DreadsteedI was checking out Arren’s latest post over on Through the Eyes of Death today. He discusses the recent announcements about the upcoming changes in patch 3.2, many of which will make leveling 1-70 faster than ever.

I agree with him that most of the reason is that everybody has “been there, done that” and there’s no sense prolonging the pain anymore. People are just trying to get to Northrend content as fast as possible. Nobody cares about how Edwin Van Cleef was screwed by the nobility of Stormwind. Nobody cares why the worgen are in Duskwood or how they got there. In fact, much of vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade has been made moot by Wrath of the Lich King anyway. I think another reason is that Blizzard’s next expansion will include at least ten more levels. We’re talking about having to level grind to 90 and doing most of it in lands that are now pointless. Illidan’s dead – why are we in Outland again?

But I digress, as usual.

I wanted to talk about what it was like when we used to have to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. Arrens mentioned the warlock in his post, which sparked this post of my own because my first class was a warlock. I remember the “good old days”, as it were. Both warlock mount quests were very exciting, but my second epic mount dreadsteed quest was memorable because the chain was so long and it was actually “epic”. At the same time, it was also very frustrating.

When it came down to the instance runs in the end, it was even more difficult because you had to find four other people willing to help you who had no reason to except love for common man. After a couple of weeks of hard work, sweat, crying, contemplations of suicide, and hundreds of gold spent at the auction house, I was finally able to saddle up the dreadsteed.

Back then you weren’t really a warlock if you were level 60 for any length of time and you didn’t have your dreadsteed. You were just a poor warlock impersonator, a wannabe. Getting your dreadsteed was your warlock club card. I suspect that paladins had the same thing going on with their epic mount and perhaps druid with the epic flight form.

Rose-colored glasses? Probably. There is a lot about vanilla WoW that was quite terrible – let’s just be blunt. I remember many quests, as Arrens mentioned, that were just a hassle. You’d run all over creation for a quest that really wasn’t very interesting and, in the end, you ended up with 2000 experience points for your trouble. In the forty minutes it took you to complete the quest you could have made four times that amount of experience just grinding pig men or something.

I think it’s human nature for us to embellish some of our memories, even the ones that maybe don’t deserve embellishing. Or maybe those are the ones that need to be cleaned up the most. I remember the wars that took place between Southshore and Tarren Mill. There was nothing to be gained from that but corpse runs. And sure, I remember when my warlock, after some brutal battleground sessions, was able to finally get the title of Knight. And that was when they were using the rating system; you couldn’t just hoard honor points. Now when you look at the title, it sounds awesome and fear-inspiring. But when you think about the hell you went through to get it, was it really all that fun?

So I think much of the QQing is for nostalgia’s sake. Will a new player have the same amount of appreciation for his brand new flaming dreadsteed as we did years ago? Maybe, maybe not. But the game has evolved now.

Does anyone remember getting up on Saturday morning to watch the Superfriends or Scooby Doo in the 70s? I do. I’d get a giant bowl of plain Cheerios (no fancy stuff back then) and set up camp in front of the television. That was great fun. Would I force my kids to watch an episode of the old Superfriends? Wonder Twin powers activate? That was beyond lame. If I’d had Justice League in 1978 my brain would have probably exploded.

It’s just the evolution of WoW. We remember its past fondly. But comparing vanilla WoW to Wrath of the Lich King is almost exactly like comparing the Superfriends to Justice League.

The night that the bluffwatchers brought Zane Cinderhoof’s corpse back to Thunder Bluff was the second worst night in Elsinne Starsong’s relatively short lifetime.

Zane Cinderhoof was a young tauren carpenter who was responsible for much of the upkeep on Thunder Bluff’s Elder Rise. While Elsinne rested in Elder Rise some months back, recovering from injury, she befriended Zane, who was often nearby making repairs on various tauren structures. The tauren had a strong oral tradition, and Elsinne would be amazed at how much knowledge the young Zane retained.

Zane and his younger brother Iram had recently taken the perilous journey from Mulgore to Desolace to buy a couple of tamed kodo beasts from the goblins. They had taken a couple of bluffwatchers with them for safety, but only at their mother’s insistence. A few hours before reaching their destination, the group was ambushed by a group of centaur.

