More on Starting Over on Lava Lash

This is a follow-up to last week's post about me deciding to try a fresh start in Season of Discovery phase two by re-rolling on the RP-PvE server.

As mentioned, I got to 20 incredibly quickly due to the XP buff, but with basically no cash to train abilities or do anything else. So I decided that it was time to put on the brakes and take care of business other than levelling for a while, namely by doing some travelling to unlock access to additional flight paths (I hadn't even been to Kalimdor yet), working on my professions, and working the auction house to make some money.

Fishing turned out to be surprisingly lucrative here, because for some reason there didn't seem to be a lot of active fishermen about - or maybe they are all still busy levelling to 40; I don't know. The point is, I found pools of firefin snapper, oily blackmouth and sagefish everywhere, and while each fish only sold for a few silver, it added up quickly. I think fishing may actually be my highest skill right now.

I also developed a strange fascination with chests. While I've played dwarf characters before, I don't think I ever got any to a very high level, and they usually had some other form of tracking (ore or herb nodes for gatherers, different types of mobs for hunters) that took priority over using their "treasure finding" racial that highlights chests on the mini map.

My newest priest on the other hand is a tailor and enchanter, so she doesn't have anything else to pay attention to, and I've been very surprised by just how many chests there are about. I always thought I was pretty good at spotting them with the naked eye, but apparently there've always been a lot more hiding in corners and behind sheds that I never knew about. It's turned me into a proper treasure hunting fiend, as I'll randomly fight my way into buildings or caves just to access a chest at the back.

When I revisited Ashenvale, I was pleasantly surprised to find that some life had returned to the PvP event, mainly level 40s that had decided to come back for more reputation I guess. The groups tended to be about 80-90% max level characters, with the rest being made up of levellers like me that just happened to pass through the zone. I now have first-hand experience of how much easier it is to get rewarded for taking part in this event as Alliance, as I hit friendly with Silverwing Sentinels after only two battles.

I also made good progress collecting more of my runes - knowing where to pick them up along the way after already going through the whole process on Horde side in phase one made things a lot simpler. I also found out that Alliance have it significantly easier when it comes to collecting their Meditation buffs, as Meditation on the Light and Elune can be picked up almost right next to each other in Stormwind.

As one of the priest runes drops from the elite orcs in Redridge, I decided to join a group for the quests there. Even considering that Lava Lash's population is much lower than Wild Growth's, it was crazy busy there that evening, meaning we spent a lot of time just running about without being able to tag anything, so people got to chatting.

I was surprised to hear from several of my group mates that they had only just started in phase two, and was slightly amused when our ret pally declared that they were both a mythic raider and a streamer in retail. Far be it from me to doubt the truthfulness of that, but that same paladin stood out to me for not casting a single seal all evening... just goes to show again that retail and Classic are two very different games and knowing your way around one doesn't automatically translate into knowing anything at all about the other.

Not that it mattered either way... we had a good time, and me, the pally and the rogue who had started the group actually stuck together to complete a few additional quests once we were done with the elites, such as collecting pendants from the gnolls and escorting Corporal Keeshan. The whole experience had that good old-fashioned pug feel to it, reminding me of the way I first made friends in WoW nearly twenty years ago.

I also spotted some familiar guild names in town, and in fact am pretty certain that I even ran into the GM of a guild I used to be friendly with on Hydraxian Waterlords back in 2020. I just wasn't able to 100% confirm it as they were AFK when I encountered them and therefore didn't respond to my emote. It's just fascinating to me how these RP server communities persist over the years and across different versions of the game. This is one of those things I love about Classic and that the megaserver aficionados just don't get I guess.

That said, I'm feeling surprisingly little pull to get to level 40 and start raiding Gnomeregan now. I'm not super interested in raiding without being part of a group going into it together, and to be honest what I've been hearing about Gnomer isn't helping. I noted about BFD that while I thought it was fun overall, some of the bosses were kind of bordering on being "too much" for a relaxed Classic raiding experience, and from everything I've read, Gnomeregan is much harder (something that people tend to frame as a good thing, but to me it's not - supposedly it's particularly punishing for healers as well).

