Category Archives: World of Warcraft

Out Running the Argent Tournament

Phase 2 of Wrath of the Lich King Classic brought us the opening of the Argent Tournament up in Ice Crown.  And, as I noted previously, I was all in on that, and somewhat surprisingly so since it was something I ran to its extremes back in the day.  I keep running those dailies.

Don’t forget to put on the lip balm first!

Or, rather, I kept running those dailies.

I went out there almost every day and did the whole load of dailies

The list of all the solo ones

The thing is, there is an end goal for some of the dailies.  Once you do your tournament initiation, then you go fight for each of the races of your faction to become a champion of each.  It takes five days to become the champion, and there are five factions, so at the end of 25 days of dailies you get to the end of the last city and get a new achievement.

Champion of the Alliance

And then, that is it for the faction dailies, which are four of the eight daily quests you can get in the phase 2 version of the Argent Tournament.

That leaves me with four daily quests, three of which are solo and which I run through pretty quickly.  There is a fourth quest, which involves slaying Chillmaw, and elite dragon that floats around in a corner of Icecrown.

Watching Chillmaw circle

I have some vague memories of being able to solo Chillmaw and his three helper NPCs back in the day.  But I must have been much better geared or more talented back then, because right now he eats me up pretty quick if I try to challenge him.

So when I am doing the dailies I grab that quest and hang around where he spawns to see if I can find a group to work with.  That can be pretty hit or miss.  Sometimes I find somebody eager to help, sometimes I am hanging around alone.

I did try using the group finder interface that Blizz put into Wrath Classic.  A good idea in concept I suppose, but not very effective in practice.  I have yet to have anybody take me up on a group I have formed, and the ONE time I found somebody else who had setup a group, I couldn’t join because they were full.

I suppose that the group filled up proves that there is somebody out there willing to join… and who knows about the group finder.  But it has yet to work out for me.  I think our server might be a bit low on the population scale.

Now, if we were in phase 3 of Wrath Classic, with the rest of the Argent Tournament available, I would have an additional series of dailies to work on, the set that unlocks once you are champion of your faction.  But phase 3 is somewhere in the distance.  People are still doing Ulduar regularly if the LFG channel is any indication.

Also, I did find it odd that you cannot post in the LFG channel unless you have created an advert in the group finder.  I guess that is a feature, but it does complicate what was once a fairly straightforward operation.  Hey, come help kill a thing, it will be quick.

So I continue to pile up the currency from the dailies.  I have bought a couple of the gear upgrades, but it is the Argent Hippogryph I am saving up for.

Blizz Offers a Free Dragonflight Weekend with Caveats

Blizzard has announced that from today, March 9th, through Sunday, March 12th, if you are a lapsed WoW subscriber you can log in and play the Dragonflight expansion for free.

WoW Dragonflight

The specific statement is:

Grab your favorite character and we’ll grab you a Dragon! This is your chance to soar through the magnificent Dragon Isles and experience Warcraft at its nostalgic best. All players with an inactive WoW account will receive trial access to Dragonflight*. And if you don’t have a level 60, check the launcher app – there may just be a gift for you!

If the gift isn’t a level boost, then they have done something very wrong.

Actually, it looks like you get to create a level 60 Dracthyr, the new race that launched with the expansion, if you want to try that out.

Create an evoker

Blizzard would, of course, very much like you to buy a copy of Dragonflight, pretty please, because they don’t have much else going on in Q1 and it is March already and it would be great if their numbers didn’t completely tank for this quarter.

In order entice you further, all versions of the Dragonflight expansion have been discounted 20% through March 15th, in the hopes that the free trial will convince you to buy.

The catch, such that it is, is that you will not be able to level up past level 60 until you purchase the expansion.  Any experience you earn will be “banked” and held for you, to be awarded once you make the purchase.

I was curious to see who actually would be given free access to the expansion.  The emphasis in the announcement felt aimed at those not currently subscribed.  But the odd cases… people who own the expansion but who are not subscribed as well as people like me, who are subscribed but not playing Dragonflight… appear to be covered.  I can go play the new expansion this weekend if I want.

However, they do make clear that this free period gets you access to retail WoW only.  You cannot use this grace period to slip into WoW Classic and see what is going on there.


A Spark of Memory in the Halls of Lightning

We are at a point in Wrath where I am reminded that it was really the last hurrah for the idea of leveling dungeons along the way of your adventure.  Wrath opened up with a dozen five player dungeons in the tradition of vanilla and TBC, and we get another four as the phases unlock.

Once we get to Cataclysm we get fewer dungeons along the way, more at level cap, and we start getting special ones, like the old Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub raids re-cast as five person heroics.

There was certainly a reason for this change.  Our own travel through Northrend has required very little overland adventuring, even with us all starting at level 68 rather than 70, and we have leveled up into and sometimes beyond the levels of the dungeons.  The realities of managing an 80 level xp curve where Blizz wants people to get into the latest stuff and the plan to go to five level expansions for a couple of runs made the situation untenable.

Because, unless you’re going to do heroics at level cap, the instances can become a blur of one and done events.

I have strong memories of several dungeons in Wrath… Utgarde Keep and the Nexus for various reasons, and the Oculus for very specific reasons… but many of the other were things we did once back in 2009 and now, 14 years later, we’re doing once more.

Which brings us to the Halls of Lightning, which I actually bit more vague memories of from back in the day.

Riding up to the Halls of Lightning

Going back in the history of the blog… I am so glad I tagged every dungeon run with the name of the dungeon… so Halls of Lightning will bring up this run and the past two… I was able to see that we had to take two runs at this one.  We failed on the final boss and it was late and we had to call it a night on our first run.  So we spent a second week there on a return visit to finish it off.  By the second round we were all level 80 and managed to finish it off.

Which doesn’t mean I have any strong memories of the instance.  It was more a series of vague “we had trouble here” sensations now and then that came up.  But that was often guide enough for us, at least until the last boss.  We also came in at about the same level as we did in our first run at it back in the day.

The group

The first thing we noticed on arriving was that the first boss was there, wandering around the paths between us and the rest of the instance.

General Bjarngrim doing his rounds

He wanders around between a set of groups, seeming to get charged up with power as he visited each group.

