Previously I mentioned WoW Insider as somewhat akin to that weird, cranky uncle that you had that the family loved like mad, but kinda wished he would keep things on the down low.
I knew something of rumors of a contingency plan at the time of that last post, but declined to mention those rumors because it was somewhat less than an actual rumor.
Well, the cat’s out of the bag now, and I’m pleased to see that the team has established a new website called Blizzard Watch, which is going to cover more than just WoW. That’s kind of ironic when you recognize that they were already covering all things Blizzard before AoL shut them down; this is more or less a nod at the reality of the situation.
This new effort is contingent on a crowdfunding effort through the Patreon site. The goal was to cover basic expenses at $8000.00 a month, with a couple of stretch goals. The campaign went live on Feb 3, 2015. I’ll let Alex speak for himself after that.
In the middle of the draft, I had to stop and start over. Because our Patreon passed that $8,000 milestone and hit $9,000. That’s the milestone at which we can begin bringing class columnists back into the fold. I couldn’t simply ignore that so I started the post over again.
To which was added another addenum.
The original opening of this post was as follows: As I’m writing this, our Patreon fund is currently sitting at 1,571 patrons contributing a total of $8,828 per month. We hit our first milestone of $8,000 exactly six hours after our site went live. Update: We’ve now passed over $10,000 per month.
If there was any doubt that the WoW community would come together to back this effort, it was gainsaid authoritatively by noon on the 4th of February.
I said before I have on many occasions mocked, poked, and otherwise bickered with some of the things I saw on the old WI website, but I also said that regardless of that, I read that site every day since they started posting, basically. Part of running a site like that is to spur discussion, and they did and they do. So I had absolutely no problem ponying up a few dollars a month to get this new enterprise rolling.
You can go as low as a dollar a month, which is practically nothing if you can afford 15 a month to play a game, and I can think of few enterprises more worthy in our own gaming community. So I encourage you to have a look at their Patreon site and kick in a few bucks as well. They might have made all their stretch goals already, but the more we can put into this, the better the site will be. If Anduin Wrynn was old enough to have a credit card, he’d do it! If Thrall knew what money was used for, he’d do it too!
Everybody’s got that cranky old uncle that they rarely get along with, but if anyone says one cross word about, you’d defend to the last. In my WoW-blogging world, WoW Insider is that cranky old uncle.
Earlier this week we heard rumors that Joystiq, parent of both Massively and WoW Insider, was going to be shut down, along with its companion gaming sites. A lot of people wrote about this, but in my heart, I hoped they were jumping the gun.
Today that hope was dashed. Tuesday, February 31 will be the day that the music dies for Joystiq and its kin, and WoW Insider logs out for good.
Now, when I say I didn’t get along with WoW Insider, that’s a sort of overstatement. I did tend to ridicule them for their over-reliance of fifty-dollar words, for apparent word inflation to up word counts, for seeming to be so intent on sounding impressive that they forgot to BE impressive in their writing. For meekness, for not getting in the middle of anything controversial2. For being as bland as store-bought biscuits and gravy-from-a-pouch. For playing it so safe as to make one wonder if they were getting kickbacks from Blizz.
I subtweeted the SHIT outta that, and I regret nothing.
And for all that bluster, I read that blog Every. Titans. Damned. Day. EVERY day. Because bland and overtaped though they might have been, they WERE a bunch of people trying to get it right. A room full of kindred spirits. And it was one place that you could go to reliably to find useful information about WoW.
I would have liked it if the fare were a little spicier. If they would have maybe tossed away a few of those thesauruses that they found outside the used book store. If they mixed it up a bit, stuck out that lower jaw and dared Blizz to knock that chip off their shoulder. But they chose a middle road and I can’t really begrudge them. It was a choice. It was a safe choice3. And one of us was getting paid to do it, and one of us wasn’t, so there’s some context into which my opinions can be placed.
Fact is, they provided something helpful – an omnibus, central clearing house of WoW stuff, and there is NO ONE in a position to take up that banner once it has fallen.4
Being critical is not the same as hating. I was critical of this site because I cared, and saw so much more potential there than they were able to deliver. I wouldn’t be tweeting those snarky little subtweets if I hadn’t been reading the site. And I would not waste my time reading the site if I didn’t care about what they were doing.
