Warcraft: What’s in a name

The Classic server names have been released, and it’s an interesting mix. Some are names of famous lore characters – Mankrik(!), Faerlina – and some are well known factions like the infamous Hydraxian Waterlords or the Bloodsail Buccaneers.

There are twelve EU servers, eleven US, and only two for the Oceanic zone. That must reflect the active player base numbers, so we Oceanic players should be thankful there are any local servers – it would have been easy to leave them off, though given the infrastructure is already here for Live the incremental cost would be low. Still – thanks Blizzard.

Another interesting aspect of the Classic servers is the breakdown of types. I wouldn’t have guessed that PVP would be the most popular, but the US realms are broken down PVP (five), PVE (four), RP (one), and RPPVP (one). So overall one extra PVP server. In the EU zone it’s a similar story though the numbers are evenly split six each.

I assumed PVP was the minority these days, especially with the outcry over the factional warfare focus in BfA, but it turns out there’s an even demand for both – at least according to Blizzard’s analysis which we should probably trust given they’re putting hard money behind this.

So while the US and EU have a lot of chioce, for Oceanic there are only two: Arugal (PVP) and Remulos (PVE).

Now obviously the server name doesn’t really matter, but it’s always fun to choose a good name. If we look at the lore, Keeper Remulos is a famous Druid of the Grove – his father was Cenarius and grandparents Elune and Malorne. That’s some serious heritage. But he’s Alliance affiliated and not really part of the Horde story, so not a good match for a Horde player.

Archmage Arugal on the other hand is infamous for two things: unleashing the Worgen and being the final boss of Shadowfang Keep. In WotLK he is raised as an Undead and ends up leading worg packs throughout Grizzly Hills. All in all an entertaining and creepy figure, and much better suited to the Horde – you could even argue, as Rohan at Blessing of Kings does, that the Worgen should have been a Horde race.

So Arugal it is – though because it’s a PVP server I think an insurance character on Remulos is a good idea. And for my third reserved name there’s no question. There’s a US realm called Pagle after the legendary and heroic fisherman Nat Pagle.

Love at first bite


Warcraft: Delight and Delay

By the time I logged into the stress test today I think it was no longer stressful. The US realms were packed, but the sole AU realm was only at medium pop. It’ll be interesting to see if it gets full tonight when more people will be at home to give it a try.

I rolled a few Alliance and Horde characters to see how each zone was playing and what differences if any there were. The Alliance zones seemed a lot more popular – especially the Humans, but even the Dwarves were fairly busy. Chat was full of either people trolling each other, or full of wonder at the nostalgia hit. The Tauren zone on the other hand was relatively lowly populated, and chat was much more helpful and gentle, as befits the Tauren nature.

Not being overly familiar with the Alliance, it was entertaining to hear how their intros were far more heroic when compared to the Horde. The Dwarves were going to war with the ‘merciless Horde’, and the Humans were being told ‘now is the time for humans’ – racial supremacy seems to be their thing. I wonder if the current voiceover intro is the same…

…nope. Updated for Cataclysm, and also doing away with the Horde bashing and Human trumpeting. I guess Cataclysm was good for something after all!

The experience is very familiar, yet also very different. A Paladin starts with precisely zero melee abilities, having only the Seal of Righteousness buff to apply before you auto-attack with a hammer. Everything feels slightly slower and slightly more challenging, though I think respawn rates have been upped – maybe just for the test? Start zones have aggressive mobs again, and it feels like you have to put more thought into your play. Much of this is simply due to the overpowered nature of Live now we have heirlooms and streamlined levelling, but there’s also a sense of delight at a world which is a bit rough around the edges and a bit more dangerous.

I didn’t play long, partly because the characters will be wiped, but mainly because I started to get the thrill of the new, strange as that may sound. Despite incredibly familiarity with Mulgore and the Tauren starter areas, it felt like I was doing it for the first time. Things seem more like work, more like you have to earn your quests and loot and upgrades and skills. Looting a grey drop and equipping it because it’s better. Having to read the quests to find directions, and understand and learn the map as a result. Dealing with mobs dying slowly, and being cautious on pulls. Knowing that getting through a zone, or a dungeon, or even a quest, is going to take concentration and effort.

