24
Nov
19

Warcraft is old (and so am I)

I first played Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans back in 1995. I didn’t pay for it – someone copied it to a disc for me and gave it to me (copy protection was barely a thing back in the MS-DOS days). I played it over and over. I had never owned an NES, so I was purely a PC game player. My entire video gaming experience prior to this was Doom, which I had played at home as a huge time sink during my lost years immediately post-college. In 1994 my wife and I had moved into an apartment and I bought my own new PC. I played XCOM, Warcraft, and Star Wars:X-Wing for all of 1995 and 1996.

I was a brand new teacher at the time, and I spent many of my evening hours grading papers and writing lesson plans. In 1996 we had our first child, and free time for gaming was minimal. I needed games I could play in small doses when I had some time.

In 1997 I moved to Diablo. Then I picked up Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. I played it as just another RTS game. I don’t think I paid any attention at all to any overarching plot or lore. I just viewed it as a more polished version of Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans. Still, I was a budding Blizzard fanboy at this point. When Starcraft came out in 1998 I got that (it may have been the first game I actually purchased legally) and played that to the exclusion of other games.

I never finished Warcraft II: Tide of Darkness, and I never even tried the Beyond the Dark Portal expansion. I also never played Warcraft III, mostly because copy protection was becoming a real thing at this point and to play a game I had to actually buy it with my own money. The budget was tight with an infant in the house, so I mostly played games I could borrow/copy from a friend.

I heard of Everquest, and it in 2000 sounded like the greatest thing ever. The stories I heard made it sound like something out of the future… playing with 3d avatars in an interactive world with other real people! Impossible! However, I knew that there was no time in my life for a game like this. I didn’t have the freedom to devote hours and hours to that, so I pushed thoughts of it aside.

In 2004, World of Warcraft was released. I heard people talk about it in reverence. I knew it was everything I had ever wanted in a game. And… I ignored it. We had recently bought a house, we had a 2nd child, and this was not going to happen. I bided my time.

At the end of 2005, I made a proposition to my wife. I said that I had reached the point in my teaching where the time requirements were manageable. Our oldest child was 8, our 2nd child was 3, and even though we had a 3rd now (1 yr old) we were pros at this baby-raising thing. I asked if I could get the game. She agreed, under the condition that we buy her a computer and she can play as well. I agreed. Then my two brothers and my sister-in-law got on board.

In March of 2006 we all started playing – a group of Night Elves starting in Teldrassil (warrior, rogue, druid, warlock, hunter). We had missed some iconic events – Molten Core and BWL raiding, the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj. Also, I didn’t hit level 60 for around 8 months. I had avoided joining a guild because I was suspicious of online strangers, and that limited my gearing opportunities. By the time I was level 60 and ready to try raiding, we were already looking forward to Burning Crusade.

Since 2006, WoW has been almost my entire gaming life. I don’t really play other games, because there is always more I could be doing in WoW. While the rest of my family has stopped playing (and stopped gaming entirely as they have grown older), I continue on. WoW is now 15 years old, and I have played for 13.5 of those years without a break or interruption. That’s crazy, when I think about it. I started with Warcraft: Orc vs Humans 24 years ago, which means I have been playing Blizzard games for almost half of my life.

I’m not as focused on games anymore. I ran each dungeon in the current expansion once just to see it. I have done each raid once in LFR just to see it. I won’t stay up late just to grind out more reputation. I don’t spend hours stalking the auction house to make gold. I don’t sit in long queues just to get a weekly mythic. I log in, do what I can in an hour, then log off. But WoW allows me to do that.

Thanks, Blizzard, for half a lifetime of fun.

05
Oct
19

As quickly as it came, it was gone

I haven’t logged into WoW Classic for two weeks. I guess that answers the question about how long it would hold my attention.

Why have I stopped?

Well, WoW Classic is a really terrible single-player game. The group content is fun. But solo play is a chore.

All of my dreams of playing with my old friends did not come to fruition. When we originally played together back in vanilla, we were all willing to set aside time in our lives to log on at set times to play group content. Now, 15 years later, we aren’t those people anymore. Since we weren’t logging in on a set schedule, we were only rarely online at the same time, and there was never a time when we could play together as a group.

