Look into my crystal ball

The shared topic proposed this week over at Blog Azeroth was:

So what do you guys remember about the older days of WoW?

crystalballBecause I rather like the look of her beads and because she’s underused, I’m going to highjack Ruuna the Blind and her crystal ball for this post.

Let your mind wander, drifting back through time to august 2005. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”… hmm, nope wrong story but the principle applies.

Through the fog, images appear. I see, I see a night elf, young, nervous, wearing pastel blue. She is by water, lots of water and there are other people with her, 39 in fact.

Ignoring the fact that I actually thought my devout set was the pinnacle of cool, we used to meet in Thelsamar to go to Molten Core. Yes, even with hindsight it sounds a little crazy but back then the Horde who outnumbered us were trying to rank farm and we were trying to farm instances. So once they figured out that sitting around in Orgrimmar hoping we all joined the WSG queue wasn’t going to work, they headed out in search of honour points. That meant camping the road between Thorium Point and Blackrock Mountain at raid time. So our somewhat pyscho guildmaster decided we would all meet in Loch Modan and ride crocodilestyle through the tunnel (yes we had to be on follow or else plus everyone had to ride non epic mounts so we all went at the same pace). Once in the mountain, the perilous journey was not yet over. Oh no, there was the risk of being mindcontrolled down into the firey depths, there was the epic framerate dropping caused by 8 or 9 raid groups, plus gankers all crammed into one fairly small space trying to kill each other.

Have to say, I was so happy the day they introduced an instance that didn’t have a lethal pit of doom underneath it.

The vision is changing, I see dark earth, gloomy caverns and imps, lots of imps. Oh and there is some paladin sat in the corner watching you all fight, he looks even more unimpressed than the rest of you.

Out of Combat ressers, now thats something I miss. The standard of play in my guild went up soon after Blizzard fixed that little caper by adding pulses to force everyone into combat. Although that coupled with 5 minute blessings must have made paladins a nightmare to play. By the time you have buffed all 40 people its almost time to start replacing them again.

Why Imps?

Someone always pulled the imp cave whilst we were fighting Lucifron. Usually just after the raidleader said “don’t pull the imps”.

Once again the images swirl and change. Plaguebloom, diseased animals. There is a darkness here and danger. I sense danger, a warrior perhaps bearing down upon you.

Because of the PvP problem I mentioned earlier, outside raid time the Horde would tend to roam the Plaguelands looking for strays, stragglers and levellers who could be hunted down and slaughtered. Thus doing anything whether it be herbing, questing or grinding was extremely dangerous. Sorrowhill was no go terrority unless you wanted to end up in one of its open graves yourself.

The one thing I probably miss the most from vanilla WoW was the huge Tarren Mill/Southshore battles. In a way it was perfectly balanced because as one side drove the other back towards their town, the guards would swiftly turn the tide of battle. It was also and perhaps surprisingly a great way to meet people of both factions. After a particularly nasty battle we would often sit in the middle by that tower and duel or emote at each other.

duel01Note the wonderful mismatch of gear and dungeon sets.

Looking back, I think the greatest regret I have is how small my WoW world is these days. Back then I had a large and varied friends list:

  • People I met doing world PvP, both Horde and Alliance – But now there is no world PvP. Lv 80s running around ganking doesn’t count. Whilst it used to be a mechanism to start world PvP, todays lowbie gankers tend to run for the hills the second another lv 80 arrives on the scene. Yesterday for example I got to watch an 80 Boomkin in full PvP gear running away from a Prot warrior after happily killing a 70 warlock. He had zero interest in 80 v 80 but was just hanging out in the Howling Fjord looking for low levels (and no the Lock hadn’t killed his alt).
  • People I met doing same server battlegrounds – It was easy to make friends via the battlegrounds as you tended to keep meeting up with the same people over and over again. Now its rare especially in the larger battlegroups that you see the same person more than once or twice.
  • People who could craft rare recipes – Pretty much covered either by guildmates or the auction house.

