Over the Hump

The thirties were not the most fun of level ranges in Vanilla. You had no mount yet, yet you had to range further and further afield to find quests - particularly painful on classes that don't get some kind of speed boost, like a hunter's Aspect of the Cheetah or a druid's Travel Form (*cough*mypally*cough*). There's also a bit of a dearth of good dungeons in the low thirties... who ever wants to do SM GY? And the only Alliance players who ever want to go to Razorfen Kraul are warriors for their class quest (if I recall correctly).

I've written about questing in Stranglethorn Vale and Thousand Needles, but aside from that I also spent some time in Arathi killing kobolds and Syndicate, and more in Desolace, though I made a point of staying away from anything centaur-related. The quests associated with the goblin caravan turned out to be sadly broken, but from what I hear no private server has got those right yet. Also, Rexxar and his pet bear are jerks. (The latter killed me after chasing me halfway across the map... she just wouldn't let go!)

Either way, I'm proud to say that I'm finally over that hump (thus the title of this post) and hit level 40! There is no ding shot as I was actually in the middle of tanking a Scarlet Monastery run at the time, but I noted down that I hit this milestone after a /played time of four days and about nine and a half hours. So just getting from 30 to 40 took me almost two days of played time, about the same amount of time as 1 to 30! In fairness though, I wasn't trying to be terribly efficient about it (or else I wouldn't be levelling a paladin as prot/holy). I also can't help but wonder how much of that time was spent in combat, compared to running around, sitting on flight paths and idling at the Ironforge auction house. I wouldn't be surprised if it was less than fifty percent.

Of course, hitting level 40 means that I'm finally able to get my first mount! And this is where being a paladin has its perks, because they get their basic mount for free. It counts as a regular paladin ability and doesn't even require you to have had riding training. This is good, because while I've been trying to save up money, I still would have come up a bit short in terms of gold, mostly because ability training is horrifically expensive, and bank space is even more so. (And while the latter is largely optional, I couldn't resist buying some, considering the alternative would have been to *gasp* get rid of some items that I wanted to keep.)

Even though I'm sure that they will take even longer, I'm looking forward to the next couple of levels because a) I finally have a horse, b) they will take me to zones like Tanaris, Feralas and the Hinterlands, some of my favourite Vanilla WoW zones, and c) SM Cathedral and Zul'Farrak are fun and worth re-running more than once if the opportunity arises.


A Guild and Grind

I joined a guild again. It wasn't planned, but as I was sitting in Darkshire looking for people to polish off my last couple of group quests in Duskwood, a person called Pawsy whispered me to ask if I was unguilded for a reason, which I thought was an interesting way of starting a recruitment conversation. We talked for a bit, I told them about how I wasn't playing very much and had ended up somewhat disappointed by the last guild that I'd joined randomly, and in the end I agreed to join their brand-new levelling guild called "Mending". It really was brand-new, as according to the guild info it had been founded only about two weeks prior.

I was pretty impressed by the leadership's recruitment efforts, as they were apparently whispering people like crazy, to the point that they were joking about how they were getting "no, I don't want to join Mending right now" replies as soon as they even said "hi". I was impressed because while they didn't seem to be very discriminating with their invities, they did genuinely try to engage people in conversation in the process.

I asked about the group quests in guild chat and half an hour later they were done. Boom! That's why you joined a guild in Vanilla.

Of course, it also took only a few hours until I had my first impulse to ragequit, when I saw some guy repeatedly use the word "jew" as an insult in guild chat and realised that another guy called Donaldtrumps (the name says it all really) who had come across as kind of trollish in general chat was in the guild as well. However, I decided that I didn't want to be hasty, as the guild is still very new and one has to wait a bit to see how these things shake out. A few bad apples don't need to necessarily ruin it for everyone, depending on how they are received by the rest of the guild, and I've already seen a fair bit of pushback against people saying overly stupid/rude things in guild chat as well. In short: we'll see.

In terms of gameplay, after having gained a few levels in Stranglethorn Vale, I was starting to hit a bit of a wall there, in the sense that I ran out of quests that I could easily solo. Plus, the Horde players I was encountering were starting to get on my nerves a bit... like that troll shaman 7 levels above me that tried to gank me on the road twice, though both times I managed to keep myself alive for long enough for other Allies to come by and kill him instead. Then there was another troll shammy, only 2 levels higher or so, who tried to kill me near Nesingwary's camp, but I kept healing myself. By the time I was nearly dead due to running out of mana and he was out of mana as well, I handed in two quests so that I dinged and was instantly back to full health and mana, hah! Unfortunately that was when another troll shammy (is there anything else in STV?) who was 9 levels higher than me and had been fishing nearby decided to join in to kill me. Anyway, the point is - all those troll shamans were getting in my way a bit and I decided that it was time to visit Kalimdor again.

I took the boat to Theramore and crossed Dustwallow Marsh, the Barrens and Thousand Needles on foot. Seeing the old Thousand Needles again made me so happy, even if its design and textures seem kind of bland by today's standards. I missed those windy canyons. I unlocked the flight path in Gadgetzan and picked up the artisan cooking quest there, since my cooking is a bit ahead of my level, though I'll need to level up a couple more times before I can effectively farm the materials for the quest.

Then I decided to go do a couple of quests in the Shimmering Flats. I vaguely recall not doing those on my priest back in the day, because I was already too high level for them by the time I arrived in the area, so I was only ever peripherally aware of them. It's safe to say that I didn't miss out! They are all super grindy and anything that doesn't require you to simply kill things or pick items off the ground has a terrible drop rate. Salt Flat Venom or Hardened Shells, anyone? I was OK with it though, because honestly, I needed something to grind and these quests just gave me an excuse to pick on turtles and scorpids.

Also, an orc rogue who was something like 7 levels lower than me tried to kill me and failed; I killed her instead. Definitely preferable to Stranglethorn Vale.


The Green Hills of Stranglethorn

While I had found unexpected enjoyment in questing in Duskwood, I was also keen on moving on to Stranglethorn Vale. STV, as it is sometimes shortened to, is a place with a very mixed reputation. Personally I have mostly fond memories of it, but I also know people who absolutely loathed that zone. One of the friends that levelled with me when I first started playing WoW used to call it "Ganklethorn Vale". Since we played on a PvE server I didn't really get this whole world PvP thing at the time and it didn't really mean anything to me. Seeing Horde players for the first time was simply exciting.

