17/01/2021

The Shadowlands Are Interesting

The husband went ahead and gifted me Shadowlands for Christmas, though he acknowledged that this was more a gift for himself than anything else, since me having the expansion gave him an excuse to keep me playing retail with him for longer. As a result we've slowly been chipping away at the levelling story of the newest expansion once or twice a week.

And it's been enjoyable enough. I'm not sure it would keep me engaged on my own, but as something to play together it's been nice. Blizzard has gotten a lot better at getting rid of the sorts of little nuisances I remember encountering when playing as a duo in the past, though they aren't completely gone.

I've also mellowed a lot in my attitude towards retail. I remember feeling a certain bitterness towards it in the first few years after quitting - not because I hated it or anything like that, but there was a sense of: Why did this new game which is not as fun to me have to replace the game I liked much better? Now that Classic is a thing though, I find it much easier to just accept retail as its own thing, since it exists beside my preferred version of the game instead of having completely replaced it.

Shadowlands' setting also helps because it's literally a whole other plane of existence, so there's none of that nagging "this isn't the Azeroth I remember" feeling that I occasionally get in other content when playing retail. In other words: I can buy the idea of the Shadowlands existing as Azeroth's afterlife even in Classic times, if that makes sense.

I also just like what they've done with the afterlife theme, with each zone being an interesting amalgamation of ideas borrowed both from Azeroth and real life religions.

The home of the Kyrian is probably the closest to what we think of as "heaven", what with all the clouds and angelic beings, but the whole idea of transcending your mortal life by letting go of it is an interesting twist (if this was also inspired by a real religious idea I don't know what it is, but I'd love to know). I've seen a lot of people say that this put them off the Kyrian a bit, that it makes them appear somewhat cult-like and like they want to turn everyone into drones etc. but that's not been my impression at all. It's mentioned during the questing that memories aren't completely erased but rather stowed away in a sort of archive, and the whole idea of basically being able to empty your mind makes me think of the process as a kind of supercharged state of meditation.

Really, the Kyrian's main downside is the usual problem you get when you have a bunch of lawful good characters in one place: Things get a bit dull. From that point of view I can't even blame the rebels for wanting to shake things up, hah! Still, the Kyrian are very much your classic good guys, though I didn't actually fully appreciate this until I got to Maldraxxus - there's a quest there where you rescue a Kyrian prisoner of war and in this different setting his purity and kindness really stood out. Speaking of Maldraxxus...

I didn't expect to like the Necrolords, because despite of Draka's cinematic being quite intriguing, it's basically a zone full of Scourge lookalikes. They did grow on me somewhat though. In many ways they are the complete opposite of the Kyrians and their striving towards transcendence - they stick to their memories and decaying bodies until the very end. I thought it was interesting that a lot of Maldraxxian enemy NPCs shout something about wanting to be remembered as you kill them. As a result I liked a lot of the friendly NPCs here as even the relatively minor characters had a lot of personality, even if the zone as a whole remained visually unappealing to me.

Ardenweald was another interesting one - the first few quests have you encounter a weird mish-mash of faun-like creatures, squeaky-voiced fairies and walking trees that look like they escaped from some anime. At first it feels a bit as if you just entered the land of twee, but the more serious themes of the drought and sacrifice come up quickly and despite of being seemingly at odds with the silly nature of many of the NPCs it all just... works.

The theme of the Night Fae zone is a cycle of rebirth, and I found that in a way, that ultimately made them the most relatable covenant to me. If life and afterlife are all part of the same cycle, they are equally important, and this is evident in the way the Night Fae deal with a constant fear of loss and struggle to preserve (their after)life against encroaching threats just like living people do. I actually found the main story arc here really touching, and I didn't even play Legion (which it strongly ties into).

Revendreth was probably the zone that I felt the most "meh" about - which is a shame in a way, as I did like the concept of purgatory but with gothic vampires. Unlike in Ardenweald, the tone always felt a little off to me though, as - at least for me - the serious theme of redemption didn't really mesh with the way the Venthyr are portrayed as snotty aristocrats and mostly rather unlikeable. Or maybe that was just a side effect of the plot forcing you to help the very obviously evil guy for half the zone.

