Tag Archives: Cataclysm

The Rush Back to Azeroth

There may be crit mass to return to wow pre expansion. FYI

That was the content of a text message on my phone from Potshot on Friday.  And while I don’t want to over play the significance of the medium, in our general level of communication, email is the default, instant message is for more immediate issues, and text messages to phones tend to be more akin to picking up the hotline to the Kremlin during the Cold War.

Past text messages from him on my phone… I never clear them out because I so rarely even get text messages… in part because it isn’t a smart phone, but just a cheap old mobile… tend to be about needing to find each other at places like GDC or the train station.  And while it turned out that the medium for the message was chosen mostly because that was all that was available to him at the moment, I still think it says something that he opted for that at the moment rather than waiting for other avenues of communication to become available.

And by the end of the text exchange, it was clear that four out of five of the instance group was on board for an early return to World of Warcraft, thanks to the Warlords of Draenor announcement.   And it seems likely that all five of us will be heading back to Azeroth. Mike was just out of town for the weekend so couldn’t jump on the bandwagon, but he had been expressing interest in WoW when I mentioned I was back and playing it.

So we have circled around back to our game of origin.  As a group we kicked off in WoW back in late 2006 with the intent of going through as much of the five person group content as possible.  Our first instance run was just over seven years ago.  We completed the Deadmines on our third attempt.

Victory over VanCleef

Victory over VanCleef

We hit most of the dungeons in vanilla WoW, foundered a bit in Burning Crusade, and hit our peak in WoW during Wrath of the Lich King. But eventually we hit the last instance in Lich King. While waiting for Cataclysm we re-rolled as Horde on a PVP-RP server just to change things up.  Somewhere in there we stepped out and played Warhammer Online and Lord of the Rings Online.  But after Cataclysm dropped, we felt unsatisfied with the game, so we decided to leave Azeroth and ventured into the wilderness.

We wandered far and wide.  Runes of Magic got a test runGuild Wars was tried on for size.  We staged another return to Lord of the Rings Online.  We attempted to play as a group in EverQuest II until we had enough of struggling against the game.  There have been a couple of prods at Dungeons & Dragons Online. We threw ourselves into Rift. We dabbled in Need for Speed World.  Three of us spent a bit of time in Neverwinter Nights 2 and Diablo III.  A part of the group ran together in World of Tanks, even forming a clan.  And, most recently, we have worked on getting into Neverwinter.

The story of our group, or at least the parts that I have written down, has been traced on this blog.  You can read it by selecting the Instance Group category.  The tale stands at 247 posts as of this one, or just over 8% of the total posts on the blog.

And that does not even count the scouting trips some of us have taken in search of the next game for the group.  Champions Online was touched on, as was Star Trek Online.  I know a couple of us tried Fallen Earth, and three of us tried the original Guild Wars for a couple weeks. Earl jumped into Star Wars: The Old Republic and, like so many people, hit level cap and cancelled.  Potshot went into Age of Conan and The Secret World to explore.  We have tossed around EverQuest as an idea on several occasions.  I think as many as four of us tried Guild Wars 2 at various stages.  TorilMUD and the idea of text held a glimmer at one point.  Even the possibility of EVE Online has been discussed, though it clearly does not work with the varied play budget of our group.  I have even asked for suggestions on this front in the past.

Of all of those games, I think only Rift got anywhere close to the same sort of interest from the whole group as WoW did back in the day.  Of course, since Rift is also the game most like WoW on that list, I suppose it is not hard to understand why.  And we could return to Rift.  It has been a good game for us, becoming as close to a second home outside of Azeroth as we have managed.

But the Storm Legion expansion did not thrill any of us.  And for a game to succeed with the group, at least a couple members of the group need to be excited about it, need to be playing during the rest of the week, and need to be mapping out what we do and where we go next.  Nobody took that role with Storm Legion, and so Rift foundered.

So now, just over two and a half years after we last ran an instance as a group in World of Warcraft, we are jumping back in.  I had already been been back and playing some WoW for a while.  Ula was in game with me on Saturday morning, Potshot by Saturday afternoon, and Earl was loaded back in and had already purchased Pandaria by Sunday.  And we were online a lot.  The guild hadn’t even been looted or otherwise compromised.  We even managed to get a level guild level in our initial flurry.

