Burning through the Burning Crusade

After taking a bit of a break over Christmas, our Worgen duo is back on the levelling track. Having done a round of all the Blackrock instances meant that we entered Outland about halfway through level sixty. We then left for Northrend just after hitting seventy-one, and after only about two days or so of playing (though we did admittedly binge-play quite a bit during those days).

Questing in Hellfire Peninsula was indeed quite a break from the rhythm we had got used to in the revamped old world, with its very linear "get two or three quests at a time" formula. While there were still some mini quest chains with two or three follow-ups that needed to be done in order - generally speaking, the world was our oyster. I was strangely delighted to see a dozen quests or more in my log at once, and the whole map of the area lit up by quest markers. It was a little overwhelming, but also liberating. We had the freedom to do whatever we wanted, in whatever order we wanted to! Of course this also had the side effect that we had the freedom to make "mistakes" by doing things in an inefficient manner, such as by going into certain sub-zones before we actually had all the available quests for that particular area. I didn't find it overly annoying though; mostly I was just slapping myself on the head and telling myself that I should have known better, seeing how I had done all of this before (even if it was quite some time ago now).

As an aside, we were surprised to find that cross-realm zones had turned Hellfire Peninsula into a hotbed of PvP activity, due to that quest to capture the fortifications. Nothing like level ?? death knights one-shotting innocently flagged questers before you've even had a chance to realise what happened. Some of them also flew into Honor Hold to gank the quest givers there and then do a little teabagging dance on them while all the people actually trying to level stood around /facepalming. It was funny to me in so far as I have a screenshot from circa 2007 of Hordies raiding Honor Hold and killing our quest givers, so the whole thing certainly brought back memories. However, at least the invaders had to put up a fight back then. It's less fun when they literally have fifty times as much health as anyone or anything in the area and are just ganking out of boredom.

We were sixty-three by the time we finished all the quests in Hellfire and decided to set out to duo some instances next. Every time I set foot into an Outland dungeon it strikes me just how formative those BC years have clearly been for me, because I instantly remember all the difficulties we used to have in each instance, the tricky pulls, which mobs had disruptive abilities and needed to be crowd-controlled. Yet every time I'm also disappointed by how easy those very same dungeons are nowadays, even when you're two-manning them. Somehow the lesson of "that's just how it is these days" never seems to stick.

One thing I did kind of like was what they've done with the quest givers. I knew in theory that they moved all the instance quest givers inside the actual dungeons some time in Cata, but I hadn't actually done any instances beyond the level sixty ones since then, so all the changes from Hellfire onwards were new to me. Basically they seem to have added some quests to dungeons that didn't have many to make sure that there would be a roughly even amount in each instance, and they changed the story and quest givers to make the whole experience more coherent if dungeons are the only thing you're doing. In some way that's sad I guess, considering that many of the Outlands dungeon quests were very intertwined with the story of the outside world, but to really get the whole context you needed to do both loads of quests as well as all the dungeons, which - let's be realistic - is just not happening these days, not with how quickly the levels fly by and the convenience of the dungeon finder. Considering that harsh reality, it made sense to edit some storylines out of the quests and just focus them on the quest givers that are actually there in the instance. And there is at least some internal consistency now. For example you save Naturalist Bite in the Slave Pens (well, in theory you do, assuming you don't let him die in the naga attack like we did...) and he then shows up as a quest giver in the Underbog and the Steamvault, so even if you've done nothing but dungeons there is some sense of recognition and progression.

After a couple of instance runs we continued our questing in Zangarmarsh. This is where I have to admit that my TBC nostalgia took a bit of a nosedive. In Hellfire I had felt liberated from the linearity of Cataclysm-style questing... but Zangarmarsh reminded me that, for all the progress the Outlands quests demonstrated from Vanilla questing, they still weren't without their flaws. Too much running back and forth all over the map, too many quests to kill ten rats or gather five boar livers with little variety to spice things up. When we finally finished the zone, I was pretty tired of Outlands questing and ready to just go the rest of the way via duoing dungeons. Which we did, as they gave more than enough XP, and since Outland has so many instances we never had to repeat anything either.

Somewhat disappointed by how easy things were, we continually worked our way up from doing dungeons a little below our level, to ones the same level, to ones up to three levels above us. By that point things did actually get moderately challenging, but mostly because any mobs that my pet tank didn't maintain solid aggro on would grind me into the dirt before I could even blink. Still, duoing Black Morass at sixty-eight for example was pretty fun as we rushed from one portal to the next, remembering just how challenging it used to be back in the day to control all the little adds.

