Tag Archives: classic

Mike Weir can’t hang on to lead, finishes 2nd at Cologuard Classic

Kevin Sutherland chipped in for the only birdie of the final round on No. 16 and had a tap-in for another on the next hole, shooting a 4-under 69 to overtake Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont. in the Cologuard Classic on Sunday.

Sutherland trailed by two to start the day and was down four after Weir birdied the par-5 eighth in blustery conditions at Tucson National. Sutherland cut Weir’s lead in half with two birdies in his first three holes to start on the back nine and chipped in from short right of the 183-yard, par-3 16th.

Sutherland tapped in on 17 after putting through the fringe on the par 5 and just missed another birdie on the difficult 18th to close out his second victory in his last three PGA Tour Champions starts and fifth overall. He finished at 15 under, two ahead of Weir, three up on Steve Stricker and Scott Parel.

Weir had bogeys on two of his final three holes to shoot an even-par 73. The 2003 Masters champion has twice been runner-up on the PGA Tour Champions since turning 50 last year.

Calgary native Stephen Ames finished in a tie for 52nd place at 4-over par.

Phil Mickelson’s long-shot bid to win his first three PGA Tour Champions starts came to a screeching halt with a triple bogey on the par-4 ninth. He shot 73 to finish 11 shots back.

Weir opened the second round with a birdie as gusting wind bent flagsticks at sharp angles. He followed with five straight pars and walked up to the green at the par-3 seventh as Rush’s “Limelight” blared from one of the backyards lining Tucson National.

WATCH | Sutherland wins Cologuard Classic:

Kevin Sutherland came from behind to defeat Mike Weir by two strokes and finish 15-under on Sunday in Tucson, Arizona. 2:03

The Canadian left-hander responded with a little inspiration of his own, chipping in for birdie from about 90 feet. A curling 15-foot birdie putt at the par-5 eighth gave him a four-shot lead over Sutherland.

Sutherland, who won the Charles Schwab Championship in November in Phoenix, opened the back nine with a birdie and had another on the par-5 12th. The 56-year-old from Sacramento, California, stumbled when he couldn’t get up and down from a bunker on the par-3 14th, but closed with a flourish as conditions worsened.

Weir watched a slick 4-foot par putt slide by the hole after a nice bunker shot on No. 16 and missed a birdie putt from the fringe on No. 17 after a bunker shot ran through the back of the green. He three-putted to bogey the par-14 18th.

Mickelson was the last amateur to win on the PGA Tour in Tucson 30 years ago, but couldn’t conjure up the same magic in his return.

Nine shots back entering the final round, he had three birdies and a bogey through the first eight holes before hitting his tee shot into the water on the par-4 ninth. He then hit into the greenside bunker and three-putted for a seven.

Mickelson did avoid the mud on No. 15, at least.

He hit two good tee shots in the opening two rounds and both found the pond on the dogleg of the par 5. Mickelson made a birdie after hitting his second shot out of the mud in the first round and salved par after another mud shot in the second.

He avoided the pond altogether Sunday by hitting into the adjacent 17th fairway and ended up with par after missing a birdie putt of about 15 feet.

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Pretty Sure We’re Prepared This Time: Blizzard Confirms Burning Crusade Classic

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Ever since World of Warcraft Classic proved there are a lot of people willing to facemash their way through the original, most difficult portion of the game, we began to hear chatter that a follow-up might be in the works for The Burning Crusade, the first expansion pack for the popular game. Whether this was wishful thinking or potentially true has not been clear until now. Blizzard has announced The Burning Crusade Classic, arriving later this year.

Features are what you’d expect. It’s The Burning Crusade, with only minor quality-of-life changes to the UI. Raid content will be introduced post-launch over a period of time, the same way Classic content was.

The method Blizzard has chosen for moving the player base is similar to one I proposed when Classic was new. When TBCC launches, players will have the option to either advance there with the rest of their server or stay behind on new, Classic-only servers. In short, Blizzard isn’t just bringing back specific instances of the game as snapshots, they’re recreating the entire character path folks took through the game the first time, with one difference. This time, if you don’t want to progress, you’ll be able to keep playing Classic on servers that are limited to Classic.

Historically, Blizzard always made certain features of new content available to all players, but not all of them. Any new content gated into an expansion pack remained locked to it, but broad world changes are always introduced for all players. Let’s say you were a Druid player stuck at Lvl 60 when everyone else got to go on to Lvl 70. You’re still Lvl 60, but you would get features like spell changes and talent tree adjustments. That may not be the case, here, because it isn’t clear if WoW Classic would freeze just before the final patch of the base game.