So while I'm having fun for now, I'm still not convinced that Season of Discovery is really "working" for me. I liked the level cap being 25, but it occurs to me that when it was raised, it was essentially like a microcosm of an expansion release... oh, you've been working on learning how endgame works and getting better gear? Forget all of it! Everything is different now! And while that sort of thing generates excitement, it can also be exhausting in a way, even more so on a sped-up schedule. I wonder how many players have already dropped off for similar reasons.


Starting Over in Phase 2

I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with/in WoW Classic in the near future, but one thing was clear to me after my last post: that I needed a change of scenery. So I logged into the European RP-PvE server Lava Lash and created a dwarf priest there.

It's almost silly how relieved I felt almost immediately, spawning into a zone that wasn't stupidly over-crowded. There were other players around, sure, but it wasn't heaving, and that was nice. I actually took note of the presence of other players again instead of constantly feeling surrounded simply being the default. I handed out drive-by buffs again! Remember when at the start of Classic, everyone was like "wow, playing this reminded me of how nice it felt to give and receive drive-by buffs"? You don't get that on mega-servers because even if you wanted to buff everyone you meet, there are just too many gosh-darned people.

My casual interactions with others also immediately felt better somehow. It's a bit hard to explain, because it's not as if people on regular PvE servers are unfriendly, but so many interactions there just feel incredibly... business-like, as if everyone's always busy following their personal check-list of things to do, without any interest in the people they are doing it with. On RP-PvE, you get the sense that more players are there for the experience of just existing in that virtual space, and while they have goals too, they tend to pursue them at a more relaxed pace where allowing yourself to be distracted for a bit isn't really a huge problem. I definitely found it noticeable that I saw quite a few higher-level players ambling around lower-level zones for example - presumably they were still doing something, but they weren't obviously chasing the new level cap.

Realising this honestly made me feel a bit stupid for rolling on the regular PvE mega-server to begin with. I've been through all this before! I know that mega-servers make everything but finding pugs and the auction house worse! I don't know why I thought it was going to be different this time. People just always talk about them like they're the bee's knees but they are not. Anyway, end random mega-server rant.

It was only while playing on Lava Lash that I noticed some of the changes that Blizzard made to Waylaid Supplies with phase two. They can no longer be turned in without being filled up for example, but you do have the option to just vendor them for one silver now. Also, they are no longer unique, which is nice, but I was surprised to see that you can own up to twelve of them. My first thought was "why would anyone need that many" but I quickly realised that there's method to the madness, as I got about half a dozen of them as drops in Dun Morogh alone, and all before I had the means to actually fill any of them up. That definitely made me feel grateful for the option to stash them away in my bank for later.

Levelling with the new 1-25 XP buff feels extremely fast, and even with all my casual ambling about, I hit level twenty in less than 14 hours of /played. I'm honestly not sure that's a good thing though, because being put on this levelling fast-track also means that you end up earning a lot less gear and money on the way. I'm still sporting several white/grey pieces at twenty when I'd usually have full greens by that point, and I couldn't even afford all my new spells initially.

I feel like there's going to be a huge chasm of economic inequality between those who managed to play at the level cap of 25 and do a bunch of quests for gold, and those who start now, because while the former are going to be much richer than anyone would normally be at their level, newly fast-tracked characters are having the exact opposite experience (being poorer than they would normally be at their level). That means that the best way to catch up is to rush to the new level cap, ignoring everything else, and hope that you can start earning gold and truly catching up at that point. This kind of thing is why I've never been a fan of "just make levelling faster" as a solution to anything...

Anyway, I don't know where things will go from here, whether I'll feel compelled to play this priest more or not. But at least it's been a breath of fresh air.