From raiding to doing dailies these days pretty much everything I do is with some who shares my guildtag. With server transfers/name changes and a feeling of anonymity the sense of community outlined in the screenshot above has pretty much disappeared. We have gone from being a small village like community to being a massive city where no one knows their neighbours but you can get a MacDonalds 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the game and in some ways I’m glad its evolved, better quest mechanics, more interesting questlines, better looking instances, but I do miss that sense of belonging not just to a guild, but to something bigger than that. Now thats the maudling over with, other random standout memories include:

  • Rank farming. The nervous anticipation just before the honor was calcuated as you waited to see whether you had gone up.
  • Downranking spells. I loved using lesser heal in Naxxramas the first time around.
  • The Benediction quest.
  • The spider cave on Teldrassil –  That cave is littered with the corpse of my very first character. I still avoid it like the plague even now.

I think thats part of the staying power of WoW. The game is fluid, once you master one element something else is added or altered. Looking back I have memories that make me laugh, memories that make me sad (primarily guilds collapsing) and those that make me happy. At the end of the day, you really can’t ask for anything more from a computer game.

1 reason why I love playing Night Elves

Even our NPCs are total bitches and fashion snobs.

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Just have to hope the poor little “bumpkin” never learns Darnassian.

bitching01Even the cat laughs at him. It turns out rather sweetly I thought his robes were “Hand-sewn with love by Modoru’s grandmother” and can be purchased for the princely sum of 50g from Hakmud of Argus. Grandma Modoru obviously is churning them out at great speed and given the price will probably have the last laugh.

Oh Undead Brother, Where art Thou!

knowyourenemy

We looked everywhere as well:

  • No Undead’s poisoning Stanley or illtreating the good farmers of Hillsbrad fields.
  • Not a single one lurking in the shadows of Nesingwary’s STV camp
  • A search of Dustwallow Marsh yielded several ret paladins and a troll mage, but not one Forsaken.

So to combat this dire situation, I decided to roll another Undead priest and I urge everyone else to do the same. Save this noble and diseased race by adding to its numbers now before its too late.

In case you need any more motivation, here are my top ten reasons why the Undead are the backbone of the Horde and quite plainly the best race out there.

  1. All the other races spawn in the open air, if not lush gardens. Undeads  awaken in a crypt. Crypts are far better conversation pieces.
  2. Gutterspeak – “evolved in the shady underground of black markets and rogues’ guilds as the tongue spoke by people of ill-repute”. Who doesn’t want to speak the language of people of ill-repute?
  3. Be the only race that doesn’t spend hours running around the Undercity totally lost (disclaimer: being undead doesn’t neccesarily mean you get a working sense of direction).
  4. Casting animations which will make you the envy of the rest of the Filthy Animal’s clientale. No having to spend a fortune on Nogginfogger for you.
  5. The Undead starter zone has some of the best quests in WoW. Who can resist the temptation to feed poisoned pumpkin to some unsuspecting prisoner.
  6. Your leader is a hawt Banshee. Compare that to every other species and then feel smug.
  7. The Forsaken are the only race who get to celebrate PvP victory by eating their enemy’s corpses. Nothing makes people release faster than having some half dead boney thing nibbling at their body. Plus cannibalize means you are never far from your next snack.
  8. The Undercity Elevators are marginally less likely to eat Forsaken. However since they are evil demonic creatures hellbent on destroying civilisation, marginal is pretty marginal.
  9. The Undead’s have the best epic mounts. Sure they will sell to any random Horde, but who knows what kind of dodgy model they hand out to someone who doesn’t speak the language of the gutters. You don’t want a skeleton horse that falls apart every five  minutes now do you?
  10. Apothecary Keever. How could anyone not want to be part of the same race as him?

undead01This beautiful specimen is my little Undead Priest. General Dornröschen. The only one of my characters to actually display a title, mainly because farming rank 12 cost blood, sweat and tears. Luckily most of them weren’t mine but its only good manners to show the title really when it cost so many so much.

Besides, Undead with bunches look so wrong in a fashion which is so right.

So come on, join the dark side today. They have mushrooms, coffins and a backbone you can hang your hat on.

(In the end my hunter joined a lv 39 WSG and found a poor unsuspecting undead warlock to pick on, but still… roll more undead people).

