Postcards from WoW, Part 8

By Shamus
on Jan 3, 2011
Filed under:
Pictures

The honeymoon bliss of Cataclysm has ended, and it’s now time to begin enumerating faults, venting long-held grievances, and complaining at length about trivialities. Note that I’m not going to limit myself to Cataclysm-based faults. Since I’m all about exploration and seeing cool stuff, let’s talk about a few of the places I’ve visited.

pfwow8_blasted1.jpg

The Blasted Lands is not a fun zone. Its defining feature is orange, which is never a good start. It’s basically the last questing zone in original World of Warcraft. Before the Burning Crusade expansion came out, this drab, ugly expanse of cracked earth was the end-game zone. This was your reward for chewing through the previous 55 levels of content. This was the carrot at the end of that very long stick. Once you were done here, you were at the level cap (then 60) and there was nothing left to do but go back to Goldshire and dance naked on the mailbox. Or raiding. Whichever.

(EDIT: Some people pointed out in the comments that Blasted Lands is not the only place to go for this level content. If I level another character to 60, I’ll be sure to give these alternate zones a look.)

I did not enjoy my time in the Blasted Lands. Most zones have a bit of variation to them. Elwynn Forest is a forest, yes. But it has local variety: Lakes. Rivers. Clearings. Patches of dense grass. Spots of farmland. Low hills. Tall hills. Most zones are variations on a single theme, not one long note. But once you’ve seen one cracked fissure in Blasted Lands, you’ve pretty much taken the whole tour and you’re ready to go buy your t-shirt.

pfwow8_blasted2.jpg

Blasted Lands is made somewhat worse by following a couple of similar zones. Searing Gorge and Burning Steppes were very similar to the Blasted Lands, except one was red and the other was ash-colored. It’s reasonable to expect that players would be really, really sick of the wastelands style zone before they set foot in the Blasted Lands.

When I dinged level 60, I was thrilled. It was finally time to go through the dark portal and see what fantastic new worlds awaited me. What exotic visual delights were hidden beyond that foreboding door?

pfwow8_hellfire1.jpg

Hellfire Peninsula. A giant wasteland. Its two distinguishing features are:

1) Orange
2) Four times as large as the Blasted Lands.

I spent a couple of hours questing in this horrific eyesore and realized that I suddenly hated every human being who ever worked for Blizzard Entertainment. The Blasted Lands was such an amazing chore, and the prospect of spending twice as long getting through Hellfire Peninsula filled me with despair. I shelved my character for a couple of weeks.

I thought Hellfire Peninsula was going to cover levels 60-64 or something, based purely on its extreme size and sheer number of quest hubs. I was very relieved when I snuck into the next zone (Zangarmarsh) and found I was high enough level to begin questing there. I abandoned all of my Hellfire Peninsula quests and never looked back. Screw story and continuity. Get me out of this orange-based torment.

And the next zone… check out the next zone:

pfwow8_shroom.jpg

See, that’s something crazy and different. Variety, changes of hue, contrast. What was Blizzard thinking when they added Hellfire Peninsula? What would posses them to lead off the expansion with a zone identical to the one everyone had just played? If they needed an orange wasteland for the sake of lore and continuity (not that this has been a big priority for them lately) there was no need to make it this massive.

pfwow8_hellfire2.jpg

Now, a bit about city layouts:

I remember being annoyed with how tedious it was to get around in Stormwind. The maze of walls. The long hike over the bridge and the longer hike to the docks. The annoying wall between the main entrance and the flight master. The general inconvenience of some city services. (Having the forge on the opposite side of the city from the auction and vault always drove me crazy.)

pfwow8_stormwind.jpg

Then I got to know the game a bit better and discovered that nearly every other city in the game was worse. The only superior city was Ironforge, which was the most convenient and easy-to-navigate city in the game. (This was before Cataclysm came out. Now Stormwind has that honor. All of the problems with Stormwind can be mitigated by flying over all of the low interior walls.)

Horde-side cities seem to be far worse than Alliance, to the point where it seems like it can’t possibly be an accident. Orgrimmar, Thunder Bluff, and Undercity all have multi-level layouts with elevators. Of these, Undercity is the worst. Let me tell you about Undercity.

pfwow8_undercity1.jpg

It has three large, empty chambers to pass through before you’re actually inside. Okay, this one is pretty cool:

pfwow8_throne_room.jpg

This location comes from one of the key turning points in Warcraft 3:


Link (YouTube)

It was pretty amazing to be able to roll in and run around the throne room, but the appeal wears pretty thin after a few dozen trips. Yeah, The Mall in Washington DC is pretty cool looking, but I’d get sick of it in a hurry if I had to hike across it ten times a day. The entry to Undercity from the zeppelin goes: climb hill » baffle » courtyard » baffle » hallway » throne room » baffle » tomb » baffle » elevators. That’s quite a walk, and it’s nothing but scenery. Not even any guards.

The elevator has a door, which means if you miss it you have to wait for the next round trip instead of just jumping down. On my first visit to the city, I didn’t even realize this was an elevator. I ran up to the door, it didn’t open, so I ran around, found another door that wouldn’t open, etc. I had no idea how to enter this city. It was blind luck that I saw one of the doors open at one point and realized what I was looking at.

pfwow8_undercity2.jpg

Once you’re down the elevator, you enter the confusing multi-level chamber. Multi-level is bad, because it means that when you ask a guard for directions, he’ll give you a map marker that only shows you your destination in 2d space. Once you get near the marker, it vanishes, even if your real goal is 2 stories below you. Veterans always point out that this is only a problem for newbies, but that doesn’t actually make it okay.

A long tunnel wraps around this inner chamber. Then outside of that is another, larger tunnel where most of the city services are located. And to move between the central chamber, the inner wheel, and outer wheel, you need to pass through long baffles. This is the inverse of Ironforge, which is a huge open room with shops on the outer wall. If you need to be on the other side, you can cut through the center. Undercity is a huge circular tunnel, so if you need to be on the other side you get to run half a lap. It’s confusing, time-consuming, ugly, stupid, and frustrating. Even the flights in and out of the city are overlong.

pfwow8_undercity3.jpg

Okay, the city looks cool. But it’s such a chore to navigate and the points of interest are so far apart and the place is buried so deep that I usually prefer to ride the zeppelin to another continent and do my business there than run this damn rat maze.

The Horde cities are all so much less useful. When Blizzard came out with Burning Crusade, instead of finally giving Horde a nice city, they gave both sides another stupid annoying city. Silvermoon and Exodar might even be the worst cities in the game. Blizzard was so worried about everyone congregating in the end-game cities, so they took out the city-teleporting portals. Maybe the end-game cities wouldn’t be so stupid full if the rest of the cities in the game weren’t constructed out of strengthened tedium alloy and designed to eat time.

Nothing says “epic adventure” like getting lost, asking for directions, and running a maze, all so you can track down a guy who can sell you a fishing rod and bait. Some things in the game should be hard. But not this.

pfwow8_stormwind2.jpg

I wonder what the thinking was, here. The difference between Alliance and Horde cities is pretty stark. At first I attributed this to newbie pains. I figured that once I learned my way around, things would be a little easier. But now I know Orgrimmar as well as I know Stormwind, and there’s no contest: Stormwind is just a nicer place in which to conduct business.

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A Hundred!2020201Many comments. 161, if you're a stickler

From the Archives:

  1. Alex says:

    Did you ever level from level 45 (or thereabouts) to level 60 in the other continent, Kalimdor? If so, what did you think of the former “end-game” zones there?

    • Chris says:

      Nth-ing the finishing level 60 in the Plaguelands. To add some actual content, any idea how they improved the starting areas for Tauren, Trolls, and Orcs? I recall quite a few quest chains where I stopped the evil Alliance forces from exploiting Horde territory, but it always got dropped after three or four quests.

