The Adventure Continues

Suddenly (to me), the gold sellers have invaded. I had heard people talk about them being a scourge upon the land previously but hadn't noticed any myself, but one day I logged in and suddenly I, too, was getting bombarded by spam channel invites and whispers at a rate of up to one per minute. Maybe they wait until you've hit a certain minimum level or something. It's literally impossible to manually add all of these people to your ignore list. I just started to mentally block them out after a while.

I've also learned that Nostalrius has a somewhat odd concept of server progression. Releasing content like dungeons and raids in the order they were originally introduced to the retail game is a well-known strategy by now, but apparently the Nost team are sticklers for details, without being able to implement them in a good manner. What this means is that you can buy and train certain profession recipes, but when you actually try to craft them, you get an error message that "this spell isn't available to you", according to general chat because that particular ability wasn't added until patch one point so-and-so. Do you really expect me to have memorised every little detail of the Vanilla patch notes? And what am I to do with all these Raw Sagefish now? Bah.

I've said before that the key to enjoying playing on a retro server is to find a balance between indulging your nostalgia and experimenting with things that are new to you. The latter is covered by me being a dwarf instead of a night elf priest this time, and by my choice of professions: tailoring and enchanting. My original nelf priest was a tailor too, so that bit is familiar, but her second primary profession was skinning, which was easy to level and actually earned some money. While enchanting makes a good partner for tailoring, it's a huge pain to level (looking forward to having to visit the trainer in Uldaman over and over again!), and tailoring is no slouch either. I've turned hundreds of pieces of linen cloth into cloth bolts already, yet I'm barely able to craft gear intended for level 12s.

More so than on my pally, I'm also finding that grouping up for random quests is incredibly beneficial, because as a priest I don't have the same survivability while solo that I had on my pally. I had a fantastic time grouping with a warlock for the final part of the In Defense of the King's Lands chain in Loch Modan, which involves killing lots of troggs - I was one step ahead in the chain and he said he would understand if I didn't want to go back to re-do the last part with him, but why ever would I not? All I have to do is dot, wand and cast the occasional heal, and it rains both XP and cloth, much easier than it would ever do when I'm out on my own.

Speaking of wands by the way, I was so excited when I got my first wand. As a fledgling priest player, I remember being told to spec into wand specialisation asap. Current WoW players just wouldn't understand.

I was actually level 19 by the time I got into my first Deadmines run, but I got all my quests done and won that excellent priest shirt from the last boss. I just had to craft myself a red shirt to hide the fact that it left my dwarf's chest pretty damn exposed. But I'll probably want to do a few more runs for cloth if nothing else!


More Nost Impressions

I'm continuing my levelling on Nostalrius-PvE on and off, but it's extremely slow. Now, Vanilla levelling is slow by default and generally I consider that a feature rather than a flaw, but the high population on Nost really makes things harder than usual.

I mentioned in my previous post that you might as well forget about doing any quests that require you to pick a specifically spawned item off the ground, but finding mobs to kill is hard as well. For the purposes of getting a kill quest done, this can be alleviated by grouping up, but that only goes so far. (For example I went to Elwynn and found the mighty Hogger being spawn-camped by about four full adventuring parties.) Grouping in Vanilla WoW also incurs a hefty XP penalty on mob kills, and as I observed when I levelled my paladin on Kronos, Vanilla expects you to actually gain most of your XP through mob kills. Nost leaves you between a rock and a hard place in that regard, as you can group up and kill more mobs, at a pittance of their normal experience value, or try to set out on your own and find most of the landscape already depopulated.

The one amusing exception I found to this were caves. In Vanilla everyone knows them to be death traps, so few people dare to venture all the way into one without grouping up. However, you can then end up in the bizarre situation of multiple groups crowding a cave to such an extent that the spawn timer goes nuts and spawns new mobs almost faster than people can kill the existing ones.

On a more general note, I've also found grouping on Nost to be strangely impersonal. Vanilla has this reputation of being a more social game because grouping is harder and you value your group mates more - and that was certainly my experience on Kronos as well - however Nostalrius' huge population pretty much negates this effect to the point that grouping out in the world feels more akin to the silent dungeon finder groups of modern WoW. You run into an area where people farm mobs, someone quietly throws you an invite because you all know that you're all there for the same reason, you kill things until you're done and then wordlessly leave again - since there is such a high turnover there is no point in engaging in conversation or sticking around.

I've also found that Nost's scripting does indeed appear to be somewhat less solid than that of Kronos, as much as the more hardcore Nostalrius fanboys would like to deny it. My dwarf is only into her teens, and already I've run into all kinds of bizarre issues, though admittedly they were all minor. Quest hand-ins that weren't marked by yellow question marks, or the other way round: NPCs having that same yellow question mark over their head even though I didn't have a quest for them. While trying to fish in the Forlorn Cavern in Ironforge, I kept getting a "your cast didn't land in fishable water" error three times out of four, even though I was practically surrounded by water. Ranged attacks seem to largely ignore line of sight, with spells and projectiles going right through hills, trees and walls - I think I would find that one a lot more annoying if I didn't use ranged attacks myself. Finally, there was that one occasion in Loch Modan where upon my death, my corpse suddenly decided to start sliding halfway across the map until it was stopped by a mountain range. I'm glad the mountain was there to stop it or I might never have been able to catch up with it again!

The one thing that Nost does better than Kronos is group loot, which actually seems to work properly as far as I can tell. On Kronos, at least when I last played there, the loot distribution for the default setting was clearly uneven and not working as it should, and every corpse always sparkled for every group member even if it had nothing on it, which was super annoying.

Anyway, I continue onwards and for now my first big goal is to hit level 18 and start running the Deadmines as much as I can to alleviate those XP gaining issues a bit.


Nostalrius-PvE Re-Launch Impressions

I nearly forgot that it was Nostalrius' big day yesterday and only remembered about half an hour after the servers were already supposed to have gone up. Of course, upon checking it turned out that there had been technical issues and both servers were already down again.

The PvE server soon came up again, however the PvP server had bigger problems and remained down, causing all the people who really wanted to play PvP to clog up the PvE server queue instead because they were bored. When I tried to log in I was presented with a queue of over 11k.

