Guardians of the Dream (Casual 10.2 Review)

Coming back to retail, one thing I really miss about the old days is the community interactions around newly released content. There's still plenty of WoW content being created, but as far as I can tell it's almost exclusively guides or speculation about the future, such as when and what the next patch will be. I miss the days when everyone would gather around the watering hole in comment sections to share their thoughts about the newest current content for example.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that patch 10.2 came out a couple of weeks ago and I basically have no idea how it's been received by the wider player base. Now, I've had to do some spoiler-dodging since I don't want to see the end-of-raid cinematic until I can see it in game for myself, which won't happen until the new raid is fully unlocked in LFR, and that's something that won't happen for another couple of weeks. But there's plenty of other stuff people could be talking about, and I haven't really seen it.

The first thing that really struck me when entering the new Emerald Dream zone for the first time was that there was a loading screen - which isn't really unusual, and we are entering an alternate dimension of sorts, but considering how smoothly all the other Dragonflight zones have been connected until now, it still felt a bit jarring. I guess I would've expected to be able to just fly though the portal seamlessly.

The zone itself is gorgeous and the predominant shade of green kind of reminds me of Zereth Mortis for some reason, which isn't a bad thing, as I quite liked that zone too. Except instead of being slightly alien and filled with strange tech, the Emerald Dream is flowery and druidic.

I have slightly mixed feeling about Amirdrassil, the new world tree central to the zone. I thought the story decision to burn down Teldrassil for shock value in BfA was bad, and the night elves kind of "deserve" a new home... but going from planting its seed mere months ago to having a ginormous tree so quickly feels a bit weird and unearned to me. I know magic is a thing in this world and all, but they don't even attempt to give any sort of explanation for it.

I would also say that the whole story up to the raid is a bit... cheesy? I don't expect particularly deep writing from WoW, but this was somewhat flat even by that standard. I will say that the big battle leading up to the raid had something going for it though. The husband had a good laugh blowing the Horn of Cenarius next to every single NPC to see what they would say, and while he joked about the reinforcements appearing "like the Avengers", I've got to say I appreciated that all those powerful characters actually did show up to help defend an important objective... unlike past expansions, where you'd wonder why e.g. someone like Jaina was a no-show when it came to defending the freaking planet against the Legion.

All that said, I really love the general activities in the zone so far. It's funny because my husband had a peek before we started questing there together, and he commented that the events in it seemed kind of boring to him but he had a hunch that I would like them, and he wasn't wrong. The zone's big public event, called the Superbloom, basically involves following a giant walking tree around while clicking on all kinds of shinies on the ground, with the latter being one of my favourite things to do in any MMO.

I also love the mechanics of the dream seeds. Again, the husband said he found it boring to just plant a seed and wait three minutes. But you don't have to just stand there, you can always collect more shinies around the plant during that time! I think it's pretty ingenious design to be honest, the way the various sources of dew drops appear the moment the plant starts growing. Also, while you can technically plant and boost a seed to its maximum capacity by yourself, it's quite resource-expensive to do it that way, so casual collaboration is heavily encouraged and pays off handsomely. I could happily fly in circles and contribute to other people's seeds for hours.

Speaking of flying, fully exploring the new zone unlocked regular flying on the Dragon Isles, and I've got to say it's been nice to have it available as a supplementary mode of transport. I still use my dragonriding mount most of the time because of how much faster it is, but it's handy to also have the regular flying mount on hand for certain occasions where you want to perform a precision landing on a small branch for example, or if you want to quickly hop around short distances between nearby objectives (such as several gathering nodes), for which mounting and working up momentum on your dragon would be overkill.

We're supposed to be getting more content before the next expansion, but this is supposedly the last major patch. I've gotta say there are worse places to spend the better part of the year waiting for the next expansion.


(Vanilla) Classic Class Personalities

The other day I was looking at a conversation in my guild's Discord and thinking to myself how these warriors always talk about the same things over and over when it suddenly hit me: All the classes seem to have a very distinctive personality profile when it comes to the people who prefer playing them. I wrote a post like this about SWTOR more than a decade ago, why have I never done this for WoW? Well, let's do it now.

Druid players live up to their class's hippie image in my opinion, in that they are usually very friendly and easygoing. They play druid because they like that the class is both self-sufficient while soloing and versatile in group content, and they are happy to play whatever role is needed to make things go smoothly. Just don't cause any stress, man.

Hunters have a reputation for being lazy and stupid, which means hunter players have to be willing to put up with that. In some ways that means the class is a great fit for anyone wanting to take an ultra-casual approach to the game, because if you unexpectedly go AFK, forget to enchant your gear or just generally don't know how to play your class, nobody's going to be surprised. However, if you actually like to min-max and play your class to the best of its capabilities, you won't last long as a hunter main, because you'll never get any buffs and will perpetually be tarred with the "huntard" brush. Dedicated hunter mains therefore stand out for having an outstanding ability to just ignore everyone and not give a damn about anything.

Mages enjoy that their class brings a lot of unique tricks to the table, and while they're not generally attention-seekers, they do thrive on the way their class's toolkit inherently grants it to them anyway. This can manifest in a number of different ways, from impressing random bystanders with flawless kiting of a dangerous mob to being the one to repeatedly plop down portals after a raid until the very last person has made their way home. The point is, you'll notice a good mage and they enjoy that.

Paladins are Classic's dreamers. Depending on which spec they choose, they may envision themselves as stalwart protectors, vengeful smiters of evil or as powerful healers... but of course, in Vanilla they can't really truly deliver in any of those roles. Still, they persist in their class fantasy, even as everyone else wonders why they didn't just roll a warrior or priest, and they take solace in the knowledge that their buffs at least guarantee them a raid spot.

You don't roll a priest in Vanilla if you're not a team player wanting to play nice with others, so priests are always the caring type... one way or another. However, being a priest also means depending a lot on other people's help, and anyone who's levelled one will have been repeatedly let down in that regard, which means they're also incredibly cynical and jaded. Whenever I wonder what a Classic priest player looks like in real life, I picture Hide the Pain Harold.

Contrary to what their class mechanics would make you think, the one thing rogues never do is just fade into the background. They can be naughty or nice, but they are always in your face. In the nice variant, that means constantly wanting to hang out or offering to help out in some way, while the naughty variant can manifest in anything from shit-talking to bullying to ganking. They'll just never shut up and be quiet.

Shaman mains are Classic's brainiacs and multitaskers. I suppose this comes naturally for a class that has to juggle more than a dozen buffs across four totems, some of which only last for mere seconds and constantly need to be refreshed or moved around. They will often find themselves in roles of responsibility, such as officer or master looter, or they may employ their talents more stealthily by acquiring rare profession recipes that others need or quietly carrying the healing team. You just know that you can always rely on your shamans.

Warlock mains always give off a vibe of being stuck somewhere between slight annoyance and confusion. All they wanted was to play an evil character who dominates demons and does massive damage, yet debuff limits in raids mean they're forbidden from using their tools to their full potential, while people keep pestering them for health stones and summons as if they're meant to be nice and helpful. It just feels wrong. They're at their happiest when they're allowed to just act insane and burn themselves and their enemies to death with hellfire.

Warriors are both the best tanks and dps in Classic by a mile, and players who choose to main a warrior usually know this. They pressed the "I win" button at character creation on purpose. Like a monarch dealing with peons, the average warrior has little interest in what "lesser" classes are doing unless the tax isn't paid on time they're missing windfury or some other dps buff. They will simply charge ahead, confident in the knowledge that they're the best and certain that everyone else will acknowledge this and follow their lead. They only really enjoy the presence of other warriors, with whom they'll be fiercely competitive on the damage and threat meters.

What do you think? Does this match your own impressions of people who main these classes? (Anyone can make an alt of any class of course.) Or do you completely disagree? Feel free to let me know in the comments.


