Today, de Alliance opened a new front in de war. But not against de Horde, but against de Cenarion Circle.
Scouts had seen a large Alliance force movin' from Theramore towards Mulgore, so I set out to investigate. I feared yet another attempt at de taurens' bossman Cairne, so I bended de Nether to reach 'im in time. And I was. Just as I arrived to one of de middle rises, I saw countless humans, dwarves and elves pourin' out of de back elevators. I had mentioned many times dat de elevator was poorly protected, but de defenses were only improved marginally. I did wat I could to slow deir advance, but someting was wrong. Dey braved de frost and dinna even try to get rid of me, even though I stood in de way. Dey were not climbin' up to de highest Rise. Dey were headin' to de bridge and Elder Rise.
I abandoned my vantage point and ran along de odder bridge, hopin' dat I was not too late. Dey were already fightin' on de odder bridge, but I could not fire witout hittin' de support ropes and keelin' both defenders and attackers. Wen I reached de Elder Rise de carnage had already started outside de druids' tent. Hamuul..
I took a few potshots at dem, but dere were too many. I could not keel all of dem, but I could slow dem down. I closed my eyes and thought of home. Winds circled around my arms. My fingertips tingled. I focused my thoughts on de storm dat almost killed me. De winds grew stronger. And stronger. I raised my arms up and opened my eyes.
De winds howled upwards, and chunks of ice began to rain down upon my enemies. Ice clanged against steel and de shards fractured and fell to de ground. De cacophony of screams, orders, spells and dark incantations was deafenin'. Maintainin' de winds was getting more difficult by each second, and de attackers still continued to fight. I canna hold dem off forever, and I dunno even if it is already too late. My arms were starting to feel numb. Den I heard heavy steps rattlin' de rope bridge behind me. Many steps. Reinforcements. As the tauren charged into defense of their archdruid, I let the winds free. Some of de humans tried to run, but outrunnin' an angry tauren is hard wen yer feet are numb from de cold.
It took just a few minutes until only tauren were left standin'. I walked to de tent and saw dat dey were treatin' de archdruid. I dunna know whether he did fall or was just injured heavily. I walked among de bodies litterin' de Elder Rise. I recognized a few. A couple of elves who had been stirrin' up trouble before, and.. Syskae. His dented armor was pressin' on 'is chest and 'is breath was as quiet as a whisper. Why was he part of dis madness? I watched as de guards unceremoniously carried de bodies away, Syskae as well. Even though one whack from a mace would have been enough to finish off de survivors, de druids dinna wanna keel any more. One of dem told me dat de bodies, livin' or dead, were bein' carried off de bluffs into de graveyard. Dose dat wanted to leave could do so, and de rest would be buried de next day.
I rested a bit among de druids, who were mendin' deir own wounds and takin' care of deir fallen. Why would elves, especially elf druids go to such lengths to keel deir supposed allies? Hamuul Runetotem, deir target, was appointed to de Cenarion Circle by dat who both elves and tauren call Shan'do. A rare exception among elves, and someone whose wisdom was direly needed. But I knew dat he would not be able to come and sort out dis mess. His work against de corruption started by de Faceless One is more important. Odders would have to do dis for him, to ensure dat dere would be a Cenarion Circle left wen he got back. I had to find de excuse behind dis madness.
Syskae should probably have regained conciousness by now. I stood up and walked out from de tent, out of sight from de taurens. I put on de ring dat Syskae had gave me and asked him de reason for dis madness. Someone had told 'im dat de Cult of de Void was involved and controllin' de Runetotem. Preposterous. If dey needed to go after a druid, dey should go after Fandral! His crimes a millennia ago were not forgotten, and dere were reports dat he had been stockpilin' poisons under de guise of research, a lie so obvious dat not even all elves believed it.
De conversation was interrupted by sounds of battle, dis time from de main bluff. I hastily ran along de bridge and towards de bossman's tent. Again, bodies littered de whole rise. Guards were chasin' de survivors, who were drank some potions and den jumped from de bluff. Noggenfogger. Some floated gently down, odders fell like rocks. De battle was too short to be a credible attempt. Dis was an attempt to disguise de attack to be against a valid military target. De Bloodhoof had made short work out of dem. Wit de immediate threat passed for now, I located an empty tent and started gatherin' my thoughts.
Wat was behind dis silly story about de Runetotem and de Cult? I knew da some of de.. lesser-minded druids had been persuaded to join dat bunch of.. unsane people, but would de Alliance seriously tink dat all tauren druids were in it? Surely dey would see plenty of sane druids at de front in Silithus or Nighthaven at Moonglade to see de truth. But den again, dose tincan tacticians had leetle reason to leave deir cities of white stone. A deception would be all too easy to arrange. But why? Who would benefit from such a ting?
