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-boss 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 success, the outreach felt genuine, and the tone of the game launch, while marred by a DDoS and subsequent messy mop-up 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.
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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. So I set forth to reinstall Windows for the third time in as many months
I handled this a lot better than some did about the inevitable launch week collywobbles in that I shrugged my shoulders, and used the down time to catch up on back recordings of @Midnight.
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 not 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 expected. 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 freshmen.
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 line 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.
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There’s been quite a bit of – well, “whinging” might not be totally inaccurate, but it might be viewed as some as offensive, so we’ll call it “whinge-like sounding critique” – about the pre-expansion event associated with Wierdos of Draenor, 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 faction. 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.
And I’m comin’ for payment, you bastiges.
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Ease off, Shamani. I’m not edging into your territory.
Reading the final 6.0.2 patch notes, we find the sales pitch for ability changes for Hunters.
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 WotLK .
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 names.
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.
If I’m sober enough to type, I’m sober enough to post.
The latest news on bag management – and especially reagent management – in patch 6.0.2 is exciting and very smexxay. Allowing you to use your reagents bank from any location is a game-changer, no doubt about it. I hope that cooking mats are included, not that that’s a big deal to me these days.
Without attributing to any specific incident, let me say that the ladies of WoW are an especially awesome group of people. I might get worn out trying to keep up with some of them, but the thoughts that they put forth on the topics of gender equality are well worth the time it takes to read and digest. I may not agree 100% with all that is stated by them, but overall they fight the good fight and I am totally okay with that. Not that it matters, right ladies?
It occurs to me, though, that there are very few male bloggers whose opinions I cherish. A lot of them come from a position of privilege and seem to somehow carry that with them, but others have multiple points of view and therefore bring something interesting to the party. Which I find interesting. I’ll always have interest in the various hunter fora without actually endorsing them, but it’s the blogs that have opinions on the issues that matter that keep me coming back.
A long time ago I used Amiga computers pretty much exclusively, and participated in a FidoNet “echo” that the current WoW “twitterverse” has a strong resemblance to. Those people – more than any blog, forum, or website – epitomize the goodness to be found in the WoW social universe, in the same way that nothing that mattered on amiga,org seemed to matter in #AmigaGeneral.. Not the pustulant sewers of the WoW fora, and certainly not the reeking crevasses that represent the ‘discourse’ to be found on MMO-C, 4Chan, or Reddit.
Cultivate the proper list of tweeters on Twitter, and your life will be better in every respect.
In the past couple of weeks, there have been a couple of disturbing crisis points in our community, in that I am speaking of the wider community of gamers in general.
I won’t go into details on it, but I will link to some excellent overviews. Here’s a link on the Anita Sarkeesian situation at Polygon which tackles some sacred cows, and the cows thrash back. Here’s a great breakdown of that, plus the Zoe Quinn situation. Incidentally, Adam Baldwin is now dead to me.
So this blog post isn’t about that.
Instead, it’s about the other troubling trope that’s been getting carried around with these incidents, one that is well represented by this article at Gamasutra.
‘Game culture’ as we know it is kind of embarrassing — it’s not even culture. It’s buying things, spackling over memes and in-jokes repeatedly, and it’s getting mad on the internet.
Weak-kneed, flimsy, pasty-colored tripe, is what that is.
It is understandable that gamers recoil in horror from a thing that is horrible. But the problem is, the thing that is horrible was created by gamers. The unhealthy, disturbed lashings of the people going after Zoe and Anita and all like them are coming from people that have been welcomed, suckled, and groomed by the very culture we live within.
As such, there are only two ways for some people to go. They can either claim that “that culture isn’t my culture”, or they can claim that “there is no such thing as gamer culture”. Either way, it is an attempt to dodge culpability for the situation.
But here’s the thing, people.
We ARE responsible.
We are the ones that have built this culture. When events that were just a little bit disturbing took place, we pushed it off to 4chan or something, tried to ignore it, pretended that it was an aberration. The one thing we did not do was rebuke it.
