27/09/2022

Why Play a "Static" MMO?

A couple of weeks ago, a newer member of my era guild asked on Discord what it was that kept people playing Classic era. Surely everyone had "done it all" multiple times over by this point. I found people's responses very interesting to read.

The question of why one should invest in an MMO that isn't going to receive any more content updates is one I've seen brought up many times before - heck, people were raising it in the run-up to Classic, before it was confirmed that there was going to be progression into Burning Crusade.

Honestly, I've always found that concern a bit weird. I get that new content is exciting, and that a big update always generates a lot of interest, but surely you don't specifically play to experience some unknown future updates? I thought we played because we were enjoying the here and now? People revisit old games, films and books all the time, and you wouldn't consider that strange just because there isn't a sequel in the works, would you?

Often there seems to be a worry of getting invested in a game in which you might eventually run out of things to do, but this is coming from the same people who rarely spend more than a month at a time in any new MMO anyway. If you're having fun now, why does it matter? Running out of things to do is a problem for much, much later, not to mention that most people get bored before they've done everything anyway.

In addition, I think many people who ask these kinds of questions overestimate how much time everyone else spends playing. Let's assume it takes about ten days /played to level a character to 60 in OG Classic. (Yes, I know it can be done faster, but let's assume a more casual approach that isn't super-optimised and includes some idling as well as spending time on non-levelling activities such as professions.) Even if you play forty hours a week, levelling a single character to 60 will take you six weeks. If you play twenty hours a week, it'll be three months. If you take things super casually and only play four hours each weekend, it will take you over a year just to level a single character from one to 60, and at that point you haven't even touched endgame or created a single alt. Suddenly it shouldn't sound so strange that there are plenty of people who weren't "done" with Classic by the time it progressed into Burning Crusade, considering that it lasted for less than two years in total. Era provides a home for those who couldn't keep up with that pace but still wanted to keep playing.

And there are things that era offers that you can't get in any other version of WoW. I personally didn't mind the themes of Burning Crusade, but if you liked Warcraft in its original, mostly traditional fantasy state (without space goats etc.), it doesn't get any closer to that than Classic era. It's also "sandboxy" enough that people are pretty good at coming up with their own challenges and making their own content. There's a server community on era that's closer to the way community worked in Vanilla than you'll find anywhere in current Classic. And I know many people hated 40-man raids, but some weirdos (like me) really liked the bigger raid sizes and you can't get those in any other version of WoW either.

I have to say that even without further updates, I'm really not worried about running out of things to do in Classic era. I have limited hours to play and don't spend them solely on WoW, so just looking at my current stable of characters I feel like just levelling and gearing them all is something that could keep me busy for many years to come. And if I do eventually get bored of it... so what? If Blizzard stick to their plan of maintaining era indefinitely, I can just take a break and come back to it later whenever the nostalgia cravings hit me. Unlike in a progressive MMO, taking a break won't mean that on returning you discover that suddenly, everything is different and you're massively behind. For some of us, that's a feature, not a bug.

And yes, I did it again.

23/09/2022

The (Lack of) Allure of Classic Wrath

Ever since I decided that I definitely wasn't going to bother with Wrath of the Lich King Classic, I haven't really been keeping up with the latest news about it. However, with the launch being only a few days away now, it's been kind of hard to escape the subject as someone who's still involved with and plays other versions of WoW.

My old levelling buddy decided to resubscribe and run endless AVs on all his alts to gear them up just before the expansion, which has been kind of baffling to me. Bloggers I follow who don't always play WoW have jumped back into Classic for the Wrath pre-patch. Blizzard's promotional emails have been trying to lure me in with interesting behind-the-scenes videos about subjects such as designing the continent of Northrend, death knight class design, or the making of the Wrathgate cinematic.

WoW's official social media accounts have seemingly been all Classic, all the time for the past week or so. Today I marvelled when they shared a video called "Wrath of the Lich King Classic Journey Trailer", which looks pretty amazing. I learned that it was done by a fan called Hurricane, whose work I'd actually encountered years ago in promotional materials for the private server Kronos, such as this AQ trailer. His style is very distinctive as he drains a lot of the colour out of his videos (presumably to make WoW look more "serious" or adult), which is actually an artistic choice I don't agree with as I think WoW's bright colours are a big part of its charm, but that aside he definitely does some fantastic work and it was actually nice to learn who'd created all these amazing clips that I'd seen previously.

To get back to the subject of Wrath however, Blizzard is even offering people a free mount for retail if they complete the death knight starter zone in Classic... and I have to admit that was probably what pushed me over the edge. I mean, I'm playing retail at least casually now, right? And getting a throwaway death knight through the starting zone takes like no time at all, right? So I re-installed Wrath Classic today and created a night elf death knight on my old home Hydraxian Waterlords. The server was actually meant to be on the chopping block back in August, but for some reason Blizzard changed their minds about that, and after previously emptying the server out by offering free transfers away from it, there are now free transfers available onto it from selected realms. Have I mentioned yet that Blizzard have really fucked up managing server populations in Classic?

Anyway, I was actually surprised to find the server not completely dead, with some chatter going on in the LFG channel, including some server personalities whose names I recognised from back in the day but who I thought had transferred away. Still, I wasn't here to socialise but rather to get a job done.

I'm kind of relieved to say that the whole experience did not leave me with an overwhelming urge to suddenly play Wrath Classic after all. I know people are gaga over death knights because of how OP they were at launch, but for me the class never really did that much personally, probably because melee dps is my least favourite role. I mean, it felt okay to play, but not amazing.

In a similar vein, I can appreciate on an intellectual level that the death knight starting zone is a pretty well-crafted experience, but playing through it doesn't exactly fill me with joy - or any other emotion really. (Except that part where you have to execute the prisoner; that one still tugs at my heart strings every time, not gonna lie.)

Instead, I often found myself cynically noticing small flaws or inconsistencies, such as that several quest givers addressed my character as "Unknown" (but who reads quest text anyway, right), or that the Battle of Light's Hope Chapel was a rather annoying affair in practical terms that involved mobs getting punted all over the place and evading all the time. When I arrived in Elwynn Forest, I also had to chuckle at the fact that Brewfest was being celebrated right next to a Scourge invasion. The descent into nonsense starts with small things...

Anyway, I got my mount and I'm glad I satisfied my curiosity. All the hype was starting to affect me, but that little play session was a good reminder that I decided not to get invested in Wrath Classic for good reasons. I hope that those who do decide to play it have fun, though I maintain my suspicion that a large chunk of the community will soon find out that what many consider WoW at its peak does perhaps not hold up as well on repeat as they remember. But I guess we'll see.

18/09/2022

Horde Master Angler

Two years ago, I wrote about my trials and tribulations related to winning the Stranglethorn fishing tournament in Classic. I then won it a second time the next year, when Classic era had just split off from BC and I decided to participate again on a whim. However, after that, I didn't really give it much thought again.

Several weeks ago now, I was doing the pirate quests in Stranglethorn on my tauren druid when I noticed a fishing pool in an unusual location. A closer look revealed it to be a school of Tastyfish - I was surprised to see them spawn on the eastern side of Stranglethorn, but it did serve to remind me of the event, and that now that I was playing era again, it might be worth revisiting. About an hour later I was questing in another part of Stranglethorn when the victory yell for the tournament went out - yes, you read that correctly, more than an hour later. My reaction was pretty much: What? It took over an hour for someone to win this thing? I should be able to win pretty much by default then!

Naturally it wasn't much later that I decided to revive my old routine of setting my hearthstone to Booty Bay late on Saturday and positioning my hunter on the coast to be ready for Sunday's tournament - only this time on Horde side.