For her brief seventy-two years of life, centaur were little more than mythical creatures to Elsinne. This was so until she landed on Kalimdor and saw them for the first time. She was horrified by their hateful spite and capacity for brutality as she watched them from safety during her wanderings through the Barrens and Thousand Needles.

These centaur had been exceptionally savage. Attacking the tauren group from behind, they made easy work of the younger Iram Cinderhoof. Barely an adolescent, he was unable to put up much of a fight. The centaur had taken hold of Zane before the bluffwatchers had time to react. There had been six centaur, but they were not able to match the abilities of the two bluffwatchers that remained. Two centaur were killed before the others fled. Iram was no longer recognizable; the inflamed stomping of the centaur had mangled him. Zane had been run through several times with incompetently fashioned spears. Out of dignity, they buried Iram where he was slain.

Elves were often very prejudiced towards others and, after leaving Silvermoon, Elsinne fought very hard to remain free of that elf inclination. She watched the bluffwatchers through tears as they carried Zane’s body to his mother’s door. She listened in anguish as the mother’s cries pierced the night air. Perhaps all of Mulgore heard her.

Elsinne was there when Arthas marched on Quel’Thalas. But she knew that the Lich King’s minions were nothing more than mindless puppets. Elsinne was no fan of the Scourge, but she had no deep seated hatred for them. They were weak, poor souls under the control of an insane human. She could destroy Scourge on sight, but there would be no emotion behind it, just necessity. But these horrible centaur, they did this of their own free will. The rumors of their boundless ferocity were true.

The tears gradually stopped flowing, and suddenly Elsinne felt heavy with heat within her breast. This was the fever of hatred, unadulterated abhorrence that Elsinne had never felt before.

My entry into the online role-playing world started in 1997 with a MUD(multi user dungeon) called Jedimud. It’s very loosely Star Wars themed and I had a fun time playing it for the two years I was involved with it. I had one real-life friend that played and I made two or three in-game friends that later became real-life friends – we lived in the same city. Like modern MMOs, the game had the potential of being a huge time sink. The in-game goals were primarily leveling and, once capped, getting gear. This meant running bosses over and over and over with your guild mates until you got the pieces you needed to move on to the next level (which, like WoW, could take weeks). The game is still up and running, and I do log in every once in a while with my character. Surprisingly, there are still people who play that I remember from twelve years ago.

Not too long after I quit Jedimud, I discovered Everquest. It seemed overwhelming to me at first. Even from the beginning, the game required enormous amounts of time from me and I wasn’t prepared to sit through that while not having any friends to socialize with. Somewhat frustrated, I stopped the online gaming altogether at that point.

Fast forward to late 2003. I don’t know why I did it; it was mostly on a whim. I bought Final Fantasy XI for my PS2. It was immediately enjoyable. I was able to convince a real-life friend that it was an interesting game and she signed up as well. We played the game for a while. I spent an insane amount of time crafting. I spent almost even more time killing things. At least until it became unbearable.

The straw that broke the camels back? Waiting around for five hours trying to get a party together for no reason other than to grind experience. Not to fight a boss battle or for some epic quest. Just level grinding. It was a nightmare. And on those days where you found a good party, you felt obliged to grind with them for hours because who knew when you would ever find a decent group again. And don’t even get me started on leveling down. The person who came up with that idea should have been fed his own eyes. I would quit FFXI early in 2005.

Earlier in 2004, I had tried the World of Warcraft beta, but I hated it. I don’t even remember why, really. I made a human rogue, started questing in Northshire Abbey, and lost interest after about an hour. I went back to FFXI.

Now I was gameless. I had heard of EVE Online so I signed up. I really enjoyed EVE Online for a while but mining for ore became stale after a while and I decided to move on. To this day, however, I will still say that EVE Online has the best MMO community I have ever gamed with.

By this time it was the fall of 2005, World of Warcraft had grown in its popularity. I decided I would try it again. I made a warrior. I hated him. I stopped playing WoW again by the end of September.