Pushing things off to some spot where you don’t have to look at them only accomplishes one thing: it concentrates it. The fact that we don’t have to look at it that often doesn’t change that. And when we DO look at it, it gets progressively worse and worse, and we continue with the fiction that it has nothing to do with us.
On this, the weekend of two of the biggest celebrations of geek and gamer culture in the world – Dragon*Con and Pax Prime – we only have to look at the history of those two events to be reminded that these terrible things are spawned from within. Pax has especially long been a source of massive misogyny, and in that particular case you can draw a line directly from the misogynists to the motherships of geek and gamer culture. Excuse the pun, but it’s a “prime” example of how we allow our own esprit de corps to mutate into less agreeable forms of enthusiasms.
It is, in other words, on us.
It is natural to want to avoid responsibility for this sort of thing, to pretend it’s someone else’s fault. But the reality is that we only make matters worse when we do that. We have the responsibility to make things right. Every time someone is a gigantic douchenozzle in raid chat, for example, we should be calling that shit out. Instead, we usually ignore it or go elsewhere because AssHatMan is ‘such a good raider’. We have to start making it clear to others that we won’t tolerate this kind of bullshit – to the perps, to our GMs, to our guild officers, everyone.
Fuck accusations of drama. People will use “drama” as a smoke screen to avoid the uncomfortable issues. To hell with them. This is bigger than that. Maybe a little drama is what we need right now.
Ignore this problem, and it will continue.
Ignore this problem, and it will only get worse.
It’s on you. It’s on me.
And we have to fix it.
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I’m a sucker for a good questionnaire, and this one is relevant to my interests.
I’ll let the Qs speak for themselves. And if you want to chime in, go over to her blog (link above) and give her an earful!
When did you start playing video games?
In the 1970s … when they started appearing in the Pinball arcades. Yeah. Pinball arcades were a thing back then, and as video games started coming out, the video cabinets started displacing the pinball machines. But pinball was my gateway drug to video gaming, no doubt about it.
What is the first game you remember playing?
Video game: Pong … when I could find someone to play with me.
Game in general … checkers.
But it was strategy (board) games like Squad Leader or Star Fleet Battles or Submarine (in fact, most of the Avalon Hill lineup) that positioned me to get into AD&D, and that was my gateway in general.
PC or Console?
Standup console … this was before we had video games in our homes. But the first one of THOSE that I played was on a friend’s Sears Pong console. The first one I actually OWNED was a Magnavox Odyssey 2. It was wretched, even back then.
XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
Jesus H. Christ on a unicycle, how young ARE you? My first two vid consoles were the aforementioned Odyssey 2, and a used Mattel Intellivision 2. Neither of which you probably heard of, from the sound of it.
What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
I would never be able to nail that down to one game. Railroad Tycoon on the Amiga kept me playing for years, until my miggy finally died from fractured PLCC socket woes. Close behind it, Civilization III on the PC. Civ I was great, and I played it until my miggy died, but Civ III hit a sweet spot.
What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
Sid Meiers’ Rails! was one of the biggest disappointments of all time. OF ALL TIME. In the vid cabinet world, I loathe and abhor Tempest.
Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
Quake. I enjoy the FPS genre, but I felt Doom2 was the pinnacle of iDs output at the time; Quake seemed to be a poorly executed implementation of Doom in 3D.
Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
I really liked Wizardry 8 and am really glad I got in on the pre-purchase … those that didn’t, didn’t even get the disks.
What are your favorite game genres?
God Games / Strategy games. Games like Civ, RRT, Populous, Settlers
Who is your favorite game protagonist?
Jaina Proudmoore. I keep hoping that someday, she’ll remember she is powerful.
Describe your perfect video game.
Keeps me coming back time and time again. Not story driven. Not scenario driven (unless those are randomly or procedurally generated). Has many layers (think of Star Fleet Command’s galactic versus tactical levels). Never ends. Never plays the same twice. Scalable difficulty.
What video game character do you have a crush on?
I prefer my own species, thanks. "Crushing" on vid game characters seems to be a post-FF-VII thing, which was not my jam.
But Fanny Thundermar … she does make me think twice about that from time to time even if I don’t have an arse like an anvil.
What game has the best music?
