Vanilla WoW on Hold

Just in case anyone has been wondering why I haven't posted an update on here in over a month, I wanted to give a brief explanation for that. Basically, I found that it's impossible for me to play three MMOs at the same time, at least while also maintaining a level of involvement that I'm comfortable with. (That is to say that I'm not someone who's happy to play any MMO for two hours a week.) So something had to give, and WoW was the natural choice since it was "only" a solo project. In both SWTOR and Neverwinter I have other people coaxing me to log in, so those games couldn't be dropped as easily. (Well, that and SWTOR has been my main game for three and a half years now... it was more of a case of WoW vs. Neverwinter really.)

That doesn't mean that I've lost interest in the project or have completely given up on it. Based on experience I would expect my pet tank's interest in Neverwinter to decrease again after the summer, at which point I might be able to give that game a break and get back on the road to Stranglethorn Vale instead.


Level 30, Loving Duskwood

Isadora hit level 30 today, with a /played time of 2 days and a little less than 11 hours. I was really hoping that I would be able to start this post with a screenshot of her proudly wielding Verigan's Fist, but alas, the quest for it is still in her log and has gone grey by now. I just can't seem to get a group for Shadowfang Keep. At one point I tried to form one with a druid, but we gave up after nobody responded to our LFM requests for too long. He joked that people probably didn't even know what "SFK" was. Alliance just doesn't like to go there - it's too far away, and I believe that other than the paladin class quest there are no other incentives to go. I wonder at what level I might be able to solo the first boss? I only need to get to the stables to complete my quest...

In regards to Blackfathom Deeps, reader Shandren had commented that the quest item also dropped from the elite mobs outside the instance and that I should be able to get it solo if I was careful. As it happens, I did end up finding a group for BFD though and completed a full run of the place. (We even killed the thrasher boss!) The way the party was formed was a bit bizarre. We only needed a tank, but as soon as we invited one, she immediately left again, citing the presence of two other plate wearers in the group as the reason. I had forgotten how peculiar people could be about that back in the day. It seems all the stranger considering how hard it can be to get groups at all, never mind your preferred group composition.

Anyway, at this point our level 23 dps warrior offered to tank instead (even though her level was slightly on the low end for BFD) and we started to look for a dps. We got... another dps warrior, several levels higher. "Well, you'll end up tanking then," she was told unceremoniously... and was perfectly fine with it. She just strapped on a shield and tanked the whole instance like a boss, even though she could have complained that we had originally invited her as a dps. It was just such a stark contrast to the previous tank leaving simply because she didn't like the group composition.

Other than that BFD run I haven't found much time for group content, so I've been questing instead. It's starting to become a bit of a drag at the moment because I'm having trouble finding gear upgrades (I don't want to waste money on the auction house) and my weapon is now more than ten levels below me. As if being a prot/holy hybrid wasn't enough to make me hit like a wet noodle... At least I get to squeeze some extra dps out of Exorcism whenever I'm fighting undead. (Yay, class flavour!)

A lot of my recent questing has taken place in Duskwood, and somewhat to my surprise I've been loving it (even if the constant running back and forth between Darkshire and Raven Hill is annoying as anything). The thing is, I don't recall being very fond of Duskwood back in Vanilla... in fact I seem to remember not liking it very much at all, because I wasn't a fan of the gloomy atmosphere. But looking at it now, it seems like the perfect example of why many things about Vanilla WoW just worked so well, even if people would probably call them bad game design these days.

For example, who thought that it would be a good idea to have a level 35 elite mob patrol among regular skeletons that are ten levels lower? Or to spawn another level 35 elite who'd then make his way to Darkshire on the road, squashing innocent players and quest NPCs alike if they happened to cross his path? Things like that really made the world feel dangerous and served to underline the background of Duskwood being a cursed and dangerous place.

 Just like the good old days...
Quests aren't always connected in a perfectly linear manner either. For example you get a quest to bring some food to Jitters in Raven Hill, but that quest simply ends there with no follow-up. Later however you receive a quest from a guy called Sven, who wants you to hunt down the last person he saw at the house where his family was killed, and after a fair bit of running around and collecting clues, it turns out that this person was the very same Jitters to whom you delivered that food parcel. The Legend of Stalvan also has you running all around the houses to find out more about this Stalvan guy, after the local medium has a vision of him bringing doom upon Darkshire. People may have argued that this made the stories too hard to follow or whatever, but it's hard to deny that actually having to read the quest text and connecting the dots also made the whole experience so much more rewarding for those who actually cared to pay attention.