It felt like there was a real journey ahead, and one which would take time. It will be fascinating to see if the glow wears off once it launches, but for now I’m excited.

I jumped onto Live shortly after, and attempted the Nazjatar dailies, and the comparison was stark. Even though they’ve made the zone hard – I died a few times – it doesn’t feel like it’s hard because you’re learning, it feels hard because that means it will take longer, and because the map is frustratingly difficult to navigate.

Earning flying almost seems not worth it, and disappointingly punitive with the two new factions you have to advance – as Grimmtooth says, it feels like a slog rather than fun gameplay. I was looking forward to working to the flight unlock, but I think I’m starting to agree with Kaylriene’s theory on the curse of the x.2 patch:

I’d like to talk about what I’ve taken to calling the “ChoreCraft” effect – the point where playing the game distils down to a set of chores you have to do in order to enjoy the game … Since Pathfinder was introduced, no matter how good the underlying content is – no matter how artful the zones, beautiful the music, fun the raid and/or dungeon – it always will have the stink of being the place you go to do the chores.

I think Pathfinder should probably just be a single part, followed by a token quest chain unlock when the patch that enables flying drops. That would be far more satisfying, and allow the design of the new zones to focus on flying and fun instead of repetition and delay.

Despite all this I still like the idea of being land-locked for the first period of an expansion, but delaying it now via rep grinds is just busy work. It’s a worry for Blizzard when the initial narrative for a point release is that it’s annoying. There is some hope I guess as people seem to enjoy Mechagon, but there’s no avoiding Nazjatar.


Warcraft: Classic stress

A break from the regular FFXIV posts today to catch up with the goings on in Warcraft world.

The big event tomorrow is the Global stress test, starting Friday 9 at 0400 Australian time. For a moment I was excited to read that it would be ‘tomorrow 4AM’ on the official announcement page, thinking that meant 4AM California time and a perfect 9PM here, but quickly realised Blizzard have developed some kind of clever tech that displays the time relative to your OS locale or something. Curses.


Still it will be fun to hop in and see the chaos and excitement. Also in that post are ‘minimum’ specs, nothing to worry about there – you can even play with (relatively new) integrated laptop graphics. And for those wanting to try it for the first time, remember to download the client in advance – quoting from the post:

  1. Open the Blizzard Battle.net Desktop App and select World of Warcraft in the game selection menu on the left.
  2. Under the Version dropdown menu, select World of Warcraft Classic. If you have more than one World of Warcraft account, you’ll see a second dropdown for Account. In that column, select the active account to associate with your WoW Classic install.
  3. Click the Install button. You’ll see an installation progress bar that will show you when the installation is complete.

There was some news released about the Classic realms, with the welcome announcement that RP-PVP worlds will be available. Slightly less welcome is it appears to be US and EU only for the moment, but we in AU live in hope.

Blizzard have also created something called Classic Connections which guides you through drilling down from faction to realm-type to your original server, and then posting your name and class in order to try and reunite with some of the people you played with. It’s a nice idea, though the pickings are fairly slim at the moment. Maybe as we get closer to launch it will perk up.

And finally, name reservations are opening August 12 at 3PM, translating to 8AM August 13 for Australia (and I think 11PM GMT on the 12th). Blizzard have done pretty well here choosing a time that means most people will be vaguely awake. An important job before leaving for work that morning – choosing which three names, and which servers, is going to be more stressful than the stress test I think!

Meanwhile on Live, our Alliance dungeon questing is almost at the end of the Classic dungeon set – tonight we finished off Stratholme, so only Blackrock Depths and Blackrock Spire and to go. The latter is a real favourite, a classic long dungeon crawl with amazing design, so I’m looking forward to that. Stratholme too is a great instance, full of tricky pulls and deadly postmen. And Baron Rivendale, who, typically, didn’t drop his mount. Though he did drop a very nice sword – 10% movement buff and constant self-heals? Now that’s a weapon for Classic.


FFXIV: The first hurdle

Despite having ‘installed’ FFXIV and having an icon all ready to click, it turns out that I was still a long way from playing once I actually did click it. Best laid plans etc.

