The Instance Group… Under the Sea

Under the sea,
Under the sea,
There’ll be no accusations,
Just friendly crustaceans,
Under the sea!

Homer Simpson, Homer Badman episode

Unless you go to Vashj’ir, in which case the crustaceans and often pretty hostile, along with the sharks and the sea goblins and the naga.

Did you know that the naga are, in fact, mutated highborn elves?  True story.

Anyway, we were headed back to Vashj’ir, the zone under the sea.

Flying in to Vashj'ir

Flying in to Vashj’ir

We finished up Wrath of the Lich King last week and dipped our collective toes into Cataclysm.  Our plan is to see some of the overland (or under water) content, find whatever dungeon there is along the way, and basically avoid using tools like Dungeon Finder to speed things along.

Not that the Dungeon Finder isn’t a fine thing.  It removes almost all the pain of forming a PUG so you can get straight to hating the rest of your group in the shortest possible time.  But for us, travel is part of the adventure.

And, for the second week running, all of us were together and online.  The group was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 81 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 81 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 81 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 81 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 82 Gnome Mage DPS

We got ourselves back into Vashj’ir.  I took the bird to the island flight point and jumped in the water.  Others found the portal in Stormwind and came via that route.  Somehow we all managed to get in same general area, which sounds easy but which can be surprisingly difficult in an under water environment where everybody isn’t necessarily on the same horizontal plane.  Up and down are a factor.

More after the cut because I run off at the keyboard as usual.

Under the sea.

Joined up, we started down the quest path which was reasonably fun.  I had been through the zone once before, way back when Cataclysm launched, so remembered bits and pieces of things.  Earl likewise had been through the zone ages ago.  So the whole thing was a new-ish experience.  The quests following what I would call the “Cataclysm model,” where the inevitable “kill ten” quests are separated by other tasks and activities.  (“Cataclysm model” isn’t strictly accurate, as Blizz adopted this approach with WotLK, but Cataclysm is where it was injected into the 1-60 experience and thus became dominant.)

I won’t bore you by recounting individual quests.  I am not sure that would make interesting reading even if I could remember all the details some days later. (Which I cannot.)  I will say that running what is clearly solo content as a group did have its challenges, but it was not as annoying as I thought it might end up being.

That was, for me, a possible flaw in our plan.  If trying to stay together in the open world content proved to be a royal pain, we would be unlikely to make it to an actual instance.  And we have had problems on that front before.  One of the things that killed EverQuest II for the group, putting it forever on the banned list, was trying to keep coordinated running quests as a group.  That effort alone dragged out the Frostfang Sea starter area… which I could do solo in two hours tops… into an affair that lasted through three Saturday nights.

Fortunately, that turned out to be okay.  WoW’s quest log has a number in it which shows you how many other members of your group are on that quest, while mousing over quest mobs and the like gives you status on where everybody stands on the quest.  That was simple enough to keep track of and unobtrusive enough to not get in the way.

There were the usual oddities around which quests gave updates for the whole group and which were individual updates.  Generally, kill ten quests spread the love, while collect ten or loot ten tended to be individual updates.  But there were exceptions and occasional moments of surprise where an action I was sure we would each have to do updated all of us on the first hit.  And there seemed to be no repeat of things like the occasional drop quests from way back in the old days of Westfall (red bandanas and various other items), where it felt like we spent hours trying to get that last drop for people.

Best of all though, phasing seemed to be used quite sparingly… or quite adroitly.  There was only one point in the evening when parts of the group were on different sides of a phase wall.  And it was at a point where the quest was “click the thing” to kick off an event that took you to the other side.

There were a couple points where it was clear that phasing was in play.  For example, a fight in a cave that ended with a huge wave washing us all back.  When the wave cleared, it was apparent that it was cover for changing us over into a different version of the area.  But it was done well.  To counter that, there were a number of points where one of us… often me… was a quest ahead and I thought sure that the transition was going to include phasing and put us all in different versions of a location, as happened to us more than a few times in WotLK.  But no, Blizz did it by updating an NPC or an asset of two in the area rather than putting me in a whole new area.

At one point, where I was a quest or two ahead and there was a call for a break, I did slip off to explore.  I wanted to scout out where the actual dungeon in the zone, the Throne of Tides, actually was.  I recalled reading that it was down a whirlpool in the Abyssal Depths area of the zone.

