Elbow room

A few days ago I was talking about my plans for Cataclysm. Actually I have been doing that a lot lately.

In this particular case I talked about both leveling my existing level 80’s to 85 and starting shiny new alts. Gnomageddon brought up an interesting point in the comments. He mentioned how crowded the new areas will be.

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I remember the chaos that was Hellfire Peninsula in the first days of The Burning Crusade.

I remember lagging out simply trying to zone into the Death Knight starter area in the days after Wrath launched.

I remember fighting shoulder to shoulder with dozens of others in the Draeni starter zone, trying to be the first to tag things as they spawned.

I remember how Shattrah stood empty while people literally waited in line for quest mobs to spawn in Borean Tundra.

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Once upon a time I even wrote  a post about my plans to spend the early days of Wrath in a quiet place, and I did.

This time will be a little different. Not much, but a little.

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In the early days of the Cataclysm I have absolutely no intention of trying to fight my way through the level 80-85 zones shoulder to shoulder with 75% of the rest of my server. Nor will I be in the new starting zones with the remaining 25% of my server trying desperately to level a Worgen or Goblin. Both of those will come with time.

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My current plan though is to do the same with my healers as I am currently doing with my Pally and Shaman. I will hit up the Looking for Dungeon for the new shinys.

I figure that my Priest, and possibly my Shaman if she is high enough in level, will level to 85 exclusively through instances. Regardless of how many people are online I won’t be fighting people for quest mobs at least.

Well, this assumes that additional instance will be able to be launched.

When things settle down a bit I will level my Hunter through the new quest lines and experience the content.

Once things settle down even more I will level up my Goblin and Worgen.

I am just going to wait until I have a bit of elbow room.

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Looking forward to the end of the world

Thinking about the future is one thing, actively planning for the unknown is another.

That has been taking up a good chunk of my time lately. Planning, plotting, and gathering has been on my list of things to do for a while now.

Like a squirrel putting away nuts for the winter, or the ant in the famous story stocking up for a rainy day I have been gathering.

Gathering up things that I will need for my new characters when the Cataclysm comes later this year.

In a way that is a shame.

It’s not that I am not enjoying the game that I am playing now, far from it. It’s more along the lines of looking forward to the content to come.

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People who like to raid are getting their fix of new content now, as Icecrown opens its doors to their not so tender advances.

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People who prefer PvP are getting a new arena season. (Or so I have been told, I don’t participate.)

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People like me who actually enjoy the leveling process are still running the same content we have for the last four years. Soon though, that will change.

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I for one am looking forward to it.

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New places to explore, new quests to do, new lore to see, it will be great.

Ok, it will be great unless I am required to swim everywhere. I prefer my gaming environment to be rather two-dimensional. Thats probably why I don’t care for Eye of Eternity or Oculus, but I digress.

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What does any of this have to do with gathering stuff towards the Cataclysm?

Well, it turns out that looking at it I am not gathering like it’s the end of the world.

I am gathering like I am going on vacation.

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I want enough cash in the bank that I don’t have to worry about grinding dailies or working the auction house to support the characters I will be leveling. That sounds an awful lot like vacation to me. I just want to have fun and not “work” to support it.

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I want basic starter gear for both of the ones I plan to start. I am not talking about having a complete changout of gear I can swap to every ten levels sitting, already gemmed and enchanted, in the bank.

I am just talking about a few heirlooms and other odds and ends.

That leads me (as such things often do) to making a list of what I want to have set aside for my new characters. Since I am writing it down anyhow, and need to put it somewhere where it won’t get lost, it’s going to go here.

  • Cash. 8K gold should be enough to cover money sinks all the way through cold weather flight, so I’ll likely go with an even 10K to be safe.
  • Bind to Account chest(s) appropriate to the class.
  • Bind to Account shoulder(s) appropriate to the class.
  • Bind to account weapon(s) appropriate to the class.
  • Inventory bags. I figure four Frostweave Bags at 20 slots each will do fine.
  • Bank bags. Seven Travelers Backpacks will do well here. 16 slots each, and non-binding so I lose nothing by updating them later. 

Is that perhaps going a little overboard?

I don’t think so.

Going overboard would also include things like this:

  • All the cloth to level first aid to 450.
  • All the meats to level cooking to 450.
  • All the raw materials to level both chosen professions to 450.
  • A well stocked personal guild bank full of consumables and recipes.
  • A second tab in that bank with complete gear sets (minus the heirloom slots) to carry you all the way to 80. Bonus points if there are sets for multiple specs.

When the Wrath of the Litch King was still on the horizon I was planning and gathering as well. The difference is I was a raider back then. Everything revolved around getting to 80 as quick as possible so I could get back into the raid group.