I ended up choosing Kyrian as my monk's covenant because it seemed the most appropriate for her class, even though on a personal level I liked the Night Fae a bit more. I could see it being fun to have an alt in every covenant though, just to experience the different stories there.

13/01/2021

Look at My Horse, My Horse Is Amazing

No, this is not another post about me simply being happy/proud to finally be able to afford a mount on another character! It's about a special mount, one with a story.

If you think about it, mounts in WoW and its offshoots work in a funny way. You just summon them and they appear out of thin air, and the moment you don't need them anymore they disappear just as neatly. There is no in-game explanation for this, no magic that temporarily transports your trusty steed to another dimension or anything like that. A horse is still supposed to be just a horse, but out of sight is out of mind, and even in Classic with all its more "realistic" conveniences, we're happy to accept this particular behaviour for the sake of simplicity.

Not so with paladin mounts though! I've repeatedly mentioned how nice it is that paladins get their level 40 mount for free, but something I don't think I've ever brought up is that the game treats "Summon Warhorse" as a spell. I don't know if this summoned horse is supposed to still be a real flesh-and-blood steed, but there's definitely some magic involved. I always thought that it's odd that this is something that the trainer just gives to you without much ado (there is some quest text but it doesn't really say anything meaningful) - you'd think that getting to magically summon a horse out of thin air would be a slightly bigger deal. (For the same reason it always felt weird to me that druids just learn cat form from their trainer instead of via a quest like the other forms.)

At level 60 though, you can pick up the infamous paladin mount quest to acquire the epic upgrade for your magical mount. It gives a lot more detail than the level 40 quest and charges you with liberating and bonding with a horse spirit. In fact, the quest text feels like the quest writer had some even bigger, overarching lore in mind that got left on the cutting room floor somewhere, as the quest giver talks about a paladin earning their charger like it's a rite of passage - which it is in practice - but at the same time the quest makes it all sound very unique and specific. Why is there a benevolent horse spirit in Dire Maul that only comes out if you kill a giant tree? Just what did people do to that poor woman with the horse feed that keeps yelling at you in caps? (That part was funny though.)

It's actually not a terribly long or difficult quest chain, but there are definitely points at which it can trip you up. I remember starting it on my paladin on the private server Kronos, seeing the long shopping list of materials you're given as one of the first steps, and giving up right there. In Classic though, I'm much more established and - while not rich - had an idea how to go about collecting everything, so I chipped away at it slowly over time.

After you've jumped through the various gold-spending hoops, there are two dungeon steps to complete. First you need to kill the first boss in Dire Maul West and get the blessing of a horse spirit there (as for why... refer to my earlier comment). Then you need to do a little event in the ossuary in Scholomance which cumulates in fighting a death knight and redeeming the spirit of his charger, which then becomes your own mount.

I only had very vague memories of this, though in retrospect I must have done it at one point during Burning Crusade, when a friend levelled a Draenei paladin. Being able to over-level everything probably made it somewhat easier and less memorable at the time.

I wasn't sure how I was going to go about getting those dungeon quests done, but as it happened I managed to rope some guildies into helping me out last night and it was glorious. In Dire Maul we also got a pug hunter as dps whose bow broke halfway through the dungeon, so our hunter class leader ended up trading him a grey bow so that he could continue to do damage from range. We also recruited him to the guild afterwards!

And well, Scholo is Scholo... kind of long and tedious, but we made it. I quickly looked at a guide to the event on my second monitor before going in and it made it sound quite tough, but with our well-geared and experienced group it was easy enough (despite still taking about fifteen minutes in total).

Let me tell you, being able to summon my new epic mount outside felt glorious afterwards. It's not just a way to ride faster - it has a story attached to it and my guildies helped me get there. When I returned to Ironforge later and saw another paladin on their epic mount it actually gave me pause when I realised that every paladin's charger has a story like that, as they will have needed help with the quest at some point.

I really like these Classic quests that encourage you to have an adventure (also see Verigan's Fist). I know that if I ever see another paladin ask for help with that quest I'll want to assist them for sure. It only seems fair to pay it forward.

08/01/2021

Pug Tales

I just wanted to share some notes about three pugs I had recently.

