An Afternoon in Jaedenar

As of me writing this, my hunter is sitting at level 56. Pretty much as I predicted, I'm finding that the fifties seem to go much faster than the twenty levels or so that preceded them, despite of their objectively higher XP requirements.

Contrary to the common wisdom, I'm also having no problems with finding quests. In fact, many of them go green before I actually get around to doing them, as I seem to be levelling up faster than I can complete them. At level 56 I still haven't even touched many of the higher level zones, including Searing Gorge, Blasted Lands, either of the two Plaguelands, Winterspring or Silithus.

Mind you, I will admit that the quests do seem to get somewhat more annoying at this level. The amount of travel required is considerable, and I'm forever busy trying to minimise the pain through efficient use of my hearthstone and hopping on long flights before going AFK.

What's worse though (in my opinion) is that every quest suddenly seems to involve one to four quest items. I don't have that much bag space, man! This in turn makes the above issue worse since it means that I can't pick everything up at once and sometimes have to go back and forth between places repeatedly for no other reason than that I don't have the spare bag slots to ferry all the different items from one place to the other at the same time.

What's good though is the increased incentive to group. It was very high in the lower levels but seemed to peter out somewhat in the midbies, but at my current level it's worth throwing group invites around for a lot of things again, not just dungeons. Clearing all the quests in Jintha'alor in the Hinterlands took a full five-man group longer than most dungeons for example, even with our tank being somewhat over-levelled for the area.

But it doesn't even have to be elites. I was just heading down towards Jaedenar in Felwood when a mage whispered me to group up. I hadn't planned to do so since Jaedenar is basically just a big cave full of normal mobs and I figured I was going to be okay on my own... in hindsight I was lucky that the mage invited me though, because I had underestimated just how much tougher the mobs got further in compared to near the entrance.

Somehow we picked up a level 60 warlock as well who didn't really need our help but just felt like being social I guess. She was there for her Dreadsteed quest, having imbibed a special potion that made her friendly to the mobs and required her to talk to some of them, but was repeatedly stalled by other players killing who she needed to talk to.

She did have to kill a mob as well though, and when we did that as a group he dropped an epic ring. I think it was this one? We all made o-faces in chat and I went ahead and rolled greed.

As a tangent, I've seen some discussion about loot etiquette when it comes to BoE epics, and most people seem to recommend that everyone should need "because someone is going to need anyway and that way they can't ninja". I've met many players who hold similar attitudes when it comes to valuable loot in SWTOR, but I've always been against this practice. Basically, the worst that can happen if I hit greed is that I unjustly miss out on a chance at some loot. The worst that can happen if I hit need is that I end up being the ninja! The latter would be much worse to me, so I always hit greed right away to be on the safe side.

Anyway, the others hit greed as well, even though I said that I would be fine with the mage needing since a ring with frost damage on it was obviously a mage item. However, she wanted to give everyone a fair chance and rolled greed too. The warlock ended up winning the roll, but then graciously agreed to sell the ring to the mage for 50 gold, which was an absolute steal compared to how much the item would have fetched on the auction house, but as she said: "It's not like I'm losing out here, I got an extra 50 gold that I wasn't expecting!"

Anyway, with those quests done we set out to do the local escort. Rescue from Jaedenar is a quest I always found quite memorable because of the pathos conveyed in the quest text but also but also because of what I tend to think of the night elf's Sailor Moon routine when she finds her armour. Unfortunately, Classic servers being what they are, the area was busy and Sailor nelf was not in her cage when we got there.

We saw some Alliance players go past escorting her outside and waved at them, patiently awaiting our turn. Shortly before she respawned however, a level 60 dwarf warrior showed up and jumped the queue. We made /shoo emotes at him, but he was determined to get in there before us, and indeed he did - since we were in a group and had tried to make sure that everyone was on the right step, we were too slow and had to watch our escortee walk off without us yet again.

By this time we'd been in there for a while and I was willing to call it a day, but the warlock suggested that we should help the dwarf to make him finish faster, even as she expressed annoyance about his behaviour. So this dwarf warrior bizarrely ended up with an escort of three Hordies that killed everything ahead of him to clear the way, while one of them (the warlock) also kept hitting a macro to insult him. (How's that for mixed messages?)

Anyway, we helped him finish his escort and went back to waiting at the cage. Eventually Sailor elf respawned again, and this time we got to rescue her. But then there was a follow-up! It sent us back into the cave yet again, to retrieve the remains of her dead friend and kill the succubus who had tortured him to death. (Grim!)

The mage was starting to fret a bit as apparently their girlfriend was getting impatient for them to finish up. We went ahead anyway, but the succubus was nowhere to be seen. After a few minutes of waiting I looked her up on Wowhead and relayed one of the comments there which said that her respawn timer was long and to "bring lunch and dinner". "Oh god," went the mage, clearly fearing an incoming domestic, but just then she appeared anyway, ready for us to cut her head off.

As a final farewell, the mage offered us a portal to a destination of our choice (I opted for Undercity, which was quite far away and where I had some quests to hand in) and logged off. I was pleased to have completed several quests and with having had another interesting adventure.

I'm also quite excited by the prospect of finally being able to run some dungeons with my guildies soon, since I haven't really been able to join a guild group for anything since the first week, after which I was left in the dust and had to watch their max-level adventures from afar ever since. I have no real plans for Classic endgame, but it would be nice to be able to at least dip my toes into some level 60 dungeons this time around.


Battlegrounds to come to Classic on December 10th

It hasn't even been two weeks since the launch of the honour system and already Blizzard is arranging for the release of the next item that wasn't supposed to come out for a little while: battlegrounds. One can only surmise that this is a quick attempt at damage control during a time when thousands of players have realised that being stuck on a PvP server with several thousand enemies that have nothing better to do than farm you for honour at flight points is in fact not the best way to experience the game.

Yes, I'm being snarky, but I cannot help but feel that it's deserved. The sheer amount of times I've seen people be dismissive of PvE servers, saying that they don't provide the "real" Vanilla experience because "real gamers" always go PvP, blah blah blah - I do feel vindicated seeing those same people not really enjoying life on a PvP server either when push comes to shove.

Moving on from that... the battleground update is actually going to be interesting to me because while I figured out during my private server time that I'm not super keen on Vanilla PvP, I do like to visit Alterac Valley occasionally, not least because of its PvE component. I'm not sure I'll be able to get my hunter to sixty before it goes live, but that shouldn't matter anyway as you only need to be level fifty or so to join in.

For a hunter in particular there's also the Ice Barbed Spear to pick up from the quest to win a single game, which is a very nice melee weapon for non-raiders.

Warsong Gulch doesn't have me that excited, but I might give it a try in one of the lower-level brackets if there are enough people queueing to keep wait times at a reasonable level. The Classic devs have previously stated that battlegrounds will utilise cross-server queuing, but as far as I'm aware it hasn't been clarified whether this will involve all servers in a region or whether there'll be dedicated battlegroups like back in the day.

Another, less talked about feature that will be coming with the patch will be the elemental invasions, which I always thought were decent fun and should provide extra opportunities to farm certain elemental drops. Now that I think about it they were kind of proto public events in a way - that should provide an extra layer of entertainment in Azshara, Silithus, Un'goro and Winterspring.


Phase 2 & Level 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Well Rested

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Left Behind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


No Classic News Out of BlizzCon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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