Descent / Descent 2. Can’t beat that with a stick. I was le disappoint with Descent 3 for not carrying forward the tradition.
Most memorable moment in a game:
Most of the games I play have no real dramatic moments in them. Sepiroth doesn’t reveal he’s Luke’s father as you take over his company in RRT.
But there’s the time my guild downed the final boss while he was still relevant. Or the Wrathgate event (which actually crashed my computer the first time). Or that time that (SPOILERS) Yoshimo turned coat in the big bad’s lair (didn’t see that one coming).
Scariest moment in a game:
Eye of the Beholder on the Amiga … the sounds of lurking monsters, just around the corner or on the other side of that wall? The Amiga team for this game did an outstanding job of making the ambient sound dial up the creep factor.
Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
I have no heart. For otherwise I would care about video game characters. Baldur’s Gate II tried real hard for me to care about the wingless elf’s plight, but she just came across as whiney and clingy and resentful. Note to dialog writers (and this is true especially of Blizzard’s): show, don’t tell.
Well, there’s Socks.
What are your favorite websites/blogs about games?
I have a giant list. Perhaps you have seen it in the sidebar. I am somewhat voracious.
What’s the last game you finished?
The kind of games I generally play don’t have "finishes". But if I look back far enough … Descent 3. I think that’s the last story-driven game I purchased that I actually played all the way through. Maybe Riven on the PS2, but I don’t think I actually finished it. Wasn’t interesting enough for me to remember, if I did. Homeworld 2, possibly, though I might have stopped playing because of the interface. But I did finish Homeworld. Was that more recent than D3?
What future releases are you most excited about?
Elite: Dangerous. Between this and Star Citizen, I have hopes of finding a space trader game that isn’t Eve. If Braben can find the sweet spot between Frontier and Eve, that would be great.
Do you identify as a gamer?
Why do you play video games?
Not because I feel obligated. I play for fun. And the daystar burns, so outside is not an option.
Is that a cop-out? Am I supposed to write something deep and interesting here? If so, I fail, for it’s nothing more than that. It’s recreation. Nothing more than that.
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Yesterday, the cinematic for Warlords of Draenor was released to much excitement. At the end, was the release date for the game. If you haven’t seen yet, I’ve thoughtfully provided it here.
It was a really well-done cinematic, but continues the trend of WoW cinematics becoming smaller and smaller in scope. The cinematics for Vanilla and BC were broad, inclusive. But then WotLK went small, focused on Arthas. Cata broadened back out in one dimension, but we were notably missing. It might have gone big, but it was all about Deathwing. The MoP cinematic focused on a single moment, by way of introducing kung-fu pandas.
And now, this one … again, we’re focused on a single moment in time. An important moment, yes, but the scope is, well, small, and doesn’t have us anywhere in it.
This is perhaps the most complicated – or maybe the better term is convoluted – setup for an expansion to date. The problem is that while there is indeed one vector from the end of MoP – Garrosh’s escape and subsequent Marty McFly to Draenor of old – the rest of the setup requires knowledge of lore that has not been on our minds for over a decade. And, because of this, because Blizz wants us to feel like we’re part of this, regardless, they’ve worked up a huge backstory. We’ve gotten a comic. We’ve gotten history lessons. We’ve gotten a lot of build-up to the moment that is depicted in the trailer.
But it’s not enough. Because, even if we appreciate the enormity of what we see in this cinematic, we still can’t see ourselves in this trailer. We don’t see our place in this drama that is presented to us. For all the work put into this cinematic, the “intro” trailer of last year’s Blizzcon was actually a lot more exciting. We’re going to Draenor! See – there we are!
The scene being depicted in the trailer – as well as in the lead-in comic – is pivotal in Warcraft lore. The whispers around the electronic water fountains is that Blizz – as the 20th anniversary of Orcs vs Humans comes nigh – wants us all to appreciate where it All Came From. They’re obviously missing the flavor of WOvH and want us all to experience that, to remember where we all came from.
But, as the trailer shows, that’s not going to happen.
