Following our Hivemind success, this week we decided to go catch the new secret hotness, Jenafur.
She’s a battle pet that was hidden in the game in September 2019, and not found until the puzzle of her whereabouts was finally solved in September 2020. Interestingly the final solution was discovered by someone who doesn’t play Warcraft but just enjoys puzzle-solving. Their account of the solve is as mind-bending as the Hivemind, if not more so – involving printed sheet music, 2d grids, musical staves, prior theories, and logic.
It’s a much shorter secret than the Hivemind, taking only an hour or so once you know what you’re doing. A quick visit to Amara Lunastar, an NPC in Ashenvale named after a Make-A-Wish recipient, leads you to Legion Karazhan (not the raid) – a path discovered via some amazing deduction that aligned random cat kibble to the world map of Eastern Kingdoms.
Inside Karazhan are some food items that have to be collected and placed in a certain order inside the Opera Hall, all within 5 minutes. Using a smart suggestion from Dragonray at Azerothian Life, we first we marked the Opera Hall locations. Then we posted a player near each item of food, started the timer, and our rogue sprinted around collecting the food.
We failed on our first attempt as I didn’t realise you had to place the food in a certain order. Luckily the food respawned so we didn’t have to do a dungeon reset, and on the second attempt Jenafur appeared on cue, accompanied by the melody from the sheet music that had led to the solve.
I still don’t really understand how it was solved, but the result is a cute new companion.
Reading through the Wowhead Guide, it’s incredible it was ever solved – some of the puzzles combine a deep knowledge of game lore, out of game meta info found in patch notes, and a crazy commitment to trial and error. Which makes the name of the mount entirely appropriate – it took a Hivemind to solve, and it takes five people working in a Hivemind to obtain.
Even with the extensive notes, steps, and add-ons, it’s a challenge. But we all agreed it was one of the most entertaining experiences we’d had in the game, and very different to most content.
The first step is to obtain four monocles, of different colours, from various sources in the game. To do that you need to don a usually worthless Talisman of True Treasure Tracking, which reveals various hidden items and NPCs in the world as you continue on the quests.
The Blue Monocle is gained by finding lore letters scattered around Azeroth. Most are simple travel quests, but one requires you to visit OG Karazhan which opened the memory floodgates for many in our group. We even had to solve Chess, which proved a challenge due to those same floodgates being pretty rusty.
As we set about collecting the Blue Monocle we realised just how complicated this must have been to solve. For example, the letter that leads to Karazhan has this cryptic message:
Of all of Gai’s cures for Nature, the most liberating is Death.
The secret-finders determined that if you took the words with capital letters (Of, Gai, Nature, Death), an anagram could be made which solves to:
Seat of the Guardian
The most well-known Guardian in WoW is Medivh, the Last Guardian. As such, the third letter is located in Karazhan, by Medivh’s Chambers, located after the Chess Event.
Multiply this by seven letters and the magnitude of solving the full puzzle starts to become clear. Thankfully we just need to follow the guides to collect the first reward.
Next we thought we’d do an easier one and collect the Red Monocle. How wrong we were.
The monocle is obtained from Sir Finley Mrrgglton. He makes what seems like a simple request for a few undersea goods, which must be obtained from various fish vendors that float around Vashj’ir. As we soon discovered, the trouble is a) the fish are spread far apart; b) they’re swimming so move about; and c) there is an rapidly decreasing time limit on the items once they’re sold to you.
This was by far the most stressful monocle to obtain, as the combination of undersea travel and time pressure meant we lost one player after another as the timers expired, until I was the only one still in play – and only just, having beat a timer by seconds.
This was where the five-person hivemind started to shine though, as we devised an on-the-fly strategy to send the out-of-the-race party members to hover over the vendors so that I just had to look at the map and head toward the relevant character. Even that proved tricky when I called out the wrong co-ords for a vendor, and almost messed up the entire thing on a fish that wouldn’t stop long enough for me to complete the trade. But by some miracle we got it done.
The Green Monocle was a doddle in comparison, merely requiring a visit to Skyreach to type in a simple pattern. So simple I forgot to take a screenshot.
I’d read the Yellow Monocle was the killer, and when first approached it seemed impossible. It’s a gem-solve puzzle, where you need to turn an entire room of gems to a single colour using three different rotational crystals.
