Friends, Family, Nostalgia and Memories
Honestly, I'm not quite sure on where to start, or why I'm posting here. I suppose it's to tell my story, I mean, that's why we are all posting here right?
My story started on Icecrown a long time ago. It was shortly before the AQ War event began, and, being new to the game and exploring it on my own with very little power leveling and such, I found myself struggle (and smile) at the challenges that stood in front of me. Many times on my warlock, Melchaine, I found myself quite enjoying the 'fear' spell, just to get the hell out of a hot spot and simply survive. Those were the days, when you needed to learn your class as you were leveling, not just put on a bunch of hand-me-down items and skip half the content. Yeah, if you haven't noticed, which is common with 'old timers' like myself, this is going to have the minor edges of a soapbox seasoning the post.
My earliest WoW memory was killing murlocs in the Wetlands, when suddenly the ground shook, guild chat exploded (Knights Who Say Ni - at the time), and people started talking about Anubisath popping up all over Azeroth in many medium-high level zones. Shortly after that, on a 'quest' to finally get my succubus (who would later be immortalized in a way), late I might add, I found out the hard way that there was a break in the wall between Ashenvale and the Barrens, where I had to go for the quest... after I ran through Dustwallow Marsh on foot, dodging crocolisks and spiders the whole way... after I made it, a guildmate informed me that there was an easier way.. lol
I spent a long time of my WoW life in Knights Who Say Ni, where I was guildmates with 4 real life friends, and my girlfriend at the time. When Burning Crusade hit, and raids went from 40, down to 10/25, our guild felt a large pinch. Suddenly, long time raiders who were keystones to progression in Molten Core, BWL, and those like myself who were the road pavers to open the doors into AQ20/40 and Naxxramas found ourselves sitting on the benches, while the select few brown nosers were given raid slots. Obviously for raiders, this didn't go over well. Some left, some formed their own raid groups (with heavy criticism or guilting from one of the guild masters), and others sat in the corner sulking. A few of us did the second option, and formed our own raid for Karazhan, inviting out of guild friends and forming our own group. This went well for our raid, but had extra guilting from one of the guild masters, stating, we 'really should take members from the guild over outsiders'. The few times we submitted to her protests, the raid never even formed due to lack of bodies, so we returned to our previous plans. This went well, until a combination of real life factors and gaming factors caused the group to stop raiding together. It was only a short while after that, that my 'secret project', a Retribution Paladin which I rolled and named after my succubus, Lynneth, became my primary focus, and it was only a while after Knights Who Say Ni found out I had a paladin, and I told them why they didn't know about it, that I found myself looking for a new guild.
Now, some of you are asking yourself, "But wait.. why didn't you want your guild to know about your ret paladin?". Days were different then. The only 'good' paladin or druid, or shaman, or priest for that matter in those days were healers.. while Burning Crusade added raid viability to the other options, many large guilds still stuck with their old rules simply to make raid/class combinations easier to work with. It wasn't until Wrath of the Lich King that raid leaders came to accept that they had to start making hard choices about warlocks and priests, or hunters and shamans (in some cases), or paladins and warriors, and of course, rogues and druids fighting over gear.
So I left Knights Who Say Ni, and was 'reborn' as Lynneth, the Ret paladin with a chip on her shoulder and a short temper to those who expected a pocket healer. Don't get me wrong, I didn't go yelling at people or anything, but I did have a very 'pleasant' ascii art macro for those who asked me to heal :) I left Ni, and joined a small guild, Fog of War. A close nit group of misfits, barely enough people to form a raid, and a delicate mix of roles to the point that, if someone couldn't make it, the raid was scrapped for the night. In the last third of Burning Crusade, Fog of War merged with... I want to say it was Marauders... and only a short time after that, the guild split and Praetorium was formed. Praetorium went quite strong for many years.. we charged like a group of naked welshmen into battle at the launch of Wrath of the Lich King, and while we had struggles to progress in raiding, by the end of the expansion, we were pushing deep into ICC, although sadly, due to our main tank 'whoring' himself out to other guilds who were progressing regularly, our raids died due to a lack of a consistent secondary tank.
Cataclysm. Cataclysm was, is, and always will be the defining moment in WoW's history. Guilds broke up and fell apart just like many of the zones in Azeroth did. The world, and server as we knew it, changed. I openly say that Cataclysm was one of the worst expansions in WoW's history, and that includes the current MoP, and the future WoD. Cataclysm was not without its benefits, but the negatives far outweighed the positives in my opinion. Archaeology was a nice addition to the game, but sadly it came too late to be truly enjoyable. So many profession changes, great ideas but too little too late. Even the glyph system was later changed, and changed again, and for what... to tweak a system that was never suppose to 'change' the game, but simply allow you options. Speaking of options, where's our dance studios?
