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.

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.