Cranky old Uncle Edwin was a gigantic pain in the ass, but he was OUR gigantic pain in the ass and we all miss him to this day. So it shall be with WoW Insider, in a slightly different way. I’m going to miss them. A lot.
There is, at this point, a tremendous vacuum in the WoW blogosphere. Someone could step in and make something out of it if they could get funding. I hope it happens. Maybe with members of this very crew.
I have one last thing to say, and it is the title of this Penny Arcade tribute.
So say we all.
Incidentally, the anniversary of the destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia. [↩]
And, in fact, for backing out of teh dramaz when they killed off Guildwatch all those years ago. [↩]
WoW is in a similar position to a lot of high / gothic fantasy and terrestrial MMOs, in that adding new play areas is often a case of the game designers pulling new zones out of their metaphorical asses. WoW is in a lot better position than most in that there are plenty of other canonical worlds out there, though oddly they’d rather go the time traveling grandfather killer route than actually explore those other worlds1.
And they said his predecessor was grim.
While I usually look forward to exploring other worlds, the thing I actually am enjoying when I do that is the exploration of new zones, regardless of where they are, and the discovery of fun things. But I’m very sensitive to the harmony of the zone with the established dogma of a fantasy world, and I often feel the “new world” approach is very disharmonious with the established dogma when it comes to my completionist makeup.
What is he going on about?
Let me put it all out there: I think that the three worlds we know now – Azeroth, Outland, and Draenor – are only partially explored, only partially revealed to us.
Draenor and Outland are, at this point, only conjecture on my part, but it’s common sense. Looking at the tiny island that makes up what we know of Draenor, there are only two possibilities. The first is that Draenor as we know it is a speck of land half the size of Khaz Modan and an ocean the size of Azeroth. The other possibility is that Draenor as we know it is just one land mass among many, that the world of Draenor is largely unexplored by ourselves.
This does of course open all sorts of possibilities, including lost tribes of Draenei, Orcses, Ogreses, and other denizens of Draenor that we have either encountered or been hinted to.
Honestly, they might be trolling us already.
And since Draenor as we know it is the bedrock upon which Outland is built, that also means that for every lost continent of Draenor, there is a possibility of the same lost continent of Outland, only with more shatteryness. For lore purposes, it also opens a lot of possibilities since we have 35 years of Azerothian lore on that shattered land mass and its supposed compatriots.
Azeroth only makes sense, from a climatic point of view, if you assume that it is only half explored.
Kalimdor and Khaz Modan make excellent sense climatically if you assume that they are northern hemisphere continents. Both continents are arctic to subarctic in the north, and tropical or arid in the south. Khaz Modan’s northern half is very European, while its south is very tropical. Kalimdor’s northern parts are very North American, and its south is very African – arid, dry, desert.
If Kalimdor and Khaz Modan were truly global, you’d expect Tanaris and Stranglethorn and Pandaria to be subarctic at the very least, rather than the tropical – dare I say, equatorial – climates they exhibit.
It only makes sense that the equator of Azeroth passes somewhere in the vicinity, or just south, of Pandaria, rather than in between the Arathi Highlands and Wetlands as depicted on some representations.
You Can’t Prove a Negative
Mea culpa – the possibility that those two continents are northern hemispheric does not in any way prove the existence of one or more southern hemispheric continents. It merely opens up the possibility. It provides an opening into which these land masses could be inserted.
For all we know, the southern hemisphere of Azeroth is an empty ocean, devoid of little more than the occasional island kingdom that would provide a content patch’s worth of exploration at most. But there is one or more expansions’ worth of space in this alleged southern hemisphere, and not exploiting it seems to me, as a certain fictional astronomer’sfictional father said, “a waste of space”.
The Solid Case Against
There is, however, a solid case against the possible existence of these alleged continents. In fact, there is a solid case against Kalimdor and Khaz Modan being northern continents rather than globally spanning. There are three such cases that I am aware of, in fact.
Hard to see detail, admittedly.
The first is revealed either when raiding Black Temple, or doing the Warlock “Green Fire” quests. At one point you can look up, and see, in the sky above you, the planet Azeroth. I have absolutely no explanation as to why this is – you can’t see Draenor from Azeroth, after all – and from any other point on Outland, you can’t see it. But from that particular point, you can. And the planet you see shows the two continents spanning the planet from north to south. This makes no sense whatsoever on many levels, but it is there as established game lore, and that’s that. Azeroth, as seen from The Black Temple, has no missing southern continents.