Leveling those ten levels from 70 to 80 was a chore to be done, an obstacle in my path. Work I had to do before I could play the game I wanted to. Everything I stockpiled was with that in mind.

Now it’s the leveling I am looking forward to, and raiding is just distant smoke on the horizon.

This time instead of having ten levels of work before I could start to have fun, I am looking forward to 85 levels of fun before I start having to work.

It’s actually kind of refreshing.

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Upon further consideration…

Yesterday I put up a rather long post about what I see as some of the reasons for the disparity in the amount of tanks and/or healers available in the game. The post did not draw a huge amount comments, but it did draw some pretty insightful ones.

After reading those and doing a bit more thinking on the subject some of my opinions are somewhat changed. I thought of simply putting this all in the comments, but it actually deserves its own post.

Remember when I said I might hijack some of your comments for further posting?

I wasn’t kidding :)

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In yesterday’s post I broke it down into four categories, mostly to help me keep my thoughts in order. I did, after all, write that before I finished my morning coffee.

Today I am going to go about it just a bit differently..

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TheReaper brought up a few good points last night.

In my opinion tanks are far easier to gear than any other archetype in the game.
Are you defcapped? Yes? Stack stamina. No? Get more def rating.


Avoidance automatically increases with gear and unless you went really wrong somewhere threat generation isn’t much of a problem either these days.


There are certain encounters where a specialized set of gear comes in handy, but those are usually hardmodes that I don’t worry about on my twink (even though I have successfully tanked all raid instances in the game and my paladin is currently sitting just shy of 5400 gs).
On my rogue however, gearing is a nightmare. What stats do I look for?
Expertise
Agility
Critrating
Hitrating
Attackpower
Haste
Sounds complicated? Well, it gets worse…
Expertise pretty much trumps everything until you hit the dodgecap (26 expertise).
Hitrating is imperative up to the poison hit cap, which differs depending on: specc, group composition, available debuffs, race and weapon. If you wanted to really squeeze every last drop of dps you might need up to 5 different sets to hit the different hitcaps.
Hitrating raises your soft crit cap, its great if you reached the cap, pretty bad if you didn’t.
Agility/critrating are good until you hit the soft crit cap, but fall behind AP/haste above it.
So every time I could get a new piece of gear I have to pull up my spreadsheet, see if equipping it would bump me over my soft crit cap, regem/reequip hitrating accordingly, figure out if the upgrade is still worth it at that point and so on.
 
 
 
 Sorry for the wall of text, but gearing a dps class is by no means “easier” than gearing a tank or healer.
Gearing becomes difficult when you try to maximize your effectiveness, I want to do that on my rogue, so its hard, I don’t want to do that on my paladin, so it appears easier to me.
Someone with a pally tank main and a rogue alt would probably react in the exact opposite way.

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I will admit that when I look back at it with a more critical eye I see that I may have filtered my perceptions of the complexity of gearing through the lens of my experience. Then again, I think we all would.

Today I am both properly caffeinated and looking at this from a wider perspective. The relative difficulty of gearing any character for a specific role will be different for different people. It will also to a large degree depend on who is doing the gearing and why.  

First, how familiar are you with the class and role?

If you are gearing a character class you are familiar with for a role you are familiar with it will be a lot easier. Like any other task, it will be easier with experience. The more you do something the easier it seems.

Secondly, What are you gearing for? The reasons you are gearing up will also influence not only your gear choices, but how in depth you need to go into “perfecting” your gear, spec, and play style.

For instance, I enjoy battlegrounds on occasion, but have no desire to do arena. My gearing for PvP would be simplistic in comparison to someone who was playing on a top rated arena team. Someone who levels up and decides just to stay in 5 mans will have less of a need to min-max their character than someone who plans to see Arthas fall in Icecrown 25.

As TheReaper said, Gearing becomes difficult when you try to maximize your effectiveness.

There are the absolute basics like he mentioned about gearing a tank, and I mentioned about gearing a hunter at one end of the spectrum. At the other there are calculators, spreadsheets, stat weighted gear sorters, and just about any other thing you can think of to help min-max. I suppose it’s really about how far you want to go down that particular rabbit hole.

Fortunately (in my opinion) the stats are planned to be streamlined in Cataclysm which should make the learning curve a bit less steep when deciding to change how much you choose to focus on a given role.

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A few people touched on the social aspect.

Isa wrote (in part)

… While a different game design could make tanks and healers less obvious points of failure, and thus less scary, I think it’s this social mechanism you’ve mentioned that drives the shortage, and not the design. In other words, I believe game design can be a solution but it’s not the real problem.