Blackfathom Deeps

This was on my mage. A warrior tank was the last one to join and in the same guild as the priest healer. This guy must have been a genuine newbie because he had virtually no idea what tanking means other than that he should be the first to hit things and wear a shield. I didn't see him use sunder or taunt even once, just rend and more rend. Unsurprisingly, this meant that aggro was all over the place as he couldn't hold threat at all, but nobody ever said anything. After all, his healer buddy didn't seem to mind!

Fortunately, everybody else was also really on the ball and we survived both pulling most of the murloc room at once and another really bad pull at the entrance to the water area. This prompted the warrior to say how awesome we were, at which point the ret pally whispered me that this was the worst tank she'd ever seen... though with a smiley, so she was clearly also more bemused by the whole thing than anything else.

In Kelris' room the warrior suddenly piped up to say that people in WoW Classic were all so kind and that he'd added us all to his friends list. Big "d'aww" moment. Then, as soon as Kelris was dead, someone - not the newbie, mind you - lit three of the braziers at once. I could feel the panic in the priest's voice as she quickly asked for the warlock to soulstone her, but we actually managed to pull through as everyone was very much on the ball again.

Just goes to show how much carrying you can do if you know what you're doing. Still, I would totally group with that warrior tank again. Though next time I might politely suggest using taunt at least.

Stratholme

On New Year's Eve I spent a good chunk of the evening being the pug in someone else's guild group. There was a call for a healer for a full Strat run (both sides) in LFG so I responded on my pally and it turned out to be a group of four guildies who were just looking for a fifth. They ended up inviting me to their Discord and we had lots of laughs - it was a fantastic run all around, and not just because we got lots of good drops too. My pally got the teal dress from Baron (which is BiS in terms of +heal for all healing classes until some pretty high-end raid drops), everybody got a Righteous Orb, and the mage book and flask recipe dropped for the happy guildies.

It was a bit of a bittersweet experience as it made me realise that it's been a little while since I had such a run with my own guildies. Since I've cut back on my playtime just a little bit in order to preserve my sanity I always seem to miss the five-mans - either because my role just isn't needed by the time they ask for more or due to timing. I've had multiple chats with people about wanting to run this or that dungeon, but then they are busy while I have time and vice versa and then they end up going without me. I miss that.

Deadmines

I ended up joining a Deadmines run on my dwarf priest that was... colourful. At least two of the other players were extremely weird stereotypes. The warrior tank, whom I got quite fond of, seemed to be an over-excited kid - he was friendly and competent enough, but loved talking in all caps for some reason and was always speaking his mind. The other priest was kind of the opposite and rubbed me the wrong way almost immediately - and not just because he joined as dps and then kind of usurped my healer spot. I didn't really mind dpsing that much, but he was just... weird. The best way to describe it is that he sounded like someone who had read an extremely detailed guide about Classic and therefore considered himself highly knowledgeable about the game but never actually played it before.

First he made everyone wait for ages because he wanted to finish levelling one more time because he thought it was of the utmost importance that he upgraded his spells before going to the dungeon. Then he handed out potions of mixed usefulness to everyone. He also tried to lecture us about kill order at one point. On the other hand though, he didn't even know that priest shields don't stack, and when we killed Mister Smite he thought that the environmental chest deco next to him was lootable. Just... weird.

Sadly, with all the delays to actually getting started (coughtheotherpriestcough), the whole thing took way too long. One guy then DCed by the first boss so that we ended up four-manning the rest of the instance, which made things even slower. With the lack of dps we wiped on Van Cleef and then another guy had to go so I didn't even end up getting the boss's head. Not a big deal I suppose as I meant to run the place more than once anyway, but one of my stranger pug experiences for sure.

31/12/2020

Classic WoW & Me in 2020

Last year I ended the year with a sort of summary post listing all my characters and the progress they'd made since launch. I thought it would be nice to do the same thing this year to see how much things have changed over the course of 2020.

Alliance

And boy, have they ever changed! I already suspected at the end of 2019 that I would probably make some more alts, but I could not have foreseen just how different my character roster would end up looking a mere year later. My first night elf was originally just supposed to be a little distraction but soon ended up taking up more and more of my time, to the point that my Horde characters were more or less abandoned and forgotten. Me joining an Alliance guild in summer only sealed the deal.