The first challenge was to logon to my Square-Enix account. Sounds simple enough. I looked in my password database and found the details I’d used to buy the game, plugged in my email address and… ran out of characters about half way. Hm. Well maybe it’s asking for my nickname, that would make sense. But using that along with my password gave an ‘incorrect user or password’. Huh.

I tried various combinations, double checked everything, and eventually thought about changing the password – but abandoned that after I managed to successfully logon to the website using it.

Stumped, I turned to the internet hive mind, and found a lot of people had a similar experience. While I couldn’t find a definitive or official answer, eventually I determined that there seem to be two different Square-Enix account types – one for the shop, and one for the game. Ugh.

I ended up on a site that looked pretty dodgy, with fake looking Norton ticks and clumsy fonts, but turned out to be legit.


Armed with my new account details, I tried again: success!

The launcher screen that greeted me was a wonderful eyesore, all colours and fonts and busyness, quite a change from the austerity of the Blizzard launcher. It promised much, from MogStation (not sure what that is yet) to theme songs on iTunes to Ceremonies of Eternal Bonding (will this month make me ready for that kind of commitment?).

All of the things

Compare that to the Blizzard equivalent which rather more tamely highlighted some transmog shop items and an upcoming outage.

Less of the things

My plan was to settle in to character creation next, but of course being the era of always-on, there was a massive 40GB of downloading to be done. So there won’t be any playing just yet – but it won’t be long.

In other news, Classic month is ramping up in Blizzardworld1, with the news today that a universal stress test will be held on August 8 at 1100 PDT – aka 0400 August 9 for Australians.

I won’t be waking up for it, but it will be interesting to see how Blizzard’s scaling tech handles what I’m sure will be pretty much every current subscriber logging on for a poke around. And all in one zone trying to kill this guy too I suspect.

For the Horde!


  1. It seems clear that Blizzard are going to try to get Classic to suck up all the MMO oxygen for August. Tough month for the competition. Lucky the Blaugust crew will be keeping Blizzard honest! 

Blaugusting Final Fantasy XIV

Blaugust has once again arrived in the gaming corner of the blogosphere, thanks to the great efforts of Belghast.

Like last year, I’m participating, and I thought that maybe I’d try my hand at a brand new game and blog my reactions and experiences – inspired partly by the highly entertaining diary Bhagpuss kept of his Star Wars: The Old Republic escapades. But not quite on the scale of UltrViolet at Endgame Viable who is planning to play no less than 31 games from his Steam backlog – one per day during Blaugust – and video the sessions to boot. Madness, but brilliant!

I’ve chosen Final Fantasy XIV Online (hereafter FFXIV), the hot-mmo-du-jour, as the victim, an icon that’s sat on my desktop untouched since buying it cheaply late 2018.

I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game of any stripe, despite owning many PlayStations – I think I even have a copy of the PS1 version of FFVII squirrelled away somewhere. So I’ll be coming into the game completely fresh, blind to the lore, and with no real idea how to play it.

There’s been plenty of chatter about the game recently, with the Shadowbringers expansion being very well received, and FFXIV apparently challenging WoW (a very cogent analysis from Kaylriene) for the MMO popularity crown. I love that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in the Shadowbringers trailer, other than it all looks epic and everyone is very handsome.

Of course (late) August also bring the release of Warcraft Classic, something I’m surprisingly excited about (along with at least one of my regular Warcraft crew) and will certainly blog about. Maybe it’s not that surprising – having started in Burning Crusade, I’m thrilled to be given the chance to see the original game, janky models and all. As my fellow guildie says, it will be novel to have to really earn things again in Warcraft, instead of having loot drop like rain. Even the idea of name reservations is exciting – we live in strange times!

First things first though: FFXIV here we come.


Current Affairs

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.

Please don’t open

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.

Such a good dog

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.

Further dungeoneering

Our Alliance adventures have continued apace, and we’re now down to the final seven before we can advance to the BC suite.

Seemed appropriate in a Monastery

We finished off the Scarlet sequence by cleansing Scarlet Monastery, another lovely piece of dungeon design, with the appearance of Lillian Voss being a highlight – and also a highlight of BfA as it turns out. One of Blizzard’s great strengths is allowing secondary characters to grow and feature through the course of many expansions, and Lillian’s story is one of the best. It’s not too spoilery to say her role as a shepherd for fresh Undead in BfA is superbly done.

