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.


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...


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.


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.


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.