First Thoughts on 6.0.2

Patch days always fill me with foreboding, especially those which herald the end of an expansion. We know that as the sun goes down on the current incarnation of the game, that in a sense we have to learn anew and regardless of how positive those changes are, that always floods me with nervousness.

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The addition of new faces for old and familiar characters was a huge issue for me but somehow it’s worked out okay. My Gnomes have attitude by the bucket load of malfunctioning engineering gizmos and my Nightelf Priest, well she looks distinctly holier than thou now. A few hairstyles will need changing and I think my Monk and I will need a while to get reacquainted but nothing I can’t deal with. The Toybox and the reagent bank have proved invaluable. I actually have bag space.. something almost unheard of for me and across all my characters I seem to have wracked up 68 toys so now everyone can wreck trains and plant sinister blue dolls places.

No, the thing which has bothered me most about everything I’ve experienced today has to be Nethergarde Keep, that almost forgotten outpost lurking in the Blasted Lands.

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I know war is meant to be bloody and horrible, but this just seemed a step too far. For the first time since Theramore I’m angry, angry that another town was lost and I could nothing to save it. Angry that NPCs who have been apart of our journey through WoW since the very beginning are once again broken and bloodied amidst burning buildings and battered brick. Sure I now have another title and a new pet but that’s not enough. Poisoning Ogres helped but they aren’t the real enemy. In a way that the Lords of War clips couldn’t, this brief little quest chain has left me wishing to rain destruction down on the Iron Hordes.

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The Dorrie Report

Well short of a miracle I suspect my little Warlock won’t be completing the Green Fire quest before the patch. The blame for this is entirely my own as I’ve been a bit magpie-ish in recent weeks. I went through a bubble of “must read every Agatha Christie/Ngaio Marsh and similar crime novel I can lay my hands on” then there was my temporary insanity regarding Dragon Age Fan Fiction and even a spot of soup making. In short, anything apart from playing WoW.

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Even when I have been playing, I’ve been more interested in farming those toys I’m missing from the soon to be implemented Toybox than I have been leveling poor little Dorrie. The sad thing is, it was all going so swimmingly until around level 50 but I just can’t get my head around the gutted Un’goro Crater or the changes to Winterspring even though Cataclysm was years ago. So the current state of play is level 53 with approximately two weeks to go. Given that I’m currently “resting” I do have enough time on my hands to get her to 90 or at least exceedingly close but whether or not I have the real desire to do so, I’m not so sure.

On a Quest for the Best Quests : Dustwallow Marsh Alliance

Edit: Thanks to @spacebard for pointing out my Freudian slip with the name of the zone, as I prefer the place at twilight or dusk I have a terrible habit of calling it Duskwallow plus I suspect the correct name annoys me on some basic level because it’s not dusty in the slightest.

Leveling my Warlock has made me realise one fairly important fact, well two if you count that it highlights just how much I’m a creature of habit. Each zone seems to have at least two or three attractions within it, things which even if I’m just passing through I tend to be lured towards. Obviously this comes down to personal opinion and preferences but now I find myself wondering if this is true of every zone in game. Is there something  whether it’s because of the lore, the rewards or just the quirkiness which makes each individual zone interesting and worth repeating?

Well there is only one way to find out!

Today I want to look at Dustwallow Marsh, a zone I’ve always loved even back in the days when the Alliance barely had any quests here apart from the wonderfully convoluted “The Missing Diplomat” which had you running around Azeroth in search of the missing King. I know we could hardly be hunting Varian when he’s standing brooding in the Keep, but I wish when they redesigned the zone, they had left in the bit where Jaina and the Archmage port in to capture the bad guys.

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The one quest chain I always complete when I wander through the Marsh is that tragic tale of Smiling Jim and his unlucky family. There is something about Jim with his broken mind, perhaps the one person in the walled city for whom the destruction of Theramore was a blessing which always inspires me onwards to track down those responsible and of course to lay a wreath on the grave of his wife and son.

Flicking through my archives, I wrote about this chain way back in 2010 before Cataclysm ripped everything asunder and it’s interesting that unlike most quests in Azeroth it hasn’t actually changed much between now and then. The bread crumb from the Wetlands is gone but the essence of the chain remains the same.

