Category Archives: World of Warcraft

The Persistent Death Knight in Northrend

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my Death Knight, Irondam, has become my main “level through the game and see all the things” character.  There are some advantages to having a DK in that roll.

This is why they had to give us that water mount in Pandaria

One of the aspects of him being in that role is that I have held him to finishing up the main quest lines to the point of getting the quest achievement for each of the zones he has worked his way through.

You don’t have to do ALL the quests in a zone for the achievement, but you end up doing most of them, usually leaving off the group quests, and the total rings up at a hundred or so for some of the zones.  So, while he has gotten himself to 75, he has really only worked in three zones so far.  They are:

Borean Tundra

This is kind of the lesser of the two starting zones.  It certainly feels like the zone where you should start if you’re running into the Northrend at level 68… like I did with four characters.

Welcome to Borean Tundra

There is a lot going on with the Borean Tundra map and you run into a few different groups, each with their own sets of quest lines.  With each little area pretty much sticking to itself and the various story threads not really intertwining, the place feels like a bit of a patchwork.  That isn’t bad, but aside from Coldarra perhaps you don’t come out of it feeling like “well, there was a story!”

I mean, there are stories there, some even related to the main thread of the expansion.  But they are a bit jumbled together.  Mostly it feels like the zone you show up in dressed from the last expansion and leave with all your gear updated to a new look and an appreciation into how to play your class.

I made my way through and didn’t have any problem finding enough quests to get the achievement.

So you say

It has its moments, but isn’t as memorable as later locations.

Howling Fjrod

While you can start in Howling Fjord, unless you’re in a hurry to get to the first dungeon, there isn’t a lot of advantage to it.

Welcome to the Fjord

Having played through both the start of Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord on three of four characters, you don’t get any especially different gear.  I sent my hunter over there hoping to get a gun rather than the bow that is the first ranged weapon in the tundra quest chain, but found myself offered a crossbow instead.  There is a gun further down the line in Howling Fjord, but there is also one in Borean Tundra, so whatever.

And the initial quests are a bit of a trial.  They aren’t hard, just kind of a pain and maybe a bit opaque in description.  But you have to run back and forth through a gauntlet of mobs to keep reporting back in.

Once you get through that though and out of the pit that is Valgarde, it is also where you start getting into some of the meat of the story as well as getting to experience the new vehicle mechanics that Blizz introduced.  You are flying around in planes, playing sky crane with a helicopter, shooting harpoons at dragon riders, and riding a flaming harpoon across the Fjord.

Never did this in Outland

There are also some goofy mechanics and some quests with rather unhelpful descriptions that kind of just assume you’re going to go look it up I guess, because I had to in the end.  Still, I made it through without having to beat the bushes for additional quests.

I've been all over

I’ve been all over

I am glad I started into the expansion at 68, because even though those first two levels were quick, they did burn off a layer of quests so that Irondam didn’t get ahead of them too far in levels.

Both of those zones converge into Dragonblight.

Dragonblight

These feels like the zone that Blizz said, “Here, here is where we will dig into the story and play with some of our new ideas.

Dragonblight in the middle

It is also where you run into many more quests with some dubious quest text descriptions.  Also, there is the whole Winterguard Keep series of quests where you have to run back and forth through fields of mobs to get to various quest objectives.  It isn’t too bad if you steer your mount around things, but err in that and get dismounted and you end up having to take down the half dozen mobs that were most recently chasing you.  Again, DK for the win with just enough self healing to keep going.  My druid would have been toast.

But it is also story time and in a big way.  It is here, in Dragonblight, that the devs are suddenly ready to tell you all about Arthas and his army and how he gave into his need for revenge at any cost.  You see his ghostly army still haunting the shores where they landed.  You also follow a vision of Arthas as he picks up a handy sword he found just sitting in a cave.

Frostmourne? Cool name for a cool sword

And then there is the foreshadowing event at the Wrathgate, where you get a cinematic in the middle of a zone that includes the steamiest chemistry between two WoW characters outside of the Goldshire Inn.

Get a room you two!

The Wrathgate is a big enough deal that you get an achievement for just being there to see the cinematic.

Veteran of the tour, in anyway case

But as I wound up the various quest lines, I found myself coming up nearly 20 short of the 115 quests needed for the zone achievement.  Eventually I ran down one quest that sent me to Stormwind to the king who had Jaina portal me around and then we ended up outside of the Undercity, ready to run in and figure out who was behind… something… I sort of lost the thread of the tale as I was trying to keep up.

Anyway, you’re outside the Undercity with the king, ready to attack.

Whenever you’re ready Varian

This was actually a bit of a slog, not helped by the vague quest description, the need to wait around for five minutes before anything happens, and the ongoing fights where you’ve been given a buff so you likely won’t die unless you AFK, but is just one empty fight after another until you reach the guy at the end deep in the Undercity for one last big fight.

Then the king sends you back to Dragonblight and you get a reward with a serious gear upgrade, and an easy dozen or more quests because the whole event is a series of short milestone quests.

After that I was still a couple of quests shy of the mark, but realized I hadn’t done any of the quests in Mo’kai harbor yet.  So I flew down there and was soon over the mark.

It is quite a fright, especially at night

A lot of the quests I recognized, though I have no memory of that assault on the Undercity.  But it was both a discreet and slightly dull event, so maybe my memory just let go of that one.

That put me ready for the next zone.  I wasn’t sure whether Sholazar Basin or Grizzly Hills was the right choice, but I was closer to the latter and had picked up the flight point from that one quest in Winterguard Keep that basically throws you on a bird and flies you there without warning the moment you accept it.  So that is where I am headed next.  I don’t remember much about it, besides some bees or something and maybe chasing a heard of horses.  I guess I’ll see when I get there.

Catching up on Harvesting in Azeroth

I have been enjoying playing my Death Knight in Wrath of the Lich King Classic.  As I have said multiple times at this point, it is over powered, but in fun and engaging ways.  It is a hero class that feels like it has the power to be an actual hero, and it has been fun to level mine up.  So, good times.

We have a small orchard here

On the other hand, he does come with some challenges on the trade skill front.

