The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft: A Blood Elf Warlock’s Journey of Silvermoon Forest and The Ghostlands

“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” –Arthur M. Schlesinger

In retrospect, I should’ve applied for a position at the Chapters Indigo branch downtown that summer. Instead, I ended up spending my summer vacation of secondary school in World of Warcraft and biking around the quadrant of my city. I feel that the extra work experience could’ve done me some good, but what’s done is done. What ended up happening was that one of my friends, who’d rolled a Night Elf rogue, decided to roll an Undead character, and was looking to party up to explore Horde areas in World of Warcraft. Since my days were quite idle, I decided to take up this suggestion, rolling a Blood Elf warlock as a result. The warlock class is a caster focuses purely on dealing damage: lore paints warlocks as using dark magic to inflict destruction and control dæmons for their own ends, contrasting mages, who use magic in a wide range of support roles alongside damage. In practise, this means that warlocks are a specialised caster that focuses purely on damage and survivability, whereas mages provide more support for their party, and having played only a mage up until that point, I was curious to see how a pure damage class would handle. As it turns out, the warlock is great for solo experiences, having a range of effective spells to blast enemies, and at the same time, also allow the player to heal back up after fights (whereas with the mage, one is more dependent on potions or food if playing solo). The warlock class also provide a free mount, taking the form of the Felsteed and Dreadsteed, allowing one to travel around areas much more quickly than a mage could at lower levels. As I soon discovered, the warlock levelling experience proved rather more enjoyable than it had been for mages: this was in part owing to the spells and abilities available to warlocks, as well as the unique appearance of the Blood Elves’ starting areas, the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands.

While period reviews felt the new starting areas were more isolated than other starting areas, they also found that the areas were better designed, allowing players to progress much more smoothly: the need to travel extensively was reduced, and each of the quests offer a much deeper insight into each species’ lore and background compared to the original World of Warcraft‘s. The end result was a more polished experience that encouraged players to still explore, but made it possible to level up more efficiently and push players on the path towards the endgame. As a Gnome mage, I found that levelling was quite tedious on account of the travelling I needed to do, and the vast expanse of the territory that Elwynn Forest, Westfall, Red Ridge Mountains and Duskwood covered meant that there was a lot of running around between areas. By comparison, Eversong Woods and the Ghostlands are much more focused. There’s a smaller emphasis on travel, but the areas are still well-designed, allowing players to really focus on getting up to speed with their new character and lore while enjoying what the new areas have to offer. Eversong Woods’ distinct Blood Elf architecture and vegetation create a sense of melancholy, of a once-great civilisation now on the brink, and similarly, the Ghostlands accentuate how much damage the Blood Elves’ home had sustained after the Scourge’s attempts to conquer their capital, Silvermoon City. The entire land is awash in an eerie blue light even during midday, but frequent Blood Elf outposts and settlements show that this land has not been lost. The unique combination of aesthetic and map design made it especially enjoyable to level up here, and as the summer drew to a close, I had a Blood Elf warlock that was ready to explore Azeroth with my friend.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I begin my warlock journey fully powered up: the intent of this revisit isn’t to re-live the old levelling experience as I’d known it all those summers ago, but rather, to re-tread old places. As such, I’ve wielded my GM powers to whip up a warlock that, while not optimised for end-game PvE or PvP content, allows me to explore these starting areas without worrying about anything.

  • Here, I travel along the Dead Scar, a track of charred, dead land bisecting both the Eversong Woods and the Ghostlands. In this scorched land, undead and spirits roam free, and early on, players will need to take on these monsters for various quests. The Scourge’s march here eons ago corrupted the soil such that nothing could grow, and for beginning players, crossing the Dead Scar can be a challenge, as there are enough undead to pose a challenge. There are a few paths one can use to make this crossing, making things easier.

  • The Eversong Woods stood out to me for its eternal twilight colours and peaceful scenery, golden-orange foliage and the area’s distinct ambient music, which makes use of choir, harp, piano and cello to capture the Blood Elves’ mystical background. Until Pandaria was introduced, Eversong Woods was my absolute favourite of the starting areas, although owing to its remoteness, it doesn’t have anywhere near the foot traffic of Elwynn Forest in the retail game.

  • The Tranquil Shore lives up to its name: located further west than the West Sanctum, this beach is home to the Murlocs, an amphibious species that prefer to swarm their enemies with overwhelming numbers. Murlocs can be found almost everywhere in Azeroth, and I do remember incurring their wrath as a lower-level adventurer back in the day. Of course, when one steers clear of Murloc settlements, which I count an eyesore, the coastal areas of Azeroth are quite beautiful, and here, I stop to admire a sunset.

  • I’m actually not too sure how my friend altered the realm time such that it differs from the server time via the configurations: one of the things I’ve longed to do since getting my own server up was to explore Azeroth at different times of day. However, owing to my schedule, on weeknights, I’m typically available between 1900 and 2030 local time, during which sunset and twilight occurs on Azeroth. The end result is that most of my screenshots happen closer to evening. While some areas look their best during this time (such as Westfall), I would be curious to see what Azeroth looks like during mid-day or night.

  • I think that the only solution I have for the present will be to change my system clock before starting the server, which should do the trick: if this is the way to do it, I could see myself returning in the future with a set of night screenshots. For now, I am content to explore Azeroth by evening hours: the Eversong Woods look consistent during the different times of day, so this never really impacted my ability to take solid-looking screenshots.

  • After I created my warlock, my first goal was to get a hundred percent quest completion in the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands. Strictly speaking, it’s not necessary to complete all quests in an area to level up. While finishing all quests is a fantastic way to explore the lore, completing major quest lines will provide one with the experience needed to level up. I’ve found that it’s easiest to have as many quests active at once as possible, since this makes every encounter more likely to yield something relevant to that quest.

  • Since my goal wasn’t to get to the mid-game, this time around, I was able to explore the northeastern edges of Eversong Woods, home to the Duskwither Spire. This floating spire can only be reached by means of teleportation, and one of the quest lines here was to deactivate magic crystals here after experiments ran amok, leading to calamity. A recurring theme is that with their addiction to magic, after the destruction of the Sunwell, the Blood Elves sought an alternate power source with often devastating results.

  • Warlocks have access to three talent trees: destruction is about dealing direct damage, affliction is for dealing damage over time, and dæmonolgy enables warlocks to summon dæmons to fight on their behalf and provide assistance or support in combat. As a warlock, my favourite spells are all destruction-oriented: destruction warlocks handle most similarly to mages, and as a solo player on a private server, my goal was simply to deal the most amount of damage in the least amount of time. Of the spells available to me, I use Incinerate and Searing Pain the most as my primary direct damage sources.

  • Because my warlock is unoptimised, using Shadow Bolt, the mainstay direct damage spell for affliction and dæmonolgy warlocks consumes a large amount of mana. With the right equipment and skills, however, mana regeneration was enough so that this stopped being an impediment. For one reason or another, I never learned the Incinerate technique and instead, stuck with Shadow Bolt. Immolate became my primary fire spell at the time. However, after playing World of Warcraft‘s retail version, I found that Wrath of the Lich King did indeed have Incinerate, providing me with another good damage dealing spell.

  • For my journey, I ran with the Staff of Endless Winter, a rather powerful-looking staff that confers an intelligence, stamina and spirit boost. Normally, it is acquired by defeating Hodir in Northerend’s Ulduar instance; a special cache will drop if Hodir is beaten in under three minutes, containing this staff. For my part, having a private server and the corresponding lack of players to party with means that raids are out of my reach. Later World of Warcraft expansions make it such that as players levelled up to 120, they became powerful enough to trivially solo the original game’s raids without difficulty.

