Friday, November 6, 2020

I Am The Fox


Yesterday, sometime around eight in the evening, I finally got to make my World of Warcraft fox. Depending on how you count, it took me anything from a couple of minutes to a year and a half.

In the most practical sense I guess it took just under two days. I did a /played the moment my shaman completed the final access quest that unlocked Vulpera as an allied race for the Horde on my account. It read 

I'd guess you could reduce that by maybe ten per cent to account for the times I was afk doing something unrelated to playing the game. Mostly, though, when I was "Away" I was actually looking up how a quest worked or how to get to somewhere I couldn't find on the map. That definitely ought to count towards the time it took. 

However you tally it, I went at this thing pretty hard. Most of the time I was playing I really was playing. So, let's say about thirty hours to go from character creation to level cap and then a couple more hours to do the Vulpera unlock quests themselves. Pretty close to Shintar's one-to-fifty tally of twenty-six hours but quite a bit longer than Rohan's twenty

All of those times are a long way short of the Icy Veins estimate. They suggest "it should take average players 9-10 hours" to do the first fifty levels. They're assuming you'll be using several Add-Ons designed to make levelling smoother and faster as well as any and all available means of boosting xp gain, not that Blizzard seem to have left many of those in the game in the run-up to the new expansion.

For once, I didn't use any Add-Ons at all, which is somewhat unusual. I'm no fan of out-of-game tweaks and I always prefer to use the stock UI and systems in any MMORPG, but even I usually have three or four simple mods running when I play WoW

This time, for no particular reason that I can think of, nothing seemed to annoy me enough that I felt I needed to do something about it. The quest text, whose color and font choices usually irritate the heck out of me, seemed perfectly acceptable this time around. The mini-map worked just fine. No-one tried to duel me so I didn't have to go get an Add-On to auto-decline. 

I did toy briefly with the idea of re-installing the Add-On that modifies the UI to look as much as possible like Guild Wars 2, including re-doing every quest dialog to appear center screen with the NPCs talking in single lines like an actual conversation instead of presenting as a flat page of text, but I haven't been playing all that much GW2 of late and the idea didn't seem as appealing as it used to.

I also thought about switching on War Mode, which gives an xp boost that varies from ten to thirty per cent depending on how over- or under-represented your faction is. I'm very comfortable with PvPvE settings these days so the idea of the occasional run-in with an Alliance player or several didn't bother me but in the end it just felt like one more unfamiliar system I'd have to fiddle about with and get to know and I kind of had enough of those to deal with already.

The only xp boost I did have running was the 16%  sixteenth anniversary buff, which I think kicked in when my shaman was somewhere in the thirties. I felt the xp rates were pretty comfortable on the whole so I wasn't scratching around for ways to speed things up. 

It did slow down a little in the forties but really not by very much. Compared to levelling curves I've been used to from games like WoW Classic or even modern EverQuest, where you begin a very steep incline somewhere around the mid-game, there seems to be precious little rate-of-gain difference in each decile after the second. 

Of course, when I made my goblin shaman I was never intending her to go to the cap. She was created to test out Exile's Reach and knock out the unlock quests, after which, as I erroneously believed, I'd be able to park her and swap to my brand-new Vulpera. If I'd know I'd be doing fifty levels I would not have chosen to do it as a shaman, a class I've never played and which does not make Icy Veins' list of preferred classes (Demon Hunter, Druid, Hunter, Mage in case you're interested, although they do stress that what class you play is one of the minor factors in any speed-run up the levels).

You can probably put the real reason it took me three times as long to hit fifty as the ten-hour estimate for the "average player" down to the fact that I read just about every word of quest text, watched every cut scene and listened to every word of spoken dialog. That in itself probably added several hours.

Then there were all the times I didn't know what I was supposed to do or where I was meant to go. If I'd used the recommended Add-On Azeroth Auto Pilot I imagine that alone would have saved me several more hours, not including the story skips.

Yeah, but what would be the point of that, really? If I hated levelling, like Kaylriene , and just needed to get a character to end-game as fast as possible, for some reason, then yes, I could totally see the point of having the first fifty levels basically play themselves while I waited for it all to be over. It would be the equivalent of fast-forwarding through an extremely long and tedious cut scene before the actual game began. 

To me, however, the so-called end-game is more like an extremely long and tedious coda appended to the main game itself. Or maybe one of those annoying series of false endings you get with some movies that don't know when to stop.

Of course, loving the levelling process for itself does have one obvious disadvantage, as Wilhelm pointed out in his recent post about capping out in Pokemon Go

"But then there is the inevitable realization that once you’re at the top of the mountain, the climb is done... after all the time focused on one primary aspect of the game, you’re done with it and left feeling a bit empty as your goal is suddenly reached".

I get that a lot. Well, I do these days, when hitting the level cap in MMORPGs is something I expect to do when I make a character. Time was when the cap was a distant peak you could maybe just about make out, hazy and indistinct, looming far behind a seemingly-endless series of lesser peaks you'd have to scale just to get to it. What to do with your character when they reached the cap was never much of a problem when the cap itself always seemed to be receding into the distance faster than you could ever hope to catch up with it.

