20/05/2019

Beta Hype

Just because I'm not playing the beta (and not planning to either) that doesn't mean that I'm not interested in hearing what other people have to say about their experiences with it. So far, reactions seem pretty positive. There are the ones who were super excited about it beforehand and are - unsurprisingly - super excited about it now, such as Nixxiom:



Then there are those who were vaguely optimistic about it beforehand and are now also super excited about it, such as Crendor:



(I also love how his first big beta adventure was to run his level 9 orc hunter halfway across the world just because he could, and because you don't get res sickness under level 10.)

And finally, there are those who figured that Classic probably wasn't going to be for them and were positively surprised, such as Jesse Cox:



I expect that we'll see a fair amount of grass roots hype building for Classic over the next few months. I don't think Blizzivision is going to invest much into marketing it beyond some basics such as social media shout-outs and inviting journalists to give it a try, but I think the success of Nostalrius has shown that there's a part of the Vanilla crowd that's both very loud and very passionate and basically willing to provide a lot of advertising for free.

And there's certainly interest too: Well-known streamer Asmongold hit over 100k live viewers streaming a Deadmines run for example. I expect the grousing of the "you think you do, but you don't" crowd will continue for a while, but I also suspect that a lot of people will still be curious enough to give the game a try at launch just because everyone's talking about it.

It's been about five years since we last had a major Western MMO launch (I'm thinking of ESO and Wildstar in 2014), and in these times of controversy about microtransactions and such, Classic is also going to stand out as launching with a pure subscription package with no add-ons. Could Blizzard be managing to capture the zeitgeist at just the right time a second time? I can't wait to find out.

15/05/2019

We Have A Release Date!

27th of August... sort of, except that in the US it will still be the afternoon of the 26th.

I'm happy to say that this won't fall right into the middle of the family visit I was planning for summer - I have a bit of a bad track record of missing big MMO events that interest me due to being away, so I was a little worried that I might end up booking my flights just to find out that Classic launch would happen right in the middle of my trip, but fortunately I should now be back about a week beforehand.

In fact, I'll try to get at least a couple of days off for the launch as well. I hope that Blizzard has learned enough about organising this kind of launch for it to not be a disaster full of login queues and server crashes, but I'm willing to risk it in any case. The worst that can happen is that I end up having to play some other games while I wait for them to fix things, so it's a win either way!

I went right ahead and logged into my Battle.net account for the first time in years to tidy up my account info. Apparently the last time I gave them any money was in March 2010! (My brief visit during Mists of Pandaria took place with gifted game time.) I wonder how much of an uptick they are seeing in terms of old accounts being reactivated right now...

As an additional lure there is a chance that they'll let you join the Classic beta right away if you're a current subscriber, but I'm not falling for that one, marketing team! I'm not that keen on betas anyway, even if the thought of taking part in a starting zone stress test or something like that sounds somewhat entertaining. More importantly though, I don't want to give them any money until I can get my hands on the fully released game.

I've made some progress on the "what to play" front as well, as I've got two old friends committed to spending some time playing with me. They want to go Horde, and I thought we'd agreed to play a warrior/rogue/shaman trio, with me being the shaman, but now they are dithering again... I told them not to mess with the plan, but we'll see. If that Horde trio goes ahead with me filling the healer role, I might roll up a night elf hunter for some solo adventures on Alliance side, which would once again provide an interesting mix of old and new experiences.

24/03/2019

Can You Play Classic Casually?

We still haven't got a launch date for Classic, though we have had some reassurance that they are still on track for the promised summer release. Seeing how we're already at the end of March, I figure it can't be that long now until we get a date. I'm pretty excited.

In the meantime, let's talk about something that I occasionally see get brought up when people talk about Classic. The comments I'm talking about usually come in the form of something like this: "Man, I used to love Vanilla; I played it 24/7! Too bad I won't be able to play Classic; I have a life now."