I don’t really need another crafting alt, and I am not into the absolute grind it can be to get up into and through Outland in order to be useful.  But I wouldn’t mind another harvesting alt.  Having a character out there than with mining and herbalism that could gather for my actual crafting accounts would be very handy.

Here’s the thing.  Death Knights start at 55, and they even get a boost with first aid so they don’t have to go back and start with linen cloth.  But if you want a gathering profession, like herbalism or mining, it is back to skill level 1.

It isn’t the hardest thing in the game to do, especially if you’re already past level 70.  You can run around the old zones with impunity, one-shotting any mob that looks at you sideways.

And, since I have had a gathering marker addon installed throughout WoW Classic, I have map references for a lot of the older zones as to where various herbs and ore can be found.  I have that going for me.

The problem is that it takes time.  If I have an hour or so in the evening, do I want to spend it in an old world zone

Mining some iron out in Arathi

Most evenings I would rather focus on Northrend and the quest chains and seeing the story, experiencing those zones, and leveling up.

Occasionally I will have an evening where I want something really mundane to do while I listed to a podcast or an audio book and I will bring him back to the old world and run around one of the zones where I can get some skill ups.  I am currently at around 170 for both herbalism and mining.  Herbs are generally more plentiful, so the skill ups in the field are more frequent, however you do get some mining skill ups from smelting your ore, which allows that to catch up.

I would like to have mining and herbalism active while I am running around in Northrend doing quests, but I just haven’t felt like investing the time yet.  I still have a long ways to go before I even hit Northrend.

The one saving grace is that at least with the two skills trained, while I cannot harvest anything in Northrend, I can harvest locations on the map.  I’ll get a message that I need a much higher skill level in order to collect the herb or ore, but it will be on the map for my other characters.  And doing that marking doesn’t even dismount me.

As for the other skills, fishing and cooking, I am not sure.  Fishing is likely never going to happen.  I have one character that can fish in Northrend and that is all I really need I suppose.  And on the cooking front, it is my hope that we’ll the harvest festival holiday event that allows you to catch up on cooking all in once concentrated go.  I think that came in with Wrath, but I supposed I will find out soon enough.

Friday Bullet Points while Twitter Burns

It has been a good couple of weeks to drop bad news while Elon Musk’s gross mishandling of Twitter has been grabbing all the attention on the tech front.  You might not have noticed Facebook or Amazon or some other tech firms laying off thousands.

Going around the Twitterverse

And this week’s Twitter fiasco was Elon’s great loyalty oath campaign.  The remaining employees had to sign the oath or, if the refused, be laid off.  Some huge percentage of the survivors are said to have not signed, leaving critical systems unattended.  This caused Elon to panic about sabotage or something and he had the offices closed and the employees locked out like the unhinged oligarch he aspires to be.

Twitter isn’t down, and there is no plan to shut it down, but if some technical hiccup brings it offline, getting it back up and running might not be easy.

Last night on Twitter was like the end of high school, with everybody signing each other’s yearbooks and promising to keep in touch.    It is still up today, but the threat looms.

But there are other things going on in the world, and not even all of it is bad.  Most of these items I learned about on Twitter, but I am reluctant to link there now.  I don’t need any more dead links on the site.

  • Blizzard and NetEase Part Ways

This was telegraphed in the Activision Blizzard Q3 2022 financials, but it feels like there should have been more emphasis on it if the collapse of the relationship was going to be announced a week later.  But the other shoe dropped this week with a press release.

NetEase is Blizzard’s partner in China, which means more than you might think.  Doing business in China means working with a company there as a joint venture (a term which always reminds me of late Soviet perestroika) where the local partner holds a controlling interest.

NetEase controls the business that runs games like World of Warcraft and OverWatch in China.  If you fall out with your partner you have to find a new one, which can be a convoluted mess in any circumstances, but much more so if it needs the approval of a totalitarian government.

Blizzard has been through this before, so if they want to keep doing business in China they need to find somebody new to work with.  Meanwhile, the deal with NetEase expires on January 23, 2023, after which point most Blizzard games will be turned off in China.  Diablo Immortal, which was made under a different agreement is the exception in this.  The horrible cash grab Diablo mobile game will remain active.

As for why this has come about, NetEase, following the example of its governments diplomatic policy, is aggressively blaming Blizzard and one individual in particular for the parting.  I don’t doubt Bobby Kotick is a jerk, but I don’t see any evidence that NetEase is somehow the victim in all of this.

  • EVE Online FanFest 2023 Announced

CCP has staked out the dates for EVE FanFest 2023, which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of EVE Online.  And it is going to be… in September?

Yes, the dates are September 21-23 in Iceland, which will put Fanfest a good four months past the games 20th birthday, but when you’re booking an event big enough to show a blip on the countries MER I suppose you have to work with multiple factors in order to find a viable time slot.

Early bird tickets are already on sale and should be much easier to obtain that Taylor Swift tickets.

  • CCP Embraces a Bullshit Metric

When is a bullshit metric even more bullshit?  When you use only at its peak without giving any context.  I have criticized Blizzard for moving from subscriber numbers to MAUs as a transparent attempt to hide the actual state of WoW from investors, but at least they give us a number every quarter so you have some context.

So when CCP CEO Hilmar Petursson came out and said that EVE Online had hits its second highest DAU count since 2016, there were layers of BS to unpack.  To start with, CCP never tells us MAU or DAU numbers, so how do we know?  Was the day a lot better, a little better, not really better at all?

The game is clearly seeing more players.  The daily concurrent user graph over at EVE Offline shows that.  The expansion has sparked fresh interest.  But those graphs also show the peak concurrent for 2022 landed in January during the Doctor Who event.  So what is going on?

Well, as I noted, CCP had a login event with the expansion and gave away 7 days of Omega time to all players, which is a double incentive to login, because you need to do so in order to claim your prizes.  So last Sunday may have been a good day, but was it really a “best in the last six years” sort of day?  I suspect not.

Anyway, glad the game is doing good, but talking about numbers you won’t share in front of a crowd armed with spreadsheets is always a risky move.

