09/09/2017

Druid Life

As I expected, with things in my life calming down a little after the summer, I eventually found myself bitten by the WoW nostalgia bug again (admittedly watching a lot of YouTube videos about the game hasn't helped). Somehow I had no interest in revisiting my dwarf priest however, so I decided to roll up new druid on Darrowshire instead. She's somewhat reminiscent - but not a complete clone - of a night elf druid I used to play on retail, mostly during late Burning Crusade and Wrath.

While I never played one in Vanilla, I consider druids one of my favourite classes, because I like both their role versatility as well as the whole guardian of nature theme. Also, while I didn't play druid myself until later in my time with WoW, the class had a strong impact on my early days in the game as my first levelling partner was a druid, and her class quests were constantly driving both of us forward. I still remember when I was told that we really had to get to Westfall (for her seal form quest) without even knowing where that was on the world map...

I think I've said it before, but one of the nice things about Vanilla WoW is that rolling an alt is just such a totally different experience. Class balance was poor back then, that's true, but on the plus side both the play style as well as the race/class-specific narrative for each one (not to mention professions) made levelling each new character distinctly different from the last.

To learn how to shapeshift and how to cure poisons, druids for example have to go through separate quests chains for each one, because how could you expect something this core to your class to simply be trained via the press of a button (or worse, like in current WoW, to just appear on your bar without explanation)? I enjoyed the bear form quest in particular - I initially had to retreat in shame after my first attempt, because the moonkins around the cave I had to enter were too strong for me, but once I had gained another level, I managed to make it through - you bet that I felt that I had truly earned the strength of a bear after all that! It's best not to think too much about the seal form quest though... if this is really a test that all young druids have to undergo (as one of the quest givers explicitly states), the Cenarion Circle must be expending a stupendous amount of effort and resources on hiding precious treasure in faraway and hard to access underwater locations over and over again...

My talents gave me reason to pause because I had forgotten how confused druid talents were in Vanilla. I know that I want to be feral first and that's fine, but I'm used to it having great synergy with the resto tree... except that before BC sorted things out, several of those really nice talents were actually tucked away under balance, making me unsure of which one would be the better secondary. I also can't believe anyone ever thought that it would be a good idea to give a healer a dot as a high-level talent. Insect swarm in the resto tree, really!

As my primary professions I chose herbalism and alchemy this time, which turned out to be an even better fit for the class than I expected/remembered, as one of the steps of the quest to learn how to cure poisons requires you to fetch some herbs - the quest giver even says something along the lines of how unlucky it would be if you weren't a herbalist yourself, hah. It also makes levelling seem faster somehow, since there are herbs everywhere and you end up running all over the place and killing lots of extra mobs just because you really want to pick that flower. At this point my druid's already halfway through level 18 and I only just started picking up the Deadmines pre-quests (because night elf or not, you've got to go to the Deadmines).

Aside from that I've been happy to ignore unrelated quest givers in those areas though, as my current plan is to stick to Kalimdor as much as possible, because neither my paladin nor my priest have done much there, so it's all still pretty fuzzy in terms of memory and will feel much fresher. At the same time I also feel a lot of nostalgia for Darkshore, Ashenvale and Stonetalon in particular, as these zones left strong impressions on me during my formative first weeks in WoW.

As for the general state of the server (since several commenters on my last post asked about this), it still seems healthy. Things have of course calmed down since the craziness surrounding the launch (and thank god for that), but /who still shows over a thousand players per faction online seemingly at any time of day, which I would consider quite a thriving community. I was just surprised by how quiet chat seemed initially, until I remembered to join the custom world channel. For some reason people really don't seem to care much for talking in general chat on Darrowshire.

02/02/2017

Gnomeregan and Gnolls

I feel like I might have hit a crossroads. My priest hit level 30 last night, but I'm not really happy with the way her levelling is going right now, as my plan to level mostly via dungeons hasn't been working out very well. For one thing each run gives even less XP than I anticipated, but more importantly I'm finding it harder than expected to find groups. It's actually kind of absurd, considering that part of my reasoning for rolling a priest was that it should make it easier to find instance groups, but for some reason there seem to be way too many wannabe healers levelling on Darrowshire (as the Elysium PvE realm is now called), at least around my level range on Alliance side. Almost every time I play, all I see in world chat is "LFM tank (and sometimes dps)", with the occasional "healer LFG" cry from a lonely healer thrown into the mix. I should have screenshotted the one who was trying to make a case for why she was the best choice to heal a level 30 instance because of her raid experience and mana management skills. This is the kind of competition I'm dealing with here.

Mind you, I did get a Gnomer run done not long ago, and that pleased me very much as I completely skipped that instance while levelling on Kronos. It was super smooth as well, even though I was only level 27 at the time, which is... six or seven levels lower than the final boss? We only had one near-wipe on the very last pull before the end, but fortunately I survived with a sliver of health left and was able to res all the others. I did notice that the scripting didn't seem entirely true to the original, as we only encountered a single one of those alarm bots that could quickly get you into trouble, and I remember that the biggest issue with the tunnel of Dark Irons near the end was that they put down mines, which they didn't seem to do here either. Still, it was a good run. Hard to imagine that this dungeon used to give me such nightmares back in Vanilla.

I also tried to get another BFD run in to finish the one leftover quest I still had there, but unfortunately that one turned out to be doomed as a server shutdown was announced shortly after we had started the instance, so we only had time to make it up to the murloc boss before getting kicked off for an unspecified amount of time. I also learned that Elysium is rubbish at doing countdowns, as their server shutdown countdown went from twenty minutes left to five minutes left in the space of four minutes.

