WoW: The Grind

Yes, this is going to be another WoW post. You may see couple more popping up in the next few weeks but I’ll try to space them out so this blog doesn’t look like some fanboy love fest. I have to admit that there is something very strange about this game that makes me keep playing it even after several weeks since I first installed it. Usually my relationship with video games ends in 3 ways:

  1. I finish the game, write a review and forget about it
  2. I get stuck somewhere due to DIAS gameplay, get frustrated, hurl the CD across the room, kick it in the nuts, strangle it, bury it in my back yard and then piss on it’s grave
  3. I get bored and stop playing, then I revisit it in 2-3 months and play some more, then get bored again and etc..

So far WoW kept me interested which is unusual. It is even more unusual, because this is a game where you essentially run around like an idiot all day trying to kill X creatures of specific kind for the next quest which is exactly the same as the 10 previous quests. WTF? Why do I keep playing this?

I think this is illustrates why this game is so incredibly popular. Blizzard just got it – they figured out the mystical formula that just work. I think it must have something to do with the pace at which it dispenses instant rewards in the form of the three L’s: Loot, Levels and Locations.

It seems that every time I sit down and play for an hour or two my experience bar fills up at least half way. So depending on how many quests I take, and how many mobs I fight with I can reliably gain a level every other day or three – and that’s with just casual playing for 2-3 hours per evening. The speed at which I’m gaining levels has been pretty much consistent since I hit the double digits. In other words, nearly every time I exit the game I feel that I made some progress and unlocked some new options for myself.

Being higher level means that I get to move to more difficult areas which is rewarding in itself. Since this is my first time through the game, I really enjoy exploring the world (of Warcraft) and every time I begin think I’ve seen it all, I end up in an area that surprises me. For example, I recommend checking out the Shimmering Flats in the Thousand Needles area. It is essentially a race track where Gnomes and Goblins build custom vechicles and compete with each other. And it is not just for show – they actually race on that track. Check this out:

The Race in Shimmering Flats
click to enlarge

The carts actually line up, and a human girl waves them off just like in the movies. It is pretty amusing the first time you see it. Little things like that make me want to continue playing because I never know what is just around the corner.

And finally there is the loot. Specifically I want to talk about the collectible items. I don’t mean the matching sets of armor which when combined give you awesome powers of awesomeness. WoW has those too, but there is tons of absolutely useless shit in the game that you just have to have. These things range from very rare and cool looking clothing items which offer no bonuses whatsoever, to stuff like non-combat pets. I just discovered this aspect recently, and I blew a wad of gold on a chicken, an parrot and a cockroach. Yes, there is some dude in Undercity who sells cockroach pets and I immediately felt compelled to have one.

Cockroach Vendor in Undercity
click to… Well, you know what to do.

These pets do absolutely nothing in terms of game mechanic – they offer no bonuses or buffs. They simply follow you around and get in the way when you try to click on something. But you can buy them – and chances are you will want to have at least one. Too bad they get soulbound after use and you can’t trade them after you get bored with them – which is yet another dimension along which they are a complete waste of gold and silver but damn it, I could not resist. I mean I never got the whole Pokemon plague, but somehow Blizzard managed to infect me with a strain of the same damn virus which is quite disturbing.

And of course there are the mounts. When I was level 29 I was like “I need to get me one of them things as soon as I hit level 30″ cause that’s the level when you can learn the apprentice riding skill. Of course it turned out that it would actually be cheaper to get a hand job from the queen of the fucking universe than to get riding lessons in this game. The skill costs 35 gold which is probably meaningless to someone who haven’t played the game so I will put it in perspective for you. At level 30 my character had 3 gold and 20 silver to his name (quick reference: 1 gold = 100 silver = 1000 copper) – and it wasn’t like I was splurging on luxuries either. Most mobs you can fight at that level will drop 20-30 copper if anything. Average quest may pay 10-30 silver. Most of your class and profession skills at that point cost between 20 and 70 silver. On average it may cost you close to 1-2 gold to restock your ammo, repair your gear, buy some food for the pet (well, if you are a hunter at least), and maybe learn a new skill every time you visit a major city with the intent of replenishing supplies.

In other words, if you want to learn how to ride at level 30 you really have to work for it. And thus I was introduced to the grind in WoW. Before I decided I wanted to have a mount the game was relatively grind free. I would take quests, complete them and move on. Granted, the quests usually involve grinding anyway, but it was limited in scope and localized. I never really stood in a single spot and farmed a single mob for an hours.

I realized that if I want to afford the god damned overpriced lessons I need money fast. And there was just one way to do this – sell my sexual services to rich, and horny ladies! I’d use a Pizza delivery job as a cover where ordering “extra anchovies” from the menu would be the code word for “sexy time” with yours truly. Oh wait, no! No! That was that stupid movie. What I meant to say, is that the only way to make money reliably fast that I could think of was to sell leather at the auction house.

You see, it goes like this. Most of people playing this game right now are seasoned user who have at least one level 70 alt in the game and few lower level alts they are slowly leveling up to reach the endgame. They basically use huge stockpiles of cash their high level character got from the endgame instances and mail it to their low level characters so that they can buy decent gear at the auction house from the get-go. Similarly, the low level alts usually take crafting professions (such as leather working) instead of gathering professions (such as skinning). Instead of running around skinning low level beasts to obtain the leather to practice their leather working skill they just buy it at the auction house. This creates a niche for me, and other n00bs to specialize in gathering professions. Since I run around slaughtering low level mobs anyway I might as well rip their hides of and sell them to these lazy fucks at a premium. I noticed that I could reliably put 20 pieces of thick leather at the auction house with the buyout price of ~80 silver and some bugger would buy it every single time. Same goes for wool, and silk many mobs drop at high rates. A good advice to a beginner WoW player is to take at least one gathering profession for this very reason. Mining, and herbalism may take a lot of inventory though, and will require you to run around a lot. Skinning on the other hand goes hand in hand with grinding mobs. If you find a good mob that produces high quality leather, and drops you can just sit there and grind for a while.