I Started an Orc (Heritage)

I've been enjoying alt play a lot more in Dragonflight and have a whole bunch of them working on different things. One such alt is my orc warlock Kara. (Yes, apparently you can still get a plain four-letter name in modern WoW sometimes... creating the character on a low-pop server presumably helps.) I originally created her about two years ago because I wanted to see whether Exile's Reach was any different on Horde side compared to Alliance, to which the answer was no, which is why that didn't become a blog post. Then it occurred to me that I'd never seen the Horde-side story of Battle for Azeroth, which was completely different from Alliance side, so going through that content became her next purpose - this is a project that's still in progress.

The reason I made her an orc is that orcs are the only one of the original Horde races that I never played, mostly because I thought they were too ugly (sorry). Even if the ladies were very buff and all that, I just couldn't get over their weird little pug noses. However, I think it was after watching a video where someone was looking at all of the new character customisations that Blizzard added at some point in Shadowlands that I suddenly went: Wait, it's possible to make an orc now that I might actually enjoy playing? (The answer is yes!) I also made her a warlock because that's a class that never meshed with me in Vanilla, but which seems to have changed a lot in retail, and I just wanted to get an idea of what it was all about now.

Recently, when I was doing my research on heritage quest lines, I learned that many people considered the orc heritage chain one of the best ones, if not the best, so I thought getting Kara up to and through that chain might be another interesting thing to do with her.

And I gotta say, I can see why people like it, which is why I won't go into too many spoilers. It hits all the right buttons by having you go back to nostalgic locations in Durotar and featuring a lot of famous as well as lesser-known orc NPCs. It was interesting to see Thrall and his family again - I had no idea that his older son was almost a teenager (?) now. Based on how excited the lad was while following me around while I did the cooking quest, I can picture a future as a chef for him. Also, it took me until about halfway through the chain to realise that Aggra's voice actress sounded strangely familiar... turns out she's voiced by Athena Karkanis, aka the voice of the female Jedi consular in SWTOR.

I liked the bit where you get to choose a clan - I figured that for a warlock, representing the Bleeding Hollow was the most appropriate. My second favourite bit was probably when you return to the Valley of Trials and this dying young orc gives you a side quest to return her bag of cactus apples. For some reason the reaction from the quest giver hit me right in the feels... "No one is supposed to die over these! I just ask all the young orcs to do this! It's supposed to be easy!" Not to mention the flavour text on the reward:

Anyway, I still personally prefer the human heritage quest line simply because I've created so many human characters over the years. But I really liked this as well despite never having played an orc before, so I can totally see how it might end up being someone's favourite if they always had a thing for orcs in the past.


The State of Classic Era at the End of 2023

As I've mentioned previously, with Classic era being a "static" MMO, the passage of time is mostly defined by the ebb and flow of the player base, plus the arrival of the occasional client update that breaks things. We just had another one of those actually, in preparation for the launch of Season of Discovery at the end of the month. For era this has once again meant a bunch of new bugs and minor changes, such as the in-game map suddenly being much smaller (not sure if that one's intentional or not actually), and enemy cast-bars now being visible in the default UI (with a toggle) so you no longer need an add-on just for those.

Mostly I wanted to talk about how the community is doing, though. I mentioned back in July that the "hype" around Classic era seemed to have died down but that the population seemed stable. I believe that the last reliable 30-day census I conducted with the census addon showed the Pyrewood cluster having an active population of 7-8k characters. I think that must have been around May or so? As I started to spend somewhat less time in game, my scans became less frequent and less reliable, so I didn't think too much of my scan numbers going down again at the same time.

The other day someone pointed out to me though that our cluster's official population had dropped from medium back down to low, which made me a bit sad. Mind you, it doesn't feel significantly diminished in game. There are still more people signing up for raids than there is room for, and Org and LFG chat seem reasonably lively at all times. It's just... a little less I guess.

My initial guess was that hardcore had taken a chunk out of the regular PvE population, seeing how it's a PvE-only mode (I myself gave it a go too, after all), and maybe that was true in the beginning, but we do seem to have entered a slight slump in population for all modes at this point, at least from what I can see on the European servers. Even the ever-popular PvP cluster has been downgraded from "full" to "high" again. The two hardcore servers have also mellowed out since launch. Initially they were both marked as "full", but now Stitches is down to "high" and Nek'rosh even to "medium".

The reason I'm writing all this down is not to discourage anyone from playing or to give off any "OMG, the game is dying" vibes, but because I'm curious to see how things will develop in the coming weeks. I think that Season of Discovery will be massive, but it will likely cannibalise both era and hardcore at least initially. Again, I'm fully planning to at least check it out, and a few people from my guild are planning to do the same.

At the same time, I don't expect it to be as much of a rival to the regular servers as Season of Mastery was. After all, that was shortly after mainline Classic had progressed into Burning Crusade, and the number of people who wanted to go backward instead of forward was very small. Also, SoM's sales pitch was something along the lines of "fresh Vanilla servers with some improvements", which I think put it into more direct competition with the "old" era servers. Season of Discovery on the other hand is openly promising a very different experience, which I'm sure will be interesting, but I don't think it'll scratch that Vanilla itch the same way the era or even the hardcore servers do.

Also, I suspect that we'll see another influx of fresh blood to the Vanilla Classic servers of all persuasions once Cata Classic launches early next year, as some of those for whom that is "a step too far" will want to return to their old, familiar haunts in the old world, just like I did myself when BC Classic's end was in sight.

There are currently no plans for Wrath era servers - much to the disappointment of some. I completely understand how they feel, and there was a period where I wondered whether WotLK's popularity might generate enough of a push for the creation of Wrath era servers despite Blizzard's disinterest in doing the same for BC, but looking at it right now, it seems increasingly unlikely to me. While there are definitely more people posting in favour of era servers than there were for BC, the subject is still flying pretty under the radar compared to other concerns, and it doesn't look like the campaign will reach the kind of critical mass needed to get Blizzard to reconsider.


Musings on Classic Cataclysm

I just wanted to write down a few more thoughts on Classic Cataclysm. While I'm not planning to play it, I guess now is the time to have opinions on it. I was particularly inspired by Wilhelm's recent post on the subject, in which he explains how he kind of came around to looking forward to Classic Cata, and how he feels he probably didn't give the expansion an entirely fair shake back in the day due to being off to a bad start for a number of reasons.

As for me, I'm kind of surprised how charitable I feel towards Cata (and therefore also its Classic version) in hindsight, especially compared to Wrath of the Lich King. At first glance, this simply doesn't make sense, because as far as I can tell from my old blog posts on here, I actually got more enjoyment out of Wrath than out of Cata, not to mention that Cata was when I originally gave up on WoW.

I think the difference is that while Cata had plenty of disappointments in store for me, Wrath - while more fun in some places - actively annoyed me in others, and there's a big difference in sentiment between "well, they tried but it was kind of disappointing" and "are they actively trying to piss me off or what". It struck me at one point that many of the things that felt bad about Cata were not really the fault of any of Cata's new features, but simply the result of changes originally made in Wrath of the Lich King (such as the addition of the dungeon finder or the push towards only caring about the latest raid tier).

I guess this explains why I had rather strong feelings about not wanting to play Wrath Classic when it came out, while Cata evokes more of a "probably not, but maybe?" I do remember quite liking some things about Cata back in the day.

Then again, looking back at that list also makes it kind of clear that there isn't really any reason for me to go back for those features. Rated battlegrounds and endgame as it was at Cata's release were kind of heavily dependent on being in a guild, something I no longer have in progressive Classic, plus they were also the kind of things that while I enjoyed them at the time, I'm not sure I'd want to go back and do them all over again. The rated battlegrounds in particular ultimately ended like all my organised PvP ventures, with me stepping down since my lack of skill was just holding the rest of the team back. As for the dungeons and raids... they were pretty fun at launch from what I remember, but I'm not sure they were fun enough for me to want to pick things up again and level a character through Northrend and the 80-85 Cata zones (which I remember being very tedious to repeat).