In case you were wondering though... I did not win on my first try. That time the tournament took over an hour must have been a fluke or something, as when I actually tried to take part again, it was over after only eighteen minutes and I'd only just crossed the twenty fish mark. But hey, I'd learned enough from last time to know that there was a lot of RNG to the contest and that I was capable of winning it if I only kept trying.

Since I hadn't had a lot of good luck in the lower half of Stranglethorn, I decided to revisit my old hunting grounds north of Grom'gol this Sunday. While I waited for the tournament to start, a level 60 undead warrior not from my guild rode up and killed a nearby crocolisk. I just stared at them - I didn't want to be rude, but I'd claimed this spot first. Eventually they moved south a bit.

When the Tastyfish started spawning, I started fishing as usual. The warrior provided competition for a little while, but when we reached Grom'gol, I decided to turn back around while they continued further south. The northern coast always seemed to have fewer pools than the southern one, but I didn't remember it being quite so barren - I'm guessing that the lower number of participants also resulted in a slower respawn rate for pools all over the zone. Rather suddenly it also started to rain really heavily, and while I'm generally rather fond of the weather effects in Classic, I actually had a bit of trouble seeing the edges of the pools in the downpour.

I was doing terribly with catching "junk" fish as well, so that I quickly resigned myself to the idea that this week wasn't going to be a win either, but of course I kept going. I remembered from past contests that the average duration until someone claimed victory was about twenty minutes, so I kept looking for the giveaway yell from about eighteen minutes past the hour. However, it didn't come.

The spawn rate of pools seemed to pick up and my numbers were starting to look better and better. I'd been pretty chill about the whole thing until then, but with only three fish to go my heart started to race a bit. I began to provide running commentary to my husband, who was as usual perpetually bewildered by how much fishing could excite me. "I hope that someone wins soon, because if I get forty fish, hearth, and then they beat me that'll feel pretty crappy."

I was on thirty-nine fish with one more cast to go before exhausting my current pool. I cursed when my last cast resulted in an Oily Blackmouth and quickly continued to the next pool, which fortunately wasn't far away. My first cast there netted me my fortieth Tastyfish, and I hit my hearthstone to return to Booty Bay.

I ran out of the inn and didn't see anyone already there. I clicked on the goblin when I suddenly saw a male human warrior come up next to me (incidentally, I recognised the name as he'd been in my paladin's ZG run on Monday). For just a second, I panicked and struggled to find the right reward to click on, but I managed to complete the hand-in in time to be declared this week's Master Angler. The warrior did a /cry emote on me. The crappy situation I had been so keen to avoid had now happened to him. I gave him a /pat in return.

So now my tauren hunter is properly armed to engage in high-level fishing with her Arcanite Fishing Pole. As a bonus, she also caught the rare fish that rewards the High Eternium Fishing Line during this contest. Now who to take next? Maybe my paladin...

16/09/2022

Three Short Classic Tales

Monday

I've been trying to look into some guilds on Alliance side, not because I'm in any way unhappy with my Horde guild, but because I figure I've got all these high-level characters on Alliance, it would be nice to be able to also take them out for a spin at least occasionally. I've been finding it more difficult than expected to find a good fit, but that's really a story for another day. The point is that I finally did my first era raid on Alliance side on Monday!

It was a bit of a weird evening as there was nothing in particular going on in SWTOR, my Horde guild had no event on, this Alliance guild I'd been watching had no event on, and the Alliance guild I had just joined on my hunter and pally was running Naxx, for which you (understandably) have to be vetted in another raid first. But hey, the local French guild was hosting an MC pug! I decided to sign up on my holy paladin Sarelle, since they seemed to be short on healers and there's some good healing loot in MC that was potentially going to be useful for her, and then parked myself in Blackrock Mountain well ahead of time.

Unfortunately, when I logged in just before raid time, there were only a small number of people there, and there was some talk about going to Zul'gurub instead since there weren't enough sign-ups. I whispered one of the organisers for confirmation and sadly that was indeed what was happening. I spent about a minute quietly pouting to myself. I had got myself all hyped up for MC! Did I even want to go to ZG? Plus there may not have been "enough" sign-ups for MC, but there were more than twenty, so not everyone would get to raid now anyway.

Then I wondered what else I was going to do that evening and whispered the guy again to ask for an invite to ZG after all. Fortunately Sarelle's hearthstone was still set to Booty Bay for world buff reasons from back in the olden days, so it was easy enough to get down there.

And honestly... it was a nice enough run! We didn't do Edge of Madness and the fish boss, but the pace was good and we only had one wipe on the trash leading up to Mandokir when we somehow got overwhelmed by those life-draining trolls and they slowly wore us down.

It was a bit odd to raid with a group of primarily French people though - they asked everyone to join Discord, but apart from the occasional instruction in English such as "sheep diamond" all the chatter was in French so that I didn't really understand most of it. I did find myself thinking that for someone like me who really values the banter during raids, this was not an optimal solution. At the same time I'll say that even though I didn't understand most of it, the French chatter generally sounded pretty upbeat, and the overall mood did feel good as a result.

I didn't win any boss loot, but a BoE world epic dropped on trash, I won it and was able to sell it on the AH for a couple hundred gold, so I certainly can't complain.

Tuesday

Tuesday was an office day for me, which meant that I came home late and very tired. Even so I still did a BWL clean-up and my first Onyxia with my Horde guild. Sadly the latter didn't drop the sinew I needed for my bow, however I did win both her head and the hunter tier helm. As I said to my guildies: one dragon head to hold and one to put on my head. As they were continuing to Naxx afterwards, I bowed out at that point and popped over to my little rogue on Alliance side.

I quickly decided that I was too tired to do anything "proper" but she had a bunch of breadcrumb quests to talk to people in different zones, so I figured I could just do a bit of running around before bed time. I was just emerging into Stormwind from the Deeprun Tram, when the GM of the little social guild I joined asked whether anyone wanted to join for a Stockades run.

I've mentioned in the past how I'm not too fond of dungeon boosting, but context matters and it seemed serendipitous that he had one spot left and had popped the question just as I'd arrived in Stormwind after not spending any time there in weeks. So I joined and got two quick runs through the Stockades which effectively earned me a "free" level before going to bed. Really can't complain.

Wednesday

After another office day I was once again not feeling up to much, so I just logged through a few characters to check on their mail, auctions etc. However, as I did so on Horde side, a guildie piped up that Azuregos was up and they were forming a group for it. I learned last time that Horde claiming an Azuregos kill as the minority faction is a rare occasion, so I wanted to help out even though I didn't need anything from him anymore.

I hopped on a Windrider from Orgrimmar (getting to Azuregos is one occasion where Horde has it sooo much easier than Alliance) and soon a bunch of us were assembled around the big blue dragon. It took us a while to kill him, but we did manage and a number of people were able to claim some nice loot.

I really like how Classic has these kind of slow and not too rewarding activities that involve a lot of running around, meaning you have reasons to be online and do stuff, but at the same time it's easy to abandon what you're doing in favour of some more exciting group activity without feeling like you're losing out.

09/09/2022

The Horde Onyxia Attunement Really Sucks

If you raided as Horde in Vanilla or Classic, you're probably going "duh, no shit", but I've got to say that as someone who didn't, working my way through that quest chain over the course of the last few weeks has certainly been... something.

I technically did it once before, back in late Wrath when I was working on my Loremaster achievement, but at that point it was soloable (I think?) so it wasn't quite the same. Yet I noted even then that it was "tedious and annoying". (Real shame that YouTube's removal of annotations broke Wowcrendor's epic recreation of the quest in interactive video form.)

