I've been known to wax poetic about the good old days of vanilla World of Warcraft from time to time. I have lots of crazy good memories about the early days of the game -- exploring the world, playing through quests that are now long gone, raiding old content when it was current, that sort of thing. And I've followed the story of Warcraft along the way, delighting the various ways its changed and shifted over the years. It's no secret that I loved the early days of WoW -- heck, I've been playing this game for seven years now. Something's kept me sticking around, right?
Every now and again, I'll have a conversation with a friend that starts with said friend asking, "Hey, Anne! You like vanilla WoW. If they ever released a server that was just vanilla WoW with nothing else on it, would you play it?" And then there's a moment where I think about that. I think about the first day I was presented with the character selection screen, going over my choices with wide-eyed delight. I think about the night elf druid I made, and the months spent exploring this shiny new world. I think of my Forsaken priest and the hours of fun I had raiding with 39 other people.
And then I say to my friend, "No. Oh, no no no. Heck no."
Some time last month, I was chatting with a friend about various story bits in WoW when we wandered onto the subject of the blood elves and what they're up to in the story. I pointed out the short story In the Shadow of the Sun for more recent sin'dorei lore, adding that of course the story took place prior to Wrath in the time line, so it really wasn't the most up-to-date bit of lore, although it was a wonderful read. My friend asked if I thought we'd see anything with the blood elves in Mists, and I replied that I didn't think so, but then we didn't really know that much about storylines in Pandaria yet.
"Well, yeah," they replied. "But what about Rommath? I mean, he's part of the Twilight Cult and all." I paused for a moment, confused, and then realized what they were referring to. "That was a set of datamined voice files that never made it to game," I clarified. "Well yeah, but he's evil," they insisted. "No, he's not -- as far as the game and the lore is concerned, that conversation never happened, and Rommath is still the same old Rommath. A little cranky and snooty, but definitely not evil. Until proven otherwise." They pondered this, and the conversation moved on from there.
I've had this conversation again and again -- in game, on Twitter. And this, my friends, is just one example of the many dangers of datamining.
I'm 5 feet 3 inches tall. When I wear heels, I call them my tall shoes because they make me tall. Not taller, because that would indicate that there were some degree of tallness to begin with. Trying on platform shoes is an exercise in seeing the world through the eyes of someone tall enough to see all the things without standing on their tiptoes. My kitchen is organized by "things I need", "things I don't use often," and "things I put on the top shelf because I'll never use them anyway." There is an upper third of my closet that is nothing but stuff I should save but will never pull out and look at in at least five years.
That said, it's not bad being short, either. I never hit my head on door frames or overhead lights. Low ceilings don't particularly bother me, aside from design aesthetic. I can fit into literally any car on the market; there's never a problem having to squish my legs under a steering wheel. Plane seats have plenty of room for my legs, which is great on long flights. I have smaller hands, so my dad constantly asks me to pull things out of tight spaces, thread needles, or mess around with teeny-tiny wires and screws.
That said, it's continually kind of weird to look at all the short races in video games and see characters that aren't taken particularly seriously.
Wrath of the Lich King ended on kind of a sour note for me, largely because I didn't get to participate in my guild's one and only 25-man heroic Lich King kill before Cataclysm launched. Part of the rankle was for personal reasons, but part of it was also that for me, that kill would have ended the expansion. Never mind that we didn't kill Halion on heroic -- that was filler content, as far as I was concerned. Wrath of the Lich King was all about the Lich King and seeing him die.
But really, it goes back farther than that. In vanilla, I had no idea what an expansion really was; my MMOG experience was limited to WoW, for the most part, with a brief dabble in City of Heroes. So terms like expansions didn't make any sense to me until a friend explained what it meant: a new game was coming, building off the game I was already playing. No, I didn't have to purchase it if I didn't want to, but I wouldn't be able to see any of the new stuff if I didn't. And then my friend showed me just a sampling of all the cool stuff to be seen in The Burning Crusade. A beta invite later, and I was thoroughly hooked.
But there wasn't an end to vanilla for me. One day, I was playing vanilla WoW; the next, I was tromping through the Dark Portal and headed to Outland.
Thousands of years ago, even before the War of the Ancients came to pass, there were weapons of legend, weapons created not by mere mortal hands but by those who soared above. The secrets of the mighty blade Quel'Serrar were not lost to time; they were merely hidden away from prying eyes. Players in vanilla World of Warcraft searched the deserted halls of Dire Maul high and low for record of this story, contained in Foror's Compendium of Dragon Slaying, for once they had the book, they began the path to wield the blade of legend themselves.
