we had collected between us, so stopped to get the punchcard update and Techbot’s brain.

Some troggs blocking our way to the punch card update

Being melee DPS rather than healing this time around, I immediately started answering the question “Do we get this mob or go around?” by pulling the mob in question with my huge aggor radius.  We had to kill all the things on the way in.

Once into the instance we followed the path that Skronk had come up with for our last run which involved bypassing the Emi Shortfuse event and just jumping straight off the walkway to hit the Viscous Fallout.  With the jump my aggro radius turned out to be quite the liability as I pulled a couple extra trash mobs our way.  I had to lay hands to hold out for a bit, though that amount of healing just bumped up my aggro and I ended up dying.

But with me down the rest of the group was able to hold out, and the Viscous Fallout nicely coughed up the Acidic Walkers, the primo cloth footwear we had been looking for.

Once I was ressed we started our way around to the dormitory and the B model punch card machines.  We cleared to that and we able to run into the safe area to use the Sparklematic 5200, which is good for some exp.

After that we were on to the gauntlet run, where I stayed as close to the right wall as possible as we fought our way through.

Battling a sentry bird

I think I still managed to pull somebody out of the side run, but I managed to stay alive.  Also, I seemed to be hitting okay.  I was in no danger of being top damage, but I was adding as much weight as I could at my level.

We managed to get through that okay and out into the ring that leads to the next boss, the Electrocutioner 6000.  As a fight he was straightforward and, in slaying him, both Earl and I got the back door key for Gnomer along with our next punchcard update.  The Electrocutioner also dropped the Electrocutioner Lagnut ring, which is what he seems to drop every time for us.  It went to Wilhelm as he had empty ring slots, though he would need to be level 29 before he could wear it.

From there it was around to the Crowd Pummeler 9-60.  We have been down this path a few times and, aside from the random alarm bot rolling up behind us, it wasn’t an arduous journey.  We got to the Crowd Pummeler and took the fight to him with Earl’s back to the wall to keep the fight in one place when it came time to get tossed about.

There we go, in the air again

However, he just dropped the leather boots yet again.  The Manual Crowd Pummeler, the weapon that Moronae (and Wilhelm) wanted remained a dream yet again.

With that done I was wondering if we were on our way out.  Skronk, Ula, and Moronae had all finished up their quests and Earl had even managed to get the dozen “coke machines” for one of the quests.  But we decided to carry on, so went up the tunnel that would bring us to the Dark Iron Agents.

Almost there

As in our last run, we cleared the pair upstream from us first, which was easy enough.  Then there was the group of four downstream.  Skronk put target markers up on each of them.  Earl was going to handle two of them, Ula would sheep one, and I got the last one.  I was still level 26, so I was curious as to how I would deal with a level 32 elite, but this was also the test for the group.  If we couldn’t get past this group of four then there was no reason to carry on.

But we managed to get past the first four.  I didn’t even die holding my guy, though I wasn’t going to be able to carry on much longer by the time attention turned to it.  I was running him down the hall to avoid the mines he was dropping.

After that there was another pair, then a second group of four.  I had to hold one of the Dark Iron Agents again, though I did ask for a level 32 mob.  I was initially assigned a level 33, which seemed like asking for an extra ration of trouble.  We managed to dance around them pretty well, along with the alarm bot, though this time Wilhelm went down.

Me down, dead mines about, and one mob left sheeped

That left us with a free run down to the bottom of the ramp where we were able to pick off the mobs at the bottom one by one.  Then it was time to open the big door, take the two groups behind it one at a time.

One last group between us and Thermaplugg

After that it was just us and Mekgineer Thermaplugg.

Last time we put both the casters, the ranged DPS, on bomb button patrol as they could stand at a distance and still contribute damage.   This time it was going to be Ula and Wil, Ula because she was ranged and Wil because I doubted a level 26 pally was going to inflict much damage on a level 34 boss.  I had actually done okay for DPS up until this point, given my level, but this time was probably asking too much.

And so the fight began.  The usual chasing around ensued in the middle as Thermaplugg shrugged off attempts to keep him focused on the tank, while on the sidelines I chased buttons.

In the end, I think my main contribution to the fight was basically eating every bomb that managed to get loose on my side, healing myself up between goes, to prevent that additional DPS from landing on Earl or Moronae.  I don’t know how much that really mattered, but it was what I could contribute, and we won in the end.

The post fight lineup

Thermaplugg dropped the Electromagnetic Gigaflux Reactivator again, which went to Ula.

Ula and her new hat

And that was it for the run.  At Earl’s end there was a meeting he had planned, so he had to go, while it was about midnight local time for the rest of us, which meant we were all off to bed.  It was time to hearthstone and call it a wrap.

Time to stone out

And so went another run through Gnomer.  We ought to be about done with it by now, having acquired a few of the good drops at least.  You can now find Ula doing her relaxation routine with her hat.

Relaxing on the fountain

Addendum: You can see the hat in action here.

