Pug Tidbits

After taking a bit of a break from instancing for several weeks, I've finally started to hit the dungeon finder again, partly because I was starting to feel somewhat guilty about basically collecting no valour points on my main at all outside of raids, partly because I felt like seeing some low-level instances on my alts again after having levelled several of them purely through questing as of late. I've noticed that I generally seem to go through certain cycles in my play patterns, alternating between max-level and low-level play, instancing and questing, feeling very enthused about the game and feeling very burnt out.

Anyway, as usual many of my pugs didn't leave much of an impression either way, but here are some things that stood out:

Best Player

When I zoned into heroic Lost City of the Tol'vir, the bear tank called Bob immediately asked everyone to be patient with him because it was his first time tanking the instance. I told him not to worry, and as it turned out he didn't really have to ask us to be particularly patient because he did a great job anyway. It might have been his first time tanking the place, but he was clearly already familiar with tanking in general and knew the pulls and boss strategies of the instance inside out.

Since it was such a smooth and pleasant run, the entire group immediately requeued for another dungeon. This time we got Blackrock Caverns, which went slightly less smoothly due to no fault of Bob's, but he managed to save several bad situations through good cooldown usage. If only all tanks in LFG were like him...

Worst Player

Me! Okay, I probably wasn't the worst player among all the people I grouped with, but I've definitely had some serious herp derp moments in my last couple of runs. In the aforementioned BRC run I managed to aggro and die to one of the patrolling dragonkin just as the rest of the group had jumped down the slope to Corla and pulled two additional packs. Fortunately Bob managed to salvage the situation by shifting out of bear form and throwing me a combat res.

Then there was the Zul'Gurub run where, while trying to dodge Venoxis' poison maze, I managed to fall off his terrace and into the water, where I immediately died to the various mobs there. Fortunately the dps was very good and they managed to down the boss anyway, but I still felt like a huge dolt.

And then there was the Grim Batol run with the paladin tank who kept pulling as if he had ants in his pants, so that I could barely keep up with healing even while outgearing the instance by two tiers. I think this threw off my mojo right from the start, so maybe I shouldn't have been surprised when I managed to die to General Umbriss' Blitz. I just remember thinking: "Oh good, he's not targeting me with it, I can stay where I am... wait, he's still facing in my general direction, so I do have to - oh poo, I'm dead". Again the group managed to down him even with me dead (who needs healers anyway) and I was even rewarded with an achievement. Way to go!

Then the group skipped the last two trash packs in the inner circle of the city and I somehow managed to aggro one of them even though I usually never have problems running past them. Since everyone else had already charged way ahead while I was still looting a mob, I was the only one who died. They just continued to kill the next pack without me and said nothing while I corpse-ran back. In a way I almost found myself wishing that they would laugh at me or make some sort of snarky comment... somehow just being ignored and left behind felt even more humiliating, especially as a healer. I have to admit I felt a certain mix of glee and relief when the tank's rogue friend got himself blown up by one of the adds on Drahga, as it at least meant that I wasn't the only one who had made a stupid mistake during the run.

Player With The Best Attitude

On my low level draenei shaman I had a slightly messy but strangely enjoyable Dire Maul West run the other day, in which I ended up with a paladin tank who was retribution spec. No biggie in a lowbie instance as far as I'm concerned, as long as he knows what he's doing and isn't too squishy. He did do reasonably well at holding aggro, and healing him wasn't a problem either with the exception of a couple of bosses where he went splat, but the rest of the group still managed to beat them without wiping.

Still, he was clearly new to the instance, as he felt the urge to run back to the quest giver immediately every time he completed a quest objective and kept going the wrong way. He also might not have been able to speak English, as he never said anything in chat and more importantly never reacted to anything that was said in there either. All the party's well-meaning attempts to tell him "no, this way, over here" were in vain. Eventually we just gave up on trying to steer him and followed him during his meandering through random trash packs, because sooner or later there'd be nothing left but the boss anyway.

Now, all this might sound pretty bad, but somehow I still couldn't help liking the guy. Yes, I generally prefer to have some communication going on, but on the plus side he never complained about all the times he died either. In fact, he never even waited for a res and always released instantly and started running back, even if he had been the only one who had died. This was in fact another thing that convinced me that he must have been a newbie, because he clearly wasn't jaded or entitled - instead he was curious and driven. Death was merely a minor setback, and he was always happy to pick himself up again and try again. In a time where the game has made it so easy to drop any group activity at the drop of a hat without any negative consequences, that kind of perseverance impressed me. Here's to you, little newbie tank. Just keep working at it and you might go far in this game.

Player With The Worst Attitude

In heroic Shadowfang Keep I got a raid-geared bear tank who had some serious issues. After Baron Ashbury's first Asphyxiate I healed the party up to about thirty percent health, as that's more than sufficient to survive the occasional tick from his (dispellable) dot. But Mr Bear Tank didn't think so. He started to yell at me to heal more, then in all caps, then calling me a whore. I politely told him to calm down and that there was no need to top everyone off until near the final phase since the boss just kept putting people back down to one hit point anyway, but he wouldn't believe me.

He and his dps shaman friend then stopped attacking and interrupting the boss and just stood there, letting him heal back up to full repeatedly while the bear claimed to have problems with his mouse. I don't know, maybe it was true, but considering how worked up he had just got about me not topping people off it seemed more like a passive aggressive attempt to wipe us, especially since the shaman stopped too. Eventually they seemed to get bored of it though and we managed to burn the boss down. Then there was an awkward pause during which I can only guess he tried to kick me, but if he did it didn't work, so both he and his shaman friend then dropped group. Their replacements were more sensible fortunately.

Anyway, raging at people in the dungeon finder is generally never a good idea, but raging about people doing it wrong when in fact you are the one who doesn't seem to understand the mechanics just makes you look like an even bigger idiot.


Transmogrification = Content

I know I said that I wasn't going to talk about the upcoming transmogrification feature at length, but since then something has come up that I would like to draw attention to.

Overall the reaction to this new addition has been overwhelmingly positive from what I've seen. Some people have expressed concerns, which is fair enough, but nobody seems to absolutely hate it. There's been one argument against the addition of cosmetic outfits though that really struck me as interesting: that it's "wasted" development time that could have been focused on "real" content instead.

Personally I think that saying the addition of transmogrification doesn't count as real content is similar to claiming that Lego isn't a real toy because it's just coloured bricks, or in other words: it's completely missing the point. No, the addition of a feature that allows you to change the appearance of your outfit is not the same kind of thing as adding a bunch of daily quests or a new raid. It's the developers handing us a tool and inviting us to engage our own imagination, and I think that's a great thing.

