Preparing for Classic

What's wrong with you, woman? Classic is still at least six months away, what could there possibly be to prepare for?

Well, you're kind of right, but a) I'm excited and b) with how long it takes to level in a Vanilla environment, finding a class and role that you enjoy are not trivial things, as getting it wrong will result in a lot of lost time and potentially having to re-start from scratch.


Since I'm a goodie two-shoes at heart, it's only natural that I gravitated towards the Alliance when I first started playing WoW. However, in practical terms I actually spent much more time playing the game as Horde, simply because the social circle which I was a part of initially fell apart only a few months into the experience, at which point I ended up re-rolling to join another friend's established Horde raiding guild.

I'm thinking that Alliance will be my faction of choice if I end up levelling mostly on my own, but I guess if I end up in the company of friends who prefer Horde, it won't be any skin off my back.


I can group the nine Vanilla classes into three groups: definitely want to play, kind of want to play, and definitely don't want to play.

Definitely want to play:

Priest: It's the class that I most identify with, that I mained through pretty much my entire time in WoW (except for a short time raiding as a resto druid when holy priests were horribly broken at the end of Wrath), and it's the class that gave this blog its name. My only worry is that soloing as a priest kind of sucks and both of the priests that I rolled on private servers didn't get very far before I gave up on them. There's also a bit of a risk that me playing priest again might make the whole thing feel like I'm trying too hard to relive the past, which isn't actually what I'm striving for as it doesn't feel too good.

Druid: Druid has probably been my second favourite class in WoW for a long time, and I was having a pretty good time with the one I rolled on Elysium until my journey was unexpectedly cut short. I love both their versatility (even if things work a bit different in Classic) and the whole theme of the class.

Hunter: Hunter is another class that I have a close affinity with, despite of never taking one beyond alt status. I did love all the micromanagement involved with ammo and pets, and it's obviously a great choice for soloing. If I mostly end up playing on my own, hunter might be the way to go.

Kind of want to play:

Paladin: Like the druid, the classic paladin is a class that appeals to me both in terms of theme as well as in play style, but the thing that's honestly putting me off a bit is that I did go through the process of levelling one from one to sixty on Kronos already. Don't get me wrong, it was fun, but even though it was "only" on a private server, there's a certain feeling of "been there, done that" to it right now that makes me want to prioritise something else in Classic.

Mage: I levelled a mage in early Burning Crusade and quite enjoyed it. I generally like spell-casting, and I appreciate that for a pure dps class, mages bring a lot of utility to groups, what with their buffs, sheep, the ability to conjure food and water, and being able to send the whole party straight home with a portal at the end of a dungeon. I'm thinking that this one might be a good choice if I end up in a position where I'm not sure whether I'll be soloing a lot or doing more grouping, but then druid is even better for that.

Shaman: This is another hybrid class that I remember with a lot of fondness, but I didn't actually level one myself until Wrath of the Lich King, and I think soloing as a shammy was a lot clunkier in Vanilla than it was by the point I played one, so I'm a bit worried about overestimating just how much I'd enjoy the play style.

Definitely don't want to play:

Warrior, rogue or warlock. The first two are really popular and powerful in Vanilla, but I just never enjoyed the play style or their theme very much. Bashing/stabbing things just isn't really my cup of tea. And warlocks are basically evil mages.

Who to play with?

I've already alluded to it in some of the points above, but this question is going to be the real crux of the matter. I'm quite flexible both in terms of faction choice as well as which class/role to play, but it will be very much dependent on who keeps me company, if anyone.

Old friends? Part of me wants to just re-recruit the friends of old with whom I'm still in touch and go on a big nostalgia tour with the lot of them. However, if I'm being honest I don't expect that to succeed. Basically most of them either stopped playing without moving on to any other MMO (which to me indicates that it was probably just a phase in their lives rather than an true interest in the genre) or they are still happily living the (virtual) life in current WoW. I'm sure I could get some of them to roll up a character with me, but in all likelihood they would soon drift back to whatever they were doing before.

Bloggers? There's probably also going to be the option to play with some fellow bloggers. I'm sure there'll be a fair number of them interested in WoW Classic once it launches. And I imagine that it could be fun... for a while. However, without meaning any disrespect to anyone, my general experience with most of the multi-gaming bloggers I follow, the ones who'll be the most interested in Classic, is that they tend to jump into whatever's the new hotness for a week to a month, and then they get bored and move on. There's nothing inherently wrong with that; I'm just saying it's probably not the best option for someone like me who has the intention of sticking around for a while.

