Category Archives: WoW Classic

September in Review

The Site

Last month I was on about email subscriptions and how they appeared to have broken for a stretch, then started back up.  Well, they seem to be completely broken again.  WordPress.com working its magic yet again.  So if you’re one of the 45 people WP.com thinks still subscribe via email… that number dropped suddenly as well… you’re probably not reading this.  Sorry?

Also, I have somehow carried on posting every single day, bringing the tally up to 916 days in a row.

Another meaningless milestone

That means I only need to do that for 84 more days to hit 1,000.  And there are 92 days left in the year.  I could get there by Christmas and give myself boxing day off… unless I have waited until the last minute for all of those end of the year posts.  We’ll see I guess.

That is about it for the 17th September in Review post… well, except for all of the usual stuff below.

One Year Ago

It was time to sum up the labors of Blaugust once more.

It was also anniversary time as the blog turned fifteen.  Also, WordPress was talking about putting “sponsored content” into blogs.

I also wrote something about 35 years of connected computing, it marking the anniversary of purchasing my first modem back in 1986.

I was wondering if the level squish had been a good idea a year after Blizz did it.  I still wonder if it was today.

In Burning Crusade Classic the instance group managed to get through the Blood Furnace as a foursome.

But we were kind of slowing down on that, and on our radar was Diablo II Resurrected, which launched at last.

Daybreak announced the Visions of Vertovia expansion for EverQuest II.  Then it was time for the Pandas and the pre-expansion catch up.  Meanwhile, over in EverQuest there was something about perks… for sale of course.  And Lord of the Rings Online announced the Fate of Gundabad expansion.

Meanwhile, Amazon finally launched New World.  Having played in some of the beta cycle, I was moaning about how the vision for the game had changed.

In EVE Online it was once again time for Caldari Union Day.  We also got the Gateway quadrant update, which included yet another new player experience, as well as a UI update for skills that once again proved that the one thing CCP UI designers value over all else is wasted empty space in the middle of informational elements.

CCP was also telling us that 24 million pilots had played EVE Online, though they were not clear about what that really meant.

The New Eden monthly economic report was showing us the impact of the end of World War Bee.  Meanwhile, CCP remain on its path to make players poor, their solution to MUDflation, while I was looking to my own finances in game.

Things were still happening though.  We blew up a Keepstar in Catch and CCP helped up blow up botters in Yulai once again.

I was getting setup with Zwift and our new exercise bike.  A year later I am still using it regularly, even if the stages of every ride remain the same.

We were also binge watching Ray Donovan and all of the Helen Mirren versions of Prime Suspect.

My wife and I went to Maui where we were involved in some minor driving adventure.

Finally, it had been 20 years since terrorists brought down the World Trade Center and I was reflecting on how it was very much a dividing line in history.

Five Years Ago

The blog turned eleven and so I brought out an elf.

I was talking about a typewriter.  The first typewriter I used.  I still have it.

Raptr announced that they would be shutting down at the end of the month.

GuildWars 2 launched their Path of Fire expansion.

Destiny 2 launched.  That’s an MMO, right?

Pokemon Gold & Silver were made available via the 3DS Virtual Console.

Crimson Leaf Games announced MegaWars – Dawn of the Third Age.

I took a look at Daybreak 30 months into is existence.  And, as I did that, we got the bad news that EQ2 Wire was shutting down after covering the game for nine years.  Then Daybreak announced that the Fippy Darkpaw server would be merged with the Vulak server… probably a few years too late to make any difference.

In EVE Online CCP gave us a heads up as to the coming Lifeblood expansion, complete with trailer.  Last I checked the site was still up, but running pretty much unattended.

I was running on about meaningful PvE progression in New Eden and going on about return on time invested and content on demand.

In space I was doing the Alpha Strikes event while the August MER showed that deploying to Hakonen cost the Imperium in mining and ratting revenue.

Then came the Warzone Extraction event to celebrate the non-VR version of the soon to be in maintenance mode EVE: Valkyrie.  It was a tough event by EVE Online PvE standards and I am sure it killed some newbies.

But the big EVE Online news of the month was The Judge betraying Circle of Two, selling their Keepstar to the Imperium (who later sold it to TEST) and the camp in 68FT-6 as alliance members tried to escape from their former home.  GigX was banned and CO2 seemed doomed.  It was one of those “Only in EVE” sort of events.

Andrew Groen was planning some EVE Online history lectures via a new podcast.  That only lasted five episodes before he went back to writing books on EVE Online history.

In a bullet points post I noted the passing of the EVE Gate site, that CCP cancelled their deal with Nexon for Japanese EVE Online support, that Ultima Online was talking about free to play, and that Daybreak wasn’t going to be handing out any more free content in Norrath for the foreseeable future.

And finally Chris Roberts was unironically talking about developer optimism in an interview.

Ten Years Ago

The World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria launched, adding a panda race to Azeroth, right on Ultima Online’s 15th anniversary.   I think the shark jumping trope jumped the shark that day.

I was falling out of WoW myself, though still not allowed to unsubscribe. Being locked out of the Theremore event due to item level helped kill any enthusiasm I had for staying with the game.

Torchlight II showed up.  I was still waiting for the Mac OS version so I could play with my daughter.

In the land of EverQuest, the Rain of Fear expansion was announced, while EverQuest II went straight to truth in advertising and revealed an expansion called Chains of Eternity.

On the Fippy Darkpaw server, Omens of War went live and was finished.

SOE was talking about some form of Wizardry that was online.   PlanetSide 2 was planned for the end of the year… sort of.  And then there was Player Studio and all that implied.

The next chapter in the Darkfall saga was announced.  And they had a new game/expansion or some such.

In EVE Online, the CSM was looking for a way to… well… screw most of the people who actually vote for the CSM.  I stranded my null sec Drake in Jita and I compared Traffic Control to a hostile FC.

In a more serious vein, the real world reached into our game took a fellow player.  Even tragedy cannot displace idiocy though.

My goal to get my fourth class in Rift, a mage, to level cap before Storm Legion had me in Stonefield.

BioWare, not done with their trend of announcing public metrics they eventually failed to meet, committed themselves to a new content schedule for SWTOR.  Later we found out that “adding items to the cash shop” counts as new content.  Meanwhile, I pondered the SWTOR lore choice.