Syl wrote a post a few months ago, talking about how depressing it is that Blizzard seems to view WoW players purely as consumers these days. No wonder that people burn out or get bored so quickly, when all there is to do is to work your way through the pre-made story of the newest quest hub and then you're basically done with the game. That kind of thing is valuable, but it shouldn't be all there is. Even a theme park MMO needs some sandbox elements that allow players to go wild. And I do think that transmogrification might turn out to be just one such feature.

To be honest I'm rather bewildered by the prediction that once this feature comes out, everyone will just change into their favourite old set of gear and then nobody will wear anything else ever again. The WoW community may have many problems, but lack of creativity and passion from the side of the players is certainly not one of them. I think people will enjoy switching between different outfits to spice things up, and coming up with new combinations just to show off.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that regularly changing the look of your armour will be enjoyable to everyone, though I think you'd struggle to find a player who's never wished that they didn't have to display a certain piece of gear for the sake of its stats. (A former guildie of mine supposedly once said that he'd happily wear a turd on his head if it was an upgrade, but I think most people would prefer if they didn't have to.) Few features in the game appeal to absolutely everyone, and that's okay. But claiming that it doesn't add anything tangible to the game just because it doesn't really interest you personally is very narrow-minded.

I think that transmogrification is going to be huge and will literally change the face of Azeroth forever. It will add a whole new dimension of gameplay for people to engage in, trying to create and constantly readjust what they think would be the perfect look for their character. If that isn't a whole lot of new content then I honestly don't know what would be.


Hitting the skill cap

I'm still having a blast in rated battlegrounds, but lately there's been some trouble in paradise. Basically, we seem to have hit our current skill cap as a group. We've been hovering around 1800 rating for weeks, sometimes a bit above and sometimes a bit below, but nobody has been able to hit Centurion yet. We've developed a pretty stable roster by now, so it's not newbies holding us back or anything, it's just us.

In principle, this shouldn't be a problem. Isn't that what a ranking system is all about, finding the "sweet spot" for everyone where they win and lose their games in roughly equal amounts? Only the best of the best can hope to simply work their way to the top and beat most opponents that they meet on the way, everyone else will always win some and lose some. There are two problems though.

Firstly, people have different levels of ambition. Myself, I'm honestly pretty damn happy that I got as high as Legionnaire. I'm not saying that I have no interest in improving my play any further, but I'm also pretty happy with what I've already got, because I was never really that amazing at PvP so having made it as far as we have already feels like quite an achievement to me. On the other hand we also have at least one member who has talked about how we really need to leave this "kindergarten" bracket of less than 2000 rating behind. That's quite a difference in attitude, to put it mildly.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see this kind of discussion arise, as everyone who's spent a significant amount of time raiding is likely familiar with conflicts of this kind. "Can we kick this guy already? That's the fifth time he's failed to the same mechanic, he's just holding us all back!" vs. "Can you tell Mr Righteous to chill the hell out? We're all learning, it takes some time, and we're progressing, even if it takes time!" I just didn't expect to encounter this kind of thing in PvP as well.

The other issue we have lies in the way we win and lose. Back when we had just started out and were constantly getting matched against teams with way higher ratings, I talked about how frustrating it is to just get steamrolled. The opposite applies as well though, there's comparatively little satisfaction in repeatedly beating opponents that don't put up much of a fight.

In principle it's okay to win some and to lose some, as long as you always feel that you stood a chance and that it was a close call because your enemy fought hard. Somehow that rarely seems to be the case for us though. It's got nothing to do with rating now either... it's about base-capping battlegrounds vs. flag-carrying ones.

For some reason we completely rock the house when it comes to base-capping. Whenever we get Battle of Gilneas, someone will chuckle and joke about how we've got this one in the bag already. According to my armoury page (which isn't entirely accurate, but it's got the gist of it), I've got a 73% win rate for Gilneas. Twin Peaks on the other hand I've only won 31% of the time. Ouch!

Flag-carrying battlegrounds are the complete opposite for us in performance. People groan as soon as they see the Twin Peaks loading screen in particular. We'll usually put up a decent fight until both sides have managed to grab the flag, but then the other team always manages to return theirs first and after that things just keep going downhill.

It's been a bit of a mystery to us. Obviously different kinds of battlegrounds require different tactics, but at the heart of it it's still all PvP, and it doesn't quite make sense that we are that much better at it in one environment than in another. And this is what makes it so frustrating, not being able to figure out what's wrong. When I wrote my big ode to rated battlegrounds, I praised them for their larger numbers putting less pressure on the individual to execute every single move correctly. Now it looks like this is exactly what's becoming our problem though, because with how many factors there are to consider, we can't quite figure out what it is that's holding us back. One person not blowing their cooldowns at the right time? On the wrong target? CC not being coordinated enough? Maybe a little bit of all of it, but how do you pinpoint these things in the middle of a crazy melee?

For now our battleground leader has ordered us to be more active in arena in hopes of encouraging better coordination on a smaller scale. I don't think that's a bad way to go about it, but it still leaves me a bit weary. I have actually taken up 2v2 arena again recently, but it's a crap combo that I play with a friend mostly for fun. If a minimum arena rating actually becomes a requirement to remain on the battleground team, I might just find myself getting booted soon.

And well, there's also the issue of time. Currently some of our members pretty much do nothing but PvP in game, so I guess for them spending a certain amount of time on arena is pretty normal. But for me PvP is just one part of my gametime parcel, as I also raid and like to dither around on alts. If it starts to require more than two to three nights a week of my time then I think I'll simply start to feel burnt out. I can't help but be reminded of the whole valour point capping debate, and the frustration people expressed at the thought of having to invest so much time into non-raiding activities just to keep raiding. Again this is something that I didn't expect to find in PvP, but being required to do X arena games just to stay in the rated battleground game is pretty similar really.

We'll see how it pans out I guess. I really want to keep going and improve, but after having become a lot more casual in my approach to raiding, I have no interest in becoming hardcore about PvP instead.


Imagining the new raid finder

So many 4.3 news, so much to comment on... but I don't think I will talk about most of it. Some things I either don't have a very strong opinion on at the moment (such as the tanking changes) or I prefer to see how they play out in practice before raving about them too much (such as the transmogrification feature and void storage). However, there is one piece of news that immediately sent my mind reeling, and I'm surprised that it hasn't spurred more commentary so far: that Blizzard intends to include a raid finder akin to the dungeon finder in the next patch. Maybe everyone's brains just locked up in horror at the thought.