I would never have been able to solve it, and had to use the non-obvious Hivemind HoO Puzzle Helper add-on to work it out (which took me 45 minutes to key in and pray it would work), but several of our party figured out how it worked once we got half way across the room. I was suitably impressed.
At this point we had all four monocles, and at least one on four different characters, so could move on.
The next stage took us to Suramar, where we needed to get past a barrier that was blocked by coloured beams that matched the monocle colours.
To do this, four players need to venture out and find named Withered, whose eyes glowed with a matching colour. This was another example of the complexity of the solution. To work this out, players had decipher codes inscribed on each monocle by using alphabet logic-tricks, which revealed the phrase ‘Wild Withered’. They then needed to pore over the Legion patch-notes to discover four named Withered that were added in patch 8.1, then find them scattered in Suramar.
Four of us ventured out to the Withered, while the fifth stood in front of the beams. We had to all attack and ‘kill’ our target at the same time, which forced them to cast a Draw Energy spell that drained the barrier allowing our fifth player to step through.
Once inside, the insanity of the solution went to the next level. He had to click on a lost cat toy that was inside the room, and when he did, he was teleported back out of the room and took a small amount of random damage. That damage total – 8140 for us – then become a five digit code (08140) that we needed to use to pat five named cats in the Court of Stars dungeon. How on earth anyone worked out that link – the damage taken mapping to pats on some kittens – is beyond our ken.
We dutifully patted our kittens, and were rewarded with a transport to the penultimate stage: the dreaded jumping puzzle.
We had assumed this would be where we failed, as 91 co-ordinated jumps awaited a group not known for our mad mouse & keyboard skills. But we were thrilled to find out the ‘jumps’ were actually just clicks, like jumping on a mount. Hallelujah! So we just needed to follow the sequence laid out in the guide and we were through.
Once again our smarter party members had solved this by half way across, though the step where someone had to leap to their death was surely insoluble except by trial and error.
Which led us to the final challenge, which was a variation on the fox-chicken-farmer river crossing puzzle. It flummoxed us for a while, but our Professor eventually sorted it out and we made it across. I was the poison, whilst our newest recruit was the farmer, which was a happy confluence.
And with that we were done. We entered the room with the Hivemind, which in a nice final touch required all five players to stand in summoning circles to unlock.
Naturally we all then returned to Orgrimmar to flounce around showing off our new mounts.
And best of all, we discovered a secret of our own! Once we all mounted a single Hivemind, our host worked out he could eject us…Special Air Horde!
Thanks to the Secrets Discord for making the solution available to all, and solving it in the first place. And kudos to Blizzard for creating five-person content of such a different flavour.
For the first time in perhaps ever, or at least since WotLK, I feel like I’m actually playing the current version of WoW when everyone else is – and it’s a pretty fun experience.
My Hunter is well geared (solely through World Quests), finished with all the Achievements for BfA Pathfinder Part One, unlocked the Zandalari Troll and Mag’har Orc allied races, reunited with Hati, confronted Jaina in the Dazar’alor raid, and just recently polished off some Lovecraftian old god spawn in the new Crucible of Storms raid. The raids were both in LFR mode, which has it’s share of detractors, but is a godsend for those that don’t have a guild to raid with and just want to see the story.
This has all happened incrementally through logging on and doing daily quests, taking whatever new quests were dropping in the patch cycle, and generally exploring the world. I’m still not a great fan of the Horde-side BfA zone designs, a feeling reinforced by the various allied race and Hati quests that send you scurrying around the old worlds. But overall I’ve really enjoyed the slow but marked process through the new content.
Logging on today I was surprised to realise that I was more or less ‘done’ – there was no reason to do the world quests on offer, the raids were completed, and any gear upgrades on offer were incremental at best. That’s a very unusual position to be in for me, but kind of satisfying. Slight spoiler, but also super satisfying has been following the Baine storyline and helping him defy Sylvanas and become the leader the Horde needs. Those Bloodhoof are good people.
What would be ideal next is to have a cadre of friends to run Mythic dungeons and Normal raids, but that’s not looking likely anytime soon. Our Alliance-side is still working through Vanilla dungeons and our not-so-new-player’s Horde character is only just starting Northrend (and admirably insists on doing every possible quest in each expansion, so it’ll be a while ’til 120). So a max-level group activity will have to wait for the next expansion in late ~2020. Or Classic!
