Draenei Heritage

It tickles me that every post I made on this blog in May has been about a different version or mode of World of Warcraft. First I talked about Classic Cataclysm, then Hardcore, then the upcoming War Within, then Classic era, and finally Pandaria Remix. The only thing missing at this point is something about what's currently going on in regular Dragonflight, so why not do that?

I wrote a little about what I thought of various heritage quest lines last year and always meant to continue doing more of them, but other things ended up distracting me and caused that particular project to fall off my radar again for a bit. However, the most recent patch added heritage quest lines for both Draenei and trolls, two races I associate with characters that are particularly dear to me, so I figured it was a great opportunity to have another go at this. I decided to start with the Draenei.

My first ever Draenei lives on the same server as my original priest and has gathered a similar amount of dust over the years. I originally created her back when Burning Crusade came out, and levelled her with a group of friends I'd made early in the game and who also rolled new Draenei alts for the expansion. (I also met them in real life at one point... those were different times. I was always a bit sad that we didn't really manage to stay in touch after that.)

I remember we jokingly referred to our little posse as "The Blue Man Group". One person quickly lost interest in that particular alt, but the rest of us levelled all the way to the cap together from what I remember, even if that meant doing dungeons with a group of four and without a dedicated healer. Our pally tank mostly spent a lot of time healing himself... For some reason I have a particularly vivid memory of us struggling with the last boss in Uldaman due to this but we eventually figured out a way to beat him. (This was before any of us knew about the trick with pulling him into the room upstairs to make add management easier.)

Anyway... even after the group drifted apart, I kept levelling my little blue mage through the following expansions as I quite enjoyed playing her. Though I must have given up in Cataclysm as she was level 30 post-level squish, which would have been something like... 83 in the old times? Which would mean that she saw some play time in Cata, but not enough to get to the cap.

I accepted the gear upgrade at the character selection screen and chose to stay arcane spec, though I was surprised to be presented with this as I thought she'd been frost or fire last I played. Since I'd opted not to clear my quest log, I had a breadcrumb to talk to the guy in the Cataclysm portal circle, which I thought was the introduction to Deepholm, but when I handed it in, there was no follow-up. I decided to go there anyway, first questing in the "regular" version of the world and eventually switching to Chromie Time when things started to go green.

Finishing Deepholm felt like it didn't take all that much time, though it also struck me that Cataclysm really was kind of a low point for the game's questing, regardless of whether you prefer Vanilla's more "worldly" approach to questing or the more modern storylines. By Cata they had streamlined the hell out of the process so there was no exploring or finding quest hubs involved at all anymore, but at the same time the voice acting and cut scenes were still pretty sparse, so you didn't exactly get a "cinematic" experience either... just a looong chain of formulaic quests (always in sets of threes, usually one kill quest, one collect quest, and one that required you to talk to someone, use an item or kill a boss), many of which gated access to things like portals or quartermasters back in the day and required doing on every character.

Anyway, after completing the zone storyline I was still only level 45, so I started doing Therazane dailies for nostalgia's sake, until it hit me that levelling up without collecting any more gear upgrades was probably not a good idea. On returning to Stormwind I found intro quests for Hyjal and Vashj'ir waiting for me, which confused me because surely I must've done at least one of those back in the day? Either way I opted for a bit of questing in Mount Hyjal until I hit level 50, though I didn't get many gear rewards there either.

I just mention this as I've often expressed annoyance with the way Blizzard's scaling really affects your character's performance if your gear can't keep up with your levels, and by the time I hit 50 I reckon my gear was about 40 item levels lower than it should've been once again. Combined with the fact that I found arcane spec confusing and didn't really know what I was doing, this didn't make for the best experience with the combat portions of the heritage quest line.

For example there was one part where I was suddenly put in combat with two mobs and managed to die... on top of a ledge. I spent a couple of minutes trying to get back to my body until I gave up and just took the spirit res, just to be reminded that the debuff you get from that in retail only lasts a minute nowadays anyway. And the final fight with the add waves followed by a boss was quite a pain too. I actually thought it was kind of funny that I complained in the context of the night elf heritage quest line that it felt kind of boring to have three powerful NPC escorts, and as if someone from Blizzard read that, the NPCs you get to help you out in the Draenei scenario do almost nothing and might as well not be there in terms of how helpful they are in combat.