Now that I'm actually getting to re-live the experience (sort of), I'm being reminded of both the good and the bad about this zone:

The Good:

- After the gloomy atmosphere of Duskwood, the sunny tropical beaches of Stranglethorn really lighten your mood.

- There are loads of quests by Vanilla standards. I mentioned before that while WoW gained fame for having more quests than any other MMO at the time, by today's standards they were actually pretty sparse, and you were constantly running from zone to zone to find new ones (or submit to the grind for a couple of levels).

The Bad:

- Especially as Alliance, there is so much walking. I'd forgotten that the Rebel Camp didn't gain a flight path until Burning Crusade, so the closest Alliance hub is Darkshire. Then it's all the way down the winding road to Booty Bay and it takes freaking forever because you're still on foot for another ten levels or so. No mercy or consideration for the fact that you didn't actually get a mount until level 40.

- As this is one of the first zones where Horde and Alliance are forced into some proximity, it's a popular spot for gankers on PvP servers. So far I've only been affected by it once though, and I guess I was kind of asking for it by fishing near Nesingwary's camp...

The Neutral:

- Mob density is high and many of them also make pretty worthwhile grind targets (animals for leather, humanoids for cloth and cash). On the other hand: mob density is pretty high and you can't take two steps off the road without being attacked. In a couple of spots you are likely to be attacked on the road as well, plus it's often hard not to get adds while fighting in many places.

- The zone covers a huge level range, from about 30 to 50. In some ways this is good - see the aforementioned positive about lots of quests. On the other hand you'll find yourself coming back to the place again, and again, and again (because this being Vanilla, of course there aren't enough quests to level in STV alone) and you'll probably get pretty tired of it after a while.

- The mobs start to get more interesting in terms of abilities, and since combat is so much slower than in modern day WoW, they actually get to use them. In some ways this is interesting, because it trains you to - for example - save stuns until the caster mob tries to heal, as they will otherwise heal to full. (Kurzen Medicine Men, anyone?) On the other hand, it makes certain mobs plain annoying to fight depending on your class. For example combat as a pally is already slow enough as it is, I don't need a stupid basilisk stunning me for three seconds twice per fight on top of it.

- The Green Hills of Stranglethorn clog up your bags. On the other hand, if you have the money, you can actually buy a chunk of XP, which is pretty neat in my opinion.

- Samantha Swifthoof patrols the road. That lady scared the crap out of me when I was an Alliance newbie and before I realised that she didn't aggro. It was weird to find out later that she never actually had a purpose in the live game... (She was originally meant to teach Tauren Plainsrunning.)


Priestly Noobishness

I also logged into my priest alt again and played her for a bit, though not for long. Unlike my pally, this character's "original version" was levelled with a group of friends, and trying to recreate that experience alone feels like a very pale shadow of the past.

Still, it does trigger some interesting memories. Like learning how to use Power Word: Shield. I remember that when I first got it, I used to basically just attack the mobs and then shield myself once they got into melee and started hitting me. Then one day, I observed another priest soloing out in the wilderness, and for some reason she was shielding herself before even pulling. At first that made me scratch my head. Power Word: Shield has a thirty second duration, so if you cast it before combat you're effectively wasting a fair bit of potential shielding time!

But of course it doesn't actually work like that in practice, because a couple of hits are already enough to consume the shield. And then you'll likely have to deal with the Weakened Soul debuff, which won't allow you to be re-shielded for fifteen seconds after the first shield was cast. By pre-shielding, you could give Weakened Soul time to run out, and by the time your enemy broke your shield you were then able to immediately re-shield again. Just from observing a stranger I learned one of the most important lessons about the basic use of shields.

Likewise, reading the tooltip for Fade brought back all kinds of memories. In Vanilla it said: "Fade out, discouraging enemies from attacking you for 10 sec." Combined with the way that using this ability made you appear semi-transparent for a few seconds, I interpreted that as it giving me some kind of temporary stealth which would allow me to sneak past enemies at a closer distance than usual. When that didn't work, I mentally discarded the ability as useless.

Of course, the real purpose of Fade (and later versions of the tooltip reflected that) is to reduce your threat in combat. After I constantly drew healing aggro in dungeons, someone eventually asked me why I was never using Fade. I don't remember what I said, but probably something along the lines of: "Because it doesn't work!" But then I gave it another go in group content, and seeing mobs that were running towards me a moment ago turn right around and go back to the tank the moment I hit Fade was absolutely mind-blowing.

It's remembering things like that which enables me to have near infinite patience with people who play badly or just don't seem to get how something works, regardless of which MMO I'm in. They've probably got some perfectly valid reason on their minds for why they are doing what they are doing - even if they are "doing it wrong" - and it's probably something that I never even would have been able to come up with. That's the noob's prerogative.


Verigan's Fist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


BlizzCon, the Warcraft Movie and Ironmen

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

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

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

I was sort of intrigued by the Warcraft movie trailer:

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

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

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

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

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


Vanilla WoW on Hold

Just in case anyone has been wondering why I haven't posted an update on here in over a month, I wanted to give a brief explanation for that. Basically, I found that it's impossible for me to play three MMOs at the same time, at least while also maintaining a level of involvement that I'm comfortable with. (That is to say that I'm not someone who's happy to play any MMO for two hours a week.) So something had to give, and WoW was the natural choice since it was "only" a solo project. In both SWTOR and Neverwinter I have other people coaxing me to log in, so those games couldn't be dropped as easily. (Well, that and SWTOR has been my main game for three and a half years now... it was more of a case of WoW vs. Neverwinter really.)

That doesn't mean that I've lost interest in the project or have completely given up on it. Based on experience I would expect my pet tank's interest in Neverwinter to decrease again after the summer, at which point I might be able to give that game a break and get back on the road to Stranglethorn Vale instead.


Level 30, Loving Duskwood

Isadora hit level 30 today, with a /played time of 2 days and a little less than 11 hours. I was really hoping that I would be able to start this post with a screenshot of her proudly wielding Verigan's Fist, but alas, the quest for it is still in her log and has gone grey by now. I just can't seem to get a group for Shadowfang Keep. At one point I tried to form one with a druid, but we gave up after nobody responded to our LFM requests for too long. He joked that people probably didn't even know what "SFK" was. Alliance just doesn't like to go there - it's too far away, and I believe that other than the paladin class quest there are no other incentives to go. I wonder at what level I might be able to solo the first boss? I only need to get to the stables to complete my quest...

