Category Archives: WoW Classic

Blizzard Goes Back to the Vanilla well with the WoW Classic Season of Mastery

With the team spending their time scrubbing questionable content while Shadowlands founders and their legal problems continue, Blizzard has decided to play the nostalgia card again, returning to the WoW Classic well that got them out of the doldrums of Battle for Azeroth.

Classic is as classic does

Last week Blizzard announced WoW Classic Season of Mastery, which will be their second run at a vanilla experience.

That means some new fresh start WoW Classic servers will be coming our way at some as yet unspecified future date.

But wait, there is more.

Taking lessons from the original WoW Classic run Blizzard has decided to move the dials a bit when it comes to how the game plays.

To start with, players will level up faster.  Per the announcement:

We’re planning on increasing experience gains from what they were in the first iteration of WoW Classic. Our current plan is to set them close to what the 1-60 XP rates are in Burning Crusade Classic with a bigger focus on quest XP increases.

That should flatten out the slump from the late 30s to the late 40s when it comes to the leveling curve, or at least keep players from having to scrounge for every single quest in every zone before moving on.  I do like the pace of the Burning Crusade Classic 1-60 leveling, but I somehow managed it with three characters before that hit.

There are also a couple of “quality of life” changes mentioned in the announcement:

  • Meeting Stones converted to Summoning Stones
  • Increased Mining and Herbalism nodes

The former seems like a bit of a cheat, though I suppose I am biased having gone through WoW Classic without summoning, but mining and herbalism nodes did seem to be a bit of a choke point.  As Blizz points out, more players are on classic servers than were back with the original launch, so maybe that deserves a review.

Blizzard is also going to introduce honor system and battlegrounds right away rather than trying to simulate the progressions (and problems) that were seen both back in the day and with the WoW Classic phases.

But the big focus of this appears to be on raiders and raiding guilds.  Do I once again detect the hand of Holly Longdale guiding this?  Certainly raiders were a key demographic for the EverQuest retro servers.

While the new servers will go through the same six phase plan that WoW Classic did originally, the goal is to roll them all out at an every other month cadence, so the final phase will be available in less than a year.

Meanwhile, the team is concerned that the raid bosses seemed a little bit too easy in WoW Classic, so they are making some adjustments to increase the challenge in order to make groups wipe at something closed to the 2004 rate rather than the 2019 rate.  Those include:

  • World buffs (like Rallying Cry of the Dragonslayer and others) disabled in Raid instances
  • Restoring mechanics that were removed early on to some Raid bosses
  • No boss debuff limit (up from 16 debuffs in WoW Classic)
  • Increased health on bosses, to offset player buffs and the removed debuff limit

So get set your raid calendar I guess and get ready for tougher fights.

Now I wonder how popular round two of WoW Classic will be.  There was at least a decade of pent up demand to see the content that had been missing since Cataclysm when it first launched in 2019.  Who will be queuing up this time around?

Somebody will, I am sure.  If the EverQuest progression server experience has taught us anything, is is that there is always SOME demand for a fresh start retro server experience.  Daybreak seemed to be able to swamp a server and have queues throwing a fresh one out there every other year.

But Blizzard and WoW… well, they have their own complications.  Leaving aside that the company is in bad odor due to its own bad behavior, they haven’t had Burning Crusade Classic running for all that long at this point, which has a lot of draw for raiders as well.  I am certainly not feeling any huge draw for the vanilla experience… or a slightly reformed version there of… right now.

As noted, the launch date for this new round of servers has yet to be mentioned, though beta testing for them started yesterday.  My invite must have gotten lost in the mail.  Blizz has tried to address some of the outstanding questions, but we’ll have to see how this rolls out going forward.

September in Review

The Site

And we’re now at the fifteenth anniversary of the first month in review post.  So there is that.

The state of the blog – Sep 2006

In the categories drop down there shows 182 Month in Review posts, one more than there should be because I wrote a post about Month in Review posts a while back.  It even had a poll.  But we’ll get to polls in a bit.

Otherwise it has been quite a month.

I mean, I can’t really complain about the first ten days.  I was in Hawaii for most of that.  But less than a week after I came back I came down with the dreaded “flu-like” symptoms, which was just in the COVID incubation period, so I ran down to get tested and started isolating at home… or tried to, it is harder than you think when your life is intertwined with another person… while my wife cancelled all her in-person appointments.

Luckily, it wasn’t COVID… it took a couple days to get that result… just a cold that has been going around.  I was sick, but just normal-ass sick, not plague sick.

And then the cold developed into an inner ear infection, a malady I could not recommend.  That started almost two weeks ago and I am still recovering, still feeling the effects.  At its peak it was an sharp and constant pain along with my tinnitus cranked to 11 at all times, plus gunk oozing out of my ear, and bouts of motion sickness as it messed with my inner ear functions.

That meant antibiotics.  But, having had an allergic reaction to amoxicillin a few decades back, I have to have the azithromycin based alternative, which makes one prone to stomach upset and what I refer to as “turbo diarrhea” as everything I at seemed to be very much in a rush to exit my body at its earliest opportunity.

At this point you might be saying, “Wow, that sucks… but what does all of this have to do with “The Site,” which is the name of this section?”

Well, all of that has certainly affected the quality of content.  The first eleven days of the month were all pre-written in advance.  I started to catch up a bit, then got sick, and the level of effort devolved to “look, a thing happened” without much in the was of my usual attempts to tie things into a greater theme or the historical context of the genre… though I am kind of curious if anybody actually noticed that or the fact that words per post dropped rather significantly.  Probably not.

All of that added up to the lowest monthly page view count since mid-2007.  It was a slow month here.

Somehow though I kept my post streak going and I still have a stack of things I meant to get to in September that I now mean to get to in October.  I still haven’t even watched that Ji Ham EG7 video.  But here we are.

Oh, and in other news, WP.com broke polls in their attempt to monetize them through their Crowdsignal brand.  My fourth email finally got somebody to look at the problem (the first three happiness engineers just tossed aside everything I said and sent me a link about using the new Poll Block in the awful block editor… which is broken as well so WTF?) and now… they’re looking into it.  I wasn’t planning on creating another poll any time soon, but now it seems I cannot and when I eventually can I will have to buy credits.  So look forward to no more polls I guess.  Yay?

One Year Ago

The blog turned fourteen and I made my usual post about stats and the passing of time.

Nintendo announced the end of their long running DS hardware line.

Chris Roberts was annoyed because people are so cynical online, threatening to unleash an irony-quake.

With no BlizzCon planned for 2020, Blizzard announced BlizzConline for February of 2021.

My third entry in the ongoing binge watching series was posted.  I was also looking at the main streaming channels I was viewing as well as some secondary channels.

In my play through of Diablo II on its 20th anniversary I wrapped up Act II, then launched myself into the somewhat forgettable Act IIIWhen it came to Act IV I had to go use that one time respec to finish Diablo.  On finishing Act V I summed up with some thoughts about the game.

In WoW Classic we were taking on the upstairs portion of Sunken Temple, though it took a third run to get to the Avatar of Hakkar.  I was also still plugging away with some alts.

In EVE Online CCP introduced quantum cores for Upwell structures.  Abyssal sites also got some updates, with T0 and T6 sites opening up with the Depths of the Abyss update.  They also tried to breath some life into the EDENCOM ship lineup.

Meanwhile, metaliminal storms were doing whatever it is they really do.  There was the GM Week bot bash in Yulai, where high sec players got to blow up some capital ships, including two titans.

My own main character hit 220 million skill points in the game.