SoD Phase 2: First Impressions & Ennui

Season of Discovery's phase two launched Thursday late in the evening in my time zone. I had a quick look at the time to see whether there was enough hype to create login queues again... there was not, though it was insanely busy in Thunder Bluff when I logged in. I needn't have worried about people immediately losing interest in the BFD raid once it was no longer at the level cap, as the "Denizens of Kalimdor!" yells were going out non-stop. They had always been frequent but now they were even more so as people were running it for XP.

I didn't really try to play properly until the next morning myself. I figured maybe I could avoid the worst of the crowds if I focused on my professions before trying to level, so I went out to buy the expert cooking, first aid and fishing books. However, I then realised that the primary professions still required level 26 to progress beyond 150 skill, even in phase two, so I decided that levelling up at least once should be my main goal for the time being.

I took my priest to Stonetalon since I had a few quests from there in my log and it's usually a comparatively quiet place - but it wasn't that day. Or rather, it might have been if things were even busier in other zones, but my point is that things were pretty crazy in Stonetalon as well, with everyone fighting to tag mobs as they spawned. I even saw people looking for group for "The Den" - a group quest which I think I've never completed at level because it's part of a chain that takes you all the way to Ashenvale and nobody wants to go back to Stonetalon to find a group to finish it, but on that day, people were doing even that.

While things were pretty brutal on Stonetalon Peak, the Charred Vale was the most striking to me, because I always remember my more experienced friend warning me about the place back when I first started playing WoW - that it was densely populated with mobs and could be quite dangerous. That Friday morning, it was barren, and harpies were dying pretty much as soon as they dared to make an appearance. Still, I successfully made it to level 26 and returned to town to work on my professions a bit.

I came on again later in the early evening, and actually found two guildies online who invited me to do some dungeons with them. We did SFK twice, followed by a partial run of Razorfen Kraul, in which I at least got my Blueleaf Tubers and the goblin escort done. Apparently the place was a popular destination to level as I saw people advertise for "RFK boar farm runs", which sounded very South Park-esque. Apparently dungeon farming to level is "the meta" even in Season of Discovery, simply because the open world is too full to quest efficiently. There's something kind of sad about that.

However, already the next day, the biggest wave of power-levellers seemed to have washed over me. I took my hunter (who hit 25 literally the night before phase two released and never did get to go to BFD) on a similar quest circuit around Stonetalon and it was much, much quieter... but in an oddly annoying way because without the hyperspawns triggered by the massive crowds I actually had to run bigger circles around the area to find more of the only slowly respawning quest mobs, while my priest had just had new ones pop up in front of her over and over.

I just needed a little more XP to get her to 26 so I thought I'd do the breadcrumb delivery quest to Thousand Needles. At the Great Lift, a human paladin aggroed my quest NPC while running to the lift, just before I could talk to him , so I did a /shoo emote on her, meaning to indicate that she should just get on the lift so he would run back to his spot and reset. She then decided to turn back and kill both Horde NPCs before I could talk to them, which meant I spent the next ten minutes waiting for them to respawn. In that moment I was kind of glad there's no cross-faction communication in Classic as I definitely would have called her names.

Meanwhile, my priest was close to 27 after the dungeons from the day before, so I thought I'd pop over to Ashenvale to ding her as well. I was successful, but Ashenvale was another sad sight as I saw the PvP event come on and nobody took part on either faction. I wonder whether anyone will come back to farm more Warsong Gulch rep once the current levelling frenzy is over.

I haven't checked out the new PvP action in Stranglethorn yet but I'm also kind of scared to. When I was doing the dungeons with guildies, one of them accidentally took the wrong zeppelin and landed in Grom'gol while the Blood Moon event was on. Turns out it's so free-for-all that even the guards hate you, meaning he instantly got ganked by them and was unable to revive and get back onto the zepp. He actually had to switch to a different character entirely to be able to go to the dungeon with us as the one stuck in STV was effectively unusable for the time being.