Now, far be it from me to judge any particular person's time management skills, but there does seem to be an underlying perception here that the only way to play Vanilla WoW/Classic is/was by "no-lifing" it. I can see where that comes from, because I'm sure that many of us did play the game like that back in the day, at least for a while, but it's far from the only way to enjoy classic World of Warcraft.

There are really only two things you have to keep in mind to be able to enjoy your time in Classic as a casual player: The first is that having more time is a considerable advantage in terms of competitiveness, seeing how there are few of the artificial time gates that are common in the genre today, such as daily quests or weekly caps. Someone who's got time to play all day, every day, will progress faster than you - it's just not something that should put you off, because there'll also be plenty of others who'll progress at a slower pace, and you won't have to worry about the next patch making all your progress obsolete.

The other thing to keep in mind is that everything takes more time. One major example of this are dungeons. What with having to manually put a group together, getting everyone to the instance and the much slower pace of combat, I wouldn't recommend logging into the game with the intent to do a dungeon if you've got less than two hours of free time at your disposal. I'm sure this is going to be a culture shock for many players who are used to twenty to thirty minute runs that you just queue up for via an interface, and for the average player it will mean that they'll do dungeons much more rarely than they would in a more modern MMO. While I was levelling a paladin on Kronos, dungeon runs were something that I managed to commit to maybe every other weekend - but that wasn't really a problem; it just caused every single run to be somewhat of an experience and often made them quite memorable. If you look back through the entries I made under the pugs tag over the last few years, you'll find quite some tales of adventure.

"But I rarely or never get to play for two whole hours at a time these days!" you might say. Even that doesn't have to be a reason not to play though. Classic absolutely does offer things to do in shorter burst of play time as well; they are just somewhat removed from what most modern MMOs offer you to fill those time slots.

One example is simple travel. With fast travel options being very limited and low in number in Classic, just going anywhere takes time. There are a fair few quests that simply ask you to deliver a letter from A to B, and while that may seem trivial it can easily make up a whole short play session on its own. Discovering new flight paths for the first time is always a bit of an adventure even when you know where you have to go - consider an Alliance player picking up the flight points in Ratchet and Gadgetzan for the first time for example.

There are of course also always quests that aren't that far away from the quest giver, and taking those on in fits and bursts is another thing you can do. But it doesn't all have to be about questing either. While playing on private servers, I would sometimes dedicate whole (short) play sessions to things like crafting or selling things on the auction house. You don't really appreciate how time-consuming even that can be until you've been reminded of just how long it takes to run back and forth between the Stormwind auction house and the blacksmithing area in the Dwarven District a couple of times.

I realise that a lot of this doesn't really sound particularly exciting. "It's all just walking around!" you might say, and technically speaking, you wouldn't be wrong. However, context matters and the beautiful thing about Vanilla was that it made all that walking around feel magical because you felt that you really were in that world, wielding magic and giant swords and going on adventures. Sure, given enough time, all of this is bound to become less exciting and more routine. My own experience in the past few years has been that it still holds up remarkably well though, and I very much look forward to re-experiencing that same feeling on official servers, even if I have a lot less time to play these days than I had back in 2005.

08/12/2018

Preparing for Classic

What's wrong with you, woman? Classic is still at least six months away, what could there possibly be to prepare for?

Well, you're kind of right, but a) I'm excited and b) with how long it takes to level in a Vanilla environment, finding a class and role that you enjoy are not trivial things, as getting it wrong will result in a lot of lost time and potentially having to re-start from scratch.

Faction

Since I'm a goodie two-shoes at heart, it's only natural that I gravitated towards the Alliance when I first started playing WoW. However, in practical terms I actually spent much more time playing the game as Horde, simply because the social circle which I was a part of initially fell apart only a few months into the experience, at which point I ended up re-rolling to join another friend's established Horde raiding guild.

I'm thinking that Alliance will be my faction of choice if I end up levelling mostly on my own, but I guess if I end up in the company of friends who prefer Horde, it won't be any skin off my back.

