I put off writing this week’s entry to the last minute, because FoxMaster was going to release a video about programming updates to the AI Lara ‘bot. But it’s getting pretty late in the day, so I guess that’s going to have to wait. I’m pretty sure the major topic of discussion is going to be what he had to do to make the ‘bot capable of solving the doors in Midas’ Palace. Rather than finding *the* switch that opens one specific door, the central puzzle room of Midas’ Palace has FIVE switches that have to be set to a specific pattern for EACH door, one at a time. I presume the ‘bot probably wasn’t capable, even after hours of gameplay, of “deducing” this logic…although it had some of the tools already at its disposal. But that’s a more complete discussion for another time. Plus, I’m betting the second application of this kind of AI/gameplay is going to be Resident Evil HD Remaster…so I’m watching for that to appear. But this week, I’m going to continue with my return to World of Warcraft.
If you remember from last week, I had reached level twenty with one character, a Forsaken Destruction Warlock named Cinderlynn. I leveled Cinderlynn to Level 10 in the Forsaken starting area, Deathknell, and Tirisfal Glade, the traditional low-level region. Although I’m given to understand that once I activate the Battle for Azeroth storyline, this area will change significantly, you still create your character in a “pre-BfA” timeline. At least, that’s what it appears to be. That is, everything still functions along the storyline that was established with Cataclysm. The Gilnean Front in Silverpine Forest, etc. Once you reach level 10, you can go to your Race Faction’s capital city and activate Battle for Azeroth, in fact; it’s what the Adventure Guide will prompt you to do once you ding 10.
But, if you remember, you can also travel to your Alignment Capital, Stormwind or Orgrimmar, and visit Chromie to switch your timeline. Of course, you can always just keep following the existing quest prompts and level up that way. If you create a Forsaken, you’ll level to 5 in the protected area of Deathknell, then go through Tirisfal Glade, the home region of the Forsaken capital of Lordaeron/Undercity, and will receive prompts from there to go south to Silverpine Forest to fight the Alliance and the Worgen, and east to the Western Plaguelands to fight the remnants of the Scourge with the Argent Dawn, a faction-neutral organization. Note these two zone weren’t always either/or. In WoW Classic, Silverpine is a beginning level 10 zone and Western Plaguelands begins at level 41. The current incarnation of WoW uses level-matching, so no matter where you go, at least through Battle for Azeroth, you’re going to face level-appropriate content.
Instead, I chose to proceed to Outland and continue leveling in the Burning Legion expansion. I was expecting this to start the quest chain that took me through all the prep-work in the Blasted Lands that culminates in your passage through the Dark Portal to Outland; instead you just get zapped to the other side of the Dark Portal in Hellfire Peninsula and go find the quest to take you to the Horde base of Thrallmar or the Alliance base of Honor Hold. I hit level 20 while still questing around Thrallmar.
Not wanting to re-sub quite yet, I started a new character. I intended to recreate my old main, a Human Protection Warrior named Chayarcy. But in flipping through the different races, I got a Draenei design I absolutely loved:
I ended up making her an Arms warrior rather than Protection. Arms is a specialty I was never very comfortable with, but I learned this past week that a lot of specialties don’t play the way they used to; or at least the last time I tried them. The Draenei and Blood Elves were both added in the Burning Crusade. Both races had their own starting zones, beginner zones, and capital city; something neither Gnomes nor Trolls had yet; despite launching with the game (and they wouldn’t get a starting area until Cataclysm). The Draenei start at the crystalline dimensional ship they crashed on Azeroth in; the Exodar. You create your character in Ammen Vale, a protected area just like Deathknell, then move on to the larger Azuremyst Isle around level 5. Azuremyst contains the Exodar, which now functions as the Draenei capital city, and has enough quests to get you up to level 10 easily. Normally, you would continue on to the neighboring Bloodmyst Isle for another few levels before joining the Night Elves on the continent of Kalimdor. I choose instead to take Mystilatre to Northrend, the continent added in Wrath of the Lich King.
