WoW Factor: Content rollouts and relevance in WoW Classic and live

    
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Surprised? Really?

Part of me was tempted to write this column chiefly about the rather baffling idea that Blizzard was surprised by the number of people engaged in World of Warcraft: Classic. I mean… really, guys? You’re opening up a beta version of the game that is excellent at doing almost everything that the live game is bad at right now. The only part there that’s surprising to me is the idea that a group of professional people honestly didn’t see this coming, which also leads me to be reminded that the powers that be don’t seem to get player discontent.

But while I considered that as a thing to write about, ultimately it seemed less interesting than talking about content updates. We’ve already got chatter about the next patch for mainline World of Warcraft, and people are already trying to forecast what’s going to be done with Classic when the content runs dry and how long it will last. It’s interesting to think about, especially in light of the fact that even with the classic content broken up by phases, it certainly feels like there’s a bit more longevity to the content of the game’s Classic mode. Some of that is design, some of that is focus, and some of that is… well, speculation. It makes for an interesting melange.

First and foremost, I think there’s an interesting split that’s going on by the very nature of the content in Classic. There are a lot of people who are already staking their claims and stating that this time, we’re going to actually make it through Naxxramas or AQ or whatever, as if the reason it didn’t happen before was just… not deciding to do so.

Some of the people who have made that decision are genuinely in that position. Others are… probably less so. There’s a certain amount of emotional bias involved with this sort of thinking, as if there weren’t other things preventing you from clearing it before like a lack of time or a lack of raid groups at your time or exhaustion with all of the prep work or just not being a good enough player or possibly the rest of your raid group just not being good enough.

In other words, you can’t actually base your assumptions on how many people will actually do this off of plans to do so right now. There are people who are genuinely planning to do this content right now who will not, and there are people who are not planning to do it who will. This stuff is complicated and messy. Plans right now are basically fanfic for the future.

You might as well look into the pinwheel with your third eye.

That means that guessing at the content longevity for Classic is, well… guessing. It’s not even all that educated guessing; my gut says that actual clear rates for this content will be similar to when it originally launched but only slightly higher, but seeing as how I don’t have hard data on how many people did clear that content at launch, it’s still pretty speculative.

Regardless, it certainly does seem like a lot of content. And I think that’s interesting in light of the fact that in absolute terms, there’s a lot more content coming out with any given numbered patch in the live game than will be getting rolled out in the content phases. And I think a chunk of the reason for that is the way that the game structured content, or more accurately, structured what you were supposed to do on any given play session.

The current live game is a very structured affair. You have certain things that you need to do on a daily or weekly basis, and while there is some overlap (you can roll through a lot of stuff with Emissary quests), there’s a certain amount of expected content to get done on a given day. Some stuff you can keep doing even after you’ve done your limited tasks, but usually it’s at a significantly decreased reward.

If you want to raise a specific reputation, for example, you go to that zone when the Emissary quest is up and you clear World Quests. Sure, you can do more after you’ve done the Emissary requirements, but at that point it’s actually slower than moving on and doing something else.

By contrast, in Classic, if you want to raise your Argent Dawn reputation… well, there are the fields of undead. Have fun. Call us if you need anything; we won’t bother answering but we’ll see that you called.

The dearth of structure in Classic brings with it some problems, yes, but in another sense the grind and lack of structure actually helps the game. The closest thing you have to any sort of ticking clock involves weekly resets, and even those are more about being able to save your progress through a given raid so you don’t have to re-do the whole thing from scratch and be stuck playing the game for half a day straight.

We've achieved something.

As a result, your engagement with the content that’s actually there is informed by what you want to do and how you want to go about things rather than the sense of a ticking clock. A new WoW patch now means trying to get up to date with as many things as possible so you don’t miss any daily resets; a new WoW patch back then meant new things to explore but without any real limitation on how often you would explore them. If you wanted to grind something new all day with no regard for pacing yourself, hey, that’s your deal.

As a result, there’s a more… let’s say leisurely pace encouraged by the game. You feel like you have a list of things you can take on rather than a list of tasks. And if you’re also absolutely certain that this is going to be the time when you really are going to beat Naxxramas, that probably feels far more like it’s going to keep you satisfied all the way through.