Guild Level 4! Oh Boy!

Guild Level 4! Oh Boy!

There was a burst of excitement and activity and joy at just being back in Azeroth.

And, of course, some confusion.  A lot has changed since we last played.  I had a bit of a head start, having played on Garona for a while, but even I was a bit puzzled at how to play my retribution paladin after all of this time.  Fortunately Blizzard has some help for that.  In the spells and skill book, there is now a tab devoted to the core abilities of your class.

Retribution Pally in 6 Skills

Retribution Pally in 6 Skills

That isn’t exactly an Elitist Jerks level of class detail, but it seemed to be a good refresher course on how to deal with the class.

So there we were back and happy and running around figuring out where we left off.

Which, of course, should lead to a pretty obvious question.  Didn’t we leave WoW for a reason?  And has anything changed that might make us think that things will be different after we come back?

Clearly we need a plan.

Part of the problem was that, at Cataclysm launch, we went back to character creation and rolled up a whole new set of characters with an eye to seeing the changes to the old world and all the various features.  That was our plan.

Unfortunately, the old world had changed a lot, the old instances… or the updated versions thereof… seemed too easy, and the new tools, like Dungeon Finder, trivialized travel.  Add in the fact that after a few years of playing the game we actually picked up some game skills, and the whole thing seemed too easy.  Even at our normal plodding pace in instances… compared to the “run, run, run!” method that Dungeon Finder groups seem to follow these days… we were able to knock out three instances an evening and still get to bed before midnight.

Meanwhile, the original group of characters was still sitting there.  They still had three instances… added after we were done… in WotLK to finish.

So Potshot put forth what we will call “The Plan,” which is to pick up where we left off with the original group and continue their story.  First, we warm up by knocking off those last WotLK instances, actually finishing the content we declared done about four years back.  Then we move into the Cataclysm 80 to 85 content, trying to do whatever we can as a group and taking on the instances there as we find them.  And we also plan to avoid the Dungeon Finder, insisting on actual travel to whatever instances we may need to run.  See the world and all that.

Easy enough I suppose.

But the plan also calls for us to come back to the same character in the same roles, where I may have cocked things up a bit.  The original group, as it stands now, is:

  • 80 Warrior – Earlthecat
  • 80 Warlock – Bungholio
  • 81 Priest – Skronk
  • 81 Mage – Ula
  • 87 Paladin – Vikund

Earl and Bung have both been good.  Bung just doesn’t play outside of group time, while Earl has a warrior alt he drove through Cataclysm on his own time.  Skronk and Ula have both edged over the level 80 line.  And I have clearly said “see ya!” to the rest of the group, running off ahead and into Pandaria.

Vikund is clearly out of the band for now.  I will be running him up to level 90 through the Pandaria content on my own.

Fortunately, I have a backup plan.

When we left off WoW back in the day, I had druid mired in the middle of the WotLK content.  I took a chunk of the weekend getting him from 77 to 80 so that he can replace Vikund in the lineup.  The only question will be, how to play him.  He will be taking Vikund’s old DPS slot, so do I go feral and be the cat, or do I go whatever the other spec is… balance I think… and be the boomkin crap owl?

So we have the lineup.  We are all excited as we get settled back into the comfortable setting of Azeroth.  And we have a plan.

Now will it stick?  Can we revive the old group, carry on, and have fun?

And, of course, can we get all five of us online at the same time?  That has been the main issue so far this year.

Theramore Fell While I was at the Auction House

People have been writing about the Theramore’s Fall scenario in WoW.  It is a limited time, pre-Pandaria event.

It is said to provide a glimpse into Blizzard’s plans for scenarios, which are supposed to be 3 player events which do not require a group structured along the now classic Healer/Tank/DPS lines.

So, with a month left on my account, I thought I would take a look at what Blizzard has is store.  Plus, there is an achievement.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.


Because the instance group gave up on Cataclysm, and because my own interest only extended to getting one character through the solo 81-85 content, I am not geared up enough to join in.

