15/10/2021

Burning Crusade Daily Quests

One of Burning Crusade's big new features back in the day was the introduction of daily quests in patch 2.1. Before that, infinitely repeatable quests hadn't really been a thing... there were a couple in vanilla WoW, such as from that goblin on the coast of Feralas, but they didn't reward anything other than a bit of rep and were definitely edge cases more than anything else. 99.9% of the time, quests were a one-and-done thing.

It's hard to recall my own feelings about the first daily quests so many years later since I wasn't blogging regularly about WoW back then, but I think overall I liked them? I didn't do them religiously (I wrote about how I never even bothered with the Netherwing for example) but the Ogri'la dailies played a bit part in me being able to afford epic flying the first time around. I also remember that I actually liked how many of them didn't require much or even any combat, which was a godsend on my holy priest in particular, who sucked at solo grinding.

Classic approached things slightly differently in that it had four daily quests in Shattrath available from launch, which originally weren't actually added until later: the cooking daily, the fishing daily, the daily dungeon quest and the daily heroic quest. I can't say that I minded as I definitely found all four of these very valuable.

The fishing daily is a great incentive to finally level up your fishing skill in small, discrete chunks. It randomly rotates among five different quests and only two of them require a fairly high skill - two of them can be done at medium skill and one already at really low skill, so you can just pick it up whenever it works for you. My hunter maxed out her skill a long time ago but I still keep checking back every day to see whether Crocolisks in the City is up, which also has a rare chance of rewarding you with one of four baby crocolisk pets.

The cooking daily is a good way of keeping yourself supplied with meat and fish for buff foods without having to go out and farm them, and also has a chance of rewarding a selection of rare recipes. I stopped doing it once I had all the recipes on my main and also didn't need to keep myself supplied with buff food anymore, but I'll likely pick it up again whenever I get an alt to level 70.

The two dungeon dailies were the very first iteration of what would later become the daily random dungeon reward - every day you'd be incentivised to do a different dungeon for a little extra gold, rep and currency. I don't think anyone ever did these religiously, but their rotating nature did help provide a bit of variety, discouraging players from simply spamming whichever dungeon they found easiest and making it easier for people to get groups for a less popular dungeon whenever it was also one of the dailies.

Still, these were all small fries really. When Classic Burning Crusade opened the doors to Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep, it also unleashed the first "real" daily factions onto the player base: the ogres of Ogri'la and the Skyguard.

I didn't check them out immediately because I wasn't playing much anyway, but I have to say when I finally went I was decidedly underwhelmed. I remember them being these bustling hubs where there were always people, but I've only seen very few players around whenever I've gone this time around. I guess the rewards are mostly inferior even to Karazhan gear, and with how easy it is to get into a Kara run in Classic, why bother grinding the rep? Lack of gold also seems to be much less of an issue for modern players than it was for us back in the day. Even I've got my epic flying already.

But the quests themselves also left me feeling slightly bewildered. First off there was the bombing run, which I hardly remembered at all, until I placed the bomb clicky on my action bar and something stirred in the back of my brain to remind me that I used to have that on there pretty permanently back in the day too. I think I didn't like the quest as much back then because without epic flying it's a bit awkward and back then I didn't get that speed increase until later.

Nether ray wrangling was still decent fun, but the Simon Says game was a nightmare. I even died once! I don't know if I just don't remember this or if it's a bug in Classic, but often when I click I'll get the visual effect for when you made a mistake even though I'm clicking the correct sequence, which just throws me off. Also, my short-term memory seems to be much worse than it used to be as I just couldn't make it to the end of a sequence unassisted for the life of me. Eventually I gave up and started taking notes from the fifth round onwards, but I still felt vaguely ashamed for needing them.

Ultimately it seems to be just another thing that's not as good as I remember. We'll see whether it'll be more interesting to potentially have a look at the Netherwing at level whenever those get added.

04/10/2021

Character Transfers & Season of Mastery

In Classic era news, there are now free character transfers available for a number of realms in both the US and EU regions, including away from Hydraxian Waterlords and to Pyrewood Village. A keen member of one of the Discord servers I'm on noticed the option before it had even been officially announced.

My impression is that quite a few of the old max-level players on era are taking the option to transfer, and the guy who invited me to Azuregos a couple of times has been talking to me like he assumes that I'll come along as well, but I'm still not sure about it. If I was serious about continuing to play on era it would definitely be the sensible option, but I'm not sure that I am, so why bother?

If the destination server was empty for me, I could still do it easily just because, but even though the PvE server cluster consists of several realms, for some reason the transfers are only available to Pyrewood Village - which is the server on which I originally started playing Classic as Horde, meaning that half my character slots are already taken and I'd have to make choices about who to move and who to leave behind or whether to delete any characters. That just feels like too much decision-making energy for something I'm not too sure about, but I guess we'll see. Just putting my thoughts about this into writing kind of makes me want to do it more to be honest.

In other era news, Blizzard provided more details about the fresh servers they hinted at a bit over a month ago. The whole project will be called "Season of Mastery" and will include #slightlymorechanges as they put it, including a condensed 12-month release schedule, more health for raid bosses, no world buffs inside raids, and the addition of selected quality-of-life improvements from Burning Crusade, such as no debuff limit, faster levelling and meeting stones becoming summoning stones.

That sure does sound somewhat intriguing, but I was already dubious beforehand how relevant this was going to be to me personally, and hearing that they'll be trying to cram all of Classic's content into a single year only confirmed to me that this one's going to be a hard pass for me. I suppose it might be interesting to watch from the sidelines though. If nothing else this initiative's popularity will show how representative the people always clamouring for fresh servers really are of the wider player base.

29/09/2021

At a Crossroads

In case you're wondering why I haven't really written anything about Classic in a while, truth be told, I haven't really been playing much. I just log in once a day to check whether the fishing daily is Crocolisks in the City (I think the baby croc pets are cute, so sue me) and then I log out again.

For a while I was still running Karazhan with my guildies on Thursdays as well. Even if I didn't really feel like playing the rest of the week, that one event at least gave me a reason to log in and it was nice to still be social with my old raiding buddies on Discord after I'd demoted myself to non-raiding member. However, recently I had to sign off for two weeks, and when I returned I found that the Thursday Karazhan sign-up sheet had disappeared due to lack of interest. Now there's only the Sunday run left, which clashes with other obligations of mine.

I'm not sure where that leaves me with Classic to be honest. In some ways it feels like I've come full circle and am back to where I was at the start of OG Classic two years ago: being a social member in a guild where I don't really interact with people and just do my own thing. The main difference being that this time around I've got baggage, and it's hard not to feel a little melancholy comparing my situation in the guild now with the fun times I had as recently as half a year ago. (Has Classic BC really only been out for four months? Hot dang.)

There are still goals I could pursue, that I likely will pursue at some point, but at the moment I'm not really feeling it. I miss that innocence I had at the start of Classic, when I didn't care about anything but taking in the beauty of the virtual world around me and following whatever breadcrumbs the game laid out in front of me. Stepping down from raiding hasn't entirely rid my brain of some of the trappings that came with that activity, so that I log on to find three different addons screaming at me about how they need updating, or I end up looking at certain pieces of gear and feeling dissatisfied that I haven't upgraded them yet, even though it really doesn't matter now. (I'm still wearing my tier three helmet from Naxx...) It all just feels... tainted somehow. I honestly feel a little jealous when I read about something like Wilhelm tackling the Blood Furnace with his friends for the first time (in Classic) only this month, with not a care for anything else going on in the game.

At the moment I see three potential ways I can go from here: I can continue doing what I'm doing (as in, barely log in) and hope that I'll eventually settle into a new, casual routine that I'm content with. I could try to have a kind of clean break from where I'm now and focus my play on an area where I don't have the same emotional baggage (revisit my Hordies, roll a new character on a different server etc.). Or my time with Classic will come to an end for now.

13/09/2021

The Toxicity of Damage Meters

I've been thinking about damage meters lately, for three different reasons.

One is that I found it interesting how in a recent post by Kaylriene about toxicity in the WoW and FFXIV communities, a lot of the bad behaviour he talked about seemed to at least be partially inspired by people's reading of damage meters. The second reason is that part of the feeling that my Classic guild became too competitive for me to continue progression raiding was due to people suddenly talking about damage meters a lot. Thirdly, in our little retail levelling group, one of my guildies decided to install a damage meter and started commenting on people's dps, and I was surprised by how much that instantly irked me.