That estimate was optimistic to say the least.
I decided to stay in the queue but minimised it to do other things in the meantime. Initially I kept checking on it quite frequently, anxious that I might miss my turn, but based on how slowly things progressed I eventually gave up on that. Of course, when I finally did check my position in the queue again for the first time in over an hour, I had been disconnected and would have had to start over at 9k+, which was not going to happen as it was getting quite late for me by that point.

This morning things went somewhat better and I managed to log in right away, though a quick /who command showed that even so the server was already close to approaching its purported cap of 5000 players per faction again.

As decided previously, I rolled a dwarf priest, and found Coldridge Valley to be quite busy. I can only imagine how much worse things must have been in the human and nelf starting areas. I would say that there seemed to be about as many player characters as mob spawn points, which meant that it wasn't totally impossible to get things done, but it was rare for a mob to live longer than a few seconds after it spawned. It took me several laps of the Valley just to get to level 3.

While I was talking to a vendor, I suddenly got disconnected and found that the server had been rolled back a couple of minutes. Fortunately I hadn't been in the middle of anything critical. However, something seemed to have gone wrong, as all the mobs had disappeared and nothing would respawn. I decided that this was a good time to take a break.

When I checked back about two hours later, there were still no mobs, but apparently this didn't dissuade people from logging in. The /who command still showed over 4000 (Alliance?) players online. I saw some dwarves and gnomes stand in a circle in Anvilmar and engage in what appeared to be roleplaying, but for me, a mobless Azeroth wasn't interesting.

Fortunately things were fixed by the time I checked back in in the late afternoon, and there was a queue of 2k+ again. I waited this one out and fortunately it didn't take too long. I did some more laps around Coldridge Valley and eventually managed to struggle my way to level 5. Any quests that require you to pick an item off the ground you might as well abandon instantly, as the spawn points are camped to oblivion, but at least people were happy to group up for the troll kill quests.

Can you guess where the item for Felix' quest spawns?
Around Kharanos things got a little better as people were able to spread out more, though it still took me ages to get all my boar meat and I had to abandon another pick-up-the-item quest as a hopeless endeavour. At level 7 I decided to make the trip to Ironforge to learn some professions and more. Just before I could return to questing I was disconnected and was unable to log back in, causing me to call it a day.

So far, it's been interesting to be a part of this "event", but I can't say I'm a huge fan of what many Nost lovers apparently consider a "healthy" population. Seeing a lot of people around you is nice, yes, but when it gets in the way of making progress, not just with one quest but in general, it kind of makes me long for Kronos' more convenient population size.

EDIT: On my next login I also found that I had been rolled back to level 6 and had unlearned all my professions again. Sigh.


Nostalrius-PvE to re-release on December 17th

In a bit of a turnaround of the original announcement, it's now been decided that Nostalrius' PvE server will make its comeback at the same time as the PvP version instead of being relegated to the end of the release queue. In fact, both servers will re-launch as early as December 17th!

I'm not sure I will have much time to play this close to Christmas and with SWTOR just having launched a new expansion, but I'm definitely tempted to at least log in on Saturday just to see how crazy the lauch hype is going to be.

Fortunately I have been able to acquire another Vanilla WoW client, though it was once again a journey fraught with difficulties. The dodgy Czech file sharing website where I downloaded it last time has since disappeared from Kronos' download instructions and they just tell you to torrent it. As someone who doesn't do torrenting, this is super annoying! Eventually I managed to find a download for which I "only" had to temporarily install a special toolbar, and after the download failed two times, the third attempt finally succeeded. I'll have to make sure to save the client somewhere where I will remember to back it up this time, so I won't have to go through all this nonsense a third time later on.

Now the most poignant question for me is actually which class and race to roll. I know I want to play Alliance, because even though I spent more years playing as Horde than as Alliance in retail, Vanilla is distinctly "Alliance-flavoured" to me. If I ever started on a Burning Crusade server, I would probably go Horde. I just levelled a paladin to 60, so I don't want to do that again. I considered a hunter, since my tauren hunter on Kronos didn't get all that far, but from what I've heard the crazy high population on Nostalrius makes it very hard to peacefully solo-quest/grind your way to cap as mob spawns are so highly contested. From that point of view, something with high group appeal would probably be better, but I don't want to re-create my night elf priest yet again since I could already tell on Kronos that this came too close to "trying to relive the past" and made me a bit sad. Maybe a dwarf priest to make it feel just a little different? Hmm...

On a side note, even the BBC is writing about the Nostalrius relaunch. They are going to be so busy.


Legion & Legacy - End-of-year Thoughts

Just because I haven't been playing WoW doesn't mean that it has been completely off my radar. For one thing, the launch of the Legion expansion in late summer was hard to miss. And I do have to hand it to the WoW community: They are very good at building hype. I actually watched a video of someone talking so enthusiastically about just how much fun he was having with Legion that part of me was genuinely tempted to give it a try. I know better of course, but I have to give kudos to people for still managing to rouse these kinds of feelings in me after all these years and despite of my brain knowing better.

Following the reactions to Legion once the launch hype had died down was also interesting because... either Blizzard really never learns, people will complain no matter what, or maybe a bit of both. The reason I'm saying this is that after all the "there's nothing to do" moans about Warlords of Draenor, we are now back to people complaining about excessive grind and alt-unfriendliness - the exact same things that people were criticising about Mists of Pandaria. It's pretty fascinating to observe even without playing myself.

Meanwhile, I have been feeling a genuine itch to play some Vanilla again, but after just getting a new PC I'm uncertain about how to go about it. The memory of how much of a hassle it was to get the Vanilla client up and running last time doesn't exactly endear me to going through all of that again. And it makes me kind of sad to say it but... I also think I'm pretty much done with Kronos. I didn't really put down deep enough roots on it, and the fact that it's a PvP server just makes it too hard for me to casually enjoy myself on my own. I was really hoping that the opening of the gates of Ahn'qiraj would invigorate my interest somehow, but seeing how I wasn't even able to observe the event peacefully, the opposite was the case. It's annoying that the private server community has such a hard-on for PvP servers that good PvE options are few and far between. Mind you, I don't regret giving it a try, but it also taught me that PvP servers are not worth my time in the long run.

But oh, what's this...?