WotLK actually introduced a bit of thought. While the “default” questline that takes you to Northrend, either Horde-side or Alliance-side, directs you to a faction-specific starting area in Borean Tundra, the large southwestern area of Northrend…there is actually a DIFFERENT starting area for each faction elsewhere on the continent. I would imagine most readers will remember that the Forsaken were kind of doing their own thing in Northrend, for legitimate historical reasons and…divergent…narrative reasons. Thus, the Forsaken have a starting area on the opposite side of the continent in the Howling Fjord zone. Likewise, the Dwarves are after Titan lore (their creators) and artifacts…joining the Alliance in defeating the Lich King is on the “if you have time” list for several Dwarven sub-factions. Of course, there is a gameplay reason for this as well…this gives a travel location to Northrend from both the Eastern Kingdom continent (Stormwind/Alliance and Undercity/Horde) and Kalimdor (Orgrimmar/Horde and Menethil Harbor/Alliance). Kudos to Blizzard, actually, for making this work narratively. There are legitimate reasons most players think the game hit its absolute peak with WotLK. I keep my opinions a bit more broad, but there is no doubt you can find more things wrong about every expansion that comes after, regardless of your opinions on mechanics and lore. I bring this up partially because I may be redoing the last character on this list, and I think I may level her new version from the other side of Northrend, if possible. (Oh, and you can move back and forth between Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord easily; there are ships that travel back and forth not far from all starting locations.)
I suspect I’m going to end up writing quite a bit more about Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, because both expansions feature a lot of the elements that describe WoW at its best. So I won’t dig into lore right now.
Moving on. After dinging 20 in Borean tundra with Mystilatre, I was going to create a Worgen Rogue. I think I even mentioned that last week. Once again, random character creation gave me this:
How the hell did I RANDOMLY generate a corrupted Blood Elf named Selarashari? Most of my character creation has been like this the past week, and anytime it’s not, I’ve found I end up deleting the character in the end. I’ve never had much luck playing Rogues either, but this time it’s going pretty well. Like the Draenei, the Blood Elves got their own protected starting area, Sunstrider Isle; beginner zone (Eversong Woods) with capital city (Silvermoon City); and a third zone, and one of my favorites, The Ghostlands. However, once again I left the area at level 10 and chose to level in Cataclysm. Now, this requires some explanation. The third expansion to World of Warcraft, Cataclysm, “remade” everything in the game. Not to the extent Guild Wars 2 remade Tyria, which was a very different place despite technically being the same world and lands as were featured in Guild Wars. In the original launch-version zones of the game, quest-lines were removed, added, or re-done. Gnomes and Trolls had their own starting areas added. The storyline for every race except the Draenei and the Blood Elves was updated to feature the launch version, the Burning Crusade, and Wrath of the Lich King as “past events” that were now moving on from. The continents of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor were moved further apart on the world map, making room for the appearance of new lands (although I’m guessing they had no idea HOW MANY new lands there would end up being in the middle of all that ocean). In fact, the “new” Horde race of the Goblins started on a small island in the middle of the ocean, while the new Alliance race of Worgen received a zone-sized expansion of a peninsula west of Silverpine Forest in the Eastern Kingdoms. Again, while the Goblins don’t have a ton of classic lore in the game, technically the Worgen, or rather, the Kingdom of Gilneas that *is* the Worgen, are one of the original human kingdoms, which I can talk about some time in the future. As far as game changes, the level rating of a lot of zones were changed, so what order you visited some of the zones in became different…I think it was for Cataclysm that you became able to move to the Western Plaguelands from Tirisfal Glade.
