Oh The Questing Of Old

Quest

Ah the questing of the good old days. Well, ok, not entirely. If you’re playing in Wrath or older, that means you’re questing in Vanilla. And if you’re playing Classic WoW then of course you’re doing it also. Some of the quests are enjoyable (as I eluded to before and will bring up again later), and let’s face it a number of them are simply “Kill X of Y.” And then there’s other quests. Like class quests for example.

Now yes, I will get out of the way right now you are under no obligation to do any quest in particular (unless the loot entices you), I feel a desire to complete the class ones just to see the stories through and feel like I’m doing my characters a proper service. That said, it doesn’t mean they’re easy. Take this quest for example. At level 12 you receive the quest which will lead you to a great 2H Mace: Redemption.

Obviously good things are worth putting in the effort. But the quest for this lovely item starts outside the gates of Ironforge (as a dwarf). Subsequently you’re going to head off to find four items. No biggie. Except as you can see in the picture, there’s a bit more involved than that. Four stops: Thelsamar, Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep, and Blackfathom Deeps. As Alliance, you’re riding from Arathi Basin or possibly Southshore depending on how far north you’ve rode. You also have three instances to get into.

While it’s nice getting the quest at 12, you’re not completing it until you’re in your 20’s or higher. Me, I didn’t run and dungeons at level and as such didn’t complete it until about 40. Nice thing is, the mace is still solid at that level. Unless you’re a Prot Pally like yours truly.

Still, it’s not about the reward in this case. I did enjoy the mild story and the idea of someone building a weapon specifically for me (even if I couldn’t use it). But I forgot about the quests of old and the traveling involved. Some are worth doing, and others (an elf in Darnassus wanted me to go to the Hinterlands) can be passed on. And yet, I find I like it more than questing the original zones post-Wrath. Doing the traveling and completing the quests feels appropriate to your level, rather than going into a zone and jumping on a storyline that you out-level before it culminates.

5 Ups And 5 Downs In Wrath

It’s funny. Until you go back in time (no, not Warlords), you don’t realize just how much of the game has changed. But when you stop to think about it, Wrath ended 10 (!) years ago. With all the changes that have taken place, here are 5 things I like from Wrath and 5 things I’m glad changed.

Plus: Harder
Going back I’ve come to realize how much more difficult the game was, particularly at lower level. Yes, it was still the era where start zone mobs were yellow, but once you tag them, they can be hard to deal with. Even more so if they bring friends to the fight. My Mage has died a lot and it’s not from doing dumb things. Hunter could say the same pre-pet.

Minus: Mob Tagging
This was one of the things Blizzard got right, likely taking the lead from Guild Wars 2. There’s little more frustrating when you are doing a kill ‘`em quest and someone tags one of your mobs right before you do. And heaven forbid it’s a quest objective mob, otherwise you may as well get comfy for a couple of minutes.

Plus: Talent Trees
I might be in the minority on this one, but it was one of the things I always liked. The modern formula of choosing one of three abilities here and there was never the “better choices for the players” that the developers lauded when they brought it forward. Instead it became even more cookie cutter. Sure, the old trees still have their optimum build, but there is room to play around. And if the character isn’t raiding, the tree is your playground.

Minus: Profession Specialization
It’s a bit trivial, but having to choose between Weapons or Armor, for example, feels like you’re forced into a specific direction that by this time in the franchise certainly wasn’t necessary. For someone who also likes to have all craft options, it makes it a bit more difficult. But let’s be honest, if this is one of my gripes then things can’t be too bad.

Plus: Less Flight Paths
The abundance of flight paths post Cataclysm makes getting around significantly faster than it had been to that point. However, between that and being able to fly your mount, Azeroth got significantly smaller. But in the modern game if you are starting out then you’ve got 120 levels to get through. With only 80 back then, it wasn’t so bad. You could get Outland flying at 70 and Northrend flying at 80, the latter of which then unlocked the Cold Weather Flying option for any of your other characters and they just had to be high enough level to be in Northrend in the first place. But there’s something nostalgic about running from Loch Modan to Menethil Harbor, or Stormwind to Westfall, that while a short distance still seems to emphasize the “World” part of WoW.