First off, to get the obvious out of the way first, obviously damage meters are not inherently evil, and in harder content they are a useful tool to diagnose problems. The problem I have with them is their seeming ubiquity in WoW and the way players use them to turn absolutely everything into a competition, no matter the circumstances. (When I returned to WoW two years ago, I never bothered to install a damage meter addon myself by the way.)

When I expressed some of my disappointment in the constant damage meter talk during raids on the guild Discord prior to stepping back from progression, I got some pushback along the lines of: "But people are only saying nice things, such as congratulating the top dps [after every single trash pull...], what's wrong with that?" At which point I disengaged from that conversation because trying to get people out of that box was clearly getting too deep for random guild Discord chatter, but the question behind it has continued to bounce around in my head ever since.

It's not that I don't get where they're coming from. I, too, used to be that person who unthinkingly had their damage meter open all the time. There's a post on this blog from back in Cataclysm when I mused about how odd it felt to do some dungeons without it after a patch had briefly broken my addon. Back then my ultimate conclusion was that while I kind of enjoyed the experience of not having to worry about anyone's numbers, harder content simply made it mandatory, as wiping all the time without understanding what's going on isn't exactly fun either.

The thing is, since then I've spent the last ten years playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, which doesn't have universal combat logging, and found that to be an improvement in pretty much every way. The thing is - and while I initially found this system kind of clunky I actually think it's genius now - SWTOR allows personal combat logging, so if you care that much about your own numbers, you can see them, but you can't see anyone else's without their explicit permission. The latter requires you all to log into a third party program together, which is absolutely what we do when we do harder progression content and need to see in detail what's happening. But that random pug you decided to do? Has no idea about your actual numbers, and neither do you about theirs, and I'm glad because not everything has to be a bloody competition. (Also, it means that if there's a problem, everyone has to work together to try and solve it instead of simply trying to identify the weakest link according to the meter and kicking them, but that's just a bonus really.)

There is nothing wrong with competition, I can be quite competitive myself under certain circumstances, but there's a time and a place for it. There's nothing wrong with running a race, but if I invite you to a stroll in the park, you starting a stopwatch and constantly bringing up our current walking speed is going to feel odd at the very least! At worst, loudly comparing and rating people in various categories of your choice is generally considered quite rude.

And let's be clear here: A lot of MMO content is definitely not designed to be competitive. Sure, you can absolutely do a Maraudon speed run to see who can clear the place the fastest, and if I see that sort of thing on YouTube I genuinely admire the effort, but that doesn't mean that every Maraudon run ever should be a speed run from then on and that people who just want to see the sights and kill bosses are in the wrong.

And that is my problem with talking about damage meters, in a nutshell. It shifts the conversation away from the stuff that I enjoy, the stuff that we all got into the game for in the first place. We choose the framework through which we view a game like WoW, and fixating on damage meters is a choice to turn the game into a competition, even in content that isn't meant to be. It doesn't matter to me if your constant talk about "pumping" is positive or negative, because I reject the whole idea that we should be spending our evenings measuring who's got the biggest coloured bar to begin with. I log into an MMO for the explorative aspect of solo play and the fun of grouping.

I know that different people have different priorities, but I do find it frustrating that we seem to have reached a point where many WoW players seem to struggle to even conceive of a world where we simply don't think about things like dps very much, and don't understand how it can be a burden to be unable to opt out of that, to be publicly rated every moment you're grouped whether you want to or not, whether you're struggling to hit a dps check in a raid or merely breezing through a lowbie dungeon.

And I do think it's telling that for the dozens of different addon functionalities that Blizzard has incorporated into the base game over time, live damage meters are something they have refused to touch with a bargepole to this day. I think it's because they know that this functionality is something that actually makes the game worse for many people, and if things like dps numbers were literally visible to everyone, all the time, by default, it would make for a horrible experience. Just something to think about next time you feel like giving unsolicited commentary about someone's position on your meter addon I guess.

03/09/2021

My First Shadowlands Alt

It took a while, but I actually got a second character to sixty in retail this week - the demon hunter I started in May. Her levelling journey could be described as... unconventional. As mentioned in the linked post, the demon hunter duo I started with my husband actually made it to fifty in no time at all, but we resisted Blizzard's push to continue into Shadowlands - because what for? So we spent the next few months puttering about in Legion content and gaining practically no XP. (One day I'll finish that draft about what I thought of the rest of Legion.)

Much to our surprise, we did eventually discover one source of XP inside old expansions though: archaeology, which for some reason hasn't been split out into different sub-professions for each expansion (unlike every other profession) and allows you to skill up and level seemingly anywhere without penalty. We stumbled upon this as Legion featured a fortnightly archaeology quest which we got into the habit of doing. So we slowly but surely started to gain levels from that. Just don't tell Blizzard please, you know they'll nerf anything into the ground that causes people to "play the game wrong".

Anyway, I was already entertaining the idea of how amusing it would be if we got all the way to sixty from nothing but archaeology... but every now and then I'd find myself fighting a mob of my own level (usually one of those guys that can spawn at archaeology dig sites), and it became very noticeable that while my level was going up my gear had remained static, which due to the nature of WoW's scaling meant that my character was actually becoming weaker and weaker - that's also why I had so much trouble with the scenario to unlock lightforged draenei.

I was starting to worry that I might end up entering Shadowlands in a position where I'd actually be unable to kill anything, what with mobs scaling to my level... so I decided to give in and do the introduction to Shadowlands at least. Turns out this was already considered low-level content for me as well, so it wasn't too much of a problem, though sadly it didn't reward a single piece of gear.

Once I reached Oribos, I was presented with the option to skip re-doing the Shadowlands storyline and level via "Threads of Fate" instead, which I took. It honestly was a bit disappointing though because I thought this meant that I would be completely free to choose my own sources of XP. I guess technically I was, but for some reason Blizzard still felt the need to also give you a quest flagged "campaign" which requires you to do a fill-the-bar routine in every zone. I guess they figured that just leaving you to fill your XP bar at your own leisure wasn't providing enough direction? I don't know.

At least you can pick the order of the zones, so I decided to go to Revendreth first since I'd made my demon hunter a Venthyr. I almost instantly regretted my choice though when it took me about ten minutes to find the entrance to the covenant sanctum... Revendreth is just a horrible zone to navigate. Fortunately the husband at least reminded me that the Shadowlands flight unlock is account-wide and also applies while levelling.

The final couple of levels to sixty then came in what felt like no time at all, though they were filled with a lot of dying on my part because it was just such a struggle to kill anything with my low-level gear. Whenever I managed to find and complete a quest that rewarded a gear upgrade, it more than doubled my stats in that slot.

After filling my Revendreth bar I was finally awarded a new weapon too, though this then led to the bizarre dilemma that my legion twin glaives were considered a single item that couldn't be split up, but my quest reward was only a single warglaive. I didn't really fancy fighting one-handed, but fortunately a world quest was up that didn't require any combat and rewarded a fist weapon to put in my off-hand.

I'm not sure where I'll take this character from here. I might do some casual work on the covenant campaign over time and get a few more gear upgrades, but I don't really fancy grinding Shadowlands content on a second character. I just wanted to not punch like a wet noodle anymore when fighting mobs of my level, but once that's sorted I might just go back and see whatever's left to do on the Broken Isles.

31/08/2021

Remember Rades

Yesterday I found out via Twitter that Rades of the Orcish Army Knife blog passed away this weekend. 

He's still there on my blog roll, even though he stopped being a regular WoW blogger quite a few years ago. He never really quit or anything, he just moved on to other endeavours, only using his blog to occasionally post Onion-style news articles about whatever was going on in Azeroth at the time.

I can't say that I knew him well, but I knew him in that way bloggers often know each other... where they sometimes read each other's posts and occasionally leave a comment. Even if the majority of our interactions happened more than a decade ago now, I still thought of him fondly. Back in 2010 I nominated him for "best writer" for the Pink Pigtail Inn list of the year. (I wonder whether that still means anything to anyone other than Redbeard.) It's not a lot, but it's not nothing either.

So hearing the news of his passing made me sad. Death is always a gloomy affair, but even more so when the person affected was still very young and full of life. The "suddenly" in Vid's announcement indicates that there hadn't been any ongoing illness previously.

In a way I find these sorts of news even more profound when the person was a blogger. I think it's because with the way we put small parts of ourselves onto the page day after day in a way that feels quite permanent, it feels like we as people should also be around forever... even beyond that youthful sense of immortality that most of us have at some point whenever we manage to spend enough time not having to think about death.

But then something like this happens and the updates just... stop. It seems strange that his post from March this year mocking the Horde's talent for picking terrible warchiefs (as well as Activision-Blizzard's hiring choices... topical!) will now be the last thing to ever appear on Rades' blog. He was more active on Twitter, where his last update will now forever be a quip about (what I think was) his D&D campaign from a little over a week ago.