      • Veloxyll says:

        Get the demo, and run through the Troll starting zone RIGHT NOW. it is much improved (I haven’t done the orcy one)

        The horde cities though, ugh. As much as I love Sylvanas, and my belfs, but Silvermoon is pretty bad, and it took me over a year to learn my way around UC (I still get lost and just do laps till I find the vendors sometimes.
        The new Org is even worse, the whole city feels designed to be navigated by flying mounts only. It doesn’t help that everyone is supposed to have their hearths set there in Cata.

        Thunderbluff is still the best city for Blacksmiths though, the forge, bank and AH are all ~20 steps apart.If the central mesa wasn’t multi-levelled it’d be the best Horde city by far. All the profession vendors are on the central Mesa (besides scribing, JCing and First Aid), while class trainers are on the outside mesas. All it needs is the impassable walls removed and it’d be competitive for best city in WoW (aside from the 11 minutes between Org zepps and the fact that you can fall off it to your death ofc)

        • Moriarty says:

          What’s wrong with OG without flying? You just have to put your hearthstone in the tauren or goblin areas, which both have an auction house, a bank and most class trainers right there. The profession trainers are in the draft, which isn’t far away either.

  2. Robyrt says:

    I was just going to post a rant about how putting 4 wasteland/desert zones in a row is a colossal failure of high-level design myself.

    To add insult to injury, paladins are required to schlep through Undercity all the way to the throne room every few hours to learn new abilities. The commute takes you past fabulous waterfalls, forests, ridges, and marshes, as if to mock that you are spending the next ten hours in the barren desert. And don’t get me started on the commute back through the Dark Portal. (Remember, as a new player, I don’t know that there’s an entire fully functional, sensible city a half-mile to the west, because the map is blank.)

    • kmc says:

      Well, and when BC dropped, there was no good way to get to Shattrath, since you couldn’t fly until 70 (68 for druids). Although I did get a level 35 summoned to Honor Hold and ran/died my way over there. Exciting.

      • Shamus says:

        I can’t imagine doing Hellfire Peninsula without flight. Ugh.

        • Dante says:

          Back when I played, I never got my epic mount.

          No, not my epic FLYING mount, I mean I never got my epic RIDING mount….which meant that I never got my flying mount.

          So I trekked across Hellfire on my original level 40 (back then you would first get your mount at 40) mount, when I decided that it was a better idea than walking (I preferred walking do to some bad mishaps when I was on my mount a couple of times). Most of the time I just used my ground travel form (I was a Tauren Druid).

        • Ian says:

          You could get a taste of it, if you like!

          Get a Horde character into Hellfire Peninsula, rush into one of the Hellfire Citadel dungeons, and die. Now run back to your corpse.

          I hate that damn place.

        • Bryan says:

          I also got into zangermarsh as soon as I discovered it. The quests were far more interesting, as was the scenery. I spent so much time in zangermarsh that I never made it to the twisting nether or nagrande (guessing at names since I’m at work) before moving on to northrend. It was also zangermarsh where I finally earned enough money to train for a flying mount.

      • Adam says:

        You could get your flying mount at 60 in BC. You couldn’t get epic until 70.

  3. Dys says:

    I imagine the differences between horde and alliance stem ultimately from thematic differences. The horde races are kind of paranoid. Hence the Undercity being buried and Thunder Bluff being on the top of gigantic spires. The alliance are generally less about fortification and more about living space. That’s just my own feeling though.

    About blasted lands > hellfire… BL was never the end zone before Cataclysm, the Plaguelands were most of the 50-60 content. I don’t recall what level range BL used to be, but I suspect it has changed, as the Plaguelands certainly have been lowered to something like 30-40. This change appears to have been to do with contiguity of level ranges in space, so that you don’t have to run through a 60 zone to get to a 20 zone.

    I imagine that Hellfire was made similar to Blasted Lands to provide continuity from one side of the portal to another, back when you didn’t level straight from BL to Outland.

    Zangarmarsh is utterly gorgeous, I remember first sneaking my way over there at 61 and just staring for a while… amazing. Still quite uniformly blue tho.

    On the ‘only a problem for newbies’ point, I think that it’s more reasonably expressed as ‘something you should only need to learn once’.
    Finding the locations of trainers and vendors in your home city is part of the exploration of a new place, it’s an aspect of engagement with and immersion in the game world. If the charge is that WoW is a difficult game to play casually… well, yes. I cannot argue with that really.

    Exodar isn’t all that difficult to get around, once you get used to the utter chaos of the colours and shapes of the place. It’s almost all on one level, and each area has tunnels leading to the adjacent ones. It’s better now there is a flight path down into the core, so you don’t have to run in from outside.

    I know I tend to post long, overly wordy comments on your WoW posts, but it’s just because I spend the majority of my life in the game so I tend to have things to say. I certainly have no issue with you taking it apart. I’ll continue to offer explanations though. :)

    • mephetti says:

      I second this. When I leveled my first (and only) main to 60+ (although, this was Wrath era, so it might’ve been different back in vanilla), I spent my time in Winterspring until about level 56-57, and then moved on to the Plaguelands to gain the last levels. I also seem to recall that most of the important, high-level dungeons were related to the plaguelands, so it was the natural place to quest if you were at all into dungeons or lore.

      Back before Cata, I never felt Stormwind to be all that annoying, and got the hang of it rightaway. Darnassus was a bit worse (all those islands get annoying quickly), but not dreadful. Exodar is pretty simple too, as you said, mostly because it keeps to one level.
      Undercity was (and is? Haven’t visited it since the start of Cata) dreadful! I remember my first undead character: spent about 15 minutes just figuring out how to get in (like Shamus, I didn’t realise the doors opened), and then another 20 minutes trying to find the profession trainer I needed.

      • Trix says:

        Plaguelands just had better and more quests than most other high level zones, at least in my experience. Of course, all the high level zones kinda sucked for experience back then (50-58 was the worst section to go through).

        I’m glad now that outland can be considered the worst areas to have to quest in…since they are at least decently designed and you don’t have to run around the world to find quests you might have missed.

    • felblood says:

      -But why have a vendor location system at all, if you want people to hunt things down manually?

      -and why only make it malfunction in certain cities?

      This is clearly not working as intended. Either design move would have been fine, but the inconsistency here is pretty clear.

      • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of cynical pessimism says:

        Also, “Finding the locations of trainers and vendors in your home city is part of the exploration of a new place, it’s an aspect of engagement with and immersion in the game world.”
        is very much YMMV-situation. I like exploration, but I don’t like it when it feels like the game is intentionally trying to get me lost.

        “If the charge is that WoW is a difficult game to play casually…”
        I got the impression the charge was “WoW is annoying in certain parts for no good reason”. I really think that being able find your way in your “home”*/race city casually (without much experience in it) is important, casual or non-casual playing. Especially since they’re especially horrible for newbies, who have enough learning to do anyway.

        *I thought home is where the hearth is?

    • Erik says:

      As someone who leveled to 60 back in vanilla WoW (though barely), I’ll toss my 2 cents in: Blasted Lands used to be a Level 50-ish zone. It was one of the several options at that level, and was preferred by players who would rather grind on mobs (and skin them!) than go questing.

      The top zones in the 60 endgame content were Eastern Plaguelands (Western was low-50s), Winterspring (a snowy wasteland), and Silithus… another wasteland, but a grey desert instead of an orange one. EPL was fun; Silithus was rather grim. And for those with insect phobias, all the insectoid Silithids were pure agony. :)

      There’s some world-building rationale for having all the top zones be wastelands: if the land was desirable, it would have been conquered and all the mobs driven out… to some wasteland that wasn’t worth the effort. There are other ways to make end-game content that don’t rely on this, but this is at least one rationale.

  4. ngthagg says:

    A couple of things: at the time of burning crusade, Blasted Lands wasn’t a great leveling area. Silithus and Western Plaguelands were the better choices for 55-60.

    Orgrimmar used to be a great place, but it’s really gone downhill with it’s redesign. But don’t underestimate Thunder Bluff! Once you start flying in, it’s a wonderful place with most things located around that central tower. And the city is centrally located on the continent, saving you some flight time.