Greysmoke wrote (in part)

… There does seem to be a pervasive idea that once you hit 80, you should know perfectly whatever role you’re playing, so if you’re wanting to switch from dps to heals or tanking, you’re either going to take a lot of abuse OR you’re going to have to rely on friends and guildies to see you through the learning curve. And it seems to be much worse for tanks than healers, in my experience. …

Humans are for the most part social creatures. That is one of the big reasons Wow is so damn popular. If I got this level of enjoyment out of a solo console game I would have saved a bloody fortune over the last four years. Hell, if I were not a social creature I would not be writing about it and you folks would not be here commenting.

One of the things many people fear in a social situation is rejection by ones peers. They may not admit it, or even consciously know it, but it will influence their decisions.

The steeper the learning curve would be to achieve success the fewer will be willing to climb that learning curve. The greater the cost, or more visible the failure would be, the less likely people are to take the risk.

This can be lessened somewhat by being able to practice alone. Target dummies and random critters out in the world do a good job of that for Dps classes. Battlegrounds (especially AV) can be a good training ground for healers.

I have yet to find a way to “practice” tanking in a way that does not involve running a five man.  Of course, having said that someone will come by and tell me how to do it now.

The only ways to eliminate that would be for Blizzard to somehow put in the ability to practice tanking into the game, or to eliminate the distinctions between tanks, heals, and dps. Somehow I think that the simulator is more likely in Wow, and eliminating the distinctions is more likely to happen in the next generation MMO, but that is a whole other post.

As Isa said, game design can be a solution but it’s not the real problem.

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The more I think about this the more I think it boils down to two major reasons for the disparity.

The first is the fear of failure, particularly of public failure and the ridicule that can go with it.

That goes a long way to explaining not only why people tend to not play the single point of failure roles, but why many that do will have periods of “burnout” where they drop that role in favor of Dps. Whether actually performing the tasks to play the role well is more difficult or not, the perceived stress coming from the fear of failure will get to some people after a while.

I know there was a time when I took six months or more off healing and went shadow on my priest, just because I was tired of getting blamed for choosing to throw my heals on the tank who is holding the boss and letting some idiot that was standing in the bad die.

*note to all:  if your feet are on fire… please move.*

The second is the ability to practice and improve ones performance outside of a group setting.

How much “soloable” content that can be practiced on may not be a factor, but I do see a direct relation to role choice. It may be coincidence, but then again it might not.

  • Dps

Training opportunities include everything from “kill ten rats” quests, to target dummies. There are lower level instances to run solo or in a group, battlegrounds to fight in, mobs wandering the countryside, in short it’s a Dps paradise.

By the time people leave their starting zone they have the beginnings of a grasp on Dps. Unless you heal or tank instances as you level every character is a Dps’r all the way to the level cap.

Most training opportunities, most common role.

  • Healing

Training for healing is a good bit harder to come by. Since the only way to learn group healing is to heal groups your choices pretty much boil down to healing instances, healing raids, or healing in PvP. I suppose we could throw in the odd group quest while leveling that requires a bit of healing, but honestly most can be solo’d by a Dps class.

That’s pretty much it for healing. Sure there are a few times here and there where you can learn healing outside of running instances and raids, but not much at all.

Much leaner training opportunities, much fewer players in the role.

  • Tanking

Training for tanking is simple. Run five mans, or run raids. That pretty much covers it. Perhaps a few group quests would count here as well. I can think of no ways to practice holding threat and managing cooldowns as a tank in a group other than being the tank in one.

Could you go practice your rotation of a target dummy, or random mobs out in the world? Sure.

Will that show you whether you would actually be holding aggro against high output Dps? No.

Will that get you practice in using your “oh crap” buttons at the proper time? No.

There are a very few skills you could actually practice, such as line of sight pulling of casters, but there is really not much you can do without a group.

Least amount of training available, fewest people willing to step into the role.

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I don’t see these things so much as a reason people will not roll a tank or a healer. I see them more of a reason that tanks and healers both will tend to find groups of friends while learning their trade. Friends that will help them out and not give them a bunch of grief as they learn the ropes of that role.

Once a person has done that why would they want to run with strangers? Why take a further chance of getting crap from people you will never see again in favor of rolling with folks you know you can depend on? Why put yourself out there in a spotlight ready to be criticized if someone pulls aggro or stands in the fire?

In the bigger picture I don’t really think that there exists a disproportionate number of Dps. I simply think it much more likely that people choosing the tanking and healing roles are less apt to run with strangers. The are a lot more likely to run with those they have had good luck with before.

