Leveling and Azeroth 2.0.?

The key problem discussed through all approaches to current leveling is that it is outdated. The key problem is that it buries itself under its own weight – inevitably so granted the age of the game.

When we talk about leveling, it addresses multiple features. I will need to list its core ideas and try to give my own solutions:

Natural Gating to Endgame (raids, M+, PvP)

Why outdated: Access to endgame activities is gated behind the item level. A fresh 120 has no access to BfDA or Uldir as much as a 100.

Solution: We may just go with ilvl gating from max level.

Natural Gating to Old Content

Why outdated: all expansions except the previous one are perfectly soloed up to the final boss – and are intended to be that way. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mantid pack lvl 90 in Heart of Fear or a ghoul pack lvl 80 in Icecrown Citadel as long as you take it out with a single Chain Lightning. Level 80 or level 90 bosses have no difference.

Solution: All the past raid content – yes, including the previous expansion – should be tuned into the very same level – say, Pandaria or Draenor level by BfA standards.

The borders between expansions are being washed away. Cata/Pandaria and WotLK/TBC share transmogs, and you could tmog into Ahn’Kiraj gear at level 1, so this too is not an issue.

Learning Your Class

Why outdated: we have character boosts and trial toons, we have major class revamps in random expansions, we have talent system upgrades, and what not. It doesn’t matter if I leveled and played my ice mage through freeze-and-shatter style in Pandaria – now it’s a proc-based, shard-saving thing which has nothing to do with it.

Solution: the entry scenario should teach you the basics like it does now for the trial character. Throw in class trials to learn the basics of group content (positioning, tanking, healing, AoE damage, burst damage, target switching, crowd controls). Throw in training grounds like Serenity Peak for monks to learn the interesting class perks! And after that you’re good to go. Demon Hunter starting questline gives an excellent example of teaching you everything in the course of 2 levels – although the starting experience should of course be less story-based, more training ground based to avoid outdating.

Seeing the Story

Why outdated: well, it is, and it is not. If I were a developer, and I acknowledged that some players come to my game just to bash skulls in PvP, I’d hate them not to be aware of what is going on in my world.

The core problem is: replaying the stories on alts is not encouraging on an N-th number. It’s fun and engaging on your main, although very exhausting (reading all the quests, struggling with shortcuts, ending up in bottomless pits and mob crowds, and having no idea of the whole path). It’s better on second alt, because you go through a now-known path with a feeling of where it ends. It starts to become tiresome at the third and on.

Also, after Cataclysm I cannot return to the old stories, and the world is changing ever since. It was extremely weird to level my warlock in Arathi and hear invisible players looking for group to farm current rares!

Also, a new player could never even leave the capital and level through dungeons only. There is the big world for you.

Sollution: it should work in the same manner as pre-expansion scenarios. The obligatory piece is playing through the current lore once. Complete your Loremaster for the current expansion, and get your access to endgame. Logging in on an alt? Talk to an NPC and say: I’ve seen it before and cut through to the endgame. After this talk, you should get all the credit for content completion: a comparable chunk of reputation, tmog quest appearances and all (but you cannot go back and do the quests then).

So, Where Has Azeroth 1.0. Gone? 

It’s all there in Caverns of Time.

I’ve previously mused about that your current characters – especially allied races, or demon hunters, or Pandaren – have not been able to experience the fall of the Lich King, or the opening of Ahn’Kiraj, or whatever. If you start an alt in BfA – you’re not liberating Stratholme from the undead Scourge. You are being told about it. It’s not your endeavour – it’s a glitch, a trance, a time-travel – name it. You reminisce the stories of the past to understand the feats of strength of your faction (and now we know that lorewise the Horde killed Magtheridon and the Alliance killed Lady Vashj, so it may not be even your faction).

So, how this works: you talk to a Zidormi or any other -ormi/-ormu dragon. She/he asks: what do you like to see (the options are all the expansions) – and you’re transported there through space and time to farm the old raids, see Dalaran in Crystalsong Forest, or an endless battle for the Barrens, or a night elf outpost in the middle of Silithus. Or walk Teldrassil. You can play through any questline that was available during the time (granted you haven’t already done it). And it will scale to your level!

BUT.

The real world, the current world, is now opened for the changes. Any changes.

We may finally alter the world according to the plot without looking back. We can change the dungeon and raid areas to their current state – as Blackrock Depths are now an Alliance-friendly domain of Dark Irons, and Uldir is safe.