We finished our tour of Outlands with a round of Isle of Quel'Danas dailies, after having done all of two zones worth of quests and all the normal mode dungeons once, all within the span of two days or so. It pains me to think of how busy this whole expansion used to keep us, and how it's reduced to barely a blink during levelling time now... but at the same time things like the tedium I felt in Zangarmarsh show that there is no going back to some things even for those of us with cases of severe nostalgia.

Oh, and I really wish they'd make the Shattrath cooking and fishing dailies available at level sixty. That "must be level seventy" restriction is very out of touch with the way the game works now, only giving people access to something that is effectively levelling content just as they are leaving for the next expansion.


It's quiet... oh so quiet...

One of the things I've found the most striking since returning to WoW is how extremely quiet the game feels. The server we rolled on is consistently marked as having a medium population, one that's supposedly heavily lopsided in favour of our chosen faction, but I'm just not seeing it.

And no, I'm not saying that the game is dying - save your breath. Subscriptions have dropped by several million since I last played, which most certainly had an impact on how busy the in-game world appears, but there is more to it.

The Old Republic has probably spoiled me for what I consider a high population. Ever since they consolidated everything into a handful of "mega servers", there isn't an area in game that's completely quiet, ever. Each faction's fleet (the major hub) consistently has 300+ players puttering around at any time of day. Doesn't matter which planet you go to (except Quesh maybe, since it's so small...), at least on my home server there'll always be between 100 and 200 people out and about on each.

Meanwhile, in WoW I do a /who in Stormwind and it shows that aside from me, there are only seven other people online in my faction's capital. Ho hum. If that's a medium population, I'm not sure I want to know what a low pop server is like! It shows on the auction house as well, where even cheaply priced staples like herbs or cloth expire without anyone buying them every so often, and prices bounce like ping pong balls because supply and demand are extremely inconsistent and easily thrown out of whack by a single guy levelling a new profession (or that's what it feels like anyway).

Things aren't that much better out in the open world. Thanks to cross-realm zones, we do see other players about, but not that many. No two of them seem to share the same realm tag either, indicating that a lot of different servers have to be squished together this way to create the impression of any kind of activity. It also feels like the number of player characters that we run into (regardless of server) keeps dropping the further we advance in levels, CRZ or no CRZ.

I reckon that the active players that are out there are all hidden well out of sight of our lowbie characters, presumably chilling around some new portal hub in Pandaland (feel free to enlighten me). Flying mounts are also good at making people invisible to those who are ground-bound, and it's only every now and then when someone suddenly swoops out of the sky in front of you to "ninja" a gathering node you were making your way towards that you realise that there's potential for a whole additional layer of players traversing the skies above you and never interacting with you in any way.

It's certainly a far cry from the bustling MMO world that welcomed me with people all around me seven years ago (and back then the game actually had fewer subs than it does now).


Wholesome Levelling

Levelling continues to go well for our little worgen duo and they are almost ready to go to Outland. In a way I'm almost surprised by how well we are doing. We started out with nothing, on a server where we'd never played before... and while I had quite a blast levelling alts back in Cata, the old world revamp hasn't been without its issues. I had alts that outlevelled whatever content I was doing way too quickly, and where seeing everything go grey just sapped my motivation to continue. Trying to level professions as you go turned into a veritable nightmare - I'll never forget the human hunter I had who spent more time farming grey mobs for leather than actually doing quests, until I eventually abandoned her in frustration. More than one attempt at levelling as a duo died in the early levels when one character was a miner or herbalist while the other one wasn't, as the experience gains from gathering made it bloody impossible to comfortably stay around the same level.

We managed to avoid the latter this time around by having me go herbalist and my pet warrior going miner, but even that hasn't been completely without its issues, as I keep shooting ahead ever so slightly and had to train myself to ignore a vast majority of nodes to avoid making things even worse. If there's any rhyme or reason to how much experience you get from gathering from any given node, it's certainly not apparent to me. Within the same zone I would run into one "green" (slight chance to skill up) herb that gave me fifty XP per pick, and another one that gave me five hundred. Why? Who knows, it's not as if the latter were particularly rare or anything. Meanwhile the ores seemed to almost always be of the (roughly) fifty XP variety, which is why we got out of sync quite frequently.