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The next time you are in a pug 5 man and one of the players says “Hey guys, My gearscore is low and I am new to this role. How about you help me learn the ropes?”

Are you going to be one of those that just bail and leave that person hanging, or will you be one of those that says “Thanks for the heads up, we can do this.”

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Think about it.

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Random thoughts

In the pre-dawn quiet of my office I often let the head of cauliflower that doubles as my brain go running amok.

I might give it a topic, I might not, sometimes I just down a couple cups of coffee and let it go.

Today is one of those days. 

One of those days where questions pop into my mind. For instance exactly what is “amok” and why is it always running. Seriously, have you ever heard of an “amok” that was not running?

Me neither.

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Anyhow, this morning I have been sitting around thinking of what might be in store for me in game. Not so much what am I going to do this evening, thats easy. I might perhaps run one random heroic, if I get on at all. Wednesdays are pretty booked with things out in the real world.

I am more talking about what I am going to do when the expansion hits.

Yes, I realize the last of the WotLK content has not even been released yet. Then again for me it basically has. Since I am not a raider any more the last new content I am likely to see was the new 5 man instances released with patch 3.3.

I am ok with that.

Then several thoughts crossed in my brain, possibly as a direct result of the number of long island iced teas that I consumed last night. Thats what brought this whole chain of thought on.

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Between my three level 80 characters I am sitting on damn near 900 stone keeper shards. More come in nearly every day as I run more and more heroics.  I am positively swimming in the things.

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When the expansion comes * it is going to completely revamp the world. Most importantly it is going to redo the entire leveling process. A lot of work is going into that, and I plan to experience it first hand by leveling up a character from scratch to at least level 60.  I might stall once I look at Hellfire again, but thats far in the future.

For right now I am stuck thinking what I might want to level up.

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Yes I know it’s not like I can roll the character now. Actually if it is one of the current race/class combos I could, but that’s not the point. What I am getting at is figuring out how to spend all those yummy shards I have, and perhaps some extra badges that I might end up with after gearing up Dechion.

After all, it won’t be long before I get to the point where the next upgrades that I can simply buy are Emblem of Frost upgrades. ** Once that happens I start buying heirlooms and banking them for later.

So here is the point of the whole post.

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We are going to pick new alts for me to level in Cataclysm. There are a few things to think about though.

  • Keep in mind that I don’t care much for melee Dps.
  • I also don’t know whether I would like tanking or not.
  • Ranged Dps is a lot of fun, I enjoy it.
  • Healing is also quite a good time. Actually I prefer it over anything ease when grouped.
  • This character has to be able to solo well, since the whole point is to level through the new quests.
  • Oh, and last but not least I plan to run up one each Alliance and Horde side.

So what would it be friends?

What race/class would you suggest?

What heirlooms would you get for them?

What else would you pack in their bags as you sent them on their way?

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* I still say we are looking at a late Feb/early Mar start to the Beta with a release date in early summer, probably late June.

** The two piece T-9 and two piece T-10 set bonuses for a holy priest are better (in my opinion) than the 4 piece of either set. I am currently planning on having the T-9 chest and legs, the T-10 shoulders and gloves, and I’ll round it out with the 75 badge non tier helm. 

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Playing favorites

I got to thinking this morning.

If you have been around for long you know that usually is followed by some random observation about life, Warcraft, or the state of mind I happen to be in. Today however, that is not the case.

Instead of reading the news or any other such thing I decided to look through my past posts. I have quite a few posts I really enjoyed writing. Some were funny, some were serious, some were not even about Warcraft. Hell some were not even on this blog.

Anyhow, since I spent my time woolgathering instead of brainstorming I don’t have any good ideas for todays post. On the plus side I did spend a good amount of time enjoying some of my other stuff. 

I suppose instead of just ignoring my friends on the intertubes I’ll just afflict you with  “best of” list.

Well, maybe not the best, but some of my favorites anyhow.

Not so funny stuffs:

Casually Addicted (um, yes)

What are epics worth? (whatever your willing to pay)

Will heal for food (I never feel like this anymore, thankfully)

Everything I needed to know about WoW I learned in the Barrens (yep)

Something was missing (They nerfed it to the ground, then kicked it)

Kinda funny stuffs:

This just in (Arena really would make more sense like this)

Dads kiss up points, or DKP for short (yes, it’s working)

Way beyone grumpy (a rant, but a funny one)

/Headdesk (I still do things like this, often)

Blah (all purpose patch notes)

Stories about that place thats not Azeroth:

Five hours and counting (from yet another meme)

Escape to Azeroth (like a vacation commercial, only not)

Farewell old friend (once upon a time I lived there)

What would you ask? (what the next gen’s genera is going to be)

Oh, snap! ( I hate it when that happens)

Fan fiction/ stories:

And the lights grow dimmer (my all time favorite post, it just felt right)

Blood in the water (why don’t they clean up after themselves?)

