To Speak as a Dragon and the Plane of Innovation

I left off last time with my quest plans thwarted due to a failure to speak the language.

Say what?

Without that language, Sathirian, I was not going to be able to get the quest that would lead me on my way to getting access to ascension levels.  The wiki said I needed that.

Fortunately, the side task to learn Sathirian turned out to not be that big of a deal.  I needed a collection that rewarded me with a book that unlocked a quest that sent me to somebody with a couple of tasks.  Really, in post-cataclysm Norrath that is like being asked to pop around to the store for a pack of smokes.  So I was soon back, speaking the language, and ready to move on.  That led to a series of quests… because it always does… which I seemed to be able to move through pretty smoothly.  I was following the wiki because, as I noted, this was all a huge side task to unlock ascension levels.  So I ran off and did the quests and reported back.

That one time a mob kicked me out of the zone…

That led me to a quest that, over on the wiki, had the following language requirements.

  • You need to be able to speak draconic to speak with the Scrollkeeper Sataleeti
  • You need to be able to speak Sathirian
  • You need to be able to speak Goblish for this quest.

Goblish, the language of the goblins I had for sure, and I had just done the quest for Sathirian, so covered on that base.  But Draconic?  I had to check my language list.

Languages are a thing in Norrath

Draconic was not on the list. (My list is kind of short compared to all the possible options.)  So I went to the part of the wiki about that language and it advised me that I needed to run through the quest To Speak as a Dragon.

That told me I needed to speak Krombral first, which I had covered, and that I needed to head to Lavastorm in order to kick off the quest.  Off to another zone.

There I followed the first couple of steps… though I seemed to be going through the motions.  I wasn’t getting any updates, and the steps seemed vaguely familiar to me.  But I’ve been dinking around in Norrath for more than 15 years now, I’ve been a lot of places and Lavastorm is one of the original launch zones.

I got to the step that sent me off to Solusek’s Eye, a dungeon in Lavastorm, which I fumbled around a bit finding, but eventually got into.  Once inside, I needed to go to Nagafen’s Lair, which is at the very end of the dungeon… and this is a big dungeon.  But getting down to the bottom started simply enough, largely because I still have the EQ2 Maps addon installed, so it was a matter of finding the arrows that led to ramps or elevators or whatever.

Waiting on the level 1 elevator

Along the way I saw some Efreeti, which reminded me that I still had a lore and legend quest for them.  So I slew all that I saw, which actually completed the quest for me eventually… on the second run.

Way down on level 7 you have to run along translucent ramps over lava pits to get to an elevator that isn’t well marked and… well… mistakes were made and I got stuck and had to recall and start over again.

You can fall off of these ramps

The second time around I got to the right elevator, went from level 7 to 6, followed the other path, went through the thingy, killed the guy, and eventually got to the right person.  Really, there is a whole wiki page about the dungeon and then another on how to get where I was going.

Majordomo Inferinus with Nagafen in the background

Majordomo Inferinus had a quest update for me, the first that I had run into, indicating that I had started down this path at some time previously… and likely gave up trying to get to Nagafen.

The update sent me to the Tower of Oracles in Antonica, a really old school zone.  There I spoke to the Sage of Ages who said he could teach me Draconic if I could run out and fetch a few things for him.  Runes.  Twenty-six runes.  Twenty-six runes that had been scattered all over the original zones of post-cataclysm Norrath.

I was going on the road.

I wasn’t going to even pretend to seek any of these runes out on my own.  I went straight to the wiki to get zone and location of every single one of them, and they were hidden far and wide.

Most were easy enough to get to.  The first one was nearby in Qeynos.

Like flying home

For one of them I had to sneak into Freeport via a side door.  Fortunately, at level 108 the Freeport guards mostly just shake their fists at you in annoyance.

First one to give me lip gets the shovel

There was a lot of entering old dungeons, pasting in the waypoint from the wiki, and just running to grab the rune.  But there were three spots that I had trouble with.

The first was in Stormhold, which was a dungeon I used to know like the back of my hand.  We spent a lot of time there back in the day.  But I could not recall how to get to the library.  Eventually I found a reference to a grate on the floor, but I spend some time running around.

Then there were the three in the Obelisk of Lost Souls.  The first was easy, but the other two were on the third floor of the dungeon, but to get to that you had to solve the maze on the second floor.  In the end it didn’t turn out to be difficult.  The problem was more that the wiki was focused on the step before then the step after, rather breezing over a couple of key facts that would have made everything go much more quickly.

I ran a quest that I didn’t need to, but whatever.  Eventually I made it to the last run on the third floor.

The place is kind of a dump

That got me the runes from there, though I saved the two in Lavastorm, down in Solusek’s Eye, for last just in case I needed to speak to Nagafen or his buddy again.  But I did not.  It was back to Atonica to the Sage of Ages who agreed that he could now teach me Draconic.

Lets get to it then!

Then, hey presto, I had the language on my list.

Now featuring Draconic!

That done it was back to Kunark and the Obulos Frontier to carry on with the quests.  I pressed on ahead, successfully running down the quest chain.  Everybody around the ascension trainer I wanted to speak to was now no longer hostile to me, the vendors wanted my business.  It was time to speak to Aranolh Tol’ren, master geomancer, to learn the Geomancer ascension class.  So I clicked on his and…

You son of a bitch!

Yes, I totally did not speak the right language.  Again.  Fuck me.

By this point though Bhagpuss had left a comment on my last post suggesting that I might not even need to do this quest chain, that the ascension trainer in the Coliseum of Valor might just train me up if I asked.  Th wiki says you can upgrade your ascension level cap there, but seems to suggest that you have to start out in Kunark as I was attempting.  Still, checking out the suggestion was probably easier than another language quest.

So I went back to the Plane of Magic and went to the Coliseum of Valor and spoke to Sunspear the ascension trainer and, well…

I feel like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz

Thus enabled, I trained Geomancer powers, used my little five level ascension boost token, which got me a couple of heavy hitting skills, which I managed to find room for on my four hot bars.

From there me, my mount, my mercenary, my pet, and my familiar, my upgraded combat skills, and my new Geomancer attacks, headed back into the Plane of Innovation to put the hurt on some tinker toys.

Give me numbers! More numbers!

Seriously, the numbers in EQII are pretty much set to ludicrous speed.

At that point I really couldn’t tell which thing I did had what effect, but overall I seemed to be slaying things more quickly.  Named mobs were maybe 8 minute fights, down from 25, while normal heroic groups were just a minute or two.

I fought a rogue roomba and what looked to be a giant floating mechanical head.

Getting ahead in the Plane of Innovation

It all ended up with a final mechanical boss that I had to stop and wind up at various points of the battle… anything to keep the fight going.

