Classic Culture War

One thing that immediately impressed me when I started playing on Classic era last year was the community. It was small, but precisely because of that, it was also very tight-knit. You didn't meet many people out in the world, but when you did, it was a pleasant surprise and you knew that player was there because they really liked Vanilla and wanted to be there; they weren't just following a recommendation from their favourite streamer or riding the latest trend. If anything, it was the opposite: choosing era over regular Classic would mark you as a bit of a weirdo who wasn't afraid to go against the flow.

I've often mentioned the Classic era Discord in my posts here, which has both been a great community resource as well as just a nice place to see community spirit in action. I saw some pretty interesting discussions there, and I was often impressed by how hard people tried to stay respectful even when their in-game interests were pretty much diametrically opposed, because driving people off just for enjoying the game in a different way wasn't going to be in anyone's interest.

Now, as much as I've enjoyed watching era's population grow, I also had a feeling that this was eventually going to change its culture as well... and things came to a head for me last week when I finally gave up and put the general chat channel on the Classic era Discord on mute.

In many ways that shouldn't be a big deal, because I ignore general chat in many MMOs and larger Discords, as it's just too busy and often serves as nothing but a place for a certain crowd to shoot the shit in public. But I really liked the chats we used to have in the Classic era Discord... until I didn't anymore.

Recently the general chat there has been nothing but the same few trolls repeating the same old "jokes" at each other, or endless arguments about GDKP or when Blizzard's going to release fresh servers so people can go and leave era already. It was just starting to annoy me, and eventually the ratio of this "spam" vs. actually interesting conversation became so bad that it just wasn't worth following anymore.

Yesterday I decided to take a quick peek to see whether there'd been some sort of change since I applied the mute and promptly saw someone telling another person that they should kill themselves, followed by another poster chuckling about how the mods on the server are so laid back nowadays that clearly anything goes. I still use the smaller channels that are limited to specific topics, but general's basically become toxic and useless as far as I'm concerned.

In-game, my server has fortunately fared better, and while there's been a lot of growth, it hasn't felt in any way unpleasant yet. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to retain that state of affairs, mainly because I know it can be done - Hydraxian Waterlords remained a pleasant medium population server all throughout Classic's original run, even while the general community perception in places like reddit was that all of Classic was basically a bunch of min-maxing sweatlords that wouldn't play anywhere but on the biggest megaserver.

Nonetheless I have to admit I've been wondering what all this growth is going to mean for my guild, Warriors of Sunlight. It's easy to be inclusive when you're always short on people and every extra person adds value, but as I saw with the Forks, being able to cherry-pick your roster changes people, and it sneaks up on you slowly. Since every WoS raid is overbooked nowadays, I found myself wondering when someone would raise the question of why we still take just about anyone - why not take the people with more dps as a priority? Plus we've had some newcomers that were clearly expecting things to work more like they did in 2020 - you can usually recognise them by the fact that they come to MC buffed up to the teeth and then die from getting aggro on some random trash mob because none of the old-timers (including the tanks) bother with popping their world buffs in Molten Core.

And there have been early signs: more talk about how to optimise your damage, and the other day a new hunter openly complained that so many people parsed green or grey in our logs and accused them of being semi-AFK during the raid. There was pushback against that, and later one of the officers made a big post about how this is a laid-back, casual guild and how that's what's it's going to stay, and if people want things to be run a different way, they can always leave and make their own guild. I really appreciated this doubling down on the guild's ethos, but we'll see how well it holds up. Like I said, it sneaks up on you. I still remember all the banter in the Fork raids slowly turning into brags about how much dps so-and-so had done on each trash pull...

However, Classic era is different, and the people that are currently holding the guild together have not forgotten what got them through the lean times, nor are they chasing any lofty achievements just to be able to tick them off and then move on. I'm hopeful that as long as we keep this core that wants to maintain the game as their casual space to chill, things will hopefully work out in our little corner of Classic era at least.


Adventures on Gehennas

I mentioned in my last post that I made a little paladin on Gehennas just to have a look around, and I'm finding myself strangely enamoured with her. There's just something about human paladins... even if the first character I ever levelled properly was a night elf priest, the first character I ever made was a human paladin, and even though I rerolled to play with friends after only a few days, those first few days of playing the game as a human by myself clearly had a major impact on me.