And then there was World War Bee, which I will just list as bullet points:

Then, in a final Friday Bullet Points post for the month I looked at LOTRO’s mini-expansion, Microsoft buying Zemimax, PlayStaion 5 pre-orders, the end of FarmVille, EA being dumb about lock boxes again, EVE Online ship models, and something about CCP planning to do some sort of resource redistribution thing in New Eden, which became the whole economic starvation plan of the last year.   Kind of a lot for one post.

Five Years Ago

It was the tenth anniversary of the blog.

I was looking back at day/night cycles and full zone respawns of yore.

My wife’s Pokemon Go account was hacked, but I recovered it pretty quickly.  That post brings in a lot of search engine traffic looking for ways to hack Pokemon Go accounts.  So many bad people.

Daybreak announced that both EverQuest and EverQuest II would be launching Kunark focused expansions, with Empires of Kunark slated for the former and Kunark Ascending for the latter.

Smed was taking his Hero’s Song project back to the crowdfunding arena again, this time via Indiegogo which, unlike Kickstarter, lets you keep the money even if you don’t meet your goal.

I was going on about problems EVE Online has getting new players to stick with the game… again.  We also had the YC118.8 Update which revamped a the look of mining barges and some frigates, among other thing.  It also launched the Purity of the Throne event that had me chasing white skins for Amarr ships.

There was also the ascension of Caitiz of House Tash-Murkon to the Amarr throne.  All those ships are still lined up in Amarr for some reason.  Did they have to wait a year for the first Jubilee?

And Alpha Clones would soon be a thing, so I was wondering what you could do with one.

In post-Casino War events the Imperium finished conquering Delve and a state of normalcy was starting to come to pass.  I also got my last ship out of Deklein.

And then there was World of Warcraft where the Legion expansion was off and running.  There was even an app for it.  I started off slowly as I figured things out and moved clockwise around the Broken Isles.  That didn’t stop me from checking up on my Draenor garrison though.

And then in one of those bullet point posts that I always hate a year later when it comes time to do the summary I covered Star Trek Online going to consoles, Legends of Norrath card packs, rewards for Omega players in EVE Online, and the then upcoming EVE Vegas.

Finally, No Man’s Sky launched, capping off yet another dismal episode of fan behavior.  After getting death threats for delaying the launch, Hello Games finally shipped the game only to have the fan base explode even more so when it was discovered that features that were straight up said to be in the product… multiplayer being the prime suspect… were not.  Still, it made a lot of money and features have since been added and it got its own Honest Game Trailers video.  There are, no doubt, lessons to be learned here.

Ten Years Ago

I did the great survey of blogs that had, at one time or another, included this site in their blog roll over the last five years.  Only 28% of them were still up and active.  There was also the five year anniversary post and all that it entailed.

implied that Tobold’s mother a llama.  This had NOTHING to do with him not having a blog roll.

I was totally going to resist Steam selling me Rift for cheap.  That didn’t work, and I ended up playing for about a year or so.

Star Trek Online announced it was going free to play, though I couldn’t imagine how it wasn’t already.

In LOTRO, the Rise of Isengard expansion came out and I almost didn’t notice.  Which was odd, because we were kind of playing LOTRO still.

The Goons were going to wreck the EVE economy by blowing up high sec ice miners.  Another vast Goon conspiracy.  I was being nostalgic for my earlier days in EVE.

GameSpy had a post about re-imagining Diablo as a first person perspective game, which was met with much derision.  Me, I liked the idea and even had suggestions for further topics in that vein to explore.  Meanwhile, Diablo III was pushed out to the middle of 2012.

In other Blizzard news, the Official World of Warcraft Magazine went belly up after just five issues.  And then there was a drop in WoW subscribers.  They lost 600,000 players, though I wasn’t one of them… yet.  Good thing they never lost more than that…

I was still playing Need for Speed: World pretty regularly.  I was filming police chases, avoiding police chases, and buying the squarest ride in the game.

In EverQuest, on the Fippy Darkpaw server, the retro experience was made complete by “guilds behaving badly” when it came to contested content.  Some GMs came up with unorthodox ways to resolve conflicts.  Somewhere along the way I got my SOE Authenticator, which I never use.

ArenaNet said something about private GuildWars 2 PvP servers.  I wonder how that would play today?

EA/BioWare gave us a release date for SWTOR at last, so I could start fretting about pre-orders and grace periods.  While I wasn’t in beta yet, BioWare was asking how I was enjoying it.

There was no word about life on Planet Michael.

And, finally, I was wondering how 9/11, which took place just a couple months before the birth of my daughter, would influence her view of the world relative to my own.  This was triggered by her trip to New York, where she visited the Nintendo Store.

Fifteen Years Ago

Here we are, able to at last dip into the blog archives for fifteen year old items.

There was the first post.  I still haven’t covered all of the topics I promised 15 years back.

After that I was straight into the EverQuest nostalgia, an oft recurring topic here.  The Serpent’s Spine expansion came out for the game.  I would get to that in a bit.

LEGO Star Wars II – The Original Trilogy launched, setting the casual path for future Traveller’s Tales LEGO based games.  My daughter and I would later play this on the Wii, but that was still out in the future.

Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, the first core Pokemon RPG titles for the Nintendo DS platform shipped in Japan.  They wouldn’t reach US shores for another six months.  Again, another series that would show up here as time moved on.

Green Monster Games, later 38 Studios, was unveiled to the public by founder Curt Schilling with R. A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane as part of the creative team.

Roblox launched.  I didn’t know about it at the time, but the title has grown to be many things, including controversial.

I was into EVE Online, which I began playing just about two weeks before I started the blog.  My first post about it concerned the tutorial, then I went on to my impressions.  I already had EVEMon up and running, because you cannot play EVE Online without it.  And, while I was hardly aware of it, the first titan had been built in New Eden.

I was musing about games slated for the future, including Star Trek Online and Lord of the Rings Online I had reservations about both.

I kicked off my old school gaming reminiscences with a post about Stellar Emperor as it was back in 1986.  That was 30 years ago.  Damn continuous motion of time.

The instance group formed up for adventures in Azeroth.

I wrote the first “Month in Review” post.  I am not sure WHY I decided to do that, but it became a thing as here I am doing the 181st such post a decade and a half later. (About nine years ago I decided month in review should have its own category, so I went back and edited each and every last one to put them all in that category.  Fortunately, being a once a month thing, it was easy to figure out if I missed any or not.)

I also wrote something about Saga of Ryzom in that month in review post, which might be the one of the few times I ever wrote anything about it.  It had launched two years before and people were talking about it, but my play time with it was very short and unfulfilling.

But the smartest thing I probably did in that first month was link out to Brent at VirginWorlds in a post, which got him to notice my brand new blog, which kind of got me into the club pretty quickly as well as getting me my first comment.

Twenty Five Years Ago

Meridian 59 by 3DO launched.  It remains part of the perennial discussion as to what was the first “real” MMORPG.

Forty Years Ago

Wizardry for the Apple II launched, one of the early influential titles for me.  I still have graph paper maps of the levels in a drawer in my office.  Robert Woodhead, one of the creators of the title would later serve four terms on the EVE Online Council of Stellar Management.

Apple ][+ back in 1983

Castle Wolfenstein, another influential Apple II title, launched as well.  I needed that two button joystick to play that for sure!