In regards to Blackfathom Deeps, reader Shandren had commented that the quest item also dropped from the elite mobs outside the instance and that I should be able to get it solo if I was careful. As it happens, I did end up finding a group for BFD though and completed a full run of the place. (We even killed the thrasher boss!) The way the party was formed was a bit bizarre. We only needed a tank, but as soon as we invited one, she immediately left again, citing the presence of two other plate wearers in the group as the reason. I had forgotten how peculiar people could be about that back in the day. It seems all the stranger considering how hard it can be to get groups at all, never mind your preferred group composition.

Anyway, at this point our level 23 dps warrior offered to tank instead (even though her level was slightly on the low end for BFD) and we started to look for a dps. We got... another dps warrior, several levels higher. "Well, you'll end up tanking then," she was told unceremoniously... and was perfectly fine with it. She just strapped on a shield and tanked the whole instance like a boss, even though she could have complained that we had originally invited her as a dps. It was just such a stark contrast to the previous tank leaving simply because she didn't like the group composition.

Other than that BFD run I haven't found much time for group content, so I've been questing instead. It's starting to become a bit of a drag at the moment because I'm having trouble finding gear upgrades (I don't want to waste money on the auction house) and my weapon is now more than ten levels below me. As if being a prot/holy hybrid wasn't enough to make me hit like a wet noodle... At least I get to squeeze some extra dps out of Exorcism whenever I'm fighting undead. (Yay, class flavour!)

A lot of my recent questing has taken place in Duskwood, and somewhat to my surprise I've been loving it (even if the constant running back and forth between Darkshire and Raven Hill is annoying as anything). The thing is, I don't recall being very fond of Duskwood back in Vanilla... in fact I seem to remember not liking it very much at all, because I wasn't a fan of the gloomy atmosphere. But looking at it now, it seems like the perfect example of why many things about Vanilla WoW just worked so well, even if people would probably call them bad game design these days.

For example, who thought that it would be a good idea to have a level 35 elite mob patrol among regular skeletons that are ten levels lower? Or to spawn another level 35 elite who'd then make his way to Darkshire on the road, squashing innocent players and quest NPCs alike if they happened to cross his path? Things like that really made the world feel dangerous and served to underline the background of Duskwood being a cursed and dangerous place.

 Just like the good old days...
Quests aren't always connected in a perfectly linear manner either. For example you get a quest to bring some food to Jitters in Raven Hill, but that quest simply ends there with no follow-up. Later however you receive a quest from a guy called Sven, who wants you to hunt down the last person he saw at the house where his family was killed, and after a fair bit of running around and collecting clues, it turns out that this person was the very same Jitters to whom you delivered that food parcel. The Legend of Stalvan also has you running all around the houses to find out more about this Stalvan guy, after the local medium has a vision of him bringing doom upon Darkshire. People may have argued that this made the stories too hard to follow or whatever, but it's hard to deny that actually having to read the quest text and connecting the dots also made the whole experience so much more rewarding for those who actually cared to pay attention.

Duskwood as a whole is bursting with what I would call "old WoW flavour", portraying a world that is cartoony and sometimes a little silly but still takes itself seriously. (I read all 20 pages of Jitters' completed journal - the bit about him witnessing the death of Sven's family was rough!) I feel that this is something that has been lost in current WoW - while it still has some serious quests, the overall tone is much less so, with people riding around on increasingly ridiculous mounts and areas like the goblin starter zone setting a very different tone for new players.

Remember when worgen were fierce monsters instead of dogs with top hats and bad English accents?
Now I just have to find out more about this "Scythe of Elune" - Jitters' journal mentioned something about it having been found inside a mine... (Read: I can't really remember where that particular quest line starts, but I'll be happy to find out.)


The Alt

I haven't had much time to play WoW this week. Who'd have thought that working full-time, playing three MMOs at the same time and blogging about all three of them would take up so much time?

I've been finding myself logging into WoW mostly in the evenings, when I'm too tired to pay attention to the story in SWTOR or the action combat in Neverwinter. Slowly grinding away at twenty wolves and fifteen spiders while listening to a podcast in the background is relaxing and requires a lot less focus. I had kind of forgotten how good WoW used to be at this (before they took away most reasons to grind and made combat more demanding).

The only downside is that I'm always a little sad when I see a LFM request going out for content that I would desperately like to do but for which I simply don't have enough time just then. (Not to mention that a dungeon or group quest would require a lot more focus.) As I'm slowly climbing up the levels by soloing, the elite quests are piling up in my log and I hate the thought of abandoning them. We'll see if I'll manage to get in a good, long weekend play session some time soon to reduce their numbers.

In the comments on my last post, reader Shandren suggested that if I was having issues with bag space, I should roll up a bank alt, or at least an alt that I could temporarily mail things to in order to free up bag space, even if the other character wasn't meant to help with long-term storage. I took this as an excuse to recreate the night elf priest who was my main throughout Vanilla and early BC. It feels kind of wrong to create an alt before I've even hit level thirty on my current "main". However, I don't think it took me very long to create an alt back in 2006 either... in fact, I have a screenshot from back then that shows a level 1 warrior on the character selection screen next to my level 13 priest, though I think I ended up deleting that one without ever playing her.

I only played my little night elf through Shadowglen and then immediately parked her at the nearest inn, but I could easily see myself coming back to her to play some more. I just have so many fond memories of the early night elf zones, even if they feel a bit empty now without the friends that levelled with me back then when I was a new player.

This post includes a screenshot of my priest from original Vanilla WoW as well as one from Kronos. Can you guess which is which?


Bags, the AH, Weather, Graphics

Today, a post about a couple of things that aren't really connected but also aren't worth talking about in separate posts of their own.

Bag space (or lack thereof) is driving me a bit nuts. My character currently has a mix of eight and ten-slot bags, all of which she found out in the world, and which seems about right for her current level from what I remember... but it's just not enough. Since I'm willing to play the healer role in dungeons, I've put together a healing set which has intellect and spirit on it instead of strength and stamina and which takes up a whole bag all by itself. I'm also a miner, and I forgot that ores only stacked to ten in Vanilla. Ack! Add to that my desire to avoid throwing away white quality items (someone could use that Crisp Spider Meat and Murloc Eye I'm sure - in Vanilla they had uses) and I have no doubt that you can see my dilemma. Back in Wrath I wrote a post bemoaning the uninspiredness of its loot tables, and I do still enjoy sorting through my bags, but at the moment it sometimes feels like too much, mostly because vendors and especially banks can be hard to come by when you're on a quest in the middle of nowhere. It gets a bit annoying when you're at the back of a cave, knowing full well that you need another ten spiders to complete your quest (who all drop about five different varieties of spider parts) and pretty much after every pull you have to stop to consider whether to discard something or leave the last corpse unlooted. The only alternative would be to hearth out, sell stuff, and then come all the way back.