Also, patch 8.2.5 in retail brought the bee mount and a rep grind to go with it. I’ve been logging into retail every day to work on that, and to finish off my Rustbolt rep on my main. So I am still playing, but Classic has lost me.

22
Sep
19

Warriors and Rogues and Shaman, oh my!

I’m currently leveling three characters in WoW Classic – a NElf Rogue (level 12), a Gnome Warrior (lv 20), and a Tauren Shaman (lv 16). The shaman is probably the most fun of the three.

With the shaman, I have a lot of control over managing my dps vs mana conservation. If I want to blow something up quickly, I fire off all my most powerful spells, drop a couple of totems, and burn it down. I’ll finish with almost no mana left and have to drink, but it got the job done. Plus, if I accidentally pull two things I can DoT them both, put down a Searing Totem and Stoneskin Totem, and have a fair chance to survive. On the other hand, if I want to conserve my mana so I can chain pull, I can downrank my spells and finish a fight with 2/3 of my mana left, ready to pull the next one. If I need to make an escape I have Earthbind Totem to slow my pursuers down.

The rogue is also fun. Good damage, although not as bursty as the shaman. Survivability is good, using gouge and evasion to control how much incoming damage there is. Plus stealth and sap mean I can choose when not to fight if I’m careful. If I pull two opponents I might be in trouble, but I can Sprint away if necessary.

The warrior is by far the worst experience. Despite having a lot of armor, it always seems like every fight brings me down to 30% health by the time I kill my opponent. It also has the least survivability if I accidentally pull two foes, despite putting talent points n the Protection tree. The rare dps bursts come from procs of Revenge which I can’t control. I always feel rage-starved and can’t use the abilities smoothly. I’m sure I must be doing something wrong, but I can’t figure it out.

I’m only leveling the warrior so that my group of friends will have a tank if we decide to run instances. Unfortunately, a couple of them have already given up on WoW Classic so that may never happen. In that case, I’ll probably give up on the warrior and focus on rogue and shaman, and maybe start a mage or priest.

10
Sep
19

It keeps me coming back

I’ve said that the Classic game was clunky and harsh. Quests were bad. Corpse runs were a punishing time sink.

So why is it, then, that I haven’t logged into retail WoW in over a week, but I have been on Classic every day?

A good PC game creates a feeling that you are close to reaching a goal. Maybe you’re almost to another level, or you’ve almost finished a quest chain, or you almost have enough ore to create that engineering gizmo, or you’ve almost collected enough Goretusk livers. You always have that feeling that you’re close to another mini-goal, so you might as well play a little longer.

Some games are well-known for that. I remember losing hours into SimCity back in my younger days, and to the Civilization series more recently.

Retail WoW doesn’t have enough of that. When you log into a new expansion, you are faced with a series of quest chains that have a discrete end that is visible almost right away. Once you finish that, you’re into seemingly endless rep grinds and daily quests that offer no real intermediate goals. It is easy to look at your reputation and say, “I am still 11k rep from Revered. I’m done for now.”

Classic WoW offers 60 levels of questing spanning across two continents. There are countless intermediate goals along the way including the talent trees, new skills as you level, many leveling dungeons, professions, etc… It is so vast (even if I have done it all a decade ago).

When BFA came out, I was done with most content in the span of a week, and then it was a grind. In WoW Classic, I won’t run out of content for 6 months, and there is plenty to keep me coming back. Even if there are too many long corpse runs along the way.

07
Sep
19

Old posts become relevant again

I’m having a lot of revelations and memories playing WoW Classic.

I was just reminded that you have to mine a node multiple times to get all of the ore.

I remembered that gearing is not just picking the piece with the higher iLvL. Secondary stats, weapon speed, multiple wearable armor types… these things matter.

It occurred to me that some of my blog posts from 2008 are going to be relevant again. I have even seen a small spike in blog traffic since Classic released. I hope this doesn’t mean that I have to go through all my old posts and update them.

(A funny side note… I went back to a really old post where there was a discussion in the comments about weapon speed. One person was complaining that they wanted their rogue to be a swashbuckler wielding swords, but they felt like the game forced them to use daggers. We concluded with a dream that someday the game would add a way to make your equipped weapons look like other weapons. And while we were at it, we wondered if someday the game would let you change intellect on items into agility. Of course, both of those eventually came to be…)

06
Sep
19

WoW Classic is here!