Duskwood as a whole is bursting with what I would call "old WoW flavour", portraying a world that is cartoony and sometimes a little silly but still takes itself seriously. (I read all 20 pages of Jitters' completed journal - the bit about him witnessing the death of Sven's family was rough!) I feel that this is something that has been lost in current WoW - while it still has some serious quests, the overall tone is much less so, with people riding around on increasingly ridiculous mounts and areas like the goblin starter zone setting a very different tone for new players.

Remember when worgen were fierce monsters instead of dogs with top hats and bad English accents?
Now I just have to find out more about this "Scythe of Elune" - Jitters' journal mentioned something about it having been found inside a mine... (Read: I can't really remember where that particular quest line starts, but I'll be happy to find out.)


The Alt

I haven't had much time to play WoW this week. Who'd have thought that working full-time, playing three MMOs at the same time and blogging about all three of them would take up so much time?

I've been finding myself logging into WoW mostly in the evenings, when I'm too tired to pay attention to the story in SWTOR or the action combat in Neverwinter. Slowly grinding away at twenty wolves and fifteen spiders while listening to a podcast in the background is relaxing and requires a lot less focus. I had kind of forgotten how good WoW used to be at this (before they took away most reasons to grind and made combat more demanding).

The only downside is that I'm always a little sad when I see a LFM request going out for content that I would desperately like to do but for which I simply don't have enough time just then. (Not to mention that a dungeon or group quest would require a lot more focus.) As I'm slowly climbing up the levels by soloing, the elite quests are piling up in my log and I hate the thought of abandoning them. We'll see if I'll manage to get in a good, long weekend play session some time soon to reduce their numbers.

In the comments on my last post, reader Shandren suggested that if I was having issues with bag space, I should roll up a bank alt, or at least an alt that I could temporarily mail things to in order to free up bag space, even if the other character wasn't meant to help with long-term storage. I took this as an excuse to recreate the night elf priest who was my main throughout Vanilla and early BC. It feels kind of wrong to create an alt before I've even hit level thirty on my current "main". However, I don't think it took me very long to create an alt back in 2006 either... in fact, I have a screenshot from back then that shows a level 1 warrior on the character selection screen next to my level 13 priest, though I think I ended up deleting that one without ever playing her.

I only played my little night elf through Shadowglen and then immediately parked her at the nearest inn, but I could easily see myself coming back to her to play some more. I just have so many fond memories of the early night elf zones, even if they feel a bit empty now without the friends that levelled with me back then when I was a new player.

This post includes a screenshot of my priest from original Vanilla WoW as well as one from Kronos. Can you guess which is which?


Bags, the AH, Weather, Graphics

Today, a post about a couple of things that aren't really connected but also aren't worth talking about in separate posts of their own.

Bag space (or lack thereof) is driving me a bit nuts. My character currently has a mix of eight and ten-slot bags, all of which she found out in the world, and which seems about right for her current level from what I remember... but it's just not enough. Since I'm willing to play the healer role in dungeons, I've put together a healing set which has intellect and spirit on it instead of strength and stamina and which takes up a whole bag all by itself. I'm also a miner, and I forgot that ores only stacked to ten in Vanilla. Ack! Add to that my desire to avoid throwing away white quality items (someone could use that Crisp Spider Meat and Murloc Eye I'm sure - in Vanilla they had uses) and I have no doubt that you can see my dilemma. Back in Wrath I wrote a post bemoaning the uninspiredness of its loot tables, and I do still enjoy sorting through my bags, but at the moment it sometimes feels like too much, mostly because vendors and especially banks can be hard to come by when you're on a quest in the middle of nowhere. It gets a bit annoying when you're at the back of a cave, knowing full well that you need another ten spiders to complete your quest (who all drop about five different varieties of spider parts) and pretty much after every pull you have to stop to consider whether to discard something or leave the last corpse unlooted. The only alternative would be to hearth out, sell stuff, and then come all the way back.

One way of getting rid of bag overflow is to sell things on the auction house. I've found Kronos' economy to be a strange beast. Initially it felt a bit dead at the low levels, but it seems that the server has been growing and the low-level economy has picked up as a result. I'm having to re-learn what actually sells and what doesn't. Rogue or feral druid leather? Yes please. Caster leather? You'd have to be pretty insane to level a druid as balance or resto in Vanilla, so not much luck. Things like cooking ingredients can be very hit or miss depending on whether anyone is working on levelling their cooking or not. Also, I miss jewelcrafting - it's obvious that there aren't enough uses for stone and gems at this point so their value is pretty low. Actually, a lot of things seem very cheap in general - but that's simply a sign of a young economy, where most players are new and (relatively) poor. I keep thinking of how many of these low-level items used to sell for multiple pieces of gold when I last played on live, but on this server the majority of the potential buyers simply doesn't have that kind of money to spare. Even coppers matter.