  • As I am only twenty levels higher right now, while I am able to blast my way through level sixty dungeons without any difficulty, my damage is nowhere near enough for me to take on raids on my own. I’m not sure if I’ll change up my server and client for a more recent version for the time being; as tempting as it is to get a newer server and client, my original goal had simply been to explore the World of Warcraft I knew as a student, and after Cataclysm, Azeroth is completely different, being sundered by Deathwing, whose arrival destroys a dimensional barrier that adversely changes the face of Azeroth.

  • This is probably one of my favourite places in the whole of the Eversong Woods, where a river flows over a waterfall, surrounded by trees of crimson and gold. After the events of Cataclysm, familiar areas of Azeroth are completely altered. Having said this, newer World of Warcraft expansions offer more options and places to explore, so it could be worth exploring the setup of a newer server in the future. For now, I am content to stick with my current server, as there still remains quite a bit of turf in the pre-Cataclysm Azeroth that I’ve not yet explored.

  • After finishing the massive list of quests I had from Eversong Woods, and exploring all of the corners of this starting area, I next turned my attention to the Ghostlands. This was where levelling my warlock had really become fun, as the game began introducing new challenges to me. Back then, I didn’t have a mount, so getting around between the different quest areas always took an inordinate amount of time; if memory serves, I spent about two-fifths of my time travelling between quest-givers and the areas where the quest-related objectives were.

  • By comparison, I spent almost three-fifths of my time travelling when I was levelling my mage in the Elwynn Forest and area. The difference meant that I was able to level up faster and hit 20 in a much shorter time, but even this had taken me much of the summer. This is one of the reasons why I never got into World of Warcraft for real: the time commitment was something that I simply didn’t have. For my revisit, I was able to have a much easier time of things: unlocking a Dreadsteed and increasing my land movement speed made it much easier to get around.

  • In order to have the most complete Ghostlands experience, I thus decided to take on every quest possible. While I had a Dreadsteed and fully-levelled spells, the key aspect that made questing efficient this time around was the fact that I’d accepted everything, and so, I could travel to quest-relevant areas, complete the assigned task, move onto the next, and repeat until all of my quests were completed. Turning them in all at once made for much less travelling, and would also allows me to pick up the next set of quests.

  • Knucklerot and Luzran are two elite abominations wandering the Ghostlands. They represent some of the toughest enemies players can fight early in the game, and their massive, grotesque profile makes them quite memorable, but players with familiarity with their classes and the right setup can still fight them. For me, when I encountered them for a quest, I ended up using my Voidwalker to tank the damage and aggro while I watched from afar. It was a bit of a lengthy process, but I was able to solo them. I imagine on a live server, other players may occasionally step in.

  • As a destruction warlock, my favourite spell is Rain of Fire, which calls down a hail of hellfire that burns all enemies in an area. Area of Effect (AoE) spells are effective for knocking down groups of enemies, and the Rain of Fire, like Blizzard, can be used to target specific areas. Hellfire is another AoE spell I have, being a channeled spell that deals fire damage to all enemies within 10 yards of the player, but at the same time, also damages the player. Most effective in a party, where one has a priest on hand for healing, I’ve not found this spell to be too effective while soloing.

  • On the western edge of the Ghostlands is the Windrunner Village and Wind Runner Spire, a haunted area not unlike the graveyards and farms of Duskwood. I passed through the Windrunner Village en route to the Plagued Coast, where unsurprisingly, the quest had been to retrieve spines from Morlocs. Quests done in the Ghostlands give considerable reputation towards Tranquillien, the only village and hub in the area,

  • For my warlock, I ended up going with herbalism and alchemy, gathering herbs to create potions, elixirs and other reagents that bolster performance: the choice was motivated by a wish to see what the other professions entailed, since as a mage, I went with tailoring and enchanting. As an alchemist, I admit that being able to craft mana potions and keep topped off during my travels was a major part of my interest to check things out. At some point, I am also curious to roll a hunter with mining and engineering.

  • Because I am fully levelled, one thing I do enjoy doing is the practise of pulling large groups of enemies around me before slaying them all with a single spell. This practise is definitely not advisable at lower levels, where large groups of level-appropriate enemies will promptly wipe the players out if they are playing solo. While fighting Morlocs, my thoughts strayed to a conversation I had with a classmate years earlier, to a time before I started playing World of Warcraft: said classmate had been trying to get me into World of Warcraft and warned that Morlocs were the one foe I’d come to malign at lower levels.

  • When I began my own journey on my friend’s private server, the classmate’s warnings turned out to be true. This classmate had been a big-time gamer back then, and it was through him a bunch of us were introduced to Half-Life 2. However, this classmate didn’t really appear to have a plan for the future, and while we’d hung out during my first year of university, he eventually started chilling with a bunch of students in the computer labs who were always there irrespective of the time of day or week, gaming away on their laptops or watching anime.

  • I never did get these particular students: regardless of whether it was early morning, after I handed in an assignment before heading off to the health science campus, or late afternoon, prior to my organic chemistry labs, the same people would always be there, playing World of WarcraftLeague of Legends or Planetside 2. Because my classmate spent more time here with these students, we eventually drifted apart. At present, I have no idea how he’s doing. In general, how such students operate is beyond me: we go to university to learn and pick up the skills that act as a stepping stone for what lies ahead, and it is very wasteful to throw that time away on things like games.

  • With this being said, I always set aside Friday evenings for games, but otherwise, I did my utmost to keep up with my coursework. In retrospect, I do not regret my decisions: for eight months of the year, I studied hard to ensure I could maintain satisfactory standing during my undergrad, and by graduate school, I had enough time to maintain my GPA, advance my thesis project and squeeze in gaming. In the years subsequent, I noticed that the part of the computer science lab the gamers frequented were replaced by new students, who were using the space legitimately (whether it was working on assignments or studying), and so, I cannot help but wonder how those gamers are faring today.

  • In my haste to reach Tranquillen, I ended up skipping over a fair number of early quests along the Dead Scar, but would go back to complete them. Here, I return to the Plagued Coast early in the evening, a few hours before sunset. The colours in this still neatly summarise why the Ghostlands were one of my favourite areas in World of Warcraft: there’s a hauntingly beautiful character about the deep blue colours of the Ghostlands sky.

  • Just south of Lake Elrendar is the Farstrider Enclave, host to a Blood Elf group that watch over the Ghostlands’ eastern territories. It is comparatively remote and takes a ways to reach, so when I did my quests here, I simply accepted them all at once, finished them in accordance with whatever I encountered first, and then this way, I only needed to make a single trip back to the Farstrider Enclave. As it turns out, this time around, there were a bunch of quests I never completed, including one that involved defeating spirits that inhabit the lake itself.

  • The Shadowpine Trolls inhabit the eastern edge of the Ghostlands, and players are sent here to slay a certain number, as well as collect their weapons. Lore states that the forest trolls and elves have been longtime enemies, and while the elves traditionally had the advantage, the destruction of the Sunwell had allowed the trolls to seize the initiative. The players are thus called upon to help hold the fort against this enemy, and here, I use Rain of Fire to destroy a group of unaware trolls.