It also doesn’t appear to have Pandaria or Northrend, either. So the infallibility index of this sighting just took a dive. If you’re gonna use this sighting as an example of why the North is alone, it needs to at least include all of current lore within it. And the weak tea excuse of “But it was made before Northrend was part of the map” also works for “But it was made before the southern continents were part of the map” as well, now doesn’t it?
Moving on, then.
Dungeon delvers in Ulduar are familiar with the room just prior to Loken’s in Halls of Lightning. It bears within it a holographic representation of Azeroth. And, just like the BT sky-orb, this holo-orb shows no indications of there being more to Azeroth. It also doesn’t show Pandaria, so once again we have no evidence that this ancient holo-orb is actually accurate, or if the Titans are trolling us.
Finally, we have the globe that Algalon uses as an instrument of destruction against Azeroth. Not only does it show no more than the other two representations, it also shows one of Azeroth’s moons as a crescent, which is just weird if it’s supposed to be an accurate representation. Clearly it is not, nor intended to be.
These are the facts
The facts are, there is no evidence that there is a southern hemisphere beyond the shores of Tanaris and Uldum. No sign of a missing southern continent. No support for a theory that there is more to Azeroth than we can see right now. But there is also no solid evidence against it, nor against a missing continent (or raft thereof) on Outland and Draenor.
All we have is this.
in 2007, there was no reason to believe that Northrend or Pandaria were real, and they were not depicted in any available representation.
The physical climate of this imaginary world of Azeroth makes absolutely no sense without an unexplored southern hemisphere.
Draenor and Outland are too small to be entire planets. There must be more.
The Possibilities are Endless
We know that Blizz is near the end of its planned story arc for WoW. This arc, so widely known, has proven to be a burden that they’ve fought hard to shake off, coming up with the ridiculous plot of WoD as a way of bucking the system and shaking up our expectations. But even if the next two expansions adhere slavishly to that timeline, there is so much potential left in that prophesied timeline of Azeroth.
But imagine an entire set of southern continents equal in size and scope with Khaz Modan and Kalimdor. What might we find there? Feral Elves that predate the Titans? A whole continent of Trolls? What of Draenor / Outland? Might we find an entire land where the Draenei reverted to Eredar ways? Did Turalyon and Alleria start a new Alliance-based2 trade empire just out of sight? Where might there be dragons? A lost Ogre empire?
There are clues. That anonymous bit of land to the southwest on the Draenor map. The ports on Draenor! Why build massive ports unless you are trading with people that you can’t reach by land?
I was supposed to get this written up by Dec 21st, which is the anniversary of when we actually found little Jaina wandering around the parking lot.
Scruffy but all ours
But my attempts to capture a good pic of her in profile delayed this post. The reason for this is because I wanted to share why we have taken to calling her "Bearcat" – basically, she’s shaped like this.
My understanding is that this is the normal shape for Birman cats. We’re still not 100% sure of her ancestry, since there is a little bit of something else in there as well, but aside from the overall coloring, she still maintains all the characteristics of that breed, including fur as soft as a kitten’s. The temperament is somewhat different than Cat Fancier standard, but I’ve long considered such things to be outside the realm of genetics, anyway.
Nevertheless, she still has her cuddly side, but it rarely comes out. When it does, she typically jumps up onto my keyboard tray and head butts my hand until I give her chin scritches. She doesn’t do purr and she doesn’t do cuddle, but she does have her affectionate side. I’ll take it.
The Cat that Lived, who still defies the physicians at Banfield, has also picked up her own kitten, which requires a bit of explanation.
This has been a tough year in Casa de Grimmtooth for the felines citizens. We first lost Psycho Cat earlier this year as she wound down her hard knock existence with us. Mrs Grimm said she probably didn’t even know she was a cat, and her disdain for all other felines certainly seemed to bear that out.
Josie explaining to Mrs G that the PC was ebil and she should pay attention to Josie instead
The other loss was Leon, dubbed Old Man Cat for his somewhat unique voice. Big, rumbly, and loving, he started to lose interest in eating, and it was downhill from there. He was Jaina’s pal at times, though she didn’t really appreciate the cuddling part.