That’s what I did. I went to the Yeti cave near Tarren Mills planted myself there and started methodical genocide of the residing mob. The respawn rate there is so high, that as I cleared one room, the other one was full of Yeti again so I could just run around in circles killing, and skinning until I run out of ammo. As a rule I would not go back to town until my bags were full of leather and nothing but leather. Doing that for 4-5 days (and remember – I’m playing casually, 2-3 hours a day) with short interludes for trips to town and doing few quests in the area when I got sick of skinning yeti allowed me to raise enough cash for my riding lesson, and a mount leaving me totally broke but sort of happy that I can go back to exploring, roaming around at random and doing quests instead of farming for cash and leather.

It wasn’t that bad though. I think that during my tenure in the cave, I helped 3 or 4 different groups of people and a dozen of individuals to complete one of the 2 different quests that take place in it and gained 2 levels. As soon as I was starting to get bored I would run out and do a quest, chat with people and etc. I was still having fun more or less – and when I wasn’t I would just shut down WoW and go do something else.

Now I have my mount and I want the faster one. Damn this game. I may need to do some more grinding before I hit level 60 so that I can get that Swift Raptor that will make me move even faster.

To summarize, I’m amazed I’m not bored with this game yet! It keeps giving me incentives to play at every turn which despite some of it’s obvious flaws really shows that it is an excellent product doing what it was designed for with extreme efficiency. And in case you didn’t know it was designed to incrementally separate you from your hard earned cash – and it is almost flawless at doing that. But it’s also fun so I’m not complaining.

[tags]wow, world of warcraft, mmorpg, grind, farming[/tags]

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10 Responses to WoW: The Grind

  1. Keith UNITED STATES Konqueror Linux says:

    Although you may remember my prior rant on the exceedingly repetitive WoW grind, it is a great game. I enjoy reading your posts about it because it reminds me a lot from when I started playing. A few friends from work got me going several years ago and they had a lot of fun introducing me to new areas. One of my most favorite memories of WoW was when a convoy of four friends (we were alliance) were leading me through Stranglethorn Vale from the north to Booty Bay at level 14 to check out the scenery and for fun. Walking near the river in STV caused the level 30+ fish to jump out of the water and beach themselves just to see me dead. Likewise, at around the same level, they took me to the Burning Steppes where upon entering, a level 52ish drake (obviously level ?? to me) practically flew across half the zone to ensure I was annihilated. Who knows how many times I died in my first few weeks of playing the game due to things like this but it was incredibly fun.

    I think the best part of WoW was coming up with things that most normal people may not do and seeing what would happen. That and stumbling across and attempting to identify the practically unlimited cultural references Blizzard places throughout the entire world of Warcraft.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Yeah, the Goblin towns (Booty Bay and Ratchet) are pretty neat. I loved the Shimmering Flats race track and there are quite a few other areas like that. I still try to explore fun places even if it usually ends up in my death.

    One thing that sometimes bothers me is the limited interactivity of some of these areas. For example, I’d love to be able to participate in the race at the Shimmering Flats track. Or be ale to click on some of the more colorful scenery and interact with it. But hell, they still get points for including this stuff in the first place. :)

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  3. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Since I run around slaughtering low level mobs anyway I might as well rip their hides of and sell them to these lazy fucks at a premium.

    Heh, funny because you’re complaining about the grind… and then complaining about players who don’t want to grind :)

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Nah, not really complaining. They are lazy, but in a good way – in a smart way. I will probably do the same thing once I can afford to fund a low level alt this way. :)

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  5. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    You want to grind something lucrative, try “Slimy Murloc Scale”. There are several locations in which these drop. They are used by leatherworkers, but are notoriously hard to find. Drop rates suck. Anyone can get them, skinner or not.

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Yeah, but low drop rate means you need to do a lot more grinding, whereas every beast beyond certain level is almost guaranteed to yield some kind leather so I guess it really depends on what you want to do.

    How much do the scales sell for usually?

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  7. Someone UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    As for those gimmicks, at level 70 you get to do some time traveling and visit places, like Hillsbrad Foothills or the Blasted Lands, at a previous period in history.

    But I thought this was great: there is a quest you get from a guy with a silly hat. He wants you to travel back in time, fight his younger self, steal his hat, and return it to your own time.

    Also in Blade’s Edge Mountains there is a gnome who has cloned himself a few times, but, to avoid getting caught for it, he (poorly) pretends that they are all his twin brothers. Lots of little things like this all over WoW.

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    LOL! Is that a Horde or Alliance mission? The time travel I mean?

    Oh, and speaking of the little pop culture referrences – the other day I saw a white Owl NPC pet whose name was O’reily.

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  9. ikaruga UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Casual playing for 2-3 hours per evening

    To me, casual gaming is 1/2 an hour every once in a while (like once a week) and maybe an hour on the weekend… but that’s just me. 2-3 hours per evening is a freakin black hole. I wish I had that much free time ;-)

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @ikaruga: Heh! Actually that’s what I meant. What I wanted to say was that I would usually play 2-3 hours at a time every couple of days and on the weekends. Not every day. It came out wrong.

    I wish I had that much free time too man! I really do! :)

    But I’m done with WoW now. Got bored with it.

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