Here's how I imagine it will go:

First off, 25-mans will see a sudden revival. The main selling points of ten-mans are that you don't need to handle as many people and that it's easier to limit your group to your best friends. However, if the organisational part is handled by an automated system and you're going to group with nothing but strangers anyway, you might as well select the option that gives marginally more loot. Assuming that players of all roles will follow this logic to an equal extent, 25-mans should also have shorter queues, considering that the tanks to healers to damage dealers ratio is slightly more favourable in 25-mans.

Nonetheless, I expect queues to be an issue, more so than for five-mans. Or rather, I expect that they'll always be either fairly short (less than an hour, maybe even less than half an hour) or long enough to equal "not gonna happen". The reason for this is that due to the length of raids, people are a lot less likely to be interested in doing them at all times of day. If your faction just won Tol Barad and you want to do Baradin Hold, you'll get a group fairly quickly. (On a side note, if they do make it cross-server, which they probably will, how will it handle things like Baradin Hold? I assume that you'll only be able to queue while it's being held on your server.) Evenings in general are going to be popular as well. But if you queue up during anything but prime time, don't expect to get far.

Then comes the nitty gritty of the actual runs. Finally the system tells you that a group has been found! We all know how annoying it can be when you click your ready button in the dungeon finder and then slowly watch the group time out because one person was AFK. Now imagine this with ten or twenty-five people. Good luck not going mad while trying again and again!

Upon zoning in you'll probably discover that about half your healers are actually damage dealers. The problem of people signing up for a role that they don't actually intend to play just to get a faster queue is not new, but in five-mans it rarely turns out well for the deceiver because it's very obvious whether they are doing what they're supposed to do or not. But in a raid with six healers? I reckon that a lot of players will be willing to take their chances that nobody will notice.

If you do notice that someone has tried to "cheat" their way into the group, how is vote-kicking going to work in a raid? I imagine that getting ten to twenty-five people to agree on things is going to be quite hard.

Just like in the dungeon finder, I expect most people to zone in and not say a word. I can already picture tanks charging in with no consideration for the rest of the raid, just like they often do in five-mans... except that in a raid they'll end up dying that way, and then maybe drop group.

Most people will probably just stand around and wait for someone to tell them what to do, with maybe one or two going nuts with excitement about being in a raid with so many people, spamming chat, changing appearance and bouncing off the walls until they pull something - basically similar to what you see in the starting cave in Alterac Valley.

One or two experienced players are likely to speak up eventually and will try to get some sort of coordination going. People will ignore a lot of what is being said and maybe even go AFK. Just when the self-appointed leaders think that they're ready to pull, someone will drop group and need replacing. Eventually someone will start the fight and the entire raid will wipe horribly the moment the boss does his or her first special, as hardly anyone paid any attention to the strategy.

After the wipe, ninety percent of the raid will lie around on the floor, not bothering to release, while spamming the surviving mage or hunter with requests for a mass res. People will leave. New ones come in. Rinse and repeat for a while until the leader loses patience and the whole thing falls apart completely.

Cue lots of complaining on the forums about how raid finder groups are impossible, at which point the content will get nerfed like never before, because the guys at Blizzard are proud of their raid finder and want to make it a more enjoyable experience, and anyway, you clearly can't expect groups to talk to each other or try to coordinate through those complicated encounters!

Cynical, me? Maybe just a little.*

*Disclaimer: I don't think that a raid finder would be completely awful. For example I can see it being a nice convenience when it comes to running Baradin Hold, which many people do pug already anyway. However, generally raid content hasn't been designed for a team of random people who want to have as little interaction with each other as possible, so I foresee a lot of pain in the future if the devs once again try to fit a square peg into a round hole.


I actually grouped for a group quest

The revamped old world is not completely devoid of group quests, but there are only very few of them. Most zones don't have any at all, but sometimes there's a lone group quest tucked away somewhere on the side, detached from the main storyline so that it doesn't end up blocking your progress if you can't do it. I appreciate that from a gameplay point of view, but story-wise it doesn't really make any sense. So you're saying that I can practically win a war on my own in Stonetalon, but you think that I should ask for help with killing that big fish in the lake? Right. To make matters worse, these group quests are what they are only in name. While levelling my rogue I could solo every single one of them with ease, without heirlooms and often without even needing most of my cooldowns. When normal mobs are tuned to die after two or three special attacks, then doubling or even tripling their health to make them elite doesn't add much of a threat.

I was in for a surprise when I met Yetimus the Yeti Lord in Hillsbrad. He looked pretty intimidating alright, so I approached him with caution, but I wasn't prepared for just how much of a thrashing he was going to give my little undead hunter. Barely a few seconds after I had sent my pet in, he did such a massive knockback that my faithful demon dog ended up being hurled so far away that he actually despawned. Panicking, I tried to kite the monster, but even though he was susceptible to slows, he was still way too fast for me even while slowed, not to mention his considerable reach and ability to stun. Another couple of seconds later I found myself at the spirit healer.

Okay, that didn't quite go as planned, I thought, let's try that again. This time I managed to avoid my pet despawning, but I couldn't keep the little bugger alive with my piddly pet mending, and even though my damage was poor I kept pulling aggro off him, all the while barely even making a dent in the yeti's health. Life is hard when you're level twenty-six and only have a fraction of your class's full skill set to work with.

After I had died about three more times and got no closer to killing Yetimus, I decided that it was probably time to do the unthinkable and actually group up for a group quest. I did a quick /who Hillsbrad and saw four or five players in the correct level range - and this was during day time! I asked in general chat whether anyone was up for killing Yetimus and quickly got a reply from another hunter, and while I was waiting for her to make it over to the right area, a mage joined in as well. I made no secret out of my previous failure and told them that I was out for revenge.

When we were all in the right place and Yetimus wandered past again, I pulled him and we tried to nuke him down as fast as we could. I got very close to dying, especially as I got aggro again and then got knocked into a stray mountain lion to boot, but in the end I survived with a sliver of health left and the yeti was dead. Hurrah!

The mage thanked us and left, but the hunter asked whether I was up for more action, as there was another group quest available east of Tarren Mill: The Durnholde Challenge. There was a bit of dallying about as I tried to figure out where to pick up the quest and whether there were any prerequesites - oh how I missed that idle grouping!

Finally we went in and did the whole chain with no problems - these guys were no Yetimus for sure, but I still appreciated not having to fight them alone. The other hunter levelled up halfway through the chain as it gave a pretty good chunk of experience. Unlike the Yetimus quest, this one also had a useful item reward for a hunter, but that wasn't really the point. When I said my goodbyes at the end, I was happy.