At the end of Cataclysm, we moved into Mists of Pandaria... the self proclaimed 'vacation' from the events that happened previously. Blizzard stated themselves that Mists of Pandaria was suppose to be a rapid-fire series of events that was going to make it a short expansion before what's to come. The end of Cataclysm launched us forward into a new world, and with it, myself and a few others separated from Praetorium and the drama that unfolded in the final hours of Deathwing's reign of terror... and we formed Paradigm Shift. The escape from the past, and the journey toward new beginnings began. We hit bumps along the way, but in the end, we were family.
Here we are, once again 2 years later on the eve of the next expansion. Many of us are still struggling with things within Mists of Pandaria.. and I'm one of the sorry souls who, yes, legitimately, am STILL fighting to get the last items on the RNG list for my legendary cloak. Obviously my cloak will not be completed, and the reason for it, RNG. Ordinarily I'm a fan, but there does come to a point that even 'improved RNG' does not mean you'll ever finish. I'm still grinding and fighting for the Baron's mount, or the blade from that boss... and still have never seen a Horseman's mount drop either. My personal RNG is a joke, but that is a rant, and nothing about memories to the game. Mists of Pandaria... it's that love-hate-love-hate-love relationship that we've all had, or will have in our lifetime. MoP had many aspects to it that was beautiful, enjoyable, and entertaining, but many aspects as well that made us all feel that swallowing a jar of razorblades might be a better use of time. As bad as it sounds, my favorite part of MoP was the end, but meaning, the Timeless Isle. Remove the rep grind, and that area is enjoyable, dynamic, and will go down in WoW history as one of the most underused areas in the game.
Here we are on the eve of Warlords of Draenor. While I won't go into details on my opinion of what this next expansion holds for us all, my opinions, or where I see the game heading after WoD (especially as my predictions have always been right previously, as if Blizzard is wired into my thoughts on WoW and use them)... I will say this. No matter how much I have seemed to complain in this posting about WoW, or how much I've ever complained about it in any other form, there's one thing that WoW has always been good for...
World of Warcraft, ever since the early days in Vanilla, through til now, it has always been a game where you could go and feel that there was always something left to do.. even if you didn't want to do it, there was always something you could be working on. With the right group of friends, World of Warcraft can be a huge bonding experience. I've made and met some of the best friends I will ever have from the random events and encounters that have happened within the virtual world of Azeroth. World of Warcraft may be a huge time sink. It might be something that so many others have lost themselves within it, became addicted and have lost their life because of.. but in my case, without Azeroth, I would not be the same person I am today. The friends I made will always be remembered, and cherished.
So what does Azeroth mean to me? It means friendship. For personal reasons, I will not be accompanying you all to Draenor, so winning the signed copy of the expansion would change this, but I suspect there are far more involved stories that will win your hearts above mine. Many friends over the years have moved on from WoW, some because of the game, some because of personal reasons, but we all met thanks to WoW. A part of me feels like I'm losing a friend with the launch of this expansion and the empty place on my shelf that waits for a box that is missing, but at the end of the day, we can all look back on the memories and smile, saying, "Do you remember when... "
Honorable mentions to my trip through Azeroth include (in no particular order):
Ikoiko, a rogue with a huge heart (and a very small body lol)
Silverstrike, a paladin of great skill, and always willing to help (never trust him if he says, "Hold on, let me try something")
Bird, yes I'm missing the ascii 'i' on that name. A good friend and always good for a laugh
Alectomalice, a hunter with a great amount of lore knowledge, rivaling my own.. probably best known for her 'Accidental misdirections', and I don't mean those ones targetting a least favorite player lol
Stalkz, an altoholic, but primarily a druid. Someone who you could always rely on
Merqura, a warlock who kept the previous druid on a short leash, and had to look up to her imp, both in game and in person
Jibbs, Ely, Fargongo, Kiki, Frosty, so many names, I didn't realize how many would need to be on this list until I started. I know I forgot people, and I hope nobody is offended that their name was skipped, some were honestly intentional. I bid you all the best of luck on Draenor, and when the Burning Legion assaults Azeroth in your absense, I'll see you all back at level 1 soon™.