Taking the fight to him

That got me through the first instance.  However, I was disappointed at my leisurely progress. I remained level 108 and, though all of this, I think I advanced maybe 2%.  It isn’t that I haven’t enjoyed tracking these things down, but my goal is to get to level 110 before the Blood of Luclin expansion hits, and time was running out.  After all of that… and a lot of those Kunark quests were blue to me, so granted experience… I was all of 7% into level 108.

Well, there was no point in going elsewhere, so I pressed on into the second instance for another round of battle with clockwork menace.

Clockworks with a theme

There was some slow going.  A couple of the named mobs, like Toa the Shiny there, drain you power, which means you end up being unable to use your combat abilities, and you are nothing it you are reduced to melee only.  This isn’t WoW Classic. But I muddled through, thanks in part to some power restoration potions I had in my inventory.  I am not sure where I got them… probably part of the ages ago level 90 character boost… but they came in handy.  Anyway, I made it to the final confrontation with the Great Gear.

He doesn’t look so great to me…

There was, of course, a fight, but I made it through once more, grabbed the magic dingus, and retraced my steps back to an NPC and then back to the Coliseum of Valor.

The Wiki entry on this was very helpful, as at several points it has to tell you not to do what the quest tracker tells you to do or you’ll have to start the instance all over from scratch.

Back in the Coliseum of Valor it was time to turn in the quest to Druzzil Ro.  My hope was that this would at least get me close to level 109.  But when I turned it in, I was suddenly level 110.

Level cap at last!

This may be the first time in nearly forever that I was at the level cap before the next expansion dropped.  I was maybe level 48 when Desert of Flames hit back in the day, and I’ve been behind ever since.

I was also now able to use some of that stuff that dropped from the dragon event!  Time for some mount and merc upgrades.

But I was left wondering what to do next.

Part of me wants to just go run the dragon event some more, to farm for more drops.  But another part wants to get out an alt and, using what I now know, do a sprint to 110.  Don’t I get some sort of xp boost now that I have a character at level cap?

And then there are my lagging trade skills.  Do I get moving on those?

Any route I choose, my main goal was accomplished.  I will actually be ready when Blood of Luclin goes live on December 17th.

SuperData Shows Fornite Reviving a Bit

SuperData has their digital revenue numbers out for October.

SuperData Research Top 10 – October 2019

On the PC side of the chart, League of Legends regained its top spot, returning the top four to their usual ordering, with the three big Asian titles behind.

Right after that is World of Warcraft West (so no China) ringing in at number five, no doubt still going strong on the WoW Classic momentum.  That put it ahead of its new corporate sibling, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.  It had a big launch, but is much more a console title.

Then there is Fortnite in seventh, up two spots from last month, but still far back from that fifth place position it held for several months earlier this year.

After that is perennial list member World of Tanks, followed by Obsidian’s new space RPG, The Outer Worlds.  And tenth position went to the aging but strong Roblox.

In the console column Call of Duty: Modern Warfare took the top spot with a big launch last month.  This is where the Activision side of the house makes a lot of their annual revenue, so they need a big win with CoD every year.

Fortnite managed sixth place for console revenue, ahead of Borderlands 3, which held on for a second month, keeping it ahead of console stalwart Grand Theft Auto V.

And then at the mobile end of the chart, Honour of Kings returned to its top position after being dethroned last month.  It is another “big in China” title.  Candy Crush Saga popped up into third place, while Pokemon Go fell from second to fourth.  The number one mobile title for September, Fate/Grand Order, dropped off the list completely.  It has been something of a mercurial title on the mobile chart.

We can again compare that to NPD’s October charts.  As always, the NPD charts are US only, combine console and PC, ignore mobile, and do not include digital revenue where noted.

  1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  2. The Outer Worlds
  3. Luigi’s Mansion 3*
  4. Madden NFL 20
  5. NBA 2K20
  6. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint
  7. WWE 2K20
  8. FIFA 20
  9. Borderlands 3
  10. Ring Fit Adventure*

* Digital sales not included

As one might expect, CoD is there on the top of  that chart as well, but so is The Outer Worlds and Luigis’ Mansion 3, all new titles for October.  Other new titles on their list are WWE 2K20 and the Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure, which goes along with their new Ring-Con and Leg Strap peripherals.

On the NPD social media impressions measure, League of Legends was at the top, followed by Fortnite, CS:GO, GTA V, and World of Warcraft.

I expect that next month we will be hearing about Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order, which has been reported as having an extremely strong sales start in November.  Call of Duty: Modern Warfare might face some competition for the best selling title.

Other items from the SuperData Report:

  • Consumers spent $8.84 billion digitally across all games in October. Combined spending across console, PC and mobile was down 3% year-over-year primarily due to a sharp drop off in the console segment, which faced a difficult comparison against the Red Dead Redemption 2 launch last year. Mobile grew 7% as it continues to be a growth leader for digital games.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has best selling digital launch of 2019. Modern Warfare sold an estimated 4.75 million digital units across console and PC in October, down 11% from Black Ops 4 last year, although there were fewer days this year due to a later launch in the month. The average selling price of digital units also declined from last year due to the lack of a season pass bundle.
  • Apex Legends has its best month since the title’s launch quarter.  Apex Legends generated $45 million from in-game spending in October across console and PC, up from $16 million in September. Respawn’s shooter has clearly grown into an important growth driver for EA since its launch in February, although we note that total lifetime revenue still comes in slightly below 50% of FIFA Ultimate Team over that same period.
  • NBA 2K continues to show a slow-down in virtual currency sales. Total franchise NBA in-game spending growth has been slowing down for the past four months after a red hot start from NBA 2K19 last year. We saw this again in October, where NBA 2K in-game spending across console, PC and mobile combined declined year-over-year for the first time since June 2018.
  • Call of Duty Mobile catapults into the top rankings. We estimate COD Mobile generated $57 million in total revenue in October with 116 million monthly active users, placing it as the 12th top grossing mobile game worldwide this month. iOS made up 82% of total spend.

Gambling Returns to New Eden

I was sitting in bed this morning looking at Twitter on my iPad and saw that CCP had announced something called the HyperNet Relay.  I read through the post, but I was pretty sure I didn’t understand what it was or why anybody would want this, because it sure seemed like gambling, something CCP banned from the game in all forms back in 2016.

The New Face of Gambling in New Eden

Fortunately Twitter was there to help me out as not one but two CSM members responded to my sleep addled inquiries making clear that this was, in fact, a gambling scheme being introduced into EVE Online by CCP.

The CSM had clearly been briefed about the HyperNet Relay by CCP and had given it their approval, because a few of them were out fronting the feature for CCP on a variety of channels.

When explaining HyperNet Relay, the humble raffle seems to be the preferred metaphor.

That is a nice word, raffle, because it gets used by charities and other good causes which get an exception to gambling laws in some jurisdictions when using it as a mechanism for raising funds.  But make no mistake, a raffle is straight up gambling by any definition I have ever read.

So, gambling.  To say it is anything else is just a lie.