People often look down on pugging as something for the desperate, those who can't find any friends to help them, because why else would you want to group with random strangers? Surely there is no benefit to working with people you don't know over those you do know. The truth is, it's hard to explain because there really isn't anything similar in real life. The best explanation I can think of is that having a positive grouping experience with random strangers is something quite... profound. When your friends help you out, it's something to be appreciated for sure, but it's also not really surprising because they are your friends after all. Getting help from someone you don't know on the other hand, even if it's not completely altruistic, is the online equivalent to reading one of those positive slice of life stories in the news - it's like a reassurance that, at the end of the day, the world is full of decent people and good things. Whether that's true in the big picture is a different matter, but even on a small scale it's something that creates fuzzy, warm feelings.

From a practical point of view, grouping like this also really helps to make you feel connected. Since I don't intend to level that particular character much further, I wasn't interested in making any deeper connections and was content to part ways once we'd all achieved our shared goals, but it was good to know that the option to interact with other people from the same server was there. If I had been a newbie or someone looking to reroll on a new server, I would have had a chance to make friends right there, ask them to do an instance, or inquire about their guild. That's really valuable when you're a lonely lowbie, levelling up on your own.

I wouldn't be surprised if Yetimus became something like the new Hogger, an NPC of legend that awes the lowbies and encourages them to group up and learn how to overcome a challenge. I do wish there were more mobs like him.


A retrospective of Cataclysm expectations

Around this time two years ago, Cataclysm was revealed as WoW's third expansion at Blizzcon 2009. Now, Blizzcon 2011 (and thus presumably the official announcment of the next expansion) is still a few months away, but I thought that it would be fun to look back at how I reacted to the Cataclysm announcement back in the day, before we all go wild about Mists of Pandaria or whatever else it's going to be. You can read the whole post I wrote about my Cataclysm expectations here, but I'm going to quote the most important bits anyway.

Thrall abandoning the Horde? I'm glad that this one hasn't been confirmed as of yet as far as I'm aware.

Ah, I still had such high hopes for the Horde back then. Isn't it sad?

The new races are the feature that has been semi-official for longer than any of the others and I loved it from moment I heard about it.

I was really excited about worgen and goblins, more so about the latter than about the former, but still... and yet, this has probably turned out to be one of my biggest disappointments in this expansion. For starters, Blizzard didn't give us any additional character slots, so I could only create new alts on servers where I didn't have any friends, which was fairly off-putting. Then the new starter zones both ended up being rather disappointing to me personally. Gilneas's linearity rankled, though I've recently felt an itch to give it a second playthrough. And Kezan was just so over the top that it didn't even feel like Warcraft to me anymore.

To make matters worse, I ended up having major issues with the looks and animations of the new races. Or rather, I'm fine with the goblins' looks, but something about their animations keeps bugging me, though I can't really put my finger on what exactly it is. Maybe I'm just sizist, as I don't like playing gnomes either. The worgen are worse though, as I don't like their looks much and their animations just look atrocious to me, as if all their limbs were made of rubber. I talked about this in my post about the worgen starter area, but the way they run just really, really bothers me, to the point where I feel some annoyance every time I see a worgen run past me - I don't even have to be the one playing it - and that's an issue that I have with no other race. It's like a horde of Scooby Doos invaded Azeroth. /shudder.

My only hope is that I'll still get used to it. I actually remember really disliking the blood elves when Burning Crusade first came out, especially the females, but eventually I managed to mellow out a bit and tried out their starter zone on a male first... and well, as you can see on my side bar, I now have a female blood elf paladin at max level, and I certainly don't hate her.

The thought of already ditching all my Icecrown epics after only five levels doesn't sit quite right with me.

Hahaha! Little did I know that I would actually start ditching my Icecrown epics the moment I set foot into the first of the new zones. I'm still not sure how I feel about this extreme gear reset to be honest. It creates a bit of a difficulty hump for new characters in levelling gear, but on the other hand it allows them to catch up very quickly. Nonetheless, the scaling - not just of gear, but also of stats - from 80 to 85 just feels completely out of whack compared to the rest of the game. Already a level 85 character in decent gear has about five times the health that an 80 had back in ICC, and the expansion is less than a year old. I think I would have preferred it not to be quite so drastic. All my stats being in the thousands just feels weird.

I'm also intrigued by the new "path system" for character progression.

I think with this and the dance studio there's a definite lesson to be learned: trust at least one of the major expansion features to be scrapped before release.

I guess in my ideal world they'd add new quests while also incorporating some of the old ones in the new setting, maybe streamlining them somewhat in the process.

Actually, this is something that Blizzard did get right, even if I personally felt that the results were of somewhat mixed quality and didn't work equally well in all the zones. The "continuity problem" of some old quests having had consequences while other ones appear to have never happened is something that I've slowly learned to ignore, but there is still another issue:

The question would be how viable that would be, especially if we assume that the base levelling speed won't be changed - do people really need more quests that they'll just outlevel way too quickly anyway?

It's funny how that was a bit of a throwaway comment at the time, as I had little doubt that Blizzard would balance quest experience and levelling speed in some way, yet characters outlevelling their quests way too quickly has actually turned out to be one of the major problems of the revamped old world.

New High-Level Zones & More Raid Content than Ever Before - I feel a bit spoiled saying this, but this is a bit of a "duh", isn't it?

I've got to give credit where credit is due: I felt that they did deliver plenty of good raid content in the first tier of this expansion... but unfortunately the whole system of having multiple raids per tier seems to have gone out of the window again now, which is a shame in my opinion. And well, the amount of new high level zones wasn't that impressive either. It never feels like you have much choice about where to quest; your only option for variety during levelling is to avoid questing altogether and try to level by other means.

I'm definitely looking forward to trying out many of these new options [for race/class combinations], though the limited amount of character slots per realm will definitely end up being an issue for me.

Yep, also see my comments above about worgen and goblins. In actuality, the only new combos that I've tried out so far are human hunter, undead hunter and troll druid. There's a lot of untapped potential there for me, but as I said the limited character slots remain a deterrent for me.

If guild-changing suddenly has more meaningful effects than losing a chat channel and the tag over your name that could be the source of a lot of new drama... but I'm confident in Blizzard's ability to avoid the worst pitfalls that are bound to crop up with such a new system.

I'm actually not sure how I feel about the guild levelling system after more than six months of using it. The perks are alright, but on the other hand there are only a few that I actually miss when I'm playing on an unguilded character, and some, like the experience boosts that you can't turn off, are actually something that I actively want to avoid on lowbie alts.

And I'm not sure whether this system has actually made guilds more meaningful. Yes, it has given them a more important role in terms of gameplay, but to be honest I don't think that's really what guilds should be about. I also can't shake the feeling that this has made people more reluctant to change guilds, even if it's something they want to do, which I don't consider a good thing.

I don't PvP much these days so I can't claim to care much about these features, however the mention of "new battlegrounds with rated team play" in the trailer has me intrigued.

