Friday, June 11, 2010

A Glimpse of How it used to be

Yay! It’s Friday night and it’s time for a little bit of storytelling here by the barside.

This week I'd like to share with you a tale from something that happened to me in game recently. Looking at it from the outside it wasn't special at all. It didn't give me bragging rights; it wouldn't hit the gossip columns of or MMO-champion; it didn't qualify for any achievement. There was no loot to be won and the slow gain of XP was laughable.

And yet it was a golden nugget, a precious moment I wouldn't exchange for any gold or jewelry you could offer me in Azeroth.

What happened was that I for an hour or two – typically enough I lost the track of time - got the chance to experience how WoW used to be once upon a time. I had a glimpse of how the game could appear back in the days when the gold-and-epics fever hadn't yet infected the game and we were exploring the world rather than exploiting it.

It happened in Maraudon
It all started as a pretty normal PUG run, using the dungeon tool. I singed up with my level 41 druid bear and didn’t have to wait long before I was assigned to a group.

“Oh. Maraudon. Crap. Am I capable of doing this?”

The doubts flew threw my head, but I tried to push them away the best I could. “Confidence, my dear, confidence”, I thought to myself. The one and single most important ability of a tank.

This would be my virgin run in this instance in the tank role; as a matter of fact I could only recall seeing it once before – a few days earlier, when a friend drag my mage through it, so I could get the achievement. I had no idea about the place, where to go, where to look for bosses. All I could remember was that it was a labyrinth in the good-old vanilla style.

There wasn’t much time to ponder upon this though, because before I had managed to buff up anyone or even switch to bear form, someone had pulled. My shiny “Welcome-to-this-run I’m –your-tank-today and Here’s-the-rules” macro didn’t help at all. This was obviously going to be one of those runs when you’re rather fighting your party members than the mobs.

However somehow we managed to make it to what appeared to be the first boss. As we killed him it turned out that this boss was at the same time the last one, because we got that random-dungeon-completed message and a goodie bag.

“WTF?” I thought. Was this all? Are they building this huge instance for one single boss? I felt cheated. Looking closer to it I understood the situation; there were more bosses available, but apparently there are several entrances and for some reason we had arrived at a spot where you can go straight for the end boss.

Dancing with the slimes
The party started to disassemble every so quickly. I suppose everyone was eager to join the queue again to find a new instance to rush through. You’ve got to think about your XP/hour you know. How would it look if everyone started to slack?

But not everyone left. For some reason I lingered in the instance, and so did another druid, who had joined in the form of a kitty. We looked around us and noticed the lack of party members.

I don’t know how it happened, if someone actually said something aloud, making a suggestion, but before we knew it we were continuing our way through Maraudon, just the two of us.

Gone was the silly pull-as-much-as-possible attitude. We approached every pull and every turn in the cave with respect, checking for patrols, calculating on which packs were linked together and which weren’t. I pulled one or two at a time, mostly tanking. But when it was needed I shifted to another form, and so did he. One moment we were bears, the next we were kitties, and then we were cows. We took turns in tanking, dps:ing, healing and rooting, whatever was needed best at the moment. It happened that we died, but we battleressed and kept going.

Some slime mobs were especially fun to figure out how to deal with. They hit hard as a truck and were very hard for a tank and a healer/dps to manage, but then we realized how slowly they moved, so we worked out a way to slowly kite them around, slowing them even more with our roots, using our caster spells to kill them. It became a sort of dance, the most beautiful example of team work I’ve seen in a very long time in the game.

Deeper and deeper into the dungeon did we go, both equally clueless about the way. When we spotted some packs that looked just too big, we transformed into cats and sneaked by them in stealth.

Go us! We both knew we rocked. We couldn’t actually talk much about our strategies or rejoice at how well we did, since my partner’s English was lacking. Most of my efforts to chat away were met with a "?", since he didn't understand me. But who cared? When two druids are on a roll you don't need many words.

The end of the story
I don’t know for how long this lasted. But I enjoyed every second of it. The story came to an end eventually, when we both died and failed to find our way back to the instance and our bodies. Which of course is the backside of the handy teleport-to-instance-feature. Players who are prone to get lost (read: Larísa) won’t get any chance to improve on their map skills this way.