Fortunately, Mrs G was happy to stand in.
That brings us to our new residents. While taking Leon to the Shelter to have him euthanized, we thought about maybe coming back to pick up a kitten for the rotation. A sweet little black kitten poked Mrs G as she walked by her cage, and presented chin for scritches and purrs for our enjoyment. We pretty much concluded that since she did such a great sales job, we’d take her home. As we considered her, her neighbor, a beautiful gray kitten reached out and said, "Me too!" Unable to split up a great team1, we decided to take them both home. We named them Washburn and Zoey … for reasons2.
Zoey, at least, lives up to the Warrior Woman thingy.
Zoey is also now officially Jaina’s kitten. The two of them spend time snuggling, fixing each other’s ears, hugging, tussling, and otherwise being the cutest things for yards around. Sometimes Wash joins in the fracas, but in general the gals keep him in line. Captain Harble tries to steal my seat or otherwise lurks in the top of the cat tree.
Having the new kittens has given her opportunities to socialize, which she didn’t have previously. All the other cats were a lot more mature than she, and had no desire to play. Now, we hear the thunder of a herd of kitty hooves pretty much every morning. It’s a joyful sound.
So we’re now in Jaina’s third year. According to sources, this is how long Birman cats take to mature, so she’s as big as she’s going to get, and as such is a tiny little thing. I don’t know if that’s normal for that clan, but it kinda rules out Rag Doll since they get kinda big.
Jaina, like her namesake, is a tough gal, accepts no shit from anyone, and has carved out a niche for herself and settled in well. We now enter a new phase of her life as she assumes the role of Auntie Jaina.
As raiding begins to crank up, I find myself for the first time without any raiding options open to me. My main guild’s GM has been more or less AWOL since a year ago, and shows no sign of starting to play again, and a potential "we’re getting the band back together" opportunity appears to have fallen through. So for the first time since BC1, I find myself with no plans to raid, no pressure to hit level cap, no pressure to do anything other than play whatever toon I want for as long as I want. Which is exactly what I’m doing.
There are many, I am sure, that will point out that LFR fills the gap, and lots of my guildies are going that route and are, at least on the surface, quite happy about it. Personally, I don’t consider "raiding" to be all about the content, and no number of Epics will alleviate the fact that I’m raiding with a bunch of strangers that I’ll probably never see again2. All of my fondest memories of raiding have more to do with the people I raided with than the raid experience itself. Sure, downing a boss was fun. But the whoops heard in Vent from nine3 of your closest comrades after hours of study, practice, effort, and wipes is What It Is All About, and anyone that disagrees is just itchin’ for a fight.
This is somewhat liberating, as I possibly change focus and attitude with regard to WoW. Ever since the breathtakingly awful reveal of WoD and its subsequent consistent misteps, I’ve become somewhat sour on Blizzard games. WoD is a fine expansion, there is no denying it, but my feelings of loyalty to the brand are greatly diminished. They will need to do a lot more of what they’ve been doing4 before they win my trust back.
And meanwhile, there’s Elite: Dangerous, and it’s shaping up to be something I’ll want to do. The time I expect it to stabilize after commercial release just so happens to coincide with the time that I’ll probably start to get bored with the tedious Garrison grind and other not-actually-a-daily-in-name dailies. The fact that a game that I’ve wanted for quite some time is coming up to speed in the next two to three months may have provided the final temptation to spring me out of this game.
Or, it may be another Wildstar, and my interest will die a silent death in the dark of night again. You just never know.
One of the oldest chestnuts in WoW gameplay discussions is between the various content “factions” – for example, raiders, casuals, PvPers, RPers, and so forth. There are at least four points of tension listed here, and there are probably more than that in reality.
Raiding has always been criticized as taking entirely too much development resources for the number of players that partake of it. Even with LFR now a thing, I suspect we’re looking at a maximum of 20% participation at all levels. Take away LFR and we’re probably closer to 10, or maybe, 5 percent of the entire game’s population.
And that of course is the crux of the critics’ argument – massive resources are being directed at something that only one out of five players actually experiences. While we don’t have head counts here, the critic will point to Blizz’s recent refrain of “that would cost a raid tier” as the reason they didn’t get around to doing the things other “factions” wanted to do.