The Lord British saga continued as he opted to jump in bed with Zynga!  He, of course, expressed great fondness for Zynga, while I wondered what his sith name would be, since he was clearly going the Anakin Skywalker route.

I remembered Spaceship Warlock.

Free to play was still under discussion.  An article in Game Developer Magazine included the warning to not assume profitability just because people are going on about revenues.  And yet all I hear about are revenues when it comes to free to play.

The people at Stormpowered Studios started in against marriage.

And the blog turned six and felt very clever about it.

Fifteen Years Ago

I summed up my first year of blogging, the first in a long series of anniversary posts. I also participated in a meme… back when that wasn’t an picture thing… about the power of four.

Auto Assault was gone, another NCsoft title shut down.  I was wondering if Tabula Rasa might follow suit.

I started thinking about what an expansion would look like for Lord of the Rings Online.  I was also browsing in Othrikar.  But I was more curious as to why the game just wasn’t as much fun as, say, World of Warcraft.

On the Wii it was Mario Party 8 and the Virtual Console.

In EVE Online I finally fixed the sound driver issue that was making the game crash. Hah, I used to run EVE with the sound on!

In other New Eden events, I was flying the Mammoth as a hauler to support mining ops in my Retriever.  Jet can mining and training up to Mining Barge V and salvaging.  I was also getting lost with the corp and station interface.  Another wish list there.  At least I found the “warp to 0” options quickly.  I still wasn’t quite sure what people meant by “tank” in the game though.

I was still running missions and had advanced to cruisers on that front.  And I was losing them as well.  I also had to queue to log in because there were 21K people in the game.  Traffic control was coming up as well.  CCP was working on the issue.

Our summer vacation from Azeroth was over with the return of Earl.  We were back to running instances, starting with Zul’Farrak.  Of course, then we realized nobody had the mallet, so we had to go get that.  I still have it in the bank.  I was also out searching for mithril.

SOE announced that their combined Station Launcher would be available for beta soon.  I don’t think it ever left beta before it was finally scrapped.

I was reminiscing about the Thundering Steppes in EverQuest II, a zone I was playing in less than three years before.  Early onset nostalgia I guess.

There was the loaded question about who counts as “press” in a world where blogs exist.  People seem determined to embrace arbitrary rules on that front, something that always leads to suppression of opinions with which they disagree.

And finally there were naked zones and wondering how to make PvP (and PvE) better.

Twenty Five Years Ago

Ultima Online launched.  Raph Koster has some accumulated memories of the game from over the years and a link to a video… and then he wrote some more about the game as it came about, what influenced it and what it influenced.  He was back with another post for the 25th anniversary.

A little title called Total Annihilation also launched 20 years ago today.  With a real three dimensional environment and line of site constraints, it was ahead of its time and remains an underrated title to my mind.  Cave Dog, the developer, went bust ages ago and, through the twists and turns of the video game business, Wargaming.net of World of Tanks fame ended up owning the rights to the title.

Forty Five Years Ago

Atari ships the Atari 2600 Video Computer System, getting the retail channel all setup for the best Christmas ever.

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. Flight in Pre-Patch Outland
  2. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  3. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  4. The Level 70 Boost Question for Wrath Classic
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  7. A Brief History of Goon Leadership
  8. CCP Lets EVE Online Players with Multiple Accounts Subscribe Secondary Accounts at a Lower Price
  9. Sixteen Years of Driving the Blog
  10. Arrival in a Level Squished Northrend
  11. What Will it Mean to Have a Bunch of 20 Year Old MMORPGs?
  12. Where Does WoW Classic End?

Search Terms of the Month

seedofthedead “fail”
[Um, sure]

portable hole bag price
[Too damn much]

dune adventures in the imperium sand and dust download pdf
[That sounds pretty interesting really]

Game Time from ManicTime

Another month with two titles, with pretty much the same ratio between them.  I did, however, spend about 20% more time actually playing video games this past month, so I guess I shared that extra time out equally.

  • WoW Classic – 77.8%
  • EVE Online – 22.2%

At least I think it was just those two titles.  There was an update to ManicTime and, while the daily stats remained normal, the rolled up stats for the month got messed up and now seemed to be associated with the executable rather than the window name.  So, for example, WoW Classic and retail WoW both run as the same name, so I just see time for World of Warcraft.  Now I know I mostly played WoW Classic, but I did spend a bit of time in retail WoW redeeming that dragon mount and poking around.  But I cannot tell how much time.

As always seems to happen, my time tracking app seemed to get screwed up eventually.

EVE Online

Something must have happened in New Eden, I spent some time there.  I guess there were a couple of move ops home, my Planetary Industry to tend to, and at least one fleet op… the one where I lost the insured Ferox.  That was a net win.  I only have eight more in my hangar.

Pokemon Go

Still working our way towards level 43.  It may still be a while.  I did, however, finally get a Torkoal this month.

  • Level: 42 ( 82.7% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
  • Pokedex status: 733 (+8) caught, 751 (+5) seen
  • Mega Evolutions obtained: 15 of 25
  • Pokemon I want: Pachirisu
  • Current buddy: Golisopod (just because he looks cool)

WoW Classic

It was the big run up to Wrath Classic and getting mains and alts leveled up and then that first brief look at Northrend.  Really, it is about as simple as that.  We leveled up mains, leveled up some alts, and made Death Knights.  And we were happy doing it.

Zwift

I have somehow kept this up for over a year.  I may have to do a post about that.  But here are my stats as of today.

  • Level – 16 (+0)
  • Distanced cycled – 1,244 miles (+64 miles)
  • Elevation climbed – 49,652 (+2,040 feet)
  • Calories burned – 40,232 (+1,797)

Coming Up

October is likely to be very much about Wrath Classic.  We’ll be heading there as a group this weekend for the first time.  Eventually we’ll get to the first dungeon and will have to work out how to get past the Prince Keleseth fight.  It will be tough with only four of us, but we’re working on ideas.

In EVE Online there could be some happenings… though Hurricane Ian ravaging Florida means that our Alliance leader is offline.  I do hope he is okay.  I’ll trade some downtime for his safety.

Also, CCP is starting to roll out some of the things they presented at Fanfest.  There might be actual game news to cover.

Otherwise Daybreak will be ramping up for its range of content launches in Q4 and holiday event will start showing up.