Basically, it sounds like CCP plans to let players set up their own raffles.  The player running the raffle basically buys the permit and the tickets from CCP through the New Eden Store with PLEX, the cash shop currency, and then lists their item.  Players then buy the tickets with ISK.  When all the tickets have been sold, RNG picks the winner.  Everybody else who bought a ticket is out the ISK they spent.

Checking in on the test server, where HyperNet Relay is now live, the tips for what it is show the usual level of CCP clarity…

How to gamble… I mean raffle… I mean HyperNet!

That gets you to the offers window, which has some sample raffles.

Welcome to wealth creation… not your wealth, but somebody’s

As far as bidding goes, the interface seems similar to a mob numbers racket, where you pick a ticket from an array.

Which one is the luck one?

On the creation side, once you get a HyperCore (this terminology has to be an attempt to stay as far away from gambling terms as possible) you drag an item into the interface and set the parameters of the raffle.

Time to generate wealth!

You can set the number of tickets in your raffle… erm, HyperNodes in your… raffle… which can be between 8 and 512, the price per ticket… node… whatever, or the total amount you want to make, which will set the per ticket price.

Looking at some of the raffles people have created, there is still some fuzziness on the idea.  I saw a Nyx listed with the per ticket price about the same as the price of a brand new, fully fit Nyx… only there were 48 tickets, so somebody wanted to sell for 48x the market price.

And, just looking at this, I can see how it will facilitate RMT ISK sales.

CCP’s justification, aside from the usual claim of gambling being fun and enjoyable, is that this will allow players to obtain otherwise very expensive items like rare officer modules without having to blow their budget.  Again, as always with gambling, the emphasis is put on the benefit of the lone winner and not the losses incurred by the losers.

Leaving aside the high ground CCP claimed when they banned gambling previously, I spent some time at EVE Vegas watching CCP Larrikin do his presentation which dwelt for quite a bit on income inequality in New Eden.  You can watch it here if you like.  As with the real world, no matter what happens, the rich seem to get richer.

And HyperNet Relay will be no different.  Despite claims about ISK velocity and redistribution of assets, this will simply make the rich even more wealthy.  Who has these rare and valuable items in their hangars?  Who has the ISK to buy PLEX in order to get their HyperNet Relay Gambling Kit from the New Eden store without spending any real world cash?  And who will collect the ISK from these raffles, where the combined value of all the tickets will more then compensate for the price of the HyperNet Relay and the value of the item being raffled off?

And, on the flip side, who has to use real world cash to buy PLEX to  get ISK?  And who cannot afford these expensive items?  And who will lose their ISK far more often than not?

Same shit, different day.

But it is already live on the test server, which means CCP is committed and the CSM has been briefed and approved of the plan.  The expected go live date is December 10, 2019.

CCP is still eliciting feedback in a comment thread on the forums.  The tide there is running very much against the idea.  But this is an obvious money maker, so I’ll be interested to see if the usual claim that “your voice matters” will ring hollow yet again.  On Reddit things are even more brutal.

And all of this is being dropped into an environment where legislators in various countries are eyeing gambling in video games ever more closely.  At least lock boxes have the fig leaf of everybody getting some prize out of them as cover.  I thought CCP was being smart back in 2016, covering themselves from possible legal trouble.  Now we have this.  We’ll see if EVE Online has a high enough profile to get called out for this.

No matter what, I suspect that this story will run for a while.

Other reactions:

 

Gnomeregan, But with a Plan

Last week’s Gnomer run could be rated as a success.  We went in, worked our way through to Electrocutioner 6000, obtained the back door key, killed the bosses up to that point, had a couple of intense fights, only had one death, and had zero wipes.  Op success.

On the flip side, the five of us went into the instance with six Gnomer quests in our log and only one of us, Skronk, came out with even a single one of those quests completed.  That was not stonks.  I think the first time we did the instance back in 2006 we did better, but still came out with a lot of quests undone.  But we went on to Scarlet Monastery and deleted those from our quest log.

So over the course of the week Skonk looked into what we needed to do and came up with a plan.  It wasn’t a complicated plan.  It was more of a reminder of the things we needed to do to wrap up some of the quests we had.

On Saturday evening we assembled again in Ironforge, set to return and finish things off.  Our group was:

  • Ula – level 30 gnome mage
  • Viniki – level 30 gnome warrior
  • Skronk – level 29 dwarf priest
  • Obama – level 29 human warlock
  • Moronae – level 29 night elf druid

Well, we sort of assembled in Ironforge.  Obama had logged off outside the instance the previous week, so we ran out to him.

Once more through the snow

For some reason he thought it wise to go into the instance, and did so before we grouped up.  Then he got aggro and died at about the time we arrived.  However, because he went in before he was in the group, entering Gnomer ourselves we did not see his corpse so could not ress him.  So he had to release and run back to the instance, go in, come back to life, then come back out to meet up with us.  There is always some complication.

He had to come back out because we had things to do outside the instance first.  We had to run around to where the side door is and find Techbot for the Save Techbot’s Brain quests.  That was a kill and loot.

Techbot’s brain saved, body slain

We also had to get our white punch cards update at the machine that is outside the instance as well.  Once we had done that, it was back to the instance itself. When we were previously at the instance there had something of a scene going on, with a group jumping out of the instance having gotten into some trouble within, only to get jumped by the mobs outside the instance.  This time around all was quiet.

Once inside things went pretty smoothly.  We cleared our way to the edge of the open area, jumped off the ledge, took on the ooze we landed on, then cleared a mob as the Viscous Fallout once again came up behind us mid-fight.

Here he comes, sneaking up again

As with last time, he may have been an add, but we still didn’t have much problem with him either.  However, he dropped the staff again, rather than the cloth boots the casters were coveting.  Such is life with RNG.

We went from there over to the ramp up to the dormitory and the room with the sloped walls where we had such a chaotic battle last time.  This time around we just needed to clear a couple of mobs to reach one of the punch card machines we needed for the second punch card upgrade.  We were on our way.

Then it was off to the gauntlet again, where we managed to clear through to the big room with the Electrocutioner 6000 in the middle.

We’re here already

Elapsed time in the instance at that point was 20 minutes.  We cleared around to the ramp, and got stuck in with the Electrocutioner 6000 pretty handily.

This time fighting in a lit section of the platform

At just past the 30 minute mark we were already up to where we made it last week.  Things were going smoothly as we cleared around to the tunnel that would take us to the Crowd Pummeler 9-60.  Moronae coveted one of the possible drops.

Again, clearing through to him wasn’t a big deal.  We were able to take groups out easily enough and were soon looking at our target.

The Crowd Pummeler 9-60 waits

Like many bosses, he doesn’t have a lot in the way of complicated mechanics.  He stands apart with an attack that throws you back, which could get awkward if you were fighting with your back to the ledge.  However, we had arranged ourselves in such a way that it was not an issue… totally by chance, yes, but it worked out.