One way of getting rid of bag overflow is to sell things on the auction house. I've found Kronos' economy to be a strange beast. Initially it felt a bit dead at the low levels, but it seems that the server has been growing and the low-level economy has picked up as a result. I'm having to re-learn what actually sells and what doesn't. Rogue or feral druid leather? Yes please. Caster leather? You'd have to be pretty insane to level a druid as balance or resto in Vanilla, so not much luck. Things like cooking ingredients can be very hit or miss depending on whether anyone is working on levelling their cooking or not. Also, I miss jewelcrafting - it's obvious that there aren't enough uses for stone and gems at this point so their value is pretty low. Actually, a lot of things seem very cheap in general - but that's simply a sign of a young economy, where most players are new and (relatively) poor. I keep thinking of how many of these low-level items used to sell for multiple pieces of gold when I last played on live, but on this server the majority of the potential buyers simply doesn't have that kind of money to spare. Even coppers matter.

I left the guild that I joined back in Loch Modan. No big drama, I just hadn't got to know anyone really and guild chat repeatedly caught my eye in a negative way because of multiple people making jokes about rape, abortion etc. It was obvious that this was not the kind of company I wanted to hang out with and that just seeing them talk detracted from my experience instead of adding to it. If someone else asks me to join their guild, I'll have to be a bit choosier in the future.

Why does it always rain on me...?
I don't know if Kronos is slightly wonky in some way or if this is a case of me misremembering the way things were in Vanilla, but I don't remember it raining quite so much. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining - I'm really enjoying the day/night cycles and weather changes, especially as they are something that I sometimes miss in SWTOR. Still, there are certain zones (Elwynn Forest, Loch Modan, the Wetlands) where it seems to be raining ninety percent of the time whenever I get there. I just don't remember those areas being quite that wet.

When Blizzard announced that they were revamping the old character models for Warlords of Draenor, I was excited because I had to admit that their outdatedness had started to bother me. (Though I have very mixed feelings about the results.) Funnily enough, the Vanilla graphics on Kronos do not bother me at all. I've been thinking about why that is and I think the secret is consistency. As Blizzard continued to add better and better looking zones, mounts, pets and gear, our characters increasingly stood out in a bad way. It was hard to miss when your entire character model consisted of fewer polygons than your shoulderpads; they just didn't match. But on Kronos, everything looks equally blocky and I've found that I'm actually okay with that. It's a crude style, but it works.


Kalimdor Calling... and Other Travels

There's one thing no recreation of Vanilla WoW can bring back, no matter how faithful it is, and that's the ignorance of being a truly new player. I recall that when I started playing the game back in 2006, Elwynn Forest alone seemed huge to me. Then I realised that it was just one zone of many. Then I realised that there was a whole other continent waiting for me... well, you get the idea.

This time around, I know almost exactly where I need to go. I say "almost" because while I achieved Loremaster pre-Cataclysm, I "only" did so on Horde side, and even that was several years ago by now. I haven't been truly surprised by any of the content I've encountered on Kronos (yet), but there were definitely a few "Huh, I'd completely forgotten about that" moments.

For example, it had been quite a while since I last had to buy a book from a special vendor to train my secondary professions past 150. It was quite a trek over to Ashenvale to get the Expert Cookbook. With what little money I had, I bought a spare to sell on the auction house and I managed to sell it with a markup of 100%. Yay, arbitrage! A similar scenario played out when I had to wander up to the Arathi Highlands to learn expert first aid, and again I was able to make a tidy profit off the journey.

I also encountered my first Horde player while travelling. As I was making my way along the mountain road from Loch Modan to the Wetlands, I was suddenly faced with a "skull level" tauren druid in travel form coming my way. I froze like a deer in the headlights, but he just looked at me for a moment and then moved on. I don't know if he didn't want the dishonourable kill or just didn't care to gank either way. One mustn't forget that not everyone on a PvP server is necessarily out to kill the opposite faction non-stop.

Quests feel like they are all over the place by this point. There are half a dozen zones that contain mobs of the right level somewhere, but there only ever seems to be a small handful of quests that are in the right level range, so I'm constantly travelling round and round.

Finally of course, I'm dealing with the absolute insanity that is the paladin class quest for a levelling weapon. (This being Vanilla, I can't currently see my reward, but I've been reminded that it's Verigan's Fist.) Its instructions are so long that I received a "note" item in my inventory that's six pages long. Do you remember when quests used to give those? For this class quest, a blacksmith that works in Ironforge asks you to bring him supplies from the elite ogre area in Loch Modan, wood from the Deadmines, tools from Shadowfang Keep and some other thingamajig from Blackfathom Deeps. Considering that an instance run takes about two hours, and that's without even taking the travel time to places like SFK into account, wanting to complete this quest means that you're looking at about 6+ hours of play time just to finish what is essentially a single task.

It feels insane... but of course there is a certain pride to be had in completing your class quests. What kind of paladin would I be if I couldn't gather some simple blacksmithing materials? So far I've managed to get the stuff from the ogres and the wood from the Deadmines. (For my second run I healed and it went much more smoothly... just don't tell anyone that I stood at the back wearing a dress; it's very un-paladin-like.) Shadowfang and Blackfathom worry me a little because they are both in fairly remote areas where people don't often go - but on the plus side, levelling being fairly slow means that there is plenty of time for an opportunity to present itself before I completely outlevel the content.

(On a side note, I have now outlevelled the "real" Isadora - my first ever WoW character, whom I tried to recreate here - because back then I switched to playing a night elf priest on an English server fairly early on. Now there is definitely something very new about this journey.)


Welcome to the Deadmines

 This video was an instant classic - though in hindsight the part about the old instance getting buffed to 80 seems bittersweet.
After my less than stellar grouping experience in Redridge, the next time I logged in and had finally sorted out my bags, I decided to look for a Deadmines group again, vowing to not let myself get distracted this time. I mopped up some leftover quests in the Westfall area and kept an eye on general chat.

At first I ended up grouping with a mage, but after we hadn't got a single response to our looking-for-more requests in about fifteen minutes, he said that it seemed like the server was too quiet at that moment and that he'd try again later.