Mannoroth has been put down. Gul’dan has been cowed; he’s considered an enemy of the state. The Burning Legion will not be driving the Iron Horde, and that means that nothing that the Orcs did in the original Warcraft series will be part of this expansion. The invasion’s not even taking place in the same time-period – it’ll be in modern times, for some reason We’re not witnessing history here. The only part of that history that we get to see here is the players – on the Orcish side – themselves. There is no historical significance. There is only the cult of Orcish personality.
Orcs be savage and cool. Yo.
The only real history we can get from this is an appreciation of the significance of Grom dumping the cup of demon blood on the ground, the smugness of Garrosh as he mocks Gul’dan, and the beginning of an oddly-familiar portal structure.
And the only reason most of us ‘get’ that is because we were told so. Not by Blizzard, not via any of their story-telling mechanisms. Most of us weren’t paying that much attention when playing, or didn’t care, or – if you’re me – were busy playing other sorts of games. No, those of us that ‘get’ it probably ‘got’ it by reading up on it after the fact, and go, “Oh, that’s interesting” in the same way we noted that Churchill preferred a particular brand of cigar over others as he ordered the destruction of the French Navy.
Yeah, sure, that’s why we’re in Karazhan. Blah blah blah. Pull, for Metzen’s sake, I’m not getting younger.
In the end, all I can say is this. 10 out 10 for execution, but 1 out of 1000 for relevancy. And it answers none of the concerns many of us have on terms of relevancy and inclusiveness. The sorts of players that get into the back-slapping, chest-thumping, testosterone-driven culture depicted in that trailer just don’t give two shits about “lore”.
I’m starting to get a strong feeling that part of Blizz’s “getting back to the beginning” includes pushing away people that aren’t into this man-child power fantasy crap, and being okay with that. I think a number of people that I know and respect have already picked up on that, and left the game for good because of it, which, again, Blizz is apparently okay with.
I may be slow to pick up on this, and I’m still on the fence, but it may be right there and I’m just not looking directly at it. Fortunately, one does not have to actually buy the expansion and play the expansion to figure this out for good. I may decide to wait to see, by proxy, how it’s playing out after release, and then decide whether to buy it or not.
The upshot is that the cinematic – and thus far, none of the comics – have done nothing to assuage my concerns, or make me want to buy it, or assure me that if I buy it, I’m not contributing to funding a bunch of genetic throwbacks that should be working at a circus instead of a software company. The trailer, while “interesting” and “well executed”, is also … impenetrable.
If I were commissioning a trailer for a product that so many people had expressed doubts – or outright dislike – about, I’d ask that the trailer convey the kind of imagery that would bring those people back. Instead, they presented one that actually reinforces the doubts and concerns that people have expressed.
I am convinced, at the end of the day, that the Blizzard public relations department is manned by drunken wombats that live in a bubble universe where information flows out, but never in.
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Posted by Grimmtooth in Meta
The world of game journalism is an insular, inbred place with strange rules. Blogging shares some of that world’s DNA; in both worlds, everybody’s looking for an angle. Everybody’s trying to one-up the competition, whether they acknowledge it or not.
There are a lot of ways to do this: well-designed theorycrafting, deeply thought opinions, game guides, and so forth. But in the area of “news”, the one thing that trumps almost everything else is: access.
Access gets you exclusives. Access gets you in first. Access is a low-energy route towards rich content for your news site.
But access does peculiar things to a blog or news site. Access makes one dependent on the one granting the access. Do something to offend the wrong person, and that access can be removed.
Sometimes the access is that of an insider. Somebody embedded deep inside an organization that, truth be told, is probably breaking the law by going counter to a corporate NDA.
Sometimes the access is that granted by an organization. Preview content, implicit mutual endorsement of each other. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
In the game blogging/reporting world, access can mean the difference between beta access, a press screener, or no info at all. And this puts the reporter/blogger in a precarious situation: if the game’s any good, then all’s well. But if the game stinks, the reporter/blogger is in a bad situation. Be honest, and future access will be forfeit – most likely, for your entire organization, not just yourself.
At the same time, “honesty” also requires that one be honest in all respects. For example, reviewing a beta as if it were the production (shipping) game is largely frowned upon unless one manages to soften any blows with caveats and provisos.