Anyway, my 100th rant about awkward world scaling aside... this quest chain was really good. It starts a little slow, and I was once again reminded that I've become too good at recognising certain voice actors as I immediately spotted Darin De Paul and Max Mittleman again, but things quickly became more interesting.

Because it was such an enjoyable quest line, I don't want to spoil too much, but I'll say that it was interesting that the Draenei quest chain used the same framing device as the orc one, that of a people reviving an old celebration to look towards a better future... though the Draenei's problems are of course a bit different from those of the orcs.

We got to revisit several important Draenei locations, including the Exodar, Auchindoun and Bloodmyst Isle, a lot of known Draenei NPCs returned, and there were some nice touches with the dialogue. For example the Soultender in Auchindoun noted that he could sense that I had "already partaken of our ritual to see the dead", which I think was a callback to that one Burning Crusade quest line which I clearly must have done back in the day. I'm told there are also some dialogue variations for characters that have one of the new red skin customisations. I didn't look up anything until after I'd finished the quest line myself, but I wasn't surprised to find that reddit absolutely loved this one as well.

The ending definitely tugged at my heart strings... though I wonder if anything will ever come of the Draenei's plans to build a new city for themselves in game. Either way, it was a great piece of content that really struck the right tone and did a lot of world building.


Pandaria Remix Impressions

Pandamonium Mists of Pandaria Remix launched last week, and it's been an... interesting experience. The husband and I were quite keen on another opportunity to level a pair of characters together in a different context and agreed to create a shaman/druid pair. Even though I knew what I was getting into, I was rather startled by the height difference between us when I first logged in. Also, neither of us could believe that he managed to snag the name "Bearie".

Timerunning characters start out at level ten on the Timeless Isle, where you're given a few introductory quests to explain the most important Remix-specific mechanics to you as well as a bit of lore to justify the whole thing, though I didn't pay too much attention to the latter to be honest. Something something time travel... I'm just treating it as a spiced-up version of Chromie Time.

Then you're spat out at the start of the Mists of Pandaria campaign and off you go! If questing is what you actually want to do... because the dungeon finder also unlocks almost immediately, including heroic dungeons, which struck me as kind of absurd, but I figured maybe jumping into those straight away makes more sense if you're on a subsequent character who has some bonus cloak power right from the start.

We did however jump into normal dungeons right away, and did also try some heroics later. Mostly I was reminded of how odd it is that places like the revamped Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery are considered Pandaria dungeons when they have absolutely nothing to do with that continent; they just happened to be redone during the Pandaria expansion. Gameplay was enjoyable as at least initially, enemies actually seemed a bit tougher than in regular retail dungeons, and we actually wiped a few times when we over-pulled. Overall though, incoming damage seemed a bit confusing and random, with my husband's bear sometimes going for long stretches seemingly without taking any damage at all, and then suddenly requiring spam-healing while his health bar bounced up and down like a yo-yo. I don't know if that has something to do with the mode's special gems or is just scaling strangeness... I forget that compared to other MMO devs, Blizzard are actually comparatively inexperienced when it comes to scaling content to groups of all levels, and I read accounts of raids getting wiped by certain mechanics doing way too much damage if they target characters of a specific level, as well as general complaints that characters get significantly weaker as they approach the level cap, which would certainly be on brand for Blizzard's current approach to scaling.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. While we spent a lot of time in random group content (including scenarios and raids, which are actually levelling content in Remix), we also did some questing, which triggered a peculiar kind of nostalgia in me. I only played Pandaria during its original release for less than six months, and while it was better than I'd expected it to be in some ways, I wasn't all that impressed in others. At the time, it basically just reaffirmed to me that retail WoW was a completely different game from the one I originally fell in love with and that I was happy to move on. On the other hand though, the whole reason I picked up MoP to begin with after originally swearing off WoW in Cata was that my husband wanted us to play together (at the time, we had only just become a couple, I was unemployed as a result of my move, and it was something to do together), and revisiting that part of the game rekindled fond memories of the early days of our relationship. I was kind of surprised by how well I still remembered certain quest lines even though I only went through them that one time over a decade ago.

