Warcraft: Classic Dungeonmasters

Last night our Alliance guild finished off the final Dungeon in the original ‘Vanilla’ (aka Classic!) set, Lower Blackrock Spire, a dungeon crawl par excellence.


When I used to tank pug, I was always glad when LBRS popped - though often I had to queue for it specifically as once you hit 58 the game decides it’s BC dungeons or bust. It’s a far more linear run than Blackrock Depths which makes it much easier with a PUG, but more importantly it’s full of interesting bosses, bonus quests, pet drops, and stunning multi-level design that absolutely nails the underground fortress feel.


Much like BRD, there are many spots in the dungeon where you can see where you will be going later, or where you’ve been previously, and plenty of tricks for backtracking and short-cutting if you want to. The bonus boss Urok Doomhowl is a great example, requiring you to have looted the head of a prior boss but also to have collected an unmarked pike to stick that head on. The designers obviously realised people might miss the pike, and cleverly allow you to jump down to a lower level path that leads you directly back to the pile of pikes… followed by a long jog back to your party. At least one way was fast!


LBRS is basically a dark Horde stronghold, which makes it strange to run as actual Horde, even if the minions and bosses are Horde traitors. Killing Orcs and Trolls doesn’t sit quite right. On the other hand, doing it as Alliance feels exactly right.



One thing that became a problem late in this sequence of runs was Blizzard’s 8.2 change to group XP, where having a level-locked person in the group meant no-one earned XP for the events during the Dungeon nor the quest hand-ins at the end. Apparently the change was made to foil people charging for level 110-120 boosting, but surely Blizzard could have made that only apply to the high level boosting.


Several of our members were using each run to level up, which worked perfectly with keeping pace on the dungeon level requirements, and that stopped abruptly with the policy change. We did work out you could disband the group, wait for a 5 minute cooldown, and hand in the quests for full credit, but that is a pretty dull thing to have to do and doesn’t help with the missing XP from all the dungeon mob and boss killing. It’s a pretty punishing change for groups like us who are working systematically through content.


The level nerf didn’t spoil our fun however. We finished the journey that started way back in Deadmines over a year ago, and earned our Classic Dungeonmaster achievement.

The Blackrock dungeon duo are a fabulous end to an epic 60 levels of dungeoneering - our newest player commenting on how he was exhausted but exhilarated by the end of LBRS, with the achievement being all the sweeter for the tribulations Blackrock Mountain had put us through.


Now it’s time to unlock XP again and venture into the wilds of Outland and the many good Dungeons - and colourful outfits - to be found there.



Warcraft Classic: UI and add-ons

After testing a few things I think I’ve settled on a UI for Classic. Or at least settled on the fundamentals. I decided against a full UI replacement with ElvUI. Despite the convenience of one-add-on-to-rule-them-all, it’s less fun than creating your own, certainly during the early days when there aren’t as many add-on choices. Plus , when levelling, things like Boss Mods and rotation optimisation aren’t nearly so important, meaning you can concentrate on just adding bits and pieces that make it more enjoyable to play.


I played for a few days and started noting down the things I was missing. The most immediate one was having unit and action frames closer to the centre of the screen where my character is. Having to constantly shuffle your eyes down to the action bars at the bottom of the screen, and way up to the unit frames at the top left, means often missing out what’s happening to your character in the middle. That can be bad when adds start coming, but also it means not seeing nice attack animation and even just admiring mob design mid battle.

The default UI - functional but not eyeball efficient


After testing a few things to solve that issue, I chose Bartender4 (BT4) for the action bars, and Shadowed Unit Frames (SUF) for the, uh, unit frames. Both were tools i used in BC so it was a nice throwback as well as being useful.

UI hidden - the best view of all


Bartender is easy to configure and immediately simplifies the screen by removing a lot of the Blizzard chrome. It also allows easy hiding of bars that you don’t want, and you can move those you do whereever you like. So now I have my main actions just below my character on two bars. Similarly SUF simplifies the look of your character frame, and the target and target of target, etc. There’s a lot of options, but the defaults work well and match BT4 well too. One favourite feature is hiding unit frames when out of combat, which cleans up the world view considerably.

Modified UI when idle. Hides a lot of the cruft to make the world a lot more visible and pleasant. It’s not too much busier than a totally hidden UI


The next obvious thing was a bag replacement. It didn’t matter too much at first given only one bag, but the sudden proliferation of tailors making linen bags to level their skill meant a bag add-on was a big help. I tried Bagnon and Inventorian, but didn’t love them. Then I found that TBag had been recreated for Classic and rejoiced. TBag is my favourite bag add-on - super simple, fast, colour coding, and category sorting all add up to a winning combination. It’s unfortunately been abandonded for Live - another reason Classic is Better!

For nameplates I added Threat Plates, which has the advantage of helping with threat management as a tank. It colour codes the threat levels (green when you have threat, red when you’ve lost it, and yellow when you’re losing it) and can work for either tank or DPS classes. I may change this for DPS use depending on what I end up levelling the most, but at the moment it’s working fine.