Tir

  • Level 60 Hunter
  • 26 days, 18 hours played
  • 300 Skinning, 300 (Dragonscale) Leatherworking, 300 Cooking, 300 Fishing, 300 First Aid

I seriously could not have predicted that the little nelf I started playing late one rainy January night would end the year as my new main, decked out in full tier two gear and raiding Naxxramas with a guild. The power of social interaction...

Sarelle

  • Level 60 Paladin
  • 9 days, 23 hours played
  • 300 Mining, 272 Weaponsmithing (quest for mace specialisation is in her log but not yet completed), 300 Cooking, 204 Fishing, 300 First Aid

My first Alliance alt, created to get a break from my hunter main, it seems fitting that this one also ended up being my first alt to reach 60. I was additionally motivated by the guild experiencing a shortage of paladin/healer alts during my last stretch of levelling, but of course the moment I hit cap we suddenly seemed to have pally healers coming out of our ears and it's been a bit awkward getting into runs and gathering gear without taking away from other people. A friend in guild has been levelling a tanking alt and I'm now kind of holding out for him to hit 60 as he indicated that we could end up tag-teaming some dungeons for mutual benefit.

Fali

  • Level 35 Druid
  • 3 days, 8 hours played
  • 261 Herbalism, 225 Alchemy, 204 Cooking, 169 Fishing, 204 First Aid

I like druids, so of course I had to have a druid alt eventually. I also felt that I needed a herbalist since it seems like everyone has their personal herbalist alt these days to supplement their consumable use. I got her into an alt levelling group with some guildies, which was very fun for about thirty levels but lately progress has stalled as there are never enough people with characters in the right level range online and willing to do a lowbie dungeon, which has been bothering me as I'm really itching to push this character further. I've been wondering whether I could maybe replace her in the levelling group with...

Jehna

  • Level 31 Mage
  • 2 days, 3 hours played
  • 136 Enchanting, 163 Tailoring, 105 Cooking, 80 Fishing, 150 First Aid

... my mage alt, whom I created pretty much to serve the same purpose as Shinny the troll on Horde side, to make bags and disenchant things. Like Shinny's, her bags are always overflowing, but I do kind of like the idea of continuing to level her, and I have noticed that I find playing mage much more enjoyable in groups than solo.

I also honestly can't remember whether the name was supposed to sound similar to Jaina when I created her or if I had been trying for something else and then ended up replacing letters until I found a name that wasn't taken and the similarity of the final product was merely a coincidence. A guildie told me that "oi jehna" means something like "oh noes" in Finnish, which amused me greatly.

Shintar

  • Level 18 Priest
  • 17 hours played
  • 111 Mining, 106 Engineering, 116 Cooking, 105 Fishing, 80 First Aid

Yes, I finally created my namesake in game, and as a priest too. I made her a dwarf mainly because I already had two nelves and two humans at that point, less so for Fear Ward. Also, my profession roster needed an engineer. If I feel an urge to take up shadow priesting again in Classic BC, I guess I at least have a starting point.

Razorr

  • Level 13 Warrior
  • 7 hours played
  • 84 Mining, 47 Skinning, 23 Cooking, no Fishing yet, 59 First Aid

I know warrior was on my "definitely don't want to play" list, but... I've had too many warriors help me out with quests, gleefully smashing through absolutely everything with a speed I can only envy that it's hard not to feel a certain attraction to the class and wonder whether I could maybe make it work too this time. Plus she's a bit of a wink and nudge to the hunter class leader, whose favourite alt is a warrior called Occam.

Horde

My poor Hordies on Pyrewood Village are so neglected, I don't think it's even worth going through them all as they basically all look the same as they did at the end of 2019... except for the druid I guess, who did replace at least a few pieces of gear, so here she is:

For the rest, I just logged them all quickly to check their stats and jot down what changed compared to last year. I guess the hunter and druid did see a little bit of play time early in the year, but the other two only really did a bit of crafting.

  • Shika, hunter: +2 days played, +14 Engineering skill points, +11 Cooking (maxed out), +9 Fishing
  • Shilu, druid: +8 levels, +1 day, 11 hours played, +64 Herbalism, +51 Alchemy, +85 Cooking, +77 Fishing, +8 First Aid
  • Shintau, shaman: +2 hours played, +12 Leatherworking, +56 Cooking, +9 Fishing,
  • Shinny, mage: +1 level, +3 hours played, +8 Tailoring, +1 Enchanting, +2 Cooking, +9 First Aid
We'll see where things stand by this time in 2021 - for all we know Classic Burning Crusade could already be out and maybe I'll be raiding Karazhan on a brand-new Draenei shaman! At this point anything seems possible.