But there was something about World of Warcraft that kept calling me. I am not sure what it was (hopefully it was not Kil’jaeden). November rolled around and the voices that had been calling me urged me to try WoW just one more time. Fine.

I rolled a warlock this time and things would never be the same. The powerful claws of WoW pulled me in where I would never escape again. I loved my warlock. I would not play another character for fifteen months. The Burning Crusade came out and, after my warlock hit 70, I decided I’d try another character. Enter the druid – the new love of my life. I liked it even more than my warlock. After level capping the druid, I would play many, many, different characters on many different realms (I still hate warrior). but I never gave the Horde side a chance.

I sit here now, playing with my blood elf Elsinne and loving the game, even as a lowly level 37 rogue. But I wonder now, after four years, how much life World of Warcraft has left. Or how much life do I have left in World of Warcraft? When they raise the level cap to 90 (you know they will do it), will I love those ten levels as much as I did the last? Will it start to wear on me? You know what they say about all good things.

And whether it’s me who leaves WoW in the end or WoW that leaves me, what then? It’s been pretty much my only hobby since 2005. Honestly, when it ends, I don’t think I want to tackle another MMO. I think I might be done with the whole MMO scene after this. It’s not because I think WoW is the pinnacle of perfection, but because I think I’ve honestly had as much fun as one can have in an online video game and I probably need to try some other things in the real world before I die.

female_orc_war_800x600At first I wasn’t going to make this post because it wasn’t really important. In fact, it still isn’t important but I do find it interesting.

WordPress is kind enough to tell you exactly what people are searching on when they end up on your blog. Now by far, most people have stumbled across my blog because they are hunting for the ever-elusive time-lost proto drake that is rumored to float around Storm Peaks occasionally. I spent a good bit of time trying to find this mythical beast myself, but I was never able to and I gave up eventually. But I digress.

Behind the time-lost proto drake, the second most popular search is some combination of orc + female + sex. Sometimes it’s orc + female, sometimes it’s female + orc + sex … you get the picture. This is a surprise to me, not because I have anything against female orcs, but because I would have figured that the average person would have found blood elf females or night elf females, or even hippy draenei females more desirable to search on. But this is simply not the case. Searches for the female orc are considerably more popular than any other race. Why is that?

Is there more orc-girl lust out there than people prefer to admit to? Is it the rippling muscles or the playful yet threatening pony tails? Is it the large teeth? The glistening green skin? I have a few searches for “orc female pictures”. I have no such searches for the other races.

But this post isn’t to make fun of the lady orcs. They’re people, too, and beautiful in their own right.

The next time you are in-game and you meet that sexy female orc in Orgrimmar at the bank, don’t be shy. Walk right up to her and tell her how lovely she’s looking today. She might take your head off, but look at the bright side. If she loves you, she’ll love you for life (and may the Earthmother be with you if you cheat on her).

I spent a good bit of time this weekend reading World of Warcraft lore and also visiting the blogs and websites of other role-players to see what their characters were all about.

Many of these characters had some lofty goals and aspirations, in most cases based solely on an incident that occurred to the character in some time past. One common “purpose in life” that I run across is: vengeance against the Scourge in general or Arthas in particular. The character’s life was destroyed by the Scourge, and likely a large or meaningful part of their family was destroyed as well. This gives them the drive to press on until one day Arthas is destroyed.

I have run across other characters who want to live out some general purpose – perhaps serving the Dark Lady or Tyrande Whisperwind without question because in some way their character owes Sylvanas or the night elf high priestess their lives. Still more characters are crusaders of some kind, perhaps keeping their homelands free of demon taint or wandering elementals.

Elsinne, my character, doesn’t have a purpose at all. I don’t know if that’s good or bad in terms of role-play. As I have indicated in days past, she is an admirer of Sylvanas Windrunner but she does not share her goals and ideals. Elsinne is from Quel’thalas but she has no deep loyalty to Silvermoon. She wishes that she could have left it under better circumstances, but she is glad that she left. She is a member of the Horde mostly in name only. The Scourge invasion has left her largely emotionless when it comes to anything political. She sees little point in drawn lines and boundaries. They seem to create more problems than they solve. Elsinne isn’t interested in being ruled by anybody.

