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.