A series of loud thumps interrupted my thoughts. De danger was over, why would a tauren approach deir chieftain in such a hurry? Worried looks and a few words said out loud told everytin' I needed. Regrouped. Taurajo. I was on my way to de wyvern master before de messenger had finished 'is business.
I arrived into a slaughter. De Taurajo wyverns were desperately tryin' to defend deir master, and mine decided to join de fray wit me still on it. Drat. I had to jump, and my awkward landin' attracted de attention of de attackers. I could not defeat dem on my own, so I ran towards de inn. I stepped into a pool of sometin', and I looked down to see dat my robe's hem was already drenched in blood. It was a slaughterhouse. Nothin' lived in de inn anymore. De innkeeper was half-skinned, de orcish couple was impaled to de wall wit spears, and blood seeped from de ceilin'. Dat must have been de tauren family who had rented de upper room earlier today. I tried to run up, but I felt a dagger between my ribs and searin' light at my back.
I found myself from quite an awkward position, and my left arm was bent unnaturally. Why had dey not finished me off? De sounds of battle were now further away. Dey had to be lookin' for de next massacre. I forced myself and wedged my broken arm between my legs. And den I twisted. We trolls might not die easily, but de pain sometimes makes me wish dat we did. I carefully bandaged myself and put on a different robe. Dere was still work to be done, and I canna show dem dat I'm hurt. Any sign of weakness will be exploited by dis bunch. I used my whistle to call Windclaw, but climbin' on a raptor taller dan me wit a broken arm proved to be.. difficult. I had to wait for reinforcements. I sat down to watch de smoke plumes risin' from de north. Dey had not just hit Crossroads, but also de settlements around it. One of dem was inhabited by two orc younglings. Deir parents had been called to reinforce de northern border, and dey never came back. Deir farm was on fire as well. And all I could do is watch. Actin' on flawed information is one ting, but dis.. Dis were no strategic purpose in any of dis. Dis was pure pent-up rage.
After wat seemed like forever, de reinforcements came. I took de first wyvern and dinna even bother to count de fee. I had to put a stop to dis. Lookin' from above confirmed my suspicions. De farm and de towers had been put to de flame, but de main force was still at Crossroads. Dis time my landin' was better, although a sharp pain in my arm reminded me dat I was in no shape to fight. I hurled ice against a few of de attackers, but dey simply laughed and continued deir dirty deeds in de protaction of deir gods. And again I was gettin' too much attention, so I had to retreat outside where I had some more time to react. I looked for isolated targets and did wat I could, but deir rage was not dat easily controlled. Eventually I saw an armored human barkin' orders, but he had his back turned towards me. Perfect. A loss of a leader would help dem reconsider. I released my rage and whispered ancient Zandalarian incantations. My vision was covered in a red haze. I saw only my target, and nottin' else. I pictured de biggest shard of ice I could in my mind, impalin' dis human. Winds danced around my good arm and I felt de frost weave itself into a shard in my hand. I shouted de last syllables of de incantation and threw de instrument of my vengeance at my prey.
He dinna even turn. De shard pierced his armor slightly above his waist on de right side. I heard de shard clang against his front armor from inside and shatter. I caught him mid-sentence, and he lowered his head to look at his wound, but it was not dere. He fell to his knees, and den to de ground, wit shards of ice still pointin' up from his back. With the blood haze still upon me, I ran to his body and grabbed his shoulder with my good hand and violently grabbed him to turn him around. As his back hit de ground I heard de shards embed demselves deeper into him. I spat at him, only to realize dat I recognized de face lookin' up.
It was Syskae.
Today, de Alliance opened a new front in de war. But not against de Horde, but against de Cenarion Circle.
WoW Insider spotted a debate at the Elitist Jerks forum about the relative power of raid buffs. And I have to say that I agree with them to a large degree. Buffs do make a huge difference when you progress further into endgame.
Personally, the furthest I've seen endgame is Huhuran (and Razuvious, but he isn't a gear-dependent fight), but the effects they describe are clearly visible at easier instances as well. Back when we were trying to down Ragnaros or Hakkar or even 45-minute Baron for the first time, we buffed up like crazy and barely made it.
