Why It's Rude to Suck at Warcraft

Dan Olson's Folding Ideas channel has become one of my favourite destinations for watching long-form philosophical videos about random subjects, from flat-earthers to online grifts involving audiobooks. He also plays WoW though, and today I found a new video of his in my recommendations that I knew I'd love: Why It's Rude to Suck at Warcraft.

To be honest, the title alone was kind of enlightening in a way, because as much as I've chafed against some of the modern WoW community's social norms, it had never crossed my mind that their annoyance at people not following every meta is rooted in them perceiving it as "rude" when you don't play the way they expect you to. I mean, the opposite seems obvious, someone saying "you suck" is rude no matter the context. But being offended by others not following certain norms - even if the result has no practical effect on you whatsoever - is something I've always considered strange and off-putting.

Anyway, I won't talk too much about the content of the video itself; just watch it yourself. It approaches the topic from several interesting angles, such as how it's actually quite odd that WoW has become so competitive, considering that it's not really designed for it and allows addons that in most other competitive games would be considered "cheating".

The thing that really hit home for me personally though was when at 2:37 he starts showing screenshots of comments (presumably in response to a previous video) that criticise him clicking on his abilities instead of keybinding them, because this has been a personal bugbear of mine for literal years.

You see, I'm well aware that keybinding your abilities is more "optimal" in the sense that it increases your reaction time and actions per minute. However, it's also objectively more demanding in that it requires setup and memorisation, as opposed to just being able to click whatever button is in front of you. Naturally, the latter is much more appealing to new and casual players, and that's fine. I'm not in an arena or mythic progression team. I play WoW Classic, where even the hardest PvE content only really requires me to press two or three buttons in combat while occasionally taking a few steps to the left or right. Speed and split-second reactions are not really required.

And yet, ever since I started uploading the occasional WoW Classic video to YouTube, I started getting comments that had nothing to do with the actual content of the videos but would instead focus on my UI and mouse cursor, condemning me for clicking instead of keybinding. Even if the video is me on a level fourteen warlock, killing four zhevras. How dare I do that non-optimally?!

Even the Forks weren't immune to this, which was so weird. Here was a guild that was super casual, never talked about dps and happily carried multiple ret paladins through Naxx that (due to the limitations of their class) struggled to out-dps the tanks. Yet I'd post a boss kill video on the guild Discord and people would ask me whether I'd heard of our lord and saviour, keybindings, as if this must be an entirely new concept to me.

No matter how many times I told them that I simply didn't care to keybind, no matter that I was one of our better damage dealers regardless, people would bring it up again and again with an almost religious zeal. It almost makes you feel gaslit after a while, when you know it doesn't matter to the way you play, and yet people keep telling you that it does because even just knowing that someone is questing in the Barrens on a low-level alt without keybindings is somehow strange and offensive to them. It's utterly bizarre.

Dan doesn't come to any real conclusion in his video, merely commenting that all of this has been a natural evolution of things and that trying to fight it (e.g. by removing addons) has its own pitfalls, which is true. However, I would argue that game developers do have an interest in fighting back against the most extreme manifestations of this sort of maths-based elitism. Players who are in favour of it will often argue that everyone's allowed to self-select, and if you don't want to play with people who are too demanding, you can simply create your own group/guild or whatever. Never mind that certain types of gaming prescriptivists will actively hound you day and night with their attempts to make you play their way as mentioned above.

However, the more important thing to keep in mind is that if the whole point is to play casually, to not go beyond a certain kind of effort to appease other players, then saying you should simply work harder to isolate yourself from the rest of the community is missing the point. If the only solution to being "allowed" to continue to play casually (in whatever way) is to work harder on some other aspect of the game, it's much easier to just quit and do something else. If a lot of people are not great at WoW and this mere fact is considered rude and "offensive" by a very vocal subset of players, then a lot of people are going to find some other game to play (even if the gameplay itself would be perfectly accessible to them). Having a community that's constantly raising the bar for what's considered an acceptable minimum and then antagonises its fellow players about this does not make for a healthy game in the long run.


More on Dracthyr and the Pre-Patch Event

I'm still playing Classic era primarily, however things are just kind of quietly chugging along there at the moment, so the new and (partially) time-limited stuff happening in retail is more interesting to talk about for now.

I've had opportunity to practice playing my evoker some more, and it's turned out to be pretty fun. I finally seem to be getting the hang of soaring, and it's fun to ride a flying mount up to the nearest elevation and then shoot like an arrow across multiple zones.