Through the Looking Glass

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Whilst running around the Caverns of Time (it turns out those mobs still hit holy priests pretty hard) I couldn’t help but notice the various different human models in Southshore.

Why can’t we make humans who look like this? Blizzard can hardly argue evolution as Old Hillsbrad wasn’t that long ago. Yet, taking this particular picture into consideration the milkmaidesque girl would make an excellent holy priest or mage. Even the hairstyle is completely different to anything currently on offer at the character selection screen.

humans03

I would also pay good money to make my warlock look like the picture above. Wouldn’t mind the dresses either, wonder their patterns are used elsewhere in game (guess thats something to look for next time the servers are down). Given that these and other models already exist its a shame that we don’t have more choice when it comes to making our characters.

Laziness and screenshots

I’ve been slacking off from writing for the past week partly due to hardmodes, (hate hate hate Freya plus 3, maybe its because half our guild are basement dwelling troglodyte’s who have this lethal fascination with feeling sunbeams on their face), partly due to my little hunter who is not so little anymore and partly because I had a migraine for three days.

Normal service will be resumed however today is screenshot day so without further ado I present the Gnomeling’s piccie.

happyhalloweenTitled “Nightelf within a pumpkin” its a moving and thought inspiring picture. Is the Nightelf being devoured by the giant squash? Who knows. Perhaps those pumpkin farmers in the Tirisfal Glades have created a weapon of war, the ultimate squash to crush the forsaken and serve them in a pie.

In comparison my picture is actually quite boring.

eekFollowing on the theme of giant and probably evil creatures I give you ….. a very scary Dwarf. Imagine encountering that on the battlefield. Being crushed behind its huge dwarfian feet or worse pick up and devoured, the very thought of it makes me shudder.

Screenshot Saturday

Because I have huge folders full of screenshots and partly because I’m lazy, Saturdays will be screenshot days. The basic idea is to post a random screenshot from my folders and one from the Gnomeling’s. Do we take pictures of the same things? I’m guessing not, but this one way of finding out (yes, I could just browse his folder, but this is more random and thus more exciting).

So here is my first picture:

tabasco01

Its my little undead priest nestling into the Gnomeling’s warrior. Tauren fur is one way to keep the chill off exposed bone and whilst its optional whether you keep it on the cow or not, they seem to prefer snuggling to skinning.

Below we see the first offering from the Gnomeling’s folder.

lazygnomeThe golden ball of light in the background is my poor long suffering paladin running his lazy leveling ass through BRD. Had I known he was semi afk in the corner taking amusing screenshots I would have run a load of constructs over his head.

Fauna

Does everyone have a go to alt? The character you reroll without fail on every server you play on. The Gnomeling tends to fall back to warriors or druids (3 warriors and 3 druids all level 60 and above) and I’m drawn to hunters, partly I suspect because I’m a sucker for the pet aspect.

So I’m currently trying to level hunter number 9ish. Every server I’ve ever played on has some low level hunter discarded and strewn across it but this time its actually going to go somewhere (somewhere ideally being the level cap). The gnomeling is leveling  a paladin and the two seem to work well together. Judgement of Light with the odd mend pet thrown in is enough to keep my little wolf alive. We both have some aoe abilities as well as the ability to pull aggro to share the load in sticky situations (distracting shot, 2 paladin taunts and my pet’s growl) plus plenty of cc in the form of freezing & frost traps and hammer of justice.

I’m leveling as marksman simply because I’ve tried leveling as the other two specs whilst playing with my previous hunter incarnations and I wanted to try something new. As for pets, my first choice was a wolf. In fact I ran all the way to Mulgore at level 10 to grab a prairie wolf (the one who barks when you click on him which is surprisingly addictive). Furious howl seems to be a fairly large boost to dps even at low levels plus I’ve always been drawn to wolves.

fauna01

However I picked up a bear to help with tanking/aoeing and grinding packs is certainly going well at the moment. Its hard to practise learning basic hunter skills though when mobs in the world are so easily breezed through. When you combine the fire festival buffs with the BoA shoulders and weapon, the combination of ret paladin and hunter seems fairly unstoppable (apart from by all the level 80 horde riding around stealing flames… grrr). So we ventured into the Stockades at lv 22 to see how we would fair in there. Apart from some sticky bad pulls and trap resists we managed to clear the instance even killing Basil.

