Monday, December 30, 2019

The Story Continues (because I don't want to make a major edit to the last post)....

Well, right after I hit "Publish" and sent the previous post out into the world, I remembered something about the post-Cataclysm Felwood: there was a Night Elf encampment just south of Timbermaw Hold. I'd assumed it was an extra flightpoint added in to the game from Cataclysm --having not leveled up through Felwood in pre-Cata Alliance-- but what if it did actually have a flightpoint?

Wonder of wonders, it existed pre-Cata, and it did have a Flightpoint!

Mishellena, I am SO happy to see you!!
I'm sure the Paladin who'd recently landed* thought I was nuts for hugging Mishellena, the Hippogryph Master.

So with that in mind, I decided to tackle Timbermaw Hold without making good on my threat to strip Az down to her skivvies.

There was a group of Alliance who'd obviously farmed enough to have the Timbermaw as at least neutral running ahead of me, although I got the feeling they paused a bit to see if I needed some help. But hey, Az is a Rogue of means, and can get through anything, right?

Because Firbolgs.
Um, yeah, about that....

So I decided to save my gear and crept along once Kernda cleared out.

I did get jumped by one Firbolg but managed to avoid them by Vanishing. And on reaching the end of the tunnels, I found as I ran out that the large group of Winterfall Firbolg that wander around out in front of the Winterspring exit had all been recently cut down, so I managed to put some distance between myself and the exit....

Dead Firbolgs as far as the eye could see.
Sorry, Az draws the line at keeping her brown shirt on, as Winterspring is freaking cold.

And her daggers, but that's a Rogue thing.


So all I had to do was put my gear back on, mount up, and head west.

Destination: Everlook.




*Who was just offscreen.

Why do I do this, Part Whatever...

Az's penchant for getting me in trouble led me to Azshara today, stealthily sneaking along and swimming among the elite Giants out there. It wasn't exactly how I planned to spend part of a Sunday, but I wanted to clean out my quest queue as I was starting to acquire Alterac Valley quests.

And yes, that meant I wandered into Alterac Valley at a severely overwhelmed L51.

I kind of hoped* that the L60 toons would be isolated from the rest of the L50-L59 toons, but as soon as I joined the entrance to AV I discovered I was one of a handful not at L60. And I was the only one lower than L55, which wasn't a good thing.

That meant that enemies had a beat on me no matter whether I was stealthed or not, and I lost track of my deaths after about 7 or so.

Still, I actually got a killing blow in, and I participated in 6 HKs, not too bad for someone who was grossly outleveled in that BG.

And because of that misadventure, I decided I was going to wait on AV for a couple of more levels before I try again.

***

But back to Azshara...

I had that one quest you pick up in the Mage/Priest/Pally area in Ironforge to go get some rubbings of runes in Azshara, and both the rubbing kit and the flare gun were taking up space in my bags. So between those things and my full quest log, I decided to run on over to Azshara and knock that quest out.

However, I didn't count on the adventure of trying to find the island where the Biggs knockoff** was going to land.

The quest said it was an island off the coast of the southern peninsula, but did you notice there were a LOT of islands in the southern peninsula? And what qualifies as "off the coast", anyway?"

So I spent upwards of 40 minutes swimming from island to island, checking each one I could climb up on for a place for the Dwarf pilot to land. After the first attempt of firing the flare gun I discovered that I should be looking for a specifically built platform, so at least I now knew what to look for. But the time spent dodging regular enemies and elites that were 4+ levels higher than me didn't make this any easier.

I finally found the island as the very last freaking island on the map. Figures, I suppose, but I didn't want to assume that and then have to double back if I found I was wrong.

After that long waste of time, I shot off the flare, talked to the pilot, and then discovered that for my reward I'd have to go visit the original quest giver anyway.

"If that was the case, why make me run around for upwards of an hour?" I grumbled as I hearthed back to safety.

***

I had yet another quest to take care of, and one that led me to Felwood: the ooze collection. I'm almost worried about what that gnome wants all this ooze for, but Ironforge isn't my home, so off I went up to Felwood to perform the ooze collection I'm sure everybody wants.

It was then that I discovered that the Emerald Circle outpost doesn't have a flightpoint in Classic (it did by the time Wrath came along). So I collected oozes and then decided I ought to wander north to see if I could sneak through to Winterspring. As of this writing, I'm parked outside the tunnel entrance, debating whether I've enough flash powder to vanish my way through the cave network.

There's foolhardy, and there's crazy. I prefer to think that Az is on the side of the former, but given that I've got some screenshots of Az in the Western Plaguelands at L28, maybe the latter is a more apt description.

But one thing is certain: I'm not exiting this expedition without acquiring a flightpoint.

Somehow.

And if that means having Az run naked though the tunnels so as not to lose equipment durability in the event of multiple corpse runs.... Well, I hope those Firbolgs enjoy the show.




*Given that I don't read the forums, I just play.

**Biggs Starlighter from the original Star Wars movie.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Who eats those Sour Patch Kids candies, anyway?

I finally got into Az's last Uldaman run* the other day, and by far this run was the most like my previous time in WoW than any other.

And I'm not exactly sure how I felt about it.

On the plus side, it was efficient. We had a Mage whose AoE made me pretty much superfluous, and I was reduced to mainly doing crowd control on various casters. We had a DPS Warrior who could handle threat if the tank went down, even though he wasn't geared for being a tank himself. We skipped a boss or two on the way to cleaning out the instance, and the only time we had a couple of people die --the tank and the Mage-- the three of us who were upright were able to handle the mobs without issue.

However, the efficiency came at the cost of silence and pulling entire rooms.

The tank pretty much made the assumption that our group could handle pulls at the level I last saw in Halls of Lightning, where a tank would get about 3-4 mobs at once and let the DPS toons AoE them down. The problem with that is that the tank had issues keeping threat from the Mage**, so the DPS Warrior and I kept having to DPS down the mobs that ran to the Mage.

And during Archaedas' fight, the Mage had been designated to take care of the adds, but either he kept forgetting or he didn't have the instant DPS needed to zap the adds quickly so I had to run around and kill the adds instead.

But what bugged me the most was how blasted silent the entire run was.

I'd grown accustomed to everybody talking in the instance, if for nothing else than to identify what strategy to use throughout the pulls. But this was so damn quiet I think that the only time we did talk was the lead-up to the Archaedas fight, and that was limited to a couple of sentences total.

This was not what I had in mind when I resubbed to play Classic.

Thankfully, that seems to be the exception, as this past morning Cardwyn ran Razorfen Kraul with a good group, and we had a great time killing mobs, chatting away, and in general having a blast. About the only downer was that I got a call from work that caused me to have to drop after the run, so I couldn't get a second run in with that group. But we did exchange friend requests for later***, so maybe the Uldaman run was an aberration.

***

I have turned that Uldaman run over in my head for a couple of days, and emphasis on efficiency --and the overall silence-- bugs me more now than it did then. I'm in Classic for the experiences, not the rush to max level, and that Uldaman run felt so much like another step in the rush to get to raiding that it made me want to hang around Stormwind, crafting for a while.

If Classic devolves into the rush to end game like Retail, I'm not so sure how much longer I'll want to hang around. But at the same time, this was only one run. We'll see what happens later, but I'd say this was the first time I'd had a truly bad taste in my mouth since coming back to Classic. The irony is that it had nothing to do with being ganked in a battleground, which is where I expected that first sour taste to come.

On the flip side, I've met some really great people in Classic, and I enjoy talking with them. And seeing old friends who still play both Classic and Retail. So I guess we'll see how things go.





*I should clarify: she only needed one more run to finish the Uldaman quests she had in her queue.

**Rogues have an ability to reduce their threat --can't remember the name offhand right now-- that as of L32 Cardwyn does not have. Therefore, I use AoE with Cardwyn sparingly, and after the tank says it's okay to use it.

***And I politely declined yet another guild invite after the run.

Monday, December 16, 2019

OOO!! OOO!! Greatfather Winter!! I Know Him!!!

Catching a snowball fight using screenshots
is harder than it looks. So I guess I'll
settle for some Lock AOE.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Clothes Make the Mage

One thing about class quests in WoW Classic is that each class has a different focus. For Warlocks, it's all about the demons and the power they bring. For Rogues, it's about how to use your abilities to not get killed in the field. And for Mages, it's about acquiring the trappings of power: your gear.

That's not to say that Mages are stuck using gear they're given in these class quests, but they represent the maturation process of the Mage. As you grow in level --and stature-- the class quests become the equivalent of exams.

For example, your first class quest is the equivalent of getting your entrance papers in order: you show up with the letter, and you're in.

Then there's the basic "gofer" test to prove you can follow directions and not ask too many questions*, which gives you your first "real" staff.

