Category Archives: World of Warcraft

Finishing Zul’Farrak and Returning to Jintha’alor

We were back to finish off Zul’Farrak.  We had made our mistakes, explored the mechanics, and run through most of the challenges, and now we just wanted to punch that “final boss” ticket and get the last two quests out of the way.  It was back to Tanaris for the run.

The general vicinity in Tanaris

Last time Moronae rolled over to level 50.  I was close, so went out and got there as well.  And Skronk and Ula got on during the week to put in some work on leveling, so when we met up our group was:

  • Moronae – level 50 night elf druid
  • Viniki – level 50 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 50 dwarf priest
  • Ula – level 49 gnome mage

Level 50 was an expensive one for us.  Moronae and Skronk spent a bunch on new spells, while Viniki upgraded a bit of his gear, including grabbing Julie’s Dagger from the auction house.  It is fast, so my sharpening stones will be all the more effective.

Once we met up, we rode on over to the instance and started moving through it fairly quickly.

Back in ZF again

Being on a mission, we bypassed even more mobs that usual, slipping by the fountain area where the two routes through branch without bothering to clear it out.

The fountain stands unscathed

We did end up getting a patrol while we were on that little hill, but otherwise killed as few trolls as possible as we worked our way around to the stairs once again.

Once again, we cleared out everybody in the area, then ascended the stairs and took down the executioner.  Then we did a round of buffs, got full mana up, then unlocked Sergeant Bly and his companions and started off the event one more time.

Here they come… again!

We followed the same plan as before, concentrating on elites when they came up.  The non-elites threatened to get out of hand for a bit as heals and AOE drew some onto Skronk and Ula, but we managed to keep that under control.

When Bly began the march down the stairs, we followed, and at the base killed off Shadowpriest Sezz’ziz and Nekrum Gutchewer and the few remaining non-elites without much issue.

That done, I immediately went to Weegli Blastfuse and spoke to him, so he would blast open the doors to the final boss.  Skronk and Ula looted Nekrum for his necklace.  And then I spoke to Sergeant Bly, aggroing him for the fight over the Divino-matic Rod.

We slew him and his companions, looted the rod, and were successfully done with the event… on the third try.

Event done, all hostiles down

From there it was over to the big gate, which now lay open for us.

The gates are open

The fight beyond was something I could recall almost nothing about, save a sense that it was a bit of a let down after all the energy of the stairs event.  And that sense was about right.

There are three groups of mobs you need to pull first, then it is time for Chief Ukorz Sandscalp and Ruuzlu.  They actually summon some non-elites during the fight, but we killed them so quickly that the two non-elites they called only managed to get to use after both bosses were dead.  We lined up for a screen shot.

Where the chief once stood

The chief did drop the Ripsaw axe, which would have been a great weapon for Viniki… except that he had already upgraded to Julie’s Dagger, which I mentioned earlier.  Still, a could gold it a couple gold.

The best bit from the final boss was that, on our way out, a couple of stealthed trolls had spawned and attacked us.  An actual post fight surprise mechanic!  I love those!

After that though, we were pretty much done.  We went over to the one area we had bypassed the last three runs, just to see if there was anything to be found… a rare spawn… some loot… whatever.  But there wasn’t much to be had.

The only time we made it to this area

After that we fought our way out, killing a few extra mobs on the way as Ula was closing in on level 50.  Once out we rode back to Gadgetzan to turn in one quest.  Then we recalled and flew on down to the Blasted Lands for another quest turn in.  That, in turn with another quest, sent us up to the Hinterlands again where we needed to go into Jintha’alor once more.

Blue X, Us – Red X, Destination again

We rode on out to finish up The Ancient Egg and Saving Sharpbeak.

The in-game map is still a reasonable guide to getting there.  When we got to the foot of Jintha’alor Moronae was only about 30 minutes from a hard stop deadline he had.  But we felt we could get through in time.  We had just done ZF so quickly, why not?

Well, as we had forgotten, Jintha’alor actually ramps up to level 50 elites pretty quickly, which is higher level than most of ZF.  Still, we were level 44 or so when we last went up, so it was still easier than before.  We were able to bypass a lot of mobs and got to the top pretty quickly, all things considered.

Up at the altar again

We managed to clear around the altar and then knocked out Vile Priestess Hexx and got her key.  That unlocks Sharpbeak’s cage.  We went into the cave to get Sharpbeak and the ancient egg.

Fortunately, the layout for the cave at the top of Jintha’alor is the same as the kobold cave in Arathi Highlands, which I had just been questing in with an alt, so I knew which route was a dead end.  We fought our way quickly into the cave, spotting the egg about where I expected it.

The Ancient Egg!

We managed to collect that… slowly, because when one person takes it the egg has to respawn… but Sharpbeak was nowhere to be seen.  I had to go look up the quest and realized that we needed to get back out and go somewhere else for Sharpbeak.  That was another cave.  Time was ticking down for Moronae.

Unfortunately, things were fast to respawn, so we had to fight our way out again.  Ula hit level 50 along the way in the cave, which was good.  Skronk dying in one battle as we tried to rush was less so, though Moronae’s combat ress came in handy there.

We managed to get out of the cave, away from the altar, and back down the path to the other cave.  Through that and a couple of guards and we were on a plateau where Sharpbeak’s cage was located.

We let him out… everybody gets the update from the same action… and we were able to see him off.

Sharpbeak rescued!

At that point Moronae recalled and logged off, a couple minutes over time.

The rest of us decided to run down the quest turn ins.  From Sharpbeaks plateau you can safely jump off… if you’re careful… and use the terrain to basically climb down the back of Jintha’alor.  That would have been handy to remember previously.

We rode off back to Aerie Peak to turn in Saving Sharpbeak.  The we took the flight path to Menethil Harbor to get back over to Theremore.  It was apparently rush hour on the dock.