For now it’s time to level some alts, wait for 8.2 to drop (which I’m really looking forward to), and polish off the last few Fishing Achievements.
I finally finished off Nazmir, enjoying it more as the storylines all wrapped up – helps having the end in sight no doubt.
I bumbled around choosing which zone to go to next, eventually settling on Vol’dun, as I was tired of Trolls. And oh boy was I glad I did. The first person you meet is this magical creature:
They’re called Vulpera, and they’re the best thing in WoW since the Highmountain Tauren. If this had have been the first zone I played, I think my entire attitude to BfA would have been different. Armed foxes!
Armed foxes fighting snake people!
Armed mounted foxes!
As many have said, if these guys aren’t the next Horde allied race then Blizzard are mad. I think it would even get Bhagpuss to stump up for a sub, given his #1 favourite race ever were the Vanguard Raki (‘Stocky foxes with a great backstory, characterful animations and the happiest faces’). I can’t wait to play one. Please Blizzard.
On the Alliance side, we ventured into Scarlet Halls last week, which is another great dungeon. It’s the first one that introduces more complex mechanics to the bosses, which meant we dutifully wiped a few times due to only being practiced in tank and spank. Suddenly having to deal with damage spikes and insta-kill mechanics was a whole new thing, but all the more fun as a result.
The second run through had a memorable moment, when everyone wiped on the boss’skiller whirlwind mechanic except me. This left the boss on about 33% health, so I started popping all my defensive cooldowns, healing almost constantly, and doing very tiny chunks of damage to the boss and his adds.
Ironically his mechanic (where he whirls off on his own for ~20 seconds) made it possible, as I could heal almost to full each time before he returned. It’s my first experience of how a Paladin can just keep going and going whilst chipping away at the enemy and eventually wearing them down via sheer persistence. Otherwise known as boring them to death!
Blizzcon this year was fairly light on big news, which was kind of expected given the expectation-hosing Blizzard did before the show even begun, and which was disappointing enough for some (like Syp) to say the show should have been cancelled. I guess for a newshound maybe it was a let down, but people on the ground seemed to have enjoyed it, and despite the lack of huge announcements there was plenty to absorb, made easy by the top notch reporting from BlizzardWatch.
The Overwatch news was very thin, with the only real announcement being the reveal of Ashe, who looks like a great addition (and has been immediately adored by the fanbase). I wonder if Blizzard intentionally unveiled a Western themed hero in the same week as Red Dead Redemption 2 dropped? Seems a little too evil genius I think – and an opening weekend of US$750m for RDR2 wipes everything else off the map.
Meanwhile over in Warcraft land, there’s the remastered Warcraft III, which excited a lot of people, and a bunch of ‘coming soons’ for Warcraft itself. None of which were earth-shattering, but there was a general lifting of the mood around WoW as a result, with the feeling that the developers are starting to get in the expansion groove and listening and responding to the fans. Perhaps there’s hope for BfA yet? Plus, Tauren Heritage armour!
The biggest Warcraft news was saved for the Vanilla version, with the launch being set for mid 2019, and perhaps most surprisingly the fact that it will be ‘free’ for existing subscribers. This is a nice bonus if you’re already playing, as it means there’s no cost to trying it out, and I guess Blizzard’s theory is that those who sub just for Vanilla will also end up having a go at ‘real’ WoW. Smart thinking, and probably worth leaving the money (and potential ill will) on the table that would have come from charging extra for current subscribers.
The panel went into a lot of detail about getting the old code and assets working on the new platforms, and the BlizzardWatch liveblog is well worth reading to understand just how tricky it all is – stuff like finding the old source code (on a backup of a backup!), first bug fixes, lighting, art assets, terrain rules, it’s all a fascinating and rare look behind the scenes.
It was also encouraging to read just how strict Blizzard are being about Vanilla. There are plenty of shortcuts that could be added, but most are being denied. Hour long waits for mail, goblin auction houses, and no dungeon finder. It’s going to be pretty close to the real thing, but with a modern engine, and no real shortcuts – unlike the LotRO ‘Legendary’ server which is probably allowing cash shop advantages, something that seems like a mistake at first glance.
