My 6 favorite World of Warcraft pets

I have a particular fondness for vanity pets in MMORPGs. Sure, I know they’re silly fluff, but they’re an added bit of personal customization and expression, plus I enjoy how they trot faithfully along with me no matter what fire-blasted hellscape I visit. So I wanted to share my favorite pets in each MMO I play, starting with World of Warcraft!

1. Egbert

Egbert is a total doof. He can’t ever hatch out of his shell, so he’s running around like a madman, er, madbird with it still on. He’s ugly in a cute way with those bulging eyes, and every so often he gets hung up on a particular place while you go ahead, and then he all-out sprints to catch back up with you. At least I think that’s a feature instead of a bug!

2. Willy

Willy and Egbert seem to go together (I think they’re both Children’s Week pets, but I can’t be bothered to look it up right now). He’s a dorky beholder-like thing, with tiny tentacles, an oversized front tooth, and a bewildered expression. I’m not usually one to use flying pets (I don’t like the camera interference), but I like how Willy once in a while will zap a critter. He’s pretty awesome that way.

3. Macabre Marionette

I enjoy pets that actually do things and have fun animations, and this one is all about that. This skeleton continually rocks out as if he was at a metal concert (I think it’s also the Forsaken male dance emote). He’s fun for dungeon runs when I need a team cheerleader urging us on.

4. Perky Pug

I grew up with a pug and had another one as a young adult, so I’m really fond of these stupid dogs. This one gets all the pugisms just right, including the wagging curly tail and scooting his butt across the carpet.

5. Netherspawn, Son of Netherspawn

First of all, best name ever. Doesn’t make much sense unless it’s talking about slimes reproducing asexually, but still, great name. Second, I always wanted a slime pet back when they were extremely hard to get due to a low drop rate (I tried grinding for them but gave up). Third, the squealchy sounds it makes as it moves is both creepy and delightful.

6. Sinister Squashling

It’s an ambulatory Jack-O-Lantern! I have always adored this pet, with it’s wild animations, its unique look, and the fact that it occasionally “disguises” itself as a regular Jack-O-Lantern. It’s one of my most-used while adventuring, so you’ll probably see me with it more than the other pets.

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WoW: The Goblin life calls to me!

I look FABULOUS.

So I’ve had a very strange week or so in World of Warcraft in terms of guilds and characters. Originally I was fiddling around with an Undead Warlock on the Dalaran server when I saw the notice about my old guild over on Ghostlands. I was only about level 18, so I figured why not just roll up a new character over there and hang out with them. This plan worked well for about four or five days when the guild announced that they were thinking about transferring the whole guild to a more populated server… like Dalaran.

You can see my face right now, can’t you?

Since my character there was still a lowbie, there was no strong impulse to pay a transfer fee like everyone else — I could just hop back to Dalaran on Horde side and wait for everyone to red rover, red rover, come on over. But the whole deliberation and moving process took several days, during which I was fiddling about with different characters. Did I want to keep on with my lowbie Lock, or skip ahead in levels with a new Death Knight? Someone suggested Demon Hunters and I snorted so hard that coffee came out of my nose because it will be a cold day in hell before I roll up a haughty blindfolded elf.

The time I had let me think through what I wanted to do with a theoretical new character, and I kept coming back to the idea of healing. I love to heal and I wouldn’t mind having a healing spec as my current main. It would be a change of pace and helpful to the guild. But which one?

Priest has never appealed to me (plus I do not like running around in robes). I tried Monk a few times, but the animations and hand-to-hand combat really turned me off to the class. I’ve done Druid before and I wanted a different experience. Paladin? No… plus I’m not doing Blood Elf. But then I took a closer look at Shaman, and I thought that maybe I could make this work.

It’s something I haven’t done much of over on Horde side, and the healing kit looks pretty solid. I’ll be a little bummed I can’t pull out pets or melee, but there are always alternative specs so it’s not that prohibitive.

