15/11/2019

Phase 2 & Level 50

WoW Classic's phase two launched this week, including the consolidation of everyone onto a single layer on all servers, the introduction of the honour system, world bosses, and the addition of the key ring - oh wait, they delayed that last one. Typical that this happens to the one feature that I was actually looking forward to. At least I "only" have the keys to SM and Gnomer taking up bag space so far; I feel bad for the max-levels who also have to hold on to their keys to Scholo, Strat, Dire Maul and so on and so forth.

The honour system was a big deal for many, considering how many Classic players seem to be obsessed with PvP, though I'm sure that now that ganking also gives actual rewards many people who rolled on PvP servers for the supposed fun of open world PvP will be starting to regret it. Especially since world PvP can also be had on PvE servers, without all the hassle of being dragged into it unvoluntarily. Some of my guildies apparently jumped into some Tarren Mill vs. Southshore action right away and one of them posted a screenshot showing a gain of nearly 1.5k honour points from his first night alone.

For me, the main concern was the layer consolidation, since Pyrewood Village still struck me as crazy busy when the date for the phase two launch was announced at BlizzCon. About a week or so later though, I found myself questing in the Hinterlands and started to doubt myself... it wasn't unpleasantly empty, but reasonably quiet, which made me think that maybe that final merge wasn't unfeasible after all.

When I came online on Tuesday evening I was surprised by the lack of a queue, though making my way through the Hinterlands once again I got flashbacks to Kolkar Village, with the whole area now stripped clean of mobs as if a locust swarm had descended upon it, and people running to and fro all over trying to pick off respawns as soon as they appeared. In summary: I guess it's not quite as bad as I had feared, but the world is still back to feeling a bit too full right now. We'll see how long it lasts.

Incidentally, my hunter has hit level 50. I unexpectedly got the entirety of Maraudon done at level 47 after joining a tankless group for orange and/or purple side that I saw advertising right outside the instance, and our four dps setup worked so well that we actually ended up proceeding all the way to the Princess despite of me being a bit low level for that part of the dungeon (fortunately everyone else was higher than me).

After that I pretty much flew through the next couple of levels, mopping up a number of green and yellow quests in Feralas, Tanaris and the Hinterlands that I really didn't want to miss out on, and I still have more left to do in all three zones. I also put my very first dungeon group together on my hunter after seeing both a tank and a dps with the mallet looking for a group for Zul'Farrak. This seemed too fortuitous an opportunity to pass up, so I invited them both, threw out a LFM request for the last two spots and five minutes later we were off.

I'm actually feeling reasonably optimistic about those last ten levels. As I observed back on Kronos, they are slow and I'm not very fond of many of the endgame zones, but there is a variety of goals to pursue at that point that aren't necessarily all about levelling, and you end up gaining a lot of XP almost as an afterthought.

11/11/2019

Well Rested

The story of how WoW's rested experience system came about is pretty well known I think, but just in case you haven't heard it before, the gist of it is basically this: With MMOs having had a reputation for being too addictive even back in the early 2000s, Blizzard wanted to discourage players from binging on the game to an extent that might be detrimental to their health. So they decided that after you'd made a certain amount of progress in a single play session, an XP penalty for mob killing would kick in, encouraging you to take a break.

People did not like this at all, but then someone had the genius idea of reframing the whole thing: Without actually changing any of the numbers, the previously reduced rate of XP gain became the new normal, while what used to be normal became bonus experience from being rested. And suddenly people loved it! Great marketing at work there.

Before Classic, I hadn't really thought about rested XP for a few years. While SWTOR nominally copied the system from WoW, its levelling is way too fast these days as it is, but even before then it was never really meant to be the kind of game where you advance mainly through mob grinding, and quests have always been unaffected by restedness.

Looking back at some of my old blog posts here, I was complaining about levelling being too fast right after Cata's launch back in 2010, and actually even a couple of weeks before that (though that was more focused on questioning the value of heirlooms). When things are going too fast, the last thing you want to be is rested. (I can't find the particular quote, but I seem to recall that there was even a period where I intentionally logged out outside of cities/inns in an attempt to slow down my accumulation of rested XP.)

