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Neighborhood of Warcraft

50 the dudeI’ve often said that the people claiming that leveling up a new toon were making too much of a big deal out of how long it would take to get from level 1 to max (currently 50). So I rolled up a new toon just to measure how long it would take.

I was also curious about the leveling experience once Shadowlands rolled. Shadowlands was our first ever level squish, meaning we start Shadowlands at level 50, and everything else is squished in between level 1 and 50.  So this experiment is also commentary on that.

The toon in question is a Night Elf mage named Tride (I tried, er, tride to get the name Trial, or Trile, but they were taken).  I went with Frost spec as I felt that would be more challenging than Fire, and I know squat about playing Arcane.  As it turns out, that choice was revelatory.

The rules are simple: leveling at the most casual rate possible.  No dungeons or raids, no instances of any kind that WoW didn’t railroad me into. Follow the natural progression of the questlines only.  No special events.1

Getting Started

03 Shadowglenn

The starting experience posed an immediate choice to make. In Shadowlands they introduced a new, generic starting area for all new toons.  So I had a choice between that and going old school. While I was curious about this new starting area, I elected to go old school and start in Teldrassil.2  By the time I was level 10, I was camped out in Darnassus.

Once based out of Tree City, I had a few decisions to make. The results were as follows:

  • Mining and Herbing, because raw materials always sell.
  • No to fishing, I don’t need to give up a bag slot and it’s a waste of time.
  • Maybe on cooking, to keep a little buff going.3

There was a little bit of cheating. I logged in on Jasra and bought myself some good healing potions and bandages with her money.

10 Teldrassil


13 Lor'danel

Once out of the Tree, it was time to get moving.  I’m still annoyed that we’re dealing with the post-Cataclysm world here instead of based out of Auberdine, and the broken landscape is beyond frustrating.4

However, even at level, this part of the world doesn’t pose too many real issues.  There was some dying, yes, especially when I got my aim off and blinked into something nasty.

The Tower of Athalaxx was the only intractable quest in that zone, and this illustrates the first problem with the new leveling experience. Namely, scaling.

In all zones now, mobs are scaled to match your level. If you’re level 25, expect to see level 25 mobs all around.  And that’s fine, to an extent, but in the case of elites like the denizens of that tower, you either need to group (a no-no for this experiment), or get beefy and outlevel the boss.  And now … that’s not possible. Blizz need to tune some of the beefier mobs out there to work better with the leveling experience.


28 Ashenvale

In Classic, one of the quests that gets you out of Darkshore and into Auberdine is “The Sleeper Awakes” or something like that. I am glad that one’s gone. Hella annoying it was, and on several toons in Vanilla / BC / Wrath, I just skipped that one completely.

Another difference is that pre-Cata, you get sent to Astranaar first thing, but post-Cata you get sent to Orendil’s Retreat for a mini quest-hub and then it keeps progressing you further in until you do end up in Astranaar.

31 astranaar

This is where your home base will be for a good 15 levels at least.

Chromie Time – I hit a wall

30 Stonetalon

Here’s where a big disconnect happens.

Pre-SL, progression in these zones progressed normally.  Post-SL, when you hit level 30, everything just … stops. No XP from killing anything. All mobs are level 30. Quest completion offers a fraction of what it did.  And this applies to all mobs, in all eras. Go to Shattrath, and everything’s level 30. Go to Northrend, same dealy.

There aren’t many bread crumbs here, but the answer is that you really need to be on Chromie Time. What that is is that you speak with Chromie in Stormwind5  and select an era that you want to play in. You then get an introductory quest to get you started in the era you wish to quest in, and then off you go. So if you choose Burning Crusade, for example, you could proceed immediately to Hellfire and start leveling there.

And if you choose not to go to Hellfire, well, all mobs in all zones now scale from levels 7 to 50.  So you can continue to level on Azeroth.  One annoying thing about this is that Chromie doesn’t offer this as an option, you just have to guess. The other is that if  you don’t start in Exile’s Reach, you end up having to figure this out on your own – the Command Board did not light up with a quest marker on the map, but it DID have the quest available to go see Chromie.

