So I’ve hit level 20 on my troll mage over on the undrgeared blue challenge at greedy goblin. Big deal, I hear you say. Level 20, wow, you’re really going fast. Well, in my defense, it is the freaking Christmas holiday period. I mean, the good goblin could have picked an easier time for this. Still, I have a few weeks off work so I should be able to dedicate some serious time to this over the next few weeks.

Playing a mage is quite fun, even though I am somewhat of a glass cannon. As long as I can keep the mobs away from me I am awesome. If they manage to get up close and start actually touching me, I am buggered. At the moment I have a fire spec but I’m probably going to switch that to arcane and have a play around with that for a bit. So as I was saying, playing a mage is quite fun. Group questing on the other hand, not so much. You know what it’s like – you take a seemingly ordinary looking go out and kill ten rats quest, and before you know it you’re up to the 8th quest in a long line that has taken you all over the planet, and you get to the culmination of the dreaded group quest.

“Go and find some worthy comrades and slay the dreaded monster of the five heads. If you manage to do this you can pick from one of these 5 awesome loot blue pieces!”

It’s the rewards that bugger this up. I could just leave it but after all that traipsing around I really want those nice blue legs or whatever. They would be perfect for me. They would be perfect for me right now, not in 5 levels when I could come back and take out the horrible 5 headed whatever by myself. By that stage the awesome blue pants will be the suck. So I have to group. I have to group … and I hate having to do stuff. Okay, no biggie, I’ll use the LFG system and have it running in the background and in a few hours someone will surprise me by wanting to do that quest.

Oh, not anymore. The brand new awesome LFG system has cancelled out grouping for quests or zones. Well, it might do this but I haven’t figured out how, (before I get horribly flamed). So what do I do? Ask my guildies? I hate doing that. Apart from the fact that we are spread all over the world so anyone around my level is going to have a hell of a time getting to me, I don’t want some higher level guildie to come in and run me through it. Because that’s not fun, it’s just lame. I could spam local chat but once again, that is not fun. It is also lame and will often result in getting grouped with a bunch of loser bed wetters. I don’t know why MMO’s still do this, the group quest thing. Come to think of it, that’s when I stopped playing Age of Conan, when I got to around level 18 in Tortage and started seeing all my quests have little figures of three people next to them. I was like, oh man, are you kidding me? I have to group quest now? I have to talk to people?? I’m in a game to get away from talking to people!!

I think I might have an answer though. Hiring henchmen. What did you do in a Dungeons & Dragons game when you were short a priest or needed a couple of brawny local lads to come and give you a hand with a bit of old fashioned dragon biffo? You’d head off down to the local inn and see who would be there. So why can’t we have the same thing in our MMO’s? You head into Goldshire, walk into the inn and see who’s having a drink. They could make it random every day, so there’s not the same dudes sitting there every time. You walk up to one of them and ask for his services. A tab screen drops down where you can choose from your current quests. Then the cost of his services comes up, and maybe also another tab of other hirlings that he knows in the area who might be interested. Then off you go. They could scale for level, so the ones hanging out in the Goldshire inn are a random mix from levels 5-10, while those down in Booty Bay would be from 35-40 etc. And you could make it so they remember what they’ve done with you, so the next time you come in you can’t do the same stuff twice. They could turn around and say something like,

“Dude, yo we’ve taken out that Hogger guy already.”

You could also have a random generator that decides how good they are. So you could get someone who is awesome, someone who is passable and someone who just plain sucks. And I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. Lovely.

So Elizà the rogue is about to hit lvl 79. Almost ready to jump into heroics, and then onto some raiding again. About time, after all most of us have always found questing a horrible grind. That is, up until I wandered into Northrend. The questing has been absolutely fantastic, a wonderful improvement on what has been done before. The first thing I noticed when I zoomed into the Borean Tundra was the lack of the quest Christmas tree effect. Remember when you got into a new zone Like Booty Bay? It was a sea of exclamation marks. You ran around gathering as many as you could, walked out of the safe zone and started running around killing everything that you saw, safe in the knowledge that it would be needed for at least one of those twenty odd quests that you just picked up. After a while they all blended into one another. There was no real story, no true progression. You were killing things, collecting stuff, and often traipsing from one end of the map to the other.

So back in Borean Tundra and I remember jumping off the ship, running up to the harbor and seeing something like two exclamation marks. It might have been three, but I think it was two. That’s it. ‘Not much to do here,’ I thought. So I did those quests. Came back out into the open air from the belly of a castle or a ship and there was another exclamation mark. Got that, did that one, went back. There were another two. I ended up questing all through the zone in this way until I had mostly run out of quests. Then I figured that I’d give Howling Fjord a go. First of all, the ship journey with the music into that zone is incredible. I don’t know what the Horde get, but that Alliance ship ride from Menethil Harbor is awesomeness. Got off the boat and there were about three exclamation marks if I recall. And each one lead onto another different aspect of a well told story. I was thinking that they had done a good job with these quest-lines in Northrend. I hadn’t seen anything yet.

Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t experienced it yet, around level 75 I stumbled upon a quest-line in the Dragonblight that led to a major battle and an epic journey through the streets of a city that I had never been to before, all the while fighting alongside some fairly well known Warcraft NPC’s. Very cool indeed. And a great deal has been written about this quest-line, and I love it. But the events that so far have impressed me the most came later.

In Icecrown I was sent to raid a place called the Shadow Vault. I had to find out some stuff, I had to kill some dudes, I then had to kill three really tough dudes, which I did. At the completion of this task my contact there hailed me as a true hero and informed me that I had saved the day and gained the Shadow Vault for the fight against the Lich King. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah. I mean, as he was telling me this I could see one of the big nasty dudes that I had just killed come back to life on a ledge above my head. Same old story – we do the business but then we need to suspend some in-game disbelief. My contact sent me back to my original contact, so I hauled butt to him. All he told me then was to go back to the contact that I had just left. What the hell? Why are you guys getting me to fly all over the place like this for? Do you know how inconvenient this is??

So I go back to my contact at the Shadow Vault. I fly in there and, Oh My God. The whole place has changed into a friendly zone. The three bad dudes that I had defeated were now working with me. There was a flight path, a mailbox, repairers, NPC’s selling stuff. I really had made a difference. I had done this. Wow. This was very cool.

A little while later and I did a similar feat for the Argent Crusade, securing another zone after a big battle where I wailed away on an epic machine gun. An all-round awesome experience.

I am close to hitting level 80, which is most important seeing as we have just set up a new raiding guild and I am the GM. But I’m going to miss questing in Northrend. It has been one of my best WoW experiences so far.

So hats off to the devs on this one.