Basically, TBCC offers the same deal that WoW Classic did: Play the version of the game you liked better, as long as you want, with WoW Classic and TBCC included with the standard game subscription. I’m interested in TBC, partly because it was the first time players with multi-class characters had a decent chance of actually performing their roles. Paladin and Druid tanks advanced from also-rans to viable options, though Paladin taunts remain a bit annoying here, because you have to target the alternative individual being targeted, as opposed to slapping a mob in the face.

We’re Probably Prepared

If Blizzard makes any changes to TBCC, I’d like to see them make a few small changes or additions to Illidan’s portrayal to keep up with their own lore retcons. In Burning Crusade, Illidan Stormrage is one of the later raid bosses you’ll face in the instance. In the later expansion, Legion, Illidan is something of an anti-hero, whose motivations are rather different than as they were portrayed previously. It would be nice to see a little effort to harmonize the two depictions of the character, but I doubt it’ll happen.

If WoW Classic was a nostalgic opportunity to return to WoW as it was born, The Burning Crusade offers a chance to visit WoW as it matured. The Burning Crusade dramatically expanded character opportunities added the ability to fly via player-owned mounts, increased the overall leveling speed of the game, and expanded the lore with storylines that resonated through multiple expansions. Critical characters like Garrosh were introduced and plot lines that had lain dormant since the end of Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal were paid off.

Players showed up in droves to battle Onyxia and brave the depths of Molten Bore Core. Will they return to brave the Black Temple, battle the trolls of Zul’Aman, and save the Sunwell from corruption?

PS: Paladins, your bubble will not save you in the Serpentshrine Cavern mega-drop. If you plan to skip the elevator and let gravity do its thing, you’d best wait some seconds before you trigger it.

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DOSBox Pure Launches to Make Classic Games Easier to Play

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There are a lot of amazing games these days, but they sometimes take years to develop, and they might still launch in a sorry state at release — looking at you, Cyberpunk 2077. If you want to return to a simpler time, the games of yesteryear are now easier to play thanks to the new DOSBox Pure. This software makes playing DOS games a snap, even for those who didn’t grow up messing around with command lines. 

About 20 years ago, Windows XP removed the DOS layer that Microsoft’s previous Windows interfaces ran atop. The DOSBox emulator launched soon after, allowing gamers to run classic games that don’t work on modern operating systems. It’s been long enough that there are grown adults today who might want to play a game like Duke Nukem 3D or Quake but have never touched a DOS command line. That’s where DOSBox Pure comes in. It has all the DOS emulation capabilities of the main release, but it can run games directly from ZIP files or images. And that’s just the start. 

DOSBox Pure is a new fork built for RetroArch/Libretro, and it’s technically only a test version at this time. However, it seems surprisingly solid after just six months of development. However, it does not come with any games — you’ll have to provide your own. There are many games from that era that are available freely online, but distributing others is a legal gray area. 

To start playing a game in DOSBox Pure, simply point the software at your game directory. If there’s a disc image inside, DOSBox Pure will automatically mount the first found disk image as the A: or D: drive. If a game has multiple executables, DOSBox Pure will provide a list (gamepad-compatible, even) that allows you to select the correct EXE. It can even automatically detect and map your controller based on the game. For games that support mice, you can emulate mouse cursor control with your controller. 

It was possible to just plain lose games from the DOS era when you ran out of lives, but DOSBox Pure has a plethora of emulator features that will make those classic games slightly less imposing. You can create multiple save states for a game, and there’s a handy rewind feature in case you screw up and don’t want to burn a life. It also supports RetroArch cheat code searching. 

If you want to give it a shot, the DOSBox Pure installer and documentation are available on the GitHub page. It’s currently compatible with Windows, Linux, and Raspberry Pi (Arm7).

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Watch the Ashley Home Store Curling Classic

Curling·Coming Up

Watch live action from the Ashley Home Store Curling Classic.

The final is scheduled for Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET

After a grueling series of matches and a harrowing playoffs, these two teams now stand in each others way as they try to be named the Ashley Home Store Curling Classic Champion. 0:00

Click on the video player above to watch live action from the Ashley Home Store Curling Classic event.

Coverage continues on Monday at noon ET.

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Brad Gushue wins Stu Sells 1824 Halifax Curling Classic 

Brad Gushue has strung together 15 curling consecutive wins, his latest on Sunday afternoon clinched another title for his team from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Gushue defeated Nova Scotia’s Matthew Manuel 6-2 to claim the Stu Sells 1824 Halifax Classic.

That’s now three straight championships for Gushue.