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The second quest I tend to make a bee-line for is that terrible tale of a sea monster  named Tethyr. The chain begins with a quest to help a curious Gnome restart the Theramore Lighthouse and then once  you’ve got it going again, you learn from Nat Pagle that not only are legends of a sea monster off Theramore real but that Tethyr was the real reason they closed the lighthouse in the first place.

Yes, Tethyr is certainly real, and he lives in the waters off Theramore.

Has a thing for bright lights. He’s the reason they shut down the lighthouse in the first place, you know…

And if you light it up again, he’ll come right back. But no one in their right mind would do that.

Everyone’s favourite in-game fisherman and of course giant monsters with huge teeth are always going to be a winning combination.
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The Marsh is also the location of my favourite escort quest in the whole of Azeroth although to be fair that’s not particularly hard since I hate the rest of them with a passion.  Escorting Stinky through the marshlands as he pauses searching for what you assume the first time around is some tiny little flower hidden in the long grasses and swamp waters and saving him from angry crocodiles is fun enough by itself but that moment when you realise that plant which has taken him five minutes to find is actually the giant root you can see for miles…

The last thing I always do is pay Oxynia a visit in her lair and ponder the issue which has bothered me since the first time I killed her way back when, exactly who is the father of all those whelps? Our Priest chat* at the time decided it was either Bolvar or Marshal Windsor (well he knew she was Dragon…) although there are exceedingly dodgy theories out there on the internet if you are feeling brave enough to search for them.

*No one actually talked about Priesting, unless you count loot.

Nostalgia – That Bittersweet Pill

Nostalgia is a funny thing. In someways those first few years playing WoW were my happiest, playing with a stable group of people, raiding high end content and generally enjoying myself.Yet when I unpick those memories most of them aren’t hugely happy ones. I’ve certainly been left wary of trusting others, of fully engaging with my current guild because of things which have gone before.

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I’ve just spent the afternoon running UBRS remembering how much I loathed the place when it was current content, when the General only dropped one blood and therefore you had to run it over and over again to get your whole raid attuned for Blackwing Lair. I remember having to solo heal it one day in a raid of 15 because the other Priest took offense when someone linked the healing meter (not me) and set out to smite the rest of the run. The wipes because people adored hugging the whelps or being knocked off various ledges and edges. The fights we would have to convince the rest of the group that they’d should do Solakar Flamewreath because Priests deserved a shot at their dungeon set shoulders just like everyone else. Then there was the night we had to go and rescue a guildmate who joined an UBRS raid three or four hours before hand so that he could raid with us the following night and when he finally asked for help, they’d only made it as far as the Rookery… I think I still have nightmares about that PuG.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of WoW, I find myself questioning why I’m still here, why I haven’t learnt from past mistakes and run away as fast as my legs would carry me.  There are plenty of decisions the Developers have made which have left me rolling my eyes but the flip side of that is they’ve also done things I love, Hallows End and Ulduar being prime examples. Besides if they always got it right for me, they would be no doubt a fairly large subsection of people criticizing that because they just don’t like or enjoy the same things as me. Yes it’s a balancing act but it’s not as simple as say deciding not to read a book because either things contained within the text revolt you or you just think a five year old could produce more literary merit. Take Fifty Shades of Grey for example, a friend gave me the first one stating I’d love it. I read the first few chapters in a mix of disgust and horror, imagining Thomas Hardy rolling in his grave and made a conscious decision not to purchase any of her books. WoW on the other hand is more than just a game, it’s a community, something which inspires and pushes me. Do the pluses out way the negatives, I’d argue yes they do at least in my current circumstances as I sit here trying to figure out a way of coping with ante-natal depression and what comes after. Besides, I think there is hope for WoW. People can and do change their minds and their perspectives, it’s just about keeping the dialogue going in such a way that everyone can engage with it. After all, when someone creates something and pushes it out into the Public view then they have to expect criticism. I read English Literature at University and that’s pretty much all we did, unpick other people’s words trying to get inside their heads. Art History contains a fairly hefty criticism component. We have book reviews, Food critics and people who write about the Theatre so why should the Gaming Industry expect to be any different?