At that point we were bopping along pretty well.  We cleared around to the elevator and then cleared the whole room below just to make sure we got all the “coke machines” that were down there for quest updates.

Then it was up the side tunnel that empties out into the ramp which leads down to the final boss, Mekgineer Thermaplugg.  We were pretty close to the end.  And then our troubles began.

Once again, there is something of a sudden ramp up in difficulty mid-instance.  As I have said before, vanilla WoW instances seem like a mix of experiments and assumptions about dungeon design.  And one of those assumptions was clearly that people were going to take multiple runs at instances.  While Gnomer doesn’t have the steep level ramp from start to finish the way Deadmines does, the key you get for the side door is an indication that they expected people to get that far, the work up a bit before going further.

So while things were very manageable so far, the moment we spilled out into the tunnel with the Dark Iron Agents and their mechanical friends, things suddenly got more difficult, though it would take us a bit to notice how much in over our heads we were.

The one wise thing we did was take out a small group that was up the tunnel from us, just to give ourselves more room before we took on the foursome of Dark Iron Agents in the direction we needed to go.  Not only were there four mobs to handle, all level 32 or 33 while we were still 29 and 30 as a group, but we totally forgot about the mines that the Dark Iron drop.  Add in an alarm bot that came up behind us and called in adds and the wheels came off pretty quickly.  We ended up with a wipe on that group, having taken down just one of them.

Dead on the ramp, mines about

But at least we got one, and Skronk had the soul stone ready.  We were not sure what the mines would do, there being one on either side of Skronk’s corpse.  He popped the soul stone and the mines immediately detonated, killing him again.

Strewn about sans mines now, Skronk face down rather than face up this time

That meant we had to release and run back.  In running back we decided to take the side door in, hoping to avoid the stuff we left behind.  We got to the door, over by where Techbot spawns, and found we could not use the key while dead.  Oh no!

And then one of use realize that, as ghosts, we could walk through the door and we were able to get back into the instance.  We buffed up and cleared our way ahead, hitting a second locked door.  I guess they needed a double door solution, the first to keep people from just wandering in if they didn’t have the key and the second to keep people from ghosting in the back door.

We were back and facing the three remaining Dark Iron, still marked with targeting icons.  Three should be easier than four, right?  So we checked our buff and got stuck in again.

And then something odd happened, which I still haven’t figured out.  Somehow we managed to draw what must have been 6-8 additional mobs, Dark Iron Agents and the mechs that are mixed in with them.  Maybe proximity to a group of two down in the lower part of the tunnel?  They swarmed in from up the ramp mid-fight, causing us to wipe again.

Everybody freakin’ shows up to kill us

On the bright side, the soul stone was up again, so Skronk had that in hand before the wipe.  But he was once again dead right next to one of the Dark Iron mines.  It seemed like we were going to have to do the return run again.  But, since the soul stone is “use it or lose it” he gave it a shot.  And, for no reason I can see, the mine didn’t go off.

Skronk escapes the mine

So he was able to ress us.  We buffed up again and carried on, trying to stick to the wall side of the ramp lest we draw a crowd again.

We were also becoming very diligent about zapping alarm bots when they showed up.  They only take a couple of hits, but if you don’t get them you’re going to have some adds.

The only good Alarm Bot is a dead Alarm Bot… from earlier in the instance

On we went, finally clearing that first group of four.  After that there were a couple smaller groups before we hit another group of four where things once again got our of hand and ended up in a wipe.  The soul stone hadn’t been ready yet, so we had to run back again, which is a bit of a pain since the closest graveyard is in Kharanos, which is a bit of a trot from the instance.

Skeletal remains of that wipe

We got one of the fours again though, which left us with a threesome that we could handle.

From there it was another clear and we were at the bottom of the ramp.  There four mobs wander.  As we were sizing that up I looked over the lip of the ramp to see what might wander up behind us.  There was a Dark Iron Agent there and as everybody piled over to look we proximity pulled him.  I figured we were toast yet again.

But he ran up the ramp, turned around and came up our ramp, just shy of where the mobs were roaming and didn’t bring anybody from the door with him. (Though he did bring his own friend.)  Some luck at last.  And then we found we could pull each of the mobs before the big door individually if we let them wander off by themselves.  We opened up the door and found a mixed group there, two elites and some non-elite helpers.  We took them on and managed to muddle through.  It turned out we could have taken each group individually, but I figured that out too late.  Ula went down in that fight, but Skronk was quick on the ress.

That left us looking at Mekgineer Thermaplugg, the big boss.

There he is

Moronae had something to do for a bit IRL, so we camped there at the edge of the big room and planned how to take on the final boss.  That let the soul stone timer run down, which ended up being handy.

As we sat there we saw the Dark Iron Ambassador wander by on his loop.  We would get him too.

We looked up how to deal with the big fight.  We all vaguely remembered something about bombs and buttons and such, but were pretty hazy on the mechanics.  The question was who to put on button patrol.  You have to push the buttons when the bomb towers get activated or they’ll keep unleashing mech bombs to come an disrupt the fun… and help the boss kill you.

There are six towers and buttons, and we decided that the two ranged DPS, Ula and Obama, ought to take three each.  They could run to buttons and cast in between.  I would stay in the middle with Mekgineer Thermaplugg and hold him there, Moronae would DPS, and Skronk would keep us all alive.

This was a tough fight.  The boss was level 34 and, Viniki had just made it to 31, but everybody else was still 30 save Obama, who was 29.  When you’re more than 2 levels below a mob, your attacks and spells and abilities become less effective and much more subject to resists.

So, while it started smoothly, the battle quickly devolved into chaos.  I had to work to build up aggro and two of my biggest aggro generators, sunder armor and mocking blow, were getting shrugged off and resisted more often than not.  With the damage I was taking Skronk drew aggro after not too long, leaving me to chase the boss around throwing a taunt at it every eight seconds, which it seemed to shrug off more often than not.

Skronk went down and I was left chasing Mekgineer Thermaplugg around the room as he went after the casters, then back to me, then after the casters again.  Skronk used the soul stone and got back in the fight again.  But, again, with him needing to pour on the healing… the boss chasing the casters drove them away from the buttons so as I chased the boss the bombs were chasing me… he drew aggro yet again as I tailed the target trying to get aggro back on me.

Skronk went down a second time.  The only bright side at that point was that Mekgineer Thermaplugg was down to his last sliver of health, so we were able to burn him down.  The fight was won.  Moronae used his ress to bring Skronk back.  It was a messy win, but a win none the less.  We took our traditional screen shot with the dead boss.

Victory over Mekgineer Thermaplugg

Thermaplugg dropped the Electromagnetic Gigaflux Reactivator, a very nice cloth head piece that went to Skronk on the caster roll-off.  He earned it with his extra deaths.

Then we went back out to the tunnel and waited for the Dark Iron Ambassador.  He takes a while making his rounds, but we had seen him come and go a couple of times, so we knew we just had to wait until he made his way to us once more.

