Doldrums (Plus A Little Secret)

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Samuel Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

We’re in the calm before the cataclysmic storm, and like most calms this one is a bit boring.

The tasty leaked alpha data has temporarily gone away. Well, off the reputable sites, anyway. I had a cute little post lined up about the ‘most exciting’ probable pet in the alpha files, but I’ve decided to shelve that for now just in case. Although to be honest, I doubt if Blizzard cares if I reveal the existence of the last missing color of diseased bear.

And unlike some people who shall remain nameless (and who don’t get any links since they are trying to keep me out of the beta!), I am not special enough to be invited into alpha myself. If I were, I wouldn’t go gloating about it all over the internet either! But I’m not.

(Aside: And that last paragraph was meant in jest. Do not bomb this blog!)

But I can understand that. Not being invited, I mean. First, I am very vocal about posting my suggestions for hunter pets in general here and elsewhere, so inviting me to alpha doesn’t new Blizzard any new suggestions. Secondly, the details of pets — like the specific changes to family skills or the new level 1-10 pets for hunters — probably aren’t in the alpha yet. Pets and their associated data tend to happen pretty late in the creation cycle.

This isn’t a criticism: it makes a lot of sense to get the details of characters nailed down first. Even for the hunter class with pets that are a huge part of our uniqueness, you get the character figured out (with some basic guidelines about how the pets fit in), then build the details of the pets around that.

But since I do pets, that means that my feedback is probably more valuable when pets are being worked on heavily, which is probably not at this point in the alpha. Still, I’m sad not to be asked. I guess I’m just not that special.

So! Given that we’re in the boring doldrums, what is there to do? I was thinking about running another contest — maybe something a little more arty this time. I need to give that some more thought, though.

In WoW, I’ve been cleaning up some achievements in Old Azeroth. I got my Loremaster’s Colors (and that earned me a Tabard of the Achiever as well). And I’ve been finishing up the old world dungeons as I have time. (I’ve been in many of them for pet taming, but often not to the end boss.)

In fact, I’ve been quite surprised by how many quests and dungeons that Mania has never completed. I thought I’d been most places and seem most things in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms … well, except for some of the raid dungeons. But I thought I’d done most of the solo quests leading up to those dungeons. Except … apparently I hadn’t.

I spent a lot of time in Winterspring — I loved that place — but I skipped the Plaguelands. Both of them. I had done almost no quests in Searing Gorge and I’d skipped half the quests in the Swamp of Sorrows. And never mind Silithus — I’m not sure I’d ever set foot there except to track down Krellack back when he was supposed to look like a tallstrider.

And some of the missing quests are very puzzling to me. How did I miss the quest to kill Steelsnap? Mania leveled right through Thousand Needles, and she was practically living out of Thunderbluff at the time. So why didn’t I take that quest?

And here’s where the secret comes in. (No, the secret wasn’t the diseased bear.) See, when I think back about my first 60 levels on Mania, I realize that … I was afraid of content. I knew I was weak; I knew I would die; I knew I shouldn’t even try to take on anything above a green quest. And elites? Run far, far away!

The Burning Crusade expansion cured me, and today this attitude is very odd to me. But in context, it makes a lot of sense.

See, I started playing MMOs back in … let’s see … it was during my first job, but after I got divorced the first time, when I started dating Eric, so that would be … 1999! Man, I’m old.

I started in Asheron’s Call (and stayed there for many, many years) but of course I also tried EverQuest. And Anarchy Online. And Dark Age of Camelot. And Final Fantasy XI. And Shadowbane. And Star Wars Galaxies. And Lineage II. And Horizons. And City of Heroes. And …

Well, I’ll stop there. But there was one thing that the early games had it common, and that was the certainty of my quick and brutal death.

The first character I made in EverQuest was a wood elf. I fell off the edge of their tree city and died. Then I couldn’t find my way back up, and died again to some sort of spider or something. And again. And again. This was in my first five minutes.