And if I’m going to walk on the wild side, I thought, why not Goblin? I really have dismissed this race ever since trying it briefly in Cataclysm, but the more I thought about it this week, the more it felt like a solid fit. I love diminutive races, and the Gobbos are as close to Gnomes (my Alliance favorite) as one can get. Quirky, punkish, and definitely a bit different. Plus, how often have I ever gotten the chance to play a goblin in an MMO? Warhammer Online is the only one I can recall.

So I created Lilaca — lilac with an a — who has adorably styled blue hair and a face that isn’t completely repugnant to me. I’ve been taking her through the Goblin intro zones, which are so different than pretty much anywhere else in the game, entertaining as all get out, and still pretty slow leveling. My goal is to get to level 15 as fast as possible so that I can plant my butt in a city and start chain-healing dungeons for advancement, but until then I’m going to have to suck it up and do the whole quest thing.

As with many new characters, as with many alts, who knows if this one will survive the long culling process of MMOs to become something significant. I might have a brief eye on the long game, but more and more these days it’s just playing what’s fun right then and there and not stressing out too much about it.

And while I am no stranger to the WoW Shaman, I never have played one as a healer nor a Goblin to any great extent. Both are novel to me, and I’m curious if they’ll stick. I like that the armor models aren’t broken up on the Gobbo the way that it is on the Forsaken, and the totem design is suitably eclectic and zany.

WoW: The power of memory

So here’s an interesting little story that’s happened to me this past week. I was on Facebook the other day, enjoying the nonsensical stream of posts, links, and random thoughts from my network of friends and associates and “how do I know this person?” when I saw a notice come up from a very old World of Warcraft Christian guild that I used to belong to back in the Wrath of the Lich King days. Again, very old.

I clicked on post, because I was amazed that it was even still around. As I read the activity, I got encouraged to see their continued existence and vibrant activity, and before you knew it, I went to that server in question and pinged the guild leader to say hi. I remembered this guild vaguely because it was one of the very few Horde guilds to which I belonged, where I had a level 80 Tauren Druid stomping about named Echoes.

Well not only did the GM say howdy back, he actually remembered me from seven years ago and greeted me by my actual first name. He’s a high school teacher, he says, so that’s why he’s good with names, but I work with kids and I barely remember my own offspring’s names on any given day, so I think it’s more than just an occupational skill. Obviously, I was impressed and pleased to be remembered, and a little ashamed that I didn’t recall very much about this guild in return (again, it was seven years ago, so that’s the excuse I’m sticking with).

I took it as a sign of sorts and got drawn into creating a new Undead Warlock (my 237th to date, if anyone’s keeping track) to hang out with them a bit, if only in chat. Not a lot in common that a level 15 and a level 110 has in this game. But I’m having fun, in my own little ways, exploring the post-Cataclysm world from the Horde point of view, running the occasional dungeon as DPS,

I have really enjoyed exploring more of the Forsaken as a culture. If I could go back in time to the very start of my journey with WoW, I think I would advise myself to roll and stick with the Undead as a race. To me, it’s the most interesting of all of the Horde races, although I’ve often had a problem with the visuals of bones jutting out of the armor models, breaking up their designs. But I’m kind of getting past that now — and past the fact that there’s some zombie elf lady in charge of us all — to revel in the Halloween nature of the faction. Plagues for all! ALL!

I’m also starting to learn that over on the Horde side, it’s still about 80% Blood Elves. I get that they’re probably the most good-looking in terms of human-like models, but it’s a bit extreme even so. I ran Deadmines the other day and I was the only non-Blood Elf in the group. It was a bunch of preening fashion models and me, a decaying, shambling fool trying to keep up. Felt like high school all over again.

Having gone through the first 15 levels a few times these past couple of months in World of Warcraft, I will say that these are among the slowest and most agonizing of levels in the game to experience, especially if you’re coming from an endgame character. The lack of mount makes going anywhere a chore, and the miserly parceling out of skills means that attacking at the beginning is so dull and repetitive. As a Warlock, I didn’t even get my pet until level 6, and it wasn’t until level 10 that I had two DoTs and the pet to make combat bearable. Doesn’t sound like much, but that’s still a couple of long hours right there.