The first floor map

That seemed like a hint that maybe we should take out those groups while the general was elsewhere before engaging with him.  We acted on that plan, taking out the nearest two groups while the general was on the far side of his patrol.  But after clearing the group in the lower right of the pentagon on the map, we ended up a little too close to the general on his walk back and suddenly it was on.

But we managed to power through it… mostly.  Ula got dropped, but on being revived she did win the roll for a new pair of shoulders.

Mantle of the Electric Charges

We went around and cleared out the last group, then turned to the Iron Cruicible room, which I remembered as some sort of event.  It ends up being a room with non-elites in it that respawn quickly, so if you sit there and try to clear them, which we did for a bit, you’ll never get to the far side of the room.  In the end we made a dash for it, cross the room, then made our way up to the second floor, where the remainder of the bosses reside.

Up to the second floor

The first boss waiting for us was Volkhan, whose name was changed for copyright reasons I am sure, whose location again triggered some deep past memory of trouble.

Volkhan works at his forge

Still, we took a run at him… and it did not go well.  We were not ready for his mechanics and barely disturbed his work.

Volkhan back to his forge after our brief interruption

His gimmick is summoning some golems who, when you burn them down to one hit point, he has explode for lots of damage.  Avoid the golems.  We read up on a couple of suggested ways to deal with it, but in the end I just pulled him across the room then kited him around in a corner while people steered clear of his helpers and we managed to bring him down.

Then it was around through the Hall of Watchers which, again, I somehow knew was going to be trouble… well, that wasn’t even memory, it was just the certain knowledge that in a room with a bunch of hostile looking guys frozen in place somebody had to become animated and attack us.  We made our way past there as quickly as we could and over to Ionar, who was clearly going to be dealing some electric damage.

He looks like a thunder storm wearing armor, what do you expect?

Bjorid was able to put up a nature resist group effect and, when it came down to it, we were able to get through him on the first run.  There is a point where he lets loose with some electrical creepy crawlies that wander around, but they were easy enough to avoid.

With Ionar out of the way, we went through the passage behind him and into the last big area which leads to the final boss, Loken.

Loken is kind of bored with the whole thing

Yes, there was some trash to clear along the way, but we managed that and were standing before Loken before too long.  Proving I pay some attention to what goes on now and then, I did recall Brann Bronzebeard mentioning Loken the previous week when we were in the Halls of Stone.  I don’t remember what he said, but the name definitely came up.

Loken has a couple of tricks up his sleeve.  He has an ongoing AOE attack that gets stronger the further away you are from him, and then a sudden AOE attack that you really want to run away from him before it hits.  So stay close, until you need to run away, then stay close again.

Also, he attempts to monologue you to death with how tedious it is to have to get up out of his big chair to deal with mortals.

The latter was survivable, but we managed to mis-time the former and ended up with just me standing there, embarrassed, with Loken down to 12% and little chance that I was going to finish him off.

We didn’t even have a soul stone, so we had to release and run back.  While we got ready again, I looked Loken up to see if there were any suggestions for the fight.  The clearest on I found just said fight him on the glowing line, so everybody knows where to be, then just back up when the big attack is coming, then let him come to you again once that has passed.  Rinse, repeat, and finish him off.

And it worked like a champ.  The first fight was chaos with us running all over, the second fight was all backing up every time I called out that the big hit was coming, standing just out of range, and picking up the fight again from there.  He went down, dungeon complete.

Halls of Lightning achievement

He dropped a nice wand upgrade that went to Beanpole.

After we rolled on that we went to take a final picture in the instance.

Loken’s end

We made it through, though we did wipe twice and, somehow, Ula and Bjorid managed to die an additional pair of times.

After this we will likely make our return to Utgarde Pinnacle to finish that off.  If nothing else, that will put off us having to face The Oculus.  That will be an adventure in and of itself.

Return to the Halls of Stone

Coming back to Northrend this past weekend we picked up where we left off on our list, which was with the Halls of Stone up in Icecrown.  We had been there, or at least a little ways into the instance, for the Lunar Festival.  Now we were back to finish it off.

First we had to get there.

We had all grabbed the flight point when we were there previously, but not everybody had a connecting flight point… and we are still in the classic era where you can’t just fly through undiscovered flight points.  That comes later.

But some of us could get there and use the summoning stone… if we could see the summoning stone.

Invisible Summoning Stone

I know I have mentioned the draw distance issue in WoW Classic a few times, but here is another example.  You can see somebody standing in the distance and some trees beyond them.  The summoning stone is right where they are standing, but you cannot see it until you close about half the distance from the flight point.

I know, it isn’t the worst issue in the game… I am starting to make a list of issues with Wrath Classic… but it can be annoying if you want to find specific things… like a summoning stone.

Anyway, we got there and were ready to summon.  Our group for the outing was as follows.

Halls of Stone group

Once everybody was summoned it was into the instance.  This time, rather than looking for an elder, we were there to clean the place out.

Map of Halls of Stone

You come into the instance at about 10 o’clock on the map and some vague memories of the place told me that the main boss was at noon and we needed to do something in order to get to them.  And then there was a quest marker on the path off at 3 o’clock, which seemed the likely source for unlocking.

With that in mind we decided to go counter clockwise from where we came in, starting in the Crystalline Quarry, which was where we found the elder on our past visit.

Up at the end of that swirl we found Krystallus, the first boss.

There he is

He didn’t have a mana bar or anything, so we decided to just have at him and see what came of it.  And it started off pretty well.  And then, about a third of the way into the fight he did something and all the casters, who were standing bunched up at range, died instantly.

No healing and down on DPS, the end result was inevitable.

Face down again

We decided to do a little research and discovered that he has a one-two set of abilities that turns everybody into an AOE bomb essentially, so if you’re all standing together, things go badly.

So we spread out for the second run, which ended up going much better… though when the fight ended my experience bar disappeared.  That was because I had hit level 80.

Level up on the boss kill

I had, perhaps, been hitting the Argent Tournament dailies a bit too regularly.  But now I couldn’t get any further ahead of the group at least!

That done, we moved around and headed down the 6 o’clock path to the Hall of Repose where we found the Maiden of Grief.  I guess repose means different things to different people.

Insert Uldaman/Ironaya reference here

Having looked up the first boss, I had glanced at the details of the second, which mostly mentioned staying out of her gunk.  It will rot your teeth, among other things.