The drama around Nostalrius continues, and apparently they have now decided to relaunch. I've previously written about why I don't think Blizzard will ever create official Vanilla servers, but it's hard to not feel at least a spark of hope these days considering that they've gone on record only this month to say that they are still thinking about it. The Nost team on the other hand, previously the community's untiring official champions for legacy servers, have now decided to throw their toys out of the pram and will just do the same thing as other private server hosts, which is to keep going and simply ignore any cease and desists from Blizzard. One can't help but see this as unhelpful to the cause... if you thought that official Vanilla servers ever had a chance that is. For many that were quite happy to play on private servers on the other hand, the return of Nost is a joyous day. And you know what? I think at this point it might be for me too... because they are also relaunching their PvE server.

It will be the last one to go up as part of an incredibly badly thought-out staggered release and will likely be the least populated... but all that is perfectly fine by me. Maybe in the new year I will give levelling another Vanilla character a shot, this time without constantly having to worry about gank attempts.


The Opening of the Gates

In a strange juxtaposition of retro gaming and modern social media, I found out that the Ahn'Qiraj war effort on Kronos had been completed because a message from Kronos' official Facebook page about it showed up on my Facebook feed. It stated that there was going to be a delay of five days before the grand opening of the gates, to allow the armies to get into position. I have no idea whether that's true to the original Vanilla experience, but it was certainly convenient to have the whole event moved to a weekend, when I'd actually have a chance to poke my head in to see what was happening.

On Saturday evening I then saw another post stating that the event had started, though the gates to the raid weren't supposed to open until Sunday. I logged right in, having already parked my paladin at Cenarion Hold the day before.

Silithus was the busiest I've ever seen it in any iteration of the game, and I excitedly started to ride south, passing an awe-inspiringly huge NPC army in the process. Then I saw my first Anubisath! I stopped to take a screenshot... and a few seconds later I was dead, killed by Horde. Oh right, PvP server.

I released my spirit and watched the continuous stream of Alliance ghosts running back to their bodies for a few seconds, then logged out. My plan to "witness" the event, maybe even record it on video or something, was clearly futile under the circumstances, and I had so many more fun things to do that evening than let myself get ganked over and over again.

But you know... well done, guys.

(Tekai once again has a more informative post about what's been happening.)


All Quiet on the Western Front

You may have guessed from my recent silence on here that my Vanilla WoW playing has been put on the backburner again. Both Neverwinter and SWTOR have been demanding my time due to the draw of group play, limited-time events and promises of new content. Despite of the uncertainty inherent in playing on a private Vanilla WoW server, I actually feel quite safe in leaving it for a while now and coming back later. The whole Nostalrius drama has shown that there is a clear demand for Vanilla WoW, and I now think that in one form or another, options to play it will actually be around for a long time.

The one thing that won't be around on Kronos forever is the Ahn'Qiraj war effort. I actually found myself wondering today whether I had already managed to miss it and logged back in purely to check on this. As it turns out, it's still going. At the time of writing this, the Alliance is missing 3720 purple lotus, 2860 linen and 97700 silk bandages, while the Horde is short on 2840 firebloom, 1700 purple lotus and 37500 wool bandages. Who'd have thought that silk bandages would be such a bottleneck?

This means that the war effort has been going for nearly five months now. I was going to wonder out loud whether that isn't quite long, but as it happens Tekai pointed out only yesterday that on retail, 90 percent of all realms had opened the gates within three months. So yes, it most definitely is slow.

I'm starting to think that I might want to log in at least once a week to keep an eye on the event's progression. Slow or not, things are getting very close now. There's a chance that I might actually witness the opening of the gates yet.


Bloodless Mountain Lions

I haven't spent that much time on Kronos over the past couple of weeks because I needed some downtime to clear my bags. I'm serious! I had levelled my hunter's leatherworking and crafted a whole bunch of chest and leg pieces that were good enough that I knew they would sell well on the auction house and yield a fair bit more money that way than if I simply vendored them. But you can't flood the AH with ten of the same item, you've got to let them trickle in one by one... so my play sessions consisted of logging in, emptying my mailbox, re-listing things on the AH and logging off again.

This weekend I would have felt like playing some more again, but the Kronos team decided to use Saturday of all days to take the server down for maintenance. I have to laugh at the people who think that Blizzard could just "throw up" a bunch of Vanilla servers and nobody would mind the imperfections. They clearly haven't seen the reactions of people who've been deprived of a completely free service provided by volunteers for a mere couple of hours...

That said, I've since taken my hunter to Hillsbrad Foothills. It was an annoying trek, but I had a breadcrumb quest and I was going to be damned if I had to abandon it. There were some nice quests there too.

I didn't witness any epic Tarren Mill vs. Southshore battles, but the steady stream of Alliance players travelling to Alterac or the Scarlet Monastery was certainly noticeable. I got killed two or three times and got away another couple. In fact, I got quite close to nearly killing a level 30+ paladin but ended up aggroing all kinds of wildlife during my clumsy kiting so that I eventually had to retreat to Tarren Mill to get some health back.

There was one quest in particular that stood out: Elixir of Pain, which is part of a chain. This part asks you to collect ten blood samples from mountain lions. I had cleared the area of cats all the way to the Hillsbrad Fields before I saw my first quest item drop - in fact, I had already begun to wonder whether I was killing the right mobs. Old Wowhead comments also bemoan the bad drop rate, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology I could check Kronos' own database for the exact drop rate on this server: 15%. Ouch! You do the maths for how many mountain lions one has to kill on average to get ten blood samples then...

I'll be honest: I considered abandoning it. But then I realised that I'd need more leather anyway, so to hell with it. I think I gained almost a whole level doing nothing but hunting mountain lions while listening to some random podcasty-type videos. As I've said before, grinding isn't always bad. I needed that leather anyway.


I saw the Warcraft Movie!

... and it wasn't bad. It wasn't fantastic either, but overall I enjoyed it.

It manages to bring the cartoony world of Azeroth to life in a convincing manner while maintaining its colourful charm. Everything from the acting to the effects is at least solid (though I thought the orcs' voices sounded a bit hollow and hard to understand sometimes).

I could tell that they made a lot of changes to the lore, though I was never that good with the details from the RTS games as I never actually played them. So most of the changes just sparked a "hm, I'm pretty sure that's not how that went in the original version" while I scratched my head a little as I couldn't actually remember just how that particular part of the plot was supposed to go. At least I could usually make a good guess as to why they made a change at that particular point (e.g. to make a character look more sympathetic or to provide a simplified explanation for something that's pretty convoluted in the "real" lore).