Not much later a guildie expressed interest in a Deadmines run and we teamed up. I didn't keep an eye on how long it took us to assemble a full group, but I reckon that it still must've taken at least twenty minutes. It didn't feel too bad though because I was using the time to run some more errands in Stormwind, such as smelting ore, putting things on the auction house and so on and so forth.

Eventually we had assembled the following group: me on my prot paladin, supposed to tank. I'm not sure going protection was a wise choice - I had initially forgotten that pallies didn't get their taunt until 2.0 (I started playing shortly before that, so my memories of what was introduced when are a bit fuzzy). The prospect of tanking without a taunt seemed more than daunting, but after I had seen people talk about it in guild chat for a bit I felt reassured, as most of them seemed to agree that it was manageable in dungeons and for off-tanking in raids. My guildie, a feral druid, said that she would be happy to dps or heal, and so did the retribution paladin we invited. Finally we also got a hunter and a warlock.

We were lucky that everyone was quick to make their way towards the instance, because when we tried to use the summoning stone, we didn't seem to be able to get it to work. I can't tell if this is a bug or another one of those things that weren't actually introduced until a patch or two after I started playing.

I felt proud that I had managed to gather up all the quests for the instance and shared the ones that others didn't seem to have. I said in chat that I would like to do the two quests with the dead miners just outside the instance and people were like "sure", but whenever I tried to go towards the area they were in, everyone else just ran off in the opposite direction until we were actually at the instance entrance. This didn't feel like the best start.

Things got worse: my tanking was useless. With nothing but a judgement every ten seconds and auto-attack (I had forgotten that consecration also used to be the 11-point holy talent), I simply didn't stand a chance against the warlock and hunter pulling things from range. On top of that, the druid only had bear form to dps in. The warlock yelled at me to taunt once, and I explained that paladins didn't have a taunt in Vanilla. I'm not sure he believed me. Either way, the feral druid soon started taunting instead and effectively usurped the tank position because I couldn't taunt back. It's a good thing I don't have much of a tanking ego or I might have felt offended.

As it was, we seemed to be doing okay the way we were doing things, with me sort of off-tanking, and there were no further complaints or accusations about bad tanking... or bad anything really. Things felt quite chaotic compared to the well-orchestrated trinity song-and-dance that I'm used to performing in today's MMOs, but we managed. Mobs were running all over the place, first because aggro was such a fickle beast with limited tanking tools, then because almost without exception they were all the type of enemy that tries to run away when they get low on health. However, everyone seemed to accept that this was just the way things were and made the best of what we had. We only wiped a couple of times when we accidentally ended up with too many mobs due to accidental overpulling. The hunter and warlock mostly stayed quiet, but the druid and the other pally were quite cheerful, and everyone was unfailingly polite. There was no ninja-looting, and people were constantly asking whether they could need on this or that or if someone else needed it more.

At the very end I even got to enjoy a moment in the limelight after all, when the dps decided to burn down Van Cleef while ignoring all his adds, which resulted in a massive amount of Defias spawning in quick succession... and I tanked them all. I even happened to record it! I liked how people initially even stopped what they were doing and just stared at me tanking the whole pile of adds (and typed "wow" in chat).

I didn't keep track of the exact time we spent in the dungeon, but I can confidently say that it was about two hours from start to finish. I'll be honest and admit that I actually felt pretty tired after that, even though it hadn't been a bad run! It's weird to think that people can probably run the revamped Deadmines on live in about fifteen minutes, even though the instance is the same length. In Vanilla everything just took so much longer to kill.


Also a Vanilla Grouping Experience

After hitting level twenty, my next major goal was to get into a group for the Deadmines. I kept an eye on chat as I continued my questing, but at the time nobody seemed to be building any Deadmines groups - a guildie just kept spamming guild chat with looking-for-more requests to do the escort quest in Redridge. Finally she called me out directly, as I was obviously in the right area, and I caved and agreed to join. After all, that escort quest would earn me some nice XP too, right? My mantra before the introduction of the group finder had always been to take the bull by the horns whenever an opportunity presented itself, because waiting until everything lined up perfectly so that you could do the content you wanted, at exactly the time you wanted, with exactly the group you wanted, was generally a futile endeavour.

I joined a group consisting of the guildie on her level 23 or 24 (can't remember exactly) gnome mage, and another guildie on a dwarf warrior of the same level. When we trekked up to the area with the cave in which the escort starts, I realised that I was somewhat in over my head, with all the mobs being around level 25. However, I just hung back and healed the two dps while they laid waste to the enemy and that seemed to work out fine.

Then we got to the escort quest, and I saw that the exclamation mark over corporal Keeshan's head was grey to me. When the others started the mission, I received nothing but an error message that I wasn't eligible for the quest (due to me being too low level). This was somewhat disappointing, but I didn't feel too bad about it as we slowly walked down the mountain, because at least I had got two quests to kill orcs and gather their axes done on the way.

Once Keeshan was safely back in Lakeshire, the mage asked if we wanted to stick together to also do the elite quests in Stonewatch Keep. We agreed and picked up a level 19 druid on the way as well.

However, it soon turned out that in the keep, we were all in over our heads. The mobs were just too strong and numerous. While we could slowly whittle them down by pulling very carefully, it took so long to kill anything that we pretty much had to deal with respawns before we could ever get anywhere. The druid and I were actually more of a liability than helpful, due to our low level giving us an absolutely massive aggro radius. There was one particularly humorous moment when we had suffered some deaths in the first hallway of the keep and slowly reclaimed our bodies while carefully tucking ourselves into a corner. The moment the druid got up however, an orc immediately started throwing spears at him, killed him, and then walked away again.

Eventually it seemed that most of us agreed that we weren't going to be successful with this group and we decided to part ways for now. I had been lucky, as I had at least got enough quest drops from the caster mobs we had killed to complete one of the elite quests.

So far, so good.

Just after I had taken a flight back to Westfall, the gnome mage suddenly whispered me again to say that she was building a new group and that she had a tank in the high twenties now, so this group was bound to do much better! I agreed to re-join and made my way back. They were clearly desperate for a healer.

This time the rest of the group consisted of the mentioned level 28 paladin tank, a hunter and a warlock, but the two latter were once again of quite a low level. The warlock also realised almost immediately that he didn't actually have all the quests and had to jog back to Lakeshire to hand something in so he could pick up the correct follow-up. Meanwhile the paladin tank asked us to clear a tower on the side which did nothing for the rest of the group.

