So. Archaeology.

I've been meaning to write about Cataclysm's new secondary profession for a while, but at the same time I wanted to give it some time before making a judgement. I do think I've got a pretty good impression of it now.

Basically I went through roughly seven different stages while levelling it on my main:

1. Curiosity

I had read up on it a little, but not much, so I knew that I had to go to one of the dig sites highlighted on my map and do this thing called survey, but that was pretty much it. It didn't take me long to figure out how to work it, and the instant reward of getting a skill-up every time I looted any kind of fragment worked well to make me want to keep going.

2. Boredom

I didn't know that the act of looting fragments would stop giving skill-ups very quickly, so instead of not combining any finds until I'd run out of digging skill-ups, I quickly burned through the first 75 skill points or so both by digging and solving whatever I could find. Of course, once I stopped getting skill-ups from the digging itself, it felt as if the whole thing instantly slowed to a crawl, not to mention that I seemed to get nothing but rubbish for all my efforts. I might have given up at this point if the fact that my boyfriend was working on it too and appeared to be a lot more enthusiastic about it than I was hadn't tickled my competitive side.

3. A rare!

At some point my first rare popped up. I don't even remember which one it was, but it wasn't anything particularly exciting. Still, at the time I didn't know whether it wasn't going to do anything cool, so I felt reinspired to find out. While trying to assemble the countless fragments needed for the rare, I also got skill-ups from making more common items from the other categories. After I finally completed it, I soon had another one pop up, and then another... this kept me going quite well for a while.

4. Yay, Outland! Eh.

Still, once I had reached around 300 skill I was sick and tired of scouring Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms for dig sites, and happily set off to Outland for a change of pace. With Burning Crusade still holding the title of "my favourite expansion" I'm always glad to return there for a while. As it turned out, the place was pretty good for skilling up quickly. The fact that there are only two different types of artifacts in Outland - orc and draenei - meant that individual items got completed quicker than in the old world, not to mention that many times the dig sites were very close together. (Sometimes it felt like I was doing nothing but flying circles around Terokkar Forest.) However, I didn't get a single rare here and quickly started to get doubles of the common items, which made me glad when I hit 375 and could move on to Northrend.

5. Yay, Northrend! Except, not really.

Northrend was actually rather a pain in the backside. Like Outland's races, the vyrkul and nerubian dig sites seemed to offer little of interest, not to mention that nerubian dig sites seemed to be really rare in general. Also, the continent is considerably bigger than Outland, and the dig sites seemed to be spread out in a very annoying fashion. It wasn't unusual for me to bounce back between Howling Fjord, Icecrown, Zul'Drak, Borean Tundra and Storm Peaks simply because that's how new sites popped up. In a way I also didn't make things easier for myself since I decided to save up all my night elf and troll fragments from here on, to combine them once I hit 450 and actually had a chance at procuring one of the really good items.

6. Final disappointment

Getting to 450 felt like quite a slog, but once I finally got there I was hopeful. Lots of combines and only a small amount of skill-ups later, I still didn't have any good items. I then kept digging around some more in Kalimdor, since I was after the night elves' Tyrande's Favorite Doll in particular, but nothing came of it.

7. Acceptance

Once I maxed out the profession, my interest quickly dwindled again. I still wanted to get some of the rare items, but now even the incentive of getting skill-ups was gone. Eventually I found a place for archaeology though - during arena and battleground queues. It doesn't matter how long or short they are, you can always do some flying around and surveying. I have since made several dozen of the common night elf items and keep getting anything but a Canopic Jar from the tol'vir (give me that Vial of the Sands recipe, damn it). However, it's easy not to think too much about it and treat it as something relatively mindless to keep you busy while you wait, similar to mining or herbing.


Since I'm fairly obsessive-compulsive about maxing out my professions on all my alts, I'm thinking about levelling archaeology on them too, but so far I haven't touched more than a couple of dig sites with them. During my first levelling run, simple curiosity was a big motivaton, but that is completely gone now. I know now that the Pendant of the Scarab Storm is really nothing to get excited about. And how many Kaldorei Wind Chimes do I really need?

It also seems to me that archaelogy is also the first profession that really doesn't lend itself to levelling it at all until you get flying. I was thinking about working on it a little on my troll druid in between instances, but when you have to rely on limited flight paths and your ground mount to get to places, it really gets tedious very quickly, even while you still get skill-ups for digging. Considering that it gives very good experience though, it might be worth giving it another go once I can buy flying at sixty, to ease the transition through level ranges where I've already seen the quest content enough times and just want to move on quickly.