I left the guild that I joined back in Loch Modan. No big drama, I just hadn't got to know anyone really and guild chat repeatedly caught my eye in a negative way because of multiple people making jokes about rape, abortion etc. It was obvious that this was not the kind of company I wanted to hang out with and that just seeing them talk detracted from my experience instead of adding to it. If someone else asks me to join their guild, I'll have to be a bit choosier in the future.

Why does it always rain on me...?
I don't know if Kronos is slightly wonky in some way or if this is a case of me misremembering the way things were in Vanilla, but I don't remember it raining quite so much. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining - I'm really enjoying the day/night cycles and weather changes, especially as they are something that I sometimes miss in SWTOR. Still, there are certain zones (Elwynn Forest, Loch Modan, the Wetlands) where it seems to be raining ninety percent of the time whenever I get there. I just don't remember those areas being quite that wet.

When Blizzard announced that they were revamping the old character models for Warlords of Draenor, I was excited because I had to admit that their outdatedness had started to bother me. (Though I have very mixed feelings about the results.) Funnily enough, the Vanilla graphics on Kronos do not bother me at all. I've been thinking about why that is and I think the secret is consistency. As Blizzard continued to add better and better looking zones, mounts, pets and gear, our characters increasingly stood out in a bad way. It was hard to miss when your entire character model consisted of fewer polygons than your shoulderpads; they just didn't match. But on Kronos, everything looks equally blocky and I've found that I'm actually okay with that. It's a crude style, but it works.


Kalimdor Calling... and Other Travels

There's one thing no recreation of Vanilla WoW can bring back, no matter how faithful it is, and that's the ignorance of being a truly new player. I recall that when I started playing the game back in 2006, Elwynn Forest alone seemed huge to me. Then I realised that it was just one zone of many. Then I realised that there was a whole other continent waiting for me... well, you get the idea.

This time around, I know almost exactly where I need to go. I say "almost" because while I achieved Loremaster pre-Cataclysm, I "only" did so on Horde side, and even that was several years ago by now. I haven't been truly surprised by any of the content I've encountered on Kronos (yet), but there were definitely a few "Huh, I'd completely forgotten about that" moments.

For example, it had been quite a while since I last had to buy a book from a special vendor to train my secondary professions past 150. It was quite a trek over to Ashenvale to get the Expert Cookbook. With what little money I had, I bought a spare to sell on the auction house and I managed to sell it with a markup of 100%. Yay, arbitrage! A similar scenario played out when I had to wander up to the Arathi Highlands to learn expert first aid, and again I was able to make a tidy profit off the journey.

I also encountered my first Horde player while travelling. As I was making my way along the mountain road from Loch Modan to the Wetlands, I was suddenly faced with a "skull level" tauren druid in travel form coming my way. I froze like a deer in the headlights, but he just looked at me for a moment and then moved on. I don't know if he didn't want the dishonourable kill or just didn't care to gank either way. One mustn't forget that not everyone on a PvP server is necessarily out to kill the opposite faction non-stop.

Quests feel like they are all over the place by this point. There are half a dozen zones that contain mobs of the right level somewhere, but there only ever seems to be a small handful of quests that are in the right level range, so I'm constantly travelling round and round.

Finally of course, I'm dealing with the absolute insanity that is the paladin class quest for a levelling weapon. (This being Vanilla, I can't currently see my reward, but I've been reminded that it's Verigan's Fist.) Its instructions are so long that I received a "note" item in my inventory that's six pages long. Do you remember when quests used to give those? For this class quest, a blacksmith that works in Ironforge asks you to bring him supplies from the elite ogre area in Loch Modan, wood from the Deadmines, tools from Shadowfang Keep and some other thingamajig from Blackfathom Deeps. Considering that an instance run takes about two hours, and that's without even taking the travel time to places like SFK into account, wanting to complete this quest means that you're looking at about 6+ hours of play time just to finish what is essentially a single task.

It feels insane... but of course there is a certain pride to be had in completing your class quests. What kind of paladin would I be if I couldn't gather some simple blacksmithing materials? So far I've managed to get the stuff from the ogres and the wood from the Deadmines. (For my second run I healed and it went much more smoothly... just don't tell anyone that I stood at the back wearing a dress; it's very un-paladin-like.) Shadowfang and Blackfathom worry me a little because they are both in fairly remote areas where people don't often go - but on the plus side, levelling being fairly slow means that there is plenty of time for an opportunity to present itself before I completely outlevel the content.