At our first successfull Ragnaros kill, I had Night Dragon's Breaths, Windblossom Berries, Mageblood, Wizard Oil, Flask of Supreme Power, a bunch of Greater Fire Protection potions, Major Mana Potions, Nightfin Soup, Blasted Lands buffs and even Juju Embers from Winterspring. Farming materials or cash for all that took several hours for each raid. Now, two tiers of gear later Ragnaros goes down with just a few Major Mana Potions.
At the time, I kept justifying the grinding to myself by the fact that we were still learning the encounter, and the buffs were covering up for any mistakes we might make. Increased survivablity meants that healers could spare that small bit of extra mana to keeping the tank alive and the extra DPS could down the boss just before the raid would start dropping like flies. We told ourselves that this was just a phase and it would get easier once we geared up some more and ironed out all the mistakes. We obviously did that and could phase out buffs, turning raiding into a profitable venture once again. So far so good.
However, the graph in the initial post does scare me. If top endgame continues to be balanced around all available buffs and even top-of-the-line gear from the final bosses isn't enough to slowly phase out buffs, then burnout is a very real possibility. A burnout on something you're supposed to be doing for fun. To relax. It's easy to justify doing some extra effort now to save effort later, but what if it never gets any easier? Especially when your grinding speed doesn't improve at the same pace (which is the case with healer classes and their raiding sets), it's very tempting to take the easy way out and to just buy your gold.
Personally, I think that every encounter should be tested with multiple tiers of gear. First, the gear you are supposed to be wearing when you start doing the instance. It should be very hard to progress, but not impossible. Secondly, with parts of the gear you get from the said instance. The encounter should be doable with proper focus and coordination. Finally, the encounter should be fairly easy once you've got most of the gear from the instance. No excessive buffing should be required at this point, and the relative lack of challenge should gently prod raiders towards the next encounter.
Of course, this kind of balancing assumes that there's always the next encounter. There isn't any when it comes to Kel'Thuzad now. Both Blizzard and the raiders knew that there wouldn't be anything to do after Kel'Thuzad. Blizzard wanted Kel to last until the expansion, so they needed to slow down raiding progress. They have tried hard tactics-based encounters before. They have tried straight-out DPS slugfests. They have tried resistance-based fights. And they have tried combinations. None of them worked for as long as Blizzard hoped. Determined raiders would analyze logs, crunch numbers, grind gear and practice until they cracked the encounters. So they used the one thing that even determined raiders wouldn't have enough: time. In other words, time required to farm buffs. If every attempt required a few hundred gold for each raider and enough instance runs to buff all of them, the raiders would not have any other choice than to limit the times they would attempt the encounter. In the end, not even that was enough.
So now Blizzard finds itself yet again in the vicious circle. There are several orders of magnitude more players than they have designers. Content will always be consumed much faster than it is generated. This applies to any form of entertainment, not just MMORPGs or games in general. Blizzard currently has several options. They could keep the status quo and accept that at any given time, they will have some amount of bored customers. They could make bleeding-edge content even more time-consuming to crack. However, this can pull the effort/reward ratio dangerously low and alienate customers who feel that they are not seeing any rewards (read: enjoyment) for their work. Yes, work. Work that you pay for. Customers might realize the absurdity of their actions and quit altogether.
Blizzard could increase the rate they produce content. There are two ways to do it. First way is to lower their standards of quality and just churn out more stuff with less polish. Blizzard knows that it would hurt both the game in the long run and more importantly the image of the firm itself. Blizzard has long been known as a firm that doesn't necessarily break new ground, but does everything better than the comptetition. Compromising quality would be suicidal.
The last option is most viable. Increase the volume of new content by hiring more designers. NCSoft, the company behind Guild Wars has an interesting solution: concurrent design teams. By interleaving releases they can keep the development cycle intact, yet churn out content at an increased rate. Imagine if Blizzard did the same. We could see stuff like the rumored South Seas expansion before Illidan bites the dust. And before Queen Azshara is on farm status the shores of Northrend would be at the horizon. Of course, hiring more designers costs money, which in turn cuts into the profit margin. However, WoW is the 500-pound gorilla of the MMORPG market. It is the undisputed market leader. And if Blizzard wants to keep it that way, they better have a big enough kitchen to keep feeding it.
Back when Blizzard first implemented the honor system, they added one small detail to encourage so-called fair fights. In essence, the honor points you gained from killing an enemy was propotional to the damage you caused to said enemy, as well as the enemy's rank and level. Killing level 60 Grand Marshals who were at 100% health yielded the most honor, and ganking a level 49 unranked players with 1% health yielded only a minimal amount. In addition, honor was distributed evenly among your party or raid group, assuming everyone was near the victim.