Quel'Serrar was not a legendary weapon like Thunderfury or Sulfuras, but it was almost as rare. Unlike the Bindings of the Windseeker or the Eye of Sulfuras, the item required to begin the chain was BoE. This meant that very, very rarely you could find the item on the Auction House -- but if you did happen to be so lucky, you'd pay an arm and a leg for it. Only warriors and paladins could accept the quest for the blade, but the book would drop for anyone who was lucky enough to find it in the corridors of Dire Maul.
Reputation is one of those double-edged swords in World of Warcraft. Speaking as someone who played classic WoW, I find it sometimes odd to see the amount of focus put on gaining reputation with various factions. This is largely because I remember the days when grinding out reputation really didn't get you anything at all in the long run. It wasn't until later in the game that Blizzard introduced the concept of gaining reputation with other races for mounts, and the only way to get that reputation was to turn in ridiculous amounts of cloth.
Factions like the Hydraxian Waterlords, the Zandalar, and the Argent Dawn all had their reputations firmly locked hand-in-hand with raiding. But reputations like the Shen'dralar, the Bloodsail ... they had no real purpose at all. When The Burning Crusade was introduced, the idea of factions was reworked. Suddenly you really wanted to gain reputation, because doing so meant you could unlock heroic dungeons or get neat incentives like armor, pets, and tabards.
Reputation design has changed drastically since then. Where once you got a tabard as a reward, now you slap one on and grind dungeons to earn reputation as quickly as you can. Different factions have different rewards, and rewards like shoulder and helm enchants are absolutely required if you want to perform optimally. So ... what was the best of the best?
Are you in the beta for Mists of Pandaria yet? Are you fastidiously avoiding spoilers about all beta-related content? As a site that covers Warcraft news, you'll find more often than not that we have a lot of content up on the site that could be considered spoilers. And if you're someone who's avoiding all that spoiler content, it can get a little frustrating to have to keep scrolling past all that information -- or even more frustrating, dealing with the temptation that all of the spoiler information you could ever want to indulge, just behind that click.
Well, that's not what this article is about. It's about the beta, but it's a spoiler-free look at the beta. You'll see some screenshots, but mostly what you'll be reading is what the beta is like. No spoilers of cool story information or anything of that nature here -- just information on Mists, how it looks, how it's shaping up, and what to expect in the event that you do get a beta invite and would like to indulge.
The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.
I chose Garrosh because he has the strength to lead our people through these trying times. For all my supposed wisdom, there have been moments that I've barely been able to hold the Horde together. The Wrath Gate and Undercity displayed that clearly.
The Horde cries for a hero of old. An orc of true blood that will bow to no human and bear no betrayal. A warrior that will make our people proud again. Garrosh can be that hero. I did not make this decision lightly, Vol'jin.
I know our alliances will suffer for it. I know the Horde will be irreversibly changed. But I made this choice with confidence that Garrosh is exactly what the Horde needs. I'm trusting you and the other leaders to not let this divide our people. You are stronger than that.
Let's just cut to the chase here: It was revealed in the press event information that Garrosh Hellscream, current Warchief of the Horde, will have his reign abruptly ended in Mists of Pandaria. The son of the great Grom Hellscream will no longer be Warchief, and it's not only the Alliance that will be participating in his dethroning -- it's the Horde as well. Though it may seem like a rash course of action, in all honesty, this has been coming for a very, very long time.
Likely one of the most contentious things to come out of the Mists of Pandaria press event was the news that we do indeed have a final boss for the expansion -- and it's the current leader of the Horde, Garrosh Hellscream. Garrosh has been a figure in lore since The Burning Crusade led Horde players to Nagrand and introduced the younger Hellscream, an orc who had been raised thinking his father was the reason the orc race had been through so much suffering. This depressed him to the point that we players actually stepped up and took care of many of the problems surrounding the Mag'har village in an attempt to cheer him up.
But his true salvation came in the form of Warchief Thrall, who was not only gratified to find his grandmother alive and the name his mother and father intended for him, but happy to find the living descendant of one of his closest friends as well. It was Thrall's words that finally broke the stupor of shame and depression that Garrosh had been living with for his entire life. And it was Thrall who took Hellscream under his wing, away from Garadar and to a land he'd never before set eyes upon: Azeroth.
