Monthly Archives: September 2019

Everybody Comes to Westfall

We are now past the two week mark for WoW Classic and I feel like I haven’t gotten very far along.  People are moving along, I see people past level 30 in Stormwind regularly and “that guy on the horse” has become a regular feature. (Was it Ethic who named that concept, the person on their mount in town sitting there to show it off?)  Beside that I feel like I am poking along so slowly.

This is somewhat self-imposed as the instance group hasn’t been ready to ride yet, with moves, business trips, and end of summer vacations keeping people away.

And moving slowly isn’t all that bad.  I am not in any crazy race, nor was I ever likely to be in contention for any “world first” in the game.  There is lots to explore and see and do while keeping characters down in the level range for the first dungeon, Ragefire Chasm.

Plus, there are always alts.  I’m prone to making too many alts to start with, so keeping in the right level range has gotten me to four characters now in the level 14-16 range.  I have all four alliance races covered as well, as I now have:

  • Level 14 gnome warrior
  • Level 14 human paladin
  • Level 16 night elf druid
  • Level 16 dwarf hunter

That warrior might be my first gnome character in WoW.

So I have not been idle.  And they have all stepped into the zone where we’ll be headed, the zone where most people end up in at some point or another; Westfall.

Westfall – This Way

Westfall is one of the quintessential zones of Azeroth.  For the Alliance it is where a lot of players converge as the quest lines there lead to the Deadmines instance.  If you want to have Gryan Stoutmantle shout your name out to the zone you have to get on board the quest train.

He’s just hanging out waiting for you to show up

And, of course, Horde players have to find their way there as well if they want to do the instance.

While some of the starter zones have calmed down quite a bit… they are not dead, but I got my gnome warrior through the Coldridge Valley part of the dwarf/gnome starter zone in about 20 minutes because there were no more lines… Westfall feels like it is still full tilt crowded a lot of the time and very much alive with players.  And NPCs of memory.  Running into the zone you are greeted with the first quests right away from familiar faces.

Welcome to Westfall! How about a few quests?

Those are the Furlbrows, with Old Blanchy, who features in a couple other places in the game, including an appearance in the Old Hillsbrad dungeon in the Caverns of Time.  It was a bit of a shock when Blizz killed the lot of them for Cataclysm.

But there is no time to hang about there.  There are so many semi-overlapping quests in the zone that you might as well get them all.  One of the quests sends you to the next location anyway, Saldean’s Farm, where you pick up a few more. (And maybe stand around clucking in hopes of getting a chicken pet.)  Then it is off to Sentinal Hill to turn in the quest from Goldshire sending you to check in with Gryan Stoutmantle, who also has a quest for you, as does a couple of other NPCs.  Don’t miss the one down the hill by the inn… and don’t forget to grab the flight point.  Running is all fine and dandy, but sometimes you just want to get places.

The list of quests alone brings up a small wave of nostalgia.

Some of the early Westfall quests

Here the game starts to stress your inventory management.  Half of those quests need you to collect things.  You need four stacks of ingredients for Westfall Stew, another stack for Goretusk Liver Pie, gnoll paws for another, Defias bandanas for yet another, bags of oats for Old Blanchy, and a pocket watch for Ted Furlbrow.  It isn’t quite Green Hills of Stranglethorn level of inventory management, but when you are likely rocking six slot bags, things start to fill up fast.   And that doesn’t even start to count the random drops you’ll get.

Then you have to find the mobs for the drops.  That isn’t too hard.  They are often in handy camps.  The problem is that the camps are often well camped by players.  But the pick up group cooperation spirit of WoW Classic, or at least the Bloodsail Buccaneer server, continues on.  With a couple of characters I was able to find groups to hunt with.

Slaughtering the Defias at one of their camps

Grouping up is a great way to knock out the quests where you have to kill 15 of this or 20 of that, since everybody in the group gets credit.  And a group can hold and wipe out a camp that might be a bit much to take on solo.  Mobs, especially the gnolls, spawn close together so you often cannot pull just one.  With a group you can do the whole village.

Waiting for gnolls to pop again

The problem is the quests that require drops dole them out one at a time.  A good group will swap to free-for-all looting and people will stick around until everybody is covered.  Or mostly covered.  Sometimes somebody leaves and another joins and they’re just starting and there is a cycle through the group that could last all night if you stuck around.

And some of the drop rates kind of suck.

Welcome to the gnoll hunt

I get that maybe every Defias isn’t following dress code or maybe left their bandana on the dresser at home in the rush to get out to Westfall, but Gnolls would seem to have four paws, and boars at least one liver per.  Yet we ran across many a pawless gnoll or heavy drinking goretusk whose liver had decayed to the point of being useless for cooking.