A quick look through the auction house showed that I would not be able to simply buy my way out of the item level hole.  Concentrating on just PvP gear, I managed to get myself up to 340, but 353 was out of my price range.

The ugly specter of ever increasing levels in aging MMOs rears its ugly head again.  Fall behind at your peril.

The event is only for dedicated players, among whose numbers I can clearly no longer be counted.  I clearly should have been grinding gear and gold.

The irony, of course, is that gear from the first level 85-86 zone in Pandaria would probably fill the bill, that being part of the cycle of life in Azeroth.  Greens from a new expansion have to be as good as purples from an old one.

But Theramore will have fallen (many, many times) by then, and the scenario will no longer be part of the game.

Visions of a Sunken Temple

This is the second in my series of… well… at least two videos about World of Warcraft.

The first video was focused on the exploits of our regular instance group in their first year together in Azeroth.

This time around, the focus is on a single instance, the Temple of Atal’Hakkar or Sunken Temple.

If you are viewing this in a mobile device or RSS reader, the video can be reached via this link.

More information about the video is available after the cut.

Continue reading

Prediction: Rift Will Go Free-to-Play When WoW Goes Free-to-Play

It isn’t like Trion has been secretive about the game in whose market space they are playing.  World of Warcraft is clearly their target, the source of much of their player base (a million customers at one point, by their accounting), and the model they feel they have to keep abreast of, if not ahead of, if they are going to succeed.

And so it is with their new “play 20 levels for free” announcement.

As Rift Junkies noted in their headline, this is a clear case of matching WoW.

Not that this is a bad thing.  But I do wonder how Trion will react when the Age of Pandas arrives in Azeroth.  Rift has spent its time so far competing against Cataclysm, but Blizzard won’t stay there forever.

First Achievement of the Year

I actually made level 85 in World of Warcraft on New Years Day.

85 in Twilight Highlands

Cataclysm has been out for what, just over a year now?  And I finally finished up those five levels.

I am actually the fifth person in our little guild to hit level 85.  Even my mother beat me, and I think she had to get through most of Wrath of the Lich King first.

I Thought This Achievement Was Going to be More Difficult…

As I mentioned in the October in Review post, and which you probably missed since it was at the end of a wall of text, my daughter and I are back to playing WoW a bit, thanks in large part to the promise of Pandas.  And with Hallows End going on, I decided to try and get that mask achievement finished at last.

And then I got an unexpected achievement.


I barely got myself into Uldum before I got it too.  I went through the little intro event.

Zany, madcap adventures

And shortly ended up at Ramkahen, where I was promptly flamed by a passing epic dragon.

Laying in the Fire

I am guessing they must have upped the Deathwing travel rate, since back when Cataclysm launched, I had my hunter out in Uldum for ages and never once saw him.  But Vikund, he was out there for a couple hours and Ramkahen got lit up three times.  And those flames last for a while.

And did they nerf flight routes while I was away as well?  Vikund seemed to have all the flight points in Cataclysm, even in zones he had never visited before.  Odd.

Anyway, I managed to visit all of the pumpkins in the new Cataclysm zones for that achievement, which only left me with the mask achievement… again.

Last year Hallow’s End finished up with me shy two masks.  Cataclysm added four more masks, so I had six to get.  I proceeded to hit every last pumpkin in Azeroth I could find and ended up with this.


Two damn masks left to go.  Again.  Ah well, next year in Stormwind, as they say.

At least I got the Creepy Crate pet for a few of my characters.  And the critters it eats count towards the Critter Kill Squad guild achievement, which is good, as we seem to need another 30K critters to finish it off.  Still, we have been progressing, and the last time I was paying attention to it, we needed 40K critters.  Every little bit helps.

And I am sure the Creepy Crate will make for an interesting companion pet when pet battles get introduced as part of Pandaclysm.

Post BlizzCon Thoughts on Pandaria

BlizzCon has come and gone.  The MMO news sites and blogs are full of information and analysis.  Even Yahoo put a new story on its front page about the costumes of BlizzCon.

In a way, I wish I had subscribed to BlizzCon on DirecTV.  Even though I was busy this past weekend and probably would be just now starting to watch the whole thing, there is a dramatic difference between reading bullet points and second hand analysis and actually hearing the devs in question talk about their product.