As for the other three items on the list (transmog, the revamped levelling zones and archaeology), those are all things that I can do just as well if not better in retail. Archaeology in specific is vastly improved in retail compared to how it was at Cataclysm launch. I remember when every dig site only contained a few digs before it was exhausted, each dig only gave a tiny number of fragments, and you only got skill-ups from surveying up to skill level 75 or so (out of... 515 I think?), at which point your only way of making any further progress was through combines. That whole process is so much more well-balanced and fun in retail now, so why would I want to play an all-around worse version of it?

I guess the main draw of Cata Classic is going to be for people who've been having a good time in Wrath with guildies and friends, because Cata will bring more things to do in a similar vein and there's no reason not to continue. In that scenario there's really no reason to hate on Cata just for the sake of it. However, it is yet another step further away from original Classic, so I also can't blame anyone for deciding that this is the point to jump off the train.


A Noob's Review of Dragonflight M+ Season 2

Yes, I'm still doing Mythic Plus with my guildies. I'm honestly feeling kind of "eh" about it - I don't mind it, but I could also do without it. At least one person in our little friend group is quite into it though, so we keep at it for now. Doing a couple of mythics each weekend isn't the worst way to spend some time (assuming we can all remain chill about failure, which hasn't always been the case).

With tomorrow's patch, Dragonflight's second M+ season is coming to an end, and I wanted to make some notes about it. Mainly, I'm kind of proud that I finished with a rating more than 500 points higher than last season. We're still bad, but slightly less so now I guess? Jumping in right from the beginning of the season, we had more time to learn this time around and I dare say we did get at least a little bit better at playing our classes and roles.

Here's how I'd rate my experiences with the season's eight dungeons, from favourite to least favourite:

Neltharion's Lair

I was kind of surprised when I heard in a video that this dungeon was apparently incredibly hard on higher keys, because on the difficulties we played it on, this was in my opinion the easiest dungeon of the set by quite a margin. The bosses all have fairly basic abilities and the trash is very straightforward as well and always seemed to go by quickly. As someone who didn't play during Legion, I got neither recycling nor nostalgia vibes from this one; it was just another dungeon that was (mostly) new to me. I just enjoyed that it didn't stress me too much as a healer, plus I liked the ride on the river and watching the hubby on his tank run on the spot while trying not to get eaten by the worm boss.

Halls of Infusion 

This was my favourite of the Dragonflight dungeons this rotation, as it's a place with varied trash and interesting bosses, without any single mechanic feeling overly punishing. Frogs are fun. I did have one run here that initially made me feel very bad, when we tried to push a slightly higher key and eventually had to give up due to continually wiping on Watcher Irideus. However, I felt less bad about that once I realised that there's only so much I can do in terms of AoE healing when the party decides to scatter to the four winds all the time, and I'm more assertive now about telling people to stack up if they want to stay alive in an AoE damage situation.


Just thinking about Freehold immediately gets its soundtrack playing in my head. It's just a fun place to be, from the music to the pirate theme to the pig chasing- even if the trash is pretty dense and we had a lot of wipes due to accidental overpulls. Also, I died so many times on the Council of Captains when I'd miss the Vulpera lady jumping across the room and doing her massive conal attack... but I did get at least somewhat better at keeping a close eye on her and moving along at the right time after a while.


I think we probably did Neltharus more often than some of the others because one of my guildies was after a trinket from there for a while, and it was always... okay? The mammoth boss and the last fight sometimes wiped us if we messed up, but they never felt insurmountably difficult. All in all, it was a dungeon with the pretty classic WoW theme of "bad guys surrounded by fire" - which was okay, just not particularly exciting to me.

Uldaman: Legacy of Tyr

Legacy of Tyr was another dungeon I didn't mind, but I just thought it was kind of dull due to being (in my opinion) way too similar to the truncated version of the original Uldaman.

Brackenhide Hollow 

I kind of liked the overall theme and ambience of this one, but the trash leading up to the first boss is pretty annoying and was responsible for quite a few wipes on our part. We also messed up on the first boss fight many times, including that one time that nearly caused my husband to lose it. Overall I have more not-so-happy associations with this one than good ones.

Vortex Pinnacle

I was initially excited to return to this Cataclysm dungeon, but the extra mechanics they added to Altairus made him crazy hard in my opinion, and we wiped on him sooo many times - just too many sometimes contradictory movement cues going on. I just really came to dread this dungeon for this boss alone, even though the other two were easy. Also, we once failed a run in this one by literally a single second, which was a bit of a bummer.

The Underrot

Easily my least favourite dungeon by a mile, with annoying diseases I couldn't cleanse, trash mobs with absolutely lethal, randomly targeted frontal attacks that I wouldn't see in time due to being too focused on healing, and we remained absolutely god-awful at the mechanics of the last two bosses all season. Just... so many wipes and depleted keys. Ironically, on our last run of the place last week, we had our guildie's more experienced brother along again, and he actually took the time to teach us how to do those two problem bosses "properly" - revealing that we'd done them wrong all along, which explained the extreme difficulty. He then joked that of course, all this newfound knowledge was about to become useless, as season three will bring a whole new dungeon rotation for us to learn from scratch. C'est la vie.

I'm curious to see what season three will bring. The only dungeon from the new mythic pool that I feel I know well is Cataclysm's Throne of the Tides, though who knows how the devs have decided to spice that one up for mythic. I look forward to seeing more old dungeons that I only know from Chromie Time and Timewalking in their "proper" format, but I'm also worried about Dawn of the Infinite being included in the dungeon pool, since that one was insurmountably difficult for us even on M0 when it came out. (We couldn't even kill the first boss.) I guess we'll find out soon enough.


I'm Not Sure How to Parse This BlizzCon

In my post looking ahead towards BlizzCon about a month ago, I stated that I expected it to have a pretty binary outcome: either Blizzard would surprise and delight with something unexpected, reinvigorating a jaded player base, or they'd deliver more of the same, causing WoW to continue to stagnate and decline.

So of course what we got was... weirdly in-between? There was definitely some business as usual in there, but also a couple of genuine surprises, so I'm not quite sure what to make of it. I shall go into more detail as to why.

Retail WoW: Worldsoul Saga

On the retail front, Blizzard surprised by announcing not one, but three new expansions that will be thematically tied together under the name "Worldsoul Saga". Coming up first we have "The War Within", which will have us going underground to deal with Azeroth's injuries from the giant sword (I think) while running into Earthen and Nerubians, followed by "Midnight", which looks like it will have a void theme and will supposedly have us returning to the Eastern Kingdoms to do stuff with elves. The trilogy will finish with "The Last Titan" which will see us returning to Northrend. It's unclear whether these will follow the existing two-year expansion cycle. Apparently Metzen did mention wanting to deliver them a bit faster, but Blizzard tried that several times in the past and always failed.

I applaud their long-term thinking for planning the next three expansions in advance, but to be honest I'm not sure it was a good idea to reveal all this to the public, as by doing so, they've basically spoiled their big BlizzCon reveals for the next several years. Plus what happens if parts of War Within turn out to be not so well received, e.g. because people don't like certain character or story developments? Harder to pivot when you've already publicly locked yourself in until the end of the decade.

Also, the overall theme of the trilogy seems to be to tie up a bunch of existing loose story threads - not gonna lie, leaning into the "What sword?" meme making fun of how everyone seems to have forgotten about the giant sword stuck in Silithus was well done here. However, that aside, I can't say that any of it has me particularly enthused. I'm not against wrapping up old story threads in principle, but a lot of it seems to reference events and themes from Legion or BfA that I didn't personally experience when they were current and that are hard to make sense of if you're coming to the content later.

For example there seems to be much excitement about the character of Xal'atath, who I know virtually nothing about. I think her spirit lived inside the artifact weapon for shadow priests during Legion or something? I also seem to remember finding her in a possessed knife on the shores of Stormsong Valley in a BfA side quest, but nothing really came of that... so basically I feel lost because I don't really know who she is or why I should care about anything she does. Never been a huge fan of dwarf, void and titan lore either, so the notion that this is gonna be WoW's focus until 2030 or so is a bit oof.

