Tag Archives: The Burning Crusade

BlizzConline and Burning Crusade Classic

We had the first day of BlizzConline yesterday.  There were some interesting announcements.  But what I was really there for was WoW Classic and The Burning Crusade expansion.  Holly Longdale got up there on the main stage… alone, no audience in the pandemic… during the opening ceremony and told us a bit about the coming of The Burning Crusade.  It wasn’t much more than a confirmation that it was coming, but it was at least that.  (Though, we knew it was coming due to that leak, but it is always good to hear somebody say it officially.)

Then, the first panel up was about that very topic.

How deep will they dive?

This was not what would have passed for a “deep dive” at past BlizzCon events.

The panel consisted of:

  • Holly Longdale – Lead Producer for WoW Classic
  • Patrick Dawson – Production Director for WoW
  • Brian Birmingham – Lead Software Engineer for WoW Classic

The panel started with the three of them talking about their impressions of TBC back in the day for a bit, then moved on to some tales of getting the old code working within the current WoW framework, all of which was fine and interesting, but wasn’t delivering a lot of details that many fans… myself especially… were looking for.  There were no slides with bullet points or diagrams or any of the items one might have come to expect from such a presentation.

Towards the back half of the talk… it was only a 30 minute panel, so it wasn’t a long wait.. they finally started spilling out some details.

The first solid nugget in my notes was about Blood Elves and the Draenei.  They will be released into the game with the TBC pre-patch to allow players to have a chance to get leveled up some before everybody jumps through the dark portal.

Then details for characters and servers came up.

The current servers will become progression servers, a term many of us from EverQuest will remember, as SOE started doing that back in 2006 with The Sleeper and The Combine servers.  (see timeline) All of the current WoW Classic servers will move forward to TBC.

If you don’t want to go there, you will have an option.  On launch day you will make the choice for all of your characters, to stay and progress forward into TBC or to move to one of the new WoW Classic servers that will launch the same day that will remain forever vanilla.

If, at a later date, you regret your choice of committing to forever vanilla, there will be a paid service option that will let you copy a character from one of those servers to a TBC server.  You will then, at that moment, have two identical characters in each realm.  They will diverge as soon as you go through the portal and get your first gear drop, but you can be in both worlds.

Meanwhile, if you don’t want to play through all of that WoW Classic crap because TBC was your favorite part of WoW, Blizzard will have an option for you as well.  They will be offering a level 58 character boost… no Blood Elves or Draenei, sorry… so that you can jump straight to the dark portal and get going.  Oh, and you can only have one character boost per account.  If you want to raise an army of level 58s, you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way.

No pricing was announced for either the copy or the level 58 character boost.

In fact, few hard details were shared.  There were certainly no dates.  Beta will start “soon,” for whatever value you care to assign to that variable.  The rumor about a May launch seems even more laughably wrong than it did when I first heard it give how little concrete we got from this.  The tone of the discussion indicated to me that they have more work to do and want to allow time to find and fix issues before it goes live.

If you are keen to see the panel, Blizzard posted it to their YouTube channel almost immediately after it was done, so here it is.

I do want to say how weird/wonderful it was to see Holly Longdale, so long the voice of EverQuest and something of a champion for the “classic” retro experience being not just a valid desire for fans, but a lucrative direction for companies to pursue.  There is clearly a synergy… and I use that word here unironically, which is so very rare for me… between her experience and where Blizzard now wants to go with their retro WoW experience.

Anyway, that was the WoW Classic part of BlizzConline.  Tomorrow, the rest of it.

Related:

 

When Will We get The Burning Crusade Classic?

It seems pretty sure, given the various surveys and leaks coming out of Blizzard, that we are going to get a classic version of The Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft.

The Burning Crusade in a black bean sauce

The question appears to be no longer “if,” but rather “how” and “when” now.

You may have seen a post over at Massively OP about a rumored timeline for such a release.  I sent in that tip based on a story I saw over at WCCF Tech which referenced a fan site forum post about a video from a WoW streamer who had heard from a reliable source that the official timeline for The Burning Crusade Classic was to be:

  • Announcement: BlizzConline – Feb 19, 2021
  • Beta opens: On announcement
  • Pre-patch: April 13th/14th, 2021
  • Launch: May 3rd/4th, 2021

My initial gut reaction to this timeline was that it has to be wrong.  That launch date is way too soon for Blizzard.  I have no doubt that we will be getting The Burning Crusade Classic, and it seems like a slam dunk than we will get it in 2021.  But in May?  Not going to happen.

A lot of the responses I have seen in support of this timeline seem to revolve around the technical feasibility of it.  Could it be done?  Could Blizzard get it together and launch in that time frame.

I think they could.  They have no doubt been working on it for ages now.  The popularity and success of WoW Classic no doubt cemented the resources to carry forward with it.

Instead, my main objection to the timeline is Blizzard and its past behavior.  Going from an announcement to beta to pre-patch to launch in about ten weeks… eight weeks really, since the pre-patch kicks off the opening of the black gate event, so they’re committed by then… seems uncharacteristically quick for the company.  That would be a positively hasty run by the standards of the company.