Most Viewed Posts in September

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. Robbing Some Space Banks
  4. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. Twenty Years
  7. Enad Global 7 Q2 2021 Financials and Concerning News
  8. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  9. My Blogging Quinceanera
  10. Getting Setup with Zwift
  11. New World Blues
  12. Dealing with Mudflation

Search Terms of the Month

nantworks h1z1
[That didn’t really work out]

is lotro dead 2021
[I mean, it’s been better…]

eve meta 2021
[HACs in null sec]

eve cv-composite molecular condenser
[I’m not going to be much help with gas mining]

eve online jedi gas
[I think you meant “ninja” there, right?]

Game Time from ManicTime

This month we get kind of a Bizarro world “what year is this?” list for my game play time:

  • EverQuest II – 35.06%
  • EVE Online – 24.37%
  • Diablo II – 22.55%
  • WoW Classic – 14.42%
  • New World – 3.61%

If not for New World I might convince you this was from a decade back or more.  Of course, it was, as noted in the opening, an odd month and my total play time was roughly a third of the average month in 2021 and less than a quarter of the month with the most hours played… which was March.  I guess it was all Valheim all the time that month.

Diablo II Resurrected

The last week of the month saw this nostalgia blast arrive and I managed to find some time for it.  I am still not into Act II with any characters, but I am also not in a big hurry.  Some rides don’t need to go fast to be enjoyable.

EVE Online

I went on exactly one strategic operation in September.  The war is over and I was away for one week and sick for another and in the middle there wasn’t a lot going on.  My planetary industry plans kind of crashed when oversupply of what I was producing hit and I didn’t really have it in me to re-do all of that to pursue some other PI goal.  I did, however, get on one Fortizar and two Keepstar kill mails.  Not a bad month for that.

EverQuest II

The announcement of the next expansion got me thinking about post-cataclysm Norrath and whether it might be time for a return to the old game.  After all, Pandas were on the horizon and there wasn’t really much else going on mid-month.  I subscribed, ran the 2020 Days of Summer event and did the intro quests for the next expansion.  Then Diablo II and New World showed up and now… maybe.  I don’t know.  We’ll see.

New World

New World, the new game under the sun.  I’d play more if I could log in.  Unfortunately, while I managed to slip in during the afternoon of day one, since then the queue on the server I chose… which had no queue at that point… has been mid-three to four figures and honestly I don’t want to play the game that badly.  But I am also not keep to toss ten levels overboard just to avoid the queue.  This isn’t working out so well I guess.

Pokemon Go

If you’re one of my friends I might have sent you a gift from Hawaii… and if you’re one of those people who actually look at the gifts you get, you might even have noticed!  I got in a lot of steps with my buddy while traveling, then had to send my wife with my phone out to get me a Pokestop while I was sick.  Not a lot of progress made overall.

Level: 41 (83% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 665 (+3) caught, 689 (+3) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 12 of 14
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat

WoW Classic

My avoidance of Outland overland content continues on.  The instance group did the Blood Furnace in one go, so we have that going for us.  I also did a bit of Brewfest, but honestly I wasn’t up to grinding out the tasks for a mount.  I got the mug and went on to other things.

Zwift

I am going to put my Zwift progress here in the monthly update.  I’ve written a couple of posts about it and I have a few more brewing.  It is now Wilhelm canon.  I did not make my modest monthly goal of 75 miles but, as I have repeated ad nauseum by this point, vacation and illness.  Leave me alone.  Anyway, my standings right now:

  • Level – 9
  • Distanced cycled – 264.9 miles
  • Time – 14h 28m
  • Elevation climbed – 11,352 feet
  • Calories burned – 8,783

Coming Up

Welcome to Q4 2021 as of tomorrow I guess.  Last year ActiBlizz gave us their Q3 financials at the end of October rather than sliding into November.  We’ll see if they’re as eager this year.  The will probably be eager to get players back to their games, so we’ll see what incentives and updates they throw out.

I imagine we’ll get more info about the EverQuest II expansion as well as the announcement for whatever EverQuest has in store for players as well.  Maybe those perks will go live too.  They were delayed due to technical issues.

The instance group will be headed towards Zangarmarsh in WoW Classic.

I will carry on with Diablo II Resurrected.

And then there is New World, where my mild indifference is both a blessing and a curse.  I’ll play it if I am enjoying it, but I am not interested in queues.  I guess we’ll see how that settled down as time goes on.

Finally, I am thinking about turning on ads for the site for Q4 just to see how that plays out.  Your feedback on them is welcome, though I clearly won’t be putting up a poll about it.  We’ll see if they can offset the extra I am paying for the premium plan.

Cooking in the Blood Furnace

After the three run struggle to get past Hellfire Ramparts, I have to admit that I was a bit pessimistic about our chance for the Blood Furnace, the next instance on our four person instance tour of WoW Classic.

Yes, we had leveled up and geared up some, but even so we barely squeaked out that last fight on our third run in ramparts.  That was not a promising sign.

Still, what else were we going to do?  We can only go back to visit Blackrock Depths so often.

So we got together… this was back on the 12th… and our group was:

  • Ula – level 63 gnome mage
  • Beanpole – level 63 gnome warlock
  • Wilhelm – level 63 human paladin (protection)
  • Fergorin – level 63 human paladin (holy)

The first thing was to get everybody to the instance.  I scouted it out early, which wasn’t too hard because I had found it when I was looking for the Hellfire Ramparts instance previously.  But then I had to explain to everybody else where I was as they logged on, which I did poorly, so I ended up running out to the end of the wall to where the siege engine with the ramp is that lets you get up onto the wall so they could come to my marker on the map.  Eventually we got to the instance.

Up on the wall and around a bend and there we are

Once inside we looked around and steeled ourselves for a hard slog.  None of us could remember in any detail any of our past runs, though as we moved through we had flashes of wipes and bad turns.  I try not to go re-read the old instance group posts from back in the day before we do a run as not to spoil things, but I had a feeling there were stories.  So we moved forward to see how it would play out.

Inside and ready to move

We made our way in and up the passage, taking out groups, then up the stairs, where somebody mentioned stealthed rogues in a comment on the last instance group post, so we were warned and managed to handle them well enough.

We seemed to be doing okay, though I suspect our being level 63 help us avoid an accidental proximity pull here and there.  There were a few close runs, but it wasn’t until we got to the room outside of the first boss’s chamber that we had any real problems.  There are three groups close together and a walker that moves between them.  In an attempt to pick off the walker I managed to pull everybody in the room.

Things went badly soon thereafter.  I fell, then Fergorin, then Beanpole.  Ula ran for the instance line, blinking to keep ahead of all the mobs chasing here, which just allowed her to make it out.  That was all that kept it from being a full wipe.

The chorus line running back past our corpses after chasing Ula out of the instance

We had a soul stone handy, so Fergorin was able to revive then ress Beanpole and myself.

With that out of our system, we went in a bit more carefully and managed to pull a group, then the walker, then the other groups, clearing the room and letting us into the room of The Maker, the first boss in the instance.

You have to clear his room too, and there are groups standing around and in motion, but they are spread out enough that we were able to clear the room, which left us the prize.

Facing The Maker

The Maker did not end up being all that tough.  After a short sharp fight he was down.  He dropped the Diamond-Core Sledgemace, which is not only a very healer focused weapon, but a very dwarven one as well, which made it a perfect fit for Fergorin.

Sledgemace in hand

From there it was into the tunnel that runs to the second boss, where there are mobs in close proximity and wandering mobs and at one point Fergorin had to use Divine Intervention on me to avoid a wipe when we got in over our heads, so I was able to ress everybody so we could carry on.

In the tunnel

We managed to get through that and into the room where the next boss fight would take place.  We had to clear it out, of course, but once done there was a big lever to pull that would set the event in motion.