On the plus side... the cinematic was really nice. When it first played, I was actually a bit distracted and not listening, so I was unsure who the human was that Thrall was talking to. Then I rewatched it properly and was like "Whoa, that's Anduin?!". I saw people joking that this is what doing Maw dailies for several years does to a person and got a good chuckle out of that.

Also, in an interesting twist, the "systems" panel for War Within seemed to get the most enthusiastic cheers out of all the announcements as far as I could tell from home, as the devs reiterated that they want to keep improving the game in permanent ways with no more temporary additions that end up being abandoned a year later. This includes dragonriding becoming available for more mounts and being rebranded as "dynamic flying", an expansion of the new talent tree introduced in Dragonflight, a new type of solo to small group open world content called delves, and a whole bunch of new account-wide features such as shared reputations, shared transmog and a shared bank. This is all good stuff, but I'm not sure it'll be enough of a draw if the main theme of the expansion(s) doesn't really appeal to me.

In summary, I'll probably play this if the husband and friends want to, and I do think some of it definitely sounds interesting, but I'm not particularly enthused right now.

Classic WoW: Cataclysm and Season of Discovery

I expected the Classic news to be underwhelming and was mostly curious to watch the bizarre level of hype that the Classic WoW subreddit had worked itself up into, where some people seemed to think it was an absolute certainty that Blizzard was going to announce their personal pipe dream of Classic Plus despite of no evidence for this whatsoever. It was honestly approaching conspiracy theory levels of delusion.

That said, what we got was actually quite interesting. First off, Cataclysm Classic is indeed going to happen, with "some changes" but nothing too dramatic based on what I've heard so far. As expected, this was not received with too much enthusiasm by the crowd, and I felt a bit bad for the lady who had to present the panel on the subject as the crowd refused to laugh at any of her jokes until she was allowed to make a few comments about hardcore at the end. I guess at least there was no outright booing? There'll be people who'll play it no doubt, and the Hurricane cinematic was once again very well done. Does this guy just officially work for Blizzard now?

More interesting though was the reveal of the much-anticipated "Season of Mastery 2", which is not going to be a Season of Mastery. While the original SoM was basically a fresh Vanilla server with some raid-focused changes, they decided to go into a completely different direction with this new one, called Season of Discovery. This one will instead be focused on levelling, with the level cap initially locked at 25 and then gradually increasing over time, plus a bunch of new open world content to explore and "runes" to collect that will grant abilities from later expansions. There'll be low-level raids (apparently Blackfathom Deeps will be a level 25 raid for example) and no open PTR, to make sure everyone discovers the changes together on launch, with no possibility to prepare guides in advance.

I'm sure some of this is going to turn out to be broken as hell, but honestly, I think for a seasonal server that's probably fine, as no long-term harm will be done if things don't work out. In the short term, raiding BFD at level 25 with a shaman tanking and a mage healing honestly sounds like a chaotic bit of novelty fun. I might want to check this out - it already launches at the end of November too!

Finally there was a brief mention of them adding a self-found mode to hardcore, which will give people the option to have a "more hardcore hardcore" experience like with the original addon that prohibited grouping and the use of the auction house. No further details so far.

Conclusion (for now)

I'm slightly unsure how to feel about the path forward for retail and while Blizzard did deliver something surprising on that front, I'm somewhat sceptical about this particular surprise right now. Meanwhile Season of Discovery sounds surprisingly intriguing and like it could be up my alley in a way I didn't expect at all. I guess that's leaning closer to the success side of things for Blizzard than the "same old, same old" failure state I originally posited.


The Death of Lossy the Mage

I was going to sit on this post for a few more days but then I figured: It's Halloween, what better time to entertain people with a tale of death? Which is basically my way of saying that my hardcore character died. I'll tell you how it happened, because as I said previously, how people die in hardcore is easily the most interesting thing about it.

The main thing that came to mind after the death was that it's true that it gets you when you least expect it. Here I had been worried about Defias in Westfall and pugs in the Deadmines, but I certainly didn't expect to be killed by some random naga on Zoram Strand.

In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have played on a day when I was feeling a bit under the weather and quite fuzzy-brained (I spent most of the afternoon sleeping after shutting down WoW) - I'd like to think that I would have made fewer bad decisions if I'd been entirely with it, but it is what it is.

So what happened was that I decided to make my way to the Wetlands and from there to Kalimdor to unlock some flight paths. I reached Astranaar in Ashenvale without incident and decided to do a few easy quests while I was there. One of them was to collect twenty naga heads on Zoram Strand, which was easy enough as they were three to four levels below me.

When I got there I also "found" another quest I'd completely forgotten about, the one to retrieve an ancient statuette. I decided to pick it up since it was on the way. The follow-up asked me to get a key from a named non-elite naga, and I figured I might do that as well. So I went to the little island where she resided, where most of the mobs were yellow to me instead of green, but I still didn't think too much of it. I noticed that the named naga was patrolling with two guards attached to her, but I was confident that I could take them on with clever use of sheep and frost nova. You can probably guess where this is going.

I still don't think that this was a terrible thing to do in principle, but I should have taken more care. I sheeped the named naga and started nuking the melee guard, but there was also a caster that kept blasting me. When I tried to freeze the melee guy in place I also didn't immediately step far enough away and he still got several hits in. I noticed that I was taking a lot of damage and chugged a health potion, but I thought I still had it under control - this is where things really started to go wrong as I waited too long to start running.

I also hadn't considered that being on a small island meant that my only escape vector was by swimming, which made me very slow. When I eventually tried to make a run for it, using blink etc., I noticed that my health was still going down even with nothing hitting me, because the warrior-type had put a bleed on me. Can't even bandage like that! I thought I was almost sure to die but the bleed ended with me having 17 hitpoints left, which is when I took the below screenshot. I actually thought I'd made it for a moment as I thought I'd lost my pursuers, but then the melee guy caught up with me and one final swing finished me off.

In hindsight I can see on the pre-death screenshot that I still had a lot of mana left, so mana shield might have saved me if I'd thought to use it, but oh well, when you're running scared you don't always think of all your options. Plus I honestly thought that I'd shaken them off (it's a bit hard to see while swimming) or I might have tried to frost nova one more time.

Thus ends the story of Lossy the Mage, and probably also of me trying hardcore for now, as I have no particular urge to immediately start over. I was, after all, just checking the mode out for the novelty. We'll see what news BlizzCon brings on the weekend.


Suffusion Camp

I briefly mentioned Fyrrak assaults as something that was added in 10.1 in my first impressions post about that patch back in May. I didn't really have much more to say on the subject at the time, but they've come back to the forefront of my attention multiple times again since then.

It's a bit of a meme now how all the Dragonflight open world events are very similar at this point... except this one I guess. The main thing that makes it different is that it's convoluted, confusing and ridiculously deadly - which is not a good thing, but has nonetheless served to keep me interested somehow.

I don't know why that is - most of the time when a new piece of content annoys me, I have the sensible response of going "well, that was annoying, probably not gonna do that again", but every now and then I'll feel weirdly challenged instead, thinking to myself "well, that was annoying and stupid, but I bet it I can do it in a way that is less aggravating next time". And then I keep coming back to inflict more pain on myself like a happy little masochist.

Fyrrak assaults - or to be more precise, the Suffusion Camps where they take place - are one such piece of content. The whole structure with the three different kinds of keys you need to collect is unnecessarily convoluted, but I do have that figured out by now. The problem is that I have yet to find a way around the camps' deadliness.

It's not just the mobs in them - though there are some that have pretty aggravating abilities, such as those that do a stacking DoT on you... just what are you supposed to do about that if you don't have a cleanse? But no, there are also all these random environmental effects that do damage to you, such as those thingamabobs that shoot fire everywhere and the elite protodrakes constantly flying "bombing runs" across the camp. Even if you take care when fighting the mobs, it's not unusual that you'll get smacked and killed by one of these flybys just as you get out of combat and before you've had a chance to heal up.

