Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Born To Run: WoW Classic

As I said yesterday, WoW Classic does tend to make me think. Playing the game is a strange combination of laid-back relaxation and quite intense mental activity. The fact that I've somehow ended up choosing to avoid looking up anything outside of the game makes the whole enterprise feel considerably more intense than most gameplay I've been used to for a long while.

After yesterday's post, for which I received some largely justified criticism over making sweeping statements for which I really had no evidence, I'm going to try to row back on the generalities and stick to specifics. It's all too easy to let my mind fly off into wild imaginings about What Classic Means For The Future Of The Genre but it's ludicrously early to be making those kind of grandiose prognostications.

Instead I'm going to attempt, probably with limited success, to focus on things I can stand up; things I've personally experienced and how I feel about them. With luck it might even lead to some shorter, pithier posts. And yes, I know I always say that. I'm attempting some kind of positive re-inforcement here!

I mentioned a while back that I've been taking screenshots in lieu of notes. I'm still doing that to some degree but over the last few days I've been drawn so intensely into the gameplay that I haven't thought to record every interesting detail. I'm mostly relying on memory and we should all know how that goes by now.

It's a very long time since I felt so involved in an MMORPG I forgot to take screenshots. I'd probably have to go back seven years to the launch of Guild Wars 2 or at least four years to its first expansion, Heart of Thorns. I throw myself into each years' EverQuest II expansion with enthusiasm, but I always take small bites. I don't behave as if I'd been let loose, half-starved, on an all you can eat buffet.

Each day I'm playing more hours. A week ago I wasn't logging in until mid afternoon. I was clocking up about five or six hours a day over a couple of sessions. Yesterday I started just after ten in the morning and except for meals and a trip out to pay some bills I didn't stop until ten at night.

One reason I'm playing so much is that everything in game takes an incredibly long time - and I really, really like it that way. I'm finding the endless travel positively addictive, even though objectively much of it does look like intentional time-wasting on the part of the developers.

A familiar view. And if it's not, it will be.

In Duskwood, for example, (more about which anon), there are several multi-part questlines that require you to run the full length of the zone and back for every step. I bloody love it!

At least the drop rates there seem better, as if to compensate. I can imagine a developer sitting down and working out the time-to-complete for every quest and balancing it between kills, drops and travel to make every one come out within seconds of the next.

My Hunter was in Duskwood because by the time he hit twenty-two last weekend, he couldn't find much more to do in Wetlands. This probably has more to do with my insistence on never looking up anything out of game than any actual lack of content.

I'm only doing the quests I happen to find and if it takes me thirty minutes to find the mobs I have to kill or the NPC I have to deliver a parcel to, then that's the gameplay, apparently, that I didn't know I wanted but I do. It took me over an hour to find something the day before yesterday. I almost cracked and looked it up but I resisted and when I finally found the NPC and his camp, which with hindsight was exactly where the quest said it was, I felt enormous satisfaction.

It wasn't just relief that I could stop, the metaphorical negative pleasure that derives from ceasing to bang your head against a brick wall. It was that pure, meaningless, spurious sense of achievement, which is surely what games are for. Well, it's one of the main reasons I play them, anyway.

Before he left Wetlands, my Hunter took a look in his Journal. He had some quests in Redridge that had been red when he got them but which had now turned orange. He hopped on the griffin and off he went.

Finishing those took another day or so, by which time he was twenty-four. I still had some quests left in Redridge but it was insanely busy and anyway I like to keep moving, so I wandered off and found myself in Darkshire.

Duskwood (which I keep thinking is called Darkshire, since that would be a county rather than a town) is a very interesting zone. I remember it fairly well from back when I played Live. I recall finding it somewhat fun but also quite frustrating and eventually depressing, what with the complete lack of sunlight and all.

Baby's First Rare!
This time I found myself really enjoying it. The level range is very broad. I happened to come in at the lower end, where most of the mobs are 19-21 but ranging around I soon found myself running from things several levels above me.

I found the village and took some quests, all of which were orange or red. Orange is the sweet spot. I can solo pretty much any orange con non-elite mob so to do orange quests all I have to do is avoid adds. All! It is to laugh.

The xp, of course, is much better and the quest rewards and drops from orange mobs and quests are generally more useful. I do find drops and rewards in Classic peculiar. Most mobs seem to drop gear that's highly unlikely to be much use to the levels who kill them. I send almost everything to my growing stable of alts.