When we finally gave up on continuing, we both knew that it was the end of a friendship that might have been. We were on different servers, and it was very unlikely that we ever would get opportunity to do this again. And I suppose this added to the bittersweet flavor of this random meeting in Azeroth. Once in a lifetime.

As I logged back to Larísa, I mentioned in the guild chat what I had been through. And someone remarked that this was how the game was back in vanilla all the time. These kinds of encounters were common and it was on those occasions that game friendships were forged.

And I couldn’t help wishing that I had been around back in those days. I suppose it’s about as futile as for the kinds of today to wish they had been around for the golden days of punkrock. What’s gone is gone.

But I keep having this naggering thought: doesn’t it tell us something about the state of WoW when teaming up with a stranger to have some fun with trash mobs in Maraudon is such a rarity, such an exclusive event, that I find it natural to devote an entire blogpost to it?

As Blizzard polished and polished on the game, listening to the players, making up all those cool and handy things and made everything available to everyone and all the players independent of each other, because we asked for it, something seems to have gotten lost on the way.

I got a glimpse of this “something” that night in Maraudon. But I have no idea about where to look to get more of it.

Listening to the voices
From one thing to another: I downloaded a free trial version of LOTRO last night. Shocking, isn’t it?

I blame all those voices in the nether. I couldn’t refuse to listen to the advice of my guests. This means that one late night this weekend I might take my first stumbling steps in the Shire, provided that I didn’t mess up somewhere in the installation.

I'm not planning to break up with my loved one. I'm just fooling around a little, but I must admit that it’s kind of scary. WoW has been my one and only home for such a long time. But I suppose it’s about time that I dare at least have a peak into other realms, finally maybe becoming a gamer and not just a WoWer.

And who knows, maybe I’ll stumble upon someone who will enjoy teaming up with me, having some fun, without being in a hurry for anything particular? Maybe, just maybe, I might experience an equivalence of my Maraudon adventure. I actually have hopes about that, judging from the rumors about the slightly more relaxed and civilized atmosphere in LOTRO.

But now it’s time for the traditional Friday toast to celebrate that the working week has come to an end.

Cheers all!


Klepsacovic said...

Once upon a time...

I'm happy for you. It's great to slow down sometimes, to enjoy the process rather than the reward.

Anonymous said...

Great story and a great post. I was around for that time, (not the very beginning but close enough), on a new server where everyone was low level and in no rush to get to the end and it was always like this.

The LFG tool killed realm socialising dead. As well as a sense of wonder and time taken to explore. Oh well, as you say, at least we saw it.

Anonymous said...

Nice story. Thanks for sharing. Cheers and have a good weekend.


ps: everybody's comments from the other day about LoTR has me also considering venturing into hobbitville :)

Tomasz said...

Oh. Maraudon. Crap. Am I capable of doing this?

This is a question you should probably ask yourself *before* queueing. Going into a dungeon that you haven't researched beforehand is looking for trouble, especially as a tank (though you should be prepared to lead/carry baddies regardless of your role). You mention runs where you fight the party members rather than the monsters, but really, if you come unprepared then you are probably the source of the group's problems.

Talarian said...

Definitely a case of be careful what you wish for. Cross realm PUGs and BGs, but at the expense of what?

Have fun in the Shire, though! I think you'll find some of that old discovery feel, tempered by the experience you've gathered in WoW to make the transition a little easier than when you first started WoW itself.

Hugmenot said...

I am so proud of you, Larisa!

Two and three manning level appropriate dungeons is my passion and nothing in my book beats a well-executed fluid short-manned encounter except progression raiding.

And you're trying LotRO as an added bonus.

Wow, just wow!

Hugmenot said...

I forgot to add, you may want to try scheduling undermanned events on your guild's calendar if you want to repeat the experience.

All it takes is a couple of players who enjoyed the experience and they will be the best advertisement you will ever have.

Good luck!

Klepsacovic said...