So I’m not sure at what point you’re supposed to pick up Chromie Time, but I do know that you have to do so no later than level 30.

This throws a huge error into my numbers – I spent over an hour figuring this out.

I got better

One reason I chose Frost for my spec was that canonically, right now it doesn’t hit as hard as other specs, and, as I mentioned, I had no clue how to play Arcane (I’ve tried in the past). And I did, I struggled a lot early on, even using some Fire spells out of desperation.

But as I progressed, so did my toolbox. The big one was when Brain Freeze became available, this opened Flurry as an insta-cast, and later on that allowed it to buff Ice Lance. Between those two, as well as the Frozen Orb, by level 35 I was really kicking butt.

So this underlines a huge flaw in the Frost spec, and maybe others – at lower levels they’re really not up to the task that they’re assigned. It isn’t until you’re halfway through the talent tree that you can really feel like you’re getting somewhere, and, I suspect, all zones are currently designed as if you have access to all talents and spells.

Bottom line: that was a lot of work, retuning the old world to work with the level squish. But you really need another pass, Blizz, this time with toons at appropriate level.


41 Desolace

Having gotten my leveling thing worked out, I finished off Stonetalon6, and forayed into Desolace at level 39, where I dinged level 40 and quickly ported over to Stormwind7 to get my fast flying8.

Again, as I gained levels I gained in power. This is one good thing that Blizz has accomplished, is the notion of spell ranks once again, but this time it isn’t just scaling – each spell rank can (and usually does) bring additional effects with it. So, as you progress in levels, you genuinely do feel more powerful, one of the key values of leveling.

As a result, clearing out Desolace was a pretty trivial task, though I did bite off more than I could chew on the ghost magnet quest. Other than Stupid Hunter Tricks (as payed on a Mage), Desolace was a cake walk.

One thing that puzzled me was that while I was expecting to be sent to Feralas once I completed that zone, instead I had no choice to go resume my questing in Southern Barrens.

Southern Barrens and Theramore

49 Theremore

As I completed the final quests of Southern Barrens, I dinged 49 and was directed to Theramore, where I picked up a bunch of quests to go kill things and save a surprisingly ancient hermit and come to the rescue of some Goblins (no, really!). My journey to 50 was almost complete, and I realized at this point that I had been cheated.

Specifically, the World of Warcraft had shrunk.  I had slavishly stuck to my home continent as I leveled up just to see what would happen. What happened was that I only barely saw Thousand Needles and Feralas in passing, with Tanaris, Un’Goro, Felwood10, Azshara11, and Silithus completely missing from my quest log. I suspect that the same would have occurred had I chosen Ironforge or Stormwind as a starting point.  And that’s really sad.

While the level squish is mostly done well, barring a couple of technical issues which I suspect will never be fixed, it emphasizes exactly why I was against such a move.  The problem I just described above has always been there since Cataclysm. When they revamped the zones for Cataclysm, then never went back and adjusted things so that you could visit the whole world. Quests would go gray before you were finished a zone, and you’d be off to Outland long before you completed other zones. Hell, Winterspring was so infrequently visited that I even forgot about it in the previous paragraph.

And that was never addressed, and that will never be addressed. The World of Warcraft is reduced to your general neighborhood. The Neighborhood of Warcraft.

Thoughts and Conclusions

49 Feralas

At the end of the day, I ended up at 54 hours /played to get to Level 50. Subtract an hour for my confusion at level 30 if you wish, but I won’t hold it against you if you don’t.

What this adds up to is if someone played 8 hours a day it would take just under a week. A more realistic 4 hours and we’re talking around two weeks.  I’d call it three weeks of dedicated playtime to get to the point that you’re ready to start leveling on whatever the new expansion is.