  • Over the course of three hours or so, I ended up finishing all of the different quests in the Ghostlands, and at last, was finally ready to take on The Traitor’s Destruction. At level twenty, this quest recommends a party of five: Dar’Khan Drathir is covered by several minons, and as he has access to Fear, he can cause enemies to run away for four seconds. Players who’ve done this suggest taking a party and silencing him, and on my original run, I ended up using my ability to silence while a friend then helped me to clear the other minions away, turning a tricky fight into a simpler one.

  • Located at the southern end of the Ghostlands, Deatholme is a fortress belonging the the Scourge. I ended up saving all of the quests for Deatholme, deciding to do them all in one stroke. Thus, I ended up clearing away Dar’Kan’s undead lieutenants, freed the captive Blood Elves and squared off against Dar’Kan himself in the same run. Armed with a maxed out character, I ended up beating Dar’Kan and his minions with a single AoE spell, speaking to how dramatic the power differences are between level appropriate characters and characters at the level cap.

  • Finishing all the quests in the Ghostlands meant that I became exhalted with Tranquillen, and I set off for Silvermoon City, ready to continue on with my journey. It turns out that I’d also completed a hundred quests. With this, my latest World of Warcraft post comes to an end: as of now, I’ve finished revisiting all of the areas I’d travelled through years earlier, and the next time I return to write about World of Warcraft will be when I set foot on Northerend, which will mark the first time I’d ever done so. While my friend had a Wrath of the Lich King server back in the day, we shut down before I had a chance to visit.

By the time I had hit level twenty, my friend decided to help me finish off the last of the quests in the Ghostlands: this marked the first time I needed a group to help me out, and for good reason. The quest, The Traitor’s Destruction, requires that players neutralise Dar’Khan Drathir, a former Blood Elf magister who joined forces with Arthas. After fighting our way through Deathome, we finally reached his lair. While the game recommends a minimum level of 15, at level 20, the two of us were enough to beat the quest, and for my troubles, I unlocked the Staff of the Sun, a rare staff that conferred some nifty bonuses for level 20 players. By this point, term started, and my other friend, who had been running the server, decided to level everyone to the cap so we could do a dungeon together. I never did explore more of the Horde regions. More recently, I was able to return to the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands on my private server. In my adventures, I ended up clearing all of the quests in the area over the course of a few hours, and returning brought back memories of that summer years earlier. This time around, owing to the fact it’s my server, I was able to finish everything off on short order, making use of a fully-levelled character to explore with impunity. It was a journey down memory lane to a much simpler time; this time around, I had a bit more time to check out areas that I’d originally missed. I found myself surprised that despite it being a ways over a decade since I last tread the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands, the locations of everything still came quite naturally to me. In no time at all, I’d wrapped up all of the quests in the Ghostlands and became exalted with Tranquillien. Having now revisited another one of my old World of Warcraft experiences, I set my sights on hitherto unexplored territory next: Northerend. My friend’s private server was updated to include the Wrath of the Lich King expansion back in the day, and it remained live for a few months before finally shutting down. I had been busy exploring the remainder of Azeroth at the time and never got around to visiting Northerend at the time, but with my own private server now, I think the time has come to rectify this.

World of Warcraft: Through the Dark Portal to Outland

If you closed your eyes, you won’t gaze into sadness.
If you forget the feeling of warmth, you won’t feel pain.

–Houko Kuwashima, Shinkai no Kodoku

My last World of Warcraft adventure saw me traverse the more scenic places on Azeroth, and with most of Azeroth now visited, I set my sights on the next world: Outland, the shattered remains of a planet known as Draenor. After travelling to the Blasted Lands, I spoke with Relthorn Netherwane for the Through the Dark Portal quest and sought out Commander Duron on the other end. Upon emerging from the portal, I gazed upon an alien sky, littered with planetary fragments, aglow with a nebulae and adorned with two moons. I thus set off for Honour Hold with the goal of picking up a flying mount; the distances in Outland are considerably larger than those of Azeroth owing to the fact that this area had been designed for flying mounts. With my flying mount purchased, I began exploring the desolate ruins that was Outland – this region was introduced with the Burning Crusade expansion in 2007, the first of the World of Warcraft Expansions. When I had passed through the Dark Portal for the first time, it had been a quiet September evening just a ways into my final year of secondary school. My friends had kitted my mage out at the level cap, allowing me to explore the private server to my heart’s content, and having tread through most of Azeroth, I was ready to check out the other region available in Burning Crusade. The sheer scale of the Hellfire Peninsula was awe-inspiring and a little intimidating – although I was fully levelled, the unusual sights and sounds made the area a sight to behold. The larger size of the area made travel a slow process, and although the group of us did do a dungeon here, the fact that it was our final year of secondary school meant that we were spending increasingly less time in World of Warcraft; much of Outland thus remained unexplored.

After passing the standardised provincial exams and securing our admissions to our program of choice, my friends decided re-open the private World of Warcraft server for the summer break before university was set to begin. During this time, I explored regions of Outland briefly, using a flying mount to reach areas much more quickly than had been previously possible. By the summer’s end, my friend decided to shut down the private server and set his sights on creating a private EVE Online server. I’d acquired a decent number of screenshots from my experiences and had most of the spots in Outland discovered. While I’d wished to have seen Outland in more detail, World of Warcraft faded from my mind. Earlier last summer, having recreated my own private server, the chance to explore Outland again had returned. This time around, I was able to check out Outland’s more iconic locations in Zangarmarsh, Nagrand, Terokkar Forest and Netherstore more carefully. It became apparent that beyond the desolation of the aptly-named Hellfire Peninsula, Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley, the remainder of Outland is still somewhat hospitable. Terokkar Forest retains dense vegetation, Zangarmarsh is still teeming with life, with its striking mushrooms towering above the ground, and Nagrand’s peaceful rolling grasslands belie the fact that Outland is the sundered remains of a planet. Being a region of great beauty, it became clear that Outland, designed to accommodate flying mounts and larger player counts, was meant to be the next stop for players seeking to reach the level cap. The vastness of the region was thus noticeable on a private server; without other players around, things feel distinctly lonely.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The first time I set foot here at the Stair of Destiny, on the edge of Hellfire Peninsula, would’ve been back during my final year of secondary school. It was early in September, and after my friend had maxed out everyone in our party so we could explore dungeons, I decided to capitalise on my newfound powers to go exploring in Outland. Unlike the verdant forests and welcoming plains of the areas I spent most of my time in, Hellfire Peninsula was a very hostile and uninviting environment. The evening I had finally set foot through the Dark Portal, I remember heading straight for Honour Hold to discover the first flight path.

  • On the same evening, I had begun hunting for music from Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny – at the time, I’d just begun watching anime, and having found Rie Tanaka’s Token of Water, I had been curious to check out other songs from this series. I ended up finding Fields of Hope, Quiet Night (and the CE 73 remix), Emotion, Vestige and Meteor, as well as Shinkai no Kodoku. There had been a haunting quality about what I would later learn was Stellar’s character song. I’ve since associated the song with this part of World of Warcraft for little reason beyond having listened to it while exploring Hellfire Peninsula.

  • On my return visit last August, after I reached Honour Hold, I immediately picked up the artisan riding skill and a swift Gryphon mount to explore Outland more easily. Even with a flying mount, Outland is vast, and it took some time for me to discover all of the spots in the Hellfire Peninsula area. Hellfire Peninsula was designed for level sixty players looking to gear up for tougher challenges, and so, the monsters here will take more than one spell to defeat. Here, I stand on a field of Draenai bones – according to the lore, Draenor was once home of the orcs, and in their thirst for conquest, they slaughtered Draenai in droves.