Occasionally something really good will drop. Yesterday I got a very acceptable green shoulder item (the one I was wearing was actually grey). The only problem was I got it while running back to turn in a quest, the reward for which was... an almost identical green shoulder item. Well, it was cloth, which wouldn't have been ideal. I'd still have used it, though.

One very exciting thing that happened in Duskwood was that I killed my first rare spawn. I was killing starving wolves for some quest (they wouldn't be starving if there weren't so many of them...) when I spotted one that looked a little odd. It turned out to be Lupos.

As a Hunter I should, of course, have tamed him, but in Classic that doesn't seem to be an option on the fly. I'd have had either to release my bear (not going to happen) or stable him, which would mean going back to town, by which time, of course, Lupos would be dead or tamed by someone else. At least, I think that's how it works. Hard to be sure when you're not looking stuff up...

Classic can be quite competitive, even though most people on Hydraxian Waterlords seem pretty cool about it. I decide I ought to go for the wolf in the hand rather than vacillate and lose him altogether. I set the bear on him and killed him fast. He dropped a nice staff, which I later passed on to my Warlock, who should be able to equip it in about five levels.

I do love rare spawns. They were always one of the highlights of roaming the wilderness in EverQuest and I very much appreciate every MMORPG that manages to find space for them. Running across one unexpectedly isn't just a thrill, it's a vindication of the roam-and-hunt playstyle.

Of course, you could look up the spawn patterns and camp them, but who in their right mind would ever do that?

The armor I make is there or thereabouts as good as the at-level or even slightly above level quest rewards.
I guess that's a good thing.

I spent much of Monday and pretty much all of yesterday in Duskwood. People were eternally triggering the final part of The Embalmer questline, which meant the Level 35 Elite, Stitches, was running down the road like a Number 7 bus. Sometimes he made it all the way to the village, where everyone would pile on with the NPCs to wear him down, like a pack of rats bringing down a snarling wolf.

Eventually, after I'd killed countless undead, werewolves and ogres, I took my own place in a group of three to kill Eliza and complete the very lengthy Embalmer questline. It was a total shambles in which all three of us died.

We were all DPS, all of us several levels below the level 31 Elite Eliza. I was the lowest at 26 and I was still reading General chat, thinking the other two hadn't got there yet, when the leader pulled Eliza and dropped immediately to half health.

Our deaths were spaced well enough for those of us still living to get Eliza down. When she died only I was still up, mainly because I'd started ten seconds later than the other two. Eliza's guards, seemingly confused by the disappearance of their mistress, ran amok among a bunch of other players waiting their turn, to whom they eventually succumbed.

I'd taken the opportunity to nip in and snaffle The Embalmer's Heart, needed for the quest, but I could see that the grave was still interactable. Unsure if I'd technically completed the quest, I clicked on it and spawned a new Eliza, complete with guards.

At this point I decided to cut and run. My groupmates had revived and were safe and the other group seemed happy to kill Eliza, although, thinking about it, since she was trying to kill them they didn't have a lot of choice.

I legged it to safety, pursued by a Level 31 guard. He stunned me a few times, killed my pet and left me at about 10% health but I pulled him far enough for his leash to snap him back. I sat down to get my breath, and my health, back.

Hang on! I'm not ready!
Naturally I had no food because when do I ever, so recovery was slow. Too slow to prevent a Venom Spider from spotting me and deciding on Dwarf for lunch. I had no pet and I was about 25% fit. I tried to fight then I tried to run. Then a second spider joined in so I decided to die.

Technically, I didn't die on the Eliza fight. I might have been smug about that, only I died a second time trying to get to the road after I'd done my corpse run. Spiders, low health, no food. I never learn.

All of that could be construed as unenjoyable, frustrating gameplay. Lots of running, incompetent, shambolic group play, multiple deaths. All to get rewards I couldn't even use (cloth shoulders and a shield!).

It was brilliant! I loved ever moment, from the zen-like pounding of my boots up and down the cobbled track to the chaos of the incompetent combat. What's more, today, recounting it here, I can remember every detail. Try and do that with a set of GW2 dailies!