I don’t think people get how cautious Blizzard can be.  A lot of criticism was directed at WoW Classic due to the time it took to launch when people compared it to the comings and goings of pirate WoW servers.  If some randos on the internet can stand up a server quickly, why can’t Blizzard?  This blindly ignores how Blizz is a company that expects you to pay for a game, and you won’t pay if it breaks or falls over under load.  Blizz could no doubt put up a prototype server even more quickly, but would it stand up to the strains required of an official server?

Remember how many people piled into WoW Classic?  There will be a comparable surge when this come out.

Blizzard will want to run beta for a while, testing out specific functions of the expansion in classic form.  I firmly believe that will take more than the eight weeks this timeline allows.

Then they will want to to some load tests.  We’ll all be invited to pile onto a server to make sure that the new stuff still works.  We might get that in May, with a re-run of it again likely in June.

There is also the question as to how TBC Classic will be handled.  Surveys have gone out asking if people want fresh servers as transfer targets of to have their WoW Classic servers expanded to include TBC or some other option.  The server matrix for WoW Classic was relatively easy; PvP or PvE, with RP as a side order.  With TBC we might get fresh servers as transfer targets, upgraded WoW Classic servers, fresh start TBC servers, or some other combo.  Blizzard will try to make the maximum number of people happy, and as they were surveying people still late last month, it doesn’t seem like that has been decided.  They will likely have a plan by BlizzConline, but that is still another set of systems they’ll want to test.

My instincts, such that they are, says a realistic timeline for The Burning Crusade Classic would look more like this:

  • Announcement: BlizzConline – Feb 19, 2021
  • Beta opens: On announcement or soon thereafter
  • Server load tests: May/June 2021
  • Server reservations for users: July 2021
  • Pre-launch events on WoW Classic servers: mid/late July 2021
  • Launch: August 2021

But I am a registered pessimist and didn’t think Blizzard would ever be convinced to make WoW Classic in the first place.

So I will make a poll and let you tell me when you think it will launch.

There is a poll above this line which your adblock or other security measures might block.

We will probably get an answer in February as to the plan, until then we can speculate.

WoW Shadowlands Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases

This has become a staple post after every WoW expansion release, usually because Blizzard puts out a press release about the first day sales full of superlatives.  And so it goes for Shadowlands.

This time though Blizzard has out done itself with a press release declaring Shadowlands “the fastest-selling PC game of all time industry-wide” having had 3.7 million first day sales.  That is some boast, though the previous champion was, by their accounting, was Diablo III which had 3.5 million first day sales.

They also have a few additional brags.

  • In the months leading up to the expansion’s release and the time since launch, the game reached and has sustained its highest number of players on monthly or longer-term subscriptions compared to the same period ahead of and following any WoW expansion in the past decade, in both the West and the East.
  • Players have spent more time in Azeroth year to date than in the same period of any of the last 10 years.
  • In addition, total player time in game this year to date has nearly doubled compared to the same period last year.

The last bullet point is a solid one, since numbers were up a year ago due to WoW Classic, so topping that says something.  The first point is time bound by expansions that launched in the last decade, which basically means since they pissed a lot of people off with the Cataclysm expansion.  The game’s peak no doubt remains in the Wrath of the Lich King era.

A chart from 2015 back when we used to get subscriber numbers

Still, it is good to see the game doing well, though for the video game industry the pandemic has been a rising tide that has lifted all boats it seems.

Anyway, like I said, there is a press release like this every expansion.  Battle for Azeroth had one two years back which pegged its first day sales at 3.4 million, and Legion had one before that which put it at 3.3 million, and so on down the line.  The totals, so far as I could figure it out some time back, should now look like this:

  • Shadowlands – 3.7 million
  • Battle for Azeroth – 3.4 million
  • WoW Legion – 3.3 million
  • Warlords of Draenor – 3.3 million
  • Mists of Pandaria – 2.7 million (first week)
  • Cataclysm – 3.3 million
  • Wrath of the Lich King – 2.8 million
  • The Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
  • World of Warcraft – 240,000

Those are mostly “first 24 hours” of sales, except where noted.  After Cataclysm Blizzard needed to give Mists of Pandaria a bit more runway to get into the zone I guess.

And, of course, we get into what really counts as day one sales.

With the original World of Warcraft  launch, that was all boxes purchased retail.  I recall the story of Blizzard having to divert the truck filled with employee versions of the collector’s edition to the retail channel because the game was selling out.

Day one of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King both saw midnight launch parties at retailers.  I recall a pallet of TBC collector’s edition boxes sitting on the floor at Fry’s in Sunnyvale the day it launched.  But I haven’t been down to a retail store to buy a physical box for a WoW expansion since WotLK.  Since then digital sales and pre-orders have been my thing and have no doubt come to dominate the sales numbers.

Because, technically, that 3.7 million number isn’t the first day sales number.  That is the number of units they were able to recognize revenue on due to having shipped the product on November 23rd.  The expansion had been selling via pre-orders for a long time.

I have a post back from November 7, 2019 where I compared four upcoming MMORPG expansions that mentions that the Shadowlands pre-orders were already open and available.  That is more than a year ago, so we are not talking a single day sales record… or probably even “fastest selling” if we were able to get the actual sales data from Blizzard.  I strongly suspect that the most sales in the shortest space of time still belongs to some of the older titles.