The impressive winning streak dates back to the Brier in Kingston, Ont., when Gushue won two must-win playoff games and the championship game to secure his third national title. That Brier win came on Mar. 8, just days before the pandemic shut down the sporting world – Gushue was meant to represent Canada at the men’s world championship. That obviously never happened.

He then didn’t step back on the ice for the longest time at any point in his illustrious career, now seemingly not missing a beat. Gushue won all six games he played two weekends ago at the Dave Jones Cashspiel and then followed it up with another undefeated event in Halifax.

The St. John’s-based team had a different look for a second-straight event as lead Geoff Walker remained at home in Alberta after deciding not to enter the Atlantic bubble. Last week, when Gushue won the Dave Jones bonspiel, Labrador City native Joel Krats filled in for Walker. This weekend, Stephenville, NL, native Ryan McNeil Lamswood stepped in for Walker and was solid throughout the event.

Gushue scored two in the first end, forced Manuel to a single in the second and never looked back.

In a low-scoring, defensive battle, Gushue carried a 4-2 lead to the seventh end when he put the game away. The three-time Brier champion put two more on the board to take a 6-2 lead before running Manuel out of stones in the final end.

Penticton event features big names

Meanwhile, across the country in Penticton, B.C. many of the top men’s curling teams in the country are battling on the pebbled ice looking to claim the Ashley HomeStore Curling Classic.

Brendan Bottcher, who won last weekend’s bonspiel in Okotoks, Alta. by defeating Kevin Koe in the final, finished the round robin in Pool A with a 4-1 record and is advancing to the playoff round. Glenn Howard also finished the round robin with a 4-1 record and is advancing.

Through four games Koe is undefeated. He’ll play his final round robin game later on Sunday afternoon.

The semifinals and championship game can be watched live Monday on cbcsports.ca.

This all comes in the wake of the cancellation of a women’s curling event in Alberta.

The Okotoks Ladies Classic, featuring the top women’s curling teams in the country at the Okotoks Curling Club, was cancelled after the opening draw following new COVID-19 measures announced by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney the same day.

With COVID-19 cases rising across the country, new measures are being updated regularly and making it increasingly more challenging for curlers to not only play events but also travel to them.

CBC Sports was the first to report that the Scotties, Brier and men’s world curling championships will not be taking place in their respective host cities, rather, will move to a curling hub city model likely based in Calgary.

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Watch the World Curling Tour: Stu Sells 1824 Halifax Classic

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Fan Remasters Capcom Classic Dino Crisis for 4K, 60fps

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Dino Crisis (not to be confused with “Dino Crysis,” a game we literally just made up yet somehow want to play) is a classic Capcom series based on the core principles of Jurassic Park, but without any of the troublesome IP entanglements or need to pay licensing fees. The Dino Crisis series was never the hit that the original Resident Evil turned out to be, but it’s maintained a solid base of fans over the years — rumors that the Xbox One would feature a new Dino Crisis 4 circulated widely early in that console’s life.

Now, one fan has taken it upon themselves to do what Capcom hasn’t — extensively remaster the first game. The new mod is a massive update and includes a replacement for the old DirectDraw 5.0 library (implemented via DX9, with DX11 support coming); swaps out DirectInput 3.0/5.0 for Xinput, RawInput, and DirectInput (effectively enabling modern controller support); replaces DirectShow with FFmpeg; adds a new 3D rendering mode and support for up to 4K; solves various frame-rate issues; and adds optional adaptive widescreen modes for aspect ratios like 16:9 and 16:10.

This is a truly impressive set of overhauls for such an old game, though there are some restrictions on playing it. The author, @REBehindtheMask, notes that the patch won’t work with the MediaKite release of the game (it requires the Japanese SourceNext release). You can, however, use a patch available on his download site to make your MediaKite version compatible with ClassicREbirth if you wish to do so.

The original source material rendered at a fixed 640×480 resolution with 16-bit color and was designed in the early days of PS1 emulation. @REBehindtheMask writes: “[The] 3D rendering in this port shows typical issue of early PlayStation enhanced emulation, with wobbly polygons all over the place and textures warped to complete distortion. This happens because CAPCOM literally emulated the whole PlayStation GPU and GTE (Geometry Transformation Engine, i.e. the chip that does 3D transformation) by implementing something akin to emulators like Bleem or ePSXe.”

ePSXe and Bleem were both emulators from the late 1990s and early 2000s, and they were designed to get these kinds of games running on minimum PC hardware of the era, not to provide pixel-perfect recreations of the intended game. ePSXe was developed into the modern era, but the version of it that would have been paired with a game like Dino Crisis to get it running on PCs in the Win9X era very much would not have been a modern emulator. In this case, the re-release of Dino Crisis actually appears to fix some bugs, including audio problems.