On Pandas and Reactions

One of the things I do not get is the people who have posted comments all over that they do not get the negative reactions to the whole Panda thing.  The responses I have read pretty much boil down to two talking points.

  • Pandaran were already in the lore
  • There are already talking cows in game, so how can you get mad about pandas?

The first covers the Kung Fu Panda similarities and, while technically correct, you would have a tough time convincing me that we would be talking about pandas in WoW if the original movie had bombed and never been heard from again.  No, nobody is going to let that connection go.  In fact, I am going to point out that Jack Black was the musical guest at BlizzCon 2010 AND is the voice of said panda of the Kung Fu, so it is obviously a conspiracy.  Blizzard got him drunk and he spilled all the Kung Fu Panda secrets.

So if you think you are going to make a point or hold the line against ignorance, you can go stand over in the corner with the Warhammer Online fans who are still saying, “No, Blizzard copied Warhammer,” and see how well that plan ends up.  Do you want to be those people?

The second point though comes across to me as an almost willfully obtuse denial of what people are really reacting to.   What these responses ignore is that on the scale of adorable cuteness, pandas are off the meter.  They are like nuclear bombs of cuteness.

Nobody looks at a tauren and goes, “Awww, how cute!”

The World Wildlife Fund did not pick the panda as its logo because pandas are the most endangered species ever, but because they knew people would put WWF stickers on their cars just because they have a cute panda on them.

Who is thinking of panda wrestling right now?

And it is that cuteness, that almost sickening saccharine level of adorableness that is putting people off.  Nils did not delete all his characters because Blizzard introduce another anthropomorphic animal race, but because the thought of playing in a world with happy, fat, martial arts pandas made him want to run away screaming.

It is Blizzard’s playing of the very obvious “cute card” that irks some.  Even I winced and the thought of pandas, and I play Pokemon.  Have you seen some of those Pokemon?  There are some that are clearly out of a genetic research lab looking to exploit some sort of cuteness gene.

But to top pandas in cuteness you would have to introduce a race of adorable fuzzy kittens that randomly spouted LOL Cat quotes.  I am not sure that current technology could correctly transmit that much cuteness and it might all become some sort of grotesque Terry Gilliam stop-motion animation… which would actually be pretty cool… hrmm.

Anyway, in the end, pandas do not really matter.  The Warcraft lore has been full of such silliness since day one.  A few people will gag on the idea and go away, but most players will get over it and feel equally happy with both the fact of pandas in the game and the reality that they cannot be druid.

Of Pokemon and Pet Battles

I am not sure where I stand on this one.

I think I will like this a lot, but only if it feels organic to the game.  Letting me use my already fabulous array of companion pets is a good start.  If I am going to be able to go out into Azeroth and hunt for new and different pets with my characters, so much the better.

My worry is that pet battles are going to going to end up feeling like Legends of Norrath, a completely different game that you happen to be able to play within WoW.  If I feel like Blizzard needs to develop a stand-alone pet battle application, it will have failed me.

Monk Class

A new class.  What is not to love?

Simplified Talent Trees

Here is where I am probably going against the grain, but I really do not like talent trees.

Talent trees… or AAs or traits or whatever your game of choice calls then… they either matter or they do not.

If they matter, then you are setting people up to fail, because the only way they can matter is if you set the content up to make them matter.

And I will point out that I have lived this whole success/fail thing based on spec.  The instance group, which was kind of throwing together its talents based on whim and what looked neat, ended up having a really tough time finishing off late Burning Crusade instances in WoW until somebody suggested we rethink our specs.

So we went out, did the research, found the “right” build for each of us.  After that, the only problems were whatever tricks a given instance had to try and trip people up.  If it wasn’t the “I win” button, getting the right spec was the path to easy mode, to speed runs, and doing three instances in a night.

I know, boo hoo, let the noobs suffer if they cannot find Elitist Jerks, but I resent the need to go out of game to get information required to succeed.  And I resent talent trees being an ever changing (for Blizzard at least) one right answer puzzle.  But most of all I resent Blizzard for tuning encounters to a spec, and then turning that back a notch so it didn’t feel like a challenge, just a dance routine to learn and repeat.