@Tomasz: Once upon a time people explored and saw an instance before they spoiled it on wowhead. God forbid anyone should see something new or try something new without first doing 'homework'.

Xaxziminrax II said...

Come to find, servers are divided into US/EU, and alas, I am an American. At least it's friday, so I can drink til I fall out of my barstool, and sleep on the floor til Larisa comes around on the morning cleanup and sweeps me out the door along with the other refuse.

Me said...

I made a lowbie and just run instances with her. I did quest up until about 20, until I realized that raiding made me enjoy grouping much more than questing.

As for LoTRO, WoW was my first MMO as well and now I raid in WoW 2-4 nights a week and level in Lotro.

There will be some major noticeable differences. We have been spoiled by WoW. But I get the feeling turbine appreciates their audience much more than blizzard does. Why? I never downloaded the previous expansion. I logged in after being absent from the game for 6 mths and it automatically started downloading. I checked my account that week and I was never charged for it!

My mount was free. There are lotterys on the lotro site which you can sign up for with for each of your toons. You get free consumables and even mounts occasionally (if you win).

So maybe that's why I like LoTRO still. I feel like they really want us to have fun in this and not just buy their next expansion or sparkly mount.

Thela said...

Thank you for sharing Larisa and I'm so glad you got to experience a taste of "vanilla" WoW. Being able to run a dungeon/instance and soak up as much of it as you can makes for very memorable times. As of late, it seems we WoWers are just cattle being herded going left, no going right...just straight ahead.

I started my WoW adventure less than a month before TBC released and didn't get to experience as much of "vanilla" as I now wish I had. I do make myself run through Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms often so I can partially taste what it was like. But I am sure it's not the same.

Due to Blizzard bowing to the cries of many (or few...who knows) I think they have lost much of what made many of us fall in love with the game. I am still amazed at the creativity and detail they have/had put into the game. I love running around and exploring new, even if they are old, areas and seeing what Blizz created for us. And in my eyes, the best place for this is in the old dungeons.

Don't get me wrong, I think Blizz did a wonderful job with the dungeons of NR, but the "maze" feel is long gone as is the need for group communication and strategy (aside from the raids that is). If you think of it, the old 5 mans were mini-raids. Your pulls between bosses were usually more than 4-5 packs of mobs. You had to use crowd control and learn the timing of patrols so as not to pull too much. And you had to learn your surroundings and your way. To me that made for a much better player in the long run.

This trickled into TBC some, but some TBC 5 mans were/are tiny compared to many of the pre-BC ones are. To me the older dungeons felt like more of an accomplishment than many of the 5 mans of NR, and some of TBCs.

One thing I'd like to suggest to you, to try to help you experience more dungeons like they were supposed to be experienced, is to make a post (maybe on the WoW forums for your realm) that you would like to put together a 5 man run, or a few of them, without using the LFD tool. Try to get a group from your server to go into the "main" entrance of some of the dungeons and run them like in the days of old. You might be able to find some new players, or older ones on alts looking for a bit of nostalgia, that want to experience the old WoW like it was meant to be.

I'll end my wall of text here and just say that I hope you get more experiences like you had in Mara.

Happy Weekend!!

Larísa said...

@Klepsacovic: Indeed it is. I try to do it every now and then but often find myself once again running the rat race the way I've been trained. But if you set your mind on it you can succeed - and find it really enjoyable.

@Thenosyrogue: Thanks. I was happy about the LFG tool as it arrived, but I've also started to realize the downside of it, as pointed out many times by Klepsacovic.

@SpiritusRex: Thank you!

@Tomasz: I have a mixed view on this. At first as I read your harsh comment I was prepared to give you right, admitting that I should do my homework like I did when I leveled Larísa. Back in time I was so insecure that I read and reread the strats for any 5 man instance a ton of times before daring to try it. And I ALWAYS brought huge stacks of elixirs - one offensive, one defensive. I prepared for a 5 man like for a raid. So why am I not doing this for my alt? I deserve a bashing.