This is why she gets along so well with the tauren in Thunder Bluff and can usually be found among them. They just want to survive, not scheme and conquest. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she stays out of trouble. She often leaves Mulgore for months at a time, adventuring and making her way the best way she can. On occasion she has been known to get involved in local problems, whether it be for coin or genuine interest.

The bottom line here, I guess, is that Elsinne isn’t “epic” and she’s okay with that. She’s never been on any adventures thus far with any major players. In fact, she’s only ever met less than a handful of people who could have been said to have any real influence at all. Elsinne doesn’t want to change the world, though she does recognize that there is plenty wrong with it.

Habit 1: They Should Never See You Coming. You are not a brawler. As cocky as you might be, you cannot go toe to toe with some armor wearing beast. Your best bet is taking him down from behind. If he survives, he’ll scream something about honor, but honor is for losers. Honorable people get killed. Honorable people are taken advantage of.

Habit 2: Be prepared. Too many rogues get killed every year due to lack of preparation. It does you no good to bravely descend into a pit after some lost treasure if you are bitten by a venomous snake and die two hours later. Locals can usually tell you about the general area. Ask around. What are the dangers? It doesn’t matter if they can remember your face. You’ll likely not be back.

Habit 3: Integrity is meaningless. I’m not saying that you should go out conning people for a living, but remember that you are not contractually bound to people, either. You’ve got some people out there (night elves) who think that you should do things just out of the goodness of your heart or sense of responsibility. In order for you to remain emotionally detached, you need a tangible reason for doing something, not an ideological one. And sometimes it’s okay to say you will when really you won’t. Appearing to be a pushover is an invitation for people to come gunning for you.

Habit 4: Poison is your friend. Not often, but every now and then you’ll run across someone who is quick enough to escape you. They’ll run and scream and draw attention to themselves and ultimately to you. A little poison in the blood flow usually stops that from happening. Many spiders have died to bring you this excruciating poison. It’s a shame to waste it.

Habit 5: Feel free to use and abuse your friends. I’m not one of those people who will tell you that everyone in the world is untrustworthy and that you need to live in a hole in order to be safe. There are plenty of people that can be trusted, even with your life. Use this to your advantage. If there is an enemy that you know you will not be able to deal with alone, bring a friend. You might have to make up a reason to get her to come along, but they’ll get over it. That’s what friends are for.

Habit 6: Disable, disable, disable. Usually, you will be called upon for a job when brute force has failed. Straight up fighting isn’t the answer. Don’t get caught up in the distraction of fighting everything to the death. A well-placed blow to the head, knee, or forearm is usually enough to remove threats. Fight dirty. There is nothing wrong with throwing sand in someone’s eyes. Leave the clumsy gladiatorial fights to someone else with nothing better to do.

Habit 7: Don’t get angry. You won’t like it when you’re angry. Losing your cool is also a guaranteed loss of focus. It leads to carelessness, clumsiness, and—if you don’t stem it—death. Don’t respond to meaningless taunts and don’t try to get even. If you find yourself beginning to boil over, go settle down.

Be safe.

sylvanas

I mentioned on a previous occasion that Elsinne Starsong deeply admires Sylvanas Windrunner. She always did, even when Sylvanas was ranger-general of Silvermoon. Elsinne always desired to have leadership and tactical skills that were even half that of Sylvanas. Sure, she was pretty quick with a dagger, but Elsinne was a klutz when it came to leading people. Being forced to lead, she turns into a stammering idiot. She met Sylvanas once some time ago, shortly after she left Silvermoon. The queen of the Forsaken barely paid Elsinne any attention at all, but Elsinne will never forget standing face to face with one of the most amazing people in Azeroth.

I do the work, you get the glory?

I do the work, you get the glory?

I’ve been trying not to mix role-playing and solo questing. Essentially, solo questing is my means for getting to 80 eventually. Role-playing is that thing I do purely for entertainment purposes and to give my character some depth. One doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the other. But, let’s face it, sometimes you need a little bit of extra motivation, even if the quest is just a simple means to a far off end.

