Daily Archives: March 13, 2007

I think this time we shall escape

I logged onto WoW around 8.30 last night without a great deal of enthusiasm, just intending to potter around the auction house a bit and maybe do a couple of quests, to find a guildmate trying to form up a posse to bust Thrall out of Durnholde Keep. Fitting in with the general “bite sized” nature of Burning Crusade instances, they reckoned we could be done within two hours, which sounded like I could still get enough sleep that I wouldn’t need to hook up to an intravenous supply of coffee at work the next day, so we saddled up for Caverns of Time.

After the ease of being able to quickly fly anywhere in Outland from Shattrath, getting back to Tanaris is something of a drag, being about the most awkward place in the old world for the Alliance to get to. After reaching the Caverns, a couple of the group started the quest to gain access to Old Hillsbrad (I’d popped in over the weekend to get the riding crop pattern), which involves following an NPC slowly wandering around the place explaining what’s going on. Much like the introduction to Shattrath quest, where you follow Khadgar’s servant around the city, it’s not very interactive. It’s a bit like a coach trip, with the driver droning “and on your left, you can see the bridge where the Blood Elf attack on the city was halted, we’ll be stopping there so you can pick up your ‘I repulsed the bloody siege of Shattrath and all I got was this lousy tabard’ souvenirs”. It’s a little more interesting than just being given pages of dialogue, and five minutes is hardly the end of the world, but if you’re just in a bit of a hurry (or have done the quest on another character), it might be nice to have a couple of options: “Yes, I’d love to take the tour!” and “Don’t worry, I’ve seen those episodes of Star Trek, and Stargate SG1, and that new Primeval thing on ITV, portals in time, I get the idea, just send me back to Old Hillsbrad already”. As an aside, WoWwiki says “it might be hard to do depending on alliance/horde activity in the cave”, which I hadn’t thought about; doing the quest on a PvP server must be like taking the same coach trip but periodically having to fend off hijackers storming the bus, while the driver’s still pointing out the sights…

Anyway, within half an hour of logging in, we were all ready for the quest itself (which isn’t bad going for WoW). And as far as quests go, I have to say, Escape from Durnholde Keep is a peach, about the most fun I’ve had in Warcraft for a long time. Whether it was the group composition (a feral Druid, Priest, Warlock, Paladin and me as a Rogue), or the fact that we clicked as a team, we didn’t even suffer the Mandatory Initial Wipe (despite trying our best at one point, with runners from one group bringing a couple of adds at the same time that a patrol turned up around the corner). I think it would be fair to say we rocked the socks of the mobs clean off, even if they weren’t wearing socks in the first place (not an easy task, as anyone who has attempted to put socks onto an angry dragonkin just so they can be rocked off again will attest to). Maybe it was our levels, but at 70, 66, 68, 66 and 70 I don’t think we were stupidly overpowered.

What really made the difference, though, was the design of the instance. Up until now, I hadn’t seen much variety in Burning Crusade instances. The settings change, and the mobs you encounter, but by and large they’ve been “Start at point A; defeat many groups of (Orcs/Naga/Broken Draenei/Annoyed Shrews); defeat Boss A; repeat for Bosses B and C”. They’ve been fun enough to run through with a decent group, but not particularly memorable.

Escape from Durnholde Keep actually involves you in the story (minor spoilers follow, if you’re desperate not to know anything of the quest): you start by setting buildings on fire to cause a diversion, luring in the first boss; then you rescue Thrall and fight your way out of the keep, defeating the second boss at the exit as he tries to stop you; then it’s a ride into town for the denouement in the form of a big fight with a dragon. None of this is particularly complex, but it just lifts interest sufficiently so you don’t feel it’s a straight march from A to B, killing everything that moves along the way. The closest parallel I can think of is my favourite bit of an old world instance, the fight on the pyramid steps in Zul’Farrak, where you face off against wave after wave of trolls like a cross between Zulu and the end of The Gauntlet.

Adding such scripted elements isn’t without problem, though; one of our group had previously failed the quest when a vital NPC hadn’t turned up. Others had been in groups where over-eager participants had freed Thrall without everyone having the chance to talk to him to receive the next section of the quest. Fortunately we didn’t hit any bugs, and ensured everyone talked to the right people, but it just goes to show the difficulty of implementing even simple additional elements over “kill stuff!” in instances.

Loot-wise, my standard diatribe on random loot was forestalled by the bosses dropping three useful items. None for me, but I at least got a couple of green bits to sell; the quest reward was a bit of an anticlimax, though, as even with a couple of gems slotted the Southshore Sneakers you can get are worse in almost every respect than the Sure Step Boots I’ve been wearing since my first Hellfire Ramparts run.