Computer games lied to me about my co-workers’ likely job attire.

There hasn’t been any rework of the game’s image assets, beyond the intrinsic benefits of better rendering work, so get ready for a return to some PS1-era classics with regards to low-poly models, low-detail art, and the like. It’s not even clear to me how much a straight AI upscale of the underlying assets would help. While they could undoubtedly be improved in certain respects, increasing overall image fidelity would also draw attention to flaws in the base models. I can’t imagine the gun Regina is holding will be improved if its upscaled texture looks even more like a human femur, for example.

There are still clear limits to what AI upscaling can accomplish in gaming and video — we’re at very early days for the tech. A game like Dino Crisis might benefit more from new textures more than upscaling the old ones. Then again, it may be easier to launch a project like that now that the ancient title is running on something like a modern framework.

Fans have been creating mods and updated art for as long as games have been moddable. But it feels like we’ve seen an uptick in these projects in recent years, thanks to the advent of better AI and post-processing tools, as well as folks like @REBehindtheMask, who launch these kinds of general update projects for multiple titles in a row.

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World of Warcraft Classic vs. Retail, Part 2: Leveling Comparison, 20-40

Last summer, we published a breakdown of the first 20 levels in World of Warcraft Classic versus the current version of WoW Retail. At the time, we came down on the side of Classic for offering what felt like a better early game flow. Putting together the second stage of this article has taken longer than anticipated, but we’re back to talk about how the two titles shake out from Lvl 20 to 40.

The 20-40 level range is interesting in both Classic and Retail WoW, but for very different reasons. As in the first article, I’ll discuss broad trends in how they play and how the game evolves.

Classic WoW: The Grind Begins

In Classic WoW, the grind really starts at Lvl 20. While the leveling time curve is still relatively gentle, especially compared with what it’ll be later in the game, you begin to feel the slowdown at 20. Retail, meanwhile, remains a rocket.

LevelTime1-40

You can see how long it’s taken me to level a Paladin in retail versus Classic. The relatively short gaps between some data points reflect when I ran dungeons or turned in a number of quests. Sharper spikes reflect when I took time to craft or traveled around Azeroth in Classic looking for quests. There’s been a fair bit of that already, though things open up a bit once you hit the late 30s / early 40s and can venture into the Hinterlands and Tanaris. Because everything in WoW Retail is level-matched, there’s relatively little need to pick any specific zone to play in, save for how you feel about its quest line.

Interestingly, the multiplier between Classic and Retail is holding pretty steady so far. At level 20, it had taken me 3.48x longer to level in Classic compared with Retail. At level 40, I’ve spent 3.39x longer in Classic compared with Retail. I’ll be curious to see how things hold to 60.

Gameplay and Leveling

Just saying that Classic leveling is slower than Retail, however, misses the point. Classic is far more willing to send you chasing around the world for quest objectives and it feels more confident in its own design. The Classic Paladin quest to build Verigan’s Fist took me to Kalimdor for the first time in my early 20s. Given that no one gets a mount until Level 40, you spend a fair amount of time from 20-40 just running from place to place. Classic WoW isn’t afraid of its own pace of gameplay. Combat — including open-world questing — can be downright leisurely or nail-bitingly hard depending on your own level and the relative difficulty of the quest you are attempting. I’ve completed more than a few quests by waiting for someone higher level to clear the mobs and dashing in for an item before they respawned. I’ve also beaten quests by requesting some helpful buffs from players and by using a combination of potions and weapon buffs to boost my DPS a bit higher than it normally is. Classic WoW, in other words, invites the player to deploy at least a bit of strategy.

The Stonewrought Dam in Classic, doing what dams do best.

Sneaking your way to an objective may require a potion of invisibility, an extremely careful pulling strategy, or you may need to lean heavily on Seal of Wisdom in order to have enough mana to batter an elite mob to death without being turned into swiss cheese yourself. Screw it up, and you’re facing a corpse run into hostile terrain and the possibility that the same overpowered mobs you snuck through will aggro and kill you again as soon as you respawn. You have far more ability to create a difficult experience for yourself in Classic than in Retail. Classic WoW may not have been hard compared with some of the other MMOs that existed at the time, but it’s certainly harder than Retail, where difficulty is completely flattened, every mob is the same level as you are, and you have to practically try to die. Elite mobs in Retail can be almost as easy to kill as standard mobs in Classic.

Stonewrought Dam in Retail. It’s impossible to get an identical screenshot, the old flight path out of Loch Modan routes differently now.