Quite the boat crowd on a Sunday afternoon

From there it was back down to Gadgetzen then over to Steamwheedle and Yeh’kinya, where we turned in the quest.  Yeh’kinya then gave us our first quest for Sunken Temple, The God Hakkar.

I think Maraudon is actually next on our list, but we’ll get to Sunken Temple eventually.  Some of us get class quests at level 50 and they seem to all require you to get something from there.

That done, we recalled home once again.

Leaving Steamwheedle

Zul’Farrak is done at last.  Now the four of us are off to Desolace and Maraudon.

Our past adventures in Zul’Farrak listed out:

June in Review

The Site

I think I fixed the MMO Blog Feed in the side bar that shows the blog name, though I am keeping the alternate one on hand at the bottom of the side bar in case my changes do not prove resilient.

I also had an odd call back to the past via Twitch this month.

Twitch is Twitch

A bunch of things have been going on around Twitch, including them… Amazon… selling the game mods part of Twitch (which used to be Curse) to another company, their competitor Mixer basically giving up, a Twitch blackout protest, Trump’s Twitch account getting banned (he had a Twitch account?), and Twitch getting sued.

It is that latter that came up here as I noticed a sudden surge in hits on a post about Erik Estavillo, from when he sued Blizzard because World of Warcraft was too difficult.  As it turns out, he is also the person who is suing Twitch because they allow women to use their sexuality to exploit sex addicts like himself.  First WoW was too hard and now he is too hard.

It had been a decade or so since his name popped up and you think that maybe people change and get on with their lives.  But I guess not.  Now I wonder who will pop up next?  Is it time for another Jack Thompson headline?  Who will 2020 inflict upon us next?

One Year Ago

I had declared that there were three problems MMORPGs were never going to solve.  I remain pretty solid on that.

I was also mocking the purity of leveling.  People be mad if you don’t do it right.

After waiting for it to finally drop, the Rise of Azshara update finally hit, bringing the flying unlock to Battle for Azeroth.

Over on the WoW Classic front, Blizzard had a load test that went pretty well.

In EVE Online the CSM14 elections kicked off.  The results were probably not surprising, though the last candidate squeaked into the tenth spot by a mere dozen votes.

New Player retention was very much on CCP’s mind.  I am not sure selling skill points in the Starter Pack was going to fix that, though it looked good to old handsThe June update though was more about shadows and putting repair services in every NPC station.

Actually in the game the Imperium was well into its plan to “glass” Pure Blind, Tribute, and parts of Vale of the Silent and drive PanFam from those regions.  I have a series of posts about that campaign:

We were poised to keep pushing, with The Mittani suggesting we might go as far as Malpais, when there were suddenly reports of Drifters attacking null sec citadels.  The Chaos Era was about to arrive.

The Spring FML season ended and we rolled into the Summer FML blockbuster season with a few new rules.  Remember back when we had movies and theaters and such?

I was also trying to figure out where the Age of Empires II Definitive Edition fit into the scheme of things.

There was a Steam Summer Sale.  There always is.

I had a Friday Bullet Points post about Stadia, Google, esports, and something Blizzard cancelled.

Five Years Ago

There was a cheer for the NBI class of 2015.

I was wondering what Turbine would do after they cancelled Infinite Crisis.  I was also looking for a summer game to play.

After waffling before a live audience, Blizzard finally caved and said there would be flying in Draenor.

Remember that time we killed a Mordus Angels Revenant?  It seems like everybody has killed one by now.

Also in EVE Online we got the Carnyx expansion, which had some of the initial Fozzie Sov features.  So we were out sov-wanding station services, though Dominion sov quirks still ruled the day in our fight at ED-9LT.  We then headed back north thinking maybe our friends in Querious would come visit us some day… *cough*

The coming of Fozzie Sov also meant further consolidation of holdings to make sure we could defend our space.  TNT got pushed out to Tribute to share space with the Circle of Two.  Tensions between the two alliances started almost right away.

And then there was Burn Amarr.  I took some screen shots.  And I splurged on ship skins.

Over at Daybreak they were talking about special servers for EverQuest II at last.  It looked like we might get some sort of progression server, for which there was a poll.  And then another poll, looking for a name.

Meanwhile, over in EverQuest, they were still working on how to deal with raiding on the Ragefire server, and the Ruins of Kunark unlock vote was upon us.

I was playing Neko Atsume on the iPad… back when it was only in Japanese!  I was also going on about 64-bit OS requirements finally coming to video games and an old grievance of mine.

My daughter suddenly wanted to play The Sims.  That lasted for about three days.  This is why I make her wait a week on any sudden new fad she want to follow.

The Steam Summer sale came and went and I bought nothing.  That turned out to be the last sale with the traditional daily specials format.

I brought up the F2P business model yet again based on a quote over at Massively OP which, if nothing else, got a long comment from Brad McQuaid on the subject.

And, finally, I played Minecraft with my daughter for Father’s Day, which led to a whole new adventure in gaming.

Ten Years Ago

Warhammer Online, whose game tips I previously mocked, was out soliciting user written game tips with the most boring video game related video ever.  Really, I was embarrassed for them.

Meanwhile, there were comical tips to be found in another game.

CCP was telling people that the steep learning curve in EVE Online was just part of the game, and Hulkageddon III was on the way.

FrontierVille came along, evoking the whole Oregon Trail thing… for which they recently were sued.  And a good thing to, as they are a bunch of lying bastards there at Zynga.  They never sent me my FarmVille magnet.

There was the big news from Turbine with Lord of the Rings Online going Free to Play.  I wondered is Lifetime Subscribers like myself would get the shaft in this transition.  But Turbine made me a perm VIP instead and put out one of those charts that seems to accompany these multi-level subscription scams structures.  But I was winning LOTRO lotteries, so I was happy for the moment.

