Blizzard, I am disappoint.

No doubt that by now you’ve read the highly disturbing allegations leveled against Blizzard by the state of California for discrimination, sexism, and abuse in the workplace. The state wants to take Blizzard to court for a jury trial, and there’s no doubt going to be a lot of news following this.

And while the legal process will play out as it does, in the meantime each Blizzard player and fansite writer/streamer will have a court of their own in their hearts. Do they believe these allegations? Does this line up with what we know of Blizzard to date? And if so, what do they do about it?

It’s certainly not the first time that anyone’s dealt with that struggle between liking an art form and hating the artist. I’ve always been of the opinion that you don’t listen to the mob telling you what to feel/do but rather to evaluate it yourself and make a judgment call whether or not you continue to support that. You have to decide what the line is where, if crossed, nixes your patronage.

I’m of the personal opinion that these allegations ring true and probably don’t scratch the surface of some of the really bad stuff that happens behind closed doors in companies where people let power and authority go to their heads. It should be exposed and dealt with, both externally (lawsuit) and internally (clean house and reform).

I’m very disappointed in Blizzard, and that’s putting it mildly. If my daughter went to work at a games company — and I would use every ounce of my persuasion to attempt to convince her not to, based on my experience covering this industry — I would want her to be paid fairly, treated well, and protected from predators. Blizzard, from these indications and others, loves to wave a flag of virtue while letting slime slosh around its corridors.

So I’m done with World of Warcraft and WoW Classic, at least until or unless I see Blizzard making a concerted, genuine effort to reform. I doubt it will. I think we’ll get a lot of noise and fancy-sounding programs, but nothing of real substance. It stinks for me as a gamer — I like these games! — but it’s really nothing compared to those employees affected by such a toxic work environment. So if this is what it takes for any semblance of justice to come about, I’m willing to be challenged in my entertainment choices and forego an MMO that I’ve enjoyed for the better part of two decades.

It’s not me, Blizzard, it’s you.

Two months of grinding in WoW Classic

Looking back, my original assumption that it would take me about a month to level up my Draenei Shaman from 1 to 58 was a little misplaced. Even with the faster leveling curve, it took nearly twice that long with my schedule before I dinged 58 on July 8th.

Easily, the most difficult portion was the 50s, where quests thinned out and grinding took just about forever. And how do you make a blog post about that? There’s no story about running patterns while you listen to audio books and watch movies. Sure, there were interesting encounters from time to time, including an Orc Hunter who kept assisting me so that he could skin my kills or a bad-tempered Blood Elf (of COURSE it was an elf) who kept spitting on me because he was upset I was in his backyard or something.

But I did it. I persevered and had a small celebration when that level-up animation arrived. Now I could jettison the old world and get to some Outland levelin’! Only 38 days after everyone else! Hey, at least I won’t be competing for quest mobs.

I genuinely don’t mind being late to the party — I just wanted to be there. Burning Crusade’s got to last for a long time, and considering that much of my guild is already stuck in the raid loop, I am in no rush to get it all done and then twiddle my thumbs for a year-and-a-half.

My next threshold is level 60, where I’m going to treat myself to my first epic mount in this game. Flying? Eh, I heard it was a thing. We’ll get to that sooner or later.

Well done, Shammy. You’re going to be a star.

WoW Classic: Zangardreams

If there’s one positive thing to say about Hellfire Peninsula — other than its improved questing and questing rewards — it’s that as fugly as the zone is, it has the most breathtaking skybox of all of Burning Crusade’s zones. I always get a chill out of looking up and seeing those planets and swirling space strings.

And with a couple of annoying group quests done without the benefit of a group finder (me in guild chat: “Pleeeeeeease help me plz plz plz”), I was finally done with Hellfire. Having putzed around in here for a good long while along with a few dungeon runs, I was 63 when I left.

I don’t know if Zangarmash is my favorite BC zone, but it’s definitely one of my most favorite MMO “swamp” regions. This is thanks to the mysteriously inviting blue hues and the unusual choice of going with giant mushrooms in place of trees. It’s certainly easy on the eyes!

And of course I’m going to kill every one of these little buggers for the vain hope of that little firefly pet. That never happened for me back when I farmed hard for one in the original Burning Crusade, and while I’m not going to put myself through that again, I will snag all I see as I quest with the offhand chance of getting one.

