Ah yes, the early days of Warcraft: before anybody had headed to Northrend, when Apexis Crystals only dropped in Blade’s Edge Mountains. I’m here today because of a post that passed my radar yesterday, about how MMO’s stopped worrying about getting people to develop skills and are now simply obsessed with levelling. Back when levelling weapon skills was a big deal in Azeroth, and if you didn’t have that ability stuff would miss your target more often, being able to skill fast really mattered. That’s why everybody went to the Blasted Lands in Vanilla and TBC, because there lay the means to circumnavigate all the complicated fighting to raise skills malarkey. All you needed were a particular type of mob: my particular favourites were the Servants of Dave Grol.
No really, I’m serious: there were three types of Twilight Cultist: Servants of Razelikh, Servants of Allistarj and the aforementioned Servants of Grol. They formed part of a quest, The Stones that Bind Us and the reason why you were so interested in these mobs was simple: they never died. You could hit them on autofire indefinitely and they’d skill up your abilities without all that dying and stuff that was normally the issue when fighting in the ‘real’ world. Before you rode there (remember you didn’t get flying until 70) you’d visit a shop in Stormwind, pick up all the types of weapon you were no good at and then go hit shit for as long as it took. This would inevitably take several hours: so much so that one Guildie was able to start the process, pop out to the shops for a new keyboard and mouse and come back before 300 skill was reached.
As a Hunter, I could pretty much use everything except maces, shields and wands. That meant a LOT of hitting stuff, and this was a process that needed to be completed with your alts too, if you wanted them to be raid ready and capable of doing maximum damage. Of all the things I had to do , this was the most frustrating and time consuming of them all, but often the most satisfying and funny. Levelling unarmed was, undoubtedly, the most entertaining part of the entire process. I know I shouldn’t be happy that I could punch an NPC for hours on end, but they never died and it is only pixels. They were simpler times back then, yet the AP ‘grind’ reminds me very much of these days, where the perception of power by being fully skilled was a very difficult position to ignore.
These were the days before Azeroth was a complete map (and indeed flyable over) and you’d be able to do ridiculous stuff like the above with daily regularity. It was also a hugely frustrating and often off-putting time for many players who didn’t have either time or ability to ‘play’ as the game demanded of them. Sound familiar? These issues with being able to do what YOU want on YOUR time are not new in Warcraft, after all. Being able to leave a skill levelling whilst I did washing up wasn’t the way it should have been, but I can remember doing just that while my daughter slept in a desperate attempt to get my Warlock ready to raid Molten Core. It’s amazing what you’ll do for pixels, and especially these ones.
The ability to skill off these mobs was taken away in Wrath of the Lich King. It had become a rite of passage for many people, a legitimate means to ‘cheat’ the system and stick it to the Warcraft ‘Man’ along the way, and back then ‘exploiting’ was just as significant as it is now. The fact these mobs were never nerfed before this point and I’m still here writing about it says that they were simpler times back then, because you had to do something really, REALLY bad to get your account suspended… but that’s a blog post for another day. When someone tells me that MMO’s aren’t the same any more because their modus operandi’s been fundamentally altered, I have to say I’m really pleased they have, because if I had to skill everything to use as well as professions in the currently climate? I wouldn’t be playing, period. There’s enough to do already without this extra layer of flavour.
I for one, am quite happy this part of the game has changed forever.