Wednesday, October 14, 2020

I Remembered You Older And Taller

Where I live, World of Warcraft's big level squish patch landed around two o' clock in the afternoon. I'd been reading about it without paying quite as much attention as i should have been so I was expecting it last night. 

I logged in after work yesterday, went through Blizzard's security routine, which apparently kicks in if you haven't played since this time last year, downloaded a three gigabyte update and logged in to see my characters as I'd left them, unsquished.

Reading the patch notes more carefully I realized we in the U.K. weren't getting the update until October 14th. The servers went down around dawn and came back up just after lunchtime. That suited me well enough. I didn't have to go to work today and I had nothing else planned.

Just after two I went to log in only to find Blizzard was "unable to authenticate" my account "at this time". They politely suggested I try again later, which I did. About thirty seconds later, in fact, and then again a few more times for good measure. No luck.

It seemed like a sound approach. I mean, doing the same thing over and over in the hope of a different outcome is always a solid choice, right? Still, I thought maybe I ought to check. 

Googling to see what was up I found several sources suggesting if I just kept trying I might get in. See? I knew it!

Meanwhile, Blizzard's Twitter account was busy apologizing

As I write, four and a half hours later, the apologies have stopped but the investigation continues

I might be taking a different tone if I was still waiting to get in but in fact the internet was correct.

After a couple of tries I closed the launcher and re-started it. That got me past the "cannot authenticate" issue and into the real patch, all thirty-four gigabytes, the previous evening's three having been merely an amuse-bouche.

Blizzard might have been having problems with the log-in servers but there was no holding the patcher. The whole thing was done in a matter of minutes and I logged in to see... the Shadowlands trailer

I've seen it before. It's quite good. I happily watched it again. And then the game kicked me back to login.

At this point I might have started to get annoyed only there wasn't time. I entered my details yet again and there I was, at character select, looking at the damage the squish had wrought. Or, more accurately, at a massive warning preparing me for the emotional impact of what I was about to see.

Which, at first glance, didn't seem to be all that much, possibly because I don't have any max-level characters and I can't remember exactly what levels the characters I do have have might have been before the squish, even though I was looking right at them only last night. 

It took me a couple of minutes to work out what had happened to whom. My Hunter, who was around about level 100, I think, had squished down to thirty-seven. My Warlock, who I seem to recall being in the sixties, was now twenty-five, along with my Death Knight, who hasn't been played in a decade, so what does he care?

Those three were all flagged "Inactive" because as yet the account remains unsubscribed. All of the rest were now well below the threshold for WoW's version of free-to-play, which remains at level twenty despite the squish.

This presents me with a rather pleasant quandry. I had fully intended to resubscribe for at least a month so as to enjoy the manifold changes, along with the pre-expansion events. As it turns out, however, it seems the squish has effectively doubled the leveling opportunities available under the endless free trial or whatever they call it.

Since I had been thoroughly enjoying leveling several of these characters (plus my goblin on a different account) until they ran into the buffers at twenty, I don't feel any great need to give Blizzard any money just yet. I ought to be able to get quite a bit more out of the unpaid version before I free-cap my panda monk, my gnome hunter, my goblin (whatever class she is - I forget), my worgen druid...

Yeah... not really feeling it.


As for the pre-expansion events, as far as I can tell, they won't start until two weeks before the expansion itself and as yet we don't have a date for that. I'm only really interested in seeing the zombie invasions of the home cities, anyway, and I doubt you'll need to be subbed for those.

I will eventually have to subscribe just so I can level a Horde character into Battle for Azeroth if I want to do the quests to open the Vulpera race. Once that's done, though, I think I can make and play my fox for free.

All of which seems a bit of a shot in the foot for Blizzard. I mean, I was all set to subscribe but now they've made it so I barely need to think about it and certainly not yet. I'm quite surprised they didn't squish the free to play offer down to Level 10, which would have allowed the exact same content access for what is effectively supposed to be a free trial. Glad they didn't.

When I was able, I logged in several characters to see what was what. I started with my now-level six night-elf druid, followed by my now-level ten gnome hunter and finally my now-level nine worgen druid. 

All of them were just where I'd left them. All of them had just a single hot bar up and that nearly empty. I spent a while re-opening hot bars and re-installing spells and abilities. Everything looked very tidy but I couldn't remember what I used to be able to do clearly enough to know if much had changed.  

Thinking about how much leveling fun I might have ahead of me and also wondering about the supposed new by-expansion leveling paths I was curious to see how fast squished xp might flow. The worgen druid had a host of quests up on the tracker so I started working through some of those and in about half an hour she was level twelve. 

Hold on, let me get my breath...
Granted she had full rested xp but that did seem fast. With a cap of twenty that looks like no more than a couple of good sessions per character. According to the handy conversion chart included in TAGN's post on the patch, the new level twenty should get me to somewhere in the old mid-forties. I'd have thought that would take longer but maybe my estimations are being tainted by my time in Classic last year. Still, hardly seems like enough time to get through an entire expansion.

However it pans out, it's a whole lot of free content I didn't have access to yesterday. As I was saying a while ago, what with FFXIV raising the free trial bar to sixty, Lord of the Rings giving away most of the quests and now this I can't see why I'd pay for anything. And that was before I'd even heard of Genshen Impact. Not to mention all the other MMORPGs I can play for free - EverQuest, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2, Elder Scrolls Online... remind me why anyone ever pays for games again?

I'm back at work tomorrow but after that I have five straight days to do whatever I feel like and I think I might feel like making a new character and playing through WoW's fresh-paint one-to-ten zone, Exile's Reach. It sounds uncannily like half a dozen other intro/tutorial zones I've played through in other games. 

Not that I'm saying Blizzard like to iterate on other developers' ideas. Or that that would be a bad thing. Then again, I'm not sure anyone else has tried taking away more than half the hard-earned levels of players who spent a decade and half working on them, along with 96% of their power. I guess we'll see how that works out and who, if anyone, decides to follow suit.


  1. I like that patch day oddities are still a thing even with Blizzard in 2020. My poor Classic guild had to cancel its scheduled raid night tonight because half the raiders couldn't log in and were stuck in login queues that suggested wait times of several months.

    Personally I was able to log in fine (though the game forgot that I had an authenticator for a brief while, resulting in a sudden reduction in bag size), and also checked out retail. At first nothing would load and it kept saying that my graphics drivers are out of date, though they appear to be fine. On relogging the warning message remained but the game seems to be working fine now. I'll probably sit down with the hubby tomorrow to explore Exile's Reach too.

    1. Oh, I had the out of date graphics drivers warning too. Forgot about that one. I often get that, though, because I generally check what the new version of a driver update is changing before installing it and if, as is usually the case, the changes have nothing to do with anything I play, I don't install it. As it happens, I believe I do have the latest version, though, so it was probably a false alarm.


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