27/12/2020

Playing the Previous Expansion

While everyone's talking about Shadowlands, I've slowly been making my way through Battle for Azeroth for the last couple of months. As I expected, the endgame didn't really hold my interest on a personal level after hitting 50, but the husband got really into playing retail again so I've been putting some time aside every week to play with him and we've been making our way through the old BfA content together. We're not fully "done" yet, but let me give you a brief overview of my thoughts so far:

World

The BfA zones are all pretty enough, but I feel like I've rarely had time to look at anything properly as the intended content pacing is quite quick and the husband is always rushing me from one place to the next. I also have mixed feelings about Boralus as the main hub for the Alliance. It's a lovely, sprawling city, and the music there is very catchy, but trying to navigate it on foot does my head in, what with all the weird walls and stairs. I'm not good with three-dimensional cities. (Though I heard the Horde capital is even worse.)

Base Quests

I liked the three Alliance zones well enough. The side quests were mostly easily digestible fast food that entertained in the moment but was quickly forgotten afterwards, but the overarching storylines were more engaging. I really loved the story of poor Lucille Waycrest: There's a young woman who's had absolutely everything go wrong in her life and yet is still going strong. The story arc focused on Jaina and her family was also very touching. Blizzard's writing (rightly) gets accused of often feeling like characters only take certain actions because the plot demands it, not because it really makes sense for them to do so, but this was a good example that shows that their writers are capable of character-driven storytelling if they really put their minds to it.

War Campaign / Ongoing Story

The ongoing story after that has felt a bit... scattered. Coming to the party late, it can be hard to tell in what order certain quests are supposed to be done in, though this isn't a problem unique to WoW. At least they are finally adding indicators for easy identification of the main story quests in Shadowlands from what I've read. It's also my understanding that there are parts of the story that kind of rely on you having played the content for both factions for it to really make sense. I can only guess that's the reason why some plot points seemingly appeared out of nowhere at times.

Nazjatar & Mechagon

These new zones added in the mid-expansion patch were a big deal at the time, but honestly, based on everything I'd heard about them I kind of expected... more. Neither map is particularly exciting, but I like the tone and more open-ended structure of Mechagon much more than the dreary underwater dailies of Nazjatar. When I was dragging my feet particularly badly at one point, the husband decided to acquire the Sandstone Drake mount, which allows him to turn into a dragon and carry me around on his back. This has been very handy as he's already unlocked flying in BfA while I haven't. As he whisks me away over various obstacles in Nazjatar in particular, I can only imagine how unbearably annoying that zone must have been to deal with on foot. 

There's also this mechanic in Nazjatar where you level up some bodyguard companions that accompany you during your questing, but this seemed like a terribly wasted opportunity to me. While you get some different dailies based on your companion choice, the quests don't really have any logical connection to that companion so it feels like just another layer of randomisation.

World Quests

I had no first-hand experience with world quests before BfA, since they were introduced in Legion and I hadn't played retail since MoP. From hearing other people talk about them though, I'd kind of assumed that they were similar to dynamic events in other MMOs. Very wrong! As it turns out, world quests are just like regular daily/repeatable quests, only you don't have to remember where to go since they are shown on the map, and you don't have to find and talk to any quest givers as they'll basically yell at you as soon as you're in the vicinity and the objectives appear on your tracker automatically. You never have to worry about doing hand-ins either as everything just auto-completes. In a nutshell, they are like regular quests but for people with short attention spans and bad planning skills. I kind of fail to see what was considered so revolutionary about this.