Mirrior mirror (it would  be an odd feeling)

The same, except completely different (Mmmmm…. beer)

Missing (a diferent take on Mirror Mirror, and better written IMO)

Stuffs from my other distinctly non-WoW blog what might be entertaining:

A line in the sand (I wonder what I would have done?)

Frogs (still makes me laugh)

Oh cool, I found it! (yes I know it’s a recent post, but it’s a good one)

Mans best friend (sadly only one is still with us)

A ride (makes me want to get the bike out and go)

And there you have it, the perfect post for a day when I had no idea what to write.

Wow what a sale

Dear readers,

I just noticed a little something interesting.

Starting today (11/27/09) and going thru Sunday (11/29) the original World of Warcraft game will be on sale thru the Blizzard store as a digital download for a mere five dollars. Apparently hard copies will be similarly priced this weekend at retail stores also.

My roving reporter/price checker lovely wife who is out shopping at oh dark thirty this black friday morning also tells me that the World of Warcraft battle chest (original game+Burning Crusade+near useless guide book) is going for twenty. Then again, that may be a local sale at one store only, I can’t confirm anything right now on the battle chest.

Been thinking about using Refer-a-friend to multi box your way to 60?

I know I have. I simply never got around to it.

Will I do it now?

Possibly.

Have a friend that you have been trying to talk into Wow for ever?

Drop five bucks and get them the first month and first sixty levels.

I know of a dad who is planning to buy accounts for his sons this Christmas. They have been using his and/or his wifes accounts up till now, but with both parents and three sons all playing they can field five mans in-house.

Am I recommending it to you?

No, not particularly. I just give information, what you do with it is entirely up to you.

I am just pointing it out to you, my wonderful readers, the same way I might point out an ad in the sunday sales flyer to a friend. This just happens to be the way I talk to you, as opposed to over a cup of coffee at the local Waffle House.

Enjoy the weekend,

-Dechion

This post brought to you be the fact that I would rather gouge out my eyes with a spork that go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. My wife calls it Black Friday and looks forward to it for weeks. I call it National Asshat day. I am a firm believer that trade chat will be quiet at the moment, and all pugs will run like clockwork. All the asshats are already busy.

Not all the shoppers this morning are asshats, but most of the asshats will be there.

That by itself is enough to keep me at home.

The great Retcon

When I first got the game and began leveling up I remember distinctly being told that the game began at 60. Raiding was where it was at, everything else was merely hurdles to overcome to get there.

Obstacles placed in the way by the games designers so that only the worthy would persevere through it all.

Raiding was the real game, everything else just got in its way.

I bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

 

I started that day looking at all the zones and quests starry-eyed, filled with wonder, like I was part of a story that was ongoing. I was happy to be where I was, discovering things as I went.

Once I bought into the game starting at the level cap that all went away.

Leveling up was no longer fun, it was an obstacle in my way. Less a lore filled joy to experience and more something to simply get through as efficiently as possible. So I turned on instant quest text, grabbed some addons, and started smashing my way through.

 

I no longer looked at each quest, I didn’t have to.

The arrow told me where to run.

The mousover told me what to kill.

The sparkles told me what to gather.

Then the arrow told me where to go turn it in.

It was fast, efficient, and boring as hell.

No one likes doing chores, and that is exactly what leveling had become.

I look back on it now and realize I was wrong.

 

The game does not begin at the level cap. The game begins at the character creation screen.

I would hazard a guess and say that 95% of the content of the game has to do with something other than the level cap.

There are stories out there, great stories, just waiting for me to be a part of them.

Unfortunately I already did them, blazing through with quests unread, just following the arrow under my feet.

I didn’t just kill critters as I quested away, I killed a huge chunk of the game for myself.

 

That’s why I am so looking forward to Cataclysm, it is going to give us something people only dream about in real life.

A fresh start.

A chance to live out the dream of  “If only I had known then what I know now.”

 

Cataclysm is going to be just that, for me at least.

I plan to roll a shiny new character, currently planning on a druid, and turning off all the helpers.

I will read the quests and follow the story where it leads me.

I am not even going to spoil the new areas by blowing through them to get to 85. With the new Looking for Group tool I can instance my way through those five levels on my level 80’s without ever leaving town.

Most of all I will keep in mind that leveling is not a chore to be done, nor is it an anchor holding me back.

It’s 95% of the game, and I plan to have fun with it.

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