The Dark Iron Ambassador approaches

As a fight he was pretty quick.  And he had the potential to drop a mace that would have been a serious upgrade for me… or a gun that would have been an upgrade for the one I use to pull.  Instead he dropped the leather wrist pieces, which went to the only leather wearer in the group.

It was a successful run, but not without its share of wipes.  The Recount total of deaths for Gnomeregan round 2:

Repair time

After that we ran around the boss room, there being a memory of a chest or something in there.  But there was nothing, so we all stoned back home to get on the quest turn ins.

All of us stoning out together

On the quest front we had done pretty well.  I managed to get them all done, and everybody else was just one shy.  We may need to go back to find a few more of the “coke machines” to wrap that up.

Quest log for Gnomer

Back in Stormwind I ran over to the Dwarven Quarter to find Shoni the Shilent.  Then it was into Deeprun Tram to get to Ironforge where a bunch of quest turn-ins awaited.

Right there in tinker town

Then from there is was a run down to Kharanos for the final turn in.  That one actually led to another quest back in Gnomer.  Given that, the fact that we need a few more items for another quest, and that a couple of us want boss drops that we didn’t get, and that we could all probably use a few more levels before Scarlet Monastery, we might yet return to Gnomer at least one more time.

I will likely get Viniki out and to level 32 before we go back in.  The final fight would probably be a bit less dramatic if I could hold aggro.

In case we don’t go, I’ll add in the part that links back to our past Gnomer runs below:

  • Gnomeregan – Round 1 – Dec 2006 – Our first run, with an odd writing style. I was still figuring out how to write about instance runs.  Also, there was no “round 2.”
  • Road to Gnomeregan – Dec 2009 – We go as our Horde group via the Booty Bay teleporter.  This was after Gnomer was refactored to be slightly lower level than in vanilla.
  • You Brought Me Here, Now Give Me The Damn Quest! – Feb 2011 – We run the Cataclysm version of the instance.
  • The Key to Gnomeregan – Nov 2019 – I might as well include last week’s post here for posterity.

Addendum:  Ula posted a pair of videos covering the run.  The first video goes up into the Dark Iron Agents.  You can see us jumping off the ledge to get to the Viscous Fallout through until our wipes.  You can see much better how many mobs came and swarmed us on that one wipe.

The second video carries on with the Dark Iron Agents, shows that proximity pull, the final clearing fights, and then the big battle Mekgineer Thermaplugg.

As always, excellent work by Ula!  Go follow her blog.

Getting Side Tracked on the way to 110 in Norrath

I carried on for a bit in the Plane of Magic in EverQuest II.  I made it through the faction quest line I was working on and dug into the signature quest line for the zone, making it into the Coliseum of Valor.

Hob nobbing with the deities of Norrath

I managed to make it to level 108 as part of that.

Another level further along

I even managed to collect enough status along the way to boost the guild up a level.

I don’t think we get anything until 50

It has been a few years since that happened.  I think we got to level 40 back in 2010 during my attempt to bring the instance group to the game.

After that it was into the Plane of Innovation where things… really slowed down.  Not the drip of experience, which was already almost non-existent for mobs, but the pace at which I could slay them.  I was able to slay them, despite being level 100 heroic groups.

That guys was worth an achievement

With a mercenary along to keep me healed and my gear level I was in no danger of dying.  But it was taking a long time to kill encounters.  Heroic groups were running past 5 minutes per fight and that Ancient Clockwork Prototype was a 25 minute bout.  That is a long time to be mashing buttons… and in EQII you have a ton of buttons to mash.  I have four hot key bars up in my UI, three to keep essential combat related skills and another for utility items I use often, and I know I am missing a bunch of skill.  I am just glad that when you die the game retains all of the “until cancelled” buffs you cast on yourself.  I’d need another hot bar for that list.

Anyway, with fights starting to run that long I began to think that perhaps my DPS was not up to snuff.  As I said, my defenses seem to be fine, so it was time to look into things to make me hit harder.

First up was skill upgrades.  I think I have mentioned before the complexity of EQII skills.  When you gain a skill, or a skill upgrade, it comes in at apprentice level.  You can upgrade that to journeyman level via trade skills, adept via random skill drops, expert from trade skills using rare components, master from rare chest drops, grandmaster via an every 10 levels, pick one skill, alternate advancement mechanism, and ancient via rare raid drops.  There is a whole thing on the wiki about this.

You can also train them up via a time learning mechanism akin to EVE Online skill training, which at level 100+ takes about 16 to 20 days to go from apprentice to journeyman.  But  if you want to spend money you can buy Station Cash and level those up instantly.

Upgrades, wait or pay

I opted to wait given the current price of Daybreak Cash.

Daybreak Cash Prices

With my subscription discount and buying Daybreak Cash at its cheapest per unit price, that instance upgrade to just journeyman would run about $78.  And, while I would take a journeyman upgrade, I really wanted something a bit better.

That is because, as you might expect, every step up the upgrade ladder makes a skill noticeably better.  You can even get in situations where a level VI version of a skill at grandmaster is much better than the level VII version at apprentice.  The game tries to work around that by doing a compare when you earn a new skill and leaving the old one on your hot bar if it is better.  But if you later upgrade the new one you have to go and audit your hot bar to make sure you have the right one.

And if you have boosted your character up levels… well.  Sigwerd got past level 60 on his own, then boosted to 90 and has gone from there to 108.  Along the way some of the skills in his hot bars have fallen behind.  So I went through and fixed all of that.

Then I started shopping for upgrades on the market.  But the prices for adepts for level 100+ skills are insane.  Sigwerd has about 50K platinum, making him my wealthiest character.  Inflation got him that money through the market.  But inflation means he could piss that all away quickly on the adept upgrades for his skill, which run from 2.5K to 10K platinum each.

Few people seemed to be making journeyman skills, and those that were on the market were even more expensive than adept skills.

The prices of a Frenzy VI upgrade

I went to my alchemist, but he is only level 92 in that trade, so I need to level him up there.  And even then there is the question of getting the recipes which require a signature quest run.

So I did what I could there then started fishing elsewhere.

I went through my alternate advancement trees to see if there was anything I could boost there.

I looked at gear, but my stuff from the Days of Summer quest last year was still better than anything on the market, along with the upgrades to that I had gotten in the Plane of Magic.

At one point I was looking through my claimable items… those have piled up over the last 15 years… and found a mount that had better stats than my own, so swapped to that and started upgrading it.  I also claimed a companion pet I had in there that also gave me a stats boost.  And I bought a familiar… which is also a pet of sorts that also gives you stats, so I am not sure what the difference is, other than that familiars are “collectable” and have seasons and cost Daybreak Cash.  I got a slug.  But it was a slug that gave me a stats boost.

While in the claims window I also ran across some other, older, unclaimed items I found a token worth a five ascension level boost.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I recalled something about ascension levels and it being something of an alternate alternate advancement path.  So I figured I ought to track that down.