  • When Burning Crusade first released, hordes of excited players passed through the Dark Portal as I did, spawning to Hellfire Peninsula and causing unexpected issues on the servers. Besides server loads, latency and connectivity problems, extremely high player counts meant that monsters were not respawning quickly enough for quests, creating frustration for the players that did manage to connect. A few days after launch, as players began moving into other areas in Outland, this issue resolved itself, but Blizzard would address this in Wrath of the Lich King by creating two different starting areas to manage player loads better.

  • Since I was already at the level cap, there was no real reason to take on too many quests in Outland, but for Hellfire Peninsula, I decided to go exploring in more detail than I had previously – after accepting a variety of quests from Honour Hold, I spent a few evenings blasting low level enemies and explored more of Hellfire Peninsula than I had during my original run more than a decade ago. Once I had most of Hellfire Peninsula discovered, I set World of Warcraft aside to focus more on The Division 2, and returned only recently to finish discovering regions in Outland. Of late, finding a balance between all of my games has been a bit of a challenge.

  • This is admittedly why I’ve not written this post sooner: my original goal had actually been to wrap up my exploration of Outland last September and write about the experience in October, before turning my attention towards recreating my Blood Elf warlock and exploring Northerend. A pair of anime to review episodically, in conjunction with The Division 2‘s manhunt seasons and Halo: MCC releases meant I was up to my eyeballs in stuff, and World of Warcraft thus fell to the back of my mind. Here, I set foot in Zangarmarsh – I’d never really explored this area in detail previously, having only passed through on the way to Nagrand and its peaceful glass fields.

  • Zangarmarsh is usually the second place that players visit after clearing Hellfire Peninsula, and is counted as one of the coolest-looking places in World of Warcraft. While I may have skipped over this area earlier, this time around, I had the time to take a look-see. The area is every bit as exotic as people describe: underneath the deep blue skies and wetlands, vast mushrooms whose cap exudes a light orange glow. The effect is very pleasant and pleasing to behold.

  • While I do have access to by own flying mount, I appreciate the existence of flight paths, which allow players without artisan or expert riding to get around easily; because of the greater distances between everything, flight times are longer, and correspondingly, it costs a bit more to fly. However, since Outland was geared for level sixty players to begin upgrading their gear, even common gear sells for a decent price, and in no time at all, players will begin finding the gear they seek. The uncommons in Outland were oftentimes more powerful than most rares, and offered similar attributes as epics, similarly to how Warlords of New York‘s common level 31 items were more powerful than gear score 515 items.

  • After checking out most of Zangarmarsh, I moved onwards to Nagrand, the only place in Outland with green grass and blue skies. Although the most normal-looking of the regions in Outland, even here, the effects of the Shattering are visible. The unusual-looking nebulae is still visible during the day, and floating islands dot the area. Of all the areas in Outland, Nagrand looked the emptiest, and initially, I wondered if my copy of the resource database was missing assets: it took me a full hour to try and find the flight master, and there didn’t seem to be any major settlements.

  • As it turns out, I simply hadn’t been looking hard enough, and sure enough, I was able to locate the flight master here in Nagrand near the town of Halaa. This area is the home of the original orcs, and lore states that the area most resembles Draenor pre-Shattering. This is one of the few places in Outland where the realm time affects the time of day in-game; during the afternoon, the skies are of a bright blue colour, while during evenings and mornings, the sky takes on a purple hue. Because my realm time is always my system time, I’ve never actually seen Azeroth or any World of Warcraft location by nightfall.

  • I’ve long wondered if sunrise and sunset times affect this; I should make an effort to test this out ahead of the Vernal Equinox, when the length of the night is still longer than that of the day. Of course, I could always change my system clock manually if I wish to explore Azeroth by nightfall, and this might be worthwhile as a future post. Back in the present, I pass through a seemingly empty village. I did end up finding some monsters to fight, and after exploring most of Nagrand, I decided to head on over to Terokkar Forest.

  • Terrokar Forest is a region of dense forest surrounding Shattrath City, a neutral sanctuary area similar to the Stair of Destiny. There are flight hubs, inns and vendors here for both Alliance and Horde factions alike. After locating the flight master, I set about exploring Terrokar forest: the crystal pines, as they are called in-game, emit a faint light from their cones that creates a mystical feel about the area, and unlike the harder-hit areas of Outland, Terrokar forest still feels very much alive.

  • I was surprised to find Human assets reused here in Terrokar forest: the town hall here is the same one used in human settlements on Azeroth. While seeing human town halls in Outland does feel a little out of place, it does make sense that if humans have made their home in some part of Outland, they’d bring their architecture with them. Asset recycling is not that uncommon of a practise in software development, saving on work time, and it’s a bonus that in games, lore can be adapted to work with development processes, as well.

  • After I uncovered most of the places in Terrokar Forest, the next location on my list was the Blade’s Edge Mountains. This intimidating-looking area is characterised by knife-like rock formations jutting out of the mountains, separating accessible areas. I’d never actually visited before, even during my old private server days, and so, upon entering the region from Zangarmarsh, I was quite surprised to see a forest by twilight: the map had suggested the entire thing would be a desert-like region.

  • This was not the case, and I spent some time exploring this side of the Blade’s Edge Mountains: on my way in from Zangarmarsh, I’d accepted a quest from one of the quest givers, which required I talk to someone at an outpost in the Blade’s Edge Mountains. Previously, when I played World of Warcraft, my preferred style of play was to only go visit a new area if I’d acquired a quest that required me to travel there. From an experience perspective, this makes the most sense, and I would eventually bring this style over with me into Skyrim. In games like The Division, on the other hand, natural progression and smaller maps would see me explore every corner of the game world.

  • After taking to the skies, I soon found that a large portion of the Blade’s Edge Mountains were indeed barren desert as I’d imagined. While the jagged, menacing-looking rocky formations appear as though they would impale anyone who fell off their mount, limitations in World of Warcraft‘s game engine means that falling onto these rocks do not result in any damage: instead, it is falling damage that would cause the most harm to a player. Here, I fly over an encampment near Bloodspire Hold en route to the Netherstorm.

  • After reaching Death’s Door, I saw an Alliance outpost here and dropped in to discover the flight path before moving on. For most players of the time, the Blade’s Edge Mountains would not have been fully accessible until they’d acquired artisan riding: there are some areas that have no land paths reaching them. In my case, this isn’t a problem, but I’ve read that particularly determined players can reach these areas by jumping off Outland’s edge, which, depending on where one dies, the game will register them as being near these inaccessible areas.

  • Netherstorm was the last region in Outland I was interested in checking out: it is a perilous region of swirling energy, barren rock and dark skies, but the area’s most distinct features are the vast eco-domes that were constructed here. These eco-domes resemble vast conservatories, and their interiors possess verdant vegetation and different animals. Players can simply walk through the barriers at any time, which are maintained by devices known as Manaforges. Here, a Manaforge can be seen drawing in Nether from the nearby regions and using it to maintain the domes.

  • I’ve opted not to explore Shadowmoon Valley, a miserable and desolate wasteland seething with greenish Fel energy. While important from a lore perspective, it wasn’t too photogenic. At the time of writing, I have more or less discovered most of the major areas in Outland; I enjoyed some areas more than others, but on the whole, this was a fun experience. For most players, Outland would’ve become familiar as they progressed from level 60 to 70, and eventually reached a point where they had a satisfactory setup for partying up and dealing with the different instances and raids that Outland had to offer.