The next quest (~L15) is the "go investigate" quest, showing you have basic mastery of your abilities, and you are rewarded with a "real" Mage robe. Right about here, this quest presents you with an item that easily identifies you to all around that you're a Mage; so you've "joined the club" and are no loner a Mage-in-training. It doesn't carry any real weight to others who are Mages, but to the general populace it provides an "ooooo" moment. Such as when you finally graduate from basic training in the military and you get your first dress uniform.

After that, you don't get any new class quests until about 10 levels or so later, which is when you're sent on another fetch and carry quest, but this time it's considerably more dangerous. You could potentially solo it, but this is more of a "social" test for the Mage: you have to put a group together to go achieve the fetch and carry, and since a Mage has high social standing, you have to demonstrate that you can navigate the complex social life in Azeroth.** Your reward for this is a better set of robes, but you have to assist in getting them tailored. You've moved up the food chain to no longer being a 1st or 2nd Year Mage, but rather a 3rd Year Mage.

At least she's no longer a Freshman.

And now Cardwyn has just reached the next round of respectability, as she just received the Class Quest for a wand.

Of course, that quest means that she has to travel to Dustwallow Marsh and hunt for a Human Witch out in the swamp.

At L30.

There's a reason why this quest shows up as beet red in the quest log, because you'd have to have a full group to run through Dustwallow Marsh at L30, and even then you're all likely to wipe once you go south past the fork in the road that heads to the Barrens.

It's not that a Mage hasn't stumbled across a wand or three out in the wild, but this is a Class wand, which may not be the most powerful wand available to you, but is another social cue to others in the profession.

***

You know, it's kind of strange to approach the class quests like this, because until I started writing about Cardwyn's journey, I never really noticed these details. I certainly remember Quintalan's two biggest class quests, which involved him learning how to Rez people (~L20) and obtain his Blood Knight Tabard (~L60). The quests involving the Blood Knight Tabard left a bitter taste in my mouth, as so much of that questline was driven by revenge against the Alliance for abandoning Quel'Thalas in the Third War.

That being said, I don't recall much of Neve's leveling process --and corresponding class quests-- because she was still at a fairly low level when Cataclysm dropped and removed all of the class quests. (The same with Tomakan, my Draenei Paladin.)

With the benefit of hindsight, however, these Mage class quests --while optional-- provide flavor that was lost when WoW streamlined leveling/questing with Cataclysm and subsequent expacs. I've a similar experience now that I've been playing in a D&D 1e campaign the past year or two***. While newer versions of D&D have a better grasp of various actions, there's something about the quirkiness surrounding 1e that was lost in 3e and 4e, which helps to explain the popularity of the "return to basics" that D&D 5e espouses.**** When everything becomes a mechanic, you tend to look at actions in strictly a "gaming the system" fashion. But D&D 1e, like WoW Classic, there are quests and options and other things that aren't there strictly to propel the plot forward, but reflect your toon's interaction and status within Azeroth itself.

I guess an argument could be made that Classic was far more open world than subsequent iterations of WoW, and as the mini-Reds would put it, "You're not wrong".

Now if you're excuse me, I'm going to let Cardwyn contemplate her place in the universe while I go work on some fishing and crafting with Az. I've finally decided that she does need a mount sooner rather than later.





*For Alliance toons in Stormwind, it's the "get the vial filled" quest.

**Okay, it's not that hard to get a group together for the quest --at least in the Redridge Mountains version-- but you still have to be social enough to pull the group together. The more I play Classic, the more I realize that because I post in LookingForGroup and Trade Chat, I'm the one who frequently gets the job of putting a group together. There are a lot of people out there who simply passively watch and not get actively involved in the social aspect of putting a group together.

***We just finished the Slave Lords modules (A1-A4), and are starting in on the Against the Giants modules (G1-G3).

****That's not the only reason, by far, but it is one that has captured the interest in long time players such as myself.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Blast from the (Infamous) Past

I periodically make a trip back to Ravenholdt, on the border between Alterac and Hillsbrad, because that's the one place I wanted to see as a Rogue in Classic. When you're an Alliance Rogue in the low L20s and you get that quest to "come visit" Ravenholdt, you have to traverse not only the Wetlands but Arathi Highlands, where the wandering enemies can be over 10 levels higher than you.* As a Rogue that means that you pretty much go through all of Arathi stealthed as much as is prudent, but even then I was chased by one of those damn buzzards for what felt like an eternity.

But once you're high enough level --and you've already gotten the Southshore flightpoint-- Az made her base at Hillsbrad as it was the closest a low-mid L30s Alliance toon would get to the Scarlet Monastery without having to run through the Western Plaguelands.** I spent the Halloween season hanging around in Southshore, watching the occasional Horde incursion to throw rotten eggs around the town.

Once I moved on from Scarlet Monastery, Az left Southshore to entrench herself at Theramore instead. But me being me, I'd still occasionally send Az back just to wander around. Seeing Hillsbrad as it once was warms the heart.

Anyway, the other day I was visiting Ravenholdt and Alterac when I got into group for Uldum. I figured that a quick jaunt down to Southshore and catching a flight to Thelsamar was faster than hearthing to Theramore and catching a ship to Menethil Harbor, so I stopped bashing ogres in Alterac and ran towards Southshore. I quickly passed the Tarren Mill spur on the road from Alterac, where a Horde toon gave me a wide berth even though I wasn't marked for PvP.

There I ran --almost literally-- into a group of L60 Alliance that were coming back to Southshore after a successful foray into raising hell in Tarren Mill. They were bouncing around, taking their time, and one of them waved at me as I caught up to them.*** Even though I started playing WoW on a PvP server, it still felt very weird being surrounded by allies with green colored names. Perhaps because this was Hillsbrad and I was once a Horde lowbie getting ganked by those evil Alliance, I suddenly got the creeps.

I turned off the main road toward Southshore, and everything exploded around me.

Figures with skulled yellow nametags were everywhere, swarming all over the Alliance group. At that point I was eternally grateful that none of the Alliance PvP group had decided to buff me or something, as it would have made me a sitting duck.

I had one Swiftness Potion left in my packs, and I used it to quickly get the hell out of there and reach the Flight Master before the Horde could gank her. Good thing, too, as when I flew away I turned around to see the much larger Horde retaliation group right on my heels, having dispatched the Alliance group.

Okay, I should have had absolutely nothing to fear, as I wasn't marked PvP. However, I know from experience that accidents happen and I could quite easily have been buffed by a PvP late comer or someone not part of the Tarren Mill raid. I also have a lot of dark memories of being ganked in Tarren Mill, to the point where I stopped calling it "ganking" and started calling it "being Tarren Milled". Since this was open world PvP, I wasn't prepared for it in the same way that I'm prepared for a battleground.

So when I read online in places (Reddit is the loudest party here) about how the heavy Horde skew on PvP servers is making Alliance players leave in droves, yeah, I can appreciate where they're coming from. Yes, these players should have known this was coming when the Honor system dropped, but still it can be quite a shock to the system. And it makes me glad I rolled on a PvE server.

But this has also hardened my resolve. Bring on Alterac Valley; I'm ready.




*And that's not counting the elites that wander the zone --and the road-- on a regular basis.

**Not recommended, although some plate wearers in my various SM groups died only once, and that was at the armed border crossing from the Western Plaguelands into Tirisfal Glades.

***The people who I first grouped with those first few weeks of Classic had long since passed me to max level, and it was entirely possible one of them recognized me. However, I think that it was more that they'd had their fun and were enjoying the chaos they'd wrought.

EtA: Corrected some grammar.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Queldorei Were Larger Back in the Day...

Posted without further comment.


Friday, November 29, 2019

Where's the Shower, Part Two

I was supposed to get up early yesterday to start work on cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, but I for some strange reason I ended up waking up a couple of hours before that. Therefore, I figured I might as well goof around on WoW Classic for a while.

In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have.

Oh, the first part of the early morning was fine: I logged in as Cardwyn and got into a Blackfathom Deeps run fairly quickly, and I also finished a Mage quest for Cardwyn's second robe*, so not too bad overall. The BFD run was nice, efficient, and we all got along well. I even added a few people as friends in case we wanted to run or quest together.**

After the instance, I got back to Lakeshire and the Inn there, and got up to take care of dishes in the dishwasher.

By the time I came back, Cardwyn was AFK. Not a big surprise, perhaps, but what another toon was doing was.

This other toon, a female toon, was messing around with Cardwyn.

As in maneuvering around, and then kneeling, so it looked like the two were kissing.

Then standing up and again carefully maneuvering around so that it looked like Cardwyn was going down on the female toon.

And then back to the kissing pose, and back to the other pose.

Rather than let the other toon know I was there, I just waited and watched, wondering WTF was wrong with this person. After 3 minutes of this, the other toon eventually got tired "playing around" and logged out.***

It was almost a surreal experience, like the time that I was propositioned in the middle of an Isle of Conquest Battleground. At least this time the other toon didn't try to emote or say anything, because if they did I was going to do something. Not sure what, but I was.

Well, I had wondered where the Moon Guard Lion's Pride Inn crowd was, and now I know.