In Pokemon SoulSilver I had beat all the gym leaders, but we were having Pokewalker problems.

Then there was Blizzard.  Where to start?

They were selling WoW Gold straight from the main page.  Really.  It just isn’t what you think.

They screwed up the parental controls interface… in my opinion… along with compromising the security of it.

The whole RealID thing was just getting warmed up.

One of the accounts in our guild was compromised and the guild bank was looted.  That has happened so many times to so many people that isn’t news any more.

And during all this, the instance group was working its way through The Burning Crusade content with our Horde alts, but we weren’t really feeling it.  Ennui had set in and our only hope was Cataclysm.  And there were plenty of offers to get us into the beta.

Fifteen Years Ago

In EverQuest II we got the Splitpaw Saga adventure pack.  Those of us with Station Access got it as part of the package, while those without had to pay… ten bucks I think.  I actually ended up playing through that quite a bit.  As early experiment with content that scaled with your levels, it was good from level 20 to level 50.  Unfortunately, it never progressed and now every time I end up in the Thundering Steppes with my newer characters the intro quest pops up.

In EVE Online the Cold War expansion hit, bringing freighters, dreadnoughts, and player owned stations in null sec.  The latter are gone, but remembered via special faction Fortizars.

Twenty Years Ago

Diablo II launched. It enlarged on its predecessor with more classes and a four act storyline that played out over different environments.  A pre-digital distribution title, it was awarded a Guinness Book record as the fastest selling video game ever, having shipped and sold one million boxes over the course of the first month.  For comparison its 2012 successor, Diablo III, sold 3.5 million copies in the first 24 hours, also setting a Guinness Book record.

Shogun: Total War launched, setting down a template that would become the Total War series that is still getting new titles.

[I mistakenly put these two in the May post, but the anniversaries are actually in June.]

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. SuperData and Wavering WoW Subscriptions
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. EQ Aradune Server Remains Over Crowded
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. EQ Aradune and Rizlona Servers off to the Usual Rocky Start
  6. Top 25 EVE Online Corporations Graph – The End Number
  7. Darkpaw Announces and Adjusts Plans for the Rizlona and Aradune Time Locked Progression Servers
  8. EQ Aradune Server and Trading One Problem for Another
  9. Why We Had Asset Safety in the First Place
  10. EVE Online Gets New Ships and COVID-19 Research with the June Update
  11. Hints of a Diablo II Remaster
  12. Ruled by Discord

Search Terms of the Month

play eve the way it’s meant to be played “eve online”
[Good luck with that!]

eq full servers wtf
[IKR!]

rizlona vs aradune server
[boxing versus queues]

heritage quests everquest 1
[Not so much]

jintha’alor altar solo run
[Be level 60]

Game Time from ManicTime

WoW Classic turned out to be the game of the month, though it was off to a slow start.  Even two weeks into the month it was in no better than third place.

  • WoW Classic – 37.41%
  • EVE Online – 31.81%
  • Minecraft – 14.62%
  • Minecraft Dungeons – 8.58%
  • EverQuest – 7.07%

EVE Online

The GEF deployment ended as we began ramping up for war in null sec.  The other two blocs, PandaFam and Legacy Coalition, might be coming for us.  Or maybe just Legacy.  We shall see.

We also got those new EDENCOM ships.  I’m training up the skills.  We shall see if the ships are any good.  And CCP finally made it so you can swap characters without exiting the game and logging back in.

EverQuest

I let my Daybreak Access account lapse.  I wasn’t doing anything that required it, except checking to see if the Aradune server still had a queue.  But I have still been logging on to play with the Overseer feature.  It does not require a subscription and I just log in once or twice a day for a bit to check up on missions.  I’d play this as an iPad game I guess.

Minecraft

The month started out strong on Minecraft.  I think in the first week I played much more of that than all things combined.  Then things started to pop a bit in EVE Online and I started getting back into WoW Classic outside of the instance group and Minecraft began to slip.

Minecraft Dungeons

This was the other game I started off strong with early on.  I played through the story and started playing through it again at the harder level… and then I sort of stopped.  As I said, the game isn’t bad, but unless you want to play the same content through over and over, there is only 4-7 hours of game there depending how you play.

Pokemon Go

My wife and I edged ever closer to level 40.  The remote raid pass option has meant we have been able to catch a few Pokemon that we might have otherwise missed out on.  But the social distancing and the hot weather have combined to make our Pokemon walks somewhat rare.  Nobody needs that when it is 95 degrees out.

Level: 39 (38% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 545 (+4) caught, 576 (+7) seen
Pokemon I want: Some of these Unova Pokemon where I only have one
Current buddy: Fraxure

World of Warcraft

I did Darkmoon Faire on my main to get my trade skills up a bit and that was pretty much it.

WoW Classic

Old Azeroth was resurgent this month as the group got back into dungeons once again.  I also started working on alts once more.  After a bit of a break it was nice to get back into the old game again.  There will no doubt be more posts coming on it.

Coming Up

It is going to be a long, hot summer, made agonizing by a presidential election failing presidency and we won’t even have NBC’s Olympics coverage to complain about as a distraction.

So staying home will remain a thing.  Fortunately, we have video games.

We will see if there is to be war in EVE Online between the Imperium and Legacy Coalition.  We still have a few days of prep.

The instance group might actually run a dungeon besides Zul’Farrak.

It remains ever a temptation to go back into WoW and Battle for Azeroth to play through the Horde story while the double xp lasts.  It doesn’t seem likely, but it could happen.

There is another weekend of the Steam Summer Sale.  I might buy something.  It is always a possibility.