Whenever my husband and I take on a project like this, his passion is like a sprint while mine is more of a marathon, which leads to a certain degree of conflict, as he wants to play 24/7, while I still want to do other things on the side even when I'm having fun with the new project. We probably would've hit level 70 already if he hadn't caught a bug that kept him from wanting to play games for a few days. As it is, our characters are "only" in their 60s... after clearing only about one and a half zones worth of quests, but the group content pays out well in terms of experience gains and power.

When you first start out, levelling doesn't feel that different from "normal" retail in terms of speed and power, but the XP bonus on your special cloak adds up over time, and gear pieces come with more and more gem slots that allow you to equip wacky extra effects, ranging from extra movement abilities to all kinds of passive shields and sources of damage.

And it's... been surprisingly fun! I say surprisingly because I've long given WoW grief for making the levelling process too fast. The reason for that is that I feel - based on how WoW itself trained me to view things back in Vanilla - that levelling should be about more than just making your numbers go up. In the original game the process synergised well with exploring, doing professions, running dungeons... basically doing a little bit of everything. As levelling was sped up, all of that fell by the wayside, but I still wanted to do it, and that conflict between my desire to see more of the world and the game always pushing me onwards long before I felt ready to move on lies at the heart of my frustrations with modern WoW's levelling.

With that in mind, I was kind of positively surprised by Remix's approach to this, which is to simply remove all worries about out-levelling content and get rid of all distractions. The scaling may be a bit wonky in places, but everything is scaled from 10-70 (with the exception of some dungeons and raids not unlocking until you're a bit higher level), so you can level any way you want and still continue to earn rewards from all the content once you hit 70.

The game starts you out with huge bags so you'll never have to worry about pausing to make room (though the sheer amount of gear that is showered upon you does require the occasional bag clearing break - however, you never need to look for a vendor, as you can dissemble everything at any point, anywhere). There is no loot other than quest items, Remix-specific gear and Bronze, the special currency, so you never have to think about what to vendor and what to mail to an alt. The auction house and mail are entirely disabled, in fact. So are professions (with the exception of fishing for some reason, though this also only just yields more Bronze), which was initially a bit disappointing to me as I was hoping to pick flowers and skin things while making my way through the zones - even if the materials were just going to be virtually worthless MoP-era stuff - but it certainly helps to keep you focused. Daily reputation grinds are also removed or drastically reduced - our Order of the Cloud Serpent egg literally hatched the same day we picked it up instead of requiring days and weeks of care, and the farm at Halfhill is entirely inaccessible from what I understand.

It's a strange case of "less is more" for me, where even though I like the traditional approach of having all these different things to do and think about, it's not much fun if the game doesn't really support that way of playing anymore, so I was surprised to actually find myself appreciative of the devs simply taking all that stuff out of Remix. It's like they were going "Look, we're not even gonna pretend that there's any point to levelling professions here or whatever... just focus on the stuff we did put in for you to play around with" and I can actually respect that.

I initially wasn't planning to level more than one character through Remix, but considering how fast our shaman/druid duo has been flying through the levels and that there are almost three months of the event left, I might end up going through it on another character or two. I'm also planning to keep playing my shaman at the level cap though, to revisit more of the content while earning more Bronze to buy transmogs and mounts.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle in week one around an "exploit", as seems to have become the norm with these new event/server launches for Blizzard. Frogs on the Timeless Isle were apparently insanely good for farming Bronze and stats, allowing people to power-level their cloaks to have stats in the thousands within a day. Blizzard quickly hotfixed this of course, which then led to a bit of an outcry from people who were complaining that they could now never "catch up", which was just absurd to me, considering that there is absolutely nothing competitive going on in Remix. Any power gains are only temporary for the duration of the event and won't carry over into regular retail, and PvP is another thing that's entirely disabled, so an overpowered "frog farmer" literally can't hurt you. If anything, having a character like that in your group benefits you... I had to laugh earlier when I queued for an LFR wing and was baffled to see all the bosses die within seconds - the entire thing was done in something like five minutes, most of which was taken up by NPC roleplay conversations. I loaded up Recount to see what was going on and in our 20+ person raid group, one guy had done 70% of the overall damage, another had done about 20%, and everyone else was sitting somewhere between 0 and 1%. Froggers I suppose! I just thought it was incredibly funny and was rather amused to be given such a "boost".