My second EverQuest character was a barbarian. At that time in EverQuest, you accepted quests by typing keywords into local chat while talking to an NPC. (Weird, eh?) But if you forgot to hit enter to go into chat mode, you’d do the emote dance. Except in EverQuest, the ‘a’ key attacked. And you could attack NPCs, including the quest giver you were talking to. And then they would kick your ass.

The first two times this happened, I stood there in shock … and died. The third time, I tried to run. I ran into the water and — you got it! — died.

These stories are pretty common to EverQuest players. But my point is that death came easily and quickly in the early MMOs. And the big thing for most of them was grouping, so if you didn’t find groups almost immediately you were very weak compared to every creature you would ever meet. (DAoC reduced some of the EQ suck by moving the must-group level to 10.)

Even my beloved Asheron’s Call had some problems here. AC didn’t require grouping, but it was very, very easy to permanently destroy your character’s ability to fight well. (And there were no respecs in these games at this time. That would be cheating.) Thankfully, AC had a very forgiving XP system that allowed a weak character to kill things *way* under their level and still progress, albeit very slowly.

That’s why I stuck with AC — because my terribly weak character could at least crawl forward slowly, whereas in EQ I was stuck, unable to progress at all.

So when I started WoW, I just naturally assumed that I was weak, that I could only attempt to take on quests and enemies below my level, and that I would die terribly over and over again. And that’s why I skipped so many quests and zones. By the time I wandered into a new zone, some of the early quests would be grey to me. And if the zone seemed too hard for me — and too hard in this case meant that the spiders looked at me funny, or there were dragonkin somewhere in the zone, or I saw a higher level player doing quests there — I’d go back to a lower zone.

So that’s my shameful secret. Mania skipped a lot of content because I “knew” that she was weak.

The Burning Crusade expansion changed that for me. And I strongly suspect that players getting into MMOs now — or really, any time after WoW launched — will never suffer that illusion. Nor will I, ever again.

21 thoughts on “Doldrums (Plus A Little Secret)

  1. Arisia

    Not so sure on that. I have been playing WoW since it began, practically. Due to physical limitations on time I can spend online, I’ve never had “the gear”. I stopped playing both of my 80 hunters, aside from dailies for 6 months, and now I am honestly terrified to run anything that can upgrade their gear.

    People are nasty as HELL in most of the PUGs I have tried– if you DARE not have the higher end for GearScore, you are sneered at… and I don’t even want to talk about the attitude a lot of folks have to a BM who wants to use their Spirit Beast on some servers.

    Yes, being told over and over how badly you SUCK bothers me… if I wanted to be abused, there are other outlets. So, I don’t DO instances… and apaprently, now that means I may not really be able to REALLY upgrade my toons gear so that I CAN enjoy myself, at least until Cat drops.

    Illusion or not, some of us still feel, as “easy” as Blizzard has made it, that we’re not good enough… and it is reinforced over and over by loudmouths that DO make some of us feel, eventually, that it is true.

  2. Phyllixia

    Speaking of new contests… I don’t think I received the code for the last contest. Not that it matters much, as long as you have all the new pet info ready for when I start Cataclysm I’m happy :)

  3. Mania Post author

    Arisia: I hear what you are saying, and I’m not going to argue. But for myself, the difference between getting stuck at level 10 and getting stuck at level 80 is huge. It’s … well, it’s 70 levels of content. :) And someone like me, who has no desire to group at all, can blithely ignore the high end content. I don’t feel weak when I solo, and before WoW solo meant weak.

    Phyllixia: Aigh — you should have poked me about it! It may have been eaten by spam or something. But I will resend right now.

  4. Nimizar

    I’m a little bemused (although highly amused) by BRK’s antics. I read the NDA for the Wrath alpha and one of the items it covered was the simple fact that you were *in* the alpha. Still, I don’t believe BRK has outright stated that he has Cataclysm alpha access, just implied it heavily.

