Sunday 12 December, 2010
Cataclysm is awesome. I had planned on not buying it until after winter break, but I ended up caught up in the fervor of release, and I was there when the servers all flipped. Patrick and I left work early to see it. One of James' employees took a WEEK of hard-earned vacation time for release. I'm sure there are far crazier stories.
It's hard to describe the mood of a virtual world on the eve of such an important event like an expansion release. Imagine a thousand players in several capital cities, all together, all are as excited as can be, talking, yelling, some just in game chat, some on VoIP with their friends and guilds, many having parties at their houses, riding elephants and dragons and motorcycles and flying carpets through the virtual cities, and all waiting, waiting for the server message that Cataclysm is now live. I was downright giddy. When the 3:00 server time passed without event, some people started calling doomsday. Some got even more excited that something unexpected would happen. Some logged off and went to bed. I couldn't get up from the computer. I had see what an expansion going live was like. The best way I can sum it up is like there was a mania on the servers.
As soon as Cataclysm went live, most people took off with their favorite level 80 character to the new zones, Vashj'ir and Mount Hyjal, to sprint the road to 85. Some people took off to master archaeology. Some took off to simply fly around the newly destroyed and refashioned old world. Some started new Goblin or Worgen characters to experienced the new starting areas and the entire rest of the revamped Azeroth. Some logged off and went to bed.
I went straight out to Hyjal with some guildies and me and every other player were cruelly reminded of life on a PvP server. On Boulderfist, the Horde outnumber the Alliance something stupid like 7:1, but this is the reason I enjoy playing Alliance here. I'm always outnumbered, which makes everything feel like more of an accomplishment. And it really is too, when you can successfully quest in an area with 10 Horde and live, avoiding being attacked, sticking with your friends, playing smart. I'm reminded of what I love about PvP servers. I've listened to a lot of people bitching in chat the last week about how it's so unfair and that Blizzard fails to make good server balance and that Horde are jerks and on and on. Most peoples' response is "you rolled on a PvP server. If you don't like it, transfer to PvE." The time immediately post expansion is the best for PvP servers because you're forced into close proximity with players from the other faction and it is damn exhilarating. I like knowing that I could be attacked any second. I like watching my back and feeling like I'm in a dangerous area. To me, that's the point of a PvP server. You can be attacked anywhere, any time, and you need to be ready. As such, I'm leveling my paladin with Patrick's warlock. Then for solo, I'm leveling my rogue. It would kind of suck to level anything alone and that couldn't go invisible. Suffice it to say, I've been having a blast playing with so many people.
I'm going to be sad once everyone's all 85 again and everyone's back to farming raids and people are more scarce out and about. I expect that will be more the case when I come back from break in a month. The road to 85 is a short one. The world first took 5 hours only, and our server first was within 18. I'm 100% confident I could level 80-85 in one day. For reference, I leveled my priest on a PvE server just to feel the difference from PvP. She was rested and I went from 80-81 in an hour and 15 minutes. So yeah, it's fast. The thing is though, I don't want to burn all my characters through because I don't want to be stuck at 85 farming forever. This is what I've come to realize over years of playing this game, and now after two expansion packs, having done the two end-game activities extensively. I don't want to raid the same instance over and over, and I don't want to run the same battlegrounds over and over. It gets old and it's a lot of time spent. When I think back at how much time I spent raiding this last expansion pack across four different characters, I realize a lot of that I didn't really want to be doing. I ended up doing a lot of raiding just to see things from another class's point of view, which really isn't necessary anymore because I've done it now. The same thing with PvP. I've done it. What am I going to do at 85 this expansion pack? I've no desire to do anything 'hardcore' ever again on more than one character. But this paragraph has taken a turn from its purpose...which is that all the endless raiding and farming makes the world a dead place because everyone is in instances chasing gear, something I'm tired of doing.