I can understand why Blizzard wanted to stop everyone from getting so insanely OP within less than a week, but I personally saw no harm in letting those who already had it keep their power - but I guess that might've been too much fun, so those cloaks are due to be nerfed now and everyone else will just get some bonus Bronze. Either way, I'm enjoying the mayhem.


I Got To See Atiesh Get Made

Vanilla WoW is full of content that was only ever experienced by a small minority of players when it first came out. One of the great things about Classic was that it allowed more people to see and experience things that they missed back in 2005. I didn't go into Classic with any intentions to raid for example, but it was cool to get to do it in the end and to experience the epicness of 40-man raiding for myself. Similarly, I felt privileged to take part in the forging of the legendary Thunderfury more than once.

One thing that I hadn't seen yet after almost five years of Classic was the creation of the Naxxramas legendary Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian. Atiesh never became as widely popular as Thunderfury, partially I think because it's quite drab-looking compared to the flashy Thunderfury, partially because the fact that it comes from the last raid of the original game meant that fewer people really knew about it. Working on getting it also requires even more of a time-commitment than Thunderfury, as you need to collect forty randomly dropped splinters of the staff from bosses across Naxx, then kill C'thun in AQ40 and Kel'thuzad in Naxx once more, just to then finish off with an extremely demanding five-man boss fight. The latter also goes to why I hadn't seen that part before myself - it's one thing to be in big raid group gathering in the sands of Silithus, helping to take down a giant wind lord, but when the presumptive staff-bearer can only take four of their trusted friends (of the right classes) into an instance for the final step, that does kind of limit who can go.

I was therefore extremely flattered and excited when a friendly druid from my era guild messaged me the other week to let me know that she had nearly collected all the splinters for her own Atiesh and to ask whether I wanted to come along to the final fight when the time came. It's really hard for me to capture how meaningful this simple offer was to me, as I haven't really been online much in Classic era for several months now, even if I do keep logging in to do my auction house stuff and try to stay in touch via Discord. It's still not the same as actually being there for the raids every week.

I was initially nervous that I might miss the whole thing since a holiday took me out of the game for a week, but in the end it worked out so that I came back just in time for Bracken (my druid friend) to collect the last pieces she needed before the five-man fight. Thursday night I logged on excitedly after the guild had finished an AQ40 run, even spurning my husband (there are some occasions that are too special to miss!), and it was only while I made my way to Stratholme that I finally learned what was going to be involved in the fight, partially from people talking about it, partially from looking things up.

Atiesh is a demon that looks like a dreadlord (though I'm not sure whether he's actually supposed to be one, lore-wise) whom you summon on Festival Lane in Stratholme and who hits like an absolute truck. Key to the seemingly intended strategy for the fight is to have a warrior in the group to disarm him, which will cause him to drop his sword as a temporary item that you can pick up and use during the fight to do insane dps, kind of like the weapons of Kael'thas' advisors in Burning Crusade. On top of that he has a constant shadow damage aura akin to that of Baron Rivendare, which combined with the damage on the tank makes it recommendable to bring two healers. Oh, and he pulses an AoE curse on everyone that reduces physical attack power by 1000 (!), which also makes it advisable to bring someone who can decurse.

Our group did contain two of the best-geared priest healers in the guild, but we had neither a warrior nor a decurser, as my friend was tanking in bear form and the other dps was one of the officers on his rogue. This was, frankly, an utterly terrible setup in terms of guaranteeing success, as it meant the boss's damage output on the tank was entirely unmitigated and our dps was perma-nerfed by the curse. (Unbuffed, losing 1000 attack power reduces my hunter's overall AP by about two thirds!)