The lever awaits

We looked this one up in advance just to prepare.  You pull the lever and you have to face four groups of four elites, one at a time, then Broggok, the boss comes for you.  Mana management was recommended, with the suggestion that you crowd control the final elite from the last group and let your mana regen before killing him and facing the boss.  Seemed easy enough.

This went a bit rough with the groups.  We had some trouble focusing on a single target and mobs would break away to chase the casters and then I’d have to go chase the mobs and it was a bit of a circus.  My taunt, which pulls multiple mobs, has a 15 second cool-down and inevitably I use it for one caster seconds before the other unloads with some huge windup and then I am off chasing a mob while swearing at the cool down timer on my taunt.

Anyway, we somehow managed to keep it together through the first three groups all the same, then Beanpole died on the fourth group and it seemed like we might be done for.  We managed to finish off all but the last elite in that group, then kept him crowd controlled while we regenerated mana and considered our options.  We were in combat and didn’t have a combat ress, so we were just going to have to fight the boss without Beanpole.  So we offed the last elite and went to dance with Broggok.

You can just see Beanpole’s corpse on the floor a bit to the left

And dance is the right word.  One thing I did remember through the years was that he drops a poison stink that you need to avoid, so you have to keep moving through the fight.  So I unloaded everything I could on him, there being no point in holding back.  Fergorin kept me healed, I held aggro, and Ula burned him down.  And we won.  With just three of us.

It seemed kind of amazing.  We got Beanpole ressed and checked the loot.

Broggok Slain

He dropped the Arcing Bracers, which went to a roll-off between Beanpole and Ula, though I cannot remember who won them in the end, but they were another upgrade for somebody.

That left us clearing our way to the final boss, Keli’dan the Breaker, which we managed to do without too much additional drama.  There are still some stealthed rogues that far into the instance, but we managed  to spot them before they surprised us.

For Keli’dan you have to slay five elites who are holding him in place, and for once we managed some very good target discipline and chopped them all down one after another, before launching into the boss.  All we really knew is that he has an AOE fire blast and that when he says “Come closer” you run away like he’s promising you there is candy in his white panel van, and you don’t stop until you know the blast is over because you’re probably not far enough away when you think you are.

And with that bit of knowledge we managed to best him.  He died with some parting advice.

Says the dead guy

He dropped the Raiments of Divine Authority, which went to Ula, another upgrade on the run.

We took our end of instance screen shot.

The group made it to the end

Then we headed out the back door and called it a day.

Happy fun ramp exit

A rather successful run.  No full wipes, no runs back to the instance, upgrades dropping from each boss.  Hard to argue with that.

It will probably boost our confidence slightly until we get to the next instance, which is The Slave Pens in Zangarmarsh.  That probably means we’ll have to do some overland content to get quests lined up and all of that.  I have been avoiding that content for a few months now.  Maybe it is time.

And, after all of that I went back and looked at our original run back in the day… and we did it on the first try back then as well.  So maybe I was worried about nothing.

Was the WoW Level Squish a Good Idea?

It will be coming up on a year next month since Blizzard introduced the big level squish as part of the run up to the Shadowlands expansion.  I started thinking about it as part of the mudflation post earlier in the week and whether or not it was worth the effort.

Of course, I have no way of measuring its impact beyond my own perception, and I am not sure if even Blizzard could answer that question right now, there being so many other factors impacting their user base this year.  But a lot of work went into making it happen and details like not being able to answer a question has never stopped me from asking one.

So this is going to be more of a gut check I suppose.  An emotional response.

And even that isn’t going to give a clear answer.  I am of mixed emotions on the topic even a year down the road. (It feels like more than a year ago to me, but time is a blur.)

To start with, I didn’t even think Blizzard would do it.  I am on record a number of times thinking the idea was too risky for Blizz, which can be very conservative on game changes.

That conservatism was apparently outweighed by the growing absurdity of levels in between any new player and the current content.

So in I went to the level squish and… I did okay.  It took me a bit to figure out that there was both an old school path through to the level cap as well a series of parallel paths through to the cap.

My vision in Excel format

I got a couple of characters leveled up through the new system before Shadowlands.  It was definitely speedier than before.  So technically a win.  And I feel like making all the expansions viable paths through the game was a good idea.

On the other hand, the whole thing was more complicated that needed, which is kind of the traditional Blizzard method.  If you were a new player it put you on the Battle for Azeroth path, but if you were making alts you had to go find Chromie and get on the path you wanted, and you had a chance of accidentally ending up in the old layer cake path through the game.

The horizontal stack with level caps on each expansion

And if you made a Demon Hunter, as I did, you might not realize you were in that layer cake model until you found that the mobs all grayed out before you made it to 50.

So the whole thing seemed like it had some good ideas and clearly had the intent to serve both new players and veterans alike.  But did it?  Is it a long term win?  Was it worth the effort… and reworking every expansion to scale and be viable for levels 10 to 50 was a lot of work… make that a thing?

Part of it is hard to appraise because you’re viewing from the outside.  And when you add in the long content drought after the Shadowlands launch and then the company blowing up with the lawsuit it is easy to think that Blizz could have spent their time better.

So I am left feeling neither all that positive or all that negative on the change, which is odd because a year ago I it seemed like a big freaking deal.  So it goes.

August in Review

The Site

Another month goes by.  I hit two minor meaningless milestones in August.  In addition to my 6,000th post I also managed to make it to 500 consecutive days of posting.

Quantity has a quality all its own

That was one that was easy up until I got past 400 posts and then it started to weigh on me.  But I made it.  In fact, today marks 521 days in a row.  But I probably won’t keep it going.  The pressure of starting over again at 1 is starting to be outweighed by inability to really care about that sort of meaningless milestone after a certain point.  500 felt worth it somehow, but beyond that is just yadda yadda yadda.

Otherwise it was kind of a slow month for traffic here, which was odd because Blaugust usually heralds a bit of a boost in page views and visitors.  I appear to have fallen out of favor with Google again, as search engine referrals have tanked over the last three months.  Such is life on the web.

One Year Ago

It was Promptapalooza Blaugust a year ago, a bit of a change up since we kind of did Blaugust as Blapril earlier in the year.  I wrote something about Quote of the Day and my alleged writing process.

The pandemic was still in full swing with no vaccine in sight.  I started writing about the shows we were binge watching around our house.  And then I did it again.

Twitter reminded me I had been on their site for a decade.

Facebook said you would need a Facebook account to log into your Oculus VR headset.

Epic broke the rules for the Apple Store and the Google Play store and, when Fortnite was removed due to this, immediately sued, which was their plan.  But what did Epic really want?

Daybreak bought Cold Iron Studios.  I think.  The press release about the acquisition has since been scrubbed… classic Daybreak, though still available at the Internet Archive… and Cold Iron has since gone on to ship Aliens: Fireteam Elite, which was not published by Daybreak or EG7 so far as I can tell.  Both Massively OP and MMO Fallout followed up on this for me though.

The pandemic was turning out to be quite lucrative for Activision Blizzard and the Shadowlands expansion was just two months out.

Over at SSG they were in danger of entering J. Allen Brack territory in warning people that they didn’t want “classic” LOTRO.  They’re probably right in the case of LOTRO, but it still gets people worked up.

I had returned to Diablo II, writing up my adventures in Act I.

In WoW Classic, which turned one year old, we were getting ready for Sunken Temple.  The road there takes some time.  Our first run went down stairs.

EVE Echoes, the NetEase mobile game based on EVE Online, launched.

In EVE Online CCP was introducing space weather in the form of metaliminal storms.  We got armor plating tiericide, Niarja fell to the Triglavians, and the promised metaliminal storms came out way before the month was out.