Something about this kind of gameplay tends to encourage the laying down of episodic memories. I would guess that the kind of MMORPG gameplay we've become used to is more likely to lean towards the semantic. We need both but I know which feels more exciting.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to, when I haven't been pontificating about the State of the Genre. Also levelling my Warlock, starting her on Enchanting and getting my Hunter's Leatherworking to 135.

Today, as well as all of that, it's going to be Blacksmithing, Mining and levelling for my Warrior and possibly cooking for my Priest.

It's a full life in Classic!


  1. When I was full-on in love with WoW, it was at a time in my life when I was idle. I'd been laid off from a job and decided to take a few months to goof around before I decided what I wanted to do next. New MMO WoW was waiting for me with open arms and I put the kinds of hours in that you are doing now and had adventures that I can STILL recall today.

    Flash forward to current times. I eventually did try WoW Classic. I squeeze in 1-2 hours of gaming on weeknights. That makes playing time feel precious and I think because of that, WoW isn't as appealing. Like you I LOVED the travel time and running into random folks along the way. But now I keep looking at the clock as I run down a path, thinking about how much I can get done before I have to go to bed.

    So much of our enjoyment of these games seems to come down to time and personal circumstance. How much free time we have and what the culture is like on the server we chose being 2 that I can think of off the top of my head. Who we encounter along the way. When it all comes together right, it's such a precious time. I wish I had appreciated it more when I'd had it all coming together!

    I *HAD* forgotten Stitches, though, and thanks for the reminder. I remember the gauntlet of running in fear from Stitches to getting powerful enough that I could help take him down to being so powerful I'd charge in like a Big Damned Hero to save the lowbies from the beastie! :)

    1. Funny you should mention the available time issue. I was thinking about it when I wrote the last couple of posts. I was wondering exactly that, just how deeply I'd have gotten stuck into Classic had I been working normally and only playing in the evenings and at weekends.

      I've been at home, off sick, since mid-June and Classic coming when it did was very good timing. I'm feeling not too bad at all (fingers crossed), so long as I don't do anything energetic, and it's still probably going to be at least three or four weeks before I think about going back to work, when it will be short hours until I'm fully fit.

      My guess is that I'd have felt somewaht as you do, had I been working. I'd have played Classic but I'd have wanted to get my GW2 dailies done and the EQ2 pres and do three or four blog posts a week. At the moment I can do all of that and still have time to put 6-8 hours into Classic. Couldn't do that in evenings and weekends alone.

      MMORPGs used to be famous for taking up the whole of peoples' lives. They seem to be made for it. It's also a big reason why they have changed the way they have, to accomodate players with families and full time jobs. In a decade or so I can easily see there being a new wave of MMORPGs - or revivals of old ones - designed to cater to the same, aging audience as they begin to hit the post-children, time-rich years and even head into retirement. I've got four years until I retire, all being well, and if I'm lucky enough to have a few good years after that I can think of worse ways to spend them.

    2. I'm in the same job I was in back in 2005 ish. I have kids now so there's a lot less time available on weekends or whenever they aren't sleeping. My weeknight playtime is however quite similar to what I could commit 15 years ago. The main difference in my experience of Classic vs Vanilla is my very heavy involvement in running guilds back in the day. I am still being social and grouping up with random passers by but have avoided guilds mostly this time around. This changes the "feel" of the game considerably. I'll probably join up at some point soon but will not have the time and energy to lead, as I'm already running a "guild" in my other game!

  2. Thanks for answering my comment and being nice about it. I might have gotten carried away a bit in my answer to your post.

    Funnily enough it seems we're even playing on the same server. My small friends and family guild that I've been in for the past 10 years on Moonglade, dragged me into the new guild they made on Hydraxian Waterlords, so we might even run into each other one day. Be nice to an old hunter and his cat.

    Have fun, cheers.

    1. Your very welcome. I really should do a bit more research before making sweeping claims. Hope you're enjoying Classic - it really shouldn't be an either/or choice, let alone any kind of fight!

  3. Duskwood has some odd progression through its quests as you seem to have to keep on running further and further down the road as things move along. There is also, if I recall right, some overlap with Redridge to the northeast. Been by there yet?

    1. I went to Redridge first, then to Duskwood. The level range overlaps a lot so you could do it either way round. I rarely "finish" zones before moving on. I always think I'm going to find something better elsewhere. I went to Arathi HIghlands tonight to see if I could go there to level but it's about 2-3 levels too high so it's back to Duskwood for a bit I think.


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