I remember a late 2004 Lore Sjöberg article over at Wired from back in the day that spoke of the “kinder, gentler” ways of World of Warcraft (which is a bit of a time capsule point of view you can find here), that included a reference to how, if you slew a named mob for a quest that required you bring back their head, the corpse would nicely provide a head for everybody in the party.

And that is the case certainly, for a specific named quest mob.  But for a run of the mill Defias or gnoll, it is a maximum of one per corpse, not guaranteed.

Not that it is a huge burden.  I have always toyed with the idea in the back of my mind that this was on purpose back in the day, that in order to off-set the reduced experience you get for grouping Blizz makes you slay more mobs.  And, in the end, when you need eight or fifteen drops and you have none it feels like it will take forever, but it never takes too long until you’ve just got one left.

Anyway, I am through that first wave of quests in Westfall on a couple of characters, and into it with the others.  The hope is that we’ll be able to get a group together to try Ragefire Chasm this weekend.  That it is located in the back end of Orgrimmar will make this comedy gold I am sure.  But if we need to stall some more I am going to have to start another alt, and I am well down the list of options.  I only have rogues and cloth wearing casters left.  Or I could go Horde I suppose.  We’ll see.

Addendum: I noticed that I used the title of this post before.  I cannot resist an obscure allusion I guess.

The September Update Brings Cyno Changes and New Player Improvements to EVE Online

The Chaos Era continues in New Eden as CCP proceeds with the dual goals of making the game more difficult for veteran players while simultaneously attempting improve new player retention.

In my book the big item hitting the game for September is the cyno changes, which I mentioned previously.  This has been summed up in the patch notes in a single sentence:

Cynosural Field Generator I now only able to be fit to Force Recon Ships and Black Ops Battleships.

Yesterday most of the 345 ships currently flyable in New Ede could have lit a cyno, the requirement having been just a high slot.  Today it is down to nine.  If you’re like me, you’re now stuck moving your capital ships around in fleet ops unless you are willing to blow a 300 million ISK force recon hull for every jump, or a billion ISK black ops hull.  My solo trips in a cap are done, don’t undock what you cannot afford to lose being the iron law of New Eden and all.

No more of this frigate cyno stuff

The one set of hulls excused has been Jump Freighters.  Initially CCP was simply going to allow them to use covert cynos, which had its own mix of good and bad. (Which needed Cyno V on your cyno alt as well as the ability to fly a covert ops ship, but exposure would be reduced.)  That plan was changed (hopefully before people skill injected their cyno alts to Cyno V) and now there is a new cyno module just for jump freighters.  Per the patch notes:

  • Added Industrial Cynosural Field Generator.
    • Can be fit by Industrials, Deep Space Transports and Blockade Runners.
    • Industrial Cynosural Fields can be jumped to by Jump Freighters and Black Ops Battleships.
    • Requires Cynosural Field Theory I to activate.

Industrials will be the new cyno ship for jump freighters.  This will also keep cyno vigils a thing, though now vigils will be held in haulers, which seemed to be a major factor here.  More room to hold fuel I guess.  The odd bit is the addition of Black Ops ships to those being able to jump to the new cyno.  I did not see a reason listed for that.

And so the chaos continues.

On the new player side of things, the big feature for September looks to be warning messages when players are fitting ships sub-optimally.  There will now be four levels of warnings in the fittings window if you commit any of these fitting sins.   The warnings are broken out into the following groups:

Crucial/Red if:

  • The ship’s CPU is overloaded
  • The ship’s Powergrid overloaded
  • The ship’s Cargo is overloaded
  • The ship is a Strategic Cruiser and is missing a subsystem

Warning/Yellow if:

  • The ship has Invalid modules fitted (for example after a ship has been rebalanced or when swapping subsystems on a Strategic Cruiser)
  • Some fitted Modules are not providing bonus (for example if you have a Magnetic Field Stabilizer fit but all your guns are projectiles turrets)
  • Mixing turret groups
  • Mixing turret sizes
  • Mixing launcher groups
  • Both Shield and Armor modules fitted
  • Offline modules

Info/White if:

  • Armor tanking a ship categorized as shield ship
  • Shield tanking a ship categorized as armor ship
  • Polarized weapons fitted

Skill warning if:

  • Skills for the ship or fitted modules are missing
  • Skills for items in the ships cargohold are missing

Hovering over the warnings will describe which tenant of ship fitting you have broken and highlight the offending modules.

Dual tanked Raven as an example

With this in place can we then assume all bad fits are on purpose?

