The classic experience. When people think about World of Warcraft, they probably think about the original game, the game as it was when it first came out and people flooded the streets of Orgrimmar and Stormwind, recognizable faces polluted trade chat, and Horde and Alliance alike waged war against Ragnaros, Kel’Thuzad, Nefarian, and C’Thun. This age, from 2004 to 2006, is referred to as “Vanilla WoW,” and the most basic (but not in a complexity sense) and fundamental aspects of the game trace their roots to this time period.
I never had the chance to play during this era, so my experience here is restricted. However, recently, Blizzard has released what’s called “Classic WoW,” which is included in the regular, retail WoW subscription price. “Classic WoW” is a separate set of servers that are tailor-made to restore the game as it once was. It preserves this two-year span of history forever in the state that it was at the time. For fans of the simpler days, before sharding took over and when servers had their own communities, this is ideal news. Blizzard’s decision to finally endorse and give in to classic servers was huge, considering their prior resistance to the idea. While I still dip into the retail game from time to time, I don’t currently have a subscription. If I did, I would consider jumping into Classic WoW to get a sense of how things were before probably going back to how things currently are. While I’m not saying the current iteration of the game is perfect, there are certain mechanics and systems to the retail version of WoW that I’m not sure I’d be able to do without, and I just learned flying again too!
Regardless, I respect Blizzard’s decision and the huge wave of support that Classic WoW has received is great to see. I’m a fan.
Aether is paramount to understanding the Final Fantasy story, though. If I were to introduce you to its boundless lore, I wouldn’t know where to start, partially because I don’t have a lot of familiarity with it and partially because I haven’t been paying a deep amount of attention into the lore thus far. Because it’s all still early game progression to me, I haven’t been reading quest text as diligently as I sometimes do in World of Warcraft. Others I know who rarely, if ever, read quest text have said that the Final Fantasy XIV lore is worth getting into, but I still remain unconvinced for the time being. It’s just so much to take on all at once, so much to understand with no real application benefit.
I do appreciate having a lot of lore, though, and I think a great MMORPG requires it in order to function well, in order to feel like a vast, unexplored world to conquer and adventure through. It’s one of the big appeals of World of Warcraft, to me; but also, I know the general lore of WoW and could definitely explain it to someone if they were interested to hear about it. It’s completely buckwild, but it’s fun and it takes up a vast space in my memory regardless. That’s what I get for playing that game for so many hours and days and years of my life.
But sometimes, when you’re playing multiple games at once, the burden of understanding so many different lores and universes and the laws of their individual universes is a lot. Like, for example, I’m currently playing through Fire Emblem: Three Houses as well, and in that game, there are crests, units, kingdoms, castles, so many things to understand about the world. But I can’t simultaneously keep that in my head while also trying to learn about Final Fantasy’s vast, open world, if that makes sense.
Ever wait until the last minute to do something? That tends to be me in that position, wandering around, waiting for a sign of what to do, only for something to finally show up and excite me into action. That was me tonight, when I decided to queue up for a Mythic+ dungeon on World of Warcraft the day before the weekly dungeon reset. I realized at night that I wouldn’t be getting a good box the next day if I didn’t run a dungeon at all, so I queued for an Atal’Dazar +6, which means I’m committing myself to at least 30 minutes or so of dungeoneering on my elemental shaman. Usually, when I’m about to start a dungeon, I go through a checklist in my head of whatever else needs to be done beforehand: do I have water nearby? Have I prepared the necessary materials in game? Does anyone else need me right now? Will anyone need me in the next 30 minutes? (Always unpredictable; anyone could call me at any time, and people do that sometimes in the middle of dungeons. It makes for awkward conversations.)
The last minute, though, is when you usually feel the most motivation to do a particular task. The heightened anxieties, the excitement in the air. It’s usually the moment when people feel the most stress, but to me, that stress is productive, positive, and enthralling. Not to say that I always leave everything to the last minute; that wouldn’t be the case at all. But when a bunch of tasks are piled on someone all at once, you will naturally have to make a few concessions here and there; one task gets completed now, the other one perhaps later, the last one in the last minute. I don’t volunteer for all of my tasks to be completed then; it just so happens to end up that way when you’re given a lot at once.
Anyone who plays World of Warcraft can recognize that the game changes completely as soon as you unlock flying for the first time. Once you’re able to soar through the sky on your flying mounts, everything on the map becomes more enticing and travel is significantly less tedious. You don’t have to worry about running into mobs any more on the “safe” path to that one world quest, and you can freely escape a dangerous situation if you manage to get out of combat and have a few seconds to load up your mount. For world quests, even in enemy territory, it’s easy just to drop in, kill something, and then load up your mount again. Flying takes away so much of the tedium and trials of the game, making so much of the game accessible to someone like me, who doesn’t as much enjoy his ground mounts.