I am now also curious about how long pre-order periods have been for WoW expansions over the years.  I am going to guess that Shadowlands, which ran over a year in pre-order mode, would top that list.

Still, that is a lot of sales, and with that big revenue recognition burst I expect we’ll see World of Warcraft pop up a few spots on the SuperData Research November chart when we get that later this month.  Can it dethrone League of Legends?

Of course, as that list I made indicates, nobody is likely to debate whether or not Blizzard can move boxes, virtual or otherwise.  Can they keep the subscribers though?  That has been a problem for several expansions in the last decade.

Other coverage of this announcement:

Addendum: Shadowlands record broken already by Cyberpunk 2077.

Friday Bullet Points about WoW Classic Again

I’ve done this topic before, but WoW Classic is the gift that keeps on giving in so many ways and there are a few items I felt deserved a mention but maybe not a whole post.

Classic is as classic does

So on with the list.

  • Holly in Azeroth

For me the big news of the week here was the announcement that Holly “Windstalker” Longdale has moved to Blizzard as a “Principle Game Producer” to work on WoW Classic.  Per her LinkedIn profile:

Recently joined Blizzard to focus on World of Warcraft Classic!

We got the news in early March that she was leaving Daybreak/Darkpaw in order to pursue a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”  Well, it is hard to argue with her choice now, or Blizzard’s.

The optimist in me… and I am by nature very optimistic, at least until the facts land on me… see this as a possible huge win for both.

On the one side we have Holly, who has experience running classic/nostalgia servers, successfully leveraging them to grown EverQuest‘s player base over the last five years now able to work with a company that has the budget and staff and technical capability to make shit happen.  No more layoffs looming every year, making do with a team stretched too thin, and whatever shenanigans Daybreak gets up to running the show.

On the other side we have Blizzard, which has finally learned that nostalgia sells… WoW Classic arguably having saved their bacon as Battle for Azeroth faded quickly… but which is clearly struggling with what to do with this new found success.  They need somebody who has made the mistakes and learned from them.

What will come of this match up?  Who knows.  It might be magical and unlock a wide range of possibilities, or it might be “Because SOE” meets “New Blizzard.”  But at least it is a sign that Blizzard is serious in this area and it may be the height of Holly’s career so far.  I wouldn’t have said “No” to Blizzard had I been in her position.

  • Phase Four Fully Functional

The fourth phase of the WoW Classic unlocks finished opening up this week.  Arathi Basin was unlocked early, but now there is the Zul’Gurub raid available as well as the Green Dragonflight Dragons for your raid group entertainment.

Also now available is the Stranglethorn Vale fishing tournament.

And the precursor actions to the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj event have started up in Silithus.

I will say that, while Zul’Gurub as a raid is way beyond anything the instance group will end up doing, one of the highlights of the Cataclysm expansion was getting 5 person heroic instance version of the raid.

And there was already a world first event as part of the raid in WoW Classic as the final boss, Hakkar the Soulflayer, was slain without killing the five high priest bosses.  Each priest left alive give Hakkar a special ability, ratcheting up the difficulty of the fight.  Are we all better 15 years down the road or does modern equipment and connections enhance our abilities?

  • Population Pressures

The surge in online gaming that has come with the COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on the WoW Classic servers again, with full realms and queues showing up.  Because of this Blizz has put a couple things in place currently. First, they have restricted new character creation on three US servers:

  • Arugal
  • Faerlina
  • Whitemane

You can only create new characters there if you already have a character on those servers.

In addition, some free character transfers are available from three servers that have been seeing queues recently:

  • Incendius (Alliance Only)
  • Faerlina
  • Whitemane

The free character moves are likely available only so long as the queues last, so if you want one do it sooner rather than later.

  • Burning Crusade Poll

This one is a bit old at this point, but I meant to bring it up previously… and may bring it up again… but Blizzard sent our a survey to some players asking what option they might prefer if The Burning Crusade were to become a practical reality as a classic server option.  The choices were:

  1. Continue playing my current Classic character on my existing server as it progresses to the Burning Crusade expansion, with the option to transfer to a Classic server that will never progress past level 60.
  2. Start a brand new character from level 58 on a new Burning Crusade server.
  3. Start a brand new character from Level 1 on a new Burning Crusade server.
  4. Continue playing my current Classic character on my existing server that will never progress past level 60, with the option to transfer to a Burning Crusade server.

Polls like this might be familiar to some who saw them as part of EverQuest and EverQuest II retro server development over the past few years.  I’m not saying that Holly was already at work for this… a poll is a pretty easy go to idea… but it could be.

As for which I would choose, I would rank them 1, 4, 2, 3, though I am not really fond of either of the last two, with three being a bit of a non-starter for me.  For a server focused on The Burning Crusade, slogging through those 60 levels again would seem more of a barrier than anything.  I’m enjoying it now, but I am not sure I want to start over again right away.  TBC was deep enough as an expansion already.

WoW Battle for Azeroth Sales Stacked Up Against Past Releases

Fortunately I did some of the groundwork for this post back with the WoW Legion release.