On the First Boat to Borean Tundra

Between a meeting that ended early and a visit to the dentist I found myself in the right place at the right time to be there when Wrath of the Lich King Classic opened up on our server, Bloodsail Buccaneers.

Wrath World Wide Launch Times

I am actually still impressed with how smoothly things went, at least on our server.  Newly promoted VP and WoW Classic executive producer Holly Longdale can be proud. Things started off on time… even a bit early.

I checked in on the server during my lunch hour… working from home has some benefits… and found that everything was still as it had been the night before, with the XP buff still running.  So I got out my Death Knight and did another half a level of quests while I ate.  Closer to Northrend for him.

I also positioned my main, Wilhelm, in Stormwind in anticipation of the coming ride to Northrend.  When my afternoon meeting wrapped up 20 minutes before 3pm, I decided to log in to see what was going on.  I couldn’t remember how the expansion kicked off back in the day, but I saw people riding over towards Stormwind harbor.

Stormwind now has a harbor.  That was a bit of the pre-patch, including routing the boat to Auberdine to the new dock facilities in the big city.  But the action was all clearly at the dock at the other end of the harbor, where a crowd was gathering.

Arriving at the dock in Stormwind

I worked my way into the crowd, uncertain if I needed to do something before the boat arrived… I remember some past scenario where you ended up in a different phase of the harbor if you were not on the right quest or something… but the fact that everybody else seemed to be in the same situation kept reassured me.

Hanging out on the dock

The first sign that we were close was when the level 70s in the crowd started shouting about how their XP bars had suddenly re-appeared.  Some people needed to reload the UI to see it, but it was a sign that we were close.

Then King Varian Wrynn yelled out, calling out to defend the harbor.

The King yells like everybody else

I am not sure which harbor he meant, but we certainly had more than enough people in Stormwind harbor.

Then, at least, the boat appeared, popping into view due to the horrible draw distance limitations in classic.  The crowd came alive.

The boat looms into view

As it pulled up along the dock, people piled aboard.  It might have been the most crowded ship I have ever seen in World of Warcraft.

Will she swim with this load?

Then the boat was in motion, five minutes before the appointed hour.

This was unfortunate for Ula, who had expected things to run on time and had not arrived at the harbor before the boat pulled away.  She had done such great videos of the opening of Burning Crusade Classic and Shadowlands.  But Blizz being early robbed us of another video.

I was on the boat though, and off we went.

In the first wabe!

We made the transition and appeared in Northrend, pulling up to the dock at Valliance Keep.

First view of Northrend

When we pulled up to the dock, those who had the patience to wait flooded off the boat into the keep.  Others, less patient, had jumped off the boat and pulled themselves ashore, hoping to beat the substantial crowd.

Going ashore at Valliance Keep

The first comers to the land ran to the inn, the quest keepers, the flight point, and to the trade skill trainers, a mass of people swarming over the town.

Up and down trade skill alley

The initial moments of the expansion seemed to go quite smoothly.  I got in there, trained up the trade skills I could… my engineering is still well behind… grabbed the flight point, and stopped at the inn.  That was about all I had time for.

Of course, there were different circumstances on different servers.  Marie Peters posted a screen shot of the queue on Grobbululs.  That is a difficult queue to swallow.

332 minutes is longer than I would wait

Fortunately, she has a character on our server to work on.

Meanwhile, as the day progressed the boat ride to Northrend became somewhat perilous.  As server loads increased, people started getting dropped in the water zoning into Northrend… problematic if you happened to be on a Horde Zeppelin I imagine… and Blizz flipped the switch to 2008 mode and started letting the dockmasters teleport players to the dock in Northrend.

Just talk to the dockmaster and they’ll teleport you.  Captain Placeholder would be so proud.

Send me to Northrend

I remember slow load times dropping me in the water back in 2009, long after launch.  It was a thing.  But with the launch crowd, it was happening a lot more.

And now that the expansion is open… I’ll probably work on my alts a bit more, get them up to level 68.  The beginning zones will be so overrun tonight and I am not feeling the mood to stand in line like we did back at the launch of WoW Classic.

Still, Northrend is open to us.  The adventure begins!

Wrath of the Lich King Classic Launch Day

It will be here soon, in less than five hours from the time this post goes live if everything goes to plan.  It is Wrath of the Lich King Classic launch day.

Wrath World Wide Launch Times

And I suspect things will go to plan.  Blizzard isn’t Daybreak, where a noon launch plan means being able to log into the servers maybe that evening.

In a way this is very exciting.  We are at last being allowed to go back to Northrend in something of a simulation what we experienced back in 2008.  I know some people are pissy about this feature or that or things not being EXACTLY like 2008.  But five years ago I was pretty sure this was never going to happen, that Blizzard would stick with the “You think you want it…” line and carry doing whatever the hell it is they think they’re doing with retail WoW.

So I am very happy this day arrived and will ignore any nit picking about it, even my own.  Especially my own.

In a way this day rings a bit sad.  This is, so far as I am concerned, the end of the classic era being delivered to us.  There are talks about Cataclysm Classic, and there is a place in the world for that I am sure, but that isn’t “classic” WoW for any but the most general definition of the word.

This is it.  This is the culmination of what many of us wanted, even if it may not be exactly what every single fan wished for.  This is what we get and we’re never likely to get anything better on this front.  For all the complaints, Blizz has taken this seriously and has done a better job than we had any reason to expect five years back.  Today is the big day and there won’t ever be another return to Northrend like it, even if they do a hundred Wrath Classic launches, because today is the first.

And I am also feeling a bit of pressure on myself, personally today.  There is very much a mix of emotions stirring within me about this.  As I have written multiple times, this is a chance to go back to what is absolutely my high point in Azeroth.  But that comes with the risk of being a let down, because we all know that your experience in a game is as much about what is going on around you in life as it is about the game itself.  Context matters, and it changes constantly.  Fourteen years down the road the world, my life, and myself have all changed.  Can I just inject Wrath of the Lich King back into that mix and expect it to be as fun as it was back then?

Was it even that fun back then?  How much of my memories are being viewed through rose colored lenses?  How much of the fun was because there just wasn’t another title that had as much pull on me at that moment?  How much of this will be fun doing it again?

There is a lot to unpack about this new stage of the WoW Classic journey.  But I am ready to set out on the road to Northrend.