I've got a lot of nostalgia for the early night elf starter zones as well, but for some reason I never imprinted on the Horde zones in quite the same way. Mulgore probably comes the closest in terms of filling me with warm, fuzzy feelings, but even so it's not really a contest when compared to human lands.

Revisiting all the quests in Elwynn Forest once again, I've got to say that the whole zone is just damn well done though; it's not just nostalgia. You can really tell that Blizzard built this starter zone first and had more time to reiterate on it than on any others. The quests flow together and across zone lines in a way that they rarely do anywhere else in the early game. There are lots of little details like NPC conversations taking place and neutral critters ambling about everywhere. And all the unique mob pathing! I remember Bhagpuss wrote a whole post about being fascinated by it when he played WoW Classic. Of course mobs wander around in all zones, but it seems to me that there's distinctly more complexity to it in the lower-level zones... I'm sure all the wandering Murlocs in Elwynn did their share to contribute to the whole species earning its reputation as a multi-pull menace.

I've only seen a couple of other players during my journeys so far, and I've been surprisingly unfazed by this lack of company. It may sound strange - deranged, even - but I kind of feel like I've transcended the need for other players in WoW. I still enjoy having them around, and I'm happy to see era's growing popularity, but I'm actually okay with playing by myself as well, and I realised that this makes me a rare minority.

Every day someone comes on the era Discord to ask how many players there are on this or that server, because they're scared of investing time into levelling a character somewhere where they can't do instances or shop at the auction house. I don't think I was ever that bad, but when I first started playing on era and it was still very quiet, I do remember having the occasional moment when I noticed that I was the only person in a given zone and it felt a bit like staring into the void. However, I persisted and found contentment in playing by myself when I needed to, and I feel like that's made me more resilient in a sense.

People install the hardcore addon to lock themselves out of the auction house to challenge themselves, but I'm simply playing on a server where there is no active auction house - though this hasn't prevented me from putting up a couple of auctions for useful lowbie items just in case someone does come by. I sold a pair of green mail trousers, so I know it can happen! Also, I just kinda enjoy seeing my name up there, being the only person to have items listed on the auction house. As far as anyone randomly checking in is concerned, I pretty much own this place!

Inventory management and making money have been the biggest challenges so far. I'm considering looking into buying some small bags from a vendor to fill my remaining currently empty bag slots, because I just don't have room for anything. I also always loathe to vendor things that could be useful to another player, but Gehennas just isn't in a place where anyone's looking for things like trade goods right now, so I've got to learn to bite the bullet if I want to be able to afford new skills at some point. I still don't expect to take this little levelling challenge very far, but for the time being it's a nice little distraction.


More on Era Server Populations

On the WoW Classic subreddit it's a bit of a meme that era players can't stop talking about how busy the era servers are and there's certainly some truth to that, but if you're someone who's been following the development of era for a while, it's just been utterly fascinating to see how much the star of this MMO with no active development continues to rise.

When I started playing on era last year, my Battle.net friends seemed to consider that a weird move at best, and nobody had any desire to join me. Yet in the past couple of weeks, two of my old guildies suddenly contacted me after rolling characters on the PvE cluster, and I briefly chatted with two others who'd created characters on Hydraxian Waterlords to try out hardcore mode. Suddenly, era is "in".

I mentioned in January that the EU PvP cluster as well as Hydraxian Waterlords - now unofficially designated "the hardcore server" - had both grown to medium population. In March, they ticked over to high, and just the other day their status changed to "full". I'm actually not sure what that means nowadays - Wowpedia states that "players cannot create a character on a full realm unless they already have characters on that realm", but I'm not sure whether that's true anymore, considering that there's also "locked" (which doesn't apply to any era realms at the moment, but has been used in Wrath). Either way, it's pretty clear that those servers are full to burst, and one has to wonder what that will mean for any potentially upcoming "overspill".