Being able to fly is great and all, but one of the best benefits of flying is exclusive to the druid class: flight form. Druids are shapeshifters, taking the form of beasts and animals to suit the situation they’re in. When they enter water, they can take the form of an aquatic animal to increase their movement speed while others swim at slow speeds. But in flight form, they can fly around and collect herbs easily, without ever having to leave their transformed form. (Does that wording make sense? Hopefully…) They can swoop down, collect an herb safely, and ignore any potential danger. It’s like having a free pass to level your gathering professions. I love that so much about flying, and right now it’s what’s motivating me to play my druid, after a while of having that character sitting on the bench. The transition is as smooth as butter and nothing really compares to it.
Today I’ll be discussing a lesser-known aspect of World of Warcraft, but something that’s still deeply important to my main class choices.
For the record, and for those who don’t know, I played a mage as my main class from 2007 all the way until… probably about 2018. His name is Seneth, and he’s been my main guy for well over 10 years. I still play him from time to time, though not as frequently as I used to. The mage playstyle just doesn’t interest me that much right now, and I’m waiting to see if any major changes to the mage rotation come in the next expansion, or after that. At the moment, nothing about mage is really striking me as interesting, except one thing… Portals.
That’s the topic of today’s blog post: the portal. Being a mage means having access to portals and teleportation spells that allow you to go wherever you want, whenever you want. The spells cost mana to cast, but the cost is practically negligible when it comes down to it. The main perk of playing mage is the ability to always have the ease of access of teleporting wherever you want to go. I miss that when I play other classes, like paladin and shaman, which don’t have the same ease of transportation. Both are bulky, mostly immobile classes. It makes me wish that mages were better right now, as I would probably be playing one!
I took a portal just now from Boralus to Silithus, but it would have been so much easier had I been on my mage. The times have definitely changed since the old days of this game.
As you might be able to tell by the picture up top here, I don’t have a picture of an actual portal to share with you, just a port!
The Grind. When it comes to grinding out experience, reputation, currency, gold, whatever I need in order to push forward in World of Warcraft, I’m used to it. Back when Burning Crusade was current content, I remember the first grind I participated in was the Shattered Sun Offensive reputation grind. You had to hit exalted in order to get all the good stuff, so obviously I wanted to get there pretty badly. As a kid in middle school, I didn’t realize the predatory practices of games at the time, and I didn’t quite understand how the rep grind was designed to make me want to play the game more and more, incentivizing total commitment to the game every day in order to maximize the reputation I earned each day. That’s what life on current World of Warcraft is like, too, now that they’ve added two new reputations and two new zones to explore: Nazjatar and the Ankoan, and Mechagon and the Rustbolt Resistance. (Rustbolt almost sounds like Rustbelt, which is kind of funny.)
(Coffee beans are all I could find when searching “grind,” even though it’s unrelated to the topic. I like having unrelated pictures attached to these blog posts, though.)
In other words, the grind is a long, arduous process of completing monotonous tasks over and over again in order to achieve a result that’s gated in some way by an arbitrary restriction, such as reputation or gold or something like that. In this case, in order to get flying on all my characters in the new areas, I need to hit revered with both of the new factions and then explore each new island, too. It’s a process, but I’m used to it by this point. I’ve done it on almost all of my characters, so there’s nothing holding me back.
Today I’ll be discussing the art of “tanking.” Tanking is a strategy employed in certain strategy games or role-playing games, wherein a tough, beefy character stands in front of all the baddies and absorbs their hits while the rest of the party deals damage or heals the tank. The holy trinity of MMORPG party mechanics is one tank, one healer, and three damage dealers, and it hasn’t changed much in the time since World of Warcraft’s initial release. It’s just become normalized that way in almost all MMORPGs.
Tanking, however, is something that takes skill. It’s not as easy as just face-rolling all of your damage dealing abilities and expecting big numbers to pop up. You have to worry about maintaining aggro from all the mobs you’re attacking, while also keeping yourself alive and dealing a respectable amount of damage, enough at least to keep the attention of the mobs. You also have to position the mobs such that they don’t unintentionally grab the attention of other nearby mobs or bosses, while making sure their abilities and spells don’t target the rest of the party. Essentially, you are keeping multiple people’s positions in mind while worrying about your own position and the position of the enemies. Being a tank requires a special awareness to all of these key traits.