But additionally, there WERE “new” Cataclysm zones that accommodated the raised level cap, and of course there were new dungeon and raid zones added. So in one sense, if you create a new character and just level them up using the “default” zones and quest prompts, you ARE leveling “in Cataclysm.” But for the purposes of Timewalking, when you choose to “level” in Cataclysm, you will be directed to your faction’s Notice Board, which will then allow you to choose the quest that will point you toward one of the zones added or modified specifically for the Cataclysm storyline. Or at least, that’s the best I can figure out. In Selarashari’s case, for instance, I dinged 10 in Eversong Woods. I then took a portal to Orgrimmar from Silvermoon City. In Orgrimmar, I talked to Chromie and chose to level in Cataclysm. Chromie directed me to the Notice Board outside Grommash Hold in the middle of Orgrimmar. The Notice Board offered me quests to level in Southern Barrens, Ashenvale, or Terokkar Forest in Outland. I have no idea what the Terokkar Forest offers relative to Cataclysm, I’m guessing some kind of faction questline was added or enhanced that kicks off in that zone…I don’t remember anything. But The Barrens and Ashenvale are two of the zones most significantly changed by the cataclysm. Both also tie into one of the major storylines of Cataclysm, the elementals. But to be honest, I’m NOT entirely sure I’m grasping the system. I chose the Southern Barrens and was able to complete that zone before reaching level 20. But after finishing the zone, I had no quest marker to continue. I returned to Orgrimmar, and the Notice Board. The choices were different, now: Felwood, Terokkar Forest, or a third choice that I’m not sure about. And when I came back with my next character to try to learn something new, the choices were different. There may be some aspect of faction-alignment at play, although Southern Barrens, Ashenvale, and Felwood are all technically Neutral Contested zones.
I finally got around to creating a Worgen. I don’t know why I keep gravitating to Worgen Mages…technically they aren’t a good fit, if you’re trying to maximize everything. But I like Worgen Mages. Still, I’m NOT 100% sure I’m keeping Ancine. I did an Arcane Mage for the first time, and I’m really enjoying the gameplay. But I went ’round and ’round with the character creator before I settled on this design, and I am STILL not sure I like it. Considering the good luck I’ve had, I think I’ll take what I’ve learned and try another character with the same build. That actually goes for the next two characters I created as well. So, just to keep it straight: Cinderlynn, Mystilatre, and Salarashari are keepers. Completely satisfied with them.
I’ve always like the Worgen starting zone, which is one of Blizzard’s first attempts at implementing “phased” gameplay. That is, the world changes around you as you play through what is technically a shared instance…it is possible in some places that the Worgen standing next to you is actually seeing a slightly different world from yours, despite interacting with the same NPC’s. Unfortunately, it’s also always been a bit buggy. Also, they’ve stripped a lot of the quests out of it to streamline it at this point, and it’s actually a bit buggier than it used to be. It’s a good thing I know this starting area well, because I was able to remember where I needed to go to do different quests…the map was completely bugged for half the area.
Speaking of major bugs, the first Worgen I ever created stood on the dock that “left” the starting zone for the rest of the world for months, because the quest was bugged and Blizzard just didn’t fix it. This was a common thing, by the way…you can google about the inability to leave the Worgen starting area. Something else interesting is that you MUST play the Worgen starting area to completion. There have been at times ways to force yourself into the rest of the world, but most of them, most of the time, would bug your character even if you were successful. Consequently, instead of reaching, in a Worgen’s case, Stormwind, to start a Timewalking campaign at level 10; you won’t get there until around level 15. I don’t know if it was because of the slightly higher level or because I was starting as Alliance instead of Horde, my starting zone options were Eastern Plaguelands, Terokkar Forest, and again, a third option I can’t remember. I would like to be able to remember if Eastern Plaguelands was the third option available to my Blood Elf, as that would support the idea that it became available as a “second tier” choice. Alignment-wise, once again, Eastern Plaguelands is Neutral Contested. Although I mainly jumped at the chance to level here as a Worgen because Cataclysm added the Fiona’s Caravan questline and story. Most of Eastern Plaguelands is fun to play, in my opinion, although it does thin out quite a bit toward the end.
I went through most of the same choices with the next character:
I don’t like the Goblin starting area all that much, for reasons that, like many topics I’ve introduced here, require a full essay to discuss. The story does get better as you drag the Bilgewater Cartel closer to Kalimdor and membership in the Horde. But as with the Worgen, you are chained off from the rest of the gameworld until you complete the phased starting instance, which means you reach your capital city and the ability to choose a starting zone around level 15 rather than 10. Once again, I visited Chromie, and for the second time as a Horde character. This time I was offered Terokkar Forest, The Badlands, and Felwood. At least I’m pretty sure the third option was Felwood. If it WAS Felwood, that destroys any possibility of these choices being governed by faction alignment. But if it was Ashenvale, the other possibility in my mind, that would challenge the idea that Ashenvale is only offered at level 10-15…for, whatever reason; since, as I’ve pointed out, it doesn’t actually matter.
