Random Retail Ramblings

Last night I had a random idea for an alt in retail, so I started playing around with the character creator. A bit of fiddling was required until I found a suitable name that wasn't taken (the way WoW's character creator gives feedback on that while you're typing is very good by the way); then I hit finish... and was presented with the following error message:

You already have the maximum number of characters allowed on this account.

While I've been vaguley aware of this limit of fifty characters per account for a long time, I never expected to actually run up against it myself in a million years. My immediate reaction was to go back to the server selection screen and add up the numbers myself. Yes, I had ten characters on my old Horde server, ten characters on my old Alliance server, plus obviously a few characters on Azjol-Nerub, where I'm playing with my husband nowadays, but that's barely halfway there!

The numbers didn't lie though - apparently I'd amassed so many random low-levels across a number of different servers over the years (to say hi to friends there, take part in projects/events etc.) that I had indeed hit fifty. Interestingly, for all the interest in monetisation, additional character slots are not something Blizzard sells even to this day. Fortunately I had no particular qualms about deleting a random level three druid that I could barely even remember making to free up some space, so I could then go ahead and create the new worgen rogue I'd actually wanted to make.

This was my third time through the worgen starter zone, and it was shockingly lonely despite of cross-realm zones. This isn't some sort of "game is dead" dig - the worgen starter experience moves you around a lot and involves a lot of phasing, so this wasn't entirely unexpected, but still... I remember running into a total of three other players during the entire two play sessions I spent on this little adventure, and none of them stayed within my sights for long.

By the time I was finally ejected from Gilneas, I was level 17, which is about where you'd end up back in the day as well but which still feels mildly insane to me now that the level cap has been squished down to sixty. After a bit of musing about how much it must suck to roleplay a Gilnean in lore right now (you lose your home to the Forsaken, carve out a little niche among the night elves, and then their whole tree gets burned down by the Horde as well), I ran into my usual troubles figuring out how to travel cross-continent in retail.

It wasn't lost on me that it was quite ironic that my attempts to google advice on this mostly resulted in results for WoW Classic. I know my way around Classic, thanks; things make sense there! Say what you want about boats, there's a lot of logic in reaching a shoreline, seeing a port, and taking a boat from there to somewhere beyond the water. Portals may be convenient but they can be anywhere and lead to anywhere, so there's no natural rhyme or reason to where you can find a portal to go to any particular place in WoW (with the exception of the big portal room in the Stormwind mage tower). Fortunately I eventually found a portal to Stormwind regardless.

Every time I play an alt in retail it strikes me that there's still a lot of "world" in World of Warcraft but that the game just has zero interest in making you engage with it. The best way for things to make some semblance of sense for new players is to put them through a very curated experience that just ignores everything pre-BfA (which is what Blizzard has done with Shadowlands) and it just seems like such a shame when I suspect that it's precisely all this older stuff that keeps many people subscribed long term, even if that content doesn't reward relevant gear anymore. Or at least that's what I'm seeing with my husband, who spends hours going through old quests and grinding old reputations and achievements for completion's sake. And there are certainly only so many hours in the day that I want to spend exclusively on the newest expansion content myself.


  1. My one or two excursions into the Worgen starting area were not unlike yours; it feels very lonely there, and not as some sort of special circumstances to help you get into the mood. Nah, it's just empty, as it is after you get kicked out as well. It is a crime just how unused that area is.

    I agree with the perception that WoW doesn't really engage you with the world. In fact, you did a far better job summing that up than I did when I posted my multi-page screed about it last year or something like that.

    1. It was like that in late Cataclysm, when I created a Worgen Warlock and --post intro zone-- leveled them via Battlegrounds. So even back then, the zone was empty after the first big rush of new Worgen blitzed through.

    2. my multi-page screed about it last year

      Oh! Oh! I read that one! It was a good post.

    3. Why, thanks! I, being a shallow creature, had to re-read it just to reframe the whole thing in my head. The thing that jumped out at me was that the "squish" sure turned out to be short-lived! They taking us to 70 in Dragonflight so, if I had to guess, I'd say the feedback is immensely negative. Which probably means that the experience of leveling through after that rolls out will likely be more muddled.

      You know what this means. That's right. Tride is making a re-appearance.

    4. All the feedback I've seen about the level squish has been neutral to positive. My personal guess is just that Blizzard doesn't really do long-term planning when it comes to features like that. I'll be happy to read more about Tride either way!

    5. Okay, that's a fair dinkum. "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity" or something like that.

      There's a Despicable Me meme out there where the last panel is blank.

  2. Your mention of portals actually jogged my memory about something: how does Azeroth have so much technology when magic is so prevalent? If magic --Arcane, Holy, Nature, whatever-- is found everywhere, why make a zeppelin if you can open up ports? Why even use shipping at all? Just hire a Mage --or a similarly skilled Windshaper-- and bypass the sailing ships. Why create the huge flying fortresses (not Flying Fortress, the B-17 WW2 airplane) when you can just pop in whenever if you get enough Mages to open portals? Or repair wagons? Or harvest crops?

    I know, I know: stop making sense about things.

    Anyway, I had no idea you'd created that many alts all over the place. I know I should have guessed, given the sheer volume of alts you created in SWTOR, but still.... I guess I'm still thinking of the F2P versions of LOTRO, ESO, Star Trek Online, and Neverwinter, where you're restricted to a very small number number of toons (currently 2 on Neverwinter and STO, because I still pop in and play every so often). Unless it changed, I think the F2P version of SWTOR is still a tiny number of toons compared to the stables available today.

    1. What, you've never heard of Science Fantasy? But no, I get what you mean... Classic was much better at making magic look like something rare and precious. Retail's kind of overused the "eh, we can explain it by putting some mages here" justification to the point where you do wonder why people don't just do that everywhere, all the time.

    2. Something something indentured servitude something

      Seriously, anyone ever see those poor folks in the Stormwind mage tower get a soda or something? Maybe an orange juice? Some string cheese? NPR needs to run a piece, is all I'm saying.

    3. I volunteered my mage alt for the role of portal provider a few times during our world buff runs in Classic. It always amazed me how often people managed to be just far enough apart that I had to make a new portal for each and every one of them. I don't envy those mages.

    4. Handling the portal gig isn't a bad thing, when all the Mages can get together and put all the portals on top of each other. If you throw in someone with Atiesh, you can play "portal roulette".

      "Oh, look, I got ported to Karazhan! Why are they all attacking me?"

      "That's because they're L70 now and you're only L60."

      "Oh.... ouch. And... there's a visit to the graveyard again."

      (That conversation did happen in raid.)

  3. I really like the Worgen starting area. That and the Goblin starting zone are the best two, I think.

    I'd forgotten just how incredibly confusing Retail is about getting from A to B. You reminded me of one time I played, before Classic, when I'd been away for years. I remembered an overland/oversea route from back when I played in WotLK and assumed it would still work but of course the boats weren't runnng any more. Then I spent most of a session looking stuff up online, running around trying and failing to find portals and gettign extremely frustrated. Only stubborness kept me going. If I was a new player I'd have written the game off at that point.