Minus: Corpse Run
I like the world to feel bigger, just not when I’m dead. Having to run across a zone to get back to your body can be painful sometimes. Ok, almost always. And if you’re the only member of a group or raid, you feel even worse while everyone is waiting on you to return. The changes that made getting back to your body a minute or less ordeal was definitely a step forward.

Plus: Leveling
As I said in flight paths, the leveling had to change for the modern game. But the pre-Wrath zones that were changed in Cataclysm took things too far. We got quest hubs that we often outgrew before even finishing the story or getting the xp for the area becase it was no longer worth it. Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. You could do all the quests in a hub and sometimes it wouldn’t even be enough to level out of. You might head to another zone just to get topped up, and start a new trek. Combining that with the talent trees gave a feeling like every level after ten meant something.

Minus: Wailing Caverns 
I can honestly say I have almost no difficulty in any of the dungeons or raids from 3.3.5 and older. This one, though, is a whole mess of worms. Without the later introduced map tool for dungeons, getting lost is incredibly easy.  And then one wrong step or turn and you’re really running around in circles which isn’t the best in an already incredibly long dungeon.

Plus: Dungeons
No, I’m not contradicting myself. With this one, I’m removing WC from the discussion save for the fact it’s a good run if you want the Druid of the Fang armour. But that aside, I love the way things were. Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman aren’t 5-man’s. High Inquisitor Fairbanks is hiding behind the secret wall in Scarlet Monastery, Deadmines is back to the way it was meant to be (though Vanessa Van Cleef’s story was one of the better ones in Cataclysm).  The original dungeons had excellent stories, and you tended to farm them while leveling. Now the pre-80 stuff you might see two or three times if you’re lucky, again because leveling is so much faster.

Minus: Missing Race/Class Combos
Sure, this one is purely cosmetic (for the most part). But I miss a lot of the things we got in 4.0.3. For the most part they were changes that made sense. Human Hunters, Dwarf Warlocks, Tauren Paladins, Troll Druids, and so forth. There are a number of them I am quite fond of being able to create. That said, I do not miss the idea of a Gnome Hunter.

So there’s a handful of thoughts that have come about as a result of my time warp. I might be able to make the list a bit longer, and maybe even on both sides of the equation, but these are the ones that stand out the most. If you can think back that far, what changes are you happy for? Which ones do you wish had never changed?
 

Rise of Azshara…and the Amateur?

Patch 8.2 went live this week, the latest incarnation of events aimed at spicing up World of Warcraft and advancing the plot(s) further. Above everything else, the lore is something I’ve kept up with. Gameplay, um…not so much. It’s part of why there is nothing more than cobwebs and a few sparse comments over time. I haven’t been playing. Well, that’s not entirely correct. I’ll go a few weeks where I actually accomplish things and then a couple months where I don’t. As if that didn’t make things difficult enough, I play on a private server still. I’ve actually decided to write a post about that experience in a more detailed manner, but the preview of that is current content is easier said than done. And older stuff might not get done at all.

Funny enough, it isn’t the new content that brought me back. No, it looks like quite recently someone went back and read my entire blog. Every single post. Now, I have no idea who this individual was or what brought them to my humble little world. I would love to thank them for doing so, though. It reminds me of the time I’ve invested in Azeroth courtesy of the way they invested the time in reading all my musings, insight, and quirky thoughts. But imagine playing WoW and then you couldn’t because it just randomly stopped. All you got was a gallery of your mounts and pets. With no notice, that would be frustrating for certain. And I wondered if this person felt the same when the blog just stopped at that top 10 mount list from last year.