The Day of No Downtime

Today is a strange day in New Eden as something that usually happens every single day did not happen.  There was no downtime at 11:00 UTC.  The game was not offline for the usual time, but persisted on through its regular break to keep running.

Celebrating no downtime

This lack of a downtime was cause to write up a whole Dev Blog about downtime, why they do it every day, and even how they picked the time.  It is another one of those posts that are worth the read just for the insight into the considerations.

Downtime generally isn’t an issue for me as, being on the Pacific coast, it is a very rare day when I am up and online when it happens.  But I am sure there are people for whom it is just the most annoying thing about EVE Online, this daily break in the action.  Then again, some people are probably relieved.  Some battles, like B-R5RB, didn’t end until downtime logged everybody off. (I went to bed and left my Dominix just drifting in game.  It made it to downtime.)

Of course, somebody always has the difficult questions:

No resetting of high sec asteroid belts?

Nosy Gamer, Twitter

So, as has been noted, it is a bit of a non-event.  It is literally something not happening.  But downtime is such a feature of the game that it seems worth noting.  And, of course, downtime will be back tomorrow.  But for one day there was no downtime, allowing almost 48 hours of continuous play… or idleness.  EVE Online is also one of those games without an inactivity timer so, among other things, downtime kicks all those people who just left the game client running and walked off.  There is also the possibility that maybe a downtime every single day will at some point no longer be a necessity.

Others on this:

Six for the Scarlet Monastery Graveyard

Saturday saw the return of Earlthecat to the instance group.  Finally setup in Japan and with some time to play, he was able to join us.

Earlthecat arrives

Oddly, the time difference… while it was late Saturday afternoon for us, it was Sunday morning for him… worked out for everybody.  None of us are staying up past midnight very often these days.  9pm seems like a reasonable bed time for most of us, and Earl’s job had kept him up with the markets on the east coast, so logging on to play early suits him just fine.

As for performance, Earl seemed to have very good performance from across the Pacific Ocean.  Our local pings to the server were in the 65ms range, and he was just over double that from Tokyo, which is well within playable parameters.  There was also no noticeable delay using Discord for our voice comms.  So we were able to get together to play without a hitch.

That left us with a decision as to what to do with the reformed group on Saturday afternoon.  The split seemed to be between hitting Razorfen Kraul, which is about on par with Gnomeregan level-wise, and which we have so far skipped save for that warrior quest run, and the graveyard in Scarlet Monastery, which was next on our list up the instances by levels list, though there was one druid voice suggesting a return to Gnomer to try and get that drop from the Crowd Pummeler 9-60.

Momentum seemed to be pushing us forward to Scarlet Monastery, as did our group size.  We had six people on, which mean going in as a raid.  With that many people we figured we ought to go upward in difficulty.

And then there was the formation of the group.  Both Skronk and I had left some alts back in the low 20s, assuming that we would do some catch-up instances with Earl once he was back.  But Earl drove straight through to level 30.  And, since Earl is a tank spec’d warrior, my warrior Viniki now seems redundant, so I was looking for an alt I could bring along.  I got Skronk to tank for my restoration spec’d druid for a bit earlier, and got him up to 26, so decided to bring him along to heal, with backup heals being provided by Fergorin, Skronk’s pally.  Ula traded out for her warrior, Scscla, leaving our group composition for the night looking like this:

  • Alioto – level 26 night elf driud
  • Scscla – level 28 gnome warrior
  • Fergorin – level 28 dwarf paladin
  • Obama – level 29 human warlock
  • Moronae – level 30 night elf druid
  • Earlthecat – level  30 human warrior

That seemed like quite a level spread, especially given the instance would be featuring mobs that were level 30 and up.  But Alioto wasn’t there to hit things, just to heal and be an aggro radius hazard, so he could just stand well back and do his thing.

Getting to Scarlet Monastery meant another road trip as well.  The closest Alliance flight point… and this is a common Google query that brings people here… is Southshore.  But we had been to Southshore already as part of our Shadowfang Keep run.  Sort of.  And suspecting that this might be our destination, I had run ahead and gotten the flight point for Alioto so when the time came I just flew him out.

Coming in to Southshore

However Monorae had missed getting the flight point.  I had forgotten that we had run out to summon him and Obama on that SFK run, though Obama had since run back for the flight point.  So we did have to do a summon for him.

Bringing Moronae to us

The group together now, it was time to go find the instance.  Somehow I ended up towing everybody along, which was fine through Silverpine Forest.  You just follow the road and pay attention to the signs.

Off we go

Once you get into Tirisfal Glades and in the vicinity of Undercity my memories were a little soft focus.  According to the list of our vanilla WoW runs, we had last been there back in January of 2007.  Runs since then have either been done with Horde characters, who have no worries in the area, or via the dungeon finder when that came along.  The truth is that people won’t make a run like that if they do not have to.

Somewhere in my memories I seemed to recall a guard post along the road that was a hazard, and as the lowest level player in the group I was especially wary of such hazards.  So I may have diverted a bit far off course in order to avoid that.  Eventually I had to stop and Google a map for a reference point, but eventually saw the little path that leads up to SM.