There are, however, some real downsides to the Classic leveling system, especially if you are leveling after the main rush of players passed through the game. It can be difficult to find groups for instances or questing if you aren’t guilded. Because the best weapons and armor are almost always BoP dungeon drops, not running instances to level means you’re getting shafted on DPS. Classic leveling is slow enough already. It gets easier to make gold as you play the game, but between buying new talent ranks, paying for a mount (if not a Paladin or Warlock), and the costs associated with leveling a profession, it’s not hard to feel as if your pocket is being perpetually picked. Leveling and gold-making in Classic can be faster in dungeons, but it still takes significantly longer to play through the dungeon, where crowd control is often needed. Without LFG, it takes longer to organize dungeon groups. Even something as simple as gryphon rides are far more expensive in Classic than Retail — in the early game, I sometimes saved money by hoofing it simply because I didn’t want to pay for a flight.

There are no ogres in this swamp, but you’ve got oozes, murlocs, orcs, elementals, undead, and Dark Iron dwarves, so…

As for the number of quests you find…. hoo boy. Many Classic WoW zones don’t have nearly the quest volume of their Retail counterparts and finding them can take longer, since you’re running from place to place. Once I left Darkshire, I wound up hitting Stranglethorn Vale, followed by Arathi Highlands, with a jaunt to Theramore to do some quests there. Running the length of STV on foot brought back lots of memories, a few of which were even pleasant.

Even ancient textures can look beautiful with an updated lighting model.

In Retail, you get that sweet pony ride at Lvl 20, and the associated 1.6x improvement to ground movement speed truly opens up the game. In modern WoW, you never need to head back to visit a trainer, queue for a battleground, or grab crafting mats out of the bank. There’s zero need to group for any non-dungeon quest. It’s almost always pointless to even try to help people — they kill their targets before you even reach them.

The 20-40 window makes it clear that every aspect of Retail’s design is meant to get you to Lvl 120 as fast as possible. I’ve been a Paladin tank rather than Ret spec for most of my WoW career. The ability to swap between specs comes in spectacularly handy — I’m able to chain-run multiple dungeons in Retail and can ding as often as every 30 minutes if I’m working hard. The only reason it’s taken me as long to level as it did is that I deliberately did some regular quests and exploration to duplicate more of the feel of my Classic Paladin. The awesome quest to build Verigan’s Fist in Classic and the reward of a solid weapon is completely lackluster in Retail. By the time I got to the gutted quest remnant that still exists, the weapon I could earn from completing it was actually worse than the one I had. I remember back in Vanilla we griped that there weren’t enough quests for individual classes. In Retail WoW, there are even fewer.

Classic WoW is far more willing to make you spend time playing it and it’s confident you will. Retail WoW feels as though it’s been optimized to keep people from quitting because, after five alts, there’s not a lot of magic to leveling a sixth. Hopefully, Blizzard’s upcoming stat squish will offer something of a happy medium between the hyperfast non-difficulty of leveling in Retail and at least a dash of the challenge and pace of Classic.

Stitches!

Stitches is my favorite encounter in World of Warcraft. In Retail, he’s been nerfed to the point that he can easily be soloed. Elite world mobs in Retail are almost all easy to solo (at least at this level). Elite mobs in Classic are not easy to solo, and Stitches is designed to make it more difficult than most. I love the encounter and took some screenshots of it I’m rather pleased with. Take a gander at the screenshots and I’ll explain what’s going on.

The Only Thing Classic and Retail Paladins Have in Common Is the Class Name

As I’ve continued to unlock additional capabilities for both versions of the class, it’s become even more apparent than I remembered how different they actually are.

Ruins of the Second War.

As a Classic Retribution Paladin, you operate in a combined Support / DPS role. We have a number of short buff spells (Blessings) that apply various helpful effects, from improving mana regeneration or damage to boosting all stats, preventing all physical damage to ourselves or another person, to removing all snares, slows, and movement-limiting effects. We can cure diseases and poisons plus remove magical debuffs with a single, low-cost spell. We have a single spell, Exorcism, that boosts our DPS against undead. We have an instant heal that restores our full life bar to ourselves or another target. Our attacks are known as “Seals,” and they do everything from an additional burst of Holy damage to restoring health or mana to anyone who hits our target.