Others? My significant other, who actually played WoW in the past as well, is a Wrath baby and has told me that he has no interest in Classic (the early trauma of watching me play my pally on Kronos probably didn't help). There are a couple of people in my SWTOR guild whom I might be able to drag along as well... but do I even want to risk cannibalising my current online "home" just to have some more people to play with in Classic? Tough call.

I suspect things might become a bit clearer closer to the actual launch date, but I have to admit that a part of me worries that they won't.


The Power of Song

Just a little random story that I felt like writing down, and this blog seemed like the best place for it.

In my office at work we tend to have a random Spotify playlist playing in the background throughout the day, and it never ceases to amaze me how different songs coming up can instantly trigger all kinds of memories in me. One might remind me of an ex-boyfriend, another one of a place I used to work at, yet another one makes me think of a specific film.

Today a song came on that suddenly made me think of WoW, and for a rather silly reason at that. The song in question is Waterfalls by TLC.

Back in Burning Crusade I remember my guild working on Gurtogg Bloodboil in the Black Temple. I don't remember all the details of the fight, but I know that positioning was critical to it, and people had to make sure to stand in certain places and to move at certain times to make sure that the blood boil debuff would go on the right players. Also, the encounter was set in a room where there was water flowing down the sides of some walls for some reason.

One time after someone had caused us trouble by running too far away from his dedicated position, our main tank chided him: "#Name, don't go chasing waterfalls!" I'm sure it was nothing but a throwaway joke, but to me it was extremely hilarious at the time... so much so that just hearing the song now instantly takes me back to that moment even more than ten years later.

Funny how these things work.


Mankrik's Wife Was Never Hard to Find

So seeing Lazy Peon wonder about what people found so hard about finding Mankrik's wife finally gave me the push I needed to finish this post. I first wanted to write it after seeing this video by Tips Out, in which he talks about the Lost in Battle quest and Vanilla WoW questing in general. I don't disagree with the general gist of it, but it did bug me how he made the quest out to be this big mystery that gives the player no information and just asks you to blindly go out into the world.

I never really understood why this particular quest became such a meme to be honest. I did it on my first ever Horde character without having any issues, and I was quite surprised when I learned later how infamous it was. I guess because the Barrens were full of little kids that didn't have the greatest reading comprehension skills? Still seeing adults go on about it more than ten years later is weird to me though.

This is the original Lost in Battle quest text (emphasis by me):

We battled in a small tauren camp when we were separated--she held three of the Bristlebacks off by herself. But the odds began to overwhelm us. I led some away only to see her overwhelmed by newcomers. In my rage, I turned to face my enemies, but they brought me down easily with their vast numbers.

I awoke to a tauren druid tending my wounds--he had come across me on the Gold Road as I fell.

Please, [class], find some sign of my wife.

So right there, we know that the battle during which Mankrik's wife was lost didn't just take place anywhere; it took place near the Gold Road. Where is the Gold Road? If you're at the Crossroads you probably already know, but even if you don't you should notice as soon as you step out of the gates to either the north or south, as the Gold Road is the big road running through the centre of the Barrens all the way from Ashenvale down to Thousand Needles, and the UI tells you when you're on it, both in small and larger letters.

(As an aside, I logged into my Kronos account for the first time in ages to take these screenshots, and it was harder than expected as they actually lock you out of your account pretty quickly if you enter the wrong password too many times and I'd totally forgotten mine. Once in though, I was quite shocked to find that there were only 28 people online on the entire Horde side - I guess Kronos' golden days are over. Someone quickly whispered me trying to find people for a dungeon group - not like they had a huge pool of people to pick from - but I had to politely decline.)

Anyway, from this we can deduce that Mankrik's wife is to be found somewhere along this line:

That's admittedly still a pretty big area, but it's far from "she could be anywhere". And there are additional hints in Mankrik's general dialogue as well as in the other quest he gives, Consumed by Hatred.
Mankrik's introductory dialogue starts with: "I came to the Crossroads from the south seeking help", which means that anything north of the Crossroads is out. And in the quest text for Consumed by Hatred he says: "Perhaps instead of heading north to the Crossroads I should have headed to Taurajo." This further narrows the site of the battle down to somewhere between the Crossroads and Camp Taurajo, which is already a significantly smaller area, and not really an unusually large area to search by Vanilla standards.

If you then also consider the fact that the Barrens are very, well... barren, so that things like huts are really easy to see from a distance, and that you'll be roaming pretty far and wide for a lot of Crossroads quests anyway, Lost in Battle requires very little effort at all. I remember finding it much more challenging to find those missing guards in Elwynn Forest for example, and I'm sure there were other quests that had vague objectives that were much harder to find.