We gave it one go without world buffs, which ended with our poor bear going squish with the boss at only about 75% health. After that, we decided to pop our chronoboons, which helped a lot. Things still got tense however when a stray wandering ghost got pulled into the fight (not even by me) and started whacking one of the priests. We eventually killed this unexpected add and got things under control, but the fight is so tight that this distraction had caused the tank healing to fall somewhat behind and healers to run out of mana a bit earlier than expected. With the boss at about two percent health, our tank died again, immediately followed by one of the priests, and for a nerve-wracking few seconds we didn't know whether we were going to make it. Fortunately, the rogue managed to pull off the classic manoeuvre of evasion-tanking the boss for his last sliver of health so we could get him down.

The actual hand-in for the quest after that is with Anachronos at the Caverns of Time in Tanaris, so we had a little guild assembly there to cheer for the guild's newest "Guardian". The fact that they were letting a druid build Atiesh should give you an idea of how many versions of this staff there are in the guild by now... one of the fun perks of the never-ending Classic era.

She then made her first portal to Karazhan (it's an on-use effect the staff has) and we all took it and did a bit more silly bouncing between portals in front of Kara before calling it a night. I made a 14-minute video to commemorate the event as well:


7 Reservations I Have About The War Within

I made it clear a few weeks ago that I think Dragonflight has been a great expansion. However, with the War Within alpha up and running, all eyes are increasingly turning towards the next expansion, and I'm afraid to say that I still view it with a degree of scepticism at this point.

There are good things about it for sure - I'm very much looking forward to more mounts being upgraded to Dragonriding dynamic flight for example, as well as the introduction of more account-wide features - though as far as the latter goes, Blizzard is so incredibly late to the party compared to the competition that I also find it hard to give them bigger praise than "fucking finally".

However, there are also quite a few points that I currently look at that still make me shake my head and go "I don't know". I want The War Within to be good, and I wasn't immediately in love with Dragonflight based on the early announcements either, so there is definitely room to win me over. I'm just kind of... concerned right now. From biggest to smallest, here are my current worries in regards to The War Within:

1. Pay a Lot to Early Acess

I'm actually not opposed to early access being used as an incentive for new MMO releases in principle - but the way Blizzard are giving people three days of it only if you buy the most expensive super ultra mega deluxe edition of the expansion doesn't sit right with me at all. I know they've tried to reassure everyone that early access players won't gain any significant gameplay advantages during that time, but that's not really the point for me.

The WoW community is one that is always in a rush, and when it comes to people whose brains seem to be permanently on speed, three days are an absolute eternity. Unless we opt to completely stay off the internet, those of us who refuse to shell out this kind of money will be met with an absolute deluge of spoilers about stuff we can't play yet, everyone else who's still locked out will grumble, and I generally expect the community to be in an unpleasant state of tension between the haves and have-nots. I'm pretty sure one or two people in our little friend group will go for the early access too, and it will be super awkward to see them level up ahead of the rest of us.

I mean, I can hope that it will all blow over relatively quickly, because at the end of the day it is "only" three days and any outrage and annoyance may end up just being a storm in a tea cup. On the other hand though, a really bad launch experience can colour people's impressions of an expansion for a long time.

2. Story Regression

Dragonflight's story got a lot of flak but I honestly feel like a lot of that has been overblown because there simply wasn't anything else to complain about. While I'd never claim that it was without flaws, I appreciated that it seemed to try out a fresh new direction in many ways, especially in how it approached themes of familial conflict and death, in a game where a lot of plot points in the past have basically boiled down to "guy gets angry and runs away/goes on a vengeful killing spree". It made me hopeful for the game's future.

And then Chris Metzen came back and they laid off a bunch of the people who've defined WoW's story direction for the past couple of years. My initial reaction was mostly one of confusion, since I didn't have any particular feelings about Metzen and couldn't at all relate to those who seemed to think that his return heralded some sort of return to glory for WoW's storytelling.

However, as more time has passed, I've found myself with a slowly increasing feeling of dread instead - dread that him being back will mean narrative regression for WoW, and that the game's story will simply fall back onto all its old tropes. I'm not a fan of Anduin seemingly turning into a grizzled old war veteran/Varian 2.0 for example (as I never liked Varian much to begin with). And then I came across a massive spoiler for the start of War Within in a YouTube thumbnail of all things - if you want to skip discussion of that, just go ahead to the next point on the list.