Modified UI in combat mode. All the important stuff is happening where your eyes should be


Those were the main things I replaced that made the game nicer to play without changing the experience too much. I’m also using OmniCC and Classic Aura Durations, just to have nice countdowns and sweeps on abilities.

The other thing I tried briefly was ClassicCodex, mainly because I saw some screenshots that showed interesting things like the percentage drop chance of an item and this was the add-on that did that. But I soon disabled it because it added much more than drop stats. It introduces a lot of the quest conveniences we’re used to on Live and more - map icons for quest givers and hand ins, dots on the map to show quest locations, spawn locations for quest mobs, etc. It was also default configured to auto accept and auto hand in quests, which totally confused me for a minute. So it basically felt a lot like a fast levelling tool, which is fine but not something I was looking for or interested in.

Once I get into Dungeons I might try AtlasLootClassic, as it was another original add-on and it’s fun seeing what the bosses might drop and planning accordingly - but I wonder if it too might be a bit too revealing, like the Codex add-on.

I’m enjoying the slower pace so something that interrupts that to make you more productive actually seems counterproductive in a weird way. SynCaine nails this contradiction when analysing a MassivelyOP post revelling in the slowed down nature of Classic which at the same time talks about how to speed it up: I love the difficulty so much I installed a mod to remove it!.

Using the default UI is completely workable, and is theoretically more ‘Classic’, but in the end I agree with Belghast’s tweet where he said that using add-ons has been as much a core part of Warcraft as the game itself. It’s fun to use them, and it’s incredible seeing what people have created to enhance the game.



Warcraft Classic: Death defining

Today in Warcraft Classic I died. Quite a few times. This was tremendous!

Abandon all hope ye who exit here


My new-to-Warcraft-although-no-longer-that-new friend has started playing Classic too (unfortunately as Alliance), and has been commenting on how he keeps dying. Mainly to murlocs, which made the old hands in our group have PTSD flashbacks.


In a typical “I remember when” fashion I laughed and assumed it was due to his rookie skills, and that I would never die - or only very rarely - during lowly levelling quests. How wrong I was. My first death was to the Palemane Gnoll leader Snagglespear. Like a typical boss, he stands in the middle of a campsite surrounded by fast spawning minions. Another player and I grouped up to take him on, having seen several others try solo and fail. Surely a Druid and Warrior would make short work of him even at level 7, we thought, before he instead made short work of us.

A Classic lament


We did get him eventually, with great caution and judicious pulling, but even then it was close. Unlike Live where he’s guaranteed to drop a 6 slot bag, his Classic loot table drops absolutely nothing of use, but succeeding with the challenge of defeating him was reward enough.


Snagglespear however seemed to open the death floodgates for me, and I proceeded to be killed by Prairie Stalkers and Flatland Cougars working together, Wiry Swoop talons, Venture Co. troublemakers, and Windfury Sorceresses (twice!). Mulgore is huge so the death runs were long, but I kind of enjoyed every one of them.


I eventually learned that running around in white and grey gear and no way of healing meant extreme patience was required. Plus a lot of 360 camera panning during a fight to check for patrolling extras. Mulgore’s spread out nature is somewhat deceiving - you think there’s plenty of space so you won’t get hemmed in, but the mobs have long patrol paths so you can suddenly find yourself in a perfect storm of fang and claw. The triumph of the day was downing Supervisor Fizsprocket and plenty of his Venture Co. cronies. It would have been impossible - or near impossible - to solo, but organic grouping meant we (still cautiously!) cleared his mine and recovered his… clipboard.

Almost sounds like FFXIV!


This post also marks the final day of Blaugust. I’m pleased to have posted every day again (like last year), and most of them felt ‘postable’. I do agree with Endgame Viable that deciding not to post is a valuable skill, but Blaugust makes it hard to shelve things - I think the Money on the Table post is probably one that I would have dropped (which makes it ironic I’m now linking to it again), but it was getting late and I didn’t have the energy to start something fresh. And I did like that press box!

Many thanks to all who have read and commented during the month, I’ve really enjoyed reading a lot of new and established bloggers who’ve participated too - though I’ve struggled to keep up with all the reading. And of course huge thanks to Belghast for pulling this together - a monumental effort each year. It’s great to read how much enjoyment he’s getting from Classic, which appropriately enough mirrors what he’s created with Blaugust: a community.

I think more than anything I am enthralled by World of Warcraft Classic because it represents something that I never really dared dream would happen. Sure I had high hopes about getting the band back together and tromping around in Azeroth. However what I really missed was the return to the sense of broader community that existed during that time. Apparently lots of people also missed this because it has done my jaded heart good to see players helping players constantly.

A nice Blaugusty reward!

#Blaugust31



Warcraft Classic: Mellow Mulgore

Compared to Tirisfal Glades which was teeming with Undead, the Red Cloud Mesa in Mulgore was a relaxed and mellow gathering of Tauren, as befits their nature. It may also have to do with being on a PVE server instead of PVP… but I like the other theory better.

