Prot’s been excited about Cataclysm since its specifcs started popping up on the various websites she follows. For the last little while, she’s been telling me all about how this & that’s gonna change and how it’ll affect her enjoyment of the game. She’s been gushing about the new races and starting areas and how cool it’ll be to roll a new alt (or five…) in order to experience the new content. She’s even had a fit of premature tank rage over the fight mechanics on some great big flying genie-esque boss we saw in a PTR raid video – as though our tiny, most-folks-don’t-even-play-any-longer guild was in any sort of position to begin raiding in Cataclysm when the content opens up.

And that works for her. On Tuesday? I was happy to be in heroics. It’s not that I’m not interested or excited or that I don’t think all the Cataclysm changes (most of which were implemented this week) Prot told me about aren’t neat – it’s that they fill me with a weird breed of dread. Cataclysm is, I feel, a much bigger expansion than its predecessors and brings a ton of changes to many areas of the game. I feel a bit – no pun intended – shaken up by it, to be perfectly honest with you. As a result, all of the great news and neat stuff that Prot’s brought to my attention and that I’ve started seeing in-game since Tuesday has left me feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

There’s so much of it to see & discover…I don’t know where to start, or how best to approach it all. It’s like a gigantic mess; picking up that one Kleenex near the bed doesn’t really get you that far ahead. Since Tuesday, I’ve basically been staring at it from the door, taking it all in – but that’s inaccurate. I’ve been acknowledging it, I think. Yes – just acknowledging that all the strange, foreign stuff I see when I hit the ‘M’ key or watch the loading screen is my new WoW reality.

My mind has been working a mile a minute in a futile attempt to calculate the safest, quickest path through the onslaught of changes. Part of what makes new content of this magnitude so terrifying for me is that I am a profound lover of systems and order; in short, my new WoW reality is not my old WoW reality, and I am no longer master of my environment. That’s stressful. My brain is being petulant about it; it’s trying really hard to huffily turn its back on the fact that it’ll need to focus and re-learn everything – even if it knows it’ll probably enjoy the process. I’ve been craving a new game (or, more specifically, the act of learning a new game) for some time now, so there’s no reason for me to have frozen up the way I have this week.

That being said, it is what it is. I just have to power through it.

As a devout farmer, my first concern is the nodes and level ranges of the new map configuration. I used to know where to find each and every type of plant or ore, and I knew the level ranges of all mobs in any area – but not any more! Many maps have been re-tooled and Horde/Alliance levelling paths have changed, so I’ll need to run (I guess it’s more like ‘fly’ now, come to think of it – oh man, what if that turns all of Azeroth into Sholazar Basin, where the skies are darkened by hordes of ill-mannered protodrake-mounted farmers?!) out and survey the world to get all of that straight in my mind. I enjoy levelling professions, so knowing where to get things is paramount!

In the same vein, knowing that the profession cap will be raised in Cataclysm freaks me out as well. There’s nothing I can do about it right now, except maybe save up some mats to help finish up whatever professions haven’t reached 450 yet (they tend to put in these cheap little catch-up recipes after they raise the profession cap, which handily get you up to speed without need for any huge cash droppage, but I don’t know whether or not those recipes will require the use of old mats or new mats…hmm) and keep some gold stashed away for the initial upgrade cost and first few recipes. Getting my first profession to 450 in WotLK was quite the adventure; tons of cash and time (many, many thanks to all the guildies who sent – and still send – me mats, and to the one guildie who spent an entire morning killing undead in Icecrown for me) went into it, and I know it’ll be the same in Cataclysm.  Am I ready for that?

Weird, isn’t it? You sit at the top for a while and as soon as things change you’re uncomfortable and scrambling to get back up there. Thing is, I’m not entirely sure why it matters that I be ‘up there’… I enjoy the process of levelling, gathering, building, etc. far more than the ‘being up there’ part. It’s like any trip – I generally enjoy the journey more than whatever happens once we get to our destination. In WoW, I tend to pick a goal and then race towards it…only to get instantly bored again as soon as it’s over. I have time and time again threatened to wipe my entire character list and cried to Prot & Save about how I have nothing to work on or build or what have you and that I need a challenge, so why would the promise of new goals in Cataclysm appear so…unsexy to me?

Confusing, I tell you. Despite having repeatedly threatened to wipe my characters, I haven’t done so (yet – I will relapse, Prot, I promise you. It’s only a matter of time!). In fact, I was thinking that one way to cheap out on having to deal with all the new content would be to grab my main and just level her to 85 after Cataclysm comes out. That way I could ignore Azeroth entirely (save for wherever my hearth is; I could just choose a city that hasn’t seen any changes and pretend like it’s the good old days) and act like this is BC or Wrath and not all that much has changed. It’d be like a quarantine. A safe zone.

But it wouldn’t last. Alas…I fear I must come to terms with the new WoW, even if it’s just a bit at a time.

I rolled a lowbie Horde priest on a different server on Tuesday (we went to Brill last night, by the by. Did you know that it’s been fortified? Watch out, Scarlet dudes – the Forsaken are pimp now!). It’s the opposite strategy to the taking-my-main-to-85-with-blinders-on one I mentioned above. I figure I will subject myself to as many Azeroth changes as I can prior to December, so that I’ll at least be able to navigate the world when the expansion finally comes out. Reacquainting myself with the world map, I think, will be a good, strong step towards feeling confident again.

But you know what would be nice? If Blizz stopped resetting my talents. Please just stop. Stop. It’s driving me insane and making me curse the day dualspecs were implemented. Also, it’s not helping the whole stress thing; I keep rereading the shaman/priest/paladin trees each time and running back to my trainer, just in case something big’s happened. And I don’t even want to think about the whole 12% damage nerf to warlocks that I kinda quickly saw (and immediately looked away from) in the latest patch notes…I think it’s best that I permanently keep the blinders on for that one.

So it seems the key to retaining my sanity during this period is setting new goals for myself. I can do that:

  1. Get one of those awkward-looking camel mounts for my priest.
  2. Run the new AQ (I cannot explain to you how excited I am that Blizz kept this raid).
  3. See (just see – I’m not even going to think about actually running it) Uldum.

There. I think I can be happy again.

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