  • Enad Global 7 Q3 2022 Financials

Things continue to look good for EG7.  Daybreak continues to dominate revenues on the video game side of the house.  Daybreak executives continue to run the show.  Things are going well.

However, the presentation itself was somewhat terse compared to previous ones.  Few insights and no future statements or handy graphs about upcoming titles.  Just the bare minimum to get by this time around.  Which is fine.  But that doesn’t give me much to build a post around.

  • Pokemon Violet and Scarlet Launch

Hey, it is also a Pokemon launch day, as Pokemon Violet and Pokemon Scarlet go on sale today!

New Pokemon to catch, a new land to explore, and a new adventure to complete!

Nintendo very much has a cycle nailed down for these launches, landing just before Thanksgiving in the US which heralds the start of the holiday shopping season here.  Plenty of time for parents and grandparents to buy copies for the kids that haven’t gone out and bought it on day one already.  And, of course, lots of holiday free time during which to play.

This time around I am not joining in.  My daughter and I played the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl remakes last year, and they were a lot of fun.  But I am not feeling it for another new title.

  • Valheim Mistlands Preview

Finally, the dev team working on Valheim have a game play preview video for the Mistlands biome that we have all been so (im)patiently waiting for.  But we’re going to have to wait for it too, because the video doesn’t unlock until November 22nd.  Dammit!

I hope there is a launch date in there, but I guess we won’t know until next week.

Anyway, that is what I had piled up for Friday.  Bring on the weekend.

Making Azjol Nerub Harder Than it Needs to Be

Having finished up The Nexus it was time to get along to the next instance, which was Azjol Nerub.  That got us out of the starter zones at last and into Dragonblight.  Not very far into Dragonblight.  You just have to ride in as far as Stars Rest, grab the flight point, and then the dungeon is just across the way.

Azjol Nerub in Dragonblight

Several of us had already been to Stars Rest as part of the attempt to connect up the flight paths between Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra.  The only one missing it was Beanpole, and he was able to ride out pretty quickly, so we soon had the group together.

The group together

From there it was just across the way to where Azjol Nerub is… though it is down in a pit and you have to wind your way around to find it through some caves without many distinguishing marks.  So we ended up getting lost and spread out in an area probably the size of basketball court.

We eventually stopped going in circles and found the instance and the quest giver hanging around just outside.  There were just two quests, one to collect some spider eggs and another to pick up an item from the final boss.

In we went and, honestly, the first boss is not that far down the path into the instance.  We had to clear a bit of trash, but we spotted Krik’thir the Gatewatcher pretty quickly.

Nobody is ever glad of our arrival

The eggs we needed to pick up… which included shared updates with the group, so only one person had to do it… were scattered about in that room and we quickly completed that.

Krik’thir is an event… I think that is the theme of this dungeon, that every boss is an event… and we weren’t quite ready for it, but once it started we managed to power on through.  One boss down.

The drop was the cobweb machete, which turned out to suit Bjorid as a pair with the fist weapon he took out of The Nexus.

Everything is a hunter weapon… except maces

That done, we rolled on down to the next area where Hadronox, a giant spider and also the second boss, hangs out.  Here is where we got hooked up with problems.

As with a couple of the past runs, Potshot had found a nice video guide to the instance.

And the main thrust of the description of the Hadronox fight was that you could avoid all the problems and pain of the fight with this one simple trick.  Somebody with a skill that lets you disengage and be safe should jump down from the ramp into the event… because, yes, another event… engage the first set of mobs, then disengage, and get safe.

When that happens the whole event will reset and for a short time there are no other mobs to worry about and you can run down, take out Hadronox, and be set.

For our group Bjorid had the right type of skill, feign death, so we set out to use that method.

The ramp to Hadronox

So we gave it a shot.  The first time we went too soon.  The second time we got separated and somebody died before we got to Hadronox.  Then we waited too long.  Once the event didn’t even reset.

That time we made it down to him, then wiped when all the trigger mobs came

We screwed around doing this enough times that we got into paper doll and had to run out to Stars Rest again to find a vendor that could do repairs. (Note to self: Make another repair bot.)

We also turned in the one quest we had finished, which actually got me a gear upgrade.

We got back into the instance that took a break, during which I went back to read up on how we managed this horrible fight back in 2009.  I was sure there was a tale to be found in that post.

But there wasn’t.  The fight barely got a mention in the post.  Potshot and I both looked the fight up on WoW Head and… the alleged “hard way” we were trying to avoid didn’t seem all that hard.  So we went down to try the fight the way Blizzard intended.  We took on the first sets of trigger mobs, then stood around until Hadronox came up to get us.

Hadronox cometh

If you’re patient and just watch for a while, slaying the occasional non-elite rando that runs your way, Hadronox does all the heavy lifting for you.  He stops all the other mobs from showing up, kills off the remainders, and sets himself up for you, practically on a silver platter.

He wasn’t a problem at all at that point.

Dead spider clean up

After Hadronox it was time to go jump in a hole.

The hole in question…

Ula had actually already been down the hole during one of the abortive short cut runs with Hadronox, having fallen through the hole in his web first and then down this hole after.  But now we needed jump through as a group.  I vaguely remembered something about this and went first… or second, really, Ula having already given it a try earlier… and landed in the pool of water several stories below.

It is actually quite a fall, with enough things along the and to deflect you the right way if you don’t have quite the right trajectory.

That got us to the final boss, Anub’arak.

Anub’arak revealed

We had to walk a ways to get to him, but there wasn’t much in the way, and his two guardians were dispatched quickly enough, leaving just him to deal with.

Again, another tickle in the back of my brain said “event” for this fight, and specifically that everybody needed to be on the on the platform with Anub’arak or they wouldn’t be in the fight.

So we got everybody up right on the edge of the platform, just a step from being on it, because we didn’t want to get too close or aggro him early.  Fergorin hit me with beacon, I said I was going, and ran into engage Anub’arak.  As expected, a barrier went up around the platform once the fight started.

Only Ula was on the wrong side.  Ooops.