I also ended up healing the new Uldaman dungeon twice - both times we four-manned it with my husband and two friends. The first time around we went in without a tank as well, which was a bit chaotic and resulted in quite a few deaths, though we did successfully complete the instance anyway. It was certainly good healing practice! The second time around my husband played his demon hunter so that we would have a proper tank, and that just made it super easy.

The only times I really struggled with healing were when there was AoE damage going around and the group was spread all over the room, but I guess that situation is awkward for any healer. In general though I've been enjoying figuring out how to heal as an evoker, with lots of dashing about and trying to aim the different shapes of AoE heal correctly. It's a bit more "action-y" than I'd usually like and actually reminds me of some videos I saw of Wildstar back in the day - I could see that being quite stressful in harder content, but in the context of an easy dungeon it was certainly fun.

I'm also liking my dracthyr's look more over time - I particularly like how her visage form turned out, and dracthyr get this cool ability called "Chosen Idenity" which when activated, automatically puts you into your visage form whenever you're not in combat. Certainly feels a lot less weird to be riding a dragon mount as a humanoid than as a dragon person for example! They really should add that feature for worgen too - would make it a lot less awkward to shapeshift into humanoid form more often that way.

We've also been checking out the pre-patch Primalist invasion event. In the run-up to the pre-patch I'd heard people express hope that these would feel similar to the Legion invasions that preceded the Legion expansion, and which seemed to be quite popular at the time. I wasn't playing retail back then, but I do remember people talking about that event quite fondly. It always sounded like those invasions were quite ubiquitous too, though I just checked and in this post by Bhagpuss from back then he clarified that the Legion invasions also only happened in six zones - still, that's three more than the current event.

My own closest point of comparison are the elemental invasions that preceded Cataclysm, which I also remember with some fondness. The current invasions are okay, but nothing to write home about in my opinion. At first there's something fun to the zerg, but the longer it goes on, the more boring it gets. You basically just spam AoE onto endlessly respawning opponents until you get bored; there's no real ebb and flow to things other than the occasional boss event. Plus I guess it doesn't help that the three zones chosen for invasion are the Badlands, Northern Barrens and Un'goro. I mean, who gives a crap about the Badlands? Let the Primalists have them. Rewards aside, I can't say that I feel very inspired to defend the place, not like I was when elementals invaded the capitals pre-Cataclysm. I'll just keep going there a few more times to earn a few more of the rewards before the event goes away I guess.


D(ragon) Day

So, the release of dracthyr evokers in the run-up to Dragonflight has been... interesting. I was honestly pretty hyped about it. It's been a long time since I was part of this kind of event in retail WoW, and I had pretty fond memories of the community buzz in the days immediately after the Shattering for example. Things didn't entirely turn out the way I'd hoped though.

First there was the confusion about when exactly the unlock would happen. Blizzard had been advertising the 15th for ages, and I already had the day off work for unrelated reasons, so it didn't even occur to me that this might not be one of those world-wide launches - as it turned out, there were no dragons yet for EU players on the 15th, and of course the next day was an office day for me, which left me with minimal time to spend on anything other than commuting and work.

Still, I managed to at least log into the game early in the morning to create my evoker. I had actually done some preparation for this, as I found a tool on Wowhead that simulated the dracthyr character creator. I know that I can get pretty caught up in character customisation, and with the dracthyr having more customisation options than any previous race, I wanted to familiarise myself with all the different options in advance. I was just confused because when I tried to use the option to save my creation, Wowhead kept telling me that my dragon needed more clothes, which made me wonder whether it was mandatory to equip a minimum number of the cosmetic armour pieces that are available for the class (it was not). In the end I just took a reference screenshot manually.

Anyway, thanks to this I had a picture to speed up my decision-making on Wednesday morning, though since I hadn't yet looked at the visage form options at all, the process still took me more than twenty minutes. Still, I managed to at least finish my character before having to dash off to work. Thus, "Shindragosa" was born.

The husband and I then sat down to play together late in the evening, but again things were not off to a good start as I was greeted by the error message "cinematic not available" upon logging in, so I had to immediately set off to YouTube on my second monitor to figure out what the hell my character was supposed to have seen before even starting. While I was doing that, the husband was struggling with a different dilemma - for him the cinematic had played - at least partially - but then he got stuck in the room you spawn in and found himself unable to get out. I googled that issue as well, and the common advice seemed to be to "restart your game five or six times". This did work eventually, but basically, just getting both of our characters out of the very first room took us something like ten to fifteen minutes.

