Tag Archives: Wrath of the Lich King

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.

Timewalking to Northrend

Timewalking has been in World of Warcraft for a while now.  This is where they open up dungeons from past expansions, reworked to support players in the current expansion.

Re-using old content and making it viable in the current context/meta of the game is something I am totally in favor of.  I just haven’t participated in the whole Timewalking thing up until now.

That is mostly because I haven’t been subscribed and playing for about the last year, so I missed the previous events.  Now that I am back though I took an evening to look into what was going on.

I was lured in by the fact that the current event is for dungeons from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which was provably the peak of my interest in WoW.

That was the only expansion I stuck with from day one through until the next expansion drop.  Unfortunately, the next drop was Cataclysm, about which I have a list of gripes, and which started my pattern of starting expansions, go away for six months to a year, then coming back to finish them off after Blizz has unlocked all the content and fixed the more egregious issues.

(As an aside, Wrath of the Lich King was launched nine years ago yesterday.  That seems like a long time ago now.)

However, now that I am back and enjoying Legion, timewalking is also an option, of course I was going to indulge myself in the current even and travel back to Northrend and the instances I knew so well at one point.

I did a couple of the instances before figuring out that there was a quest for the event that would award some additional benefit in the form of vendor tokens, so I grabbed that and kept on going for a while.  Going back to the old haunts was a nice little break from Suramar, and didn’t slow me down too much.  I have been on a WoW binge for a bit now.

Slaying King Ymiron again

The event was popular so queuing for it in Dungeon Finder was quick, even as DPS.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the dungeons themselves and how they might scale or what drops one might get.  I was quite happy with the ilevel 880 timewarped Northrend gear I got, which was both an upgrade over what I was currently wearing as well as giving me a bit of the old school WotLK look.

Vikund and the Knights who say “Ni!”

There were also artifact boosts for every boss and vendor tokens along the way, though the drops from dungeon mobs themselves were still seemed to be in the WotLK level range.

Finding the vendor took a minute though.  When I completed the event quest it told me to go find the vendor in Dalaran.  However, he was nowhere to be seen in the Legion Dalaran, so I had to think about the best way to get to the WotLK Dalaran, the two co-existing in the game.

I decided to take the portal to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms in Pandaria from the Legion Dalaran, remembering that there was a portal from there to the WotLK Dalaran.

Passing through Pandaria

That got me to the correct Dalaran where I was able to find the vendor, standing in the center of town with a crowd around him.

The vendor is in there somewhere

The quest turn in actually gave me quite a few tokens to play with, tripling the tokens I had earned along the way.

The reward

The tokens can be turned in for various bits of gear… though honestly I got so many upgrades that there was only one piece that was a semi-side-grade for me… or tokens to up your standings with various Northrend factions… not helpful since I am exalted with all the factions for which there are tokens… and some expensive things like a mount.  I’d have to run a lot more dungeons to get there.

The list of things from the vendor are over at the WoW Head timewalking guide.

It was there that I also learned that there were only six dungeons in play for timewalking, which explains why I saw some repeats.

The limited rotation wasn’t all bad.  My main worry was pulling The Oculus, the gimmick instance most likely to cause a rift in a group in the entire expansion.  Dungeon Finder groups fall apart doing that on normal mode.

What is probably my all-time most run instance ever, The Nexus, was on the list so I got to run a victory lap there.  I even remembered to jump during the last fight.

Still, I wouldn’t have minded doing Utgarde Keep or a couple of the others.

Which leads us down to the experience of running the instances now, so many years later.

On the one hand, it was fun in its own way to romp through a few old places.  I even remembered how most of the fights went.

On the flip side the problems with both timewalking and Dungeon Finder were apparent.

The ilevel reduction to make the instances something of a challenge doesn’t seem to be enough.  This is doubly so since I noticed I was getting credit for doing Heroic instances in doing these timewalking dungeons.  The power/difficulty ratio barely put these on par with normal mode dungeons at level.

