Thursday, August 29, 2019

Pictures Or It Didn't Happen: WoW Classic

Within minutes of stepping out into the dwarf starting area (it has a name but I can never remember what it is and no-one ever uses it anyway) I started to notice things that seemed like they might be worth remembering for when the time came to write a blog post about WoW Classic. As Monk would say, this is both the curse and the blessing of being a blogger. You can never quite switch off, no matter how immersive the experience.

I grabbed a notebook and started jotting down my observations and thoughts. Things like "can't fire a rifle in melee range" and "no indication where to hand in quests". Later that day I wrote a "First Impressions" post and naturally forgot to look at my notes at all.

In the event I remembered most of the points I'd been meaning to include, but next time I played Classic I thought of a much better way of recording those aha! and hmm? moments. Instead of writing them down I took a screenshot.

Whenever I'm playing any game I take screenshots of pretty much anything that might be useful, just in case I decide to blog about what I've been doing. It's a lot easier than having to log back in when I'm writing the post and try to recreate the situation for a screenie.

What's more, I usually browse through the screens before I write the post so I can crop, edit and re-color the ones I might use. I used to do it after I finished writing but I've learned that it's generally quicker to do some of the picture-work beforehand, then backfill as needed at the end.

All of which means I can create this post just by dropping in the shots I took to remind me of some little quirk or idiosyncracy I happened upon in Classic, then do some commentary to explain and amplify what you see. So here we go. It really messes up the symmetry but you can't have everything.

Kill Ten Rats became a byword for generic quest design. Go here, kill ten of these creatures I don't like, come back, I'll pay you. Meat and potatoes of the MMORPG experience, along with FedEx (take this letter to my pal over there, bring me back the reply, I'll pay you) and Escort (come with me and kill all the mobs I deliberately run at and aggro, get me where I'm going in one piece, I'l pay you).

The thing is, it's kill ten rats because at the time the expression was gaining currency ten was considered to be quite a lot of rats. Or at least I always thought so. Certainly, modern MMORPGs tend to ask you to kill five or even three rats and call it a wrap.

In Classic WoW, ten rats would be an amuse bouche. It's not a proper quest until you've killed at least twenty. It's immediately apparent as you level up that every new area demands more slaughter than the last. When I took the shot I was about Level 7 and the NPC was already asking for twenty-two kills. The guy next to him wanted twenty-five. Neither of them had the least intention of killing anything themselves, of course. When do they ever?

Killing twenty-two animals, all either at level or a tiny bit above, took me the best part of an hour, what with all the running from adds, healing up and having to compete (very good-naturedly) with all the other adventurers looking to do the exact same thing.

I made more experience killing the creatures than I got from the quest. In fact I'm all but certain now that I would level faster by finding a good, fast spawn with a safe pull spot and just grinding like I was playing EverQuest c. 2001. The thing that makes leveling slow in Classic isn't TTK or poor gear or a wicked xp curve - it's the huge amount of time you spend doing daft things for NPCs instead of just getting on with your own business.

When I finished that quest I went to Ironforge to train all my missing skills, equipped a better axe and ran back. On the way I decided to kill every animal that came in range of my blunderbuss. I did half a level in about a quarter of the time it took me to do that one quest. Lesson learned.

Next time I ran back to Ironforge it was to train one-hand sword. I'd been lucky enough to get my first green drop in the Snow Troll cave and I wanted to use it. I asked a guard for directions to the weapons trainer and went to talk to him. Turns out he only trains martial arts weapons and some other nonsense I can't use. Why he's doing it in the Dwarven hometown I have no clue.

He was kind enough to redirect me to Woo Ping, who I can't help feeling sounds more likely to be the one to know something about martial arts. Is that racist, just based on his name? I hope not. It's hard to be sure in a world where people go by names like Bixi Wobblebonk.

Woo Ping lives in Stormwind because of course he does.That probably makes some people playing dwarves and gnomes quite cross. "Now I have to go all the way to the human city just to train? What is this? The dark ages?"

My reaction was the exact opposite. I frickin' loved it! This is what I've been missing! Proper world-building. NPCs who live where they live because it's where they live, not because it's convenient.

Okay, it's a pale shadow of having to run from Freeport to Highpass to buy your Level 16 Enchanter pet spell, dodging Level 30 Hill giants and Level 40 undead all the way then running a gauntlet of gnolls, all the while knowing you'll lose your level if you die so you won't even be able to mem the damned spell anyway. It's not that but it's not nothing.