By contrast… well, Battle for Azeroth definitely does not lack for content. There’s a ton of content. Yet people complain that there’s nothing to do, and it’s true more because there’s a lack of much relevant content. If you have a raid group or a Mythic group? You can run that over and over. But outside of those runs, nothing you do matters or works toward any relevant goals; it’s something I’ve alluded to before as a situation wherein it feels like even your long-term progress doesn’t matter, because everything’s just getting a reset with the next expansion, so who cares?

In fact, if you want to be really cynical, that’s kind of the takeaway from all of this. The Classic content phases contain a dungeon, a raid or two, and some associated content focused around those additions. The current patches technically contain more… but functionally, they contain a raid, maybe a five-person raid, and that’s it.

So while the Classic content phases might not contain as much content in terms of raw volume, at least they’re not lying to you.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.

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Jokerchyld

I never played classic and the more I hear and watch videos about it the more I can’t wait to play. WoW has a great concept. Take the hardcore RPG content of Everquest and add convenience.

But whatever BfA is, it comes across to me as unfocused, diluted, souless, and fractured. I love my goblin warrior but the game is set up in a way that there is no real reason to explore other than the “meta” exploration achievement versus having something to find. It literally feels like an actual themepark. Mythics over there. Raids over Here. Warfronts there. And if you want some diversity look around at all the World Quests.

I’d argue that Legion did a better job tying all of these “rides” together into a fun cohesive story. Where BfA lifted the veil and just showed rides, it really takes away from the role play.

I don’t care if I raid in Classic. I’m looking forward to making a human warrior and going out to see what I can experience and how far I can get.. truly enjoying the journey, which is missing from retail this entire expansion.

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Noyjitat

Curious if “classic” will be launch classic or if if will have everything pre burning crusade. Including fixes and those hillarious exploits patched.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

There’s been a lot of info and discussion about that. Too much for me to outline here, but as I understand this is “classic” recreated using the current WoW engine, and ‘launch’ will be under a modified facsimile of the 1.11 patch.

Some things, like the vanilla tick timer are emulated. Things like the tauren hitbox exploit are included. A dive into youtube or wowhead can give you a complete picture.

They won’t be bringing back the original unprotected LUA functions. No healbot. :(

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YouTube God

I’ll check it out but I’ll more than likely just play retail.

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Marty Woods

I am not sure how you can move such servers forward but possibly they could have classic new events and new raids and dungeons set in the classic world .

But I hope Blizzard keep the classic servers base gameplay as close to vanilla as possible . The biggest deal breaker for me would be group finder tools that teleport you instantly to a dungeon . Such tools kill world pvp and interest in questing and lead to a city hub centric game .

It seems like a lot of my Rift guildmates are intending trying it ( many for the first time ) so I imagine if we like it then it could be our new home for a few years until something like Pantheon is released .

hurbster
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hurbster

Funny thing is, did anyone think Vanilla WoW was ‘hardcore’ at the time ? I certainly didn’t.

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Bruno Brito

Not really the word people were making the relation, no. I think it’s more akin to how “hardcore” it is compared to nowadays.

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YouTube God

I played Maplestory at the time so no.

laelgon
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laelgon

As someone who never got into WoW, I played a bit around the panda expansion but never got deep into the game, I’m curious to see if Blizzard will end up branching the game to add more content to Classic. If the money people look at the numbers and think it would be profitable enough, I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility.

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Utakata

I think it’s bout time I come clean and clear about my feelings and view on Classic servers. Recent conversations about this have eluded to these…so time for some less of my “politically correct” positions on this subject. That is…

1) Vanilla WoW sucked.

While WoW drew me into MMO’s back in the day. If I played it today, and what I understood about MMO’s, this game in it’s infancy would turn me off the of the whole genre. When other MMO’s have shown better ways from doing it…from FF XIV, GW2, even Blade & Soul all the way to City of Heroes…Vanilla, while a break through in the day…pales in comparison to them.

Sure , Vanilla had spec trees, better quest lines and sans-scaling leveling content. But it also had raid or die content where it the best gear was exclusive, and classes where pigeon holed. As well as mostly horrible epeen toxic community in the anecdotal which Blizz seem to cater to at the time. Thus I wouldn’t roll on a Classic server if they paid me handsomely too.

