The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

World of Warcraft: Beginning A Private Journey to Explore Azeroth

“You can embrace nostalgia and history and tradition at the same time.” –Sturgill Simpson

During lunch break in a March day many years earlier, one of my friends asked our group if we would be interested in participating on his World of Warcraft server: it’d been a few months since said friend had set up a Ragnarok Online server, and since that proved to be a fun experience, we quickly agreed. After a weekend of tinkering about with the installation and configuration, the World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade server was online and ready to roll. I decided to play a mage, having found the mage class in Ragnarok Online to be superbly enjoyable, and after wrapping up my assignments, I spun up a Genome mage. In the snowy forests of Dun Morogh, I began getting my character up to speed, completing quests in the starting area. I’d hit level five the next day, and my friend decided to gather all of us to Goldshire to make it easier for us to party up: if memory serves, he’d been a Draenei druid, and another friend had rolled a Night Elf rogue. After setting my mage’s home to Lion’s Pride Inn, my other friend and I headed for Westfall to fight the Defias amidst the rolling hills and wheat fields. Being quite enthusiastic about World of Warcraft, said friend who had rolled the Night Elf had been a full fifteen levels ahead of me, which made it easier to complete some of those earlier quests involving elite enemies. Within a month, I reached level twenty, we would move our adventures over into Duskwood. At this point in time, the school year was drawing to a close, and I would set World of Warcraft aside to ensure that I could perform on my exams. Spending countless evenings with friends on a private server was my original experience with World of Warcraft, and it had been fun to roam the Eastern Kingdoms to complete various quests and be immersed in the lore surrounding the world that Blizzard had created. Towards the final days of secondary school, my friend decided to shut down the server. We’d had an excellent run, but with university upcoming, we agreed that it would be wise. However, my friend also gave me server files in the event I’d ever wished to return, along with the Ragnarok Online server files.

At the time, I’d been immersed in Halo 2 and never got around to setting the files up, and had been focused on gearing up for my undergraduate programme. When my first term ended in December, I ended up putting the Ragnarok Online server back up, hosting it locally so I could get screenshots for my website. My interest in World of Warcraft returned, and I resolved to get the private server operational that summer. However, I’d been unsuccessful, and so, World of Warcraft fell to the back of my mind as I continued through my undergraduate programme. In the present day, having gone through World of Warcraft‘s Starter Edition, I’ve decided to try my hand at bringing the server back to life. The server had been running World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, which was the version of World of Warcraft I had been looking to return to. This time around, I was able to get things back online: compiling binaries is not as arcane to me now as it had been a decade earlier, and I configured the server’s IP and port settings for my current requirements of running a server locally. I then modified the client to point towards the new realm, started the server and created an account. I subsequently rolled a Human mage and crossed my fingers: I wasn’t too sure if I’d actually be able to access the game world, since this was as far as I’d gotten last time. A few tense seconds later, the opening cinematic played, and I found myself standing in a field in Northshire. To be sure, I talked to a quest giver, beat up a bunch of wolves and finished it. The private server had been successfully set up, running for the first time in ten years, and suddenly, it dawned on me – I now had an entire world running on my machine just waiting to be explored to my heart’s content.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before I continue, I will remark that these World of Warcraft posts will feature a lot more reminiscence than my usual materials, and further to this, I will not be playing World of Warcraft the way it’s meant to be played. The actual MMORPG involves a more considerable time investment, handling more similarly to The Division in that one is always on the hunt for better gear. However, I spun up this server with the intent of exploration – I have the GM commands available to me, so I used this to kit my character up with a range of gear to help improve survivability and spell power.

  • Unlike the retail World of Warcraft, my private server has me as the only player, and so, Goldshire is very quiet. However, the Lion’s Pride Inn remains as inviting as ever, acting as the starting point for finishing the early quests in the Elwynn Forest, which would allow me to boost my reputation with Stormwind. At low levels, players won’t have access to a steed, and traversing areas in World of Warcraft becomes quite time-consuming. Later expansions to World of Warcraft add more Flight Masters, which reduce the amount of time spent running around.

  • When I began World of Warcraft, I had played Ragnarok Online for roughly five months prior to that. I can’t quite remember my story there, but I think my friend had configured that server to have twenty times experience rates, so I was able to become a high wizard on short order. Ragnarok Online was very enjoyable, and I remember really getting into the swing of things after smashing my way with some friends on the bridge just north of Geffen on the night of a lunar eclipse. My friend who’d been hosting the server played as a crusader.