*I'll talk about those stories in another post.

**I asked the Paladin tank if it was okay if I could use AoE when DPSing mobs down --I always ask as some tanks prefer to not handle the chaos that Blizzard can cause-- and he was fine with it. After all, he said, he understands where I'm coming from as his main is a Fire Mage.

***I'm not sure how long it had been going on before I returned to the PC, and I've no idea if this person was doing it to the NPCs before she zeroed in on Cardwyn.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Living The Frosty Life

When I started playing Classic, I had two real goals: to get into old style Alterac Valley matches, and to get a chance to play once more a lot of the classes I'd leveled before. While I'm still waiting for that AV run, I'd made a point to create several toons so that when I was ready I could start leveling a different one.

My first toon to be used was pretty much a no-brainer, as I've been playing Rogues/Thieves/Shadowblades since I rolled up Azshandra back in late Cataclysm.* While I fumble around with my Warlock Dominius when I enter an instance, I know exactly how to play Az.

But while Az is my main, I've got a few other classes that could vie for second place.

There was the Paladin, whom I've played on both the Horde (Quintalan) and Alliance (Tomakan and Balthan) sides, but squeezed in between the Paladin years and the Rogue years there was my multiyear dalliance with Nevelanthana the Mage.

"Barkeep, hit me up! And add another
for the lady to my left!"


Neve, a Sindorei Frost Mage, leveled primarily in late Wrath and Cataclysm, and hasn't seen much time since her semi-retirement**. But having played her out in the Wild, in BGs, and in 5-man instances, I know how to handle a Mage in a more well-rounded fashion than I do a Warlock.

So I eschewed the temptation to roll a Paladin and instead created a Mage.

***

I resisted the "obvious" Min/Max choice for an Alliance Mage --the Gnome-- and instead created a Human Mage. Like the Kaldorei Rogue Azshandra, a Human Mage isn't the optimal choice for the selected class, but I'm not interested in the strictly optimal build. I'm not interested in raiding, and I'm not going to let the "git good scrub" crowd tell me how to make a Mage tick. And since there are only two Alliance races that can play a Mage, that meant a Human Mage.

Which fit in with the WoW Classic equivalent of Neve I'd envisioned.***

Therefore, let's put the rest of this behind a spoiler window, because I'm going to be talking about those low level Mage things that people don't want to have spoiled.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Backup Gear, I Needz You

This post's title might be a bit confusing unless you know two things:
  • I finally got into an Uldaman run last night.
  • I was on Az, which means exclusively melee combat.
I'd been trying to get into Uldaman the past several days, but I'd made the executive decision each time to switch toons and try for Deadmines after 15 minutes of trying in Trade Chat and LookingForGroup*, so I suppose you could say I wasn't trying wholeheartedly. But when I saw the "looking for DPS for Uld" pop up in LookingForGroup, I pounced. I almost immediately got an invite, and I quickly abandoned my goofing around in the middle of nowhere (Stranglethorn Vale) and Hearthed back to Theramore** and caught the boat to the Wetlands.

 A short flight to Loch Modan and run to The Badlands later, I was at the entrance to Uldaman.

My memories of this place are a bit hazy, as I didn't venture inside when I leveled Quintalan and then Neve on the Horde side, and I think Tomakan got in one LFG run when he was leveling. It was only when I was exploring on Q at L80, trying to get all of the achievements for the Loremaster achievement in Late Wrath before the Cataclysm changes dropped that most of my memories from the place came from. Of course, Q steamrolled through everything, so I never got to know the details of Uldaman the way I got to know, say, Halls of Stone. Still, I knew that it was a precursor of the Titan oriented instances/raids in Wrath and onward, so I knew there were going to be Troggs, Earthen, and those Myzrael-like people/statues/whatever around.

Oh, and there were going to be walking statues, too. It's kind of the Titans' thing, I suppose.

I didn't really think much of those statues, until we started fighting them.

You see, with creatures made of rock there are no bleed effects, so several of a Rogue's best abilities are useless against them. Because of that, my DPS went down quite a bit when we would have to take them out.

However, there was a second impact to those walking statues that I only noticed when we were approaching Archaedas: the yellow warning symbol appeared on my screen for my weapons.

"What the..." I began as I pulled up my character screen. I knew I had fully repaired gear before I joined the group.

But there it was: my main dagger had only 5 left, and my off-hand dagger had 16 left.

"How did.... OH." I looked at the recently dispatched walking statue and realized these stone creatures were grinding my weapons to dust.

I quickly switched my off-hand and primary daggers, and told the rest of the group that my off-hand might break before the end of the instance. "I'm definitely going to have to repair when we get out of here."

As we ran down the passageway toward Archaedas' room, I was kicking myself. I could have rolled Need on a dagger that had dropped in a random mob, but as it wasn't as good as the two daggers I had I decided to just roll Greed on it. But now, I saw that random drop for what it was: an insurance policy. I should have known that with Classic things such as this were a lot more realistic, and you can't get much more realistic than what happens when you use an edged weapon to attack a thing made of stone.

We managed to down Archaedas, and wonder of wonders, my (now) off-hand dagger survived with ONE point left.

But I did learn an important lesson last night: always carry a backup weapon, just in case.




*On Myzrael, at least, the LFG channel has fallen by the wayside while most everybody has moved to LookingForGroup. I still keep it up and running, however, just in case.

**Hey, don't judge me. It works for being able to quickly get to instances on both continents, courtesy of the boat ride and its proximity to Ratchet, which is a short flight away to a ship to Booty Bay.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Beating Those L40s Blahs

Azshandra has been in that weird low-mid 40s zone for a while, where she's not really high enough level (or geared enough) to take on Uldaman or Zul Farrak, but too high to get anything meaningful out of Scarlet Monastery and Razorfen Downs.*

So, what's a Rogue to do?

Make some forays into The Hinterlands, and realize that you're really in over your head for most of the zone.

Felwood? Nah, I know better.

Feralas? Sure, but keep an eye on the levels, because they can spike pretty quickly. And hanging out with the Gordunni Ogres can be satisfying, although in Zone Chat the name "Gordunni Ogres" quickly morphed into the "Gonorrhea Ogres", and all manner of shenanigans broke out. (Sorry, no screenshots of that. I do have some scruples.)

Head into Dustwallow Marsh, where you're overpowered until suddenly you're underpowered? Okay, but keep an eye on your surroundings. And try not to get depressed about the creepy nature of the place, that simply screams "A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAST RULES HERE!"

Set your sights on Booty Bay where you discover that you're not really overpowered for the zone, but you really have to group up to tackle some of those Troll and Pirate mobs. They aren't elites, mind you, but that you'll end up with about 5-10 of them swarming you before you could even say "What the hell happened?"

Yeah, let's do Stranglethorn Vale, because at least the greenery is mood lifting.

And we could do some fishing, I suppose. There's that Nat Pagle guy, who wants these fish from all over. So yeah, I could hang out in Stranglethorn Vale, Desolace, and Feralas, enjoy the coast, kill some Nagas and Trolls, and fish for those rares Nat wants.

***

But come on. That's not what I've really been doing.

I got a bunch of All Hallow's Eve candy, and I've been having fun shape shifting when the people out and about in the world aren't expecting it.

Like the Pirate's Costume:

Hey, I know that outfit!

Back in prehistory when I attended the University of Dayton, I used to go with friends to the big outdoors Halloween party in the Oregon District**. Being the stereotypical poor college student, my costume frequently consisted of using a white bedsheet as a makeshift toga. This wouldn't be much of an issue if it weren't for the temperature at those parties: 40F/4.5C. A wee bit chilly to be wearing just a bedsheet, some gym shorts, and shoes. My solution to that was to take a few swigs of double strength rum and try to just ignore the cold.

But what I couldn't ignore were the stares.

Yes, I got a lot of stares of the "are you nuts?" variety. Even though I was reasonably fit at the time, I got a lot of "aren't you cold?" questions from people who wore costumes more appropriate for the weather. However, I was a distant second in my group, because one of the women we went with wore a costume exactly like the WoW Pirate's Costume:

It's kind of hard to have a nice pose
when there's a slain Naga behind you.
The only difference was that she didn't have much of a bare midriff, but like the WoW version her outfit was completely skin tight. And believe me, in the cold weather you noticed.

With a wicked grin on her face, she exclaimed, "We're getting all the looks because you're almost naked, and I've left nothing to the imagination!"

***

But the WoW Pirate Costume wasn't the only thing I got. There was the ghost --which didn't last long enough for me to get a screenshot-- and there was this:

GIANT... ORANGE... AZSHANDRA!!

It's not everyday you get to look down on a Tauren. And for a reference on just how gigantic Az had gotten, here's the pre- and post- growth Azshandra:

Night Elves are tall already....





But now Humans don't even reach
Az's navel.



Maybe I should have gone and danced on the Stormwind mailbox....

***

I still have a bunch of those candies left, so maybe I'll pull them out when people aren't expecting it. Like, say, January.