I have the following characters either ready to go or close to being ready:

  • Wilhelm – 68 Paladin
  • Tistann – 68 Hunter
  • Alioto – 67 Druid
  • Irondam – 65 Deathknight

Nobody at level cap.  Once I hit 68 I started working on alts.  But they’ll all have blue bar still.

The plan is to carry on with our group, which means my paladin.

On the other hand, one thing I found out when we made Death Knights a week back was how OP they really are.  Did I know this back in 2008?  I don’t remember.  But I am seriously considering driving hard to get my DK into Northrend and maybe swapping him in as tank.

However, looking over at Icy Veins, they rank the protection pally ahead of the DK when it comes to tanks in Wrath Classic, so maybe I’ll stay with things as they are.

Anyway, here we are.  We will soon discover if we really wanted this, all of this, every single bit of this, or not.

Also, I’ll be able to stop writing all these broad scope, over thinking myself posts about classic, its meanings and implications, and just go play.  Yay!

Reflections on Outland after Burning Crusade Classic

Here we are at the very tail end of the first Burning Crusade Classic experience, where we got to try and relive something akin to the way things were back in 2007 when the expansion landed and gave us something new to do.  Tomorrow it will be Wrath of the Lich King Classic, so there are only a few hours left for Outland.

Through the Dark Portal

I will say that the adventure was a bit of a surprise, at least relative to the initial WoW Classic experience.  Or maybe it was just an odd juxtaposition.

I came into WoW Classic wondering if it was going to be as good, fun, engaging as it was back when I started playing in 2005.  And somehow it managed to meet those expectations.  I mean, it certainly reaffirmed some of the negative bits as well… that level 40-ish content drought was as painful as I remembered… but it was a lot of fun and I am glad we went back to play.

With Burning Crusade Classic the question was more whether or not it was as annoying or awkward or grindy as I remembered it.  And it too confirmed my long held sentiment about the expansion.  I have complained about it in the past, and I was able to go back an experience the root of those complaints.

However, I will say that as far as WoW expansions go, there is a LOT of content in Outland.  I very much get the sense that the design of TBC was a reaction by the dev and design team about how they were going to keep players busy in a ten level expansion after they had consumed a 60 level initial game in two years.

Everything is slower, every quest means killing more mobs than you would have in Azeroth, every skill improvement takes just that much more effort, and the experience bar moved very slowly all the way through, making sure you felt like you had to do all the many, many quests that each zone contained.

I have joked in the past that about the Outland motto being, “If killing ten rats is good, then killing twenty must be even better!”  But having been into it again, it was clearly more a matter of “If we don’t keep the players busy, they’ll leave!  So we had better slow them down as much as we dare!”  And the same goes for crafting.  While I have leveled up all my harvesting, my crafting lags far behind.

I think that in later expansions, once Blizz had discovered end game content beyond raiding and giving players horizontal objectives and daily quests that were not dull and repetitive, they didn’t feel the need to cram quite so much into every zone.  It feels like there is about two expansions worth of overland content in Outland, that they could have split it in half and had us run through ten levels on that, then given us the other half for another ten levels.

Of course, the winnowing of the run to level cap reach its absurd end with the Shadowlands expansion, where you could get there in under a month of casual play and the next 23 months of the expansion was all alts and end game.

Except I never bothered with the alts and the end game for non-raiders was boring.

So Outland at least has content.  There is no lack of that.  The problem is that once you ease up on the slow xp crawl to make it feel like you’re actually making some progress with each play session, there is too much content.  Easing the XP curve means being done in the first three zones pretty much.  Maybe four.  But Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley, those get skipped.

I wonder how the Outland experience is in retail WoW after the level squish?  Is playing 50 levels of Outland better than 10 levels?  All I know is that an accelerated experience probably sold the expansion short.

Otherwise it was all very much a step on the evolutionary path of the game.  Blizz decided that maybe one flight point per zone wasn’t necessarily enough, though they stuck to that in some zones.  And that trend would continue until we got a flight point per quest hub pretty much.

In hindsight, for all of my criticism, it was good to go back and play through some of the expansion, if only to revive memories.  I wish we could have managed more dungeons, but being a group of four is a limiting factor there.  And it will be all the more so in Northrend.  Prince Keleseth will be a huge barrier for us.

Then there are the general problems of WoW Classic, such as the draw distance, which never ceases to annoy.  Also, what is Blizzard’s plan now for the classic path?  It sounds like all servers will more forward to Northrend and, if the signs are correct, to Cataclysm.  That will be a bad move, but we’ll get to that discussion later.

So enjoy the last day when Outland is the peak destination in WoW Classic.  I still have to play there, having alts that I might want to level up.  But that will come later.  Tomorrow I’ll have two characters ready for the cold north.

The Level 70 Boost Question for Wrath of the Lich King Classic

As we move inexorably towards Wrath of the Lich King Classic next week I have been running down what it is I need to do between now and then.  Really, with the launch at 3pm on Monday local time for me, anything I want to do needs to get done by Sunday night.

Monday afternoon is not far away

I have met my basic goal… the whole group has… of having a level 68 character ready to go into Northrend.  Op success on that front.

In addition, my hunter has also made it to 68, so I have an alt that can run off into the expansion on his own, which is generally how things go for me.

I have also managed to get my druid alt kind of close.  He’ll probably be level 66 or 67 by Sunday night, so not quite there for Northrend, but close.  I will be able to get him there without too much effort, though I am trying to get him as far along as I can with the experience boost still running.  Make hay while the sun shines and all that.

There is also my Death Knight… I am not sure what I’ll do with him, but he and my warrior are level 60, so stuck in Outland and unlikely to get very far before the experience boost falls off.  The downside of no Dungeon Finder is that before character boosts, it was the fast way to level up alts.  I went through Outland with a couple of alts solely by queuing up for dungeons.  Fast and easy.

Which brings us to the level 70 character boost on offer.  If I really, really want another character in Northrend, that is an option.  The thing is, I am not too sure I would play more than my main and my hunter alt in the first place.

I am trying to balance my expectations and abilities when it comes to Wrath Classic.

On the one hand, Wrath is the only WoW expansion that I played from launch to end.  I was clearly into it.  Short of raiding, I did all the things, played through with alts, ran Wintergrasp regularly, and was basically logged in almost every day.  So there is clearly something in there I enjoyed.