Dance studio? Two raid tiers. Or maybe an expansion. Dancing’s hard, y’all.
At any rate, the thing we come away with is that raiding’s a Big F!cking Deal to the game designers and around 20% of the player base.
But I’m okay with that.
Watch this video. I’ll meet you on the other side.
Okay, ask the average Eve player and they’ll tell you that the images you saw in that video are atypical of the average game experience. Most of the time is spent micromanaging a plethora of skills, bots, build jobs, and other administrivia2. But the fact remains, these epic battles between huge fleets exist. They exist so hard that when they happen, the Web usually takes notice. It is not unusual for one of these massive battles – which I emphasize, often include ships worth tens of thousands of real-world dollars – to make the cut on cnn.com or other mainstream news site, even if it’s just to mock us geeks and our pathetic ways.
Here’s the thing. Raid-level encounters in Eve are not scripted or in any way influenced by CCP, the parent company of Eve. These encounters are completely organic, entirely generated by the goals and needs of the players, in the truest sandboxxiness sense.
And yet the parallels between these battles and WoW raiding, especially outside of LFR, are pretty stark3. And it illustrates why raiding in WoW is a thing that needs to keep happening, even if only one out of a hundred of us does it.
Because epic tales are important. They are part of our DNA as fantasy/scifi RPG players. Even if we can’t be part of the epic battles, even if we don’t make the cut for the realm’s greatest raiding guild, we can hear the stories and dream. This is the essential nature of gaming, in a way.
A new player class or race, updated professions, or even the Dance Studio are nowhere near as, well, “sexy” as an epic raid, even when experienced viscerally via youtube video or forum post or even word of mouth on the guild forums. Tales of great deeds are inspirational. Tales of blown opportunities in the skill-up grind for Engineering … not so much.
I imagine the average Eve player resents the hell out of the big Corps out there and their iron grip on Big Fleet Battles. But I suspect every dedicated Eve player that is NOT in one of those big Corps would probably jump at the chance to play even the smallest part in one of those gigantic space battles. To paraphrase Dave Scott, the commander of Apollo 15, I believe there’s something to be said for grandeur. At the end of the day, regardless of our place in the grand scheme of things, we all need something aspirational to drive us, to inspire us, to provide us with something a little bit out of reach that we might be able to grasp, if we play our cards right.
In game theory terms, it is a huge carrot for us to chase. Eve’s players drive both ends of that equation. If raiding was removed in WoW completely, I suspect something similar would happen here.
The question is, is it worth it for Blizz to sink resources into something like this? I suspect it depends on what the end result is, and I don’t mean boss drops. Just what is it that Blizz gets from raiding?
My main gripe with raiding has always been, it removes something from the average player’s personal experience. It’s not gear, but the story of the raid design itself. More than anything else, each raid provides a distinct tic mark in the lore of Azeroth. MC provided us with a limited understanding of Ragneros; Kara gave us much lore about Medivh; ICC was the capstone on Arthas’ arc; Deathwing was destroyed in one of those raids. Something something Pandaria. Garrosh has a plan. You get the picture. The raid endpoints of a content patch and/or expansion have been rather lore-heavy. Thanks to LFR, these have become potentially accessible to every player in the game willing to achieve a specific gearscore.
That’s not the point.
The point is, the primary lore delivery mechanism for WoW is, has been, and will continue to be, the raid. So as long as that remains the case, raids are extremely important to the health of the game, regardless of whether you participate directly or not. From a lore perspective, this matters. From a, er, spiritual perspective, it also matters.
Basically, the moment that someone decides that raids are no longer relevant to WoW is when WoW begins to die.
Unless an equally valid source of lore and epic content is identified.
There is a moment in the Shadowmoon Valley experience that is one of the most supremely heroic and noble and tragic and triumphant of the game so far. Nothing in all the expansions or the original game can match this for emotional punch or impact. It is truly one of the Big Moments of video gaming. This is a genuine “Aeris moment”. The people at Blizz that are responsible for this should take each other out for copious rounds of hard cider and pizza; they’ve achieved a high point in this franchise. I state this without hesitation.
Those of you that have seen the cinematic sneak peeks, or completed this zone, know of that which I speak.