So with a good fraction of our DPS out of the fight, it turned into a bit of a slog.  At various points in the fight he burrows under the platform and you have to fight some minions, but we managed to hold it together… mostly.  It turns out that, while the webs around the platform keep players from coming in, it does not stop Anub’arak‘s minions from going out and then caught Ula and killed her.

Then, as the fight was about to end we were hit with a poison just as Anub’arak died.  Achievement earned.

Achievement complete

And then the poison killed everybody in the group except me, and I only survived because I was getting healed by Fergorin.

Still, I survived and, as a pally, I could ress everybody.  We got everybody up again and took the final screen shot with Anub’arak‘s corpse.

The group at the end

I don’t think I commented on this back in the day, but this was an oddly short instance, though it had a lot of ground to cover.

Next on the list for us is Ahn’kahet: The Old Kingdom, which is next door to Azjol Nerub, but a couple levels higher when it comes to content.  We will probably take a week to go do some overland questing as a group to get a level or two before we return for that.

Back Filling Enchanting back in Outland

For neither the first time nor the last I am going to go on a bit about the design philosophy that one my infer from the mechanics of The Burning Crusade.

To sum it up, it felt very much like, “OMG how are we going to keep people playing for two years if we only have ten levels of content?  We have to slow them down!” which I am sure is an opinion that would not surprise anybody who was there back in the day, or more recently in WoW Classic.  Though, admittedly, the WoW Classic version went faster all the same because, as with all retro servers, the solved problem aspect makes it so.

So there was stuff left for us to do there.  While the Wrath pre-patch reduced some barriers and we got an xp boost to help us along, that did not really apply to crafting.  Ula was still stuck in the middle of the curve for enchanting for Outland and on her list of things to acquire were 8 large pristine shards, necessary for advancement.

The best way to obtain them was to disenchant blue drops from Outland dungeon bosses, so we got a group of four of us together, Ula, Wilhelm, Fergorin, and Bjorid to try and do a few dungeons.  It was a short group, but we were geared up for Northrend, and had even managed to do some bosses out there with a short group.  How hard could it be?

Landing in Shattrath, we headed over to Auchidoun, where there are a couple of dungeons.  We went into the Mana Tombs to give that a run.

Terokkar Forest

We got in a little bit over our heads at the first boss, Pandamonius because we were in a hurry and didn’t clear the room around him and, of course, every mob in the room comes to assist.

There he is… get him!

Okay, I was in a hurry and perhaps a bit over confident.  I mean, we beat him and all the mobs that came with him, but we did lose Fergorin and I did have to lay hands to keep it going at the end.

However, his drop, when disenchanted only yielded a small pristine shard.  And so did the drop from Tavarok, the next boss.

Didn’t we just see his brother in The Nexus?

And so on through the instance.  Our intel was wrong, or we misread it.  Perhaps only blue drops from bosses for the heroic version would get us the right shards.  But we finished up the instance, got the achievement, turned in the quests (the reward for one of which did give us the right shard) and went looking for the right target.

I figured the dungeons up in Netherstorm might be the right place to go.

Netherstorm

Out there at Tempest Keep there are the three floating instances.  We decided to give those a try to see how we did.  We had to fly up there, then summon Ula, who did not have the flight point, but the meeting stone only takes two to summon.  You do, however, need a flying mount to get into the instances.  I chose one at random.

We’ll try this one

It turned out to be the Mechanar, and so we fought a lot of mechanicals.

As before, we ran in headlong and occasionally got ourselves into a bit of trouble.  I managed to buy the farm as we fought with Mechano-Lord Capacitus, the first boss.

Capacitus strikes me down

However, we were far enough along in the fight to prevail in the end.

This instance was a little more challenging for us to navigate.  The Mana Tombs was very linear, but the Mechanar is not… and we were already used to dungeons having maps, something that came with Wrath, but which was not added retroactively to Outland until some later date I guess.

But, once we were all back up we lurched forward and I ran about, going this way and that, until we found our way to Nethermancer Sepethrea, where we once again had some issues.

Nethermancer Sepethrea wipes the group

She was a bit tougher than we figured, so read up on her while we ran back from the wipe.  The guide suggested tapping and kiting the fire elementals, who are slow but dangerous.  In order to do that we set out to clear some space, going up the hallway on the far side of the room, which triggered the event for the final boss, Pathaleon the Calculator.

We did not calculate on this

We managed to survive that onslaught, defeated him, and got the achievement for the instance with Nethermancer Sepethrea still hanging out waiting for us.

We went back to her, tried to get the kiting thing going with Bjorid, but ended up just getting the fire elementals to run around after the rest of us until Sepethrea went down.  Instance done, and all  the blue loot disenchanted into large pristine shards.

At that point I think we had five of the eight required, so it was time for another run.  This time we chose one of the other floating instances, ending up in the Botanica.

This actually went very smoothly.  We were OP enough to take care of multiple groups of trash… the Wrath paladin “AOE all the things!” tanking method working out very well for me… and we managed to make our way around the instance… still could have used a map… until we arrived at War Splinter, the final boss.

Arrival at Warp Splinter

That fight, like all the others in the instance, went our way without much drama and we were soon done and in possession of enough large pristine shards for Ula to… start working on the next set of ingredients to get enchanting up into the Wrath range.

I am just glad I managed to get myself through engineering in Outland and into the Wrath era without as much effort being required.

Arrival in Dalaran

Citizens of Dalaran! Raise your eyes to the skies and observe!

I have arrived!

Okay, maybe I’m not up in the skies yet, but I made it to Dalaran with my first character.

The map of the city

A problem with showing up on day one for Wrath Classic attempting to play four characters, none of which were higher than level 68 at the time, is that you tend to be a bit behind the curve when it comes to leveling up.

By the time I had my group of four all up to level 70 I was already competing in the two starting zones with level 72 alts on flying mounts zipping between objectives and dropping down on harvesting nodes as I slogged around on the ground.   You see, while you need to be level 77 to unlock cold weather flying in Northrend for your first character, you can buy it and pass it on to your alts as long as they’re level 70.