Doing it at level though, with all the grouping requirements intact (and on era, where getting groups for anything other than whatever raids your guild has set up that week is extra tough) - that was something else entirely. I used to think that the Alliance version with its repeat visits to BRD and the inclusion of Jail Break was pretty demanding, but that quest chain has nothing on its Horde equivalent. At least people have various incentives to go back to BRD for other reasons.

On Horde side, things start relatively innocuous with a quest from the Badlands that basically asks you to do a full run of Lower Blackrock Spire. There's some demand for that, but compared to BRD the loot's a bit naff to be honest, so there's less interest than in BRD.

Then Thrall asks you to do Upper Blackrock Spire and kill Rend. This is immediately a big step up, as it's a ten-man and one with an annoying key quest of its own. My experience with this on era has been that there are always alts that need it for one reason or another, but nobody wants to be the one to deal with the hassle of putting the group together. Good thing I'm confident enough about what's needed at this point that this hasn't stopped me...

Anyway, you kill Rend, give everyone in Orgrimmar a nice world buff, and then get sent to seek out Rexxar. This step became the stuff of legends due to the fact that Rexxar's pathing takes him through no fewer than three zones, meaning that it can require quite a time-consuming ride to even find and talk to him. (I'll admit though that I was lucky in this regard as he was always pretty close to Shadowprey Village when I went to look for him.)

Rexxar sends you to a gnome called Myranda the Hag in Western Plaguelands (the same one that makes your Scarlet Crusade disguise for the Tyrion Fordring quest chain) and she asks you to go back to UBRS and kill the dragonspawn there as their eyes are needed for her illusion spell. I'm not sure if you can do this in a single run if nobody else is on the quest or whether it requires multiple runs regardless, but fortunately the eyes also drop in Blackwing Lair (even though that's not specified in the quest) and I got all of mine after two runs of that place.

With your newly acquired disguise, you chat to the dragon Emberstrife (the same one you have to mind-control to make the UBRS key) and he tells you to kill three elite dragons of enemy flights residing in different corners of the world. This is probably the worst part of the chain simply because it has no other purpose than for this attunement, so you need to find a bunch of people who are on the exact same step as you at the exact same time, or ask someone else for help who'll basically have to donate their time at zero benefit to them. The dragons are sufficiently tough that you can't solo them at level sixty either, not even with great gear.

Anyway, this was the step on which I probably stalled the longest, because nobody was responding on Discord when I asked whether anyone else needed the quest, and I just hated the thought of asking people to come help me just for the sake of it. The other night I finally gave in and popped the question anyway, and I felt very touched by how many people were happy to help. I was kind of lucky with my timing as well, as people were talking about Onyxia for some other reason just as I logged in, so it was easy to turn that into a segue: "Speaking of Onyxia..."

Anyway, while I really appreciated the help, the insanely long time it took to complete this step made me feel pretty guilty to be honest. My hearthstone came off cooldown twice just doing this quest, which means that it took over two hours! Not only do you have to swap continents again to get all three dragons, one of them is at the back of a cave full of elites (I'd completely forgotten about that part), and once you're finally ready to hand in to Emberstrife, he gives you a fourth quest to kill another elite dragon in the Wetlands. Why he couldn't give you that one at the same time as the other three and required that extra step of coming back to talk to him again, I have no idea.

So you travel to the Wetlands, kill a red dragon there, go back to Emberstrife again, then back to Rexxar again, and then Rexxar asks you to run UBRS again, for what must be your third or fourth time at this point, and it's only after this that you earn your very own Drakefire Amulet.

In a nutshell, this quest requires you to run LBRS once, UBRS multiple times, requires the killing of four different elite outdoor enemies, and makes you hop back and forth between Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms no less than eleven times, and that's without even getting into the considerable amount of cross-continent travel time that's also required. For a single-boss raid that requires attunement on every single character, this is absolute insanity, and I'll admit that this sort of attunement is not something I miss in later iterations of WoW.

I'm glad it's done now for my hunter, but the thought of having to do it again on my next character to sixty makes me quake in my boots a little to be honest. At least there'll be less pressure when it comes to getting an alt attuned as opposed to attuning your very first character (on that server and faction).

29/08/2022

The Continued Adventures of Tirrona

If all the recent posts about my Horde hunter's adventures made you think that I've completely given up on playing Alliance, let me assure you that this is not the case. As mentioned previously, I was holding off on playing the clones of my high-level characters since they were stuck with bad names after the transfer to Pyrewood, and I was hoping to reclaim their old names once Blizzard deleted all the inactive clones.

However, I eventually grew tired of having no information on what was happening in regards to that and being unable to tell whether anything had been done, so I went ahead this week and transferred all four clones to the era version of Nethergarde Keep. Two could reclaim their old names there, and the other two could at least get the variants of their names that I'd also chosen for them when taking the free server transfer in Classic BC, and I was ultimately happy enough with those. Now to learn a bit about the endgame scene on Alliance side...

In the meantime though, I've also still been playing my little night elf rogue Tirrona. She's both a herbalist and a miner, and unlike on Horde side the auction house is reasonably active, meaning that she's been doing quite well for herself financially just from me logging in every so often and putting up/re-listing some auctions.

In terms of play I did a second Deadmines run with her to finish off the last quest I had there (those damn miner's union cards...) and I've casually been running up and down Darkshore to finish up questing there before moving on to Ashenvale.

The other night I even had a fun little adventure when a level 20 paladin whispered me to ask whether I could help him out with killing some of the elites outside of Blackfathom Depths. I was literally on the opposite end of Darkshore but said that if he had a bit of time and didn't get lucky with a drop before then, I'd make my way down to help him out. So I did, and once I got there we got his Kor Gem after killing only three mobs or so.

I told him that I had a paladin of my own and remembered the epic quest for Verigan's Fist very well. When he mentioned going for the part in Shadowfang Keep next, I said that I had duoed that with another paladin back in the day (all the way back in 2020...) and that I'd be happy to help him out with that as well. So we set off towards the Wetlands, and I was happy to have an early excuse to pick up the flight points in Arathi and Hillsbrad, as well as the expert first aid book from Stromgarde.

Inside Shadowfang Keep, I enjoyed being able to use all my rogue's tools to maximum benefit, sapping enemies on multi-mob pulls and gouging them to give my pally friend a chance to heal up. We did really well and only had to run out to reset once. The first boss was pretty tough with his adds, but we managed due to the paladin blowing every single one of his cooldowns, including Lay on Hands. In the courtyard I led the way via expert pulls with my bow, and soon my paladin friend could loot his blacksmithing hammer too. The funny thing was that he then accidentally hit one of the horses and died from all of them aggroing on him, just as I was about to type: "Well, that went well!"

Still, he was really grateful, and I assured him that finding a group for Deadmines shouldn't be too hard. It was quite late in the evening by that point though, so I said my goodbyes, and the last thing I saw was that he was apparently a bit impatient and got a higher-level guildie of his to run him through the dungeon up to his quest item.

Either way it was a nice experience and made me want to play my rogue more just to have more small community interactions like this. I also once again joined a guild that threw me a random invite - it's not one of the bigger ones but a newly formed one called "Dusk". I don't know if it'll really do anything for me but at least being in it should protect me from more random guild invites for the time being. It also tickled me that I recognised the guild master's name as someone who had randomly waved at one of my Horde chars in Stranglethorn Vale. Later I found out that he'd previously also been on Hydraxian Waterlords like me, and I even found a screenshot among my older captures that showed him sitting next to my paladin. Classic era is a small world indeed.