I suppose one bright spot is that with so much of what he did written down somewhere on the internet, he's left everyone with lots of tangible memories to go back to and remember him by. I went back through some of his old blog posts and it was quite a trip down memory lane. Like how his paladin alt Fabulor turned into this whole comic personality - on some posts I even found comments from my past self expressing my amusement.

I also enjoyed people on Twitter sharing their own favourite memories of him, showing off some of his post-WoW endeavours - from Vid reposting strips of From Draenor With Love, the webcomic the two of them created together for several years, to Anne Stickney highlighting his creations in Animal Crossing (also inspired by Fabulor, clearly) to a race track entirely made of beer signs he built in Wildstar.

It's clear that he was an awesome person beyond WoW and blogging, and I can only express my deepest condolences for his friends and family, for whom this must be a horrible loss. All the rest of us can do now is remember.

28/08/2021

Classic News

Blizzard posted a "development update" yesterday, which is mostly about the next Shadowlands patch, but also contains some juicy news for Classic players.

First off, we've got confirmation that the next phase of Burning Crusade Classic will launch on the 15th of September, in a little less than three weeks. This will include the opening of Serpentshrine Cavern and The Eye, which once again makes me glad that I stepped down from progression because I haven't bothered to continue working on my Eye attunement, and if I was still a core raider the raid's opening being imminent now would freak me the hell out.

I do wonder what the overall raid team's attunement status is... there's a channel to track this on Discord, and according to that not everyone's even attuned for SSC yet, and only ten people completed their Tempest Keep attunement. This might not be 100% up-to-date, but it does make you wonder whether people's efforts will suddenly kick into overdrive in the coming weeks... or whether the guild as an entity will actually have to start taking a more active role in helping raiders get attuned than it has been.

The thing I'm looking forward to with the new phase is the introduction of the TBC group finder - which was nothing like the dungeon finder introduced in Wrath, but simply a sort of bulletin board that allowed you to display your interest in different activities in a single place without having to repeat yourself in the LFG channel every couple of minutes. I used to love that tool and got a lot of great use out of it back in the day, even if a good chunk of the community at large seemed to find it too difficult to use for some reason. This is one case where I think the way people's attitudes have changed will actually be a net positive, as I wouldn't expect modern players to have any issues with using this feature - there are even addons for Classic that already try to simulate something similar by curating information from the LFG channel as it scrolls past, but obviously having it built into the default interface will be so much better.

Aside from the announcement of the next Burning Crusade phase, the other big piece of Classic news was that they're also "working on something for WoW Classic players who’ve told us they’d like a chance at a fresh start". There were already rumours about this flying around as the Classic PTR was recently updated to host OG Classic's phase one again, but with some of the quality of life changes that were added later, such as the Chronoboon.

The popularity of the subject of fresh Classic servers is something that still baffles me a little. I did expect Blizzard to release some eventually, but we're barely finishing up Burning Crusade's first phase at this point, and the state of original Classic is anaemic. Sure, there's something to be said for the excitement of everyone starting from scratch on a brand new server, but I struggle to imagine that this will draw in a significant number of players that aren't already subscribed for one of the existing Classic products or that it will retain a healthy population once the novelty has worn off. At best it might pull people off the existing Classic era servers and leave those even more dead than they already are.

Personally I can't see myself playing on such a "fresh" server at this point beyond maybe poking my head in at launch to satisfy my curiosity about how busy it is. It has taken me long enough to level any characters in Classic as it is, plus I've come to be very put off by any pressure to rush through content to keep up with the mob, so starting over from scratch while feeling hounded to level faster to keep up with the majority of the server's progression sounds like the opposite of fun to me right now.

22/08/2021

Strange Times to Have Fun

In terms of public perception, WoW may be in the deepest hole it's ever been in, with the perfect storm of patches taking too long for the player base's liking, unpopular storytelling decisions, and now the whole behind-the-scenes shitshow on top of everything else. And yet... I've been having more fun in retail than I've had in a long time.

Sure, having a game to play with the husband that we both enjoy to some degree is always nice, but there's more to it than that. I watched a video a few weeks ago that contained the following line after the creator admitted to really having enjoyed Warlords of Draenor, previously widely considered the worst of all WoW expansions: "If you start playing WoW, no matter how bad [current expansion] is, you're probably going to have a great time because there's fifteen years of shit to explore!" And while I'm not exactly a WoW noob, I've been away from retail for so long that yes, I'm not just sitting here on the content of one patch, I've got about six years of quests and stories that I never did when they were current to look into! And that's been fun to explore on a casual basis.

As a bonus, a couple of friends from our SWTOR guild have also had their interest in WoW rekindled, to the point that we even made a little levelling group to take through dungeons together. It's been interesting to see some of the changes that had been made since I last played... for example I was already familiar with the new versions of Scarlet Monastery and Scholomance, but I didn't know that Blackfathom Deeps and both Razorfen dungeons had also been given a new coat of paint during Warlords of Draenor. Makes the dungeon levelling experience in retail even more different from Classic.

Levellers at the end of Gnomeregan. I'm the second from the left.

It's also been interesting to see just how much of the XP gains from running dungeons are tied to choosing the "random" option. We've been queueing for each one specifically since we wanted to do them all exactly once and in order, and that results in only about half the XP that you'd get with the random bonus. About one level per dungeon still isn't bad, but less than I'd expected.

The only thing I've been struggling with is how extremely boring my character has been to play so far, which is very ironic in a game that prides itself in being all about engaging moment-to-moment gameplay and interesting rotations. I went elemental shaman since that's a spec I never really played before (for a number of reasons) and a static group environment seemed like a good opportunity to give it a try.

The problem is that whoever designed the current iteration of elemental shaman clearly gave absolutely zero thought to how it would feel while levelling. Most glaringly, you're given a secondary resource called Maelstrom the moment you choose the elemental specialisation, but with my character in my twenties I still don't have a single ability to spend that resource, so it's just a coloured bar that slowly fills up and then sits there, permanently full, while I spam the same three spells that I've had since level eleven, never getting anything interesting from levelling up. From what I can tell I won't actually get my first way of spending Maelstrom until well into the thirties, so why give me that bar at level ten at all? At least I'm about to be able to start using chain lightning...

18/08/2021

Classic Era

When I cloned my nelf hunter to the Classic era version of Hydraxian Waterlords on Burning Crusade pre-patch day, I noted that it was kind of sad to see only 32 people online there. Three months later, seeing 32 players online feels like a good night, as there've been times when I logged on and the concurrent player count revealed by /who was in the single digits. Not that I've logged on that often.

I first poked my head into Classic era on a Sunday afternoon shortly after the split, because I suddenly had the whimsical idea that I might be able to win the Stranglethorn fishing tournament a second time without competition. As it turned out, I wasn't completely by myself - there were a few other anglers there - but as it happened I did get lucky with my casts and won anyway. That was fun.

Someone whispered me then and invited me to their guild, aspirationally called <Choose Life>, where I recognised a few names from a number of different raiding guilds. Sadly the guild hasn't been able to live up to its aspirations as far as I can tell... of the 160+ characters in it, less than thirty have actually been online in the past week - not that I can cast stones, having moved on to Burning Crusade myself. Then again, I'd never planned to make "Classic era" my permanent home anyway.

One of the people who remained active on era was a guy that used to join my guild's community raids sometimes, which is why he was still on our guild Discord. A couple of weeks ago he suddenly whispered me to ask if I wanted to come kill Azuregos on Classic era (he's in <Choose Life> too, so he knew I had a character there). I said yes because the idea had novelty value to me - I'd been interested in killing Azuregos back when I was hunting for a Mature Blue Dragon Sinew for my epic quiver, but he was very heavily camped for most of Classic.

What I didn't expect was that there'd only be five of us, with the tank being a hunter pet. I also had to switch to my paladin (whom I'd cloned too at some point) so that we'd have two healers. I remembered hearing back in the vanilla WoW days that Azuregos could be tanked by a hunter pet if the hunter was specifically specced and geared for it, but I never expected to see that in action myself.

The experience managed to be both fun and boring: fun because it was novel and weird to kill a Classic world boss with only five people, but also boring because with only five of us the fight took half an hour.

Since then I've been back to help with killing Azuregos two more times, though I'm not even sure why. A lot of the loot gets thrown away with such a small group, which feels a bit pointless, and after the novelty wore off, spamming Flash of Light for twenty to thirty minutes straight is now just kind of boring. But I guess it's a tenuous connection to the WoW Classic I enjoyed so much, plus I can't deny that it makes me feel good to be wanted for something (even when I know the reasons behind it are purely utilitarian).