But as much as I loved being in Zangermarsh (and Burning Crusade in general), I knew I wasn’t playing the class I wanted to be — which was my poor, underleveled Shaman. After stocking up several days’ rested XP, I got back to leveling her in earnest, trying to bridge that gap between 52 and 58. Some long grinding sessions are ahead of me, as well as some desperate searches for quests I can actually do.

WoW Classic: From dirt to poop

When I turned the corner of level 50 with my WoW Classic Shaman, I felt like I was on a glorious home stretch to Outland. Oh, simple Syp, you keep dreaming those dreams, because these last few levels have been a nightmare. There just aren’t enough quests to really propel up through eight expanded levels of XP, and I got super tired, super fast of running all around the world trying to find ones that were doable.

So I settled her down in the Blasted Lands to grind and skin and grind and skin. It’s productive, but it’s not fast. By level 53, I had pretty much had enough of that and decided that she needed to build up a whole bunch of rested XP while I actually had fun in Outland.

And so after largely neglecting my Warlock for a couple of weeks now, she’s back to adventuring in… Hellfire Peninsula. Oh yes, I’m so behind the crowd that I think they lapped me a couple of times. That’s fine, it’s still a whole lot of fun to log in and check off quests while I methodically make my way from east to west through the zone.

Can’t wait to get to Zangarmarsh and a change of scenery, though. I never really put this together before, how Blasted Lands and Hellfire Peninsula have the same landscape (since I never did spend much time in the former before now), but it’s a little too hellish and blasted to enjoy for long periods of time. And it should go without saying that there’s 100% too many poop quests (at one).

I think my number one wish for this expansion is that Blizzard would get even that half-functional LFG tool online. I do hop on the occasional dungeon run that’s broadcast through a zone, and it’s something I want to do more of.

World of Warcraft and Blizzard are getting *pummeled* by a fed-up community

Even though World of Warcraft is pumping out Patch 9.1 this week, it’s hard to ignore the tone surrounding the MMO right now. What should be an easy victory lap for Blizzard here is almost a self-condemnation, a finger that the studio is pointing to itself saying, “Look how obscenely, terribly, comically late we’ve been with our first post-expansion content update!”

And that is, of course, not all. Blizz has been absorbing some hard body blows as of late as notable World of Warcraft YouTubers (no, you guys don’t “create” “content,” so you’re YouTubers now and forever) have publicly defected to FFXIV. Then there was this emotion-drenched video:

which tapped into a whole lot of what people are feeling about a game that they used to love a whole bunch and have seen decline in both quality and population. And let’s not overlook this somewhat amusing survey question that Blizzard sent out asking players if, y’know, they’re also going to be defecting to FFXIV.

This isn’t really a piece about how one game is better than the other; FFXIV is pulled up a lot because it and WoW have been jockeying for first place in the MMO sphere and now FFXIV seems to be winning. The latter’s ascent is contrasted sharply against the former’s descent.

I have no idea what’s going on over at Blizzard these days — other than incompetent leadership and a brain drain of notable developers — but if giant klaxons aren’t going off in the hallways, I’d be surprised. The game that’s stood up to so many “WoW killers” is now… getting killed.

Of course, that’s a metaphor to an extent. WoW has a huge population even so and can absorb a whole bunch of body blows (not an infinite amount, mind you) before it ever fades completely. WoW Classic is doing just fine for itself and serving as another refugee harbor for retail players (myself included).

But one thing is clearly obvious: Things can’t go on as they have been if Blizzard wants World of Warcraft to retain its numbers and position. There needs to be a change of leadership, of direction, and of focus. Ideas like borrowed power systems need to be ejected into the sun. Content needs to be delivered more quickly. And Blizz needs to wake up and actually start paying attention to its competition and MMO players at large.

WoW Classic: The final push to Outland

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen my WoW Classic plans shift from wanting to alternate between my two classes to pretty much only playing my enhancement Shaman. I’m far too invested in her, even if she’s coming from a level disadvantage. No matter — I’m gamely plugging away at quests, using Questie to look up good batches of missions for my level and trying to climb to 58.