In the meantime, I'll be back to my normal self, doing some questing and fishing, and lending a hand when I happen to be in the area:

Dropping in to help out the
Night Watch in Duskwood.




*And, truth be told, I'm kind of sick of SM. Not Gnomeregan-level sick, but still tired of the tactical nature of SM. "Everybody over here, I'll pull them over, we'll DPS them down, and do the next pack." It's a marvel of tactical design, but when you're about halfway through you start to wonder just how much longer you've got until the end. And when you realize most of the gear isn't Leather....

**Yes, THAT Oregon District. And yes, I know exactly where the shooting happened.


Friday, November 8, 2019

Letting My Fear Flag Fly

The Warlock Follies continue unabated, starring me as a Warlock who'd prefer to be in a good match of Warsong Gulch right about now.

I experimented with just Fearing packs while attempting to use the Voidwalker to tank the one that I've left behind, and I've had mixed results. About 3/4 of the time the baddies that I cast Fear on ran right into another pack, and I went from having 2-3 enemies at at time to 5-7. That's pretty much in line with what I expected, particularly given the closed-in nature of some of these groups.

Given these results, maybe going Destruction is an option to try to quickly AoE down mobs. I'll have to think about that, although I'd prefer to run Battlegrounds with the Lock than, say, instances.

***

Speaking of instances, I've run Deadmines twice on Dominius. First time, things went fairly well up until the Healer dropped group. Second time, not so much.

Since I hadn't run any instances on Adelwulf back in the day, my Warlock experiences in an instance were limited to the effect that Warlocks have on group dynamics. Just like any player, good players enhance the effect of the group and do a great job of DPS-ing down mobs and bosses. But bad players have a greater effect than, say, your average DPS.

While a Mage, Rogue, or Druid can pull mobs like crazy if they don't watch their threat, the presence of the Demon companion adds a level of complexity that only the Hunter shares. I can't count the number of times over the years that I've experienced a wipe caused by a Hunter's pet or a Demon was set to "Aggressive" in an instance. And then when you factor in the Warlock's Howl of Terror or Fear abilities, well....

Yeah, I'm not the greatest fan of poorly played Warlocks in instances.*

So... Let's talk about some things that I need to improve on.

***

In the first Deadmines run, almost as soon as we started, the Healer started giving the Warrior tank grief.

First, about tank's lack of a shield. Second, about how he wasn't going to bail the tank out if he wasn't keeping up sufficient rage. And after a few pulls, he started grumbling about the tank's pulling technique.

These grumblings weren't whispers to the group leader (me**), but said out loud in party chat. I've been in runs where I get whispers from someone complaining about another person in the group, but nothing quite like this.

Nevertheless, we kept going and downed the first boss. I'd made a point of the following rotation when fighting, and it seemed to work well enough: DoT the pack, do a Life Tap to boost my mana, Drain Health to add some health back, then repeat the cycle. Instead of a Voidwalker, I opted for the Imp and kept him on Passive until I told him to attack specific targets. This is the "prior experience with Warlocks" working here.

Once that first boss was downed, we started forward, and I realized the Healer remained in place.

I called out for the group to hold up a sec, steeled myself for another set of complaints, and asked the Healer what was up.

He said nothing.

And then he DCed.

"Really?" the tank asked. "Was I doing that bad a job?"

"No," I replied. "You were holding threat well enough, and you weren't running around like crazy trying to pull the entire area."

I took stock of the situation, and started putting out requests in LFG, LookingForGroup, and in the instance chat for a replacement healer.

No dice.

We eventually had to drop group, because without a healer we weren't going to proceed.

***

The second Deadmines run was, well, different.

Unlike the previous run, I was struggling to keep up with everybody. Not as in running with everyone, but trying to keep the DoTs up and whatnot. I'd also run out of Soul Shards prior to the run, so I was trying to kill as many Defias in Moonbrook as I could to obtain them, make Cookies, and distribute them to the group I was putting together. (Again.) By the time the group was ready, I had even managed to get a Soulstone together, so I figured that if I needed extra shards, I could suck them out of mobs we'd run into.

But still, it felt like I wasn't pulling my weight in the fights, as I was at that level (L18) where you get boosts to some of your other abilities, but not a new ranking in the DoT capabilities. Being specced as Affliction, DoTs were kind of my thing. And not being L20, that meant I didn't have an AoE I could use in an emergency.*** Even beyond that, I felt I was missing something that I couldn't place my finger on.

At the same time, the Mage began running ahead, exclaiming "Look, I'm a tank!!" and aggroing the next mob, forcing the Druid tank to catch up and pull aggro back to keep the Mage from getting plastered.

Oh, this isn't going to end well, I thought.

Two bosses down, we headed into the Foundry, working our way down the ramp. This is the locale where those remote control units the Goblin Engineers drop can wreak havoc. At the base of the ramp, the Druid pulled, and we had another three enemy mob to deal with.

Then all hell broke loose.

I was busy dropping DoTs and when I focused on the main screen again****, we didn't have a mob of 3, but 8-10.

"WTF!" the tank called.

"Shit!"

"Ow!"

We wiped.

We all appeared back at the graveyard, and the tank asked me "Did you use ss back there?"

For a brief second, my mind went blank. Was he accusing me of pulling all those extra mobs? "It wasn't me," I responded. "I only hit the mob you pulled."

"..."

"And," I continued, "I keep the Imp on a tight leash so this sort of thing doesn't happen."

"... I meant soulstone."

Oh crap. I completely forgot to set the Soulstone on the Healer.

"OH," I finally replied. "I thought you were accusing me of aggroing the entire group back there. No, I forgot. Sorry about that."

We got back into the Deadmines and I made a point of creating a Soulstone and tagging the Healer with it, and then letting the tank know I did that.

Or I thought I set it up, until I realized that something wasn't right again, but I didn't have time to find out what it was because everybody was running forward.

Gah.

We finished the Foundry, and then the DPS Pally dinged. He then surged to the front, exclaiming "I'm the tank now!"


Not again.

This is how it went through the instance, up until we got to the ship. We fought through Smite, went up the ramp, turned right, and then the Pally jumped up onto the Wheel. Everybody else followed, except for me, because the mob he'd aggroed zeroed in on me as I was in the back, and as I was surrounded I couldn't do anything even if I ran.

The Healer jumped down to rez me, while the Pally tank was saying, "Hey, I thought you guys were skilled."

Given that in the number of times I've run Deadmines --both pre- and post-Cata-- I think I've only jumped onto the wheel as a viable strategy to bypass mobs maybe 2-3 times. And this was definitely the first time since roughly 2013 or so.

But still, it was incredibly humiliating, first forgetting to Soulstone, and now not remembering the wheel.

Ah, but things weren't done.

While I was trying to climb on the Wheel after I'd been rezzed, I aggroed that same damn pack again and jumped off the platform into the water to escape them, figuring that I'd lose them after jumping down.

Well, that didn't work, as the pack came down and zapped me from behind.

"You'd better go rez him," the Pally tank said to the (former) Druid Tank, who came down and rezzed me.

"You should have died up here so we could rez you from here."

"Right," I replied, just focusing on finishing this damn thing and being done with it.

Even if I'd have managed to get up on the Wheel that first time, it wouldn't have saved us any extra time as we still had to fight the same mobs because the Pally tank got cute and ran around, picking them up anyway for no reason other than "just because".

The rest of the instance proceeded without incident, but it wasn't until afterward that I realized that I hadn't actually clicked on the Healer before setting the Soulstone, so it was actually set to me. But since we didn't lose the Healer, I was actually spared that further humiliation.

***

About the best thing that came out of those two runs was that the Rogue in the second Deadmines run, who'd remained pretty much silent the entire run, whispered me at the end that he was going to be doing some dueling and asked if I wanted to come. I told him no thanks, as I had to get going to bed. While that was technically correct, I just wanted to log off and not think about Warlocks, Soulstones, and the Deadmines for a while.

For a person who'd actually played a Warlock before, I felt woefully unprepared for being in an instance as a Warlock. While I knew a lot about what not to do, what I should do was where I was lacking. Rotations are one thing, since you can figure out a mana efficient way of inflicting damage while being out in the field, but forgetting how to do a Soulstone? That's pretty basic --and critical-- stuff.

And the activity a Warlock has to balance is insanely high compared to a Rogue or Mage. Managing the demon, making sure that it is actually doing damage to the right toon, and keeping all the DoTs going means that a Lock's instance activity is actually harder than in the average Battleground, where the Lock is looking more to lay crowd control via Fear nearly as much as DoTs and AoEs. In a BG, a Lock can let their Demon just go do their thing with minimal supervision, but in an instance I was tempted more than once to simply dismiss that Imp so I could focus on the rest of what was going on.

I realize that this was good for me in the long run, as I needed this experience if I'm going to level Dominius up to L60. Better to learn these lessons now rather than at, say, L35-40. I'm not going to lie and say it was fun, however. It wasn't.