It is here and it is selling

Blizzard announced today that the Battle for Azeroth expansion for World of Warcraft, which went live around the world on August 13th and 14th, sold more than 3.4 million copies.  From the press release itself:

Heroes everywhere turned out in force, and Blizzard Entertainment today announced that as of Battle for Azeroth’s first full day of launch on August 14, more than 3.4 million units of the latest World of Warcraft®expansion had sold through worldwide—setting a new day-one sales record for the franchise and making it one of the fastest-selling PC games of all-time.*

I was a little worried about that asterisk at the end, but that just points to this:

Sales and/or downloads, based on internal company records and reports from key distribution partners.

So nothing dramatic there, just a clarification without much information.

To put that number in perspective here is how it shakes out relative to past launches:

  • Battle for Azeroth – 3.4 million
  • WoW Legion – 3.3 million
  • Warlords of Draenor – 3.3 million
  • Mists of Pandaria – 2.7 million (first week)
  • Cataclysm – 3.3 million
  • Wrath of the Lich King – 2.8 million
  • The Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
  • World of Warcraft – 240,000

That bodes well for the expansion.

Of course, you have to have some perspective when looking at that list.  Back in 2004 people had to go buy a physical box to play World of Warcraft and it has only been over the years that the process has become mostly a digital download experience.  But back then even that 240K number set a record for single day sales.  That number could have been bigger, but they effectively ran out of copies.  At BlizzCon they told the tale of the truck load of collector’s editions meant for employees being diverted to the retail channel because the game had sold out.  And that was US sales only, as it didn’t expand to the rest of the world until later.

The Burning Crusade number is probably the most impressive on the list, since it is made up of people who went out to a store and bought a physical copy on day one.  I went down to Fry’s on launch day… not at midnight for the launch party event… that used to be a thing back in the day… but closer to noon, to find pallets of the expansion out in the front of the store.  Blizzard was not going to run short like they did with the initial launch.  The cashier told me that people had been lined up outside the store for a copy earlier, so it was a pretty big deal.

I think the last time I went to the store to buy an expansion was for Wrath of the Lich King.  It has either been digital or Amazon discounted pre-orders since then.  WotLK was also a big seller considering how much of it was physical boxes.

And then there is Mists of Pandaria in the middle there, which they extended out to the first week of sales because it had to fight against both the sense of betrayal that some felt after Cataclysm and the lightweight perception that people had about it because it featured Pokemon-like pet battles and pandas as a race.  It turned out to be a fine expansion, but it had some work to do to overcome that.  I didn’t buy a copy until almost a year after it launched.

Anyway, the 3.4 million number is impressive, though the there ought to be an asterisk after it as well to remind people that the number includes all pre-launch digital sales.  You’ve been able to buy a copy of Battle for Azeroth since late January, so they have had a lot of time to pack in the sales, making the “fastest selling” claim a bit dubious.  (I am pretty sure that title really belongs to The Burning Crusade.)

But there were reasons to buy the expansion early, aside from the usual max level character boost (and mounts and pets if you bought the digital deluxe version).

There were four allied races to unlock (for which we received four more character slots per server) and level up, with special transmog gear if you hit level cap with them.  So, as a “giving people something to do” option it had some additional pull relative to past expansions.  And even that was only worth an additional 100,000 sales I guess.

The real number we’d all like to know, how many people are actually subscribed to World of Warcraft, remains hidden.  Once a staple of the Acitivision-Blizzard quarterly reports, they have kept it hidden since the dark days of late Draenor, when the number dropped to 2006 levels.  I suspect that if the subscriber base passed 13 million they would issue a press release, but the days of being able to track that quarter by quarter… or even pick out WoW‘s revenue from the financial statements… are long gone.  The irony of being a public company; they are required to report important data, but they get to decide what is important.

We will see how Battle for Azeroth does in the longer term.  A lot of people are very happy with the open world story and quest lines and the look of things in general.  But there is still the whole question of Sylvanas, a story line that upset some people in the pre-launch events. (#notmyhorde) And then there are the recycled bits from WoW Legion that pop up pretty quickly.  Those aren’t bad, but they aren’t new either.  Blizzard has had time to learn how to keep people engaged with an expansion.  They did well enough with WoW Legion, even if they did open up the Battle for Azeroth pre-orders seven months before it was done.  They will get to show us what else they have learned I suppose.

Picking My Favorite WoW Expansion by Reputation

There is always a desire to rate and rank things, to quantify things down to a simple calculation.  Sure, you wrote a nice 2,500 review of that game, but how many stars did you give it?  What is the Meta Critic score.

And I am not immune to such things.  I can ramble on for hundreds of words about something, how I feel about it, what I liked and what bothered me, but sometimes I’d like a nice objective measure of my real reaction.

Which brings us to World of Warcraft expansions.  I had this idea rolling around in my head and then Syp moved me to action by essentially praising what I found to be one of the worst aspects of the first WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade.

Looking out from the Portal

I find expansions problematic in general.  They must change the game and, in doing so, alienate some segment of the game’s population.  They seek to extend the support of the fan base yet risk driving it away because every horrible feature, no matter how seemingly universally reviled, is somebody’s favorite.  So when an expansion makes something better it inevitably wrecks the game for somebody.

I’ve long said, only semi-sarcastically, that EverQuest: The Ruins of Kunark was the only “good” expansion, mostly because it expanded Norrath without changing it too much.