I hit my 14th anniversary with the game and wrote something about the spaceship meta.

World War Bee was in full swing.  I’ll just list out the posts on that:

Finally, Brian Green passed away and the community mourned his passing.

Five Years Ago

It was really Blaugust, so I was posting every… single… day even though it was supposed to be the “super relaxed” version of the event.

After spilling Mr. Yoshida’s delicious sauce over my ancient cell phone, I finally joined the smart phone boom with an iPhone 5S.  Of course, that meant playing Pokemon Go, something my wife does better than I do.

I tried to come to grips with the constant whine that every MMORPG should cater to every single play style by asking if any MMORPG had ever managed to find a new audience after launch.  I remain unconvinced that it has ever worked.

Blizzard was telling people that World of Warcraft was still the number one subscription MMORPG. But after their vow of silence on subscription numbers, that brag seemed a bit hollow.

In the game though things were looking up as the pre-Legion expansion event , the demon invasions, proved to be a boon to leveling up alts as they built up momentum.  And I still had that level 100 boost with the expansion to look forward to.

And then WoW Legion launched and it was on to the Broken Isles and class halls and what not.

I speculated what WoW expansions would look like if they were done like Pokemon games.

The Stormhold server in EverQuest II was facing a unlock voting crisis over the Rise of Kunark expansion.  It failed the first two votes, and failing a third would put votes in a moratorium for a while.  However, it passed on the third try.  I also shared my secret EQII shame.  Of course, with the coming of WoW Legion I was out of the game… like Legends of Norrath… just in time to miss some deals.

In EVE Online we had the YC118.7 update.  I was wondering if better PvE could save the game, though I remain unsure as to what “better” would really look like.

I was also celebrating my ten year anniversary with EVE Online.  Meanwhile CCP had a free to play plan lined up for New Eden.  It looked like it had some holes in it though… which we later learned it did.

Down in the southwest of New Eden the Imperium had set up shop in Sakht and was banging on the door of Delve, dropping citadels, blowing up citadels, and fighting LUMPY over sov timers.  Despite threats to keep the Imperium down for good, the locals in Delve got very little support in their fight and we were into the region shortly.

Back up north I was able to slip my last belongings out of the newly quiet system of Saranen.  Meanwhile, Executive Outcomes, which rode out the struggle as part of the Imperium, parted ways once the Casino War was over.

And somewhere along the line I found the time to get out Half-Life 2 and give it another spin.

Ten Years Ago

Blizzard announced some crazy idea that you would have to be logged on to Battle.net at all times to play Diablo III.  Glad that never came up again.  Oh, wait

SOE finally got a comprehensive server status page, and Scars of Velious opened up on Fippy Darkpaw.  I was wondering if they had “made good” with customers after the great hacking in April/May of the year.

I hit 70 million skill points in EVE Online and prepared to check out after the summer or rage.

I was back playing LOTRO for a bit.  I made it into Moria, then went looking for hoes.  I also wrote a post summing up my relationship with LOTRO up to that point.  It’s complicated.

Wargaming.net announced World of Battleships.  They have since changed the name to World of Warships, because we cannot have enough games we can shorted to WoW yet.  This got me musing on battleships and related games.

Meanwhile, World or Warplanes (another WoW) got a web site with cool pictures and stuff.

David Reid was telling people that Rift had ONE MILLION CUSTOMERS.  How one actually defines a customer was left as an exercise to the student.

I was still playing some Need for Speed World.  I was enjoying destructible terrain, though the weekend the police broke lead to some different destruction.

I mentioned some of the little things I liked in MMOs.

I was wondering about World of Warcraft Magazine issue 5.  It seemed to be very late.

And Namaste put out a Very Short History of MMOs video.

Fifteen Years Ago

This is the last month in review where I have to pull things from fifteen years ago without linking back to my own blog posts.

AOL, which is still a thing even today (I strongly suspect my mother-in-law still gives them money every month), bought the GameDaily site which, in a case of foreshadowing, was eventually disappeared into the Joystiq brand.

I started playing EVE Online on August 29, 2006.  It was my last “pre-blog” MMO start.  It was certainly another stepping stone on the way to the blog, as I felt I have to tell somebody about the horrible new player experience.  Some things never change.

Thirty Years Ago

Tim Berners-Lee released to the public the first browser for something he called the World Wide Web.  Geocities sites and pop-up ads and massive link rot are on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Linus Torvalds announced the operating system he was working on to the Usenet news group comp.os.minix.  While he wanted to call the OS Freax, it would eventually get the name Linux.

Forty Years Ago

IBM launched the IBM Personal Computer, perhaps the most influential and least IBM-like product the company has ever created.  After failing to come up with an internal design and feeling the market slipping away, IBM let a team working outside of the normal company hierarchy put together a machine with off the shelf parts and an open architecture that was the essential foundation of the PC market we have today.

IBM, seeing all the clones spawning in its wake, eventually decided to make a more proprietary model, so introduced the IBM Personal System/2 in 1987.  The rest of the market said, “No thanks!” and the clones became the standard and IBM no longer makes desktop or laptop PCs.  I think the most lasting legacy of that 1987 design is the PS/2 port.

Most Viewed Posts in August

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  3. CCP Releases the ESS Reserve Bank Keys and Hands Out ISK in EVE Online
  4. Robbing Some Space Banks
  5. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  6. The Blizzard Name Will Go
  7. PAPI Begins Pulling Out of Delve
  8. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  9. Activision Blizzard, the Lawsuit, and the Q2 2021 Financials
  10. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  11. CCP Rushes Warp Core Stabilizer and Interdiction Nullification Changes into EVE Online
  12. Tempering Expectations with the Diablo II Resurrected Beta

Search Terms of the Month

Карта страны майнкрафт
[There are some map generators out there]

база майнкрафт
[I have made many]

симулятор секса игры на пк
[I get this search term in English a lot]

test alliance please ignore
[Easier to do these days]

ancient winter poncho
[No Ponchos!]

Game Time from ManicTime

The usual suspects top the list, though I was on EVE Online a lot more in the first couple weeks of the month.  Then, once Delve was recovered, that fell off somewhat.  The others I mention in their own entries below.

  • EVE Online – 45.29%
  • WoW Classic – 27.87%
  • RimWorld – 15.47%
  • Diablo II Resurrected beta – 6.20%
  • The Fermi Paradox – 4.96%

Diablo II

The Diablo II Resurrected beta was available for two weekends for some of us, so I was able to get a look at it.  It is good, though the team clearly still has some bugs to work out.  We’ll get to see if for real come the end of next month.

EVE Online

World War Bee is over.  The enemy has retreated from our territory, various parties are still finding new homes, Legacy Coalition is no more, PAPI has effectively been disbanded, and the threat of the dreaded blue donut has been averted once again.  There is lots of rebuilding left to be done and lessons to be absorbed.  Absent our Ansiblex jump gate network Delve has become a target for neutrals looking for easy kills and gates camps pop up all over, so the Home Defense fleet has been pretty active.  The jump gates will be back up again in less than two weeks though.  Then there will be a new transit network to learn.

Pokemon Go

My wanted Pokemon, Heracross, showed up in raids in August, so I got my wish and finished off the Johto Pokedex.  So what do I wish for next?

Otherwise the month was okay.  After the high of Pokemon Go Fest last month I haven’t been too excited about playing, and was all the more turned off when Niantic went back to the 40m radius for gyms and Pokestops.  It is nice that it is back to 80m permanently, but I need something to spark my interest.  Level 41 is dragging on and every level after is that much more of a grind.

