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Musings of a Moustachioed Man

Entries in this Writers Block

World of Warcraft: Classic, from a complete WoW noob's perspective.


A few weeks ago, Blizzard released the long-awaited World of Warcraft: Classic - a throwback to the early days of WoW, warts and all. Until that point, I had never played World of Warcraft. Roughly 2 weeks in, my Orc Hunter, Orcthisway, is sitting at level 31 and I am thoroughly addicted.


So, what took me so long? I'd never been a fan of subscription-based MMOs. I hated the idea of paying to keep playing a game. However, after a lot of persuasion from friends, I gave it a shot. I paid for a month's subscription to try Classic out. I've not touched the modern version, referred to as "retail" WoW, but will likely do so in the not-too-distant future. The following will be a series of rambling thoughts on Classic and it's design.


I had a little bit of help from a friend in grasping the basics, navigating the UI, and so on. "Intuitive" is not a word I'd use to describe Classic. It's of an era where RPGs required the player to read quest information and figure things out for themselves, rather than the modern standard of "follow the quest marker". Now, there's nothing wrong with quest markers, but I personally find the over-reliance most modern RPGs have on them to be a little too much. Hand-holding throughout the opening of a game is fine, but when you're max level and a master of the combat system, having the game point you in the right direction feels very patronizing. I often turn quest markers off when I play RPGs I'm familiar with, so I found Classic to be oddly refreshing in the sense that the only directional markers you get are to the nearest settlements (and your allies, if you're in a group). Markers for finishing quests only appear on the mini-map when you're nearby, and the only other markers are from abilities you have to track certain enemies or harvestable materials. You want to know where monster X that you need item Y from is? Read the quest log and figure it out. Can't figure it out? I guess Google is your friend, right? I love this kind of design. Yes, it can get frustrating, but it makes it all the more rewarding when you finally get it done. And the reading leads to actually learning more about the world than you would if you were simply told a few things and led around. The writing is pretty good, and I'm enjoying learning about the war between the Alliance and Horde. There's some nice humour in there, to boot.


Leveling is SLOW. It's been around two weeks and I'm level 31. The level cap is 60, so I might hit that by the end of the month - if I'm lucky. Unlike a lot of other MMOs, you have to mob-grind: kill as many enemies as you can on the way to your next quest, and you'll have an easier time leveling up. The majority of enemies that are around your level are capable of killing you fairly easily if you're not careful. I enjoy this challenge. It makes the enemies feel tough, and you not feel all-powerful. Grouping up to take down tougher "elite" enemies and bosses is essential, but if you're trying to get a particular item to drop, you're going to have a hard time. Loot is shared rather than individual, and unless the rest of your group has already got the items you need, you've got to rely on often low drop rates to get them. The only exceptions are bosses and certain items, where the whole group will get them from the same enemy. XP is only given from enemies that you or your group hit first - if a random passerby hits (or "tags") the enemy you're after before you do, you're gonna have to wait for it to respawn, or find another. Speaking of respawning, the timers for some bosses are painful. Some enemies take 10-15 minutes to respawn, which slows your progress right down. If you're after a boss and someone's just killed it, go make a coffee or something. You'll still be waiting by the time you're back. I get why Blizzard did this - to slow players down so they don't burn through all the content too quickly - but holy shit, it can be tedious sometimes.


Getting around is also very slow. Be prepared to walk a LOT. Flying from one area to another (once you've unlocked the flight paths) can take quite some time, as well. It's another of those "go make a coffee or something" moments. I suppose it's a good thing, as it gives you an opportunity to take a break, but if you're just trying to meet up with your friends, it can be pretty boring - especially if you're trying to fly somewhere to get to the ships or zeppelins that take you to different regions, then flying even farther once you get there. Thankfully, mages can teleport and every character gets a Hearthstone, which teleports you to whichever inn you've set as your home. Mounts are available at level 40 for a hefty fee, which cut down on some travel time, and some classes get abilities that speed you up - the hunter, for example, gets a 30% speed increasing ability. This reduces some of the travel time, but it's still very slow to get around. It's amazing what you take for granted in modern games. Classic just says, "Fast travel? What's that?".


You might think I'm complaining, but honestly I absolutely love this game. Yes, the game is slow and can be very dull at times, but roaming around an unforgiving world, slowly killing one enemy at a time in the hopes that you get the items you've been searching hours for, is a challenging and rewarding experience, and an absolute breath of fresh air in an age where everything is practically given to you on a silver platter. You have to earn those levels, your mounts, etc. and it feels so damn rewarding when you level up... only to have to go back to your class trainer to spend the majority of your money on new abilities. WoW Classic is a rough place, but somehow I still absolutely love it. I've not been gripped by an MMO this much in a very long time. I look forward to when I'm done and move on to retail WoW, where I'll no doubt have my hand held and level much faster, but the world and it's lore has sucked me in. It only took fifteen years for it to finally do so.


I've been at this whole streaming thing for a couple of years now. I feel like it's time to reflect on the journey so far...


Humble Beginnings

I originally started streaming as a distraction from my anxiety and other issues in my life. Things were pretty bad for me, personally, and instead of moping around all the time, I thought I'd give streaming a shot in my spare time. A friend gave me a push in the right direction and I started streaming in August 2017. I had streamed before, but it was more for messing around with friends whilst doing some Dark Souls co-op than actually making an effort to put on a decent show. But I digress...

