The Warcraft Alt Dilemma: Alts yesterday, alts tomorrow, but never alts today

Anyone else been intrigued to try the dungeon finder for lower level alts?

I haven’t had much time to play around with lower level instances myself but the few experiences I’ve had have been pretty positive.

I ran an old level 15 draenei  mage created at the beginning of TBC through Ragefire Chasm (previously rather inaccessible to alliance) – it was chaotic but polite and the group were vaguely respectful of the paladin tank who said at the start that it was his/her first time. I did notice immediately that my mage felt very useful. Whenever the pull got out of control, which happened a lot, I could drop a frost nova and run back to give the tank time to grab the mobs. I’m quite sure it was more fun than spamming AE-of-choice in level 80 heroics.

So the thought of levelling a new alt and making generous use of the dungeon finder at the same time is very alluring. There is a problem with this picture. The Cataclysm in the room. In only a few months time, there will be a host of new class/ race options in the game, and a whole new levelling experience to try out. Is there really much point levelling an alt right now just to mess around with the dungeon finder when that goblin rogue, worgen warrior, tauren paladin, dwarf shaman, troll druid and so on are just around the corner?

Plus there is the issue of limited character slots on servers.

This means I’m going to get my low level dungeoneering fix from existing alts, of which I have abandoned many along my current path to greatness. Looking through the list, I was reminded again of my old priest. The first character I ever raided on, her incarnation ended after a messy guild break-up at the beginning of TBC. After which I took a long break from WoW. I seem to also remember that this was an era where paladin healers were crazy overpowered and no one else could keep up with them, which broke my will to play at the time.

Anyway, that’s all in the past. I was curious to check out the Alliance Wrath questlines and the dungeon finder turns out to be just the motivation I need to bring my sole alliance level 70 out of dustballs.  Fortunately, she just about had enough cash on her still to cash in on dual specs.

One thing I realised immediately in instance runs. Lower level healers have very limited mana pools and mana regen compared to my comfortably overgeared resto druid. And you know what? I’m enjoying the challenge immensely. The lower level instances are everything that the zergfest 80 heroics are not.

So far I’ve somehow gotten my way through Utgarde Keep (which was actually really tough to heal, or maybe that was just the tank) and Nexus (which was much more manageable). Shadow is much improved since I last tried it, and priests still feel to me like the Rolls Royce of WoW healers to actually play. (ie. smooth, well engineered, runs like a dream once you get it onto the road.)

I’m quite sure that it is the challenge of the lower level instances on a non-overgeared toon which is making them interesting to me at the moment. It will be interesting to see how long that lasts. Also, thumbs up to the Howling Fjord quests for Alliance, they’ve been good fun so far.

Blast from the Past


Speaking of my old priestess, I dug out this ancient screenshot.

I’m sure any old hands won’t have any trouble identifying where she is, what she’s doing, and … maybe even what robe and staff she is using. They were iconic in their day.

You can even see that I have friendly nameplates turned on to help with healing since I wasn’t in a group or raid at the time. Ah, those were the days.

WAR really wants you to come up and see it sometime

The big Warhammer Online news this week is that patch 1.2 has gone live, and along with it, the new Slayer and Choppa classes. (I keep typing Chippa instead of Choppa which makes me think of fish and chips). The new classes are bags of fun, it’s hard to really go wrong with a dual wielding melee “hit it till it falls over” style and people have been wanting their mohawk dwarves and basic orcs since forever.

The other big Warhammer Online news is that although they’ve been consolidating servers via transfers for some time, they’ve finally done some merges and closed the unneeded ones.

In the US, from 43 servers the number is now down to 17. 20 servers closed in the EU so they now have more servers than the US, but that does  include foreign language servers.

I don’t think closing servers is the great sign of doom that it used to be. Obviously losing players isn’t good but a game like Warhammer with the heavy PvP emphasis needs high populations to make it work. There simply isn’t much to do if other players aren’t around.

I also think that the reason fewer servers were closed in the EU is that GOA had been more proactive than Mythic in consolidating up until now. They’d seen the issues and tried to address them. And possibly, just possibly, the game actually has more subscribers in its continent of origin.

What it all adds up to is a game that desperately wants to be loved. Mythic/GOA have been adding content at a rate of knots, they’ve really been trying to address the issues that players had with the game, and they’ve taken the difficult step of closing servers in order to improve the game experience across the board. It’s a fun game with cool classes and a lot of smart design tweaks, set in a glowingly detailed universe with over 25 years of world development.

Also because of the new classes, the lower tiers are very very busy. It’s a good time to go check it out.

No better time than the present

And in case anyone was in any doubt about whether now was a good time to test the waters, Mythic/GOA have introduced 10 day free trials.

That’s not the end of the advertising blitz. Former subscribers, including Esri@Gaming Granny and Scott Jennings@Broken Toys have received personalised mailshots from Karl Franz himself ordering their characters back to the front line and referring to their guild and  friends who are already there. I was amused by that, nice one Mythic.

But my ‘they never??!’ award goes to wowwiki. I giggled.

Mythic’s ability at PR and spin may be one of the great unrecognised sparks of genius in the MMO arena at the moment. I thought those were all good ways of drumming up some interest.

And what about me?

I can’t be lured back because my sub is actually still active. I simply haven’t been playing much. But I did log on yesterday to pick up one of my underplayed alts and go join the tier 1 mayhem.

And yes, Tier 1 is still buckets of fun. I logged my little Knight of the Blazing Sun (it’s a tank, yes), queued myself up for scenarios and before long I too was enjoying the simple pleasure of thwacking orcs over the head and trying to protect my healer by … uh … getting in the way a lot.

PvP tanking in Warhammer is novel because it actually works. Tanks in WAR end up with a fair amount of crowd control, with the intention that you should use it to stop mean melee dudes slicing up your squishies. Added to this, collision detection means that standing in the way is not simply a way of life but also a viable tactic.

My little tier 1 tank doesn’t have much in the way of crowd control going for her yet. She has a snare to make it harder for enemies to get away. But damn if she isn’t good at being in the way.

Unsurprisingly, tier 1 is currently dominated by the new classes. And the side which is able to dredge up a couple of tanks, healers, or ranged dps to help them out has a definite advantage in scenarios. Props in particular to the brave little runepriestess, the only pure healer I saw all day, who did her best to heal me even when I failed miserably at my getting-in-the-wayness.

I don’t entirely know what the upcoming massive class imbalance will do to the game. I think a lot of people will love their new choppa/slayer and will continue to play it. But I do know that it certainly hasn’t ruined the PvP elements which I was playing.