Now that Blizzard had first cut all honor by 90% and then cut it by another 30%, the honor distribution system starts to break down. Whenever you gain honor, the system rounds down the final amount, but gives you at least 1 honor per kill. When you take into account diminishing returns, even the highest-ranking players net less than 10 honor, your average honor gain per enemy is pretty close to 1.
Why is this significant? First of all, it completely negates the benefit gained from seeking out tough opponents. Corpsecamping a low-level player can be more valuable as a gentlemanly duel. Therefore intelligent players will avoid tough fights as much as possible, and seek out fights that are over in a heartbeat.
Secondly, the change overemphasizes the meaning of Battleground and World PvP objectives that give you bonus honor. While the net effect is less visible in Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch, the effects are more than apparent in Alterac Valley. It is only a matter of time before someone realizes that collusion will be more profitable than combat.
The gnome recoiled back. He anticipated a trap. And in a sense, he was right. But he was curious. Too curious to allow his assassin to accompany him this time. He was alone. The prey was isolated, and it was the perfect time to strike. But not with steel. Or even frost or flame. No. It was time to use a deadlier weapon.
He calmed down a bit when he saw the scroll in my hand. And with careful movements, he accepted the scroll. It was done. One more strand of my web had been woven. He had been given a choice.
Of course, getting to this point was not easy. It had taken too many resources and backalley deals to know about the Empire's movements. But I had gotten a clue. Hammerfall. The free orc outpost was quiet when I arrived, and the perimeter was secure. But when they started arriving, it was obvious that something was up. Gurubashi. Atai Guards. Red Blade orcs. Wolves of Mannoroth. Maahe of Burning Dawn. Others. And finally Mischa. It was time to step away from the shadows and take my place in this charade. I walked around them like I was minding my business. Unguarded words escaped their lips, betraying their intentions. They would go to Refuge Pointe. And if they were going to attack the Sons of Strom, it would mean that a certain human prince would be there at the front lines.
When the leaders started organizing their troops, it was time for me to take my position. I climbed on the walls and watched as the troops marched out from the gates. Typically the Empire allowed the orcs to go out first.
"Don't bite off more than you can chew."
Those simple words were more than enough to stir them up. Helpful advice disguised as an insult. And so predictably the Atai started to bark at me. They spewed off empty promises about killing me. Especially from Kel'jin. He had already failed once in killing me, so we both knew how hollow his words were. But he was more than willing to show it to others as well. Mischa stopped him from embarassing himself further, and the Gurubashi moved on. The orcs had probably already reached the front line. I waited for some time to make sure any followers would get bored, and then I rode to the front lines.
When I arrived, the massacre was already in progress. Human blood gathered into ponds at the base of the valley. Trollbane arrived late, and with inadequate troops. Fitting for a human, his self-preservation instinct was nonexistant, so he tried a few unsuccessful manouvers, even futilely trying to strike Mischa. The massacre continued for a while. He was probably being gripped with despair. It was time to make my move. I rode on top a small hill and showed myself. He took the bait, almost too easily and followed me away from the battle. I of course could not understand his words, but the pain behind them was all too apparent. But he also understood I was not here to fight him. The screams called him back into battle. And then I saw him. The gnome.
The gnome's eyes were hidden by his cowl, but I bet he didn't even blink when he unleashed forbidden magic at me. The assault was fierce, but he left an opening for me to teach him a lesson. A simple conjuration took him out of the picture, and I slaughtered his pet demon in front of him. But his infernal conjurations had also taken a toll on me. I had to retreat.
After mending my wounds, I slowly approached the massacre again. I spotted the gnome and lured him away from the group. I kept my gestures controlled, and convinced him to approach me. I was just about to reach into my robe when I felt metal between my ribs. Blood filled my lungs.
I was careless. No Alliance diplomat ever goes anywhere without an assassin. I limped back to the river and washed my bloodstained robe. I stitched the tears back together. At this rate, I would have to buy a new robe soon. Cloth doesn't heal like we do. The assasin probably broke some of my ribs just for kicks as well. I could not afford get struck again. The Empire must not see any weakness. Not yet, at least. I rode back towards the battle, and saw him again. The gnome Melnerag and Syskae had referred to as Tiberio. And this time, I would succeed.
OOC: Tiberio's account of the events is also available.
Apparently PvP sets will be even cheaper in the expansion. While the stated reason is that expansion items are so much superior that PvP sets should not take so much effort to get, I wonder whether there are other reasons as well.
Anyway, since the PvP sets are now the Blizzard-sanctioned way to go to gear yourself up for the Expansion, I think that all level 60 PvE content before Naxxramas will be mothballed.