  5. Moriarty says:

    I’ve leveled twelve characters through classic content, and I’ve never once completed a questline in the blasted lands. There are quite a few alternatives: wintergrasp(snow), silithus(desert), eastern and western plaguelands(woods with lots of undead).

    I think the intention behind Hellfire peninsuela was to show players arriving in bc that the world is pretty close to collapsing. Of course blizz failed to realize that having only one zone for everyone at the same time bc came out was a terribly stupid idea. (Wotlk and Cata each have two zones to start leveling from the old levelcap)

  6. Gahazakul says:

    I’d like to disagree with you on all fronts on this one. I have been playing this game for a looooooooooooong time at this point and Org is by far my favorite and most convenient in my eyes. Multiple Auction Houses, multiple Banks, Multiple Inns and a consolidated profession street. And the AH, Bank, Inn combos are each close together so it’s like you get to pick which spot is your normal base of operations. I know this is just from Cata, but that’s what we are discussing now. This whole discussion is probably colored by what faction you started on and “main” so there is no HARD FACTS to really hammer out in the end.

    It’s funny though, all my Horde friends say the exact opposite when talking about the same subject, all you have to do is reverse the faction city names. “Of course Org is now the best, and jeez is Ironforge the worst. It has a million little offices all scrunched together in a wheel formation, I can’t ever find anything!”

    There is no denying that the Undercity is a maze for new players and Silvermoon/Exodar were terrible places no one visited as soon as they could leave.

  7. Kevin says:

    It really helps now with Undercity that there’s a flight path from Brill (a tiny trip from the zeppelin) to the center of UC. You can just fly in and out instead of having to make that stupid walk.

  8. kmc says:

    I certainly hear Horde people talk about how nice their cities are and how confusing Alliance cities are. I don’t see it (and I’ve played every race for a while, so I’ve spent plenty of time in all of them). But yes, I believe the Exodar is measurably the worst city ever.

    Like what others have said, I’ve never actually quested in Blasted Lands–honestly, I never really found quests. Like, I think there was one, and there were all these enemies that seemed like quest targets, and I couldn’t figure out how to get someone to tell me to kill them for money. I dinged 60 before BC, when you had to do way more questing to level, so I leveled through Western Plaguelands (a bit), Winterspring, Silithus, and Eastern Plaguelands, but never the red places. Hellfire Peninsula is actually a place I like to go back to with new toons, because the demons are some of my favorite bad-guy models in the game. (That’s just me, though.)

  9. Ace Calhoon says:

    Hellfire peninsula is red, because that’s how Outland was described prior to this expansion (in the manuals for the early WarCraft games, and the Outlands bits in WarCraft III). So they wanted the first zone to be authentic. It’s huge because that’s just what they did in Outlands… All the zones are huge there.

    The orange zone -> orange zone transition is an interesting observation. As others have noted, it’s new… When the zones were first built, no one really went to blasted lands, and certainly didn’t go directly from blasted lands to Hellfire. A pitty they couldn’t have had some kind of elemental attack in blasted lands to help spice it up.

    And as for the cities… You aren’t officially Horde until you’ve been killed by the elevators a time or two :)

    • Robyrt says:

      That’s what makes it all the more mystifying: in the midst of a huge content revamp, nobody complained that the default leveling path for some entire races now takes you on a grueling slog from level 40-62:

      1. Eastern Plaguelands (brown wasteland with sickly trees)
      2. Badlands (yellow-orange desert)
      3. Searing Gorge & Burning Steppes (wasteland with lava and cliffs)
      4. Swamp of Sorrows (brownish-green marsh)
      5. Blasted Lands (red desert)
      6. Hellfire Peninsula (red wasteland with starry sky)

      • Ace Calhoon says:

        I’m actually a pretty big fan of EPL. But yeah, there are an awful lot of orange wastelands in that list.

      • Veloxyll says:

        Redridge mountains is also very red/orange and sparsely tree’d. Stonetalon mountains are also very red and desolate for the most part. And Wetlands and Barrens are both a very tiring light brown.

        • RudeMorgue says:

          Redridge, courtesy of the content revamp, is now one of the most entertaining zones to level through in WoW.

          The quest called something like “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!! AAAAHHHHaaaahhhh!!!!!” is one of the most cathartic moments of sheer violence available to the WoW player.

          There is also a great plot payoff when you finish Redridge and then later level in the Burning Steppes.

  10. houser2112 says:

    Never played WoW, but this reminds me a lot of Guild Wars. Pre-Searing Ascalon (the tutorial area of the Prophecies campaign) is gorgeous, especially for 2005, and had me hooked. Post-Searing Ascalon is a huge blasted wasteland of purple sand, and seems to go on forever. It’s a wonder anyone bothered to complete all the quests so they can go to the next area (Northern Shiverpeaks? Can’t remember.).

    • Jamey Johnston says:

      You aren’t kidding. Guild Wars Prophecies post-searing Ascalon is a looooooooong stretch in a sea of sameness. They learned their lesson well, the campaigns improve in variety and less-time-spent-in-one-place as the go (so the majority of people playing tend to hang out in the most recent campaign areas).

    • Michael says:

      It was actually worse in the early betas. Back around October of 2004 it would start you off in Lion’s Arch, with a custom tutorial that was gone by the time retail hit. About two months before release they kicked it over to the sear. Ugh.

    • Kell says:

      Add me to the list of agreement.

      My GF and I looked at a few rpgs and mmos, looking for a game we could play together. We settled on GW, since it looked prettier and didn’t have a subsciption.

      I still consider pre-searing Ascalon to be one of the finest examples of terrain mapping in all of gaming. It basically utilises the Q3 engine heightmap/alphamap method of terrain rendering, and with gorgeous textures and plenty of appropriate map objects it does an excellent job of evoking atmosphere without bringing your graphics card to its knees.
      Regent Valley is an especially good example of the archetypal fantasy environment – the twilight autumnal oak forest. Tasty, and very familair to us both since we live ( and hike ) in the UK.

      Then came the searing.

      I remember Shamus’ comic about GW from way back, in which he opined that GW appeared to consist of wandering aimlessly around brown wasteland accompanied by pole dancers. It’s a shame that the game puts such an interminable amount of bad mapping as an obstruction to players’ exploration into the rest of the content.

      If it hadn’t been for the benefit of the game to our circumstances ( coop, online, no subs ) I would likely have given up GW in the same place as Shamus.

      As it is, we have given up now because of the interminable obstruction placed across our exploration by the most dreadful ‘storytelling’ I’ve ever paid money for.

      • Sharnuo says:

        Yeah, gotta agree with you there. Prophecies story was just a petri dish of random stereotypes. The other expansions each got better though… Just don’t do factions if Post Searing Ascalon annoyed you, because you will rage quit after 5 minutes of Keinang city… Think Post Searing, but with multiple levels and a completely useless compass.

        • Josh says:

          Oh god Kaineng. I spend as little time as I possibly can in the Factions campaign mostly for that reason. It’s like if Coruscant was made entirely of rusted tin. The only place it actually looks interesting is in the endgame when you go to the palace.

          Then again Factions is a casserole of bad visual design. Kaineng looks like a giant brown shantytown, Echovald Forest is just grey tree branches and green grass, the Jade Sea is a wall of turquoise. It’s amazing that they managed to improve so much upon the visual variety of the game in the next campaign when it was set almost invariably in a MASSIVE DESERT.

          • Kell says:

            The point of Kaineng is that it is apparently inspired by Kowloon Walled City. If you’ve never heard of it, google. It needs to be seen to be believed.

            It’s a cool idea, a man-made environment so haphazardly yet densely constructed as to be more grown than built. A ‘terrain’ map made mostly of buildings. A fitting locale for a fantasy world, but refreshingly different from the usual half-timbered cliche.