And yet I am always at least somewhat enthusiastic for expansions, so I am even at war with myself over the idea.

Anyway, my gut ranking of WoW expansions has generally been:

  1. Wrath of the Lich King
  2. The Burning Crusade
  3. Mists of Pandaria
  4. Warlords of Draenor
  5. Cataclysm

Vanilla can’t really be ranked in that list, it is more of a baseline, and WoW Legion is still active and I am still playing it, so the jury remains out.

But I do wonder how much of an effect distance in time has on that ranking.  If it wasn’t for a peeve of mine about quests in TBC it might actually contend for first spot.  I mean, I loved the dungeons, there were plenty of them and, at the time, that was more important than a lot of other things.

So I started fishing around for a way to quantify my activities in each expansion.  Ideally I would be able to extract something like total play time or number of quests or number of dailies or number of dungeons run while each was the current live expansion.

I stopped for a bit at measuring the number of characters who hit the level cap during the expansion, that being at least theoretically being a measure of how much I enjoyed playing in an expansion, but discarded it when the list turned out like this:

  1. Warlords of Draenor – 7
  2. Mists of Pandaria- 3
  3. Cataclysm – 3
  4. Wrath of the Lich King – 2
  5. The Burning Crusade – 2

Hanging with Khadgar and Thrall in Draenor

This is more a measure of how easy it was to level up rather than an indicator of enjoyment.  Plus, WoD started the trend of giving players a level boost and ended on the pre-launch event for WoW Legion where I managed to get two character to max level.

So I fished around some more and settled upon factions.  More specifically, how may factions from a given expansion did I end up getting to exalted status?  It is a decent measure of how long I stuck with a given expansion and it is something I tend to do with a single character.

So I went over to the WoW Armory and looked at Vikund’s standings, took the total number of “main” factions and the number I managed to get to exalted and ranked the expansions based on the percentage, which looked like this:

  1. Mists of Pandaria – 10 of 12 or 83%
  2. Wrath of the Lich King – 8 of 11 or 73%
  3. The Burning Crusade – 6 of 13 or 46%
  4. Warlords of Draenor – 3 of 8 or 38%
  5. Cataclysm – 1 of 4 or 25%

Jumping into Pandaria

Of course, there are problems with that measurement.  To start with, not all expansions have the same, or even comparable, numbers of factions.  And there there is the question as to which factions should really count?  I put “main” in apologetic quotes above for a reason.  I somewhat arbitrarily decided individuals in Mists of Pandaria should not count, nor should the Sholazar Basin factions in Wrath of the Lich King.

If I add those in MoP goes to 63% and WotLK goes to 61%.  Since that keeps the ranking the same I dismissed that for the moment.

Going the other direction, I might argue that the sub-factions of Alliance Vanguard in WotLK ought not to count the same way the Sholazar Basin factions didn’t count, which would give the expansion an 86% score, putting it on top.

And then there is the question of which factions did I get to exalted in one expansion AFTER a later expansion appeared.  Things get ugly for TBC with that, since I did at least three of those factions long after the fact, and even uglier for Cataclysm, which drops to zero.

  1. Wrath of the Lich King – 8 of 11 or 86%
  2. Mists of Pandaria – 10 of 12 or 83%
  3. Warlords of Draenor – 3 of 8 or 38%
  4. The Burning Crusade – 3 of 13 or 23%
  5. Cataclysm – 0 of 4 or 0%

Valiance Keep Harbor

This is the reason I cannot rate Vanilla, I am pretty sure I only had one or two factions to exalted at the most during the reign of the original game, and maybe not even that.  The Argent Tournament in WotLK got me to exalted on most of the main alliance factions  Also, there are a those wacky factions, like the Bloodsail Buccaneers, or raid only factions, like the Brood of Nozdormu, that I was never going to crack.

And this brings in a side issue, which is the expectations set by the previous state of the game.  After Vanilla my expectations for TBC were pretty high.  They were met on the dungeon experience side of things, but were dashed by how Blizz decided questing should be handled.  And don’t get me started on ugly equipment or the introduction of some really dull daily quests.

So my expectations were more modest for WotLK.

Then came Cataclysm, the expansion I spent the least amount of time playing.  That set expectations so low that I punted on Mists of Pandaria until it had been out for a year, then found it to be a really solid expansion.  But with only 5 level boost in the level cap you could get to dailies and follow on items like playing with your farm or doing fishing quest pretty quickly.

That realization, along with the return to TBC vibe that Warlords of Draenor started with and the idea of housing, again set expectations high.  The zones were fine, the dungeons good, but garrisons sucked the life out of things, seemingly having been designed to prove a comment that Blizz made long ago about why they didn’t want housing; they pulled people out of the world into their own little domains.

To add to the list of things that this might measure, I should also consider what I got out of getting various faction standings to their current state.

In WotLK getting to exalted unlocked mounts.  Many mounts.  Likewise, mounts were a motivator in MoP.  I know that the only faction I have at exalted in Cataclysm is there because I wanted that camel mount, while in TBC the Netherwing and the Sha’tari Skyguard specifically to get their mounts.  But in Warlords of Draenor I either didn’t want mounts or they were not there.  I can’t remember.  All I really wanted was to unlock flying, and that

And over the course of all of this the game has changed, the market changed, and we have all changed.  Goofy stuff that my daughter and I used to do, like wander far afield just to find a specific pet, have been replaced with other tasks.  The instance group, with whom I ran though Vanilla, TBC, and WotLK, started to fall apart as the years went by, our lives changed, and our ability to stay up late diminished.