I'm still wondering about the difficulty level of Burning Crusade instances. The expansion was obviously tested with well-geared characters, so a fresh level 60 character might want to grind some honor before stepping through the Dark Portal.
All in all, this makes gear progression quite interesting. My guess is that the most cost-efficient way to gear up your character from scratch would be to do PvE for the low- and midlevels, and then start PvPing heavily when you get closer to 60. When you have enough PvP gear, you go to Outlands and gear up solely on PvE until level 70, where you start the Arena battles and get your tier 4. Raiders will go up one more notch and farm Illidan, Magtheridon, Kael'thas, Lady Vashj and Archimonde for their tier 5, though.
For those who want to satisfy their morbid sense of humor, there's two hilarious threads in the Defias Brotherhood forums.
First, there's a thread about a serverwide plotline involving the opening of the Dark Portal. The thread quickly got hijacked when one guild claimed that they have already been to Outland, courtesy of the 25 beta keys Blizzard sent them. Then other people said that it was impossible, because nobody can enter Outland on our server yet. The thread got derailed, and the rest is history..
..at least until the flames were fanned again. This trainwreck is still ongoing, so set up camp and get your marshmellows ready. Maybe you'll get to see some survivors crawl away from the flames while you're enjoying your snacks.
Tseric comments on the cross-faction loot issue:
I'm sure it's easier to pass that judgement from your well-informed, armchair designing position. Because of the way in the whole expansion is being pushed out, the gap that we are currently in was expected to cause a number of issues. With so much content that is being pre-released, we are going to see a number of inconsistencies that will be resolved on release of the expansion. Plain fact is that this is about production schedules and not about you. This is needed for smooth production of the game, because when expansion hits and people are actually patching the rest of the content, we will have more pressing issues than going back to check some loot tables. This is about putting in order as much as we can as soon as we can, so when serious matters come down the road, we have as many resources available to address them quickly. Issues that, I assure you, will be more important than this. This isn't about you. It's about the game. Find something more worthwhile to complain about. This issue will not change until the expansion is released, so railing against me or anyone else on the boards is a categorical waste of your time.Someone needs to be reminded that he works in the service industry, where it's generally a bad idea to badmouth your customers. And that censoring your own outbursts on the Internet is harder than you think.
Sources: Kill Ten Rats and N3rfed.
It's now been just two days since the patch was applied to Defias Brotherhood, but the effects are becoming quite clear. Tonight there were 196 active Arathi Basin games in battlegroup 5. WorldDefense has been blaring the whole time, mostly about Crossroads. In the meantime, there were a grand total of 3 PvE raids in progress on Horde side at prime time. With just a single patch, Blizzard turned the game completely around.
Whether it's a good thing is up to debate.
But first, let's take a look on why this sudden change has happened. The most obvious reason is the new honor system. There is no such thing as honor decay anymore, and you can buy your items in any order you like. There is no longer any need to quit your job for 3 months to get the High Warlord gear. Any PvP counts, no matter how random. If you PvP, you will eventually get the gear you want. In addition to pure honor points, the gear requires honor tokens from Arathi Basin, Warsong Gulch and Alterac Valley. However, the relative amounts of tokens required is small when compared to the honor needed. If you grind honor in the most efficient way possible, you will do it in battlegrounds. And many people have done just that. The addition of new PvP skills to several classes is also a big contributing factor. Everyone wants to try out their new skills. So, Battlegrounds are now extremely popular. Even up to the point where players have started reporting symptoms commonly associated with an inpending server crash. High lag with movement and skills. Invisible players. Warping back. However, chatting on various channels is not affected at all. These symptoms were previously associated with massive World PvP events. Even the shared battleground servers have their limits.
Second phenomenon is the dwindling of interest in PvE. This has two primary causes. First, there's the honor system upheaval, which made almost full sets of good gear available to everyone. The second reason is the incoming expansion and the gear available in it. The common consensus seems that even soloable quest rewards are superior to gear which currently requires a balanced raid group to get. Why raid now when you can get vastly superior gear with less effort in a few weeks? In addition, Blizzard snuck in several changes that also contribute to the lack of interest. The most obvious one is the UI changes which disabled several prominent raiding addons. This change made healing a whole lot more challenging. The emergence of new interesting PvP specs has made many players spec away from PvE.
One change is the unconfirmed nerf to massive AoE. In essence, AoE damage went down when the number of targets increased. I admit that as a mage, I was quite worried about this. If true, it would have made several encounters much more difficult. For example, the Skeletal Construct zerg at Nefarian's phase 3 or Fankriss the Unyielding's adds. However, based on my pleliminary testing in Scarlet Monastery Armory and reports from Blackrock Depths' Lycaeum, AoE damage inside instances seems to be the same as before. Still, even the perception of AoE-based encounters being more difficult can shy people away from them.