We can remove Dalaran from Crystalsong Forest and put a Lich King’s necropolis there instead. We may end all the never-ending, outdated battles and see the world calm due to our efforts: from the exterminated minor trogg/murloc threats to making Eternal Blossoms in Pandaria bloom again.

  • A complete revamp.
  • Azeroth 2.0.
  • A peaceful one – where we have brought peace.
  • And with the new scars and battles where they appear.

And back to leveling, here’s a resume:

  • The game without levels.
  • Every character starts at “level cap” (actually without a level)
  • Every character goes through an obligatory class training scenario.
  • A racial acquaintance might be added in the manner of allied races.
  • You will need to play through the current expansion’s Loremaster once to get access for the endgame.
  • All alts may skip the story and go into endgame afer that.
  • All old content is available through Caverns of Time, tuned 2 expansions back (raids/dungeons)/current level (loremaster)

Have I missed anything? :) Let’s discuss.

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Trivia: Tools, Farming & Leveling

The passing weekend took me through many activities, so a traditional Monday report incoming.

Raiding

Finally there was a proper chainmail toon run – BfDA cleared in full on Jagda, Schlitzchen and Baisa. The bosses, namely Rastakhan, still owe us pants, so no luck happened in this department. Yet, Baisa won 2/3 hunter weapons! A Survival’s spear and a shooter specs’ awesome high-tech gun are now mine! The bow from Conclave awaits.

I also brought Fearella (my only plate armor cap toon) into the raid, and she got a couple of items too. Granted she’s the only one to farm them, I was surprised to see that her set situation is already better than 50%.

Pro-tip (which will never work in LFR): you could use Bloodlust upon the DEATH of Opulence. The word of other players is that you could dig the piles 30% faster. Just imagine if it were true (and whether Blizzard knows about it).

I’m playing in a relaxed mode nowadays. Three or four runs per week, and I don’t feel like I’m missing opportunities – I have all the time in the world until 8.2. to farm what needs to be farmed.

Raiding with Leashes

I’ve cut my achievement to 3 remaining pets. Garalon, Tayak and Elegon to go. There’s no rush as well – I’m collecting the transmogs in huge piles, switching to normal if I have won all heroic ones. The biggest acquiring is shaman’s full sets from Heart of Fear – it’s just gorgeous in all colors. In general I’m a huge fan of the mantid raid transmogs, they are a killer.

Leveling 

Arkeona has just established her Garrison, and is already 92 now. It’s the first time she ever left Orgrimmar, so I need to report that leveling as a tank is quite fine. Doesn’t feel too slow, and is of course a playable option. Of course I’ve started thinking as a tank in the field – that is, aggroing 3-5 mobs at once for quicker kills. Not that of a difference from group content.

I’ve dragged my warlock to 70 and my monk to 38, so they are not forgotten :)

Wasted 200k gold on upgrading heirlooms – at least my warrior is fine until 120.

Profession Tools

I have seen two of them questlines: Tailoring and Leatherworking.

Tailoring takes you along a Nightborne girl which is a timeweaver. It’s the most interesting idea: using your sewing skills to mend the rifts in time and space, and the bronze thread animations are amazing! We travel all over Azeroth to try and fix the disturbance. We kill some of her evil copies, find others dead, so she passes us the scheme for the rift-mending kit because we’re worthy, and her alternate time versions are damaged.

The most exciting idea – not the first time when I got it – is introducing the fourth mage spec, and that would be Timeweaving – healing. You operate the Time itself to reverse the wounds! I think we already had this kind of spell some time ago. Clockwork, sands and now thread weaving animations could be most awesome. I don’t know what must be done to implement it :) Anyways, this questline was a reminder.

Leatherworking requires a little travel to get some scales, leathers and bones from Val’sharah, Stormwind and Tiragarde. We then turn the materials into a set of six drums blessed by Elune which we put in the center of every six of BfA zones. The crafting recipe is a mallet (apparently to boom the said drums for a certain bonus).