25/08/2022

Rhok'delar Again

A bit less than two years ago I wrote about my night elf hunter's acquisition of Rhok'delar, Longbow of the Ancient Keepers, the epic bow from the max-level hunter class quest that starts in Molten Core. I already had a weapon better than the bow at the time, but I still enjoyed facing off against the four elite demons you needed to kill as part of it as a test of my skills and to prove myself as a "real" hunter.

Much to my delight, the first time my tauren hunter on era did a full MC run with my new guild, Majordomo dropped the Ancient Petrified Leaf that starts the quest chain, and I won it. This time the bow would be an upgrade too! Still, I wasn't in any particular hurry as I didn't have the Mature Black Dragon Sinew from Onyxia yet, so I took it rather slowly.

Also, having a blog was definitely a godsend in this instance - while the overall experience of completing the quest chain had definitely been memorable last time, it's not as if I had committed every single piece of tactical advice in regards to the demons to memory. I was really grateful to past me for taking such detailed notes about what helped me achieve victory against each demon last time, making the whole endeavour significantly easier this time around, despite of my gear being a bit worse.

Artorius in Winterspring was my first target again, and things went pretty similarly to last time. I did die once when he managed to get his DoT on me, and had to reset a couple of times when things got hairy, but then I got him down quickly enough (and unlike last time, he didn't finish me off with his DoT either). I thought it was noticeable that I had a weaker weapon this time though as I had to kite him nearly all the way to Everlook. The most time-consuming thing was actually getting him to stop in a good place to start the fight - I initially got a bit confused about his pathing and actually wasted a lot of time clearing mobs in an area that ultimately wasn't actually relevant.

I didn't attempt any other demons that night, as I ended up assisting a guildie with some quests in Winterspring after depositing my demon head in the bank, so some time passed until I picked things up again. I think it was more than a week later when I found myself doing a few leftover quests in Silithus, and as I approached the south-western Twilight cultist camp, I thought to myself that I might as well have a go at challenging Nelson.

He had been by far the toughest opponent for me the first time around, killing me multiple times, but this time around things went much better and I didn't die once (just had to reset the fight a few times). More by sheer luck than any sort of planning I ended up encountering and stopping him very close to the Scarab Wall, and as it turned out the ruins in that area are far better suited to kiting the little bugs he summons than the ramp that I had tried to make work for me so desperately last time, based on what was apparently the recommended strategy.

Encouraged by my success, I hopped over to Un'goro to track down Simone there. Like last time, quite a few resets were required until I got the initial pull right, but aside from that she was once again not a tough fight. That said, my health got very low towards the end and I had to use a health potion, which I think was due to the fact that I had been slacking on my melee weapon skill this time around. As it was only around 280, I got a lot of dodges and parries, meaning I did a lot less damage to her and she more to me.

After that I had another break for a bit, with a small, related interlude: One day during my lunch break while working from home, the call went out to come online for Azuregos. Our five-manning adventures back on Hydraxian Waterlords not notwithstanding, I'd never actually killed Azuregos "properly" with a guild group, so I was happy to be in on the kill. I also won the Mature Blue Dragon Sinew, which can be used to redeem a quiver from the same set of quest givers that give the bow quest. On Tir I'd not gotten the quiver until much later, and not from killing Azuregos but from a random drop while farming elite dragonkin in Winterspring. It kinda tickled me that things went so differently this time.

Not much later I figured that I might as well lop off the last demon's head and I went to the Burning Steppes late at night to confront Franklin the Friendly aka Klinfran the Crazed. Here, too, my lack of weapon skill came back to bite me as he actually killed me once when several of my wing clips missed in a row, but it did not take long at all to re-try and get it right.

So now I've got my Ancient Rune Etched Stave, ready to be turned into a nice bow... but I'm unlikely to get it any time soon as I'm still not even attuned to Onyxia, meaning the sinew will likely remain a bottleneck for a while. Annoyingly, the Horde attunement chain features a step where you need to kill four elite dragons across the world, and basically nobody wants to do that unless they are on the quest themselves (understandably), and I haven't had any luck finding anyone else who is on that step right now. I also haven't quite reached the level of comfort or desperation to ask anyone outright to just help me out, even if it doesn't do anything for them, but I wouldn't be surprised if it came to that eventually. Still, I don't think I'm likely to get the crossbow from BWL in the meantime, seeing how it seems to be a rare-ish drop and somewhat in demand. Can't be lucky with everything!

21/08/2022

On Trading and Farming

The state of the economy on my era cluster, specifically on Horde side, continues to both fascinate and vex me. Except for a handful of highly sought-after items, it's very hard to sell anything on the auction house, but I just have this urge to keep trying. (And I have noticed that the odds seem to be a bit better on weekends.)

It's really crystallised for me that I just see the auction house in a very different light compared to most players, who tend to view it either as an easy way of making money (sellers) or as a convenient way of having anything and everything they could potentially need delivered to their mailbox (buyers). It's not that I don't benefit from those things too, but they are not what matters.

I have this vague memory of my first days in WoW, levelling my night elf in Teldrassil alongside a more experienced friend, and him saying something like: "Don't vendor those light feathers, priests and mages need those for a spell." Somehow this instilled in me the notion that any drop that could be useful to somebody else is valuable and it should be my goal to get it to them. It made me view the auction house as a kind of community trading post where people share the bounty of rare materials that the game has bestowed upon them, and exchange items that aren't easily accessible from a vendor.

It's not really something I had to think about in a while because there just hasn't been any room for that kind of thinking in Classic, because there were too many people on each server that knew all too well what's valuable or not and tried to make money from it. I'd often loot an item that I thought would be useful to somebody, just to check the AH and find that there were already dozens of listings there, so that there wasn't much point in adding my own unless it was a trade good that was in demand in high volumes.

But in era, with only a few hundred of us per faction, things are different. I'll keep re-listing that Breath of Wind if it kills me, because eventually someone will need one for a greater resistance enchant on their cloak, I just know it, and I'll be their unsung hero for saving them from having to go out and farm air elementals.

Because that's what you have to do when the auction house doesn't yield any desirable results and you can't or don't want to rely on the generosity of your guild: You have to go farm it yourself. This isn't necessarily hard, depending on the level of the mobs that drop what you need, but it can be pretty time-consuming.

I mentioned in a previous post that I got a Barb of the Sand Reaver from AQ40 - since this is the best two-handed weapon for hunters outside of Naxx, I wanted to get it enchanted. A quick check for the required materials revealed a bunch of max-level enchanting materials and four Essence of Air. The enchanting materials are a bit of a tricky one - I do have my low-level mage to disenchant all kinds of stuff so I could get most of them myself, but Large Brilliant Shards are a bit hard to get solo, so I might have to lean on the guild for those.

Essence of Air was an obvious thing to farm myself though, and after a quick check on Wowhead I was reminded that those only drop from the air elementals in Silithus. So I spent a few nights camped out there, doing the rounds around the area. I generally think that these elementals are terribly unsatisfying mobs to farm, because most of the time they don't drop anything at all, not even vendor trash, but even so there was something very Zen about the whole thing. People need Essence of Air for their enchants. The only way to get it is to kill air elementals, because there isn't any being sold by other players. By doing this job, I was generating value. It felt strangely satisfying.

It all made me feel very philosophical really, about how we have this weird love-hate relationship with virtual worlds in that on the one hand, we want to use them as escapism into a simpler society, but on the other hand constantly strive to make them more like the real world that we're trying to escape from. That whole "everyone is moving to mega-servers" phenomenon is a perfect example of this, because on the one hand we want to pretend to live in a kind of medieval society, but on the other we want to have a virtual equivalent of Amazon where we can have access to thousands of consumer goods at any time with the mere push of a button.