  • I ended up spending many evenings with another one of my friends, who’d played an assassin, in various dungeons. Since I don’t have many screenshots from this period, it is left to my recollections as to how I ended up reaching the level threshold to become a high wizard. We ended up exploring most of Ragnarok Online‘s maps, and my friend began considering taking things to the next level with a World of Warcraft server after he’d taken a bunch of us to some of the coolest places in Ragnarok Online.

  • After finishing double German, I ran into my friend in the school hallways. As we made our way to our usual lunch spot, conversation convinced my friend to take the project up, and that weekend, a server was spun up. Back in those days, ISPs provided simpler modems, and we required an extra wireless router connected to the modem to create a wireless network. This gave us more control over some aspects of the network, such as setting up a static IP address, which was needed to run a private server.

  • Today, most modems that ISPs lend to customers have a built-in wireless transmitter, which makes it very easy to run both a LAN and WAN. This comes at the cost of flexibility: to run a network with a static IP, for my ISP, a call to them would be required to switch the modem into bridge mode, after which I can hook my own router to it. This is the main reason why my attempt at running a private server failed: I had originally been attempting to configure it so I could connect to it externally.

  • For my current private server, I’m running everything off a local host, since this server is purely for me to use. As a result, setup has been very smooth. Since I’m starting in the human area this time around, I’ve been able to explore the whole of Elwynn Forest and its points of interest: this time around, I have access to a swift Palomino, so getting around was considerably faster than it had been when I first came here. In those days, travelling between the farms, east and west reaches of the forest took upwards of ten minutes both ways.

  • With my rogue friend, I remember spending a considerable amount of time questing in Westfall so I could get my mage up to a level where I could be helpful on later quests. In secondary school, the workload had not been insurmountable, and after the lecture part of a course, we were always given plenty of time to take a crack at our daily assignments. I usually finished all but a handful of questions, saving them for home. When World of Warcraft entered our schedule, I remember working to help my friends with their work, as well, so we could go questing in evenings.

  • On a weeknight, I usually had around an hour or so of extra time available, but whenever tests and exams came up, I was more likely to be found studying. I recall being a fairly studious secondary student, and between studying or gaming, I usually preferred the former. This was one of the reasons why among my friends, I was always lower level. However, on evenings where there was spare time and no exams on the horizon, I recall having a blast with my friends.

  • After three months of running the server, my friend asked us if we were ready to experience more of the endgame content, such as dungeons. Having fully explored Elwynn Forest, Westfall, Redridge Mountains and Duskwood, we agreed immediately. Using the GM commands, my friend levelled us to the cap of seventy (this had been a Burning Crusade server) and equipped us with gear sets, as well as weapons of our choosing. With the additional talent points, I ended up rolling a fire mage since I prefer the burst damage. However, before we could party up and do any dungeons, final exams were upon us.

  • I still remember having chemistry, physics and history that term, which was the second toughest term I’d had. While I had been getting by in German, history proved to be a little tricky owing to the way the instructor expected us to write papers with, and Newtonian mechanics has never really been my forte. However, I had been smashing my way through stoichiometry. As finals came nearer, I spent less time in World of Warcraft to focus on ensuring I did well in everything.

  • One particular memory from that time stands out to me: I went out to participate in German Day, a competition of students learning German: I was to recite a poem, and ended up finishing third. This day coincided with a chemistry exam, and I ended up taking the test after classes in the science labs. I still managed to stomp this exam, and would go on to perform well enough on my finals. As summer vacation rolled in, I intermittently played World of Warcraft, exploring different reaches of Azeroth with my now-level seventy mage. However, my friend had now a new challenge to face: one of the people we’d invited to the server continually would send messages asking if the server had been turned on for the day.

  • This ended up being enough of a nuisance to earn that individual a ban, and over the course of the summer, I ended up spending time levelling a Blood Elf warlock at the request of my rogue friend, who had just rolled an Undead character to experience things from the Horde perspective. In exchange for my time, said friend would eventually help me out on a particularly tough quest in the Ghostlands. I’ll continue reminiscing on these experiences another time, and at this point in time, I’ve begun making considerable headway in exploring the Eastern Kingdoms.