On the other hand, if you make a talent tree that does not matter then why waste my time?  If you make the content so that you can forget to spend your talent points and still succeed, which is how a lot of the re-done 1-60 Azeroth instances feel.  And, of course, by that point we were spending our talent points for the optimum build, so there was almost no challenge to them.

And all of this is also me feeling both a nostalgia for EQ and MUDs, where you picked a class and you got what that class was and nothing else, along with the MUD days of choosing stats up front that would forever rule the destiny of your character.  There was always going to be a stat that you were low on, the stat roller required that.  Choosing which stat you were forever going to be looking for on equipment was important and you couldn’t go back and re-spec.

So a simplified spec tree seems like a good deal to me, as long as they take the opportunity to weed out the bad choices.  My measure for success on this is if, when this goes live, there isn’t an immediate and obviously correct answer as to which mage spec sucks.  Because up to this point, one of the mage spec has always been the poor relation.  Fix that, and it will be a winner in my book.

Unless, of course, they fail to make the content fit the optimum spec.  And they will.

What Really Matters

When Mists of Pandaria comes out, I am sure I will buy it.  I am sure I will roll a panda monk like everybody else who plays.  I am sure I will fiddle with the pet battles and admire the new talent tree.

But pandas, pet battles, and talent trees can all get thrown under the bus and not kill this expansion for me.

What will kill it is not being fun.

The expansion had better be fun and engaging and funny and have stuff for me to do solo along with a hell of a lot more stuff for me and my pals to do as a group.

And I am not sure Blizzard can manage that, because to do that would require a re-think of a lot of the things that were changed in Cataclysm.

So sure, they can make a better 1-20 experience for the Pandarian, and a monk class that is a new experience, and some pet battles to entertain us at quiet moments.  But after level 20, it will still be the same post-Cataclysm Azeroth, with solo focused content and too-easy instances tuned to incompetent dungeon finder groups.

And the rest of they key new content will be 86-90.  As cool and as interesting as the 81-85 zones were in Cataclysm, I never hit level 85.  I got bored playing solo.  I never saw one of the instances.  At the time you had to find the instances before you could access them, and the quest lines never seemed to get me to one.

So there might be some nice new group content, but would I even have the wherewithal to get through Cataclysm just to find it and join in?

Which brings me back to wishing I had seen some of the BlizzCon panels.  I always find there is more to be taken away when you have heard people who are working on a project present it than by just reading the details as transcribed by someone else.  I might have a better feel for what is in the expansion for me if I had seen them speak.

As I said I will no doubt buy the expansion.  I will play.

But will I stay?

Running Redridge

The Redridge Mountains zone has never been one of my favorites in Azeroth.

Pre-Cataclysm it was pretty much a long string of “kill 10 mobs” and “get 10 drops” sort of quests, though of the very picky variety.  Often it wasn’t kill 10 gnolls, but kill 10 of a specific type of gnoll which were mixed in with a few other types of gnolls as though slaughtering gnolls in general wasn’t good enough.  And I still remember searching for a long time to find vultures for the vulture meat drop.

So my enthusiasm for the zone has never been high.

Enter Makarov the warrior.

He is my first real warrior character in WoW, all previous warriors having been deleted before getting to level 15.

And his purpose in life is to provide the non-instance view of post-Cataclysm Azeroth.  So Maloney will do dungeons with the instance group and Makarov will run through the outside world experience.  Or such is my plan.  We’ll see how far I get with this.

Makarov kicked off last Saturday in the starter zone and ran through Elwynn forest pretty quickly.  The starter area has changed up a bit and serves as a good example of the different sorts of quests you can expect to run across in game, while the rest of Elwynn forest is relatively unchanged.

Some of the quests have been moved a bit to make them easier to complete, a couple were trimmed from the mix, and there are two flight points, one in Goldshire and one at the Eastvale logging camp, to limit the tramping up and down the road.  But otherwise, it is pretty much the same old set, from kobold candles to princess, to Hogger.  Although you don’t get to kill Hogger.  Instead you just beat him down until help arrives and he is taken off to the Stormwind Stockade, where you do get to kill him.