And yet that there is more to the story of Shadowmoon Valley. You still have work to do, and you’re inspired to do so. And that, friends, is the point of a good cinematic. It drags you in and involves you in the story.
There is a scene before this in which you are involved in the final battle to save Karabor. You are participating in a future-vision with alt!Velen, and in the dream you fight beside him and Yrel. Just as things look grimmest, alt!Velen cries out and gives rise to the Holy Light, and the enemy begins to fall back! And then there is evil laughter, and Ner’zhul, and then … well, I won’t spoil it, but if you were there, you probably whispered … “oh, gods, no.” It was that bad.
As I and alt!Velen awoke from this nightmarish dream, I felt a resolve … “Hell, no!” Just that. The thing that we saw. We’ve seen it before. And regardless of the outcome of the previous event that we have seen before, the cost is just so damned high. Never again.
After That Cinematic Moment, the game kicks into high gear. The moment of supreme sacrifice cannot be dwelled upon. The Iron Horde is storming Karabor! You know now that the nightmare of alt!Velen’s vision will not come to pass. But will it be enough?
I hope you have the music playing, because they milk it for all it’s worth as you, Yrel, and Maraad take to the skies as air support for your garrison’s denizens as you all, together, storm the city. Your job is to plow the road so the garrison troops can break through to the docks.
Once accomplished, you link up with Yrel after taking out a mini-boss1 and end up once again in the final defense of Karabor. Will the Aeris moment pay off?
Of course it does, but the final moments of the battle are involving and emotional. If you can imagine a Dwarf riding a giant rooster, his rampaging polar bear at his side, yelling FOR [REDACTED]!!!! at the top of his wee Dwarven lungs, charging into battle as if he’d forgotten that he never quite mastered the art of shooting and moving at the same time, well, you’ve got a good handle on where I was living for five minutes of my life.
At the end, you’re given a ride back to Embaari, where the music swells, speeches are made, and the natives cheer you and your doughty troops for, well, as long as you stick around, it looks like. The moments of tragedy, tension, and triumph all culminate in this final moment, in which you not only get to bask in the glow of your own sense of achievement, but share it with the people that you were fighting for. Again, it was quite an emotional moment.
Here now, in the wee hours of the morning, I hurry to push that emotion out onto virtual page before it’s gone. It’s not enough to feel it; I want to share what it’s like, even though I know that this sense is completely derived from pixels and logical constructs living inside a silicon wafer. And I just don’t care.
A year ago, I was mocking Blizzard for many reasons, and justifiably so. They appeared to be inept, tone-deaf, and downright hostile to the culture they said they were a part of. Boy, a year does make one hell of a difference. Blizzcon 2014 saw a complete about-face, right down to the host of the cosplay event. The Overwatch reveal was a huge success2, the outreach felt genuine, and the tone of the game launch, while marred by a DDoS and subsequent messy mop-up3 was aimed squarely at us, the gamers.
I’ll proudly be among the first to step up to the buffet and eat a large plate of crow. If Shadowmoon is any indication at all, this game has received a much needed injection of “Panda? What’s a fucking panda?”
Story matters. It has to be a good story. It has to be a relevant story. I’m sure some poor fellow worked long and hard on the Pandaria lore, but bottom line is, nobody cared.
Draenor, for all the contrivance involved in its invocation, is nevertheless relevant, in spades. And the story of Draenor thus far is, by the Light, GOOD. I know the high spots of what’s coming, but this zone. Guys, this goddamned zone. Tears of anguish. Tears of betrayal. Tears of hopelessness. Tears of loss. Tears of joy. Tears of triumph.
A very moist zone, this Shadowmoon Valley.
I don’t know if I’m emotionally up to coping with what is yet to come. And I damned well don’t know if I’m up to bringing three more alts through this zone over the next month or two. But for some reason, I have the feeling that the giddy feeling that I get coming out of it will make it worth the while.
Game on, nerds.