  • For me, Burning Crusade brought the Blood Elves to the table; I had a great deal of fun levelling up a Blood Elf warlock back in the day, and in particular, remember a challenging quest that gave me a rare item while I’d been at level 20. While World of Warcraft: Starter Edition meant completing this quest wasn’t going to happen if I’d tried it on my own, having my own server means I’ll be able to really explore the lore in the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands. This is going to be my next World of Warcraft post: I can’t promise a specific date as to when I’ll get here, but I’ll definitely try to be more expedient about it than I had been with Outland. With this World of Warcraft reminiscence post in the books, regular programming will resume this week, as I write about the third episode of Yuru Camp△ 2 and do an after-three discussion for Non Non Biyori Nonstop.

With no time constraints this time around, I’ve now visited a majority of the places in Outland. From the floating islands in Nagrand and the town built into the mushrooms of Zangarmarsh, to the spiny formations of Blade’s Edge Mountains and the eco-domes of the Netherstorm, I found myself impressed at how much effort and detail went into World of Warcraft‘s first expansion. Each region in Outland was distinct and noteworthy in some way, and for players of the time, there would’ve been no shortage of things to do as one pushed towards level seventy. The setup World of Warcraft used for its expansions has since been used in other cases: The Division 2 follows the same model, allowing players who’ve purchased the expansion to experience new content, acquire superior gear and explore new areas. Having gone through Warlords of New York, I imagine Burning Crusade would’ve offered World of Warcraft players a similar path, in which exploration would allow them to become increasingly powerful and learned with the new lore that Burning Crusade introduced. Burning Crusade also introduced the Blood Elves, as well as their starting areas (Eversong Woods and Ghostlands): before I set foot on Northerend, I do wish to revisit what is probably one of my favourite starting areas in World of Warcraft and reacquaint myself with playing the warlock class, which specialises in affliction and DPS magic. There is a story behind me spinning up a second character on the private server, and I’ll share that in between the host of anime-related posts I’ve got planned out, once I’ve had a chance to get my warlock started.

World of Warcraft: Exploring the Seasons of Azeroth

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” —Ecclesiastes

It’s been a while since I last wrote about World of Warcraft, but to put things in perspective, the two and a half months between this post and my last, on Blackrock Depths and the Molten Core, pales in comparison to the fact that my original World of Warcraft post on my old site dates back nearly ten years. After I finished exploring what was counted to be World of Warcraft‘s most iconic endgame mission with a properly kitted-up mage, I decided to spin up a paladin for variety’s sake and go exploring – originally, when I had been on a friend’s private server years previously, I was more focused on doing level-appropriate quests and partying up with friends where they were available. Because this private server had only a slightly accelerated experience rate and standard drop rates, I spent most of my time in the lower level areas of the game, trying to ensure that I was sufficiently levelled to join friends on different events without requiring being resurrected every other engagement with enemies. As a result, many parts of Azeroth were completely unknown to me: I’d spent almost all of my time in the Eastern Kingdoms and hardly ever set foot on Kalimdor, the western continent. This changed when I accepted a quest from Collin Mauren, Retrieval for Mauren – said quest entailed bringing a total of eight Crystalised Scales to him in Stormwind. The quest gave a Spellcrafter Wand, which would’ve been a decent prize at my level, and so, I accepted. This quest saw me travel south, flying over Stranglethorn Vale to Booty Bay: because my friends had once summoned me here for an earlier meet up, I already had the flight path discovered, so I was able to simply pass over the areas I was not the appropriate level to deal with. I subsequently boarded the boat and landed in the Barrens. Eluding Horde guards and patrols, I reached the Stonetalon Mountains and made my way to the Charred Vale to begin collecting the Crystalised Scales.

Later that evening, I’d been requested to help out with an event: one of the local charities was hosting a focus group on trying to understand what the community thought of philanthropy, and since the original attendee was not able to make it, I was asked to go in their stead. The meeting was held in a building just south of the downtown core, and as the light of day turned a deep golden hue as sun set, I answered questions about what it meant to be a philanthropist. While it is commonly accepted that a philanthropist is someone of independent financial means who can donate generously to causes, such as medical research and charities, all of the participants agreed that the desire to help others in need, and contributions at all levels were meaningful. This was the aim of the focus group, and after the meeting ended, I returned home. With the last rays of light still present, I finished the quest, returned to Mauren and got my Spellcrafter Wand, which would serve me for a few levels. While exploring the Stonetalon Mountains, I was charmed with the visual design and aesthetic – the area consists of evergreen forests and steep cliffs, quite unlike the gentle plains of Elwynn Forest or the peaks of Dun Morogh. However, despite my intrigue, I never bothered returning to the Stonetalon Mountains until the private server’s final days – as we were nearing the start of a university term, my friend was looking to shut down the private server owing to the effort it took to run one, but consenting to let me explore being a GM for the final week before our first term began. Armed with the ability to create a level 80 character out of the gates, I summarily prepared a character and took advantage of my permissions to explore Azeroth more freely: during that week, I saw more of Azeroth than I had during the whole of my time on the private server. I collected the screenshots and transitioned smoothly into university subsequently, with thoughts of World of Warcraft fading from my mind as I began focusing on my coursework.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • All of the screenshots in this post date back to September, and I admit that this post was originally intended to be written then. However, I became enthralled by YU-NO, and so, ended up putting off this post. Further to this, after The Division 2‘s manhunt events began, I stopped playing World of Warcraft in order to complete the various objectives and unlock gear for my character. Over the past three months, I’ve made considerable strides in The Division 2, and I’ll be talking about that as soon as the current event is over.

  • Even though Wrath of the Lich King is twelve years old now, the game doesn’t look half bad at 1080p: when I first started playing World of Warcraft, I was rocking a Dell XPS 420 and gamed at a resolution of 1024 by 768 to maximise frame rates. The additional screen space now really helps me to appreciate the details that I missed then, and the Stonetalon Mountains have a very distinct, unique feel to them because of the combination of its narrow red cliffs, blue skies, evergreen trees and Tauren totems that give the area a very exotic feel.

  • Because I did the philanthropy focus group the same evening I reached the Stonetalon Mountains, the two are inexplicably related in my mind: every time I pass by the building south of the downtown core where the focus group happened, I am reminded of the Stonetalon Mountains. Back in high school, course work was very straightforwards and I often finished most of my assignments in class – this left a good hour every evening for taking it easy. While I would spend this time doing revision prior to exams, where there were no exams, I could afford to spend time in World of Warcraft.

  • During my original run, I spent about three-quarters of an hour in the Stonetalon Mountains: I had been just powerful enough to hold my own in the Charred Vale, and before the focus group, I had half of the required items already collected. That evening, I finished collecting everything, used my hearthstone to return to Stormwind, and that was the last I would visit the Stonetalon Mountains. Subsequently, I returned after being made a GM in the weeks before the private server closed for good, and I believe I still have a few screenshots on my old site of my paladin before the server shut down.

  • For this post, then, I’ve opted to showcase a paladin I reconstructed to approximate the sort of build I would’ve had back then: paladins are a hybrid melee/healer class that fulfils the role between that of a warrior and priest. Capable of absorbing damage and wielding healing magic, as well as dealing raw damage, a paladin is useful in situations where a party requires a player that can fit into several roles depending on the requirements for that day’s activity. As a solo player, however, the mechanics of a paladin are not as apparent, and I picked the class primarily because of the ability to equip all sorts of armour and weapons, which makes for more interesting screenshots all around.