But rethinking about it and reading Klep's comment I'm not so damned sure anymore. Who says that we shouldn't be allowed to play this game with a sense of adventure and exploration? Is the read-up-everything-in-advance-and-never-get-any-surprises approach the only possible/allowed one?
Isn't actually this ruining a bit of the game for us? That's exactly what I'm trying to show in this post. That the streamlined playing not necessarily is the most fun and entertaining one. I and that other druid didn't quite know the way in the instance. But we were challange and we had fun!
I'm not saying you're wrong, but there's more than one way to view this.

A raid instance is different though. There are so many people involved and so much time and high level of cost for failure. I've done blind raids a couple of times and enjoyed it a lot, but I think you should agree with everyone in the raid before doing such a thing, so that everyone is on the same page.

@Talarian: I spent a couple of hours in Shire last night and yeah... that was fun! I guess I'll be back about my first experiences later on.

@Hugmenot: Thanks! I understand your passion for this. I'm afraid that I think many WoW players are so burned out on the content and are cutting down so much on their gaming time these days that it might be difficult to schedule such runs in a guild. But maybe I'm just overly pessimistic. I've never really tried.

@Xaxziminrax the Second: It's morning as I'm writing this comment and I'm not sweeping you out, just giving you a nice cup of coffee and a cinammon roll to wake you up.

@Barrista: As I said in an earlier comment, I've spent my first couple of hours there and yeah, even if there's a lot of polish that I miss and it feels pretty weird from time to time, there's a friendliness and simpleness that I enjoy. I'm not sure if it's just the novelty, but I felt very lighthearted there.

@Tela: thank you for your suggestion! Now, the only alt I have in the vanilla-instance range is this druid and she's at Argent Dawn, a role playing server, which makes me a bit nervous about trying to arrange such a thing. I don't think I'm capable of roleplaying and tanking those instances at the same time. At my main server, I've only got 80:s and a 79 char. Maybe I should roll an alt... I'm dreading it a bit though, thinking that I should spare that energy and effort for Cataclysm. But I hear what you say. Maybe I should do this once my 14 day trial period of LOTRO has run out.

Azryu said...

The type of Mauradon adventure you had is the same thing I experience when I played Aion.

The game was so beautiful, the visuals and music so stunning. The quests had so much meaning and everyone didn't know what to do. Asking questions in general chat meant you would be rewarded with answers and not so much just trolls. In that game certain team play was so stressed that it was hard not to make friendships when you struggle together how to conquer the new and fascinating world we put ourselves in.

I do miss the wonder. I did get a taste of it when I tanked Maradaun on my druid too, being on the front end and responsible for guiding the group. I never really grasped the size of that instance until then.

caerphoto said...

Ahh yes! This is the best kind of experience I've had in 5-mans too - short of players and because it's a low-level instance, long queue times to get replacements. I've had a couple of experiences that stand out for me.

The first was on my hunter in Uldaman. The first sign of trouble was when I ported in to find the party quite a way into the instance, with the first boss (the big iron woman) dead. As I caught up with them I began to see why: the druid tank was playing like he was ICC25-geared in Utgarde Keep normal - charging off ahead to pull stuff, not keeping aggro properly and assuming we could keep up. Key difference: the mobs in that place have a tendency to run away in fear when low on health, usually towards other packs. After desperately trying, and failing, to contain a particularly bad situation, he began yelling at us to stop pulling aggro etc., then when we complained about his tanking he left in a huff, along with the healer and another DPS.

That left just me and another hunter, and unfortunately neither of us had tanking pets. Still, we made the best of it, with wyvern sting, traps and pet-tanking, and eventually got to the next boss. Alas our cat and spider pets were not up to tanking a boss, so we wiped, but up to that point it was, like you've seen, a really fun experience trying to figure out how to pull packs, using our CC abilities, and so forth.

The second time was similar, but came about for different reasons. I was on my heirloomed-to-the-hilt prot-specced warrior in Razorfen Kraul, and not long after we all ported in, a DPS disconnected, shortly followed by the healer. No healer? No problem! That left me, a rogue and a mage (presumably frost-spec, but I can't remember).

Once again it was a tale of careful progress, sapped and sheeped mobs, and bandages/food after every fight (luckily I'd stocked up on food recently).