*And that's coming from a player who --the past several years, at least-- prefers to play Rogues. My brethren don't make my job any easier, as poorly played Rogues will forget that what they do in an instance affects the entire group, so if you get cute and try to sneak past mobs --accidentally aggroing them-- they all come after your companions if you decide to use Vanish to escape.

**I'm not kidding when I say that I frequently get assigned the job of pulling a group together. And if you knew me in real life, you'd laugh because I'm a big introvert.

***The first Warlock AoE is Rain of Fire, learned at L20.

****I was cycling through the entire pack, making sure I had DoTs up on each Goblin, so I was focusing on the enemy target icon and making sure the right DoTs were present.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

One of These Days....

...I'd love to get together a Fire Mage and Destro Warlock only guild, and name it "Fear the Burn".

If a Troll-only Horde guild or an all-Trooper SWTOR guild can be created, then why not this?

Hey, if you see us in a PUG, you know what you're getting....

Friday, November 1, 2019

Lessons in Being Facerolled 101

Roll up a Lock, they said.

It'll be fun, they said.

Hey, you've got a built-in tank, they said.

It'll be facerolling, they said.

Such was my state of mind after puttering around a bit in Redridge the other night.

Unlike a Hunter, however, a Warlock is still a cloth armor wearer, and that does have an impact. Additionally, after questing in Westfall and Elwynn, my cloth wearing gear isn't all that Warlock friendly.* I've heard it said that Westfall and Elwynn are great zones for Rogues, and I believe it. Unlike Darkshore, a lot of the random drops that I've picked up are rogue friendly, and Deadmines itself is famous for having some good rogue gear there.

I was about to perform the Wetlands Fun Run and relocate to Darkshore when I figured that I should at least try Redridge Mountains and see what happens. Besides, getting to L20-22 means that he Wetlands should be easier than at, say, L18.**

So off to Redridge I went, to kill gnolls, Orcs, and spiders.

Or rather, to be killed by them.

Spiders aren't so much of a problem, since you can pick them off one by one, but Orcs and Gnolls love to congregate in packs around campfires, so the good ol' Voidwalker would have to stay upright while having 2 or 3 enemies wailing on them at once.

And, I discovered, the DOTs don't DPS down enemies fast enough to compensate for my liberal usage of Health Funnel, trying to keep my Voidwalker upright, and the corresponding loss of mana.

And using direct attacks such as Drain Soul and Shadow Bolt take what seems like forever to work.

So I became used to the corpse run back to Gnoll areas while I debated what to do.

Grouping is the most obvious answer, but when there isn't a group around (at, say, 5 AM), then you just have to pick off the Gnolls around the edges. And hope that when the Gnoll tries to run, they die quickly enough that they don't aggro another pack of Gnolls.

Oh, and one critical thing: run.

Run a lot, and use the Voidwalker's Sacrifice ability as much as possible.

This is the old WoW I remember, trying to level as a Clothie in early Wrath, not really knowing what I was doing, and deciding that running was a very viable option.

Do I mind? Well... It's not facerolling by any stretch of the imagination, but no, I don't mind. I just have to tailor my expectations to match reality.

And besides, I'll remember those Gnolls, when I need some fresh souls....




*When I've grouped, I've frequently lost the rolls on caster gear. I see my D&D rolling capabilities followed me to WoW Classic.

**I did make Wetlands Fun Run at L18 after all, and in spite of being chased by a Dragonmaw Orc who came from over the hills and chased me and my Voidwalker until I detonated the Voidwalker, giving me enough extra time to escape.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy All Hallow's Eve from PC

On the ship to Theramore.

"Greetings, fellow women!!

I too am woman!!

Let us speak of woman things, as I wish to do so!!" 

::long pause::

"I hear that Theramore is ruled by a woman! Do you find this empowering?" 


(EtA: For the record, this was not a planned shot. It just simply happened. And the woman dressed up like Whitemane was busy crafting, so I was lucky enough to get the screencap in between her crafting.)

Monday, October 28, 2019

When Rip Van Winkle Wakes Up....

Given that I game on an old Ivy Bridge Intel machine, a lot of modern PC tech* doesn't really register as how great of an improvement it really is. After all, when the graphics card died on the machine 3 years ago, I replaced it with what was then a fair-to-middling Raedeon RX470 card and got a decent boost in performance for a relatively cheap cost. But given that a lot of throughput on video games requires both a decent internet connection** and a decent processor/motherboard, I've forgotten just how much in some games the hard drive itself matters.

Typically hard drives have the greatest impact in loading times for a zone/mission/whatever, and once the locale is loaded it's all dependent on the processor/motherboard, the RAM, and the graphics card. A SSD speeds up those loading times tremendously, particularly if you've been gaming with a slower 5400 rpm mechanical drive. Still, some games have started putting SSDs in the "recommended specs" listings.

Such as WoW Classic.

From battle.net.
When the hell did this happen?

 But you know, this makes perfect sense to me.

When you're out in the game world, the game is constantly polling and loading graphics into memory. Sure, there's the network connection that lets the game know what the NPCs and PCs are doing, but there's also the background. And that has to be seamless.

In some games, such s SWTOR and LOTRO, I've noticed that loading times of graphics from the hard drive can have a huge impact on playability. If you play SWTOR on Alderaan and you take a flightpoint from one locale to another, you can watch the trees try to load quickly enough to keep up with the taxi. And frequently failing to keep up. In LOTRO, go to Bree and watch the game get overwhelmed with all of the activity + loading all the graphics*** for one of the most popular zones in the game.

Other MMOs, such as GW2 and ArcheAge, suffer to a lesser degree as it seems to only hit hard in areas of high populations, such as Lions Arch (GW2). (Insert random joke about how ArcheAge is so empty, there are no high populations, I suppose.) In ArcheAge, however, I've seen the greatest impact in the loading screens of the game itself. It frequently takes forever for the toon you're selecting to load draws on screen, and I'm frequently left scratching my head why this is the case when even Black Desert Online doesn't have that issue.

All of these experiences with MMOs have led me to believe that it's the mechanical drive itself that is the bottleneck on my machine. In older games in particular, my PC ought to be able to handle these MMOs with aplomb; the games don't stress the system quite as much as other games do, and I only play on 1080 resolution, not 1440 or 4k, so this machine ought to be "good enough". But with an old Seagate Barracuda as the main drive (and a recently added WD Black to move a lot of data and seldom used games to), I believe that an SSD would see huge improvements to the gameplay itself.

Blizz just happened to express those ideas to me first.****

***

I experienced the speeding up of loading times when I replaced the first two mini-Reds' mechanical drives on their laptops with SSDs. Admittedly I was putting those SSDs on 4 and 3 year old "okay but nothing to write home about" laptops, so the speed boost gave them a new lease on life. But it wasn't until my work laptop had its mechanical drive replaced that I noticed in daily use how much of an impact this drive has.

That daily use pretty much opened my eyes to the reality that yeah, SSDs do have a pretty big impact, and yeah, that'll show up in gaming.

Does that mean I'll replace the aging Barracuda with an SSD? Yes, but not immediately. (Budgets, you know.) But until then, I'm sure I'll survive. WoW Classic is playing better for me than it did when I played WoW in Mists, but that's also because I wasn't on the RX470 at the time. Did that card make a difference? Well, let me put it this way: I can now see the grasses waving as I run through them in WoW.




*Basically, anything newer than five years old, tech wise. The machine we have was state of the art back in 2012, if that's any reference.

**At least a connection that wouldn't get hogged by someone streaming on the same line. I can't tell you the number of times the oldest two mini-Reds would holler about the lag when their sister was doing homework with earbuds on, listening to videos on YouTube, until I finally got our home network upgraded to 20:2 mpbs.

***Particularly the high res graphics.

****Not to say that there aren't a lot of other newer games that have SSDs listed on the recommended specs, but I frequently don't play newer games --unless they're MMOs, I suppose-- so I never bother reading those games' specs. I think the most recent game I would have been potentially interested in playing would have been Anthem, but that proved to be such as disaster that I'm glad I waited until the "launch shakedown" was over to consider buying the game.

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Bottle of Pinot Noir, Please

One of the quirkier things you find around some MMOs are the shops that the average player doesn't use for buying things.

Of course, I could be talking about the armor vendor out in a mid to high level zone that only sells basic white gear, but my belief is that those are present just so that people can sell trash that they acquired out in the field without it looking too blatantly obvious.

No, what I mean are places like this:

Technically there is a quest for this place,
but it's a quest to get a free bottle of wine.

A Wine Merchant.

Believe me, I'd be in line to buy a bottle in real life, but the average MMO player doesn't really care about a Wine Merchant's shop in game. In modern game design, spaces like this would only exist simply for use at some point during the story, and not strictly for ambience. For example, I went hunting for something similar in Tatooine on SWTOR, and I didn't have much luck finding a shop strictly there for flavor's sake. There are the profession trainers, the class trainers, the vendors for said professions, the other standard vendors, and the cantina, but there isn't a shop just for something that doesn't directly affect the game in some manner.