In terms of DPS, however, we basically have one rotation: Cast Seal of the Crusader, Judge Seal of the Crusader (increasing the amount of Holy damage a mob takes), and then swing until it dies. On tougher fights, you’ll have to stop and heal yourself. In raids, where buff slots are limited, you may be asked not to Judge Crusader to boost your own DPS. Once I’ve unlocked Consecrate, I’ll at least have another spell to cast. Managing mana is critical to being an effective Ret Paladin, and you’ll find yourself either having to drink fairly frequently or using Seal and Judgement of Wisdom for a chance to regain mana when you strike the target. Seal of Wisdom, which unlocks at 38, is a game-changer for Paladins. So long as an enemy doesn’t damage you too quickly, you can generate mana, heal yourself, and then continue attacking.

Classic Paladins are not quick killers, but they have nearly unparalleled survivability when leveling. By lvl 40, we’ve unlocked a 5-second stun ability, our last-ditch full heal,  our own invulnerability shield, and abilities that allow us to heal and regenerate mana more effectively. While we do not have to heal during every single fight, you’ll find yourself either sitting down to drink or running Seal of Mana / Blessing of Wisdom to keep your own mana regeneration up, at the cost of slightly longer kill times. Retribution Paladins have very few attack spells and our support functions shine through.

Shadowfang Keep awaits. The quest for Verigan’s Hammer sends you across both Azeroth and Kalimdor. You’d better be ready to travel Azeroth “on your own two feet,” like the song says.

Retail Retribution Paladins are an entirely different animal. In Retail, there’s Crusader Strike, Execution Sentence (optional) and Hammer of Wrath (optional, situational), Templar’s Verdict, Blade of Justice, and Divine Storm at 40. Because Retail mobs are weaker and Paladin DPS is much stronger, Retail Paladins cut through mobs like wheat through a thresher. Tovahlt (Retail) has a kill speed that Tovah (Classic) would love. Retail Paladins do not depend upon mana and do not need to manage it, while mana management is critical to playing Classic well.

The flip side to Retail Paladins, however, is that they lack most of the “Support” side of the equation. Lay on Hands, our last-gasp full heal, isn’t unlocked until Lvl 55. I have a movement-slowing CC and I can remove movement-impairing effects, but Retail blessings are typically weaker than their Classic counterparts. I actively dislike this aspect of modern Paladins — buffing people and having a lot of helpful support options was one of the core reasons I chose the class. At the same time, it’s nice to know that I won’t be shoved into healing at 60 due to sub-par DPS and tanking options.

As someone who loved main tanking both raids and 5-mans as a Paladin in Vanilla, I wish I was going to get to experience that again — but the difficulty of making a Paladin MT work in raiding also reminds me why it’s not going to be an option. The hard truth is this: Endgame tanking with a Paladin either required some truly insane gearing (the one successful raiding Pally tank I knew literally had Thunderfury), or it required the entire raid to work with the tank in ways that Warriors never have to deal with.

Cracks in the Classic Talent Tree Begin to Show

One very interesting aspect of Classic versus Retail is how the two talent trees continue to scale. From 10-20, the Classic tree is excellent. Leveling is still fairly fast, and Lvl 21 grants access to our most significant DPS ability — Seal of Command. By Level 15 in Retail, you’ve unlocked just one talent. Early game in Classic gives you more points to play with and a greater sense that you are meaningfully modifying your character with each point.

Unfortunately, one of the classic (pun intended) problems with Classic talent trees is that virtually all classes suffer from what I’ll call “dead zones.” Classic WoW uses a three-page talent system. The deeper you go into each tree (Holy, Protection, Retribution for Paladins), the more spells and power-enhancing talents you unlock. You earn one talent point per level.

WoW Classic Talent Trees

This works quite well at first. Retribution is the classic leveling tree for Paladins, and the first 30 points you earn, from 10 – 39, can mostly be invested into your core DPS talents. By Lvl 39, you’ve built up enough points to go 30 deep in Retribution, and most of these can be fairly said to be invested in DPS-improving capabilities — which is good, since DPS is what Ret does.

By Level 39, however, it’s clear that there are bleak times ahead. The next significant DPS boost available to Ret Paladins is Consecration, buried 11 points deep in the Holy Tree. If you invest your first 30 points in Ret, you can invest the next 11 in Holy and get Consecrate. The 10 points you invest to unlock our AoE attack add some modest DPS with +10 percent to strength and +10 percent to Intellect (Paladin DPS depends on mana, so additional intelligence is helpful). Even so, these are not enormous boosts. Once Consecrate is unlocked, the next-best talent for us to get is +3 percent hit off Precision in the Prot tree, which requires you to spend 5 points in boosting Devotion Aura (increases armor). But since Ret Paladins are based principally on Holy damage, and we’ve already got an aura that boosts it, you’re basically investing 5 points in an aura that won’t improve your raid or dungeon DPS, and only offers a modest improvement to your damage reduction. The +3 percent hit from Precision is quite useful and does improve your DPS, but it’s virtually the last thing you’ll unlock and it isn’t much of a boost. It’s hard not to look at the talent points I’m spending unlocking relatively minor boosts and envy the other classes that kill much quicker than Paladins do. At 20, that gap was still small. By 40, it’s getting larger. By endgame, it will be significant. Every class struggles with this issue to some extent, but other weaknesses in Paladin design make it harder to compensate for.