  5. Mr. Perfect

    Arisia, it sounds like you’re on a really negative realm! Normally I would agree wholeheartedly with you. The last instance I spent real time on was Wailing Caverns, back when my hunter was twenty something in, oh, October of 2006. I’ve also been beat over the head in a few holiday boss groups because, apparently, I used to play like I bought a level 80 off of Ebay…

    However, in March a good friend somehow convinced me to start doing dailys with that same Hunter, who was still dressed in quest greens and blues, many of which where ten levels or more below 80. I was expecting pretty much what you describe. Long story short, after reading and forgetting most of this thread, and help from said friend, I’ve been through more heroics then I can count(I’ve already gotten that Perky Pug pet, however many that requires). All as beast master running around with Arcturis the spirit bear. :) So far I’ve been taunted once for having two pieces of leather on instead of mail(never mind I had them on because they provided higher DPS then any mail I could find), once for getting killed by trash mobs running back to my body after the group locked the healer out of a boss fight and wiped, and once the tank left in a hissy fit because the “group couldn’t dps”.

    If you’ve got a friend who can show you around, there are good groups out there to have fun with. You wouldn’t happen to be Horde on Bloodhoof?

  6. BethanyAnne

    That stinks, Arisia. I’ve got the gear, and I really try to never say anything in heroics about other folk. Figure everyone has to start somewhere, you know? As long as we are winning, who cares if you are doing 1k dps or 5k?

  7. BethanyAnne

    Oh, and Mr. Perfect is right, above. Different realms can make a *real* difference. I play Alliance on Dalaran, and Horde on Proudmoore. Both are pretty comfy realms for me. I’ve played on like 4 other servers, and some… weren’t, lol. Another thing that can help is a good guild. I’ve found several guilds over the years that are great for socializing and helping folk out.

  8. Arisia

    BethanyAnne, MrPerfect and Mania– thanks for letting me whine and rant. I know a lot of my problem is feeling shy and actually LISTENING to these jerks, and oddly, when I solo, or when I am working with my better half in game, I don’t feel as useless or weak. This is a mental thing I really have to get around, and I am working on it… and when I DO have the gear, and it will come, eventually ::grin::, I think I’m going to try and be the one who goes to newbie areas to offer runs through places in the hopes of finding other “me’s” out there and keeping them from feeling the same way I have.

    And MrPerfect– wish I was; I’m actually on MoonGuard US which I went to because I was told it was a friendly server– somehow I think I’m a butthead magnet there. ::grin::

  9. Dwarfdude

    Hi there this would be my first time making a post on this site. I love all the work you do Mania. Personaly I actually do have decent gear and have been in ICC but I also love soloing with my pet bear and turtle,I even have a seperate set of gear and spec for it. Its a wonderfull way to enjoy the game, I have even soloed UK,AN, Old kingdome,Nexsus and all but Novos in DTK(Ill get that sucker sooner or later) I must admitt I am a reformed person while i never ever was a jerk to people in an instance as long as they were polite, buuut on I did sometimes utter an “Oh common!” to myself sometimes. I reformed when i decided to start a palladin tank, let me tell ya when ya first start and your gear has low threat you learn your lesson. We all have to start somewhere. So now i find myself helping people as much as i can giving advise on gear and such. Also reading some of your recent blogs about your fear of raiding kinda put me in my place. You are a valuable hunter resource, respected by the elite yet most of them have no idea that you dont raid. Also it has been refreshing to read someone who likes the game for being a game not a job not football practice but entertainment.

    BRK is back and on the alpha ( as he loves to remind you it seems LOL)We dont know for how long and he says he will not be doing all the min maxing nor is he planning on raiding to that i say WHO CARES!! Its just awsome to have him back even for a little while. He can write about whatever he wants, it could be about flight paths for all i care hes just an awsome wow writer : )

    Again thanks Mania for making the game more about fun than anything else.

  10. Mama Druid

    You played Shadowbane? Occasionally I’ll check and see if it’s back up, or someone else took it up and is running it again. That’s what I was playing when WoW entered the scene. Based on our experience in Shadowbane, with its open PvP world and where guilds banded together and honor was valued and enacted upon, the hubby and I started on a PvP server in WoW. My first death at the hand of the opposing faction was devastating as it was 100% dishonorable – they killed me when I had res sickness!! You could see buffs and debuffs on players of the opposite faction back then. So this person knew full well that I was an easy kill. I didn’t understand what sort of satisfaction that could bring someone. I still don’t!