I logged into the hunter I made on Hydraxian when it first hit medium to see how the population growth had affected the experience of playing there, and it was a stark reminder that to me personally, "high" population is not actually appealing at all. Teldrassil was being scoured of mobs as they spawned, and I completed two quests by basically just running back and forth between a couple of spawn spots where mobs re-appeared mere seconds after having been killed. Trying to hand the quest in at the end was a chore as the quest NPC does a little bit of RP every time someone completes a quest with him, and there was a whole huddle of night elves around him just spam-clicking to get in there first. I logged out again shortly after that because the whole experience was just giving me hives.

On the other end of the spectrum, with the PvP cluster being classified as full, I suddenly found myself wondering about the other, abandoned PvP cluster on EU, centred on the Gehennas server. I don't usually play on PvP servers, but what does it matter when there's nobody around to fight you? So I made a human paladin there to have a look around - I was pleasantly surprised that the first three-letter name I entered was not even taken. I actually had a pretty good time questing in Elwynn all by myself - like Redbeard, I find the experience of replaying certain starting zones to be the virtual equivalent of "comfort food".

The census addon didn't see much activity there - never more than 20 people online at a time, which does not make the cluster appealing to a mainstream audience right now, but if Firemaw runs out of room, who knows what the future will bring? Hydraxian Waterlords was deader than this less than a year ago and look where it is now.

The PvE cluster (where I play) is also still classified as having low population, though we've been growing so much, I feel like we should be ticking over to medium any day now. I really want that to happen as well because I feel with how slowly we've been growing compared to PvP and hardcore, people are starting to not take us seriously as a "main" cluster anymore - which is a silly thing to worry about, I know, but being active on the era Discord as I am, it does bother me a little. More importantly though, officially being classified as medium would help to make it clearer to more casual players that we're one of the currently active realms. It may not be apparent on the server selection screen, but there's a big difference between a "low" realm with thousands of players and one with virtually none - even if the last few months have demonstrated that things can change surprisingly quickly on that front.


Raiding in Classic Era - an Update

Back in August I wrote a post about my early experiences with raiding in Classic era - how some raids weren't run that often by my guild, and how I got a lot of loot early on. Looking back at that post now, so much has changed that I thought it might be a good time for an update.


Back in August this was the raid that nobody wanted to run... but eventually a lovely shaman stepped up to put it back on the calendar, and since then it's been run on average once a week - a good thing too, as we've had so many newcomers requesting books and idols that the guild bank has actually had trouble keeping up with demand despite of having had a huge stockpile of all of them at one point.

I'll admit that AQ20 is probably the least interesting place in terms of gear, so it didn't take long for my hunter to run out of things to get from there, other than Cenarion Circle rep, which I don't really need to max out. I started bringing my druid instead, but even she's starting to run low on items to soft reserve at this point. Still, I'm sure I'll keep coming up with excuses to go, since it's just fun.


Not long after I joined, the officer who'd been running the regular ZGs at the time had to step down from that task and since nobody else was available to take over, there was a period where no runs happened at all. Fortunately the aforementioned shaman picked up the slack here as well, and like AQ20, ZG is now being run about once a week.

I'm still going to this one on my hunter even though she stopped benefiting from any potential gear drops a long time ago, simply because the grind to exalted reputation for the shoulder enchants is looong - I never actually got my night elf to exalted in original Classic. However, I feel like I can see the end of the tunnel this time, and then I'll be happy to start taking my druid to this one as well.

Also, the other week the guild actually saw one of the rare mounts drop for the first time, Mandokir's raptor - it went to a loyal long-time officer, so even though we teased him about it, it felt well-deserved.

Molten Core

Back in August I noted that the guild rarely seemed to do full MC runs - with all the recent newcomers those times are long over as well, because we have lots of new raiders that want to gear up and Molten Core is the natural first stop. We still go for the bindings every week, but do full runs pretty much every other week, and they are no longer the severely understaffed affairs of the early days either. With a full group of forty it actually goes by pretty fast even at a casual pace.

We haven't had another Thunderfury since Tefflar's in December, but we've got two more people that have Garr bindings sitting in their bags, so it feels like it can't be too long now until Geddon will cough one up again as well.