Retail talent tree.

Retail leveling offers an entirely different progression system. In retail, you gain talents every 15 levels and rather than paying a trainer to learn spells, you automatically receive them upon leveling up. There are far fewer talents to choose from, and there’s no need to commit points deep into one tree to unlock abilities. Some talents synergize well together, but the only restriction is that you can’t substitute two Level 30 talents instead of taking a Lvl 30 and a Lvl 45 talent.

I’ve always preferred the Classic versus the Retail talent system design, but I can’t deny dreading what I already know is coming. Paladin DPS scales poorly into endgame. With limited help from talents and poor DPS scaling from abilities, we become quite dependent on weapon DPS — and most raids don’t want to give Paladins high-end weapons, because even if you do, we struggle to match the output of other classes.

Blacksmithing: Equally Bad (But in Different Ways)

One of the problems with crafting (or at least Blacksmithing) in classic WoW is that the recipes you can make aren’t well-tuned for the amount of materials you find. While the zones themselves offer mining or herbs to gather, you’ll typically out-level your chosen profession unless you choose to spend time either specifically gathering mats, even at low level, or spend money on the AH. Buying recipes can cut deeply into your funds (unless you buy only the ones you intend to make to level up), and virtually every activity, from smelting ore to crafting items, takes much longer in Classic compared with Retail. Thus, while I’m now finding mithril from time to time in Classic, I can’t yet craft with it — my Blacksmithing isn’t high enough.

The primary uses for crafting in Classic are to make gear for alts or to craft a handful of specific items that sell reasonably well on the AH. Blacksmiths can make some early endgame weapons that are fairly good for a Lvl 57 – 60 character, especially if you haven’t gotten lucky on drops. The true point of Blacksmithing is basically to craft resistance gear for progression raiders, and the profession doesn’t really prove itself useful until that point. Unless you specifically farm for mats rather than focusing on leveling, you won’t be learning recipes you can use until you’ve already over-leveled them. Putting ~45 points on blacksmithing took me roughly an hour in Classic and roughly three minutes in Retail. It’s not just that every single crafting action takes longer in Classic, it’s that you’re far more likely to be shuttling back and forth between mailbox, AH, and your bank (or an alt’s banks) to buy all the mats you need or to learn all the necessary plans.

But if Retail blacksmithing is easier and faster, it’s even less useful. The Great Stats Squish Blizzard has performed multiple times on WoW has basically ensured that there’s no point to even trying to craft gear for yourself. You won’t use it. If Classic crafting was unwieldly, time-consuming, and really not very useful to anyone except lowbie guild members and alts, Retail crafting is rocket-quick, allows you to access bank mats while building items, and feels even more pointless. Blizzard has never managed to balance World of Warcraft crafting very well, but the current state of 1-60 is downright bad — at least as far as BS is concerned. I won’t speculate on other professions.

Conclusion: At 40, Retail WoW Is Catching Up to Classic

Right now, I still enjoy playing Classic more than Retail. If I’m being honest, though, I’m not sure how much longer that will be true. I’ve done this song and dance in Vanilla before, and I know where it ends up. The closer Tovah gets to 60, the more aware I am that she’s got very little chance of claiming a DPS role and virtually no chance to operate as a tank.

Leveling in Classic feels more fun and I enjoy it significantly more. I’m never going to like the fact that Paladins in Retail WoW are basically generic DPS with no unique support capability, because Blizzard stripped most buffs and support spells out of the game. There’s no point to Seal of Light or Wisdom in Retail. You don’t lose enough health to worry about Lay on Hands. Nobody really needs buffs, so it doesn’t matter that Paladin buffs are both limited and weak, or that our auras have been removed. Except it does matter, to those of us who loved that aspect of our class. It just doesn’t matter enough. Given the choice between being stuffed into a dress and cleansebotting my way through Molten Bore and having the freedom to play as Ret or Prot in Retail, I’d take Retail in a heartbeat.