  • Accepting random quests as a mage had sent me to Azshara, a beautiful region in the northeastern corner of Kalimdor, where it is possible to see evergreen trees with autumn foliage. Reds and oranges dominate the landscape, but despite the splendid scenery, there’s also plenty of hostiles, as well. As a paladin, most of the common enemies in the game have insofar done negligible damage, and I’ve experimented with a wide range of one-handed swords and shields to see what works for me. Because I have access to the GM console, I spent a few evenings looking up items at Wowhead and applying them to my character; this is something I’ve not done for over a decade.

  • In the end, my characters each have two main setups: one for handing dungeons, and a more casual load-out for exploration, designed with aesthetics in mind rather than combat efficiency. I will address the fact that I am running World of Warcraft‘s infamous bikini armours: for anyone coming in from my The Division posts, such a setup would be unrealistic and unimaginable in a setting where bullets are flying, but in World of Warcraft, I don’t mind admitting that the results aren’t half bad.

  • While I might have abused my GM powers to kit myself out however I’d like, I’ve opted to play World of Warcraft in a more conventional manner, completing quests myself and exploring areas the way they were meant to be explored. The use of GM powers is really to offset the fact that I am solo, and that owing to the way I’ve configured things, my server is a true private server, for me to explore at my own pace. In many ways, the solo World of Warcraft experience is not too dissimilar to Skyrim. I picked up Skyrim a few years ago and got a considerable bit of enjoyment out of it, although I’ve never actually completed the main campaign.

  • Of late, while I work, I’ve been listening to a lot of Skyrim remixes on YouTube – background music helps me to focus in general, and I cycle between relaxing piano, bossa nova café and video game ambience depending on what I’m working on and the time of day. When Skyrim joined my rotation, it suddenly hit me that the time is ripe for me to return to Skyrim, remove all the mods and play the game as it was meant to be played, such that I can finish the campaign and say that I did. When I think about it, I bought Skyrim in 2013, and still have yet to finish it: this means that I’ve been procrastinating for nearly seven years.

  • Considering the state of current games, and my general disinterest in multiplayer games, especially since the focus has shifted towards battle royale, and how the player-base is increasingly young, I do not believe that I will have a good time in multiplayer games as I once did, on account of both slowing reflexes and a lack of inclination to listen to children spam memes in every lobby I participate in. Conversely, single-player experiences have been significantly more fun for me, and while I admit that I’ve done some pretty fun things in multiplayer games (like Halo 2, where I got a killimanjaro and wiped servers on my own, decimated entire enemy teams using the Ilya-Muromets in Battlefield 1, or went on a 30+ streak in Battlefield V using a tank), single player games are consistently more relaxing and enjoyable.

  • Without any other players to impact my experience, a private World of Warcraft server lets me to explore Azeroth to my heart’s content: we recall that my original desire to spin up a private server stemmed from a sweaty level 20 party kicking me because my DPS wasn’t high enough. The joke’s on them now: I can trivially solo Shadowfang Keep now, and no one’s kicking me from my own server. Here, I explore Hillsbrad Foothills. I originally visited briefly as a Blood Elf warlock to acquire a few screenshots for my old website, but otherwise, never really explored the area to any detail.

  • At some point in the future, I will be showing off Silvermoon Isle and the Ghostlands: while The Burning Crusade is not one of the most fondly-remembered expansions, the Blood Elves were a great addition to the game, and their obsession with mana makes for an excellent warlock. That will be a story for another time, and here, I wander Hillsbrad Foothills with impunity: like Azshara, Hillsbrad Foothills is a forested region, and is an immensely peaceful setting, with quiet grasslands and tranquil streams. Breaking up the landscape are the occasional evergreen tree in autumn colours. In reality, such a sight would suggest a pine beetle infestation, but in World of Warcraft, a place with magic, we can suppose that their evergreen trees are not like our evergreen trees.

  • According to the World of Warcraft lore, despite its peaceful setting, the area around Hillsbrad Foothills is actually has a checkered past, being the battleground for many a bitter battle between Alliance and Horde. In-game, Horde and Alliance players alike visit the Hillsbrad Foothills owing to its location between Horde and Alliance territory. PvP is common, and this is one of those things that my private private server won’t be able to emulate. I’ve never actually done any PvP in World of Warcraft before, even with my friends: we’d been entirely focused on PvE activities, which my friend found to be rather more meaningful for the community spirit: I think the original reasoning for hosting the server was to foster a sense of community as a part of the IB CAS module.

  • I was never an IB student myself – a lot of folks took the programme because they sought admissions to other universities, but since I had no such ambition at the undergraduate level (and IB wasn’t a requirement for the Bachelor of Health Science programme), I decided for the standard stream. In retrospect, I might’ve been better prepared for some of the challenges that I faced early in my undergraduate degree were I to have an IB background, but the trade-off for this was that I made some unique and enjoyable memories by spending my off time doing other activities, which included yearbook, leading the preparations for graduation and of course, playing World of Warcraft and watching Gundam 00 without being overwhelmed by course work and excessive extracurricular activities.

  • When university started, the first term was a bit of an adjustment, as I needed to acclimatise to the different way courses and schedules were structured. By the second term, I was much more at home with the way things worked. One thing I did notice was that a lot of my fellow students oftentimes did not pay attention in class, and some would even game during class. A few students in my introductory computer science lecture, for instance, were always found in World of Warcraft while the professor spoke of iterations, recursion, object-oriented concepts and the like. Conversely, in my health science classes, all of my classmates (and friends) gave the lecturer their undivided attention.

  • High on my list of places to return to were the Hinterlands: after discovering all of the smaller areas in the Hillsbrad Foothills, I followed a footpath into the Hinterlands and returned to a site I’d not set foot in for over ten years. The Hinterlands are every bit as peaceful and scenic as I remember: while being level-appropriate would have meant the local fauna would have a go at me, the fact that I’m at the level cap means I can explore with impunity.

  • The Hinterlands was a level 40-45 zone in Wrath of the Lich King, and if memory serves, the furthest I ever got was level 36: in order to have a server-wide event with all of us, my friend ended up levelling all of us to the cap and provided us with raid gear sets so we could explore parts of Azeroth together without worrying about being wiped. As such, during my original run, I never did have a chance to explore the Hinterlands, a pristine evergreen forest dotted with lakes and ancient temple ruins. I believe today, with level scaling, level 30 players can begin visiting the region.

  • To reproduce an image I had from back in the day, I found a Primitive Owlbeast to fight. Here, I’m wielding Glorenzelg, High-Blade of the Silver Hand, an epic sword that ordinarily drops from the Lich King himself. It’s a ways more powerful than any of the other swords I’ve looked at, and on top of that, looks like a proper epic, end-game weapon. Each swing deals up to 3000 damage, and the sword has some solid attributes, as well. All of the lore surrounding Arthas and the Lich King is a constant reminder that I’ve still got more to explore in World of Warcraft.

  • With The Division 2‘s third manhunt season drawing to a close, I imagine that I’ll have most of December free – if the previous seasons were any indicator, I should have three weeks between the end of the third season and the beginning of the fourth, so that should give me time enough to explore Outland and write a post for that, as well as begin begin checking out Northrend, which I’d never set foot on during my private server days. In addition, I’ve been thinking about doing a post for GoldenEye 64 for a while, and since my love of first-person shooters comes from the first-ever Bond game for the Nintendo 64, it feels appropriate to look at what is probably one of the most iconic first-person shooters of all time.

