Instance#9 Gnomeregan

Apart from having a name which no-one can agree on how to pronounce, this dungeon is almost universally hated. And I don’t really know why. Yeah sure, you can get lost easily, but isn’t that the case in most instances? And yes, there are lots of little annoying robot sentinels around that bring masses of people swarming your way, but that’s the unique thing about it. And the jittery looking mechanical time-bombs are both cute and scary. An instance without a cave in it is a good thing for me right now.
Click here for a bigger shot. We were about to head off to bed after MC’s trivia night when the generous Tardin of Thailand asked if someone could help him go through and finish some quests for his lower level character Sholg. After his regular help in recent weeks, we couldn’t refuse, and in a refreshing reversal of usual roles, Kim and I barraged our way through, mowing down wave after wave of tiny little engineery types and mechanical robots, gulping up coins and Silk Cloth by the bale-full. So, despite dying in the final Thermaplugg encounter (hey I was just trying to heal when I should have been pressing red buttons to deactivate the bombs) it was very satisfying, and I got my screenshot. I’d done it once before, but this time we killed all bosses with only the three of us. And Ben allowed me to take the ring at the end, which was a good upgrade for me, having had no rings since about level 25.

Instance#8 Zul’ Farrak

Oh no – another Warcraft post. Matt – close the window now and avoid disappointment. This dungeon instance was a lot of fun because you never have to go into any claustrophobic smelly dark rooms where the auto-zoom on your character makes it impossible to concentrate. Instead, the whole thing is done in the blazing sun and scorching sands just outside the wonderfully named Gadgetzan, which I always call gadget-STAN. We were joined by the Hunter Freand, a Paladin mysteriously named Rhysesmum (who is a bloke called Martin who works in a secondhand store in Sydney) and the omnipresent Bridei my kick-arse wife. Apart from the various nasties that want to kill you, the scenery is most pleasant and brings to mind the winding rock canyons of Petra in Jordan from 1987. Hundreds of inoffensive, scuttling Scarab beetles add even more of a middle-eastern feel to things. I’m surprised there wasn’t a shop with tables where you can smoke a rejuvenating Hookah before continuing. And refreshingly its all outdoors. My much underutilised Entangling Roots spells were able to be used because of this, and they got a regular workout, despite not doing very much. Led by the ever-capable, Fluffy Bunny (oops Antheriel) and with Kim as my bodyguard (wielding a dirty big hammer), we wove our way through the sandy canyons and had the longest melee fight of my gaming career – 8 minutes anyone? Atop a pyramid of stairs we stood, a horde of nasties trickling up to make us pay, and we just blitzed them all. It felt momentous (though exhausting).
Click here for a bigger shot. How can anyone not fall in love with the final boss Ghaz’Rilla. With a name like that, the sleek electric blue three headed hydra with the funky slithering walk has got to be my favourite boss to date, though the fight itself was unremarkable. The screenshot just doesn’t do her justice. We foolishly had forgotten to charge the hammer needed to summon her (him?) and spent an hour back in the very nasty Hinterlands trying to get that done – which was tougher than Zul’Farrak itself, so thankfully we had help. Rohana ended up joining in when Freand was disconnected, so he was able to do some customary backstabbing to get the job nicely done in the end. Thanks to all involved.

Instance#7 Uldaman

When I first started playing WoW I was pretty jealous about people who went into Scarlet Monastary, because it seemed like a dungeon that only serious players went into, but having been there a couple of times, there’s a symmetry about it that reminds me of doing the Stockades. Frankly, I think it is lacking in imagination. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve been shepherded through there by terrifically generous high level players from the Crusaders of the Flame, so that what is supposed to be a difficult challenge hasn’t been so. Anyhow, I have just spent 4 evenings over the past week and a half in Uldaman, and for me it’s been my “coming of age” dungeon instance. It’s a nice mix of caves, rooms and has a wonderfully dramatic climax. Apart from getting lost inside, there’s a secret back door, plenty of tiny dwarf miners with picks that you can backstab, rooms with lurid green tiled floors, and stone monsters that awaken. You find energy sources, power stones, amulets, urns and finally the disks!. You think you’ve completed all the quests you need, only to find you have to go back inside again and do it all over. Tonight my last quest was done. Whew.
Click here for a bigger shot. I have to confess that when I came to the final room where the massive statue of Archaedus stands, surrounded by 40 stone henchman statues, my right arm started shaking in nervousness. It was only because druid mentor Antheriel was with me, that I didn’t panic too much when Archaedus started awakening his henchmen one at a time. Since they’re all level 40’s and I’m sitting on 41, it is not easy quick battle to eliminate them. Archaedus is a 47 Elite, which makes him pretty much unhittable to me. I stayed right back and did some sorry-arsed healing, and tried to stay alive. Rohana our rogue took his dagger in and stabbed around a lot – Freand (Tardin from Thailand) used his bow, and Bridei banged away with her hammer, and helped heal. We did it no problems, but the pulse was going over 120 I’m sure.