In Classic though, levelling is much slower than in most modern MMOs, and when you run out of rested experience it does feel like someone suddenly stepped on the breaks. It's not bad enough to make me want to stop playing if I'm having fun, but it definitely makes it feel nice to be rested.

During my early Classic altoholism one of the things I enjoyed doing was rotating through to a different alt every evening so that the others had time to accumulate some rested XP in the meantime. I soon realised that I didn't really want to level them all in sync though, as that meant doing the same content over and over again in quick succession, which to me at least partially defeats the purpose of having an alt.

Still, even with my focus having shifted to my hunter full time, I'm generally not short on rested XP. Many days go by when I don't find any time to play at all, and every one of those helps to feed my blue bar for those longer weekend sessions.

What's funny to me is that this has led to me discovering a point where too much restedness can become a bit of a nuisance even in Classic, and that's when it comes to levelling my hunter's pets.

I've mentioned previously that most guides advise against trying to level more than one pet at a time, yet that this didn't stop me from successfully doing just that back in Vanilla and BC, which is why I'm happily doing it again in Classic now. However, I'm being reminded of a problem I seem to vaguely recall having back in the day as well, and that is restedness.

You see, hunter pets need a lot fewer experience points to level up than a player character. I'm not sure of the exact number, but I think it's something like a third of a character level? However, they don't benefit from quest experience or restedness, and they don't gain any XP while you are both the same level, only after you've recently levelled up. With one pet that's not an issue, but with two you may actually find yourself outlevelling one or both of your pets sometimes due to quests and bonus XP boosting you further and further ahead.

It becomes even worse when you're not 100% consistent with swapping between the two pets whenever they need it, such as happened to me when I ended up running the entirety of Maraudon with my bear while he was already at his current level cap, while my wind serpent was sitting in the stables being three or four levels behind. I had meant to swap them around beforehand, but then I ended up getting a group invite right at the dungeon entrance with no good opportunity to go back and see the stable master, so that was that.

Ultimately it's not a big deal, because no matter how far behind one or both of my pets might fall, eventually I'll hit sixty and at the very latest they'll be able to catch me up again once my character stops gaining XP. I just find it amusing that I find ways for levelling to feel too annoyingly fast even in a game where it takes most players months to reach the cap.

07/11/2019

Left Behind

We're about halfway through Classic's third month, and the blogosphere's interest in the game is starting to fade, as I see more and more people admit that they've become bored with it, or else it just quietly falls out of their gaming rotation without further comment.

I'm one of those who find themselves being left behind, not for the first time in my gaming life. I'm more or less down to playing Classic on my own at this point. I did in fact predict almost a year ago that if I was going to roll up a character with my old friends from back in the day, they likely weren't going to stick with it, so I can't say that I'm entirely surprised.

My friend Ollie's enthusiasm lasted less than a month, which was pretty much as expected, but I was a bit let down by Nemi's quick surrender. Considering that she was the one who said that she was going to raid and even made us join the guild we're in for this purpose, I did expect her to at least get to sixty. However, after pushing as high as level fifty or so within only a couple of weeks, her interest suddenly seemed to drop off a cliff. I thought that maybe she had finally decided to wait for me to catch up a bit, but since she hasn't even logged in for several weeks now, I guess she's just done.

And what about my dear husband, who rolled up a tank to level with my shaman? While he keeps telling me that he's happy to continue playing for my sake, it's obvious that he's been enjoying himself less and less in the past few weeks, so I think we'll soon reach the point where I'll stop asking him to log in simply because I don't want it to feel forced.

Fortunately I more or less planned for such an eventuality when I created my hunter, who's been my most played character for weeks now. Hunter is a great class to play when you want to explore and quest on your own, but they are not as popular in group content, so I guess my long game will still be to eventually get my shaman levelled up as well. At least she can only benefit from having a higher-level benefactor to help her out with things like mount money.