I’ll be going Affliction, at least for the time being, because it doesn’t look like Demonology is any less annoying to use than it was a few months ago. Once again, I really miss how classes were in Draenor. Legion “class fantasies” ended up ruining so many of the specs that I enjoyed, such as Demo Lock (with my Terrorguard), Enhancement Shammy (with my pets), and BM Hunter (with a much more interesting rotation). But that’s the WoW life — you adjust to Blizzard devs’ crazy handling or you just go away.

World of Warcraft: On a break

Lately in World of Warcraft, my play time has been short and rather aimless. I’ve logged on to do my daily emissary without enthusiasm or an understanding why I’m doing them. The flying makes it easy, I suppose, and getting gold to get more subscription time to do more emissary quests… wait, I sense a loop. And not the fun Groundhog’s Day-type loop, either.

Otherwise? I’ve lost interest in cleaning up my DK quest log and have been puttering about with my lowbie Warlock, logging in for a few quests and a quick hit of nostalgia. But then I start thinking about how long of a road it is to get all the way up to the cap… and how I feel like I’ve exhausted my interest in Legion as it is… and I think I might be done.

It’s not as though I’ve had a bad run, here. For a game that I had sworn, up and down, that I would never return to, I’d just spent a rather enjoyable year and a half questing through two expansions and hanging out with a nice guild. It’s not gaming time that I regret spending, but when I no longer feel compelled, interested, or enticed to keep on logging in, I know it’s probably time to hang up my hat and focus my efforts elsewhere.

I’ve already unsubscribed, and my game time will run out at the end of July. I’ll buy a game time token and leave it in my bags in case I want to come back at some point without ponying up for a sub.

And it’s not as though I’m lacking other things to do. I have a pile of single-player games that continue to be resolutely unplayed. I haven’t even purchased Mass Effect Andromeda yet. There’s an expansion to look forward to in LOTRO, the same in Guild Wars 2, and SWTOR’s starting to get more of my time, too. Then there’s Secret World Legends come mid-summer, and I’ll be too busy to really miss doing my WoW dailies.

What would bring me back? Patch 7.3 would really have to be something way, way better than 7.1 and 7.2. Maybe legacy servers, but I sincerely doubt anything of the sort will ever happen. And then there’s always the excitement over a new expansion, come a year or two from now. But for right here, right now, it’s probably best to part ways before burnout sets in and resentment grows.

What I’m playing: World of Warcraft, LOTRO, Guild Wars 2

World of Warcraft

Time for a little update on my current evening rotation, which pretty much keeps cycling through three MMOs. Let’s start with WoW, because I absolutely loved the fact that there were swimming skeletal fish in Tirisfal Glades and wanted to use this pic for a header.

Anyway, I’m kind of stalled once again with my Death Knight. There are odds and ends to do, but now that I’ve got flying and four (!) legendary items, I feel a lot less motivated to clear out my quest log and run mythics. So instead I’ve found myself spending a little time here and there with my baby Undead Warlock, who hasn’t even hit double digits yet.

Let me tell you, those early levels are really rough. Not hard, combat-wise, but very slow. I didn’t even get my pet until level 5 or 6, and burning stuff down before you get your second DoT is just a pain. Suck it up, I tell myself. Deal with it and enjoy the Halloweeny scenery. I always did love this zone.

Since this is a Horde character, I have no characters to shuttle her money or bags, so it’s pretty much a start-from-scratch scenario. That’s fine for an alt, and there’s no rush to get to the cap.

Lord of the Rings Online

10th anniversary activities continue to consume me (and that’s fine, since I am not feeling particularly hurried to get back to the Wastes). I run the delivery quests every three days for the easy tokens and otherwise plink away at the scavenger hunts. I’ve done all of the Year One quests and two of the Year Two — but there’s a sticking point with that last one.

You see, there’s a quest to re-do a bunch of Volume 1 instances via reflecting pool, which wouldn’t be a problem except I haven’t done Volume 1 on this character at all. So I either give up on a meta-goal of doing ALL of the scavenger quests or I suck it up and do 26 books of an extremely long epic questline in a row. I’m not fully committed to the latter, but I am working on it when I have nothing else to do. I figure I have until mid-July, so it might happen. Might.

