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.


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.


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...


Three Short Classic Tales


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 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.


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.


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).