            The problem is that to do justice to the theme you need a lot of encrusted low-tech detail variety. Guild Wars’ third-person camera distance and low-poly requirements made that impossible.
            It’d be like trying to depict Minas Tirith by covering a cube mapobject with a pale gray stone texture, then c’n’p-ing it eleventy-hundred times across a 1024² heightmap.

            The result is thuddingly monotonous.

            ———————————

            Re: Nightfall

            There’s some tasty terrain in there for sure.

            Lahtenda Bog is a favorite of mine. A great example of the spooky swamp theme. The diffuse lighting, dusk but not night, and fog sprites. The sound of croaking toads. The air itself seems to ooze.

            The sulphurous wastes were where my GF and I reached, but weren’t going to go through the ridiculous missions to gain access. I’d occassionally just map-travel to the last outpost on its perimeter, head out to the edge of the mesa and stare flinty-eyed to the horizon for a few minutes.
            An inspired environmental theme, rendered inaccessible by shitty writing.

            Exploration really is a criminally underdeveloped aspect of games. There is so much that can be depicted with modern graphics, so many worlds that could be explored. But as a game experience it seems constantly hampered by deference to ‘hardcore’ gameplay, misplaced attempts at ‘storytelling’, and those overly enamoured of bling mapping. Tragic.

  11. gebiv says:

    Want to know what was even worse? Back in vanilla WoW, you couldn’t even mount while in Undercity. So even level 60 characters had to run on foot everywhere.

    Of course, back then, the only Auction House for the Horde was in Orgrimar. So not too many people spent any time in Undercity.

    Same thing on the Alliance side: Since the only Auction house was in Ironforge that’s where everyone had their hearthstones set to. Which is why we called it Lag-forge back then. Oh, there was nothing as much fun as trying to run from the Auction house to the mailboxes in front of the bank and getting lagged into the chasm because you missed the bridge by half a pixel.

  12. Wolfwood says:

    To be fair, they probably designed it so you get the see the whole city. Then again after you’ve seen the city, it then becomes a chore. hindsight 20/20 eh lol

    auctioneer in the middle, ringed but all the other NPC vendors EXCEPT if you want to be able to use the vendors you have to go on an errand for all of them first and they send you to the four corners of the city! Thats my ideal.

    • Noumenon says:

      To be fair, they probably designed it so you get the see the whole city.

      Kind of the opposite; they designed it so you could never see far enough at once for the draw distance to become a problem. I read an interview saying they had to just redo the main city in order to let you fly over it now, because it was all facades to keep you from seeing what wasn’t drawable.

      Don’t know if that explains everything about city design but I thought someone would have mentioned it by now.

  13. Gaukler says:

    I generally avoid Eastern Kingdoms when I’m levelling, Kalimdor is much more varied and fun (and less murloc slaughter). Though I haven’t really leveled 1-60 since cata launched (and don’t play Alliance), it looks like you can still avoid Eastern Kingdoms: http://www.mmo-champion.com/threads/757449-Azeroth-level-flow-map.

    I think Org since the redesign is much nicer, I have my hearth set to Valley of Wisdom (the Tauren camp) and the only things I have to leave that for are some profession trainers. Bank, AH, and class trainers are all right there. I’ll also put in a vote for Thunder Bluff being awesome once you’re actually in the city itself, though the elevators are at least easier to grasp for newbies than Undercity’s abominable system.

  14. Ian says:

    Horde-side cities seem to be far worse than Alliance, to the point where it seems like it can’t possibly be an accident. Orgrimmar, Thunder Bluff, and Undercity all have multi-level layouts with elevators.

    I fully agree with the Undercity being bad and Silvermoon being atrocious, but I’ve never had a problem with Orgrimmar or Thunder Bluff. In fact, I think the two of them are far better than Stormwind.

    Orgrimmar has always had a pretty sane layout. In the old Orgrimmar, you’d do all of your trading and banking right near the city gates. Additionally, the flight point for the city is right there as well. A forge and anvil was also added near there for convenience at some point. If you plan to train your professions you would go to either the Valley of Honor or The Drag, depending on the profession (typically, manlier stuff like mining and blacksmithing goes in the Valley of Honor while the wussy stuff like tailoring and gathering flowers goes in The Drag). Generally, you don’t even have to go up another level unless you were heading to the Valley of Spirits (more on that in a sec).

    The worst part about the old Orgrimmar was the Valley of Spirits. There wasn’t a whole lot there (mage trainer, portal trainer, first aid trainer, and the troll cloth quartermaster) but until you got used to those particular things being totally separate from the rest of the city it proved to be a little bit annoying.

    The new Orgrimmar looks very different, but aside for a few minor exceptions everything is basically in the exact same place. The zeppelin towers are in the city, near the flight point, which is convenient, and Grommosh Hold is now a very predominant fixture in the center of the city. Not to mention that there are banks and auction houses everywhere! While I do generally prefer the ramp instead of the elevators for my non-mounted toons, getting around in Orgrimmar hasn’t really changed much.

    As for Thunder Bluff, I actually found that layout to be easier to deal with than Orgrimmar at first. Sure, it’s a multi-level city, but aside from the small cave in one of the bluffs, there is no overlap whatsoever. Getting around there is just a matter of getting used to climbing the center tower. You can access the three other sections of the city from any two levels in the main section, so those areas are also pretty easy to get to.

    One advantage of Undercity compared to any of the other Horde cities is that it’s the only place that you can go from the auction house, to the mailbox, and to the bank in a straight line and without having to dismount. With a fast ground mount you can trade pretty efficiently. Plus, since the auctioneers are spread out, you don’t have to worry about some joker throwing a toy train under your feet (or, worse, using the Winter Veil wand) and scaring the bejeezus out of you.

    As for the Alliance cities, I literally cannot get used to Stormwind. It’s too cramped, too crowded, and too confusing. It just feels like there is a ton of extraneous travel to get from point A to point B. I haven’t been there since Deathwing nommed part of the city, though, so maybe things have improved a bit.

    Ironforge rocks. ’nuff said.

    Darnassus is okay, but everything is spread too far apart.

    Exodar is as horrendous as Silvermoon, but it’s made worse by the fact that you have to walk four times as far to get anywhere.

    Regarding Hellfire Peninsula…yeah, I hate that place. Being able to fly at level 60 definitely helped, but the layout is simply asinine if you’re walking, especially getting back into the Hellfire Citadel dungeons! I seem to remember the run back into the Citadel being pretty simple as Alliance, but as Horde you literally have to spirit walk all the way around the damned place in order to get back in. Plus, the ramp leading into the place is swarming with orcs that I seem to remembering being pretty a pretty high level for the zone (I seem to recall them being 63-64, when most players that stroll through there would be 58-60). I was very happy when I realized that questing improved significantly after Hellfire Peninsula (though trying to do Blade’s Edge Mountains on foot was just torture).

    • Ian says:

      Also, speaking of Stormwind being cramped, has anyone run the Stockades with a tauren? Or, worse, tanked the Stockades as a tauren? It’s hard to see anything when you’re as big as the dungeon.

      Fortunately, I keep the faded wizard hat from Azshara on me at all times. Granted, it usually transforms me into a female night elf, but at least I can see around me!

      • Klay F. says:

        I’ve tanked the stockades with my draenei main, and since draenei are the bulkiest alliance race, I know exactly what you are talking about. I spent the majority of that place staring at the back of my character’s head.

        • Mayhem says:

          That was my sole reason for rolling a *female* tauren – they’re slimmer, so you can see around them in Scarlet Monastery.

          On the downside, the tauren female turns out to be the tallest model in the game, so you don’t actually fit through many doors while mounted. This particularly tended to cause problems with the Undercity Elevator boss where you get stuck on the doorframe, and the elevator drops out from under you. When you dismount, you do a good Wiley Coyote impression.

  15. MichaelG says:

    When I first bought the game, 4 years or more ago, I started with an undead warlock. It was so hard to figure anything out that I almost gave up completely. Undercity was the worst!