More generally speaking though, the state of Classic era makes me a bit sad. It was a no-brainer that most people would move on to Burning Crusade in my opinion, but I didn't expect the servers we left behind to be quite so desolate. The cities that once bustled with crowds waiting for world buffs are now just empty set pieces, and with auction house listings barely exceeding the single digits, the player economy has effectively ceased to exist.

From what I hear from the connected server clusters it isn't quite as bad there (as mentioned previously Hydraxian Waterlords wasn't connected to anything due to its status of the sole European English RP-PvE server), and while numbers are still small compared to what they used to be, things like pugs and raiding are still somewhat feasible on other servers. In fact, I've heard some people praise the atmosphere for being so much purer and friendlier now that the only ones left playing are those who really, really love Classic era, and I can believe that. Hydraxian Waterlords already had a pretty good community as it was though.

It does make me wonder what the future will bring for Classic. Will the BC servers suffer a similar fate once Wrath of the Lich King Classic comes around? And assuming the Classic train ends with that expansion (which I'm not so sure about anymore, considering Holly Longdale's Everquest background), what's going to happen to those servers once the Lich King (or should I say Halion?) is dead?

I suppose I just feel a little disappointed that the way Classic has been going is feeling more and more like just another new MMO release, where there's big crowds on launch day, but then massive drop-off over time, and once everyone's done the content once or twice they just move on to something else. I'm not sure what I expected exactly, but I guess I thought more people would be happy to stick around and simply exist in this beautiful virtual world that they missed so much when it went away. Currently it doesn't really look like it though.

14/08/2021

Allied Races

Are y'all ready for another episode of "Shintar talks about game content or features that people cared about four years ago but that are very much old hat by now"? Well, ready or not, here it comes.

Allied races were introduced with the Legion expansion and even though I wasn't playing at the time, I remember there being quite a bit of hubbub around their inclusion back then. They are basically different species available at character creation that (in a post-level squish world) start at level 10 instead of 1, don't have their own starting zone, and don't have unique animations but offer different skins. People love additional customisation options of any kind, and I recall cries to make pretty much everything and everyone into an allied race, something I could only shake my head at.

Accordingly, I didn't pay too much attention to the feature when the husband I started playing retail again, but the other day I realised that with us having completed both BfA and Legion at this point, I had most of the requirements for all the Alliance allied races unlocked and only had to actually go through the associated scenarios/intro quests to trigger the unlock properly, so off I went.

The Kul Tiran quest chain was honestly pretty cool, even if I was a bit exasperated by the amount of flying back and forth cross-continent that it required. The scenarios for the other races were noticeably less impressive, though the one for the lightforged draenei still resulted in a very memorable experience for me, for reasons that were probably not intended.

You see, I did this scenario on my demon hunter, who's currently level 54 without ever having set foot into Shadowlands, but is wearing the best gear you can get from Legion content. The lightforged draenei scenario scales to your level, which means that it was filled with mobs my level or one below. Should be easy enough, right? NO! A single level 53 mob in that scenario was enough to absolutely destroy me.

After a couple of deaths I quickly learned to let T'paartos, the friendly NPC I was supposed to be accompanying, do most of the fighting as he was pretty strong and sturdy anyway. But then disaster struck, when one pull resulted in several adds and I followed my gut instinct of starting to AoE, which meant that I went squish instantly. Oh well, what's another death, right?

The problem was that dying in that particular spot caused me to respawn away from my NPC friend and on top of another mob, meaning that I got killed again right away. I tried to get up again a few more times but without much success - if I managed to evade one mob, I'd just aggro another. Eventually I waited for Metamorphosis to come off cooldown before reviving again and managed to clear a little safe patch for myself. Then I slowly and carefully started making my way back to where I last left T'paartos, taking great care to never start a fight with less than full health and several cooldowns available and to never get more than one mob at a time. Eventually I made it back to him and the quest could resume.

After that I was even more careful and did okay for a while, until we got to the big end boss, who seemed to do some kind of hard to avoid/unavoidable(?) AoE that killed me in a few hits even with cooldowns up. I tried to make it back in time while T'paartos was still fighting but got delayed by more mobs in my way. While I was still busy getting lost inside the cave this was all happening in, I suddenly got the message that the scenario was complete, as T'paartos had managed to finish off the boss on his own. That guy really earned his lightforged status, is all I'm saying. My entire armour was yellow from all the deaths by the end of that, but I guess it was kind of funny.

I did make both a lightforged draenei and a Kul Tiran alt so far and quite like them. I think I'm coming around to this allied race idea... if for no other reason than that still being able to earn meaningful rewards in old expansion content is something I like, as it flies in the face of the sort of planned obsolescence model that Blizzard applies to too much of its modern content in my eyes.

09/08/2021

Wind and Fire

Stepping down from progression raiding was an immediate relief in so far as I went from constantly worrying about what I should be doing whenever I logged in to simply thinking about what I'd like to be doing that day.

Items on the "should" list included things like:

  • Hit LFG for Mechanar and Botanica runs, to work on completing my Beast Lord set, which is best-in-slot for hunters until Black Temple or something silly.
  • Farm Primal Air to finally get my gloves enchanted.
  • Prioritise levelling my druid's alchemy to build a sustainable consumable pipeline for myself. (I said this in OG Classic but it's still true in BC - people who have a herbalist or alchemist can't really appreciate what a PITA consumable requirements can be if you can't get anything yourself but instead have to buy everything, all the time.)
  • Figure out what I need to do for my Eye attunement and work on it.

None of these are things I definitely don't want to do, but only in moderation I guess? So I'm glad that I can now just do some quests or putz around, levelling fishing on an alt without feeling like I'm not being a "proper" raider because I'm not putting in the time to make my character the strongest she could be.

One thing that had been bothering me for a while and that I really wanted to rectify was that I still only had the slow flying mount. People who only played later expansions or retail probably have no idea just how slow "normal" flying used to be in BC. It's slower than your epic ground mount! Which often means that it's not actually any faster to go as the crow/gryphon flies than to take the scenic route via a flight path or even to follow a path on the ground.

It's not so bad when everyone's in the same boat, and I remember back in the original Burning Crusade, people with epic flyers were a rare sight during the early phases. This time around though, it seemed like everyone else was buying their epic flyers the moment they hit 70, seemingly without effort. (Obviously I wasn't the only exception... but the trend has pretty much been the reverse of back in the day, in that people crawling along on basic flyers stick out as rare oddities.)

This made me feel envious and I wanted to fix it... but I'd also set myself the extra challenge to go straight for the Cenarion War Hippogryph (the only appropriate mount for night elves in my opinion), which would also require me to hit exalted with Cenarion Expedition and raise an extra 1600 gold on top of the "regular" cost of epic flying.

Free to spend some time and money focusing on this particular goal, I was pleasantly surprised to read on Redbeard's blog that the Fire Festival was a great way of making money. (I feel a bit bad linking to that post like that because it was really about something completely different and that was only a side note, but it was where I first heard it mentioned...)

And what a way it was! Just visiting beloved locations in the old world (of which I hadn't seen much since BC's launch) and clicking on bonfires to be rewarded six to twelve gold for each. I don't remember that being a thing back in the day, but sometimes it's best not to look a gift horse in the mouth. My main visited all of them over the course of a few days and racked up several hundred gold that way - I stole the flames from the enemy capitals as well while I was at it and didn't even die once. Good fun!

This just happened to coincide with a heroic Slave Pens run finally pushing me over the edge for CE rep as well, so it "finally" happened:

With that major gold sink taken care of, I checked on my alts. My mage and druid didn't even have epic ground riding yet, but I'd forgotten that the price for that had also been reduced with BC, so I was pleased to have both of them be able to afford that right away as well.

Then I just kept doing the torch tossing/catching dailies in Stormwind for the rest of the event, because I found them a fun little mini game and they rewarded 24 gold for about five minutes of effort a day. 

There are plenty of other things left for me to do besides running Karazhan with my guildies, but I'm glad to be rid of that feeling of urgency. One thing I always wanted from Classic was the knowledge that the game I enjoyed wasn't going to go away in a few months or years and that there should be no need to rush to complete your goals. It's odd how easy it's been to get caught up in the rat race anyway.

02/08/2021

A Step Back

I think it's been obvious from my posts about BC Classic that I've not been entirely happy with it. The "problem" is that I've not been entirely unhappy with it either. Instead, my feelings about the game have been oscillating in strange ways. Some nights I'd have fun with a friend, or a really good dungeon run, and I'd think to myself: Yes, this is it! This is what I love about this game. But then I'd log on the next evening and it wouldn't be like that at all; I'd just feel slightly weird and uncomfortable and log off again. What do you do in that sort of situation?