SuperData Says Video Games Still Doing Very Well in the Pandemic

SuperData Research has released their digital revenue numbers for May 2020 and the video game market still looks strong.  Not as strong as April, but still way over last year.

  • Digital games revenue totaled $10.2B in May, down 3% from April’s record-breaking total of $10.5B. Games continued their lucrative streak in May even though the month had few major game releases and an easing of COVID-19 lockdowns. Digital console revenue fell 27% from April to May due to fewer new releases, but a 3% growth in mobile earnings offset this gap. Overall spending was still up 14% over May 2019 ($8.9B), with PC up 8%, mobile up 14% and console up 23%.

The chart itself shows that many of the usual suspects remained strong in May.

Digital Revenue only

SuperData Research Top 10 – May 2020

On the PC end of the chart, the same top four titles remained in their usual positions.  But in fifth place Roblox suddenly appeared, jumping up from ninth position in April, followed closely by World of Warcraft, now  in sixth.

Then there is CS:Go, Fortnite, and COD:MW, with World of Tanks making it back on to the list month in tenth position.  Nine our of ten on the list were there last month, with only Doom Eternal dropping off, allowing World of Tanks back on.

On the console front, FIFA 20 climbs back to the top of the list, followed by perennial list member Grand Theft Auto V, which no doubt got a boost from the Epic Store giving it away for a stretch.  Then there is Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which holds on to third position, staying at or near the top of the list for three months running now.

Minecraft Dunegons, which did not make the PC list, did break into the console chart in ninth spot, no doubt due to it being available for all major platforms… and having the Minecraft name associated with it.

On the mobile end of the chart Peacekeeper Elite, the rebranded version of PUBG Mobile for China, held on to the top spot, keeping the past champion, Honour of Kings, at bay.  Roblox, strong on this front too, grabbed third spot while Pokemon Go, which fell off the list last month, surged back up into fourth, while long time list member Candy Crush Saga held on in seventh spot.

Then there is NPD, which is finally back after not updating for a couple of months as they adapted to the new reality of Covid-19.  As always, NPD numbers are US only, combine PC and console sales, and doesn’t always include digital sales (where noted).

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  2. Grand Theft Auto V
  3. Animal Crossing: New Horizons*
  4. NBA 2K20
  5. Mortal Kombat 11
  6. Red Dead Redemption II
  7. Minecraft*
  8. Final Fantasy VII: Remake
  9. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
  10. Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order

* Digital sales on Nintendo eShop not included

Comparing that list to SuperData is a bit more interesting this month as the overlap isn’t quite the same.  COD:MW is on top and a few titles that didn’t register with SuperData made the cut.

So it goes.  Video games remain strong during our new abnormal.

SuperData also put up another report earlier this month that took a look at the remaster gravy train that seems to be hitting with things like Final Fantasy VII Remake doing very well.  Those of us who watch the MMO sphere know that, done right, nostalgia can be an evergreen proposition.

The remaining bullet points from SuperData’s digital revenue report for May:

A free giveaway of Grand Theft Auto V on the Epic Games Store caused PC player numbers to jump 245% from April to May. Launched seven years ago, the title continues to be a major draw, and the traffic from the promotion crashed the Epic Games Store. PC player numbers were only a quarter lower than the console version and PC revenue more than doubled as players purchased in-game content. Despite the surge in revenue, however, the console version continues to outearn its PC counterpart 4-to-1.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, another Take-Two Interactive title, was also given away for free on the Epic Games Store and PC player numbers surged 477%. PC revenue grew by 52% thanks to the promotion and the release of new in-game content, including a season pass.

May’s biggest new release, Minecraft Dungeons, attracted 1.8M players — but elements of its business model limited its revenue potential. The Microsoft title, an action role-playing game (RPG) spinoff, did not earn enough to make it to the top 10 PC games of the month and was only number nine on console. The title had a low upfront price ($19.99), and players on Xbox One and PC did not have to purchase the game directly, since it was available to Xbox Game Pass subscribers.

Peacekeeper Elite from Tencent hit an all-time revenue high and was the highest-earning game overall. The game is a China-localized version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile, which also hit a revenue high during May and is especially popular in markets like India and Southeast Asia. The success of the titles shows there is strong demand for fast-paced multiplayer titles on smartphones. Gamers in North America and Europe may prefer to play these types of games on PC or console, but mobile is the platform of choice for hardcore gamers throughout much of the world.

Pokemon GO spending rose 60% month-over-month to thanks to a combination of warm weather and even more options for playing at home. Earnings for the game typically rise during the summer months, and May 2020 was no exception. Earnings reached their highest point since September 2019 and were up 45% year-over-year. Due to COVID-19, developer Niantic began selling remote raid passes at the end of April, which allowed players to join in-game battles without the need to travel to certain physical locations.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive earnings and player numbers fell from an April all-time-high as competing title Valorant prepared to launch. After months of upward momentum, CS:GO revenue shrank by 9% and user numbers fell 6%. During this time, Valorant, the rival tactical shooter from League of Legends maker Riot Games, was in beta and potentially siphoned away CS:GO players.

Sergeant Bly Leaves Us at the Altar

We go together for a Father’s Day run at Zul’Farrak, though we were time constrained with a hard stop time, so when we got online we made a plan as to what we would do in the instance.

ZF is an odd instance in that you have path choices and can bypass some of the bosses.

We met up in Gadgetzan and got lined up.

The stable master there has the same staff as Ula

Our lineup for the run was:

  • Moronae – level 49 night elf druid
  • Viniki – level 49 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 48 dwarf priest
  • Ula – level 48 gnome mage

We grouped up and rode on out to the instance where we got ourselves buffed up and ready to go.