Other items of note on the list of changes include the long promised warp timer.  Previously tossed due to technical reasons, you can now only be kept from warping by bumping for three minutes:

Ships that bump while attempting to enter warp will now automatically enter warp if they remain in the pre-warp state for three minutes continuously. Scramblers or any other form of canceling the warp will reset this timer.

The out is that if the people bumping you are willing to sacrifice a rookie ship and a warp scram to CONCORD every two and a half minutes or so, they can still keep you stuck indefinitely.  But if you’ve set yourself to warp in a belt and walked away, you’ll only bump off that asteroid in your way for three minutes… so long as belt rats don’t get you before then.

On the graphics side of things, there has been an update to graphics and shaders related to stars and wormholes.  There was a dev blog about this, but I guess it can be quickly summed up in a graphic from that.

The before and after look

Wormhole graphics will also indicate the age and capacity of the wormhole, so capital capable wormholes will be visually distinctive from frigate sized holes.

There are, as always, lots of other small fixes and tweaks in the update.  You can find details in the patch notes and on the updates page.  Word is that the update has been deployed successfully.

Expecting Too Much from New Eden

Last Tuesday afternoon, just after I got home from work, I brought up the launcher for EVE Online.  I did so by accident, as I meant to bring up the Blizzard launched to play WoW Classic.  But I let it patch and run up just to keep it current.

Then I looked at the online player count and was a bit surprised to find it below the 15K mark, and you know what came to my mind right away.

First known occurrence of “EVE is Dying”

I realize that a weekday afternoon, and one after a three day weekend in the US, isn’t necessarily a peak time, but 15K seemed pretty low.

For the past year or so I have come home in the afternoon to find the count between 20-22K most weekdays and, as I have written in the past, I generally consider low ebb later in the evenings, when the Euros have gone to bed and it is safer to move things around, to be about 18K players online.

I had heard The Mittani talking about diminishing peak numbers on consecutive Sundays since the start of the Chaos Era, but that seemed premature to me.  That was two weeks ago.  You could chart small declines, but I thought you really needed to get past the login bonuses and free SP event before the numbers would start to really be telling.

Well, here we are, Chaos Era in full swing, more nerfs on the way with the September update, and no promotions or events in progress.  So Goons are working on gloomy charts (with some add on charts in the comments), Nosy Gamer is having a look at NPC and player destruction that doesn’t bode well, the MER has NPC commodities as the new biggest ISK faucet, and my own anecdotal evidence all seem to add up to something being amiss, manifested in the concurrent player count numbers, which you can see over at EVE Offline.

I realize that CCP doesn’t mention concurrent player count anymore, preferring the trend towards daily and monthly active users, the darling metrics of the mobile domain where ads are often part of the revenue stream. (Have you seen Candy Crush Saga lately? There has been a pretty big swing towards “watch an ad video, get a booster!” in their model.)  But the concurrent player count feels more like the reality we play in, so a dip is not good news.

This has, naturally enough, led to a cottage industry over on /r/eve and in the forums and wherever else about what CCP needs to do to fix this.

What I find interesting is how many people can move straight from the stance that CCP is both slow and incompetent to a grand master plan for fixing EVE Online that pretty much demands that the company be both quick and excellent at their craft.

My poster child right now is this post, which is a master class in glossing over reality.  The premise is that CCP should add back walking in stations, shove whatever Project: Nova is right now into the mix, and try to turn the game into what Star Citizen aspires to be some day.

Leaving aside my myriad objections to avatar play in EVE Online (summed up as: You have to build a whole different game to support it), the very easy jokes to be made at the expense of Chris Roberts, and the completely half-assed, evidence free, changing horses mid-stream vision being espoused, what in the last sixteen years could lead anybody to believe that CCP has the capability of doing this in any time frame that doesn’t include the heat death of the universe as a benchmark measurement?

I remain convinced that people outside software development think that just because it is easy to describe something it must therefore be easy to develop.

That is not the way of the world.

Just last week I suggested that CCP wasn’t going to be able to fix the new player experience in any meaningful way that would have even the slightest impact on new player retention.  I mean, I wrote “point and laugh” as my possible response to whatever they come up with, but that was what I meant.  And I say that because of CCP’s history.

It is like when people say that CCP should make things like level 4 missions more fun… something else I have seen come up as part of this… and I again wonder what people think has been going on since 2003.  Do you think that CCP has not tried?  Also, your idea on how to do this is badly considered garbage that won’t work.  Just accept it.

The game is what it is, having grown and developed almost spasmodically over the last decade and a half.  It hangs together on social bonds, vengeance fantasies, pretty screen shots, angry memes, and the sunk cost fallacy, and anything that CCP could do to “fix” the game has a pretty good chance of upsetting that balance.  I swear the corporate motto ought to be, “We did not see that coming!”