Things I want to practise:

1. Kiting. This used to be a crucial part of being a hunter. Think of fights like Razorgore (all our hunters used to feign death when the raidleader was asking for kiting volunteers), Gluth and of course the quest for the epic bow which all hunters should do. But when its easiest to learn, i.e. as you level, whats the point of jump kiting when you can two shot stuff?

2. Pet management. Making sure he’s building threat on multiple mobs and that he doesn’t have his back to any of them can be frustating.

3. Remembering to use everything in PvP. For example I use disengage all the time if I pull aggro whilst grinding yet I have to think about it when fighting melee.

Looking forward to the first Alterac Valley bracket as its a great playground for learning to play a class properly. You have PvE encounters so you need to watch your threat as a dpser, or produce threat if you are tanking. You have lots of players to kite around and kill. There are the mines full of annoying little kobolds or the harpy cave to practise pet management. In short, everything a budding hunter needs to explore their class whilst having lots of fun.

Redridge Blues

redridge

After my very first character, I tended to stay clear of  leveling through Redridge. The ground looked too parched, too red. Orcs and weird doglike people lurked in the hills beyond the safety of the town itself… in short an ugly zone best avoided. Then wanting a change of scene the Gnomeling dragged me to Lakeshire, a  vacation of sorts. Whilst traversing the lake in search of snouts, I noticed for the first time just how pretty it looks in summertime.

Still hate the zone though. Seriously we got ganked three times whilst trying to do an escort quest by three separate and completely random Horde. Guess the opposing faction also like its crystal blue waters, maybe the Orcs are running a spa or something. What was so frustrating about the whole thing was the first time we actually managed to kill the lame little mage (first attacker), but not before he slaughtered our poor injured soldier inches from the safety of the town. This game would be so much better if escorted NPCs could actually move faster than snails.

School’s in session!

I’m having a bit of a retro week, brought on in part by the nostalgia value of the Fire Festival.

Scholomance. Even the name sends whispers down your spine. A school of dark magic, where the tortured screams of the damned still drift across the water and even heroes fear to tread.

To enter you need a key. I must admit if I were going to make a school for sorcery and general evilness, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the door openable by anyone who bothers to run around the world giving gold to goblins and climbing volcanos. Impregnable fortress seems to be a concept unknown to the Scourge, think Scholomance, Stratholme and Naxxramas, all easily accessed by any wandering hero. Although I suppose it has its advantages, must make getting fresh body parts that little bit easier if people just come sauntering through the front door like lambs to the slaughter.

Key Quest Chain

Other less orthodox methods of gaining entry include

  • Warlocks can hellfire themselves to death and pop under the door whilst ghostlike (Lifetap first otherwise it takes a while).
  • Paladins can DI a friend and do the same
  • Rogues with the necessary lockpicking skill can be roguelike and pick the lock
  • Blacksmiths can use their all purpose keys
  • I believe you can also fling yourself from the battlements like a jilted lover and res beyond the door

Part of my fondness for Scholomance comes from the fact it was the first instance I set foot in at 60 and its gothic feel attracted me from the start. Its a huge sprawl of a place, with summoned bosses, extra bosses and hidden treasures squirreled away. One visit really isn’t enough to learn all of its dark secrets.

Quests: These are engaging, drawing the reader into the tragic tale of a noble house whose members found darkness, death and slaughter was the path to immortality.

As I read through Eva Sarkhoff’s tragic tale of torture I was sold.

The undead surrounded us, constantly tormenting us with horrifying acts of depravity. Finally, he came. He introduced himself as Doctor Theolen Krastinov. We came to know him as the butcher…We finally understood what the screams were from. The Butcher exposed us to pain that we did not know existed. He used us in countless experiments to devise a plague. The days turned to weeks. We would have died on that first day had it not been for that cruel bastard keeping us alive through magical means….We feel nothing. Our souls remain here, in limbo. We are unable to leave until our remains are found and spirits laid to rest.”