Now we get into one of my gripes about EQII.  I am sitting in something close to the current content, running one expansion back in Planes of Prophecy.  But ascension levels came in with Kunark Ascending, the expansion before that.  In order to unlock access to ascension levels, I need to run down a signature quest in that expansion.  But to get that quest I need to go back to the expansion before that, Terrors of Thalumbra, and run through a signature quest there to unlock the trigger to get the quest that will get me into the zone, Obulus Frontier, that has the NPC that will give me the quest that will unlock ascension levels.  That quest chain actually starts on the Isle of Mara, which sends me around a bit to other zones.  Then it is finally off to Thalumbra, which you have to do a quest to access, and where I need to work on my faction with the local in order to get the next quest that will lead to the further quest.

Thalumbra is underground

So I ran through that, getting side tracked along the way to unlock access to trade skill recipes so I could craft beyond level 100, since that was only another six quest chain and I was down there anyway.

Eventually I get into Obulus Frontier, but it is late in the evening so I figure I will pick this up the next day and recall home to sell stuff in my bloated inventory and put stuff up for sale on the market.  In my inventory is a bunch of stuff from the Days of Summer 2019 quest event, which was still running, and which I ran across by accident when I ended up in the Sundered Frontier on one leg of one of the quests to get access to Obulus Frontier, so of course I stopped and ran those.  Now I have a full set of level 110 gear to wear if and when I make it to level 110.  So I had to put that in the bank.

Of course, the next day I had to figure out how to get back.  The wiki says there is a way to get there from Thalumbra, so I go to Greater Faydark, take the gnomish transport device, and fly around to the spot where I can get in.

Me, my companion, and my familiar

However, it won’t let me in.  I have not done the quest that opens up the access from Thalumbra to Obulus Frontier, because of course I haven’t.  So I go to Kunark and find my way through to the portal that will get me to the zone and I go in and I find the mob that will give me the quest that will finally unlock ascension levels… and I get this.

Say what?

As it turns out, I do not speak her language because, as you might be able to guess at this point, I have not done the quest that will teach me the language that lets me speak to her to get the quest that will unlock ascension levels and one voice in the back of my head is shouting, “Are you fucking kidding me?” while another is just sighing and saying, “Or course there is another quest.”

So I ran off to find that quest.  And I know that won’t be the last quest.  I took a moment to fly off to the person who actually ends up training you in your ascension class and they were surrounded by hostile guards, which likely means I will need to do some more quests to raise my faction sufficiently to get through the guards and converse with the trainer.

I am not upset about this trail of events.  That I spent three late evening running through all of this and am still going is an indication that I am invested.  But as a solution to my original problem, that fights were taking a long time, it seems to be something of a bust.  I don’t know if this will actually solve the problem and, more pertinently, if I had just put up with the long fights I would have easily been done and through and on to the next thing and probably level 109 with the same investment of time.

And if I had spent that same amount of time running some of the repeatable, faction earning side quests in the Plane of Magic I would undoubtedly be level 110 by now, my original goal.

Such is life with EverQuest II.  If you haven’t kept up, catching up can be a long process.  And I have had no shame in this using the wiki, pasting in way points, and just taking the direct route to things.  I cannot imagine figuring this out without simply giving up and embracing out of game information.

It has also been something of an interesting dive into an attitude or two that has changed at Daybreak on the Norrath team.  There was a era when they were very big on marking quest locations or areas on the map when you had then up on your tracker.  There were blue dots and shaded blue areas where you could expect to find the relevant NPC or mobs for the quest.  They have apparently given up on this completely with the last expansion or two.  Why spend time on that when there is always the wiki I guess.

The quest for level 110 continues.

EVE Online Gets Rapid Fire and Triglavians in its Third November Update

I thought EVE Online going to updates every five weeks was a bit of a fast pace, but now we’re into our third update for November.  We had the new player login campaign update first, a tiny update yes, but it got its own release notes, so I covered it.  Then we got the Beat Around the Boosh update two weeks back.  And now we’re getting an update to the Triglavian event and the Team Talos Rapid Fire update, which was mentioned back at EVE Vegas.

The invasion continues

On the Triglavian front, the event has been updated, with CONCORD observatories being deployed around New Eden to study the Triglavian stellar accelerators.  But, as always, CONCORD needs your help.  In this case, they want you to defend these observatories from Triglavian attack.

Also coming with this update is the Triglavian dreadnought, the Zirnitra, which was previewed at EVE Vegas.

Very big Triglavian ships arrive

With it comes a new capital ship class entropic disintigrator weapon along with the X-large ammo to go with it and the skills you’ll need to train up in order to use the ship and its weapons.  And, of course, there are BPCs out there.  This dreadnought is supposed to be less expensive to build than past faction dreads have been.  CCP wants people flying this beast.

Then there is the Team Talos project, the Rapid Fire update, which brings good news to a number of Minmatar hulls and auto cannons.

Stabber Fleet Issue, Tempest Fleet Issue, Typhoon, Bellicose and Rifter are all getting a bit of a buff, while medium autocannons are getting a bit of stat increase as well.

On the flip side, the over-used Muninn is getting a bit of a nerf (no wonder Elo Knight is taking a break now) as are Angel Cartel ships.

Then there is Team Five-0 and the shareable bookmarks update.  This brings the long sought after Alliance Bookmarks feature by creating a way that bookmarks can be shared via the Access Control List interface.  There is a cost however, in that there are limits to the number of bookmarks than can be saved.  There are 102 individuals that currently exceed the 20,000 bookmark hard cap that the system will enforce, but with 248 million saved locations in New Eden, some effort to keep system performance viable had to be made.

There is a dev blog that covers this in detail and the forum thread where problems with the change are brought up.  No matter what CCP does at this point, somebody will be unhappy.  Of course, I only have a few hundred bookmarks, so I am nowhere close to the problem zone.  And I know people who are very happy with the change as well.  I’ll personally be glad to have wormhole bookmarks that can be set to expire and go away on their own.

Then there is the Black Friday login campaign which will reward capsuleers who login daily between Nov 27th (tomorrow) and Dec 3rd.

Further details for these changes are in the updated November patch notes, with some additional information on the updates page. The update has been reported live, so it is our reality now.

In addition, as part of EVE London CCP released a new trailer for items coming to the game this winter.

However, a good portion of them are available as part of today’s update, which is dropping nearly a month ahead of the calendar maker determined first day of winter in the northern hemisphere.  But I’ve always maintained that seasons are more a state of mind… though November still feels like autumn in my book.

Addendum: Probes are now optional in Thera thanks to the bookmarks change.

My Own History in Azeroth

Saturday was the fifteenth anniversary of the launch of World of Warcraft.

I wasn’t there for the launch fifteen years ago.  Honestly it didn’t register with me at the time and I was only really aware of the game after the fact.