Stratholme and Zul'Farrak revisited

My little troll druid's adventures in the old yet revamped instances continue.


You probably already knew that Stratholme has been split into two parts now, called Main Gate and Service Entrance. Considering that the instance always had those two entrances and already consisted of two distinctly different halves as it was (undead and living side), this split feels reasonably natural, though it's not without issues. There's the problem with the postbox keys for example (no, I don't think I'll ever get tired of linking to that post of Klep's), but the street that used to connect the two parts (I think it's called Market Row) also feels a bit pointless now. It's considered part of the Main Gate half of the instance now, but it's basically just a dead end with a quest mob in it. I considered myself lucky for being able to convince my party to go there and kill it.

The instance has also received some updates in terms of lore besides the quest givers at the entrance, though I have to admit that they felt a bit half-arsed to me. I mean, the living side used to be a Bastion of the Scarlet Crusaders, led by the demon Balnazzar disguised as Grand Crusader Dathroan. Now Balnazzar has dropped the disguise, and all the Scarlets have died and risen as undead. To be honest I didn't even notice that change until we made it to Balnazzar's room and I was startled by the fact that he was already in his demon form. The undead side is similar - everything is more or less the same, except that Baron Rivendare is gone because he's in Naxx now, and in his place we fight his long lost twin brother Lord Aurius Rivendare.

I don't want to be too cynical, but this really felt to me as if Blizzard wanted to drive Stratholme's story forward but couldn't be bothered to give it a full revamp à la Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep. The end result is just a particularly bad example of the inconsistent way in which Blizzard approached the Cataclysm, where even within the same instance some characters have moved forward in time while others are still in exactly the same position they were in back in vanilla. It just makes my head hurt.

The quality of my pug groups in Stratholme was below average as well, which rather soured the experience for me. In my Main Gate run nobody was particularly rude or terrible, but for some reason people kept dropping every other pull and for no apparent reason; we must have rotated through about five different tanks alone, which was simply annoying.

The first time I zoned in at the Service Entrance I got a paladin tank who immediately pulled everything in sight and then kept going, not giving anyone time to pick up the instance quests in the chapel or loot. Since I did those things anyway, we eventually wiped and he started telling me off for being too slow and that me wanting to get quests or loot wasn't his problem. I dropped group and didn't feel like pugging for about a week.

When I tried again, I got another paladin tank like that, though fortunately I already had all the quests in my log this time. We also didn't die, though the pally complained about "having to use LoH" when my grand total of three different healing spells were unable to keep him up while tanking about ten mobs at once. Seriously, what is it with cocky paladin tanks? I noticed that they seem to make up the vast majority of my low-level tanks and it's getting quite annoying. Fortunately this particular specimen wasn't totally unreasonable and after a bit of grumbling from my side we moved on and completed the instance.


Fortunately the gods of pugging eventually seemed to have mercy with me and my group for Zul'Farrak was nothing short of lovely: a sweet druid tank, a fun warrior, and two playful newbie hunters, all of whom I would have happily run with again if it hadn't been so late already. I'm glad that one of my favourite instances didn't get tainted by a bad pug experience at least.

With the dungeon always having been one of the better ones, I wasn't surprised to find that Blizzard didn't feel the need to make any noticeable changes to it, other than the fact that it was moved up a couple of levels and also has all its quests on the inside now. It felt kind of weird to only be given four quests for it though, as I remember this instance having loads back in vanilla - seven or eight maybe - even if some of them were a bit obscure to get (like the one to learn the name of the spider god). No more Carrot on a Stick, no more Troll Tempers, no more Uncracked Scarab Shells and no more Divino-Matic Rod. Woe. Interestingly you can still fight and kill Sergeant Bly and his party, despite of the Divino-Matic Rod quest being gone. I only got a brief glimpse of the dialogue to trigger this, but it seems that you just attack him out of random annoyance now? For all the killing we do in WoW, I find this display of unprovoked violence towards an ally oddly disturbing...

Other than that I have to admit that the instance felt somewhat undertuned to me, but I don't know if my party was just that good or what. I really don't know what to think of the tuning in low-level instances post-Cataclysm in general. The very first ones, like Ragefire Chasm or Deadmines, felt like they were reasonably challenging for their level now, with both bosses and trash pulls actually posing a real threat at times, but as you go up in levels the runs quickly turn into mindless AoE fests again - except when you suddenly get a random run where everything seems to hit crushingly hard again (like it felt in my Dire Maul North run). I don't know if the tuning is really that out of whack or if gear and spec simply make that huge a difference these days. It's just puzzling to me.