  • Here, I wield the Ashbringer, a legendary sword that was only available to GMs until Legion, after which it became an artefact players could wield. While vastly eclipsed in power by the other weapons, the Ashbringer’s reputation would’ve been a source of intense speculation and discussion amongst players for over twelve years. It feels a little unscrupulous, then, to be able to trivially spawn and equip what is one of the the most illustrious items in World of Warcraft lore, but when I consider the fact that a lot of parties out there arbitrarily kick players for dealing ten percent less damage than they should at that level, the guilt evaporates immediately.

At present, the fact that I have my own private server means I am free to explore some of Azeroth’s more remote, and tranquil places. With no time limit on how long the server will be hosted for, I can explore at my own pace. I had actually travelled to the Stonetalon Mountains with World of Warcraft‘s Starter Edition, but post-Cataclysm, the site had changed beyond recognition. My private server runs Wrath of the Lich King, and as such, I was able to visit the region, precisely as I had remembered it a decade earlier. Beyond treading familiar grounds, I also travelled through much of Kalimdor, discovering a beautiful region called Azshara, where it is eternally autumn. I also returned to Hillsbrad Foothills and Hinterlands, the latter of which is a remote area that remained largely unexplored when my friends and I were partying together on the private server. The Stonetalon Mountains, Azshara, Hillsbrad Foothills and Hinterlands only represent a small selection of places in Azeroth that one can explore en route to reaching the level cap, and looking back, the sheer scope and scale of World of Warcraft is nothing short of impressive: even though my private server means not having the social interactions through partying, trading and raiding as the complete game does, just wandering the different regions of Azeroth was a reminder of the effort and attention paid to detail in World of Warcraft‘s development. Even today, World of Warcraft‘s scale remains an achievement, and as such, it is easy to see why despite the game’s age, Blizzard has opted to continue developing new expansions with expanded lore, gear and exploration for their players – World of Warcraft has aged very gracefully, and even on a single-player private server that is six expansions and twelve years behind the times, I’m still finding new and noteworthy things to do and explore.

World of Warcraft: Clearing Blackrock Depths and an Incursion into the Molten Core

“I’m glad it’s finally hot enough to complain about how hot it is.” —Unknown

On the hottest weekend of the year about a month ago, I had the idea of going into Blackrock Depths to see what soloing a dungeon would be like in World of Warcraft. During the time I spent on my friend’s private server, we’d only ever done one dungeon together with everyone on the server as a consequence of our schedules; when final exams rolled around, I typically became unavailable to party up with my friends, and by the time summer arrived, it was tricky to coordinate a group event, what with everyone travelling and otherwise capitalising on the beautiful weather that accompanies summertime. By the time term started again, my friend ended up deciding to get everyone together for a dungeon in the Eastern Plaguelands’ Stratholme, where we smashed our way through for fun. This was an experience to remember, although I don’t have any screenshots of our run through Stratholme. Subsequently, most of my time in World of Warcraft was with my rogue friend, although grouping together for epic dungeon runs no longer happened. Since starting my own server, I’ve been able to now venture into places that I’d never explored previously. After refamiliarising myself with the mage I’ve built, I decided to attempt several of World of Warcraft‘s most quintessential dungeons on my own, and Blackrock Depths was high on my list of places to explore. Located at the heart of the Burning Steppes and Searing Gorge, it is an intimidating underground realm ruled by the Dark Iron dwarves that is one of then largest dungeons of World of Warcraft. A party of five is estimated to take anywhere from four to six hours to complete the entire dungeon on account of how many nooks and crannies there are, and in classic World of Warcraft, this was the dungeon to hit: it was a veritable experience that defined what the endgame of an RPG should be. As expansions came out for World of Warcraft, players would eventually become powerful enough to solo Blackrock Depths on their own without trouble, although serious players would find it to be inefficient to farm gear from here at higher levels.

It was on an August Sunday afternoon that I decided to enter Blackrock Depths for myself, just to see what it the solo dungeon experience was about. After arriving at Blackrock Mountain and travelling down a secret set of stairs into a subterranean mine below, I crossed into the dungeon instance. The dungeon is massive, and although I had no trouble decimating everything that moved, the fact was the area was labyrinthine, making it very easy to get lost. I eventually would push on away from the starting area into the Dark Iron dwarves’ city, slaughtering my way through the dungeon. There are a few doors that must be opened to allow for progression, and tracking down the necessary keys and puzzles was also a bit of a time-consuming endeavour. About two hours after I started, I reached the end of the dungeon and destroyed the dungeon’s final boss, Emperor Dagran Thaurissan. Even though I had been powerful enough to trivially mop the floor with the dungeon’s mobs, the sheer size of the place made it a lengthy process to go through. I subsequently stopped for coffee, and then proceeded to complete the attunement quest for the Molten Core. The Molten Core raid proved to be of a level that I was simply unequipped to deal with: even standard mobs had more than a hundred thousand points of health (and I can only hit for about ten thousand points of damage with my most powerful direct-damage spells), and the bosses themselves were ludicrously powerful, making each fight an arduous process. As the evening set in, and I grew exhausted from the raid, I ended up reaching Ragnaros’ chamber, but realised that there were a few things I still needed to do before it was possible to summon him. The combination of 28°C temperatures and six hours of almost-nonstop World of Warcraft (it was punctuated with periodic breaks) rendered me quite exhausted, and I decided to call it a night. Having now gone through Blackrock Depths and reached the Molten Core, I feel that I’ve gotten a good measure of why raiding can take groups entire afternoons and evenings to complete.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’d passed over Blackrock Mountain numerous times: the flight path between Stormwind and Ironforge travels over both the Blasted Lands and Searing Gorge, two volcanic regions dominated by lava and smoke. At level thirty, I had no chance of safely exploring these areas, which have a minimum requirement of level forty. It thus felt a little intimidating to visit these regions for myself, despite knowing that I had been more than geared for this journey.

  • Just for the purpose of running Blackrock Depths, I equipped myself with the Tempest Regalia, a tier-six raid set that would’ve stood as one of the best mage sets available in Burning Crusade. By the time of Wrath of the Lich King, higher-tier sets supersede the Tempest Regalia, although its appearance remains quite compelling, and I’m rather fond of the headpiece that it comes with: close inspection of this will find that a magical discharge rises between the prongs, forming a sort of Jacob’s Ladder.

  • I started Blackrock Depths with my fire spells, but realised that most of the enemies down here had enough fire resistance to slow down the pace that I could move through the dungeon. I subsequently switched back over to the frost spells I had on hand, using a combination of Frostbolt and Ice Lance to blast enemies. While the most mundane of a mage’s arsenal, frost spells are great for slowing foes down, and I’m especially fond of Ice Lance, as it allows me to cast while moving.

  • Blizzard is perhaps the most powerful spell I have in my repertoire for dealing consistently high amounts of AoE damage: anything caught in the impacted area quickly falls, and it was against the inhabitants of Blackrock Depths that I was able to appreciate how powerful Blizzard really is. Entire groups of enemies would be felled in a matter of seconds, and I found myself moving much more swiftly through the area; the tunnels were quite tricky to navigate, so even though enemies were dealt with more quickly, there was still the matter of finding my way around.

  • The downside about Blizzard is that, compared to the other spells available, it is much more mana intensive. Fortunately, with a high spirit value, mana regenerates relatively quickly for me, and as long as I’m not casting Blizzard faster than my mana can be restored, I will always have access to my spells for damage-dealing. In the worst case, I do have a wand equipped, which allows me to continue being effective in the (unlikely) event that my mana is completely depleted and I have no regenerative potions on hand.