Reddit is afire talking about the new event, though I'm not sure I entirely understand what's been happening - something about people getting insane rewards for spam-killing the same characters over and over again at the graveyard since the event was lacking anything to discourage that? I don't know, it doesn't currently sound very fun either way.

I was wondering whether the release of phase 2 would bring more of my era guildies back to SoD to check out the new stuff, but after three days, only half a dozen people or so have even logged in. The ones who are still active are talking about moving to a new guild in SoD and I can't blame them. I need to think about what I want out of Season of Discovery myself. Right now I'm just getting major deja vu, finding myself feeling lonely on a crowded mega-server like I did a couple of months after Classic's launch, though back then I was still carried along for a few more months by the sheer excitement I felt about Vanilla making an official comeback. While SoD does have some interesting new mechanics, it's not enough to make the experience completely different from what I've been doing for the last five years (gosh, has it really been that long - it has), and being on my own all the time just feels unsatisfying.

I'm even wondering whether I should go and re-roll Alliance on the RP-PvE server - it's only medium pop so that should alleviate some of my stress caused by the crowds, and relocating to Hydraxian Waterlords is what ended up turning Classic around for me back in 2020. Who says that couldn't happen again? However, even if it could, would I even want to go in that deep again? (I went pretty hard for a while once I started raiding in Classic.) I just don't know. I keep looking at SoD and thinking that everything looks so fun on paper, but I just end up feeling slightly jealous of all the people who are so obviously enjoying themselves because something about it just isn't working for me right now.


Casual Seeds of Renewal

Dragonflight's Seeds of Renewal patch has been out for a few weeks now, but with my casual involvement in retail, I don't always get to see all the new stuff right away. In general I've really enjoyed the way Blizzard has been releasing these "minor" patches between the major ones though, adding new gameplay and story every so often even when there isn't a new zone or raid to be explored just yet. Seeds of Renewal is another interesting example of that.

First of all, Dragonriding is now enabled everywhere where you're able to fly, and it's great. Characters don't even need to have been to the Dragon Isles to be able to mount one of the special mounts, though you might still need to have the Dragonflight expansion at least, I'm guessing. Normal/old flying still has its place, but if you're just trying to quickly get from A to B, hopping on your dragon and going super fast definitely feels great.

They also retooled the dracthyr racial Soar to work like normal Dragonriding instead of an extremely limited version of it, which means that I can now be my own mount and just fly around using my own wings. Again, this feels great! It's not quite as smooth as a druid's flight form, as you get thrown out of "flight mode" the moment you touch ground, so it's happened to me that I kind of clip the edge of a cliff and then fall off because I'm no longer flying... but at least dracythyr always have Glide to save themselves. As there's been talk of giving druids a "Dragonriding mode" for their flight form, I wonder whether that'll also mean that dracthyr will eventually be able to fly the old-fashioned way as well.

There's also a new temporary Dragonriding race event, the Outland Cup. With my love of the Burning Crusade, you'd think I would have loved that too, but... eh. I think now that we can just use Dragonriding everywhere, the novelty of being able to do so in the races isn't quite there anymore. Plus each course is quite predictable at this point in that I'll be able to get gold on the normal race easily, but both reverse and advanced are so tightly tuned that it doesn't feel worth re-doing them over and over again just to eke out something better than bronze. I thought it was interesting that they changed the quest related to the event to actually require you to do all courses now instead of just three, while also significantly buffing the reward. This meant that for the first time, I was able to afford all the prizes after completing everything once instead of having to get on alts to earn more currency.

There's this new thing called the Azerothian Archives, which is a quest chain with some mini games vaguely related to archaeology - the concept that is, not the in-game profession, before anyone gets their hopes up. The quest line was enjoyable enough and I thought it was clever that it included visits to the Forbidden Reach and Zaralek Cavern, presumably in an effort to bring some life back into those mostly abandoned patch zones. As far as I can tell it seemed to work, because I could see that people were actually bumping off rares and picking up chests while they were there.