2) BfA is better than Vanilla.

For all the faults of this expansion live…and it has many, many faults. It’s still way more advanced than Vanilla. There’s a lot more to do, a lot more ways to progress. And it doesn’t nearly cater to the raid or die attitudes back in the day.

Still though, many of the issues that arise in this version of WoW ironically are caused by Blizz reaching back out to it’s past. Like with Warlords and Cata, it tries to capture something that it has long should have move away from. It is also why, to a degree why Legion, Warth, TCB and MoP where far more successful, due to Blizz attempting to move away from Vanilla. But even so, Bfa is certainly a backslide, it still outshines Vanilla.

3) I am very glad there will be Classic servers.

Main reason? It will give a good distraction for players who continue to drag this game backwards a place they go to. Making it win for those who wish to play and move on with live. As well as a win for those who think Vanilla is the end all and be all of WoW a place to call home. So I wish them the best of luck on that, while thanking Blizz for this move. :)

…btw:This is entirely my pigtailed opinion to which no one is obligated to agree with. I just know what I look currently in games…just Classic is no longer one of them.

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Loopy

– I think it’s bout time I come clean and clear about my feelings and view on Classic servers.

I think you’ve been pretty clear this entire time :)

– Sure , Vanilla had spec trees, better quest lines and sans-scaling leveling content. But it also had raid or die content where it the best gear was exclusive, and classes where pigeon holed.

If all you cared about was endgame, then yes – classic was flawed in the sense that there wasn’t enough content for casual players. But if you cared about the journey, class “fantasy”, roleplaying elements, and other features that made classic WoW so loved, then you can see past the “raid or die” mentality.

-For all the faults of this expansion live…and it has many, many faults. It’s still way more advanced than Vanilla. There’s a lot more to do, a lot more ways to progress. And it doesn’t nearly cater to the raid or die attitudes back in the day.

100% agreed. Although that doesn’t make it a “better game” per se, BfA definitely has more content than classic.

– 3) I am very glad there will be Classic servers.

Main reason? It will give a good distraction for players who continue to drag this game backwards a place they go to. Making it win for those who wish to play and move on with live. As well as a win for those who think Vanilla is the end all and be all of WoW a place to call home. So I wish them the best of luck on that, while thanking Blizz for this move. :)

This i disagree with and your statement reads very unfairly. You make it sound like players who want classic WoW are somehow trying to ruin the current game. I simply don’t see any evidence to suggest this. This isn’t a zero sum game in my view – you can like both games and still look forward to classic. People who are looking forward to classic are not some sort of blight on your game, and should not be treated as such.

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Utakata

From you last point…

When I see /upvoted comments such as these:”I’m so glad there aren’t any flying mounts in classic because to me they were one of the first major mistakes Blizzard made with WoW,” this raise flags of a playerbase I really don’t want anything to do with. And yes, I maybe being a bit harsh…but I have reason to be concerned here. It’s the same kind of attitude that broke a very promising WildStar before it was released. So I am glad they have somewhere to call home now…

That said, I see where you are coming from. And you are right…my statement is way too blanketing. And does not consider all reasons why folks might be interested in WoW. And not all are nefarious as taking the game back for the hardcorez. So a partial retraction is in order. So now I amend this to hopefully taking a certain segment of players who are like this away from live, as oppose to everyone that’s interested in Classic. My apologies for over extending the pigtails here. :(

I still think it will be a win/win for everyone…I hope.

That said, great reply! And thanks for taking time to explain this. :)

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Loopy

I appreciate your honesty Uta. In the end, it’s all about enjoying the game you play, regardless of what that might be.

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Vinnie travi

It is only only raid or die if you plan on raiding, which I dont. The leveling is 100x better than BFA. The world is huge and every quest isn’t 2 feet from the last quest. In all modern MMO’s they have streamlined the questing so much that it is mind numbing. Not to mention that you can’t die questing in BFA. In Classic gear matters, you get an upgrade at lvl 15 you feel it and it will last you hours of game play. In BFA you get new gear every 10 minutes and you replace because it has higher numbers but you don’t really notice the difference.