As I suggested, I’ve been playing here and there. I’ve been following things plenty. I know Blizzard supposedly confessed to mistakes as far as the classes go, in that they went too far. I liked how each spec felt when Legion hit, but I can understand a lot of the concerns the player base has had ever since. I can’t comment too much since I know my server is still in the process of tweaking some abilities. Some are broken in a bad way and some are overpowered. I suppose it’s like a PTR in that sense.

So what does someone do who is barely a casual player anymore, doesn’t play the game live, and is disgruntled about much of the WoW model at this time write about? Well, in this case he doesn’t. Or didn’t. It was as if I no longer felt what I was going to write was actually going to contribute anything to the game or the community. At least, not like I felt I did at one point in time.

But that can change with one viewer. That same thing can be said about any media platform. A viewer. A listener. A like, a tweet…you get the idea. I was honestly sparked in part by discovering that Tome had returned to blogging as well. And then seeing someone go through all my posts, it was humbling if you haven’t already gathered that. But it made me do the same. Indeed I also went through everything I’ve wrote over the years and I came to a realization. It wasn’t so much what I was writing, but that I was writing. If you wanted to read or learn about something specific, you know doubt had a handful of sites and blogs that provided that. I was never about that. Well, I did do a fair bit in the infancy of transmogrification. But I wrote about anything and everything. Whatever suited my fancy at the time. At some point in my negative view of the situation I managed to lose sight of that.

With the new clarity does not come new promises. This time of year, admittedly, my schedule gets a bit tougher and with it writing does too. Particularly when I’m a legit writer now as well. Well, legit in that my work for a company has been printed and it did well enough I’ve been asked to write more. But more on that another time. For now, I’m simply going to sit back, take it all in, and then start churning out the thoughts of Azeroth and more that have sat bottled up in my noggin’ this past year and more. The engine might churn fast, and it might churn slow. But I’ve put myself in a state where it’s likely I won’t take the key out of the ignition.

What Is Love (No Haddaway…)

 

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Love is in the air across Azeroth, and it’s honestly one of my least favourite seasonal event. As much of a romantic as I am, it just doesn’t do anything for me. Plus, there’s no reward of substance though I know folks love the rocket. Peddlefeet is a dime a dozen. You don’t even need to try and get him. Just go to the auction house over the next two weeks and pick one up for cheap.

Ok, so the lamenting of the event really doesn’t go with the title of the post. But, with this event, it got me thinking to what it was about World of Warcraft that I love. Why is it there are dozens of MMO’s that aren’t far off, some even do it better than Blizzard, and yet no matter what I play it never feels like WoW? Admittedly there was a time where the short answer was the people. Back when Claws of Nature was booming, and my blogroll was always active, things were good. It felt like something more than just a game.

But now I’m almost completely devoid of that. There are less than a dozen fellow bloggers I talk to at any given time. The only Claws I talk to anymore are my wife and my son’s Godfather. Heck, I don’t even talk to anyone on my current server. I’d like for my wife and son to both play with me, and that might happen at some point, but still I play without them. So again I ask, what is it?

It’s something I do for other people quite often but rarely have done for me: create a rich story and environment. As a dungeon master I take great pride in putting together fun adventures, characters, and stories for my players. But I’m always the DM. Bridesmaid, but never the bride anymore. Alas, I’m sidetracking. It isn’t because I don’t get to be a player that I play WoW. It’s because I get to jump in and connect with all of it. All the stories. From the Van Cleefs and lazy peons, to Arthas and that idiot druid Zen’kiki. I find it all fantastic. I’m familiar with it, knowing a great deal inside and out. I enjoy considering myself a part of that. Lore wise my character specifically has nothing to do with the plot (despite the game alluding to it otherwise). I’m a background pebble in the middle of a rockslide. But man is it a fun ride.