Also, I got to ride the Deeprun Tram, which is still awesome even in 2019. What it must have felt like in 2004 I can only imagine. Like someone had spiked your Mountain Dew, I would guess. (Mountain Dew being all anyone ever seemed to drink back then. I still don't really know what Mountain Dew is, although I'm sure someone's going to tell me in the comments).

When I got to Woo Ping he wanted ten silver to train me. I had six silver to may name. That was how I ended up doing a level and a half in Elwynn Forest and Westfall and how I got Old Blanchy's Feed Pouch, one of my favorite low-level quest rewards because it's a four-slot bag! Also Old Blanchy's Blanket, the cloak you can see my hunter wearing in the picture. (Most of the rest he crafted for himself but crafting in classic isa whole other post).

All the quests I picked up in Westfall were orange or red to me and the mobs were way above my level. It was prime-time EU by then. Even the RP server was showing High and most of the rest were Full. It was busy enough that I was able to do the two or three quests that just involved fetching stuff or talking to someone . I still managed to get killed once but it was worth it because four slot bag! Also huge xp on the hand-ins.

I was well into Level 9 by then and I had sixteen silver. I felt rich. I ran back to Woo Ping and paid him to train me but before I could move away soemone opened a trade window and handed me a green shotgun. This is something that used to happen all the time in early EQ. I got given so much free stuff by friendly passers-by it sometimes felt a bit embarassing to take it.

When was the last time a random stranger gave you a good item for your level in a modern MMORPG? Doesn't help that many games don't even allow direct trading, of course.

I'd already had to figure out how to trade in Elwynn Forest, when someone called out to me in /say and then asked me if I had one light leather I could spare. Sicne I had over 60 on me at the time (my hunter is an obsessive skinner) I was more than happy to hand one over - once I'd asked the guy how to split a stack (Shift-r-click. He wasn't too sure either.).

The cynics who said conversation on Classic wouldn't amount to more than a string of abbreviations were dead, dead wrong. The whole social aspect, at least in these first few days, could have been transplanted wholesale from the very early 2000s.

This is how I remember it being in EverQuest, Dark Age Of Camelot and the rest of the first wave. Only, it's significantly more mellow, civilized, even, presumably because almost everyone playing is a decade and a half older. The mellow may fade but I think we'll be keeping the polite  communication for a good while yet.

Talking of lazy NPCs that expect you to do all their work for them, I was taken quite by surprise to find this metatextual joke. Someone was already hyper aware of the tropes of the genre before WoW even launched. There's a lot more of this hidden in the vanila version of the game than I expected. I was familiar with the pop culture references but I didn't realize WoW had this level of irony, this soon.

Here I am, sitting in the chair in the Inn at Kharanos, my day's work done. I finish every session by sitting down in this particular seat before logging off. It must have been the fourth or fifth time I'd done it when I happened to notice that a) there was a massive tome on the table beside me and b) it was interactable.

I can't say I've noticed readable books in WoW before. I guess there must be plenty dotted around. They wouldn't have been a new thing back in 2004 - I remember them from EQ's Kunark expansion, I think, but being able to sit in a seat and read a book on the table next to you must have been quite stunning at the time. It felt pretty impressive even now.

I lightened this shot so the picture stands out. It's a bit harder to see in game. This is the same room at the Inn in Kharanos. You can see the book on the table and, like that book, even though I've been in this room several times over the last couple of day,s I hadn't noticed the picture until last night.

Shows how observant I am. When I did spot it it puzzled me quite a bit. This in is the heart of Dwarven territory. Ironfoge is just up the hill. The Inn caters exclusively to dwarves and gnomes.

Why would a dwarven innkeeper choose to put a huge oil painting of a human woman in her underwear on the wall of his inn? I suppose it could be a reproduction of some famous Azerothian work of art but it looks an awful lot more like a slice of cheesecake to me.

Is there a painting of a female dwarf in her lingerie hanging on the wall of the Inn in Goldshire? I don't think so! I haven't checked but I feel pretty safe on that one, all the same. Do dwarves (and/or gnomes) find human females sexually, or even aesthetically, desirable? It seems highly unlikely but I admit I am more than sketchy on the lore here.

Come to think of it, someone had to draw that painting (Can you draw a painting? I guess you can. English is weird). I doubt it's lifted from a real work of art. What exactly were the artists and designers thinking of when they were building this world?

It all adds to the rich panoply of life in Azeroth, doesn't it? I guess it's hard to cavill over a cheesy painting when there are NPCs named after Monty Python stalwarts staffing the stores (Looking at you, Terry Palin).