Which isn’t to say that I don’t think CCP can do things to help the game along, and even make the NPE better.  There are lots of ways the game could be made better.  But what CCP needs to do is way down in the fundamentals, blocking and tackling level stuff.  There is no room for Jesus features any more as there are too many balls for CCP to keep in the air as it is.  That one labelled “faction warfare” rolled under the couch a couple of years ago.

But what you don’t do is mask things with uncertainty.  Chaos is not a viable business strategy unless you’re selling safety from it.  Rational people, when faced with chaos, tend to try and find a safe place to weather the storm.

Anyway, we’ll see what comes to pass.  I fear that the Chaos Era may have officially pushed me into the bitter vet status, so i’ll probably just go play some more WoW Classic.

Others on the Chaos Era:

WoWCraft and Layering and other WoW Classic Tidbits

Carbot Animations, which has made a business out of doing cute parodies of various Blizzard games, including having plush versions of their characters in the Blizzard Store and that re-skin of StarCraft from earlier this year, has returned to the WoWCraft series, which launched back in 2014, to celebrate the launch of WoW Classic.

 

I suppose we shall see if the foibles of classic become fodder for the series.

As previously announced, Blizzard launched some more servers and allowed free character transfers in an attempt to alleviate the queuing issues that were still plaguing some servers.  That brings the total server count up to 77, 39 in the EU and 38 in the US and Oceania.

Blizzard had previously also doubled the amount of characters allowed on a given server, letting their layering tech soak up the extra load.  However, this was not only against their plan to get every server down to a single layer as time went on (see the Reddit AMA), but has led to concerns that people are exploiting layering in order to harvest resources from the same node in different layers.  Tales of harvest riches have been making their way around the net, with Icy Veins tweeting a screen shot of a player alleged to have 3,000 arcane crystals, declaring that layering was destroying WoW Classic.

Arcane Crystal Panic!  At least they said “alleged”

They have since deleted that tweet and calmed down a bit, though you can still find the screen shot in their forums as part of a thread discussing this issue. (Discord nicely had a version of the tweet for me.)

They have drawn back a bit because Blizzard says the screen shot, and others like it, are fakes.  In a forum post Blizzard says they are monitoring the issue and have some options should this turn out to be a serious problem.  No realm has layers into double digits and Blizz says that most realms have layers in the low single digits, but they may still put a delay into moving between layers.  To address any lingering aspect of this Blizz has a patch that will increase the amount of time you need between layer swaps, which increases the more you do it.

Over at Polygon there is a piece up about WoW Classic which concludes that no matter how popular this nostalgia ride remains, the focus it has brought back on to WoW as a whole has been a pretty big deal.  Certainly a lot of people were at least watching WoW Classic being streamed.

For those wishing to run dungeons, Belghast has a post up about the realities of dungeon groups that is worth a read.

And, having opened with a video I will close with one as well about the lurking menace that is WoW Classic.

 

WoW Classic gets a DDoS Attack

All I wanted to do was play a little WoW Classic while I ate my lunch on a Saturday afternoon.  But this was what I got.

Should I try again?

A group calling themselves UKDrillas on Twitter decided to go after WoW Classic today.  They had started against against Wikipedia yesterday, but moved on to WoW Classic, seemingly to go after streamers on the US PvP servers.

Asmongold always seems to be on that list

As of my writing this I seem able to get into the game on Bloodsail Buccaneers, however I end up getting dropped fairly frequently, no doubt a side effect of the attack on the PvP servers.  Overwatch, which shares the same data center, is also down.

There hasn’t been much word about this outside of the Classic WoW subreddit.  No doubt Blizzard is working on the issue, while the WoW news sites seems a bit behind the curve. (They have a post but they aren’t saying much.)  But for a bit we were able to see WoW Classic servers showing up with low population counts.

A rare site these days

Not that things were getting better as time went along.

Now the servers are gone!

As for the attackers, they are free to disrupt things for now.  Groups like this have popped up before.  I remember LulzSec hitting EVE Online and other sites back in the day.  I also recall a bunch of them ending up arrested eventually.  It happens.  We’ll see how this plays out.

Follow on reports:

The Labors of Blaugust 2019

Blaugust has come and gone.  Whether or not is was a success, or what impact it had, is pretty much an individual perspective.  My goal of posting every single day in August was achieved, so I guess it was good.

Belghast has a summary post about the achievements of Blaugust.  The basic stats are:

  • 1305 posts were made by Blagust 2019 Participants
  • 66 Individuals Participated
  • 11 Newbie Bloggers Participated
  • 55 out of 66 made at least 5 posts qualifying for Bronze
  • 36 made at least 15 posts qualifying for Silver
  • 31 made at least 25 posts qualifying for Gold
  • 27 made 31 or more posts during the month of August qualifying for Rainbow

We were down in participants, having seen 90 last year, but the post per participant ratio went up, closing in on 20 per, and more people made it to 31 posts this year.