Anyway, that wasn’t the big problem.  The big problem was that Northrend is kind of an annoying place to play when you’re stuck in the first few zones without easy access to a real city with a bank and all the other facilities.  I left my hearthstone set to Shattrath on my characters because it has the basics and portals back to the major alliance cities.

So visiting the bank generally means stoning back to Shat, taking a portal to either Stormwind or Ironforge, then taking the boat from there to get back to Northrend, a bit of a trek at times.

Because of this I decided to push forward with one of my characters and get to Dalaran.  That means getting to level 74.  Irondam, my Deathknight, was my choice.  Despite having been barely level 66 when Wrath unlocked, he is fun and hilariously OP for overland questing solo.  I made him the glyph that removes the cool down on the death grip skill on a kill than generates honor or xp, so he can basically run around grabbing mobs he needs, chain yanking them away from their friends, who don’t notice half the time.

With that I managed to work my way through Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord and well into Dragonblight before I finally hit 74.

On leveling it was time to recall to Ebon Hold to train up skills.  Then the hearthstone and portal route back to Stormwind to take the boat to Borean Tundra to start looking toward traveling to Dalaran, because I honestly had no recollection about actually getting there back in 2008.  With Cataclysm‘s arrival you just got the Dalaran flight point by default so there was no issue.

So I opened up the map and was wondering the best route to take to Crystalsong Forest, above which the city floats, having some idea that maybe there was a quest down there that would unlock the teleporter gem down in the forest that brings you up to the city.  That was going to be some travel and probably some sort of quest… I was settling in for what I expected to be some effort.

And then I noticed a guy at the Inn had a new quest for me.

Pssst… hey, you wanna go to Dalaran?

The quest was to go to Dalaran and speak to somebody.  I didn’t bother reading the quest text… because of course not.  And then, wanting to document this epic journey I clicked on him again to get that screen shot and got this dialog from him,

I guess there will be no epic trip

So I clicked on that and I was in Dalaran.  I have no memory of the whole thing being that simple… though there is a distinct possibility I somehow did it the hard way back in 2008.

Yes, there was a little quest to run to unlock the teleporter from Crystalsong Forest, but the first thing I did was get the flight point, connecting myself to the rest of the places I had been so far, and ensuring I could get back in case I messed things up somehow.  I have that ability.

All flight points lead to Dalaran

Meanwhile, being in Dalaran was… just kind of normal.  Unlike the ongoing, “Oh yeah, I remember that!” experience I have been having out in the zones so far, Dalaran itself was completely familiar.  That is likely because I have probably spent more time in Dalaran than any other city in the game.  Hell, they moved Dalaran so it could be the main city in the Legion expansion.

There were certainly some old school bits to it, like the portals back to the main cities.

These get taken away with the Cataclysm pre-patch.

And now my Death Knight needs to carry on.  The next goal is 77 and the unlock of Cold Weather Flying.

Soon it will be Zoidberg’s turn to fly!

Then, if I can scrape up the gold, I can be the guy with lower level alts able to fly… and then they can fly on up to Dalaran and get the flight point there on their own.

Addendum: I wrote this and then later in the day we went to Star’s Rest and Ula got teleport to Dalaran at level 72.  Them mages.  But she won’t get portal to Dalaran until 74, at which point alts can jump in.

Blizzard Resurgent in Q3 2022

The Activision Blizzard Q3 2022 financial were delivered at the start of the week, but I had some much other stuff queued up that I am only getting to them now.  Also, the whole financials routine remains very low key because the company believes that the Microsoft acquisition means they don’t have to put in the effort for the public, just their new overlords.

Activision Blizzard

The overall company reported revenue of $1.78 billion, up from the $1.64 billion earned in Q1 2022, but still well off from the $2 billion a year ago in Q3 2021. Blizzard, once again, was not the problem this time around, with blame landing on “reduced engagement” with Call of Duty on the Activision side of the house.

Blizzard itself was up, ringing in $543 million in revenue for Q3 2022, up from the $401 million in Q2 2022 when Diablo Immortal gave them a boost, and the largest quarterly numbers in well over a year.

The company has the Diablo Immortal launch in China as well as the run up to and launch of Wrath of the Lich King Classic to help buoy its numbers, as well as pending anticipation for the Dragonflight expansion.

Blizzard highlights from the financials:

October 4 saw the global launch of Overwatch 2, with a free-to-play model designed to allow more people than ever before to experience the acclaimed team-based action game. Over 35 million people played the game in its first month, including many who were new to Overwatch. The expanded community is engaging deeply, with average daily player numbers for the first month of Overwatch 2 more than double that of its acclaimed predecessor. Player investment is also off to a strong start, positioning the title to be a meaningful contributor to Blizzard’s business in the fourth quarter. Blizzard is looking forward to delivering an ambitious slate of regular seasonal updates for Overwatch 2 that introduce new characters, maps and modes, including the game’s much-anticipated PvE mode planned for 2023.

In the Warcraft franchise, the September 26 release of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King® Classic contributed to a strong increase in WoW reach and engagement at the end of the third quarter. On November 28, Blizzard will release World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, the innovative next expansion for the modern game, as the team increases the cadence of WoW content for the community. Elsewhere in the Warcraft franchise, mobile title Warcraft: Arclight Rumble is progressing well through regional testing.

On mobile, Diablo Immortal expanded its global reach with a strong launch in China in July. The title reached the top of the download charts and has ranked in the top 10 grossing mobile games in China since launch. Around the world, Diablo Immortal is being supported with major new content, features, and events aimed at keeping the community engaged. Meanwhile, work on Diablo IV and its substantial ongoing post-launch content continues to progress very well ahead of its launch planned for 2023.

Blizzard’s third quarter segment revenue grew double-digits year-over-year against a year ago quarter that included the release of Diablo II: Resurrected. The third quarter benefited from the recent launch of Diablo Immortal, while Warcraft franchise net bookings were stable year-over-year. Segment operating margin was lower year-over-year, due to marketing investment to support the strong release slate and the shift in the mix of business in the quarter.