Blizzard also going to be staging the content releases, adding raids and dungeons as they were originally available. That’s great news as it allows time for guilds to work through content slowly, which is probably going to be a requirement given the legendary grinds that used to exist. People who tried the limited Blizzcon beta were already remembering just how clunky things were (the hunter dead-zone, dying a lot, ammo, weapon skills, feeding your pet), but there’s also great features like the old talent trees, a greater sense of purpose in planning your upgrades and progression, and the charm in activities like collecting for its own sake in the pre-achievement driven world.
It’s a tremendous experiment (and hopefully experience), and will interesting to see how long it thrives.
One of the most fascinating – and mind boggling – recentish developments in the Warcraft community is the Warcraft Secret Finding Discord. It’s a huge community of players who are dedicated to discovering and solving secrets that are hidden throughout the game world, and some of the things they’ve solved are incredible.
At some point the Warcraft developers/designers started hiding things in the game for players to discover. I’m not exactly sure when that was, but it seems to have really ramped up during Legion. The secrets are often hidden deep within other secrets, with the ultimate solution leading to a reward like a mount or pet.
Senior designer Jeremy Feasel aka Muffinus seems to be the main culprit, or at least the person who leaks small clues and teasers about what might be out there to find.
Once the secret has been solved, the community share it so we can all benefit from the fun. Syp chronicled his adventures earning the Lucid Nightmare mount, and you can see from the steps involved just how complicated it must have been to work out.
My favourite is probably the solution for the Sun Darter Hatchling. It’s hard to fathom how the community managed to work this one out, with the steps involving a baffling sequence of puzzle solving, potion guzzling, battle pets, and costumes.
Given the popularity of the community and puzzles, it’s no surprise that BfA includes more – and more challenging – challenges. The current hot topic is trying to work out how to earn the elusive Hivemind mount. The first major discovery was the Baa’l battle pet, which has a staggeringly complex sequence to complete before you can claim it.
Meanwhile Muffinus has claimed that the Hivemind was removed during the beta. Such is the game of cat and mouse with these secrets that no-one trusts that to necessarily be true – he does tease that ‘the secret hunt is far from over’ after all.
It just occurred to me – I’m a bit slow – that of course the ultimate secret is called the Hivemind, as the only way these increasingly complicated mysteries can be solved is with exactly that – a community of likeminded, focused, and slightly insane explorers.
One of the more interesting – and controversial – changes with the 8.0 BfA Warcraft patch has been the further introduction of level scaling. It was already around before the patch, but it now seems to be universal. Which has had a huge impact on the speed of levelling.
For the longest time people have complained about out-levelling content so that they feel they can’t effectively finish storylines because the XP reward is basically zero. Not that that meant you couldn’t do the content, just that it felt like you were wasting time – it’s a strange mental trick.
So Blizzard have introduced scaling across all continents and content, effectively splitting it into Vanilla / Burning Crusade + WotLK / Pandaria + Cataclysm / Warlords / Legion / BfA. You can now level in any zone within those brackets, and the mobs and rewards will scale accordingly.
This is pretty great in many ways, as those that enjoy the storylines can experience the entire thing. You can jump to a zone you haven’t played and everything will be a gentle challenge and you’ll get gear upgrades as you travel. It’s a boon for the Alliance levelling we’re doing, making each zone relevant and interesting.
The main disadvantage is all the old speed levelling techniques have dried up. I’m interested in levelling an Allied race – Highmountain Tauren, naturally – so started investigating how best to do it. The received wisdom seems to be that there are basically no shortcuts any more.
The old favourite of chain running dungeons appears to be off the cards, as the time invested in the run is often better served just doing simple questing.
When we started running the low level Alliance dungeons, I assumed everyone would be gaining two or three levels per run, meaning we’d have trouble completing them all. But the scaling has meant that people are lucky to level even once, and all the dungeons are available until level 60. Pretty great, and very clever.
Some claim that carrying through dungeons with a high level friend (or second account) is still an option, running Stormwind Stockades from 1-60(!), but that is terminally dull. Some redditors seem to think that there’s a pet battle loophole, but that too sounds super dull. I want to level fastish, but I don’t want to just do the same thing over, and over, and over.