Imposing Order on Chaos

I’ve been struggling to write recently. My depression is mostly definitely back with a vengeance and whilst I know what’s causing it, it’s very hard to deal with right now. Add to the mix the fact that I’ve had to finish work because of the cause of said depression so am alone and quite isolated for 11 hours a day five days a week and my motivation for life in general has taken a turn for the worse. That said, in an effort to break the spell of self loathing, I’m going to attempt to write my way out of it. I can’t guarantee it will work but I need to do something to break the cycle plus crying all the time is playing havoc with my skin.

Therefore I’m going to attempt to create something a bit like a posting schedule with the idea of trying to do at least three posts per week. One possibly on transmogrification or toys, one of something current whether the beta or just something which has annoyed me that week and finally a screenshot post. For the latter, I suspect I’ll be having yet another go at Tycertank’s A Screenshot A Day challenge at least to begin with. I’m also hoping that once I get back into the swing of sitting down and scribbling something, reflex will take over. Although I’m not brave enough to set fixed days on which to write because that seems to be asking for trouble.

Setting goals right now might be up there with some of the stupidest things I’ve ever done or it might be the one thing which helps me get through the next six months with my sanity relatively intact, without trying I’ll never know and given that my attempts to explain to the medical profession how I feel have gone ignored because apparently despite large amounts of evidence to the contrary, women in my position don’t feel depressed, I have to do something.

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The Truth about Challe

Witchcraft has been on my mind these last few days. In part because of the rowan tree laden with berries in my new back garden but also due to the chaos of moving which always makes you look at your possessions in a new light.

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This was a post I started almost a year ago but took no further. I think my intention was to write about the Jade Witch, Hallows End and my favourite Warlock trainer but can’t be too sure but my original working title seems to have been The Witches of Warcraft. Today however inspired by something I discovered on the beta, I thought I’d resurrect it.

One of my all time favourite stories as a child was that of Baba Yaga, my Grandmother and Great Grandmama could tell it in such a way to have shivers racing down your spine. I still don’t like dark forests when the mist comes in because for all you know, that scratching sound, the wind on bark perhaps could be the chicken feet of Baba Yaga’s hut watching and waiting. So there I was riding around Nagrand on an Orc Hunter, exploring and looking for new pets to tame when I came across this rather creepy looking cave.

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I mean fairy stories should teach us all that people who hang wind catchers made of skulls outside their caves have to be approached with caution.
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Inside the cave turned out to be even more creepy, I mean who puts that many nails in a poppet?
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It was the woman inside who caught my attention though. She’s not the first Challe to be encountered in the hills of Nagrand after all. At first because I hadn’t done any quests here I thought perhaps it’s just a mistake or laziness on Blizzard’s part but somehow it kept nagging at my brain. To that point that I even logged on to live and flew to Nagrand to confirm that my memory wasn’t playing tricks.

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Of course on discovering that Challe on Live was Troll, I thought it must just be coincidence but my over active imagination wouldn’t let it drop and instead of logging back onto my Nightelf, I thought I’d do a spot of Orcish questing and with hindsight, I’m so glad I did. A couple of very sad quests later of which I won’t go into details because it spoils the emotional impact of doing them yourself, it seems that Miss Challe, she of the isolated orphanage isn’t quite so charitable and kind after all. In fact, she’s the sort of face eating monster who lurks in the shadows and really shouldn’t be trusted with children. In fact she really deserved having “her” face eaten by my pet cat as displayed in the picture below.
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Of course this helps put certain things about her Home for Little Tykes into perspective, the little Orc boy caged in bones for example and the large quantity of red meat and bones in the kennel take on whole new sinister meaning but that’s what I love about Warcraft and this particular expansion in general. As it gives us the ability to see beyond face value, to engage with characters who have fascinated or interested us for years and potentially to kill them, adding another dimension to the game.

For those of you wishing to see the chain for yourself on the Beta, it’s Horde only (sadly) and can be picked up straight away in Nagrand on a Level 100 Premade or a Lv 98 if leveling through. Gar’rok, the quest giver can be found by the Throne of the Elements, if you’re standing in front of the Giant Elemental types, he’s off to the right hand side up a little path overlooking the lake. The Wowhead link shows a map with his exact position on it.