  • To help me determine where to explore next, I typically accept a handful of quests and then look through which ones send me to an interesting location. Here, I ended up accepting a mage quest that required a visit to Loch Modan, which was what gave me the reason to initially hit Dun Morogh. Unlike expansions past Cataclysm, the Loch Modan of Wrath of the Lich King still has the Stonewrought Dam and the Loch intact: post-Cataclysm, Azeroth has permanently changed, and many locations I were familiar with are now altered in dramatic ways.

  • Sunsets from Stonewrought Dam are beautiful, as the high elevation offers an unobstructed view of the skies, and while the graphics themselves may not even come close to what contemporary game engines are capable of, there’s a simple beauty about World of Warcraft‘s visuals: the orange, violet and pinks come together to create a remarkably vivid sunset that can’t be seen anywhere else on Azeroth.

  • Post-Cataclysm, Loch Modan is permanently changed with the destruction of the Stonewrought Dam. Having returned here in the Starter Edition by evening, I found no vantage point from which to watch the sunset. I’ve heard that Cataclysm is one of the more reviled expansions to World of Warcraft, but most players don’t seem to have an issue with the numerous, permanent changes to Azeroth’s layout, as they were done to increase accessibility.

  • World of Warcraft‘s day and night cycles are dependent on the realm time, which is computed using the system time. As such, most of my screenshots will usually be taken from the evenings, which is when I typically have the most time to fire up the server and go for a few quests. One thing I’ve wondered is whether or not sunrise and sunset times in reality affect the sunrise and sunset times in-game: we’re in the middle of summer now, and that means later sunsets, but it would be interesting to see if days are shorter in Azeroth during the winter, as well.

  • After I’d finished exploring all of the old areas, I decided to test my loadout and setup against a few dungeons. In the old days, I primarily spent my time in World of Warcraft exploring and doing quests with my rogue friend: since our schedules had been the most similar, we were often online at the same time. My other friends typically came on and stayed much later into the evening, when I was sleeping, so I never got around to exploring dungeons and getting better gear out of it.

  • I decided to start my dungeon experience off with Stormwind Stockade. For level-appropriate parties, this is a relatively short and simple dungeon that takes anywhere from half an hour to forty-five minutes to complete. Being kitted out with higher level gear meant I was trivially mopping floor with everything in the dungeon, and all of the drops I got, I would end up picking up to sell. A part of the reason why I’ve allowed myself to run a fully-levelled (for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion) character was because I’d wanted to go visit all of the areas I never got to back in the day.

  • Consequently, I don’t particularly feel like I’m missing out on the dungeon experience simply because I’m able to burn through every enemy in a lower-level dungeon in a single spell. As a mage, I’ve got access to some excellent area-of-effect spells: I’m particularly fond of Dragon’s Breath, a fire-based spell that damages all enemies in a cone in front of the player and disorients them.

  • After annihilating everything that moved in the Stormwind Stockade, I completed my first-ever dungeon experience on my private server. It was rather entertaining, although I am fully aware that as I move through dungeons that are more level-appropriate for me, it will be increasingly challenging to clear them on my own. Most players consider that one should be able to be reasonably effective in a dungeon if they are ten levels above the level requirement, so I should be able to explore everything in Azeroth and Outland without too much trouble.

  • With the Stormwind Stockade in the books, I turned my attention towards the Deadmines in Westfall. For Alliance players, Deadmines will be the first dungeon they take on: it’s hidden away in Moonbrook, and the entrance is located deep in a mine. It’s a bit of a fight to get here, and the first time I decided to try the Deadmines with my rogue friend, we wondered if this was the dungeon.

  • The Deadmines consist of the actual mines themselves, a Goblin foundry, and a vast pirate ship concealed in the deep caverns: the dungeon is actually quite large, and as the first Alliance dungeon, it does have a bit of everything for players to try out. The entrance into the dungeon is located deep in the mineshafts of Moonbrook, and even at level 20, it was a bit of a chore to fight our way to reach the instance portal.

  • Even with an unoptimised loadout for my mage, the fact that I was at the level cap meant that this time around, I was able to mow my way through the Deadmines and not worry about being wiped. I decided to try out the frost spells I had access to for this run: compared to fire, frost is about reducing enemy movement and speed. The standard frostbolt slows enemy movement by up to fifty percent, and in the Starter Edition, I typically used it in conjunction with Ice Lance and Frost Nova.