If you already know or don't care to be spoiled, I am of course talking about the destruction of Dalaran. And yes, the devs have also already been out there trying to do damage control, telling everyone that they think it's the right thing to do for the story and so on and so forth - but they also thought that when they came up with the Cataclysm, when they blew up Theramore and burned Teldrassil, and yet those decisions still ended up being hated by players for years after the fact. I think "we need to blow shit up or nobody will care" is definitely a step backwards and really dampened my enthusiasm for the expansion already, and I'm not even particularly attached to Dalaran.

3. No Sky All Expansion

This seems to be one of these things that people either relate to immediately or don't understand at all, with apparently no in-between. Simply put, WoW is at its best when it lets you explore wide open and beautiful spaces. Caves and "evil" zones exist as places of danger to venture forth into, but are not enjoyable as somewhere to hang out in all the time.

With that in mind, I'm very concerned about the entirety of The War Within basically being set underground. Sure, they can do things to alleviate the oppressiveness of that theme - one of the zones has something like a "fake sun" in the sky I believe - but I'm not sure that's going to be enough considering that there's never been an underground zone that I loved. Zaralek Cavern in Dragonflight was probably the best zone of this kind they've ever done, and it was still undoubtedly the expansion's weakest spot. Building a whole expansion on that premise is... a choice.

4. Delves

When delves were first announced as a new progression path for open world/solo players, I thought "neat", but the more I've learned about them from reporting from the alpha, the less interested I've become. They're not so much open world content as just another form of instance that can also be soloed instead of done in a group and that... just doesn't sound that exciting? I'm kind of reminded of Mists of Pandaria's scenarios, which I thought were pretty lame.

They're probably not going to be the worst thing in the world, but as the key new expansion feature that's supposed to change the game for years to come the way Dragonriding did, delves currently don't look promising to me at all.

5. Talent Complications

In my Dragonflight review I put the talent revamp down as a positive overall, but the system is quite complex. In my opinion the best way of letting players come to grips with it would be to not change it too dramatically for the next couple of years, just apply some tweaks and refinements maybe.

So what does Blizzard decide to do in War Within? Add a third "mini tree" to the whole thing and it just made me sigh the moment I learned about it. I remember hearing some discussion about the earliest version of the priest "hero talents", and while that obviously wasn't final, it sounded so complicated that just listening to people talk about them made my head hurt. As someone who thinks that retail WoW's combat still suffers from a lot of unnecessary complexity, I find it hard to see how these new talents could be anything other than a way of accelerating us down the road of "it's all too much of a mess" again and having yet another complete talent revamp incoming.

6. Xal'atath

I was rather befuddled when Holly Longdale announced this character as the main villain of the expansion (or at least the start of it) seemingly with an expectation of generating excitment, since I knew so little about her. PlaniumWoW's lore video about the character was very helpful in that regard, and I definitely related to the opening skit that has Holly's announcement ending with someone from the crowd yelling "Who the fuck is that?".

Unfortunately knowing more about Xal'atath hasn't really made me like her more. Her "master manipulations" honestly remind me more of the worst traits of the Jailer - possibly the most hated villain in WoW history - and it feels like people are just more willing to give her a pass because she's an undead elf with a sexy voice. Clearly this was a position that needed filling with Sylvanas out of the picture... Maybe she'll actually turn out to be cool and I'll change my mind, but for now I'm not optimistic that she'll turn out to be anything but an attempt to appal to a certain... demographic.

7. Just... Rock Dwarves?

I'm not saying the success of any given WoW expansion is tied to its new races and classes, but it's worth noting that the only two expansions that added neither of these were Warlords of Draenor and Shadowlands. Giving us an allied race of slightly differently skinned dwarves isn't much of a step up from not giving us anything at all in my opinion. And look, I'm not being anti-dwarf here, I'd also be disappointed if it was just one allied race (as in, one using an existing race's skeleton and animations) of a different type. I don't think this is a huge deal (which is why it's at the bottom of this list) but it's just another way in which War Within seems to want to underwhelm right from the start when compared to many of its predecessors.