Borrowed Power Systems

Unlike when Legion turned into BfA, Blizzard didn't actually get rid of the expansion's big power systems this time around, so the Heart of Azeroth and Azerite continue to be a thing. Once we started on Nazjatar we also unlocked essences, and I'm guessing corruptions won't be far behind (unless those were removed). On a casual level, none of these actually feel too bad, and the Azerite rewards from questing have been sufficiently generous that my Heart is already past the effective max-level of 80. It does however all feel incredibly unnatural and bolted-on. I joked about the whiplash I got from being summoned by Magni the moment I hit level 50, but this only continues as you progress through the story as you keep getting sent back to the Chamber of the Heart for NPC exposition about why you should care about this or that new upgrade. So my totally-not-expert opinion is that maybe people would have hated all this stuff less if it had made more sense in terms of the game world instead of feeling like you're being pulled out of the overarching storyline in order to do homework, but what do I know.

Warfronts & Island Expeditions

Two of BfA's major features, yet nobody seemed to care about them much from what I could gather. They weren't exactly hated, people just found them boring and couldn't really be bothered. I did each one twice and can only concur after that experience. Island expeditions are just a random rounding up of mobs and clicking on stuff on the ground in an instance, exactly the same way you would do in the open world. Warfronts felt like they had some depth that could potentially be intriguing if you actually took the time to learn how everything works, similar to the side quests in old Alterac Valley, but with no real threat or fear of losing there isn't much incentive to perform and I basically just ran around exploring most of the time until the match was over and I got kicked out.

Dungeons

WoW being WoW, there have been quests sending us to dungeons. The first of these was for Freehold, which we did with three pugs through the dungeon finder. We promptly got grouped with some guy who kept yelling at the husband and called him an idiot for pulling an extra trash group or something (it wasn't even clear what was getting him so worked up as we weren't having any issues). After that I refused to pug more. The husband was actually less offended by the whole experience than I was and kept saying that it didn't matter, but I say there are so many more fun things to do both in this and other MMOs than put up with that kind of crap. The husband ended up coaxing two of our SWTOR guildies into trying the game, and with how quick and easy it is to level nowadays they were soon drafted into helping us out with our dungeons quests. (I filled the fifth spot with various people from my existing friends list.)

Most of these runs were fine, if easy. Then we had to do Siege of Boralus, which is only available on heroic difficulty. Now, my understanding was that heroic is still supposed to be relatively easy as there are still several steps above it in the form of mythic and M+ but we found it quite a struggle and wiped a lot. The last boss fight in particular, where you have to run around and nuke down different types of tentacles while also staying out of bad stuff, took us quite a few tries. We got there in the end and felt quite accomplished to be honest, but at the same time we were also exhausted from what was supposed to have been a fairly easygoing and casual dungeon run. I don't know if it's just that we didn't have enough of a clue, were undergeared, or maybe we're just all bad players based on modern WoW's standards. (Edit: Just today we four-manned Operation Mechagon and didn't have nearly as many issues there, so maybe it was just that dungeon.)

Raids

Despite of having been given some quests telling us to do the BfA raids, we haven't done any of the them so far, as LFR is locked to the new max-level. I don't know if there's even a way to see the BfA raid content now if you aren't able to outlevel it to the point of being able to solo it. But eh.

24/12/2020

Fresh Classic Server Rumours Abound

Ever since the leaked Blizzard survey about Classic Burning Crusade from March, a lot of Classic players have pretty much taken it for granted that Classic TBC is bound to happen, even though nothing's officially been confirmed by Blizzard. The big unknowns are "just" how the transition to the expansion is going to be handled and how "original Classic" will continue to be maintained.

Apparently Blizzard themselves aren't entirely sure yet... because this week people started talking about another survey going out, this one trying to get a feel for how many people would want to focus on TBC over Classic... and not just any form of Classic, but new servers starting from the ground up.

There's no denying that the concept of such progression servers is a popular one. Everquest has managed to make an art form out of it, and let's not forget that Everquest's Holly Longdale joined the WoW Classic team earlier this year, so she's probably been sharing details about just how well this stuff works with Blizzard by now.

The WoW private server scene also has a history of getting very hyped up about the release of a new server, leading to it being flooded on launch day before the population invariably drops off again. That said, with private servers this tends to be at least partially a result of the practical realities of that scene, which is that servers are prone to shutting down after a couple of years, meaning that players are more or less forced to start over repeatedly if they want to keep playing and have to accept that their characters are only ever going to be ephemeral.