  • Blizzard must have altered the properties of the Water Elemental: when I played through World of Warcraft‘s Starter Edition, my Water Elemental stuck around until I dismissed it. Here in Wrath of the Lich King, however, Water Elementals will only be active for a minute, during which they can act as a source of extra damage and can draw attention off oneself briefly. In the Blackrock Depths, I found that two to three spells were oftentimes more than enough to handle whatever I had been facing.

  • On an ordinary run, players would come here with a group of five: two damage-dealers, two tanks and one healer. The tanks typically will draw focus onto themselves and absorb damage while damage-dealers focus on handling the enemies. Healers will then keep the tanks topped off, occasionally replenishing the damage-dealer’s mana or otherwise resurrecting anyone who sustained too much damage. Here, I will remark that one of my decisions to spin up my own server was that, during my time in the Starter Edition, I used the dungeon finder to do a dungeon that was supposed to help me get a rare quest item.

  • However, for one reason or another, I got kicked from the group shortly after joining for no reason. It became clear that power-tripping is still very much a thing, and much as how some people would kick others from their party in The Division for having too low a gear score. Arbitrary kicks absolutely degrade the experience, and to the party leader of that day, if they are reading this, they ought to know that they did contribute to me spinning up my own server, so that I could explore in peace without individuals like that mucking things up. After reaching a tomb, I interacted with several ghosts that would turn hostile. Again, I imagine they would’ve put up an impressive fight for level-appropriate characters, but I ended up mopping them.

  • Pushing through into the final areas of the dungeon, I reach the Lyceum, which is a vast hallway with stone pillars resembling that of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Dwarrowdelf. Since I’ve not played Lord of The Rings: Online, this is probably the closest I’ll get to seeing the vast stone halls that the Fellowship passed through on their way to the other side of the Misty Mountains. The way on is blocked by a doorway that must be opened by lighting two torches, and the entire time, I was wondering if I would run into the equivalent of a Balrog while here.

  • In an ironic twist, the temperatures today are supposed to be just as hot as they were when I ran Blackrock Depths. However, the morning is still quite cool, and the hot weather isn’t to last; as we enter the long weekend, the forecast calls for cool, rainy weather that won’t be quite conducive for spending time outdoors. Instead, it might be time to curl up with a good book, Survivorman‘s Director’s Commentary and a cup of Okanagan Lavender tea with honey, which has been my go-to drink for cooler days.

  • Because it had been such a hot day when I chose to take on Blackrock Depths, the heat of the underground and its volcanic fires felt even more visceral: squaring off against Magmus here really felt like fighting the Balrog Durin’s Bane, although with the power difference between myself and Magmus, I swiftly defeated him and pushed forwards into the last sections of Blackrock Depths. Durin’s Bane, on the other hand, is on a completely different power level: it took Gandalf fighting it at full power to bring it down, and even then, Gandalf himself died in the process.

  • Two dwarves act as the final boss of Blackrock Depths: I’ve read that if I spare the princess, it will be possible to unlock a quest, but since I was new to Blackrock Depths, I instead ended up melting both bosses. For level-appropriate players, the gear dropped in Blackrock Depths will be of a decent quality; a handful of items will be usable, and otherwise, can still net one a decent amount of coin once sold. For me, however, I have access to the game’s items through GM commands and so, the looting aspects of World of Warcraft really becomes secondary to exploration.

  • Having said this, I do get the full experience in something like The Division, so for World of Warcraft, I am completely content to simply venture into the different places of Azeroth. Altogether, it took me about two hours to clear Blackrock Depths on my own, including exploration and backtracking time. With this dungeon in the books, I had one remaining objective: entering Blackrock Depths, I accepted a quest to attune myself for the Molten Core raid, and so after completing it, I became curious to see what the Molten Core was like.

  • Back in Wrath of the Lich King and earlier, the Molten Core required that one be a part of a party to even enter – the raid required five parties’ worth of players to be viable, as even the standard enemies were ludicrously powerful. When I tried entering the Molten Core, an error message popped up, and I ended up changing some server configurations so I could get in. It soon became clear as to why solo players were barred from entering.

  • When I targeted the nearest enemy, I was surprised to learn they had the same amount of health as the bosses I faced earlier: the standard Molten Giants had a hundred and twenty thousand points of health, while the Firelords were rocking about ninety thousand health. What’s more, they dealt enough damage to take me down to half health within the space of seconds. The raid had clearly been designed for 25-player groups, whose members had clearly assigned roles to pull and engage the enemies one at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed.

  • As such, given the vast disparity in health and damage, it became apparent to me that soloing Molten Core as it was in Wrath of the Lich King, without a considerable boost to my survivability and damage model, was simply not viable. Further to this, because I’d not completed a long and complex quest chain to allow for Ragnaros to be summoned, I wasn’t quite ready to experience the raid as it was meant to be played.

  • However, I still wanted to try my hand to see how effective I was against some of the weaker bosses in the raid. To even things out I little, I enabled some of my GM powers to mimic being in group, but even then, each fight was an incredibly long experience as I unloaded onto the bosses with everything I had: while I am capable of dealing a decent amount of damage, and the bosses themselves fortunately do not have any healers, their vast health pool and resistances still made each fight a lengthy one.

  • In anything past Cataclysm, the increased level cap and attendant power scaling means that players are able to trivially solo Molten Core. In addition, bosses in later expansions appear to have been scaled down for solo players: for instance, Ragnaros had north of a million health in World of Warcraft, but only possesses around three hundred thousand health if soloed in a newer expansion: later dungeons do appear to scale enemy strength to match the number of players in a party.

  • Soloing in any given game offers a different set of challenges: being flanked and surrounded is probably the trickiest thing to deal with. In a party, multiple players have the advantage of covering different areas, and games typically compensate by sending in more enemies or tougher enemies. Having soloed more or less the whole of The Division and The Division 2, I’ve found that there is an incredible journey to be had in playing that game solo – it really accentuates the impact a single agent and their skills can have in The Division.

  • By the time I decided to call it quits, it had been some six hours since I started. Fortunately, since this was my server, I did take breaks in between to stop for afternoon tea and dinner, as well as stepping outside to water the flowers. Even with quarter-hour breaks spaced in between hour-long sessions, however, it was still quite exhausting, and I looked forwards to getting some proper rest. In retrospect, the Molten Core and Blackrock Depths was remarkably entertaining. Since I’m currently working on the Hornet manhunt in The Division 2, I hope to try and wrap that up before the season ends, and then I’ll return to World of Warcraft.

Having finished one of the more iconic World of Warcraft experiences, I found it to be quite thrilling even though it had been only me soloing the content: because the Blackrock Depths had been the endgame content for the classic World of Warcraft, the maps and enemies were well-designed, clearly intended to provide players with a proper challenge once they’d hit level sixty. Even though World of Warcraft is nearly sixteen years old, the quality of Blackrock Depths remains evident, and I certainly had fun exploring what would’ve been the most advanced and sophisticated dungeon of World of Warcraft as it had appeared to players back then. With Blackrock Depths in the books, I’ve found that for five-man dungeons, my mage should be adequately equipped to handle almost everything in World of Warcraft without too much difficulty, although with the mechanics in Wrath of the Lich King, it appears that soloing 25-man raids is not going to be a particularly easy task in the absence of my GM powers. As such, I imagine that with my mage, I should be reasonably well-prepared to continue exploring Outland and Northrend, which were areas that, owing to time constraints back in the day, I never fully explored. With these constraints absent, there still remains quite a bit to do in World of Warcraft, and I think that after I visit some of Azeroth’s more picturesque places, it’ll be time to cover Outland.

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.