  • For mages, casting single-target spells is not particularly mana intensive, but the powerful area of effect spells are particularly taxing. In general, I don’t really notice a considerable drop in my mana unless I’m constantly channeling Blizzard, which is one of the most powerful spells I have for dealing with multiple enemies at once. I am looking forwards to seeing what Blizzard can do to higher level groups, since at lower levels, a second of channeling the spell will eliminate entire groups without effort.

  • I believe this is the first time I’ve ever reached the pirate ship: I remember that with my rogue friend, we attempted this dungeon as a two-man party shortly after I reached level 20, and while we’d made reasonable progress, the fact was that it was taking us a while, so we never reached the end. We’d run later into the evening, and it was a weeknight, so I ended up calling it in after we cleared the first section and realised it was probably another hour before we’d reach the ship.

  • Frost Nova is a staple for mages: while dealing only minor direct damage, its utility is freezing enemies in place. This makes it valuable for locking down groups of enemies, and when used in conjunction with the right spells, can be immensely powerful for controlling crowds and picking enemies off one at a time: Ice Lance, for instance, does triple damage to frozen enemies, making it a great way of swiftly damaging and whittling down the number of foes one deals with.

  • Admittedly, one of the reasons I spun up my private server back up was because I wasn’t having too great of a time with using the dungeon finder in the Starter Edition: since I’m not running a full account and therefore cannot give rare items to myself from a higher level account, I wasn’t competitive enough in the damage department. During my first and only dungeon, the party decided to kick me simply because I wasn’t doing enough damage. I’ve heard that being kicked isn’t uncommon, but it was going to be a drag to have to wait a quarter hour to find a party, only to get booted for no discernible reason. The main perk about a private server, is that I am free to explore to my heart’s content without impacting other players.

  • For level-appropriate players, the fight with final boss, Edwin VanCleef, would’ve been an epic one; in retrospect, I would’ve very much have liked to at least go through these dungeons with all of my friends on the old private server, since it would’ve given us a chance to really work together to beat an enemy that, while powerful, was not ludicrously challenging. Like the Stockade, though, I was a one-man wrecking crew, and I ended up finishing the Deadmines in the space of fifteen minutes.

  • My return to Azeroth has been an excellent, enjoyable experience so far, and now, my only goal is to really just keep exploring the different places available in World of Warcraft, documenting my journey here as time allows. This is a bit of an open-ended project, so I can’t say for sure how many posts there will be, but for now, I can say that my next World of Warcraft post will be about Blackrock Depths and the Molten Core, which I attempted a few weeks ago, on the hottest few days of the year. I am also planning to write about my travels in Outland, some of the places in Azeroth with a more distinct aesthetic, and eventually, Northrend (which I never set foot on).

World of Warcraft, like any other role-playing game, was designed to be a time investment, where levelling up is a central part of the experience and the goal is to reach the endgame, which is where the hunt for excellent gear begins. However, for me, World of Warcraft represents one of the most enjoyable games for exploration: the game offers an incredible diversity of biomes and environments, from gentle forests and lakes, to volcanic hellscapes, festering swamps, frigid mountains and a shattered planet. When my friend’s server shut down, I had explored a fraction of Azeroth and most of Outland, but never got around to hitting Northrend. For the longest time, I had longed to return and continue my journey – I originally bought Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to fill the void, and while Skyrim is a beautiful game with its own, extensively list of merits, it’s not World of Warcraft. My desire to revive a private server was for the sake of exploration, and to this end, I’ve decided to play World of Warcraft as a player returning to it for the first time in a decade. I’ve configured my account to have GM-level permissions, allowing me to trivially spawn items, gold and other elements: because I’m the only person on my server, I intend to play World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King solely to explore every corner of Azeroth and Outland, rather than complete raids and optimise my character for its intended function. Exploring World of Warcraft on my own, without a party consisting of a tank and healer, can be tricky, and further to this, there is no level scaling in Wrath of the Lich King. I see no qualms in using my GM powers to create a powered-up character that is ready for an adventure to the coolest places in Azeroth, allowing me to pick up where I’d left off eleven summers ago.

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