Keeping all that in mind, I suppose it's no surprise that there've been calls for Classic to have fresh servers every so often almost from the beginning. I've not been a big fan of this myself, because it doesn't really match my own play style. Sure, I can absolutely appreciate the appeal of starting over on a new character, maybe even on a new server... but I don't need everyone else to do so with me at the same time. Also, I was not a huge fan of the ephemeral nature of private servers when I played on them - questions of legality aside, for me it's been a major appeal of Classic that it offers stability, with me knowing that my characters won't just disappear in the foreseeable future and that I have time to level at my own pace, not just a main but also alts. I get the impression that the biggest proponents of progression servers are fairly hardcore players who view everything as a bit of a race, "complete" the content fairly quickly and then just want to start over again to do better next time.

Now, the Blizzard survey doesn't confirm that we'll get Classic progression servers, it just kind of throws them out there as an option to gauge people's reactions. It also pits Classic TBC and progression servers directly against each other, forcing you to choose one or the other, so there isn't e.g. an option to say that you'd like to just keep playing Classic on your existing server. A community member created a copy of the survey in Google forms so that we as players can also get an idea of what sort of data Blizzard might be getting from this. You can take the survey here if it's still open by the time you read this, or go straight to the results page.

The community copy of the poll does somewhat affirm my suspicion that while there absolutely is an audience interested in the concept of fresh start servers, it would be a mistake to think that this includes the majority of players, as even when completed by a fairly hardcore audience of people that follow out-of-game developments about Classic, only about ten percent of respondents state that they'd make a new progression server their main focus in the game. (At the time of me writing this, the Google version of the survey has received a little over 4k responses.)

You could say: Well, what's the problem? It doesn't have to appeal to the majority of players to be viable; why not just launch a couple of fresh Classic servers for those who like them?

I suppose I'm not completely against that, but what does rub me the wrong way about the whole concept of adding Classic progression servers is that it would introduce the idea of planned obsolescence to Classic. You can't just keep adding new servers when the player base isn't constantly growing - you'll just spread the number of players thinner and thinner until you're forced to merge servers again.

You could argue that this is likely to happen anyway if/when Classic TBC comes out, but the point is that I still think that it's something that should be avoided where possible, not actively encouraged. Retail WoW doesn't have to deal with any of this stuff because almost everything is cross-server nowadays, but this has also led to a decline in things like server identity and community. Bringing those things back was one of Classic's stated goals, which is why it has a more old-school server structure to begin with. If the populations of some servers fall below the point of being viable and would benefit from being merged, so be it - but to put it simply: Personally I don't want to see my server's integrity suffer because Blizzard is syphoning off players to start over on a new server just for the sake of it.

21/12/2020

Level 60 Paladin

Last week I hit level 60 in Classic for the third time. In what's not much of a shocking twist, my third character to reach this milestone isn't actually the same as the third one to hit 40 (which was my Horde druid) but rather the paladin alt that I created in June. For once I managed to catch the flashy level-up animation in all its glory too - here she is, hitting the level cap from handing in a quest in Felwood.

This time I haven't even really started on Winterspring yet, nor on Eastern Plaguelands for that matter. Despite of paladins having a reputation for being slow levellers, she got to the cap about ten hours faster than my hunter main (which is almost exactly nine days /played in total) - I suspect this is partially because she spent more time being rested, but also because I spent less time bimbling about randomly.

Looking at the screenshots I took during this one's levelling journey it's very apparent what a dramatic shift occurred in the way I play once I joined a guild. Before that I was kind of struggling to find a reason to keep playing - having levelled to cap on both factions I had rediscovered all the zones and refreshed my memories of (most of) the quests, so there wasn't really much left to stimulate my inner explorer.

However, as I refocused on playing with other people, dungeon runs and other group content became more meaningful to me and I ended up taking shots of memorable pugs rather than of me doing a particular quest for the third time.

Anyway, as is becoming a tradition for me here, some shots of Sarelle the paladin on her way to 60:

The first shot I ever took of her, fresh out of Northshire Valley.

Here she is, handing in a timed quest in Loch Modan with literally mere seconds to go. I had somehow managed to start it at the most awkward time when a bunch of other people had just been through and had already killed seemingly all the buzzards in the area. Felt good when I made it though.

Watching Verigan's Fist being crafted - that was a special day that got its own post here.

Sarelle escorting Corporal Keeshan with a friendly warrior - another great day that got its own post.