Being in the 31 post club, I get to display the rainbow Blaugust badge.

2019 Rainbow Badge for 31 or more posts

Bel has a Blaugust media page up where you can grab this year’s, or any previous year’s, badge.

As is often the case, I got to the end of the event and then wondered what had really happened.  Sure, I wrote a lot of posts, but did I do anything for the Blaugust community to earn my self-appointed “mentor” title?  I am not sure.  I did make some Blaugust posts that contained some advice, if you could manage to distill it down enough I suppose.

I was feeling a little manic this year, just judging by those titles.  I think I was more on point with last year’s advice posts:

I should probably go back and lump together all the posts about blogging I have made over the years for the various NBI or Blaugust events.

Traffic-wise, I saw an uptick in page views and visitors and likes and comments.  That seems to be the norm here for Blaugust.  Stats show that has happened for the last five years, an uptick from July to August.  Whether that is the impact of Blaugust or other items… last year, for example, Battle for Azeroth hit in August, this year WoW Classic hit, and posts about both attracted search engine traffic… I could not say.

Oddly, the uptick tends to continue into September, with that month being slightly higher in page views than August, though likes and comments tend to fall off.  Just looking at the average views per day, this September seems to be following the trend, though I also do tend to keep rolling on the daily post thing for a few weeks after Blaugust.  Once I get rolling I guess.

I’m not sure what else to say.  I made it.  I read a lot of other people’s posts.  I tried to comment on some, link out to others, but managed to do neither to the extent that I would have liked.  I suppose I should take a moment to get in what has become my baseline advice over the various blogger events, which is:

  • Be the blog you want to read

If you’re not making that blog, then what are you doing?

And, of course, I want to link out to everybody who participated.  Please click on the links and visit these people!

Friday Bullet Points NOT About WoW Classic

I have been all about WoW Classic for a stretch now.  The run up to the launch, less than two weeks ago still, probably made that seem even longer.  But other things have been going on, a few of which I want to note in passing, which gets us to another Friday Bullet Points post.

  • Fallen Earth Falling

I had to dig around a bit to find anything here about Fallen Earth.  I have some very vague recollections in the back of my brain and some references in a post to playing in the beta just before the launch.  I also recall it going free to play at some point, but that happened to almost every MMO at some point between 2009 and now, didn’t it?

Since I paid so little attention to it over the years since then, you might have been able to convince me that it had already shut down.  But it hasn’t, though it is planning to.  The CEO put out a message in the forums that the state of the game was such that they plan to bring the game down come October 2, 2019.  There is hope that the downtime will allow the team to repair the game so as to bring it back at an unspecified future date.  We shall see if it returns from the dead or succumbs to the apocalypse.  Hell of a way to celebrate a decade online though.

  • LOTRO Legendary Carries On

Late last year my nostalgia obsession was the LOTRO Legendary, a fresh start experience from Standing Stone Games.  While very low effort when compared to WoW Classic, it too had queues, problems it had to patch, and ended up having to double its server count, though here it meant going from one to two servers.

A legend in its own something or other

I was enamored with it through the original content, but fell off the nostalgia wagon somewhere in the depths of Moria.  Not the first time that has happened to me.  But it carries on without me, having announced this week that the Rise of Isengard expansion has been unlocked on Anor and Ithil servers.

  • Homeworld 3 is Coming

In the pantheon of classic RTS games Homeworld and Homeworld 2 stand out as high points in the space based branch of the genre.  I never played either, but I swear every time half a dozen Naglfar’s undock in EVE Online somebody brings up the game as they look like a ship from it. (Some Nags shooting a Nyx for reference.)

In the everything old is new again way of video games these days, both titles have seen a remastered to bring them up to current standards.  But that isn’t enough.

Gearbox Publishing is working on Homeworld 3, which includes a crowdfunding campaign.  And, as down as I am on video game crowdfunding at this point, this looks to be of the better of the breed, being for a game that is mostly done… and which isn’t an MMO.  They asked for a dollar as a minimum and are now through the $600K mark.  It is basically a pre-order mechanism that lets you buy your way into possibly influencing the game some.  The game will ship and we’ll get a crack at it… and they haven’t announced it is an Epic Store exclusive or anything… this just allows you to get some special things early if you simply cannot contain yourself.  There is also an investment option if you care to drop $500 on the game and think it will do well.

There is also a trailer for the game up now as well.