(On a side note, I have now outlevelled the "real" Isadora - my first ever WoW character, whom I tried to recreate here - because back then I switched to playing a night elf priest on an English server fairly early on. Now there is definitely something very new about this journey.)


Welcome to the Deadmines

 This video was an instant classic - though in hindsight the part about the old instance getting buffed to 80 seems bittersweet.
After my less than stellar grouping experience in Redridge, the next time I logged in and had finally sorted out my bags, I decided to look for a Deadmines group again, vowing to not let myself get distracted this time. I mopped up some leftover quests in the Westfall area and kept an eye on general chat.

At first I ended up grouping with a mage, but after we hadn't got a single response to our looking-for-more requests in about fifteen minutes, he said that it seemed like the server was too quiet at that moment and that he'd try again later.

Not much later a guildie expressed interest in a Deadmines run and we teamed up. I didn't keep an eye on how long it took us to assemble a full group, but I reckon that it still must've taken at least twenty minutes. It didn't feel too bad though because I was using the time to run some more errands in Stormwind, such as smelting ore, putting things on the auction house and so on and so forth.

Eventually we had assembled the following group: me on my prot paladin, supposed to tank. I'm not sure going protection was a wise choice - I had initially forgotten that pallies didn't get their taunt until 2.0 (I started playing shortly before that, so my memories of what was introduced when are a bit fuzzy). The prospect of tanking without a taunt seemed more than daunting, but after I had seen people talk about it in guild chat for a bit I felt reassured, as most of them seemed to agree that it was manageable in dungeons and for off-tanking in raids. My guildie, a feral druid, said that she would be happy to dps or heal, and so did the retribution paladin we invited. Finally we also got a hunter and a warlock.

We were lucky that everyone was quick to make their way towards the instance, because when we tried to use the summoning stone, we didn't seem to be able to get it to work. I can't tell if this is a bug or another one of those things that weren't actually introduced until a patch or two after I started playing.

I felt proud that I had managed to gather up all the quests for the instance and shared the ones that others didn't seem to have. I said in chat that I would like to do the two quests with the dead miners just outside the instance and people were like "sure", but whenever I tried to go towards the area they were in, everyone else just ran off in the opposite direction until we were actually at the instance entrance. This didn't feel like the best start.

Things got worse: my tanking was useless. With nothing but a judgement every ten seconds and auto-attack (I had forgotten that consecration also used to be the 11-point holy talent), I simply didn't stand a chance against the warlock and hunter pulling things from range. On top of that, the druid only had bear form to dps in. The warlock yelled at me to taunt once, and I explained that paladins didn't have a taunt in Vanilla. I'm not sure he believed me. Either way, the feral druid soon started taunting instead and effectively usurped the tank position because I couldn't taunt back. It's a good thing I don't have much of a tanking ego or I might have felt offended.

As it was, we seemed to be doing okay the way we were doing things, with me sort of off-tanking, and there were no further complaints or accusations about bad tanking... or bad anything really. Things felt quite chaotic compared to the well-orchestrated trinity song-and-dance that I'm used to performing in today's MMOs, but we managed. Mobs were running all over the place, first because aggro was such a fickle beast with limited tanking tools, then because almost without exception they were all the type of enemy that tries to run away when they get low on health. However, everyone seemed to accept that this was just the way things were and made the best of what we had. We only wiped a couple of times when we accidentally ended up with too many mobs due to accidental overpulling. The hunter and warlock mostly stayed quiet, but the druid and the other pally were quite cheerful, and everyone was unfailingly polite. There was no ninja-looting, and people were constantly asking whether they could need on this or that or if someone else needed it more.

At the very end I even got to enjoy a moment in the limelight after all, when the dps decided to burn down Van Cleef while ignoring all his adds, which resulted in a massive amount of Defias spawning in quick succession... and I tanked them all. I even happened to record it! I liked how people initially even stopped what they were doing and just stared at me tanking the whole pile of adds (and typed "wow" in chat).

I didn't keep track of the exact time we spent in the dungeon, but I can confidently say that it was about two hours from start to finish. I'll be honest and admit that I actually felt pretty tired after that, even though it hadn't been a bad run! It's weird to think that people can probably run the revamped Deadmines on live in about fifteen minutes, even though the instance is the same length. In Vanilla everything just took so much longer to kill.


