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.