When the warlock came back, he got killed by respawns and the mage told him to watch where he was going, to which the warlock replied somewhat testily that she should drop the condescending attitude. We killed some more mobs.

Just as we were making our way to the boss inside the courtyard, the mage was suddenly removed from the group. I typed a question mark into chat and was kicked from the party as well. I'm still not sure why, because the mage had been a bit snarky I guess and we were in the same guild? We regrouped with the level 28 pally who had apparently suffered the same fate as us and wedged ourselves into a corner while we waited for another mage to join us to build our group back up to strength. The gnome advised the second mage to just run through all the mobs on his way, which didn't work out and he died. The gnome then went out to "help" him... and they both died.

When they were finally about to re-join us at the right spot, the warlock and hunter who had kicked us suddenly swooped in with a level fifty shadow priest in tow who murdered everything for them in seconds. Since the boss' respawn was going to take a while, we gave the inside of the keep another shot but died again. It was quite late by then and I finally excused myself, having achieved nothing but a lot of deaths.

I felt utterly drained by the whole experience, the constant dying with no progress, fighting the same pulls over and over again, and then having other people swoop in to kill the mobs we needed before we could get to them. To be honest, the gnome mage's aggressively hyper attitude also started to grate on my nerves after a while. At one point early on, a level 60 swooped past us with someone he was boosting and the mage called him names in /yell. When the other group "stole" the boss right in front of our noses, she also suggested running after them into the keep and trying to steal their tag on the boss in there. I just didn't want to hear any more of it.

I didn't play for several days after that.


Azeroth Trek III: The Search for XP (and Cash)

When I had finally wrapped up all my business in Elwynn, I checked my /played time and was surprised to see that it was sitting at just under six hours. (This included a couple of trips to Stormwind for things like the paladin class quest to learn the resurrection spell. Remember the days when you would run into pallies who couldn't res because they'd never bothered to do that quest? Good times.) I was quite impressed that the starter zone alone had managed to keep me busy for so long, but of course things were only going to become more time-consuming.

I remember having that plank and nail on live!
In Westfall, I was off to a good start. I picked up pretty much every quest that I could find (of which there were quite a few) and then just started running around killing things almost at random, which worked surprisingly well, as nearly everything in the vicinity counted towards some quest objective or another. It was only towards the end that I had to range further to hunt down the last couple of remaining targets specifically.

The Defias in Westfall gave me even more trouble than the ones in Elwynn had done, especially as there were some nasty casters among them. I suffered my first death, and more followed soon. Mostly they were caused by me getting unexpected adds in a confined space such as inside a mine, where I had no space to run away. Since Vanilla WoW mostly restricted itself to one graveyard per zone, the corpse runs were quite substantial, though still not nearly as bad as I remember them being in other zones such as Darkshore, the Barrens or Blackrock Mountain.

Hello again...
I was a bit dismayed to find that once I had completed nearly all of the quests in the zone aside from a couple of higher level ones, I was still only level 15, far too low to go to the Deadmines. It made me realise just how little XP most of the quests awarded compared to what I'm used to these days. Most of them gave less than you would earn from killing about ten mobs of your level, so whenever I returned to a quest giver to hand in, I was a little disappointed by just how little my experience bar seemed to move. It was a stark reminder that while WoW gave rise to the quest-centered theme park MMO, Vanilla WoW still bore the clear marks of its mob-grinder predecessors. Sure, WoW was revolutionary in regards to the sheer amount of quests it launched with, but it still expected you to run around and kill a lot of mobs to actually level up.

I was sent to deliver a message to Lakeshire and noticed that the quests there did start around level 15, but considering the trouble the Defias had given me and what I remembered of the local gnoll camps, I really didn't want to go in there at the absolute minimum level. Instead I decided to make the journey to Loch Modan, where I had another delivery to make.

I have fond memories of my first Vanilla character, the paladin I tried to recreate here on Kronos, questing in Loch Modan. I distinctly remember getting into a group with nothing but dps to kill troggs for the quest at Ironband's excavation and it being pretty manic as I became the dedicated healer of the party and people were charging off in all kinds of different directions. I had a really fun time with that.

Fortunately, Kronos didn't disappoint in regards to recreating that experience either. I hadn't even got to Ironband's yet, but I was working my way through the quest chain to kill regular troggs in Stonesplinter Valley when a dwarf priest and a hunter threw me a group invite. Even though we quickly established that I wasn't even on the same step of the quest chain as them yet, they were happy to help me get caught up. We had a good laugh at the hunter's boar pet bugging out like crazy inside the caves, aggroing things left and right and evading others. Just like Vanilla WoW indeed! Initially I felt a bit flustered by the kindness of the two dwarves and their willingness to kill troggs they didn't even need for their own quest anymore, but of course this also goes back to what I wrote about quest XP: it's not all that. Just being in a group that can kill a large number of mobs quickly and safely isn't half bad even if you're not on the quest yourself.

More positive grouping experiences followed. I grouped up to kill ogres in the Mo'grosh ogre mound in the north-eastern corner of the map, and even though we died a few times in there, we were always in good spirits as we ran back to our bodies, keen to give it another try with a slightly different strategy (which repeatedly turned out to be: everyone with the ability to heal, spam heals on the warrior). I also joined a guild almost by accident, as one of the people in that group started throwing everyone guild invites while we were in the middle of a cave fighting ogres. I wanted to ask what sort of guild it was, explain how I wasn't sure if I should even join one etc. but in the heat of battle I just clicked accept. At least the guild name, "You had me at LokTar", is vaguely amusing. It does seem to be a levelling guild as well, as I checked the guild roster a bit later and the highest level character in the guild was only in the low forties at the time.

I more or less finished up Loch Modan by killing Ol' Sooty, the elite bear on the mountain south-east of Thelsamar. That was quite funny too, as I got a mage to help me who didn't even have the quest, and at first the two of us didn't seem to be powerful enough as Sooty killed us on our first attempt. On our second one however, we got him down via some epic kiting by both me and the mage, and even though the mage still died eventually, I managed to finish Sooty off with less than ten percent of my own health left on my bar. We had a good laugh about that. The only downside was that I was still only level nineteen.