The mini games themselves all felt a bit weird though, like they were trying to put a new spin on archaeology by making it more complicated. As someone who quite likes archaeology as it is, I wasn't entirely convinced. I guess the proof will be in the pudding as to whether I'll spend any time on the world quests this unlocks. (So far it's just made me miss normal archaeology enough that I went on a bit of a surveying binge the next day.) There's also a new world event tied to all this, where everyone runs in circles as a giant crowd trying to tap mounds of dirt. Again, a bit weird.

In terms of story content, there are some epilogue quests, such as Vyranoth showing you a cinematic that shows Iridikron being up to no good. The night elves get to build a new home under Amirdrassil called Bel'ameth, and Malfurion comes back from Ardenweald. While I'm happy for him and Tyrande to have some quality time together, it does kind of make it look weird in hindsight that there was such a hubbub around him staying in Ardenweald to balance out Ysera returning to the land of the living, considering that it was only a temporary arrangement for a few patches.

There's also a quest chain to reclaim Gilneas, and while it's a nice enough quest by itself, the contrast between everything the night elves got to make up for the loss of Teldrassil (which only happened two expansions ago) and the way the worgen get Gilenas back after more than thirteen years is pretty stark. Basically, Gilneas has just kind of been taken over by the Scarlet Crusade somewhat randomly - so they could kick the Forsaken out, but we couldn't? Yet in turn the Scarlets are really easy to defeat as well, and it's basically all over before you've killed fifty mobs. And while Bel'ameth is clearly being built up to become a proper city with portals etc., the reclaimed Gilneas is just big and empty except for an innkeeper and a repair guy. A bit of a letdown, comparatively.

Story-wise, I thought it was kind of funny that my husband commented while we were doing this together that we'd never really seen much of Tess Greymane outside of worgen-specific quests, and then the cut scene had her telling Genn that while it's understandable that he's still mourning Liam and wanted to take Anduin under his wing, he does also have a daughter, you know... burn!

Also, is it me or did they change Genn's voice actor? I saw others bring this question up online but couldn't find confirmation either way. He definitely sounds very different at least.

Finally, this was also the patch that introduced follower dungeons, something I mentioned only briefly in my post about retail dungeoneering the other day. I've given at least one of them a try since then, which resulted in my husband getting regaled with a lot of live commentary mixed with delightful squealing and giggling. Honestly, I'd take these NPCs over a pug of real people any day. They're so polite, even waiting for me when I want to hang back to skin. The devs apparently tried to give some of them little quirks too, as I noticed that the resto druid NPC was bouncing around like a maniac throughout my entire run. That and the AI is just generally pretty good - I think I even saw Captain Garrick do a corner pull or two? Though she's not perfect, mind you, as was evidenced by her going off to day-dream during the last boss fight, just kind of standing around for a bit doing nothing while I tanked the boss as dps, until being hit by an AoE effect seemed to spur her back into action. Either way, I can highly recommend this mode. It doesn't give a ton of XP, but for pretty much every other purpose - seeing the dungeon, doing quests, getting loot - it seems far superior to doing normal dungeons with random people. And that's coming from me as someone who's not generally averse to pugs, but as I said previously, the normal dungeon experience in WoW is just too unattractive at this point.


Season of Discovery Phase 2 Preview

Season of Discovery's phase two is less than a week away, and Blizzard decided that in spite of the discovery aspect being key to the concept, they didn't want us to go in completely blind. A recent news post on the WoW website goes into quite a bit of detail about what to expect. I won't go into all of it on here, but I did want to highlight a few items that I found interesting.