Classes

I can group the nine Vanilla classes into three groups: definitely want to play, kind of want to play, and definitely don't want to play.

Definitely want to play:

Priest: It's the class that I most identify with, that I mained through pretty much my entire time in WoW (except for a short time raiding as a resto druid when holy priests were horribly broken at the end of Wrath), and it's the class that gave this blog its name. My only worry is that soloing as a priest kind of sucks and both of the priests that I rolled on private servers didn't get very far before I gave up on them. There's also a bit of a risk that me playing priest again might make the whole thing feel like I'm trying too hard to relive the past, which isn't actually what I'm striving for as it doesn't feel too good.

Druid: Druid has probably been my second favourite class in WoW for a long time, and I was having a pretty good time with the one I rolled on Elysium until my journey was unexpectedly cut short. I love both their versatility (even if things work a bit different in Classic) and the whole theme of the class.

Hunter: Hunter is another class that I have a close affinity with, despite of never taking one beyond alt status. I did love all the micromanagement involved with ammo and pets, and it's obviously a great choice for soloing. If I mostly end up playing on my own, hunter might be the way to go.

Kind of want to play:

Paladin: Like the druid, the classic paladin is a class that appeals to me both in terms of theme as well as in play style, but the thing that's honestly putting me off a bit is that I did go through the process of levelling one from one to sixty on Kronos already. Don't get me wrong, it was fun, but even though it was "only" on a private server, there's a certain feeling of "been there, done that" to it right now that makes me want to prioritise something else in Classic.

Mage: I levelled a mage in early Burning Crusade and quite enjoyed it. I generally like spell-casting, and I appreciate that for a pure dps class, mages bring a lot of utility to groups, what with their buffs, sheep, the ability to conjure food and water, and being able to send the whole party straight home with a portal at the end of a dungeon. I'm thinking that this one might be a good choice if I end up in a position where I'm not sure whether I'll be soloing a lot or doing more grouping, but then druid is even better for that.

Shaman: This is another hybrid class that I remember with a lot of fondness, but I didn't actually level one myself until Wrath of the Lich King, and I think soloing as a shammy was a lot clunkier in Vanilla than it was by the point I played one, so I'm a bit worried about overestimating just how much I'd enjoy the play style.

Definitely don't want to play:

Warrior, rogue or warlock. The first two are really popular and powerful in Vanilla, but I just never enjoyed the play style or their theme very much. Bashing/stabbing things just isn't really my cup of tea. And warlocks are basically evil mages.

Who to play with?

I've already alluded to it in some of the points above, but this question is going to be the real crux of the matter. I'm quite flexible both in terms of faction choice as well as which class/role to play, but it will be very much dependent on who keeps me company, if anyone.

Old friends? Part of me wants to just re-recruit the friends of old with whom I'm still in touch and go on a big nostalgia tour with the lot of them. However, if I'm being honest I don't expect that to succeed. Basically most of them either stopped playing without moving on to any other MMO (which to me indicates that it was probably just a phase in their lives rather than an true interest in the genre) or they are still happily living the (virtual) life in current WoW. I'm sure I could get some of them to roll up a character with me, but in all likelihood they would soon drift back to whatever they were doing before.

Bloggers? There's probably also going to be the option to play with some fellow bloggers. I'm sure there'll be a fair number of them interested in WoW Classic once it launches. And I imagine that it could be fun... for a while. However, without meaning any disrespect to anyone, my general experience with most of the multi-gaming bloggers I follow, the ones who'll be the most interested in Classic, is that they tend to jump into whatever's the new hotness for a week to a month, and then they get bored and move on. There's nothing inherently wrong with that; I'm just saying it's probably not the best option for someone like me who has the intention of sticking around for a while.

Others? My significant other, who actually played WoW in the past as well, is a Wrath baby and has told me that he has no interest in Classic (the early trauma of watching me play my pally on Kronos probably didn't help). There are a couple of people in my SWTOR guild whom I might be able to drag along as well... but do I even want to risk cannibalising my current online "home" just to have some more people to play with in Classic? Tough call.