If you're anywhere near as addicted to transmogrification as I am, you've likely been collecting gear and creating multiple sets ever since the feature was introduced. Likely, your bank is full of sets, and your void storage may very well be full of sets too. In the last post of the Cataclysm post-mortem series, Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer Greg Street) talked about what worked with the expansion as well as what didn't -- and transmogrification was firmly on the amazing feature list. According to Ghostcrawler, it opened an entirely new avenue of gameplay, and more and more players are jumping into old dungeons and raids looking for the perfect look for their characters.
But what transmogrification has really accomplished is that it's given us a way to customize our characters in a unique and profound way. Let's face it -- the character creation screen in WoW doesn't exactly have a ton of options to choose from. No matter how unique you think your character looks, in a game with millions of people playing, there are likely millions of players out there with exactly the same hairstyle and face choices. And with tier sets becoming so prevalent, particularly in Cataclysm, all the characters had started looking like carbon copies of each other.
Transmogrification allows players to get that thing that they've been after since the early days of WoW -- a distinct and unique look for their characters.
Once upon a time, my guild was trying its hardest to down 25-man heroic mode Lich King. It was the very end of Wrath, and we were running out of time to put an end to the boss before the inevitable launch of Cataclysm. I had been playing an assassination spec since some point between Ulduar and ToC, having given up on ever obtaining a really good combat weapon (I was partial to fist weapons; something about punching people in the face with knives appealed to me), and I was really good at it. I spent forever poring over stat caps and best-in-slot items and had just gotten the perfect set of items that capped every stat that needed to be capped.
And then it happened -- the prep patch for Cataclysm. Do you know what the best stat is for an assassination rogue in Cataclysm (other than hit, of course)? Mastery. Do you know what wasn't present on any Wrath gear? Mastery. My DPS went down, and due to sup-par burst DPS, I was sat for the realm-first 25-man heroic mode Lich King kill. I watched all my guildies ding the achievement and get the one title I was really excited about. And later, one of the officers, a druid, asked me flat out -- why didn't I have a backup combat spec?
Imagine you have been placed in front of two hedge mazes, both leading to the same wonderful prize at the end. It could be a car, money, a trip to an exotic location -- whatever you really want, for the purpose of this imaginary exercise, OK? So there are two mazes, each leading to the awesome prize, but as you look at those mazes, you realize one of them is twistier, longer, and has potentially more hazards in it. The other is difficult, to be sure -- but side by side, it's slightly less hazardous than the other. And they both lead to the exact same thing.
So which maze do you take?
Most people would much rather take that shorter, slightly less hazardous maze. I mean, if you've got two choices that get you to the same fabulous prize, you'd be out of your mind to take the difficult path, wouldn't you? Welcome to the debate of 10-man vs. 25-man raiding -- and the main reason why 25-man raids are slowly dying out.
While it's not a brand new leader short story, Lor'themar Theron, Regent Lord of Quel'thalas, gets the new-to-you treatment with Sarah Pine's wonderful story, In the Shadow of the Sun. In the Shadow of the Sun was the 2008 winner in the Blizzard Global Creative Writing Contest and chronicles the leadership of Lor'themar after The Burning Crusade, the rejuvenation of the Sunwell, and the preparations for war against Arthas in Northrend. After fighting a devastating battle at the Sunwell Plateau, Lor'themar must meet the challenges of peace time and war, leading his people immediately after their great leader has been corrupted and lost.
Check out the full story over at the Blizzard community website. If you haven't yet read this one, it's definitely one of the best.
If you planned on pulling any friends into Azeroth this holiday season, there really is no better time to do it. If you don't want to go all-in, you can introduce friends and family to the base game for just $5 -- and if you want to dangle a carrot on the end of that stick, buy them a Celestial Steed to work toward. A $15 dollar investment, all told. Also? You should totally tell them about WoW Insider. A little birdie told me that due to popular demand, we're currently revamping our leveling guides. Talk about timing.
Oh, Cataclysm. You've gotten such a bad rap. Despite popular opinion, what we got from the Cataclysm expansion was nothing short of a miracle -- one that was desperately needed after the prior two expansions' worth of content. But it's undeniably difficult to look at the current expansion with anything other than an overly critical eye, considering the fact that we're playing through all that content right now.
In hindsight, it's likely the current expansion will grow on us, and some time in the distant future we'll be looking back on it with rose-colored glasses just like we do the others before it. Don't get me wrong -- while classic, The Burning Crusade, and Wrath all had absolutely fantastic reasons to love them, things didn't seem so rosy and wonderful when we were all playing through that content, and there was just as much grumbling in each of those expansions as there is about Cataclysm now. But hey -- there's still plenty of reasons to love Cataclysm.