Unpopular dps or not, I also still made it a personal goal to do all the dungeons on my hunter while levelling up, even if I have to pug them all, and so far it's been going well enough. I basically sit in the LookingForGroup channel whenever I quest and have a bit of time on my hands, and whenever one of the rare "looking for dps" requests comes up, I pounce on it instantly.

The last couple of weeks have been a bit rough, as Uldaman and Maraudon have been looming ahead of me, two dungeons that I'm not very fond of. I finally finished Uldaman the other night (the quests in there required no fewer than two runs to complete as well) by answering a LFM request at 10pm on a work night... I was shattered the next morning but had no regrets. Now to tackle the challenge that is Maraudon.

The problem with both Uldaman and Maraudon is that they span a huge level range, so regardless of when you go, you'll either be too low level to kill the final boss or too high to get XP from the first half of the dungeon. I just don't like that very much, and neither do a lot of other people based on the lack of LFG requests I see for either of them. If I can make it past that last hump however, I should more or less be good until the cap, as everything after that is a lot more popular again (as far as I remember).

03/11/2019

No Classic News Out of BlizzCon

So BlizzCon was this weekend, and I kept an eye on the biggest news items to see whether they were going to announce anything exciting for Classic fans. Unfortunately they didn't.

Mind you, they did fulfil one wish which I had expressed in the comment section of Wilhelm's BlizzCon prediction post back at the start of October:

Brack did make an "I think you do" joke.

Unfortunately there were no real Classic news beyond them stating that they'll launch phase two on the 12th of November, which is actually more worrying than exciting to me. After all, they said that they didn't want to launch this phase (which includes world bosses etc.) until all Classic servers were down to a single layer, and based on how many people I'm seeing around, Pyrewood Village is still nowhere near ready for that.

So either they are going back on their word and there'll be some drama around people exploiting layer hopping to kill world bosses more than once, or they are going to execute the final layer merge regardless of population concerns and we'll be back to sitting in hour-long queues. Meh.

Someone did ask about BC/Wrath servers in the Q&A, but the response was just a repeat of their "we're not opposed to it but nothing's planned yet" stance that Brack expressed previously. I guess in hindsight I shouldn't be surprised considering that as far as WoW is concerned, this BlizzCon was all about the new expansion for the live game.

I suppose they'd be more likely to make a big announcement about something Classic-related at one of the conventions between expansions. Maybe next year then. It's not like Classic isn't providing me with lots to do as it is.

The big announcement for retail WoW fans was that the next expansion is going to be called Shadowlands. It didn't include anything that made me want to play retail again, but then I don't expect anything to do that at this point; I just like watching the story cinematics. The Shadowlands cinematic was quite cool, and I liked how it made it look like Sylvanas was going to crown herself Lich Queen for a bit, then suddenly went into a completley different direction.

I did find it funny how they were saying that the Shadowlands are going to be totally different from anything that's ever come before, and then the features trailer made everything look incredibly run-of-the-mill: here's an undead-themed zone, here's a forest zone, here's an air-themed zone etc. I mean, there's nothing wrong with those things; it just struck me as an amusing contradiction.

Players seem pretty hyped from what I've seen so far (also because there seems to be an increasing belief that like with Star Trek movies, WoW's even-numbered expansions tend to be the better ones), but I can't help but wonder whether Blizzard isn't about to fall into either a Mists of Pandaria or Warlords of Draenor trap in terms of the setting again, depending on whether you see the Shadowlands as a totally new land with few connections to Azeroth as we know it (MoP) or almost like an alternate reality that will quickly be forgotten again once people go back to Azeroth proper in the expansion after that one (WoD).

There was also talk about revamping levelling yet again, by squishing levels in half, starting new players in a special starting zone that guides them straight into BfA content, and giving veteran players a bit more freedom in terms of where to level alts so that they could go from say 1-50 in Northrend (that's how I understood it anyway, I'm a bit uncertain about the details).

Again, I've seen people get quite excited about this, but I can't help but get Cataclysm 2.0 vibes from this one. Sure, it's ambitious, but so was Cata. At the end of the day they still aren't going to fix the continuity problems in the old world and are only once again trying to push people towards the level cap even faster. I don't think that will make the levelling game any more appealing to new players than it is right now.