I agree with you about the classes being pigeoned holed but the counter to that is that each class plays very different from eachother. In BFA all melee feel the same and so on. I understand why current players may ntot like classic (The walking pace alone will cause many people to quit) But if you like the journey it is vastly better than BFA. If you are just into endgame than you may like BFA more if you don’t have the time to spend to raid classic

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Utakata

As I mentioned, one of biggest advantages in Vanilla is that leveling is indeed far better. No mob scaling. Better questing. Better pacing. No 120 levels to slog through. Better class complexity. And a spec tree that rewards you every time you level…

…but that still isn’t enough incentive for me to jump back into Vanilla. Rather I want to see that back into WoW live and move from there. As I can’t advocate for a return of something good though by wallowing in it’s past. But that’s entirely my position which others are free to beg to differ. :)

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Marty Woods

From your previous comments on massively I assume you have never really been into world pvp so as someone who is obviously primarily a PVE player ( and probably an ardent raider ? ) you probably are correct there is more to do PVE wise in the live game .

However if you like world PVP and more challenging battlegrounds then vanilla was a far superior game .

Also if you are a PVE player who likes more challenge while you are are questing and more depth to a game then Vanilla is in my opinion a far superior experience .

I guess it depends on the person but the way I look at it it the live servers are WoW lite and the classic servers are a more advanced version of the game in terms of difficulty and complexity .

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Utakata

Err…not really. Having to quest all the way to lv 120 with scaling mobs through several expansion is far more tedious, complex and challenging task in what we had in Vanilla by miles. There you had the option to come back later more leveled to deal with more ‘challenging” content…cheezing it more than you could live to a degree.

As for PvP, that’s entirely subjective…so I am not going to comment. Beyond saying, least there where no Arenas in Vanilla, to which IMO broke PvP when they where introduced that in TBC. /sigh

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Marty Woods

Yeah it is tedious because those scaling mobs are usually killed with one or two hits . You should never be able to pull more than two mobs of the same level of you and know you are going to survive .

Funnily enough I agree with you about the arenas .

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Bruno Brito

If i’m well aware, scaling fixed the power issue. You pretty much at least do a full rotation before killing the mob.

I can’t say for sure, tho. I don’t play retail.

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Utakata

That “power issue” will be back in Classic though. /shrug

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Utakata

Can’t agree with on dying in two hits though. Not even geared in Heirlooms can one pull that off…unless you are using an exploit. Occasionally, one can get a lucky crit that can pull off this effect. But it’s the same with back in Vanilla though, where I remember 2 shotting the occasional on my way 60. So we can conclude it’s almost the same in that regards to mob kill rates? But it all seems anecdotal to me…

Meanwhile you should try Blade & Soul sometime… where you can 2 shot mobs, but mobs can also two shot you. Gives a new meaning to challenge and complexity. o.O

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memitim

I’m probably coming from a very different place than you but I agree with your 3 main points.

1) Vanilla WoW sucked.
Indeed it did! It was a buggy, incomplete mess at launch and frankly it took them til TBC to finally sort it out, well mostly…they still missed a few bits. At the time though the main appeal for many was you could level up without having to look for a group for potentially hours first, little did we know at the time where this slippery slope would lead but that somewhat convolutedly leads me to the next point…

2) BfA is better than Vanilla.
The amount of refinement it’s gone through at this point is just insane, as is anyone who argues the core game isn’t a thousand times more polished now than then. This is despite the general direction they took not doing the genre as a whole any favours but you can’t argue you can see your damn face in that thing.

3) I am very glad there will be Classic servers.
Me too. Partly so I can say “I told you so” when the population tanks after 6 months and laugh when all the people memeing blizz with the “you think you want it but you don’t” thing end up with egg on their faces :D
I’ve no doubt it’ll survive with a hardcore pop and a slow but sure rotation of newbies but 90% of the people shouting for this will be nowhere to be seen a year from launch.
The other part is I haven’t actually decided if I’ll play it or not yet, I’ve been in progression guilds before so I’m not wearing my rose-tinted specs about what it’s like to go back and play an old ass game but the main draw for me would be the PVP, it’s an unbalanced mess also but it sure was fun compared to today’s…

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Utakata

Thanks for sharing that. :)

misterpiece84
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misterpiece84

Given how the target audience are the players who have been playing classic all these years, I think that it would not be that farfetched to take the private servers as an example of how content will be swallowed and digested.