No other game comes close to pulling you in. Not as quickly as WoW is capable of doing. The quest system often does a great job of setting the narrative of what’s going on and there’s enough flavourful characters out and about to just make some situations that much better…to say nothing of cut scenes (which at points are almost overdone). I loved playing Guild Wars, but I never felt connected to it. Some events, absolutely. But as a whole, I still felt something lacking. DC Online? Same. And I love me some DC Universe.

The one thing Blizzard does as well as anyone, if not better, is tell their stories. For me, that’s the fish hook. Fortunately there’s a fresh batch on the way between the above shown Chronicles, Battle for Azeroth, and the novel that leads into it. And indeed, I love it.

We Need To Lose

Off the top of your head, name a time in World of Warcraft where the players lost in the narrative sense. The Alliance didn’t lose anything with the bombing of Theramore, only Jaina did. Sure we felt sympathy over the incident but it didn’t defeat the faction in any sense of the word. How about the larger scales? Garrosh? Illidan? Deathwing? You can see where this is going. They all have grandiose agendas that we have to overcome and the thing is, we always do.

The idea behind this discussion is a result of me thinking about the upcoming Avengers movies. I’ve said all along if it’s a two-part story in any sense, then Thanos has to be victorious at the end of the first movie. I have a much deeper idea of how everything would play out, but that’s not relevant to this application of the idea. But I do agree with the idea itself: Azeroth has to lose once.

Realistically speaking, the idea of Azeroth losing isn’t so much the game is over. The game isn’t going anywhere. But the days of us overcoming anything that comes our way needs to have a serious hiccup. Characters like Thrall and Khadgar (either one at this point) need to lose. We need to live to see the bad guys come out victorious. To truly overcome adversity and defeat. It would make the story of the game even more enriched. Instead of dealing with threats as they develop, we have to rally and respond.

This certainly, though unintentionally, ties in with my thoughts earlier in the week about no longer needing factions in WoW. Whether they stay or go, this scenario is lost if it doesn’t result in the two sides working together to complete the comeback. You being the emissary in the quest to begin uniting the two for the fight could prove interesting. But I’m getting ahead of myself with this idea as the how isn’t important. What is important is we need to feel like we’ve been completely bettered. Like the players and characters gave it everything and came up short.

This could be as short as a patch or two, or actually be the beef of a complete expansion. I would prefer the latter to be honest. It just gives a better opportunity to tell the full story. You could have an expansion raid end with apparent victory for the players. However, with the launch of the last patch before a new expansion, you have a vignette showing things did not go entirely as we were lead to believe at the time and the subsequent fallout that creates. Heck, it could be as simple as the players following direction and doing exactly what we were supposed to do, but the whole while we’re being manipulated and mislead. Even if it was through misdirection, making it our fault is an even more powerful tool.

Going into an expansion oozing with insurmountable odds would be a scale we’re not used to. Instead of doing this or that to help the cause, you’re doing this or that just to survive. Imagine a town living or dying based on your decision on a quest that has options! The simplest things we take for granted could now be Holy Grail level goals as we slowly try to get Azeroth back on her feet and defeat said evil. But as we’ve already lost once we see the journey to not only win this time, but to figure out exactly how. And please don’t let Khadgar be anywhere near that solution. In fact, keep all the Mary Sues of Azeroth away. We’re sick of them and it should be someone else’s time in a situation like this. All the people of the kingdoms, not just the ones we’re supposed to bask alongside.

It’s like the song says, “I get knocked down but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” The problem is, we’ve never really been knocked down in World of Warcraft. We need to know what it feels like to have to get back up.

Legendary Amateurs: Book One, Chapter Two

Not long after, Zarahi found herself flying along the shores of Elune’ara. Zen’tabra was known to find comfort along the lake and it seemed a logical place to begin and it wasn’t long before Zarahi spotted her hut.

As she landed, Zen’tabra looked to her. “What’cha want? Ya not here for some fish, dat’s for sure.”

Zarahi shook her head. “Nah, Zen’tabra. Malfurion be ready for da ritual.”