The Gnomeregan raid has been confirmed to come with six bosses, which aligns with the number present in the regular dungeon, which means that unlike in BFD, nobody got eaten I guess. The news post shows some of the new items to look forward to, but the only one that really stood out to me was the Automatic Crowd Pummeler. The Manual Crowd Pummeler from the regular Gnomer dungeon is a mace with three charges of an on-use effect, which due to the janky nature of Vanilla's design, is actually the best max-level weapon for feral druids - until the charges are depleted that is, at which point it's time to vendor it and grab another. This means that competitive feral druids need to spend a lot of time farming the Gnomer dungeon, which is... bizarre. The new item has a cooldown but unlimited charges, which should get rid of that meta - though it does make me wonder whether it'll still be the best weapon for ferals at sixty in SoD too.

There will be some new runes, though as far as I'm aware it hasn't been revealed how many there will be per class. I was surprised to find that I'm kind of hoping it's not twelve again. Finding new runes is fun when you just start out, but because of how powerful they are, it turns into an exercise in "needing" to acquire them all pretty quickly.

Runes aside, they'll also be introducing some quality of life spells via new spell books dropped from dungeons, such as giving rogues the ability to move combo points and enabling shamans to move their totems. I find it quite interesting how the Classic devs are trying to square the circle in SoD by keeping a certain degree of inconvenience (which was simply part of Vanilla) while also attempting to introduce some quality of life changes without making things too easy and smooth. It's interesting to watch.

They also revealed more details about the new Stranglethorn PvP event, which will apparently turn the zone into a free-for-all once every three hours (though there is also a way to opt out). Grouping is allowed, but converting to raid will apparently be punished in some way. I'll fully admit that I'm less interested in a PvP event that requires actual PvP in a vanilla setting - then again, the free-for-all nature should make it less one-sided on PvE servers than the Ashenvale event has been. I don't know, I might try it once just to see what it's all about, but I tend to quickly get tired of getting killed in open world PvP.

As an aside, they'll also change the Battle for Ashenvale to simply occur once every three hours to make it more predictable. I guess that'll make it easier to join in, though there was definitely something very vanilla-like about not knowing when the fight was about to happen unless you were already in the zone or got intel from someone else who was.

In a move that took many by surprise, the news post also announced that they'll be disallowing GDKP runs from phase two onwards - I wonder if they have enough GMs to deal with the whack-a-mole of ban-hammering that's likely to require. I don't have strong feelings on the matter as I've been lucky to always play on servers where GDKPs are not a thing - I just always hear the horror stories about how ubiquitous they're supposed to be on PvP servers ruled by gold buyers. I suppose it's at least going to be fun to watch the various types of drama that are bound to arise from this.

The news post finished with a paragraph titled "It is Not too Late to Join in Season of Discovery" - presumably a play on the meme of people asking "Is it too late to play [game]/[patch]" five minutes after it's launched. It notes that with the arrival of phase two, they'll increase XP payouts from the BFD raid and from waylaid supplies, and there'll be a general 50% XP buff up to level 25. I'm definitely glad about the buff to BFD experience, as I'd like to see it stay relevant while levelling, but I'm a little more conflicted about the general XP buff. I guess it's one way to battle the FOMO inherent in joining a temporary server like this, but at the same time, SoD is kind of meant to be about levelling, so it still feels a bit odd at the same time.

In spite of all these exciting news, I'm still not too hyped about phase two myself. Things haven't been working out too great for my era guild's little off-shoot on SoD. Basically people tended to fall into one of two categories: either they casually levelled a character just to see what the runes were all about and then decided they didn't care too much about the BFD raid, or they went all-in and farmed BFD with five alts every lockout. There are much fewer of the latter than of the former, so the ones still interested have increasingly had to look elsewhere to fill their runs and in-guild activity has kind of died down. So I'm not too optimistic that I'll actually get to experience the new content in a guild setting, and while there are pugs aplenty, wading into the giant pool of anonymity that is a mega-server holds a lot less appeal to me, even if I'm curious about the new gameplay.