26/10/2019

Classic Halloween

It's Hallow's End in World of Warcraft, and I can't help but notice how quaint the celebrations are in Classic. There are some seasonal decorations in places, such as the giant pumpkin at the entrance to the Undercity, but they are not as ubiquitous and over the top as in the live game.

There are a couple of simple quests to do that don't reward anything too exciting, some temporary buffs to pick up, and you can bob apples or trick or treat at innkeepers for a silly temporary costume or some free food, with the latter being something that's actually not to be sniffed at in Classic.

Overall though, there's no pressure or urgency, no achievements or cosmetics to grind. The event's only real purpose seems to be to have a bit of fun and set a certain mood, mostly through the temporary costume buffs filling the cities with ghosts, pirates and leper gnomes.

It's quite a stark contrast to how most modern MMOs handle seasonal festivals, and I like it. Similarly to how people complain about many public holidays being too commercialised these days, focused on selling expensive chocolate in seasonal packaging above all else, I dislike it when MMOs use a seasonal event as an excuse to make people do more of the same stuff they already do all year anyway (usually grind special currencies and cosmetics), but with a "limited time only" urgency message attached just to get you to log in every day.

The events I don't mind so much and even like tend to be the ones where some unusual activities are on offer that I happen to enjoy and don't usually get to partake in, such as racing on ice in Neverwinter's winter festival or herding chickens during the same game's summer festival, because I like doing them for the sheer fun of it and for a change of pace.

I get that big and noisy events can serve as an incentive for inactive players to come back, but if I'm already playing your game and enjoying it, trying to sell me on it again while I'm already happily playing what's there tends to feel a bit like overkill.

21/10/2019

Level 40 & A Mount

Last week I wrote about how making money for my first mount was very much on my mind as my hunter crept closer and closer to level forty. I kept flip-flopping on the question of how I felt about it - some commenters reminded me that it really wasn't that big a deal, and I also ran into other characters in the low forties who hadn't been able to afford their mount yet. But then I'd have some sort of windfall and feel spurred on again, because just a few more of those and I'm there!

My favourite of these was when I earned a tip of two gold from crafting an advanced target dummy for someone in Thunder Bluff, and from their own materials no less. I would have done it for free as the recipe was yellow for me at the time and therefore likely to be a skill-up, but then they handed me the gold when I traded the finished product back to them and I thought sure, why not. Fastest two gold I've made so far.

Other money-making operations didn't go so well, mind you. After I saw Kurn post about making money from re-selling the pattern for runecloth bags, I checked the price for it on the Pyrewood Horde auction house and was wowed: just re-selling one or two of that item would have been enough to push me over the line towards my mount.

So I stripped down to my cloak and tabard again and made the death run to Winterspring. Much love to the kind human warlock who spotted my cow on the road in Felwood and started aggroing all the wolves in the vicinity in what felt like a clear attempt to protect me - if I'd been smarter I'd have stayed near him, but I blithely ran further ahead while he fought the wolves and then died as soon as I got in range of the next one.

The moment I hit my screenshot key, I heard a loud roar behind me and had to leg it inside the town in order not to be eaten by a bear.

The problem was that when I finally made it to Everlook I found that this clearly wasn't some super secret insider tip as there were already several people camping the vendor (a goblin named Qia). When I looked it up on Wowhead to see if they had any more info on just how often the pattern respawns etc. there were whole instructions on how to write a macro that will buy all the rare recipes the vendor has as soon as they appear as long as you are willing to stand there and spam click on her for a couple of hours.

I quickly decided that I couldn't be bothered with such insanity, so the run was eventually for naught. I did check back a couple of times just to see if I'd maybe stand a chance if I checked early in the morning or something like that, but I had no such luck: I never saw Qia surrounded by less than three people, no matter the time of day.