On the plus side, we never really outlevelled our regular quests too badly, despite of the gathering experience, running every dungeon except the Deadmines at least once and doing the cooking and fishing dailies every day. We were always ahead of the levelling curve, coming into each new zone about five levels late, but by that point experience gains had generally dropped off to such a low level (without stopping completely) that we could comfortably continue completing quests without having them turn grey on us (with the possible exception of the first couple of zones we did - it's very hard to make it through all of Darkshore's over ninety quests without outlevelling any of them for example).

Due to us almost always working on green difficulty content, our levelling speed has been relatively sedate and keeping our professions up to scratch hasn't been too bad either. There are massive amounts of mining and herbalism nodes in the revamped old world, so our alchemy and blacksmithing haven't really been starved for materials (though Goldthorn is still hard to come by for how much of it you need to level up).

The secondary professions have been a bit trickier. For example you move through the "cloth tiers" quite quickly at first, and then end up getting nothing but Mageweave for twenty levels or so (or at least that's what it felt like), which makes keeping up with first aid a bit awkward. I expect that we'll be okay though, assuming that they haven't removed the Runecloth drops from early Outland or anything. Cooking is mostly fine as long as you make sure to save any and all meat drops you come across for later, as you'll often come across a particular kind of meat at the wrong level in respect to your cooking. Keeping up with your fishing also helps immensely of course.

Speaking of fishing, I was very surprised to see that you don't actually need a fishing pole to fish anymore now... and my first gut reaction was to be annoyed at yet another instance of unnecessary simplification of the game, but I soon found that I actually quite like this change. The "stick with a piece of string attached" graphical effect is quite cute, and it's nice not to have to worry about changing your equipment if you're only just stopping at a pool in passing. The fishing hat, pole and lures can still come out if I actually sit down at a dock to fish "properly" for ten minutes or longer.

Archaeology is the one profession I haven't been able to keep up with, as much as I would have liked to. My pet battling has also fallen behind, despite of my initial enthusiasm for it. I believe that neither would be impossible to keep levelled as you go along, but you'd have to focus heavily on travelling around to dig/challenge random pets and neglect other parts of the game in the process. I suppose Blizzard designed these features more as something to do at endgame than as an alternate way of levelling, but I suppose it's good that the option is there for those who want to be really hardcore about it.

We've only really been focused on completing all the quests in each zone we decided to tackle (we went for the Darkshore -> Ashenvale -> Stonetalon -> Desolace -> Feralas -> Thousand Needles -> Tanaris -> Un'Goro path) and doing all the dungeons. After my last post we only did Uldaman, Scholomance and Stratholme via the dungeon finder and had no more issues with unpleasant people in those runs. I had forgotten that Scholomance was also redone for Mists of Pandaria and was therefore a bit confused while trying to keep up with the new story in the usual dungeon finder rush, but it was just about bearable. Dire Maul, Razorfen Downs and Zul'Farrak we decided to tackle with just the two of us and had no issues with any of them, except for dying a few times to the guard captain in Dire Maul North, as his combination of fear and summoning of hard-hitting adds was still pretty painful at the level we went in.

Currently we're planning on finishing up our business in the old world with a quick dungeon finder run of Sunken Temple and an extended tour of Blackrock Mountain between just the two of us. Then it's off to the Dark Portal to see how the Outlands will treat us. As much as I loved the Burning Crusade, I remember the transition from Cata questing to Outland being pretty jarring the last few times I tried to level an alt.


Two Worgen Vs. The World

In the comments to my last post, mysteriously named commenter "R" asked why my pet tank and I weren't just setting out to duo instances together if I had reservations about using the dungeon finder to get a full group. As a matter of fact, this is exactly what I originally suggested, but I was rebuffed with doubts about whether two-manning things at level was even feasible. (And anyway, the groups we got during our first couple of runs weren't so bad, right?)

Gnomeregan ended up being a turning point.

When I last set foot into Gnomeregan shortly after the Shattering patch, I noted that it didn't appear to have been changed much, except for a couple of visual tweaks to some mobs and the removal of the old goblin escort quest. Imagine my surprise then, when we zoned into the instance this week and instead of a host of wacky quests telling us to collect punchcards and essential artifacts artificials, there was exactly one quest at the entrance - telling us to parachute straight down on top of the Viscous Fallout. We followed the instructions, even if they left us slightly bewildered... but when the follow-up quest told us to press on even though we hadn't even killed Grubbis yet, we balked and went back to do that encounter first. Our three damage dealers disagreed and continued on their own, with neither group struggling to kill things and stay alive, until we eventually reunited shortly before the last boss. After he had died and everyone else had left, my tank and I also went back to two-man the Crowd Pummeler, whom the dpsers had skipped too. I hardly needed to do any healing even with just the two of us.