For me, however, this is what helps to make some of these older MMOs come alive.

Maybe nobody frequents these places in a regular server, but for someone interested in Role Playing, these places fill out a livable world. I can easily see a player purchasing some wines at this place to enjoy an afternoon in a nice park in Stormwind, or even RP-ing by purchasing a case's worth of wine and making the trip to Astranaar to sell later. It's not a matter of profit and loss, but a matter of inhabiting another space for a while.

Maybe a little cheese to go with your
wine? I know where the oldest
mini-Red would be hanging out...
Or, until Pet Battles came along, non-combat pet collecting in WoW was very much a niche hobby.* You'd find a rare whelp out in the field as a loot drop, and you could have a companion while questing. Or you could visit the cockroach vendor in The Undercity or the Crazy Cat Lady outside Stormwind, and you could have a new friend who'd follow you around. The few times I hung around an RP server, having a pet was a great conversation starter.

It does seem that post 2009 or 2010, a lot of MMO devs stopped putting superfluous stores and vendors in their games. I was able to find some in LOTRO, but to surprise there as it is well known for it's RP-esque community, but very little in SWTOR and ESO. The lone exception of that era's MMOs is Guild Wars 2, which does have vendors and NPCs all over the place around the big cities, such as Lion's Arch.

Sure, he's a "Provisioner", but what you're not
seeing are all the other vendors surrounding
the square. He's kind of superfluous.
I can understand the desire to slim down interactive NPCs and just use the background graphics to fill in the blanks, but when you create this large space without NPCs to see or interact with, it just looks embarrassingly empty.**

Perhaps the rise of WoW Classic will also bring about an interest in these little quirky places that help to make a world out of a game.




*I used to collect pets on Quintalan back in the day, but the advent of Pet Battles kind of ruined it for me. Sure, there was the WoW Pokemon aspect to it that I didn't like very much, but it also meant that I couldn't simply collect pets just to collect them. If I'd have one out, people would want to challenge me to a Pet Battle, and that defeated the purpose the simple enjoyment of having a pet.

**I'm looking at you, Silvermoon City. I even wrote about this phenomenon back in... 2012??!! Yikes.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Don't Interrupt a Warlock Making a Fashion Statement

After what felt like the upteenth time of running through Tirisfal to reach the Scarlet Monastery, Az stands at L39.

And nowhere near having enough money for a mount when she dings L40.

Still, I've decided to take a break from the Rogue Life and try something new, so that I can appreciate more of what Classic has to offer. And in honor of the lack of summons' for all of those SM runs, I created a Warlock.

Compared to Launch Day, Northshire Abbey was
really quiet. Well, except for all these Kobolds.
And yes, I got that cloak as my very first drop.
I'd created a previous Warlock, a Worgen named Adelwulf, back on Ysera in Cataclysm and leveled him via Battlegrounds. To say that Cataclysm wasn't kind to Warlocks in BGs is a bit of an understatement. After being jealous of them in Wrath, I decided to create one just as they were nerfed heavily in Cata. Yes, that meant that the BG route was a real slog to get through, and when I reached somewhere around L82 or so I gave it up. I liked that ol' Wolfie, but constantly being targeted at the beginning of Warsong Gulch became a bit much.*

Since Adelwulf was born in a post-Cata world, I never got to see the original class quests, and being a Worgen meant I never got to hang in Northshire Abbey and work my way through the mostly Human oriented quests. Therefore, I decided I was not going the Gnome route that many of the Warlocks I've grouped with went, but instead decided to create a Human with a name in honor of the late MMO Wildstar, Dominius.**

Since the enormous wave at launch has long since passed, the crowd in Northshire and Elwynn Forest has diminished, but there was little trouble in grouping up when necessary, such as with those @#$&-ing Murlocs east of Crystal Lake's more tame version. I re-discovered that without a Voidwalker, I was a bit of a sitting duck if more than one Murloc decided to attack me, so grouping up became imperative if I didn't want an endless series of corpse runs.***

Still, for me the main attraction was to see the Warlock class quests, and they did not disappoint.

Yes, there are spoilers, even after all this time, because it's been since --2011, maybe?-- that we saw these class quests in all their glory?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Coming Soon to an Overgrown Wild Near You...

In an announcement, Blizz said that Dire Maul would be released on October 15th, ahead of the Phase 2

I don't think we're in the "we're bored" levels of Classic yet, but considering that the player base is wanting PvP in the worst way, this is likely a bone thrown to keep us preoccupied while the rest of Phase 2 is being completed.

While I've done a full Blackrock Depths clear in Wrath, I've never done a full Dire Maul clear at level. That ought to be fun.

My only question now is, how are we going to distinguish Dire Maul from Deadmines in LFG? I guess Dire Maul will have to be "Dire", because otherwise there's going to be a lot of disappointed L60s when they join a "DM" group to discover it's populated with L20 toons....

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Doing This Because I Can, I Suppose

Being a Stealthie means you can get yourself in trouble.

As in "I shouldn't be in this zone and I'm gonna die" trouble.

I've mentioned this before, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I snuck into Western Plaguelands before I hit L30:



Or that I snuck into Feralas and was chased by Tauren guards around Camp Mojache. (Sorry, no pics there, because I was too busy trying to stay alive.)

Or that I was running up to the Cenarion Sisters outside of Shadowprey Village in Desolace, and a Troll guard from the village aggroed on me, even though I could (I thought) barely see him. (Still no pics, but I could swim like 40 Naga were after me.)

Or that I got waaay too close to the Dragonkin in Bough Shadow, because I forgot that it existed in Ashenvale.

***

Still, there's that sort of getting in trouble, and there's the "getting in trouble" you get from a superior.

Back when I first started with Az, I reached Dolanaar and met with the Rogue Trainer there, Jannok Breezesong. I thought him a slight bit loopy, as if Phoebe from Friends were reincarnated as a Male NE Rogue, but essentially harmless. But after you reach L10, he gives you the quest called The Apple Falls, in which he confesses his, well, obsession with a Night Elf named Syurna in Darnassus. He recruits you to deliver a rose to her, which doesn't sound like a big deal.

Well, trying to find Syurna without using a mod such as Questie proves challenging. You can --and I did-- spend a lot of time wandering around, with the "If I were in with Rogues, where would I hang out?" running through my head.

Craftsman's Terrace? Nope.

Warrior's Terrace? Nope.

Some secret lower level in an Inn? Nope.

Some secret section of town, close to the Temple of the Moon? Nope.

At about the point where I was thinking that maybe they were holed up in waaaay up in the Northern section of Darnassus, far north of the Cenarion Enclave, the little dot appeared just as I crossed the bridge.

The Cenarion Enclave? Are you kidding me?

But where..... I spotted a tree to the left, with absolutely no guards nearby but a couple of people in a platform above. I quickly climbed up the tree and discovered a Poison Vendor, but no Syurna. I scampered down the path, turned around, and found the opening I sought, leading down.

This is it, I thought, as I followed the curved passage downward. Damn, they hid themselves well.

At the bottom of the passage it straightened out, and I could see Syurna in the distance. And she was not pleased.

"Isn't this wonderful," she purred as I approached. "You've brought flowers for your own funeral."

Oh Shit.

Even though I'm now in the 30s,
when I drop by I still feel... inadequate.


Since I'd never leveled an Alliance Rogue prior to Cataclysm, I wasn't certain what would happen next. But it turns out that she had a job for me, which involved pickpocketing a demon.*

Yes, that became pretty standard and sure, she may be an NPC, and "just a trainer", but you know, that quest certainly colors my perception of Syurna to this day. I don't have a similar opinion of Mathias Shaw, even though I really ought to.



*And if you know that quest, said demon is hanging out on the edge of a branch dangling out over the edge of Teldrassil. Given my ineptitude at maintaining my balance in game (and out of game, really), this was not quite an easy task.

EtA: Fixed the word "town".

Thursday, October 3, 2019

You Just Keep Being You

One of the things about WoW Classic is that in it, like Vanilla*, your reputation as a player matters.

If you act like an ass or a jerk, you'll find yourself being shunned.

Oh sure, there's plenty of people on an individual server, and there's --on average-- nothing that keeps you from finding other people to group with. That doesn't mean that word won't get around, however. Guilds can spread word among members, and outlets such as Reddit can spread word about people who act like an ass.

And then there's just word of mouth.

I was waiting for the ship from Menethil Harbor to Theramore, when I saw a player jumping around and challenging people on the dock to a duel. And yes, he eventually dropped a duel invitation to Azshandra, currently sitting at L35.

The toon in question was L56 Warrior.

I immediately declined. He could wipe the docks with my carcass with that level disparity.

The toon didn't care, as he just went to the next person in line while we piled onto the ship for Theramore.