Next up were the Razorfen pair, not as interesting but still good romps.

The last of many quillboar

Last week was the twists and turns of Maraudon. A strange mix of dinosaurs, centaurs, and noxious slime, and a very handsome elemental queen – and apparently the mother of the Centaur? My Tauren self was pleased to finish her off in that case.

During the Maraudon run I suddenly realised I was gaining XP, despite having switched if off at level 60 to allow us to continue queuing for the lower level instances. Somehow patch 8.1.5 had switched XP back on. I promptly forgot about it and then was horrified to ding 61 after killing Theradras. One of our party cleverly suggested a cursed DK could take the place of my Dwarf, and that seemed like the only way to continue, but I was very sad to have to abandon my Paladin. I raised a pleading ticket to Blizzard to reverse the level, not expecting it to be possible, but was amazed to find it was! They promptly downlevelled me to 60, and even froze the XP too. All praise to support rep Sehtovkt for the assistance, and Blizz for being flexible.

Don’t stand in the green

And finally, this week we ventured into Scholomance, another beautiful instance. There are so many great design elements in there, from the Flesh Horrors to the Bored Students, and the Gothic nature of the ruins themselves. After the Mists redesign, it’s also one of the few early dungeons that requires watching mechanics, not just tank & spanking – our returning friend Lillian Voss, cursed by Darkmaster Gandling, even managed to wipe our party. Our revenge on Gandling was all the sweeter as a result.

Foxy Azeroth

I finally finished off Nazmir, enjoying it more as the storylines all wrapped up – helps having the end in sight no doubt.

Surprised this construct took me seriously with my headgear. His is way more impressive.

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.

A breather before the final boss

The second run through had a memorable moment, when everyone wiped on the boss’s killer 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!

…and then I popped Consecration, followed by Flash of Light…then Consecration again…


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.

From the other side

I tried, BfA, I really tried.

My Hunter main is sitting at 112, bogged down in the swamps of Nazmir. The storyline is mostly enjoyable, but like Syp, I tired of the brown and grey environment very quickly, and it seems to go on forever. I’m sure I’ll get to 120 eventually, but the swamp and the fact that Trolls have unfortunately never appealed to me means the expansion has really failed to get its claws in.

Poor Torga

Luckily, and somewhat surprisingly, I’ve been having great fun with my levelling Dwarf Tank. Trying the ‘other side’ has always been a long term goal, and I’m very pleased to be finally doing it. The Alliance really does have quite a different feel, despite fulfilling the same collect x of y quests, where there is far more emphasis on being right, and being the ‘good guys’ when compared to the barbaric Horde.

All of which is rubbish of course, but I’m embracing my Alliance righteousness: wearing ‘the Hordebreaker’ as my title and laying waste to any Horde that crosses my path. With the exception of Tauren of course – on one escort quest I kept the NPC alive rather than killing the Tauren warriors, though I’m not sure how sustainable this policy will be.

It’s been refreshing playing zones I’ve never seen too, all the Eastern Kingdom Alliance only areas, and now Darkshore (post-Cataclysm but pre-Sylvanas horrorshow). Some of the questing and storytelling is excellent, with the ridiculous Bravo Company of Redridge Mountains being a particular highlight. So too Duskwood (end of the zone to the other and back quests excepted), which included some lovely personal stories and a fun crypt section which was a brand new layout for the normally predictable underground territory.

Hey, wait a minute…

Dungeon runs have continued apace, and we’re now up to Scarlet Cathedral. It’s been great revisiting the dungeons in sequence and with a group of friends, meaning we can take our time to scheme and laugh our way through. Shadowfang Keep has probably been the pinnacle of the early dungeons – it’s terrific being on the battlements seeing out into Silverpine Forest – though the hilarity of pet-pulling half of Gnomeregan and the ‘rope trick’ in Blackfathom Deeps also rate highly.

All of which is making me fear it’s more likely I’ll end up experiencing BfA from the Alliance side before the Horde. Then again – our dungeon group has a pact to play all the dungeons together before advancing, so at one a week it will be years before we catch up to current content. Phew. For the Horde!