I'm not saying I've had some huge revelation that having a barely functional auction house is somehow preferable to having a healthy economy, but dealing with the complete opposite extreme of what "regular" Classic has become does kind of highlight for me what has been lost along the way and I'm actually finding it kind of charming. It might well still be a while until I get that polearm enchanted... but when it happens, it will be something that I earned through actual gameplay and it will be all the more meaningful for it.

14/08/2022

Musings on Shadowlands from a Casual Returner

I knew that it was a smart business decision by Blizzard to put Classic and retail on the same subscription when it was first announced, but I didn't think at the time that this was going to be very relevant to me (though I did comment in that linked post that I might "check out some of the new quest content while I'm subbed for Classic anyway").

What I didn't expect was that my husband had apparently secretly been pining for me to give retail another try, so when curiosity about the Shadowlands level squish and Chromie time got the better of me and got me to reinstall it, he pounced on the opportunity to play with me. We had done some levelling together during Mists of Pandaria many years ago, but I got bored after a few months, unsubscribed and concluded that the game just wasn't for me anymore.

But with Shadowlands... things have been different. I don't know if I would say that it's a better expansion than Mists of Pandaria, but the fact that I'm primarily subscribed for Classic has made it easier to drop in and out of retail without having to worry about justifying the subscription. This means that Shadowlands is the first retail expansion since Wrath of the Lich King that saw me subscribed and playing for its entirety (I'm assuming for now that I won't suddenly end up cancelling before Dragonflight).

This is kind of funny to me because it's also been my impression that community reception of Shadowlands hasn't been great, though I'm not sure how many people consider it "bad" exactly. For a long time there was this idea that WoW alternated between good and bad expansions, kind of like Star Trek movies and versions of Microsoft Windows. By that logic, Mists of Pandaria was good, Warlords of Draenor bad, Legion good, BfA bad, and Shadowlands was supposed to be good again but didn't live up to that expectation.

Do I think that Shadowlands was a good expansion then? Kind of, but I'm honestly not even sure what to compare it to. I used to feel bitter about retail because of everything it had turned into, but the creation of Classic largely neutralised those feelings, because now I can go back, and retail is just this "other version of WoW" that also exists and I'm okay with that. I treat it entirely differently, like a free-to-play game that I just dip in and out of, and so I don't have the same expectations and don't hold it to the same standards I would have had ten years ago. But then I also wonder: Does my opinion even matter? Saying that Shadowlands managed to clear the bar of ultra-low expectations set by a very casual returner isn't really saying very much, is it?

Regardless, I thought I'd jot down some of my final thoughts about Shadowlands, with the caveat that these are opinions coming from a very casual point of view, and I completely understand that more invested players have reasons to feel differently about some of these things.

First, let's talk about the world and zones. I do love my home of Bastion and its ethereal beauty, and I recently talked about how I think Zereth Mortis is very pretty, but all in all I've found Shadowlands a bit disappointing in terms of zone design. All the zones I didn't mention were "meh" at best for me, and I absolutely loathed the way verticality was done in Revendreth, even after unlocking flying. The fact that each zone was its own little "island" made the world feel kind of small, and having your home base in your covenant sanctum while having to go to Oribos for amenities and then still having to go to Stormwind for auctions felt unnecessarily inconvenient and awkward. Oribos as a hub city also never really grew on me. I appreciated that unlike in Boralus, everything was very clearly laid out, but I guess something about the whole city effectively being a giant indoor environment made it feel a bit oppressive.

I thought the theme of Shadowlands was very interesting to begin with, and I liked the way the levelling storyline introduced you to the different afterlives. I thought that had a lot of potential, and with so many important characters in lore that are already dead, there was a nearly endless supply of story threads to pick up and utilise if desired. Unfortunately Blizzard didn't really end up doing a lot of that. Instead we were mostly focused on the soap opera of Sylvanas and her victims, and the Jailer being the blandest of bland big bads, with the realm of death becoming just another generic backdrop for this.

I'm not mad about that, just a little disappointed, and I suspect that in terms of storytelling, Shadowlands will be relegated to a similar level as Warlords of Draenor, aka "that was an alternate timeline/dimension, we prefer not to think about it anymore". Honestly, they pretty much have to do that, because otherwise every future story death is going to be cheapened by a feeling of: "No worries, see you soon in the Shadowlands!" In hindsight, unravelling the mysteries of death in Azeroth so thoroughly may not have been the greatest idea from a lore point of view...

Covenants I really liked, and they are one of the systems where many of the criticisms levelled against them kind of made me roll my eyes. Did covenants have to be tied to abilities that affect player power? Probably not, but I don't think it was that big of a deal either. I was mostly annoyed by all the commentary about how covenants were bad because obviously nobody would choose RP flavour over maximising their output, so as someone who did exactly that with all of her characters, my opinion was mainly that the people who kept claiming that players like me don't exist can sod right off.

I also quite liked anima as a resource... at the beginning it was kind of annoyingly hard to come by, even if that fit with the theme of there being a drought, but I listened to the people who said that this was clearly a system that was meant to be used over the course of the whole expansion, and treating it as such worked really well for me, as it started out slowly and ramped up over time. In Zereth Mortis anima flows freely by now, and I kind of have it as a low-key goal to buy all the anima cosmetics for my main by the end of the expansion and then finish with a full reservoir.

Soulbinds and conduits were just unnecessarily complicated, made little sense lore-wise and I largely ignored them as a result, just setting some sort of default whenever they became available and then leaving it at that forever.

I liked Torghast because I never really cared about legendaries (and therefore never felt pressured into doing it for materials), plus it was a great duo activity for me and the husband. It was very fun to see how we'd get overpowered in different ways on each run as we ascended the tower, though regular runs tended to end too soon to let you really get the most out of it, meaning that Twisting Corridors was probably the best mode in terms of raw gameplay fun, while also giving almost zero rewards for some reason. I will say that most of the changes Blizzard made to Torghast throughout the expansion, such as adding a timer, were not improvements in my book and sidegrades at best. 

In terms of everyday activities, I was once again kind of confused by the criticisms I saw in some corners about there being nothing to do, that there were too few world quests and that they took too long. When an activity takes a couple of minutes at most and people already consider that too long, players' attention spans are even shorter than I feared. Personally I liked the variety and that there were a fair few that didn't necessarily require combat, and I was also quite content that there weren't a billion things to grind every day - which was definitely a criticism I had seen levelled against Battle of Azeroth.

Whatever the current solo power grind was for each patch usually kept me entertained for a few weeks at least - covenant callings, Korthia dailies, Zereth Mortis, but I'm at the point where I know that there is no point in doing these things longer than they are fun, because any power rewards will be totally obsoleted by the next patch anyway. Zereth Mortis has actually had surprising staying power for me as I maxed out the Cypher of the First Ones, bought all the toys and stuff from the Jiro vendor and still keep coming back for more because it's just so relaxing to fly circles around the zone.

As far as WoW's "core content", dungeons and raids go, I didn't do much of it. I mean, I did all the base expansion dungeons on normal and heroic, but those modes don't really "matter" for anything nowadays since it's all about Mythic+. I still need to check out Tazavesh one of these days... and in terms of raiding, I wrote about doing LFR for the first two raids and what an experience that was. The last raid is still on my bucket list. But beyond going once to see the sights, that content isn't really of interest to me at this point.

Reading all this back, I guess it sounds more mixed than positive, but the proof is in the pudding and fact is that I have continued to log in and play casually all throughout this expansion, sometimes even without my husband, which is the real litmus test for whether I'm enjoying myself or not.

06/08/2022

Raiding in Classic Era

When I first started raiding in Classic, I quickly realised that I really liked the 40-man raid format, and unsurprisingly, it did not feel good when we downsized to 25-man for Burning Crusade. With that in mind, it's been enjoyable to get back into the bigger raiding format in era.