As far as the character, I’ve always like the Goblins, although I’ve never really stuck with one all the way to end game. I decided to try Shaman this time simply because I liked the fact that their totems are mechanical devices…Goblins are not spiritual at all. I guarantee you they might believe in magic and techno-magic, but there is no god-in-the-machine going on.
Why this idea struck me as something to build on narratively within my own mind, I couldn’t tell you.
Izitz may actually stick around. Not thrilled with her current look, but the gameplay is nice and once I’ve got the safety goggles hidden where you can see her eyes again, and then maybe get her back in some nice robes, I think we can do something. Oh, and I took her to The Badlands. There’s some interesting questing there having to do with the redemption of the Black Dragons in the face of Deathwing doing Deathwing things. As Chromie says whenever you pick the Cataclysm Timewalking campaign, “Who would have thought someone named Deathwing would cause so much destruction?”
I think she’s being sarcastic, but the Bronze Dragons are known for being a little…out of it, since they kind of exist everywhere all at once.
My final character, at least at this point, is the one that probably is about to be deleted, for a couple of reasons:
I have NEVER got along with the Hunter class. Yeah, I know it’s bizarre considering that’s generally held as THE quintessential World of Warcraft class. It’s like, the default “hey, come try out World of Warcraft, create a Hunter, they basically level themselves. Just go sit on the road in Westfall and stay logged in.” Neiran is the only character that I didn’t like any of the specializations. I started out as Marksman, then switched to Survival and Beast Master, and finally back to Marksman. I looked up talent and rotation guides, and NOTHING felt comfortable. I finally started just making up my own thing under Marksman, and it’s OK for now. And for those who aren’t familiar with WoW, no, this really isn’t important in the early game. Makes no real difference. The build you use to REACH level 60 is definitely NOT the build you’ll use for end-game content. Or at least, not end-game content that you’re doing with other people. Because they will LET YOU KNOW if you’re not optimized perfectly to the spec that is the current most popular build for what they think you need to be doing. But I don’t ever mess with current end-game content, so that doesn’t really matter. I just can’t get comfortable.
The second reason this character may be redone is that, having placed three characters in a row in Cataclysm content, I put Neiran in the next expansion, Mists of Pandaria. I’ve never been a particular fan, but I didn’t dislike it for many of the most popular reasons people hated this expansion. I disliked it because a significant part of this expansion only worked while it was live and current. There are MANY things in MoP that were disabled when the next update came out (UPDATE, not expansion), and people who weren’t playing end-game content never got to experience. This isn’t the first time Blizzard did this…honestly every expansion is preceded by “events” that start the story of the next expansion, and most of that content is temporary. But this was the first time that, well, there’s an ENTIRE ZONE in Mists of Pandaria that no longer has any significant content AT ALL. You just, kind of play around it. You can still get the gist of the story…that’s pretty simple, actually. Beyond that, though, MoP is the first expansion I’ve reached through Timewalking that IS NOT significantly edited from the last time I played the game a few years ago. The questlines all seem to be the same, and the story progression seems the same, so far; but that means it hasn’t been integrated into the Timewalking formula the same as the other expansions have.
Despite my gripes with the overall story and implementation of MoP, I used to really like the content. Pandaria contained a significant engine and graphics upgrade that, in my opinion, made the game beautiful to see and more fun to play. The MoP writing and voice acting was quite good, actually…better than what we saw in Cataclysm. I don’t think it has held up as well, though. Of course, I’m still only in the first area…and I’m playing Alliance-side, which I’ve always thought was weaker than the Horde storyline. And I don’t like the Hunter class…all of these are likely contributing to not enjoying this content as much.
I don’t know if I’m going to continue my thoughts on playing World of Warcraft next week or not. I alluded to an awful lot of things that have been on my mind, that I didn’t include here simply because they were entire articles themselves. Also, I AM working on the WoW narrative/RP playthrough. There have been a lot of good ideas so far but I’m still missing some elements to pull it all together. And finally, hopefully I will be able to revisit the AI discussion once FoxMaster posts his programming update.
See you next week!
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