Sure enough, we were done in about an hour and a half as well, so the initial two hour estimate was pretty much spot on. A nicely sized instance with a few interesting scripted elements and a good team made for a great evening. Next stop, the Black Morass!

The terraces: The terrace for the indefatigable loot linker.

Onwards! Onwards, dear traveller, into the depths of the inferno; we come ever closer to the Third Circle, but let us again take rest on the viewing balcony of another terrace. Regain your strength whilst contemplating the sinners within, our journey will soon continue apace.

The indefatigable loot linkers.

We’ve all experienced, at one time or another: that lucky item drop that is something above the norm, something a little bit special. Often enough this happens when teamed with a small group of people or when playing solo, and the urge to share your exultation at such fortuitousness often leads to sharing a link of your newly acquired item of wonderment with members of your guild or your circle of friends.

Fear not, dear traveller, for such action will not find you ensconced within the oppressive walls of this particular terrace. No, this place is reserved for those sinners who feel that every item that they’ve ever owned is worth noting to not just their party, or their friends, or even their guild, but the entire known world.

The indefatigable loot linker begins early, and with a conviction to rival the greatest zealots. From first level they are linking every quest item they are offered; not just the items they gain, which would be tedious enough bearing in mind that every other player has probably had something very similar if not identical offered to them, or will have very soon, no, the loot linker shares every item the quest offers, including the ones they themselves cannot use, and then debates at great length in any channel of communication that hasn’t had the foresight to silence or kick them already as to which item they should choose. This would be bad enough, but it doesn’t end there: the loot linker, in their discussion of the terribly difficult decision of whether to take the dagger or the staff on offer, will link every item they currently have, and how these new items will affect their current character build. They will deliberate at great length on the difficulty of the decision, they will link items from other quests that are comparable, they will link future items that may be upgrades, they will link all the items they have on auction, and how that might enable them to generate enough money to buy a better item from the auction house or a vendor.

And of course, they link all the possible auction house and vendor items they might be able to buy.

This goes on for quite some time, with nobody being able to communicate with one another for the sheer quantity of linked items being flooded on to all channels, until finally someone yells at the loot linker that they’re “only level two, and what the hell does it matter what they pick, because they’ll be upgrading the item in question about one hundred times in the next hours worth of levelling!”. At which point the loot linker goes off to sulk, but not before linking the rare twink item that they’ve already bought for their character and can use next level.

Instance runs are another joy, as any item drop from a boss will illicit a blustering tidal wave of deliberation on the part of the loot linker; they debate for an epoch as to whether they should roll on it, because so-and-so an item is better [link], and they might respec in which case they’d prefer [link] or [link] and [link] is nice but [link] would be better if it’s a sunny day, but they’d rather have [link] in case it rains, and [link] on the off chance of low-lying smog. Then finally, when someone threatens them with extreme physical disfigurement if they don’t make their mind up as to whether they need the item or not, they [link] the very much better item that they’re already wielding, and explain how it goes better with their shoes [link] and hat [link].

We must not forget, as well, the utter fruitless linking of the most common quest items in order for people to give the loot linker praise; we’re talking of the most common of common items, the items that unless they are somehow levelling their character whilst being entirely unaware of their surroundings (actually, we’ll meet examples of these in some of the deeper circles of the inferno), every single player has gained at some time during their adventuring career.

“Hey I just got [The 10,000th Most Common Potato of Extremely Common Ancestry. All Exactly Like This One].”

And there is silence. And more silence. And yet someone, somewhere, feels the need to acknowledge the loot linker. Ohttre (God of Bewilderment) knows why, but they do.


And of course, that is the straw that engulfed the camel in a ten megaton atomic explosion and five hundred year nuclear winter.

“Thanks! I’ve been wanting [link] for a while because my [link] is getting old, but I’ll soon be able to get [link] or [link] or [link] or [link], but then I’ll need to change my [link] and [link] so that they’re comparable, otherwise I probably won’t be able to go to Linkville and get my [link] or link my link link [link] linking [link] link linky linkety [link] link linky link link [link] link link…”

Predictably, it goes downhill from there.

And the moral of the story is: don’t acknowledge your indefatigable loot linkers.

Actually the moral is: always hurt, with extreme prejudice, all known indefatigable loot linkers. However, in case you’re too decent a soul to do so, never fear, as this terrace of punishment will be here, waiting for them.

As we move on – move along at the back, keep up! – I will just briefly point out to you the linked (just my little joke, there) terrace next door to the one we have recently visited, the protractedly named ‘The terrace for those people who feel the need to shout “DING!” in the server global channel so that every player is fully informed of the fact that this person has finally achieved the near-insurmountable task of reaching second level.’

Sinners beware!