You know how quests work. “Elsinne, those harpies keep ambushing our caravans, stealing our supplies and flying off with our males. It needs to stop. Go kill and de-feather their merciless leader!” Right. No problem. I don’t know you very well, but I’ll help your people out. “Elsinne, I was out fishing and lost my toolbox. It sank to the bottom of the lake. Can you go get it for me? By the way, the lake is filled with hungry sea creatures with claws.” Sure, as long as you promise to pay me and not to be clumsy again.

Those are normal. Sometimes you might get quests where you’re somewhat emotionally invested. “Please, Elsinne. Help me. My son has been kidnapped by the evil trolls who live in that cave just over the hill. I haven’t seen him in weeks. Our attempts to retrieve him have ended in bloody failure. No more in the village are willing to try. Who knows what ungodly things they might be doing to him in there?” You will see your son again. I promise. I don’t even need a reward.

But now Elsinne has just stumbled into Stranglethorn Vale and met up with Nesingwary, the younger. He wants me to hunt animals for him. Why? Isn’t he the hunter? What good is it to him if I do all of the work? He wants the heads of these nasty creatures that he has not been able to deal with himself? Is he going to take credit for downing them when he displays their heads over his mantel?

In spite of the con that Nesingwary Jr. is pulling, Elsinne could also be mastering her stalking skills. Slinking into a cave and slashing the throat of some fel orc brute is one thing, but crawling around undetected on the jungle floor after animals whose senses of sight and sound far exceed that of any humanoid would improve Elsinne’s rogue abilities a thousand fold. If she could hold her own against a vicious raptor while teetering on the edge of a cliff, what chance does some uncoordinated draenei warrior have against her? It’s quite possible that, years later, Elsinne could return to the Vale, not to claim her stolen right to fame or to exact some sort of vengeance, but to thank Nesingwary for providing her with the opportunity to increase her skills in ways she could never have imagined.

There are three classes that I have always wanted to have a high level character for but I simply do not have the intestinal fortitude to level them. Every other class I have either level capped, got into the 70s or, at the worst, high 40 or low 50s.

The three offenders are Mage, Warrior, and Shaman.

Mage: I have tried no less than four times to level a mage. Four times! Each of them I have gotten to level 18. It’s a pain for the entire process. I do not have fun, I hurl snowballs at mobs, spend an inordinate amount of time drinking (both in-game and on the outside), make it most of the way through whatever 10-20 zone I am fiddling around with, and quit. I know that most classes are fairly similar in the early stages; they give you a small set of abilities to work with here and there. But I don’t know what it is about mage. I just do not enjoy it. I want to. I just don’t. I have had a couple of mages tell me: Just wait until you get to level 30! Then things will really take off for you! 30? Are you kidding me? I probably will never try again, but I would have liked to have had the strength to pull a mage off.

Warrior: My record for leveling a warrior is 27. That was the first character I ever played in the game back in 2005. I hated every second of it and it caused me to quit the game. I came back six months later with a warlock and became WoW addicted. I loved every second of my warlock. After playing a few more characters, it occurred to me that maybe the reason I hated warrior was because I was doing it wrong. I had been brand new player when I played it and I didn’t really understand the talents or the abilities or anything. So I created a new warrior. 24 was the limit that time. This time I read up before I started and I understood how to play a warrior. No, this time I just didn’t like it. It might have been all the deaths. I don’t know about high level warriors, but low level warriors are bad for dealing with adds and if you don’t have decent gear, life will be incredibly painful. Casters made me lie awake at night and cry, especially if there were two or three of them. I felt like every other class I played had a way to effectively deal with casters, even if there were more than one. I made a lot of corpse runs with those warriors.