    Oh yes… I meant to actually comment on your post. 

    I’m working on Loremaster and the Seeker title now and came across the same thing. I was sure I had done some of the quests before! I think when Blizz implemented the Achievement system, not everything was accounted for. I know for a fact there were achievements I didn’t get, but had actually accomplished. Like completing MC, ZG, and AQ. My first purple came from ZG. So knowing this, I just figured not all quests I completed were accounted for as well.

    Also, I’m glad you now know Mania is not weak. It’s quite liberating!

  11. Raydex

    Ah, the fun of easy death. I was the opposite of you. I abandoned green and even yellow quests for being “inefficient”. Cause for me, I loved killing things I knew I was too weak for. When I did instances, I always did them with smaller groups – I distinctly remember doing WC with two other hunters. We all brought out our pets and they were our 3 tanks and we were healers and DPS. :D Fun times. I guess you could say I found it thrilling to challenge myself. I remember the Oracles/Furyheart too. I soloed that final boss guy at the end cause it was so fun. It took a few tries. And an awesome warp stalker. But hey, it was fun :D

  12. Mr. Perfect

    Ah ha, so you do have a friend to group with. It makes all the difference in the world. :)

    If you ever transfer realms, check out Mania’s forums first. There’s a listing of where people are, and even guilds of petopians on some realms.

  13. Palladiamors

    Ahhh, Everquest. It has been a long time. I still remember the horror I felt when I accidentally smacked a quest giver, and he beat the tar out of me. And FF XI…….I remember when you needed a GROUP to get to the next city.

    I am the opposite/same. I know that sound’s strange, but hear me out. Inwardly, I think pretty much the same thing, that I am going to get my face beat in, or that I am not going to be able to do good enough. Leveling 1-60, I did maybe three instances. And at sixty I promptly got berated for having on strength and stamina gear while being holy. Nevermind that back in vanilla, intellect came on very, very few drops, and caster weapons didn’t exist pre-raiding, except for like, one sword in Maradon. And then something funny happened, in that same group, actually. I healed so well, even in bad gear, that the guy who’d bashed me apologized.

    That was when the fun started. One of my favorite things to do was duo instances. Me and my rogue friend duoed Sunken Temple back when that was kind of hard. And on our new characters everything on our level. Not sure how many of you remember, but Stratholme used to be a ten man instance. I loved running it with five people, even though it took longer. Just fun, crazy little things like that.

    Put’em on ignore, Arisia. I know that may not seem like much of a solution, but it helps. I geared up my hunter in BM spec and very rarely heard a word of complaint. Even when I finally got and used my spirit beast. Just stick with it, especially if you loveyour hunter.

  14. Jaraii

    On the gear thing, I’ve noticed this being an issue lately. My server (Runetotem-Horde) is pretty evenly split between rude elitists and calm people. However I found a nice guild and we hang out in vent and raid with other guilds. noone complains about gear. If anything we try and help an undergeared person get gear, mainly by running them through heroics for the emblems.

  15. Witrely

    dying at the very beginning sounds to me like a bad design.
    I can understand a world full of elits that require you a group to survive but I cannot understand a world where you die from trying to *talk* to npcs.

    as for self confidence in taking on harder content- its all in your head and it comes with time. sometimes it takes an expansion to shift things in your mind. I know Northerned has much more quests that are marked for groups which I have soloed because I decided to bloody well give it an honest try- even if it means I will die a few times for learning curve sake.

    the first elite I met on wow was a really nasty surprise. I remember I returned there a few more levels later and killed son of Arugal with a fishing rod as vengeance. later on I realized it is there to show you where to point your ambition. aim high and at worst you got to learn your limits. wow is very forgiving for death. I usually learn to play my char better when I aim so high, because every little thing helps, instead of being overkill.