On the flip side, and I have brought this up before, am I willing to do it all again?  As I noted with my post on Thursday, I already did a lot of this.  My main character in retail WoW has the titles and achievements and faction rep and artifacts to prove it.  And I do not regret having made the effort to get, for example, that Kalu’ak fishing pole.

But do I really want to do that all again?

Yes?  Maybe?  I don’t know.  We’ll see how it goes.

I mean, I might be really into it.  It is quite possible that I might want to do, for example, the Argent Tournament dailies again until I am exalted with every faction and have all the special mounts and tabards and whatever.  Maybe I will want to run multiple characters through the content.

Which brings us to the level boosts… or the Wrath of the Lich King Classic Upgrades, as they are called over on Blizzard’s site.  If I want a level 70, I can have one.  I just have to be willing to pay the price.

How much is a boost worth?

The base price for that instant level 70 is fifty bucks.

Did I even pay that much for Wrath of the Lich King back in 2008?  I can’t remember.  It was a long time ago.  But $40 seems to ring a bell.  I know I didn’t buy the collector’s edition, because I don’t have the frosty pet.

So I am kind of torn on this.  One part of my brain, bouncing and enthusiastic for Northrend, is all, “Yes, buy it! No, buy the $80 version!  Go all in!  You know you want to!”

But another part of my brain… the part that not only feels that lack of commitment to the retro experience I pondered on Thursday, but also the skepticism that Northrend is going to be nearly as much fun the second time through… that part of my brain says it would be a complete waste of money.  Am I really going to play more than three characters?

Finally, there is the question of which character I would boost in any case.  Three characters are already in or so very close to Northrend as to be not worth the effort.  I have a couple of level 60s, but one is a DK which can’t be boosted, while my warrior… just doesn’t thrill me.

What class would even be worth boosting?  What character do I have that is far enough back to be worth the effort.

Roll on brother Chad

I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Achievements, Northrend, and Classic Destinations

I had this list of things I wanted to write about before Wrath of the Lich King Classic went live, and now it is suddenly happening next week and I am scrambling to get in those last few pre-launch posts.

Another Day Closer

Wrath of the Lich King occupies a very special spot in the history of World of Warcraft.  It was the peak of the game’s popularity, it was a point when they seemed to get the flow of content updates just right to keep people engaged, and it was the “before” state of the game to Cataclysm‘s “after” situation, and the slow decline.

The early WoW timeline

And, for purposes of this discussion, it was very much the dividing line between “classic” and “modern” World of Warcraft.

That line, however, isn’t hard and precise, something that changed on December 7th, 2010 when Cataclysm launched.  WotLK arrived as the peak of the classic era and ushered in over the two years of its run things that changed the game nearly as much as the next expansion did.  The Dungeon Finder no doubt leaps to mind, which made the dungeon running experience a very different experience.  Cataclysm shut the door on classic, but Wrath set us on a path towards that.

But there were also achievements, which came in with the pre-patch.  I had to look that up because, in my brain, I had the notion that it came in later.  But all my earliest achievements are dated October 14, 2008, which makes it part of the 3.0 expansion pre-patch.

Achievements were one of the big splashy features, something that maybe didn’t change the game the way the Dungeon Finder did, but changed the way people felt about the game and how some of us approached playing it.

I have said this before, and I will reaffirm it now, that I have always been a pretty big fan of Blizzard’s approach to achievements.  They seemed to me to strike the write tone with few exceptions, made for a nice mix of gimme level items to peak game aspirations with plenty of oddball items in between.

I didn’t spend days fishing for coins in the fountain in Dalaran because it was the best mechanic in the game.  I did it because I wanted the Coin Master achievement.

Dalaran fountain fishing galore

So I was into it, at least to some extent.  I was good for goofy stuff or things like the explorer achievement, but I never quite made it there for the Loremaster.

And I get that achievements were not universally beloved.  Some people saw them as an immersion breaking intrusion in the play time.  I would have been fine if Blizzard had given people the option to hide achievements.  I’m pretty sure I wrote a post about that at some point, but can’t be bothered to dig up everything I am referencing.

But the message here is that I was largely pro-achievements when the showed up in Azeroth and have spent many happy hours doing things to add one more to my list of those earned.

Which leads me to Wrath Classic achievements.  I don’t care for them.

Seriously.  One of the reasons I know when achievements came in to the game is that when the Wrath Classic pre-patch dropped and I got my first achievement, I went looking to figure out how the Dungeon Finder got excluded but these made their way in.  I’d be willing to trade one for the other if they were from the same era.  But no, they were a day one feature so there is no “classic” argument to be made in order to exclude them.

So what is the problem?  Why am I suddenly anti-achievement?

It is actually a pretty simple explanation.  I’ve already done them.

Seriously, that is it.  I have fished in the fountain, danced drunk at Brewfest, run all the dungeons, earned all the mounts, and whatever else I might have been willing to do when I was 14 years younger and seeing all of this for the first time.

I shouldn’t begrudge anybody who wants to go do them, but I’ve been there, done that, and likely won’t put in the effort again.  I can log into retail and see them all if I want to reminisce.  Now I want the hide achievements feature for myself.

Which I suppose brings up one of the flaws in the retro server experience.  I want to go back and rekindle some memories of good time, relive a few good time, and enjoy the game as it was back in the day rather than the state it is in now.

Honestly, I’d like to get on whichever bus to Northrend that plans to stay there.  There is already buzz about Cataclysm Classic, and I have opinions… not all negative… about that for another post.  I am saying now (and we’ll see if I change my mind) that I’d like WoW Classic to culminate in Wrath and just left there for people to work through at their leisure.

Because another problem with retro servers is that they tend to be accelerated experiences.  And maybe in a year I’ll feel that I’ve spent enough time in the cold.  But right now Northrend is a destination, not a stop on the journey for me.  Perhaps if I am allowed to stay I’ll even go fish in the fountain in Dalaran, just for old time’s sake.

And maybe that is my problem… or the problem with retro servers… the lack of commitment by the company to the experience.  If I could just stay on a server that ended at Wrath, would I be happier, more committed myself, and willing to invest in the experience?  I certainly think I would.  But like most players, there is a notable history of discrepancy between what I say I want and what I’ll actually go all-in on.