There basically seem to be two different approaches to raiding in Classic: the min-maxers who pump themselves up with every possible consumable and constantly try to improve their parses and clear times, and the "dad guilds". As far as the latter go, the name isn't really about having children or being male, but more about evoking the general vibes of middle-aged people who are mostly there just to hang out, tell bad jokes and might have to go AFK due to some real life disturbance at any point (which is obviously massively at odds with things like speed). Order of the Holy Fork was definitely the latter type of guild, and as far as I can tell it's the more prevalent mode of raiding on era in general. I've seen some signs that speed runners seem to exist somewhere, but I haven't seen any evidence of them on the EU PvE cluster at least.

With the generally purveying chill attitude and the small population, combined with the large number requirements to fill a raid, it's been very easy to get raid spots. (Conveniently, Warriors of Sunlight also seem to mostly raid on days when I don't have any clashes with my SWTOR ops team.) Here's my experience with each raid so far:

AQ20

This is the one raid for which I've not seen a sign-up in guild yet. The other day someone asked about it and was told that they "don't want to open up that can of worms". Basically it's not a very popular destination and I guess I'm not surprised because I saw the same in OG Classic. With a couple of exceptions the loot is pretty crap, and it doesn't have the same sort of long-term appeal that ZG does with its head and leg enchants and rare mounts. I guess the class books are something that should allow it to retain some relevance in theory, but based on how quickly I was provided with the hunter books from the guild bank, there doesn't seem to be enough of an influx of new players at max level to create huge demand for these.

ZG

I've been to ZG twice and both times were very fun. I didn't get showered with loot in quite the same way as I did during my first ZG in OG Classic, but I did win several drops including the Heart of Hakkar (again). I was kind of impressed that we did the Edge of Madness and the fish boss both times, with no shortage of materials to summon them. (Wushoolay blessed me with a very cool-looking bow.) Guildies also helped me with taming a Son of Hakkar to learn the highest rank of lightning breath for my wind serpent.

More than anything else though, ZG just seems to be the perfect place for people to clown around and do silly things, which was very much my experience in Classic as well. During my first run we actually wiped two or three times on the way to Jin'do due to trash cock-ups and I just thought it was funny because I'd seen the exact same kind of thing happen so many times before (there's clearly just something about those voodoo trolls). At one point an enhancement shaman standing next to me got mind-controlled and insta-deleted me with a giant windfury proc, which I think led to what must have been my first comment on voice chat as I couldn't help giggling: "That was amazing!" And during the second ZG, we somehow ended up with nine druids in the group. It made me smile when we were up to the first boss and instead of pulling, people got distracted by all the druids going into bear form and dancing together. These are my kind of priorities.

Molten Core

I've been in two partial Molten Core runs, because it seems to be that place where the guild primarily only goes for Thunderfury bindings, or if there's some kind of issue on the night that prevents the raid from doing something harder. I did get my Tome of Tranquilizing Shot at least, remembering with some bemusement how much stress that had caused me in OG Classic. I also won two pieces of tier one, which is pretty decent for hunters. More importantly though, Garr actually dropped his Thunderfury binding during one of those runs, which made a certain warrior very happy (he still needs the Geddon binding though).

Onyxia

Haven't been yet as I'm not attuned and while I'm working on it, the Horde Ony attunement is even longer than the Alliance one. I'm also under the impression that the guild doesn't go very often... I've been in a couple of raids where someone suggested also doing "a quick Ony" and it was always shot down.

Blackwing Lair

I've only been to BWL once so far, since it took me a bit to sort out my attunement, and once again I scored some phat loot in the form of two pieces of tier two, which is best in slot for hunters until Naxx. It's really easy to come in as a newcomer and get lots of loot because many of the regulars have been doing this for so long that they don't need that much anymore. It actually makes me feel a bit bad and I usually hold off with rolling/bidding to see whether anyone else wants the loot, but if it's just going to get sharded otherwise anyway... actually, in BWL we had a couple of ranged weapons drop that are not at all great for hunters as far as I'm aware, and one member of the raid whispered me repeatedly and seemed to get almost annoyed with me for not bidding on them. As if I wasn't already hoovering up half the drops anyway... felt very strange. On a different note, I learned that the black dragon eyes needed for the Horde Ony attunment and which you're supposed to get in UBRS also drop in BWL, which is neat.

AQ40

I've been to AQ40 three times now but only killed C'thun once. It's tough because AQ40 is where the difficulty starts to ramp up somewhat, to the point where having to underman the raid due to lack of sign-ups really hurts. I also remember this not being many people's favourite raid in OG Classic just because of how much of a slog the trash was and because most of the loot is only really useful for a select number of classes and specs. I didn't expect much of this one as a hunter, mostly just tagging along for fun and rep, and was shocked that I ended up with both the Silithid Claw and the Barb of the Sand Reaver in my last run, two really good melee weapons for hunters that we rarely saw during OG Classic and that were always in high demand.

Naxxramas

The guild runs Naxx once a week on Sundays, and my understanding is that they have six bosses on farm (Spider Wing, Noth, Heigan and Razuvious) but have been lacking the time to really progress any further. My hunter's not currently attuned to Naxx, but it is a lower-tier goal of mine to get that done eventually. I did push her Argent Dawn rep from friendly to honoured already, but I'd like to be at least revered and have better gear before I even consider going there.

However, even then I'm honestly not sure about it. The guild's current Sunday slot clashes with SWTOR for me, but that aside, while I'll always remember clearing Naxx in Classic with a lot of fondness, it was definitely another step up in difficulty from AQ40, meaning it's harder to just hang out and have fun in there because you absolutely do need to do some prep in terms of consumables and have to really focus during all the boss fights. We'll see I guess.

03/08/2022

Classic Era Housekeeping

Aside from "normal" play, there've been two housekeeping matters on my mind in regards to playing on Classic era: names and bag space.

As far as names are concerned, my Horde characters were created on Pyrewood Village at launch and could therefore keep their original names once I activated/cloned them on era, but my Alliance characters all had to be transferred from Hydraxian Waterlords... onto a server where tens of thousands of names are already taken, including all the ones I had originally chosen for them. I quickly tried out different variants for my transfers until I found something that was available, but I immediately ended up hating almost all of my choices, either for being too different or for being what I call "accent abominations". (Some people are perfectly happy to play as "Lüké Skywàlkër", but I'm not one of them.) To be honest, this has been one major reason I haven't really felt like playing my Alliance clones so far.

However, with the retiring of the cloning service, there was suddenly hope. You can't buy name changes in Classic, but you can effectively force a name change during a server transfer by creating an appropriately named alt on your destination server. And since era has connected multiple servers into clusters, you can move from one server within the cluster to another without really going anywhere. Or that's been my theory anyway; I haven't had a chance to test it. I do feel vaguely dirty even thinking about the idea since it'd essentially mean paying Blizzard a premium for being awkward (a character transfer costs more than twice as much as a name change in retail), but names are important to me, damn it!

Unfortunately though, even though it's been over a week since the official retirement date for the cloning service and the relevant support article was updated to state that "all clones that were not activated before July 26, 2022 have been deleted", this has not actually been the case. I know this because I had some inactive clones of my own left, and they are still there, making the current situation the worst of both worlds, with people being unable to use the cloning service, and era players still locked out of all those names taken up by inactive clones. Responses to inquiries on the forums have been unhelpful.

All I can keep doing is check on those inactive clones of my own every other day to see whether anything has changed. Because as soon as those tens of thousands of inactive clones are gone, maybe there'll be some hope for reclaiming some "good" names for my characters - the number of actually active era players is relatively low after all.