  • Google Stadia is Coming to Fail

Google Stadia is still coming, being due out at some point in November, no doubt timed for the holiday shopping season.  It still isn’t for me, but the question is starting to become who is it really for?

Over at Gamasutra there is a blog post exploring that very question with the optimistic title Google Stadia Will Fail at Launch – Here is Why.  It brings up some of the initial questions about the service and then piles on a few more.  I suppose we’ll see when it launches.

  • EVE Echoes Alpha

Word is out that the alpha for the CCP/NetEase joint venture mobile game based on EVE Online has begun.  The progress toward alpha was announced early in August and it sounds like it kicked off on the 26th of last month.  Something else in the shade of WoW Classic.

From the sound of things, the functionality is quite limited, with docking and undocking, flying about, and simple combat being the focus of the test.

Image from a Reddit post about the alpha.

You have to create a solid foundation on which to build, so a simple start seems reasonable.  If you are interested in being part of the testing you can still sign up on the EVE Echoes site.

  • Origin Sells Out

Over at the Digital Antiquarian this week there is a post up about the acquisition of Origin Systems, the company founded by Richard “Lord British” Garriott, by Electronic Arts.

Rightly called Origin Sells Out, it is another in the line of tales I put under the heading of “The Madness of Lord British.”  He tried to work with EA, pulled out of that agreement, vilified EA for years, then sold the company to them for a boat load of cash.  The story covers the immediate impact of the sale, which wasn’t all bad, but which saw the Origin change and sets up for follow on posts about some titles that came out later.  Worth a read as a piece of video games history.

I Know Why the Night Elf Runs

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I have been working on three characters, with one going through each of the starter areas.  The third of these… the only one I didn’t roll up on opening night… was a night elf druid.

None of the starter areas are new to me.  I ran through them all at least a few times before Cataclysm hit and changed everything.  But of the three Teldrassil, the home of the night elves, has always been my least favorite, so I wasn’t sure I was going to roll up something there.  But I did want to make a druid, I like healing as a druid more than as a priest or pally for whatever reason, and a night elf is your only choice for druids on the alliance.

But starting in Teldrassil doesn’t mean you have to stay there.  The joke that isn’t a joke has always been about the run across the Wetlands that young night elves make to get to the other starter areas.  The snowy Dun Morogh of the dwarves might be a bit chilly for night elves showing up in their form fitting elf shorts.

Such muscle tone and such tight shorts

But Elwyn Forest and Westfall, that is where everybody wants to end up.  It is a nice zone, your friends are probably there already, and it starts the quest line that culminates in the Deadmines.

So my early plan with the druid was to get a few levels and then try to make the run across the Wetlands.

And then I started thinking about where I might find a druid trainer and whether or not I had to be around Darnassus to get my class quest and the Moonglade teleport skill and decided not to be in too much of a hurry to get out of Teldrassil.   Instead I decided to stick it out to level 10 so I could get my animal forms and all that.

So it was time to get to it.  The first few quests around Shadowglen are fine.  I had done them during the load test and, since opening night had passed, there wasn’t a huge crowd with which to contend.  A quick group in the spider caves was the only time I really had to work with anybody.

But then it was time to go to Dolanaar.

I don’t know what it is, but almost every quest in Dolanaar brings out this low level sense of dread in me, a voice in the back of my head that says, “Oh no, not this quest.”  Only it is for almost every single quest.  I’d pick one up and think, “Should I just run through the Wetlands instead?”

The first guy you run into you end up tricking

Which is odd, because the actual quests… well… aren’t so bad.  Mostly.  The ordering of the quests and the locations of the quest givers are probably not sorted out in the way a modern game designer would do it.  But that goes for all the zones.  There is a theme of having a low level quest that send you into a high level area now and again just to keep you on your toes.

There is, however, a lot of running in Teldrassil, and it feels like much more than the other two zones.  I started to work on a map with a series of arrows to show all the back and forth a young night elf has to do… including trips back and forth between Dolanaar and Darnassus which take a while… but I ended up with a blur of lines on the page obscuring the locations.

Here I am on the road again though

My working theory on why people leave Teldrassil began to include the idea that making the dash to Ironforge might actually involve less running than just sticking around.  You certainly start to feel that hour long cool down on being able to use your hearthstone.  If it were 20 minutes like current WoW you might be able to short cut some of those trips.  But with an hour timer, you save it until you need it and just make the run yet again.

And, of course, there are a few brutal quests.  Running into the Ban’ethil Barrow Den is a challenge, to the point that I wonder if they considered making it a real instanced dungeon at one point.

Looks welcoming on the outside…

You have to run in, find a few objects, get a drop, find a guy, and so on, all while in constrained tunnels and dealing with the sudden waves of respawns that mean you have to continually clear where you are and the path to where you want to be.