Level: 41 (77% of the way to 42 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 662 (+8) caught, 686 (+9) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 12 of 14
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Noibat

RimWorld

I kept on playing with the Ideology expansion for RimWorld.  It is pretty neat.  I have been meaning to write up a little review of it, but the dev has been adapting it from player feedback and it has evolved some, so it is probably better that I have waited.

The Fermi Paradox

I wrote a post about this during the month.  I played it for a while, but it felt a little light to me.  As I noted, it is in early access, and just arrived there in July, so it has plenty of room to grow.  I will likely revisit it at a later date because I like the concept, even if the initial execution isn’t quite there yet.

WoW Classic

As I mentioned in a post this month, our group has decided to stick with WoW Classic despite the troubles at Blizzard.  It is just the game that brings us together and I am not sure another title would work as well in the long term.  We spent the month working on epic mounts and then finally finished up Hellfire Ramparts as a group of four.

Coming Up

It is rumored that we will be getting the Valheim Hearth & Home update mid-month.  Our server is still running, so we might have to log in and see what that brings us.

By the end of the month we should also see the launch of Diablo II Resurrected.  I’m down for that.  It even sounds like mod support might be in place for it.  There was a piece about how the Median XL mod would be ready to go for it at launch.

There is also a likelihood that Amazon’s New World will ship next month, though I am in kind of “I’ll believe it when it happens” state of mind there.

In EVE Online it will be a time of rebuilding and homeland defense fleets.  In WoW Classic it is time for us to try the Blood Furnace, the second dungeon in Outland.

And, of course, there will be the biggest of my annual meaningless milestones in about two weeks when the blog will turn 15 years old.

Hunting for Disenchants in Blackrock Depths

After our Hellfire Ramparts run Ula announced that she had finally made it up to 301 in enchanting and wanted to know if there were any gear enchants we might want.

Fergorin started looking at enchants that would be available to us at that skill level, and the common denominator seemed to be large brilliant shards, with a couple to a dozen being needed depending on the specific enchant.  Some investigation over at WoW Head showed that we might be in luck for some of those shards if we were willing to go back to Blackrock Depths to kill a few bosses.  And why not.  We’ve been there a dozen times in WoW Classic already, it isn’t like we don’t know the layout by now.

But it was Sunday and there was only three of us, so we’d have to see how well we could manage against bosses in the low 50 level range.  Our group was:

  • Ula – level 62 gnome mage
  • Wilhelm – level 63 human paladin (protection)
  • Fergorin – level 63 human paladin (holy)

We met up at Thorium Point and rode the familiar path to the instance.

Off towards Blackrock Depths

There was a question as to where we ought to go first… and if we even had the keys to the place.  Both Fergorin and Wilhelm are Outland replacements, so neither of them were on the dozen BRD adventures, and so neither of them have the Shadowforge Key.  Fortunately Ula had it, so we were able to move about.

The nearest boss seemed to be Lord Roccor, who wanders around outside the Ring of Law.  Fortunately for the sake of speed, our aggro radius was small enough to allow us to thread the needle and bypass a lot of mobs, though we had to knock out a few groups.  We were able to grab Lord R in between two groups who just sat there and ingnored the fight.

After Lord Roccor

His drop only yielded a small brilliant shard, not a large.  We went into the Ring of Law and did the event there, drawing the big spider, whose drop also disappointed when disenchanted.  Still, we pressed on, heading around the corner to find Pyromancer Loregrain.  His loot included the recipe Enchant Weapon – Fiery Weapon.  Not a shard, but something pretty cool for Ula. (Moronae got that last time we found Loregrain, but I don’t think he ever got his enchanting high enough to use it before he swapped out to Beanpole.)

From there we wound our way back, set the bridge/gate so we could cross it, and went looking for General Angerforge next.  He was a bit of a pain at level back when we did him.

There is General Angerforge

At level 63 and geared up from Outland, the three of us were able to handle him, with AOE taking down his non-elite minions when he summoned them to fight.

Then it was across the way to Golem Lord Argelmach.  Here we had a bit of trouble.  We were able to slip through the manufactory well enough, but we had forgotten that if you don’t clear it out, Argelmach runs out there and summons help.  So the fight seemed to be going off the rails pretty quickly.  But we held it together and were able to muscle through the boss, his two minions, and the adds he summoned.

Golem Lord Argelmach’s golem friends down

That goes us a good shard plus, on the ground near where he spawns, was the engineer recipe for the Field Repair Bot 74A.  You cannot even pick it up unless you’re a level 300 engineer, but Wilhelm was at 305, so a happy new recipe for him as well.  While the bot is one use and a bit pricey, requiring a dozen thorium bars and two fused wiring, the latter being the more painful item to provide, having one along if we need to repair or sell to empty bags some day may well save us some day.  I’m working on sourcing more fused wiring so I can make backups.

From there it was over to the Grim Guzzler, where we picked off Ribbly Screwspigot and the mobs that show up to defend the kegs when you break them.  The drops were now starting to disenchant nicely into the shards we wanted.

At the far end of the Grim Guzzler I bought the ale to feed to Private Rocknot to get him to start the fight with Phalanx when we had ran into a bit of trouble.  Once Phalanx went active I hit him with my taunt to pull him onto me, but it has a 15 second cool down, and in that time Ula unloaded on him, pulled aggro, then did her AOE freeze to hold him down so she could step away, not remembering that bar patrons were right behind her.  So the bar went aggro on us.

Melee in the Grim Guzzler

Ula got stomped and, as things started to really go bad, Fergorin pulled out the Divine Intervention card, sacrificing himself to bubble me, take me out of combat, and let me walk off to ress and restore the situation.

Time for a ress

We were able to get back together and slay Phalanx and move on around the corner to knock out Ambassador Flamelash.  He was another one that summons a bunch of minions where consecrate takes care of business.

We were not keen to go much further in.  The lyceum felt like more work that we wanted to do, though I suppose we could have tried threading the needle again.

So we turned around and jumped off the platform we were on to go after Lord Incendius.

Lord Incendius down again

After that we went up the ways a bit and knocked out Fineous Darkvire for good measure.  That done, we had the vault and a couple more small things we could have done, but it felt like enough for the afternoon.  I had a couple of real life chores calling, so Ula got us a portal to Ironforge.

Once there I asked about what materials were needed for the Fiery Weapon enchant.  It needed different shards and an essence of fire.  I bought the shards off the auction house and had the essence of fire handy, so she enchanted my blade.

Fiery Enchant Active

That is a good looking enchant.  I had just upgraded my weapon earlier, so I will get to see that fiery glow for a while.  And, of course, it throws an extra 40 points of fire damage regularly, which means it both looks good and is a practical addition.

We might have to go back for some more shards, but that was a pretty nice run back… again… to old Azeroth.

Return to Hellfire Ramparts

After some time away from the game and then some mucking around in old Azeroth in search of a guild tabard and some epic mounts, we finally had to get back to the business waiting for us in Outland.  It was time to go back and finish Hellfire Ramparts.

I wasn’t sure faster mounts were really going to help us, but we did get a level each in our wanderings since the last attempt on the instance.  A couple in some cases.  Our group for the venture was:

  • Ula – level 62 gnome mage
  • Beanpole – level 63 gnome warlock
  • Wilhelm – level 62 human paladin (protection)
  • Fergorin – level 62 human paladin (holy)

And even after our warm ups in various Azeroth dungeons, getting back into Ramparts was going to be a bit of a chore for us.  If nothing else we were going to have to get used to having a somewhat larger aggro radius.  So we got ourselves to Honor Hold and rode on out to the instance.