Rated battlegrounds didn't turn out to be what I expected either, as I didn't think that they would be something that required premade teams, but on the plus side they turned out to be a lot more fun than I had imagined and have actually turned into one of my favourite features of this expansion.

I really like the idea of a new secondary profession, simply because that means everyone will be able to get it - and, like the other secondary professions, it would most likely be somewhat optional.

At the start of the expansion archaeology didn't really feel entirely optional to me, considering that it could potentially result in items that were as powerful as raid gear, so not levelling it felt a bit like passing on potential gear upgrades. This has got better as the gear from it has become a bit outdated though - which is a good thing in my opinion. I do wonder how many characters have actually levelled their archaeology - it seems to me that it has become what fishing used to be, that annoying profession that you levelled on your main for the perks but then never touched on any of your alts. Fishing itself has become a lot more fun with the many dailies and fewer restrictions on how much skill you need to make successful catches, but archaeology on alts still feels pretty bleh to me.

Flying Mounts in Azeroth - Awesome. Not much more to say about that.

Actually, this is another thing that in my opinion turned out to not be as great as I had thought it would be. Soaring over the old world was interesting for maybe two weeks, then it just turned into the most convenient way of getting from A to B without having to pay attention to the scenery. I actually find myself enjoying my alts below sixty much more not just because of the new content, but also because they are glued to the ground and actually get to take in the changes in the landscape.

Now, you could read all this as a rant about how Cataclysm sucks etc., but I think that more than anything it's a warning not to get too caught up in the hype about a new expansion. The things that I got most disappointed about weren't necessarily the weakest aspects of the expansion but simply things about which I had built up too many expectations (e.g. "I'm sure levelling a goblin will be just as much fun as levelling a draenei was back in the day").

In a way, Cataclysm was also the expansion about which I was the most excited so far. When Burning Crusade came out I hadn't been playing that long yet and didn't really understand the ramifications of everything that was going to happen. Wrath was something that I did get excited about, but to be honest a lot of it was more about the prospect of levelling through it with my boyfriend (we had only just got together about two months before its release) than about the actual content. I knew little about Arthas and thus wasn't too concerned with his story.

But Cataclysm... I don't know! I think in a way I expected it to fix everything that I didn't like about the state of the game, which of course it didn't and couldn't do. Also, my boyfriend and I couldn't even start playing together at the same time since he had ordered a copy from Amazon and we were victims of their Big Fail of Christmas 2010. (He ended up cancelling his order and somehow it still ended up in our mailbox in May or so. Lolwut?) It just felt like a bit of a mess.

Whatever the next expansion will be, I'll try to just lean back and not think about it too much until it actually arrives. Hopefully I'll be able to get more enjoyment out of it that way.


Not so Forsaken anymore: how Sylvanas & co. surprised me in Silverpine

MMO Melting Pot has a link to a post by Cynwise up today in which he discusses the Forsaken, why he considers them evil, and why he doesn't really like playing them. It's both interesting as well as conveniently timed for me, because I played through Silverpine Forest on my own undead hunter last night and was left with an urge to post about the experience and how it changed my view of the Forsaken in general. (Unlike previous "I quested in this zone" posts, this one has some very explicit spoilers. You have been warned.)

To start at the beginning, I used to feel ambivalent about the Forsaken. I didn't like them enough to play one of my own until I rolled my death knight, but I enjoyed their company and liked to spend time in their zones. They always struck me as the Azerothian equivalent of that misanthropic guy in your circle of friends whom you suspect you'd really dislike if you got to know him more closely, but as long as you keep him at a safe distance he makes for great company, because he's also clever, sarcastic and funny.

Looking at it a bit more closely and seriously, the Forsaken have always been giving quests that were considerably more evil than those that you got anywhere else. Yes, all factions ask you to kill people, but the Undercity was the only place where they made you think that you were actually helping the one you were going to get killed and considered this perfectly normal behaviour.

And yet, despite of this, I could never get myself to truly dislike them, probably because I was also feeling a bit sorry for them. They are not like other races, they aren't even really a "race" at all. They are sentient abominations, forced to exist in a sort of limbo between life and death where they are unable to truly enjoy anything and have no real purpose in life undeath. For every evil apothecary poisoning people for the hell of it, there was usually a quest about a sad Forsaken trying to recapture some of their lost humanity and failing. More than anything, they are simply some seriously messed up people.

Wrath of the Lich King was a big expansion for the Forsaken, because it went back to their roots and gave them purpose, reminding everyone of how it was the Lich King who was responsible for their current plight and that it made perfect sense for them to want revenge. But then the Wrathgate happened... and it was painful. I'll never forget the shivers that ran down my spine as I watched the cinematic for the first time and saw Putress appear, threatening Arthas with the wrath of the Forsaken (yay, here come our crazy but ass-kicking allies) - until he added "and death to the living" to the end of his speech (oh shit).

After that I felt that things kind of went downhill for the Forsaken. Before that I had always considered the apothecaries a sort of extremist group that wasn't necessarily representative of the undead as a whole, but the Wrathgate made it very clear that they were indeed the ones in charge. Sylvanas denied all responsibility afterwards, but I challenge you to find anyone who actually believed her story.

Now the Forsaken weren't just poor disgruntled monsters anymore, they were traitors. While it had been easy to feel at least some sympathy for them in the past whenever they seemed uncaring or unnecessarily cruel, this was personal, outright treachery and simply inexcusable. I was sad about this because it felt to me like this development really eliminated a lot of shades of grey from their character as a race and just left them as this purely evil people that couldn't be trusted even by their own allies.

As such I wasn't actually looking forward to seeing how their story would develop in Cataclysm, especially after I had heard reports about Sylvanas going mad with power and effectively becoming the new Lich King.

Let's just say, the new undead starting area was surprising.

Tirisfal Glades not so much, as it's retained a lot of the old starter quests; the experience has just been smoothed out considerably. Yes, there are some new quests and they are fun, but nothing that struck me as really out of the ordinary. The only thing I found notable was how different the reception of my new undead character felt compared to the old starter zone. Pre-Cataclysm, it basically said to a newly risen Forsaken: "Oh, you woke up too? Sucks to be us, let's try to make the best of it." Nowadays it says: "Welcome! We brought you back to life so you can serve the wonderful Lady Sylvanas!" The atmosphere is almost... friendly, like you're being inducted into a special club.

When you enter Silverpine, that's where things get really interesting. You immediately get to witness Sylvanas explaining her newest scheme of having Val'kyr intentionally raise new Forsaken to Garrosh, and her choice of words is fascinating. "I have solved the plight of the Forsaken," she says, and "as a race, we Forsaken are unable to procreate". I've seen people brush this off as her simply wanting to "produce" more soldiers for the Horde war effort, but to me those are not the words of a warlord talking about her cannon fodder. You want your people to procreate, Sylvanas? That sounds awfully... maternal.