Crafting mats requirements are not too hard, but you need to put in a little dedication. Leatherworkers would kill a number of elite undead dinos (found in Nazmir) for their sinews, and they also need some elaborate silks which drop from any elite world quest creature (with a 15-minute gating between kills). Tailors apparently need to run 4 different dungeons for certain bosses and their certain drops. It’s not that much of work, so I need to check if the drop is 100%. Anyways, a thing to get busy with :)

Racial Profession “Buff”

You all know that some races have their profession “buffs” that allow them to come up several points after cap – for example, Pandaren and cooking. Previously – I guess – it allowed to save several early points in the next expansion. For example, a 715 in Draenor alchemy meant that you start there in Legion, not at 700.

Well, it outlived itself, and at large.

With the division of leveling professions by expansions, it turned out to be a DEBUFF. For example, my Jellica is a gnome and an engineer. She has to level 165 points instead of 150, and that involves rare mats like Expulsom. Apparently no new schemes compared to non-gnome engineers.

So, where is the profit? Ironically what was meant to be a head-on start turned out to be a punishment. We need to craft more, we need a lot of rarest mats, and it won’t check achievement at 150 – you will have to be 165. I haven’t actually tested profession tools yet, but as I’m sitting at 155 (over normal level cap and 10 brutal points less than required), I think that I can’t get its quest either.

Obviously it was overlooked by Blizzard, so please: for the sake of all gnome engineers (and pandaren cooks), submit a suggestion and slip a new topic at official forums. I did so today.

Crucible, Anyone?

I’ve checked the Crucible of Storms loot tables again, and they’re finally up and available in game. Turns out it shares the raid tier appearance with Battle for Dazar’Alor – could be both good and bad news.

The good news is: you can farm the remaining set pieces there. For example, chainmail pants, the only item I lack for this set, drops from Crucible’s first boss. Could be a relief not to run the whole Rastakhan wing and try it there instead. Or: you can get two chances (4 with coins) on this very item per week.

The bad news is: Halls of Valor raid contained its own set obtained through a number of runs per 1000 tokens, so an Old God themed set would have been most welcome through similar fashion. Did not happen.

So, except for the most unnecessary toy and a lore piece, the raid holds little interest to me. If I have all doubling set items from BfDA by its release, it’s a single run per toon, and I’m done.

A Bit More Into 8.1.5.

War Campaign

There was yet another piece of story following the initiate experience. It is gated behind a mission table – luckily it’s just one mission, not a series of 5 like we had in Legion.

The Horde is going to hold a major meeting in Warsong Hold (Stormsong Valley), and SI:7 is interested in it – a lot. For the Alliance side, you help the operatives of SI:7 to overhear what is going on. The Horde is very successful in blocking all the Alliance’s efforts – including killing the spies and disrupting their devices. Eventually the Alliance is left with an only option, but it’s a royal spot right over the camp itself. The Horde players, beside killing spies and destroying devices, also get an amusing quest of chasing away those who came without tickets. It’s the coolest goblin idea ever – selling tickets to the authority meetings like that!

Eventually the dust settles, and both sides get to see a disturbing cinematic. Nathanos kills Zelling the undead tidesage for treachery, even if Baine tried to take all the fault upon himself, and Baine is taken into custody, but not before he openly claims that Sylvanas has crossed every border. Sylvanas ends up with a menacing speech about loyalties.

The Alliance player gets Shaw’s reaction – ‘That was… brutal’. The Horde player reports the quest to Lorthemar Theron, and the blood elf leader is NOT happy with the events. It is crystal clear that Sylvanas is digging a grave to herself – she’ll have no supporters left in no time. And that’s a ‘Yay’ from me :)

Hati 

Hunter players greet Mimiron in their capitals – for the Alliance side, his image pops up by the tavern in Boralus and invites us to his Storm Peaks’ workshop. Mimiron provides us with an intel: as long as Titanstrike gun powers were gone, the Hati spirit is not. It is split in two, and we are able to retrieve it.

The first piece is found at Thorim’s throne in Storm Peaks, for the second piece of Hati’s soul we travel to Silithus. A dwarf hunter with a pet bear, and later Thorim help you to subdue them. I wonder if it had something to do with me being in a Marksmanship, but first thing in the fight Hati leaps at you and kills in an instant, “not recognizing” or smth. like that. The fight goes on though, so you are able to fly/run from the graveyard to complete the job. I died twice every time.

Souls complete, we return to Storm Peaks and teleport to Ulduar Mimiron’s workshop to fuse the souls. Mimiron succeeds, and they are merged:

Hati.jpg

We then fly back to Thorim. Thorim keeps a Titanspark which lets you to change colors of Hati now and forever on (I guess you could pick from the appearances you have earned). Once you choose, you can tame the desired Hati color, and it’s added as your pet – not a second one.