 

The Return of the Good Old Days – Thoughts on Southshore v Tarren Mill

Tarren Mill versus Southshore was the home of my first forays into PvP as first a Warlock in those halycon days* before the Honor system was introduced when the only people you encountered PvPing actually wanted to be doing it (PvE server) and then whilst leveling my Night Elf Priest on a PvP server. I quickly grew to know every inch of that territory, where you could shadowmeld amongst the trees and hide from rampaging Horde and the easiest way to drop Line of Sight. I still remember clearly the feeling of satisfaction when level 45 or so wearing the Mageweave set and Whitemane’s Chapeau I escaped from a level 60 Enhancement Shaman making all the way from the road to the safety of Southshore much to his annoyance expressed loudly on IRC. It was also where I grew to hate engineering when my Gnomish Net-o-Matic backfired and netted both me and the exceedingly large and angry Tauren Warrior trying to kill me side by side. In the aftermath of that little incident I promptly dropped it and leveled Tailoring instead.

It was there I learnt to PvP, learned to deal with res timers and tried to avoid dying as much as possible. The pattern was always the same, one side would gain ground to the point of entering the opposing side’s town and then would promptly be overwhelmed with guards. The trick being to try and avoid dying in downtown Tarren Mill unless you wanted to spend the next 40 minutes ressing, dying to more guards etc over and over again. The guard spawn would give impetus to the currently losing faction and back you’d go again. Some bright spark would always try and kill the Flight Master to stop people escaping and bring down angry animals all over you. Rogues would always sneak into the Inns and try and kill those licking their wounds and eating up. In many ways it’s predictability helped make it even more fun. We had a Mage guildmate whose favourite trick was to lure the Horde up to the cliffs and promptly slowfall off, much to our surprise, he got away with this time after time after time. It became part of the routine as did the comedy runs around the tower and the Warlocks all wandering off mid battle in search of soul shards.

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Unlike Battlegrounds though, there was a lot less of the hate and venom you see being thrown around these days. Perhaps because everyone was participating because they wanted to rather than searching for some carrot on a stick like the legendary cloak. Yes, not everyone liked losing and there was the odd whiny message on IRC but in most cases, everyone took it in good humour. As the picture above shows (the only one I have left from back then), after the PvP there was silly things like cross faction unarmed boxing matches where everyone played by the rules and no one resorted to using spells or swords.

Therefore I’m sure it comes as no great surprise to anyone that I’m super excited by this announcement by Blizzard.

Tarren Mill vs. Southshore: The Rematch

If you engaged in PvP early on in WoW, you might have fond memories of—and perhaps a few scars from—the endless tug-of-war between Horde and Alliance players at Tarren Mill and Southshore. To recapture that feeling, we’ll be opening a Team Deathmatch–style Battleground based on that timeless struggle. However, unlike the old days of Tarren Mill vs. Southshore, there will be a clearly defined victor, so you’ll need to work as a team or face crushing defeat.

I am of course interested in just how they intend to pull it off. Deathmatch suggests that you start with 100 v 100 but that dying means just that which I admit does take away some of the old school feeling because everyone should experience ressing inside a Tauren mounted on a Kodo somewhere near that Tower between the two towns at least once. However I suspect I’ll be happy regardless although I’d prefer it if they didn’t make the Yeti cave, the farms and the mine count for anything just keep it focused on pure slaughter and of course have the guard spawns because it needs the guard spawns for realism.

As for it only being available for a limited period, I suspect that this could be a good thing. Taking 200 people from the Battleground pool all the time for 1 game would I imagine be problematic and with everything nostalgic it’s probably best to throw yourself in deep for a a month or so until you’re so sick of it, the very mention of it’s name has you gagging rather than want to drag it out. As with all PvP endeavors it probably won’t be for everyone however I hope people give it the benefit of the doubt and try it at least once.

I am of course happy at the thought of a Core Hound mount and a corgi on fire but for me, the reason I’ll be logging during the anniversary is 100 percent the chance to recreate old memories and make some new ones somewhere between Southshore and Tarren Mill.

*This is most certainly tongue in cheek.

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