    Someone said to roll a troll warrior and see if I liked that better. I did, and subsequently lost a year of my life in WoW…

  16. Hal says:

    I think Blizzard has acknowledged that things in Outland (Re: Zone and quest design/layout) don’t quite have the same sparkle they used to, especially in light of the improvements made through Wrath and now Cataclysm.

    They’ve said they’d like to go back and put a better polish on that content, but it’s one of those things that they’ll do, “When the time is available.” Considering the work that went into the 1-60 content, I guess we shouldn’t expect 60-70 to see any work until at least the next expansion.

    • Joe Cool says:

      I remember Chris Metzen addressing this at BlizzCon. People were pointing out how BC content was now the least-polished in the game, and if it was possible to see an update for it as well. His response was that considering all the time and work it took to update Azeroth for Cataclysm, the next expansion could be either “re-worked Outland” or “new content”.

    • Darthricardo says:

      Heh, I’m glad I have a good natural sense of direction, or the cities would be a living hell for me. I’m pretty new, and I remember it took me hours to finally be able to get my mind around how the Undercity worked. Absolutely mind-boggling. I’m sure there was a solid reason of some kind for making it tiered, but still… Quite the headache.
      Stormwind is very nice though.

      EDIT: Dammit, didn’t mean to stick the comment here. Oh well, still stands.

  17. Deadly Kwob says:

    This is a problem common to video games in general, not just MMOs. The idea is that the final parts of the game take place in the most evil-dominated locations. To unimaginative designers, “evil-dominated” translates to “barren wasteland”

    WoW doesn’t get any better. The final areas of outland, Netherstorm and Shadowmoon valley, are both wastelands (magic-ravaged and volcanic, respectvely.) The final area of Northrend is Icecrown, an icy wasteland. In fact, half of Northrend is wasteland of some sort or another.

    • Moriarty says:

      Cata is mostly better, the twilight higlands are less barren and more corrupted. It’s green everywhere, trees and bushes grow in the area and twilight strongholds sort of burst out of the ground with evil violet energy rays.

    • krellen says:

      I want to see an “evil stronghold” that is full of lush forests and orderly designed, because the evil is ordered and tyrannical and don’t allow people and businesses to chop down forests willy-nilly. (Such as how the Dominican Republic became the green half of Hispañola under a dictator.)

      • Khizan says:

        Try looking at Stormwind. :p

      • Bryan says:

        Unfortunately there are literary references to support the evil=wasteland viewpoint. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (the books, not the game) depicted Souron’s domain, Mordor, to be a volcanic wasteland. Sauroman was in the process of turning Isengarde into another wasteland when the ents stopped him. I’m not saying that it should be in any game, only that there are fantasy books which support this theme.

        Personally, I don’t care for the wasteland zones, but at least the plaguelands has some trees and not totally barren like the blasted lands.

    • Joshua says:

      Well, as one of the LOTRO players here this was true for the original release of the game, with the big eye-sore known as Angmar as the end-game area for the Shadows of Angmar. However, the expansions(a captured dwarven city/mine and a spooky forest) aren’t wasteland concepts at all(as a whole), and are generally visually interesting and varied.

      So, endgames don’t have to be ugly eyesores.

      • Aldowyn says:

        I’m pretty sure you can just say Moria and Mirkwood, everyone knows what you’re talking about.

        And that’s Tolkien, which makes everything different. Both of those areas ARE interesting and as dangerous as anything in the world – except Mordor, of course.

        … And I went to Angmar as a lvl 30ish, in the current game. The quest pack says 40-50 (which would be original end-game, IIRC), but the area I was in just had low 30’s. Including a really insane elite master lvl 34 with a couple of elite minions… that was fun. Try tanking that with a low 30’s guardian.

  18. Hitch says:

    WoW easter egg: You mention liking the Lordaeron throne room. If you turn your music and game sounds all the way down and ambient sounds all the way up — as you enter Lordaeron through the main gate and into the throne room, you can here the ghostly sounds of that cut scene from Warcraft III.

    Oh, and on the subject of red/orange mud: That’s a large factor in my preferring Alliance to Horde. Orcs seem to like the bare dirt and orange mud look. That’s what Durotar looks like and their efforts seem to be focused on bringing that look to as much of Azeroth as possible.

  19. Ralph says:

    Shamus, you are really good at finding the worst bits of WoW. While the new hotness was all in Northrend you levelled in the old classic content. As soon as Cataclysm hit you went to Outlands, now the oldest and least polished zones.

    As people have said, if you don’t like the look of a zone there are only a couple of bits of the game where you don’t have a choice of where to level (58-62, 84-85), everywhere else there are atleast 2 zones. Check the Hero’s Call/Warchief’s Command boards in your nearest city for a breadcrumb quest to a level appropriate zone.

    Totally agree that most of the city layouts suck, but at least now you can find little areas that have a bank/auction house/inn close to each other, which will deal with 90% of what you need to do there. Also note that these days you are given a flightpath to Shattath/Dalaran as soon as you arrive, and they now have trainers/AH in them so you don’t need to go back to the old world while levelling.

    PS: You can go to Outlands at 58 and Northrend at 68, this will make levelling quite a bit quicker as the items are much more powerful and you get more XP.

  20. Dev Null says:

    It’s confusing, time-consuming, ugly, stupid, and frustrating.

    Actually, I kinda like the way it looks, so I’d contest “ugly”. Every other one of your adjectives I’ll happily grant you though – for any period where you’re actually questing out of UC, your hearthstone is your friend; any other time you just don’t go there much. Its marginally better now that you can fly in it – there are aerial tunnels above floor level that most people never notice.

  21. Alastair says:

    I started a new Dwarf shaman to see all the new quests in Cataclysm, and I was having a great time until I hit the Blasted Lands. The area just was not very fun. Unfortunately, I felt the need to stay in that zone until I had completed every single quest (I was well into level 60 by that point) because I knew what was coming: Hellfire Peninsula. I detest that zone over all others with a passion.

    On the plus side, once you get to level 64, you can experience one of the prettiest zones in WoW: Nagrand. Definitely don’t skip it! Alliance quest chains start in Telaar, in the southern central area of the zone. Horde… I have no idea.

  22. Joe Cool says:

    The Blasted Lands > Hellfire transition is actually one new to Cataclysm. In Vanilla WoW, Blasted Lands was low fifties, and there were all of about five quests. The only reason I ever went was to look at the dark portal and help Warlocks with a quest to learn to summon Felguards.

    Most of my Vanilla WoW end game time (that wasn’t spent raiding Molten Core) was in Western and Eastern Plaguelands, running Stratholme and Scholomance.

    As for Hellfire, while it is a boring orange wasteland, I actually enjoyed how it looked like it was crumbling and on the verge of just falling apart. There are large plates of land that look like they’re just teetering on the brink of falling into the twisted nether.

    • Ian says:

      In Vanilla WoW, Blasted Lands was low fifties, and there were all of about five quests.

      Yeah, five annoying gather quests. >.<

      I still shudder thinking about the time I wasted in that zone on my hunter killing the same mobs and hoping for them to actually have a liver or whatever.

      • Mayhem says:

        Actually it was worse – there was one really amazing quest chain that started in Swamp of Sorrows that led to defeating a demon atop the central mountain, but unfortunately to get there you had to go Swamps > Blasted Lands > Swamps > Azshara > Swamps > Blasted Lands – it was created in the days where timesinks were seen as good.

        On the other hand, they’ve left most of the easter eggs from the chain in the game for Cata. I especially like the Crystallised Notes you find from mining Azsharite in Azshara. “What the heck am I doing wandering around in an area filled with 50ft high giants!”

    • rofltehcat says:

      Yeah, noone ever leveled there. It was at the end of the world, had only few quests and the setting was pretty bad, too. It was one of the unfinished zones like Azshara. the Alliance had a pretty big outpost there but it was mainly just for show or a quest target for horde players that sometimes killed a few soldiers and miners there but never ventured that far inside. Just guessing, never played it from the horde side.