Honestly, I have no idea how Jas or Illume are going to survive that dude without a tanky pet. [↩]
I’m not into that kind of game, but by the Light it was one hella reveal, even a jaded old husk like me can admit that. [↩]
Which, despite the bleats of the nonbelievers, was done in cracking good time. [↩]
I missed all the launch day angst this year because I had my own personal launch day angst. My boot drive died, and I was without PC. 1 So I set forth to reinstall Windows for the third time in as many months2
Last night was Right Out due to OS upgrades, but also the servers still appeared to be having problems. This morning they were free and clear, at least the ones I’m involved with. Kudos to Blizz for repairing the damage resulting from the DDoS attack as quickly as they have. That shizzle ain’t easy, yo, and if you ever start to think it’s easy, come talk to me. I’ll dissuade you of that sad delusion.
As opposed to the abortive effort that was Blizzcon 2013, Blizzcon 2014 was an amazing success. That coupled with the +700K sub numbers indicates that the old warlord is far from dead. I can see Metzen up on stage saying BRANG EET, BASTIGES, and imma for once stand with him on this. Blizz seems to have turned something around, and while it’s only supposition, one can’t help but look at a moderately recent departure for clues on the change in tone.
And this launch was, from my perspective, amazing once I got into the game. Here are my initial impressions.
NOW’S OUR CHANCE! STORM THE PORTAL!Well, I gotta say beardless!Khadgar was a bit of a disappointment, but after working with him, I totally didn’t care. Whiskers or not5 he’s a total badass and I am happy to fight at his side. I would have preferred that the premier mage on Azeroth, Jaina Proudmoore, lead this charge, but at least they wrote this guy well.
For the first time in what seems over a year, I swapped out my Spirit Beast, Cheezburger for my default tanky pet, Bumbles. SRS BSNS, FOSHIZZLE
I actually got THANKED by a representative of the Shadow Council on behalf of the Shadow Council. Flora might have been cool with that, but I just felt a little skeevy.
Yrel’s evolution is apparently going to be a lot faster than I expected6. When I first meet her, she “has never killed before.” Amazing for a race that is undergoing systematic extermination. Protip, Yrie – get on that shit as soon as possible to avoid extinction. kay?
Start of garrison – hello, Baros! That’s an unexpected and familiar face from the past! I love how they’ve managed to merge old-school Azeroth into this expansion.
Being called “Commander” really makes me feel a sense of obligation … maybe grimmtooth!Actual’s military experience comes into play here, but the feeling that the whole garrison’s population is looking up to you makes it a LOT more personal than I expected.
And speaking of personal, the barracks appears to be inhabited by slobs, and/or college freshmen7.
All in all, this has been an excellent start to an expansion that I was – at best – dubious about when it was announced. While it’s not as advertised as the brodawg Orc shit, the Draenai lore is really shaping up nicely. The mechanics of things is working out well. The questing process has been, so far, well done, if unchanged from the MoP questing model.
And the player involvement in Things of Import is really well done. I feel like a player in this. I feel like I am being looked up to, a true “commander” of the Alliance force in old!Draenor. The quest and zone designers have done an amazing job of putting this all together, and I am going to be first in line8 to call them out on (1) a job well done recovering from an unexpected launch event, and (2) a job well done on the design of the expansion.
Ops team, Quest Design team – take a well-deserved break at your earliest convenience. You’ve earned it.
Word to the wise: just don’t buy OCZ SSD drives. This is the third hard failure in as many years. Lonomonkey has already chastised me for this poor purchasing choice on Twitter, so consider your chastisement obligations fullfilled in proxy. I mean it. [↩]
Time the first: moved to Win7-64 to play WildStar. Time the second: upgraded motherboard two weeks ago. Time the third. F!CK F!CK F!CK [↩]
SERIOUSLY – were you asleep the last five expansions or something, people? You’re amazing. In some non-complimentary form of the word. [↩]
That’s the same guy that did the Blizzcon costume contest, by the way. He’s One Of Us. [↩]
Whiskers have a strong union, expect class action in the near future. [↩]
I’ve seen the end-of-Shadowmoon cinematic, so I know where she stands. [↩]
There’s been quite a bit of – well, “whinging” might not be totally inaccurate, but it might be viewed as some as offensive1, so we’ll call it “whinge-like sounding critique” – about the pre-expansion event associated with Wierdos of Draenor2, and that puzzles me. It’s as if they remember other pre-expansion events that I do not. Neither Pre-WotLK nor Pre-Cata were all that big a deal, and were done after a handful of quests, unless you were the kind of jerk that liked to get the zombie curse and grief your own faction3. I’d even say that the Cata event was much shorter. And maybe I missed the Panda event, but I really don’t remember one. So whatsamatta for u?