I think the film's biggest problem is that while it keeps events moving at a brisk pace and never gets boring, it fails to really get its claws into the viewers on an emotional level and get them to care about what's going on. To make a Lord of the Rings comparison, it's missing its "Shire", the part where we get introduced to the beauty of the world of Azeroth and develop a connection to it, seeing it as something worth fighting for. There is a lot of jumping back and forth between different characters, but few of them get enough screen time that you can really connect to them. And the few that do either aren't all that likeable (in my opinion) or end up dying. (Khadgar is the notable exception here.) It's not so bad if you already know who all these people are and have a previous investment, but I can definitely see how this could cause the film to fall flat for uninitiated audiences.


More Lowbie Dungeons on Horde Side

It felt oddly satisfying to do Wailing Caverns on my hunter at level - I mentioned that I never managed to do this back in actual Vanilla times (probably because back then I was levelling my hunter shortly before BC launch, so most people were focused on the upcoming expansion already), so this sort of "better late than never" experience was oddly cathartic.

As you'd expect of these old-school dungeons, each run was quite an experience.

During my first run, things seemed to be going almost too smoothly for a while, until we had a near wipe deep inside the instance - me and the mage were the only ones to survive, due to him re-sheeping one mob while I turned my cat's taunt on and spammed mend pet on it until the situation had stabilised. The warrior tank and the warlock decided that they were going to wait for the healer to run back and res them, but in classic Wailing Caverns fashion, our priest got lost on the way back. He did eventually find his way back to the rest of the group (I think he dug up a map from the internet or something), but not until a good fifteen minutes or so had passed.

Killing all the bosses was also a shocking drain on my ammunition - and I'm not some noob who goes into an instance with a half-empty ammo pouch. It got a little nerve-wracking towards the end (I didn't want to have to start meleeing things), and by the time we killed Mutanus, I had exactly five bullets left. Dodged that particular bullet (excuse the pun)!

That could have been it if I had actually managed to get all my quests done in that single run, however for two of them I was still short on drops, which prompted me to look for another group several days later. Pro tip: While watching the chat for LFG requests, a great way to pass the time in a productive manner at this level is to fish at one of the oases in the Barrens. Deviate Fish sell quite nicely.

Just as I was starting to get a bit impatient and began to think that it probably wasn't going to happen that day, I saw a lonely tank looking for group for Wailing Caverns, quickly snatched him up, and about five minutes later we were on our way.

I was kind of amused when this tank asked if we all knew how Vanilla dungeons worked - he was apparently quite old-school and the healer soon commended him on his excellent pulling. The tank explained that in Vanilla, the art of pulling was what tanking was all about, prompting me to add that the art of dealing damage was all about not pulling, which earned a few chuckles.

About halfway through, our warlock disconnected and didn't come back, which prompted the group to replace him with a mage. Said mage actually showed that the tank's question at the start had not been unreasonable, because he had trouble finding the instance entrance and expected all the quests to come from the NPC at the door. We finished without any further issues, I got a nice new bow and managed to complete both of my remaining quests. We also must have killed everything considerably more quickly than last time, because even though we did the entire instance once again, I came nowhere near close to running out of bullets this time.

Once again, this could have been it, except that someone suggested that we should continue to Shadowfang Keep as a group since we were doing so well. Everyone but the shaman healer agreed, and he was soon replaced by a priest.

I'd forgotten just how packed with trash mobs and claustrophobic SFK was in Vanilla. More than once I actually found myself unable to shoot things and forced into melee range since I couldn't get to the minimum distance required to use my ranged attacks (damn those spiral staircases).

Still, initially things seemed to be going well, until our healer DCed somewhat suddenly. He had been saying something about his baby waking up, so we figured that this was the reason for the sudden disappearance. We eventually replaced him with a level 18 priest, which is a tad low for the instance but seemed reasonable considering that he didn't have to hit things. However, we soon ran into trouble in the room with the many stairs and ramps after Odo the Blindwatcher, where our healer's immense aggro radius caused way too many mobs to descend on us all at once. We wiped and tried again more carefully, but still got too many of them, simply doing too much damage to us. I eventually lost count of the number of wipes we had in that room - five or six perhaps - but eventually we had whittled the problematic group down to a manageable size and were able to proceed.

Sadly we didn't have much luck once we actually made it to Arugal, who once again wiped us in short order. (I suppose it didn't help that he was level 26 and I was the highest level in the group at 24.) I think we had two attempts on him, and then found after running back that everything up to the courtyard had respawned, which prompted several people to throw in the towel. Bit of a shame, but it was still a productive run overall - I got lots of leather for my leatherworking and as mentioned, my little tauren dinged 24.


Back in the Saddle

Kronos has been back up again for a couple of days, but it's still a bit wobbly on its legs sometimes. I logged onto my paladin to see how things were going and a stranger ran up to me and traded me The Light and How to Swing It. However, before I could even do as much as say "thanks, stranger", I was disconnected and unable to log back in again. So, if you happen to read this, random stranger in Ironforge: I didn't mean to be rude, and thank you again!

Fortunately the server was stable enough for me to spend some time playing this Saturday, as I wanted to make use of the rested XP my new tauren hunter had accumulated during the downtime.

Before the servers succumbed to the DDoS attack, I had actually gone out and tamed a hyena as my second pet as planned, but I struggled with both of my pets being unhappy and absolutely ravenous 24/7. I had taken up fishing to keep my cat happy but didn't have enough suitable food for the hyena at hand, causing me to stable it for a couple of levels while I saved up random meat drops. Fortunately Petopia confirmed for me that this was just a side effect of the initial low loyalty level and that both pets would become less ravenous over time as their loyalty increased, which turned out to be true.

I also made a bit of a fool of myself when I meant to go to Orgrimmar to contribute some wool bandages to the war effort and kept looking for the zeppelin docking point in Thunder Bluff. After I gave up and googled it, I found out that this particular connection wasn't actually added until Wrath of the Lich King. Oops!

Two quests from Thunder Bluff reminded me of the existence of Ragefire Chasm. Maybe it's because of my early Alliance experiences, but I always kind of forget that this particular instance even exists, as I always think of the Deadmines as the lowest-level dungeon.