We were left with an incomplete quest, seeing how we had been out of range when the Electrocutioner died, and a certain feeling of disappointment. Everyone's used to players taking the path of least resistance and wanting to skip things, but Blizzard adapting quest chains to actively encourage this behaviour just makes no sense. Usually dungeon quests serve to guide the group and lead players towards as much of the content as possible. Why Blizzard themselves consider their own dungeon bosses skip-worthy now is a bit of a mystery to me to be honest.

We re-queued for Gnomer in specific, and with the next group we just went with the boss-skipping flow so that we could at least complete our quest. Incidentally, this was also our first run where someone in the group brought up Recount. When they posted the dps numbers in chat, they showed that our warrior tank was doing more damage than the entire rest of the party put together. Low-level class balance is so bad it hurts.

The next dungeon on our list was Scarlet Halls, the first of the revamped Scarlet Monastery instances. We decided to give the dungeon finder another go and ended up in our most unpleasant run yet. There was absolutely no time to take in what was new about the instance, as the damage dealers rushed ahead as if it was their one hundredth run (which it very well might have been) and we struggled to keep up. I also clearly jinxed it in my last post when I breathed a sigh of relief about the lack of ninjas in our groups, as in this run we had not one, but two people rolling need on absolutely everything, which caused both me and my pet tank to lose out on gear that nobody else in the group could actually use. By the end of that run, I wasn't the only one fed up with the quality of pugs in Looking For Dungeon.

I brought up the duoing suggestion again. Gnomeregan had proved that a single protection warrior was clearly all the dps we needed, and our experience in Scarlet Halls had shown that trying to get a good look at new content with a group of randoms was a futile endeavour.

"So, how about we do a Scarlet Monastery run old school-like?"
"Isn't the Scarlet Monastery really far away?"
"Hey, back in my day we had to walk there every time we wanted to run the instance, and before we even had ground mounts! Uphill. In the snow. And we liked it."

Thus it was settled that after questing exclusively in Kalimdor for thirty-odd levels, we were making a trip to the Eastern Kingdoms. It took us quite a while to ride all the way up to Tirisfal Glades, but it certainly wasn't boring, as we kept ourselves entertained along the way with random bursts of gathering, pet battling and archeology.

As I had expected, duoing the two Scarlet instances turned out to be no problem whatsoever, and while working our way through them at our own pace, it actually gave us a chance to read the quests and take in the sights, which was nice. As for the actual changes to the dungeons, I'm honestly not sure what to think of them. Condensing the four wings into only two separate instances was probably a good idea, and I enjoyed seeing Lillian Voss again. In the cathedral I felt kind of sad when I went into the secret room off to the side and High Inquisitor Fairbanks' corpse was still lying there, unclickable now. Everything else kind of felt... awkwardly over the top to me though. Since when do all the Scarlets speak with funny German accents? Why are they all so incompetent, getting eaten by their own dogs and by zombified corpses that they are clearly unable to even burn properly? Weren't they supposed to be a morally ambiguous and fearsome organisation? Oh, and Whitemane's new champion is some guy with an oversized sword and anime hair... I don't know.

In the end we decided not to write the dungeon finder off completely just yet, but to settle for a mix of duoing things when we felt like it and using LFD when we wanted to make progress quickly and weren't too concerned with the details. Doing Maraudon the old school way right after was certainly fun enough, and not even that inconvenient considering that we were questing in Desolace anyway. (Though we managed to miss the quest to kill Princess as we didn't take the exact path Blizzard prescribes to make the quest appear and we didn't bother to look up what had gone wrong until after the fact.)

Up next: Uldaman and Dire Maul.


Adventures in Dungeoneering

If you asked me which aspect of WoW I missed the least in the past two years, I definitely would've chosen the dungeon finder. As such, I wasn't at all keen on reacquainting myself with its "gogogo" culture and had originally planned to avoid it altogether. My pet warrior had different ideas however, as he really wanted to tank some dungeons, so who was I to say no?

Initially I thought that I was going to play off-spec healer for him while staying feral for our questing, however I soon found that the talent changes in Mists of Pandaria seem to have made that kind of thing pretty impossible. By the time we became eligible to queue for our first couple of dungeons, I still only had a single healing spell as feral - a heal over time at that - and my mana pool was limited to a piddly 200 or so, no matter how much int gear I put on. So I settled for queuing as dps.