And if you mess up, everyone knows. You’re the de facto leader of the group; you’re the one who decides the pace of the dungeon, after all. You’re supposed to be the one who pulls mobs at your decided pace, and because mythic+ dungeons are timed, the blame for dungeons not being completed in time can sometimes fall on your shoulders.
This all being said, I enjoy tanking and the challenges it provides. Sometimes I like being able to just join a group without having to worry about how the tank decides to carry us through the dungeon; sometimes I like being able to decide that myself. It can be nice and liberating. Tanking is great, and stressful, and that’s all that matters.
Timewalking is a feature in World of Warcraft that becomes available every few weeks or so, and it’s become a tradition for us to take time out of our busy schedules to complete the 5 required weekly timewalking dungeons, regardless of what expansion they come from.
Let me explain what timewalking is first. So in World of Warcraft, there have been seven expansions up to this point. The game has been out since 2004, and it’s still running strong despite everything else going wrong with the game since then. Each expansion has a set of dungeons (5-player group content) exclusive to that expansion. In Mists of Pandaria, the fourth expansion to the game, you could explore the Temple of the Jade Serpent with a group of randomized players, but in the most recent expansion, you can still complete the Temple dungeon, but not with random players in an instance queue. That is, until timewalking appears, and then you are able to experience the magic all over again. Your characters are leveled down to the current level of the expansion, and then you’re forced to take on everything that comes your way with an item level appropriate to the expansion, too. Everything is normalized to provide an authentic experience of what it would be like if that content was current. For example, all the enemies and bosses are scaled up while you are scaled down to match their power levels. Mechanics are important again, and you can’t just zerg rush through all the bosses without paying attention to some of the mechanics of the game. You have to actually pay attention and work as a team, rather than rushing and rushing along through every health bar you face.
That’s it for timewalking, for now at least. I’m sure I’ll talk about it again at some point, considering how prevalent it is in WoW.
Originally, I was going to write about the Boros Legion, the overzealous crusading guild in Ravnica, but then I realized I could also write about the legion in another respect: the Burning Legion in World of Warcraft. There are so many legions! Legions upon legions to discuss.
The Burning Legion in World of Warcraft were the central antagonists of the second most recent expansion, World of Warcraft: Legion. They’re an endlessly respawning army of demonic forces, and they are practically unstoppable. The conflict in this expansion is that they were invading our home world again, and this time they were hell-bent on annihilation. This expansion solidified WoW as an absolute titan of the gaming industry and allowed them to reclaim some of their old glory. Legion propelled subscriber numbers and boosted player interest and hype, with the introduction of the Broken Isles, legendaries, artifacts, and the exclusively max-level Suramar questing experience (which, if you read my blog regularly, I wrote about a few weeks ago). Legion revitalized my interest in WoW and got me hooked again for practically the entire length of the expansion, minus a few spots. I remember focusing super heavily on completing the mage tower challenges at the end of the expansion, trying my best to unlock the hidden and exclusive artifact appearances before they went away for good.
The Boros Legion is interesting because they’re primarily “good” guys. I bought the Boros guild pack recently, and it’s absolutely crushed all the other decks when it curves well. I’ve enjoyed playing with it a lot. The idea of playing a “white weenies” deck (strong, small white-colored creature cards with exceptional synergy between each other) has always been fun for me, and I like blasting people’s faces in with flying angels. Thankfully, that’s what the Boros are all about: ruthless aggression and flying assaults.
When I first started playing World of Warcraft, years and years and years ago, I met some friends online who had just started playing, too. We quickly became friends and bonded over our immaturity, youth, and playful attitudes. It’s so easy to find like-minded individuals online when your entire personality is shaped by your online presence and what you find on the Internet. Our guild, called “R A W R” (because we were kids who liked memes and cats on the Internet), meant a lot to me, and our regular conversations in guild chat set the standard for what I would come to expect from sociable, inviting guilds. We would set up raids of Alliance cities, and have regular hang-outs in secret alcoves on the world map that no one knew about except us (or so we thought). We discussed guild matters, like who deserved a rank promotion and, more likely, who was being annoying on a particular day. There was drama, of course, as there is in any guild, but we persevered through it. Our guild’s downfall came not because of any drama or anything like that, but because we all, gradually and slowly, stopped playing the same game as each other. I remember quitting at one point and roping in my guild friends to come play other computer games with me, but that never lasted very long. I think one was a browser game, with blue fish and matching cards. That’s all I remember from it.
Some of my friends who used to play still come on every once in awhile, though not as often any more. It’s not the same as it used to be; even if we were to try to recapture that old magic, it’s past that time in our lives. And I think we all recognize that, which is why we don’t talk as much as we used to.