Which is to say that I'm doing okay on characters that can heal themselves if needed, but not on those without any self-healing or only of the type that relies on using long cooldowns. And I know that it's not just me, because every time I die I can see plenty of other ghosts around me making their way back to their bodies.

This past week completing a Suffusion Camp was part of the weekly reputation quest which I still enjoy doing on my alts, and while my priest had an easy enough time tagging things with her DoTs that other people were fighting while also spamming AoE heals everywhere, both my hunter and my rogue were basically just zerging, dying after every other mob and reviving again until a res timer forced them to wait a bit. My rogue is still levelling too, which makes it all the funnier to me that Blizzard suggests this content as something to do - yes, technically everything is scaled, but it's very noticeable how much more quickly a leveller will be obliterated by any damaging ability in the area compared to a geared max-level character.

It's just such a weird thing to me that I simultaneously find the whole event very annoying yet also kind of enjoy coming back to it, always in hopes of doing better this time. Sometimes it has been good for memorable moments, such as when I was there on my healer and a rogue actually expressed gratitude for the healing in general chat, because it obviously made such a huge difference to everyone's survivability.


Top Ten Causes of Death in Hardcore

I quite liked it when Blizzard released statistics about deaths on hardcore shortly after launch, so two months later I was kind of wondering when/if they were going to post some sort of update... so I was most pleased when one appeared in my video recommendations yesterday:

It's less than five minutes long and well worth a watch, but to provide a written summary anyway:

At this point, nearly 3 million characters have died on the hardcore servers, and the top ten causes of death at the time of the video were as follows:

  1. Falling
  2. Kobold Miner
  3. Voidwalker Minion
  4. Defias Trapper
  5. Wendigo
  6. Defias Pillager
  7. Other players
  8. Drowning
  9. Porcine Entourage
  10. Kobold Tunneler 

The thing that immediately stands out is that seven of these are low-level mobs, while the other three causes of death are level-neutral and can theoretically affect a character at any level. So a lot of people died early on - which is unsurprising - though I think percentage-wise this will go down over time as fewer inexperienced people try out hardcore for a laugh.

The next thing you'll probably notice is that six of the seven mobs are from Alliance starting areas, and only one from Horde. Judging by the comments, people read this in a variety of ways, from "nobody plays Horde on hardcore" to "Alliance players are bad" to "Horde starting zones are just easier". My favourite take was that Hordies are too busy falling to their deaths in Undercity and Thunder Bluff to have time to engage with mobs. There's probably at least a grain of truth in all of these.

Still, I also find myself agreeing with the comments that state that it would be interesting to see more videos like this, but filtered by faction or level for example. Since they do provide the actual death count for each source in the video, we know that the top ten are "only" responsible for about 14% of all deaths, which leaves a lot of room for other ways to die.

To talk about the items on the list in specific, well... I'm still surprised by how high falling and drowning rank, despite of being level-agnostic. It's not that I don't "get" how you can die to these things and I've certainly had my fair share of deaths from these way back when I was noob (e.g. by accidentally walking off one of the bridges in Thunder Bluff), but once you get the general idea of which heights are dangerous and how quickly you run out of air underwater, it's not that hard to take a bit of care in my opinion. It's not like you'll ever find yourself at the edge of a cliff or underwater unexpectedly.

Most of the mobs are not a surprise, as many of them are located in caves and can gang up on you due to fast respawns. I guess it's a little surprising that murlocs aren't on there, and that Defias Trappers rank above Defias Pillagers. I guess the trappers can net you when you try to run away (which isn't even mentioned in the video, which is quite an oversight in my opinion)... plus pillagers and murlocs are well known for being deadly at this point, so maybe their numbers are somewhat suppressed by people actually taking greater care around them now than they did twenty years ago.

The one that surprised/impressed me the most is the Porcine Entourage, because there are only two of these out in the world and they are neutral, so dying to these is never a pure accident but always overconfidence. Though I do get that people may not realise that they come as a package deal with Princess or just how hard they hit.

Nothing's as interesting about hardcore as hearing about how people die.


Hardcore: I Like Caves

My ultra-casual approach to hardcore, as in, playing for an hour or two maybe once a week, has been pretty beneficial towards my mage's survival, as it means that I'm always rested and it's easy to stay ahead of the levelling curve, so the mobs I fight for various quests remain safely a level or two below me.

I did eventually get up and quest my way through most of Westfall, though I also did another brief stint in Loch Modan. One thing I realised during this (to my great amusement) is that I'm actually kind of starting to like caves, the very things hardcore experts always warn you away from as death traps.

I'm not denying that they're dangerous, but when you're in an extremely busy zone where it's hard to get tags on mobs and you need fifteen of a particular type, the local cave can end up being the only place offering some respite from the constant competition, even if it's dangerous. There's a certain risk vs. reward appeal to that.

I found it most noticeable when I entered the Silver Stream Mine in Loch Modan - I mean, I needed to be there for multiple quests, but even so there was a moment of hesitation when I tripped over about half a dozen player corpses right at the entrance. It was like a big warning sign that the kobolds in there were not messing around, and I noticed it for myself in my very first fight as well, as the fireballs from the caster types hit quite hard, even with Dampen Magic up and my character being two to three levels above them.

Nonetheless, even the entrance area to the cave was still annoyingly busy, so I decided to venture forth to the very back of the cave where seemingly nobody else dared to tread. Admittedly there was one scary moment when I found myself surrounded by respawns, but being a mage with sheep and first aid, I was able to make it through. (I'm starting to think that above anything else, hardcore is about being able to do basic maths on the fly to figure out at which point you're at risk of running out of health and need to take appropriate steps to counter that.) In turn I was rewarded with two ore spawns, two chest spawns, and a rare that dropped a nice green that I managed to sell on the auction house - I mean, that seemed pretty worthwhile! I had a similarly good time inside the Gold Coast Quarry in Westfall, a place that I'd usually rather avoid.

Another cave beckoning me to enter it were the Deadmines. I've noticed that people on hardcore tend to want to over-level their dungeons to some degree before going in (which makes sense), but I figured that my usual plan of going in at level 19 was probably still good enough. I sent most of my cash off to my bank alt and imagined my mage writing a letter to her to say that she was about to embark on an adventure that she might not return from... really puts running dungeons into a whole new light!

I have to admit that I was in fact a little worried about running a dungeon on hardcore. I'm the kind of person who's usually very chill when it comes to pugs and people making mistakes, but I couldn't help but wonder how it would make me feel to suffer perma-death due to someone else's mess-up. Fortunately that's a question I didn't need to answer this time around (yet). To be honest I can't remember the last time I wiped in the Deadmines anyway, and my group was never at risk this time either.

Actually getting a group was more difficult than I expected though. The server is still crazy busy (marked "full" on the server selection screen) and there are always new levellers, but a lot of people have also moved on to endgame. I don't see nearly as many death announcements as I used to, and the server-wide proclamations that yet another character has reached level 60 are coming in quite frequently at this point.

Also, another reason for me usually preferring medium to low population servers is that at high populations, Looking for Group chat is a sea of extremely fast scrolling text that's almost impossible to parse without an addon. I felt like I was going cross-eyed trying to keep an eye out for someone building a Deadmines group and eventually just decided to start my own when I saw a tank looking for a group. I thought that having a tank should make it a breeze to fill out the rest of the party, but it still took me about ten minutes to snatch up three dps from the fast-scrolling LFG chat (nobody ever responded to my own "LFM"), and for the healer I eventually just did a /who priest 20-23 and whispered one that was close-by in Elwynn Forest. I was surprised that they immediately accepted.