      About the boring-looking zones… I think some masochist people could do something like
      stonetalon mountains -> desolace -> badlands -> (area north of blackrock) -> blasted lands -> (area south of blackrock) -> instances
      and thus drastically reduce the amount of green (or any other color than grey and orange) in their game :P. Add to that starting as an orc it would be going from orange durotar to the hellhole that was the barrens chat and then it goes even deeper into a colorless hole.
      I guess leveling this path wouldn’t really work unless you spend a lot of time grinding after/while questing but I think you get the idea:
      Many of the old zones were really horrible.

      But I liked the alliance leveling paths through the areas. Dwarfs went from their snowy homeland to loch modan (was an awesome area) into the wetlands or could switch to elwynn, westfall and later duskwood (also great area if you knew what quests to do when and where to avoid running through the area 10 times). Never liked elves but their leveling path was also interesting when I played it with my dwarf huntress :)

      Also… Zangar Marsh. Easily my most favorite pre-WotLK zone :D

  23. seodoth says:

    man, hellfire peninsula was beautiful when first released! the wideness, the size of the place, the floating rocks, the gigantic portal and towers. The beautiful sky of space with stars and planets. The uneven erupted landmasses and the music.
    Blasted Lands was imo not the late game place to be for pre lvl 60. It were the plaguelands.

  24. Jad says:

    Thunder Bluff has a fantastic design. It’s moderately awkward to explore and a hassle to get to save for flying, but once you’re there it’s fantastic. The auction house, bank, anvil, and forge are all within ten feet of each other, and a pond where you can mindlessly level fishing if you’re waiting for something on the AH. You don’t even have to dismount to use their outdoor auction house!

    It’s dull, sure, because most Hordelings hang out in Orgrimmar. I can’t blame them; it’s hip, it’s redesigned, it’s the capital city. It has the portals to Cataclysm zones. But my hearth is in Thunder Bluff, because the stuff I use cities for happens so much faster I can’t believe it isn’t more popular. Although now that Orgrimmar has multiple auction houses & banks, it’s less of a difference; I personally like the area near Orgrimmar’s own pond, near the hunter trainers.

    • rofltehcat says:

      Most people would probably fall down too often and getting back up was a real pain. Once you werw inside, it is great although some of the bridge houses were horrible to navigate because of dismounting or doors designed by taurens for taurens that were too small to fit a tauren on a kodo -.-

    • Zukhramm says:

      Best thing about Thunder Bluff: It has one of the few pieces of music from the game I actually like.

  25. Brett says:

    FYI, about the throne room above Undercity: if you stand there for a bit with all the sound turned up high, you can hear whispers of Arthas killing his father. Scared me to death the first time I heard that.

  26. MogTM says:

    I wonder if there might be some world-building value the confusing layout of the city.

    I didn’t play WoW that much, but I remember first entering the Undercity — it felt big, and overwhelming; I needed to ask directions to get anywhere, and still got lost half the time. But pretty soon, I know my way around perfectly and never made wrong turns. I felt at home after figuring the city out in a way I’m not sure I would have if I’d been faced with a simple, easily navigable grid city.

    I think the same thing goes on in Morrowind: Vivec is big, sure, but a lot of its magnitude comes from the fact that it is spread out and confusing. Once again, if it were a simple grid, I wonder if it would feel as impressive or if mastering the layout would be such an accomplishment.

  27. J Greely says:

    The best thing about the new Orgrimmar is Garrosh’s racism: the tauren and goblins have been banished to small areas of town in which they’ve set up their own banks, auction houses, and trainers. Set your hearthstone to the goblin slums, and the only time you go outside is to reach the flight point.

    The new Stormwind would feel cramped even without all of the dragons perched around the auction house (pro-tip: use the new bank and AH in the dwarven district); Deathwing should have destroyed a few more walls on his way through, to allow for proper expansion of the trade district.

    I’ve hated Darnassus since vanilla, and it hasn’t gotten any better. Have they added a forge/anvil yet? I couldn’t find one (or a trainer) when my shiny new worgen miner arrived and ran around town looking for stuff. The only nice thing I can say about it is that you no longer have to make the run through Wetlands to get the hell out and reach a sensible questing zone; just hop on a boat and never look back.

    I think my biggest disappointment with Cataclysm is that they didn’t do more to revamp the old zones. I can still navigate most areas blindfolded, thanks to six years of practice.

    Second biggest disappointment is a three-way tie between the endless cutscenes, DIAS vehicle quests, and aggressively linear questing in the new content. Last night on Bronzebeard, at least a dozen people were twiddling their thumbs in Hyjal because one particular type of mob was only spawning once every ten minutes, and everyone needed to kill four of them and gather X loot (Twilight Proveditors and the provisions carried by their slaves). Every other quest in the zone is blocked by this one.

    As for the cutscenes, Uldum felt like being forced to watch a triple-feature of awful fanfic movies with no fast-forward button. And buggy, oh so buggy (tip: when you’re being killed by something you can’t see and can’t run away from, jump up and down; you’re being eaten by invisible baby crocolisks).

    -j

    • Khizan says:

      Hit escape to skip cutscenes.

      • J Greely says:

        That works for pre-rendered cinematics, but not for most of the “live” cutscenes they’ve added. Trust me, by the time you’re working on your third 85, you’ve already tried to escape.

        -j

    • Trix says:

      Darnassus has always had a forge/anvil to my knowledge. Its just not in the most intuitive of places (and a lot of people miss it).

      • J Greely says:

        No trainers for mining, blacksmithing, or engineering, though, which means that the usually-helpful guards aren’t able to direct you to it. I know where it is now (as in, “just googled it”), and yeah, there’s a good reason it gets overlooked.

        (now that I know, I think I actually did stumble across it once, back when I took my first character to Darnassus to learn some weapon skill)

        -j

  28. Peter H. Coffin says:

    I am amused by the page ad being from a goldfarmer…

  29. Liz B. says:

    Hellfire Peninsula, man… My main dinged 60 only a few weeks before BC came out, so as soon as I had it in my hot little hands, I scampered to the BL (which I hadn’t been in at all before) and through the portal, never looking back. I marveled at the pretty sky. I goggled at the terrible demons. I got my face eaten by the Fel Reaver a few times, *despite* playing a hunter and having Feign Death at my fingertips. (It’s a ninja. No other way something that big could possibly be that quiet.)

    But after a couple of evenings of playing, I realized that my eyes were achy and dry and that all the red and fire and burning were giving me eyestrain. I’m usually a bit of an obsessive quest completer, but I pretty quickly gave up and bee-lined for the soothing blue of Zangarmarsh.

  30. silver says:

    “… its defining feature is orange, … This was the carrot …”

    well, duh. carrots are orange.

    • Lanthanide says:

      Originally carrots were purple or white (like parsnips). The Dutch bred the orange variety in honour of their monarch. You can still get purple and white carrots, I’ve seen the purple ones in shops here and have been advised that they taste like dirt.

      • Xavin says:

        The story that they were bred to honour the House of Orange is very likely apocryphal. It is true, however, that carrots originally varied in colour from off-white, through yellow, orange, and red, all the way to purple, and the non-orange varieties can still be found, mainly in Asia.

        The off-white version used to be the common one in Europe – medieval and earlier writings often fail to distinguish between carrots and parsnips because they looked pretty much the same back then.

  31. Duffy says:

    A note on city design: I recall in some articles that Blizzard specifically designed the early cities to cut down on draw distances and player congestion, they also eventually added Auction Houses to the other cities to help alleviate growing congestion issues. It solved both server strain and user graphics lag.

  32. Dazdya says:

    I don’t get this desire for a rational city. Actual medieval cities, like the one I live in, are full of little nooks and crannies, and are easy to get lost in. If you want to emulate that atmosphere in a game, you will sacrifice something in easy-to-use navigation. And not all cities have numbered streets at 90-degree angles.

    As for the undercity, I don’t know the lore but I always assumed that the undead hated the sunlight and decided to live in the old sewers. Maybe that assumption was wrong, but it made perfect sense to me. Didn’t make it easier to navigate though.