But the raids are the good part!

The discussion about what might be "wrong" with Cataclysm continues, and one of the latest installments has turned people's attention towards raiding. Now, while I do have some issues with this expansion and have said as much, I'd like to come to Blizzard's defense as far as the raid content is concerned, because I think that this is one part of the expansion where they've done really well. I'm not the only one in our guild who's feeling a bit bored, but raid nights keep us logging on nonetheless because the raids are good. I'm not claiming that it's all perfect (where's the music for example), but I feel that the developers did get a lot of things right with this tier.

First off, bringing back the multiple raids per tier model has been a godsend. My guild has been struggling to down Atramedes for weeks now, and we were starting to get really frustrated. But hey, there are other places to progress! So the next week we just took a break from him and focused on downing the Ascendant Council in Bastion of Twlight instead, which we did, and after we returned to Blackwing Descent, energised and rejuvenated from that kill, we came really close to killing Atramedes too and I'm positive that we'll get him the next time we see him. Variety helps to keep the content fresh and to keep raiders motivated.

Also, while I haven't seen all the raid content yet (not even on normal), my overall impression is that it's pretty well balanced to challenge different people in the raid. I was a bit weary when both Halfus and Magmaw turned out to be little more than healer stress tests from what I could tell, but as we've moved on I found that a lot of fights didn't always try to push the healers to the max but put the focus on different members of the raid instead. A friend of mine was very amused when he whispered me in the middle of a Maloriak attempt and I responded instantly, causing him to question whether the encounter wasn't keeping me busy. The truth was that Maloriak isn't too bad as a healer; it's the interrupters who wiped us over and over again while they had to learn their role. And I was glad about that - I'm quite happy to let some damage dealers take the spotlight (and associated performance pressures) for a change.

I honestly also don't think that the difficulty is as bad as some people make it out to be. My guild is only on 7/12 in normal mode... and I consider that a good thing. I'm happy that the normal modes are challenging, and I don't really care much about the hard modes. They are something to keep you busy while you wait for the next tier, but they don't feel like "real" content to me. At the end of the day I'd rather be banging my head against normal modes and actually discover new encounters every other week, which only works if they are difficult enough to actually slow us down for a while.

I've heard people comment that they think that the current raid tier is too hard for a "starter tier", and I agree that it's a bit hard to get your foot in the door, seeing how there isn't even a traditionally easy "gatekeeper boss" in any of the raids, excluding Baradin Hold. The thing is... having a "starter tier" only makes sense if you actually have linear progression across tiers. WOTLK was originally supposed to work that way, which is why I was a lot less annoyed by Naxx's low difficulty than many other raiders (because hey, it was supposed to be the "intro raid" of the expansion, fair enough!) But then Blizzard abandoned that model and instead went for one where they try to funnel everyone into the latest raid instance so all the kids can play together, newbies and veterans alike; the moment you do that, staggering the difficulty across tiers becomes meaningless - because the newest raid is always the newbie raid and the progression raid at the same time.

Since Blizzard has so far announced no intentions to go back to linear raid progression, I believe that there's no reason to make tier eleven particularly accessible - or to make the next tier any harder, for that matter. It's just supposed to be something new and different, preferably at a difficulty that is easy enough that people who want to put the effort in can make some progress even if they aren't the best of players, but also hard enough to challenge the more skilled ones. This is always going to be a difficult balance to strike, but personally I prefer them to err on the side of more difficulty when it comes to raiding. As Ghostcrawler himself commented in a recent blog post, raids nerf themselves over time. If you already start out with things being too easy, you're only left with a bunch of frustrated raiders that have nowhere left to go.


Can I skin this?

A more light-hearted post today. I've been levelling my hunter's leatherworking lately and it's been tedious. (In fact, that's a whole other post really, levelling crafting professions in Cataclysm...) So I've been travelling across the land, killing and skinning things, and once again I can only be amazed by the things that you can and can't skin in WoW.