  16. Sukulatae

    Much horrible dying was involved in my first couple mmo’s. Ultima Online had me getting lost outside Delucia within 15 minutes of my first logging in, and dead. To a mongbat.(mongbats are the equivalent of the critters in WoW) Now, UO has corpse runs. So, I found a healer and got rezzed, had no clue where my body was, and no clue how to get back to town. My wonderful other half logged in and found all of my scattered parts and then remembered to warn me about going too far from the towns.

    In SWG I was running around killing Nunas, and wandered a bit further from Theed than normal. Saw a big pile of dirt, and decided to shoot it with my little blaster. Every nuna for about 20 km decided it was lunch time.

    I’m known as the one who will tackle anything with no fear, I have to try it just to see if I can do it. I die horribly a lot, but I also surprise myself!

  17. Mania Post author

    I didn’t try UO until much later (around Third Dawn), but my husband has many tales of being walled into the newbie area with chairs and being taken out on a boat and stranded.

  18. Snowtiger

    WeLL when i leveled or leveling now i always tried my best at any quest that i took regardless of dying but the great feeling of completing a quest thats hard for a solo or finishing 2 person quest solo with you pet. My biggest complaint lately is the random dungeons and how some abuse the kicking of a member if they arent doing certain DPS or heals and not talking Heroics I have seen this with group members the Idea with this is to get Epics if a person has none but tries their best there is no reason to kick them I seen this done with people and they didnt even cause a wipe in the instance I think blizzard should look at this!! and if you dont vote to boot them then the others give you flack about it!! Mania just do what you enjoy and keepup the great work

  19. Aya

    Games like Lineage 2 is the reason I am still vacation from PVP servers. And don’t forget the death penalty.. Losing such hard earned exp for dying. In L2 back then, you did lose exp for losing in pvp, was rough and like I said, still turned off by it.

  20. Zhuge

    Arisia, I totally feel your pain. My only character above 60 is my 80 belf hunter -sadly university commitments mean I can’t get online everyday, and sometimes a week can pass by until Im online again. When I hit 75 and then 80, I started the camps for Loque and Skoll. I had always wanted these pets and being BM since forever I thought I would tame them and use them forever.

    I camped over weekends and during the early hours, every little bit of spare time. I now have almost full hc emblem gear, but I have been kicked on numerous occassions because Im BM, or once just because I walked in with skoll – the pala sneered ‘kick him hes got a show pet’, or usually ‘get yourself a real pet m8′. Ive been told I can’t raid unless Im surv or MM spec. I can’t afford duel spec as I aint online enough to make any serious gold through professions or daily farming (I struggled to buy my epic flying mount).

    My favourite character now sits in Orgrimmar with nothing to do other than argent tournament quests. Might sound like Im whining, but Mr Perfect it aint always your realm, the above hc groups were put together through the random group tool, and I was the only one from my realm in the group.

    Please Blizz make BM viable in raids without having to have killed every boss going on another spec first. Every hunter on our realm has wolves and gorillas, I get laughed at for camping spirit beasts not commended…with 4.6k gearscore and relevant knowledge of tactics (youtube wtf!), I havent surpassed hcs just because my dps is low cos Im BM spec :(

  21. Marshal

    Hi there this would be my first time making a post on this site. I love all the work you do Mania. Personaly I actually do have decent gear and have been in ICC but I also love soloing with my pet bear and turtle,I even have a seperate set of gear and spec for it. Its a wonderfull way to enjoy the game, I have even soloed UK,AN, Old kingdome,Nexsus and all but Novos in DTK(Ill get that sucker sooner or later) I must admitt I am a reformed person while i never ever was a jerk to people in an instance as long as they were polite, buuut on I did sometimes utter an “Oh common!” to myself sometimes. I reformed when i decided to start a palladin tank, let me tell ya when ya first start and your gear has low threat you learn your lesson. We all have to start somewhere. So now i find myself helping people as much as i can giving advise on gear and such. Also reading some of your recent blogs about your fear of raiding kinda put me in my place. You are a valuable hunter resource, respected by the elite yet most of them have no idea that you dont raid. Also it has been refreshing to read someone who likes the game for being a game not a job not football practice but entertainment.

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