So I have gone from a situation where the dungeon content has been supreme in my mind to being much more interested in solo items with some touristy group things via Dungeon Finder and LFR.  That means my rankings are flawed in an even more esoteric fashion.

So TBC and WotLK were good at dungeons when that was important to me while Cataclysm was not, while MoP was very good for solo when that was important to me while WoD wasn’t quite there.  But WotLK was also very good for solo for me once the group tired, while the TBC solo content didn’t hold me very well once the group was done with dungeons.

So maybe, in my own little world, I can admit that WotLK was a good expansion and put it alongside Ruins of Kunark.

Basically, 1,500 words in, I think I have decided that I have wholeheartedly liked two MMO expansions, but I don’t expect you to agree with me.

WoW Legion Sales Numbers Stacked Up Against Past Launches

Today, Blizzard announced that players have forged a truly formidable defensive front—as of the expansion’s first full day of launch on August 30, more than 3.3 million copies of Legion had sold through, matching the all-time record achieved by previous expansions and making it one of the fastest-selling PC games ever. In addition, World of Warcraft’s launch-week player concurrency climbed to its highest point since the 2010 launch of the Cataclysm expansion…

Blizzard press release, September 8, 2016

WoW Legion launched, which almost requires that there be some celebratory press release in which Blizzard referred to itself in the third person.

WoW Legion coming to a server near you

WoW Legion has been up for a week now

My guess is that they had that press release ready to go for a bit now, as they didn’t even bother to fill in the date before they posted it.  I imagine they will fix that before the day is out, so here it is a screen shot for the record.

Roman numerals maybe?

Roman numerals maybe?

So we got some numbers.  Blizzard kept to its promise not to mention subscription numbers ever again, so they had to make due with vague claims about concurrency. (No numbers = vague in my book)

The number we did get was 3.3 million copies sold in the first 24 hours. (Yes, they said “more than 3.3 million” in the press release, but if it had been 3.4 million they would have run with that number, so it is likely 3.3 million and change.)  As usual, with any number standing alone, I start looking for context.  Fortunately, the internet provides context if you look for it.  The first day sales track record looks like this:

  • WoW Legion – 3.3 million
  • Warlords of Draenor – 3.3 million
  • Mists of Pandaria – 2.7 million (first week)
  • Cataclysm – 3.3 million
  • Wrath of the Lich King – 2.8 million
  • Burning Crusade – 2.4 million
  • World of Warcraft – 240,000

So, for first day sales, WoW Legion ranks with… I don’t want to say “the best,” since its peers at that level are not my favorite expansions… past top sellers.

Warlords of Draenor did just as well according to the Blizzard press release from its launch, which included a mention of exceeding 10 million subscribers, a mark that would soon drop precipitously.

Mists of Pandaria, which in hindsight was a pretty good expansion, maybe my second favorite, and which held on to the player base admirably compare to WoD, had to go a full week to get to 2.7 million sales, which put it below every expansion save Burning Crusade.  The pleading for a new expansion towards the end of Mists of Pandaria now seem almost quaint given the mass exodus from the game that came with WoD.

Then there was Cataclysm, which I am going to say was probably the first point when digital sales made up a significant portion of the first day sales, setting a record as yet unbeaten, with 3.3 million sales.  There were some good things in that expansion, but the destruction of the old world still stings.

Then Wrath of the Lich King and Burning Crusade check in at 2.8 and 2.4 million units sold on the first day.  That was back when Fry’s was open at midnight to sell you a copy and they had pallets of boxes out on the sales floor.  That was the era of growth, which Cataclysm put paid to.

And finally, just for completeness, there was World of Warcraft back in 2004, which sold 240,000 copies on the first day, which was a record at the time.  No digital sales in that number I bet!

So that is how the list stacks up.  WoW Legion sold well enough, though judging from what I have seen… or not seen… on store shelves, it was almost all digital. (I was at Best Buy on Monday and they had a single standard edition, wrapped up protectively in an anti-theft device and sitting alone at the bottom of a shelf.  No display.  No signs.  No big deal.  How times have changed.) That likely means WoW Legion sold directly into the currently subscribed base in the US/EU.

It would be interesting to know what the subscriber base jumped up to with the launch.  I suspect that if it had passed 10 million, Blizz might have mentioned it.  But maybe not, and we’ll likely never see a number to prove it either way.

I will have to hang on to the two WoW Legion boxes we got at our house.

Retail Boxes! Old School!

Retail Boxes! Old School!

Given the state of the retail channel for the expansion, those might be collectible in a few years.  I mean, a DVD for WoW Legion?  I am not sure why they even bother.  The patcher had everything in place already.  All I needed was the code off the label and I was upgraded and playing.  Modern times.