I decided that I wanted to run it. Fortunately there were plenty of LFG requests flying around, however I was soon reminded that things are a bit different when you play a pure damage dealer. On my paladin I could be relatively picky and wait for a group to be looking for a tank or healer at a convenient time, but when you play dps, things are a bit different. I would whisper someone who was "LFM", get no response, and a few moments later they were now only looking for a tank or healer. You just have to be quick and/or lucky... or you can take it upon yourself to be the person who actually puts the group together, which is a bit more work but also more reliable. So the next time I saw someone "LFG RFC", I snatched them up right away, and luckily it turned out to be a warrior willing to tank. It took maybe five minutes to put a full group together, and we ended up with "four undead and a cow" as one of my group mates put it.

There wasn't that much to say about the run itself. We had one near-wipe (the surviving rogue and I ran back out since we were still close to the door) but otherwise things went smoothly. Another time one of the two rogues fell off a cliff and died. I had to chuckle when a group member congratulated my pet (!) on levelling up, and that by name (!!). Quite a contrast to the silent LFG culture where you're lucky if people address you at all, never mind using anyone's name.

Back in the Barrens I also completed one of the more infamous group quests on Horde side: Counterattack! For those who never got to experience it, it's a group quest you get after hunting down centaur leaders in three different oases around the Crossroads (which is an annoying prerequisite to begin with). It involves an event where hordes of centaurs attack, until eventually an elite warlord spawns who hits like an absolute truck, able to two or three-shot players of the right level in average gear.

I was worried that it would be a pain to find a group for this, but as it happened one was forming up just as I was approaching the bunker with the quest giver to hand in the head of the third centaur leader. That said, even with a full five-man group people died to the warlord repeatedly, and most of the time I ended up desperately kiting him around the bunker. I've said before that I'm not very good at kiting, but it's interesting what the threat of impending death will do for your learning curve!

As an extra annoyance it turned out that the banner that he drops can only be picked up by one person at a time, forcing us to redo the whole event five times. One guy was even rude enough to quit the instant he got his own quest item, but fortunately everyone else at least agreed that this was very improper and definitely shun-worthy behaviour.

All in all it was a fun play session and allowed my hunter to hit level 20, a couple of hours earlier in terms of /played than my paladin. Plans for next time: to mop up the rest of the northern Barrens quests and get into Wailing Caverns!



Kronos continues to be too popular for its own good.

The influx of Nostalrius refugees and curious newcomers who had only found out about private Vanilla servers because of the Nostalrius shutdown caused such massive queues that the server owners eventually decided to open a second server to funnel off at least a portion of the seemingly unending flow of people. Whether by choice or because of technical restrictions, Kronos isn't set up to hold 15,000 players at once or whatever crazy number it was that Nost boasted.

But then came the DDoS attacks. Initially the devs stood defiant, keeping the servers up no matter what, but in practice nobody could connect to them. Even if you did manage to do so, you'd be booted off again within a matter of minutes. I spent more time reading amusing conspiracy theories on Kronos' Facebook page than actually playing.

1# - Blizzard is doing it! Somehow their legal team is incapable of sending threatening letters to anyone situated in the Czech Republic, but they must get Kronos shut down so they are spending all their time DDoSing the servers. It's not as if they got anything else to do, right?

#2 - It's the Chinese Gold Farmer Cartel! Because obviously, if you're trying to make a living off selling virtual goods in a video game, nothing is as good for business as nobody actually being able to play said game!

#3 - It's the revenge of a select few Nostalrius players! Instead of rolling up new characters on Kronos or moving on, these characters decided that if they couldn't continue playing their particular version of Vanilla WoW, nobody else would be allowed to do so either! (Actually... that one sounds at least a little more plausible than the previous two theories, but only in a crazy Saturday morning cartoon villain way.)

#4 - It's all a big lie! Nobody in this day and age could possibly be bothered by a DDoS attack. What are you hiding, Kronos team?! Huh?! Huh?!?!

Sadly, the Kronos team eventually had to admit temporary defeat and decided to take the servers down for a few days while they continue to work on a solution. It's a bit of a shame... but not the end of the world. As one Facebook commenter put it: "Will sound a bit selfish, but I am happy that they closed for 14 days...I have got finals in university now and Kronos distracted me a lot :D"

More time for other MMOs for a while, and at least my new hunter will be fully rested when the servers come back up!


The Hunter

One thing I didn't mention in my list of casual Vanilla endgame activities was levelling alts. It was still a thing of course, but less so than nowadays simply because each character took so long to level. On the other hand it was extremely rewarding in some ways because the classes were so different, so that each time you levelled a new one it had the potential to subject you to new and unexpected experiences.

One of my SWTOR guildies mentioned that he rolled up some characters on Kronos too, most recently a tauren to play with another friend of his. I used this as an excuse to also do something that I'd already been thinking about for a while: recreate my own tauren hunter. Unlike my priest, she is another good candidate for a nostalgia tour because she was mostly a solo character, meaning that I won't go around missing my friends all the time.

Back in the day, she was originally meant to be part of a levelling group consisting of the same couple of people with whom I had levelled on Alliance side, but it just didn't work out that way. One just didn't have that much interest in his new shaman alt, another one got so into her Horde druid that she raced ahead like a maniac and left the rest of us in the dust. I was left feeling awkward in the middle and mostly puttering around at my own pace, taking in the new and (to me) strange lore of the Horde races. I didn't get much pugging done either - I distinctly remember being quite frustrated that I couldn't get a group for Wailing Caverns for ages, as I had a quest for it that rewarded a nice blue item. In the end I hit a high enough level that I could solo it, and did so just for the sake of being able to say that I'd done it.

Re-creating this hunter on Kronos, I felt extremely excited almost immediately. I think that hunter may very well be the WoW class that has undergone the most drastic mechanical changes over the course of the game's evolution, maybe tied with paladin. Do you remember when hunters started without a pet? Used mana? Needed ammo? Their ranged attacks had a minimum range, so you couldn't just shoot things in the face? They had a "dead zone" where they could hit neither with ranged nor with melee attacks? When melee attacks were a thing? So many memories.