Our fate lay beyond the instance swirl

Once in and buffed up we were able to take out the first few groups without too much problem.  Another residual issue from doing Azeroth instances was the amount of sloppiness we could endure.  Pull a few extra mobs?  No problem!  Here, the aggro radius and the mobs more geared to our level meant when we managed to aggro not one but two additional groups, it was a race to the zone line when the tank went down.

Beanpole almost made it. Warlocks don’t have blink

The comedy of errors continued as we towards the first boss, Watchkeeper Gargolmar.

Even there, a boss we had brought down twice before without incident, we ran afoul of aggro radius, taking him on before clearing all the way around, and thus managing to bring two groups of guests to the fight.

Dead again in Ramparts

I think Ula made it out of the instance, or got close at least.  But the rest of us had to get a ress.  Fortunately we had the soul stone handy.

After that we decided to be a bit more thorough.  We pulled everything around the boss, so when we got him the next time it was just him and his two minions.  The minions went down quick, so when he called for healing there was none coming.

Watchkeeper Gargolmar getting his now

After that we started doing better.  The high point after that was the group of five at the top of the ramp which we have managed to wipe on every time.  As we got ready for that fight, I looked at my exp bar and realized I would level after we killed two or three of the group, so when we pulled them around the corner I did not hold back on mana.  I kept consecrate going and anything else I could throw at them.

Just as the third one was about to die I announced that I was out of mana… then he died, I leveled up, and was suddenly full again.  We had not problem that time around.

Win at the top of the ramp

We then managed to clear the mobs ahead of us until we had a choice.  We could go do Omor the Unscarred, who is generally the second boss, or we could just go straight for the final bosses, the duo we had yet to defeat, Nazan and Vazruden.

We went for the big boss pair.

This duo again

And we came close on the first fight.  A slip up on my part… late on a health stone… and I was dead, leading to a wipe.

The soul stone got us back in action again and we went right at them once more… and wiped again.  This was not going to plan.

We took a break to refresh drinks and feed cats, during which time we read up on the fight.  We were getting close, but we had been close before.  I was staying under Nazan’s snout to avoid as much of his fire breath as I could and we were burning down Vazruden pretty easily before turning on Nazan.  And then it came out of the guide.  Vazruden wasn’t really a threat.  We needed to focus all fire on Nazan as early as possible.  Ranged attacks and DOTs on him while he was still in flight, then all in when he landed.

With that bit of info we changed up our tactics and… won the fight at last.

Victory in Hellfire Ramparts

After looting the chest and posing for a screen shot, we ran around the corner and gave Omor the Unscarred a shot.  He went down very easy when compared to previous fights.  A couple levels and some gear upgrades will do that.

And the run helped us with a few more gear upgrades.  There was something for everybody along the way, and even more with the quest turn ins back at Honor Hold.

One instance down, many still to go.  We’ll see how far we get as a group of four.

The next target is the Blood Furnace.

Honest Game Trailers does Burning Crusade Classic

One of the problems with playing mostly old games is that Honest Game Trailers is mostly videos of games I probably won’t ever play.   But not this time.  This time they had Burning Crusade Classic.

Before the Dark Portal

And their assessment all feels pretty true to me.

 

I have a a few posts already from WoW Classic in the Burning Crusade era that have us still back in Azeroth taking care of unfinished business, including getting our epic mounts.  But I also leveled up my druid from 36 to 60 and, that done, started in on my level 21 rogue rather than spend my free time playing my mains.

Some of that was, in part, because of the instance group taking a bit of a summer hiatus.  We do go places now then.  But some of it is just reminding me that, over the years, I have said that I wasn’t too keen on the overland questing in Outland and that I might not have been mis-remembering how I felt at the time.

Still, I am not getting on the refugee boat to FFXIV.

Nope, not going there.  I can hold out for Wrath of the Lich King.  I swear.  I’ll level up in Outland eventually.

Finding our Epic Mounts in WoW Classic

We had wrung our hands a some about the state of affairs at Blizzard.  A couple of us cancelled our accounts with pithy remarks in the comments.  But the fact that WoW Classic is the game that brings us together every week overrode our anger at the company, salved a bit by the ramp up in firings of key individuals.  And with the state all over them about this, they’ll be under a microscope for a long while.  Just go ask the Riot management team, which has been under investigation for a few years now and still has the government calling them out for bad behavior.

The upshot, however, is that we are still playing and we have actually spent the last three weekends running around in Azeroth rather than Outland because we wanted our epic mounts.

In the revised Outland lineup, where UIa fired the old team, two of the replacement, Wilhelm and Fergorin are paladins, while Beanpole is a Warlock, which means the three of us have special quests for our mounts.

The quests require a number of special items and 350 gold to pay off one NPC or another.  Much of it can be done solo, but the first thing on this list for the group was to head to Stratholme again because I needed to get four vials of Stratholme holy water.

Back in Strat

You need five for the quest and I had picked up two in our last visit, but they look like mana potions in my bag so I accidentally drank one during the Omor fight in Hellfire Ramparts the last time we were there.  Oops.

So in we went to find some more for me.  They drop from crates that are scattered liberally throughout the instance.  However I would estimate that less than 1 in 5 crates actually contains something, with the other four unleash some minor mobs or a poisonous malady, so we had to go a ways into the instance in order to fill my order.  Far enough to wipe when an old friend showed up.

One of the more memorable vanilla catch phrases

Ula had actually substitted her level 58 booster warrior Scscla into the group for this run, so we were running a different dynamic with warrior DPS rather than a mage.  Still, the soul stone was to hand and we were able to ress and get back to it pretty quickly, finding my final vial shortly thereafter.

Then we ran out to Dire Maul, after hitting Stromwind for some quest updates, to go into the west wing to find the ancient equine spirit, the next quest update.

The spirit of the venture

You can see dual wielding warrior Scscla in that shot.

That didn’t take too long, since you just have to get in and defeat the first boss, after which we decided to head up to Felwood to help Beanpole with the next stage of his quest, down in the underground of Jaedenar.  Getting there was a bit comic as three of the members of the group were boosted, which meant that they got the new flight point at the south end of Felwood automatically, while Wilhelm leveled up the hard way and only had the north flight point.  So we went to the north flight point and rode on down the zone to get where we needed to go.

Beanpole had to get to the end of the underground, talk to Lord Banehollow, kill a few mobs for him, then get his reward and update.

Lord Banehollow

We had some help getting through as somebody else was working on quests and had cleared the way… we then cleared the way for them as we caught up.  They were doing that escort quest, so I was happy to help.

We finished up there and then Beanpole went off to update his quests and we were done with that run.

The next week our target was Scholomance.  Both paladins and warlocks need to visit Scholo and Dire Maul West for their mount quests, just not in the same order.  We were there to move Beanpole’s quest along and finish the quests for Fergorin and Wilhelm.

We flew up to Chillwind Point and ran over to the instance only to discover it was locked.  You need a key, something that had slipped our mind since we last did this instance back in early 2008.  It has been a while.

For the key we had to go back to Chillwind Point to get a quest which required you to be honored with the Argent Dawn to pick up.  Fortunately both Fergorin and Wilhelm were at Honored because you have to be so for a couple steps in the quest before Scholo.  So we ran around, did our quest, got the key, then got into the instance.

Into the instance

We had some problems early on.  We needed some warmup and there were only four of us, though we were all also level 62 at this point and mostly geared up from Outland, so I suppose I should be happy we didn’t try this before Burning Crusade Classic dropped.