There she is, rotting in her own gunk

While we fumbled the instructions… there was something about the tank and the healer running into the gunk at some point to break a stun effect… we managed to power through.

Repose achieved

Now it was time to head down the path at 3 o’clock where we ran into Brann Bronzebeard,  He was the quest giver and once we were ready we followed him down the path to the Tribunal of Ages.

Brann was anxious to get there

Down at the end at the Tribunal of Ages, Brann stops and waits for you to talk to him.  It seemed quite clear that he was going to do something and we were going to have to protect him through an event.

Welcome to the Tribunal of Ages

Again, vague memories of doing this back in 2009 or some were in the back of my head.  So we sent Brann off to do his thing… which seemed to mostly involve exchanging Northrend lore trivia with the Tribunal… while we tried to keep waves of baddies off of him.

Things got a little out of hand on the first run and Brann died.  Fortunately, like the rest of us, he just revives and shows back up again.  So we took a second run at it and, while not perfect… Ula died… we did managed to defend him and get the ear full of lore about Ulduar that the instance seemed keen to inform us about.

Having done that, Brann said he would meet us outside the door to the final boss, where he let us in and again we had to cover him while he fiddled with some equipment while the main target, Sjonnir The Ironshaper, fought us while summoning waves of helpers.

It was as chaotic as the last event, right down to Ula dying again, but we prevailed in the end and the boss went down.

Halls of Stone complete achievement

Brann had some nice upgrades for some of us when we turned in our quest to him.  After that we lined up and took a screen shot with Brann at the end of the instance.

It is all Brann in the end

While we had some hiccups, it was not a tough run.  Still, when I went back to look at my post about our run back in the day, we seemed to have skated through much more easily back then.  But we were also a full group of 79s then as well.

That leaves us with four more instances currently in Wrath to tackle, and four more that have yet to be brought into the game.  We still have a ways to go.  But we’re all closing in on the level cap.  After I leveled up Fergorin his 79 and Beanpole 78, so we’re almost there.

February in Review

The Site

Traffic was down for a lot of the month, and not just because February only has 28 days.  Google traffic, which represents almost all traffic above and beyond the 100 or so regulars who hit the site every day or so, has continued to taper off.  I don’t know why, the algorithm just hasn’t favored me.  And, while Bing and its fellow travelers have once again acknowledged my existence once more, the 55 referrals they mustered didn’t really pick up the slack.

I did have a bit of luck with Facebook this month.  It is generally good for a couple views a day if I remember to go there and manually put items from the TAGN Facebook page into my main feed.  But I decided to post that CSM PvE post in the EVE Online Facebook group and it got some traction there.  I usually don’t post there or on Reddit because it attracts too much flak, but the Facebook group users kept all their comments on Facebook where I could easily avoid reading them.

Meanwhile, I got another lesson in how quality ads mean low value payouts.  At the end of January and start of February there was a five day run of absolute garbage ads.  For example, January 30th saw 2,900 ads displayed to people for a total earning of two cents.

Da Fuq were they showing people?

Now, I don’t make a lot on ads, just enough to pay for the hosting, but two cents a day is pretty bad for the number of ads served.  I know some days they simply don’t serve up ads because they don’t have anything in the queue, and I guess I appreciate them finding some ads, but those were some cheap ass ads.

The streak ended on February 5th when things got back to normal-ish.

Woo hoo, 36 cents collected!

But low traffic and low quality ads mean I might clear a good six dollars on the site this month.  Not exactly enough to let me retire early.  If I keep at that rate it won’t even pay the annual hosting fee.

One Year Ago

Nintendo was shutting down more remaining services for the 3DS, so I looked at my activity on that fading platform.

Blizzard was moving towards cross faction raids and dungeon groups and I was watching videos about how the game had changed since the vanilla days and what got left behind.

Blizzard was also down a bit in the Q4 2021 quarterly financials, but with the Microsoft acquisition in motion, Activision Blizzard had gone to the minimal level of effort for financial reporting.

I was playing EverQuest II and the Visions of Vertovia expansion and working on my mercenaries and mounts. I needed to up my game to wrestle with some of the level cap content.  There was also a new Lore & Legend server.

Meanwhile, just before its 23rd birthday, EverQuest was upgraded to 64-bit.

Enad Global 7 has a good Q4 2021, with Daybreak making up the lions share of the game revenue.

I reviewed the EVE Online + Doctor Who event, which was actually pretty good.  The it was on to the Guardians Gala event.

Dracarys member Satoshia found a CCP presentation about World War Bee on the CCP press site, a presentation that the company apparently never presented and disappeared from the site shortly thereafter.  But I grabbed a copy and pulled out some of the details.

Meanwhile, as CCP prepared for Fanfest with some big promises, Pearl Abyss was talking about how they were going to bring blockchain into their games.  CCP was also updating the MER data.

Meanwhile, I let main account lapse due to CCP being dumb about the economy, which led me to wonder what I could fly as an Alpha clone.  Alpha clones don’t get a lot of jump clones, this I learned.

The instance group was still playing New World and working our way towards Starstone Barrows.  However, server merges kicked us to a new world in New World as the population kept declining.  We did make it to Starstone Barrows and its pink beams, but being a group of four we couldn’t finish it.

I was also looking into Lost Ark, another title on Steam that Amazon was publishing.  I played through the opening weekend of the game on Steam.  It was good enough that the group abandoned New World for this new title.  That meant learning how to play together in another game.

Even CarBot got in on the Lost Ark hype.

I was reflecting on the fact that, viewed from the correct angle, I have sort of been playing the same game for 30 years.  Sort of.  And then I wondered what it would have been like if the games had been even more similar, like what if EverQuest had been based on Forgotten Realms?

People were talking about films they had watched at least seven times.  I had a list of titles that met that criteria.

And there was still binge watching happening at our house as I covered Yellow Jackets, Yellowstone, and a couple other titles.

Five Years Ago

I was wondering if EA might be a better company if they were owned by Microsoft.

Trion Worlds announced that Rift Prime would launch on March 7th, putting it a good two weeks ahead of the previous estimated “spring” opening.

SuperData Research released their review of 2017 and it seemed to be missing a key title.