Next to experience points, the other thing I found myself struggling with was money. Mobs generally only dropped a few copper, quests awarded a few silver... and everything I needed seemed terribly expensive in comparison. Even taking a flight was not a decision to be made lightly, considering that it would cost me at least one silver. More than once I slunk away from the paladin trainer with my metaphorical tail between my legs, unable to actually afford all my ability upgrades. Though I suppose I didn't help my case by trying really hard to keep up with all of my professions, including the secondary ones - I had forgotten just how much of a money sink profession training could be, especially the training of new ranks and recipes.

On the plus side, this constant need for money also gave me more reasons to not be shy about killing mobs in my way, and turned even minor surprises into major events for me. For example I fought my way inside the very heart of a kobold cave, even though the associated quest didn't require me to do so, and found a rare mob there. When I killed him, he dropped no less than three green items. What riches!

One of my guildies commented that he was excited about hitting the milestone of having earned one gold, and we mused on how it was funny how valuable money felt in early Vanilla.

Eventually I moved on to Redridge, and after a couple of rounds of killing gnolls and wildlife, I hit level twenty with a /played time of 25 hours.


Old-school Experiences in Elwynn

When I first logged into the Kronos server with my newly (re-)created human paladin, I was pleased to immediately see other people around me in the starting zone. It wasn't exactly heaving the way it was when I first started playing World of Warcraft back in 2006, but it was reasonably busy. The lowbie world certainly felt more alive than it did on the live servers during my brief visit during Mists of Pandaria. A system announcement sent out a global message every time a battleground popped, and the level 60 PvP seemed to be reasonably active. Later I also started using the /who command to gauge the population, and while it only displays up to 50 individual characters, it did also show the total number of characters online, which seemed to hover between 300 and 500 most times. I'm not sure that's enough to support all forms of group content, but it was obviously enough to make the world feel alive (during the early levels at least).

For all my appreciation of Vanilla WoW, I realised instantly that I, too, had been spoiled by the incessant streamlining that WoW and other MMOs have performed over the years. I immediately looked at my mini-map to look for quest icons, but of course this being Vanilla WoW, there weren't any. I actually had to walk around Northshire Abbey and look all the NPCs in the face to see if they had an exclamation mark over their head or not. Once I had picked up my first couple of quests, I habitually opened up my map to look for the quest markers telling me where to go. Nope! Vanilla WoW expects you to read the quest text and to actually look at the world around you. I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I also got confused briefly because some items that I was supposed to pick up from the ground weren't indicated by giant sparkles... Fortunately it didn't take long for me to adjust and to pull my eyes back towards what was going on in the world around me instead of being entirely focused on UI overlays.

Cue heroic music...
From a gameplay perspective, my first couple of levels were hilariously bad, though this was at least in part due to the fact that I chose to roll a paladin; on a different class it wouldn't have been quite so pronounced. For those who don't know/remember: in Vanilla, paladins started out with a buff and a heal... so when it comes to fighting, you can literally do nothing but auto-attack for the first few levels. My pet tank looked over my shoulder with a frown (as he only started playing during Wrath of the Lich King himself) and I broke out into hysterical giggles as I assured him that Vanilla WoW and just auto-attacking everything was totally awesome.

8 damage! This is going to take a while...
In all honesty though: no, I don't think that particular design decision was very well thought-out, however I do think that it made sense back then to start things off slowly for the benefit of complete newbies to the genre. I distinctly remember being confused by simple things such as orientating myself or figuring out what my two buttons actually did when I was true WoW noob myself.

Fortunately it didn't take long until I got an attack move (judgement, on a ten second cooldown), even if that would remain my only offensive ability for quite a while. However, already at level four things got interesting in a different way. I was sent across the river to the vineyard full of Defias, and those guys were deadly. Their aggro range was considerable, they hurt, there were multiple patrols and several locations where mobs were grouped up in packs of two or three, not to mention that they were all pretty densely packed to begin with. My ability bar may have been nothing to write home about, but I was extremely focused on my surroundings, trying hard to dodge patrols and making sure to run away or at least back off far enough to cause any adds to evade if I overpulled by accident. Instead of being all about the second-to-second gameplay of hitting your buttons, the Vanilla WoW levelling experience is all about tactical movement. I really enjoyed going back to this style of play and feel confident in saying that this was not an inherently worse levelling experience than WoW has today, but simply one with a very different focus.

Once I had made it to Goldshire, I wanted to learn how to mine. Nope! Why would miners hang out in the middle of a forest? Go to Stormwind and talk to the dwarves there, they are all about mining. In other words, this was my reminder that Vanilla WoW still put "a world that made sense" ahead of gameplay convenience in many respects. Another reminder came when I failed at mining my first copper node and had to try again. Why of course, you don't always succeed when you try something new for the first time, makes perfect sense! Ore was hard to come by in general because I had forgotten just how sparse mining nodes used to be in the old world before the Cataclysm revamp. I'm not going to pretend that all those little things didn't also result in minor annoyances, but minor was all they were - and at the same time they created all kinds of challenges and goals you could work on aside from questing. When was the last time that taking a break from questing to leg it all the way to your trainer was a genuine thing that you planned around? There was gameplay in overcoming these minor obstacles that is missing from today's World of Warcraft.

Fail. :(
Finally, the social side: I think I had more chats with random strangers during my hours in Elwynn than I had in my last three months of playing WoW on live servers. I grouped up to kill Goldtooth and Hogger. A friendly gnome mage offered me some bags, an offer which I gratefully declined since I had been extremely lucky and had found four six-slot bags (!!!) relatively early on during my questing. A random person from general chat exchanged some whispers with me on the subject of experience gains in a party. And I got invited to a levelling guild, though I respectfully declined that as well as it wouldn't feel right to me to join a guild when I'm not sure how invested I'm going to be in this project. But it was nice to receive a personal, genuine guild invite from someone, compared to the constant, addon-based auto-invite spam that was running rampant on the live servers last time I played.

Just meeting other players out in the world was generally a positive experience, even when we didn't talk or group up. Occasionally there was competition for mobs, but since they were so densely packed in most areas, there was no real shortage of things to kill and it was just a relief to have someone else cut a path through the area and reduce the number of threats. Meeting people on the road also meant "drive-by buffs" - I was quite happy every time I met a priest or a mage in particular. With how tough I found the mobs to fight, every little stat increase was appreciated. My own five-minute paladin blessings didn't feel like a great gift to return, what with their short duration.