The run itself was super smooth and everyone was very friendly. For example two of the others were also miners, and we took turns on the tin nodes so that we could all get skill-ups. The tank was a level 23 paladin with engineering, and when I commented on his extremely professional pulling, he shyly responded that he'd watched a guide. Later he expressed concern whether he was pulling too slowly for us, but we all reassured him that he was doing great and that we would all rather be safe than sorry dead. We also all had a good laugh when we found a chest and not one but two people rolled a 1 on the roll-off. Basically, it was the perfect dungeon pug. I also hit level 20 during the run and completed all the Deadmines dungeon quests.

In other news, when I was back in town I spotted a guild name being advertised in chat that vaguely rang a bell. I looked at the name of the poster and it was "Eagle". I whispered him to ask whether he was the same Eagle that was a pretty infamous trade chat personality on Hydraxian Waterlords ca. 2020 and he confirmed that he was. Small world!

As for my mage, she's still in the same random guild and it's still active. Last time I said that its numbers appeared to have dwindled a lot, but since then I've seen what I assume to be the guild master go through several sprees of spam-inviting more people to get us back to the member cap as well as booting those who'd been inactive for over a week. To be honest I'm surprised that I've not fallen victim to one of these inactivity purges myself yet, considering that I log on pretty irregularly.

We'll see how things go from here. To be honest the first twenty levels or so are always the most fun on a new alt (on normal servers too) but as I have to roam further afield to get things done, my interest tends to dwindle. On the other hand, doing a few quests once or twice a week is a pretty low time investment as it is and not that hard to keep up with.


Night Elf Heritage

This is kind of a part two to my post about dusting off my original priest. I actually did the night elf heritage quest chain! Aaand... it was pretty disappointing.

While trying to find out what other players thought about it, I came across this reddit post ranking all the heritage quest lines in game so far, which taught me two things: 1) that there already are a lot more of these than I realised, and 2) that it wasn't just me who found the night elf chain disappointing. The OP in that thread put the human heritage quest line that I liked so much in second place out of ten, and the night elf version in dead last.

It started out alright - there'll be spoilers from here on by the way, but trust me, there isn't really much to spoil - with a reunion with Arko'narin, the night elf prisoner turned Wonder Woman that you rescue from Jaedenar in Vanilla. She remembered my priest rescuing her back in the day too and I was like, yeah, nostalgia! Also, we learn that she has a younger brother called Lysander who's a mage and voiced by Max Mittelman, whom I mainly know as Arn Peralun from SWTOR. I've also heard him in WoW before though, most memorably as Prince Farondis from Azsuna. I can't help but feel that he's really being typecast at this point, always playing troubled young men trying to overcome past trauma.

Anyway, the three of you are off to Felwood together to revisit Jaedenar, which despite the Cataclysm and everything else that has happened since then, is still corrupted (or again). Maiev Shadowsong is also there, and maybe she has something to say to the player if you met her in Legion, but obviously she had no special connection to my never-made-it-past-Cata priest.

And then... basically the entire quest is that you go into Jaedenar again to put out some braziers and slay a dreadlord at the end - just like in the old days, huh? Except that with fewer, less dangerous enemies and no less than three NPCs by your side, it's not at all an exciting experience, just slow.

The only real narrative comes from the NPCs talking to each other. One thread here is that Maiev still hates mages (I mean, they've been available to night elves since Cata, but I guess when you're thousands of years old that's like, yesterday) but kind of overcomes that thanks to Lysander's brave example, and the other is Lysander more generally struggling with past trauma and not wanting to be defined by it, something in which I guess he's supposed to be a stand-in for the night elf race as a whole.

Those could be interesting enough themes I suppose, but the problem is that having NPCs monologue at you while you do a slow and boring escort quest is far from the most engaging way of telling a story. And Maiev's change of heart is just way too predictable and fast. At the end she even whips a tattoo set out of nowhere to grant Lysander a cool face tattoo for his services. That's... quite a turnaround from actively hating mages twenty minutes ago. (In fact, based on what I've read, saying that Maiev "hated" mages is downplaying it - apparently she actively murdered them in the Wolfheart novel and that's being retconned now or something...)

Also, where the human heritage quest line basically has people throwing a little parade for you at the end, the night elf chain finishes with Maiev handing you your reward behind a bush at the Stormwind embassy, which is a pretty funny contrast. I mean, night elf heritage was always going to be tricky to handle what with several of their most iconic zones having been razed throughout the years, but it feels like Blizzard could've done better than that.

The ultimate joke was that when I unwrapped the cosmetic rewards, I realised that one of them was a glaive transmog and that actually, I could have just done this whole chain on my demon hunter without reviving my old priest. For some reason that thought hadn't even crossed my mind, as I just tend to forget that she's a night elf because the identity of "demon hunter" kind of overpowers everything else in my mind (and it's not like they can be any other races). Kind of funny, but I have no regrets in that regard. I just wish the quest chain had been better.


BlizzCon 2023: Do or Die for WoW?

BlizzCon is less than a month away and I'm actually somewhat excited about it. I've never cared too much about the event itself, but I do like the buzz it generates, and it's always interesting to watch the newest WoW expansion cinematic. (I used to check that out even while I wasn't playing WoW.) My favourite was probably BlizzCon 2018, when we got more news about the impending release of Classic, as well as an early playable demo that people could access even from home.

Maybe it's because I'm feeling more invested in WoW again recently, but I can't help but feel that this BlizzCon is going to be a big one for Blizzard, after a four-year break thanks to the pandemic, the company's reputation seemingly hitting rock-bottom, and a lot of general player discontent after Shadowlands.

I was quite surprised when I got a pop-up on Battle.net the other day that invited me to buy BlizzCon tickets, because I thought those things always sold out within minutes - as it turns out, they usually do and the first two waves did as well, but then they added what was supposed to be a third "wave" and demand simply wasn't there, meaning the wave just turned into a placid sea of unsold tickets, much to the consternation of the BlizzCon subreddit. There are other factors involved in this that may not have anything to do with a general lack of interest, such as the chosen venue apparently having more space than before and ticket prices having increased substantially, but... it does make you think.

Specifically, the thing I keep thinking about is that even if they manage to avoid any outright PR disasters this time, there's still a lot of room to simply put on a disappointing show. Like I said in my "What's Next for WoW Classic?" post from February, Wrath Classic transitioning into Cataclysm seems pretty likely, but while I'm sure that there are plenty of people who'll play that, I really struggle to picture its announcement being something that crowds of fans would cheer for and get excited about. Meanwhile, I've seen the Classic community get increasingly hyped up about the idea of "Classic+" again - something I still don't expect to happen, but all that hopium would make a plain old Cata Classic announcement an even bigger disappointment in comparison.

The retail community has a similar dilemma in my opinion. About a month ago, Wilhelm made a post about what the next retail WoW expansion could be, and in it he expressed surprise at how vehemently some people were opposed to the idea of a pirate theme, something that seemed like a "perfectly cromulent suggestion" to him (and which also taught me a new word - thanks!) However, Dragonflight is also a perfectly good - I would even say much better than expected - expansion... yet the lack of grand announcements about its success seems to indicate that in a post-Shadowlands world, simply making another "perfectly acceptable" expansion isn't enough anymore to excite the legions of current and former WoW players.

Instead I've seen a lot of speculation about another "world revamp" - never mind that Blizzard seems unlikely to ever want to do another Cataclysm - plus I'm not even sure the majority of players would actually love to see one all that much, considering how many people flat out ignored the revamped old world in Cata. Either way, my point is that people aren't simply longing for another trip to a newly discovered land mass where we gain a few levels via questing and then tackle a new raid. They want something extraordinary that will excite them in a way that Dragonflight apparently hasn't.

Another factor that has been fuelling all this hype has been the return of Chris Metzen - something that is completely going over my head, as I had played no other Blizzard game before World of Warcraft, and I think the first time his name came to my attention was in the context of people talking about characters in WoW being modelled after him - such as one of the Christmas quests centring on Metzen the reindeer, or how he was supposedly treating Thrall as his personal self-insert - things that are neither here nor there in terms of his skill as a storyteller. Not to mention that I was starting to have issues with WoW's storytelling long before he originally left Blizzard, and have actually been enjoying it more again recently...