What I’ve really enjoyed about this leveling journey is the Shaman’s huge leaps in raw ability at certain points. For the most part it’s gradual progression, but at level 40, I got mail armor and dual wielding (and, at 41, stormstrike). That was a BIG jump. And at level 50, which I hit last week, I got Shamanistic Rage, which helps shore up my mana generation issues. I finally feel like her toolkit is coming together, and I really enjoy playing her — even if I’m far behind the Burning Crusade crowd.

Happily, I’m not the only one! My guild is pretty large and we’ve got a contingent of people who are still in old Azeroth for various reasons. The other day a group formed up to go run Sunken Temple, which ended up being a huge hoot — and a boon to my leatherworking, as I really needed those dragon scales for a quest.

I’m still getting a feel for how my enhance functions in a group dungeon setting, but I contented myself with pumping out DPS while throwing down windfury totems and spot healing as needed. It all went very well with no wipes and only a couple of snags.

I really do hope that they’ll get Burning Crusade’s half-formed LFG tool online sooner rather than later, because I really would like to run more stuff without having to spam the LFG channel in vain. Or, hey, just launch Wrath already and I’ll be content with that!

Of course, here’s what awaits me as a prize for all of my hard work: poo quests.

WoW Classic: High and low times as a leveling Shaman

Check out Syp getting knocked flat on my back from an ogre attack! That’s heroism, right there!

As my entire guild raced toward level 70 and did all of their Karazhan attunement, I spent pretty much all last week laser-focused on bringing my Draenei Shaman up through the old world. Originally I really was going to alternate days between my Shaman and Warlock, but man, I want that Shammy in Outland something bad.

And you know how it is when you have a tantalizing goal right in front of you — it makes you want to push on toward it. I had a lot of these goals pop up last week. The first was hitting level 40, which would give me access to mail armor and dual-wielding. Now my Shaman is attacking like a tornado, and it’s a whole lot more fun to wade into a fight and smack people around.

The only drawback is how fast I chew through mana and how slow it is to rebound. It’s forced me to be very stingy with using skills, so now I’ll usually only use lightning shield and flame shock at the start and then auto-attack my way forward so that I can regen mana a bit. Gift of the Naaru heal is a great help, too, as it’s a heal that doesn’t require any mana whatsoever.

Another major milestone was finally hitting exalted with Stormwind! I wasn’t going to buy an elekk mount, no sirree, so I tracked down as many Stormwind rep quests as I could. By level 42, I hit that goal and was able to buy a horsie for my Draenei. I know it’s a cosmetic thing, but it’s important to me, especially if I was going to have to watch myself ride something for all of the levels until I get flying.

The next major goal is, of course, getting to level 58 and jumping into Outland. I’m pushing myself to ding at least one level a day while doing as much skinning and leatherworking on the side as possible. Hopefully by next week I’ll be there and put Azeroth behind me once and for all.

WoW Classic: Through the Dark Portal once more…

Last week was our family vacation, which was perfectly timed for weather but not so much for MMO releases. I had to resign myself that the only time I was going to get to play was late at night after the family had gone to sleep — which was fine, although it did mean that I missed the initial marathon crush through the Dark Portal.

So I just had a one-Gnome moment of glory as I ascended the same ramp that I did with another Gnome Warlock back in 2007. It was time to leave one era behind and enter another.

Happily, the queue wasn’t abnormally long (30 minutes) and I experienced no transition difficulties crossing the threshold into Outland. My guildies gave me the heads-up that everything was more or less going smoothly, with about half of the population electing to jump into dungeons to power-level via instancing.

The first night wasn’t quite the utter mess I was expecting. Layers and player spread helped to keep things less ridiculous, and I gradually quested my way through that last half-level to 60. We joked about expecting guildies to have hit level 70 an hour after the launch, and I greatly looked forward to all of the gear upgrades. My outfit was sadly, sadly lacking. I didn’t even have an epic mount!

I had a few laughs when a couple guildies logged in and then tried to get a group together for old world content. Absolutely NO ONE was biting. Read the room.

I did get a blue drop on my very first kill — but alas, it was a 2H sword. Good for auctioning.