Inside the instance

Since we last met up, Moronae had made the run to Feralas and finished up the Screecher Spirits quest, so our first goal was to get him the two tablets needed for the follow on quest.  That meant turning right at the fountain to take that path to Theka the Martyr who holds the first of the two tablets.

While there is some mandatory trash to clear all the way to the fountain, once you get past that you can bypass quite a bit of the mobs.  There is a little set of huts through the first doorway in the wall past the fountain that we have cleared on past runs, but this time we just walked on by.  There were three walkers in the corridor to Theka, but after that there is just him and the scarabs.

Theka and his friends

Theka isn’t particularly difficult, you just have to make sure you don’t do any AOE or the nearby scarabs will join in, so we had the first tablet in no time.

After that we bypassed Antu’sul and Witch Doctor Zum’rah, with all his zombie fun, heading straight for the stairway.

Those stairs again

Finishing the stairs event was our second goal for the run.  We learned last time that we really ought to clear out everything in the area, lest they become complications for us later.  Having a few extra elites pile on us is likely what made us wipe.

Once that was done it was up to the top of the stairs to get Bly and his companions out of their cages.

Bly and friends uncaged

From there we followed pretty much the same plan as last time.  Bly and his crew are pretty strong and the non-elites don’t really do much to them, so we focused on the elites coming up the steps, pausing to drink or bandage at need. That went well and we cleared the lot and started down to the bottom again.

All done on the steps

Down at the bottom we were able to dispatch the two named trolls and their non-elite helpers without much problem, thanks to Bly and his companions.

And then we got distracted for a bit.

Both Moronae and I announced that we had gotten Nekrum’s medallion, which updated a quest we had.  Neither Ula nor Skronk got the medallion.  As it turned out, they did not have the quest.

Only two of us had the quest

So there was some discussion as to where the quest came from, was it shareable, and then some research online as to where to get it.  And while that was going on Sergeant Bly and his companions all went into a crouch and started the animation that one associates with a player using their hearthstone to recall.  And then they disappeared.

They’re gone now

Which left us with the event incomplete.

We still had to kill Bly in order to get the Divino-matic Rod for the other quest… which we all had… and, I believe, to unlock the gates to the final boss.  But the quest remained unfinished and the gates remained firmly locked.

A gnome should be able to get under that!

Had we done this right and killed Bly, we could have closed out Zul’Farrak and been ready to move on.  The final boss, to my recollection, is pretty quick, so we had the time.  But now we will have a return trip.

We then went up the side path to the area around Gahz’rilla and grabbed the mob that dropped the other tablet that Moronae needed.  Then, seeing we had some time left and that Moronae was very close to level 50, we cleared out the area around the pool, getting him his level.

Then, since we were there, we summoned Gahz’rilla again just to kill him again.

You rang?

After that we mounted up and rode on out of the instance… successfully this time… and headed back to Gadgetzan.  Moronae and I both had the Nekrum’s Medallion quest to turn in while Skronk and Ula had to go figure out what they needed to do to pick it up.

In the course of things Viniki was also very close to level 50, so I ground out some mobs until he leveled up as well.

So we will be back for at least one more run at ZF.  We’ll see if we can get it right this time.

Blizzard Goes After WoW Classic Bots and Warms up for AQ

This week saw some WoW Classic news related to bots and cheating as well as a stress test on the public test realm.

Classic is as classic does

The big announcement was that Blizzard had banned 74K accounts for EULA violations.

We’ve recently completed a round of actions against players who were found to be cheating in World of Warcraft.

We rarely communicate publicly about this, because we’ve found that describing our sources and methods can make it easier for malicious actors to work around them, but we feel that it’s worthwhile to expand on the subject today, as many players have recently asked us for more details.

Including today’s actions, over the last month in the Americas, Oceania, and Europe regions, we’ve closed or suspended over 74,000 WoW accounts that were found to be in violation of our End-User License Agreement 68. The majority of these were found to be using gameplay automation tools, typically to farm resources or kill enemies much more efficiently than legitimate players can.

While today’s suspensions were applied in a batch (often referred to as a “banwave”), it is a top priority for us to identify accounts that are botting and remove them. Our team works around the clock, every day of the week, and many of the suspensions and account closures over the last few months have gone out in the middle of the night, or on weekends.

Like you, we play World of Warcraft. We understand what it’s like to spot a player in-game who appears to be botting. We always want to eliminate the botting player, if it can be proved that they are indeed cheating. And that raises a big difficulty in addressing this issue – we have to prove to ourselves that the accused player is not a person who’s actually controlling a character with their hands on a keyboard.

We use powerful systems to determine if the suspected player is using an identifiable cheat, and our heuristics (which we do not outline publicly) are constantly improving and evolving. But when we examine a suspect and these measurements aren’t out of line, we have to manually gather evidence against the accused player, which can be very time consuming and complex. It’s worthwhile though, because we never want to take action against a legitimate player.

Yes, there have been cases where a legitimate player appeared (to another player) to be botting. In those cases, where a legitimate player is reported and then cleared of wrongdoing, it can be very frustrating to the reporting player to again see what they think is a bot. We’ve also seen examples where the reported player was caught exploiting the game, and was removed from the game, and then quickly returned to doing the same thing on a new account with the same character name. That’s an infuriating sight for the players who initially reported it. We greatly appreciate your reports, and we understand how you feel about this.

We’re ultimately working to unravel a challenging circumstance. Real money trading drives third parties to put an enormous amount of effort into circumventing our detection systems. As much as this is a very high priority for us, it is the only priority for profit-driven botting organizations. The bans we issue are simply a cost of doing business for them.

We’re working on further improvements to every part of the game that might address cheating issues more swiftly and completely, and we’ll continue to let you know as those next steps are taken.

Thank you very much for your feedback on these issues, and thank you for your reports!