You see, I'm no expert on this skinning thing in the real world, but I would think that in general you should be able to skin anything that does, in fact, have a skin, meaning a soft and supple outer layer that you can peel off if you're so inclined. However, Blizzard has some boundaries in place that prevent you from skinning certain creatures that you'd expect to be able to skin. Who has never considered the option of a tauren leather hat or a gnome skin bag (depending on your faction)? Then again, maybe you just find that idea creepy, which is probably why the game doesn't allow it. Skinning anything that's too similar to a human sort of brings up images of deranged serial killers.

Still, in a fantasy game like WoW, the borders can get fuzzy. Yetis are quite humanoid if you ask me, yet we never have a problem hunting and skinning them en masse. Yet if you want to wear a furbolg's shiny coat for example, you're out of luck. For me it's the worst with naga - I don't think they are particularly human-like, considering that they don't even have legs - but for some reason they are still taboo. I've known for years now that they can't be skinned, but every time I kill one on a character that can skin I still have that brief moment where I long to turn their shiny scales into a handbag or something. As if to tease me, Blizzard allows some naga to drop scales that can be used for crafting - we just have to hope that they fall off their bodies on their own while we're focused on killing them, or something. There are also a variety of armour pieces whose names imply that they are made of naga hide - I do wonder who makes them?

The worgen are another funny case. Prior to Cataclysm they used to be skinnable, and made areas like Duskwood a wonderful place to level a character with the appropriate professions. However, since they became a playable race in this expansion and started wearing top hats, they are suddenly off limits for skinners. I mean, I never expected to be able to skin player characters, but finding that the evil worgen NPCs in Duskwood for example have become useless to me as well was somewhat disappointing.

On the other end of the spectrum, we then have things that can be skinned but I don't think it makes any sense: silithids, nerubians and certain spiders in particular. Sometimes the items we get from them even explicitly state that they are made of chitin, which just bugs me all the more. I learned in basic biology that this stuff makes up the exo-skeleton of spiders and insects, or in other words, the bits that are not soft and supple. So I find the mental image of my hunter chipping off bits of "spider bone" rather odd. Not that I'm any less grateful for the spiders in Tol Barad providing a convenient source of savage leather - I just don't think that it makes any sense.

Do other people have pet peeves when it comes to skinning, i.e. creatures that they'd really love to skin but can't, and others that just leave you scratching your head?


Whiny Post Day: Let me 'ave 'em!

Have you ever been in a mediocre pug, suffered through repeated wipes, AFKs and similar annoyances just to stand before the last boss and think, "phew, almost done"? And then you try to kill that boss, and what with the pug being mediocre, you wipe due to the dps being lackluster, the healer being undergeared or some similarly mundane reason - either way, not exactly something that's impossible to overcome. But suddenly... the tank leaves, the healer leaves, and before you know it, your chat window presents you with the words "your group has been disbanded" and the dungeon finder happily offers you the option to queue for a new instance.

You know what? Screw that. Seriously. After suffering through all those nuisances, I have a right to complete this damn instance. It's not my fault that the system grouped me with a bunch of spineless imbeciles who run at the first sign of trouble. Why punish me for their failures by forcing me to start over completely, even though I'm right in front of the last boss and ready to kill? Not to mention that I bet the dungeon finder is full of people who'd be more than happy to score a run that's already at the last boss to get their daily points dose quickly. Seriously, you should be allowed to replenish your run in progress from the dungeon finder even if you're the only person left in the group.

The problem isn't limited to max-level dungeons and point farming either. Nothing like queuing for a specific instance on a low-level character and getting in after half an hour, just to see the tank charge off before the healer's even zoned in, people drop group to avoid the wipe and before you know it the group's been disbanded again before you've even killed anything. Really, offering me to wait another half hour for the next run (which might end up being just as bad) isn't even a cold comfort. I already paid my dues in terms of waiting time, I should get priority to fill this one-man group and complete the run.

Also, since we're already talking about annoyances related to people leaving prematurely, what's up with the loot rolling at the end of an instance? Don't you just hate it when someone is really slow to roll on the last couple of drops, half the party leaves and when the roll finally goes through, it says that the item was won by a person who's already left both group and instance and will thus never get it? Once again Blizzard laughs in the face of people with patience, as they have to watch their desired drop get assigned to someone who hasn't even bothered to hang around long enough to pick it up. I think that whenever you leave an instance group, you should automatically forfeit your right to any loot rolls in progress so that the item can only go to those who are actually still around to pick it up.

Whine, whine.