A bit later you get to ride side by side with her as she explains the history of the Forsaken to you. Usually when your character gets to interact with an important NPC, this strikes me as a way of trying to make you feel more important: you're such a great hero that even the Warchief himself (or whoever) comes to have a chat with you. In this case I got the opposite impression though, namely that this conversation showed that Sylvanas is a leader who genuinely cares about her people, even a lowly schmuck like my level twelve hunter.

In a later quest, you get sent on a rescue mission to save the survivors of an ambush. Rescue mission? What? Are these the same Forsaken that asked me to mercilessly kill any of their number that were unlucky enough to get captured by the enemy in Dragonblight?

During another quest, you accompany a group of soldiers into a cave where they end up getting ambushed. Before I had time to properly process what was happening, the leader of the group shoved my character out of the blast radius, with his last words being that I should tell the Banshee Queen. The way I sat in front of my monitor in stunned confusion must have been a pretty good reflection of the way my character must have felt about this strange act of heroism. "But... I'm just the rookie, and yet he bothered to save me. I don't understand."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the Forsaken have suddenly turned into a bunch of fluffy bunnies. They are still ruthless and cruel, but something has changed for sure. They don't just loathe everything and everyone anymore, including themselves. They stick together. They care about the survival of their people. Up until Wrath, it was all about them killing and bombing their way towards the Lich King, no matter the cost, but with Arthas dead, what was left for them to do? Lie down and die?

It seems that Sylvanas has decided to make the Forsaken a "proper" people. They are still undead and messed up, but they also want to have their own land, procreate and get some joy out of their existence, even if it's just from worshipping their Dark Lady. This is a huge change in my opinion, and one that makes them a thousand times easier to relate to. Sure, you can still hate their methods and that's fair enough, but at the end of the day their goals are now not so different from those of the other races. They just want their people to flourish, in their own undead way.

As if to drive the point home, the zone ends with you having to work with the new bosses from Shadowfang Keep for a while, and those guys are bastards. They combine all the worst traits of the old Forsaken philosophy, loathing not just their enemies, but also their allies and even themselves. During the aforementioned rescue mission, Lord Godfrey sometimes randomly pulls out a rifle and shoots the soldiers you just saved because he thinks that they are worthless. This is perfectly in line with old Forsaken quests (refer to the one in Dragonblight I linked above!) but as a player of a "new" Forsaken you can't help but hate him. You're being taught to care for your fellow undead, even if you don't care for anybody else, and you just don't treat them like that!

Later in Hillsbrad, there is a similar situation where you encounter a crazed apothecary for a while who has clearly gone off the deep end and is raising mindless zombies everywhere. I immediately felt uneasy when I saw his whole operation and started to wonder whether I had overestimated the "goodness" of the new Forsaken... until I found Master Apothecary Lydon locked away in a cage and together he and I went back to kick some butt and clean up the mess, because again, this was actually not acceptable by the Forsaken's new standards.

I certainly didn't expect the Forsaken to come out of the Cataclysm more likeable than ever, but there you go. This is my interpretation of their quests at least. I get the impression that a lot of people seem to think that Sylvanas is still scheming quietly about how to destroy all life on Azeroth and how to become the Ultimate Queen of Uber Evil, but I have to admit that I have trouble seeing that side of her, going by the way she behaves in game. Yeah, she hates Garrosh, but who doesn't? She is genuinely saddened by the loss of her Val'kyr companions, and when she deals with Crowley at the end of the Silverpine story, she honours their agreement to let his daughter go unharmed. I think that she just wants to see her people prosper, and while she definitely still has a bone or two to pick with certain people, I doubt that she's hell-bent on world (or even Horde) domination.


Dailies, what are they good for?

I finished unlocking the last part of the Molten Front dailies the other day and got my Flameward Hippogryph in the mail, but I have to say, it felt rather unsatisfying. Malfurion sent me a letter to tell me how awesome I was, how I had helped to really strike fear into the hearts of Ragnaros's minions or something like that... but nothing looked different.

I talked about really liking the much-touted "personal phasing" before, but I have to admit I really expected a little more to happen until the end. Okay, the tree grows - great. More NPCs appear - fine. But that's it? It's hard to believe that we really made that much progress into the Firelands when the base still looks like it's on the verge of being overrun every day. And we keep helping the Druids of the Talon and the Shadow Wardens to push forward, yet every day they need to start over from scratch. I feel like Sisyphus, watching my boulder roll back down the hill every night. This is worse than not seeing the environment change at all: seeing it change for only a day and then it resets again, forcing me to start over from scratch. Rohan observes that it looks like the zone was designed for "proper" phasing, and I can't help but agree. The personal progression idea was neat, but I don't think that the way they implemented it here works very well.

Aside from the constant resets, it also doesn't really seem to go anywhere. I thought that there would be some sort of big showdown quest at the end, but the Leyara chain ends about halfway through the whole ordeal and then... nothing.

The linearity of the questing is also really starting to tick me off. I've got a couple of the achievements left to do that require you to do the Druid of the Talon side, but to access those quests you always have to go through the whole intro sequence of killing X fire elementals, saving Y wounded Hyjal defenders, going Into The Fire and so on and so forth, every damn day. Feels like a lot of busywork just to keep you away from the dailies that you really want to do. Whoever thought that making daily quests a long linear sequence instead of a big pool you can pick and choose from was a good idea deserves a smack over the head in my opinion. I don't know if I'll have the stamina to continue for much longer, seeing how there is nothing of interest to buy with the spare marks I'd get.

I kind of miss the times when dailies were just a convenient way to make money. There was little pressure to do any of them because there were always other and more efficient ways of making gold; it just depended on how you liked to play. Personally I was happy to work for the ogres of Ogri'la while I saved up for epic flying back in the day, because the alternative was trying to farm elementals as a healer with no dual spec, and playing Simon Says was a lot less stressful.

To be fair, Blizzard has shown that they can use dailies to tell exciting stories, whether it's a whole server slowly taking over the Isle of Quel'Danas through combined effort or one of your characters raising their very own mount in the jungles of Un'goro. The whole thing has to come to some sort of conclusion though, which the Molten Front dailies didn't, not really.

I wonder if the item rewards at least worked out for some people. The Argent Tournament never really told much of a story either, but it had so many reputations, titles, pets and mounts that everyone could find something to work towards there. (In fact, I know some people who still go back to do the dailies there even now.) The Molten Front had no gear to offer me as a holy priest, and while I bought a couple of pets and trinkets, I only really did that "because I could", basically. The vendor was already unlocked and the reward was right there. It wasn't something I specifically worked for though, so it felt quite meaningless.