In World of Warcraft it was Battle for Azeroth pre-order time.  I bought it so I could start unlocking allied races.  Not that I needed more alts.  I also did a little raiding with leashes and got the Mr. Bigglesworth drop.

In New Eden the Monthly Economic Report showed a dip in activity , at least in overall NPC bounties, as we all turned to the Million Dollar Battle that January.

CCP was also proposing changes to the CSM election process as well as updating their game news RSS feeds.

The February update for EVE Online saw a change that allowed players to attack Upwell structures at any time and changed it so that unfueled structures only had one timer after hitting the shields rather than two.  That led to a spike in destroyed citadels.  There was also the Guardian’s Gala event and CCP still calling mission spaces “dungeons.”  The coming March update promised players a new ship.

In game I hit the meaningless milestone of 190 million skill points.

Actually out in space, Pandemic Horde gave up their space in Fade and Pure Blind to move to the Vale of the Silent, leaving a hole in null sec for somebody to fill.

Daybreak finally declared H1Z1 out of early access, but the battle royale market had already moved on.  Fortnite, significantly, was now available on PC and consoles.

And Extra Credits was going over the whole lockbox thing some more… back when that channel was about video games.

Ten Years Ago

Raptr sent me a summary of my 2012 gaming.

Google changed how image search worked, causing a precipitous drop in page views.  Google giveth, and Google taketh away… though they have been heavy on the taketh front for the last couple of years.

I wrote of the problem with Bond villains.  And it wasn’t that they failed to drive Jags.  I also looked at the Netflix remake of House of Cards.

RuneScape joined the rare breed of MMOs with an old rules, nostalgia focused server. called Old School RuneScape.

I tinkered with Prose with Bros on the iPad.  That was amusing for about two weeks.

In something of a breath of fresh air in an argument dedicated to absolutes and bad analogies, with some game devs equating buying used games with piracy, EA admitted that the used game market wasn’t all bad and that the ability to trade in games might be propping up new game sales.  They still wanted to kill used games like everybody else in the industry, but at least they were attempting a moment of honesty about it.

The MOBA version of Warhammer Online was declared dead before it even left beta.  The good metacritic score for Warhammer Online remained of little value.

A group got together to create an Age of Empires II: Age of Kings expansion called Forgotten Empires.  This was before it was announced that Age of Kings would be updated and brought to Steam.

Blizzard and ArenaNet were both offering deep discounts on their MMOs.  I opted for Guild Wars 2, which had an awkward start for me.

The instance group was still without a quorum and a fantasy title to call its own.  We were playing a bit of World of Tanks, which gets awkward with four.  I also made some short videos about Crushing your VK and a cliff diving BDR GB1.  And I was working on my Soviet heavies as well as the French heavy tree.

In EVE Online we went back to EWN-2U, the scene of my first real epic null sec battle.  But null sec was pretty quiet, so we also spent time just flying in circles.  The Goons did produce a nice guide to EVE Online in the form of a .pdf called Thrilling Internet Spaceship Stories.

I was considering the REAL problem with levels and was wondering why nobody else did in-game music the way Lord of the Rings Online did.

And I answered the magic question, just how many times do you have to sign or initial things when closing escrow on a home refinance?

Fifteen Years Ago

The month started out with our Pirates of the Burning Sea enthusiasm waning.

The instance group was kicking off its Outlands efforts, after running the required equipment upgrade quests, with Hellfire Ramparts, though first we ran through lower Blackrock Spire and got access to Upper Blackrock Spire.

In EVE Online I lost my Drake to pirates in Rancer.  I wasn’t going to pay any ransom.  And I managed to make a tech II blueprint as I was getting invention going.  I was also wishing for a few things from the game.

Turbine announced that Lord of the Rings Online had extended its agreement with Tolkien Enterprises out until 2014, with an option to go to 2017.  As a lifetime member I applauded this extension.

I went to GDC up in San Francisco and had dinner some members of the VirginWorlds Podcast Collective plus Alan “Brenlo” Crosby, and got pictures to prove it. (I had a beard then… and I have a beard now… this is becoming a winter routine for me.)

My daughter got a Nintendo DS for Valentine’s Day.

We played a little KartRider, which never made it to North America in its original form.

I defended myself against some slander about me being a dwarf.

I summed up the annual EverQuest Nostalgia Tour.

I decided that there was hope for a real science fiction MMORPG.

And I found out my blog was worth $61,534.86, though I couldn’t figure out how to cash in.  Since then, the value of the site has gone down.  A lot.  I blame social media.

Twenty Years Ago

EverQuest Online Adventures, the PlayStation 2 version of EverQuest, launched.

Meanwhile, EverQuest launched The Legacy of Ykesha expansion, which introduced the Froglok race.  It was also the first attempt at an all digital release.  Download demand was high enough that SOE went ahead and burned a CD version for retail sale.  Despite demand, it is generally viewed as a middling, low content expansion.  On progression servers Daybreak generally gives it very little time to itself or lumps it in with the next expansion, Lost Dungeons of Norrath in its release cycle.  That was part of the problem of them doing two expansions a year.

Nintendo released the GameBoy Advance SP, a GameBoy that looked like a flip phone.

And A Tale in the Desert kicked off with its first telling.  2021 saw the start of its 10th telling.

Thirty Years Ago

X-Wing launches on PC and Star Fox on the SNES, two influential space dogfight sims.

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. Views on Improving EVE Online PvE from the CSM Summit
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. Blizzard Continues to Disappoint – Mike Ybarra Edition
  5. Still on Twitter
  6. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  7. The EverQuest Team Expands on their UI Engine Roadmap Update
  8. The Cataclysm Classic Question
  9. Making the Grey Pit in Valheim
  10. The LOTRO 2023 Roadmap – No Consoles, No UI Updates
  11. The WordPress App vs the JetPack App
  12. What Was the Peak Era of WoW Crafting

Search Terms of the Month

lotro private service
[What happens in Bree stays in Bree]

eq night of shadows maps
[Got you with the image search, didn’t I?]

локации майнкрафт большой домик
[You have to buy a map from an NPC to find a mansion]

скачать игру на пк секс игра гей
[I’m pretty sure Putin would not approve… publicly]

Game Time by ManicTime

My ratio of game play went back to being dominated by WoW Classic this month.

