Daily Archives: November 13, 2013

The Rush Back to Azeroth

There may be crit mass to return to wow pre expansion. FYI

That was the content of a text message on my phone from Potshot on Friday.  And while I don’t want to over play the significance of the medium, in our general level of communication, email is the default, instant message is for more immediate issues, and text messages to phones tend to be more akin to picking up the hotline to the Kremlin during the Cold War.

Past text messages from him on my phone… I never clear them out because I so rarely even get text messages… in part because it isn’t a smart phone, but just a cheap old mobile… tend to be about needing to find each other at places like GDC or the train station.  And while it turned out that the medium for the message was chosen mostly because that was all that was available to him at the moment, I still think it says something that he opted for that at the moment rather than waiting for other avenues of communication to become available.

And by the end of the text exchange, it was clear that four out of five of the instance group was on board for an early return to World of Warcraft, thanks to the Warlords of Draenor announcement.   And it seems likely that all five of us will be heading back to Azeroth. Mike was just out of town for the weekend so couldn’t jump on the bandwagon, but he had been expressing interest in WoW when I mentioned I was back and playing it.

So we have circled around back to our game of origin.  As a group we kicked off in WoW back in late 2006 with the intent of going through as much of the five person group content as possible.  Our first instance run was just over seven years ago.  We completed the Deadmines on our third attempt.

Victory over VanCleef

Victory over VanCleef

We hit most of the dungeons in vanilla WoW, foundered a bit in Burning Crusade, and hit our peak in WoW during Wrath of the Lich King. But eventually we hit the last instance in Lich King. While waiting for Cataclysm we re-rolled as Horde on a PVP-RP server just to change things up.  Somewhere in there we stepped out and played Warhammer Online and Lord of the Rings Online.  But after Cataclysm dropped, we felt unsatisfied with the game, so we decided to leave Azeroth and ventured into the wilderness.

We wandered far and wide.  Runes of Magic got a test runGuild Wars was tried on for size.  We staged another return to Lord of the Rings Online.  We attempted to play as a group in EverQuest II until we had enough of struggling against the game.  There have been a couple of prods at Dungeons & Dragons Online. We threw ourselves into Rift. We dabbled in Need for Speed World.  Three of us spent a bit of time in Neverwinter Nights 2 and Diablo III.  A part of the group ran together in World of Tanks, even forming a clan.  And, most recently, we have worked on getting into Neverwinter.

The story of our group, or at least the parts that I have written down, has been traced on this blog.  You can read it by selecting the Instance Group category.  The tale stands at 247 posts as of this one, or just over 8% of the total posts on the blog.

And that does not even count the scouting trips some of us have taken in search of the next game for the group.  Champions Online was touched on, as was Star Trek Online.  I know a couple of us tried Fallen Earth, and three of us tried the original Guild Wars for a couple weeks. Earl jumped into Star Wars: The Old Republic and, like so many people, hit level cap and cancelled.  Potshot went into Age of Conan and The Secret World to explore.  We have tossed around EverQuest as an idea on several occasions.  I think as many as four of us tried Guild Wars 2 at various stages.  TorilMUD and the idea of text held a glimmer at one point.  Even the possibility of EVE Online has been discussed, though it clearly does not work with the varied play budget of our group.  I have even asked for suggestions on this front in the past.

Of all of those games, I think only Rift got anywhere close to the same sort of interest from the whole group as WoW did back in the day.  Of course, since Rift is also the game most like WoW on that list, I suppose it is not hard to understand why.  And we could return to Rift.  It has been a good game for us, becoming as close to a second home outside of Azeroth as we have managed.

But the Storm Legion expansion did not thrill any of us.  And for a game to succeed with the group, at least a couple members of the group need to be excited about it, need to be playing during the rest of the week, and need to be mapping out what we do and where we go next.  Nobody took that role with Storm Legion, and so Rift foundered.

So now, just over two and a half years after we last ran an instance as a group in World of Warcraft, we are jumping back in.  I had already been been back and playing some WoW for a while.  Ula was in game with me on Saturday morning, Potshot by Saturday afternoon, and Earl was loaded back in and had already purchased Pandaria by Sunday.  And we were online a lot.  The guild hadn’t even been looted or otherwise compromised.  We even managed to get a level guild level in our initial flurry.

Guild Level 4! Oh Boy!

Guild Level 4! Oh Boy!

There was a burst of excitement and activity and joy at just being back in Azeroth.

And, of course, some confusion.  A lot has changed since we last played.  I had a bit of a head start, having played on Garona for a while, but even I was a bit puzzled at how to play my retribution paladin after all of this time.  Fortunately Blizzard has some help for that.  In the spells and skill book, there is now a tab devoted to the core abilities of your class.

Retribution Pally in 6 Skills

Retribution Pally in 6 Skills

That isn’t exactly an Elitist Jerks level of class detail, but it seemed to be a good refresher course on how to deal with the class.

So there we were back and happy and running around figuring out where we left off.

Which, of course, should lead to a pretty obvious question.  Didn’t we leave WoW for a reason?  And has anything changed that might make us think that things will be different after we come back?

Clearly we need a plan.

Part of the problem was that, at Cataclysm launch, we went back to character creation and rolled up a whole new set of characters with an eye to seeing the changes to the old world and all the various features.  That was our plan.

Unfortunately, the old world had changed a lot, the old instances… or the updated versions thereof… seemed too easy, and the new tools, like Dungeon Finder, trivialized travel.  Add in the fact that after a few years of playing the game we actually picked up some game skills, and the whole thing seemed too easy.  Even at our normal plodding pace in instances… compared to the “run, run, run!” method that Dungeon Finder groups seem to follow these days… we were able to knock out three instances an evening and still get to bed before midnight.

Meanwhile, the original group of characters was still sitting there.  They still had three instances… added after we were done… in WotLK to finish.

So Potshot put forth what we will call “The Plan,” which is to pick up where we left off with the original group and continue their story.  First, we warm up by knocking off those last WotLK instances, actually finishing the content we declared done about four years back.  Then we move into the Cataclysm 80 to 85 content, trying to do whatever we can as a group and taking on the instances there as we find them.  And we also plan to avoid the Dungeon Finder, insisting on actual travel to whatever instances we may need to run.  See the world and all that.

Easy enough I suppose.

But the plan also calls for us to come back to the same character in the same roles, where I may have cocked things up a bit.  The original group, as it stands now, is:

  • 80 Warrior – Earlthecat
  • 80 Warlock – Bungholio
  • 81 Priest – Skronk
  • 81 Mage – Ula
  • 87 Paladin – Vikund

Earl and Bung have both been good.  Bung just doesn’t play outside of group time, while Earl has a warrior alt he drove through Cataclysm on his own time.  Skronk and Ula have both edged over the level 80 line.  And I have clearly said “see ya!” to the rest of the group, running off ahead and into Pandaria.

Vikund is clearly out of the band for now.  I will be running him up to level 90 through the Pandaria content on my own.

Fortunately, I have a backup plan.

When we left off WoW back in the day, I had druid mired in the middle of the WotLK content.  I took a chunk of the weekend getting him from 77 to 80 so that he can replace Vikund in the lineup.  The only question will be, how to play him.  He will be taking Vikund’s old DPS slot, so do I go feral and be the cat, or do I go whatever the other spec is… balance I think… and be the boomkin crap owl?

So we have the lineup.  We are all excited as we get settled back into the comfortable setting of Azeroth.  And we have a plan.

Now will it stick?  Can we revive the old group, carry on, and have fun?

And, of course, can we get all five of us online at the same time?  That has been the main issue so far this year.