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.


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.


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.