WoW Classic Demo Coverage

I mentioned that I didn't buy a BlizzCon ticket myself but was very curious about what other people would have to say about the demo.

Somewhat to my surprise, the various private server players whose channels I follow, and a lot of whom had been heavily lobbying for classic servers for years, turned out to be utterly useless in that regard. I had been hoping that maybe they'd have some interesting insights on details that still weren't quite right in the demo, or would comment on where it revealed that private servers had maybe gotten certain things wrong due to lack of data. Instead, every single one of them went on hour-long rants about how being allowed to trade a mislooted item without a GM ticket in Classic was going to ruin everything and similar nonsense. Seriously, there was more than one video that I tried to watch and eventually had to close down halfway through because it was just so boring and petty. I guess being super knowledgeable about Vanilla doesn't necessarily correlate with understanding what most people actually care about in regards to Classic. Hint: It's not whether some no-lifer's progression will be "messed up" because a drop from Dire Maul is available at the same time as Molten Core.

So yeah, interestingly it was regular news outlets and retail WoW players who provided the most entertaining and insightful content about the Classic demo. For example I had to chuckle at the headline of this Kotaku article: The WoW Classic Demo Is The Hell We Asked For. The author basically keeps talking about how much fun he had while interspersing it with negative adjectives: The experience was "an inescapable nightmare, which is to say it’s perfect". It was "horrible, but also beautiful". I'm not entirely sure why exactly... I guess because we're not supposed to say that something old and slow can simply be enjoyable as it is; it must be portrayed as some sort of guilty pleasure?

My favourite take on the demo on YouTube was this video by Preach. One of the things I really appreciate about him is that he's one of the few people still active who a) were actually there back in Vanilla and b) that he doesn't assume that everyone likes the same things he does. He's not wrong when he says that the moment-to-moment gameplay in combat is slow and simplistic and not something that can hold his attention anymore these days, but he also recognises how much more immersive the overall experience is due to slow travel and most mobs actually being dangerous opponents.

Bellular, who is a Wrath baby I believe, similarly goes into detail about how the talents and the way combat works made everything feel more meaningful for him.

An unexpected gem in terms of entertainment was "First and Last Time Playing WoW Classic" by Hazelnutty Games. She went into the demo without much enthusiasm and feeling tired to boot and basically made an utter mess of everything. She didn't even manage to pick up any quests because she didn't understand that she'd have to wait for the text to finish scrolling before the accept button becomes clickable! While this got her many downvotes and negative comments about being "dumb", I thought it perfectly illustrated that feeling of utter noobishness that many experienced in Vanilla WoW the first time around. Also, the way she got carried away messing about with her hunter pet and wondering about the kinds of things it would eat was strangely adorable.

LazyPeon's take on the demo instantly earned a thumbs up from me the moment he commented on how he didn't understand why so many people had trouble finding Mankrik's wife back in the day, because that's something I honestly always wondered myself. It's amazing just how much people struggle with basic reading comprehension apparently! Other than that he too manages to capture a lot of that Vanilla spirit in his demo footage, constantly challenging random people to duels everywhere (people like that were definitely a thing) and editing his hunt for quillboar tusks in the Barrens into an epic montage reminiscent of the WoW South Park episode.

On a more serious note, the BlizzCon panel in which they talk about just how they went about restoring Classic from a technical point of view as well as how they set their design goalposts is also up on YouTube and really interesting.


Classic News From BlizzCon

I have to admit: when I first heard that buying a virtual ticket for BlizzCon would also get you access to a WoW Classic demo to play from home, I was momentarily tempted to buy one just for that. I quickly realised that this would have been madness though, considering that I wasn't really interested in watching the show or acquiring any of the other goodies that come with the ticket. Watching other people's videos and reading about their thoughts on the demo was honestly going to be good enough. After all, I already got my own personal reminder of just how slow gameplay was back in Vanilla a few years ago, so it's not as if I was going to miss out on that front.

There were some actual news announced at the Con too - firstly that the game is supposed to launch in summer 2019, which is still some time away but at the same time sooner than I would have expected. I'm quite excited now.

Secondly, they confirmed that they are planning to have one combined sub for current and Classic WoW, which shouldn't really have come as a surprise to anyone, as it's probably the least hassle and will give them a license to make unqualified brags about "WoW's success" in general in case Classic causes subs to soar while the ones for the modern game are dropping, without giving out any information about how the populations of the two games relate to each other.