And then the real problem with Dungeon Finder, which isn’t jerks or the unhelpful, who tend to be rare in my experience, but the speed.  When you’re in a group with strangers you’re not there to share an experience but get the reward for completion.  So each of these runs became races through the content, made all the more hasty by the ease with which we tore through boss after boss.

Ideally I would have liked to go through these old instances in a pre-made group, preferably the old instance group, to savor a bit of the history, to sit a while and listen to what the bosses have to say, to actually enjoy the fights.  But you go with the options you have, and random Dungeon Finder groups are the only choice some of us have, so you have to make the most of it.

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.

The Lich King? We Could Have Taken Him

I think it is a sign that the team is happy being back in Azeroth when we all show up for group night nearly an hour early.

Or maybe we all just felt we needed some additional warm up time.

Either way, our normal meetup time is 9pm and we were all in-game by 8:10pm.  All five of us and not just the three or four who could make it.  It was on like some sort of plumber vs. ape event.  Our official group lineup for the night was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 80 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 81 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 80 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 80 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 81 Gnome Mage DPS

And the first item on our agenda was to finish up the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.  Last week four of us delved into the final chain of three instances that wraps up the five person content in Icecrown Citadel.  We managed two out of three, with the second one being a bit of a trial for us.  This time around we would go for all three.

Ula, Skronk, and I got out to Icecrown Citadel and used the summoning stone to bring Bung and Earl to us.  Somewhere along the line I guess the summoning stone requirements got reduced to just two people in your group being required to summon.  And so, for the first time in at least two years, we were all together in a group and ready to do an instance in Azeroth.

Hanging around in Icrcrown

Hanging around in Icecrown

(Humanoids in the picture above: Skronk, Alioto, Bung, Ula, Earl, Jaina Proudmoore)

We planned to run through all three.  We wanted Earl to get the whole show and we figured that since we only had trouble with the final bosses on the first two as a foursome, that being a full group would speed things along.  There was a thought given to trying it at the Heroic setting, but we opted for Nomal given that this was our return venture.

More after the cut due the usual verbosity and over use of screen shots in place of narrative.  Plus I totally spoil the ending if you haven’t done it yet.

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The Instance Group Returns to Northrend

Sort of.

As has been the case for much of 2013, we could only muster four out of five of the group.  Still, everybody has successfully resubscribed, patched, and logged into the game in the last week, so everybody is on board with the idea if not able to be present.  We are going to take another run at Azeroth.

So it was time to get the old team out, our original level 1 to 80 instance group, and do some warm-up exercises.  The planned group was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 80 Human Warrior Tank (missing)
  • Bungholio – Level 80 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 80 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Skronk – Level 81 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Ula – Level 81 Gnome Mage DPS

However, as Earl was out of town, we had to make do.

Alioto the druid is my latest character substitution into the group.  I had to change out because I ran ahead in levels with Vikund, my paladin.

Alioto is named after the former mayor of San Francisco because… well… I needed a name and that popped into my head and, more importantly on a very old WoW server, was actually available.  He is one of a selection of druids in WoW that have exactly the same dual spec options and professions.  I always seem to go feral for solo, healing for random instances, herbalism for harvesting, and inscription for a trade.  I actually have more such druids than hunters.

Even on the same server

Just on one server

But now I had a chance to change this pattern.  I cleared out my healing spec on Alioto and picked up the new… well, new to me… Guardian druid spec, which is for durids wat is bare.  Or bear.  I pretty much had to do that because, if you look at our line up, there are not a lot of other realistic tanking options.  Though, as things will turn out, the cloth wearing priest healer will do in a pinch.

The plan was a warm-up exercise to see if we could actually work as a team with the somewhat changed classes of WoW.  Our target was to scout out the three final 5 player instances in Wrath of the Lich King.  Those were added after we had “finished” the last instance… Utgarde Pinnacle… in the expansion.

Time to finish off what we started.

More after the break due to an excess of verbiage and screen shots.

Continue reading

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.