John writes in on a topic that I think a lot of people can relate to. Wrath of the Lich King brought you back to the game, but now what?
I would love to see a "New Year's" article discussing how to start over in WoW for a returning casual player. Or starting WoW for the first time for that matter.
Anyhow, keep up the good work. Your articles have helped ensure me that I will no longer be treated like a second-class citizen in WOW for not being a hardcore player. Which is very cool.
Well, it's a little after New Year's, but we're still in January, so I think that's close enough. Wrath of the Lich King is definitely worth coming back for, even if you don't have a level 68+ to experience the Northrend content. But if you do, it's doubly so. The Achievements are a blast and make leveling up to the new content more fun. Also, leveling is speedier and there are even new quests in the old world to make it seem like less of a grind. It's apropos that so many people are coming back from the "dead" now that we have Death Knights -- you may be just as disoriented as the newly revived minions of the Lich King. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your return to Azeroth:
Get guilded with veterans
If you were in a guild before you left, try to return to it (if it still exists) when you get back -- even if it was a raiding guild. I am in a guild that raids every night, even though I don't (it helps that I'm married to the guild leader) and we've had a lot of returning players. Many raiding guilds will let you return to the guild even if you are casual now, just to have familiar friends back in the fold. Regardless of the kind of guild, you should try to get in with people who have been playing while you're gone. You're going to have questions that they can easily answer.
You may need to change servers
Guilds transfer, friends re-roll and queues lengthen -- whatever the reason, your old realm may no longer be the best fit for you. The best thing to do is find a server with friends with similar schedules and transfer your characters there or re-roll. Or you could find fellow WoW players from another community in which you participate. For example, Ravelry (a wonderful online knit and crochet community) has both Alliance and Horde guilds as well as a list of all the realms fellow knitters play on (you have to belong to Ravelry in order to see that link). If you must go it alone, I recommend a medium population PvE server (check at peak times for queues). PvP can really take up a lot of your play time while you are trying to quest (though that's where I play). You don't want too low of a population because that affects the economy. Even if you won't be raiding, you want to be able to sell your wares to those wealthy hardcore types.
Make a Death Knight
Go ahead and jump on the bandwagon -- there's a reason (or 7) everyone is doing it. They are fun and easy and a great way to ease back into the game. After Patch 3.0.8, you will be able to make a DK on any realm if you have a level 55 on at least one realm. If you have friends on a realm that you don't want to or can't transfer to, you can catch up to them very quickly on a DK.
Classes have changed. Your warlock may not be as much fun and your paladin is probably not as boring. Your main may no longer be the class you have the most fun playing. Of course, I'm an altaholic, so I'm enabling here, but I do think that you shouldn't spend time struggling on a class that isn't as much fun as another one that has been newly tweaked to be more for your playstyle.
Re-evaluate and update your professions
Inscription is new and the rest have been improved, particularly the gathering professions. If you stay with what you already have, go see your trainer to get up to date. Oh, and beware of sticker shock. If your professions were maxed in Burning Crusade, you can update them all in the starting cities in Northrend, but it costs hundreds of gold. Don't sweat it if you don't have enough to do it right away, gold is easy to get these days and you'll be caught up in no time.
In order for casual players to get the most out of their playtime, it really is best to schedule out blocks of playtime that allow you to balance the rest of your life and coordinate with your family. You will find yourself having longer, uninterrupted sessions if your scheduled playtime is considerate to (and approved by) your significant other, children or parents for those who are still living at home.
Northrend is awesome
If you do have a level 68+, even if you don't end up staying on that realm or with that character, you are going to want to experience the Northrend content as soon as possible. There are new and varied quest types, the lore is rich and compelling and the scenery is breathtaking. And don't avoid instances as you level up. They now take less than an hour, making it feasible even for casuals to find a group and complete.
Read in your spare time
We have a couple of series of articles that may answer most of your questions. The Queue answers reader questions and WoW Rookie covers the basics, which is good as a refresher, even if you didn't used to be a rookie. Also, take a look through the class columns listed on the menu on the lefthand side to catch up on the latest for your favorite class(es).
It may take you a while to get back into the groove. Your first few play sessions may be nonproductive and even a bit frustrating. But if you stick with it, I think you'll find that the game has never been better -- particularly for casuals.