Zen’tabra nodded in return. “So, time to see if we can really make dis happen. Dis gonna be needin’ everything we have ta give and a whole lot more.” Zen’tabra closed her eyes for a moment. Zarahi watched her fellow Troll. “De spirits, they be silent wit me on dis. Dat mean dey not opposed to it either. Very well, I’ll meet ya at da ritual.”

With that, they parted ways. Zarahi flew into the air once more and just floated over the lake, flapping her wings. She closed her eyes and listened to the glade around her. The breeze of the air told her mind to travel to the southeast maw of the lake for Naralex. As she came to land, Zarahi looked at a blanket and pillow set up along the lakeshore. Of course, he wasn’t there. Naralex was a wanderer and most other Druids knew it. Even if they didn’t know him very well. Closing her eyes again, Zarahi took in the sense around her. She focused more intently and then flew west. In a short while she came upon him, praying on a hilltop. She transformed and stood beside him. After a few moments, Zarahi realized he wasn’t exactly praying. She poked him on the shoulder.

Naralex: “I’m awake! DEFINITELY not sleeping! I was just…checking my eyelids for leaks.” He paused, almost as if he expected Zarahi to believe him. “ Is it time for the ritual to begin? Very well, I’ll meet you there.”

He took on the crow form and flew off without any further conversation. Zarahi shook her head. Everyone else seemed to know what was going on, except her. But now that she had spoken to him and Zen’tabra, it was time to return to Archdruid Runetotem to finally find answers to what this was all about.

Hamuul greeted her  once more. “Excellent timing Zarahi, the preparations are now complete. Come with me and I will guide you to the ceremony. Malfurion waits for you by the barrow den to the east. Follow me.”

Wait, even Malfurion wanted her? She thought she had been beckoned by Hamuul Runetotem, but he was merely a messenger?  Suddenly the situation took on greater importance.

Hamuul spoke as they flew. “The Legion’s arrival has thrown our world out of balance.”

Zarahi nodded towards him. “Aye, Archdruid. I be feelin’ dat.”

As they soared in towards the barrow den, Hamuul told her about feelings of great unrest within the Emerald Dream. Malfurion welcomed them and outlined what was about to happen. “The ritual will focus our energy into a portal at the center. We must keep it stable.”

Zarahi stepped forward with the rest, and they all let their spells take over as they connected with Azeroth on a natural level. Moments later, Shan’do Malfurion was pleased at its success.”Now we can begin our journey to Val’sharrah. More specifically, you can begin your journey.” Zarahi no doubt looked completely dumbfounded after he had turned to say those last words to her.

Because…Yeah, Of Course It Would

The (not-so) wee lad has been bugging me for a bit now to not only play WoW, but specifically get to try out my Demon Hunter. So today I gave him the chance and I thought I’d give him an old raid to run in the process. It would give him a good chance to play around and also I could explain the link a bit, since I took him to The Black Temple. He asked how Illidan betrayed people and I explained that as an Illidari I technically didn’t exist when the time of this raid was happening. Well, thanks to Blizzard I did but I was on the other side of things. Eh, I’ll just stop before we all get a headache.

After briefly forgetting how the place worked, I got him back on track and headed in the right direction. He took down almost everything with ease, though I had to show him how the Shade of Akama fight worked and the Mrs. had to remind us both how to engage Illidan.

Now let’s pause a moment to consider the factors here. We have basically a new player, and we have a new class that was essentially born in the temple. You know where this is going, right? Sure enough.

woa

For however many times I’ve run Black Temple, I’ve only seen one drop three times. And now two of those were family members. Granted, I never really wanted them until the Demon Hunter. Then I pondered the idea a little more closely. My son only half understood the excitement until I explained orange text and such. Then he was pretty damn proud of himself.

Before he headed off to bed he wanted to see how it looked on her. She just needs the other one now, as far as we can tell.

naturelle

Of course, no one expected the picture that came next.

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“Hey guys, guess who I’m supposed to be?”