We Make Death Knights

As I noted last time around, the group managed to get our main characters to level 68.  That means they have hit the minimum level requirement to head to Northrend once Wrath of the Lich King Classic launches next week.

Feeling chilly?

Having done that, we decided to give something else a try.  Blizzard had given us an incentive to roll up Death Knights, so we decided to give that a go as a group, heading into the Death Knight starter area.

It has been many years since I started a Death Knight, and I am pretty sure I only did it twice back then, so my memories of it are vague to say the least.

Anyway, we got together over the weekend and all rolled one up and jumped into the DK starting zone, where you meet the Lich King first thing.

Welcome to my expansion, can I offer you a quest?

Names were difficult this far down the line, but we all came up with something.  I went with Irondam, straight from the name generator, while Ula kept up with her usual theme, rolling with a gnomish DK named Krula.  Potshot went with Nordwink while Beanpole rolled a Dranei DK named Leiderhoser.

So named we went about the tasks of learning the DK trade, having swords issued, the whole runforging thing, and then having to fight somebody on our side to prove our value before we were allowed to fight the enemy.

Dude, that describes literally all of us

Then we were set upon the locals down the hill, who seemed to have had the bad luck of picking a nice little valley in between Light’s Hope Chapel and the landing zone of the Lich King.  Time to go slaughter the innocent… not that I ever turned my nose up at a murder for hire offer in Azeroth before.

Don’t make this awkward

The nice thing is that early on you get a quest to go steal a horse that becomes your very special DK mount… special in that every other DK you see has the exact same mount… but other classes don’t get it.  So there!

After some running about you get to one of the bedrock features of the Wrath expansion, the vehicle interface that lets you man guns or fly mounts that have special attacks.  We’ve all seen it a million times by now, but this was hot new stuff back in 2008 and Blizz was going to show it off to us.

Woohoo, eat cannon balls Scarlet Crusade!

It was actually a pretty decent addition to the game, and one of the big things that made Wintergrasp as fun as it was.

Of course, it was not without the occasional glitch.  For whatever reason, the second time we got the UI for a quest, it completely failed to function for me.  I was flying around on a great big dragon thing and couldn’t incinerate the hapless victims below or shoot their ballistas off of the tower tops.

I clicked the button harder, but it still wouldn’t work

Fortunately, since we were grouped up, we all shared quest progress on most quests, so as long as I stayed close to the rest of the group I ended up getting credit, bypassing my issue.  I still don’t know what happened as I had no problems in the UI before or after that during our session.

We also had to run back to the stronghold to train up skills and look into spending skill points as we leveled up.  Another Wrath feature is the ability to preview your talent points before you commit, but you have to turn that feature on in the settings, and you have to do it for every character.

A very important feature

Leiderhoser ended up going Frost spec because he forgot to turn that feature on.  It should be on as an account-wide default, but Blizz will be Blizz.

So there we were, out and about, killing stuff, routing the Scarlet Crusade, and basically living the DK lifestyle.

Outstanding in their field

And then we got some tasks from our old nemsis, Prince Keleseth.  We’ll be trying to deal with him soon enough in Northrend, but here he wanted us to go out and beat some Scarlet Crusade members to try and get information out of them.

This turned into a pretty long quest, and all the more so because it was one where you do not share quest credit with your group.  You have to run around beating them with special weapons, hoping the RNG will make them confess.  I was the last to get a confession, and I must have hit two dozen mobs before I got it.

Ka-ching, confession received

There was also an amusing run in with the town’s mayor, whose name is Quimby, a nice Simpsons reference.

But there was also some foreshadowing, a bit of a “Are we the baddies?” moment in the quest chain as you run into some prisoners taken by the Lich King’s forces, once of whom knows you.

Why does everybody make being bad feel awkward?

Interestingly, because we were different races in the group, we got to see that everybody’s old pal was of the same race.  The gnome knows every gnome who comes by, the dwarf all the dwarves, and so on.

There was some more running around, including possibly my favorite bit from the whole DK starter story, and probably the only part I ever remember, the apple tree disguise.

At one point you must waylay a messenger, and you do so by hiding behind some wood painted up like a tree.  I got us all to deploy our trees at the same time just to get this screen shot.

We have a small orchard here

After wrapping all of that up, it is finally time to head off to the grand finale of the who quest chain.  You are sent off to meet up with the rest of the forces of the Lich King who are set to attack Light’s Hope Chapel.

There is a big setup for it, and when you arrive you have to wait around until the timer runs down and the battle can commence.

The battle will commence in three minutes

There is a tally up at the top of the screen which shows the defenders vastly out numbered by the scourge.  And then the time comes and you launch into the event and a bunch of fighting appears to be going on, but in reality the outcome is preordained.

The forces of light prevail and turn the DKs to their side even as the Lich King and Tirion Fordring play out a bit of their own foreshadowing here at the start of the expansion.

He did not have our best interests at heart

And so the disgruntled DKs became the Ebon Blade and we ran off to Stormwind to join the crusade against the Lich King.  You have to do that walk through down where people boo you and pelt you with things, then talk to the king who tells everybody to be nice to you, and then you’re in the club and can hang around in downtown Stormwind with everybody else.

All on our special mounts by the fountain

The whole thing was mostly an enjoyable lark.  We managed to go from level 55 to almost level 60 during the events.  Not bad.  Now we’re stuck getting through Outland before we can actually join in with the war on the Lich King, but that is the way it goes.

More importantly though, we were all able to claim our special mount in retail WoW for finishing the DK starter zone.

That guy on the mount

I don’t know if any of us will use our DKs much more.  I went out and did enough to get mine to level 60, so he could buy flying and a mount if he had the gold.  If the expansion wasn’t next week, the current xp bonus might hurry us along.  But with only a few days left, that seems unlikely.

Classes in Wrath Classic

One of the differences between running a “classic” server in World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs doing the same is how Blizzard handles classes.

For example, we’ll take my benchmark for retro servers, EverQuest, which did its first such servers back in 2007, when the game was a mere eight years old.  The team at SOE, and later at Daybreak, didn’t spend a bunch of time worrying about classes

That isn’t because things haven’t changed in the game over the years, but due to how they have handled change.  Rolling up a level 1 warrior and dropping in Qeynos today you’ll find a lot has changed since 1999.  You earn xp faster, your health regenerates faster, you’ve had to bypass a tutorial and other starter zone options, and the UI has changed with the times, just to name a few obvious updates.