Compared to my paladin, the hunter immediately felt more "active" in terms of combat, since she had both a melee and a ranged auto-attack (on different buttons) as well as a melee special on a cooldown. It may sound weird, but more than anything it struck me how... "cool" the combat felt. Shoot the beast, it comes for you, you dodge and try to hit it with your axe - action-packed! In comparison, I watched a video of a hunter running a dungeon in the Legion alpha the other day and I kept thinking how stupid the animations looked, with the constant shooting at crazy angles while running around non-stop. The way the torso mechanically rotated around the hip to keep up with the movement made the whole thing look extremely unnatural.

Low-level hunter life was - somewhat to my surprise - much harder than that of my paladin. While my pally didn't suffer her first death until some Defias cornered me in a cave in Westfall, I had several near-death experiences in the Bristleback village in the tauren starter area (and saw people die around me left and right), and once I went out into Mulgore proper, I soon fell victim to some vicious wildlife myself. The problem was that the mobs' auto-attacks actually hit harder than my own, so every fight was a race to spam that special attack fast enough to win the hitpoint race, and if even a single add joined in? Forget it. On the plus side, this encourages you to try to learn to kite early on, even before you actually have the tools to effectively do so... because there's nothing like that moment when you realise that you're clearly losing against that mob while fighting in melee, hitting war stomp to stun it, and then making a run for it, trying to get a few shots in from range.

Committing hunter sacrilege by killing a rare.
Of course the truly exciting moment came when I hit level ten and was given the quest to learn how to tame my own pet. I remembered one of the quest steps for tauren being a bit of a pain because the swoop you're supposed to tame has a knockdown that interrupts your taming attempt, and Kronos didn't disappoint in recreating that experience. Since the cooldown of the swoop's knockdown is just a bit shorter than the duration of the taming channel, and the taming rod for the quest only has three charges, I had to abandon and re-pick the quest about five times before I succeeded. I finally got lucky when one of the swoop's knockdown attacks missed and was able to complete taming.

That of course raised the question of what pet to tame to be my (more or less) permanent companion. Back in retail I levelled a hyena and a cat in tandem - something that every guide advised against, since pets needed to gain their own XP (another throwback!) and trying to level more than one at a time meant constantly juggling them and visiting the stable master a lot. This didn't stop me though.

My first permanent pet was a hyena called Skullgrin. Hyenas had a reputation for being well-rounded pets, and if you look at them from a certain angle I think they look absolutely adorable.

They also weren't very popular, which allowed me to feel like a hyena hipster.

My second pet was Echeyakee, the rare white lion from the Barrens (renamed Snowpaw). The funny thing about him is that while his looks were indeed rare, he is easily summoned for a quest if you're Horde, so the number of Horde hunters that went "ooh, rare" and tamed him was actually pretty large, which made him a lot less rare as a hunter pet than you would have thought.

I soon decided that I definitely wanted a hyena again, but I wouldn't be able to tame one of those until my teens. The kitty though... maybe it was time to mix it up this time. After a quick consultation of the Petopia that once was via archive.org, I decided that I was going to get myself a striped moonstalker from Darkshore. That was well into enemy lands and far enough away to be an adventure, but not so far away that I wouldn't be able to complete it in an evening (assuming everything went according to plan).

Fortunately, it did. I only got ganked on the road once, and by a priest no less. (I thought they were supposed to be nice!) However, I ran into far more Alliance players that were kind enough to ignore me, though I got pretty nervous once I got close to Auberdine, simply because there were so many of them and they were actually close to my level, so I wouldn't have blamed them for being tempted to pile on me. I turned on humanoid tracking to avoid people more effectively and hid behind trees as well as I could, until I finally spotted a cat of my level and dashed in to tame it. As soon as the process was done, I hearthed out.

I like how it looks like the strider in the background is laughing at me.
Now the true adventure can begin... plus I need to learn some pet skills out in the wild, a system that hides an astounding amount of depth that players of other classes often weren't even aware of back in the day.

So much hunter love.


Casual Vanilla Endgame

People sometimes say that there was nothing to do in Vanilla WoW at level 60 except raiding. This is not true, but I think the reason people believe this is mainly that they don't understand or remember just how different Vanilla WoW was to current WoW. Mainly, there are two points to consider: Firstly, while it's true that the very best gear in the game generally came from raiding, upgrades were gradual and felt rewarding every step of the way, so just improving your gear via quests and dungeons could keep you busy and felt satisfying for quite a long time, even if you never got best in slot. Secondly, many activities that made up endgame in Vanilla still exist in WoW today but just wouldn't be considered endgame because they take little to no time these days.


First off, there's simple questing. I mentioned that I hit 60 in Winterspring, but there were still quests to do there, and I still haven't even been to Silithus except to pick up the flight path there. The last time I played retail WoW, in late Mists of Pandaria, I ran dailies with my pet tank there, and we could knock out a daily hub in five to ten minutes. In light of that, the idea of regular, non-repeatable quests keeping you busy and engaged for long enough to count as "endgame" seems kind of bizarre, but it's true. With combat taking so much longer as well as travel and other obstacles in the way, just working on clearing out your quest log could keep a casual player busy for weeks. At the same time it was worth doing not just to learn more about the world, but also to earn money. In a time when inflation has run rampant in retail, to the point where it's not unusual for people to trade in hundreds of thousands of gold, it's hard to remember a time when every piece of gold was precious and required hard work. Some classes also had interesting and unique class quests to pursue at level 60.


Reputations in Vanilla mainly meant grinding, which I'm not necessarily a fan of, but as one option of many it absolutely has its place. Right now for example I'm working on my reputation with the Timbermaw, which kind of ties in with the first point as I have two quest items in my bags that I won't be able to hand in until I've reached at least neutral with them. It's slow-going and the last time I checked I still needed to kill over 150 furbolgs to reach my goal, but the nice thing about grinding is that you can do as little or as much of it as you like, at any time. Personally I've settled on simply doing one round through the Deadwood camp whenever I'm landing at the nearby Alliance flight point, and I'll get there when I get there.

Earning Money

Both of the above will earn you money as you go along, but it can also be a goal by itself, for example by going out to collect crafting materials which you can then sell on the auction house. Everyone dreams of having an epic mount one day, but a thousand gold was a lot of money in those days and took some work.


I've written about my epic journey to becoming an armorsmith, but of course levelling my blacksmithing hasn't ended there. I'm currently sitting on a skill of 278, and with every skill-up requiring more than twenty thorium bars, it's slow going. However, every single item I craft is actually useful and I can sell it (even if the profit isn't great). I haven't focused on it specifically, but I do mine thorium everywhere I see it and so keep chipping away at that skill bar slowly but surely. Likewise, all the other crafting professions and even the secondary professions all have specific requirements to get them maxed out that aren't as simple as loading up your bags with mats and going AFK at the forge.