A few weeks ago there was a purported "leak" that claimed that Blizzard was also looking at a Classic only option for a fiver or so, which would have been nice for those of us not really interested in the current game, but I can live with paying the full sub for both. Just like in the old days, right? Maybe I'll check out some of the new quest content while I'm subbed for Classic anyway.

What with it only being Saturday today, there hasn't been much reporting/footage of the Classic demo yet, though I did watch someone stream it for a bit (yes, I actually watched a stream live!) and there is some feedback on the forums... a lot of which sounds unreasonably negative to be honest. Mind you, I don't think it's wrong to point out what I would call nitpicks such as rogue energy regenerating in a different pattern or some greens having wrong stats on them, but I do think it's silly how many people see this as a sign that the sky is falling, Blizzard clearly doesn't care about authenticity etc. when they explicitly said in the Dev Watercooler post about the demo that they are not done yet.

I do think the biggest and most legitimate concern I've heard is that the demo featured sharding, which I only just learned is the proper term for when they spin up multiple instances of a zone to spread out the population. Community manager Lore even went on the forums to address this, though his response was kind of wishy-washy and to me came across as basically not wanting to commit either way, making it sound as if they aren't entirely decided on the matter themselves yet.

I get why they'd be tempted to have it, as otherwise server population especially in the early days is undoubtedly going to cause issues, but at the same time I do dislike the way it's implemented in current WoW and how it can cause things like other players or gathering nodes to disappear right in front of your eyes, which is unimmersive, annoying and very un-Vanilla. I suppose I wouldn't consider it a dealbreaker if they kept it in, especially as the amount of use would likely go down over time once the initial launch population surge tapers off, but I'm still not entirely happy about it. I don't think things are set in stone at this point though.

Either way, I'm looking forward to reading and listening to more people's thoughts on the demo.


What happened to you, Sylvanas?

I was going to pen a few words about the recent "Sylvanas burns down the world tree" drama, but I kept putting it off, public opinion kept meandering, and by the time I finally found the energy to sit down and put my thoughts into writing I didn't really care enough anymore. After all, I'm only an outsider looking in these days.

I did go back through my archives though and found this post from seven years ago, in which I made the case for Cataclysm's (then) new quests showing that Sylvanas and the Forsaken were actually becoming slightly less evil and more relatable. I had forgotten about most of that. (Though it also made me chuckle to be reminded of just how long people have been suspecting Sylvanas of getting ready to become the new Lich Queen any day now.)

Taking that into consideration, it seems even sadder though that her character appears to have regressed to the point of simply being all about "death to the living", even if any of the expansions or books that have been released in the meantime might provide an explanation for it. Do they, though?


1.12 Is Official

On my birthday of all days, Blizzard decided to finally give us our first official update on WoW Classic. I would have called it a great birthday gift, except that I was away when the post went up and didn't actually see it until a few days later.

To summarise, three salient points were made in the update linked above:

1) They've been playing on an internal prototype, but the old code caused cashes and things like compatibility issues. (I really liked this quote though: "The team could create characters and do basic questing and leveling—and dying, which we did many times. For testing purposes. Obviously." Bet you didn't remember how tough that vineyard was either, huh?)

2) They decided to settle on patch 1.12 as a baseline to work on.

3) They decided to "modernise" the old code to make sure it works more smoothly, something that's probably more interesting to programmers than to laypeople who just want to play the game, but they did lay it out in pretty simple terms. Once again, you can read the full thing here.

It shouldn't be that much of a surprise that they settled on 1.12 as a baseline, as that's what most Vanilla private servers do - and for good reason. Also, it's going to be the version of Vanilla that most people will be nostalgic for - we mustn't forget that WoW continually grew during its early years, so comparatively few people even saw the original 1.1 simply because that's when the population was at its lowest.

I've seen some take this as confirmation that the experience will be completely static, but I don't think that's a given. It just means that Blizzard won't bother with re-creating all the different balancing patches, and thank god for that - would anyone really want the way Power Word: Shield functions to change three times a month, or to start playing with the knowledge that their class/spec will suck for a year until patch 1.x comes around? However, like various private servers, they could still release certain pieces of content, primarily the raids, in a staggered manner. I'm not saying they will, but neither is the 1.12 baseline confirmation that they won't.