Return of the troll druid: instancing in the forties

I've decided to pick up playing my troll druid again, the one that I created right after the Shattering patch, to continue my project of levelling through the revamped old world dungeons to see how they've been changed. In my last installment I had made it up to Uldaman, which means that I was about to reach the stretch of levels where Blizzard has now placed the five-mans that used to be endgame back in vanilla: Scholomance, Stratholme and Dire Maul.

On the whole I have to say that I really like this change. These places are good dungeons and it was a shame to let them rot in a level bracket where nobody ever ran them anymore, especially while other, lower level brackets had so few instances in them that you ended up running the same ones over and over again if you were using the dungeon finder a lot. Revitalising old content and increasing variety are good things.

I do have to say that it's not without problems though. Thing is, these places were designed to be endgame, meaning that they included all kinds of fiddly bits and pieces that were there to keep you entertained throughout repeated reruns, such as the postbox keys in Stratholme. However, Blizzard hasn't always made sensible adjustments here and some mechanics just plain don't work in a levelling dungeon environment. Klep wrote about the silliness of splitting the postbox keys between the two Stratholme wings before, but there are others.

For example you still get only one ogre tannin per instance in Dire Maul North, so only one person in the entire group can actually complete the associated instance quest. Now, I hesitate to say that making that item drop only for a single person each run was ever a good idea, but while Dire Maul was endgame it at least didn't matter as much. With everyone running the instance over and over again at the level cap you were bound to have a shot at the tannin eventually (even if other people wanted spares to craft more ogre suits). But in a levelling instance? You're only going to run that two or three times, tops, and thanks to the random dungeon finder probably with different people every time. How do the devs expect the majority of players to complete this quest?

But enough of that. I found it interesting that while queuing as both dps and healer, the dungeon finder actually made me alternate between the two roles reasonably often, showing that healers are not that much rarer than damage dealers in levelling instances. When I was healing however, I was pleased to see that Blizzard swapped Nourish and Healing Touch around in the druid levelling progression, so the problem of only having expensive and way too large heals as a levelling druid healer has been addressed since I originally complained about it.

The overall quality of my pug groups was so-so. I was disappointed that I only met very few people with whom I would have been happy to group again, and way too many that were simply clueless, rude or both. There was also a depressing amount of player rotation each run - which I guess isn't all that different from pugs at max level, but somehow I find it even sadder while levelling. At the level cap, the "daily" dungeon has been established as something that is very routine and I understand why someone might not be very invested in it and quick to drop from a group. But levelling is so fast, you're unlikely to see the same instance many times, and every time you drop from a run you might be forfeiting your chance to ever complete that dungeon at level (on this character). For many players it's also clearly the first time. Is there no curiosity left in them to find out what the dungeon is about, even if it means wiping a couple of times?

Dire Maul

I love Dire Maul. I have very fond memories of my first forays into it, and it's got what I consider a "classic dungeon atmosphere". It feels like a proper place that's not just there for you to come and kill stuff in it, while still offering interesting challenges to the budding adventurer.

That said, I felt that it doesn't flow very well as a levelling instance. The Warpwood Quarter and Capital Gardens are a little non-linear, which can easily confuse groups these days and cause them to miss out on bosses and quests if you don't have at least one person who knows what they are doing. Basically these are still dungeons that were clearly meant to be played through with a group that actually cares, and little has been changed to make them less so. That's a good thing if you like this kind of design, but a bit of a pain if you're stuck trying to explain to a pug how to free Immol'thar and why - after all it's only mentioned in a quest and there are no markers on the map to show where the crystals are, so how could anyone be expected to know what to do? [/sarcasm]

I also thought it was funny that while almost all the old dungeon quests for Dire Maul have been moved into the instance with minor adjustments for convenience, the old quest to kill Prince Tortheldrin is still given in the most inconvenient place possible and requires you to run back and forth across the instance multiple times if you want to get your reward.

Gordok Commons felt quite a bit harder than the other two wings, though that might have been because I had some pretty poor players in that dungeon. Either way the ogres hit quite hard if you're not the tank. And of course there's the silly issue with the ogre tannin mentioned above.


Another instance of which I have fairly fond memories, even if it was never one of my favourites. This one really felt a lot like old times to me, even if AoE tanking and greater average character power still made things easier than they used to be. (The tank in my run chewed me out for running out of mana while he was tanking the entirety of Lorekeeper Polkelt's exploding trash at once, because supposedly he does this all the time and it never caused any of his healers problems.) Still, things like wiping in the first room because the patrols and trash pulls are way too easy to chain-aggro felt very old school.