It was a good place to group up and I was happy to find a random group invite waiting for me before I had made it too far.  I returned the favor by clarifying how the quests down in the hole worked.

I didn’t say it was difficult, I just knew the answer

But I got through all the running and the tunnels and the various quests in Teldrassil, hit level 10, and ran off to the druid trainer in Darnassus who gave me the Moonglade teleport spell along with the usual “go talk to a guy” instructions.  I figured I was set.  I would go there, do a thing, get my updates, and move on.

But I have forgotten so much about the druid path.  It has been a long time.  While you go do a thing in Moonglade, you then have to travel to Auberdine in Darkshore to pick up the class quest thread.  What to say about Darkshore?  The locals are a bit of a pain.

Just another day on the beach

And it doesn’t measure up to Westfall or Loch Modan in my mind, but it wasn’t completely empty.  Not every night elf makes the run through the Wetlands.

The word of Poncho reaches to Auberdine

The more annoying thing was that I had used my hearthstone to cover yet another run from Dolanaar to Darnassus and then was stuck in Moonglade with a 40 minute cool down still ticking.  That meant finding the flight point in Moonglade… sort of where I remembered it, but the last druid I did was horde… and then take the bird to Auberdine, which runs 8 silver and 40 copper, a steep price in these early times.

Thinking to make the most of the trip, I grabbed a few of the other quests around town, just in case I could do some in passing, as I headed out to find a cave.  The right cave turns out to also be the closest cave when it comes down to it.

The right cave for the druid class quest

I think you can see the stone in the cave from this angle, the one you need to sprinkle the dust on.  But this cave looks quite a bit like a number of nearby caves, so I do not doubt there were some lost druids about.  Also, skeleton from a player death.  They are everywhere.

I got that then went off to knock out a couple of the nearby quests.  They fell into some of the common tropes.

My service can be bought for pants… but anything to replace those shorts!

After a bit of that, enough to recoup my air fare, I took the bird from Auberdine to Darnassus… which is free, so you don’t even have to take the boat if you’re a cheapskate like me… turned everything in and got… bear form.

Again, it had been a long time since I had done the druid starter, but I was a bit surprised to walk away with bear form as my only upgrade.   Oh, and a note to come back when I was level 14 for the next round.

We will mete this out slowly

That out of the way and not overly enthused by the Darkshore quest lines… as with the quests around Dolanaar I would read the quest text and get that feeling of dread as past efforts flooded into my mind… I decided to take the boat out of Auberdine to the Eastern Kingdoms and make a run for Ironforge.

Out into the Wetlands

I almost made it too.  Being level 10 meant that not everything in the zone had such a huge aggro radius… aggro radius being a function of the level difference between you and the local mobs… that I was able to slip through the main areas of the swamp unmolested… though the skeletons on the path showed others had been eaten along the way.

It wasn’t until I got into the pass through to Loch Modan that a level 21 Dragonmaw Grunt caught me.

Caught in the tunnel

But that was far enough into the run that my wisp appeared in a Loch Modan graveyard.  So I floated on back down the path to my corpse and left another skeleton behind.  I got a bit of cover at the next orc gathering as there were some people on them for a quest.

After that it was into Loch Modan and then through the tunnel to the chill weather of Dun Morogh and on the way to Ironforge.

Good thing I ditched those shorts

Ironforge was just a waypoint though.  I went in there, got the flight point, then took the tram to Stormwind with an eye to picking up in Elwyn Forest and eventually Westfall and its warm fields, clumps of quests, chickens, and dungeon.

Summer Movie League – The Final Cut

Our Summer Fantasy Movie League has come to and end.  It is now time to tally up the final scores.

As these things sometimes go, the final week was a mild affair.  While we got a four day weekend for the 13th week, there were no big new titles for Labor Day.  That left us all piecing together lineups from 14 movies we had all worked with before, with one minor new title that showed up at the bottom of the pricing list.

As a holiday, the Labor Day weekend seemed to be looking longingly back at summer rather than forward towards the coming of autumn.  And nostalgia never pays off quite as well as the first big rush, so the week ended up with moderate scores.  In the question on which title to anchor on, Angel has Fallen or Good Boys, the answer for the perfect pick turned out to be two of each, with 4x Spider-man: Far From Home, the best performer of the week, rounding out the lineup.  That was good for a little past $90 million.  However, none of us went that route and the scores for the week ended up looking like this.

  1. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $76,603,372
  2. Joanie’s Joint – $74,977,924
  3. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $74,253,384
  4. Too Orangey For Crows – $73,628,176
  5. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $72,245,584
  6. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – $70,318,741
  7. Conical Effort – $69,904,101
  8. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $68,145,628
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $62,206,360
  10. grannanj’s Cineplex – $25,166,100

It was a conservative week and the only outlier was Po, who went all-in on The Overcomer in hopes of a big score.  That did not come to pass.