Finally, there's an unannounced change that made Shaman loot drop for Alliance, and Paladin loot drop for Horde. While this is obviously preparation for Draenei Shamans and Blood Elf Paladins, the change was made too soon. There are no Draenei Shamans or Blood Elf Paladins yet, and definitely not ones that could even enter raid instances. The result is that those guilds that do raid now get loot that they cannot use at all. Molten Core and Blackwing Lair are most affected by this change, because those instances contain bind-on-pickup class-specific loot. Five-man instances are less affected, because tier 0 gear is not class-specific. While a warrior cannot use all bonuses on Lightforge, he can still wear it. A hunter can wear pieces of the Elements. Thanks to the token system, Zul'Gurub and Ahn'Qiraj are unaffected, because the loot can also be used by other classes. However, when Blizzard implemented token-based loot for Naxxramas, they overlooked one vital piece of loot: The tier 3 rings from Kel'Thuzad. Every other piece of the tier 3 sets is token-based, but not the ring. Why would a top-level guild go through all the trouble of clearing Naxxramas and spending hundreds of gold on repairs and consumables just to get a piece of loot that nobody can use?
The third phenomenon is the resurgence of World PvP. This can primarily be attributed to both the honor system and the removal of dishonorable kills. Even relatively small rewards attainable with world PvP do now add up. More importantly, your gains are not negated even if you took a swing at a civilian. However, the activity seems to be concentrated on very limited areas. This is caused by an another change that arrived with the patch. Namely, level 65 guards. Unlike their level 55 counterparts, these are not simple annoying wasps to level 60 players. These are hard to stop and quite deadly up close. Any smart player will try to avoid any contact. And so they have. The hotspots have so far been cities and settlements that do not have such protection. Namely, low-to-mid level towns like Crossroads, Splintertree Post, Astranaar, Camp Taurajo, Darkshire, Sentinel Hill, Lakeshire, Menethil..
What is the effect of town raids against these targets? Devastation. Now that dishonorable kills are not an issue, anything and everything can be killed. This means guards, questgivers, vendors, trainers.. everything. And it doesn't even require a large raid. Even a handful of level 60ies will have no problem whatsoever downing a few dozen level 40 NPCs and shutting down the town. Whether this will be a big issue remains to be seen, but I wouldn't be surprised if town raids drove also low-level players to PvP. While high-level players can stop by, they can't be guarding the town all the time.
All in all, the changes were indeed radical, and have seemed to shift the balance from a PvE-heavy game towards a PvP-heavy game. But what does it mean? It could be seen as an inevitable result. Current endgame will be replaced by Burning Crusade endgame. This patch just started the shift earlier. Blizzard will not redo the current raid instances to be viable after the expansion. And especially when talking about Molten Core, perhaps it is time to let it die.
So, we're back to the million-dollar question: All in all, are these changes a good thing? As always, it depends. If you like instanced PvP, you'll love the patch. If you like World PvP, you'll like it. If you like endgame PvE, it's is undoubtedly a disappointment, and some soul-searching is definitely in order if you want to continue playing.
Me? I enjoy a bit of everything. I love RP and enjoy World PvP. I like a good raid, and battlegrounds are ideal for letting off some steam now and then. I think that the shift was a bit radical, but nevertheless manageable. I'll live. I'll keep outwitting ganker squads. I'll grind some cash. I'll finish off some lingering quests. I'll snipe in battlegrounds. And I'll grumble about the lack of raids. And I'll buy the expansion.
The world is changing. I can feel it. It has been mere days since I acquired the map of the Ley Lines surrounding the Dark Portal, and still I have a lingering suspicion that everything the humans of Nethergarde knew has just been made obsolete. So, I had to see it for myself.
I landed at Grom'Gol, and the other changes were apparent. The dull looks on the guards' eyes were gone, and their posture has improved. Apparently the Empire's "protection" has proved ineffective, and Thrall has seen fit to beef up the defenses. Good for them.
The jungle seemed the same as always. The guards around Darkshire were as dullminded as always, and could barely notice my passing. But then.. at Deadwind Pass, I felt it again. A sense of change. A foreboding feeling. The Magus' tower has been dormant for a long time, but this.. The Portal could wait for a moment.