The two zones are quite different to begin with. Tirisfal funnels players down a road and hems you in quite tight, where Mulgore is wide open spaces with freedom to roam. It’s more clever design from Blizzard, establishing the dispositions of the races through the environment in which they’re introduced.


The sound design of each zone also reflects the personality of their occupants. The Tauren are greeted with wonderful birdlife, the crackling of warming bonfires, and the creak of windmills providing sustenance to the villages. The Undead on the other hard are haunted by swirling wind and distant cries, and the incessant heartbeat of a life they can never live. I’ve really noticed the sound in Classic, with music down and ambience all the way up it’s spectacularly good. I wonder if in Live I’m too busy doing jobs - and too efficient at doing them - to just stop and listen.


I also thing it’s vastly better how it doesn’t take long for Classic to introduce mobs that will agro. The starter zones on Live are all sanctuaries of passive mobs, and I think it’s an improvement to have a bit of danger even while you’re learning the ropes - it adds excitement and risk to the experience. Levelling a Warrior is pretty simple stuff, with only a few abilities. I made sure to get to level four so I could train Charge, which establishes the core Warrior characteristic early on - furiously running into battle and not stopping until either you or the enemy has fallen.

In Classic even a Warrior has to be a little cautious though - chain killing cougars was enough to get my health whittled down to the point where I had to pause and recover.


I was amused to see a fellow Warrior charging toward a Plainstalker without a weapon equipped and punching it until it dropped. That reminded me that there is an Unarmed skill in Classic, so I took my weapon off too and ran around punching things. Very silly but very entertaining too.


Classic continues to enchant, I really love the feeling of starting from nothing, not being able to lean on alts and cash reserves and banks full of help. Over the years I’ve sometimes decided I’ll start a whole new stable of characters on a fresh server, but it’s never had quite the same feel - I think because I’ve always been able to switch back to my established roster of equipped and enriched regulars. On Classic that’s not possible, and planning out a set of characters to support and compliment each other with professions and experience is a fun project in itself.

A next step is looking around for a guild. I wish there were more Australian bloggers around so there could be a guild with a strong community of people who also write about their experience - something like Belghast’s terrific House Kraken.

Once I’m through the level 10 specialisation choice (and once I’ve chosen which character to concentrate on first) I’ll start testing the waters of some of the broadcast guild invites. Another approach might be to run some Dungeons and observe which guilds seem to have good attitudes - and a good name! - and trial a few that way.

#Blaugust30



FFXIV: Fashionable farewell

My FFXIV subscription ran out yesterday, so the initial part of the project - spending Blaugust investigating the game - has come to an end.

Having played for a month, I don’t think I will stump up for a further subscription. That’s not because the game doesn’t warrant payment, but more because I felt like it was a game that should be played with others. Not surprising given it’s an MMO, but a little surprising given the reputation it has a strong story based game.

As I’ve covered, the story has failed to grab me in the first ~15 levels I’ve played on two separate characters. Which sounds like it’s a common experience when people discuss the original MSQ. The enthusiasm seems to come with the expansion packs, with Shadowbringers in particular getting very positive reviews, but I’m not ready to commit to pushing through the lower levels to reach the expansions and their stronger story modes.

I had thought that the end of the sub meant the end of playing, but thanks to Bhagpuss’s coverage I’ve realised there’s an endless free trial mode. Knowing how the game works now, it’s a very generous trial, much more so that Warcraft’s which ends at level 20. The trial allows you to have up to 8 characters (though really you only need one), and caps you at level 35. Given you can have all the classes/jobs - 10 combat and 11 crafting - on a single character, that adds up to about a billion levels and many many hours of trial play.

So I’m sure I’ll be back once the Classic fervour wears down, ignoring the story but enjoying the world.


It’s certainly a beautiful game, with graphical detail that matches or surpasses many single player games. I still love the Warcraft aesthetic, and I’m even finding the Classic engine is capable of producing striking environments, but FFXIV is quite stunning. That’s mainly evidenced in the staggering wardrobe choices that are available to players, ranging from neatly simple to incredibly complex, and serious fantasy to ridiculous humour.

I found myself constantly stopping everything to take copious screenshots as a player wandered past in a brilliant outfit. And the main gathering area in Limsa Lominsa is a people watching paradise. In celebration of the players who must spend much time and in-game money creating the displays for us to enjoy, and to sign off on my FFXIV adventures (for now), here’s a selection of the best outfits I captured.

Watching the fashion show pass by


Tall…


…and small


Swordplay


Looks innocent enough…


…oh


Hers…


…and his


A pretty wide boy


Picnicking


The devil in disguise


A pretty sharp boy


Well accessorised


Dashing and dapper


She’s looking right at me


Hunka hunka burning lion


Possibly my favourite, and he’s a fisherman!


#Blaugust29