I suspect things might become a bit clearer closer to the actual launch date, but I have to admit that a part of me worries that they won't.

30/11/2018

The Power of Song

Just a little random story that I felt like writing down, and this blog seemed like the best place for it.

In my office at work we tend to have a random Spotify playlist playing in the background throughout the day, and it never ceases to amaze me how different songs coming up can instantly trigger all kinds of memories in me. One might remind me of an ex-boyfriend, another one of a place I used to work at, yet another one makes me think of a specific film.

Today a song came on that suddenly made me think of WoW, and for a rather silly reason at that. The song in question is Waterfalls by TLC.

Back in Burning Crusade I remember my guild working on Gurtogg Bloodboil in the Black Temple. I don't remember all the details of the fight, but I know that positioning was critical to it, and people had to make sure to stand in certain places and to move at certain times to make sure that the blood boil debuff would go on the right players. Also, the encounter was set in a room where there was water flowing down the sides of some walls for some reason.

One time after someone had caused us trouble by running too far away from his dedicated position, our main tank chided him: "#Name, don't go chasing waterfalls!" I'm sure it was nothing but a throwaway joke, but to me it was extremely hilarious at the time... so much so that just hearing the song now instantly takes me back to that moment even more than ten years later.

Funny how these things work.

24/11/2018

Mankrik's Wife Was Never Hard to Find

So seeing Lazy Peon wonder about what people found so hard about finding Mankrik's wife finally gave me the push I needed to finish this post. I first wanted to write it after seeing this video by Tips Out, in which he talks about the Lost in Battle quest and Vanilla WoW questing in general. I don't disagree with the general gist of it, but it did bug me how he made the quest out to be this big mystery that gives the player no information and just asks you to blindly go out into the world.

I never really understood why this particular quest became such a meme to be honest. I did it on my first ever Horde character without having any issues, and I was quite surprised when I learned later how infamous it was. I guess because the Barrens were full of little kids that didn't have the greatest reading comprehension skills? Still seeing adults go on about it more than ten years later is weird to me though.

This is the original Lost in Battle quest text (emphasis by me):

We battled in a small tauren camp when we were separated--she held three of the Bristlebacks off by herself. But the odds began to overwhelm us. I led some away only to see her overwhelmed by newcomers. In my rage, I turned to face my enemies, but they brought me down easily with their vast numbers.

I awoke to a tauren druid tending my wounds--he had come across me on the Gold Road as I fell.

Please, [class], find some sign of my wife.


So right there, we know that the battle during which Mankrik's wife was lost didn't just take place anywhere; it took place near the Gold Road. Where is the Gold Road? If you're at the Crossroads you probably already know, but even if you don't you should notice as soon as you step out of the gates to either the north or south, as the Gold Road is the big road running through the centre of the Barrens all the way from Ashenvale down to Thousand Needles, and the UI tells you when you're on it, both in small and larger letters.

(As an aside, I logged into my Kronos account for the first time in ages to take these screenshots, and it was harder than expected as they actually lock you out of your account pretty quickly if you enter the wrong password too many times and I'd totally forgotten mine. Once in though, I was quite shocked to find that there were only 28 people online on the entire Horde side - I guess Kronos' golden days are over. Someone quickly whispered me trying to find people for a dungeon group - not like they had a huge pool of people to pick from - but I had to politely decline.)

Anyway, from this we can deduce that Mankrik's wife is to be found somewhere along this line:

That's admittedly still a pretty big area, but it's far from "she could be anywhere". And there are additional hints in Mankrik's general dialogue as well as in the other quest he gives, Consumed by Hatred.
Mankrik's introductory dialogue starts with: "I came to the Crossroads from the south seeking help", which means that anything north of the Crossroads is out. And in the quest text for Consumed by Hatred he says: "Perhaps instead of heading north to the Crossroads I should have headed to Taurajo." This further narrows the site of the battle down to somewhere between the Crossroads and Camp Taurajo, which is already a significantly smaller area, and not really an unusually large area to search by Vanilla standards.