    • Will says:

      The lore behind it is actually because the Forsaken are hiding there; the rest of the world isn’t supposed to know they exist, hence why the entrance to the city is hidden and why there is no indication anyone is alive in the ruins above.

      Of course that kind of went out the window in WoW, but if you play Frozen Throne it makes sense.

      • Aldowyn says:

        lots of stuff went out the window in WoW. It’s a pity, there’s an incredible amount of lore behind the series – I get so annoyed when I say Warcraft and people start talking about WoW…

    • Robyrt says:

      Medieval cities are maze-like, but they’re 2D mazes. Paris doesn’t have huge cliffs dividing the flight master from the bank, or hide the flight master in a crowd of people 30 feet above the bank. It’s more like Silvermoon.

      Although I guess MMO cities don’t have any one-way streets. That’s a plus.

  33. Falco Rusticula says:

    One of the last zones in Cataclysm is a desert…with a nice, large oasis in the middle. And pyramids. But still a lot of sand dunes. However, I vastly preferred Uldum to Deepholm, which is the only zone available for level 82/83 players, and is one of the most confusing zones ever envisioned.

    As far as city layouts go, I always defaulted to Darnassus. It’s a bit of a run around the edge, but you get to run in straight lines, more or less. There’s a limit on switchbacks. It’s all very clearly laid out.

    One thing Cata did that I disapprove of was…speed up the levelling process. I’m probably alone in this, but I liked ambling through zones; it felt more authentic that my accomplishments took time. Now? I want to enjoy all the content, but if I try I quickly out-level the area, and I can’t turn it off. It doesn’t help that Ashenvale (one of my favorite places) was chopped from a ten-level zone to a five-level zone…I don’t have time to learn a place before I’m going somewhere else!

    • Bonedancer says:

      “… but if I try I quickly out-level the area, and I can’t turn it off.”

      You can do exactly that; there’s an NPC who will switch experience gain off (or back on) for the princely sum of ten gold. The Horde one is on the top floor of their PvP related building in Orgrimmar; I presume the Alliance equivalent is located similarly.

      Myself and some friends are using it to set level limits for our lowbie-alt-guild so the keen types don’t hit 85 whilst the more casual fellas are still looking forward to their epic land mount.

    • Drew says:

      You can turn it off. There’s been an option to turn off experience gain for quite a while, to satisfy the twinkers. Now I’m not sure you’d WANT to turn it off, but if it’s really an option, you can do it.

      • Aldowyn says:

        … You can turn off… XP gain? What foul sorcery is this?!? I have never heard of such an abomination!

        … Good idea, actually, in a game with 3 times as much content (more, probably) than you need. Only problem is I would forget to turn it back on! (“WHY AM I NOT LEVELING? QUESTS AREN’T GIVING ME XP!” “Dude, didn’t you say you turned XP gain off so you could do everything?” “…. Yes. ****” … That would be kind of hilarious :D)

      • ima420r says:

        I think it costs money to turn off EXP gain. 10 gold. Maybe that has changed though. I know I couldnt find an option to turn of exp when I started a new lvl 1 char and ran to a different start zone to get their start quests. I gained exp by discovering locations and got to level 2 before I had arrived.

  34. TSED says:

    Haha, what? Seriously? Even EQ has a 3D find-important-location system. It’s pretty terrible that WoW has let itself stagnate that poorly that it can’t even keep up, feature-wise, with its VANQUISHED opponents.

    • Trix says:

      I doubt this has been of major concern, considering all the other issues/improvements they work on. Certainly the directions system could be revamped, but it doesn’t sound like something vital to the game’s quality.

  35. When I played I never even touched the Blasted Lands except to run through to the portal. I always went to Hellfire at level 58, which is what most people do. No reason to stick around in Azeroth longer than that.

    Also, Hellfire isn’t difficult without flight, I think most of us did it without that at some point.

    If you’re currently in Zangar, that’s my favorite spot. You’ll probably also like Nagrand, most people seem to.

    Either way, the best places will always be in Northrend.

    Oh, also, Silvermoon is the -easiest- city to get around in in the game. If you can’t find your way there, I fear for your intelligence.

    • Shamus says:

      Sure, it’s simple. But the distances are asinine. Particularly since most of them are purely artificial. You could make the entire city about ten times less annoying by just knocking a couple of holes in a few key walls.

    • Veloxyll says:

      Silvermoon would be significantly better if you could ride from the portal room. Or, now, fly in it. It’s still far far superior to Exodar.

      I actually used Silvermoon as my home city. most of the profession trainers are kept together fairly well. There’s just so much space between everywhere. It didn’t help that I didn’t find the second bank and AH till 2/3 the way through TBC (the one near the jewelcrafters)

  36. poiumty says:

    I gotta say it was quite the opposite for me, being used to a horde-side character, to find my way around in Stormwind. So many walls… such labyrinthine design. Same for Ironforge, its two very narrow tunnels and its double-story houses. Undercity has a very nice theme to it: profession trainers on the inner tunnel, class trainers on the outer tunnel, bank in the middle, general vendors/flight master around bank. Easy to remember, so even if you have to walk longer, you have an easier time knowing where the things are. Orgrimmar has the bank, mailbox and auction house pretty close to eachother so even if the rest is harder to learn, it’s still the best spot for high-levels. Exodar is AWESOME, do not say bad things about the Exodar. Best color scheme for a capital in the whole game and three large sectors with everything you need. Mostly. Silvermoon is pretty straight-forward as there’s not a lot of 3D maneuvering going down.

    As for Hellfire Peninsula, it’s reminiscent of the way Draenor used to be before it became Outland: a red planet, kinda like Mars, i guess. Had little problems with it mostly because of the awesome Outland sky, and because really, even if it’s red, it’s not particularly awful to look at like, say, the eye-searing green of Un’goro crater or the dull yellow of Tanaris.

    Then again, pre-cataclysm Desolace was one of my favourite zones, so maybe i’m the freak.

    • Will says:

      Actually Nagrand, Terokkar Forest and Zangarmarsh is what Draenor looked like before it became the Outlands. It only went all barren and blasted after Ner’Zhul tore the planet into tiny pieces and spat them into the Twisting Nether. Shadowmoon Valley is what Draenor looked like after the Orcs learned Warlock magics, but before Ner’Zhul exploded the planet.

      Basically, Draenor used to be a pretty nice place, but the Orc’s Warlock magics turned it into a corrupted swampy dump, and then Ner’Zhul tore the planet into pieces with his portal shenanegins and it all went to hell (literally) from there.

    • Shamus says:

      If you insist that nobody should bad-mouth Exodar, you will find yourself needing to silence many critics.

      I’ve hiked around inside of that stadium enough times to know I won’t go back without a really good reason.

  37. Jarenth says:

    I never really understood the hate for the Undercity. Sure, it’s kind of a bother to get into, but once you learn the layout everything is within easy walking distance. Even better since you can mount there now.

    Orgrimmar and Silvermoon in contrast, are mazes of the n-th degree.

    • rofltehcat says:

      I never got used to undercity. I knew that most important locations could be reached pretty easily. I just couldn’t find them because everything looked exactly the same no matter where you were. Old Orgrimmar was easier for me to get accustomed to. Sure, some things were hidden away but at least it was easier to remember where to find them. Never liked Silvermoon’s flair… damn disney-yuppy-elves need a big fire. Exodar was a bit freaky but most stuff was easy to reach and remembering where it was wasn’t as bad as undercity. However, it had very bad connections to the main land (boat with loading screen O.o) and for alliance, being at the north-western end of Kalimdor has always been a stupid idea.
      Don’t know how much it changed since the end of BC, though… a friend showed me the new Stormind and it seemed pretty good, especially the reworked dwarven district. Also deathwing scorched the stupid elven… err roleplayers err… park district, which is a great plus.