Other people have been having their own version of Burning Crusade malaise and there's been some discussion about it on the guild Discord, and a sentiment that many people supported in that conversation was to give it time. The launch of a new expansion is always a weird period of transition and so on. And they were not wrong in that! But how long does it make sense to wait for things to just magically improve and feel better?

I was hoping that getting back into large scale raiding would reinvigorate my passion by giving the guild as a whole something to rally behind. And it did work to some extent, but sadly that feeling was only temporary for me. I told myself that I'd continue raiding for at least a month, to give it a fair chance and not make any rash decisions based on a single evening's mood. However, the longer I allowed the thought of taking a step back to simmer, the more appealing it became - until I finally told the officers that I wanted to step down from the core raiding team. I felt a little bad during the conversation we had, because when you tell someone in a leadership position that you're not having fun I think it's easy for them to feel like they're to blame somehow, but I still think that it was the right thing to do.

Ultimately, there were three main factors to my decision.

First off, redoing raids I already progressed through fourteen years ago is just not everything I'd hoped it would be. The other day I found a diary entry in which I briefly described my guild's first Magtheridon kill back in 2007. Back then I wrote: I just have to mention that my Horde guild was finally victorious over Magtheridon tonight. After getting progressively worse at every attempt during the past few weeks, we finally got him down tonight. What a turnaround! As one of my guildies put it, Teamspeak was a "mass orgasm while trapped in a burning building". 

What a contrast to our mild surprise at everyone's cube-clicking competence in 2021! And yes, you could ask: What did I expect? I knew it wasn't going to be the same. But I had hoped that it was still going to be sufficiently fun, the same way levelling and running dungeons in Classic has been fun despite of those things also being activities that I've done before. It turns out that something about raiding is different though.

You could argue (and at least one of the officers did) that it might just be an issue with tier four being a bit short and boring and that things will be more interesting in tier five for sure. After all, that has Kael'thas and Vashj! And I do have very emotional memories of those as well... but in a way, that's only more of a reason to not want to do them again. Looking at how tier four has gone, I'm honestly a bit worried about just tainting my good memories of those fights as well by seeing them go down with a whimper instead of a bang.

Which sort of leads me to my second point: the raiding atmosphere. Again, I knew that there was going to be turnover, the way there always is with a new expansion in every MMO I've ever played, and I knew that some people wouldn't get raid spots. But I underestimated just how much I'd miss certain characters because of how much they contributed to the general mood that I loved so much.

Possibly the most striking example of this has been the departure of the guild's bard and recruiter, the paladin healer in full plate that recruited me back in August last year. I knew that leadership considered him a pain in many ways: not bothering to read Discord, constantly asking redundant questions during raids, always insisting on wearing his terribly sub-optimal suit of full plate gear for the sake of RP. Apparently he was told in no uncertain terms that he didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell at a core raid spot in BC unless he was going to change his ways from the ground up. And as someone who's familiar with being in an officer position... I kind of get why that was! Plus he and I weren't even really close anyway.

And yet... without him, I never would have joined the guild. His sub-optimal gear was what gave me the confidence to try raiding with the Forks in the first place, because as he himself acknowledged: If he could get away with healing raids in full plate, there was little to worry about in terms of pressure to min-max. There was that time when I had a bit of a fight with someone on Discord and he whispered me to ask if I was okay and offered comfort through some surprisingly sensitive insight. He also had a reputation for being extremely hard of hearing and unable to recognise anyone's voice on Discord, even that of the raid leader - but I remember one evening during some post-raid chatter on voice, I said something and he responded, addressing me by name... leading to me exclaiming, "oh my god, Inquiz, you recognised me by my voice" and feeling strangely yet incredibly flattered - a particularly poignant memory with all the recent instances of people seemingly not even remembering who I am. Many of the funny memories I captured in video clips or in writing on this blog featured him as well. And now he's gone, off to heal and recruit for some other guild in his plate suit. It's strange how much even people you barely know can contribute to the comforting tapestry of a familiar environment.

And with all these people leaving, and some others joining, things change. I'm not alone in struggling with this, so I was initially going to chuck it all up to a generic fear of everything simply being different, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised it wasn't as simple as that, which brings me to my reason number three for stepping down: The guild has been taking some very clear steps towards being less casual, even if it's hard to admit for some people. No more free consumables from the guild bank, more expectations to follow rules. And there's nothing wrong with that! But I don't really think it's what I want from the game, not anymore.

I started raiding in Classic almost bristling at the thought of gathering consumables and world buffs, but as time went on and we progressed into harder content, I saw the difference that they made and decided to put more of an effort in. I felt inspired by other people's dedication and work, and soon aspired to be more like them, and to in turn lift other people up by doing things like helping out with Tribute runs when I could, even if I didn't necessarily need one myself. But I also knew that if I couldn't get my buffs or consumes one week for whatever reason, it was going to be fine. We weren't concerned with how much dps people did; we just wanted everyone to show up and follow the raid leader's instructions please.

Yet now we have rules to bring consumables, and people like to talk about dps a lot. And neither of those things is wrong, but I've realised that they're not something I want to deal with at this point in my life. Fourteen years ago bringing flasks to every raid was a complete non-issue to me and I cared about my spot on the dps meter too. But now I just feel bad when someone (anyone!) gets told off to stop being a slacker and flask up already, as I'd rather deal with people not having consumes than being told off for not having them. And having raided without live damage metres in SWTOR for nearly ten years has made me realise how much toxicity they encourage, so that I really prefer for people not to be involved in this sort of e-peening, never mind mid-combat.

I'm kind of wondering whether a gradual move towards being more hardcore is inevitable for any kind of guild that manages to stick around for a certain amount of time. As content gets harder, games kind of force you to evolve with that increased difficulty or be left behind - and Burning Crusade raids are definitely a step up from Classic. The Forks did become at least slightly more progression-focused on our journey to and through Naxx as well - and it was the same thing for my old Burning Crusade guild back in the day. Being a complete noob myself and constantly improving my own gameplay alongside everyone else, it was certainly satisfying for me too at the time.

The problem is, I've been through this whole song and dance before. I didn't come to Classic for that. I kind of stumbled into raiding because the guild's atmosphere was so great and the company meant so much to me. They needed a hunter and I felt that I was being helpful by coming along. I was hoping that we could just continue hanging out in the same kind of chill raid environment that we'd had before. When I agreed to new rules like bringing full consumables to every raid it didn't feel like a big deal, but considering the ease with which we've killed everything, it seems that was about as necessary as worrying about world buffs in Molten Core - the exact sort of situation I'd been keen to avoid ever since I first heard about how people raided in Classic. The moment I realised that I'd kind of become what I used to despise was really quite eye-opening to me. Maybe more preparation will be needed to down bosses later on... but considering the limited amount of time I'm willing to devote to Classic in general, I just don't want to be spending most of it worrying about farming/preparing for next week's raid.

There are still many good people in the Forks, and I've certainly not disliked any of the raids I've been to. Any of the three major issues I just discussed probably wouldn't have caused me to quit progression raiding on their own, but everything put together is just... meh. I'm in a place in my life where I have so many things vying for my attention that reserving seven hours a week for something that's merely okay does not strike me as a good use of my time. I was willing to go the extra mile and raid in two MMOs at once last autumn because it didn't used to matter if I was feeling a bit grumpy one evening... in a Classic Fork raid, I'd usually be smiling or giggling about something or other within five minutes. People still make me smile sometimes, but not as much - after all, some of the players that were the funniest to me have been victims of the downsizing or disappeared for other reasons. Overall, progression raiding in BC Classic has felt too much like simply going through the motions to me... and that's just not something I've got time for anymore in my hobbies.

25/07/2021

Shitshow at Blizzard

I don't really consider myself a WoW content creator nowadays, though I guess strictly speaking I am, what with having this blog dedicated to WoW... and with that comes this weird feeling of having to make some sort of miniature PR statement on recent events at Blizzard.

At this point, they are sadly no strangers to PR disasters and scandals, but having a government agency file a lawsuit against you for institutional sexism and mistreatment of employees is a whole new level of yikes. It also hits closer to home for me than previous stories, because while I've been lucky enough to never have experienced sexism in a work environment myself, I think every woman past a certain age has at least met men who are somewhat sexist and/or creepy towards women, making it easy to sympathise with just how crappy this situation must have been for the victims.