So what's left? My natural response is to say, well I'll pick one raiding character and then just play casually with the rest. It'll take some dedication to ONLY playing the one raid character because I tend to like to help my friends out when they need a character for this or that role in this or that dungeon or raid, but I don't want to wind up spending so much time doing the same thing slightly differently as I don't feel that the different experience is worth the time invested. I've got other games to play, work to do, places to go, people to hang out with, etc, etc. Basically, WoW ate a lot of time in the last year and a half especially that I should have reigned in. I recognize this looking back, and want to just streamline my play in the future.
To try to plan it out, I spent some time outlining who to level and what to do with them. Since leveling has turned out to take no time whatsoever (relatively), I'd like to bring up at least 3 characters to play around with at 85. The paladin will definitely be my raider. The rogue I definitely want to get good at PvP with. Then I had a choice between warrior, priest, and druid. The druid is at 70, so would have to go through Northrend again, which I won't do any time soon. I played with the other two some, and the priest is a good choice because she's ranged, and Patrick wants to play with her, but she needs a server and faction change, which costs $$ that I don't have. The warrior is tempting just because dual wielding 2-handed weapons is sick and you can turn yourself into a dragon that another player can mount if you're an alchemist, which she is. I already will have 2 melee classes and 1 of them that dual wields though, so I may pass. The key to reigning in play time is just figuring out what I need to do to play the game I want to play it and do the things I want to do in it, and then not ending up doing a ton extra. I can do it!
It's only been 5 days and I've been having a blast. I'm glad the new zones are so much fun. Vashj'ir in particular is very innovative. The whole zone is under water, which sounds like a bad idea, but they somehow made it awesome. This is immeasurably improved by the ability to ride a seahorse mount. PvPing underwater is a new experience too. They should totally make an underwater battleground. It reminds me of this game I played, Shattered Horizon, where you're in space and players can fly around you 360 degrees. Being under water is like that. If someone attacks you, the first thing you figure out is from where. Hyjal is cool too. Pacing of quests and quests themselves are improved and more fun, and the mini-stories that tie them together are more interesting than ever. The new archaeology skill is boring to do, but it's neat to piece together artifacts, and the curiosity I feel to see what I discover at higher levels will keep my interest for a while. The new dungeons are pretty fun, especially the Vortex one. There are some neat new boss battles, like this dragon who randomly speeds up or slows down the party as the 'winds' shift direction. I've been healing a few on the paladin, and healing is still really fun, made more so by several new paladin heals, which means I'm no longer just pushing 2 buttons all the way through an instance. I have to think a lot more about which spell I'm casting, on whom, and where I'm standing now. I like it a lot. I'm sad that all my ICC epics are getting replaced so quickly. All the time and effort people put into raiding the last content tier was fun in and of itself, but the tangible rewards are going to be almost all gone by 85. I think I've replaced about half my gear by 83. This reinforces for me that people who raid just for loot are somehow misguided. The loot goes away. The guilds and relationships don't (as much).
Guild levels are my favorite new thing. When you do quests and other things, you are rewarded with guild reputation, and this all goes toward a massive guild experience pool. Once the guild collectively gains enough experience, it levels up, and at each level, there are guild-wide perks. Most guilds are level 2 now, which means everyone in that guild gets a +5% bonus to experience for faster leveling. At level 3, it's +10% mount speed. Level 4 I think is +5% reputation gains for factions. And on and on to 25. It's a very cool system, and you get reputation with your guild that goes toward purchasing rewards that the guild as a whole unlocks through obtaining levels and guild achievements, which are like regular achievements, but gotten collectively, such as running dungeons as a guild or winning rated battlegrounds as a guild. It really promotes people working together and forming relationships in-game, but I could see how people who just enjoy playing alone could feel screwed out of rewards just because of play preference. Just join a guild and don't talk to anyone, I say. GW is almost level 3, probably will be by the time I play next. I do hope that it takes a reasonably long time to get to 25 and that guilds aren't 25 in just a few months. I think it should take like a year on average because it should be a really big deal for a guild to get achievements.
So, yes, Cataclysm is awesome. I've had my crazy amounts of play time for the past few days and now it's time to cut it out so I can finish the semester in style and then go hang out in the US for a month. I will see you again, Cataclysm, for another round at the end of January.