We actually continued like this for quite some time, managing to get two more bosses down before replacements arrived. It was, again, really good fun, doing things the "proper" way.

Sadly, when the replacements arrived things degenerated into a gogogo zerg-fest, with the new DPS (a rogue) doing a lot of the pulling for me (ahhhh no rage, I can't do anythinggggg). Still, since he overgeared the place as much as I did we brute-forced our way to the end, but the golden hour of fun was over.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your holiday in LOTRO. And yes, WoW used to be more like your Maraudon experience (although it was also frequently frustrating too).

I just can't decide whether I prefer the slick LFD that lets me run all the instances I ever wanted with any alt or the days where we had to really work more on our social skills. I mean, I don't think it's possible to have both ;/

And the more I hear about Cataclysm, the more I wonder if I'll want to quietly drift away after I've seen the new levelling zones.

Nim (Ankh) said...

I can still recall my virgin run through Maraudon - nobody in the group had ever done it before. 4 hours later, we were completely lost and having the time of our lives trying to figure out where to go and who to kill.

Moments like that are rare nowadays. Everybody simply plays WoW; they don't bother to take the time to experience it.

Tesh said...

This is exactly why I love Druids and why I'm so vehemently opposed to strict trinity (tank/healer/DPS) class and combat design. The flexibility to just go off the beaten track and have fun doing it is something I value very highly. I don't want to approach a game as a hammer, always looking for nails, always defeated by screws. I want to be a Swiss Army knife that can approach varied challenges in different ways.

Sometimes I wish I could set up a small guild strictly of druids, and go prowl the world, tackling any and all content in unorthodox ways. (I really love that any druid can go into kitty mode and sneak around; the ability to meander dungeons and orchestrate fights is a wondrous tool to wield.)

...then I remember the accursed sub model and my own lack of time, and think "yeah, pipe dreams are fun"...

Larísa said...

@Azryu: I never tried Aion, but that sounds nice. Maybe it would be a good idea to at least do some free trial tourist trips to other MMOs when opportunity is given, to get that feeling of freedom, innocence and exploration.

@Andy: those runs sound really really fun to me. I'm actually starting to wish that you could opt for undermanned 5-mans while pugging. I wish there was a way to do that.

@Spinksville: Well... I wish you could have both. Just let us tick a box or two and it should be doable to make a choice of the style you want to pug in. It would save us a ton of frustrations.

@Nim (Ankh): Four hours! Wow! But yeah, I can vividly imagine... It's confusing in there! And yeah, I think there's something strange in the way we approach the games nowadays. The constant rush for... what? Rather than having fun in the moment.

@Tesh: Oh yes! I'd totally love to do all-druid runs! I remember there were some people doing that sort of things back in time in Karazhan. All-druid runs as well as all-paladine runs, if I remember correctly.

I think that undermanning the content makes it even better, since it will force you to think outside of the strict tank/dps/healing roles, everyone being prepared to take whatever role is needed at the moment. If you're a full group with a bear, a tree, a kitty, an owl and a random, it's way more likely that you'll be lazy and do it the traditional way.

Anonymous said...

Giggle, I've seen so many people get lost at the entrance to Mara in vanilla. I thought I'd run it enough to know it down to a fine art but somehow I got lost on my rogue the other night too.
As for the druid-duo, I know what you mean. Back in the days thats how a 5man had to be to be able to succeed in most instance. I miss the tactical pulling, the "lets see if this works against the mob to make it manageable", anything but the zerg that it's become.
Oh, and see you in LoTRO soon ;)

Anonymous said...

I only just started in WoW a few months ago (my first MMO too) and have to say the most fun I've had is when a group falls apart and the remaining members collectively agree to continue instead of sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for the back-ups to arrive.

I'm leveling a paladin as dps but have ended up tanking and healing in 3 and 4 man groups in Zul'Farrack, Maraudin and Blackrock Depths. They're the most emorable and fun runs through those instances - when up against the odds with a small but focussed group. And getting to the end undermanned just makes the accomplishment feel even more deserved.

Downside is, as mentioned, you'll probably never group with those people again as they're probably on a different server.