What usually happens is that when Naxx is released and cleared (and to a certain extent on AQ as well) the server slowly dies off and interest wanes. The core of the community sticks around, but there are not enough new players to keep PVP alive and interesting, which in turn, slowly brings down the pve as well. Meanwhile, the other server which opened when AQ was released on the first server, is in full swing, enjoying the population that migrated from server 1, only to lose it to a third server when the time for the gates of AQ to open comes.
It’s a cycle that has been happening on private servers since they existed, I don’t see why it will be anything different for Classic.

xpsync
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xpsync

Never got into private wow servers but yeah i could imagine, the only difference here is me, i’ll be playing haha…

In that i’m going to be there, the largest wow hater of all time, well outside mj ofc, but i’ll be there, what i’m getting at is that this is on the level the real “legit” deal, those private serves would never be able to handle this tsunami of players about to enter the gates.

Meaning rp players, questing players, smell the roses players, casual players, being a legit server changes everything for many people and it’s free (well you know what i mean), and what’s that several million players or whatever it’s at now, still millions i’m sure, and all banging on the door day one.

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Tamanous

That cycle you described kept vanilla pservers growing in population for nearly 5 years. Growing. Not dying. How is that retail Wow growth going? The cycle is not a bad thing. It’s something you adjust the business model around.

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Vinnie travi

Pservers have been growing in pop… So …

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Tamanous

To also add: Naxx scripting wasn’t even finished for most pservers until after Nost shut down. Fresh servers were launched during AQ, well, because it was the last raid at the time. It then became a habit to launch a fresh when Naxx patch hit. This of course drained the Naxx server. Add in the all the drama that drained players from various servers and player stability over an entire patch run was abysmal. The major reason why Bliz-like vanilla servers wanted official Blizzard servers was for stability for both server and characters. Pservers overall were a shyte show, yet they still grew and people had a hell of a lot of fun on them. There is no nostalgia for pserver players. There’s just a hell of a lot of players who love a damn fun game.

misterpiece84
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misterpiece84

When the content wasn’t “refined” enough to enoy it, I can see it being a major reason to move on. But nowadays some pservers out there are nearly flawless, their staff have been refining the code year after year, and the cycle still keeps happening; I don’t think it’s because they were used to do it back then and so they leave after AQ today as well.
What really hurts the game after AQ is PVP. My personal experience on these servers is that they don’t depict the average population of today WoW in the sense that these players, or at least a good chunk of them, enjoy both PVE progression AND PVP; they are the players Blizzard loves to have (remember Blizz lamenting the fact that players would stop playing during content draughts instead of doing something different like PVP?) When the gear gap between a freshly-dinged level 60 donned in blues/greens and a veteran in full AQ gear gets too big, the new player isn’t having fun and becuase of it he doesn’t play enough PVP, either he gears up in PVE first (which will keep him away from PVP for weeks) or moves on to something else. Meanwhile there is the player who wanted to be Grandmarshal and achieved his goal and so he moves on, another player who was happy being a Knight-Captain to unlock the gear and now is focusing on PVE, another veteran stopped playing and another is taking a break for a few weeks. New players are essential to keeping the game alive, but when it comes to PVE a guild can afford to carry around a few of them and gear them up so they can start contribute, PVP however is another story.

In the end I think that whether or not this cycle is as impactful for Classic as it for these Pservers will depend on how popular PVP is going to be among the PVE-ers; and if Blizzard can’t make adjustments because of the fanboys who want every Vanilla-like, namely changing the cap on the cost of respecs, PVE servers will probably see very little PVP action.

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Tamanous

The good news for Blizzard is they have full development tools for Classic. At least they have far more options to support the game in the future. They stated they are waiting on the results of Classic before any decisions. I share that stance. I, in no way, fully agreed with how the pserver community handled vanilla Wow’s development. It was effectively designed through comity due to being open source. Blizzard has the opportunity to build Classic’s future through vision. Not that I have agreed with their vision for over a decade but we’ll find out.