As I wrote earlier in the month in recognition of another anniversary, I was busy playing EverQuest II.  And I wasn’t even planning to play that, a tale that was pretty much covered in that other post.  Suddenly invested in EQII after a hiatus for EQ, I was pretty much oblivious to the launch of World of Warcraft when it came.

Eventually it came to my notice and clearly I ended up playing it.  So I decided that I should try to piece together a timeline of my own relationship with World of Warcraft.

On the plus side, I have this blog to help.  On the negative, this blog started in late 2006, some time after I started playing WoW and long after what I would consider the pre-history of WoW.  And since launch the blog had passed the five thousand post mark, almost 1,300 of which are included in the World of Warcraft category, which gives me a bit of a problem finding some of the exact details I might be looking for.  The search function in WordPress is a bit too loosey goosey for my taste. (I really want multiple tag/category search.)

Still, I managed to scrape something together.

The Years Before WoW

World of Warcraft did not manifest in a vacuum, but was part of a stream of development that started in the 90s with the original Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.  That launched 25 years ago this past Saturday, sharing a launch date with WoW separated by ten years.

I didn’t play Warcraft when it launched either.  I don’t think I ever owned a copy of it, but I was aware of it.  I worked at a company that did Macintosh products and it was popular in the lab because it was a network game.  I was playing more Marathon and Bolo then, but I bought copies of Warcraft II and Warcraft III in turn.

I never played the campaign for either.  I bought them to play against friends and co-workers on the company network.  Thus, I recognize all the peon phrases, recall some of the units, but am completely lore bereft.  (Same story with StarCraft really.  Played a ton of head to head, never really did the campaign.)

I did, however, play Diablo and Diablo II very thoroughly.  Those do not share the same lore universe as Warcraft, but a lot of the ideas and mechanics that went into WoW came from those two.

Oh look, a quest, potions, and a proto-hot bar! Not pictured: Skill tree and points

There was a point when I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t want WoW but a Diablo based MMO.  It did not take me much time to realize that much of the underpinnings of WoW were lifted straight from Diablo, right down to gear drops and such.  It is not the same lore, and it is a bit brighter in places (though you spend a whole act in Diablo II in a brightly lit desert) but WoW, at its mechanics core, is very close to what a Diablo MMO might have been.

All of which lays at least a groundwork of familiarity with Blizzard and its games.

WoW While in Norrath

I think I first heard WoW mentioned on our guild voice coms at some point in December 2004.  It was becoming clear that all was not well with EverQuest II.  There were lots of updates as SOE scrambled to adjust the formula of the game to try and stem the flow of players from the game, either headed back to EQ or off to WoW.  The words about WoW were not kind.  It was derided as a colorful kiddie game, not a real MMORPG like EQ was.

But those doing the grumbling had also pinned their hopes on Brad McQuaid’s Vanguard as the real successor to EQ, though, so far as I know, not one of those people grumbling ended up in Vanguard.  Instead, they all migrated to WoW eventually.  Even Wooflin, our guild leader, and the most anti-WoW voice in the guild.

March 2005 – I Go to Azeroth

The weekend of my birthday, at the prodding of a friend from the EQ days, I bought a copy of World of Warcraft, created an account, and attempted to play.  It did not impress me.

Part of the problem was that I bought it on a Friday evening on the way home from work and it required so much patching, which moved so slowly on our rinky dink, but not bad for the time ADSL internet connection, that I did not get to character creation until Sunday morning.

The patcher was so bad back in the day that, when I did start playing, I had a paid account at File Planet because they would host the updater and you could download it quickly and apply the patch long before the default patcher would even realize it needed to update.

Annoyed by that… you buy a game, you want to play that night… I was in no mood for anything when I rolled up a dwarf paladin.  That didn’t click with me at all.  Bland snowy terrain, ugly cartoon character models, none of the depth of EQII, not even any housing, I wasn’t having it.  I played a couple more days then cancelled before my initial 30 days expired.  I went back to the guild and told them how much it sucked.

Late 2005 Return

But EQII was sucking a bit as well, with constant changes and updates along with stability problems from time to time.  We made it pretty well into the first expansion, Desert of Flames, but people in our guild were dropping out of the game, and most of them were headed to World of Warcraft. (Though I recall one person, Oteb maybe, who went straight to EVE Online.)  Meanwhile, more people I knew outside the guild were also talking about WoW.  Maybe six months later I renewed my account there and rolled up a new character on the Hyjal server, where some friends were playing.

Of course, they were all much higher level than I was, so it was sort of a side venture to hang out and chat with them now and then.  I was still more serious about playing EQII.  But the guild there began a full on run for the doors, and those of us from TorilMUD decided we needed to head into Azeroth as a group.  And so I ended up on another server, Eldre’Thalas in early 2006.  It was after Desert of Flames but before Kingdom of Sky.  I know this because I never purchased the latter.

Twilight Cadre and Servers

When the TorilMUD faction washed up on Azeroth’s shore we decided to create a guild… because of course we did.  Back on TorilMUD we had been the Shades of Twilight guild, and had even managed to create an alt guild in EQII with the same name.  But that name, and most obvious variations, had already been taken in WoW.  Eventually we went with Twilight Cadre, which has to be something I came up with, having a vaguely Soviet feel to it.  But I cannot say for sure if that was so, just that we adopted it.

We were not much of a guild though.  I think many of us were a bit burned out by our time in EQII.  I pottered around, made the human pally that remains my “main” on retail through to today, along with a few other alts, getting to around level 40 and losing my way.  It was almost all solo.  Some people got more into it and joined raiding guilds.  But this was the time of server splits, and a couple of raiding guilds, and my friends in them, went off to new servers.

I also rolled a couple characters on Hyjal only to have the people I knew there disappear when their raiding guild opted to take a free server transfer to a new realm.

On Eldre’Thalas activity tapered off and with the impending arrival of the Echoes of Faydwer expansion in EQII… expansion number three… and its promise to revive the game and get back to a more EverQuest-like theme, WoW didn’t have much of a hold on me.

The Instance Group Forms

In September 2006 I started the blog, so events start to have hard dates… at least if I had a mind to write about them at the time.  The early days here were somewhat chaotic when it came to figuring out what I ought to record.

One key post in hindsight, made just 16 days into the life of the blog, was about changing my solo ways with WoW, which had been the default for many months.  I don’t remember why I dropped Skronk a line, but he was interested in playing WoW with me.  He was already playing, had something of a group, but was on yet another server, which was ever the problem back in the day.

Somehow I was able to convince him to start over on Eldre’Thalas.  I had already taken over ownership of the Twilight Cadre guild, so we rolled up new characters, I invited them in, and the instance group began.

Tales of Dungeon Crawls

At this point there is a paper trail of blog posts.  I have a nice summary post about the instance group in vanilla WoW with all the dates.  We played through until March, when Earl had to move across the country.  During that time the four of us remaining ran off to play LOTRO at launch.