You have a purpose. Its obvious these people are evil, they commited terrible terrible crimes. As you venture into their unhallowed halls avoiding the cobwebs, you are bringing justice to the anguished dead. I wanted to help them, to give the butcher a taste of his own medicine and steal his shirt.

scholo07

Visual Looks: Just like any good gothic horror Scholomance makes an impact even as you cross the bridge into Caer Darrow. Riding up to the Castle through the ruins of the village sends a shiver down your spine. A feeling reinforced as you enter the cellars, all those books on magic, necromacy and other such unspeakable things. So many students working away over broken body parts and things raised from the dead. The fact they haven’t dusted since they cut all the servants up into little bits helps add to the atmosphere.

scholo03

The place is obviously evil, even small children know that cobwebs, dusty tomes and skeletons mean haunted. Add in candelabras loaded with wax dripping candles and wrought iron and if this was a movie, I would be behind the sofa.

scholo09Undead Ted. Makes you wonder what horrors those cross stitched eyes have stared blankly at. Wonder whose toy he was? One of the Barov’s or perhaps a servant child’s, either way its likely his or her owner met an unfortunate end.

Unique looking NPCs. Too many instances give us exactly the same mobs as those outside and quite often we get a whole instances full of the same looking creatures with little distractions. I want the opportunity to make a shadow priest who looks like this. A nightelf who exposed day after day to the corrupting shadows has been altered phyisically.

scholo05

Boss encounters. The last two expansions have gone for small instances, quickly run with 4 to 5 bosses usually in a linear fashion. I rather like the sprawl of Scholomance in comparison. Jandice lurking in the basement, the bane of level 60 PuGs. The fact that when you add in the mini bosses around the ring you have most types of fights included, melee hard hitting bosses, magic ones and those with horrible auras. Then for the final course we have Gandling and his grand entrance, “School’s in session”. Including the summoned bosses and mini bosses, Scholo has a grand total of 13 bad guys compared to the average 4 in Wrath of the Lich King. Thats a huge difference.

I would love to know how Kirtonos went from running a funeral home in Stratholme to feasting on the blood of innocents with a succubus as a stewart.

Left Luggage.

Reasons for running Scholomance as a Level 80

  • Tier sets –  For RP reasons or simply for nostalgia reasons, pick up the very first tier set ingame.
  • Sawbones Shirt – One of the 4 BoP shirts ingame.
  • Darkrunes – Whilst they have lost most of their usefulness, they still work on General Vezax.
  • Felcloth bag recipe – worth picking up for warlock alts/tailors who want every recipe
  • Alchemy recipes
  • Quests – For both the Loremaster and Seeker achievements
  • Argent Dawn rep

In conclusion, to me at least Scholomance is one of those majestic old Grand Dame instances. Its still got a faded beauty hidden away beneath its veil of dust and cobwebs. Plus I had so many bad experiences with Jandice back when every warlock wanted their dreadmist shoulders for Molten Core, I relish the opportunity to pay her a visit these days and chaos bolt her face.

And The Flames Went Higher

Having proved her worth as a mighty juggler, Erinys was rewarded with the title of Flame Warden today.

flame01The slightly weird expression  on her face could be explained away by the copious amounts of alcohol she consumed on her way into Darnassus or simply by the fact she is on fire.

I have to admit the Fire Festival is one of my favourites.

Trashy rewards that clog up your bag space – check

An excuse to run around the Old World – check

Silly dailies that don’t require mass murder or jousting – check

I am however still a little unsure of the details. According to Blizzard, “brilliant bonfires have been lit to signify the hottest months of the year.” Fine, that makes sense in places like Tanaris, Stranglethorn Vale and the like. Deserts where the heat of the sun makes everyone seek shelter and humid sweltering jungles. But Winterspring and Northrend? The snows are not melting, the temperatures are still icy cold so why are we dancing around bonfires?

flame03Then in places like Duskwood, where the dead walk and worgen lurk within the woods why are a bunch of revellers taking the time to hang out next to a ruined cottage looking after a fire that brings no one any warmth? Of course even the hardest of heroes need some chill out time and who can resist toasted smorcs and midsummer sausages wrapped within a fire roasted bun as you sit around a fire watching the sun set. Yet, I have doubts still.

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