Bloodmyst Isle – The Worst Zone in WoW

I know I have rolled up a Draenei character or two at some point.  There was a time that, if you wanted a shaman on the alliance side of things, you had to make a Draenei.  I am sure I gave this a whirl at some point.  But when I looked through my list of characters, I could only find a Draenei death knight.  Since death knights start at level 55, that means he never went through the whole Draenei starter zone.

So Draenei have not been my thing, what with only a single blue space goat in my roster.  Now however, with the whole Loremaster project going on, it was time to return to the Draenei level 10-20 zone, Bloodmyst Isle, and the last achievement I needed for the alliance 1-60 part of the game.

Bloodmyst Isle MAp

Bloodmyst Isle Map

This should have been a doddle.  The first twenty levels are often cited as the fun part of MMOs.  It gets you out in the open air, you run through some easy-peasy quests, you level up quickly, gain new skills, and generally experience a lot of the things that seem fun before ending up in the torpor of the mid-levels. But the Draenei experience lasted hours. It was a slow, horrible death process.  So much so that I am making it the official position of this blog that Bloodmyst Isle is currently the worst zone in World of Warcraft.  And I say this with the perspective of having done most of the 1-60 zones in the game over the last year, including Silithus, the Eastern Plagulands, most of Vashjir, and the blood elf starting zone.

I get to laying out the sins of this zone after the cut.

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Finishing the Burning Crusade

The Burning Crusade came out quite a while ago, didn’t it?

That sounds like something of a “well, duh” question, but as I started out on this post I had to look up the ship date for the expansion, as it was in that hazy time range of “not recent, but since I got married.”

The Burning Crusade went live on January 15, 2007, which would put it about four months after I started this blog.  The blog passed the 7 year mark a while back.  That would put us back to the days when Vanguard and Microsoft Vista were both launching.  And what a problematic pair they turned out to be.  Lord of the Rings Online was in the near future, while Warhammer Online seemed ages away at that point, and EverQuest II was feeling revived after the Echoes of Faydwer expansion.  I was buying my last AGP video card.

And then there was The Burning Crusade.

Looking out from the Portal

Looking out from the Portal

This has never been my favorite World of Warcraft expansion for a number of reasons.

The first was that I simply wasn’t ready for it.  The instance group started off fresh with its weekly adventures during the October that preceded it, so that by the time it launched we were still shy of level 40 as we took on the Scarlet Monastery.  So, while I bought the expansion the day it shipped, we were months getting there.

And then once we were there, it wasn’t exactly a thrill.  As Blizzard’s first expansion to WoW, the philosophy for the overland content seemed to be, “If killing 10 rats is good, then killing 15 must be better!”  It seemed like an illustration of how to annoy an MMO player.  All the things we complain about were there.  Kill 15.  Loot 10 items that only drop about a quarter of the time.  Murder shopping lists, to kill 8 of these, 12 of those, and 5 of the other.  And everybody’s all time favorite, where you have to run back through the area you just cleared… which has now respawned… and kill the boss.  Couldn’t you have put him on the list before I went out there the first time?

Then there was Hemet Nesignwary and his first 9 quests, which required you to slay a total of 270 mobs.

Everything was a long slog and quest hubs handed you as many as a dozen quests at once.  Directions in the quest text was vague at times, wrong at others.  I remember spending a lot of time finding the right location for a number of quests in Zangarmarsh.  And if you were not paying attention to your quests, you could find yourself covering a lot of ground repeatedly.

It was not ideal.

The instance group itself did not actually get into the first instance, Hellfire Ramparts, until over a year after the expansion launched.

Hellfire Ramparts, Feb. 2008

Hellfire Ramparts, Feb. 2008

And thanks to summer vacations and a hiatus into Warhammer Online, the last instance I recorded us hitting was Sethekk Halls, the 8th of 16 instances, the week before Wrath of the Lich King launched.

After that, we were into Northrend, starting with our epic ride to Utgarde Keep, and into what I would call the peak of the instance group in Azeroth.  We dove into the expansion and played it to its fullest.

Meanwhile, Outland lingered behind us.  On short handed night we might drop back into it to run an instance over level.  At some point I did the faction grind in Nagrand, because I have all of the talbuk mounts on my list.  But I never got into the end-game dailies or even the actual end of the story.  We did get back to Outland for a bit in the horde version of our group at one point, but that stopped once Cataclysm got close.  And I have run a couple of characters through it.  But the whole expansion has remained something like fly-over content… literally, now that you can fly at level 60… on the way towards level cap.

So when I ended up with a druid spec’d for healing sitting at level 61 in Outland after my return to the game back in September, I decided to buckle down and follow the progression of the instances.  Instances are far and away the easiest route through The Burning Crusade these days and, thanks to the cross-server nature of Dungeon Finder and the propensity of WoW players to roll up alts, it is surprisingly quick to get into an instance, even as DPS, during peak hour.

So I queued my druid up for each instance in turn and leveled my way to 70.  It was quite a fun review of the content.  I am not sure that anybody would find it all that challenging.  The many reworks of classes over the years, which always focuses on the most recent expansion, has made characters pretty powerful relative to the way things were back in 2007/2008.  Death Knight tanks… and you run into a lot of Death Knights as you run through these instances… are particularly durable.  Monks also do well as tanks as do Paladins.  Warriors seem less over-powered in that role, though there were relatively few warrior tanks as part of my run.