Currently, we have licensing agreements with a third party covering the publication of several Blizzard titles in China. These agreements, which contributed approximately 3% of Activision Blizzard’s consolidated net revenues in 2021, expire in January 2023. We are in discussions regarding the renewal of these agreements, but a mutually-satisfactory deal may not be reached. We continue to see substantial long-term growth opportunities for our business in the country. The co-development and publishing of Diablo Immortal is covered by a separate long-term agreement.

So they should have some good news coming in Q4, with Overwatch 2 and Dragonflight launching, which will help boost numbers even further.  Quarters with a WoW expansion launch tend to be peak financial moments.

Even MAUs have climbed up.  They keep an eye on that over at Massively OP but, as both I and they agree, MAUs are still a bullshit metric used to obstifcate what is really going on with titles in the company.  MAUs may have hit 31 million in Q3 2022, but a subscribed WoW player and a free Diablo Immortal player have considerably different effects on the company’s actual bottom line.

Then there is that last paragraph from the Blizzard notes about the licensing agreements in China, which highlights the problem with MAUs.  In Q3 2022 they were up, no doubt in large part due to the launch of Diablo Immortal in China, but the China market contributes just 3% to the company’s revenue.

Remember that.  Blizzard beshat itself over the Blitzchung incident to make sure they held onto that 3%.  Granted, we have learned since then that kow towing to China was only one of their sins.  But the upshot it that any MAU counts that include China are a doubly garbage numbers.

And all the while Activision Blizzard is whistling a happy tune about being purchased by Microsoft, something that is not a done deal yet.

Related:

Friday Bullet Points on Veterans Day

It is Veterans Day here in the US, though it was Armistice Day at one point because my grandparents used to call it that.  It is a day set aside to honor those who served in the armed force, which includes my brother, who managed to serve in both the army and the navy.  There is a story in that, but it his to tell.

For the first time I can remember I get the day off.  Most companies in the US give you the day off after Thanksgiving and if you ask them about Veterans Day HR will tell you that the former is a stand in for the latter.

Anyway, I will probably spend much of the day looking for a car to buy… another story in that I might get around to telling.  In the mean, there are a few small items I want to cover.

  • Crowfall Going Offline

Well, that didn’t go so well.

Is this even still their logo?

Crowfall, which raked in $1.7 million in their 2015 Kickstarter campaign, then shipped back in July of 2021, only to have to find a new home at Monumental last December, where additional funding was expected to improve the title, has decided go offline on November 22nd for a rework.

From the official announcement:

Over the past few months, we’ve been evaluating the current state of Crowfall. One of the biggest challenges has been the sheer amount of development effort required to build new campaigns and keep the game running daily. In order to refocus our efforts from live operations to development, we have decided to take the Crowfall live service offline for the time being.

On November 22, 2022, at 11 AM CST Crowfall will go dark, and the game servers will be unavailable. Until the service goes offline, take this time to try out all of the cool buildings, mounts, and emotes for free in the Crowfall store.

We’re going to use this time to map out the future of the game. We have yet to determine what that looks like, but we are investing in and rethinking every part of the game – from the core technology and tools to art, design, and gameplay. Nothing is off the table.

We’ll share the plan with the community as it shapes up.

It is not impossible it will comeback better and find success.  Some titles do come back.  Multiple times, if you count Hellgate: London.  But it is a rare thing.

  • New World Spike

New World has been enjoying a bit of a revival with the Brimstone Sands update that launched last month.

Brimstone Sands

But the real win seems to have been the fresh start servers they launched, letting players get that new New World world smell in their nostrils, boosting concurrent player counts on Steam beyond the 100K mark for the first time in almost a year.  That is still well shy of the 900K peaks of launch, but is much better than the doldrums that the game has been in for most of its run so far.

I have always said that half of the draw of retro servers of the sort we see with EverQuest or WoW Classic is the chance to start anew in a fresh world.

  • EverQuest II Anniversary Mount

I mentioned the EQII 18th anniversary already this week, but it was only after I had written and posted that I got the email about a special mount for players as part of the celebration.  The… uh… Stomposaurus Thunderstrider is available for all players for 1 silver from vendors in various cities.  I got mine out in the Frostfang Sea… or New Halas… or whatever that place it.

My own Stomposaurus

The mount will be available until November 22nd.  Details about where to buy the mount are in the 18th anniversary round up post on the EQII site.

  • Retroactive Recruitment in EVE Online

The recruit a friend option in EVE Online will get the friends who click on your link a quick 1 million skill points, a non-trivial amount when you’re just starting out.  But what if they made their account and forgot to click the link?  CCP has added retroactive recruitment.

When somebody clicks on your link and lands on the account creation page, there is now an “Already Have An Account?” option at the bottom of the form that lets you just log in and collect the reward… so long as you have not been recruited previously.

one meeelllion skill points

I have five accounts and, as it turns out, four of them were never recruited, so I just added 4 million skill points to the New Eden ecosystem.  I was even able to cross-recruit between two accounts.  What a country!

  • WoW Character Stories

Blizzard has been trying to build up hype for the upcoming World of Warcraft Dragonflight expansion and its own 18th anniversary in a number of ways.  One them is on Twitter.

Yes, Twitter is a spectacular dumpster fire as Elon Musk… very much the Tech Trump these days… careens from one bad move to the next.  However, the site is still up and running and honestly probably more popular at the moment due to the complete debacle unfolding as people discuss it on the site.  It is as if the passengers on the Titanic suddenly began discussing and debating maritime safety regulations, the effects of hypothermia on the human body, and the correct method of filling and deploying lifeboats, with great vigor.

But I digress.  If you tweet at the @Warcraft account with your WoW Character name, server, and region, along with the hashtag #WarcraftStory, a bot will reply to you with an image and a little tale about your character.  So I did it with Vikund, my main of mains, and got this.

Vikund, pet battler

The algorithm it uses will draw from the database the most rare or outstanding of your achievements… based on a list of possible options… and throw that back at you.  So, pet battles were my main thing on retail I guess.

And if you don’t like the result, you can try again and it will go down the list.  So I went again and got this instead.

Vikund and his dungeon achievements

I feel like 116 is both a big and a small number.  Dissatisfied with that, I rolled again and got this.

Vikund the raider? Yeah, right!