Even better, anyone remember that bug that caused warlock AoE to aggro mobs through the floor? Yep, that seems to have made a comeback in some form as well, or at least the Ravenian and his entire trash bore down on us right as we were fighting Instructor Malicia in the room above and wiped us. The tank rage-quit after that because he was convinced that someone had wiped us on purpose (how did he think anyone could intentionally pull through the floor?), but I just had to chuckle at the silliness of it all.

I still remember the first time I ever fought Darkmaster Gandling and the sheer WTF-ness of the moment when he teleports everyone into different rooms. It was nice to re-experience that at least at level, even if it's never going to be as good as the first time.

Razorfen Downs

This instance confused me a little. Either they changed the layout a bit, or I just never noticed it properly before the low-level dungeon maps were introduced. Otherwise it largely seemed the same as before the Shattering, almost too much so. I mean, I can't believe they still didn't fix Belnistrasz's stupid escort quest to make it easier to do as a group. As it is, it still has the silly pre-quest that just requires you to talk to the NPC and say that yes, you will help him, so whoever inevitably starts the actual escort before everyone else is ready will lock at least some people out, as the quest can't be shared if people didn't get the chance to complete the redundant prequest. Of course this happened during my latest run as well and nobody but the impatient rogue actually got to do the quest. /sigh. The funny thing is that he claimed that it was his first time - you wouldn't necessarily expect someone who's never seen the quest before to click through it even faster than those who've done it many times on different characters.

Also, when you fight Amnennar at the end, a random red dragon (not Belnistrasz) now comes flying past, breathes some fire on the boss and then flies away again. Everyone in my group just stared in wide-eyed wonder and confusion. Since when does this instance have random dragons? And why? Who knows?


No new raids in 4.1? Yay!

Once again, sometimes complaining does help. Not that I think that anyone from Blizzard actually reads this blog - it's just Sod's Law at work, trying to make me feel stupid for complaining about something that was already fixed, like, yesterday. So of course Blizzard announced that they weren't going to include any new raids in the 4.1 patch, right after I had been moaning in my last two posts that the new 4.1 raid content was going to make the current Cataclysm raids obsolete. C'est la vie, I guess. In any case looking silly for complaining and then getting a solution to your problem is still preferrable over not having your problem solved at all.

In case it's not clear enough from the title of this post and the last paragraph, yes, I'm happy about this announcement. I want to have more time with the current raid content and I'm going to get it. To be honest I was surprised to see so many negative reactions to the news... because I have a hard time seeing why most people would have a problem with this. Yes, if you're a hardcore raider that has cleared all the current content including hard modes, then having to wait longer for anything new sucks for you. I get that.

However, a lot of the people that I've seen posting complaints about this don't even claim to be hardcore, some of them even admit to not raiding at all. If you're not a raider, why do you care about how much raid content is or isn't going to be in the next patch? Is it because you can't wait for the current valour gear to become available via justice points so you can gear your character up in full epics by running heroics in only a couple of days? Please.

And if you do raid but haven't cleared everything, why the rush? I'm actually not a supporter of the idea that you must have cleared absolutely everything before you're "allowed" to be bored with it - after all I never killed heroic Lich King either but you bet that I was tired of ICC after it had been the only raid progression content for an entire year. But Cataclysm has only been out for three months. Few people will have killed Magmaw or Halfus Wyrmbreaker even ten times. (For comparison purposes, according to the armoury I've killed Lord Marrowgar sixty-five times if you add up the kills from all my alts.) I really think that if someone is already bored and unhappy with Cataclysm raid content at this point without even having seen it all, they probably have issues with it that the introduction of more and newer raids won't fix either.

The latest Blue Plz! made an interesting point however - Totalbiscuit seemed really annoyed with the 4.1 announcement as well and I was impatiently tapping my fingers after a while, wondering when he was actually going to make an argument about why it was so bad instead of simply ranting about it. He did get to that eventually when he said that Blizzard's justification for this change wasn't actually addressing the root of the problem, and that as long as the badge system is going to remain in place as it is, we'll just have the same problem once 4.2 comes out.

I have to admit that I'd be happy to say goodbye to the badge system at this point or at least to see it get nerfed heavily to bring it back in line with what it was in early BC - a way of affording a "consolation prize" or two if you never got the loot drops you wanted instead of what we have now, where the badges can be the main source of gear and the drops are the bonus. I'd be happy to have linear progression back as well. However, realistically I just don't think that's going to happen, because Blizzard had their reasons for making these changes in the first place and they have received a lot of positive feedback about them as well.