"It takes a real jerk to challenge someone significantly lower than yourself," said someone out loud.**

The toon ignored her and challenged an L46 Pally.

"Just how old are you?" the Pally responded, and declined the duel.

And the toon came right back to me. I declined again. "He could kick my ass all over the place," I whispered the Pally. "What's the point in that?"

"He's probably a kid," came the whispered reply.

"Or maybe he came from ArcheAge or something."

The ship to Theramore docked, and we disembarked. The Pally gave me a Blessing of Might, which I thanked him. "Hey, if you're looking for a guild, let me know," he said. "We're a bunch who behaves like adults."

"Thanks for the offer," I replied, "but I'm going to stay independent for a while. I've been involved in some pretty spectacular guild breakups in Wrath and Cata, so I'm reluctant to get back in one."

"Sure, np."

***

Being guildless means that I get a lot of guild invites. While that may sound like I'm being barraged by random toons out there spamming people with invites, it's not like that.

Okay, it is to an extent, but not like what it was being guildless in Wrath.

Let me explain.

When I was guildless in Wrath or in parts of Cata, the sheer number of guild invites --at least 2-3 every session in late Wrath-- forced me into turning on the Auto Reject for Guild Invites.***

I don't have that issue now. I do get the "WoWGold111----whatever" Chat Channel invite on an average of once or twice a week, but that's not that bad. And I've only had a handful of direct guild invites to reject as well.

But what I do get are people asking me to join their guild via whispers.

A lot of them are exactly what you'd expect, a slightly more polite version of a guild recruiter spamming Guild Invites. I'd say that all of the random invites took my polite "no thanks" for an answer, which is a good thing because I'd rather not have to block people.

The rest are guild invites that I'd actually consider, because they arose organically out of grouping up with people. A successful 5-man instance, random grouping out in the wild because people need assistance, and other groups that came out of sheer serendipity would end with an exchange of Friending and/or a guild invite. Those are the ones that are hard to say no to, because those came out of respect and appreciation for the accomplished task.

***

And yes, I have been grouping up in MMOs, far more than I've ever done since roughly 2015 or so. Classic has done that to me.

I think that part of it is that the people coming into Classic are more open about requesting help in Zone Chat, but it's also the knowledge that there is no LFG option in Classic that forces people to group out in the open. Sure, there will be the guild groups out there, and the larger guilds won't have trouble getting people to join to fill out an instance, but the smaller guilds will struggle and will need to go onto Trade Chat or Zone Chat to get slots filled.

For the most part, however, I've yet to join a guild group to work on an instance. But I've discovered that the Golden Rule**** applies in Classic far more than it did once LFG appeared in Wrath.

As an example, the other day I was holding my own in Arathi Highlands, picking and choosing my quests/enemies based on whether I was over/under leveled against them. Someone in Zone Chat asked for help in taking out Myzrael, as the adds were a big problem. I knew that I ordinarily too low a level to help out, but I figured that I was just a meatbag in a fight like that and if I died, no big deal. So I said as much in Chat and got an invite to the group. The decision was made to ignore the adds and simply burn down Myzrael as quickly as possible, and one of the group volunteered to heal. We started the quest, Myzrael spawned and declared her treachery --bad move, Big Lady-- and we beat her to shreds.*****
You can tell that this is WoW Classic
as opposed to, say, TERA, because
Myzrael is clothed. Or at least more
clothed than some other MMOs.


Afterwards, we all went on our merry way, and I eventually ended up working on the Witherbark Troll quest. I found a Mage there on the same quest, and we agreed to team up to finish the quest more quickly. To get the Shadow Hunter trinket as part of the quest, we eventually made our way into the cave, and we accidentally pulled an extra Shadow Hunter at the same time a Headhunter wandered into the fight. Things looked grim for us when another player appeared and helped us beat off the Trolls. Who was the other player? The player I helped earlier with Myzrael.

***

This doesn't mean that there aren't bad PUGs out there, and I've been in 5-man groups that got frustrating because there were issues with Hunters rolling need on everything, people wanting to go without waiting on the casters to drink, etc. But for the most part, I've found those to be far more the exception rather than the rule in Classic.

I think that it's the knowledge that people are --by and large-- working together has made Classic more enjoyable than I expected. My main desire with Classic was to see the zones and quests as they were originally meant to be, but I've discovered that the community that people loved to talk about "back in the day" actually is present. I consider that a bonus, but something that'll keep me playing longer than I expected.





*And to a lesser extent BC and early Wrath. Once the dungeon finder dropped, all bets were off.

**I'm paraphrasing here, and likely editing the language.

***The guild invites were very much a WoW thing, as in LOTRO the mini-Reds and I have our own guild, and with other MMOs (SWTOR, ESO, AoC, etc.) I never got hit up for guild invites. I'd say the most often I'd ever see as far as guild invites goes was in the early days of SWTOR, but even then that was a rare event.

****"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Or, in it's Internet equivalent, "Don't be a Dick."

*****Having two Rogues provide interrupts on a regular basis helped a lot, too.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

On This Day...

...in 2009, Souldat posted PC's first blog entry. I'd already posted the long, sordid details in the last post.

In lieu of cake, have a cookie:


Friday, September 27, 2019

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been

Truckin' got my chips cashed in. Keep truckin', like the do-dah man
Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin' on.
--Truckin', The Grateful Dead


In August 2009, I was having a Livejournal mail chat with Souldat's wife when she broached a specific topic.

"[Souldat] and I were thinking of playing World of Warcraft again, and I was wondering if you wanted to play," she wrote.

I'd heard of WoW --it had penetrated the popular consciousness several years ago-- and I knew of its reputation among gamers. Namely, that it is one of those games that ends up consuming your life if you're not careful.

Still, I was happy to be asked. I'd joined LJ less than a year ago --mainly so I could read and comment on SF&F authors' LJ pages-- and I'd made a few new friends online.* But this was the first time one of them had asked me to essentially hang out with them online.

I figured I could at least try the game out, and so I spent one Saturday watching as World of Warcraft slowly downloaded** while the rest of the family watched National Treasure.*** And just when I thought it was finished and I could at least make sure my account worked by starting the game, it began downloading even more stuff.

"Just what have I gotten myself into?" I wondered as I took a bit of heat from my wife for not watching the movie with the rest of the family.

The WoW website didn't exactly help me that much, because the history of Azeroth began thousands of years before the era of WoW, and I kept losing track of who was who while perusing the history. "Okay, is Illidan a good guy or a bad guy? And what about this Burning Legion? And the Scourge? And the Plague?" I had so many questions, and but I figured I should be polite to Soul and his wife and keep them to myself for the time being.****

***

Those first few game sessions were, well, chaotic at best.

Soul and his wife were saints with me as I fumbled around, not really understanding how things such as headsets integrated with a game that took up a full screen and already had taken over the PTT button for its own use. In 2009, I was far more used to games such as Civ III than games that required quick reflexes, so my fumbling and flailing was made all the worse by switching game genres. My first WoW sessions were so awkward that I had my headset hooked up to my work laptop behind me, and every time I wanted to talk I had to reach behind me and press the space bar.

After a couple of sessions I left the sound on, but all it took was about 10 seconds of what I thought was silence when Soul told me that he could hear my breathing. (It didn't help that I had seasonal allergies at the time.) So I learned about dialing back the microphone's sensitivity, which I'd never had to deal with because I used telephones/cell phones for work.

But eventually, after a class suggestion by Souldat to switch from a Priest to a Paladin --the former being too squishy for someone more acquainted with the D&D Cleric class-- I began to enjoy myself. However, I was still pretty self conscious about my online persona, and the first time I followed Soul into Orgrimmar I had the feeling that everybody there was watching me as we crossed the gate. This awkward feeling was made worse when I was accosted by a random player trying to hit me up for a charter signature, and I had a few moments of terror, not knowing how to respond, before the guy went away to pester somebody else.

It was then, in mid-September, that Souldat contacted me outside of the game. I was sure that he wanted to say that the WoW thing wasn't working out for us, and I steeled myself  for what he was going to say.

"Would you like to start a blog with me?" he asked.

***

The idea, Soul pitched, was that we'd write from the perspective of two different people in the WoW experience: I was the newbie, and he was the experienced player.

Soul really didn't have to pitch this very hard, because I looked at the blog as a chance to improve my writing skills.***** I've had ideas in my head for stories, and I've started writing a novel numerous times, but I've never been able to get more than halfway through the a story. Blogging, I figured, would allow me to actually finish something for a change.

But there were two big questions that we needed to answer before we started: what blogging platform to use, and what the name should be.

I personally preferred Livejournal, since that was what I was most familiar with, and I figured we could make that work going forward. Soul, however, researched the most popular blogging platforms and decided that Blogger would require the least amount of maintenance to keep going.# Given that he'd done the research, he didn't really have to push hard to convince me.

But the name, that was a problem.