I do want to procure a few of the anniversary rewards, like the goat mount and some of the cosmetics. I am very, very happy with the scavenger hunt rewards so far and eager to see what future weeks hold. It’s been such a weird trip around the world, sometimes frustrating (I am not a fan of LOTRO’s stable master system and all of the hard-to-remember town names and where they connect). I’ve probably spent more mithril coins than I should have on quick ports, although I’ve also strategically set bind points at three spots around Middle-earth to get to regions when I need to.

Guild Wars 2

Still really enjoying the relaxed return to this game as I level up a new Engineer (now level 27 with no boosts). I have kind of a formula I’m following, which is to work on zone completion until I unlock the next personal story chapter, then stop to do that, then resume zone. I’m sticking with the human zones for the most part right now, although I did digress into Asura territory when I ran out of on-level human areas to do.

I was happy to see that Heart of Thorns dropped in price for good yesterday, so for $30 I felt that it was time to finally get it. If nothing else, it gets me the Scrapper elite specialization and gliding in the future, so I’m down for that. There’s such a mountain of content to climb to “catch up” with the current releases, and I have serious doubts that at this pace I’ll be ready for the expansion… whenever it gets here. I do have a level 80 boost now, but I’m really reluctant to use it. Don’t see the need, really; I’m enjoying the journey and am not going to skip ahead to the expansion story.

World of Warcraft: Cleared for takeoff

Sometimes the really good things happen when you aren’t fully paying attention.

In the midst of company at our house, I quickly logged onto World of Warcraft yesterday to check my order hall missions, and while I was there I noticed that there was a new quest at Broken Shore. Picked it up and was able to complete it instantly with my supply of nethershards. That turn-in rewarded me with 1500 rep, which just so happened to put me over the top for revered. And with a single button click, I had completed Pathfinder Part 2 and unlocked Broken Isle flying for my account.

I could scarcely believe it. In a way, Legion feels simultaneously like a new and old expansion at this point, depending how I’m squinting at it any given day, so I guess it’s been way too long since I’ve been able to fly (I never did complete Draenor’s requirements) while it still feels like I just got here.

Anyway, I was ecstatic. It’s a literal game-changer to be able to be able to fly on demand. Nevermind grappling hooks, kites, and flight master whistles, now my moose can take me anywhere I want to go with a button click. And with this, all world quests have become easier and the island has opened up to me in terms of exploration. I’m going to have to carve out a night just to be a flight tourist and hit all of those hard-to-reach spots that are now quite accessible.

So with that out of the way, it’s back to poking about at various projects and interests that aren’t too pressing. Casual gaming. And that brought me back to a project that’s sort of a white whale for me: leveling up a Forsaken Warlock.

I can’t be the only one who has had these bucket list-style goals in MMOs over the years, only to take dozens of stabs at them but never follow through for various reasons. In WoW, it’s always been a zombie lock. I love the idea of them, always have dating back to the original trailer. Probably should’ve rolled one at launch, but then I got stuck over on Alliance and felt bad devoting time to Horde. I’ve had several over the years, just never one to cap. It also didn’t help that I already had a high-level Gnome lock, so it felt wasteful (?) to level up another one.

But this feels like a great time to mess around in the game and just have fun with various goals, now that my DK is in a good place. So why not? I created my 525th undead warlock, Syperia, and started her journey through Tirisfal Glades (which I know by heart, both old and new, having done it so many times).

I do vastly prefer the post-Cataclysm era for this zone. Lot better flow and this chap who carries six corpses on his back like a gruesome Jenga tower.

Since I don’t have any Horde alts on this server, this character’s not going to have any financial assistance or in with a guild, so it’s very much starting from scratch. We’ll see how it goes… who knows, this might be the time that I actually make it!

7 MMO cosmetic wardrobe systems, ranked

Here’s a little thought exercise I’ve been going through lately after having a discussion about cosmetic systems on the MOP podcast. We had been asked which was the best MMO wardrobe system, which I initially thought was an easy answer… and then, long after the podcast was done, started to revise my response. Ultimately, I asked myself how I would rank the systems present in the MMOs I’ve played the most in the last, oh, five years or so, and this is what I came up with going from best to worst.