After that, things continued somewhat more smoothly, though the area felt very quiet. I'm guessing this was done intentionally via phasing, as we did see more players once we got out of the first building, but if there had been a big rush earlier in the day, we had clearly missed it.

The Forbidden Reaches were fun enough as a starter zone - mostly WoW standard questing fare interspersed with a few (working) cut scenes, but our real focus was on our soar ability and using it to fly around a bit whenever it was off cooldown. There's a quest at the very start where you can practice soaring with no cooldown and I would have liked to spend some more time on that, but the husband just wanted to move on so I did too, without ever really getting the hang of it. The two times or so when I got it to work properly after that it felt great, however most of the time I just lost momentum way too quickly and dropped like a rock. Needs more practice.

Towards the end of the area quest line there was another "cut scene not available" failure, this time affecting both of us, and we were very confused as a battle we'd been fighting just phased around us and things had clearly gone to shit in some way but we didn't know how or why. Again I looked it up on YouTube and that one was definitely a very important cut scene!

Eventually we made it to Stormwind and did the intro there (I thought Wrathion's introduction was laugh-out-loud funny, not gonna lie), but we felt it was too late to look at the elemental invasion event or do the dungeon quest we'd been given. Guess that one's for another day.

In terms of play style I don't know yet whether evoker will be for me or not. The pacing of skills in the starting zone felt very good, but then you come out of there and the game's like: "Here, have fifty talent points or so and another ten abilites to place on your action bars! Hope you enjoy reading tooltips!" and I really can't judge that without actually trying some of those new skills properly first.


Some #WarcraftStories

Okay, so technically the hashtag is #WarcraftStory, in the singular, but that's an unimportant detail.

This morning I checked my Twitter timeline to see people responding to the official Warcraft account with Tweets in the format of:

Character name
Server name

Because apparently Blizzard put some sort of bot in that would respond to your Tweet with an image of your character and two paragraphs of text characterising you in some way based on selected stats from your Armoury page. Rohan wrote a little post about it as well.

This looked fun and I immediately had to try it for myself, inputting my current monk main, which resulted in this:

I'm not a pet collector so I didn't think my number of pets owned would be remarkable in any way, but maybe it is? I also actively avoid killing critters generally, so I was a bit surprised to see that get called out. Damn AoEs I guess. (I also wonder if mawrats count as critters.)

Then I decided to do my husband's demon hunter:

Note that neither of us raided in Mists of Pandaria, so I looked at that and went, "You been farming those MoP raids, huh?" to which he responded with an amusingly embarrassed look.

Then I put in a friend who's kind of hapless when it comes to WoW and whom we just drag around a lot:

We all had a good laugh at him being labelled as a "dungeon specialist" when he's barely done any (though 52 is more than I would have expected). The only reason he's got four Vault of the Wardens runs is some bad RNG when we took him timewalking one week. Also, you can tell that neither my husband nor said friend care about transmog. It always offends my eyes a little.

Next I decided to put in my old main from original Burning Crusade to Cata, wondering whether she would throw up some raid stats. But no, this one focused on PvP and emotes:

I kept trying more alts, but sadly after that the bot's creativity seemed to run out, as they were all more or less repeats of the pet/critter combo. Those 307 pets must be really extraordinary... or maybe all my alts are just considered very boring, and since the pet counter is account-wide, it overrides everything else.

Looking at some of the other images posted on Twitter, the bot did seem to favour stats for the harder Shadowlands content somewhat, using those to go into more detail when available. When I told my husband about that, he asked that I do some of his alts, since he didn't have impressive numbers of mounts or pets and expected more character-specific results. However, what we really got out of the exercise was that he can't remember the names of his own alts.

"Do my warrior! It's Jogern, J-O-G-E-R-N!"

"I don't know what that is, but it's not a warrior. Is it a priest?"
"Oh, it's my warlock!"
"And he's a supporter of public transportation, apparently."

Ultimately his alts weren't much more interesting than mine though, as they were all labelled as "dungeon specialists". Still, it was a fun little exercise, and I had a few more friends ask me to "do the thing" with their characters too. This is the kind of silly fun that works really well on social media. I was reminded of how we used to call this sort of stuff "memes" back in the aughts, before the word took on the meaning it has today. ("I just did this WoW story meme and got this result! Let's see yours!")