Ultimately I foresee one of two different outcomes for this year's BlizzCon. In one, Blizzard mostly remains tone-deaf to the hopes of the dedicated fans and announces a very generic new WoW expansion alongside Classic Cata. The Metzen project might turn out to be something wholly unrelated to WoW itself, such as a Warcraft TV show or a Warcraft 4 RTS. All of these would be of interest to some people, but wouldn't bring players back to WoW en masse.

The other option is that they actually do something unexpected with retail WoW, Classic or both. Now, the problem here is that Blizzard has historically been rather conservative with these things, espousing an attitude of "we know what works so we'll just keep doing that". Even in their better days, they were known for refining things, not being innovators. That's precisely why we thought WoW Classic was never going to become a reality... but then it did, so they're capable of defying expectations sometimes.

In a similar vein, I feel like Dragonflight has been rather revolutionary in terms of just how much Blizzard has been willing to deviate from old design mantras with it. I mean, they put an auction house in Valdrakken, for Christ's sake! Plus I love that they're clearly treating Dragonriding as a feature that's here to stay and have been working on integrating it into the rest of the game, which would make it the most "permanent" addition to the game since Mist of Pandaria's pet battles. (I mean, Garrisons are technically still in the game, but clearly not intended to be used anymore.) With that in mind, I wouldn't totally put it beyond them to come up with something out of left field, like a housing expansion, something that's long been on the "nah, never gonna do that" pile. I do remember hearing Ian say in an interview a few years ago that they were aware that this was something players want, but that it would be a bigger project that would take a lot of time... could that time be now?

I'm not saying that I'd personally want a housing expansion in specific - I'm not even that much of a housing enthusiast in other games to be honest. But I do like the idea of being surprised, and of Blizzard showing that they aren't completely creatively bankrupt and still willing to try something new every now and then. I'm just not at all convinced that they're up to it.


Dusting off My Original Priest

In reply to a comment on my post about WoW's returning player experience back in August, I noted that almost all the characters I've been playing in retail since picking it up again at the end of BfA were created from scratch, because the notion of going back to an existing character that I last played more than ten years ago was all kinds of terrifying.

Having dabbled in retail for nearly four years now however, the idea didn't seem quite so bad anymore. A big part of my original fear was simply that it would make me feel bad to go back to these characters that I used to love and see them in the context of this new game that I didn't like all that much anymore. Thanks to the existence of Classic, I don't feel the same hostility towards retail anymore though, and there are some aspects of it that I actually quite like (as a separate game to Classic instead of as an replacement for Vanilla).

Why is this relevant? Because I noticed in the info about patch 10.1.7 that it was meant to include a new heritage quest chain for night elves. I wrote about how I really enjoyed the one for humans, and night elves are no less dear to me. The very first character I ever created may have been a human, but the first one I ever really inhabitated was the night elf priest I made a few days later to level with a friend. She was the first character on whom I ever hit the level cap, and while my focus shifted over to Horde side during Burning Crusade, I still came back to at least level her up every expansion and check out the new content from Alliance side. So it was clear to me that I really needed to dust this character off for this occasion.

I had last played her during Cataclysm, where I'd left her at the then-cap of level 85, which in the new, post-level squish world, made her a measly level 32. So my first challenge was going to be to just get her levelled up. (The heritage quest chain requires at least level 50.)

I took the returning player gear boost, but declined to clear out her quest log. I manually sorted out her old possessions, and gave her a transmog featuring the old Primal Mooncloth set, which I fondly remember crafting for her during Burning Crusade (for some reason I have very vivid memories of farming wraiths in Netherstorm for motes of mana in particular).

I found that I was still in my tiny old social guild, along with all my alts and... a couple of characters of my ex-boyfriend's who'd last logged in four years ago and one of whom now held the GM title. I couldn't even remember inviting him to this particular guild! I looked into how to depose and boot him, but apparently my priest had been made the lowest rank in the entire guild and you need to be a higher rank to do that, even if the GM hasn't logged in forever... in the end I just figured "whatever" and ignored that whole situation for the time being.

My priest's quest log indicated that I'd done a fair bit of questing during Cata but had stopped with things partially unfinished in Uldum and Twilight Highlands. I decided to visit the latter first, and I gotta say: after playing Dragonflight in particular, doing Cata quests in a zone like Twlight Highlands is quite a mindfuck. Dragons going from scary monsters to more human-like NPCs that we just kinda hang out with is a process that has been going on since at least Wrath of the Lich King, but even so the contrast between how we interact with the dragons in Dragonflight and some of the quests in Cata is pretty extreme. Being given quests to eradicate the last of the black dragons because they were all corrupted anyway, or slaying a "broodmother" after using her whelps to track her down felt very uncomfortable now. Not to mention that picking up Dragon Flanks reminded me that we also used to cook and eat dragons for buffs. Just awkward.

There was also this five-man group quest chain, "Crucible of Carnage" which made me realise to my annoyance that the custom grouping tool is not available to levelling characters for some reason. As I didn't see a single other player around during my journey, I eventually just tried to solo it and learned that with all the class changes and my overpowered boost gear, I could indeed solo the first three encounters, however the Worgen rogue type still made short work of me and I had to give up for the time being.

I also noticed that I still had the dungeon quest from Grim Batol in my log to kill mobs while riding the red dragons at the start of the instance. I thought I'd queue for a run of that dungeon in specific to get that cleared out. I didn't check the clock, but I must have sat in that queue for something like two hours. When I finally got a pop - quite late at night - I greeted the group happily but nobody responded. They also ran right past the dragons I needed for the quest. I just went along with it and figured I'd try to run back and finish the quest after we had killed the last boss. A mechagnome hunter seemed to have the same idea, as they were the last to drop group and ran back with me... however, it turned out that the red dragons were helpfully set up to not do the mob killing circuit anymore once you passed a certain checkpoint and would just immediately drop you off at the spawn of the first boss. Me and the gnome doing a /cry at each other after that happened was the only interaction I had in that dungeon, and I was no closer to finishing my quest, though at least I'd gotten a bit of XP.

As I was otherwise done with Twilight Highlands by that point, I decided to turn my eyes towards Uldum next. I remember avoiding replaying that zone because the Harrison Jones quests were just so. Stupid. Being confronted with a terrible Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull joke in the first spot where I picked things up again did indeed confirm that age didn't make those quests any better.

Funnily enough though, after writing the first draft of this, I went back to check my original first impressions post about Uldum, and it turns out that back in 2010 I actually thought that the zone was quite funny, and I called out the very same joke I just mentioned as terrible as "my favourite bit". This is why I blog, because past me from ten years ago might as well be a completely different person it seems. It's just fascinating to see.

Anyway, levelling in Uldum continued at quite a brisk pace and I didn't even have to complete the whole zone before hitting level 50. It's mad to remember that when Cata first came out, you pretty much needed to do all five of the new zones in full just to gain five levels.

My thoughts on the night elf heritage quest itself will be a separate post.


Not that WoWed

It's been a bit quiet on here, mostly because WoW hasn't been getting that much attention from me. Some of that is due to real life interference - for example I'm writing this post on my laptop while travelling, and while it technically has WoW installed on it and is capable of running it, I do find gaming on my laptop a bit awkward and am not that keen on it. However, other things have been happening as well.

For example, the biggest change affecting my Classic play was that I stepped down from raiding with my guild in era. Not in a hard "I'm never raiding with you guys again!" kind of way, and I'm still trying to join for things like the occasional ZG when I can, but I just felt like I couldn't hold on to the "raider" rank any longer and wanted to be open about it instead of simply having it revoked eventually due to no longer showing up.