The other issue I've been wrangling with is bag space. It's nothing new that Classic is quite stingy in that regard, which is why "bank alts" have been a thing pretty much since forever. I'd so far resisted making any in Classic though, because with only ten character slots per server I wanted to actually use them on playable characters, not on some level one doomed to sit in town and shuffle mail around. I tried to be efficient with my storage to some degree, e.g. by sending all my cloth to my tailor, but that was as far as it went. This is also another reason I've always been an active auction house user - because I'd rather sell things to people who need them right now than hoard them for some unknown future requirement, while hoping that I'd be able to buy anything from other people in turn that I actually might end up needing later.

However, Classic era has finally broken me in that regard. My troll mage tailor is only up to small silk packs, which are quite small, and my high-level characters just don't have room for all those currencies and endgame materials that I definitely can't rely on finding on the auction house later. Plus, with all those servers in the cluster adding up to thirty character slots, I figured I could spare a couple, leading me to create not one but two bank alts, one for food and consumables and another for currencies and other miscellaneous valuables. I still couldn't resist playing them a little though and got them up to level six - plus I could see myself levelling them even higher as time goes on. I just can't create characters and not play them.

P.S.: I already mentioned it on my SWTOR blog, but I'm taking part in Blaugust again! Whether you're a blogger yourself or just a reader, there's something for everyone. Read all about the event here.

30/07/2022

Two Weeks of Classic Era

It's been about two weeks since I started playing on Classic era. My night elf rogue hit level twenty and managed to get into a group for Deadmines, but I didn't have a whole lot to say about that run. It was good fun but relatively uneventful. Since then I've allowed the character to rest up a bit in town while I focused on being active in my newfound Horde guild.

Playing on Horde side is very weird and in some ways quite unlike any MMO experience I've had before. I noted in my initial impressions of the population on Alliance side that it seemed uncomfortably low for my standards - and while we don't have reliable numbers, I reckon that the Horde population is maybe half as large as that of the Alliance, if even that (which is very much in line with the typical faction balance on PvE servers from what I've seen).

The auction house rarely has more than 100-200 auctions running and it's driving me batty, not because I have any ambition to be an auction house baron, but because I'm used to making a bit of money on the side by selling useful drops and trade goods. I'm already vendoring a lot of things that I'd usually try to sell to other players, but with some items it just feels wrong. I must have re-listed the same stack of mithril about ten times by now but I just can't get myself to vendor the stuff. Plus the auction house should have some mithril on it, just in case someone is searching for any! I'm not claiming to make a lot of sense on that front, but it's how I feel.

The emptiness of the open world is actually quite charming to be honest. It makes quests that send you out to deal with local threats feel more real somehow when you really are the only adventurer in town. And when you do run into someone else out in the open, you really notice that person, take note of their name and guild, and maybe emote at each other. Every encounter feels meaningful.

In the cities the emptiness is a bit harder to swallow to be honest. I had a bit of a crisis of faith when I did a /who Undercity one night and I was literally the only player there. Playing on era means needing to be able to feel comfortable with being alone sometimes. Orgrimmar at least gets a little bit busier around raid time, but then it's weird to notice that all the people in and around the bank are in my guild. There'll be the occasional unguilded character or member of Trinity, but other than that, it feels like the world basically exists for my guild. Did I mention yet that this is a very weird situation to be in in an MMO?

And yet, I've been playing in that environment, both solo on my hunter to work on some bits and bobs, and joining my new guildies for dungeons and raids to soak in some of the social atmosphere. In Thursday's raid I laughed out loud a couple of times, prompting the husband to ask what was going on, something that hadn't happened in regards to WoW Classic in a while. This is the sort of thing that made me fall in love with the Forks two years ago...

Still, I'm conflicted in some ways. I shouldn't be looking to replace the Forks, and nobody likes a person who constantly compares everyone to their ex. I worry that I might be making myself too comfortable too quickly. And do I really want to go through all that progression in Classic era all over again? I don't know.

I do know that I felt proud to finally be able to afford my tauren hunter's epic mount tonight, and to finish up her BWL attunement with the help of some guildies. That's another kind of interesting and bizarre thing: On the one hand the lack of an active pugging scene is obviously a massive inconvenience, but on the other hand it does put the onus more obviously on the guild to help people. I think of my many moans in early BC Classic about finding it hard to get guild runs together and how the response was always to "just pug it", because people didn't think that it should be their responsibility to make things happen for their guild mates.

In Classic era, that's not really an option, which is why I actually felt somewhat empowered to stand up and ask people to come run UBRS with me for my attunement despite of being very new, and after one of the raid tanks agreed to come along, the rest almost sorted itself, even as I felt hopelessly out of my depth keeping track of whose alt was doing what. (I'm still a big noob here!)

The lack of a functional economy also makes gold nearly worthless beyond taking care of certain vendor-sold conveniences such as mounts or chronoboons. My epic kodo did require some grinding (and I was pleased to find that I had a bunch of solo quests left to do in Silithus, probably because they hadn't been added yet when I originally switched to Alliance), but aside from that everyone just tries to take care of each other by providing help and material assistance when needed. I already mentioned that resistance potions were being handed out for free in AQ40, and when I asked whether the guild bank had any of the hunter books from AQ20 in stock, I found all three of them in my mailbox only a few hours later.

It's just such a chill and cosy community, but the whole environment is also kind of weird and different, and I don't know yet how that's going to turn out for me in the long run. At the moment I'm having a good time though.

27/07/2022

Looking Back at My Classic BC Experience

With Classic Wrath launching in two months, and Red writing about his conflicted feelings about it considering his experiences in Classic BC, I wanted to jot down a few final thoughts about my (less than a) year of Classic BC as well.

I've been going back and forth about how to approach this topic and structure this post, but in a nutshell I can say that Classic BC has been a big disappointment for me. Don't get me wrong, there were some good things about it, which I shall list first:

However... that's already where it ends. Meanwhile, the following issues marred the experience for me:

  • The switch to the smaller raid sizes changed the general attitude in the guild I was in from one of inclusion (to make up the numbers) to one of exclusion and competitiveness (fighting for raid spots, constantly trying to out-do each other, expressing joy about getting rid of certain players).
  • Increased access to powerful rewards for the solo player and small groups meant that people cared less about the guild as a whole and more about going through their personal checklists on their own time (which usually seemed to mean as fast as possible).
  • While I could still appreciate the quality of the content, I did find it somewhat disillusioning and disappointing to see raids that I remembered as these epic battles in original BC be demoted to a level where they were considered a trivial farm.
  • Players and Blizzard pushing for mega-servers for easier trade and random group-finding destroyed server communities and made it harder to exist in the open world (insane competition for spawns, people increasingly wanting to avoid the opposite faction, rarely seeing the same people around).

For all that, I don't think my opinion about original Burning Crusade being my favourite expansion has changed. It's just that what I remember so fondly about it still had a lot of "Vanilla influences" to it, with the old world not getting nerfed until quite late in the expansion and most players still approaching the content with curiosity and a sense of wonder.

Classic has definitely been ruined for me though, at least the "progressive" version of it (not counting era). I suppose it's still possible to enjoy it if you just stick to yourself and mostly stay away from endgame, or if you have a tight-knit group of friends that creates its own fun, but if you participate in the wider community there is definitely a trend towards rushing and solipsism that's hard to ignore. If you're someone who's planning to do group content in Classic Wrath, I can only wish you good luck.

24/07/2022

Return of the Horde Hunter

I forgot how quickly things can escalate in Classic when it comes to finding adventure.