Interestingly, our queues were still near instant almost all the time - with one notable exception when we just couldn't find any other damage dealers and spent about ten minutes waiting to fill the other two dps slots, which was probably more time than we then spent in the actual dungeon (Stormwind Stockade in this case). If anything, there seem to be too many healers in the low-level queue: in more than one run we ended up with a healer filling one of the dps slots. The holy pally in Wailing Caverns at least seemed to give ranged dps a pretty good go, but the disc priest/resto druid combo in Shadowfang Keep were both convinced that since they had both queued as healer, they didn't need to do anything but stand in the back and look pretty. (The druid literally had my pet tank on /follow for most of the run.) Since our third dps wasn't particularly on the ball either, this led to a rather odd experience where it felt like my tank and me were pretty much duoing the instance, while everyone else just tagged along to collect loot.

I suppose I mustn't complain too much though - at least we haven't run into any rude people... yet. For the most part, the players in our runs have been what you could call enigmatically silent, leaving their thoughts and motivations up to individual interpretation. Being a cynic, you could certainly interpret the fact that two dps dropped out of our Wailing Caverns run within the first five minutes as a sign that they were extremely impatient and even a minute of walking the wrong way (which we were doing at the time) was already too much of a waste of time for them to tolerate. For all I know though, they might have been some perfectly relaxed people who only just happened to remember at that time that they forgot to feed their cats.

Overall it seems to me that the "rush rush" culture is as alive as ever though. It's not that much of an issue in our case, as my tank is the sort of person who actually likes charging madly from one objective to the next, and I know that I can always tell him to stop if I need to. Gameplay-wise it's pretty dull from my point of view though, just running along, mashing my AoE buttons and collecting shinies along the way. I couldn't help feeling wistful in Blackfathom Deeps in particular, remembering how deadly so many of the trash pulls and boss encounters used to be, while it's now just a race to see who can round up the next room first.

One thing that mystifies me a little has been the loot. I suppose it's positive that we didn't encounter any ninjas, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that this was due to some sort of change to the loot system rather than people suddenly being more considerate. Most of the time I couldn't even see anyone but myself rolling (which among other things resulted in me winning four pieces of the "of the Fang" set in a single Wailing Caverns run), and I just can't believe that everyone was always passing on everything.

Not quite as I remember it...

Taken on its own merits, the most interesting instance so far has probably been Ragefire Chasm, because I had completely forgotten that Blizzard was going to redo that one for MoP. Imagine my surprise when upon entering I found mobs that looked like they escaped from the Firelands instead of a bunch of troggs! Now I'm curious to see what they've done to the Scarlet Monastery (which I know was redone).


Dogs chasing squirrels and vice versa

So after I made my last post, I thought that would be it for a while. I had expressed some interest in Warlords of Draenor, but it's going to be many months until the new expansion actually goes live, and I still don't care for pandas.

However, a certain someone took my post as a cue that we should return to WoW right now, and promptly gifted me a month of game time. Sigh, can't very well let that go to waste, can I?

Since he had never played Alliance before, we rolled up a couple of worgen, a druid and a warrior. I've never been particularly keen on their looks and animations, but the older character models bug me even more now. Plus I'd only done the worgen starter area once.

It's funny how much you forget, being away from the game for more than one and a half years. The names of zones, of NPCs. Just how beautiful parts of the in-game world are. Yet at the same time it's funny how much you remember instantly, as if you'd never been away. That there's a quest over there. Where all the trainers in Darnassus are. As soon as I spotted the profession trainer in the worgen starter zone, I was reminded of the issues I had with finding him during my first playthrough, and instantly pounced on him to learn everything I could this time around.

A lot of things have changed too. In fact, my very first reaction upon logging in on my new druid involved some confused squealing about what they'd done to Wrath. "What is this? That doesn't look like a nature spell! It's all... yellow! Makes me look like I'm shooting fire or something, that's just wrong! I'm a druid, not a mage!"

The act of levelling up, the actual "ding", is depressingly boring now. No training needed, ever. It feels particularly striking in the worgen starter area, where they made sure to have trainers for all classes travel with you through the continuous phasing, who are nothing but useless remnants of a forgotten age now. I miss the act of actually choosing to train my new abilities. It gives you time to acknowledge their acquisition and what they do. If they just appear on my bar on their own, I tend to miss them. I'm not even sure when I got bear form now, it was just there all of a sudden and I went: "Huh, where did that come from?"