In a nutshell, I thought that the Molten Front started out quite fun and promising, but the further I progressed, the more annoying and less rewarding it got. I guess if you've got a non-raiding alt for whom you'd like to buy a specific piece of gear from one of the vendors it might be worth working towards that, but other than that I see little reason to go back to the place.


Furbolgs and other friends

After finishing my rogue's old world tour, I realised that there were only two zones left in Kalimdor that I hadn't looked at yet: Felwood and Winterspring. I hopped onto another roughly level appropriate alt (of which I seem to have a lot), my long abandoned male night elf warrior, and took him up there.

As it soon turned out, my idea of what was level appropriate for those zones wasn't correct anymore as the mobs in both were about five levels lower than they used to be, but they still gave me experience (just about) and I was already there, so I decided to just get on with it.

One of the most defining features of both Felwood and Winterspring are the furbolg: the infamously rep-grindy Timbermaw and their corrupted enemies, the Deadwood/Winterfall. They are all still around, but the Timbermaw reputation gains have been buffed massively. I remember that whenever I did the Felwood quests in the past, I would end up barely neutral with the Timbermaw by the time I got to their big tunnel, and maybe reach friendly in Winterspring. By the end of my questing this time around, with no extra mob grinding or anything, I was revered. Yowza. Makes me want to go back on my main to do those quests; with the reputation she already has, she should be able to get to exalted with no effort whatsoever.

Also, in what felt like an effort to make the whole "we have to kill our own kind because they've been corrupted" thing seem a little less dire, they added a couple of quests centred around two little furbolg children that get up to crazy hijinks. I actually thought that they were quite cute.

Overall, Felwood is another zone where I feel that Blizzard really managed to hit the spot while combining old and new. Aside from the additions mentioned above, the furbolg quests are still present. You still get asked to kill satyrs and other demons, and descend into the Shadow Hold to kick some Shadow Council butt. The only old quest that seemed to have gone without a trace and that I really missed was the escort to rescue Sailor Moon that night elf chick from the Shadow Hold and deal with the fate of Trey Lightforge. I always thought that it was quite touching, and the fact that their friend's NPC dialogue still talked about her being in Felwood to look for two lost friends really got my hopes up. I guess that's just a leftover that the developers forgot to clean up.

However, there are also loads of new and highly entertaining quests. There's the chain featuring the night elf mage and the imp (rainbow power!), the little talking tree whom you help to grow (I thought he was very cute, even if some of the things he said also sounded slightly creepy to me), and a cool quest featuring some Illidan lore. There's a new green quest hub established by the druids, as well as a worgen outpost (they seem to be really good at growing massive, old and twisted looking trees very fast). I'm guessing the Horde works for the goblins here. It's really a nice mix of new and old and I had a right blast levelling through this revamped zone.

Scrubbing dirty squirrels gives the words "cleansing the forest" a whole new meaning.

As I emerged into Winterspring, the fun continued pretty seamlessly. Again, the furbolg quests had been kept and tweaked only slightly, but pretty much everything else has seen changes of some sort, and only for the better as far as I'm concerned. Are We There, Yeti? still exists, but it's much, much more straightforward. The old quests to hunt for a couple of named mobs (they may have been Horde only, I can't remember for sure) have been transformed into a fully fledged hunting camp à la Nesingwary. This could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing depending on whether you like killing dozens of bears, owls and frostsabers, but I had a real blast doing these. Much to my amusement I also found myself getting really hungry while reading the quest text - no, I don't really care for eating owls myself, but these guys sure were very convincing in their passion!

About halfway through my frostsaber carnage I ran into the local Wintersaber Trainer. Still covered in the gore of a dozen innocent kitties, my warrior walked up to the guy and assured him that sure, he loved sabers! I was then pleased to discover that Blizzard changed the Wintersaber rep grind to use the same model as the Ravasaur quests on Horde side, which I absolutely loved. In other words, you get a little cub that gives you a daily quest to feed it and you can watch it grow into a proper mount over time. Awww! It goes without saying that I was happy to pick that one up, even if my little cat is likely to grow into a very disturbed individual, considering that I spent the rest of that evening slaughtering more of its relatives.

I also loved what they did with the old E'ko system. I always thought that the way it used to be was pretty rubbish, having to carry that cache around, gathering a whole bunch of different items to combine for different buffs... keep in mind that the average character's bag space was considerably less back then than it is now and it was just too much of a pain to be worth the bother. Nowadays you just get a couple of quests explaining what E'ko is, and then you can randomly gain various buffs from killing the right creatures.

I also ended up discovering a part of the zone that has apparently been there since vanilla, but that I never even noticed in all my years of playing: the Ban'Thallow Barrow Den. Good job at making me feel like a noob again, Blizzard. And I don't mean that in a sarcastic way at all, I'm amazed that it can still happen after all these years!

If I had to criticise anything about the new Winterspring at all, it would be that it would have been nice if they had added another flight path closer to the Timbermaw Hold, but that's really a very minor thing.

On a concluding note, I ended up finding a disgusting oozeling in the aforementioned barrow den and immediately had to think of Tam's old post about the different stages of insanity he went through while trying to intentionally grind for one. Typical that someone like me, who doesn't care much about pets, would get one on an alt without even trying. I considered selling it since several thousand gold are still a decent amount of cash and I'm not that rich on that server, but then I thought that I didn't really need more money for anything either and just allowed my warrior to learn it. At least I'll have something tangible to remind myself of his adventures in Felwood and Winterspring, and they were definitely memorable!

Brief commentary on the latest Big Issues

There've been several pieces of major WoW-related news in the past couple of days, though none of them have actually excited me much. Still, I thought I'd write down my thoughts on them at least in a very condensed form:

Diablo III RMT

So, apparently you'll be able to buy virtual items in Diablo III with real money. Wait, I've never played any of the previous Diablo games and have no interest in the next installment either, why should I care? Because WoW might end up going down the same road if the system turns out to be successful? Hm.

To be honest, I'm not too concerned about that. WoW is still quite different from Diablo from what I understand (many items are BoP, loot is shared in groups, there are different servers etc.) so I don't think that they'd be able to just port the system over quickly or easily even if it does turn out to be a success.

Though, for the record, I'm against RMT, micro-transactions and all that stuff. I just like to pay my subscription and then never have to worry about real money while immersing myself in the experience of being a troll in a dress.

Mists of Pandaria

MMO-Champion once again claims to know all about the next expansion before it's officially announced. Colour me sceptical, but I wouldn't put it beyond Blizzard to just be messing with our heads in this case. After all, they know that this is the kind of thing that people would look into for clues, and the Pandaren have always been a joke race, so an expansion centred around them would be the perfect fit for a practical joke.