One of the most fun things about Classic era for me right now is the renewed sense of exploration it provides. Sure, I've played all this before, but I've been playing BC for the past year and a bit, so it takes some mental effort to rewind certain gameplay changes (such as being unable to drop traps in combat again as a hunter), plus all my characters require a certain degree of re-acquainting. What did they have in their bank and bags at the time of cloning? What quests were they on when I last played them? And so on and so forth.

On Wednesday I logged onto one of my Horde characters for the first time, and within five minutes I'd received a whisper inviting me to a guild. I used to be more coy when it comes to accepting guild invites for a while, when I wanted every guild to be a forever home and therefore wanted to vet it carefully before joining, but more recently I've become a bit more relaxed about that, so that me accepting or declining such random invites comes more down to my mood.

In this case I felt sufficiently upbeat, and promptly found myself invited to "Warriors of Sunlight", one of what appears to be only two active Horde guilds on the EU PvE cluster. (Seriously, I'm running the census addon right now and it hasn't spotted any other Horde guilds so far aside from this one and Trinity.) I read and participated in guild chat for a bit and also joined their Discord, and quite liked what I saw there too. I quickly found myself thinking that maybe I could do some casual raids with these guys some time.

This is where the point about escalation mentioned at the beginning becomes relevant, because I also saw that they had an AQ40 sign-up for Thursday evening which seemed to be quite short on numbers. I didn't have any plans for Thursday night, so listening in on that seemed like a good way of checking what their raiding atmosphere was like. In fact, if they were sufficiently short, maybe I could even join them...?

This is where it really pays off that I've been through all of this before. When I first ascended to raider rank among the Forks, I was perpetually terrified of doing something wrong and being a burden on the rest of the raid. However, now that I've been there, I know what the fights are like, and I remember all too well the nights when leadership was asking every person online whether they didn't want to come fill out the raid, because having a warm body of any sort along was pretty much always preferable to undermanning things. So I felt little shame in offering to join on my tauren hunter, even though she was only in greens and blues and had never done anything harder than UBRS.

Mind you, a little shame is still not the same as no shame. For example I was a bit embarrassed when I remembered that my tauren was Beast Master spec instead of Marksman like every good Classic raider should be, and that her gear only had 1% hit rating on it, though I managed to dig up a helmet from her bank that added at least another two.

Never mind consumables, I didn't even have appropriate amounts of pet food for a raid on me, so I quickly stuffed my bags with fruit before it was world buff time, just to realise inside AQ that my wind serpent didn't like fruit, or any of the other food in my bags except a few bits of cheese I had left. So much for remembering which pet likes which food... I was already contemplating the embarrassing possibility of being a pet-less BM hunter when I remembered that wind serpents do eat bread, so I had a friendly mage conjure some rolls for me and the day was saved.

Ultimately I need not have worried too much. While I did feel a bit awkward about my poor performance, I wasn't even the one doing the least damage, and in general the mix of people and their attitudes reminded me a lot of the Classic Fork raids, with some people preparing themselves as much as possible in order to top the damage meters while others would go AFK in town, miss even the free world buffs and then need a summon.

Leadership performed a similar level of hand-holding to what I used to see in the Forks in Classic, reminding people of some key mechanics before every fight (not that this prevented one guy from killing himself in the green goo left behind by the Silithid Royalty, because of course there's always one) and handing out free nature protection potions where it was helpful. Again I was fondly reminded of the Forks, and felt like I was being a good raider just by following all the instructions.

There was one moment where people got cross with the hunters in general because apparently this guild has issues with hunter pets on Twin Emps, but ultimately it wasn't a big deal. Overall the atmosphere was nice, the banter full of dad jokes, and there was occasional friendly teabagging. It also cracked me up/I thought it was cute how the raid leader always asked for reses with the phrase "let's res our fallen heroes". It was a fun night that definitely left me itching for more, even if we didn't fully clear (just due to general slowness, and people wanting to go to bed after a certain point).

So now I'm actually kind of motivated to work on my tauren hunter - and there's a lot of work to do for sure. The only raid she's attuned to is MC, as mentioned she's missing a lot of hit rating, and she doesn't even have an epic mount. Making money looks like it's going to be harder than on Alliance side, as the number of auctions on the AH is a lot lower and I've not succeeded at selling anything other than a vial of Winterfall Firewater so far. For an extra bit of irony I actually found a BoE world epic in EPL, but who was I going to sell it to in this economy? I just mailed it to a lowbie hunter in guild who's still levelling up.

Either way, I've been reminding myself that while it's nice to be excited by the idea of catching up in order to become more involved with the guild, there's no rush as Classic era isn't going anywhere - which is a nice change from the way I've felt about Classic raiding for the past one and a half years.

21/07/2022

What's Really Going on with Classic Era?

When a few thousand people are happily playing an MMORPG, but none of them post about their experiences online, how does anybody else even know about it? Aside from exploring Classic era by playing it myself and paying attention to in-game chat, I thought I'd also do some research online, and it's been quite interesting.

I mentioned previously that there've been a lot of public declarations floating around of how dead Classic era is, not just on the official forums but also from actual content creators, such as WillE putting out this video called "Classic Era Servers Are OFFICIALLY Dead" in May, which has nearly 300k views at the time of writing this.

However, while era players have mostly been quiet and kept to themselves, more recently there appears to have been some pushback against this "era is dead" narrative. Only a week ago, someone made a massive megapost on the WoW Classic subreddit that explains in detail how the era servers are structured, who the major guilds are and more. I thought it was funny that the most upvoted comment to that was someone asking what era servers actually are; they didn't even know!

I also found two small YouTubers who've been reporting on Classic era - they are also referenced in the reddit post, but I actually found them before seeing them mentioned there. First there is Morphious, who - by his own admission - initially did the same thing as many other YouTubers or streamers and logged into era for just a few minutes to have a look around and then declared it dead. However, when people told him that this wasn't true, he looked into it some more and quickly became part of his server's local community, leading to a follow-up video proudly declaring "Classic Era is Back" in the thumbnail, which is now the most viewed video on his channel. He also has a video answering some frequently asked questions about era.

The other YouTuber is DwarfLord, who most notably released a video only yesterday in which he interviews a bunch of people on his server about why they play Classic era, and also includes some little comedy skits.

There are multiple references to era having a "small town feel" to it, where people know each other and help each other out. Which sounds great and is one of the things I wanted out of Classic from the beginning. Of course for someone who's not comfortable on a server with fewer than 10k concurrent players, this is probably more or less equivalent to "being dead" anyway, but for those of us who're looking for more of a community feeling and are okay with not being able to anonymously queue up for a battleground or join a pug at all hours of the day, there's definitely something there.

Interestingly, a lot of people talking about their experiences on era also mention that it's been growing recently, which I can definitely see being a thing. I may be part of a minority, but surely I'm not the only one who'd rather go back to Classic than forward to Wrath of the Lich King, and whenever Season of Mastery ends, that might also provide a small influx of additional players. Which is kind of funny in that it's the opposite of WillE's video and his bold declaration about era servers being "officially" dead now.

Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that up until now, people have still been able to buy clones of Classic characters that previously moved on to BC, but in only a few days, that will come to an end and all dormant clones will be deleted. I went ahead and cloned a few more of my lower-level characters, just because Blizzard drastically lowered the price of the cloning service and I'd rather have those characters available if I become more invested in era than regret not unlocking them later on.

Once that's gone though, levelling a brand new character from scratch will be the only way to join the action in Classic era, and we'll see how that's going to affect the population. On the plus side though, deleting all those tens of thousands of dormant clones that have been taking up names will make it a lot easier for players to find names for new characters that aren't already taken.