Monday, May 7, 2018

Pony Pony Run Run : Wizard 101

If I wanted to finish Inventory Full off for good, turning it into a Wizard 101 blog would be a pretty good way to go about it. I don't think I've seen anyone in this corner of the blogosphere (can spheres have corners?) mention the game since Tipa stopped posting about it back in 2012. It's a risk but I can only write about what I'm playing (yeah, right...) so here's my third post in a row about the Hogwarts-inspired MMO.

W101 will be ten years old this September. It's notoriously difficult these days to estimate the health of an MMORPG because of all the tricks developers employ to hide any deficiency in population or popularity, but as far as can be told, things seem to be holding up pretty well for a game nearly a decade old.

Certainly the central F2P areas are teeming with players and there are a number of channels or shards or servers (I forget what Kingsisle calls them) to choose from, some of which appear to be "full". Further into the game, past the velvet rope that separates the freeloaders from the paying customers, population thins out somewhat, but then I can only see the low-to-mid game areas, the part of every MMO of a certain age most likely to suffer from de-population. It's highly likely the heavily-populated areas will be at end-game.

With names hidden it's hard to tell who's a player and who's an NPC sometimes.

Canny readers (assuming I have any readers of any degree of mental acuity left) will by now have worked out for themselves that, yes, I re-subscribed. Only for a month and I have already pre-cancelled to prevent an accidental rollover, particularly since I'll be away and unable to play for the two weeks that would otherwise immediately follow renewal, but money has nonetheless changed hands.

It only seemed reasonable. I spent whatever time yesterday I didn't spend out and about in the glorious sunshine, indoors playing the game. Partly what drove me to re-sub was the eye-candy.

W101 is one of those MMOs that features jaw-dropping, attention-grabbing mounts, everything from vintage cars and hoverboards to dragonflies and hydras. After someone sped past me on rollerblades, complete with hip-swaying animation, followed by someone else riding a fox, I decided I'd had enough of jogging around in my unfashionable trainers.

See fox. Want fox.

We didn't have mounts back when I played before so I had no real idea how to get one. I guessed they might be quested or dropped (they are - something to look into in detail later) but if there's a cash shop that's always the first place to try.

It turns out you can rent Temporary mounts that last a week or so via the Crown Store or an NPC but I never feel comfortable on a mount that's going to melt, especially since these particular loaners are hardly cheap anyway. Permanent mounts cost somewhere between 5000C and 15000C which is $10-$30. It's not unreasonable by established MMO practice but still more than I want to spend on a single item in a game I might only play for a couple of weeks.

Some things in W101 can be bought for either Crowns or Gold, the in-game currency. The Crown Store has a tab for paying with Gold but only a small proportion of the items are on it. Even those that are, are also far from obvious. Anyone would think it was done that way on purpose but I'm sure that can't be right...

Do I look like an eight year-old girl?
Don't answer that.
I tracked them down eventually, even if, in the end, I had to resort to yet more googling, wiki-reading and YouTube watching, something that's becoming a definite pattern with this game. Finally, I found some suitable mounts, including one I could afford, although it would nearly have bankrupted me. I have just over 60k Gold from my first run in the game and the cheapest mount, a pony, is 50K. And I don't want a pony.

That got me thinking about how I might make some more Gold. While I was musing on that I did a few quests. First I finished surveying The Commons and got my Range Pole. Then I started clearing out a few old quests from my journal. I ran into a Bear from Grizzleheim and did some errands for him, which unexpectedly gave me a peek at his home world, which I believe was added not that long after I stopped playing.

That in turn started me wondering about all the other, newer Worlds I'd never seen. One thought led to another and next thing I knew I had my wallet out.

With the entire game at my disposal as a paid-up Member, where did I choose to go? Marylebone, the canine version of Victorian London, that's where. Ostensibly I was still clearing out old quests. I did one, then another and then I ran into Sherlock Bones, who had some new mystery on the go.

You can't turn down a request for help from a legend like Sherlock, which is how I found myself an hour and a half into a forty-five minute dungeon, facing a Tier 5 Boss and his T5 Elite henchman. He wasn't even the final boss, either. She was standing on the sidelines, watching, no doubt waiting to provide the coup de grace should I somehow stumble to victory.

Well, there was no chance of that. I'd already had to create myself an entirely new build just to get past the previous two encounters with T4 Elites. I died about four times before I got that right. The T4 Elites had about 1800 HPs each. The T5 Boss had over 5,000.

I was too busy dying to take many combat screenshots.

I tried him once then gave up. Clearly I need to level some more, upgrade my gear, find a whole load of new spells and come to some basic understanding of how to play before I'm going to be of any use to Sherlock as a Baker Street Irregular.

I went back to journal-clearing and had a lot more luck with a different Boss from some old quest I'd forgotten to finish. Things were definitely looking up and I was about to move on to the next step in that chain when I realized I'd been playing for somewhere close to five hours without a break. I'd almost forgotten how that feels.

My memory of Wizard 101 is that it can be both very immersive and addictive and yet tiring and tedious at the same time. It's one of those "just one more try" games, which is fine when the one more try turns out to be the winning turn but not so good when it's just another in a long line of failures.

At the moment, though, it feels fresh and exciting, not least because I have such an enormous amount to learn. I plan on playing as long as it stays fun and stopping when it isn't. First thing on the agenda: make some money.

Hmm. I think that calls for some more googling...


  1. Eh, I'm sure I'm not the only one who's quite happy to read about your adventures in an MMO I don't personally play and know little about! That's what I've always come to your blog for, so I wouldn't worry too much about alienating your readership. ;)

  2. Agreed. This sort of content is why I'm here.

  3. Thanks, Shintar and XyxxySqrl, for your votes of confidence! It's my blog and obviously I'm going to write what I want and it's also a diary of sorts, where I did specifically want to record some of the detail in the recent W101 posts to look back on later. Even so, it did seem a bit over the top doing three posts in a row, out of the blue, on such an old, well-worn game, which is what led me to mention it.

    Something different today, I hope, providing there's no NDA on the thing I want to write about.

  4. It's been a long while since I've commented because I'm the worst sort of reader hiding behind feedly and not participating but I hopped on here to offer some additional encouragement for W101. I rather enjoyed it a few years back and whilst I haven't found my way back yet, it's inevitable. I enjoy the willful wandering around MMO's; your prose and thoughts are greatly appreciated!


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