I am pretty sure my raiding prowess is made up by maybe half a dozen LFR runs over the years and then farming old raids solo for specific pet, mount, and transmog drops.  It that even a thing anymore with the level squish?

I tried doing the story thing with alts, but since pet battles are shared across accounts, the first thing I got back was the same as my first one with Vikund.  And subsequent stories were all pretty disappointing.  But, still, it is a neat little gimmick.

I almost didn’t notice it too.  I saw Blizz tweeting about it, but figured it was something Dragonflight exclusive.  But then I saw the post about it over at Blessing of Kings and gave it a try.  I think Shintar saw my responses on Twitter and has a post of her own about the stories of her characters.

A Near Run Win in The Nexus

After last weeks test run we were back in Coldarra and ready to give The Nexus.  We failed on the last boss, Keristrasza, in that first run, but otherwise seemed to stumble through fairly well.  So we were keen to try again.

We had just one problem:  There were only four of us.  For characters, we always only have four people playing.

Beanpole wasn’t sure when he would be able to play on Sunday, so the rest of the group logged on and figured we would get things warmed up.  We went out and finished up one quest line that we had missed last week that led to a quest in the instance and, specifically, to the quest that requires the defeat of Keristrasza.

To defeat the dragon, first you must ride the dragon I guess…

Then, after finishing that up, we figured we could go into the instance and at least clear up some trash.  So we headed into the instance.  There are a couple of single mobs at the start, which we warmed up on.  Then we started the clockwise path around the instance, slaying a double, then the triple with the mini boss, then a few more groups until we were starting to get pretty far into things.

The Nexus Map

And we were doing okay.  We bypassed Grand Magus Telestra, because we barely finished her off last time as a group of five, but past here we ended up into the platforms.

More groups to fight

We managed to get past the first of those and on into the rift section of the instance.  We pushed along, having figured out a couple of things along the way, like the fact that the chaotic rifts don’t move, so you can pull the mobs fighting them to you and leave them for later.  Last time we were diving in and taking everybody at once.

We managed to work our way through to Anomalus, the second boss, up at 2 o’clock on the map.  We were not sure how well this would work out.  His fight is pretty simple.  Fight him, when he summons a rift, fight the rift and AOE the non-elites it spawns, then go back to fighting him.

We decided to go for it, if for no other reason than one of the quests we had required to stand on his platform, behind where he starts, and run a device.

For the quest Postponing the Inevitable

So we dove into it and, while the fight ran long… Beanpole is a big part of our DPS… we managed to hold on, close rifts, switch back to the boss, and stay alive without a lot of drama.  We eventually dropped him, then went and did the quest update.

Questie lets you know when everybody gets the update

From there it was back down the east side of the instance to Ormorok.  We had fought him before with a short group… specifically without Beanpole… and survived… mostly… so we felt pretty good about another run at him.

Eyeing him before we spring

This time around the fight went… better.  Pretty well, actually.  We all jumped out of his special attack and nobody died save the dog.  But, as with last time, we were denied the plate pieces that were two of the three possible drops, getting the fist weapon again.

But, every weapon is a hunter weapon, so this time Bjorid took it to see if the big agility bonus it offered would help… once he trained fist weapons.

After Ormorok we made our way back to the start of the instance and Beanpole still hadn’t arrived.  With no other plan, we went over to give Grand Magus Telestra a try.

This had been a tough fight for the full group last time, mostly due to the chaotic middle section where Telestra summons three images of herself, one casting fire spells, one frost spells, and one arcane.

And this time was no different… we had a plan to crowd control, but then it got pooched when the three images went in different directions and I managed to break CC at least twice.  The burden of pally tanking in WotLK is that I am all about the AOE attacks.  Still, we managed to hold on.  I panicked at one point and laid hands on myself when I probably didn’t need to.  But, in the end we managed to take her down.

We took a victory shot with her because we thought that might be the peak of our run.

Victory shot

She did grace us with a nice bit of loot that went to Fergorin.

Plate wrists for the pally healer

With Telestra down we really only had Keristrasza.

That seemed like a longshot, and Beanpole was nowhere in sight yet.  But we had no other plan for the day, so we headed over to poke the dragon.

Our first run was a bit of a shambles.  I forgot to jump, we were all over the place, and we were quickly defeated.

But we ran back from the graveyard, back to the instance, and got ourselves setup again.  We would give it one more try.

And the second run went pretty well.  We were all on our marks, everybody remembered to jump or move to avoid the build up of the frost DoT, and three of us had the Addon Decursive installed, which allowed a quick click to dispel any debuffs.  The whole thing was going very smoothly.

Until we ran out of mana.

I figured that might be the sticking point if we got our act together, that we wouldn’t have the damage to finish the dragon off.  And so as the mana ran out we went down for another wipe.

Another wipe in The Nexus

We were so close, with Keristrasza down to 20% before we ran out of mana and wiped.  We were wondering if there was anything else we could throw into the mix to get us over the hump when the Discord channel chimed with the arrival of a new person; Beanpole had finally made it.

He wanted to know if he was too late and I practically shouted that he was just in time.

So he got logged in and Fergorin and I ran out to the summoning stone to bring him over to the instance.  Then we had to run around and slay some mobs because he was out of soul shards, the fuel that keeps a warlock going.

Once that was done we set up before Keristrasza, got ready, and… wiped very quickly.

We were clearly not quite ready.  Beanpole needed a warm up and perhaps took the “jump” think too seriously and inadvertently cancelled some of his spell casting.

So we got ready once more.

Ready for the final go

And we got in there and… it went pretty smoothly.  With Beanpole on his game and delivering damage like only a warlock can, we were able to power through and bring down the dragon.  There was a bit of a panic as Keristrasza gets amped up at low HP, but we had enough healing to keep me going.  Dragon down, dungeon complete.

Been there, got the achievement

Keristrasza even gave us a nice loot drop.

The dragon pays out

Those went to Beanpole as a serious upgrade over his current shoes.

We took a picture with Keristrasza to mark our victory.