  • WoW Classic – 79.21%
  • EVE Online – 12.54%
  • Diablo III – 8.25%

That said, I spent the less time playing video games this past month than I have since I started tracking my play time.

Diablo III

I poked my nose back into the game with the coming of Season 28.  We will see if this is the farewell tour before Diablo IV shows up and how I feel about the title more than a decade down the road.

EVE Online

I managed to get on a couple of homeland defense fleets over the course of the month.  They were to defend local ESSes from robbers.  The main doctrine for that is based on the Rokh battleship, something I haven’t flown since the war.  Trivia: most of the kill mails I was on this month were me in a Rokh without my rigs fit.  Classic “rigs in cargo” mistake.  But at least I didn’t accidentally link to the ESS like that one guy in a fleet.

Pokemon Go

The Vivillon hunt continues.  I have evolved four so far and, with my wife and I trading the scatterbugs we have collected from various friends, we can each evolve 15 of the 18 once we have enough candies.  The elusive regions for us remain Sandstorm, Icy Snow, and Meadow.

We also did a lot of raids during the Hoenn event, and actually went outside with some friends like Niantic demands.  A lot of raids and a lot of lucky eggs later and… we still have a long way to the next level.

  • Level: 43 (42% of the way to 44 in xp, 1 of 4 tasks complete)
  • Pokedex status: 756 (+6) caught, 771 (+4) seen
  • Mega Evolutions obtained: 23 of 34
  • Pokemon I want: Three specific Scatterbugs; Sandstorm, Icy Snow, and Meadow
  • Current buddy: High Plains Vivillon

WoW Classic

We got out there and finished up the Lunar Festival as a group… and then I at least let Love is in the Air pass without putting in any effort.  I guess I am only good for every other holiday achievement fest in WoW Classic.  And then it was back into dungeons.


It was a slow month for exercise.  I ride on the weekends and we were away on a trip for one weekend… and another weekend I just didn’t feel like it… and then I got sick and really didn’t feel like it.  Being on a trip is a legit excuse.  We even made up for it by walking a lot.  But that other weekend is a warning sign.  It is very easy to simply not get on the bike.

Anyway, I’ll try not to slack as much next month.

  • Level – 18
  • Distanced cycled – 1,520 miles (+27 miles)
  • Elevation climbed – 58,891 (+1,053 feet)
  • Calories burned – 47,599 (+765)

Coming Up

I try to force myself not to start each of these with something like, “is it March already?” but I am starting to feel that way more and more as I get older.  I used to think this was because a month is no longer as large a percentage of my life as it was when I was 35 or 20 or 8. But I am starting to believe it is just a memory condition of getting old.  What happened last month?  I guess that is why I write a blog.

But on to March 2023, when EverQuest will celebrate its 24th anniversary.

Blizzard will be out there trying to drum up some cash with a Diablo VI open beta.  Can then recognize pre-oder revenue for that?

There is a State of the Goonion planned for next Saturday, which usually means the Imperium is off to attack somebody.  We shall see if that means some action in EVE Online.

And, of course, I am going to get on that damn exercise bike every weekend.

Through Violet Hold and Gundrak

When we got together this past weekend it felt like we had a lot of choices.  Having done sections of several dungeons as part of the Lunar Festival achievement run to get our titles we could have carried on at any one of several instances.

We didn’t have to stick to the strict order levels, we could go where we wanted!  We could have gone back and faced Skadi again just to show him who was boss.

Here’s Skadi!

However, we also happened to be standing in Dalaran practically in sight of Violet Hold and it was next on our list, our past attempt having gone badly, and nobody had a strong opinion in favor of going elsewhere… so we went to Violet Hold.

Our group for the afternoon was as follows.

Waiting for Beanpole to find the instance

We have worked on a level to get through Utgarde Pinnacle for Lunar Festival… and I had been doing Argent Tournament dailies… so we found ourselves a bit more beefed up than our last run at the instance.  We were all literally two levels up on that last run.  That, and the knowledge we had gained on the last run, made things a little easier.

You do six portal waves, keeping an eye to make sure nobody is attacking the door, then you get a boss.

Lavanthor shows up to disturb our pre-fight picnic

Then you do six more portal waves and get another boss… and I didn’t take a screen shot beyond the next boss appearing.

Zuramat the Obliterator announces his arrival

Zuramat the Obliterator announces his arrival

And then you do six more waves and end up with Cyanigosa, the final boss, who is a dragon and a slightly tougher fight… you have to get positioned to avoid the breath cone and tail cone… but ended up being doable without too much effort at our levels.

Prison riot put down

That got us the achievement and, according to the clock readings in my screen shots took us all of 20 minutes to accomplish.  I spoke to Lieutenant Sinclari at 16:26 and took the achievement screen shot at 16:45.

Violet Hold Achievement Done

That was so quick that it felt like a warm-up, so we decided to head to the next dungeon on the list, which was Gundrak.  That meant some flight time, during which cats were fed, and then we met up at the stone for the next run.

As noted, we had been here for the Lunar Festival, but we were not required to fight any bosses, the elder in Gundrak being in an area where you could sneak around the boss if careful.

At the elder behind the boss

We ended up fighting that boss… and winning… once… but this time around we were there to fight all the bosses that were available rather than just bypassing them.

You run Gundrak by slaying the bosses around the periphery, after which you work your way back to the center to make your way to the boss.  There are two ways in, so you can go clockwise or counter clockwise, but the clockwise entrance is close to the summoning stone, so we went that way.

Gundrak Map

Ignore where my marker is on the map, that is the side we did not come in through.

There is also another boss, down in the lower left of the map, who is only there when it is run in heroic mode.  We’re not there yet.

The first boss, down in the Den of Sseratus at 3 o’clock, is Slad’ran.  He has a bunch of snakes around him and, is a snake himself.  We cleared out his area and then had at him.

Doing the pull with my wrist mounted rocket launcher… an engineering item I made

His big thing is that he… summons snakes.  But we were already killing snakes, so it didn’t make for much of a change.  We managed to finish him without much effort.

Then we moved around clockwise to the 6 o’clock position to the Drakkari Colossus.  We had fought him before and had learned, along the way, not to stand in the purple goop that his elementals leave behind.  His routine is you fight him, then an elemental he summons, then him again, then an elemental, and then you finish him off.