The questline took me 20 minutes, it was pretty engaging, and fun because Mimiron (everything is with gnomes in it). I have not developed any bonds with Hati (not a BM, never), but I was glad to see another story.

Raiding with Leashes – Pandaria

I’ve planned to put it off for laters, but the all-around blog and Twitter hysteria made me travel there :) I had three runs on 25 heroic mode, and it earned me 6 pets out of 11 – crossing out Terrace and all but one in Mogushan. Heart of Fear was the greediest – it owes me 4 out of 5 remaining pets. Like I said, Leashes drops are very generous.

Raiding without Leashes

Dazar’Alor now has only one drop left for my chainmail armor set (and weapons, yes). We had the most amazing run today’s morning – so supportive and kind people even if both tanks were inexperienced and poorly geared. No wipes could break the positive attitude – we even killed Rastakhan with one tank (the other appeared to be in the room, but AFK). LFRs could surprise!

It’s a Monk!

…but not a Kul Tiran. Just as planned, I’ve deleted a Kul Tiran and rolled another one:

Guldra-Monk

Name’s Guldra, and she’s amazing.

I was actually on fire leveling alts during the weekend – even raiding was put aside. My gnome warlock now reached 63, my nightborne hit Pandaria content at 80, and the monk is now 31. Everything through dungeon runs – in fact, I’m stepping out of the capital only at Pandaria content (because you may remember that we need the Tiller fridge bags, right?)

Lots of stuff to do – and I haven’t even touched profession tools yet :)

8.1.5.: Alliance Questline & Undertow

The Alliance war campaign questline adds little to the Horde’s experience – in fact, it’s a bit in a disarray.

The first thing to do is a small trip to Freehold outskirts – we need to collect paperwork and kill some Ashvane loyalists. It’s a shame that questline goes no longer for now, because we are left with a mystery of who is Ashvane’s ‘Patron’ (Sylvanas?), and it just hangs in the air. Quite probably it was added merely to match the Horde’s playing time.

The second thing is in vein of the Horde’s part. Valeera arrives at our command ship with a message from Baine to Jaina. Mathias Shaw vouches that it’s unlikely to be a trap, and after a short discussion we are transported to Theramore to witness the very same cinematic. It is an interesting revelation to me that Valeera fought alongside Varian when he had his memory loss and fought as a Lo’Gosh gladiator in orc arenas. Varian trusted her deeply, and that mutual trust and affection was inherited by Anduin.

After Derek’s cinematic, the Alliance gets an extra talk piece – Derek and Jaina discuss what’s next. She will send him somewhere else to adapt – she knows some group of people that have experienced the same thing. I wonder who would that be? Jaina is not ready yet to present her brother to the Proudmoores and other Kul Tirans – so Derek goes into a sort of a mysterious rehab.

All in all the Alliance’s story part is no match to the Horde. Surely it’s a Baine’s spotlight, and the Alliance’s role was to come and listen. Only if we didn’t have that lame stub of an Ashvane arc: either we should have got it in full, or none at all.

The Alliance also gets a trip to Tanaris, but obviously they are interested in Saffy the Gnome.

I guess it is time to merge the factions against a big bad.

***

The undertow is about my Kul Tiran. I’ve ran a couple of dungeons with her, and I’d say I feel disconnected with the character. No, it’s not the frame – mainly because of the face options. I don’t like them a lot. As long as I haven’t got too far, I’m planning to delete her for now and see them as allies ran by other players. The same goes with Zandalari – they have an option of the most stunning glowing silver hair which is definitely a lure, but I’m not a fan of their scary faces and awkward troll running animations (same as Darkspears). Mind you, I just don’t find them suiting for myself, otherwise I greet diversity in player ranks.

A monk though – I’d like to rekindle the class, so I will need to consider other races. It definitely won’t be a panda, any sleek race (troll/draenei/elf), a tauren or an orc. Maybe another Dark Iron?

8.1.5.: Unlocking Zandalari & Horde Campaign Questlines

My exploration of the 8.1.5. continues, and the next journey was

Unlocking Zandalari

Allied race aside, it’s an important piece of lore in itself. The core plot is Talanji’s crowning, and we follow her steps.