If you then also consider the fact that the Barrens are very, well... barren, so that things like huts are really easy to see from a distance, and that you'll be roaming pretty far and wide for a lot of Crossroads quests anyway, Lost in Battle requires very little effort at all. I remember finding it much more challenging to find those missing guards in Elwynn Forest for example, and I'm sure there were other quests that had vague objectives that were much harder to find.

14/11/2018

WoW Classic Demo Coverage

I mentioned that I didn't buy a BlizzCon ticket myself but was very curious about what other people would have to say about the demo.

Somewhat to my surprise, the various private server players whose channels I follow, and a lot of whom had been heavily lobbying for classic servers for years, turned out to be utterly useless in that regard. I had been hoping that maybe they'd have some interesting insights on details that still weren't quite right in the demo, or would comment on where it revealed that private servers had maybe gotten certain things wrong due to lack of data. Instead, every single one of them went on hour-long rants about how being allowed to trade a mislooted item without a GM ticket in Classic was going to ruin everything and similar nonsense. Seriously, there was more than one video that I tried to watch and eventually had to close down halfway through because it was just so boring and petty. I guess being super knowledgeable about Vanilla doesn't necessarily correlate with understanding what most people actually care about in regards to Classic. Hint: It's not whether some no-lifer's progression will be "messed up" because a drop from Dire Maul is available at the same time as Molten Core.

So yeah, interestingly it was regular news outlets and retail WoW players who provided the most entertaining and insightful content about the Classic demo. For example I had to chuckle at the headline of this Kotaku article: The WoW Classic Demo Is The Hell We Asked For. The author basically keeps talking about how much fun he had while interspersing it with negative adjectives: The experience was "an inescapable nightmare, which is to say it’s perfect". It was "horrible, but also beautiful". I'm not entirely sure why exactly... I guess because we're not supposed to say that something old and slow can simply be enjoyable as it is; it must be portrayed as some sort of guilty pleasure?

My favourite take on the demo on YouTube was this video by Preach. One of the things I really appreciate about him is that he's one of the few people still active who a) were actually there back in Vanilla and b) that he doesn't assume that everyone likes the same things he does. He's not wrong when he says that the moment-to-moment gameplay in combat is slow and simplistic and not something that can hold his attention anymore these days, but he also recognises how much more immersive the overall experience is due to slow travel and most mobs actually being dangerous opponents.

Bellular, who is a Wrath baby I believe, similarly goes into detail about how the talents and the way combat works made everything feel more meaningful for him.

An unexpected gem in terms of entertainment was "First and Last Time Playing WoW Classic" by Hazelnutty Games. She went into the demo without much enthusiasm and feeling tired to boot and basically made an utter mess of everything. She didn't even manage to pick up any quests because she didn't understand that she'd have to wait for the text to finish scrolling before the accept button becomes clickable! While this got her many downvotes and negative comments about being "dumb", I thought it perfectly illustrated that feeling of utter noobishness that many experienced in Vanilla WoW the first time around. Also, the way she got carried away messing about with her hunter pet and wondering about the kinds of things it would eat was strangely adorable.

LazyPeon's take on the demo instantly earned a thumbs up from me the moment he commented on how he didn't understand why so many people had trouble finding Mankrik's wife back in the day, because that's something I honestly always wondered myself. It's amazing just how much people struggle with basic reading comprehension apparently! Other than that he too manages to capture a lot of that Vanilla spirit in his demo footage, constantly challenging random people to duels everywhere (people like that were definitely a thing) and editing his hunt for quillboar tusks in the Barrens into an epic montage reminiscent of the WoW South Park episode.

On a more serious note, the BlizzCon panel in which they talk about just how they went about restoring Classic from a technical point of view as well as how they set their design goalposts is also up on YouTube and really interesting.