With that knowledge… and the additional levels… the fight was much less dramatic.  We took him on the first go.  It was then I noticed that behind him there was an altar with a cog wheel if you moused over it.  Clicking that unlocked a beam that dropped a peg into a hole in the center of the instance.

The altar does its thing

Looking at that it was obvious that there were holes to be filled at 3 and 9 o’clock, which meant we must have missed the altar behind Slad’ran.  So we ran back and got that.  Then we moved back around to get to the boss at 9 o’clock, Moorabi.

Moorabi awaits

His thing is that he turns into a mammoth mid fight, which is visually interesting I suppose, but a bit awkward if you have pulled him back onto the steps so he ends up standing at an angle.

Mammoth with two short legs I guess

Like the previous two bosses, there was an altar behind him, which I activated, which was the final one to unlock the way to the final boss.

It was at that point I recalled something about not going back around to the Drakkari Colossus or where ever the ramp to the center was, but just bypassing some mobs by jumping off of Moorabi’s altar and swimming to the center of the instance.

Looking at where we needed to be

So I moved closer to the edge to see where we might land and took a step too far and fell off.  We were now committed to my half remembered strategy.

There are, of course, mobs in the water and they attack and some of almost died (me) because getting ashore on the other side means getting up a very steep incline that I picked the wrong spot to try and ascend.  But we ended up making it without loss despite my efforts.

Then there were just a few guys on rhinos between us and the final boss.  That seems to be the end boss motif, as even the final boss, Gal’darah, summons a spirit rhino to smack people in the party at random.

Facing the gauntlet of rhinos

Fortunately all the rhino riders were content to let their fellows die solo and were not all that tough.  And then it was time for Gal’darah, who like his henchmen, was not too tough.  It was a boss fight, but we powered through on our levels and that was that.  Soon he was down and we had the achievement.

And that is where he fell

He did drop a nice ring for me.

Gal’darah’s Signet

In fact, while there were a couple of items for the casters, the run seemed very much like an “upgrade the tank” event.

We took out final group picture… Gal’darah’s area seemed a much more epic background than his little corpse sprawled out on the floor… though you can still see him there.

Victory in Gundrak

And so we were done with Rhinos and the instance.  That took us about an hour to run, so neither it nor Violet Hold were exactly Sunken Temple or Wailing Caverns level commitments.  Still, they made for a decent afternoon’s fun.

Looking back at how we ran it in 2009, for some reason we went in the other side and did Moorabi first then moved around from there.  Something about snakes.  We also wiped once, but did run it a level below this run.

Next on the list is the Halls of Stone and then Utgarde Pinnacle again.  We’ll soon all be high enough to use the summoning stone there.

Wrapped up in Wrath Dailies

I know that daily quests didn’t start in Wrath of the Lich King.  They were there at the end of The Burning Crusade.  But they felt tacked on and a bit tepid, as though they were more of a reaction to players hanging around at level cap than a plan.

In Wrath though, they were clearly part of the plan.  I knew they would be coming into Wrath Classic.  I was more interested to see what I would do with them, because I was very much split in my thoughts on the subject.

On the one hand, I wanted to wallow in all that was Wrath, to relive the glory days of WoW, or at least MY glory days with WoW, and do all the things once more.

On the other hand, I did all of this before.  I have a character in retail WoW that I logged in every day for months at a stretch to run dailies in Wrath.  He has the titles, tokens, achievements, and mounts to prove it.  Was I really going to invest all that time once more?

The first test was the Kalu’ak dalies, which you run into early on in the path through Northrend.  I did those dailies and ended up exalted with them on not just one, but two characters.

But the Kalu’ak are not exactly a steep climb to exalted once you have done their quest chain.  No, the real test for me was going to be the Argent Tournament.

Approaching the Argent Tournament

I basically spent the back half of Wrath leveling up an alt or two and doing dailies, and especially Argent Tournament dailies, until I was exalted with everybody I could managed.

And then I ran some more because I wanted some of the goodies in the various faction stores.

That was a level of commitment that a much younger me was up to.  But what about me today?

Meanwhile, the Argent Tournament starts out kind of slow.  You have to prove yourself by doing a couple of training dailies and one roaming quest daily that sends you out to do, among other things, kiss frogs until you find a princess.

Don’t forget to put on the lip balm first!

But once you get through the preliminaries you go to work for your home city faction and the tournament every day and suddenly you can start stacking up a pile of dailies to run.

I passed on one that is too high level for me at 78

At that point you are earning tokens, the champion’s seal currency, towards the goodies.  I started in at level 78, so I will have banked some for when I hit 80, which is the level requirement for the good stuff.

And then there are the champion’s writs that let you buy faction standing with the home cities, starting with your own.  I am, at last, exalted with Stormwind.

Exalted champion of Stormwind

And, having done that, I have moved on to the next city.  I’ll probably come out of this exalted across the alliance.

Will I keep going until I have earned the Argent Hippogryph?  We shall see.  I do have to watch out though, because running dailies also pays off in xp, so I might start out-running the rest of the group in levels.  Then again, we’re all about level 78 now anyway, so I can’t run very far.  And when I hit level cap the dailies start paying off in gold.


What was the Peak Era for WoW Crafting

Every time I start a new character in WoW… or in most online games… I tell myself I am just going to pick up harvesting skills and sell stuff on the auction house and not get mired in the grind and pointlessness of trying to level up yet another trade skill.

Just mine the mithril and sell it you doof!

And I mostly ignore my own advice.  I think I have at least one character for each trade skill in retail WoW and I have only one character over 40 in WoW Classic that hasn’t given up on just harvesting and picked up a trade skill. (And that one character has more gold on him than any three of my other characters combined… go figure!)

I was thinking about this and wondering was there some point in the game when trade skills… any of them… were so good that I was left with such a favorable impression that I felt I should go all in on any of them again?  What drives me to do this?

This is especially true for my main, a paladin who has chosen engineering as his profession, which is a repeat of what I did back in 2006, so I must have known somewhere in the back of my head that the grind in vanilla WoW was bad and hardly worth the effort.  You get a couple of interesting things. I was able to make ammo for my hunter that was slightly better than vendor ammo, and you get some thrown explosives which, for a paladin lacking in ranged attacks was a bit of a boon, but most of what you see on the list of recipes sounds more useful than it generally ends up being.