My conclusion here is that while it’s certainly not a gigantic burden to level up to 50 in a reasonable time, three weeks is probably longer than the endgame-eager “hardcore raider” mindset. Hell, ONE week is probably longer than they’d be willing to put in, and any time put in for this sort of thing is probably done grudgingly.

I still think that paying for a boost is appropriate in this case. I am forever worn out and tired of Blizz bending over backwards to a tiny sliver of the population and wish they would spend time making the journey to endgame more interesting. There are years’ worth of adventures locked away behind a poorly designed and paced leveling experience, and it’s a damned shame that nobody has any reason to visit them – much less enjoy them – other than the completionists out there dragging their max-level asses through content that they don’t even appreciate because how can you if you’re life isn’t in danger?

Tride the Frost Mage’s days are over, and I thank him for his service. I understand the process better now, and will no longer feel that people that don’t want to do even this  little bit of leveling are necessary lazy or unwilling to put in the time. It’s a not insignificant amount of time that obviously I don’t begrudge12, but others might.

A new player just getting started will forever be missing what the rest of us experienced, for good or ill. How to explain to someone in the future that all these Chromie Zones were once played in sequence?  I’ll leave that up to wiser heads than myself.

My adventures as a leveling toon ended when I dinged level 50. Chromie let me know that I was about to be kicked out. She gave me a countdown, and then booted me to present day, at the courtyard of Stormwind Keep.   When I tried to port back to Darnassus, I was dropped at Darkshore, where all that was once our home lay smoking on the horizon13.  With a heavy heart, I sighed and ported to Ironforge where I sold all my stuff, mailed the cash to Jasra, and quietly ended the enterprise.

50 this dude

  1. Okay, the Lunar festival was running at one point and I cleared a few Elders because those unanswered quest markers on the map were driving me MEGA HELLNUTS CRAZY.
  2. So sue me, the War of the Thorns is still fresh for me, OKAY?
  3. At some point I did cheat and bought stuff off the AH to level cooking.
  4. Why is it that the Night Elves are getting it in the teeth every other expansion and yet somehow we’re supposed to feel sorry for the Orcs and be okay with them cutting down every tree that they can see and then some? Give me a break.
  5. Of course, Stormwind. Always, of course, Stormwind.
  6. Having never visited the peak, once a must-have! (addendum: a later quest took me there. Duh.)
  7. Of course, Stormwind. Always … wait, I’m repeating myself.
  8. No, that’s not cheating – neither the teleport, which is a Light-given Mage perk, nor the fast flying. The assumption here is that I’m leveling an alt for … whatever the leveler needs that level 50 toon for. One assumes that the leveler already has mounts, and, as you are well aware now, SIR, mounts are account wide9.
  9. If someone was leveling a new toon, this would be very, very sad.  I’ll essplain later.
  10. Where even is the bread crumb for that zone?
  11. Same question.
  12. Obviously not, I just blew three weekends on a silly experiment.
  13. As I said, War of the Thorns is still a bitter memory for me.

Dragged it out, but here I am


Roughly a month after Shadowlands released, here I am at 60. I was in no particular hurry and have probably been left far behind by my guildmates. However, if you gulp you can get indigestion, so I’ve been chewing slowly and steadily.

My approach has been to take one toon up a level, then another, and then another, with a level’s separation between Grimm / Illume / Jasra / Floramel. So, today I popped 60 on Grimm which means when I next level Illume, she’ll pop 59, and so forth.

This has worked pretty well before, but there’s a problem with Shadowlands.

In the past, there has been a barely-visible set of railroad tracks under your feet, but they took multiple paths to max level. In BC we all started in one place, then took multiple paths out of there. In Wrath we started in two different places. Same for Cataclysm, with a reversion to the BC model in MoP and WoD and BfA, and a great multiple entry model in Legion (the best IMO).

But here, in Shadowlands, we’re locked on to very strong tracks, and they will not abide deviation from a given path.  You don’t advance from one zone to the next without achieving certain key points – Maldraxxus is the most blatant, with its five runes.  Get all five and you’re off to Ardenweald.