The feeling of foreboding only increased in intensity when I approached the Hourglass Tower. It was best to prepare. I changed into more suitable clothes, in case I ran into trouble. And this.. staff infused with infidel energies might prove to be useful. I moved closer when I was attacked by the restless spirits. I had fought them before, but now they attacked with unparallered fury!
I managed to elude them. The side entrance was unchanged, but there were three people at the main gate. Two of them were clearly mages, but the third.. I'm not sure about him.
Anyway, I approached them carefully. To my surprise, they were fairly civil. Arrogant of course, but civil enough to speak to me and not attack me on sight. After a short discussion, it became apparent that they were from de fabled Violet Citadel of the Human Spellweavers. Dalaran I believe what it was called in their language. I have passed it many times on my travels, but didn't give them much thought. But if they are moving, something is festering here. Since they have not entered the tower themselves, the Magus' barriers still hold. I had to find out more, but the spirits' fury was not to be underestimated. Fortunately there was an another way.
I took out a vial of purple liquid from my backpack. Despite my doubts, this has proven useful before. I drank the vial with one gulp. I never get used to the effect. It feels like vertigo, even if I'm standing on solid ground. I look down and see my body on the ground. Perfect. This won't last forever, so I have to move quickly.
My spirit moves past the wraiths like I was not even there. I float down the stairs and confirm some of my suspicions. The cellars are writhing with spirits, wraiths, banshees and ghosts. They too feel it. I also try to enter the crypt, but something has enforced the wards, preventing me from entering. I'm sure that the key to this mystery would be there, but my divination skills are inadequate for this task. There is nothing more to be done here.
I rode back to the pass and towards the Swamp. I was already some distance away from the Hourglass Tower, but still the feeling of foreboding has not passed. But I had to move on. It was time to see the Portal. Oddly, the demonic guards were not at their posts, and a powerful force seemed to have burrowed a small passageway in the ground.
Astonishing. It seems that all of the demonic guards have been defeated by Thrall's orcs. But where are they? Their camp is intact with no signs of combat. None whatsoever. And the portal..
The portal has been powered back up. But I don't see Outland.. This is.. bad. It's good that the demons are gone, but activating the portal now could be bad. Worse than the War of the Shifting Sands. Worse for all. I dug out the illustration from my backpack. I had borrowed it from Nethergarde just a few days ago, and it took considerable effort to decipher the meaning. The humans had just mapped the Ley Lines and left it at that. They never thought what this configuration meant. And now the Ley Lines have changed again..
Yes.. This confirms a part of my hypothesis. Creating permanent portals requires a whole lot of power. More than any being, save for the Spellweaver itself could handle. Perhaps even more. I guess that even the Ancient of Secrets would struggle with these amounts. The Magus never had a chance of opening the Dark Portal with only his own power. Not even if he had brought an army of sorcerers. But this.. this was simply.. elegant. And so simple on the surface.
Creating a rift to the Nether is easy. The hard part is to maintain it. His solution was to draw out the power from the planet itself through the Ley Lines. Then he.. streched them towards Draenor, while the orc warlock Gul'dan did the same from his side. And when the Ley Lines from the two worlds met, they were weaved together, linking the worlds. Then the pathway was carefully stretched to usable size. Despite it's elegance, it was also dangerous. If one drew too much power and stretched the Ley Lines too much, they could.. break.
Without the protection offered by the Ley Lines, the planet could not hold together. Pieces would fall off, and the complex web of the Lines would slowly unravel. Yes. This is probably what happened to the orc homeworld. They didn't know when to stop stretching. They broke the Ley Lines. They broke the world. If the Portal had not been shut down, the released energies would have travelled back here to Azeroth through the crumbling Ley Lines. The unraveling would have continued, with the power of two planets being forced to travel through less and less Lines. Azeroth would have been cut to pieces like.. hot steel wires cut a fruit.
And now something was stretching the Ley Lines again. Who would be so reckless? I had to investigate more. The Portal would not give me more answers now. I had to go elsewhere. Or else..when. Yes. They know, but they probably won't tell me. Still, it was a possibility.
When I rode towards the Caverns of Time, the feeling of foreboding returned. Were the Qiraji repeating their attempt against the guardian? Fortunately, Anachronos seemed unchanged. But.. the Caverns were open! Like a moth to the flame, I had to go in. Pieces from here and there.. boats.. buildings.. trees.. people. Yes. Humans, orcs, dwarves, elves, dragons. Familiar faces, also driven here by curiosity. Beings that I have never seen before. But something was wrong here as well. I passed a patrol of heavily armed Bronze Dragonkin on my way inside. If the Bronze prepare for war, it is always for the direst need. But then I looked up. I saw it.