More Hardcore Horde Adventures

I've continued to level my hardcore troll priest in small bursts of activity, and she's now up to level 20.

I initially struggled with more interface problems, as I could tell that I still wasn't seeing all the death announcements, even after joining the server-wide HardcoreDeaths channel. Some googling revealed that there's an additional drop-down in the in-game settings nowadays where you need to select how many deaths you want to see, and it's set to show only those of guild members by default.

I was happy when I finally got that sorted out and could see everything, as the discourse from the peanut gallery about deaths is always interesting. There were some raised eyebrows about a wipe in Ragefire Chasm for example, and when a level 52 died to fall damage in Tirisfal Glades there were exclamations along the lines of: "Why not wait five seconds for the zeppelin to actually dock, man?!"

Aside from that, guild chat sadly remains a bit confusing because they expect you to install an addon called "Greenwall" to connect it with the guild chat of sister guilds, which I've refused to do so far because I don't like the thought of having an extra addon just for that. That said, it makes reading guild chat a very disjointed experience right now as it's very obvious that people are frequently responding to things that I'm not seeing. I might cave eventually.

I've been surprised by how regular world buffs are dropping on hardcore. I think I mentioned this before, but still... I know that people raid on hardcore, but I figured it was more of a fringe activity considering the risk vs. reward. The number of world buffs going out on the regular seems to defy that assumption though.

After accidentally picking up some buffs in Orgrimmar one night, I decided to venture forth into Skull Rock at level 12. I knew that was probably a risky move, but I was feeling brave and was hopeful that I wasn't going to be the only person there. Indeed, I ran into a male troll hunter as soon as I turned the first corner. At first we continued fighting separately, just leap-frogging each other with our mob pulls, but then I spotted the rare elite warlock around a corner and suggested we group up to kill him. We did and then continued killing more together - grouping up is such a force multiplier in era (particularly as a priest!), it never ceases to amaze me.

Just as we were about to go out, a mage entered the cave and asked to join. I invited him, but of course he was only just starting his quests. The hunter thanked everyone politely and took his leave, but I stuck with the mage to help him get his quest done too. Then a druid showed up as well! I enjoyed the grouping experience, but at that point I was getting a bit worried that I 'd gotten myself caught in an endless loop of helping out new joiners. As if he'd read my mind, the mage said that he'd stay with the druid to help them complete their quest, but that I was free to go. I thanked everyone and took my leave, happy that the most deadly place in Durotar had gone so well for me.

Up next, I started questing in the Barrens. One funny experience I had there was when I was killing centaurs around the Forgotten Pools and a death announcement popped up that "a Stonearm" had killed someone at my location. For all the hours I've spent in the Barrens over the years, I had never heard of "a Stonearm" before, and I was rather alarmed to hear that this unknown entity was apparently killing people in my vicinity. A quick Wowhead search revealed him to be a rare centaur, and about five minutes later he killed another player. I was looking over my shoulder with some serious paranoia now, wondering whether he was a patroller or something, but he was not. I eventually spotted him guarding a chest near some tents but decided not to engage after the earlier carnage. When I came past the tents again a few minutes later, someone else had successfully killed him though.

At level 15 I wanted to run Ragefire Chasm. My first attempt to find a group in the evening wasn't successful - I saw that another group was already looking for a tank, so I didn't fancy my chances and went off to do something else. This turned out to be a good decision though, because when I logged in the following Saturday morning, I didn't even have enough time to type "LFG RFC" into chat before someone had already whispered me to ask whether I wanted to go there.

It was a smooth enough run, but it also highlighted to me that healing in hardcore feels like a much bigger responsibility than usual. We had a level 18 shaman tank, which was fine enough, but there was also a level 15 warrior with a two-hander and a mage that liked to go up close to spam Arcane Explosion, and they both got aggro on more than one occasion, which resulted in sudden damage spikes on them, and that at a point when I didn't yet have Flash Heal or anything... I think I saw the mage chug a healing potion once and when the warrior got low, the other shaman in the group threw him a quick off-heal. Usually I'd be mildly offended by people "panicking" like that as soon as someone's health drops below 50%, but in hardcore I understand wanting to be safe rather than perma-dead.