I'll keep on photo-documenting the oddities I run across. I have the feeling there are going to be more than a few.

In fact, I think I'll go do that right now. My hunter dinged ten last night. It's pet time!


  1. That particular bit of dwarf porn is reused in several locations around the world. In original wow there were quite a few obscure, hard to get to areas that were just beyond the edges of normal gameplay areas. There were usually no mobs around, but obscure camp sites, odd towers and ruins, some caves and even Conan's tomb to look for. There were also places that you had to use bugged mechanics or glitches to get into, such as Old Ironforge, or getting under Orgrimmar. I wonder how many of these have been recreated in Classic?

    1. I spent the best part of three days working out how to get to the disused gnomeish airfield back when I played the first time. On live you can get there easily now - in fact it has quests - but at the time it was not supposed to be accessible at all. I got there in the end!

      I love stuff that's in the game just because it's there - not for quest or narrative reasons. I'll have to do some off-piste exploring in Classic. Conan's tomb sounds particularly intriguing.

  2. Heh, my post for later today makes use of some similarly cropped screen shots to get in the quest text and the scene as well.

    2004 WoW was a mis-mash of ideas. The quest thing wasn't really supposed to be as wide-spread at one point during the development, but more opportunistic. While some quests are in obvious NPC groups, proto-quest hubs as you will, they aren't always bunched together and there are still a bunch of outlying quests, some in obscure places. I found an interesting on in the hills between Brewnall Village and Kharanos. Meanwhile, you can still just grind mobs and do pretty well, unlike LOTRO at launch that wanted you to stay on the quest path.

    1. I like the more scattered quests. I am doing the ones at the little proto-hubs but I am positive that in terms of efficiency they actually slow leveling down. The better gear/skills I get, the faster my TTK, as you'd expect and that's beginning to make the endless runing to and fro for quests and the searching for specific mobs rather than just killing everything look like a bit of a self-indulgence.

      Not that I'm in a hurry but I also like mob grinding so it's kind of pushing at an open door for me. If I just had more bag space for all the body parts...

  3. Dang it Bhagpuss, of all the folks blogging about WoW Classic you're the one person who is tempting me. I think because our interests align in a lot of ways... like your delight in having to go to Stormwind to train. I love being sent hither and yon, honestly.

    One thing that seems inconsistent is chat. Some, like you, are having good experiences and others, not so much. Depends on server and time of day I guess. But then, that's true for every MMO.

    1. EU server - almost everyone is speaking in "proper" English because they are either Brits or Europeans speaking in their second language; RP server - RPers are verbose and generally not given to ranting out of character. Stereotypes, I know, but chat is full of lengthy discussions with good grammar and humor - most of the time.

      Gameplay is very good, I think. It's kind of like EQ-Lite, which these days is just about right for me.

  4. Oh, and Mountain Dew is a highly caffeinated, super sugar-y soda with a taste that is hard to describe. It starts with a kind of citrus taste but there is something that tweaks it from there. I love the stuff but an hour or so after I would drink it (I'm off sugary fizzy waters these days) I would crash hard as both the sugar energy and the caffeine gave out at the same time. I guess the idea is, that's when you "Do another Dew."

    1. Ah, interesting. I knew it was full of caffeine but that's the first I knew of the citrus flavor. People used to go on about it a lot in EQ when they were doing long raids or dungeon groups that went on into the night but I guess these days there are so many high-caffeine drinks it's lost it's monopoly. Either that or all the raiders are on crystal meth, which wouldn't surprise me heheh.

    2. Sounds like Irn Bru might have been the UK equivalent

  5. Even you are playing WoW classic now! :D I shall lurk in the shadows looking forward to more posts to come!

    1. And having a fine old time, too. Nice to hear from you - been a while. Lurk away!

  6. I remember that hideous, horrible brick of a font for readable books in early WoW.
    That's the main reason I never read any lorebooks in early WoW. There are quite a few though, most of which are pretty long. I think I prodded one that was 20-some pages and near-completely illegible. Now that I have an addon for better text control I have to find a readable book and see if it's legible.

    1. Yes, it's a dreadful font. I don't really like any of the fonts in WoW, old or new. I had the GW2 AddOn for Live that replaced the fonts with something clear and aesthetically pleasing. I never tried it on interactable books though.

    2. (I've noticed the tone of my replies is rather cranky. Rest assured, it's nothing you've done. There's a lot of Discourse floating around and I feel slightly ashamed to be enjoying this old game so much, so I'm perhaps a touch acerbic. Apologies.)


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