The first thing to do is to get to Zocalo – once again it’s the rebellious district of Dazar’Alor. Loa priesthood and citizens there are not happy with the upcoming crowning, devastated with the Alliance’s attack, royal pact with Bwonsamdi and what not. We are sent twice to lower areas of the minor Zocalo pyramid to kill those most rebellious, beat the sense into hesitating zandalari and save the innocents.

Our next step is ascending to the hall of priests and greet them – only to be attacked by a Shadra priestess who was behind the whole turmoil. Once she’s defeated, it becomes a peaceful trip to the top of the pyramid.

Talanji is bound to get an appoval from the surviving loa (the deceased ones are also there in the ghost form, but they speak nothing). Krag’wa urges Talanji to prove her will to defend her subjects. Here goes a fun quest where you are turned into a fly, and Krag’wa’s frogs are trying to eat you while Talanji is trying to defend you :)

The next stage brings us to Gonk – he only talks to Talanji and reminds her that her family, or ‘pack’ are not only the trolls, but also tortollans, vulpera and the Horde.

T9

The next one is Pa’ku: she unleashes a classic Run-against-the-wind-and-avoid-vortexes arcade game. We can struggle with it, but it’s not required to get to the top: the quest ends when Talanji herself gets there.

And on the top of the pyramid is Bwonsamdi. He takes the place of a passed Rezan as a royal loa, due to Rastakhan’s pact. He asks Talanji to bring him the head of Sylvanas! Turns out, he did it just in case she agrees :) He just wants to have Sylvanas’ soul, and when Talanji says ‘no’, he says, oh well then, get your crown. Could have worked :)

T8

It all concludes with Talanji’s crowning, all the Horde leaders attending:

T6

T4

Sylvanas, Blightcaller and the champion are then summoned to the High Throne to bond the pact between Zandalar and the Horde. Talanji is firm that them and the Horde must walk side by side as equals, and no one commands the queen what to do.

T3

Sylvanas cannot contain her disapproval, but what choice does she have? She thanks the champion nevertheless for the job perfectly done.

T2

I liked the questline for being relatively short, located in one place, and wrapping up the Rastakhan/Talanji arc. It didn’t feel too climactic though, I didn’t feel my spirits rise even during her crowning speech. And Sylvanas/Blightcaller annoy me as hell – I hust want them on the other side of the barricades.

Horde War Campaign

It is a high time we had our personal riot running, so at the beginning of the war campaign quest a Tauren messenger approaches you and slips a secret note from Baine. Yet again, we get a choice of how to act. Schlitzchen previously played along Sylvanas and dark rangers in Saurfang’s cause, so she picked an option of telling Blightcaller before going. He sends you to do whatever Baine’s asks in any case, and then tell him.

Baine has a secret meeting in Tiragarde’s Horde harbor with the highborne Valeera Sanguinar, one of closest Anduin’s friends and an Alliance spy. Valeera is meant to deliver a message to Jaina to meet Baine in Theramore:

H3.jpg

Baine, Zelling and champion then set off to board the Sylvanas’ flagship where Derek Proudmoore is held in a cage.

H2

It is a brutal clash with the crew – some undead run when you defeat them, but the others and the dark rangers are ready to die for Sylvanas. We clear the ship and get THREE keys to unlock the Derek’s cage. He’s an undead now, but not a mindless murderous pawn yet. The ship is hijacked (it’s cool to have a tidesage along), and sets out to Theramore.

H1

What is left is an amazing cinematic. Jaina’s Kul Tiran and our stolen juggernaughts are connected side to side with a gangplank, and Baine has the most touching conversation with Jaina. The initial hostility is quickly doused. Jaina perfectly knows what Baine is, and Derek is admitting that he was planned to be a weapon against his family, but he didn’t manage to get his mind twisted due to Baine’s interference. The cinematic brought me to tears, I feel for all three of them deeply.

Upon our return, we need to disguise our hijacking as a pirate deed, for what we need to complete a mission at the mission table. And we have a talk to Nathanos (well, I just play along the story) and tell him everything – so he says that Baine and Zelling can be considered dead when Sylvanas learns about it. May I remind you that Derek Proudmoore was her only current idea to crush the Alliance (lol).

That was an excellent arc – with both my desire to finally do something, anything against Sylvanas and one of the most touching cinematics in the expansion so far.

Next part: hunting the escaped Lady Ashvane on the Alliance side! I bet it would be exciting.