Verigan's Fist

With my nostalgia for WoW as it used to be rekindled by BlizzCon, I decided to log onto my paladin on Kronos for the first time in several months. Her quest log was a hot mess with leftover quests in half a dozen different zones, and I was bumping up against the limit of only being able to hold twenty quests at a time. Argh! As I really wanted to move on to Stranglethorn Vale, land of numerous, glorious kill quests, I made an effort to clear things out a bit. Those leftover group quests from Redridge? Not gonna go back for those... abandon! A quest for Gnomeregan? Bah, whatever... abandon!

But there was one quest I definitely wasn't going to let go: The Test of Righteousness! After all I had already braved the Deadmines for that Whitestone Oak Lumber, fought elite ogres in Loch Modan for Refined Ore and descended to the Blackfathom Deeps for a Purified Kor Gem. All I needed was that darned hammer from Shadowfang Keep!

I figured that since I was past level thirty now, I was probably going to be OK soloing this last step, even though my gear was atrociously bad for my level. Fortunately I already had all the flight points up to Southshore from when I travelled north in search of the Expert First Aid book. I took it slowly, cleaning up a couple more quests on the way, but eventually I stood at the border to Silverpine, faced with giant red text warning me that I was entering Horde territory. I did not encounter any Horde however. Kronos' not particularly high population is definitely an advantage when it comes to avoiding PvP on a PvP server.

I killed the first couple of trash packs inside the instance with no issues but died once to the boss, since I didn't realise that he came with no less than three adds, which was a bit much for me in my gear, even at my level. Fortunately I managed to kill at least one of them before I died, and when I came back for more I was able to handle the remaining two adds before tackling the boss himself. I wouldn't have been able to tell you his name before I came in; I have to confess that Shadowfang Keep is one of those dungeons that I didn't run many times back in its Vanilla incarnation.

After successfully dispatching of Rethilgore, I found the captured Dalaran mage in his cell and talked to him so he would open the door to the courtyard for me. Surprise! The cell door closed behind me as I walked in to chat with him and I ended up trapped! I can't tell whether this was a bug or an actual Vanilla mechanic (after all you were supposed to come in with a group, so someone else would have been able to pull the lever from outside to let you back out), but it sure was annoying! Since there was no way to kill myself, it looked like my only way of escaping might be using my hearthstone... which was set to Darkshire. Ugh! However, then I had one last idea, which fortunately worked out - by casting Consecration close to the wall, I managed to pull Deathstalker Adamant from the adjacent cell, and as he was not held back by trifling matters such as walls or gates, he came over and helpfully agreed to kill me to save me from having to hearth out. Dodged that bullet!

I was kind of baffled by just how packed the courtyard was with mobs and patrols, but once again I managed to fight my way towards the stables with no further issues. At last, there was Jordan's Hammer!

I decided to pull the "horse boss" as a last hurrah, since I wasn't sure anymore whether the other horses would aggro as well. They did, and they stomped me. But I had got my quest item, so it was all good!

It didn't matter that I was prot/holy and had no real use for a two-handed mace. In Vanilla, there were just some things that you had to do because your pride demanded it, and owning your own Verigan's Fist was definitely one of them. Not to mention that getting it felt like completing one hell of a quest, in the truest sense of the word.


BlizzCon, the Warcraft Movie and Ironmen

BlizzCon has come and gone and WoW was once again all over the (MMO) news. There was also that little announcement about further subscription drops and that they'll never report subscriber numbers again, but oh well. I liked the way Wilhelm put it: "In the end, even World of Warcraft in reality cannot compete with World of Warcraft of legend."

The Legion announcement left me completely cold. I say this not to pooh-pooh on anyone who was excited by it, but because it's an interesting contrast to Warlords of Draenor. WoD at least still sounded somewhat tempting to me. This stuff? Nope. I guess I really am over that. I didn't even like the Legion trailer, mainly because it was focused on Varian.

I've been told that he's gradually been turned into a decent character, and maybe that's true, but if it is it definitely came too late for me. To me he'll always be that douche with the stupid hair. The only time I liked him (sorta) was when he was still the missing diplomat.

I was sort of intrigued by the Warcraft movie trailer:

I don't think it will blow anyone away in terms of story, but it does capture the Warcraft aesthetic pretty well and it's interesting to see a more "realistic" rendition of Azeroth for once. It focuses on a time period from classic Warcraft, which will appeal to a lot of people who may not like or care about the current game anymore. And it will be interesting to see how they change up the lore to make it more suitable for the big screen. For example the orcs come across as a lot more sympathetic in that trailer than I would have expected them to be at that point in Warcraft history, plus there's that whole "green Moses" scene...

I've also been watching people play WoW on YouTube, specifically the Ironman Challenge. I seem to remember hearing about the basic idea of levelling a character with as many self-imposed handicaps as possible as far back as Wrath of the Lich King, but it seems to have increased in appeal the more boring the base levelling game has become.

My favourite has been TheLazyPeon's series about it, because he gets so genuinely enthused about exploring the game in a new manner and so freaked out by his near-deaths. (Dying instantly causes you to "lose" the challenge.) You definitely feel a bit of Vanilla WoW flair in the air whenever his little mage sheeps things and runs for his life.

The other YouTuber I've been watching play through this challenge is Asmongold:

He projects more of a "bro" personality on screen, and if you see the weird sort of "fan mail" he gets, you wonder if he ever regrets it. It's interesting to see how completely different his approach is though. He couldn't get what the challenge was about initially, constantly deriding it as too easy (and to be fair, he did roll a hunter). But then he made a stupid pull in Duskwood and pretty much only survived it because he happened to level up at just the right time and it really seemed to sink in that the game could still be challenging if you do gimp yourself enough. He also has pretty much zero interest in quests and lore and frequently seems to forget that Cataclysm happened (as in, he'll keep talking about what sort of quest he thinks is coming up in the next area, but it's almost always the Vanilla version he describes). Still entertaining in its own way.


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.)