Also a Vanilla Grouping Experience

After hitting level twenty, my next major goal was to get into a group for the Deadmines. I kept an eye on chat as I continued my questing, but at the time nobody seemed to be building any Deadmines groups - a guildie just kept spamming guild chat with looking-for-more requests to do the escort quest in Redridge. Finally she called me out directly, as I was obviously in the right area, and I caved and agreed to join. After all, that escort quest would earn me some nice XP too, right? My mantra before the introduction of the group finder had always been to take the bull by the horns whenever an opportunity presented itself, because waiting until everything lined up perfectly so that you could do the content you wanted, at exactly the time you wanted, with exactly the group you wanted, was generally a futile endeavour.

I joined a group consisting of the guildie on her level 23 or 24 (can't remember exactly) gnome mage, and another guildie on a dwarf warrior of the same level. When we trekked up to the area with the cave in which the escort starts, I realised that I was somewhat in over my head, with all the mobs being around level 25. However, I just hung back and healed the two dps while they laid waste to the enemy and that seemed to work out fine.

Then we got to the escort quest, and I saw that the exclamation mark over corporal Keeshan's head was grey to me. When the others started the mission, I received nothing but an error message that I wasn't eligible for the quest (due to me being too low level). This was somewhat disappointing, but I didn't feel too bad about it as we slowly walked down the mountain, because at least I had got two quests to kill orcs and gather their axes done on the way.

Once Keeshan was safely back in Lakeshire, the mage asked if we wanted to stick together to also do the elite quests in Stonewatch Keep. We agreed and picked up a level 19 druid on the way as well.

However, it soon turned out that in the keep, we were all in over our heads. The mobs were just too strong and numerous. While we could slowly whittle them down by pulling very carefully, it took so long to kill anything that we pretty much had to deal with respawns before we could ever get anywhere. The druid and I were actually more of a liability than helpful, due to our low level giving us an absolutely massive aggro radius. There was one particularly humorous moment when we had suffered some deaths in the first hallway of the keep and slowly reclaimed our bodies while carefully tucking ourselves into a corner. The moment the druid got up however, an orc immediately started throwing spears at him, killed him, and then walked away again.

Eventually it seemed that most of us agreed that we weren't going to be successful with this group and we decided to part ways for now. I had been lucky, as I had at least got enough quest drops from the caster mobs we had killed to complete one of the elite quests.

So far, so good.

Just after I had taken a flight back to Westfall, the gnome mage suddenly whispered me again to say that she was building a new group and that she had a tank in the high twenties now, so this group was bound to do much better! I agreed to re-join and made my way back. They were clearly desperate for a healer.

This time the rest of the group consisted of the mentioned level 28 paladin tank, a hunter and a warlock, but the two latter were once again of quite a low level. The warlock also realised almost immediately that he didn't actually have all the quests and had to jog back to Lakeshire to hand something in so he could pick up the correct follow-up. Meanwhile the paladin tank asked us to clear a tower on the side which did nothing for the rest of the group.

When the warlock came back, he got killed by respawns and the mage told him to watch where he was going, to which the warlock replied somewhat testily that she should drop the condescending attitude. We killed some more mobs.

Just as we were making our way to the boss inside the courtyard, the mage was suddenly removed from the group. I typed a question mark into chat and was kicked from the party as well. I'm still not sure why, because the mage had been a bit snarky I guess and we were in the same guild? We regrouped with the level 28 pally who had apparently suffered the same fate as us and wedged ourselves into a corner while we waited for another mage to join us to build our group back up to strength. The gnome advised the second mage to just run through all the mobs on his way, which didn't work out and he died. The gnome then went out to "help" him... and they both died.

When they were finally about to re-join us at the right spot, the warlock and hunter who had kicked us suddenly swooped in with a level fifty shadow priest in tow who murdered everything for them in seconds. Since the boss' respawn was going to take a while, we gave the inside of the keep another shot but died again. It was quite late by then and I finally excused myself, having achieved nothing but a lot of deaths.

I felt utterly drained by the whole experience, the constant dying with no progress, fighting the same pulls over and over again, and then having other people swoop in to kill the mobs we needed before we could get to them. To be honest, the gnome mage's aggressively hyper attitude also started to grate on my nerves after a while. At one point early on, a level 60 swooped past us with someone he was boosting and the mage called him names in /yell. When the other group "stole" the boss right in front of our noses, she also suggested running after them into the keep and trying to steal their tag on the boss in there. I just didn't want to hear any more of it.

I didn't play for several days after that.