Alterac Valley

Even if you're generally not a PvPer, Alterac Valley weekends are a chance to hop in and engage in some casual PvP even if it's not usually your cup of tea. There are some nice gear rewards to be had, and if your urge for PvE is too strong, there are also PvE quests to be done in the Valley. With the large number of people participating and the battleground being accessible from level 51, it's simply accepted that not everyone will make a meaningful contribution to the actual battle, so feel free to have fun your own way. Personally I was in an AV match today that lasted two hours and 41 minutes (I was there for the entire duration)... let's just say: it was certainly an experience.


And finally... should you be able and willing to take the step up, there were of course the five-man dungeons. While their length made them less casual-friendly than dungeons in WoW are today, even a casual player should be able to make it at least into the occasional dungeon run. Apart from gear there is also a lot to see here: There's Blackrock Depths (which nobody really runs in its entirety in one go, so it will probably take you several runs just to see all the bosses), Scholomance (which has the added complication of requiring a key), Stratholme live and undead, and the three wings of Dire Maul, all asking you to come back repeatedly, not just for gear drops but also to unlock more stories.


Nostalgia and Other Reasons to Play Vanilla

First off, let me direct you to this excellent article by Bree from Massively Overpowered on what is and isn't nostalgia.

I started playing on Kronos due to nostalgia, there's no doubt about it. I just wanted to see old Azeroth again. But as the above article says, nostalgia isn't what keeps you around. I stayed because I was actually having fun again.

In fact, too much nostalgia is probably a bad thing. I'm pretty sure it's a major reason I haven't really gotten into playing my priest alt. Playing her reminds me way too much of the aspects of my original WoW experience that I can't really recreate: being a student with seemingly endless amounts of free time, having friends that levelled with me the entire time, the fun we had together.

In hindsight I think that recreating my pally instead was definitely a very good choice. Since she never got very far in retail, playing her hasn't so much been an attempt to relive the past as a trip to an alternate universe where I never re-rolled night elf. How would things have gone if I had continued to level as a human paladin? Well, now I can at least find out what the game would have had in store for me...

As I said, levelling has been fun again. Even though old Azeroth isn't new to me anymore, there were many things that I'd forgotten. I love just how "worldly" everything feels. I used to find those quests annoying that send you all over the place, but it just feels more natural now that I've seen the alternative. Sure, in some ways it is annoying when the quest giver in Booty Bay sends you all the way up to Dalaran just to talk to a mage, but it's at least equally nonsensical when everyone and everything needed to solve an issue has been within a one hundred metre radius the entire time but nobody thought of talking to the guy over there or picking up that box from around the corner until you arrived.

The longer-lasting fights out in the world highlight the strengths and weaknesses of different mob types vs. different classes, while the higher mob density and increased danger posed by enemies in general force you to pay attention to your environment. You spend enough time in each zone to learn all its ins and outs and get opportunities to meet people. Professions require work and gaining stats is meaningful. When you get a buff or a new gear piece, you can really feel the difference in power it makes! Everything just flows together to create a great experience.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that some people, even among those who play on private servers, think that Vanilla levelling was crap.

Just one example I saw on YouTube. Click to enlarge and read.

My first reaction the first time I saw someone state this in chat was one of shouting "Blasphemy!", but this was soon replaced by intrigue. If they don't like the levelling, what other reasons do people have to love Vanilla? I certainly can't think of any from personal experience, as I didn't engage in much PvP or endgame PvE myself back in 2006.

One thing that surprised me is that apparently there is a considerably-sized community that loves and misses Vanilla's 20- and 40-man raiding. Kronos has a built-in boss kill tracker... just look at all those bosses being killed in real time, and that number is only going to go up once all the Nost refugees level up! It's funny because more recently large group raiding like this has earned a bad reputation, and a lot of Wildstar's troubles to retain players for example were blamed on its attempts to revive 40-man raiding. After seeing how things go down on Kronos, I'm confident in saying that the inclusion of 40-man raids by itself can't have been the game's issue. Hell, I'm willing to bet there are more people doing 40-man raids on private Vanilla WoW servers than in Wildstar even now. Why? Well, this video from Preach Gaming gives five reasons why the format was and is beloved by many:

(In fairness, he also has a video called "Top 5 Reasons 40 Man Raiding Sucked", showing the other side of the coin.)

Finally, there is PvP, which surprised me even more, because while I've seen a fair amount of negative comments about 40-man raiding, I've met even fewer people who had anything good to say about Vanilla's PvP. Classes weren't balanced, gear wasn't balanced, the grind for PvP ranks was only good for no-lifers. And who really misses Warsong Gulch matches that lasted forever?

Well, apparently there are a fair amount of people who do miss Vanilla PvP. While there are purists who say that world PvP died the moment battlegrounds were introduced, most will agree that it was generally still a thing at least on a smaller scale until flying was introduced. I reckon that few would admit it, but I think a lot of people also liked the imbalances, which is why so many Vanilla servers are flooded with warriors, mages and rogues. If your goal is to pwn noobs, being able to get an advantage right from the point of character creation is appealing. Put in a slightly less inflammatory manner to PvPers: they liked that not everyone was equal, that making the right choices and putting in extra work was very rewarding in terms of the advantages it gave you. To quote player Aieris from a thread on the Kronos forums on the subject:

You are realy [sic] rewarded for your grind effort. I (as rogue) was useless in PvP without any preparation. Blind/Vanish 5min CD and then what? Kited like hell. Then i farmed Thistle Tea, Free Action Potions, Engineering, trinkets and it got far more better.

Other reasons I've seen cited by people loving Vanilla's PvP are: gear being the same in PvE and PvP (meaning that it was easier to move between the two game modes and made the individual gear pieces more valuable), long AV matches feeling epic (personally I haven't experienced anything like that even on Kronos; I think it required people to be less knowledgeable about what they were doing than they are now, therefore causing the game to stall), and the classes' limitations making combat more straightforward (e.g. not everyone having an interrupt, heals or whatever).