Since Blizzard has cast Resurrection on the version of the game from 12+ years ago, maybe it is appropriate that I do a battle-res on this blog.

After all, 2006 was the time of an active WoW-blogging community, where individuals could write guides and give useful class-specific tips for dungeons and raids. Where a few dedicated folks could theorycraft and speculate on strategies and builds. This was before large, corporate-sponsored sites replaced most bloggers, and before Twitter changed WoW-blogging to small, 140-character tidbits.

Actually, my first post on this blog was in January, 2008. So if we are thinking of this as a time machine, I am actually going farther back to points in the game that I never wrote about the first time through.

So… WoW Classic. After it was announced, I originally though that I wouldn’t play it. The game back then was clunky. Quest design was awful. Low-level play was boring with only few abilities to employ.

What brought me around was the prospect that I could play with some of my old guildies. A few of us who still keep in contact through social media all agreed to make characters on the same server, with the thought that we could play together like we did a decade ago.

I’ve now started three characters and taken them up to levels 10-13 – a night elf rogue (duh), a gnome warrior, and a tauren shaman. Here are my thoughts.

The game is just… bad when playing solo. The difference between fighting a creature at your level vs one that is 1 or 2 levels higher than you is tremendous. Accidentally pulling two mobs is almost always fatal. This wouldn’t be so bad if the corpse runs weren’t tedious and vast. I was doing a warrior quest in eastern Dun Morogh, and every time I had to do the corpse run from Kharanos. It nearly made me rage-quit.

The quest design is unimaginative, compared to how it has developed over the thirteen years since then. Nearly every quest is a variation on “Collect 8 Goretusk Livers”, only to find that most Goretusks won’t drop their livers for you. Many quests take 30-45 minutes due to low drop rates and multiple corpse runs.

It’s a little better in a group of 2 or 3, especially if one is a healer. Kills are quicker and accidental pulls aren’t so deadly, although only one person can get a drop from each kill so now your group of 2 people has to get 16 Goretusk livers.

And yet, there is a little bit of joy every time a Druid hits you with a Mark of the Wild as he runs by. Or when another player sees that you are in trouble and comes to help you with the kill, even though the single-tagging rules mean that he will get no XP or drops for doing so. And the spontaneous grouping to overcome challenges is encouraging. These moments, caused by shared misery as we overcome steep challenges, are what is missing from the current retail version of the game.

My honest opinion is that the game will fall off steeply from its busy beginning. I have already seen a decline in spontaneous grouping. Yesterday there were six players struggling to kill harvesters at Saldean’s farm in Westfall for an hour, but none of us took the initiative to start a group. I’ll be surprised if in a month there are pickup groups that have the commitment to stick around through a two-hour dungeon run with multiple wipes. I will admit that I’m having some fun with it, when I’m not doing a corpse run, so maybe I’ll be wrong and it will have some longevity.

22
May
19

WoW Classic

Hello to anyone that stumbles across this!

I haven’t posted anything on this blog since April of 2017, so just over two years. Most WoW communication seems to go through Twitter now, or by streaming on Twitch if you’re really into it.

However, since WoW Classic is imminent, I thought it would be appropriate to say a few words in this format as a throwback to the golden days of WoW blogging.

As of today I have not gotten an invite to the WoW Classic Beta. However, I did get to log in briefly in the Stress Test they had tonight. I made a Night Elf Rogue and killed boars and nightsabers until reaching level 3.

Its been a long time since I played at level 1 in any xpac, so it would have been unfamiliar even if it wasn’t Classic. I thought I remembered all the differences between vanilla and the live version. I remembered that there was no shared tagging (which made questing in the starting zone tedious). I remembered that you start with only the most basic attacks. I remembered leveling up weapon and defense skills.

I had completely forgotten that combo points used to be attached to a specific target, and that they didn’t transfer when you switched targets. Surprise!

Anyway, if I get into the beta I may post a few thoughts here, mostly out of nostalgia.

Happy Classic, all!




Armory

Classic WoW:
Dinaer - 11 Assassination Rogue
Cepheid - 13 Prot Warrior
Cartho - 11 Elemental Shaman

Retail WoW:
Dinaer - 120 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Cartho - 120 Elemental Shaman (US - Quel-dorei)
Derence - 120 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 120 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 120 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 120 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
January 2020
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