Deaths happened that first night thanks to an insane respawn rate that kept new mobs popping on top of our heads. They came almost as fast as we killed them — great for quests, bad for survival. And the return of Mr. Fel Reaver certainly didn’t help any!

While hitting 60 and getting some great gear upgrades was a highlight of the first night, the lowlight was a DDoS attack that kicked a lot of us — myself included — off of the server and triggered issues with play.

All in all, it was actually a whole lot of fun. It’s been a very long while since I’ve done Burning Crusade anything, and while I wouldn’t choose it at all in retail from the expansion choices, in Classic, it’s a wonderful relief to be playing a focused expansion that’s packed full of fun and progression.

Finding warm fuzzies in WoW Classic’s Stockades

I know I should be posting on Outland this week, but the truth is that it’s a vacation week for me, so I had to pre-write some stuff. I’ll get to Burning Crusade adventures soon enough, but today I wanted to share about how it’s been going leveling up a Draenei Shaman in the pre-patch period.

And the word is… very good indeed. I’m no leveling racer like some I’ve seen, but the weeks flew by as I looked forward to seeing this character develop. The faster leveling pace is such a welcome addition, and I’ve been focused on hunting down Stormwind reputation quests so I can get that horse mount at Exalted.

Another difference this time around is that I’ve been running a lot more dungeons. Of course, everyone and their brother was leveling up a Draenei (or Blood Elf, over on Horde side), so there was a lot of interest in dungeons. Fast XP and good loot. Without the LFG tool, I’ve had to delve into the global LFG chat channel, but it’s treated me fairly well so far.

In fact, I had a terrific time the other night in Stockades, of all places. I jumped in on a group that was forming up — a regular group, not one of those boosts-for-gold dealies — and we all had a great time roaming this prison. Everyone was friendly, chatty, and mutually supportive. It’s the kind of run that I’ve missed and the kind of run that makes you want to brave LFG more often.

It’s not been an isolated experience, either. By and large, the Classic community that I’ve seen is on the helpful and friendly side. One night I joined up with two others to knock out a few tough quests in Redridge, and that was another positive social experience that paid out in both memories and smiles.

I’ve got a long way to go on this Shaman, but not quite as long as the path I trod with my Warlock over the last half-year. It’s also a nice change of pace to have a melee fighter after being a spellcaster for so long. Sometimes you just want to smack stuff around, you know?

Does Blizzard secretly hate WoW Classic?

I’ve long harbored a deep suspicion that Blizzard actually resents WoW Classic. As much as a corporation can be ascribed an anthropomorphic quality like that. I don’t have any solid proof, mind you, but some days I really wonder about this.

It’s not as if Blizzard was eager to get the WoW Classic train chugging along to begin with. We all remember the sheer hubris and arrogance of “You think you do, but you don’t” from the studio when asked about the demand for a legacy server. And while I’m quite sure that Blizz loves the bank vaults of money that it got for Classic to date, it’s come at a cost to the studio’s pride.

Again, if one can ascribe qualities to a company.

The studio didn’t want to do Classic initially, but clear demand for it pressured it to do that anyway, and now that it’s successful, it’s a constant reminder of how wrong Blizzard was in this area. So with every phase and the rollout of Burning Crusade Classic, I can imagine it’s being done with gritted teeth and deep-rooted annoyance in some quarters.

Then there’s the observation that Blizzard doesn’t really want to spend all that much time communicating with players about Classic. We got a spurt of this at BlizzCon — when the three devs weren’t aimlessly reminiscing about their own past game sessions — but it’s infrequent at best. The latter half of WoW Classic’s initial run was met with near-silence from Blizzard entirely other than the studio confirming phase release dates.

What I’m saying is that Blizzard doesn’t seem excited to talk about Classic or engage with the Classic community, other than to get players’ money from it. And if my imagination can be so daring, I would say that this is due to how embarrassing it is to have so much enthusiasm about this product compared to the sheer wall of apathy that WoW players have with retail these days. There’s Stuff To Do, of course, but it hasn’t captured the excitement that an expansion from 2007 has. That’s really got to burn.

So I wonder. I wonder if Blizzard hates Classic and resents it for doing so well. This is, after all, not a studio that’s used to humbling itself and coming down off of its perch as the infallible gaming pope.