Still, we managed to get into the groove after a wipe and a few close calls (and one of the best threading the needling moves I’ve ever managed), fighting our way to the lab first in order to grab the update for Beanpole’s quest.  We killed the boss too, but we didn’t really need to.

We were there already, so why not

Then it was down into the basement where you must slay Rattlegore, then drop an item to start an event.  Fergorin went first, dropped his relic, and the event kicked off.  We managed to wipe on the third round of the event because they mobs all spawn together right where I was standing, but once again the soul stone let us revive and carry on.

Wipe in the basement

We got back up, fought the final guy, and Fergorin was able to claim his mount.

The charger redeemed

We didn’t get a two-fer on that one, the way we did the ancient equine spirit, so I dropped my relic to start the event… and nothing happened.  You cannot do it twice in one run I guess.

Ula opened a portal back to Stormwind and I went back to the quest giver, abandoned the quest, got the quest again with a new relic, then we all went back to Scholo to do it just one more time.

Fortunately we had things kind of figured out for the second run and no wipes occurred and I got my summon charger spell as well.

We didn’t have enough time left for Beanpole’s final run, but we went to Ironforge and collected together enough gold so Ula could head down the hill and buy the riding skill and a Swift Yellow Mechanostrider.

Down at the mechanostrider dealership

That was week two.

Week three had a very clear goal, to finish up Beanpole’s quest.  Having now done the Scholo part of it, we were headed back to Dire Maul West to slay Immol’thar, who we found fairly quickly.

There he is

What took time was bringing down the forcefield surrounding him.  We had to clear all around his pen to turn off two pylons, which were protected by a lot of wandering mobs.  Then, when we did that and nothing changed, we looked up the instance and found that we had to turn off three additional pylons elsewhere in the instance.  So there was some backtracking and and run in with another boss Illyanna Ravenoak to go get that squared away.

The last pylon on our list

Fortunately being level 62 reduced our aggro radius enough that we were able to slip by quite a few groups.

Once that was done we were back down to Immol’thar, who we brought down handily.  Then it was time to setup for the event.  Beanpole had to keep three items active while waves of non-elites, with occasional elites, came at us.  Unfortunately things got out of hand.  We didn’t really have a plan, mobs were being pulled this way and that, and the corpse of Immol’thar was blocking the view of one of the items Beanpole needed to watch.  The wheels came off and we wiped.

That corpse is really in the way, we should have pulled him elsewhere

Late in the first run I had actually settled into a pattern that seemed sustainable.  I had seal of wisdom up, which feeds me mana on each hit, with wisdom judged on my current target, more mana, which gave me enough regen to keep consecrate going pretty much non-stop which, in turn, kept all the mobs who ran in focused on me so we could take them down.

So for round two the plan was to bring everything to me while I kept the consecrate times flowing.

Consecrate for the win!

That was enough to get us through… and get me top damage, hahaha… to the end of the event where we slew the final guy and Beanpole was able to claim his new mount.

The fight done

Beanpole had his new summon mount spell, but you cannot mount up in the instance, so Ula once again opened a portal for us and we hopped through to Ironforge and got out all our shiny new mounts for a screen shot.

The group, only faster now

Now, after a few weeks of distraction we might need to turn our attention to Outland again.  We still have a boss to kill in Hellfire Ramparts.

Activision Blizzard, the Lawsuit, and the Q2 2021 Financials

You don’t want to do that either. You think you do, but you don’t.

-J. Allen Brack, BlizzCon 2013

I am pretty sure that J. Allen Brack would be pretty happy just being known as the guy who arrogantly pissed all over, and probably helped delay, the huge money maker that WoW Classic turned out to be.

I am also pretty sure both he and the company wish that statement was worst thing to come out of BlizzCon 2013.

But yesterday saw him step down as President Blizzard… a polite way to say he was the first big sacrifice in the wake of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing hostile workplace lawsuit.  He was joined by the SVP of HR, Jesse Meschuk

Not that he didn’t deserve it.  Sure, a lot of the most egregious behavior happened on Morhaime’s watch, but Brack was still in the thick of things, still a leader in the company during that time as well.

Brack was replaced by new Blizzard “co-leaders” Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, both of whom have roots outside of Blizzard.

For those of you who like the “Bobby Kotick is cementing his dominion over Blizzard” narrative, it has been noted that Morhaime was CEO of Blizzard, Brack was President of Blizzard when he replaced Morhaime, and Oneal and YBarra are co-leaders now, whatever that means.

And the Brack announcement went out in advance of the Activision Blizzard Q2 2021 financial results announcement, no doubt following the theory that you get bad news out of the way before and hope that you have good news during and after.  So was it a good thing that Kotaku pointed out that the company is losing T-Mobile as a sponsor of their Call of Duty and Overwatch esports league before the call as well?  And then there was the expected shareholder lawsuit.

Which brings us to the report.  You can find the detailed financials, the presentation, and the recording of the call over at the investor relations page.

The presentation opened right up with five actions the company is taking in light of the lawsuit and the protests both from outside and within the company.  They are:

  1. We have asked Jennifer Oneal and Mike Ybarra to assume responsibility for development and operational accountability for Blizzard.
  2. We will continue to investigate each and every claim and complaint that we receive. When we learn of shortcomings, we will take decisive action. To strengthen our capabilities in this area we will be adding additional staff and resources.
  3. We will terminate any manager or leader found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences.
  4. We will be adding resources to ensure and enhance our consideration of diverse candidate slates for all open positions.
  5. We have heard the input from employee and player communities that some of our in-game content is inappropriate. We will be actively reviewing that content and removing it, as appropriate.

Again, this is a change from the stubborn defiance that was the hallmark of the initial response from the company, but is unlikely to be enough in itself to soothe anybody.  The employee organizers are still not buying the company’s new tack.

When it came to the numbers, all three pieces of the company saw a decline in revenue from Q1 2021, though that is not unexpected given the roll back in pandemic restrictions we saw midway through the quarter.  People went outside and did things, a trend that will no doubt continue into Q3 if the price of airline tickets and rental cars are any indication.

Activision Blizzard Q2 2021 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 11

Blizzard alone was down $50 million in revenue when compared to Q1, which was a direct hit to margins.

When it came to singing Blizzard’s praises, the song remained the same, a tale of Azeroth making the money while other franchises languish.

Activision Blizzard Q2 2021 Financial Results Presentation – Slide 7

WoW bookings doubled year over year, with much of the credit going to the launch of Burning Crusade Classic.  A lot of people bought that pack with the lizard mount.

Hearthstone kept on rolling as well, cranking out yet more expansions.

And while Diablo II Resurrected holds promise for the company, Diablo IV is still on the distant horizon and Diablo Immortal has been pushed back again, this time to the first half of 2022.  We could see a four year gap between when it was announced at BlizzCon 2018 with a playable demo and when it finally ships.

Meanwhile over at Massively OP, where they have been keeping score, the running tally of monthly active users for Blizzard continued its downward trend, with the company shedding another million users.  We don’t know where they came from or where they went, but they aren’t hanging out in Blizzard games anymore.

After being down in revenue and players in Q2, we have yet to reckon with Q3 and the iceberg that is the California lawsuit.  The only thing Blizz has in the near future is Diablo II Resurrected and some likely misguided hope about “stronger engagement” with the Shadowlands expansion.  But people were already leaving retail WoW for FFXIV before the shit hit the fan.

I appreciate that Activision Blizzard seems to have finally decided that they need to clean house, though the cut off for responsibility is clearly enforced before you get to the C-level suite, but the company clearly needs to step things up a couple notches or the Q3 results will be a bloodbath.