Earl returned in September and we picked up again at Zul’Farrak and played on through and got our epic mounts.

The instance group all mounted up

We moved on into The Burning Crusade and got fairly far, but eventually tapered off before we had finished all of the instances.  We were struggling a bit as a group and had been playing for ages straight through, so there was a bit of a break once we got our flying mounts.  The next item on our list was Warhammer Online, which brought us together in late summer of 2008.

Also, somewhere in here, before WotLK, I setup an account for my daughter who had been watching me play.  She was about six and now, nearly a dozen years later, she scolds me for letting her play WoW at such a young age.  I think Pokemon is her main gaming with daddy memory, but WoW is a close second.  My mother also picks up the game and at some point we have a three generation group going on.

Three Cats in Hillsbrad

She drew this picture in KidPix to commemorate the event.

Her Mount

Now she has PhotoShop and is taking AP Art and does amazing work.

Wrath of the Lich King

Probably the high point of the group and my longest continuous stretch of playing WoW.  I was there from the pre-expansion events… remember the plague… through until Cataclysm launched.

I should go through and create summary posts for the instance group in each expansion at some point.  But for now it was quite the time.  We jumped from Warhammer Online into the launch of the expansion and carried on as before.  We finished up the instances that were available, then there was something of a break.  We did spend some time as Horde, but didn’t get too far.  But I didn’t leave, and kept on going with the Argent Tournament until I had earned every item it had to offer.

The Cataclysm

The instance group came back to WoW when Cataclysm hit.  The old world had been reworked and we rolled up a fresh group to experience it.  Unfortunately, the world had gotten much easier. (Or we had gotten less bad.  Or maybe both.)  Reworked instances and the dungeon finder and all that combined to make for an unsatisfying experience.  We got bored and stopped playing.  However, I was still subscribed because I opted in for the offer to get a free copy of Diablo III if I subscribed to WoW for a year.

Long term subscription offers always seem to coincide with player unrest in WoW.  When the year finally ended I wrote a post about my final achievement and predicted that while I might come back to visit that I would never be as invested in the game again.

The Year Off

I spent a full year away from WoW, during which many other games were played.  The instance group went to EverQuest II and Rift for a while.  There was a return to LOTRO.  I think I finally got through Moria then.  But Blizz was not spoken of for a long stretch as the stink of Cataclysm remained in our nostrils.

Pandas Come Calling

After a year or so things were idle, the group was on a break, and I was looking for something to do.  Blizz, in an uncharacteristically well timed move, sent me a note that Mists of Pandaria was half price.  So I bought a copy and went back to give it a try, and it was delightful.

MoP was probably some of the best PvE content ever in an MMO.  On expansions for me it ranks only behind Wrath of the Lich King for my level of satisfaction.  I rolled through and did the dailies got most of the factions to exalted (examined here), worked up with pet battles, did the LFR to see the fall of Garrosh, and got that azure water strider, probably the most OP broken mount that Blizz has ever handed out.  I used it constantly on my main and alts for years.

We all loved that water bug

The instance group came back towards the end as well, and we did some of the instances with our original characters.  We also did the Cata instances, including the raids redone as five person dungeons, and they were all pretty damn good.  We warmed to WoW again as a group.

Warlord of Draenor and the Big Fall

The build up to WoD was huge.  Blizz was promising to get back to some old school orc shenanigans with what seemed like a re-roll of The Burning Crusade.  And, according to Tom “they should never let me speak off script ever” Chilton, garrisons were going to be housing for WoW.

In hindsight, it wasn’t a bad expansion.  There was good overland content and such.  But it did not live up to the hype, and garrisons backfired in a big way, becoming grindy little hidey holes that took people out of the world just like Blizz said housing would, but did not provide any of the player satisfaction that housing does in other games.  Subscription numbers tanked, falling back to 2005 levels and causing Blizz to stop reporting them.

The instance group did a few dungeons, but we were fading by then.  Life was getting in the way and the passion was not there.  In April 2015 we ran what remains the last dungeon in retail WoW we did as a group.  I took a big break in there, though came back before the next expansion and did what I needed to do to unlock flying.

Legion

Legion was good.  I played it through with multiple alts.  It was enjoyable.  I unlocked flying, which has now become something of the benchmark “I really played this expansion” achievement.  But it was completely solo experience.  I did a few Dungeon Finder groups for quests, but gave up on that.  I hate those groups not because people are hostile or toxic or don’t talk, but because they are all about getting things done.  You are at a run through the whole thing and then it is over and I barely know what really transpired.  Just follow the tank, hit what they hit, move on.

In all I played about ~15 months out of the two years that Legion was the main content.  Not bad.  I ended up with seven or eight characters at the level cap, including a Horde character.

Battle for Azeroth

I wanted to like BFA, thinking that Blizz had figured stuff out with Legion.  But the broken content scaling that favored either people who upgraded no gear or who went epic made the whole thing a grind.  After getting used to class reworks in Legion having to relearn them yet again threw more cold water on my enthusiasm.  It was an expansion where I liked the world but had no love for the updated mechanics.  Only my main has hit max level there and I have not unlocked flying yet, though I still have a year to go.

WoW Classic – The Second Coming of WoW

And then there was WoW Classic, which launched back at the end of August.  You can follow the WoW Classic tag to see all I’ve written about it. (This post will be at the top the day it goes live, so scroll down.)

My hopes for it were tentative.  I’ve gone back to retro/fresh start servers before in EQ, EQII, Rift, and LOTRO, and they are fun for openers, but they have an expiration date, a point when the joy fades and I just stop logging in.

WoW Classic also relaunched the instance group and my baseline hope was that we could get together and run Deadmines again.  That seemed viable.  Instead we have carried on.  For the last couple of months WoW Classic has easily been my most played game.  And even this month, where it has gotten some serious competition from EverQuest II due to its anniversary, it is still getting a lot of play time.

The Future

If you’ve read my annual predictions, you know I am wrong way more often than not when trying to see into the future.  But it sure seems like I’ll be sticking with WoW Classic for a while. It is also likely that I’ll buy the next WoW expansion and probably play a bit in that, though now I only have a single character at level cap and ready to move on to the next thing.

What Blizz does with the WoW Classic idea over time will play into how invested I remain in the game.  If they do “off year” updates and give us The Burning Crusade Classic and Wrath of the Lich King Classic I will no doubt dive into those.  A new branch of content based on WoW Classic would be interesting as well, though I am not sure Blizz has the mental flexibility to manage that.  They have grown too big and the whole company depends too much on WoW revenue to gamble, which means that things will likely stay safe and dull.  We shall see.

And so it goes, my general tale of my time in Azeroth.  When I had the idea for this I was somewhat determined to create a hard timeline based on blog posts.  But we’re past 3,000 words with just my vague, hand waving tale.  Imagine how long it would have gotten if I nailed down dates?  I don’t think either you or I have the time for that!