WildStar

There’s a lot of factors that go into a truly great cosmetic wardrobe system, and believe it or not, WildStar checks off most of those boxes. It’s got great armor design, plenty of cosmetic pieces, a system that remembers loot you’ve collected, multiple outfit slots, two dye channels, fun dyes, and an accessible system (which is a change from launch, which required you to talk to a specific NPC). I adored being able to create and wear different outfits based on my mood, and I was often torn on which one I liked the best because they were all pretty awesome. WildStar usually get a lot of props for its housing, but I think its wardrobe deserves praise too.

Guild Wars 2

Initially I had put Guild Wars 2 at the top, but upon further reflection, I had to acknowledge that there are two big flaws with its wardrobe system: It makes you pay to change individual slots (via transmutation charges) and it doesn’t allow for multiple saved outfits. Apart from that, it’s pretty brilliant, with several dye channels, loads of colors, expressive pieces, and all the buttflaps you can stomach. Finding and obtaining skins is an enjoyable metagame for GW2, that’s for sure.

RIFT

On paper, RIFT has almost the full package. It remembers skins, has multiple outfit slots, is ridiculously easy to use, involves weird cosmetics, and so on. Other than the dye cash shop and the smaller color range, I’d say it was almost perfect… except that I just don’t like about 90% of RIFT’s armor designs. They’re not bad, per se, just not what I want to be trouncing around in, and there are strangely few store outfits that even slightly tempt me to purchase. Probably shouldn’t complain; better armor art and I might have gone broke.

The Secret World

TSW’s strength in cosmetics is that it’s a rare MMO that uses modern outfits rather than fantasy/sci-fi ones (for the most part) and is thus a fashion that is more identifiable to players. People in TSW just adore dressing up their characters, sometimes the more outrageous, the better. Wonderful array of choices are offset only by a lack of dyeable outfits (although some pieces come in multiple colors) and no multiple outfit saves. It’s nice that there is a convoluted fashion to even equip cosmetic weapons, but it really should’ve been more like the regular outfits in accessibility.

Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO sits squat in the middle of this list with plenty of strengths but plenty of weaknesses as well. On the plus side, it’s another MMO with a community that does a lot of dressing up, and the game has done a lot to make this as robust as possible. Dyes, multiple outfits, varied designs, cosmetic weapons, etc. But on the minus side, the wardrobe itself is a little creaky and unfriendly, especially when compared to how many MMOs these days are saving EVERY new design whereas LOTRO has a hard limit. And you have to manage it by hand. Plus, the dyes aren’t that great, with only one color channel for (most) pieces and the dyeable area often being small.

World of Warcraft

For a major MMORPG, World of Warcraft suffers from a kind of lackluster system. Admittedly, the fact that it has one and it’s gradually improved is far better than launch, but seriously, transmog is pretty sad when you compare it to the field. No dyes, no multiple outfits (I’m not really that keen on just changing gear’s appearance rather than having a separate and toggleable cosmetic outfit), no way to do it on the fly, new gear overriding older transmog looks and requiring more money for new transmogs, and no quick check boxes to turn off helms and capes is all in dire need of addressing. To its credit, WoW has fabulous and fun armor design, which goes a long way to smoothing over the issues presented here.

Star Trek Online

Let’s throw in a couple of Cryptic efforts to be well-rounded. STO never really impressed me with its outfits. Sure, you could mix-and-match uniform elements, there were some (but not many) colors, and you had a small handful of outfit slots. But generally you aren’t collecting new looks while you play (most uniforms are simply bought through the store), and the interface is a little unwieldy. Sometimes it’s just more interesting to let your gear do the visuals for you, since they can be more detailed and futuristic.

Neverwinter

At the bottom of the barrel, Neverwinter does the absolute bare minimum to qualify as an MMO with a cosmetic system while making it as unfun as possible. Two cosmetic-only slots for specific items, no thank you. It’s a system that you learn about in the tutorial and then promptly forget going forward.

Now I know that there are plenty of other MMOs out there with great wardrobe systems, like EverQuest II, but I wanted to rank ones from games that I was most familiar.