When you're knee-deep in kobolds and all you have is a shovel, any company is welcome.
So how has this whole "emulating Vanilla WoW" experience been holding up from a technical point, considering Dodgy Kebab's video review in which he repeatedly called Kronos "flawless"? Well, it wasn't completely flawless: I ran into a couple of kobolds that were stuck in a wall and a few copper nodes in a cave that came up as "invalid target" every time I tried to mine them. I can't say that I perceived this as a huge negative though, considering that those things are the kind of bug that occasionally showed up on the original Vanilla WoW servers as well. So far, it's certainly been a good recreation of the Vanilla experience - including the fun.

 Oh, and this.


Adventures on Kronos: The Background

Private WoW servers have been around for a pretty long time. I'm not sure when I first heard about one, though it must have been a very long time ago. It might even have been during original Vanilla WoW, though back then it would have been something along the lines of: "My friend runs this private WoW server where he can one-shot everything and solo all of Molten Core!" It sounded both dodgy and weird.

Certainly private WoW servers are still a bit dodgy these days. I'm pretty sure that it's against WoW's terms and conditions to play on a private server, and even more so to create and maintain one. That's not the same as it actually being illegal though. If anything, the fact that private servers that openly advertise themselves on the web and on YouTube are still around years after their opening seems to imply that it's not something that Blizzard can or at least cares to take measures against. Though I did hear rumours that streaming WoW from a private server was banned from Twitch or something.

Regardless of the strict legality of the matter, I have a hard time feeling like these guys are doing anything bad, especially if the whole project is offered to the public for free. I just can't see Blizzard missing out on a lot of potential revenue here, considering just how disgruntled many ex-WoW players have become with the direction of the live game (myself not entirely excluded).

This brings us to the "weird" part - private WoW servers are definitely a lot less weird and unusual than they used to be. With every expansion that completely revamps the game, Blizzard potentially alienates another set of players that loved things the way they were. And unlike for example SoE Daybreak Games, who even gave their official blessing to a project emulating the original Everquest from 1999, Blizzard has no interest in pandering to people's nostalgia. Rather, it's the opposite: they've explicitly said that they believe that WoW's current state is always the best it could possibly be and that anybody who would like to play an older version is obviously blinded by nostalgia because all the older versions of the game were clearly so much worse.

As more and more people disagree with this stance, private servers that allow people to return to a version of the game that they enjoyed more are seeing a distinct rise in popularity. Back in 2013 I remember seeing a video advertising the Emerald Dream private server, and shortly afterwards Wilhelm of The Ancient Gaming Noob wrote a short series of posts about his adventures on that server. (Sadly he stopped and seemed to lose interest before he even made it to Westfall.)

This year, an ex-WoW acquaintance of mine even posted on Facebook that he had started playing on a private server, inviting people to join him. On YouTube, I noticed more and more "Vanilla WoW" videos popping up that were obviously very recent and not recorded during the actual Vanilla WoW period. What was even more surprising was that the world in all those videos seemed incredibly busy.

Eventually I found these videos by a YouTuber called "Dodgy Kebab" reviewing the two newly opened Vanilla servers Nostralius and Kronos. My sense of intrigue grew, and I also started to develop a certain respect for the people creating and maintaining these servers. Somewhat naively I guess, I had always thought that creating a private server was simply a matter of pulling all the information out of an old client or something like that, but clearly a lot of NPC behaviour and such has to manually be re-scripted to resemble what people were used to in original Vanilla WoW.

In the end I was just too intrigued... I had to give it a go myself. Kronos ended up being my server of choice since Dodgy had so much praise for it, and it was also the one I had seen advertised on Facebook.

Getting the whole thing up and running still felt a bit awkward, not least because it required a download from a dodgy-looking website that caused my internet security to ring some serious alarm bells. It didn't help that it was all in Czech so I didn't understand a word of what it said and that the "I don't want to sign up for your dodgy website" free download option took a full eight hours.

Nonetheless, I got there in the end. Once I had the actual files, getting it all set up was fairly quick and straightfoward. There I was again, at the Vanilla WoW login screen... Next time: What awaited me upon actually logging in!


No Nostalgia for Blizzard

I've been thinking about WoW again lately. When you read as many MMO blogs and news sites as I do, it's hard not to stay at least vaguely up to date with what's going on in the World of Warcraft at any given time.

Back when Warlords of Draenor was announced, I thought that this might be the expansion that might get me back into WoW, at least for a little while. In practice I ended up checking out MoP for a couple of months last year but still haven't bought WoD to this day. And if I'm being honest, I don't think I will any time soon.

Everything I read about it just sounds thoroughly underwhelming to me. I'm not against log-in rewards, but the way Blizzard implemented them with garrisons just sounds horrible. (What could be more against the spirit of the original World of Warcraft than sitting in a small base all day?) Professions, which I used to love, have finally been relegated to the realm of complete pointlessness. And while I've heard that the quests are supposed to be quite good, a couple of decent quests are just not enough for me to want to invest the time and money (full box price + sub) in what I know is only going to be a secondary MMO for me at this point.

I can't even say that I care very much about the story anymore. I don't know if Blizzard's storytelling genuinely got worse over time or not, but fact of the matter is that it all broke down for me in Cataclysm. Up until then I had always known what was going on around me in terms of lore, because I read all the quest text and actually listened to NPC dialogue. But then they started confining world-changing events to their novels and comics and I just didn't know what was going on anymore. Important NPCs seemed to have full personality transplants from one patch to the next; it was thoroughly confusing. Sure, I could look up summaries of what supposedly happened on YouTube, but that's hardly the same.

Cataclysm also killed my ability to connect to WoW via nostalgia. I know that you can never go back and truly relive those early days, but I think that I would absolutely be willing to pay Blizzard to be able to take the occasional trip down memory lane in the old newbie zones, even today. Thanks to Cataclysm's old world revamp however, I can't even do that anymore. The new questing experience isn't bad, and it made it fun to level a couple of alts purely for the novelty value of seeing the new storylines, but that experience was fairly short-lived. Now I just miss the dusty canyons of Thousand Needles and the lush meadows of Southshore.

It's really kind of sad because for all the flak that Cataclysm got for things like dungeon difficulty and lack of endgame content at launch, I never thought that it was a bad expansion. I had some good times there: fighting some genuinely challenging bosses, mucking about on Darkmoon Island and doing rated PvP. But looking at it now, I think the destruction of the world I used to love (that Cataclysm sold as a feature no less) severed my ties to Blizzard more thoroughly than anything else.

Of course, this being the year 2015, there are ways to get your WoW nostalgia fix even if Blizzard doesn't want to provide it...

To be continued...?