We also made the most out of the experience (seeing how you can do each dungeon only once per day) and even went to kill the troggs in the little cul-de-sac to the left, something I hadn't done in donkey's years.

We'll see how things develop as I go up in levels. I do love how much everyone seems to appreciate being buffed with a priest's fortitude. I do it all the time on the road and people will often stop what they're doing just to whisper me thanks - I like knowing that those extra HP might really help someone out in the world. My next personal goal is probably going to be to get into a Wailing Caverns run, but there's no rush.


The Cataclysm Cometh

I wasn't really planning to comment on Cataclysm Classic any further unless I suddenly found myself overcome by a surprise urge to actually play it. I try to have the attitude that if I get tired of an MMO, I turn away and leave it be, because people who still complain about the supposed shortcomings of a game they haven't really been interested in actually playing for years are cringe.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't still take note of some of the things that happen in MMOs I used to play or am still "adjacent" to, so hearing the stories coming out of the WoW Classic subreddit since yesterday's Cataclysm pre-patch has been absolutely wild. I'm enough of an old hand to expect some level of disruption from any major patch, but there are still... degrees. In the context of Classic, I wouldn't have expected:

I actually kind of wanted to log in just to see whether the chaos was bad enough to actually be noticeable in game to a casual observer. So I reinstalled Classic Cata... and instantly forgot all about what I had come for when I was overcome by nostalgia on the character selection screen.

As a reminder, I hopped off the Classic progression train during Classic Burning Crusade, but it was a sad parting, not one driven by anger or indifference. Seeing my hunter in her tier five gear still filled me with fond memories of the Forks, even if guild life had soured a bit in the expansion compared to OG Classic. There was my mage in her Frozen Shadoweave! Seeing my druid in her tier four immediately gave me flashbacks to tanking in Gruul's and Magtheridon's Lair. Those were different times, all of... three years ago.

I logged into my hunter and was presented with a cascade of achievements, because of course, those were added in Wrath and I hadn't logged in since then. There was also some automated mail reimbursing me with gold for old currency and keys that had been removed. I wanted to check the status of the guild I was still in, but had issues with seeing everything as the guild UI was kind of bugged out, so I guess that checked out at least.

I then thought about the upcoming server merges that I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago. I didn't think I cared enough to make use of the free transfers instead of letting Blizzard automatically shunt my old characters off to wherever by default, but now that I was already here... In the old (now inactive) guild Discord someone had mentioned that they were choosing to move to Mirage Raceway over Pyrewood, so I actually made the effort to choose that as destination for all my old chars as well.

I even got to keep a couple of names because I'd completely forgotten that back when Blizzard first opened free transfers from Hydraxian Waterlords and before the Forks had decided to go to Nethergarde Keep, I had checked out all the options and reserved names where I could.

Of course my old hunter was not so lucky. Tir had become Tirr with two Rs when moving from Hydraxian Waterlords to Nethergarde Keep, so I thought it would make sense to add a third one for yet another server transfer. This is when I learned that apparently there is a restriction/error message for "you cannot use the same letter three times consecutively". Okay! Never thought I'd run into that one.

Anyway, I completed the transfers and then... I just felt lost. I never thought I'd really want to play anyway. But now that I saw them, I still felt a weird attachment to all those characters and like I should "look after" them. I almost wish I had the casual disregard for virtual life that some of my friends have, being serial character deleters. Meanwhile, I still feel vaguely bad about that gnome rogue I deleted almost two decades ago...

I just want stability for my characters, and Blizzard used to be good at that. My old characters from the game's early days are all still there on the same servers where I originally created them. Sure, they may have had their levels squished, talents reset and contents of their bags obsoleted, but they are still there. I shudder to think how I'll feel about the characters I made in Season of Discovery whenever the time for that comes to shut down. They didn't get to very high levels, but still... this is definitely a downside of this whole seasonal server model and Blizzard making so much more liberal use of server merges in my opinion.