As for what this will mean in terms of gameplay changes, nothing was really confirmed but people have been interpreting what little was said in whichever way suits them best. In particular this line: "this would inherently include classic systems like skill ranks, old quests and terrain, talents, and so on, while later features like Transmog and Achievements would effectively not exist because they were entirely absent from the data". On the one hand we have people going: "Woo, #nochanges confirmed, they said newer features like achievements won't exist!" On the other hand there are those who see Blizzard recoding things in a way that would allow for these things as an open invitation to make changes after all. Some purists are also howling about the mention of Battle.net integration, which - again - I thought was pretty much a given.

We did however have another piece of unofficial news since then that hints at Blizzard definitely going for that truly old-school feel: a WoW Classic job posting that talks about "restor[ing] old models and animations" (here is a video talking about it, in case the actual job listing has expired by the time you read this). I'll continue to watch this development with interest.


Keeping Up With Classic

It's been over four months since BlizzCon, and while we've been hearing plenty about Battle for Azeroth, things have been fairly quiet on the WoW Classic front. (As an aside, I'm always awed by how much free PR Blizzard manages to get out of content that isn't even released yet simply by having an open alpha/beta. The amount of YouTube videos talking about every little thing going on in the BfA alpha from one day to the next is staggering.)

That's not to say that we've learned nothing new at all about Classic; it's just that nothing that's been said has been important enough that it made the wider news. You pretty much have to live in one of the relevant subreddits or at least follow someone else who does to hear about any updates. I've opted for the latter, as I recently found a nice new YouTube channel mostly devoted to WoW Classic, called Tips Out. While the creator's obsession with calling his viewers "boys" and "fellas" all the time is a bit weird to me - I guess part of that "classic" feeling is pretending that women don't play video games - his videos are wonderfully thoughtful, which really helps him stand out in a community that is otherwise all too fond of hysteria and hyperbole.

So what have we learned? There was a Forbes interview with J. Allen Brack, which largely crushed any hopes that we would be seeing Classic any time "soon" as he admitted that they had announced it somewhat earlier than usual to get more community input. It's also been noted that based on open positions listed on Blizzard's job pages, they only filled the last spot on the WoW Classic team in January.

With how desperate people are for any kind of update, there was a bit of a frenzy when the official WoW Twitter account posted a little video for the anniversary of the game's launch in Europe that shows old character models in the old starting zones, which got people to speculate about it being "leaked" Classic footage. You can find a video that analyses this claim in incredible detail here, but the short version is that it's possible, but it could just as well simply be old Wrath-era footage. People are just that desperate for some sign that the project is making progress.

Personally I appreciate that it's early days, but with what little communication we have got, I can't help but get the impression that this is a project that the higher-ups at Blizzard are feeling incredibly meh about. Notice how in the Brack interview he says that there are people at Blizzard who are really interested in Classic WoW... but he doesn't include himself among them. I wonder if the reason this is happening at all isn't actually a mandate from Activision, something along the lines of: "Hey, I know you just wanna keep making new Overwatch characters, but there are people out there on the internet who are making a stink because you don't want to sell them an old product of yours that they used to love... why not do it and take their money? It doesn't sound like a big deal if people are able to privately re-create the experience in their garages. Do you hate money?"

The focus on community input can also be seen in this context - sure, you can simply interpret it as a positive thing, as Blizzard wanting to listen to the players, but from my point of view there's also a darker side to it: that at least as of now, they don't seem to have a big spokesperson for the project, someone with a vision. They are just doing it because someone higher up told them to, and they hope the new hires will figure it out by just listening to what people say on the forums. That's actually kind of concerning if you think about it, but would also explain a couple of somewhat contradictory statements that we've got on the question of the game's direction so far, e.g. Ion Hazzikostas saying "Vanilla means Vanilla" while Brack in the interview linked above seems to consider new character models a possibility for example.

Regardless of what direction they are eventually going to take with Classic, it would be nice if they could get someone to helm the project who is willing to take a strong stance on what exactly it's going to be and who is able to communicate this to the fans.


In Dreams

Last night I had a dream in which I was back to playing retail WoW. With me were a couple of friends/acquaintances from my teenage days - who have never actually played WoW as far as I'm aware but in the dream they were avid players - who were happy to see me back.

It was the time of the Fire Festival, and I was running around Stormwind trying to find the seasonal quests/activities, but everything was so different from how I remembered it that I failed utterly. Eventually I gave up and asked one of my friends for help, who flew me around on his super-fast mount to show me where to go and things slowly started to come back to me.

Then we were suddenly in Halaa and I asked my friend why the eff we were suddenly in Halaa, to which he responded that he had used some sort of newfangled teleport that hadn't been in the game yet when I last played.

... I blame having recently watched some videos about the changes to levelling in patch 7.3.5 and going: "Huh, that looks neat, wonder how it plays."