Hogger, you are under arrest!

Makarov then went off and did Westfall on Sunday afternoon.  I would say that running through Westfall again was easier because of the repetition, but it didn’t make that big of a difference.  The built-in quest helper points out locations, so for most quests it is a matter of going to the place indicated on the map and doing what it says on the quest guide right there on the right side of your screen.

That caught Makarov up to what Maloney had done, as well as getting him to level 17, now it was time to diverge.

Two quests then send you off to Redridge.  Fortunately, if you grabbed the flight point, you can fly to the Eastvale logging camp and then make the short run into Redridge.

Once there, the first big change is a tower out at the crossroads where a single guard used to partol.

New fortifications

The tower and small palisade seem to be arranged to keep people OUT of Redridge rather than keeping all the bad guys (orc, gnolls, murlocs) in Redridge and away from Stormwind.  The pointed stakes point towards Stormwind, the open door of the tower faces the orcs in Redridge.  It was probably a government contract.

The tower is the first quest hub, and the quests start off disturbingly familiar.  Kill gnolls (though any damn gnoll will do), collect animal parts (but the animals are all in the vicinity now), and pick up a few things from the gnoll camps.  You then move to the town hall where, as in the old days, you kill some more gnolls (some for drops, some for just being damn gnolls), a few murlocs (many, many fewer than before, thank Pardo), and find that little girls necklace.

And then you start picking up the Bravo Company quests from Colonel Troteman.

This is the main story line in Redridge and if you hate when Blizz makes pop culture references, you will hate this quest line, because Blizzard proceeds to send up the Rambo movies in a series of quests that take you all over the zone to defeat the Blackrock Orc invasion. (I’d like to think there is a little Missing in Action in this quest chain as well, since that was a Chuck Norris vehicle, the patron saint of Barrens chat.)

First you have to rescue some key members of Bravo Company who have been captured by the Blackrock orcs.  You start off looking for help from John J. Keeshan, the John Rambo of the story line, but he doesn’t want any part of your mission.  He’s busy working out his aggression in underground fighting tournaments.

The first rule of underground fight club…

Rejected by Keeshan, Col. Troteman has no choice but to send you off alone to rescue the remains of Bravo Company.

As you rescue each member of Bravo company, they join up with you, allowing you to take on a series of powerful elite NPCs who would otherwise wipe the floor with your lone character.  You do have to take care not to stray off to an encounter with the later bosses too early, as the last one requires you have most of the team behind you.

Once freed, and returned to Colonel Troteman, Bravo Company heads out to their base camp across the lake, bringing you along.  Even John Keeshan is moved by the rescue of his comrades and finally joins in enthusiastically.

Mage power!

From there, it is preparations then a very good stealth mission where you scout, grab keys, free prisoners, plant explosive, and then blow up the Blackrock compound.

After this, you are give then a quest titled AHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHH!!!

No, really.

You drive a demolisher through hordes of Blackrock orcs while John J. Keeshan mans a gun on the back which he uses to slaughter the orcs wholesale.  While you only need 200 orcs (only?), it was amusing enough that I kept rolling through the orcs for a while after the quest was completed, just laughing at what Keeshan was yelling as he fired.

AHHHHHHHHH!!!

That done, you meet up with Col. Troteman who sends you and the five members of Bravo Company off to face the Blackrock leadership in a final battle.

Bravo Company ready for the last battle

That ends the quest and story line for the zone.  You get a very nice blue quality item with the last quest.   This seems to be the standard now when you finish the main storyline in a zone, a non-heroic quality boss drop.

Oh, and you get Keeshan’s bandana as well.

Adrian… no, wait, wrong movie…

The whole zone has a very linear quest progression now, the main quest line is a chain of events that gives you as many as four parallel quests at once, but I cannot recall ever having any more than that in my quest log.  This is not the quest hub with a dozen quests that you pick up and run through.  While you might not like being on rails, at least your quest log won’t over flow. (A problem I often have.)

The quests are amusing and diverse.  You end up doing a lot more than kill 10 rats for credit or drops.  I had fun.