Ars Technica even did a story about the “bot mafias” that were present in WoW Classic. and how they have messed with the economy, all no doubt in furtherance of illicit gold sales.

I know I have seen a bunch of gold seller spam email messages showing up on my characters lately.

I have multiple screen shots of similar messages

I have been using the “Report Player” button to respond to these, so hopefully I helped target a few bad actors.

In addition, Blizzard made a change to the number of instances a player can access during a single day.

As part of our ongoing efforts to eliminate exploitative and automated gameplay, with scheduled weekly maintenance in each region, we’re implementing the following change to our settings on all WoW Classic realms:

  • You may now enter a maximum of 30 unique instances (dungeon and raid) per day, per realm.

This restriction complements the current limit of 5 instances per hour. Now, when a player enters a dungeon or a raid, the game checks to see if they have entered 5 instances in the last hour or 30 instances in the last 24 hours, and if they have, they cannot enter the instance until enough time has elapsed. This check is across all of your characters on your realm.

These limits only apply to dungeon and raid instances, and do not apply to PvP battlegrounds.

I had run into the old “five instances per hour” limit while trying to get the Hydrocane to drop in Gnomeregan, but the overall cap will now close that out a bit more thoroughly I suppose.  (I didn’t need nearly that many instances to get the drop on multiple characters.)

And then, in a note about things to come, Blizzard also did a stress test on the PTR on Thursday to test Silithus and the Ahn’Qiraj (AQ) opening event.  They have already posted a summary of how that went.  We shall see if they do anything with the information they collected.

Finally, layering, which Blizzard had to turn on again for a few realms recently due to queues, has been worked on to make sure that it will function correctly when these events hit the live servers.

Fifty in Searing Gorge

I had been poking around with my hunter nearby where the instance group had been working, running down quests in Tanaris and Feralas, which got him into level 49.  But as those started to dry up I was looking for a new place to make that final push to 50.  In Tanaris you get that first lead-in quest to Ungoro Crater, but I did not want to get started too early there.  WoW Classic does not reward getting into quest lines too soon.  My pally committed the sin of getting quests done out of order and I’ll be grinding mobs for a level or three to get him out of that.

My memory failing me… I remember levels 1-30 no problem, but after that it is blur… I decided to consult WoW Head and their leveling guide for classic.

For levels 45-50 they suggested:

  • Tanaris
  • The Hinterlands
  • Feralas
  • Searing Gorge

I had pretty well worn out the first three, but Searing Gorge, that one had promise.  I even remembered there was an outhouse quest there.  I guess bathroom jokes stick.  And it is a short flight from Ironforge, once you have the flight point.  To get that you have to get there, and how to do that stumped me for a bit.

There is a tunnel, but it is locked and I don’t have the key.

The gate needs a key I do not have

There is also a path into Searing Gorge from the Badlands, but I couldn’t quite recall where that was.  So I went to Loch Modan and searched around the edges of the zone.  There are a couple of places that look like they might be a path through the hills around the zone, but are not.  I did eventually find the path though, at the west end of the zone, just south of the Horde camp.

Path from the Badlands is here

Once in I ran to Thorium Point, where the flight point is located, grabbed that, then loaded up on the quests there abouts.  Then it was time to get into the zone.

Surveying the zone from the flight point

One of the first things I saw when I was getting started was a mass of level 60 players on mounts landing at the flight point and then riding off.  There were a few dozen of them in a minute or so.

Riders passing by

I suspect that was a raid group (or two) headed off to Blackrock Mountain and the raids therein.  Thorium Point feels like the closest flight point to that.

Searing Gorge Map

Meanwhile, the zone offered me just about exactly what I was looking for.  I find grinding mobs with my pally to be tedious, but with my hunter it is light and easy, so when I was handed a couple of “kill 20” quests along with a few more that needed drops, I got stuck in to the grind.

Pausing for a light snack now and then

That kept me going though until level 50 and beyond.  I even got the key drop that starts the quest chain around the outhouse.  First you rescue the occupant, then get revenge for him… and fetch him some toilet paper… silk cloth for that.

Free from the privy

The outhouse is behind the Dark Iron dig site that is along the road that runs down the east side of the zone.  There is also an escort quest down in the dig as well which has the usual “NPC walks straight into mobs and every time he stops you know an attack is coming” mechanic to it.

I still have a couple more quests to finish up there, but my goal was achieved.  I made it to level 50 at last.  And I was the first in the guild too, though only just barely.  Moronae is very close to level 50 at this point I am sure.

Level 50 hunter

Of course, with an even numbered level came skill upgrades to buy.  He was closing in on being able to buy a mount before he hit 50.  Now he has a ways more to go.

It is also about time to go hunt down some skill upgrades for my pet.  I am a bit behind on that.

After I am done in Searing Gorge, my level 50 to 55 options are:

  • Blasted Lands
  • Un’Goro Crater
  • Azshara
  • Felwood

I have a quest for Un’Goro already, and the skinning there would be good, but I also got the level 50 hunter class quest, which sends you to Azshara.  I feel like I should peek in on that first.

Either way, I am going to have to step up the pace a bit if I want to have a level 60 character before WoW Classic turns one years old.

WoW Classic Gets Summer Bowl and Future Hints on the Test Server

Another look at what is up in WoW Classic, with this past week seeing Blizzard bringing something new to the mix in the for of the WoW Classic Summer Bowl.

Sign ups start soon

This is a 10 v 10 Warsong Gulch double elimination tournament that will take place on the WoW Classic live servers using the “war game” feature that was recently added.  There will be North American and European versions of the tournament.

Warsong Gulch is the capture the flag battleground loved and loathed by many, scene of many an epic run or heinous stalemate.