Instance#6 Razorfen Downs

Late on Saturday night (probably too late really) I read a fellow Guildmate say that he was going to “run someone through RFD”. My heart leapt. This is code language for “I’ve got some guys who need help to get through the dungeon. They have no idea how to do it, and I can grab my level 60 character and be a total god in a level 38 dungeon, and do it in an hour (instead of their three).”
Click here for a bigger shot. A little while ago I had decided to slightly relax my personal rules for how I would approach dungeons. I didn’t want someone to come along and make it TOO easy. I needed to feel the pain of some wipes (the whole group dying) and needed to discover first hand just how awful and ingenious the bosses of the dungeon were. But, no-one around my level would readily assist, so before I knew it, I had been corrupted. So, all four of us travelled through The Barrens and made it in. Aden took us around a corner in the cave to the right and then he dropped down off a ledge to the left (wanting to clear the way below). Instantly about 20 bad guys swarmed him, and one of the bosses must have smelled the low ranked noobs up top, because he flew up the ramp after us. So, we all jumped off the ledge to avoid him but we were smashed up by the beasties down below. From there on, it went smoothly as we wound our way up the spiral ramp and took down the lady boss at the end. She summoned a minion but Azen had things well in control and before long, she was just a shining orb of a corpse. I’m really going to have to start taking more notice of the baddies in these fights because I have no recollection of them days later – skeletons maybe?

Instance#4 and #5 Shadowfang Keep and the Stockades

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but it’s fair to say that a lot of my waking time this week (on hols!) has been spent thinking about collecting another WoW instance screenshot or 3. To the point where my character has completely stalled in gaining eXPerience as I plot my next plundering spot. Last night, emboldened by a successful Shadowfang Keep expedition with Kim and a few other over-qualified types (thanks Eugenia and ElegantBeer once again), I noticed fellow guild crusader, Lionstone ask if someone wanted a quick run through the Stockades in Stormwind. I yelled a quick “me me!” and followed behind, whilst he romped along in front, knocking them down. If you know anything about WoW, you would realise that I was getting an easy ride. I’m not always quite the purist that I’d like to be, but do have some standards – I make sure my first time in each instance is not a total cakewalk. It was my 4th time in the Stockades, so I feel fine about asking an American from Pensacola, Florida, but currently tenured in a U.S aiforce base in Korea to assist me for 30 minutes, during his downtime.
Lots of stairs and lots of confusion – especially when Arugal teleported just before dying. Click here for a bigger shot. Sometime during the Stockades run, I noticed my PC was displaying pictures with a smaller colour palette. I can only assume I was running out of memory and my XP operating system decided to drop me down for the greater good. What was on my screen was very ordinary, but maybe the screenshot will be pristine – here goes (I aint seen it yet).
Yikes, look at those blocky cobblestones. Click here for a bigger shot.

Instance#3 Blackfathom Deeps

Even though we joined a WoW Guild with a big range of character levels, it’s a bit depressing when you’re the lowest level character online nearly every time you login. So, I’ve resigned myself to using a Pick Up Group (or PUG as they’re called) of random strangers on a regular basis, because there are so many quests where you simply need some more manpower to survive. Tonight I had a wonderful PuG of only 4 people and we steadily pounded our way through another instance. It seemed at Level 27 I was one of the lowest in the group, and so whenever nice items were dropping from the bosses, I seemed to get them because the others didn’t need them anymore. So in a single night I re-equipped 2 blue items on my character, one of which were the fierce sounding Naga Battle Gloves. Not a lot more to say about tonight – the only silly highlight was: * Everyone in our party failed to make the jumps across the stones in the water, and had to retry. Kim failed her retries a few times, so I volunteered my services. It’s what husbands do sometimes. So, another screenshot for the record. The final boss Akumai is a huge Hydra who was really quite easy thanks to my overspec’d party – a guy enigmatically called ElegantBeer and a lass called Eugenia. It was a solid 2 hours and 3 beers worth, and it’s great to have it ticked off now. Plus I levelled to 28 along the way.
Or, click here for a bigger shot.