People are talking about "sending a message" via unsubscribing and if that works for you, great. I can certainly understand the sentiment behind it, but personally it's not for me at this point. I think Taliesin of Taliesin & Evitel once again did the best job at articulating the emotional complexity of a situation like this (though I'm nowhere near as passionate about Blizzard, WoW and its community as he is):

In short:

What do I think about this whole thing? It's horrible, obviously, though it being brought to light is a step in the right direction at least. One can only hope that something good will come from that.

Will I unsubscribe over it? I currently have no plans to do so.

Will I stop blogging about the game? Also no plans to do so currently, though I might take a bit of a break from it, because writing about that funny thing that happened to me in Korthia the other day feels kind of inappropriate/tone-deaf under the current circumstances (to me at least). We'll see how things develop.

19/07/2021

Tier Four Cleared

Well, that was faster than expected. I mean, I always knew that tier four wasn't going to keep even my casual guild progressing for too long, considering that it only consists of Karazhan and three 25-man bosses, but the sheer speed with which we cleared it has still been a surprise to me.

Karazhan was fully clearable for us from day one; a wipe here or there just meant that it initially took too long to clear in a single night, meaning that people had to come back for the last two or three bosses another evening. Still, for the last two weeks, the groups I was in were already pulling off full one-night clears, including Netherspite and Nightbane.

Our first official 25-man raid was two weeks ago. We had a few quick wipes on High King Maulgar (mostly from early mage tank deaths) but once we got that down he was a relatively easy kill. Gruul himself was a somewhat tougher nut to crack, with his combo of RNG and personal responsibility to not wipe the raid during Shatter, but we still managed to kill him that same night as well. We then had a brief look at Magtheridon but didn't get very far. There was supposed to be a follow-up raid dedicated purely to Mag's Lair that same week, but we had to cancel it as we had zero warlocks available that night and the fight just seemed too daunting to progress without one.

This week we returned to clear Gruul's Lair on Wednesday, though the big gronn still required a lot of wipes until we got him down again. Tonight was then dedicated to Magtheridon. I chugged a flask and settled in for a long night, as I still remembered the endless wipes due to people messing up the cube-clicking back in the day... and as far as I recall that was when the fight had already been nerfed to only require ten clickers instead of twenty. BC Classic still has the twenty-clicker version right now.

We had one instant wipe when someone accidentally triggered the fight before we were ready, and then two more where things went wrong early on while killing the channellers. Then Mag himself was finally free and we could start practising our cube-clicking! And believe it or not, all twenty clickers aced their job on the first try and we killed him that very attempt. The overall mood after he died was more one of slight bafflement than joyous victory I think.

At this point I reckon that many people spent a lot more time collecting their pre-raid best-in-slot gear than actually clearing the raids. What now, spend one night a week farming these while slowly working on the Eye attunement chain in preparation for the next phase?

If only there were other things to do in this game than just chasing your BiS gear...

12/07/2021

Chains of Domination Week 2

I didn't think I'd have another post about 9.1 in me (especially not this soon), but it turns out it's kind of neat to actually be able to chip in about current content for a change, so I wanted to share some more of what the husband and I have been in up to in the second week of the patch.

First off (though in reality this was the last thing we did), we unlocked flying in the Shadowlands (minus Oribos and the Maw) and got a snazzy new mount! I was really quite pleased with this as I was just thinking that I didn't really own a flying mount that matched my covenant attire, but then this free owl-gryphon-robot-thing Aquilon came to the rescue!

I also remembered to take a good screenshot for illustration purposes this time.

In the Maw we did the Kyrian and Maldraxxus-themed assaults. The Kyrian one was a bit dull, like the Kyrian themselves (I love how good and noble they are, but let's not kid ourselves about that being fun at parties), though I did like the Venthyr's quest with the teapot (I can never remember the guy's name but keep thinking of him as "the Mad Hatter guy"). Also, the final boss fight of the Kyrian assault was the easiest thing ever; the NPCs basically did most of the work for us and it was over in a flash.

The Maldraxxus assault looked like it was going to be fun based on the quests but was bogged down by being released in a buggy state. Oh, the many cries of: "Eat, Kevin! Eat!" Eventually I googled "wow kevin eat" and someone had posted a workaround for the buggy quest on the forums, but it still ended up taking much longer than it should have and soured us on the experience somewhat (though I really enjoyed riding Kevin afterwards). I was also confused by Mikanikos giving us this Centurion with some very specific abilities but no quest for it? I tried using the ability to destroy thingamabobs anyway, but it didn't seem to work either? Slightly baffling.

Not much news from Korthia other than that we did two more rounds of dailies and completed the weekly quest for Renown to unlock the next bit of story. Again, there was some bugginess here when the husband and I were watching the NPCs do some stuff but for some reason no dialogue was coming up for me; they were just moving around the room. I had to ask whether they were talking and whether I was missing anything important.

The grand finale (spoilers incoming!) featured the reveal of the Shadowlands' worst kept secret, that the Runecarver is the Primus, and us naturally making a mess by inadvertently playing into the Jailer's hands again (what else is new). By the way, I may joke about the thing with the Primus, but in the interest of full disclosure, I had not realised the obvious connection myself until the husband pointed it out to me a little while back.

Finally, we did a round of Torghast since we'd been given a quest to go there and we had a calling that required us to do a run as well, so we decided "why not". I've previously posted about how the husband and I had decent fun in Torghast, playing in our casual way and visiting it once a week at most, and I was slightly apprehensive about the changes I'd heard were coming to it with 9.1. The removal of the death counter was fine of course, but the addition of these new "torment" debuffs and a timer/scoring system did not sound fun to me at all.

The reality was... okay I guess. The shortening to five floors actually felt slightly odd because it ruined the symmetry of having a broker on the third and sixth floor. Torments were indeed annoying - we got one that caused elite enemies to spawn spinny balls of death while in combat, which forced us to run around like headless chickens and made killing things as a tank/healer combo even slower than it had been before. But the whole timer/scoring thing wasn't that bad because we were basically able to ignore it. When the empowerment button lit up, we used it, but other than that we didn't care. In the end the game awarded us three out of five stars gems for a perfect run in terms of thoroughness (having killed and looted everything), which just tells me that the timer requirements to get five gems must be way out of our league if we basically lost two for being slow. But I guess we can keep coming back to try and unlock the new layers and fill out the new tower knowledge talent tree a bit.

06/07/2021

Lonely in a Crowd

Burning Crusade is mostly remembered for its intricate raid attunements and the raids themselves feeling pretty hard at the time, but the classic version has been a reminder for me that it actually also did loads to expand the endgame for non-raiders. I've said before that I defy the notion that the vanilla endgame was all about raiding, but I'll fully admit that most activities outside of raiding didn't reward great gear and were mostly pretty undirected. This changed massively in Burning Crusade.

Regular quests were increased in number and gave more and better rewards, so that you had lots left to do after levelling up and could fully kit out your character in a decent set of gear purely from quest rewards. Once you were done with that, the game introduced what would soon become a staple of the whole genre: the daily quest, a straightforward, repeatable source of money if you had no other quests left to do and didn't really know how or care to make money by farming materials for other people.

Reputations went from a somewhat random feature that didn't really do much or anything at all in most cases (What was meant to be the point of Steamwheedle Cartel reputation anyway?) to a massive gameplay focus, with lots of new reputations that had vendors in obvious locations and offered amazing rewards at higher reputation levels.

Crafting became insanely powerful - I heard someone say the other day that they thought crafting in Burning Crusade was the best that WoW's crafting has ever been and I'm not sure many people would agree with that, but it did allow you to create gear that was as good if not better than a lot of raid gear if you were willing to invest the time into grinding out those skill levels.

Dungeons became more accessible, straightforward and farmable, and heroic dungeons were meant to offer a proper alternative to raiding.

Sadly I've come to realise over the past month that I don't care all that much about any of that in isolation. I mean, it's fine, these things are good ways to pass the time if you have nothing else to do... but frankly, I do have other things to do. I'm finding myself oddly close to my position back at the start of 2020, when I felt like I was "done" with levelling my night elf hunter and could only get myself to log in sporadically to work on some random goal or other.

But Shintar, you might say, I thought you were hyped for doing BC dungeons with your guildies? Whatever happened to that? Aren't you all caught up now and able to run with the other 70s? The answer is... that it's not what I expected.

Simply put, people aren't running dungeons the way they used to. I remember BC dungeons as these adventures with my friends that we did just because it was fun and to maybe help a particular person get a piece of gear or complete a quest. I don't remember them as these hyper-efficient affairs that are focused on checking as many boxes in as little time as possible, so I'm not nearly as charmed by hastily assembled pugs that are in and out within less than an hour and then never speak to you again. Or even runs with guildies that just want to repeat the same dungeon five times in a row to reach some goal of theirs as soon as possible and then want to move on and never come back. Yes, it gets things done, but it lacks soul.