The whole zone is for solo consumption only.  We’ve crossed a line somewhere, in that not only are there no group quests, but when you need a group the quest line provides it.  I’m not even sure what would happen if you tried to do some of these quests as a group.

The whole zone makes heavy use of phasing once you get into the main quest chain, which is probably a good thing since seeing other people on the same quests gets to be immersion breaking.  I was running in parallel with another player at one point and took a break so he could get far enough ahead of me that I wouldn’t keep bumping into him.  The stealth quests, for example, would be much less fun with other players around doing the same thing.

When finish the quest line, and are in the final phase of the zone, the Blackrock are gone.  Hey, the world changed!  A little.  For me.

The quest line also guides you through all the locations in the zone, so if you follow it to the end, you’ll get the exploration achievement.  You will also get the quests achievement about a half a dozen quests shy of finishing the main story line.

And when you’re done, you do feel like the zone is done.  It is something like an open air instance now, though the gnolls were still hanging around when I left.

Makarov ended up well into level 22 at the end of the zone.  While he got a boost from the fact that he mines and gathers herbs, he had almost zero blue bar rest experience.  He is now lined up for Darkshire.

Thrice into the Deeps

Blackfathom Deeps, that is.

Xula: What are we doing tonight?
Ethelred: BFD
Maloney: if you don’t want to say, that’s fine, but there’s no need to be rude

-Actual Guild Chat Before Our Run

It had been a long time since we last ventured into Blackfathom Deeps (BFD) as a group. We ran that instance as a group back in November 2006. That was back in primitive age of WoW. We’ve had three expansions since then. The world has changed a great deal since then. (Plus look at how much detail I used to put in my instance run posts.)

But BFD, it has not changed much at all. The changes in the game overall do intrude into the instance.

We were all ready to go by about a quarter after the hour. Our line up was:

  • Xula – level 23 Gnome warrior
  • Ethelred – level 23 Worgen druid
  • Earlthedog – level 23 Worgen warrior
  • Maloney – level 23 Worgen mage
  • Nancyboy – level 23 Worgen priest

That put us, we hoped, in about the prime position, challenge-wise, to take on a dungeon with a suggested level range of 21-30.

Of course, the first change we felt was on the travel front. There was no need to make our way to Darkshore and fight (and swim) to get to the instance. Dungeon Finder took care of that for us.

And once we teleported into the instance, all of the quest givers were right there waiting for us. As Potshot so aptly put it, the quest concession stand was waiting for us in the lobby.

Quests Await

BFD has changed little in more than four years.  It is still a watery cave and full of murlocs, naga, turtles and twilight cultists.

And turtles.  We must not forget the turtles, and the boss turtle especially, Ghamoo-ra.

We killed them all.

Ghamoo-ra Ghamoo-gone

Literally.  Because of the need for drops from some mobs and the general completionist nature of a couple of us, we cleared the place out.  Lady Sareves, Lorgus “Joan” Jett, Gelihast, and all the rest fell before our blades.  We slaughtered the naga and put paid to the Twilight Cultists.

Rooting out the Twilight Cultists

We remembered not to click on all the braziers after we cleared out Twilight Lord Kelris, and we made our way to the final boss, Aku’mai.

And while the whole thing wasn’t a complete cake walk… we did have to stick together and work as a team… the end result was never in doubt.  Aku’mai held out for quite a while on hit points alone, but nobody on our side was in danger of dying.  And so Aku’mai was slain and the achievement was ours.

With the last Aku’mai dead and us left standing at the far end of the instance, we did a check on our quests. It turned out that all of us were set on the two “kill a boss” quests, but the two collection quests were another story. All of us sat at five out of the ten required twilight medallions from the twilight cultists, while of the corrupted brain stems, from naga and such, some of us had as few as one out of the eight needed to complete the quest.

And this is where we come to the point when the influences of the Dungeon Finder come into conflict with the way things used to work.

In the old days, these two quests were give outside of the instance and the mobs which dropped the items were located both inside and outside, so there was considerably greater opportunity to finish off both quests during a single run. Now though, with Dungeon Finder, we never saw the outside of the instance, and teleporting out via DF would put us back where we started, which was Stormwind for most of us. That is a long way from BFD.