I do see that there are flight points available to all zones at some point, but I’m not sure if you can actually fly to one out of sequence.  Something to look into.

So, overall it’s been a slice, but it’s been an increasingly boring slice. Hopefully once I complete all the storylines I will have more choice in what I do next, but right now it feels like some bloke in Irvine is playing the game for me. The levelling game feels like it’s been written out of the story so we can rush into endgame.  Seriously, why not eliminate it completely if that’s how you feel? Publish a comic book and be done with.

I’m pretty sure that this game would be a lot more playable for my alts if I maxxed out one character before levelling any of the others, but that basically means I needed to have foreseen this and adjusted my playstyle before I ever played. Pretty stupid assumption if I’m honest.  Never trust a software engineer – or game designer – to be particularly smart.

The most annoying part of this is that Shadowlands would be easily playable as a four-starting-zones game, ala Legion. But they chose not to do it that way. Reflect on that.

It’s the Ninth Annual Finding Jaina Day

Nine years ago, a little kitten wandered across the parking lot right in front of our car as we were headed to work. Small and scruffy and moving like it was on its last legs, there was no way we weren’t taking her home with us. When we took her to a chain vet clinic (you know who), they said she had FIP and wouldn’t last six weeks. And yet, she persisted.

Jaina 2011-12-30
Jaina, week one, Kong kick toy for size comparison

That day was December 21, which we have marked as National Finding Jaina Day. Extrapolating backwards, she was probably born around Hallowe’en, but we’re not sure. We are sure when we found her, though.

This year has been, like for many of us, a year of ups and downs, and it’s been the same for Jaina.

If there’s something that upsets a house full of cats, it’s kittens. And early this year, Monster (you recall I mentioned her last year) got knocked up.  We figured this would be yet another hard to reach litter, and we were concerned that she and Ghost, her mom, wouldn’t get along in that regard since there are only so many nesting spots in the hood.

Monster brought her litter to a shelter we had set up on the back porch. She of course was still coming in for treats, but not as much, naturally. The big surprise came when the missus opened the back door one day and in Monster came with one of her kittens, and she went straight to one of her favorite cat beds.  Mrs G got the hint and set up a tote with a cat bed in it, and went out and got the rest of the litter. 

little monsters 2020-04-12
Monster and the Little Monsters, in the tote

From that point on, we were fostering four kittens; I think Monster appreciated that we were looking after her,  because this pretty much reduced her to skin and bones. She was too young, really, but Boy Cats don’t care about that (1).

Anyway, three of the kittens were white with calico colors on them; we named them based on the number of spots on their heads – Things One, Two, and Three, or, as I insisted later, Neo, Switch, and Trinity.  The fourth one was your basic stripey kitten who I dubbed Turbo because he was the first out of the nest – in a hurry to get there (2).

Mother and kittens were taken down to the shelter where the kittens were put up for adoption and pretty much flew off the shelf (Weaned and socialized? Where do we sign?). Monster was fixed and we brought her home sans kittens, and she still visits frequently, especially for Greenies. I still miss the Little Monsters something fierce, but there simply was no way we could provide them a good home with all the cats we already have.

Turbo 2020-05-29
Turbo (and some guy) – she got there on her own.
Neo 2020-05-16
Neo, after romping around on the bed to say good morning
Switch 2020-05-28
Switch, being very curious about something
neo 2020-04-29
Trinity, all worn out after a raucous romp

Sadly, Monster’s brother Mogwai stopped showing up around that time, as well as her older brother Spartacus, who we were hoping to domesticate. We’re not sure what happened but we suspect it was their daddy, Goblin, asserting his territory. It’s a shame, we had Sparty staying inside sometimes for days before he’d go out, and we did dread it when he did since he’d disappear for days after.

mogwai 2020-04-09
Spartacus 2019-12-07

Their mother, Ghost, gave birth to a litter shortly after Monster, which gave us four lovely white kitties who we are still trying to trap and get fixed, especially the female. The biggest male, who we have dubbed Pinky because of his pinkish ears and pink nose, has taken to coming in for short periods, and he is almost the spitting image of Spartacus(5). His brother Brownie, who is almost identical except he has brownish ears, has also started coming in and appreciates scritches.