The usual problems one associates with Dungeon Finder did come up now and again.  At off-peak hours, getting a group is heavily dependent on a healer and a tank being in the queue with you.  And if you are in a group late on a week night and your tank disconnects, you aren’t likely to get that instance done.

And the tank really sets the pace for the run.  I was in groups where the tank made sure everybody was with him and at least announced when he was starting a boss fight, and I was in groups where the tank was clearly interested only in speed.  I was on one run where the tank literally did not stop moving until we hit the final boss, leaving a trail of trash mobs in tow for the DPS to clean up.  And then he complained about the wait when we had to stop and listen to the monologue before the final fight.  At the end he said he had a bet with a guild mate about how fast he could run the instance with a random group.  I am not sure if he won the bet, but we sure did it quickly.  As healer, I just follow the rule of keeping line of sight on the tank and keeping him healed.  Good thing druids have some insta-cast heals, as I was also constantly in motion.

As things moved along, I chucked my “in order” plan, as queues for specific dungeons were starting to take longer and longer.  You can get a Hellfire Ramparts groups in seconds, but at the far end of the list people are starting to level up and into Northrend.  So I just started queuing for instanced I had not done yet and eventually got down to the last three, which according to my achievements, I had not completed with any character; Shattered Halls, Arcatraz, and Magisters’ Terrace.

It was late on Friday night when I was at that point.  I managed to pull Magisters’ Terrace first, where I got to see Kael’thas Sunstrider.

Give us your monologue!

Give us your monologue!

That happened to be the super speed run, so while we finished fine and I got the achievement, I queued for that one again so I could actually do the quests and perhaps see what was going on.  And I got another, slower run at it, which was worth the time.  The last fight is fun, though it must have been tough back in the day.

Next I managed to get into Arcatraz which also went smoothly enough.  The tank wasn’t in total “run run run” mode and I felt like I got the full tour.

And here we see Harbinger Skyriss...

And here we see Harbinger Skyriss…

Then I was left with just Shattered Halls.  I queued for that one and it took a while.  It was getting late and, though we seemed to be able to get a tank, the DPS players kept timing out when the group got called.  I suppose they had been sitting there for a long stretch and had gone AFK.  Eventually a group was rolled where everybody joined and we headed off into the last instance.  And then, after the first boss, the tank disconnected.

Do we wait an hour for another tank?

Do we wait an hour for another tank?

We waited for another tank to queue, but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen.  So I called it a night one instance shy of my goal.

The next afternoon four of us were on and working on alts when I said I was going to try to finish off that last instance.  As it so happened, all four of us had characters in the right level range.  So we formed up, one player shy of a full group, and headed to the instance on our own.  That meant finding the right entrance, which isn’t all that obvious.  But with flying mounts it was manageable.  Later, when I died and nobody else could ress, running back to the instance on foot as a ghost took quite a stretch.

The instance used to require a key to enter, but all of those locks have long since been removed, so in we went.  And, as I mentioned before, even with just four of us, we seemed a bit over-powered.  When I died it was in the middle of a “pull the room” moment where an early heal hit before Earl had aggro solidly in hand and the whole crowd switched to me and pummeled me into paste.  Fun fun.

That moment aside, we did make it to Kargath Bladefist, the final boss and one of the orc chieftains mentioned in the Warlords of Draenor presentations at BlizzCon, and managed to defeat him, which set off a chain of achievements.

Achievement Jackpot

Achievement Jackpot

In addition to the achievement for the instance itself… which got shoved off screen before I could get a screen shot of it… the guild got credit for a guild challenge, earning us some additional guild experience and gold for the guild vault and I got the Outland Dungeonmaster achievement, which means I have now done all the five person, normal mode instances in The Burning Crusade.

Which, just as capping off the last three instances in Northrend meant we had “finished” Wrath of the Lich King at last, meant that I now felt like I had finally “finished” The Burning Crusade.  It just took me nearly seven years to get there.  And now that I have a druid through that lot, it is time to work on my Death Knight.  The instances are fun, not too difficult at this point in time, and represent quite a bit of the history of the game at this point as they are mostly unaltered… aside from moving the quest givers into the instances… since back in the day.

As for the group, now all of the unvisited five person instances lay ahead of us in Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria.

Really Cheap World of Warcraft

Blizzard is making a big push to get everybody ready for the Cataclysm expansion.

We’ve gotten a revamp of classes.

New starter experiences are in for the current races.

The sundering has occurred and we have changes all over old Azeroth.

They have cut the experience needed to get from 71-80, so you can hurry up an get ready for the expansion.

We get to see the trailer for Cataclysm any time we want from the game logon screen.

But just in case you were feeling behind, just in case you didn’t have all the expansions, Blizzard has a deal for you it seems.

Discount WoW

For a limited time you can get all of WoW, the base game and both already released expansions for $20.

I guess Blizzard hasn’t released enough expansions yet to have to worry about consolidating them all in each running expansion there after.  They can stick with their Battle Chest combo offer for now and worry about the EQ/EQ2 method (both of which have way too many expansions to juggle individually at this point) at some later date.

How many expansions do you have to have before you just start rolling them up?

And as SynCaine would no doubt point out, you can get all of the current game for less than the price of a sparkle pony.