And with that, we have the final scores for the season.

  1. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – $1,199,390,085
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – $1,178,588,387
  3. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $1,089,791,074
  4. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $1,052,262,247
  5. Conical Effort – $1,023,045,552
  6. Joanie’s Joint – $1,019,636,134
  7. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $996,749,080
  8. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $954,183,431
  9. grannanj’s Cineplex – $780,060,250
  10. Goat Water Picture Palace – $557,351,870

I managed to hold of Bhagpuss and keep first place, with him falling just over $20 million behind.  If the season had gone one more week, things might have ended different.  The first week of the fall season sees the opening of It: Chapter Two, which is the sort of big week that can change the lineup.  SynCaine held onto a solid third place, running away from the pack that had been vying for the spot for several weeks running.

Then there is the alternate scoring, with the number of weeks won in parenthesis.

  1. Wilhelm’s Qeynosian Kinetoscope – 93 (2)
  2. Too Orangey For Crows – 90 (2)
  3. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – 77 (3)
  4. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – 73
  5. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – 72 (2)
  6. Joanie’s Joint – 64
  7. Conical Effort – 61 (1)
  8. grannanj’s Cineplex – 55 (1)
  9. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – 47
  10. Goat Water Picture Palace – 45 (2)

The top four remained the same in both scoring systems, after which things varied.  With a season where only 7-12 people were picking on any given week, being consistent and picking every week was enough to remain mid pack, while a couple of winning weeks could keep you in play.

And so it goes.  Thank you for playing another summer season.  As I noted, I will keep the league running, but won’t be posting about it on a weekly basis.  I might return for the winter (or awards) season.  There is a Star Wars movie coming along with a few other titles that might make things interesting.

I will say that I did like the rules variation.  The lack of penalty for empty screens and the $2 million bonus for the worst performer made for some interesting picks and I enjoyed seeing weeks where the perfect pick for the TAGN league was different from the standard league rules.

Different Rules are Different

I just wish you could set the season duration.  I think a shorter season, maybe six weeks, might be more interesting.  At some point during the 13 week march an inevitability starts to set in as to who is in contention and who is out of the running.  But I get why FML might not want to have a bunch of out-of-sync leagues.  Maybe some day.

I did reset the deadline for picking to the 9am Pacific Time Friday standard for the league.

Thanks again for joining in!

WoW Classic Free Transfers Coming for Specific Realms

In an attempt to alleviate the still problematic server queue issue with some realms, Blizzard announced in the forums that they will be allowing free server transfer from specific WoW Classic realms.

Classic is as classic does

The transfers will not only be FROM specific realms, but will players will also be limited in which realms they will be allowed to transfer TO.  This will include some fresh realms being spun up for just this purpose.  The single destination nature of the transfers (except for that French realm) should also keep guild mates from getting lost on the way somewhere.

For US servers the list is:

  • Arugal → Felstriker
  • Faerlina → Heartseeker (new realm)
  • Stalagg → Heartseeker (new realm)
  • Herod → Earthfury (new realm)
  • Skeram → Earthfury (new realm)
  • Incendius → Netherwind
  • Thalnos → Netherwind
  • Fairbanks → Arcanite Reaper (new realm)
  • Whitemane → Arcanite Reaper (new realm)
  • Bigglesworth → Anathema
  • Pagle → Windseeker
  • Grobbulus → Deviate Delight

For EU servers the list is:

English language realms

  • Shazzrah → Dragonfang (new realm)
  • Golemagg → Dragonfang (new realm)
  • Firemaw → Earthshaker (new realm)
  • Gehennas → Earthshaker (new realm)
  • Mograine → Judgement
  • Razorgore → Bloodfang

French language realms

  • Sulfuron → Amnennar
  • Sulfuron → Finkle

German language realms

  • Lucifron → Transcendence

The exact timing of the transfers has not been announced as yet.  Blizzard has said that the new realms on the list will not be open to new character creation for the first day to help ensure that those who are transferring will be able to retain their character names.  If you’re not transferring to a new realm, then you might be stuck in that regard.

Blizzard further reminds people that in order to transfer your character cannot:

  • Be a guild leader
  • Have listings or bids active in the auction house
  • Have any mail

Finally, Blizzard is prepping people for some delay when it comes to the transfers, which may take several hours to complete.  Also, if the destination realm fills up quickly, the transfer option may be turned off without prior notice.

Being too popular is a problem, but it is a better problem to have than not being popular enough.