BFD though, being a long and linear instance, did give groups an easy way out. There is an NPC at the very back of the room where the last battle takes place who will teleport you out of the dungeon. This, at least, would keep a group, in the old days, from having to walk all the way through the instance.

However, the teleport point isn’t simply outside the instance, where it would have been extremely handy for us. The NPC teleports you to Darnassus. This was, again, handy in the old days because two of the quests had to be first obtained and then turned in at Darnassus.

Left with the three choices of using DF to leave, walking out, or getting a free trip to Darnassus, we chose the latter. We had hopes that Blizzard would have forseen this and would have left the quest turn-in at the old location.

They did not. Teleporting to Darnassus left us in a city far from both the mobs and the quest NPCs we needed.

Um... why are we here?

Sitting there in night elf city, we decided that the best choice would be to just use DF to start the instance again. That would put us in the lobby again. We could turn in the two quests we had already finished and then knock out the two we still had left.

So off we went for round two of BFD.

We managed to knock out the corrupted brain stem drops with only a few potential mobs left to go. That was okay though, as we had to get through them to get to the mobs with the twilight medallions. And, along the way we also picked off each of the bosses for a second time.

By the time we had all picked up our last twilight medallion, we were all the way to Lord Kelris, who is the last boss before Aku’mai. Since we were there, we felt we might as well just finish the whole thing off for a second time.

We did the Lord Kelris event again, we through the door, killed off the guardians, and then tanked and spanked Aku’mai for the second time that evening. We even remembered to take a victory picture this time around, since last time we were fixated on the whole “how do we get out and finish our leftover quests” aspect of the adventure.

Aku'mai's second death

Done, again, we chose to teleport to Darnassus again, use the trainers there (since all of us were up at least two levels by that point), and then DF back into BFD for a third time in order to turn in the two remaining quests.

Those last quest turn-ins boosted three of us to level 26 and put the other two within a few percentage points of doing the same. As it was getting late, we opted not to push on and run it for a third time. Instead we all used our hearth stones and headed for Stormwind.

Very good experience again for an instance run, though we did have to run it twice to complete all the quests.  An interesting look at how Dungeon Finder doesn’t always improve the actual dungeon crawl experience.  Or maybe it encourages more dungeon runs.  It certainly did in our case.

We are now at the appropriate level to queue up for Gnomeregan. Viewed as one of the more grindy early dungeons in WoW, we will have to see what the Cataclysm has wrought there.

The Golden Age of Ballooning – Gadgetzan Episode

It is becoming quite clear that I am going to have to start another new character (or two) to run through the 1-60 content in Azeroth, since the instance group is bypassing a lot of the solo content.

I have been out with Tistann, my hunter, now level 83, running some low level quests in order to get him exalted status with five of the six alliance race factions so that he can spend those Argent Tournament marks he has sitting in his currency tab.

And every time I go our in the old world with him I find some huge change in the world I want to explore or some amusing quest that I’d like to run at level.

For example, last night, I made my way to Gadgetzan with the idea of getting Tistann a little closer to exalted with Gnomeregan.  And there I found the balloon quest.

Even the balloons look crazy

You are supposed to fly around in the balloon (it follows its own path) and drop rescue rocket packs to goblins stranded by the floods caused by pirates sinking supply boats.  The goblins grab the packs and zoom off into the sky.

Oh, and you also get to bomb the pirates as well.

Targeting Pirates!

I know it is really just another one of those fly and bomb quests.  We’ve had those since Burning Crusade came out.  But so many of them have their own little twist with Cataclysm.

And, as seems to be the norm now with this sort of quest, you can keep flying around as long as you want.  When you are done, you click the button for your own rocket pack and get sent back to Gadgetzan.

Flying back to Gadgetzan

You also get a feel for how the world has changed.  Gadgetzan is now a port town, the tide having come in quite a bit.  And over the hill in Thousand Needles?  Let’s just say the Southsea Pirates have a new place to sail.

I’m going to have to roll up a new character to see this.  The instance group seems to be bypassing a lot of content, so Maloney might not get to see as much of the world as I would like.