Then again, I also thought that the early Cataclysm leaks were a bunch of bollocks, because the developers would never just destroy all their own work, right? And Garrosh becoming warchief? Lol...

If it does turn out to be a real expansion, I'm amazingly indifferent. I know some people are crazy about Pandaren, but as someone who's "only" a WoW fan, not a Blizzard fan, the entirety of my knowledge about this race can be summed up by what I know from Chen's Empty Keg, a quest that doesn't even exist anymore. There was a guy called Chen Stormstout, and he was a panda and liked to drink. Okay. I have to admit, I don't really care. Just bring it on I guess.

WoW losing another 300k subscribers

There are quite a few things that I'm not happy with in the game right now, but I grow tired of ranting even faster than I grow tired of the things that I ranted about to begin with! There are probably a lot of different reasons for the subscriber loss, but there are still plenty of people playing. It's not all bad. I do hope though that if Blizzard attempts to regain those lost subscribers, they won't do so by simply throwing more raid bosses and daily quests at people without doing anything else.


Tales from Southern Kalimdor

My little human rogue finally completed her journey from the northern tip of Kalimdor down to the very south of the continent and hit level sixty. We last met her in Thousand Needles, so these are my impressions of what I saw of Tanaris, Un'goro and Silithus.


Tanaris is still a good zone, but I struggled to be truly enthusiastic about it because I loved the old Tanaris that much more. I always felt that it was a very evocative zone, making you truly feel like you were on the edge of a desert on the ass end of nowhere. The dunes south of Gadgetzan seemed to go on forever, and the goblins didn't give a rat's ass whether you were Horde or Alliance, as long as you didn't pick any fights while within their walls and helped them steal water from the waste wanderers and booze from the local pirates.

The new Tanaris feels smaller somehow, and it is, seeing how almost a quarter of the zone has been flooded by the Cataclysm. When I flew over the shallows where I used to farm waste wanderers, I felt sad at the sight of the area's emptiness. In general, the zone feels way too busy for a desert now though, with hordes of NPC archaeologists fighting over the various ruins and the Southsea pirates being taken on by an entire army. The Horde vs. Alliance conflict rears its ugly head in Gadgetzan as well, with a girl gnome and a goblin whining endlessly at Marin Noggenfogger that he should join their respective side already. You can't help but feel sorry for the man.

One thing I liked was that there is a sort of intro quest line to Zul'Farrak now, which explains why one of the quest givers you meet on the inside is the ghost of a dead troll. It just strikes me as slightly weird design to make quests like that now, when ninety percent of dungeon runners might never even set foot into the zone associated with the instance anymore.

Another thing I found notable in this zone was that after completing all the quests I could find, there were still several sub-zones that I hadn't even touched. This gives me hope that the Horde quests might not all be mirrors of the Alliance ones this time and might actually utilise different environments to tell different stories. I'm looking forward to seeing this one from the other side.

This quest text made me burst into uncontrollable giggles.

Un'goro Crater

Un'goro is a wonderful zone. I was always quite fond of it to begin with - if Tanaris was the desert at the ass end of the continent, then Un'goro was the metaphorical pimple on that ass, not to mention a wild and untamed jungle. Plus it used to have lots of quests that led you all over the zone and gave pretty nice XP.

The new Un'goro somehow managed to capture the charm of the old zone (the developers added a small extra quest hub but on the whole the area still feels like proper "adventuring territory"), while also updating it to Cataclysm standards and adding some new bits and pieces. Old quests feel familiar and slightly streamlined, but not to the point where it feels like you're just being led around by the nose. I actually ran into more than one little surprise that made me go "Oho, what's that?" while exploring.

For example I spotted a little mound of earth with a blue question mark above it in the now abandoned Marshal's Refuge. Of course I had to investigate it, and found it to be the burial site of Dadanga the kodo. Nooo, not Dadanga! I still remember gathering dozens of Bloodpetal sprouts for you and being sorely disappointed by the way you rewarded me with a pumpkin and some moonberry juice. I decided to accept the challenge issued by the new repeatable quest and honour her memory by depositing some Bloodpetal sprouts on her grave. This turned out to be harder than I expected since the damned things don't show up on the herb tracker anymore and you need some pretty keen eyes to spot green sprouts on green ground, but in the end I did it. After depositing my gift, I was rewarded with a little speed buff that lasted a whopping twenty minutes. Still the same old disappointing Dadanga, even in death... /sniff.

One old quest that I was surprised hadn't been removed is the one to rescue Ringo the goblin from Fireplume Ridge. I kind of assumed that the way you had to lead him back to camp yourself and keep sprinkling water on him every so often would have triggered the developers' "not fun enough" sense these days. I guess in a way it did, because while you still need to use the water, you can apparently also keep him going by slapping him every so often before he falls over. I never quite figured out how that was supposed to work though, as the response to my /slap emote seemed very delayed and hardly ever seemed to do any good. It felt like a pretty cruel way to "rescue" someone anyway.

My favourite new addition to the zone were the Maximillian of Northshire quests. I don't think there was a single one of them that didn't make me go: "What the...?" They are incredibly silly and funny, but still manage to not feel out of place. The fact that I was doing them on a rogue added an extra layer of hilarity, as knight Maximillian was not at all impressed by my roguish fighting methods, and would idly stand by as I stunlocked mobs to death. Then he would charge off towards the nearest elite before I could restealth and make me facepalm. I would say the zone is worth doing for his quests alone.


Unfortunately, Silithus still sucks. They cleaned it up a bit and removed all those old raid quests and weird currency grinds, plus a couple of quests where I have no idea why they took them out. (The Spirits of Southwind was a rather haunting story in my opinion, and The Calling gave the most interesting bits of lore in the entire zone.) Then they smoothed out a couple of bumps in what was left over, such as adding a remote hand-in here and reducing the number of items needed there (the dwarves down south tell you that "conveniently" another adventurer already brought them the parts they needed from the other two silithid hives, so you only have to go down into the one right next to them)... but that's it. Grinding for encrypted texts is still boring. Killing fifteen dredge strikers just to get a follow-up to kill twenty dredge crushers still feels uninspired.

I found this particularly disappointing since I remembered seeing this video of the 4.1 PTR and fully expected there to be some new and exciting quests with phasing in them. But nope, looks like none of that actually made it into the live game. I guess Silithus was Kalimdor's Arathi Highlands, aka that last zone that the developers didn't find the time for in the end. It's a shame because the story behind the zone has so much potential... but at least with Silithus we're already used to it being a boring place.