The End of Season of Mastery

I only really talked about Season of Mastery once on this blog, which was when it had just been announced. I was still focused on Classic Burning Crusade back then, but even if I hadn't been, nothing about SoM really sounded appealing to me. I like the pace of levelling in Vanilla, why would I want permanent double XP? I like that the large raids aren't that difficult and allow for a fairly laid-back and relaxed atmosphere, why would I want harder raids? I like to take my time playing casually, why would I want to play on a server that will rush through all the content even faster than Classic did? I enjoy the community aspect of Vanilla/Classic, why would I want to play on a temporary server that's destined to be shut down after only a year and whose community will be dispersed? And so on and so forth.

That said, with my move to Classic era, SoM has somewhat come back into focus for me, not because I suddenly wanted to play it, but because SoM is also based on vanilla Classic (if with modifications) and there's overlap between the two player bases. Specifically, with SoM rapidly approaching its natural end point, some of the people playing there have expressed interest in transferring their characters to era.

Interactions between the two groups haven't been without friction, mind you - as one of the moderators on the Classic era Discord put it very aptly: "They might be that one cousin you never quite liked and your preferences might differ, but they’re part of the family." While not all era players love the exact same things about it that I do, the divide between era loyalists and those coming from SoM has certainly been noticeable, with many SoM players constantly balking against what they perceive as the "staleness" of era and already yearning for the next "fresh" server - whatever it may end up being. As a result, era players can feel torn between wanting to welcome the influx of fresh blood and being annoyed with the newcomers seemingly not appreciating era's value proposition.

At the same time, I've been finding some of the things that SoM players have been talking about quite interesting. Since I didn't really follow what was going on on those servers, I've been learning a lot. Did you know that in SoM, Baron Geddon in Molten Core dropped not one but three bombs at a time, and also left fire puddles behind on the floor that required him to be kited? Or that in AQ40, C'thun tentacles could show up on all the bosses? It certainly sounded interesting in some ways - just not really like something I'd personally want to invest time in.

WillE posted a good video summarising Season of Mastery the other week as well, and in it, he referred to an interview with Classic producer Aggrend, in which he supposedly called SoM a success. I wanted to watch the whole thing for some more context, and SoM actually doesn't come up until very close to the end, starting at around 26:36, when Aggrend goes off on a tangent in response to a question about splitting the player base. He says that SoM has been "near and dear to [their] hearts", that it was great for what it was and that they learned a lot about what does and doesn't work for a seasonal server like that. It didn't sound like they had any immediate plans to launch another project like it, but like they were keen on doing it again, assuming there was enough demand for it.

And that's the question really, isn't it? What does Blizzard consider enough demand? They didn't think there was enough for permanent BC servers. Presumably their goal is to score extra subscriptions that they wouldn't otherwise get from other versions of Classic, but how many is enough to fund a special rule set? There was a decent amount of buzz around SoM when it launched, but even with that in mind I'm a bit doubtful whether many of those players wouldn't have subscribed and played another version of the game if SoM hadn't existed.

According to a guildie who played on SoM, the population there dropped off very quickly, to the point that "soft consolidations" aka free server transfers to a single server were already happening around the time BWL was released. And I guess in a way that's expected with a seasonal server like that, but again, how quickly is too quickly?

I know this whole temporary server thing was Holly Longdale's big trick while running Everquest and apparently worked well for them there, but I can't help but feel like the effect it has on WoW is that it's just cheapening the brand. I know Blizzard has fallen from grace in recent years, but in many ways WoW has still been that MMO that's always there and provides a solid experience with (relatively) few bugs, and where you can always come back and pick things up again where you left off. Littering it with temporary servers that die off after a couple of months and whose characters get deleted if you don't transfer them off in time kind of seems to go against that. Then again, that might just be me.

But yes, if you did play on SoM, consider this your reminder to take a free character transfer off to era or WotLK Classic if you care about your characters at all. Assuming the feature is up and working when you read this, because as it turns out, transferring characters between different "versions" of the game is a process the Blizzard devs have yet to fully master, which was evidenced by the transfers off SoM originally going down again almost as soon as they had launched. From reports that I heard, characters that were transferred during this period retained part of their SoM status even on era and could for example cause items to drop in raids that could only be looted by them.

For now transfers seem to be back up again though, and while no closing date for the SoM servers has been announced as of yet, I recommend getting it over with sooner rather than later to avoid any annoyance later on. I expect that a lot of forgotten SoM characters will end up in the bin and that there'll be some wailing and gnashing of teeth from their players when they return and find out, since Blizzard hasn't really been in the habit of deleting people's unplayed characters in the past.