Hiding from Stitches in Duskwood as she was way too ickle to take him on at that point.

An action shot of Sarelle tanking the Stockades. One thing I love about paladins and druids in Classic is how they can literally slip into any of the three trinity roles while levelling without having to respec (even if their performance obviously won't be optimal). I stopped tanking soon after as I just didn't feel that confident in my performance with the lack of a taunt, but I continue to keep a few pieces of tanking gear in Sarelle's inventory to this day - you never know...

At around this point was the biggest break/slow-down in Sarelle's levelling journey, as this was when I joined the guild and playing my main suddenly became that much more interesting again, what with raiding and so on. I wasn't quite sure where an alt fit into that now. Here I somehow ended up in a Scarlet Monastery pug though.

Another Scarlet Monastery run (the thirties are long, okay?) ended up being very memorable for featuring two guildies and two pug paladins, one of whom had a Ravager and a macro to yell "Blades of Light!" like Herod. (The joys of being on an RP server!) We started off conservatively with the graveyard and library, but things went so well that we ended up doing both the armoury and cathedral as well, despite of being somewhat underlevelled for the latter in particular.

Eventually I slid into a sort of routine of selectively choosing some favourite zones to quest in when fully rested and waiting for an LFG request of the appropriate level to pop up. The view of old Dalaran never gets old to me.

I also learned that some of my guildies were big altoholics and got to know some of them better during alt runs. Here I was in Razorfen Downs with the priest class leader tanking on his druid alt and trying to get his girlfriend's priest levelled up since he wanted her to get into the game too.

Moody shot of rain in Desolace.

The glorious free horse moment for the level 40 paladin.

Doing the Stromgarde elite quests in Arathi with a pug.

There was one quest left in that lot that I had trouble finding a group for (it was the end of a chain) and I got into a sort of funk about having that and the elite quests in Alterac Mountains clog up my quest log. I didn't quite want to abandon them either; I just wanted to get them done! Eventually I bit the bullet and accepted some help from the hunter class leader, who showed up on his warrior alt and smashed the place to bits. I actually hate asking for help with stuff like this, but sometimes it's really good to have friends.

Uldaman with two guildies and two pugs. This was one of the rare occasions when a dungeon pug joined us on Discord voice chat as well, and it turned out that he was the alt of the raid leader of another guild that we're kind of friendly with.

Here I am healing Maraudon at the very, very low end of the level bracket for that dungeon. I wasn't sure I was going to be good enough but the guildie who invited me along thought it was going to be fine. It was the priest class leader on his druid alt again and he heartily approved of my healing performance, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Postcard from Zul'Farrak (which I ended up fully pugging twice).

Now this screenshot commemorates the somewhat bizarre occasion of my pally being gifted an epic BoP axe that she couldn't even equip yet due to being too low-level... for no particular reason. The guild mistress just popped up on Discord one day to say that she was in a cleared Dire Maul tribute run with an epic axe in the chest and whether anyone wanted it. I happened to be online and spoke up of course, but it was still weird. The dwarf in the picture was the hunter who (I think) cleared the run entirely on his own - he's in the server's top raid group. I actually ended up playing with him on a later occasion and his pet micro-management skills are awe-inspiring. I felt like a favoured student being given a boost.

As I got into the right level range for Blackrock Depths, I kept an eye out for BRD pugs to get started on my Onyxia attunement. I ended up joining a group that advertised for "the early bosses" but then we ended up being so awesome, we actually did a full clear of the instance (yes, really, the whole thing) and got the entire BRD part of the Ony attunement done as well. I think this was because it turned out that our entire pug was basically alts of raiders from five different guilds and we all wanted to get our alts ready to raid as well, hah.

Here I am healing UBRS at level 58 to complete my Ony and BWL attunements. I'd already been on an UBRS run before that at level 52, when I was utterly useless but I guess people took me along... because? Having connections leads to being oddly priviledged that way!

Finally, Sarelle healing a Scourge invasion in Blasted Lands - she ended up getting about halfway/two thirds from level 59 to 60 that way, clearing out literally the entire zone with a friendly farming group. (After the initial rush, interest in these has dropped a lot and anyone wanting to farm them gets them largely to themselves.) She also hit honoued with the Argent Dawn already, before even hitting the level cap. Naxxramas calls...