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memitim

Also see every other MMO to ever get a classic release so where he’s getting “It’s not even all that educated guessing; my gut says that actual clear rates for this content will be similar to when it originally launched but only slightly higher, but seeing as how I don’t have hard data on how many people did clear that content at launch, it’s still pretty speculative.” from I have no idea…I believe misterpiece84 covers server population above so I’ll fill you in on clear rates: They will be way higher than back in the day for numerous reasons.
Firstly, people won’t be as spread out as before (server wise) so holding a guild together will be easier.
Secondly, even though the average WoW player is still terrible =) average skill level and players understanding of the game are much higher now than before and the classic raids are not actually that complex, the hard part is getting 39 other people who aren’t retarded and are the right class and farming resist gear/attunements etc.
Finally there are a lot of OP as fook things you can do in classic WoW that were eventually removed from the game or nerfed into uselessness because they were OP as fook and, at least in theory, all of these things will be available to you.

There’s more but the biggest challenge to the modern WoW audience clearing this stuff will be down to little more than if they can stomach the grind or not. I think that’s a pretty educated guess myself but feel free to disagree. *shrugs*

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Akagi

Even though I’ve been playing a lot of Vanilla and did a lot of the content, I don’t feel bored and would love to replay the same over and over again.

I secretly wish after Naxxramas is released and time has passed, people complete it, Blizzard will consider creating new content for Classic, brand new content from scratch with shitty textures and few polygons. I’m not even sure if they can pull it off – to try and make more content that looks outdated on purpose, but I will love that.

New zones, new races, new classes, whatever. It would be cool if they take a different approach from Retail and do things differently. I always wanted to play a Goblin Hunter (or an Engineer or some new class) that is either neutral or part of the Alliance. It would be cool if they made Goblins or some new race like Pandaren – so they can choose which faction they wish to join… or better yet – create a third faction, either at war with the other two, or neutral.

Enough daydreaming… let’s wait for August 27.

xpsync
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xpsync

I could live with those suggestions, that would be awesome if they started to regrow wow from this base, but first things first, i gotta get through the door, get a lay of the land then i’ll be able to find out which starts to take the lead, classic or retail.

xpsync
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xpsync

Gear was based on stats not a “item level”, epic and rare items were actually rare, legendary takes an infinity amount of time, whenever i read what happens when the content dries up? that’s when i feel they have no idea how massive OG wow is and how slow progression was.

Getting to 60 was a humongous part of the game, getting to cap was a serious accomplishment for most players. I never did it, i think we were well into cata or wrath before i ever struck 60.

Haven’t even talked about the quests yet as remember OG wow focused on the journey and not the destination.

Say i was only in it for the questing, imagine reading all the quests, doing all the quests, do people have no idea whatsoever how much time that would consume? I’d be there for years and years and years to then only realize OMG, i got the whole other faction i can do now like almost a whole other game ffs.

Alt lovers.. they are set for life.

Base wow is the biggest most expansive part of the game it’s 1 to 60, half of all the expansions combined, the xpac pieces are 10 level’s on average.

Maybe, well probably, people think today wow and ok even at that pace you’d still be there for a super super super long time because…

We are back on the journey train again, not the f’ing destination bs train.

I’d say to anyone whom is already thinking “what happens when the content dries up”, don’t even bother with classic.

That thought would never even enter your mind if you understand even slightly how f’ing huge base og wow is, you’re most likely a destination player and you are already covered with retail wow.

Me i’m totally in the wait and find out, i’m not even sure i’ll take to classic, i’ll make a toon (still trying to figure out what class) and let fate take it from there.

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Rick Mills

Wholeheartedly agree – so nice to be back on the journey train again.
I know it’s a delusion, but its a delusion that sticks around.

xpsync
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xpsync

I’m not getting my hopes up, but i feel deep down, i really hope she clicks :)

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maydrock .

Yup, phase 2 will probably be out before I get out of Darkshore, lol.

Can’t wait to run up and down the beach watching the sunsets, fishing, occasional tink on a copper node, and the epic battles with the murloc horde invading the land.

mystwen
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mystwen

Fishing, yes! I had my favorite spots. Just chill out and fish.

And killing spiders. Not as fun, but that’s how I made my money.

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Fisty

Im here for that leisurely journey as well.