Shaman: My record is 16. I know, that’s not even worth mentioning. That represents something like three hours of playtime, four at the most. How could I hate shaman after those levels? I can tell you why I didn’t like playing shaman. It had nothing to do with difficulty or enjoyment. I just couldn’t get a grip on what I was, exactly. Was I a caster who could sometimes hit you with a stick? Was I a melee fighter who could occasionally heal myself or electrocute you? Was I completely useless without the totems? I think the totems lost the deal for me. I didn’t feel complete. Hunters had pets, but they could do pretty well without them. Warlocks had pets, but they could still be pretty deadly without them. But the totems were a must and I felt too dependent on them. And I had to keep dropping them. Over and over. Walk a few yards, drop some totems. Walk a few more yards, drop some totems. Mad props to anyone who could handle that. I couldn’t. In the shaman’s defense, I will say that it was my first ever shaman and I was living the life as a troll shaman out in the Barrens and the Barrens is just one of those zones that depresses me. I’m not sure that Westfall or Ghostlands would have made any difference.

What classes have you had trouble with in your time in WoW?

The question came up on Twitter today, as presented by Xandarr2112 of The Experienced Noob blog. It was whether or not people should be able to start new characters at level 55 instead of having to do the long slog from 1-80.

I will admit that a few months ago, I was a mild supporter of this idea. I had a few high level characters and had not started a toon from level one in nearly two years. The thought of plugging along for months to get from 1 to 80 sounded like crazy talk. I, too, was one of the people that felt like it doesn’t take that long to learn how to play a toon.

But after looking at it from a completely unselfish viewpoint, I don’t like the idea and here’s why:

Solo PvE is the easy button. For most classes, you can get through the solo content from 1-80 pressing the same 3-4 buttons over and over and maybe you have an OMG cooldown to use every now and then. If that was all the game was going to be then, sure, have everyone start at 55 or even 70 for that matter. But when you start at a high level, you have a crapload of abilities and skills thrown at you that you will have absolutely no experience with. No problem for solo PvE, but rolling around in 5-mans isn’t really the time to start experimenting with your forty or so strange and unusual buttons thinking that everything will be okay because you read the tooltip or you read an entry on wowwiki.

Leveling up is really much, much quicker than it used to be. I got my first level 60 (before the cap was raised) way back in 2006. I thoroughly enjoyed playing that warlock, but leveling at times could be a bit brutal. But since that time, they’ve increased quest experience, given us mounts at level 30, added more quests, decreased the hearthstone cooldown time, and gotten rid of nearly all of the elites that used to stand in our way.

There’s an awful lot of help if you choose to accept it. Currently I am leveling Elsinne using the Jame’s Leveling Guide add-on (in conjunction with Carbonite) and I can tell you that leveling is a breeze. The guide tells you exactly when and where to go somewhere to fully maximize your leveling speed. Now I’ve gotten from level 1-33 in a month, which may seem a bit slow. But keep in mind, I only play about 45 minutes per day (and sometimes not at all on the weekend). So for me to have easily gone from 1-33 (I am actually 2 bars from 33 at the time of this writing) in a month with sparse play time, I can honestly say that Blizzard has made leveling completely stress free.

It actually does take a while to learn how to play your toon properly. As you learn new abilities, you must apply them in various situations to see how useful or useless they are. The way Blizzard has designed the talent trees these days, there almost are no bad builds anymore. This leads to lots of room for more experimentation and not necessarily having to have a standard cookie cutter build from a list of a possible two or three builds. When you get new abilities or spells, see how they fit into your current rotation. Is this something you can use in certain situations? Is this useful for when I have pulled too many mobs? When I need to escape? When I need to do extra damage? How does this help my party members? Is this ability a total waste and does it need to be removed from my bars completely and never spoken of again? Does it work with my playstyle at all?

Lastly, and probably most importantly when it comes to Blizzard’s wallet, there is the need for Blizzard to draw in and keep new players. If everybody is fiddling around in Northrend kidnapping Wolvar babies, there won’t be anybody in Stranglethorn Vale or Thousand Needles or Badlands or Eastern Plaguelands. New players would not be impressed and would have no incentive to keep going. Every zone I have been in since starting at level one has been full of people at my level and I have never had trouble getting a group when I needed one (unless I was on at some crazy time like 6AM).

Speaking of Wolvar babies, did anyone actually ever find out what the Kalu’ak were really doing with those pups? After you’re done “preserving” the Wolvar, it’s never really spoken of again. Was there a special camp where they were being raised by Kalu’ak nannies? Were they being secretly eaten? Were they being used as bait for the fishing boats? Someone must know …

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