I couldn't tell you just how many blog names we tried out, but it was over 15 for certain and probably closer to 30. Each time we'd come up with a name, Soul would try to see if the domain was taken, and inevitably it would be rejected. The names themselves are now a blur, but among those that were tried and rejected included Parallel Views and Different Perspectives. The latter was well after the first dozen or so, when we were running out of ideas.

Now, I can't remember exactly who came up with Parallel Context, but when Souldat put the blog name in, it was actually available. So Parallel Context it was.

***

I'll freely admit that Soul put the blog together and I was --more or less-- along for the ride.

While I had a LJ account, I never really considered posting in a blog on a regular basis. It's not as if I had a lot of time set aside to write to begin with, and committing to a blog would mean I'd have a self imposed deadline on top of all of the other family and work commitments I'd have. Sure, there was going to be that initial burst of activity, but sustaining it is the key to making a blog that lasts.

And there's that promotion thing.

Soul had reached out to some bloggers he liked and mentioned that we were starting PC, and after a few posts into the launch we managed to get on a couple of people's blog lists. Meanwhile, I worked on integrating Google Analytics into the site, so we could see just how many people were viewing the blog after our outreach. And the result early on weren't encouraging: the numbers were disappointingly small. Like "this is us shouting into the void" small.

Oh, and during all of this, I was learning how to actually play WoW, so I wouldn't have anyone yelling "Get gud, scrub!" at me while playing the game. Hillsbrad Foothills and Tarren Mill taught me the true meaning of what being on a PvP server really was, and I can't say I was really thrilled. Sure, there was the adrenalin rush of trying to hide while being ganked by a swarm of Alliance raiders from Southshore, but the concept of "we're all in this together" took a real hit during those days. My work schedule and the kids' school schedule meant I was best off playing in the early morning, which meant that I was on at 5-6 AM EST on a server meant for the US West Coast.

That means... Say it all with me now: "Nobody was on while I was learning how to WoW."

I had the freedom to fuck up and nobody was around to see it.

Afterward, I'd return to being a normal husband and father, but during my lunchtime I'd write for the site.

Early on I decided to try to write a post at least once a week, and between Soul's and my output we kept the blog on a steady pace.## Still, there was this big WoW/MMO ecosystem out there, and we didn't know how to really break into it to have our voices heard. Soul suggested a few blogs for me to read to a) help me improve at WoW and b) so that we could learn how to blog better. But for me, I decided that I wasn't just going to read, I'd comment as well.

But that assumed that I knew what the hell I was talking about. So back to playing WoW a bit more to muddle my way through.

***

I think it was way after I dinged 80 for the first time in Wrath that we finally had a breakthrough. I'd made some post about a 5-man PUG fail and why they fail the way they do --that much I remember-- when I discovered a comment from "Tam" making some thoughtful observations.

"Holy crap!" I exclaimed. "Is that who I think it is?"

I followed the name back, and sure enough, it was Tam from Righteous Orbs, who (along with his friend Chas) at the time ran one of the most well read WoW blogs.

My brain processed the information, but I still couldn't believe it. It was as if Geddy Lee from Rush called me up and said that he, Neil, and Alex were going to be in town and wanted to know if we could hang out.

Somewhere in my amazement I clicked back to see the Righteous Orbs Blogroll, and sure enough the words "Parallel Context" was in there.

Other blogs added us shortly thereafter, such as Larisa's The Pink Pigtail Inn, and our readership began to increase. What I also found was a community of MMO bloggers who were supportive of each other and promoted each other's work. Almost all of them were more social media savvy than Soul and myself, as they took to Twitter to promoting each others' blogs and utilizing Facebook and Google+ as well.

I thought things were looking up, and that we'd get the active site we'd always hoped for, but I didn't reckon on life. Or the video game development cycle.

Blogs faded away, such as Righteous Orbs and The Pink Pigtail Inn, due to burnout. Those two tore a huge hole in the WoW blogging community, as they were the watering hole for WoW bloggers where you could see an accurate and current list of blogs. When PPI in particular shut down, PC suffered a huge hit in readership; something around 35-40% of the views came from PPI as a starting point. Blog Azeroth and Orcish Army Knife have tried to fill the void, but the WoW blogging community also suffered hits from the divisive nature of the WoW Cataclysm expansion.#### Others gradually faded away as real life intervened. Soul himself has mostly moved on as he and his wife bought a house, started a family, and have been kept busy every since. Soul still plays, but not nearly as much as he used to.

Even I dropped my WoW subscription toward the end of Mists, when I realized I wasn't having fun any more, and I focused on other MMOs instead.

***

Yet here we are, almost 10 years in, and PC is still around.

What have I learned over the years?

  • That I could live on 4-5 hours sleep for an indefinite period. I tend to get my best writing done late at night or early in the morning, when everything is quiet and I can just focus. 20 years ago, I used to get up at 4 AM and get into work by 5 AM just so I could get about 3 hours of uninterrupted coding and analysis done without interference from the hustle and bustle of the day. Ever since, I've treasured the night as when I'm most productive. 

  • That I don't have to look for approval to write. I used to worry about things such as pageviews and building PC into a real site, but I finally figured out that PC is a real site. I don't need to ask for approval to post articles, and I don't need to worry about how a post might impact the readership at the site. After all, what readership? I know our pageviews quite well, thankyouverymuch, and I know what our number of readers is, give or take about 10-20 people. I've never bothered with monetizing the site, because I'm not an Influencer and I don't seek to profit off of my friends.

  • That persistence is just as important as talent. A blog isn't an easy thing to keep going, year after year. The sort of persistence in keeping a blog up is the same sort of persistence found in a Ph.D student, who keeps the dream alive of getting their Doctorate, through force of will alone. My university degree is in a scientific field that almost requires a Ph.D to get to do significant research, so I've known more than my share of Masters and Doctorate students. And the one thing the successful ones all had was the persistence in getting the work done, day after day and year after year. They weren't necessarily the smartest in their field --I can easily think of examples of the "smart person who never finished"-- but they were persistent. They never gave up. And with this blog, there are times when I thought about shutting it down, but then I've told myself I'm not giving up on my creative outlet.

  • That MMO bloggers are a weird breed. We see things that happen in MMOs and think "that'd make a great blog post". We see Gen Chat discussions and get inspired to write something. We take goofy screenshots because hey, the blog.

  • That MMO bloggers are family. I found people whose blogs are long since in mothballs, but I still talk to them on a regular basis. My fellow bloggers have been through a lot, through weddings, births of their children, and even deaths in the family. Small victories as well as crushing events. But the MMO blogging has kept us together. I exchange Holiday cards with several bloggers, and we chat about life. I've laughed with them, I've cried with them, and I've been willing to listen to them pour their guts out over what's been bothering them. Because that's what family does. You may not be able to choose your genetic family, but you can choose your online family. I'd like to say that I chose these bloggers as friends, but I know what the reality is. They chose me.

***

So here's to an (almost) 10 years.

To people who have shared the journey and have moved on.

To people who still come by and say "Oh crap, what is that guy up to now?"

To people who share the same weird passion for putting themselves out on the internet for a living.

To Parallel Context, the blog that almost didn't have a name.

Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me,
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been.
--Truckin', The Grateful Dead





*Online friends weren't a new thing to me; I've been on the internet since before the WWW was a thing. It's that I'd not kept up with the SF&F community since the GEnie online service imploded, and the community had a large presence on GEnie.

**We had a 2.5MB download connection back then. I suppose you could say that "I was unprepared" for the size of the download.

***DON'T get me started about the historical accuracy of that movie. When I first watched it, with my wife, I had to go walk into the kitchen to keep from blurting things out in the TV room. I was told my face turned a bright shade of red numerous times.

****To be honest, I still have questions to this day, but they're more of the "why did you decide to make the history this way, rather than another way?" variety. There are plenty of times when I think that the history of Azeroth sprang from somebody's homebrew D&D campaign that was created when the players were attempting to be worldly and sophisticated.

*****Despite my output here, roughly 4-6 posts per month, I do like to write; I just don't force myself into constant writing when I know it's just not going to work out.

#Blogger's restrictions are far more of a nuisance these days, when most of the blogging customization tools are written for Wordpress. Every time I look into changing the blog around, I run up against Blogger's limitations, and I really don't have the time to spend writing custom code for Blogger itself to do what I want it to do.

##We had also added a third blogger on two separate occasions, but both of them didn't last long. One had a particularly dislikeable post and both of us called her out on it, and she kind of vanished shortly after. We lost the other due to real life issues pulling her away.

###We ran the instances with 3 people, given that Soul was much higher in level than the content and was --at best-- a middling healer. Soul's wife provided ranged DPS as a Mage, and as long as we weren't overwhelmed by adds we did okay.

####Looking back, I can see that a lot of WoW bloggers that I read vanished over the course of Cataclysm and Mists, and I don't believe that was an accident. I've heard from quite a few people in groups in WoW Classic how they dropped their subscription during those two expacs, and it would make sense that the WoW blogging community merely reflected that.