Granted, engineering does seem to find its niche by the time we hit Northrend, becoming more about special perks for the engineer rather than general items… though there is special ammo because they hadn’t taken ammo from hunters quite yet.  And then there is the engineer’s only auction house bot in Dalaran.  That is nice.

However, while I like the parachute and the wormhole generator… make the parachute first… and some of the other gear and enhancements, it is still a resource grind and as you end up making stuff you’ll mostly vendor to get to that thing you’ll make exactly one of and hold onto until you eventually get a better drop in an instance.

And Wrath is about the peak for engineering in my mind.  Making the chopper and a couple other items were about the best moments in the profession for me.  It maintained some of its perks over time, but the grind never quite felt as worth it to me.

Then there is Warlords of Draenor which, depending on your perspective, either destroyed crafting or brought crafting to everybody… though I might argue it did both.

I have bitched about WoD and garrisons not being housing in any sense of the word that most people gabbed on to when Tom Chilton said that is what garrisons were going to be.  We projected our wishes on that statement and were, once again, disappointed.

This is where all the trouble begins

The flip side though is that garrisons are the reason I have an alt in every crafting profession… and an outfitted garrison to support each and every one of them.  And I still go into a garrison now and then because they are still relevant to some aspects of crafting.  My tailor has cranked out so many 30 slot bags that even my lowest level alt has storage space my WoW Classic characters can only dream of.

Warlords of Draenor feels almost like the second coming of crafting for me.  I had let most of my crafting… save engineering on my main and the secondary skills of cooking, first aid, and fishing, which I always try to keep up… between Wrath and WoD.

But after WoD, after that my crafting focus was often involved hitting Darkmoon Faire once a month to get those 5 points of crafting skill.  Part of that was Blizz dialing it back after feeling they had gone in too deep with WoD, which made crafting after that feel even more grindy.  But they were also conservative on what they gave people after that too.  My tailor sold 30 slot bags on the market all through Legion because they were still in demand.

Then there was the breaking of crafting from one continuous skill range into different expansion groups, and then the great level squish, where you could play to the current expansion through just one old expansion like Wrath, but couldn’t do trade skills that way.

Here we are, past the 18 year mark since the launch of WoW, and I am wondering where the peak of crafting really was for the game.  I am sure that is a pretty subjective call, and certainly some professions have had it better than others.

For example, inscription started off very strong out of the gate in Wrath, and then was made completely irrelevant down the road.  But if you ran with alchemy and you kept up with it, you have likely been in demand through most of the history of the game, so your peak probably coincides with when you played the most.

I am torn between Wrath and how things went there and WoD where crafting was everywhere, even if that led to the downfall of most professions.

Where was the peak of trade skills for you in WoW?

Look at me. I am the Elder now.

As the title no doubt gives away, we did manage to complete the Lunar Festival meta achievement and gained the Elder title.  How we got there is a tale of its own.

We left off last time having been thwarted in our attempt to get to the elder in Utgarde Pinnacle, having been unable to defeat the third boss in the instance, Skadi the Ruthless.

Here’s Skadi!

So we did some experimenting before our next group effort.  The first thing was to scout the other two dungeons that held elders, Gundrak and the Halls of Stone, to see if we had just one problem or three.

It looked to be just one problem, as three of us (four characters) were able to jump in and find the elder in those two instances.

In Gundrak, if you are careful, you don’t even need to fight a boss.  We came in on the right side of the map, the entrance closest to the summoning stone, and walked by the first boss, clearing trash as we went, and ended up finding the elder behind the second boss, the Drakkari Colossus.

Behind the Drakkari Colossus to the left

Standing back, we hit one of the elementals with a ranged attack, not sure how that would turn out.  To our surprise, the elementals all disappeared into the Drakkari Colossus, leaving the floor around him empty.

Daring to hope against hope, I tried walking around the very edge of his area, hugging the wall, to see if we could just slip by.  And we could.

At the elder behind the boss

Of course, having done that we couldn’t just leave quietly.  We had to see if we could take the boss as a four person group.  We managed, but just barely.

I survived… good thing I can ress

Over in the Halls of Stone we had similar success.  We did not have to tangle with any bosses, finding the elder up one of the side passages.

The elder just within draw distance in the side excavation

That accomplished, we turned our thoughts back to Utgarde Pinnacle and Skadi.

We did another three person/four character run at him, but this time we replace Wilhelm, my level 77 paladin with Irondam, my level 80 Death Knight to see how that would work.  We were able to get to Skadi with just four characters, which seemed like a good sign, and Irondam held up pretty well, being level 80.  I had to figure out how to tank with him, having really only solo’d him up to 80.

At Skadi we were defeated again, but we seemed to be doing better.  We had to get this done during the week because I was going to be gone over the weekend (off to Vegas for my wife’s birthday), so we picked a time last Thursday night to get all of us together.

In the mean time I went off to read up on how to spec and glyph and play a Death Knight as a tank, since I had basically just picked things that seemed interesting while leveling up.  The DK is over powered enough that you can get away with that.

We got together on Thursday night with this plan.  The group would go in with Irondam as the tank.  Meanwhile, I had parked Wilhelm just outside the instance.

Irondam with his Kalu’ak harpoon leading the party in

If we were able to get to the elder, Irondam would leave the group, log out, and I would log Wilhelm in, be invited to the group, then run through the cleared section of the instance to get the elder.

If we made it.

Oh, crap, the title.  I guess I can’t really build up much tension.  Yeah, we made it.

Potshot reported that healing Irondam was much easier once I did the respec and glyph update… and learned to play a bit.  I have read that protection paladin is actually the best tank in the game, but a DK isn’t far behind, and one that is two levels ahead has an advantage.  Also, in the test run he got three nice upgrades as drops, meaning he wasn’t just wearing quest reward green drops this time around.

That together got us to Skadi without too much effort.

At Skadi we at least knew what the mechanics were and the flow of the event.  That was a serious step up from our past runs.  We opted not to do anything fancy, so just fought our way up the path collecting harpoons as we went.  We even got to Skadi on our first go, but his whirlwind attack took out Ula and Bjorid, which cut our DPS pretty hard, so we went down before we could defeat him.