You can sign up your NA team here, or your EU team here.  EU signs ups close on June 18th, while NA sign ups close on June 25th.  In addition, there is a full set of rules for both NA and EU players.

Meanwhile, the Public Test Realm patch notes from last week give us a hint as to what is coming up for WoW Classic.  That includes:

  • The 20-player raid zone, Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj, will be available, but the the 40-player raid zone, Temple of Ahn’Qiraj will only be available on live realms when unlocked
  • Tier 0.5 dungeon questline, items, and vendor are now available
  • WoW patch 1.10 Dungeon loot table adjustments, increasing the drop chance of epic items, and many new caster DPS items
  • Alterac Valley fixes
  • Authenticator Bag Slots

That last one, with Blizzard giving players four extra slots on their default bag if they have the authenticator hooked up to their account, is clearly something that came in well past classic, having shown up in January of 2018 with the 7.3.5 patch for the Legion expansion.

Four more slots

My guess is that Blizzard is trying to incentivize people who came back for just WoW Classic to secure their accounts.  My hunter won’t complain about getting four more bag slots, that is for sure.

Since these updates are just landing on the WoW Classic PTR, it isn’t clear when they will be coming to the live servers, but I would guess that some time after the Summer Bowl would be likely.

Death on the Stairs with Sergeant Bly

It had been almost a month since we had our last outing in Zul’Farrak.  There was just too much going on for a few weeks for us to find the time.

The Tanaris area of operation

But this past Sunday we finally got online together with the time to return to the instance.

Meet up in Gadgetzan

The line up for the day was:

  • Moronae – level 49 night elf druid
  • Viniki – level 48 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 48 dwarf priest
  • Ula – level 47 gnome mage

We did a quick check on quest status for everybody and found that Moronae, Skronk, and Ula all still had Screecher Spirits.  However, Moronae still had to go to Feralas to get the drops while Ula and Skronk just needed to turn the quest in for the next stage.  We ran over to Steamwheedle to do the update for them.  It seemed likely that Moronae would have another shot at finishing the quest down the road.

The Steamwheedle Waterfront

From there it was back past Gadget and on to ZF, dodging past the elite mobs that guard the outside of the instance.

A fireball chasing us to the zone line

Once into the instance we buffed up and started clearing mobs, which was nice as it gave us a to warm up a bit on some easy stuff after the time off.

There is, however, a lot of trash to take out, but we managed it, even clearing around the fountain without too many accidental pulls.

The fountain area has plenty of walkers

From the fountain we turned left again, both to pick up the quest objectives for Ula and Skronk for the Screecher Spirits follow on quest and because we totally missed a boss that lives off the path that direction.  As we approached his lair, none of us could recall having ever done this fight.  But we spotted his cave easy enough.

The cave of Antu’sul

Since none of us could remember the fight, all of the details and surprises seemed to get us, like the fact… which I read up on later… that you don’t have to attack Antu-sul, or even get within casting range of him, you just have to get within a reasonable distance of his cave and he comes running out to get you.  Surprise!

Oh, and he quickly summons some elite helpers for the fight as well.  Surprise!

Oh, now he has friends

And he doesn’t just do that once… he keeps doing it as you kill his helpers off… and he keeps rooting everybody as well as dropping totems and healing himself every so often.  We were quickly in over our heads and I was scrambling to remember some warrior skills to help keep me alive.

Somehow we managed to keep going… nobody died… and we got Antu’sul down, which stopped new adds from showing up, and we made it through.

For all that he dropped the Lifeblood Amulet, which was a bit of an upgrade for me, adding +3 stamina over what I had.

From there we moved on, picking off Theka the Martyr for the quest update for Ula and Skronk, avoiding any scarab entanglements, and then heading to the graveyard.

The graveyard again

This is, of course, where we got surprised last time.

We did this again, the right way, digging up all the graves first, then going after Witch Doctor Zum’rah.  All I can say is that there are way more graves in that area than there needs to be to make whatever point some Blizz dev was trying to make.  But we could use the xp and the undead trolls dropped the troll temper for one of the Gadgetzen quests, so there was some upside.

The witch doctor himself wasn’t so tough without the zombies, though he does still summon some help on his own.

He dropped Zum’rah’s Vexing Cane, a staff that I thought might be up for contention between Ula and Skronk.  However, it didn’t seem like much of an upgrade to the Illusionary Rod from Arcanist Doan back in Scarlet Monastery, something we picked up in our low 30s in December, though there was some uncertainty whether the bonus to healing/damage casting was worth the sacrifice of 10 spirit and 5 intellect.  Ula decided to try it out, though the fact that it looks like somebody glued a door knob to the end or a broom stick did not endear it to anybody.

From there it was time to decided whether or not to attempt the stairs.

The stairs loom in our future

We cleared our way to them and decided to give it a shot.  As with other fights, our memories were vague at best and we didn’t stop to look up a strategy, preferring to have at least one go in as raw a state as we could manage.

Up at the top we met the Sandfury Executioner who attempted to live up to his name.

Execute! Execute!

He dropped the key to the cages where Sergeant Bly and his companions are.  Opening those up starts off the big event on the stairs.

Standing with Sergeant Bly

Down below the trolls formed up.

That is where we are headed

The trolls then start coming up the stairs.  Most of them are not elite, but there are a few elites mixed in every so often.  We tried to focus on the elites to burn them down.  Bly and his crew seemed pretty able to care for themselves otherwise.  It was chaotic and nearly got out of hand a few times when healing pulled aggro onto Skronk and there were shouts of “Get the combat ress ready!” but we seemed to get through each crisis.  The Bly wanted to start moving.

Bly gives the command

It was at the bottom of the stairs that things got out of hand.  There are two named mobs that spawn, and we ended up pulling them early, while we were still mixed up with the greater trash at the bottom of the stairs.  We lost control, people started dying, and the last I saw of Sergeant Bly he was in a mass of trolls holding his own until he was polymorphed into a frog and beaten down.

