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.