When I first started raiding with the Warriors of Sunlight over a year ago, their raid days fit into the rest of my life pretty perfectly, meaning I was able to show up for most of them. However, over time, things changed for me, and more and more raids became a bit of a struggle or outright impossible to make time for. I would basically always sign as "tentative" for everything and then change to "absent" at the last moment.

My attendance had honestly been pretty shocking for a while; I just didn't really want to admit it to myself, because I do like the guild and I wanted to continue raiding with them... but the other week it just really hit me that realistically, I was fretting about sign-ups, consumables, world buffs and being on time three times a week, just to maybe do the first half of Naxx once every two weeks, which was not a very satisfying experience.

(It's kind of funny to me how originally, Sunday was the day I was least likely to make - plus I needed to gear up really - so for a long time, I was only ever running the lower-tier raids and Naxx was this pipe dream that I might be able to come along to one day. Then I geared up, and my availability changed so that suddenly, Sunday was in fact the one day I could make reliably, and it was always Naxx, so I never saw anything else anymore and that got me down. I honestly kind of prefer the chill atmosphere and lack of need for consumables of the earlier tiers.)

And well... while Classic has never been about raiding for me, it's a good way of staying engaged and having a reason to log in. Without that, I've been a lot less active recently, just spending a little bit of time puttering about on alts and keeping my hunter's small engineering gadget business going on the AH.

As for hardcore, I haven't really gone back to play more since my last post. I'd like to some time, but other things have just always taken priority.

And retail... well. I still have reason to log in at least once a week there to play with our little friend group, though we dialled back on the Mythic+ again. Over the summer, people were on holiday for quite a few weeks, and we had to once again rely on (more experienced) outside help to keep the weekly runs going, and let's just say it introduces friction in terms of how capable everyone thinks they are when some people get carried to higher keys and others don't.

After several more dungeons that left my husband and me rather exhausted and unhappy, we agreed to limit ourselves to something like a +10 every other week, and spend the other weeks doing something easier, such as going back as a group and taking a stab at some old BfA raids (which are apparently still not fully soloable on the higher difficulties, even two expansions later). That has been... interesting, with all of us effectively going in blind. For example we learned that mythic G'huun and Jaina still require quite a lot of people because there's only so much you can do against hard-fail mechanics that were originally designed for a group of twenty and haven't been nerfed retroactively (we didn't beat either of them, but at least we cleared the rest of the instance and learned the fights).

I've also taken to levelling a few more alts to better familiarise myself with different classes in retail, as well as to visit more levelling content that I've only seen once before or not at all (BfA Horde-side for example). My investment in those is very on-and-off though.

As for the actual level-cap content... there's been another patch recently, but to be honest I haven't even really looked at it. There was a quest NPC that showed me a cinematic, but that just confused me about just what was happening in what order and didn't make me feel like I should follow up immediately to see more of the story. There's also a new open world event that I did a couple of times and yeah... it's definitely becoming a bit of a meme at this point that all of Dragonflight's events tend to feel a bit samey. I'm sure I'm going to catch up with all of this eventually, but it's just not enticing enough to me right now to make it a priority.


Some More Experiences with Hardcore

I didn't immediately forget about my mage on the Stitches server after launch day; I did in fact go back to play her some more and see what else was happening on the server, plus I figured I might as well play until I died, which was surely going to happen soon.

I picked up mining and herbalism in Stormwind to supplement my income, figuring I'd avoid any crafting profession since levelling that would've just felt like wasted effort once I died. I also vendored most of the herbs I picked - when I talk about using gathering skills to make money, I'm not talking about the auction house, since it was so utterly flooded that absolutely everything was going for coppers. If you actually do want to level a crafting profession though, it's probably not a bad time to do so. I've seen plenty of crafters advertising their wares for cheap at all times of day, and I myself used the services of a tailor to get some bags made and bought a cheap wand from an enchanter.

As far as my gathering was concerned, it was hard to tap ore nodes and pick flowers before anyone else did due to how busy it was. While visiting the Elwynn farms, I found myself wishing that I'd taken up skinning instead, as I watched a constant stream of skinnable, hyper-spawning boars fall to adventurers keen to feed Billy MacLure.

I also joined a guild, not out of any particular desire to be social, but simply because someone threw me a random invite and I was curious to see what life was like in a hardcore guild. The first message I saw was someone talking about farting into their hand, which honestly made me want to immediately leave again, but then there was so much text scrolling across the screen, I did want to at least see some more first. The guild message of the day declared that the guild was "international", which manifested itself in people speaking a variety of languages in guild chat that most members probably didn't understand.

Death announcements were scrolling by pretty frequently and elicited a chorus of Fs in chat pretty much without fail. The average level of people's demise seemed to be around 8, with frequent causes of death including kobolds, murlocs and wendigos. Aside from that there were constant "so-and-so has joined the guild" announcements as the guild master appeared to be spam-inviting absolutely everyone for reasons unknown.

One guy that stood out to me among all the crazy chatter was someone who claimed to be a Catholic priest and who, unlike most people, talked in full paragraphs that were only slightly preachy but sounded very sincere. I couldn't help but wonder whether he was for real or some sort of elaborate troll or chat bot. I never found out, because he died to a kobold at level five and I don't know what he did after that.

I quested my way through the entirety of Elwynn and was level eleven by the time I hit the border to Westfall. And honestly, despite the constant death announcements, it was less scary than I expected? I just made sure to always run away if I wasn't 100% sure of the outcome of a battle. The only thing I had that was somewhat close to a near-death experience was when I went into the Fargodeep Mine (yes, I've heard all about the dangers of caves but I wasn't not gonna hunt down Goldtooth) and found myself running very deep inside because there were people everywhere and no mobs - until I suddenly saw a kobold in front of me, turned around, saw a kobold behind me, and everywhere else I looked I was suddenly surrounded by kobolds with no other player in sight. I basically just started running and didn't stop until I was out of the mine and the four or five kobolds I had in tow had reset. Frost Armor probably saved my hide there by slowing them after their first hit and allowing me to get away. When I made my way back into the cave a second time, I advanced more carefully and managed to find and kill Goldtooth with no problems.

Oh, and while hunting gnolls, Hogger spawned right on top of me not once, but twice. He hits pretty hard for his level and took about a third of my health off in a single hit both times, but again being a mage was helpful with getting away.

All that said, I didn't really want to start questing in Westfall and deal with Defias at level eleven, so I returned to town and logged off in order to accumulate some restedness. When I logged back in a week later, the guild had shrunk from over 500 members to less than a hundred, with a lot of the still active ones now being in their thirties or forties. I guess on hardcore a guild can die in a more literal way.

I decided that I was going to get a couple of levels in Loch Modan. I know that troggs can be dangerous too, but I seemed to remember the ones in the open hills being a bit more predictable and less janky than the Defias in Westfall. And indeed, being rested, I gained two levels doing just three or four quests in the area to kill troggs and wildlife. There were quite a few bodies at the entrance to Stonesplinter Valley though, and I witnessed a death "live" for the first time, as a female human warrior or paladin (I didn't quite catch it) was fighting near me one moment, and then I looked over just in time to see her expire to a trogg. It felt oddly traumatising to know that character was truly gone now.

Back in town, I heard a strange sound that sounded like a crowd of people shouting and which I couldn't place, but I soon learned through a guildie that this announced a character on the server having hit level 60. 

Lossy the mage remains alive at the time of me writing this, once again chilling in Stormwind after having hit level 13. Apparently that already makes her better than average, as the official Warcraft Twitter has enjoyed sharing some statistics about official hardcore life (and death).

I like how in the heat map included in that first link, you can see the trail of death from people attempting the Wetlands run at low level... and to think Pallais thought people weren't gonna do that! A lot of the causes of death listed in the second post also align with my own experiences based on the death announcements I saw, though I'm surprised to see fall damage and PvP ranked that high. I can't even think of that many places in Vanilla where you can fall to your death unexpectedly, unless the Undercity elevator still does that thing it used to do...

Anyway, I guess I'll casually keep going for a little longer until I either die or get bored.