      • Aldowyn says:

        Your comment about the elves reminds me of something…

        I like the history behind blood elves, (the dangers of magic in Warcraft are… interesting. VERY interesting) but most people don’t really care, and I wouldn’t want to be seen as just another freaking blood elf.

  38. Cthulhu says:

    I liked Hellfire Peninsula, it’s the only wasteland I enjoyed. There are far too many wastelands in the game, though. Old blasted lands had 1 quest chain, that eventually made you run all over the damn world, and a couple of npc’s who would pay you for every 12 basilisk gizzards or something like that. Which of course had a drop rate of never.
    I also never minded Exodar, though perhaps that’s because my main is a Draenei. Stormwind still pisses me off because nothing is near anything else. Darnassus would be fine if they didn’t have three-story houses with different trainers on each floor. IF is great.
    Undercity is annoying, I still don’t know my way around Org, Silvermoon is a lot better once you realize you can get through most of the walls by walking through the right buildings (both the inns have doors in multiple sections), I avoid thunder bluff if at all possible.
    I found the quests in Zangarmarsh irritating and tedious, though it is a beautiful zone.

  39. Skeeve the Impossible says:

    Ok I will say that it depends on what your professions are that determine what cities are good or bad for you. If you are a blacksmith or a miner then thunderbluff is your dream city. The auction mailbox and anvil and forge are all within 10 paces of eachother. Actually thunderbluff is a pretty descent city. Its just a hub city with the flight point smack in the middle. Lastly. I HATE HELLFIRE. I hate it I hate it I hate it I hate it. It all looks the same and traversing it is an unruley pain in the ass. I felt the exact same way when I got to zangremarsh. In fact Zang is one of my all time favorite zones. Fun quests and it was nice to get around. Hmmmm. Now I wanna sstart WoWing again. Thanks a lot brother of mine

  40. Michael says:

    So, I’ve played the first three Warcraft games, and as such, have a tentative grasp on the back story, but I have a question about how it’s treated in WoW.

    The clip you show is Prince Arthas’ ascendancy. For the rest of Warcraft 3, everyone treats him as the king. Traitor king, but still: a title is a title. In World of Warcraft, was he regarded as the king of Lordaeron? Or is Terenas considered the last king?

    Also, on an unrelated note:

    Did the search bar change from “Gimmeh!” to “WANT!”? Or has it always cycled between phrases randomly?

    I’ve been coming here since about the beginning of the second season of Spoiler Warning and I’ve never noticed.

    (Apologies for not having anything interesting to add to the discussion; I don’t actually play World of Warcraft.)

  41. EmmEnnEff says:

    For a level-capped character, Thunder Bluff was actually the best city for the longest time. The flight path, auction house, and bank were all next to eachother – and a stone’s throw away from the portals, and the battlegrounds.

    In comparison, there was way more footwork to be done in Ironforge.

    • Veloxyll says:

      Except it was a 5 minute flight to org then waiting for a zep for another 5 minutes to get to Undercity or Grom’Gol then another 10 minute flight to reach Blackrock Mountain for the first two tiers of raiding. TB was the best for AQ times though.

  42. glassdirigible says:

    The Blasted Lands actually has a green area towards the end now having to do with Gilneas and the worgen. There are only like two quests that send you in there though.

  43. Adam P says:

    There is a very good reason why Alliance and Horde cities are laid out so differently. Horde cities are designed to kill you. No, really.

    Undercity has the elevators, which just zip up and down the shafts. You can actually get into the door before it closes and watch the elevator drop downwards. Try to catch it, and you’ll end up in the graveyard. If you try to take the only other possible entrance (where the flight path comes through) then there is a very good chance you’ll end up killing yourself in the sewers below from the drop.

    Orgrimmar, before Cataclysm, only had a rather large tower with a flight point at the top. Dropping down heading towards the bank wouldn’t kill you, but if you tried to take the bridge towards the Valley of Wisdom and missed? Graveyard. After the Cataclysm, the zeppelin towers are inside the city, so you have to drop down to the little plateau where the flight master is. Then you have to drop down to the rest of the city below. And the graveyard is still outside the city, as you would quickly learn.

    Thunder Bluff requires you to take an elevator up into the city, which means you’re required to take an elevator out of the city too. Luckily, there is a graveyard outside one of the bluffs. Walking around them to get to where you died is a bit of a hassle though.

    Silvermoon won’t kill you with falling. Nope, you’ll die from boredom. There is nothing interesting to see as you spend hours just trekking through the city to get from one place to another.

    • Moriarty says:

      Altough it’S easier to kill yourself in horde cities than in alliance ones, the worst is still Shattrath.

      The big pile of bones below aldor terrace was basically part of the city decoration.

      Newer wow players propably won’t understand, but at the time of bc the nonepic-flying mount would only go 60% speed instead of the 100-150% is does now, so most people would still use the 100% ground mount because they couldn’t afford epic flying. Combined with an elevator that goes faster than falling speed and is necessary to use everytime after you hearthstone into shattrath… people were falling to their deaths every 15min

      • Adam P says:

        I remember Aldor Rise fondly. I was never without Light Feathers though, so Levitate saved my butt frequently. Unless there was lag. Lag in Shatt on a small server is infrequent.

  44. I followed Jame’s guides, which led me through the blasted lands, though I moved on to BC a little early when it came and I upgraded from Vanilla. I enjoyed both. The terrain is so different, even if they are both deserts.

    But I’ve lived in deserts.

    What is really interesting now is how the capital cities are (a) ones with portal hubs and (b) (especially Org) multiple cities in one. Org is actually several cities, not just one. If you work with sub-sets of the city it is amazingly easy to get to everything.

    I still wish the incoming mage portal was where it had been. One cavern or two is enough for portal work as a mage.

  45. I think the moving of the portal hubs from Dalaran to the capital cities was a major coup. It would, of course, be nice if Dalaran had a portal to each capital city, but I understand how the design all comes together.

    Interesting how your Hellfire Penn. experience was so different from mine.

  46. mad_wolf says:

    the “water” in the undercity always creeped me out, not for that fact that it was green and oozing but because i could FISH in it and even worse catch something appearing perfectly healthy…

  47. Bob says:

    Am I the only one who hates Zangarmarsh? It’s just wall to wall blue everywhere: the water, the mushrooms, most of the enemies, all blue! And anything that wasn’t blue was blue tinted due to the blue lighting! Plus, it’s a pain to navigate because you have to weave through giant giant mushrooms to get anywhere, especially if you didn’t want to get ambushed en route.

    The Undercity used to be my favourite city, before Cataclysm, because it was actually really easy to navigate for me because of the circular layout. The lifts were a pain though, why couldn’t they have just kept that wind spell Thrall used in the Battle for the Undercity? (Of course, now I stick to Orgrimmar because it’s far easier to fly around there, whereas a flying mount in the Undercity will get stuck on arches and things.) Silvermoon City is just atrocious in terms of layout though, the place is a virtual ghost town 99% of the time!

    Speaking of city design, has anyone noticed they’re deliberately making buildings for each race more distinct? Forsaken buildings used to look like dilapidated Human buildings, but now they look much more like a haunted house/mad scientist’s lab hybrid. Worgen buildings, however, look like something straight out of Victorian London, and I keep expecting to see the cast of Oliver Twist wandering around one of them.

  48. Witteafval says:

    The Blasted Lands and Hellfire Peninsula used to be much greener places, before the Dark Portal was created. If you ever do the Black Morass dungeon (in Caverns of Time in Tanaris) you’ll get to see it being completed, back when Blasted Lands was an extension of the Swamp of Sorrow. Then the portal was finished, the orcs invaded Azeroth for the first time, and the demonic energy emanating from the portal dried up the land.

    The quests there now are a lot more interesting and numerous than they were pre-cata (with better droprates!), and there’s now a remnant of swamp, some seashore, and a worgen town. But like others have said, Eastern Plaguelands, Winterspring, and Silithus were the real end-game zones back in the day, and much more compelling. Whenever I see the plaguelands and think of what they might have been like before the Scourge, I feel the need for a hug.

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