This time was different from most in that I was levelling for a specific reason: to get that Vulpera
unlock. That in itself made the final result somewhat unsettling. After I finished the surprisingly complicated and lengthy unlock questline, involving a number of trans-continental flights and many, many kills, I went straight to character create, made my fox and...

...and then what? When I began all of this a couple of weeks back I hadn't played WoW at all for over a year and Retail WoW, beyond the free trial, not for several years. It was all great fun, it felt fresh, there was a ton of new stuff going on. Plus, everyone was talking and writing about it. I was enjoying myself a lot.

By the time the shaman dinged fifty, though, I'd played more Retail WoW than I've played since the Legion pre-events. I'd levelled a new class all the way from creation to current max level, I'd taken a druid to the new free-to-play cap and I'd put several levels on my previously-highest character. All in a couple of weeks during which I played far more WoW than anything else.

Obviously I'm not burned out. I mean, come on! I'm scarcely even singed around the edges. But I'm not sure I want to jump immediately into levelling another character from character creation to end game. I might need a little bit of a breather before I do that.

Creating the fox wasn't quite as much fun as I'd expected, either. Not because I've lost any enthusiasm for the project, far from it. More because there aren't very many options. I don't know what I was expecting, exactly, but I thought there might be a few different tails, at least. I mean, it's a fox!

I was also surprised to get no option on where to start. I was expecting to get a choice between Exile's Reach and... well, I don't know where, now I come to think of it. I knew there was no Vulpera racial starting zone. I guess I thought maybe they could start in Orgrimmar or something.

And they can. They do. They have to. There's no choice at all. Exile's Reach is out because Vulpera begin at level ten. I guess the logic is that since you have to have a level fifty character before you can make one you really don't need a tutorial. 

Which is fine, except that I actually completed the entirety of the long introductory quest for BfA, the one where you break the troll princess out of the Stormwind Stockade while slaughtering hundreds of people and setting the city on fire (which, by the way, is one hell of a way to welcome a cute and cuddly, free-spirited, happy-go-lucky race to the Horde) with almost no spells or abilities on my hotbar. If you're going to start the character at level ten and remove the tutorial you could at least auto-populate the bars with the basics!

Once all that was out of the way I stopped and thought for a while about what I might want to do next. Chromie was keen to send me into the past and the Warchief or whatever it is the Horde call the boss had plans for me too but I wasn't sure I wanted to be organized. In the end I took the portal to Thunder Bluff and sat on the edge of a cliff, looking out over the green meadows far below.

I think I might just set out and wander, see where it takes me. I made my vulpera a Hunter, yet again, and hunters are made for wandering, although that's not why I went with the class this time. It was more that, after fifty levels with the shaman, the one thing I remembered hearing myself say most often was "This would be so much easier with a pet". 

Speaking of which, whose bright idea was it to give the Vulpera a cobra the size of an elephant as the default starter pet? I can see it being a snake. The Vulpera are desert foxes and the desert is stuffed with the slithering reptiles. There's even a quest in Vol'Dun where a vulpera lends you a flute so you can go and recover a bunch of lost cobras they were supposed to be training. 

So it's cultural, I get that. But why so huge? Honestly, every time I catch sight of it I think it's going to swallow me whole. I think the first order of business might be to go and tame some alternatives. What would go well with a fox? Do they have tameable badgers in Azeroth?

Before my subscription runs out I've also got plans for several other characters, too. I was enjoying the Alliance's BfA storylines in Kul Tiras on my Worgen druid. I'd like to get back to those. And my old dwarf hunter needs to get to forty-five so he can open the hundred or so Legion pre-event chests he has clogging up his bank - although now the cap is fifty (soon to be sixty) I'm not sure there's much point to that any more.

Then there's pet battles. I've never done those but I have a dozen or more pets. You can't battle on a free account so maybe I ought to give it a try before the sub ends. And I really should see about transmogging a final look for my shaman now she's not getting new quest gear every five minutes. 

It's not as though I'm short of ideas or enthusiasm. It's just that I did kind of start all of this so I could play a fox. 

Oh, well. At least now I can.


  1. Congrats! I haven't had the wherewithal to drive a character from 1 to 50 yet. I've spent time getting characters in their 40s up to 50 instead, so now I have a pile of those setup for whatever Shadowlands brings.

    1. I might buy Shadowlands to get to the new cap with the Shaman and maybe another character or two. I haven't decided yet. I'm having fun at the moment but I'm also waiting for a release date for the EQII expansion. Not much point trying to do both at once and I'd rather do the EQII one if they clash.

  2. "To me, however, the so-called end-game is more like an extremely long and tedious coda appended to the main game itself."

    Absolutely agree. There are a few things that can get me to stick around for a while once I hit the cap. However, raiding to get better gear so I can raid more sure as heck won't.

    1. In the few MMORPGs where it ever became an issue, my personal end-game usually turned out to be levelling up a load more characters. Usually I never got far enough for it to be a problem, though.

      The exceptions would be EQII, where I've had capped characters for many years, and GW2, which doesn't realy have anything you'd recognize as a traditional endgame. Both of those games have a lot to do that isn't heroic dungeons to get better gear to to do harder heroic dungeons (ditto raids). Even there, though, I tend to drift away when I don't have someone to level.


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