The healer and the warlock couldn’t close the deal

During that I did figure out that death grip would taunt Skadi off of the DPS while he was whirlwinding away, so the next time around I was able to use that.  And the next time around was a success, with Skadi defeated.

Whirlwind this

That opened the door to a set of stairs we had to fight our way down, but we could see the quest icon for the elder on the mini map.  He was below the stairs.

Irondam gets his first coin from Elder Chogan’gada

At that point Bjorid and Fergorin got the meta achievement and the title, Potshot having done the legwork already for that moment.  The rest of us still had some work to do… the first of which was logging Wilhelm in to go grab the elder.

Then we ran back to Gundrak with Beanpole, who had missed our previous venture there.  We let him sneak around to grab the elder, but in walking back his minion moved straight through the boss and set him off, so we had to fight him… and we wiped.  We were not ready.

We then ran the Halls of Stone, which gave us all the elders from Northrend dungeons.

After that there was some remedial work on my part back in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms as I finished up the other dunegon elders.  I died in Zul’Farrak because I had half the instance trained behind me after I got the elder and then got dismounted.  A couple dozen mid-40s mobs can bring down a level 78 paladin.

Maraudon was probably the most annoying, but I found my way there, slaying the princess along the way to get the achievement for the instance.

Blackrock Depths and Blackrock Spire were both pretty doable.

The elder in Blackrock Spire visible

Then I made my way over to Stratholme for the last elder on my list and the achievement.

The Elders All Found

And that was that.  Now the Lunar Festival is over we can get back to… wait, is it time for Valentine’s events already?  Okay, we might be going there next.

The Cataclysm Classic Question

I am still exploring this issue in my head, but that never stopped me from writing something down.   And, frankly, sometimes writing it down helps solidify my thoughts.  We’ll see.

I mentioned the idea of Cataclysm Classic in my questions for 2023 post, and was prompted to think about it again by the Activision Blizzard Q4 2022 financials.

A day that will live in infamy…

Things were going swimmingly for the Blizzard side of the house coming out of Q4.  And well it might be, Blizz having launched the Dragonflight expansion for retail WoW.  Quarters with WoW expansions tend to be earnings peaks for the company.

Eventually though the board… or maybe at some point Microsoft… will want to know what Blizz has done for them lately.  WoW expansions don’t hold onto subscribers for a full two years.

okay, explain this then…

Well, RECENT expansions… like every expansion after Wrath of the Lich King… has seen subscribers drop off, some more than others.

Of course, we don’t actually know what the subscriber base is for WoW because after Warlords of Draenor crashed after its first year Blizzard declined to mention subscriptions ever again, opting for Monthly Active Users, or MAUs… which then also began a downward spiral quarter after quarter.

JFC, if you’re going to cherry pick a metric, go with one that makes you look good, right?

Anyway, my point is that no matter how spectacular the current retail player base thinks Dragonflight is, it still fell short of sales expectations (again, from the Q4 2022 financials) to the point that Blizz was offering promotions to come play before it was a month out of the box, so it seems like a safe bet that Blizz cannot depend on it holding its own for two years no matter how many pretty road map graphics they put out.

So they need something else and they’ve got… WoW Classic, which pulled their chestnuts out of the fire previously.

Only they have arguably shot their metaphorical bolt on the WoW Classic front since the most reasonable definition in my book for the Classic era of WoW is “before Cataclysm,” or, maybe looking at that chart above “expansions that grew the user base during their two year reign.”

Which might lead one to conclude that the WoW Classic revenue stream is not… if not dead, at least not going to be able to bring enough weight to the table to offset a second summer collapse of another retail WoW expansion.

Sure, Blizzard can continue to fiddle around with some more fresh start options for vanilla and such, and that will probably pay for itself and make some profit, but nothing is going to match the epic return to the game that came with the initial launch of WoW Classic.  The pent up demand has been sated and unless Blizzard takes it away again for another decade, there will be no huge tidal wave of players keen to relive their glory days.

And yet, there are still expansions, good expansions, in the mix that would arguably be fun to go back and relive the way they were before Blizz took away the borrowed power of the month to promote the next big idea.  Legion with legendary weapons for example.  I would be up for that.

I would go so far as to say that Cataclysm is a pretty good expansion.

In hindsight I think the thing that I and many others were pissed about was the destruction of the old world, replacing it with a completely different experience.  It isn’t that one version of the world was necessarily better than the other, it is that the one we knew and loved and were invested in was taken away such that we could never return… unless we went and played on one of the many WoW pirate servers that sprung up to keep that old world alive for people.

It was also the first expansion where Blizz decided to fight the expanding level cap by limiting it to just five additional levels with Cata, which felt odd.

But I have played through all of the Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms zones post-Cataclysm… there is a series of posts about that from ages ago… and the zones are pretty fun.  Some were changed dramatically, some were given a lighter touch, but the overall effect was to give them each a story to play through that lacked many of the gaps or sudden stair steps of quest levels that was part of the Vanilla experience.

I think the main problem with them was that the level curve by that point for 1-60 had been compressed so much that it was difficult to play through a whole zone before you out-leveled the quests.

And, of course, Cata added five new zones, including one of the prettiest zones they’ve ever done in the game.  Vashj’ir, the under water zone was just spectacular… though like all such zones, prone to producing motion sickness in some if you were not careful.

So it feels like there ought to be a path forward with Cataclysm in the vein of the WoW Classic theme.  The complexity of possible outcomes does vex me however.

You don’t want to force happy Wrath Classic people into Cata… that was how we got in this mess.  But would it popular enough to warrant its own stand-alone, fresh start server?  One can certainly argue that you can go play those zones RIGHT NOW in retail.  The problem, as pointed out previously, is that you cannot play anything but the current expansion with the classes and talents and borrowed power that existed in any of the old expansions.

In order to unlock “classic” versions of all those previous expansions I feel like Blizzard has to start with Cataclysm.

But I am not sure that it would be worth the effort, or that Blizzard would want to have yet another branch of their code to support yet another launcher tab for yet another version of World of Warcraft.  Certainly the internal argument against any such move is going to be the level squish and how you can play all that old content from level 10 to 50 now obviates any need to have any further deviation retail WoW… so long as you want to play the old content with the Dragonflight classes, specs, power, and whatever…  even the UI fights against the feel of the old content.

So I am undecided still on this as an idea.