Instance#2 The Deadmines

About a week ago, disenchanted by the lack of trustworthy and reliable people to play World of Warcraft with (well players that were around the same level as us anyway), I posted a plea for help in the Khaz’Goroth forum asking to find a guild who weren’t ultra serious, and who would accept low-level newcomers. A few people wrote back, but the nicest was from a chap from the Crusaders of the Flame. The terrible reality was that they were an Alliance guild, which meant our Horde characters couldn’t play with them. We waited a few more days and got no more Horde replies, so decided to start playing our Paladin and Druid characters again. It’s embarrassing to do this after not playing them for a couple of months because you forget what all your keys are mapped to, and make a goose out of yourself for the first few hours until it all comes back to you. Before long, we had our microphones working, and were chatting to our new buddies, who were largely based in Melbourne, and are mostly pretty high level, but willing to run with us through the low level dungeons to make life easier. And so tonight, this is how I found myself at the end of the Deadmines with barely a scratch to my delicate druidic torso. I’d done this instance before, so it was fairly routine, but it was still fun and I got my screenshot. Tonight’s highlights: * Shape-shifting into a bear, and whilst fighting an enemy, accidentally waving my bear bum in the face of the group leader, prompting him to tell me to move my arse (in the nicest way). * Being so rusty about my fighting style, I could barely get off a single hit before every character in my sight had been obliterated by the two other level 60 characters who were assisting. * Kim doing the instance, leaving, and then telling me she’d forgotten to pickup the head of Van Cleef (the final Boss) for a quest she had. D’oh. * Accidentally running into a portal that a Mage had cast afterwards, sending me over to Darnassus instead of Darkshire (basically the other end of the earth!). * Gaining only 65XP per hour average for the session (this is extremely embarrasing). So now I present my screenshot (#2 of roughly 27).
Or, click here for a bigger shot.

A close look at one of our party members in the large screenshot shows him to be mostly nude except for a stunning pair of orange boxer shorts. I’ll have to try that oneday. Kim and I have 6 weeks of leave that just started today, so expect some more instances in quick succession before our drive to Perth next week.

Instance#1 Ragefire Chasm

I try not to let my writing about big passions become overly indulgent, as it surely bores the pants off everyone but me. I’ll admit that this weblog is about 80% for me, and 20% for my adoring public, but that 20% drives commonsense and says “don’t write about your frustrating piano practise last night, yet again” – and so I don’t. Even if I’m tempted to. So, I’m hesitant to reintroduce a topic I’ve blogged about before, but my excuse is that I’m announcing a new collection project: TO COLLECT A SCREENSHOT AT THE COMPLETION OF EACH WORLD OF WARCRAFT DUNGEON INSTANCE – to prove I have done it. Because it can take many weeks between instances, folks won’t be swamped with pics, and other topics can still bob up a lot, hopefully. This project will take more than one year, and a great deal of hours logged into the game. For example, for Ragefire Chasm – the first instance in the game, you need to be around character levels 13-18 to do it. I was 16, and my total game time played to that point was 21 hours. At the time of writing, there are 27 instances. Ragefire Chasm requires 5 people and took me about 4 attempts on various nights, because the groups I tried it with were either too underpowered/underskilled and gave up half way or didn’t have enough time to finish it. Tonight’s memorable moments were: * The Priest (healer) in the group left 1/3rd of the way through leaving 4 of us. * This turned Kim (Finin the Shaman) into the new group healer, which she didn’t need to do a lot because.. * We had a level 21 troll hunter (who had a lion which helped) who was in a big hurry and he mostly knew what he was doing, except.. * He would occasionally hit the bad guys that I’d cast a sheep spell on (making them harmless), which would then make them attack us. All in all a great learning experience, even though it was done a little quicker than we would have liked. The other two group members left within seconds of us defeating the last Boss (Bazzalan), so I struggled to take a quick screenshot with the right zoom factor. I’ll be better prepared next time.
Or, click here for a bigger shot.

Will I Warcraft?

A few years ago, I found myself caught up in the hype of Diablo 2. People at work had a shine in their eyes when they mentioned it, so despite me not normally liking computer games, I joined the fun, and really had a great time in the end. On a Thursday night, glass of wine in hand, I would don a cheap miked-up headset and join our four person group for three hours of agressive plundering. On other (Note: not all) nights I played on my own, through all the difficulty levels, hoping to find rare or unique armour. Kim played it too, so we compared experiences and it didn’t feel too much like I was ignoring her in the evenings. So, when I ran into Ash at Michael’s wedding (at which we bought the couple a World of Warcraft boardgame as a present), I knew he would be doing his best to convert me to his year-long WoW obsession. I had heard rumours that HE PLAYED IT EVERY WAKING MOMENT, and was by now a highly thought of Guild Leader or something. It scared me that if I got as obsessed with it as Diablo 2, other things in life would suffer – like the near-nightly dog walking and piano playing. I already have to be coaxed/bribed with a nice bottle of white wine into watching any movies, and my night-time reading has dwindled to 15 minutes. A home made pizza, exotic beer and games night of Texas Hold-Em on Friday at Ash’s with some of his friendly WoW buddies convinced me I was in high-nerd territory. They couldn’t help but recite crazy stuff they’d been up to the evening before online, WHEN A PARTY OF 40 STORMED THE MOLTEN CORE – whatever that is. I went home and logged onto my $2 14-day trial WoW account (available from Dick Smith’s at Northland) and setup Dutchareweep, a Dwarven Rogue on the Alliance faction. I played a little more on Sunday. Kim is level 4. I am level 5. Help! wow2.jpg
A sample image from Google.