Vashj'ir Map

Vashj’ir Map

And sure enough, some swimming around lead me to what I figured must me the spot.

Just another whirlpool

Just another whirlpool

There was nothing for it but to jump on it.

Sure enough, I was sucked through the vortex into pool in another area that included a likely looking portal.

Before the Throne of Tides

Before the Throne of Tides

As before, the only way to tell if I was in the right place seemed to be to jump on it.  Well, actually, I got a location update that told me I had discovered the Throne of Tides, but I jumped in anyway and got the appropriate loading screen.

My first Cata instance loading screen

My first Cata instance loading screen

I looked around quickly, then jumped back out as the group was getting back to their computers and we would soon be off again.

Only, I couldn’t figure out how to get out of what I guess I would call the foyer to the instance.  I ran around looking for a way out.  Eventually I had to tab out of the game and use Google for the answer.  It turns out you just need to speak to the NPC hanging out in front of the instance to be sent back up the whirlpool.  And so I scurried off to catch up with the group, which was now a couple of quests ahead of me.

At various points the subject of mounts came up.  Early on Ula was expressing admiration for the Albino Drake that Earl was riding.  When he explained it was the reward for getting 50 mounts, she was surprised he had that many.  Then I piped in that I had passed the 70 mark and that Piacenza, who was online as well, was closing in on 120.  Somehow Ula had gotten this far in WoW and hadn’t crossed the five mount mark.  That’s what you get for only rolling gnomes I guess.  So she had a new goal.

As a druid in Vashj’ir, I spent a lot of my time in my aquatic form, while everybody else was on their seahorse mount.  So we had to race to see which was faster.  They seemed to be about equal in speed.  The main advantage for me was that aquatic form is pretty much an instant transition, while mounting up the seahorse takes a few seconds before you can ride off.

There was a moment of finding the most out of place mount for Vashj’ir.  Earl mounted a goat, which I topped with an Elekk, which he then trumped with a Mammoth from Northrend.

And finally, in a quest chain that brought us into the brain of a giant crustacean (a friendly one that had been taken over by naga), we found that we could use our land mounts to ride.  I got out my Mekgineer’s Chopper.  Earl immediately claimed the sidecar and had a good time riding around.  I explained how I built it to haul my daughter around way back when and he was immediately intrigued.  Earl has the engineering trade skill as well, but did not realize that the chopper was something he could build.  So now he is off to build a couple more so we can have an instance group biker gang.

The night wrapped up with most of us either at level 82 or closing in rapidly.


The only one left behind was Skronk, who had turned off exp after hitting 81.  We’ll have to fix that I guess.

The plan for next week is to head to the Throne of Tides, now that I have scouted out its location, to give our first Cataclysm instance a try.  We shall see how ready we are.

And to wrap this up, some snaps of Vashj’ir.

6 thoughts on “The Instance Group… Under the Sea

  1. Lucrosus

    I absolutely hate that zone. I avoid it like the plague when leveling alts. Not sure if its the constant swimming or the fact that it truly is a 3D zone due to varying depths under water.

    Lucrosus-US Hyjal


  2. Aerynne

    I like the Albino Drake, but I like the Bronze Drake even better. You can get it (if you do not already have it) by completing the Culling of Time, a relatively easy achievement.

    I agree with Lucrosus. I liked Vashj’ir the first time, because it was pretty and different. But trying to keep track of other players in that environment is … not fun. My alts stick to Hyjal.


  3. Potshot

    Several of us were getting a bit queasy with the underwater bloom effect too. Subsequent to that night I found that although blizzard eliminated that toggle in the video options, you can still toggle it off with the command /console ffxglow 0 or 1. That seems to have solved some of that problem at least.

    I’m sure it was exacerbated by trying to stick together and constantly looking for each other in 3 dimensions.


  4. Matt

    Incidentally, how do you pronounce Vashj’ir? Is it vashjer, vashjir, vashjeer, or something like vasheer with a silent J?


  5. *vlad*

    There are far too many quests in that zone; I did it once and that was enough. You can only kill so many Naga before boredom takes over.
    I think the best quest was where you got to play the role of some Naga hero and ran round slaughtering various enemies, otherwise it’s all so samey.


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