I started off with single-player games. I did a pretty big Fallout 4 run where I tested a few mods and did my first run through the game's various DLCs. Aside from a couple of friends who were only around every now and then, my streams were pretty slow, as you might expect. I was just having some fun playing a game, and never really thought much of it all. That was until someone popped into my chat and said they were really enjoying the stream. I'll never forget that feeling of accomplishment. It felt like I was doing something right, y'know?

A few months of my incredibly inconsistent schedule later, and I'd found a few regular viewers, moved on to a full run through The Witcher series, and had felt like I was making some genuine connections on Twitch. Then I got my first big raid whilst testing out a Dark Souls mod, which pushed me over the 50 follower requirement for Twitch affiliate. I got an e-mail on Christmas Eve about joining the affiliate program and was over the moon. This was where I thought I should try and make a regular schedule and see just how far I can take this. Just over a year and a half later, here we are. I'm pulling in a fairly consistent viewership, I have a core group of pretty dedicated regulars, my channel's growing at a good pace, I've made some great friends, and I even joined the Forge Discord community (back before it was even called that) and have made it to admin!


Ups and Downs

As with life in general, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. The highs are great, but the lows can be pretty terrible.

I've had some bad experiences in my time on Twitch. I've learned that some people thrive on conflict and drama, whether it's someone having a personal problem with me or a group of people jumping on the hate bandwagon for other streamers. It's childish, it's unnecessary, and to the types of people who can't get enough drama, I must ask - why? Do you genuinely have nothing better to do with your lives? When something bad goes off, I pick myself up and get on with life. There's absolutely no point dwelling on things.

I've had friends fall out with me before and not let it go. It's in the past. It certainly doesn't bother me, and I don't let it get on top of me. And you know what? I'm happier for it! It amazes me as to how long someone can hold a grudge, and with how much overlap there is in a lot of Twitch communities, it's all the more present in our lives. And it is completely unnecessary.

Moving on from such silliness, I will say that the majority of my experiences with Twitch have been positive:

I remember getting raided by a partnered streamer, and being able to send that love on to someone else which gave them that push they needed to make affiliate. It felt like I'd come full circle. I was the one helping someone else reach their goals. That feeling is unlike any other.

I've had a clip of mine featured in a montage on TwitchCon. Not only that, but it was singled out at the end by the panel. Of all the clips, they sat and talked about mine. It absolutely blew my mind.

I've had to stop playing what I was playing on-stream because chat was so active that I didn't even need to be playing a game. We'd just sit there with me on the pause menu, simply chatting away. The time flies by so fast when this happens, and I love every second of it.

I've had people come in and drop hundreds of dollars' worth of bits, or a bunch of gifted subscriptions, or even donations. People have gifted me games. They've even bought mugs and t-shirts with my artwork on them! That is all insanely humbling. There are people out there who are willing to spend money on me just for sitting here in front of a camera & playing videogames. And I swear I'll never get used to it! I am eternally grateful for everyone who has supported me like this.


Lessons learned

Standing out on Twitch is incredibly difficult these days. The platform is oversaturated, to say the least. Views can be extremely inconsistent on not only a game-by-game basis, but a day-by-day basis as well. There's no real formula for success. I've tried variety, I've tried sticking to a single game, I've tried sticking to similar games, I've tried MMOs, single-player games, multi-player games, just chatting, you name it. I will say that the bigger MMOs and multi-player games are definitely less viable for smaller streamers - you'll just get lost in the long list of streamers, which are always sorted by number of viewers.

Twitch has taken steps to help smaller creators stand out, but also some missteps. The loss of Twitch communities was a big one. The tags they introduced to replace communities are mostly awful. A large percentage of viewers don't even read titles or tags. The "no spoilers" tag encourages viewers to spoil games. The LGBTQIA+ tag attracts far too many trolls, but I will say I've had a lot of positive interactions from using it as an ally (give us an ally tag, dammit!). Communities were a great way to find like-minded people.

On a more positive note, the Discover page (basically the front page) now highlights smaller creators in a "recommended" section. I've met a few great streamers through that. It always feels like Twitch could be doing more to help, though. Better sorting options, perhaps? More diverse tags? More prominent titles & tags displayed on channels? I'm just throwing ideas out here. Either way, I think discoverability is an absolute nightmare as a smaller streamer, and it's 90% due to the oversaturation of Twitch. Putting your name out there outside of Twitch seems like the best way to go. It shouldn't be, but here we are.


The Future

Well, this is my first entry into writer's blocks here on Ember. It's been rambly as can be, but that's just how I write things - they're just my thoughts typed out as I... think them, I guess!

Regarding my future as a content creator, I've made the decision to try out streaming on Mixer, which I'll be starting in September. I also aim to create Youtube content, and potentially more. I'm pushing to diversify the content I create, spread it out over multiple platforms, and really get my name out there. Twitch has been fantastic for me, my mental health, and even my social life. I'll not be leaving any time soon, but now more than ever is the time for me to really knuckle down and create as much content as I can, of as high quality as I can. Every time someone tries to kick me down, it lights a fire under me that motivates me to keep doing better. And I will do better. Watch this space.

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