I just don’t get the haters. Well, I do. Haters gotta hate. If they got nothing to hate, they make something to hate. So yeah I get it, but I hatin.
OH DAMN. NOW I BE A HATR!
I do have one issue with the event, and it’s with the way that quest events are indicated in the game. They’ve moved from a “sparkle” highlight or a “gear” highlight to a “faint outline” highlight that I absolutely hate. Maybe I’ll get used to it, but right now I can see a LOT of trips to WoWHead in my future as I grapple with hidden items in Draenor.
If I had been ambivalent about the Iron Horde before, this would have changed it.
YOU KILLED KERI! YOU BASTARDS!
Us Dwarves have a fairly low threshold of outrage when it come to killing off our booze vendors.
Clearly, somebody’s going to have to pay for this.
Hunters have lacked a strong distinction between the different specializations. What we mean by that is that the Hunter specializations all had rotations that felt similar, with Marksmanship and Survival having the most blurred identities (Beast Mastery felt well rooted in the pet). Hunters were also some of the most afflicted by button bloat. To address these problems, we opted to make changes to each specialization’s rotation, primarily through removing abilities, and making some of them unique to each spec. This means things like Aimed Shot being the primary Focus dump for Marksmanship, instead of Arcane Shot or Serpent Sting being available only to Survival. Hunters also had a large number of cooldown abilities, which we’ve also cut down (some of which we moved to the talent tree, competing with other active buttons).
Well, first of all, “tell me about it.” I’ve been whining about this for a while. Blizz may make this come across as a MoP issue, but I’ve seen the same interchangeability between the three specs since Cata, and its roots in the changes that took place in WotLK1 .
Sure, doubt me. But I’m a systems guy, and the ability to spot the similarities between different systems is more or less a survival instinct in my field. We may not be able to prove that A = B, but we can prove that A+C = E, and B+C = E, therefore A must be hella lot like B. And we might not have an A but we have a B.
And what I’ve noticed for a long time is … well, it’s best illustrated by a little sketch.
Not to scale, of course.
The gist is this: hunter rotation, regardless of spec, amounted to a general flow that felt more or less the same no matter what spec you ran. The spec you ran more or less depended on the results of several runs on SimCraft. It didn’t matter what the periodic nuke was called, it always appeared in the same place of the rotation. It didn’t matter how you replenished Focus, it always occurred at the same spot. A focus dump is a focus dump. Sure, there were flourishes. You had a small array of periodic nukes to fire off, for example, and the main distinction between them was where in an encounter they were deployed. Didn’t matter. It’s all the same, with different names2.
The only reason I’m bringing this up now is that in this patch, Blizz have more or less made a commitment to giving the different specs a different way of working. And I’m saying it now: if they end up normalizing on the same general rotation as depicted above, they have done nothing that they haven’t tried before.
The names of the abilities don’t matter. If the rotation is more or less the same with nothing different than the name of the abilities used, or the order in which they are used, then they have failed to deliver on the implicit promise presented in these patch notes.
I’m not saying they haven’t.
I’m saying that this is the yardstick against which they will be measured with regards to the Hunter ability lineups. Maybe not on WHU, but measured nonetheless. If I end up able to shift between the three specs without any trouble at all, they have failed to deliver on that implicit promise. The DPS purist may not care; the DPS purist is excused from this discussion.
Well, except MM. MM’s always been weird.
A final note: I find it fascinating that my perception of the hunter trichotomy differs from Blizz’s. They see BM as being “different”. I see MM as “different”. They feel that the use of pet abilities makes BM different than the other two. I feel that the odd rotational cadence of MM makes it stick out from the other two. I see pet abilities as simple drop-ins for PC abilities. They see pet abilities as alien to the rotation. One of us has a far different view of the Hunter class than the other. Painfully, it means I will lose this battle.
While MM has always been the most alien of the three, it still shares a lot in common between the other two specs. And in Cata / MoP, shifting between Surv and BM was a trivial move. [↩]
Incidentally: the same rotation works for a Demo lock, excepting that the nuke swaps places with the focus/mana dump, and occasionally a demo lock switches to an alternate rotation that more or less looks the same but has different ability names … but I digress. [↩]