But if you put on your rose colored glasses and squint your eyes a bit, you can attack a snake out in front of Qeynos with your basic skills… kick, taunt, and shield bash I think… and get the occasional skill improve and generally feel the way you did back in 1999.

That is because the team has mostly handled class changes for expansions by using skills or spells or alternate advancements or special abilities within the context of a specific expansion.  When it comes to classes, expansions are somewhat compartmentalized, in that they don’t effect the class as it played up to that point, but adds or changes things that go forward.

That is a general rule, and there are some exceptions.  SOE redid spells at one point so you don’t get them every five levels, for example, and that affected everybody from level 1 forward.  But for the most part they have kept to that rule.  So when you go back to an old expansion on a retro server, it at least plays and feels mostly like it did at the time.

This is, of course, in stark contrast to how Blizzard has handled classes in World of Warcraft when it comes to expansions.  In WoW every expansion revamps your class.  Sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot.  Sometimes your favorite class and spec becomes unfun, and sometimes things get a bit better.

Between vanilla WoW and The Burning Crusade the class changes were not very radical.  My paladin and my hunter, the two classes I have played continuously since I first started with WoW, got some updates, but there wasn’t any radical change as to how the classes played.

My paladin was still putting up seals, judging them on every cool down, to improve damage and, in the case of my protection pally, hold aggro by enhancing holy damage.  Likewise, my beast mastery hunter still had to run off and tame other pets to learn skills to train his main pet, who needed to be fed pretty regularly.

And that seems pretty logical, given what we know.  The WoW team spent a lot of the time during vanilla just honing the game, udoing false assumptions, and really trying to make the whole thing work.  So there wasn’t as much time for radical class changes as they prepared for Outland.

The road to Northrend though, that seemed to have room enough for class reworks, and I have been trying to get on board with them.

With my paladin, Wrath is the first of a long line of expansions where somebody felt it was time to rework seals and judgment.  Or judgements, because with Wrath you get three flavors of judgement.

I have no memory of this…

Seals are also flat rate now, no ranks to them, and last for 30 minutes or until you judge.  So there is some getting used to things on that front.

On the other hand, exorcism is no longer limited to undead and demons, so my pally now has a single target ranged attack for pulling.

For my hunter, on the other hand, the Wrath pre-patch has been like Christmas.

Happy hunter and pet out in the Blade’s Edge Mountains

I did a quick re-spec of him after the patch and was doing some lazy questing and, with just auto-shot most of the time, he got a 100 DPS bonus before I started digging into things.

His pet now has its own talent tree with some interesting abilities, like Heart of the Phoenix, which totally not OP.

Basically, a backup pet in you pocket if your pet dies

I did the Hemet Nesingwary quests solo with my hunter, including the final named mobs, and solo’d them without problem.  I had to use the Heart of Phoenix skill once, but my hunter and pet were otherwise blazing away without issue.

And, while we’re not there yet for the removal of ammo yet… hunters free up that ammo pouch slot with the Cataclysm pre-patch… ammo now stacks in groups of 1,000 rather than 200, which means you really have to neglect your supplies to run dry.  My 16 slot ammo pouch now holds 16,000 rounds rather than 3,200.  Or, I can just get a regular bag and keep some ammo in there because ammo pouches no longer give you a bonus.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to figure out my druid.  There were some changes to feral spec, but I have been mostly distracted by having flight form, which is one of the single best things about druids in WoW.

I haven’t had time for any other classes so far.  My warrior is still level 60, and the next highest character after that is my level 40 rogue.

My goal is to get a few characters to 68, or as close as I can, while the experience bonus remains in the game, because when that goes away it will be a bit of a drag to level character up through Outland.  If there is a reason to regret not getting the dungeon finder in Wrath Classic, it is that it was the fastest way through Outland.

Sixty Eight in the Blade’s Edge Mountains

In coming into last weekend there was a question as to where we ought to carry on in our run towards Northrend.  After a few weeks in Nagrand we still had a couple of quest lines remaining, but not much.  As nice as a zone as it is, it was starting to feel like Nagrand might be spent when it came to our needs.

I did consider jumping in on the scourge invasion event and even flew out to Light’s Hope Chapel in the Eastern Plaguelands to see what that was about.

Departing Ironforge with a scourge thingy hanging over the gates

Out in EPL however, it didn’t seem like a very profitable venture, being a mix of randomness and a need to kill the right mobs at the right time with no sharing between groups.  That is the way of classic.

That set aside, it looked like the next stop on the zone list was the pointiest zone in Outland… and possibly the pointiest zone in the game overall… the Blade’s Edge Mountains.

Their favorite album here is The Point

Even the map tries to represent the abundance of sharp spikes that make up the zone.

The Blade’s Edge Mountains

I remembered that there was a quest in Zangarmarsh, in Orebor Harborage, that sent you up to the Blade’s Edge Mountains.  I stopped in there, picked it up, and took my flying mount over the spiked ridge and into the zone, wanting to avoid what I recalled was a trek through some caves with mobs to slay.

I mean sure, there was also a quest to slay those mobs, but the only thing the expansion has that matches the number of spikes in the zone is the number of quests overall.  We could give that one a miss.

I flew up there and was soon joined by Beanpole and Fergorin.  We just needed Ula, who was back in Stormwind working on something.  Beanpole being a warlock and all, we had the option to bring her to us via the ritual of summoning or whatever it is that warlocks do.  We either haven’t used it very often or it changed with the Wrath pre-patch, because it seemed different to me.

First we had to join in with Beanpole to bring forth his spell.

Starting the ritual

After that there is a portal of some sort that shows up, which I gather any one of us could click on and summon the person in our group that we had targeted.   I think.  It is hard to tell because we all did it at once.  However it worked, Ula appeared with us having made the direct flight from wherever.

Ula arrives with a pop

Then we were left standing there with the summoning thingy, like a fifth Beatle.  So we stepped away to distance ourselves from it.

It goes away after a while, right?

Together in Sylvanaar, we ran around and vacuumed up the quests, which were focused initially on the areas south and east of town, with a list of creatures to kill and drops to gather.

The neighborhood

The Blade’s Edge Mountains are in the back half of the zone list, a bridging zone between the Nagrand and the grand finales of Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley, and as such there were any number of re-used mobs to slay.  So there was the local cat species, the lynx in this case, and the Arakkoa, whose feathers we needed as drops, and then the ogres.  So many ogres.