So in the end, it seems that the simple act of gearing your character up with heirlooms, taking mining and herbing, and setting out into the world is the best method. Which is probably as it should be, and I’m merrily making my way through the Barrens once again as a result, and enjoying every moment.
Speaking of oral histories, US Gamer has just published an epic ‘How World of Warcraft was made’ article that interviews many of the main players – current game director Ion Hazzikostas, principal artist Jimmy Lo, and technical director Patrick Dawson, as well as old hands like Rob Pardo and Greg ‘Ghostcrawler’ Street.
It’s a huge effort by writer Mike Williams, covering everything from the genesis of the game through to the launch of BfA, and there’s a tonne of great quotes, detail, and concept art.
One of the emerging themes from the article is how random or lucky things would become key planks of the Warcraft experience. Originally quests were meant to run out eventually and leave the player with an open sandbox to play with:
“That was our on-paper design. But pretty early on, once we were doing team play tests, what we learned was the moment that you ran out of quests in your quest log, the game just felt broken and people didn’t know what to do,” says Pardo. “It was definitely this big moment where the team was like, ‘Uh oh, I guess we have to do ten times as many quests as we thought we were going to do.’ But I think it’s one of those great moments that happen in game development, where once you find the nuggets that are really fun, you double down on it.”
Similarly the art team were originally heading down the realistic graphics path before they decided something more hand painted might work better, as Lo describes:
“When we first saw the human farm building in Westfall, that was the first time where I was like, ‘Wow, I think we got something here.’ It was also cool because it had a handcrafted feel to it because we were painting everything; we weren’t photobashing and using photo textures. It went with the word ‘Warcraft.’ It had the ‘craft’ in it. It’s kind of a cool, happy accident that came to be.”
“…I think with WoW it turned out as this kind of stylized, timeless art style where it aged very well. It never really got outdated.”
As has been recounted before, the team were also somewhat blindsided by the popularity of the game. Things like the opening of the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj were so popular designers had to intervene directly:
“I think the WoW development team maybe wasn’t as well-oiled of a machine back then, because it actually came as a surprise to the engineering staff that we decided to funnel the entire population of World of Warcraft into a single area. Everybody was waiting for that moment all in the same area,” recalls Dawson. “We’re sitting here teleporting out level 30 characters-‘You’ve have no business being here and you’re just killing your server!’-and we’re doing this by hand just trying to make it.”
Greg Street talks about how the Cataclysm rejig started as a mission to refresh a few zones that were showing their age into something far greater (which perhaps explains why it wasn’t wholly successful):
“And so what started out as a series of surgical projects ended up with probably redoing 70 percent of the world in a very fundamental way. And so that was redoing 60 levels worth of content, redoing 70 percent of the entire [outdoor environments] from 2004, while also making five brand-new zones for leveling players from 80 to 85, and the new dungeons, new raids, and everything else. That was a tremendous undertaking.”
He also discusses how Mists of Pandaria was intially badly received by the playerbase:
“The mistake we made was we imagined that all WoW players loved the idea of a Pandaren, which had been originally kind of designed as a joke,” Street adds. “I think in retrospect if we had just made an Asian-inspired continent and had the Pandaren race, but not made them the focal point? Not named the expansion after it, not put a Pandaren Monk on the box, we probably wouldn’t have gotten that response. People saw the Pandaren and I think that was when they’re like, ‘Wow, they’re forsaking their roots.'”
Pandaria ended up being a player favourite, but (probably due to development lead times) Blizzard responded by building the polar opposite in Warlords of Draenor – as the author puts it, “If Mists of Pandaria was a lighter Chinese opera, Warlords of Draenor was literally death metal.”. And we all know how that turned out.
It’s a great article and a must read if you’re a fan of the game.
In my ongoing quest to avoid BfA, today I was further pondering the rare hunting project and how it might work.
Should it be a single character that does all the ‘collecting’?
It seems like that might be a good policy, creating a specialised rare-hunter, with a backstory and attitude to match. The name will be important, to capture the flavour of the endeavour.
When to start?