Corpses around as Bly gets pounded

Once that was settled out, we released and ran back to the instance.  Since Bly and his crew were dead the event could not be run again and the remaining trolls were too many and packed too close together to try and finish them off.  So we decided to save the stairs for another time… after some research… and finished off the quest Ula and Skronk had.

That meant clearing out some of the area around Gahz’rilla, and since we started on that, we finished clearing around and then used to Mallet of Zul’Farrak to summon Gahz’rilla again.  This time we fought him from the water so when we got tossed in the air we had a soft landing.

We waited in the deep end of his pool

That worked out well and Gahz ended up being a pretty easy fight.  He doesn’t drop anything we need, but it all sells for coin and we all need more of that.

From there we mounted up and tried to ride on out of the instance, out running the various patrols and respawns between us and the exit.  We almost made it too, but Ula took a big hit right at the zone line.  We went back in and Skronk ressed her.

So close you could feel static off the portal

We got Ula back up on her mount and we road out and back to Gadgetzan for quest turn ins and such.

For next time we need to get Moronae to Feralas for his quest update as well as looking up some tips for the fight on the stairs.  I think I know some of what we did wrong, and we know better what to expect, but after one run winging it I’d like a little more info.  And we can managed that we can get to the final fight and finish off ZF.

Layering Returns to WoW Classic

With the boost in popularity of online games that came with the pandemic and everybody staying home more, queues for some WoW Classic servers have become a reality again.

Classic is as classic does

After riding this out for a bit, Blizzard decided to take some action.  Four US servers, Herod, Whitemane, Arugal, and Faerlina, have had layering reactivated in order to allow more players to log in.

Layering was the tech that Blizzard introduced to meet the expected initial surge of players hitting WoW Classic when it launched. (Explained in detail in this post.)

Blizzard viewed layering as a temporary solution and removing it was a gating item for the company to unlock Phase 2 of the WoW Classic plan.  But now it is back.

In addition, Blizzard has also disable realm transfers to a list of EU servers in order to keep people from changing to servers where login queues are an issue.

Tough Act to Follow

We are in the waning days of the Battle for Azeroth expansion in World of Warcraft.  This expansion seems destined to rank down the list in the annals of the game.  It is a bit hard for me to even judge it as an expansion, as I did about as little as you could do and still be able to claim to have played.

Battle for Azeroth

But even with my low commitment to the expansion… I made it to level cap with two characters and unlocked flying, but did little else besides the main overland quest lines… I felt the pain of the expansion.  The whole idea that mobs ramped up in difficulty so that equipping better gear made the game harder… a problem that Blizzard acknowledged but said they didn’t care about… was just the main issue I had to deal with.  But it seemed like everything from the story to the raids was making somebody angry over the course of the expansion.

However, some of my lack of enthusiasm is no doubt related to the fact that the previous expansion, Legion, was one I did enjoy.  I played that through pretty thoroughly… for me at least, no raiding, but I ran the instances via LFG… and came away feeling pretty satisfied.  I liked the story, the zones, the mechanics of the classes I played, and I honestly felt a bit robbed when my legendary weapon abilities went away.

So I wonder how much of my disappointment… or at least my lack of enthusiasm… lays in the fact that I enjoyed Legion more.

I have, in the past, tried to articulate the problems with expansions.  They must, by necessity, reset the game in some way, undo what has gone before, in order to give you new things to accomplish.  They also stand as waypoints where  a company can assess features, add new ones, and adjust things that players were complaining about.  For WoW, the latter always involves an update to classes because there has literally never been a time in WoW when somebody wasn’t loudly and repeatedly complaining about their favorite class being bad on some other class being too good.

That means there is almost always a shake up to the status quo, something that will make some slice of the player base pack up and walk away.

And yet some expansions are recalled fondly.  Maybe not by everybody, but there is often something of a consensus about what was a good expansion and what was not.  The good ones mentioned are often:

  • Wrath of the Lich King
  • Mists of Pandaria
  • Legion

While the bad list tends to be:

  • Cataclysm
  • Warlords of Draenor
  • Battle for Azeroth

But there is clearly a pattern to that, and a regular “every other expansion sucks” seems a bit too convenient.  So I wonder how much the quality or popularity of a specific expansion influences that of the expansion after it and how much the expansion before it does the same.

As I noted above, my enjoyment of Legion might very well have shaded my reception of BFA.  Maybe.

More certainly, my time spent with Wrath of the Lich King, where I played from the last few months of The Burning Crusade and straight through the whole time it was live, made me less receptive to Cataclysm.

I have softened a bit on Cataclysm over time.  Destroying the old world still seems like a mistake… unless you think somebody was playing the long game and that Blizz meant to do WoW Classic the whole time.  And giving people flying out of the box was problematic.  But there was still some quality content there, including possible the prettiest zone in Azeroth, Vashj’ir.  And when we went back and did the instances, especially the 5 person heroic versions of Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman, those were a good time.

And it is quite arguable that my enjoyment of Mists of Pandaria… I skipped the first year of it, but then played it through until Warlords of Draenor hit…  was colored by my dislike at the time of Cataclysm and the fact that I stayed away from WoW for at least 18 months before getting into it.

Which, of course, brings me into another cycle with WoD, and the story continues.

Are the ups and downs of my relationship with World of Warcraft because of the expansions and their merit (or lack thereof) or due to my own expectations being set or mis-set by over exposure or hype?  Should we be thus optimistic about the coming Shadowlands expansion, it having followed one of the down expansions?

Every expansion is its own time in the WoW continuum, and yet none of them exists in a vacuum either.  Each one builds on the past and sets expectations for the future.