As it is, I'm just glad that Blizzard is acknowledging that this new system does have downsides and that constantly herding people from one tier to the next might not be all it's cracked up to be. Extending the time between raid tiers might not be the optimal solution, but at least it's something.


Has the Shattering failed to interest long-time players?

One thing that has struck me as interesting about my boredom with WoW as of late is that it's definitely not caused by lack of content. I've barely touched the revamped old world... but for some reason I don't feel a particular pull to do so either. I wonder how many other long-time players feel that way? I know that I've seen more than one "I'm quitting WoW" post in the past few months that acknowledged that the writer had not even bothered with levelling an alt through the new low-level content before calling it quits. Why is that? I mean, I know that the old world revamp was largely meant to ensure that the game would continue to be appealing to new players, but surely old-timers should be able to enjoy that new content too?

I know that as someone who's been playing WoW for four and a half years now and has had plenty of time to level alts during that time, the first problem I had at the advent of the Shattering was that I simply didn't have any empty character slots left on my home server. This meant that to have a look at the new lowbie zones at the appropriate level, I either had to delete another character that I was already attached to, or reroll on new server, starting over with no funds and no friends. Those things aren't equally problematic for everyone, but I was definitely put off by either prospect, and I still think that Blizzard made a mistake in not adding another two character slots or so per server when they released the Shattering. Lack of character slots might not be an issue that affects a huge number of players (I honestly don't know), but you can bet that people who have bothered to level that many characters have a huge investment in the game. Why alienate some of your biggest fans?

Still, when the Shattering actually happened, I was excited. Excited enough that I rolled up a troll druid on another server, lack of funds or friends be damned, and I had a grand old time. The starter zones were bustling and general chat was alive with chatter about all the changes and how people felt about them. It truly was like being a newbie all over again and I had a blast.

But then... the actual expansion came out. And while I agreed with the voices that found it a bit strange that Blizzard had split the new content like that, in hindsight I'm thinking that they actually should have taken it a step further. They should have made the Shattering a major content patch and then let us chew on it for a couple of months before releasing the 80+ content. Because as a long-time player, the moment the Cataclysm happened, I was suddenly faced with a choice: continue questing on my own on my new troll druid, or go level my eighties to the new endgame with my friends and guildies. If you're a social player like me, that wasn't really much of a choice.

Ever since then I keep meaning to go back to my little funky-coloured troll, but every time I log onto her I immediately miss my friends and find myself thinking about how I'm "wasting" valuable time that could be used to progress my main through the current endgame before it reaches its 4.1 "expiration date", and anyway, the new low-level content is going to be around for a while. It's kind of sad really.

If they had given us more time to play around in the shattered world before restarting the race to the last raid boss, I would have enjoyed it. Maybe some staunch "one character only" supporters would have grown bored during that time, but to be honest I know few people who don't have any alts whatsoever. I'm pretty sure that a lot more players could have been encouraged to give the revamped old world a try if that had truly been the focus of an entire patch cycle, and I'm convinced that most of them would have liked it, based on the bits that I've seen myself so far.

Good things rarely become popular purely on the basis of being good. People also need to hear about how good they are, and preferably have a chance to experience so first hand, especially if the new thing is something so new and strange that a majority might initially be skeptical about it more than anything else. Based on that, I do think that Blizzard kind of failed to direct old players towards the new low-level content, for the aforementioned reasons and then some:

- No additional character slots to allow the creation of new alts while still playing with your friends.

- Little time to focus on the new low-level content before the race for max level was on again.

- Low-level activities contributing hardly anything at all to guild levelling - if you want to help your guild, you've got to play at max level, not level alts.

- New content ending at sixty, leaving a large chunk of levelling content between sixty and eighty that rerollers have seen enough times before and that can cause them to their abandon their alts halfway through.

Of course, this entire argument hinges on me assuming that long-timers really aren't that excited by the Shattering, which is only based on my own observations. Personally I still see very few low-level characters in the cities on my home server, and most of the goblins I run into are obvious race-changes instead of newly levelled characters (as evidenced by them displaying mounts and titles that Blizzard stopped giving out a long time ago). If other people have different experiences (or similar ones for that matter), I'd like to hear about it.