Stop… its ogre time!

Seriously, at this point we’re deep enough into ogre killing that even Hemet Nesingwary is probably thinking, “Who there, maybe give the whole ogre thing a rest now.  Like, what did they ever do to you?”

And, of course, there were wolves.  The iron law of early 2000s MMORPGs is that in every zone you must have a quest to slay either bears, boars, or wolves… and usually two from the list.

On the bright side, since the pre-patch unlocked flight for us, and everybody in the group finally got on board the flying mount idea, we were able to navigate around the various obstacles and packs of aggro mobs rather than having to schlep our way on ground mounts like losers.

Also, for reasons unexplained, three of us chose the white griffon as our flying mount.

The group in some sort of formation

I always go with the golden griffon on my main because it looks like the default flight point griffon and I have it in my head that there is some mischief or deception that I could pull off by pretending I am not controlling the mount.

It has never happened… but it could!

Anyway, we carved our way through the various wildlife, Arakkoa, and ogres, wrapping up the whole quest series around Sylvanaar, after which we were sent off to Toshley’s Station, to the east.  It will be time for some Gnome adventures if we carry on again.

But who knows if we will?  Because the primary goal of the pre-patch time had been achieved.  Our main characters had all made it to level 68.

The group at level 68

I actually forgot to take a screen shot of that with us all online, so I did it from a lower level alt and fiddled the brightness and contrast to look like we were all online.

Anyway, we could carry on to level 70, but there are some arguments against that.

First, at level 68 we are able to get into Northrend, so we’re set.  Furthermore, since we’ll be going in as a group, it might be at list a little more interesting to be only 68 rather than 70.

Also, the xp bonus that is part of this pre-patch run won’t last.  It will be gone by the 26th, and it might be wise to use it on some alts.  Maybe even some Death Knight alts… and all the more so because Blizz is offering up a special mount in retail WoW is you run through the Death Knight starter zone before Wrath launches on the 26th.

What would I do for another mount?

Anyway, something to decide for next week.  We have at least hit our base goal for the pre-patch, we are ready to go to Northrend.

Tough Times for Plague Zombies

My memories of the zombie plague event before the original Wrath of the Lich King launch back in 2008 are, admittedly, a bit foggy.  It has been almost fourteen years, so my recollections are a misty water colored memory of people being angry, a chaos of zombies throwing themselves at players in town, and new players being griefed relentlessly, causing me to pack up and stay out in the field for the duration of the event.

Players trying to go about their business were angry about how things were going and Blizzard was telling people to maybe, you know, just not log in during the run of the event if they were not having fun.

My writing style was a bit more crude and terse back then, but I did post about the whole thing.  But no screen shots and not much in the way of detail was included.  These days I have a dozen screen shots in a post about a minor UI change in a game.  My memories are more easily stimulated by visuals.

Anyway, with this bit of color in the back of my head, I suspected this week might be chaos and griefing once more and accepted that I likely wouldn’t be able to get anything done in town.  I was just going to stay away.

But then curiosity began to pick at my will.  Some part of me wanted to see how it was playing out.  So I logged in and went to Stormwind and stood around in the town square between the bank and the auction house, a locus of activity for any such event… and there was nothing.

I mean, sure, there were a few plagued cockroaches wandering around, but they were getting zapped by passers by about as fast as they popped up.

You’d get zapped even if you were not plagued

So I started looking around to see if maybe I could get this party started.  And, sure enough, I found some cases of plagued grain on one of the docks.

All that grain just sitting there… in boxes… which is how we store grain now I guess…

We know the grain is the source of the plague because even Arthas figured that out eventually back in Warcraft III.

Yes, dammit, it is the grain!

So I clicked on one of the plagued grain cases and, hey presto, had the zombie plague on me.

Here we go, on the train to zombie town

And then, suddenly, I was cured.  Did I heal myself?  Did I get some insufficiently bad grain?

So I clicked on a box again… got plagued… then was suddenly cured.

I had to look around for a bit before I spotted a priest sitting on the bridge nearby casting cure disease on anybody who touched the grain.

Will nobody rid me of this troublesome priest?

No fun to be had here.  I can’t get mad at them.  It is an RP server after all, and there they are diligently defending the town from the zombie plague.  So I went looking for trouble elsewhere.

To Ironfoge!

I took the tram over and went looking for plague grain there, finding some over in the military district.

More crates of grain

That was far enough away from the bank and auction house to be safe from prying eyes.  Still, I wasn’t going to take any chance this time.  I click on the grain, then ran around the corner and hid, waiting for the zombie timer to run down and transform me.

A zombie at last

Now I just had to run to the bank and cause some chaos.

However, the guards had other ideas.

The guards spot me

Zombies run slowly.  You get a little speed booster, but it is on a cool down and the guards will catch you if you’re not careful.  They caught me.

Well, back to the drawing board… or the plague crates as it were.

This time I decided I would contract the plague, then rush over to the bank and hide behind the counter until zombie time.  But as I rode over I passed by one of the Argent Healers and… well… he healed me.

Uh… thanks I guess…

Again, my memories of the original event are dim, but I thought you had to actually speak to them to get a heal back in the day.  Maybe?  I could be wrong.

So I went back to the grain again, got myself infected, then rode back, keeping well clear of the Argent Healers… which was a bit of a task because there is even one in the bank… and managed to slip through without being cured.  I hid in the vault and waited.

Waiting to be a vault zombie

The timer ran down and I was a zombie again.  Now I had to decide how to play this,

I decided to just walk up behind one of the bank NPCs behind the counter and use the explode skill, which hits everybody within a given range with the zombie plague, players and NPCs alike.

So I did it.

Dead zombie on the counter

But even as I watched, the Argent Healed cured everybody on his side of the bank and a priest showed p and cured everybody else.

Zombie chaos was just not going to happen.

Now, while I was in evening prime time, this was still on a week night on the Bloodsail Buccaneers server, which is not a high population “OMG it has a queue again” server, so my experiences might not be representative.  But it sure seemed like the whole zombie thing wasn’t going to have much of an impact without more effort than I was willing to put in.

And now the zombie plague event ended early as the scourge invasion has reportedly begun.

Probably for the best.