Him. The Timeless One. Nozdormu. And.. I.. I don't know. I don't know at all. I have no idea what that majestic thing is. But at the same time.. I know that it is important. More important than anything.
I found myself later at Gadgetzan. I don't know how much time I spent in that wondorous place. I don't even rember riding back. I suppose it doesn't matter. But.. I completely forgot to ask about the Portal. Drat.
Another night, another graveyard shift. Lariel loved the night shifts. Not even the lesser races liked fighting at night. There was still the occasional undead, but they rarely reached the library. That left him ample time to familiarize himself with the books salvaged from Lordaeron. Especially tales of the Lightbringer fascinated him. Bless his soul, too many good men have died already in these cursed lands. Or worse. Lariel was not planning to become one of them. Quiet nights like these..
..too quiet, actually. And where are all the brothers?
Lariel slowly unsheathed his sword. Like his armor, it was passed on to him by his father. He was so proud when Lariel had told him that he was enlisting to retake the north. His tabard looked so majestic that day. But now, in the flickering torchlight, the Scarlet Flame seemed to pale. Shivers travelled down his spine. Had the wretched undead entered through the windows? He slowly crept forward towards the doorway to the library. Then something grabbed him and pulled him inside an alcove.
Brother Munson? How many undead are there?
Not undead. One. troll.
Then let's be done with it!
Ssh! She'll hear you! Did she hear you? I bet she heard you.
Calm down. It's just one troll. I will NOT let a an infidel..
That's what they said! No, no don't look!
A powerful mage..
..she froze their faces first..
..killed a whole squad of our brothers..
..then she proceeded downwards..
..in the middle of our monastery..
..until they were completely covered..
..and nobody heard a thing?
I just said she froze their faces! They couldn't even scream!
Weren't you trying to shut me up a minute ago?
Was I shouting?
Yes you were.
What is it doing there?
Reading? Those degenerates couldn't even count to seven without their feet..
This one reads.
What are we going to do? We can't just let it be.
That's what I was planning to do. Maybe she didn't hear us. Maybe she'll just walk past us when she leaves. I don't want to die here.
If she leaves. We need some backup.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS? WHY ARE KNIGHTS OF THE SCARLET CRUSADE WHISPERING IN A CORNER LIKE GOSSIPING MAIDS?
Sir! We were discussing strategy to eliminate intruders in the library. Sir!
Intruders? In my library? Seize them!
SIR YES SIR!
By the Light.. Sir, I think you should see this.
Where are the intruders?
Nowhere to be found, sir!
Do I have to do everything here myself? Step aside, imbecile!
They are indeed gone. You two! To my quarters. Now!
SIR YES SIR!
The rest of you.. get rid of this.. gallery. And I want a full inventory on my desk first thing in the morning.
Sir, a full inventory would take at least..
No excuses. You'll catalogue every book, scroll and scribbling by morning or I'll let Whitemane flay the flesh from your bones.
You have exactly two minutes to explain why my library is full of frozen corpses and why the intruders are not hanging from the trees like they should.
Sir, I was on my way..
I see. It was quite a predicament. Frankly, I'm surprised that you survived. You two are relieved of your duties for now. Report back to me at first light.
Sir, yes sir.
Sir, privates Springvale and Munson reporting as ordered, sir.
At ease. Private Munson.
You are to report to the Master of the Watch at the front gates at once. This scroll contains his new orders. Dismissed.
Sir, yes sir.
You are to deliver this scroll personally to Brother Crowley in Stormwind City as soon as humanly possible. Check with the stable master before you leave. You will be provided with a horse and travel expenses.
Sir, yes sir.
Contents of Munson's scroll:
The bearer of this scroll is a traitor. You are to hang him immediately.
Contents of Springvale's scroll:
It has been too long since we last met, dear friend. Your skills are direly needed here at the North. Vishas has his hands full, and his current apprentices lack the finesse you possess. However, I understand the importance of your current assignment and thus you must stay in Stormwind. We need all recruits we can get.
Speaking of recruits, you probably recognize the bearer of this letter. I believe he was sent here by you four months ago. Unfortunately he has severely disappointed me, and his cowardice has cost the Monastery Library several irreplaceable volumes. This letter serves three purposes. First, it is a reminder to you to pay attention to the quality of recruits. Secondly, this is my gift to you. I know you are bored. I want you to practice with Private Springvale here. Thirdly, this is a reminder for all of Stormwind on the importance of our task. When you practice with him, do it publicly and to the fullest extent of the law. Let all of Stormwind know the price of failure.