If I’ve seemed to go back and forth on Classic versus Retail, here’s how I’d summarize it. At 40, the weaknesses of Classic’s design are beginning to show — so much so, that I may roll a different character altogether rather than seriously try to gear Tovah for endgame after hitting 60. Despite how much I dislike the removal of our buffs and support characteristics, the flexibility and capability of Retail Paladins blows Classic out of the water. As far as enjoying the leveling experience, however, I think automatically scaling mob level to player level, combined with significantly weakening mobs overall, was a disastrous move in terms of the impact on leveling actually being fun. I may level like a (comparative) bat out of hell in Retail, but I don’t actually enjoy it very much.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off below.

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Blizzard Confirms WoW Subscriber Base Doubled After Classic Launched

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I’m still working on my WoW leveling comparison between Retail and Classic (I know, I know, I KNOW), but there’s now hard evidence that a substantial group of people are logging into WoW to play a version of the game they enjoyed 15 years ago. One of the most common arguments I saw people making before Classic launched — an argument I had a lot of fun discussing with friends, though I didn’t necessarily put a lot of stock in it — was the idea that people would roll Classic characters, immediately encounter the difficulty and pace of the game, and promptly quit again.

Turns out, nobody should’ve worried. Classic is popular enough to have doubled the number of people paying for an active WoW subscription. That’s according to data in Blizzard’s Q4 2019 report, which stated that the number of players paying for a month or more of service has doubled since Classic launched in mid-2019. Hat tip to Overclock3D, which initially broke the story.

The funny thing about the Classic / Retail debate was the players on the Retail side of the community who were certain Classic would be filled with people doing nothing but complaining about how difficult the game was. I’d lie if I said I hadn’t seen complaints. I’ve done some of the complaining, in point of fact. The game is sometimes infuriating. It can be difficult to find enough quests to level easily. Some of the shortcomings of Blizzard’s original design are apparent above Lvl 30 in ways they weren’t in the original game.

With that said, I’m still playing, even if a lot of CPU and GPU review coverage from November – February basically sidetracked my testing. There’s a lot of good game in WoW Classic, which really isn’t surprising, considering it’s the game that got millions of people to play World of Warcraft. At the same time, though, I probably shouldn’t lean too hard on the strength of that argument. Just because a game has strong elements doesn’t mean it aged particularly well, or even that people are hungry to return once again to its content. The slideshow from our WoW leveling comparison (1-20) is embedded below:

The real question for WoW Classic, to me, is how the project can evolve from here. Blizzard will continue to roll out content updates for WoW Classic, but eventually all good things come to an end. Naxxramas is the last endgame raid, and while that’ll challenge mid-tier players who advanced into endgame content at a slower pace cough, it won’t keep everybody happy.

I can see a few different ways for Blizzard to handle this. One is not to handle it, and to offer Classic as exactly what it is — Classic WoW, no more, no less, with all of the content and limitations that implies. Another option is to develop “classic” implementations of previous WoW expansions and offer Classic players the option to clone an existing hero on a BC server, move a hero from one to the other (with no option to transfer back), or roll fresh and face leveling from 1-70 under TBC rules. I suspect we’d get the first or second option, not the third, but they’re all possible.

But there’s another path that Blizz might take: Further content development for vanilla WoW.

Remember — original WoW had a lot of content visible on the map that was never used. The entire zone of Mount Hyjal is one example. We knew Gilneas existed behind the Graymane Wall, even if we didn’t get to visit the land. We’d been to Tol Barad and Grim Batol in Warcraft 2. Karazhan may not be an instance in Classic, but it exists in Classic. Even if Blizzard confined itself to the lore of Warcraft as it existed in 2004, there are a great many locations we never explored or visited. There’s no reason why new 5-man or raid content couldn’t be added to the existing game.

There’s a specific reason why I can imagine Blizzard going this route — it would allow the company to revisit “What if” scenarios in a timeline where the Dark Portal never re-opened, and the world of Azeroth went on much as it had before. Even if the Draenei never crashed on Azeroth, Arthas would still have eventually reappeared. The Twilight’s Hammer cult was very much present in the later events of vanilla WoW. There are ways and places where Blizzard could expand the lore of Classic with new 5-man dungeons and content adapted to a universe in which things happened very differently (and, presumably, we remain locked at Lvl 60 and with whatever patch version Blizzard stops with).

I’m a lot more interested in Classic’s evolution than one can typically say about a 15 year-old title, even if my playtime has been a bit lacking.

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Issa Rae Shuts Down ‘Set It Off’ Remake Rumors: ‘I Would Never Remake a Classic’ (Exclusive)

Issa Rae Shuts Down ‘Set It Off’ Remake Rumors: ‘I Would Never Remake a Classic’ (Exclusive) | Entertainment Tonight

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