Before flight is available it’s quite a challenge (or at least pretty slow) getting around finding the rare creatures. So it’s tempting to start this with a high level character, and go back flying around one-shotting the vanilla mobs. But it’s been great fun doing it on foot with the new Alliance team, so maybe clearing each zone as it happens is more appealing, and makes the hunt more in-character.
A druid might make sense, with the travel forms and tanking spec to help with the tougher fights. Or maybe a Paladin for similar reasons. But my heart thinks a Hunter is the natural choice here. A soloist at heart, carefully tracking and researching wild prey.
I considered Marksmenship as a spec, the idea of a sharpshooting sniper appealing, but BeastMaster is probably closer to my head canon for this character. Having a trusted companion along for the journey makes it more appealing – especially one that can tank 🙂
To kill or not to kill?
This is a tricky one. Sometimes I find rares and feel like they should be left in peace, especially the free roaming animals. I despise the idea of hunting in the real world, so celebrating it in game is a bit contradictory. Then again, this is a game, and Hunters hunt. Maybe I can play it by ear, sometimes letting live and let live, sometimes finishing the target for the good of Azeroth.
One of the harder things is getting a good screenshot before the dead mob dematerialises, or before another character on one of those @#$@# low level sidecar mounts arrives to ruin the photo. And do you have the name (and nameplate?) of the mob showing or not? It’s a good record of who it was, but I guess that could also be achieved by the layout of the blog page recording the deed.
I’d also like to learn how to make screenshots look better – mine are often too dark and badly lit. The gold standard is Bendak’s screenshots at Eyes of the Beast, which all manage to look spectacular, so I assume he’s doing some post processing on them. Further research required.
I’ll probably shamelessly steal Cymre’s layout and have a page per zone with all the rares collected there. Simple and effective.
Should I do this?
I think I should! It’s a long term thing, a fun side project, and for some inexplicable reason I can imagine it best playing it as a human, of all things. Maybe Hell can freeze over after all.
Tonight our troop of Alliance debutantes headed into our first dungeon, the deadly Deadmines.
Deep beneath the mines of Moonbrook in southwestern Westfall lie the Deadmines. Despite the demise of the Defias Brotherhood’s leader Edwin VanCleef at the hands of Alliance militiamen, the Deadmines is still the Brotherhood’s most secure hideout since Cataclysm. Here the survivors of Edwin’s crew toil alongside new recruits, so that the Defias juggernaut ship can be complete and the kingdom of Stormwind can be brought to its knees. All this is happening under the vigilant eyes of “Captain” Cookie… and Vanessa VanCleef.
Going back to Deadmines raised some old memories. Way back in the day I was escorting a Guildie through Deadmines in search of a Rogue twinking chest (is twinking still a thing?), and as he was busy looting while I one shot everything in sight, my young Rogue friend coined a nice term for what I was doing: PVE Ganking. The Defias mobs had zero chance, like an 80 whacking on a freshly minted level 1 in a PVP zone. That quickly joined our other favourites – Bag Rage (need more slots!), Drop Logic (“Maybe you have to kill the tar monsters in the tar for the teeth to drop?”), and Threading (for when you move through a group of mobs without pulling a single one).
It’s a great dungeon, and a great first dungeon if you’ve never seen one. Plenty of mobs and bosses, fun mechanics, and the lovely moment when you bust through the mines and emerge into a huge cavern with a fully fledged pirate ship ahead.
It’s also pretty funny for a dungeon – most are pretty standard heroic fare, but this one has ogres wielding kobolds as weapons, goblin bosses riding ogres in turn, and a murloc boss who tosses slowly rotting food whilst sitting in a cooking pot.
Plus that murloc boss drops a weapon that is so ridiculous that Blizzard had to make a special rule to forbid it from being used for transmog.
It was a great reunion for our group of players who used to play together regularly, with plenty of laughs and ridiculous situations, especially the revelation that our new player hadn’t realised he could change his characters appearance when he was created, so he has whatever the randomiser came up with – we had wondered about the haircut choice. But he’s a real character now, a budding hero of the Alliance, so he can’t possibly be changed.
We also had a friend join from Chicago where he’d moved many years ago, which was a great reminder of the power of gaming and MMOs to bring a dispersed group together. As the freshman noted, Warcraft is almost “a weaponised banter and nostalgia machine….really if you were all spread out it would almost be mandatory to play something like this.” We are, and it almost is.