I also tried to make some more money with fishing but it has very much remained a mixed bag. I got super excited when I found Lordamere Lake completely uncontested one evening and managed to fish up several stacks of Greater Sagefish there, but then it turned out that their price had plummeted over night (of course, that's probably why everybody else stopped bothering) and those stacks didn't end up making me much money anyway.

Still, I persisted with my personalised strategy of doing my daily mining round in Thousand Needles, and this made me enough money that I eventually decided to invest in one final push, so that I had just enough to buy the mount when I hit forty, as long as I ignored my class training for the moment (as that would have cost another twelve gold or so just for my level forty abilities).

And I've got to say: I do not regret it. A mount may not be all that in terms of usefulness, but the matter had weighed so heavily on my mind that it was a huge relief to be able to stop worrying about it. After this there aren't any more expensive purchases that feel like they should be made as soon as you hit a certain level, so I can focus on other things as and when I feel like it.

I hadn't realised how much it had bothered me to have this "problem" (wanting my mount at forty but not having enough money for it) and no clear solution to deal with it. Being able to check that item off my list was such a huge relief, I pretty much flew through the next couple of levels from sheer joy. Now other challenges await!

18/10/2019

10 Years of WoW Blogging

Nogamara from Battle Stance celebrated his blog's tenth birthday today. Go and congratulate him, because he's awesome!

Reading that post also gave me pause though. 2009 to 2019... wait, didn't I start blogging on here in 2009 as well? The answer is yes: in fact, technically this blog's anniversary was about three months ago, and I completely forgot about it. (I have no idea why Parallel Context's tenth anniversary the other day didn't trigger a similar line of thought in my mind by the way... brains are weird.)

I suppose I didn't really think of celebrating this blog's anniversary at least in part because I've been completely focused on my Star Wars: The Old Republic blog for the last eight years, and tended to think of this one as lying dormant. However, Nogamara even counted two whole years of his blog's lifetime during which he didn't make a single post at all - meanwhile I somehow ended up putting out at least half a dozen entries per year even during years when I thought of myself as totally not playing WoW, so... I guess that counts as active in some way?

My first ever post was made on the 12th of July 2009 and called Some thoughts on heroic Oculus. I have to admit that, on re-reading that post, I chuckled at myself referring to it as "the o-word". Yes, I know you're not supposed to laugh at your own jokes, but me from ten years ago might as well be a different person and I think she's kind of funny sometimes, OK?

It's kind of amazing to me now just how prolific I was during the first one and a half years of this blog: I posted pretty much every other day! I was going to say something like "I have no idea how I had the time to do that" but then I remembered that I was unemployed for at least half of that time, so that probably helped.

Incidentally, WoW also played a role in eventually ending my unemployment - and that post was my introduction to reddit, since someone linked it there and gave me a crazy traffic spike.

Anyway, I remain impressed by the sheer amount of things I actually had to say about the game in late Wrath in particular. I kind of wish I'd started this whole blogging lark much earlier; then I would now have a detailed record of everything I thought during Burning Crusade as well.

Going through the archives of those early years, you can see the very slow and gradual decrease in my enjoyment of WoW. My second post on the blog was called Four reasons why I like pugs, and especially in the early days there were still quite a number of happy posts about grouping experienes, but over time the percentage of things that annoyed and frustrated me clearly grew.

I quit in March 2012 and had no intentions of coming back, until my now-husband unexpectedly gifted me the Mists of Pandaria expansion and some game time at the end of 2013, which had us going through a little levelling adventure together, until we both hit max level and quickly got bored again.

In 2015 I discovered the world of private servers during a burst of nostalgia, so then I wrote about my experiences on those at intervals over the next couple of years. Conveniently Blizzard announced WoW Classic mere weeks after I'd got fed up with yet another piece of private server drama, and that eventually led me to where I am now, blogging about WoW Classic. It feels crazy to think that a whole decade has passed in that time, because it certainly hasn't felt that long to me.

I would say something like "to the next ten years", but the thought of one day being able to say that I've blogged about World of Warcraft for twenty years is kind of terrifying in its own right. We'll just see how it goes, alright? Thanks for being along for the ride.