I also miss the old talents already. There's just no reward for levelling up. You can moan all you want about how choosing "+1% spell damage" or whatever was meaningless to you, but at least it was something. Right now I feel like I have zero agency in growing my character. And when you do finally hit one of the milestones where you get to pick one of the new talents, it's something like a slight increase to your run speed. Wow, that sure feels so much more meaningful and is totally worth not getting any other talents for fifteen levels... [/sarcasm]

One of the more pleasant surprises for me was the new druid travel form. I vaguely recalled reading about it somewhere ages ago, but I thought it required a glyph or something. But nope, gorgeous stags are the default now. Really can't complain about that one, though I'll miss ye olde cheetah a little bit.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty...

We finished off the worgen starter area without any issues and then loitered around Darnassus for a bit. It was fun to watch my partner in crime, new to the Alliance and having been away from the game for even longer than me, approach many things with almost newbie-like innocence and delight. We even spent some time fishing in Rut'theran Village together, just because we could. No rush.

After we'd decided to continue to Darkshore and had been bumming around Lor'danel for a little while, we discovered pet battles. They were one of those features of Mists of Pandaria that sounded interesting in principle, but that I simply felt completely indifferent about on a personal level, not being a massive pet collector and never having played Pokemon or anything like it. I have to admit that I'd heard nothing but good things about this mini-game from people who actually tried it though.

In this particular instance, things played out like this between me and my partner in crime:

Him: Ooh, there's a pet battling trainer here.
Me: [only vaguely interested] Oh? Where?
Him: Over here.
Him: I'm picking a fight with a squirrel.
Me: Er, what?
Him: And... apparently I'm being killed by a squirrel.
Me: What? You're being killed by a squirrel? [giggles maniacally]

After that introduction we were both hooked and actually struggled to get any "proper" quests done for a while as we were just chasing green paws on the mini-map to get into epic battles with squirrels, rabbits and snails. It felt utterly ridiculous ("World of Sparring-with-fuzzy-critters-craft!") but it sure was fun. It's just a shame that it doesn't really make for a good group activity, because while you can kind of watch the other person battle, it's not amazingly interesting to spectate, plus you kind of compete against each other for the best pets to fight and capture.

We'll see how things go from here.


World of... Draenorness?

/blows dust off the blog...

I haven't played WoW in one and a half years and don't really miss it (still happily chugging along in The Old Republic), however while keeping up with MMO news in general, it's hard not to hear about what's going on in ye olde World of Warcraft as well, with the latest revelation being that the next expansion is going to be called Warlords of Draenor.

Draenor? As in... Outland? The place where my favourite expansion took place? I think I actually feel the tug of nostalgia... even though I know full well that this is probably exactly the kind of effect that Blizzard was hoping for. No matter how many times I tell myself that the game has changed and that there is no going back, the promise of getting to see places like Nagrand again - and actually as current content - is alluring.

I don't particularly care about any of the other stuff they announced, such as another reinvention of raid difficulty tiers, garrisons, or the whole Garrosh travelling back in time story. But oh, Outland...

I was quite impressed with what they showed off of the updated character models so far. I don't think that I'm massively picky when it comes to graphics, but I have to admit that during the three months when I played both WoW and SWTOR simultaneously, I found myself getting increasingly disappointed with the look of my WoW characters. Having the direct comparison to player models that looked so much better day after day did get me down after a while.

Yet at the same time, I couldn't really imagine them ever updating the models successfully without completely changing them and causing a disconnect to what came before. I only have to think back to my Neopets days and the sheer outrage that ensued whenever they redid some of the pet art there - and those were simple 2D cartoon images!

However, what they did show off of the redone character models at Blizzcon so far actually had me really impressed. I had to do a double-take whenever I took just a glancing look at the smaller slide images because I couldn't immediately tell which ones showed the old models and which ones the new ones; that's how similar they are. But when you do look more closely, everything about the new models looks so much smoother and crisper while still retaining the look of the old model... that's pretty amazing work. The only caveat from my point of view is that apart from the female dwarf, they haven't actually shown any images of redone races that I actually used to play. I might feel differently about those, having had more of a connection to them.

Either way, where am I going with this? Do I see myself making a proper return to WoW? No. But I can actually imagine myself buying this newest expansion to have a look at my graphically updated stable of alts and to go for a stroll in an alternate universe Draenor. And that's already a lot more than I ever would've imagined happening even a year ago.