Our route through Tirisfal Glades

The signs were there to announce our destination.

This must be the place

Along the way we sorted out how to deal with being in a raid group.  A lot of the instances will let raids of up to 10 players run them, though there is a question as to whether or not you get quest updates if you have more than a group.  We had no quests though, so that wasn’t an issue at the moment.  However we did find that pally auras don’t work across raid groups, and Earl, most in need of the aura, ended up alone in group 2 of the raid, so there was some Googling to figure out how to move people around in raids (it is under the social panel where your friends and guild lists are), then a discussion as to who ought to be alone.  Since my plan with Alioto was to stay as far back as possible, I volunteered him for that position.

Our raid group disposition

So there we were having arrived.  We stopped a bit to take stock, which is when I realized I left in a bit of a hurry.  I didn’t have the reagent for my combat ress (Moronae gave me a couple), was low on drink (Fergorin shared a few with me), and potions.  So we spent some time getting sorted out on the road.  It is easy to get used to having a mage there for food and drink.

What does a warrior need really?

Once we had that sorted, at least to the extent possible, we started up the road to the instance.  I don’t think we got more than a dozen steps up before I started drawing aggro from Scarlet Crusade archers along the route.  My amazing aggro radius was enough to flush out all the lurkers along the route to the door.

Into the Scarlet Complex

The outer complex has its share of elites wandering around, but you also have to find the way to the correct instance, as it hosts four dungeons.  Fortunately Skronk knew where we needed to go, up to the far left corner to get into the graveyard.

Once in, things started off easily enough.  The first mobs were at the far end of a corridor, so I was able to stand far enough back that I did not invite additional trouble.

Into the instance

Standing back and healing means that all of the screen shots show Alioto standing around doing nothing.

When it came to getting into the next room however somebody else went to far in and we got an accidental pull that included Torturer Vishas.  That was a fight.

He was marked so people wouldn’t get too close…

We ended up surviving without any losses, but I ran out of mana healing before the fight was done and Fergorin had to drop some heals to keep everything going.  My mana pool remained my main constraint during the whole run.  Fergorin keeping Blessing of Wisdom up on me, which regenerates a bit of mana every five seconds, made a very big impact on my ability to heal.  If I needed to drop a Healing Touch on Earl, that would at least keep Rejuvenation or Remove Curse as a possible casts.

Torturer Vishas was down, but only dropped the Bloody Brass Knuckles, a common item that didn’t even meet the group loot threshold.

After that we worked our way through the torture chamber, where we had a group of four mobs to take out.  But with six people, three of whom can be tanks, plus a voidwalker, we were able to split them up and still leave enough DPS to focus on targets to bring things down before anybody died after the healer once again ran out of mana.

Sometimes you just need to burn down individuals rather than trying to split up and multi-off-tank.  The amount of healing required to deal with a dead mob is zero.  But I say that as the wee healer with the limited mana pool.  And we made it out of the torture chamber and into the graveyard proper.

Out in the graveyard

This might be the most familiar bit of an instance in the game.  It certainly is for me.  It is the location where every year I dutifully show up every year to slay the Headless Horseman, only to not get his mount as a drop.

But there was no Headless Horseman for us, just a bunch of mobs in the form of some elite undead and the ghosts, the brine shrimp as they have been called, to clear out.

Earl asked how thorough we needed to clear and I asked how many mobs we wanted to pull due to my aggro radius.  So it was all of them then.

However, we had forgotten the behavior of the graveyard.  As we got to about the fountain, having diligently cleared everything in sight, we looked back to see the undead had already began to respawn behind us.  Also, we didn’t get any of the rare spawns in the graveyard.  So we decided to move things along and make straight for the crypt at the far end.

From there it was down the stairs and into more mobs.

They were happy to come to us

The path down into the crypt… the whole instance really… is pretty short.  We had a couple of groups to work through, but we had soon blundered into the boss, Bloodmage Thalnos, the big boss.  Unprepared to start the fight, it was a bit of a near run thing taking down a level 34 boss at our level, even with the six of us.  Though, again, that was largely due to my mana running down trying to keep Earl alive.

Big heals eat mana, and I had to lay a couple down early on.

But with heals from Fergorin and the Blessing of Wisdom drip feeding me enough mana to get off a fresh heal now and then, we were able to bring down the boss.  Op success!

Victory in the Crypt

Our first run with the return of Earl went pretty well.  I clearly have some work to do getting my potential group alts up to the rest of the group in levels, but we seemed to work pretty well, and we knocked out the first stage of Scarlet Monastery.

As has become the norm, Ula has a video of our run through the graveyard for those who want a more visual experience.

My one complaint about this, and my screen shots, is that unless I am actively healing Alioto is just standing in the background like he is an observer.  Healer life I suppose.  I’m not supposed to get in there and hit things… not with that aggro radius certainly.