Unrelated, Ghost had another litter in the fall and this time we were able to get them. She had six, of which one was abandoned and we didn’t find until it was too late. It died in Mrs Grimm’s hands, just too weak to even take in milk. Another was also abandoned, but we found it in time to find it a home. The other four, and Ghost, were captured and taken to the shelter where they were apparently fostered out together since they all disappeared from the website at the same time – mother and kids. We were asked if we’d take Ghost back if she was unadoptable (we figured she wasn’t) and we of course said yes, so the fact that they never called us back is encouraging.

Finally, our stepdaughter moved in since she’s been out of work since March or so. She brings with her a sweet kitty named Pelna(6) and this of course upsets the order of things once again. They’re all still finding their way at this point.

Jaina still continues to hate Tater with the heat of a millions suns, and will still go after her with no regard for the size difference at all.

But aside from that, she’s doing quite well. She’s discovered that she loves naps in Mommy’s lap and will spend hours there given the option. Sometimes she makes here own options, dropping bigger and bigger hints(3) until Mommy “gets it” and relocates to the recliner. She doesn’t steal my chair that much anymore but she’s started stealing Mommy’s chair, or, most optimally, falling asleep on the arm of the recliner on the off chance that Mommy comes by.

Jaina 2020-12-10-2

She’s still quite the fan of gooshy food but no fan of other cats in general. Mrs. Grimm says she thinks Jaina doesn’t know she’s a cat, and sometimes I have to agree, especially having now seen a couple of groups of fully socialized cats(4) grow up in my vicinity. She still sleeps next to my pillow on occasion but if another cat has slept there for a significant amount of time, she’ll reject it until we replace the towel that she sleeps on (so it doesn’t smell like them).

She has developed a vexing cough, just occasionally, no specific triggers – she’ll just start coughing quietly for a few seconds, then we’re back in business. No throwing up or anything. We’re going to have to get that looked at.  I’m sure the vet’s techs will be glad to see her considering that time she growled so loud that one of the techs noped right out of there and was not seen again. 

Honestly, we’re more worried about her vet; he’s looking pretty run down.  I hope he can take some time and get some rest.  The guy he had subbing in on Fridays was pretty nice, but last time we did a Friday visit, he wasn’t there.

Anyway, if all goes well next year will be the 10 year anniversary of Finding Jaina Day, which will be celebrated with tuna and catnip(7). See you then-ish.

(1) After we got the kittens out for adoption, Monster recovered nicely and is now quite the plump floof cat.

Monster 2020-11-16

(2) Took the name from the movie Interstellar – “Watch that speed, Turbo – safety first.”

(3) Including getting bitey.

(4) Socialized to other cats, that is.

(5) We don’t have pictures yet. And yes, this is out of order.

(6) Also no pictures yet.

(7) Who am I kidding, we celebrate all of them with tuna and catnip!

Hard Times in Bastion

Bastion bothers me.

A friend of mine on Twitter noticed this first, but I’ve seen it, too.  There’s something like a place that makes you shed your identity and turn into a person identical to all of the other people around you of the same gender a bit unnerving. And the words used by these people remind me of a, of a … well, this.

And then there’s this.


Here we have one of the cult members (circled, to the far right) “shedding his memories” (all the other circles).  You can see that this blue dude is actually in past life a Tauren, and his memories of his past are deemed “burdens”.

They should have named it “definitely not a cult land”.

Now, a certain major lore character that you saw in one of the animated shorts (not spoiling it) has started a counter cultural movement, and I have to say, while they’re being portrayed as the baddies, I’m kinda rooting for them.

It may be pretty here, but it’s just horrible.