Overall, this has really driven home the point for me that Vanilla WoW managed to offer an experience that appealed to different groups of people for very different reasons, even if there are certain common threads running through the whole thing (such as the need for greater investment being rewarded and getting to know people more naturally during gameplay). Everyone had their parts that they didn't like or at least didn't care about, but what they did like they loved so much that tolerating the downsides was worth it. It's noteworthy that this goes counter to the attitude that gets promoted more recently, that MMOs should just focus on their particular niche and cater solely to that audience.

Yes, things were different ten years ago. But it's remarkable how much of it still works.


Refugee Crisis

The Nostalrius shutdown continues to make waves.

Kronos got absolutely swamped with refugees. To some degree, this was to be expected, but in practice it's still been awe-inspiring. I think that previously the server had been averaging slightly more than one thousand concurrent users each day, which multiplied by several factors overnight. The server admins have been doing overtime to make sure that both hard- and software could handle the stress, but nonetheless it's been a disruptive experience for the existing community, and not just because there were sudden queues and the /who command is now limited to the first fifty results like it used to be on retail instead of showing you the entire server pop.

Former Nostalrius players have been accused of lowering the quality of world chat (which is doubtful, considering the depths to which Kronos players were able to sink entirely on their own) and there was a sudden and to me very confusing rise of xenophobia in regards to Chinese players. Some players are just crabby with the newcomers because of the former rivalry between the two servers and remembering things like Nost players rolling alts on Kronos just to troll world chat with accusations of how dead our server was (which is highly ironic in hindsight). Others just enjoyed the lower population, especially since it made the PvP aspect less aggravating. I can understand that one, but as far as everything else goes, I think we'll just have to get over it. Let's focus on the fact that we're all here for the same reason - enjoying a version of the game that's otherwise not available anymore.

The story of the Nost shutdown was big enough that it even spilled over into mainstream media - check out this article on the BBC! And of course blogs and YouTube videos have been alight with discussion. Even Nils crawled out of whatever hole he had been hiding in to suddenly comment on the subject of Vanilla WoW. I've been kind of delighted with how many positive reactions there have been in favour of the concept of Vanilla servers, if for no other reason that my tastes rarely seem to overlap with the mainstream anymore and it's kind of cool to see other people also like something that I've already been enjoying for a while. Of course from Blizzard's point of view, it must seem like their move to get Nostalrius shut down has backfired at least in the short term, as it has provided private servers with more positive publicity than they ever could have hoped for.

Of course, not everything that people have contributed on the subject has been useful. Some have used the whole thing as just another excuse to rant extensively about everything that annoys them about Blizzard and current WoW, which I can understand but doesn't really contribute anything new. On the other side we've had hardcore denialists insist that anyone who enjoys Vanilla WoW more than the current iteration is just deluding themselves and stuck in the past (you better not enjoy anything that was created more than ten years ago). And of course there's been the argument that since private servers are illegal, that should be the end of the discussion, which is simply self-defeating - laws are made by people and can be changed. I certainly think that MMOs with their malleable nature could be used to question certain aspects of copyright law.

Either way, while the whole thing has been interesting to watch, I can't say that I feel very strongly about the subject from a personal point of view. If Kronos were to shut down tomorrow, I'd just spend that extra time on other games again - I've had my fun and no regrets. Would I play on an official Blizzard Vanilla server? Hell yeah, but I still don't think it's likely to happen as the whole concept just doesn't mesh with their business philosophy. For now I'm just curious to see what sort of other effects the drastic population increase will have on Kronos.


Level 60 Ding!

I actually meant to post this a few days ago, but decided to postpone it due to the Nostalrius drama being more topical. I hit level 60 on Kronos!

The crucial moment came when I handed in some quests to Donova Snowden in Winterspring. An orc hunter stood by and cheered for me, then put me into an ice trap and ran off. It amused me. Of course, as soon as I tried to continue towards the next nearest quest giver, I got killed by an undead rogue. Oh well, just can't trust those Horde players.

Here's my /played time as a newly minted level 60:

There are still a lot of things to do and a lot of things to say about the Vanilla experience, but for now I'm simply happy to have achieved this goal and shall leave you with some more screenshots from my levelling experience.

The Corporal Keeshan escort quest teaches Alliance players early on that escorting NPCs is a pain in the butt (and that grouping up is beneficial).

It was nice to see this nice quotable scene "live" again.

In general, Vanilla made it preferable to travel on the roads because it was much safer than going cross-country. Except when it wasn't.

I always liked going to Stormwind Keep and finding someone else in the middle of revealing Onyxia's true identity.

Re-reading this gave me goosebumps. Some quests in Vanilla were seriously creepy and sad.

Speaking of safety on roads and in towns...

I don't think many people do a lot of fishing while levelling up. I did.

That moment when finding a blue BoE was the most exciting thing ever.

Old Dalaran! I remember being absolutely mesmerised by this big purple bubble back in the day, and it still fascinated me upon revisiting it.

I loved having the old Thousand Needles back. The post-Cata version isn't bad, just... meh.

This just amused me.

Another very quotable dungeon boss.

The one quality of life issue that frequently annoys me: that trying to do anything while mounted (take a flightpath, attack something) won't dismount you automatically.

Learning how to become an expert in First Aid.

Still an epic moment.

Oh the grief this quest caused me! But eventually I got there. I also loved just watching our footprints in the sand.

In comparison, this escort quest was both funnier and much easier.

Isadora's first Alterac Valley was mostly a lot of riding around and dying quickly.

When <Bohemia> announced that they were about to place Onyxia's head on the gates, I (and others) ran over to witness it because it gives a nice buff. Just another one of those small community touches.

One of the more frequent, if harmless, glitches on Kronos is that mobs love to get stuck in or on trees.

Saving Sharpbeak stood out as one of the few quests that wasn't properly scripted on Kronos - upon completion poor Sharpie just keeps lying in his cage! Poor thing.

I remember seeing this glitch back in Vanilla. It's entertaining that even that gets reproduced on a private server.

Proving the old adage that the better the gear, the more ridiculous it looks. I'm actually wearing a shirt underneath, but since it's dirty white it doesn't really help much...
The 7x XP event led to a noticeable rise in multiboxers levelling alts.
After what they did with the place in Cata, it was sobering to see the old Light's Hope Chapel again. It's hardly what you'd call a beacon of hope, just another stop in an incredibly dreary endgame zone. Needs more light!