I knew that WoW evolved towards appealing mainly to achiever types over the years, but I guess I'd never realised how much of that already started in BC, probably because player attitudes took a while to change. As someone who identifies primarily as a socialiser/explorer, it's just an incredibly sad affair. The best time I've had playing Classic BC in the last couple of weeks has been when I did the Blade's Edge quests with a friend. It was not efficient and way down on the totem pole in terms of upgrading my character's gear (earning some gold is always useful I guess, but not exactly a priority when you're not saving up for a specific upgrade), but it was fun. We read the quests, were surprised by things we didn't remember (very well) and joked about how much sense the tasks we were being given made or didn't make in context. I'm just not sure that sort of quest session every once in a while is going to be enough for me.

I've really been struggling to articulate this as well... I've had this cloud hanging over my head almost since BC started, but I thought that maybe it was just the changes happening to the guild and feelings of FOMO. But honestly, I wasn't nearly as fazed by player churn back in Classic, and in regards to the FOMO I sadly had to realise that catching up didn't help. I thought I wasn't getting to experience the things I wanted to experience because I was falling behind, but the truth is they weren't going to happen anyway.

Nobody was dying for me to join them at 70. Everyone's busy working on their checklists, and when it comes to dungeons, it's a dog-eat-dog world for damage dealers, where if you want to get into any runs, you have to be online 24/7 in order to be able to shout "me" within seconds as soon as a tank comes online and a dps spot opens up somewhere. From a utilitarian standpoint, I'm but one in a now endless sea of FOTM hunters. It's a bit of a running gag in the guild that people can't even remember my name and will call me by some other hunter's name, and I know that it's not malicious, but right now, on top of everything else... it does kind of sting.

I guess it turns out that my friendships with most of the guild apparently aren't as good as I maybe thought they were. This isn't to diss anyone or make them feel like a bad friend, because it's normal for bonds to strengthen or weaken as people's paths cross and diverge. It's just that... original Classic had us on the same wavelength a lot more often I guess. With all the "good stuff" requiring lots of people, there was nearly always room for more. Now whenever I log in, everyone's always already busy chasing some of their many personal goals, and while I'm sure many people would absolutely be willing to group up with me if I asked emphatically enough, I don't want to drag anyone away from what they really want to do, because getting my own objectives done over theirs isn't the point.

I am oddly reminded of the early days of Cataclysm, when I found myself somewhat frustrated by the fact that while the new dungeons were great fun in a guild group and often less so in pugs, everybody just pressed the dungeon finder queue button the moment they logged in because waiting for other guildies to come online was inconvenient. It was particularly tragic when we had what would have been a full guild group online within ten minutes, but of course the queues for tanks and healers were shorter than that so the people playing those roles had already been whisked away to some random pug. There may not be a dungeon finder in Classic BC, but with how focused and efficient modern players are, the LFG channel hardly takes much longer a lot of the time.

We'll see how 25-man raiding goes, which is supposed to officially kick off this week (somehow I managed to make it into the core team by the skin of my teeth). I also retain some hope that maybe things will settle down a bit over time as people run out of things to do (as weird as that may sound). As I mentioned before, things seemed pretty crazy at Classic launch as well; I just wasn't that close to the endgame part of that so I don't really know what it was like. Maybe everyone was also always busy spamming Stratholme for their pre-BiS gear? I don't know. It does seem like BC will continue the trend of giving people lots of solo goals to chase though, what with the introduction of more dailies/reputations with every patch as well as new tiers of badge gear. Plus anyone who seemed to be getting close to being "done" with things on their main so far has then immediately started all over again on an alt.

I'm just kind of sad that this is where I find myself one month into the Classic expansion I was looking forward to the most. I don't want to blame my guildies for enjoying the game in a different way than me. And blaming Blizzard for making the content more solo and small-group focused (more than a decade after the fact no less) seems silly. The obvious solution would be for me to be online more, put myself out there and work on earning more of my guildies' time to be more than just another nameless hunter, but... I just don't have that kind of time and energy anymore. I thought that after nearly a year in the guild I had earned some recognition, but it seems Outland means starting over from scratch on that front as well and I just... can't.

05/07/2021

Casual 9.1 Impressions

As mentioned previously, the husband and I more or less abandoned our current retail mains as we ran out of things we wanted to do on them and have been focusing on our demon hunter alts since then. With the release of the patch, it was time to get back to the warrior/monk duo however to check out the new content.

First off, I gotta say it was a bit weird that as champions of Bastion, we had to go to Oribos to be told that something terrible had happened to the Archon. Couldn't they have told us at home?

Anyway, it took us about three hours to plod through the introductory quest chain together and it was... pretty neat? There were some nice cut scenes and I was pleasantly surprised by how much ground the story covered, such as having that callback to Odyn and Helya - good thing we've been playing Legion content recently or I wouldn't have known who these guys are (beyond obvious Norse mythology knock-offs). Killing the Eye of the Jailer was cool, even if the fight was kind of annoying. To be honest I'd always thought of the Eye as something metaphorical, not a literal giant eyeball that you could fight to blind the Jailer!

Nonetheless we felt kind of exhausted and like we hadn't actually achieved very much by the end of the quest chain. I find it hard to say why... I do find the current story interesting but... I guess not that emotionally engaging? It all feels a bit too removed from my character to be honest. It's a very stark contrast to the Legion content, where the stakes were always blindingly obvious. I mean, the whole reason we went to the Shadowlands was to rescue a bunch of important people, which we did except for Anduin - but he's corrupted now so he's kind of a write-off unless you're a big fan I guess?

We also learned that the "machinery of death" is broken, which is obviously a big deal, but beyond being mad at the Jailer because he's the obvious benefactor and likely to be behind it all, we haven't really tried to find out more about how to fix it (unless I missed some important plot points somewhere, which is not impossible). So now it's all this NPC soap opera about Tyrande vs. Sylvanas, the corruption of Anduin etc. - which again, isn't uninteresting but I'm not sure why my character would care that much about any of these guys. They're important lore characters, but they're not my friends.

Anyway, we picked up our first weekly fill-the-bar quest in Korthia and did an Ardenweald assault in the Maw and it was... okay I guess, if a bit buggy. For example the final boss fight took forever since it seems to be tuned around having all the friendly NPCs help you, but they just followed us around like sheep and refused to attack anything. I also didn't really enjoy the part where you have to sneak around with Lady Moonberry to free your captured companions - I got thrown back to the start so many times it was frustrating. Some of it was just me being bad at this particular mini-game, but things like other players being able to distract the eyes onto you, or outside mobs aggroing on you in your defenseless vehicle mode if you accidentally cross the area border didn't help.

We were also a bit put out that completing that first assault only counted for 25% of our bar progression because having to do four of them each week sounded like a lot, but it later turned out that the rest of the bar fills up pretty quickly anyway if you just do the Korthia dailies and make sure to run towards any shinies you spot on the mini map while doing so. We were also lucky in that we were able to do another assault the next day - I found out via Gnomecore's blog that assaults only reset once halfway through the week, but we had basically caught the Ardenweald one at its very tail end, so the next day a Venthyr-themed one was up instead. I thought that one was a lot more fun personally.

The husband was oddly down on the whole experience, moaning that he'd expected more than "just another daily area". It was very strange for me to end up being the one to defend retail WoW, but this sort of content is its bread and butter, isn't it? At least from my limited first impressions, it seems to do a good job at being what it's meant to be and strikes a good balance between giving you distinct tasks and offering "explorable" content to discover while working on the former.

As our characters were also sitting around only item level 200, every gear reward we got was an upgrade, so that felt good as well. I like the idea of having this new bit of content to work on with the husband now that playing a bit of retail has become part of our weekly routine. About the worst thing I can say is that Korthia is visually somewhat drab, but then we are still in WoW's version of hell, so you can't really expect it to look very welcoming.

I was looking for a nice screenshot to illustrate this post, but found that the only thing I'd taken a picture of was me being transformed into a mushroom person after ingesting a questionable mushroom. It's a running joke between me and the husband that I'll click on anything that the game will let me click on, even if it's some sort of edible that's marked as poisonous. He's not wrong, but I have no regrets. Except for spam-healing myself for 20 minutes after I ate that cheese in LOTRO when I could have just died and lost nothing.

30/06/2021

Trap Dance

I realise my last few posts have sounded a bit maudlin, but lest you think that I'm feeling entirely disillusioned with Classic BC, I'd like to talk about something that's been exactly as much fun as I remembered, if not more so: doing heroics as a hunter.