The team with Keristrasza

And then we realized we still had to get Beanpole a couple of quest updates.  We ran back to where Anomolous was, taking the straight route to 12 o’clock to avoid the respawns that were appearing along our initial route through the dungeon.  We managed to stay ahead, and got to the spot on the platform where Beanpole could get his quest update.

Then we skirted along the eastern side of the instance to one of the mobs we had bypassed.  Beanpole needed one more drop to finish up another quest.

Then it was out and we were done.  Beanpole did miss out on one of the quests, but otherwise we were done with The Nexus.

Coldarra and a Peek into The Nexus

The next dungeon on the list for us was The Nexus, which is over in the Coldarra section of Borean Tundra.  So we left Howling Fjord and headed west.

Coldarra

Though, it was not immediately obvious that The Nexus was our next instance destination.  When we finished Utgarde Keep a looked at the dungeons by level chart over at WoW Head and the second one on the list was actually Azjol-Nerub.

The list as displayed

So I was wondering how deep we might need to go into the Dragonblight zone to pick up quests for that dungeon when Potshot pointed out that the sort order when it came to levels was suspect.

Why isn’t The Nexus, which says levels 71-73, in the second spot?  I do not know, but we adjusted our plans accordingly.

We had made it to Coldarra during our initial push into Borean Tundra when Wrath Classic went live, but then had swapped to Howling Fjord in order to line up for Utgarde Keep.  So the flight point was available to us, but none of the quests in that area had been done.

Beanpole and I were on early and decided to scout some of the quests to see what we needed to do to get quests lined up for The Nexus.  There were a few we cranked out early because they were not shared updates.  Then the rest of the crew showed up and we ran around Coldarra counter clockwise two more times to wrap up quests and get everybody on the same page.

The group for The Nexus

And then it was down into the center of the zone to scout out The Nexus.

Unlike our travels outside the instance, The Nexus runs clockwise in a circle and starts at the six o’clock mark.  There is a mini-boss almost immediately, and a book to pick up for one of the quests we had.

Along the first path

They and most of the mobs along that way were just a warm up for the Grand Magus Telestra who lives between the Halls of Stasis and the Librarium.

Making our way to the first real boss

Our first encounter with Grand Magus Telestra did not go well.  We had cleared all the nearby mobs and, as we got ourselves together for a plan, there was a pet mis-fire and Bjorid’s wolf ran out to the attack and managed to get within aggro radius before he could be called back, so it was on.

We lost, but we got further than we might have I suppose, given the sudden nature of the assault.  So we lined up again and actually made a plan.

Rushing her clearly isn’t enough

The plan did not go… well… as planned.  We had some ideas about using crowd control at the mid-fight venture where she divides into three, a fire, frost, and arcane version of herself, but that fell through.  However, we still managed to power through the whole thing and bring her down.  One boss done.

Sure, call it “luck”

From there it was a zig-zag clockwise though to the platforms and the next boss, Anomalus, at about 2 o’clock on the map.

Always a crowd on the platforms

There was something in the back of my head about an easy way to bypass some of the trash mobs by jumping off a platform at the right point, but I couldn’t recall and we were able to fight our way through the various groups without loss.  A little more time taken, a little more xp earned I suppose.

The fight with Anomalus went surprisingly well.

Anomalus standing tall

I remember that fight being a problem back in the day, but we got it right on the first try, which is a bit of a bonus for us.  Beat on him, beat on the chaotic rifts when he summons them, then go back to beating on him.  Piece of cake.

From there it was down into The Singing Grove and the back half of the lap around The Nexus.  And it was here that we had some problems.

Nothing to do with the game really.  Beanpole got called away from the computer for a while and went on follow.  Standing around with nothing else to do, we started clearing some groups with Beanpole in tow.  That worked until he got knocked off follow while we were fighting some mobs and didn’t notice until he died.

Beanpole left behind

The little mobs around there don’t die until the local boss dies, they just curl up then pop back up after a bit, so Beanpole on his own got mobbed by non-elite mobs.  And he wasn’t even around to take a ress.

With nothing else to do while we waited, we managed to clear our way to the next boss, Ormorok the Tree-Shaper and decided to try him as a group of four… or a group of 3.5 since Fergorin and Bjorid were both being run by Potshot.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  During the fight though, it was more of a near run thing.

This is getting down to the wire

We managed to pull it off though, which seemed more than a bit unlikely for us.

Ormorok down, but we paid a price

The one real pisser about this fight was that Ormorok was the one boss that had two plate items that could drop, shoulders that would have been a big upgrade for me or boots that would have been a big upgrade for Fergorin, and instead we got the damn fist weapon as a drop.

Of course, it was just after that fight that Beanpole came back.  Finding himself dead and alone, he released and ran back to the instance before we could ress him.  That meant fighting our way to him through the few remaining mobs… which also meant he missed a drop he needed for one of the dungeon quests.  Something else on the list.

Meeting up with Beanpole back at the start of the instance, we cleared out the mobs around the final boss, Keristrasza.

Ready to be awakened

Back when we first did The Nexus back 2009 I wrote something about dragons and dragon fights being special.  That was about a thousand dragon fights ago, and dragons are no longer all that special.  Blizzard has gone so far as to make a whole expansion… launching later this month… based entirely on dragons where you ride dragons, fight dragons, play as dragons… basically all dragons all the time.

So yeah, dragon fight… everybody stands off to the side avoiding the breath cone coming out of the mouth and the area effect sweet of the tail while the tank holds the beast in place.   I did remember, in advance of the fight, that there was some special effect that would build up unless you moved or jumped every few seconds… something I mentioned before the fight then immediately forgot once the fight started, which meant we wiped.

That did not go as planned

Fortunately the graveyard is just a quick jaunt from the instance, so we ran back to do it again…. and failed.

And tried again, and nearly made it, but still wiped.

Close but not quite enough

After a few runs of getting close it was getting down to the end of our time.  We didn’t have quite enough oomph to carry it off, so we will have to return to The Nexus.

But we have to return anyway to get that last quest update for Beanpole… and to finish another quest we totally forgot about while we were in the dungeon… and there is actually another quest we didn’t pick up.

In the mean time Potshot went and researched the fight and has some ideas for getting it right next time.