In terms of loot, my hunter has nothing useful left to get from there, just Hydraxian Waterlords reputation for fun, so I do try to bring my druid when I can but I have to admit I haven't been super enthusiastic about it since I realised that being a resto druid in Vanilla raids sucks ass. I mean, I knew in theory that the HoTs didn't stack and all that, but even that aside, it just feels so clunky. I've seen people debate the usefulness of resto druids in multiple places and there's always someone arguing that they're totally awesome if you can only get all these specific gear pieces from higher-end raids, but that doesn't help your average druid alt at all. Even downranked Healing Touches are slow AF compared to other classes' heals, and I just end up feeling like a geriatric paladin without any of that class's fun tools.

I don't mind so much in the 20-mans because when you're doing AQ20 with only three healers, there's still something to do even for the slowest healer, but in the 40-mans with multiple Naxx-geared priests and shamans... forget it.

Either way, despite all that I still enjoy going to MC to some degree, simply because with it being the easiest of the 40-man raids, it usually has the most amount of silliness and the best banter.


Ony is another raid we rarely seemed to do when I started but which we now visit quite regularly - and both of my level 60s are attuned as well, hurrah! Mostly the guild needs that never-ending supply of dragon heads for world buffs, but the 18-slot bags she drops are nice as well.

Funnily enough, unlike how I experienced the fight in original Classic, the boss always dies so quickly in these runs that she doesn't even do her Deep Breath mechanic. I think I remember one run where she actually did a Breath, and everyone promptly went "oh no, she's actually doing the thing", followed by half the raid being burnt to a crisp while running around like headless chickens (including me) because nobody's used to dealing with it anymore.

Blackwing Lair

I still like Blackwing Lair. It has such great loot and bosses that are interesting without being too tough or tedious. In an ironic twist of fate, after getting Ashjre'thul in what was only my second BWL back in Classic, it has stubbornly eluded me in era for the past eight months. I've got absolutely everything else I could possibly want from BWL for my hunter, including the coveted Prestor's Talisman from Nef, but the bloody crossbow just never drops when I'm there.

As there's also been a huge influx of new hunters lately, I think I'm starting to make my peace with potentially using my Rhok until Kel'Thuzad, cause even if I'm not in the raid whenever the crossbow does drop, at least some other hunter will be able to use it. This last week I finally gave up and brought my druid to the raid instead, and it felt worthwhile. Healing BWL was a bit more fun than MC (Vael is a great boss to be a druid on for example), and I scored no less than three pieces of druid tier two, which is very strong.


The strengthening of our roster has fortunately meant that AQ40 has become slightly less of a slog and we can actually kill C'thun more reliably. Though we still haven't ever gone for Viscidus, and for some reason we also stopped visiting Ouro after originally going for him every time in the earliest AQ40 raids I joined.

AQ40 has always been kind of crappy for hunter loot, and unsurprisingly I'm running out of gear to chase in there as well. I could technically go for the ring from C'thun, but Patchwerk is in reach now and he drops an even better one, so... I'm thinking that taking my druid there some time might be interesting both in terms of as an experience and in terms of loot opportunities, but we'll see.


Naxxramas remains the main destination of interest for most of the established raiders, but progression has been absolutely glacial. Within seven months, the guild only went from 6/14 to 10/14. Mainly this was due to a prolonged shortage of healers, which turned Patchwerk and Loatheb into unsurpassable roadblocks for many months. This has now been overcome, but I think progression is still being held back by the fact that only one of the three main raid days is dedicated to Naxx, which just isn't enough to achieve much of anything in there at a casual pace. I can't say I envy the officers having to square the circle of "focusing on Naxx" on the one hand, and funnelling a never-ending stream of newcomers through the earlier raids to gear them up for Naxx at the same time.

Personally I rarely go there because the regular Naxx night is Sunday, which often clashes with other commitments for me, but I have been a few times at this point - enough to get all the intro quests done and pick up three pieces of tier three. I'm just glad that I got the whole "progressing through Naxx" experience done in Classic, meaning that I feel little pressure to achieve anything in era on a personal level. I'm happy to be there whenever I can and to see the guild progress, but there's no clock ticking down to Naxx becoming obsolete, so more bosses will happen when they happen.