At the time of writing this I've unlocked access to heroics for three of the five dungeon factions and completed five heroic runs so far: Ramparts times two, and one each of Slave Pens, Shattered Halls and Black Morass. All of them have been successful and all of them have been highly enjoyable.

I'm not someone who needs everything to be challenging for it to be fun, but Burning Crusade heroics did offer a challenge that I used to find very enjoyable back in the day. It's very simple really: Everything hits so hard that you can't just tank everything, you have to use some sort of crowd control, at least at this stage in the game (it'll probably be different once everyone's kitted out in tier six gear). And I love being one of the people to provide it.

Hunter traps were never the most popular form of CC in Classic, and for good reason. They are very versatile in the sense that unlike things like sheep, shackle etc. they aren't limited to a specific mob type, but also unlike any other form of CC, they can't just be cast on the target from range - instead you need to manoeuvre the enemy into the trap, which can be challenging with ranged attackers in particular. Traps also have a medium-length cooldown that is longer than the actual trap duration, meaning that you can't just keep re-applying them seamlessly. In OG Classic, traps could also only be placed out of combat, which meant that if you wanted to re-trap a mob after combat had started, you needed to feign death, hope it wasn't resisted and be really quick with laying down that new trap (or have a macro). It was definitely awkward.

In Burning Crusade however, traps can now be placed in combat as well, making chain-trapping much easier, and Marksmanship spec has also been given the talented ability Silencing Shot, which makes it possible to move caster mobs around even when there isn't a convenient corner around which to break line of sight. I decided to defy the Beast Mastery meta in order to have access to this utility as well as to keep my beloved Scatter Shot, and in short, I've been having a blast!

I just enjoy that feeling of being able to handle a dangerous mob by myself, controlling and perhaps even slowly killing it without ever letting it touch me. I don't think it's really difficult given the amount of tools available to me, but there's still some skill involved when it comes to knowing when and where to place your traps to make sure the cooldown is up again at the right time and you don't end up with the wrong mob accidentally triggering the trap, or with a whack to the face if the trap gets resisted or breaks early. Even with the small number of heroics that I've done, I've had several people express admiration for the ease and confidence with which I keep my CC target under control for however long is required.

But even when I'm not being asked to CC anything, I find useful things to do, such as looking after my healer. It's something a hunter friend made me appreciate back in Vanilla when I was the one doing the healing and which I've since always strived to emulate when playing a hunter myself. Being a ranged dps, it's natural for you to hang back with the healer, and it means that you can serve as the first line of defense if a mob breaks loose and gets attracted by healing aggro. A quick Scatter Shot or trap dropped in front of the healer (even if you weren't meant to CC that mob) can buy valuable seconds to give the tank time to get the situation back under control and makes your healer feel loved and cared for. (Plus it could make the difference between survival and a wipe!) It's just something I really enjoy.

Finally, let's not forget that Burning Crusade also gave hunters Misdirection, aka the ability to transfer the threat of three attacks to someone else every two minutes, which is a great way of helping the tank establish a threat lead on a boss, or when combined with multi-shot on trash, can help non-paladin tanks with initial AoE aggro.

Basically hunters don't just do good dps in BC, but they are a great utility class in dungeons, particularly heroics, and I'm finding that to be even more fun than I remembered. Now if only I can get those last two attunements done...

19/06/2021

The Karazhan Rollercoaster

I didn't mark the date, but I think my hunter hit level 70 the day after my previous post. That means that in reality, only a few days have passed since then, but somehow it feels much longer already. Time in Outland seems to flow faster somehow, with people achieving within hours what took me days or even weeks to do back in the day.

Those not yet level 70 feel they're already miles behind those who are. Those who only just hit 70 feel they're miles behind those who've already maxed out their reputations. Those who've already maxed out their reputations are (probably, I have no idea) wishing that everyone would stop accusing them of no-lifing just because they're enjoying the game and have a lot of free time. Either way, there's constant tension in the air, or that's how it feels to me at least. It might be that I'm projecting, but let's just say I've been in similar situations before...

It's funny actually, because the other day I thought to myself in slight exasperation: What happened to the Classic community? I don't remember people fretting so much at original Classic launch! But then I immediately paused and realised that I was lying to myself. People were like this at original Classic launch too; I was just in a different place myself.

I was a social member in a guild where I didn't really know anyone and was perfectly happy to trundle along at my own pace, but even from my very limited point of view I could see that some new sort of drama erupted pretty much every week, about how people were supposedly forming cliques that only helped each other, or accusations of the guild being too casual or hardcore relative to its mission statement (yes, there were people complaining from both ends). Remind you of anyone you know? It just feels a bit like some kind of blow-up is inevitable sooner or later.

Anyway, to get back to my actual story, I hit 70 in a beautifully chill way, by helping a druid healer from the guild complete the Nesingwary chain in Nagrand. One of the rewards is a nice healing idol, but he found the idea of slaughtering 100+ mobs by himself in healing spec a bit daunting. Good thing I'm always happy to help out with killing things that I can skin.

The first official Kara sign-up appeared on the guild website around that time. I felt a bit wistful and asked if anyone was up for the Arcatraz (which was the attunement step I was on) but got no responses. I was happy to leave it until later, but then a friendly raid tank whispered me and asked if I'd got a group yet. I said no and he offered to join. A few more friendly souls followed and much to my own surprise, I got the last two instances in the chain done in no time. The key to Karazhan was mine!

I added my name to the guild sign-up and it brought the number of signed characters to exactly twenty. I had a quick look at people's roles and we seemed to have a good balance of tanks and healers as well. Yes, we could run two Kara teams right away and it was going to be great!

My excitement turned out to be premature though, as the officers ended up fiddling with the sign-ups and moving one group to Thursday to accommodate some people that couldn't make the Wednesday... but this of course meant that now some of the Wednesday sign-ups wouldn't get to go, and that included me. I'm sure there was some sort of logic to it, but since it wasn't really fully transparent and the sheet had looked like my sign-up had been "just in time" to get into the second group, I was bummed. Yeah, a day ago I'd thought that I wasn't going to get to run Kara at all, but somehow getting the key quest done and then being sat out was worse. This wasn't like being on the bench for Naxx either, where there was some rotation and you earned EP for being online. It was just a simple "no run for you" sign.

I always knew that something like this was likely to happen since we were unlikely to end up with the exact number of sign-ups for multiple ten-man teams with no spares and that it wasn't personal, but that didn't make it feel any better to be benched for the very first official guild Kara.

I felt rejected and poked someone in another guild whose community runs I'd joined a couple of times in Classic to ask if they were running Kara too and maybe had any spots this week. The first response was a maybe, with the caveat that they couldn't make any promises, but the next day I got confirmation that I was definitely in, and I was hyped again.

So I ended up doing my very first Karazhan run... with a different guild. It was actually very nice. They kept a good pace but everyone was friendly and joking around. They also had a priest with a name that was abbreviated to "Shin", which confused the hell out of me every time they were called out on voice chat.

That first night we killed all the bosses bar Shade of Aran and Netherspite (well, and Nightbane I guess since nobody had an urn yet). We actually one-shot everything except Maiden, on whom we had one wipe when we tried to step into her Consecration just in time to be broken out of the AoE stun, but the timers were off and she ended up chaining half the raid to death the moment we got too close instead. We wiped three times on Aran, who was much harder than I remembered, and then moved on to chess and Prince since leadership didn't want to make it too late. We came back to kill Shade and Netherspite the next night. I also got extremely lucky with loot, getting boots from Moroes, legs from Netherspite and the shiny Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle from opera. Above all though, I felt welcomed and appreciated, as they were very glad to have me along to fill their open raid spot, which made for a lovely soothing balm for my bruised ego.

But now... I don't really know what comes next. I signed up for next week's guild run, but there's been no word on whether they'll make any sort of attempt to rotate people. Even if I get in this time, someone else who gets asked to sit out may end up kicking off. There's also been more news about the 25-man raids and based on what's been said, there's a good chance I might not even make the cut for those. Nothing's set in stone yet, but let's just say that at the moment things don't look too good for me. It would be the ultimate irony if, after being dragged into raiding in Classic despite having no plans to do so, I'll end up getting kicked to the curb in the expansion in which I really did want to raid.

Regardless of what's going to happen, I don't want to be caught off-guard, so I have a lot of thinking to do about what I really want out of this game and what I should be doing if things end up going south. While I know that expansion launches are always a time of upheaval, I have to admit that this particular situation is not one I expected to find myself in.