Sunday, September 8, 2019

Yeah, Yeah, I Got An Alternative: WoW Classic

Shintar, like a few of us playing Classic right now, hasn't been able to resist the lure of the Alt. The alternative character. The one that takes time away from your "Main", the one you're supposed to be playing.

But really, where's the fun in playing just the one character? As Shintar says, there's a "whole wide world of Warcraft" just waiting for you to enjoy and that includes all the classes and races.

So far I'm sticking to The Alliance but on a PvE server I can go Horde if I like. About the only Horde race I do like (in Classic) is Tauren. They always seemed like a truly terrible fit for the supposedly "evil" team. Even the official website describes them as "peaceful". What's a society of placid, nature-worshiping herbivores doing, joining in with war-crazed orcs and biocidal Undead?

Don't bother explaining. I'm sure there's some Lore explanation but I'm not interested. It took me the best part of fifteen years playing EverQuest and its follow-up before I began to understand the lore behind everything my characters had been doing all that time. It'll sink in. Eventually.

After nearly two weeks I have five Alliance characters. A Dwarf Hunter, Level 23. A Gnome Warlock, Level 12. A Human Mage, Level 5. And two that I heven't quite started yet,  a Dwarven Priest and a Gnome Warrior.

Gorgeous stained glass and drapes. Benches apparently hammered together from rough planks. Hmm.

When I logged in this morning the Mage was still Level One, resting at the Inn in Goldshire, for reasons I entirely forget. I collected her mail, more Linen and Wool bags than she could equip. Storage space is the only twinkage so far, although the Warlock, who doubles as a Tailor, will be making her clothes as soon as she's able to wear them. Then I ran her back to the Abbey in Northshire, a starting area I barely know.

The Human starting area is extremely placid and forgiving compared to the bitter, frozen, cul de sac allotted to Dwarves and Gnomes. It was raining in Elwyn Forest but as soon as the Mage came through the gates into Northshire the sun came out.

On a Sunday morning, with Hydraxian Waterlords at Medium, Northshire was bustling with new starters but there were still plenty of kobolds and wolves and Defias to go around. Everything was extremely easy to kill. Most mobs dropped handily at my Mage's feet after a flurry of fireballs just in time for her to pick their charred bodies clean.

It took far less time for her to hit Level 5 than either my Hunter or Warlock had taken. Half as long. Either Humans have it easy or Mages are OP out of the gate. A bit of both, I think.

I really like the human models in Classic. This bare-arm look is quite charming.
When she hit five I parked her back in the Inn and swapped to my Priest. I have had about enough of Coldridge Valley for the time being so I was already minded to make the run to Kharanos right away.

The apparent absence of any kind of mailbox settled it. I have my Level 1 Gnome Warrior logged in right now and I just double-checked: there is no mailbox in the starting area, nor at Anvilmar just up the hill.

It's descrimination! And it gets worse. Not only do starting Human characters get a mailbox right next to their spawn-in, they have a safe, secure and simple run to their Level 5 settlement, Goldshire. To get to Kharanos a dwarf or gnome has to run a gauntlet through a long, twisting tunnel filled with Level 4 aggressive Troggs.

That wasn't a problem a week ago, when the sheer number of new players making the run left every trogg face down in the dirt within seconds of spawning but now the Dwarf/Gnome starting area is de-populated. Nothing like the small crowd I saw in Northshire and traffic is sparse.

Today, my Priest had to do the run alone. He made it out the far side but two troggs downed him on the path a few yards from the exit. No more than a mild inconvenience. Ghosts travel in total safety so no progress lost. I revived him clear of aggro and the rest of the run to Kharanos passed without event.

Can't see me!

Well, except for the Dwarven Mortar Team. They're a truly bizarre appurtnenance to the local environment. If they have any quest-related or practical purpose I haven't found it. The whole thing seems to be a developer's indulgence, a lengthy, convoluted and fascinating performance that serves no other purpose than to surprise, mystify and delight.

Classic World of Warcraft uses voice acting quite sparely and sporadically. It's always a surprise to me when an NPC pipes up. The Dwarven Mortar Team talk all the time. They shout at each other, have conversations, banter and cheer.

They fire their mortar at cartoonish plywood targets and make a big deal of how well they do. They move around, emoting often and enthusiastically. I've passed them many times and they are not always in the same place doing the same thing. They take breaks and go to stand around the nearby vendor. The effect is remarkable. It reminds me of the intense background detail ArenaNet worked so hard to embed in Guild Wars 2 some eight years later.

I wonder how much of this kind of thing there is in Classic? This is by far the most complex living tableau I've found. I hope there are more.

A hit! A palpable hit!

There's only so much time you can spend watching actors go through their routines, however well-staged. My Priest carried on to Kharanos, where he found some bags waiting at the mailbox. Not as many as the Mage had. She'll need to pass some on.

Where he's going to get his leveling journey started I'm not sure. I wonder if he can get enough xp under his beard just exploring to get a foothold in Kharanos? Should be interesting to try. There's the rat quest in the Tram Station, for a start...

Midway through writing this post I ran the Warrior to Kharanos as well. There was one other player coming through the tunnel and he'd killed enough troggs to make the passage safe enough to survive - just.

All the pieces are in place. Now I just have to figure out what to do with them. I've collected an inordinate number of recipes so someone's going to have to take up Cooking. I need to do some research to work out if any particular class is best suited to a specific tradeskill.

Can't have too many pictures of sunlight coming through stained glass.

I would like to be as self-sufficient as possible but the irritating design decision Blizzard took to link craft skill with adventure level somewhat mitigates against the practicality there, at least in Classic, where leveling to the low twenties on one of the fastest-leveling classes has taken me nearly two weeks.

All of these are fun problems. Working out how best to make use of the options available, first having had to understand what they even are, makes for very satisfying gameplay.

If Classic has made me understand anything about MMORPGs it's that thinking is gameplay. It's every bit as important as fighting or crafting or exploring. I used to know that but in a genre that has, for years, appeared to detrmined to dedicate itself to taking every meaningful decision out of the hands of players, it's a lesson that very much needs repeating.


  1. I was actually sitting in Ironforge at the warrior trainer and watching another little series of events play out. There is a crane that places a gnomes aircraft on a catapult, then the engines spin up, and finally the catapult launches the plane up and out of Ironforge.

    1. Oh, I've never seen that one. I'll go have a look.

  2. That dwarven fire team is involved in a quest, though the thief of time has stolen the specifics. I vaguely remember having to gather ammo for them and then some sort of followup afterwards. Perhaps the start was found in a camp in the valley below.

    Yes.. the crafting level requirement is a PITA, and a primary reason I have a million alts scattered around! I'm up to 4 in Classic, but might actually roll a few more on my second account and dualbox my way if I can work out the macros required. I think the ones I use on retail might work on classic - they are pretty basic!

    1. Ah! I'll see if I can find the quest for them. Not looking anything up for Classic yet so I'll have to go exploring.

  3. I have resisted WoW classic, but if I did, it would be Horde. ONLY because you can only be a Shaman there. While I primarily played Alliance in WoW throughout my life, when Shaman became part of the Alliance I made one and loved it. Indeed part of the downfall of WoW for me was when they homogenized the classes.

    1. Class blurring is a major factor in the alienation process MMOs have suffered from over the last near-decade, I think. Strong class diversity is huge for immersion and engagement.

  4. Ooh! You're on Hydraxian Waterlords as well! :-)

    1. Yep! I wanted to go to the US-RP server Bloodsail Buccaneers but the soft region lock put an end to that. HW is good though.


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