I tried my hand at PvP for a change of pace but remembered why I hated it on Kronos too and almost made a post about that at one point. First off, crowd control without diminishing returns is totally out of control as a sufficiently bored mage can literally keep you sheeped indefinitely, but more than anything the UI is just totally useless. "Just install some add-ons, everyone does," you might say, but this is one area where I've been spoiled in the last five years: If an MMO can't present me with a UI fit for purpose right out of the box, I simply cannot be bothered. And the Vanilla WoW raid UI is just a hopeless mess. Specifically the lack of any sort of range indicator makes it impossible to keep an eye on who's even near enough to be healed by you. Just terrible.

This was my Kronos PvP experience. Been meaning to use that screenshot forever.

So I've been spending the last one and a half levels farming gnolls in the Wetlands. Yes, I actually found a spot that was quiet enough that I could have a bunch of mobs all to myself. Mostly I wanted them for their cloth, to work on my tailoring and first aid. It's actually been pretty zen, just killing gnolls while I put a podcast on in the background. It's not really what I want to play Vanilla WoW for though.

Maybe it's time to take a break again. I think it's just something about that level range, as I lost steam for a few months when my paladin on Kronos hit 30 as well.

15/01/2017

Dungeons and Drama

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I'm continuing to level my dwarf priest on Nostalrius Elysium PvE, but progress is slow. One of the downsides of Vanilla WoW gameplay that I absolutely admit is there is that it doesn't lend itself very well to short play sessions, so I only really play on the weekends when I have the time to play for several hours at once. Unfortunately one or two such play sessions don't necessarily provide me with enough content for a proper blog post, so the blog stays silent even if I'm happy with having made a level or two of progress, especially since there isn't as much novelty to the process as there was when I rolled my first character on Kronos.

I'm currently sitting at level 25 and have only really quested in Redridge since leaving Westfall and Loch Modan behind, with all my other experience having come from dungeons.

First I tried to give the Deadmines another go, but that run was pretty awkward and ended up getting aborted halfway through. I should have known that it wasn't a good group considering that the leader was advertising via /yell instead of general chat. Still, the real problem wasn't anything anyone did... as far as I could tell anyway. We'd had a wipe in the forge and had just run back in, then had to run back out again when someone pulled a nearby patrol before we'd all reassembled, and the next time I ran in, it suddenly said that everyone had left the group simultaneously, which was way too much of a coincidence to have occurred naturally. Some sort of group disband bug? I don't know. Either way, since things hadn't been going so great anyway, I made no effort to whisper anyone about putting the group back together, and they didn't contact me either.

Then there was Blackfathom Deeps. What was funny about that one was that we spent ages looking for a warrior tank since the group leader (a ret paladin) insisted that this would make for the smoothest run. Then we finally found one, but the moment we actually stepped into the instance it turned out that he had neither a shield nor any interest in tanking. I don't know if he was intentionally deceiving us, didn't know what he was doing, or if the invitation issued by the paladin had been unclear, but nobody made a fuss and we just moved on with the hunter pet tanking. (Could have had that experience without waiting for half an hour, that's all I'm saying...)

Ironfur the bear was actually doing a pretty decent job at it for most of the instance too, but when we reached the part with the Twilight cultists, our pally DCed, never to return, forcing us to continue with one man down. This did not go well on the part with the braziers, where we wiped on every single one as far as I recall, and on some of them more than once. When we didn't wipe, I at least still died on every single pull (since I instantly got healing aggro from everything and the hunter was the only one trying to get things off me) and had to make the long corpse run from Darkshore every time because nobody had a res. By the end my armour was nearly broken and I was seriously losing the will to live, but at least I got a Rod of the Sleepwalker out of the whole ordeal.

In contrast to these, running the Stockades was a breeze, with a tank who seriously knew what he was doing and made it a great experience. I happily joined him for another round when it turned out that his friend had forgotten to pick up some quest items and needed to go again. I was disappointed only when I got my Seal of Wrynn at the end of the lengthy quest chain, as it was only a pesky green! I can only guess that this is another one of those "back in patch 1.x it hadn't been upgraded to a blue yet" things that the Nost team seems to love...

Speaking of the Nost team though...

The Vanilla WoW community continues to provide endless entertainment in the form of pointless drama. Remember how this whole Nostalrius relaunch came about? Because the Nost devs were ticked off that Blizzard wasn't responding to them and released their code and database to former rival server Elysium to recreate Nostalrius. While many were happy to get the server back, people were also shaking their heads at the Nost team's behaviour, as acting like that was an obvious slap in the face of Blizzard after they had considered themselves the champions of getting official WoW legacy servers previously.

Well, it seems that a couple of months later, they've finally realised this too, and are akwardly backpedaling by asking the Elysium team to stop using the code and data that they've been given only a few months prior. Unsurprisingly, the Elysium team replied with what can be summed up as: "Sure, we'll change the name from Nost to something else and go back to using our own core. Thanks for gifting us this massive community!" So nothing really changes except that the former Nostalrius team has officially disavowed private servers I suppose? One can only guess that this has something to do with Blizzard, whether they privately expressed an unwillingness for any further talks because of what had happened, or whether the Nost team is actually dealing with legal action that forces them to officially cut all ties with the project.

Little to nothing should change for those of us who are simply playing on the servers. Maybe my Seal of Wrynn will actually turn blue. And I guess I'll have to go back and re-tag the previous posts about this project "Elysium" instead of just Nostalrius.