And there’s my current beef.
Massively.com crossed a line in this regard, and as a result their reputation has taken a major hit with people that value honesty in game journalism.
The culprit in this case is one Eliot Lefebvre, who starts out the first entry in this virtual hit piece with several paragraphs about how he’s old school WoW, yo, so you cannot question his authenteezies. He be authentic and shizzle, yo.
I’m not going to go into a detailed deconstruction of his articles, but I will include links to each.
I include full linkage not because I endorse the opinions expressed within, but because I would rather you read and opine your own opinion than force mine down your throat.
I will state up front that I feel it’s important that a writer feel enabled to post something critical of a game without fear of reprisal. But that kind of article needs to have a lot to back it up. And I’m not talking about MMO street cred, here. There are seven million people out there that have the same amount of MMO “street cred” as Eliot does, in that they played the same game at the same time as he did. Playing a game for a long time has limited currency, and that currency is only viable in a specific context, and that context is not the context he’s using it in. There needs to be more authority to the critique that comes. As one of my bosses once told me, perfect attendance only means you’re stubborn, not talented. The “attendance” award is what they give you to make up for having nothing else that matches your particular, um, talents.
The authority of the articles is further undermined by Eliot’s repeated rebukes of his own “attendance award.” Complaining about NPCs not having any real feeling of familiarity with the many lore characters brought into the game. I’m not sure what I think of a gamer that claims to be old-school while at the same time drawing a blank on just why Khadgar or
Thrall Kal’el Jesus Orc Go’el are part of the ongoing lore of Draenor. Arguing that new players won’t “get it” seems silly on the face of it. This wasn’t put together for new players. Not even remotely. I’m not playing the beta, and even *I* get that. And there was none of that hand-holding in any of the previous expansions until MoP, either. Pandaria was the first place we ever encountered that was not steeped in over 15 years’ worth of lore. The fact that Draenor changes that lore a bit has no bearing on who Khadgar is. My only interest in HIM is just how Khadgar GOT there in the first place.
It also doesn’t help to contradict one’s self. To first state that one has massive history with the game and then turn around and complain that the lore NPCs are meaningless to him, only then to turn around and say that the expansion does not acknowledge the lore of the game so far. You can maybe have it two ways, but not all three, and preferably one. And to pretend that some of the problems with the expansion are NEW, when in fact the issues and/or features have been around for two or three expansions’ worth of content is disingenuous at best.
The greatest sin of all, however, is this. This is a game that is in beta. It is from a company that has taken entire ZONES offline in beta to revamp them. And this game is no where near the point of release. So why in the name of Ragneros’ smoking balls would you make a recommendation on the expansion at this point? This is beyond the pale for game journalism. A professional game journalist would know better. A professional gaming blog / site / service would know better. This is not just a failure on Lefebvre’s part. This is a failure on the part of the editor of Massively for letting it get by.
Until the final paragraph of that series, it was only egregiously hostile towards the expansion, obviously written by somebody that didn’t know any better, but given the track record of various AoL properties in maintaining perspective, it was not a big surprise and easily moved past, just another cranky entitled gamer not getting his props. But the “recommendation” at the end is just fundamentally irresponsible of Joystiq’s editorial staff. Despite claims to the contrary, this kind of thing can only be seen as clickbait.
Flawed as they might be, most of the complaints in these three articles are valid comments when directed towards the development staff. I have no idea if that actually happened in this case, and I strongly suspect that it didn’t. I strongly suspect Lefebvre viewed access to the beta as the means to the end of getting an early jump on the Blizzard-bashing yet to come and had no intention of providing anything like constructive feedback to the staff. I could be wrong, but the tone of the article certainly implies that he’s done with it all and has no interest in continuing onward. Those beta keys donated as a gesture of goodwill were thanked with a shallow, vitriolic spew.
The only thing worse than a beta tester that is negligent in his/her duties is a supposed “journalist” with an axe to grind.
I don’t normally give two shits about people posting hit pieces about games that they don’t like. Usually the hate is honest and well framed. But it really gets my back up to see someone misrepresent an unfinished product, knowing damned well that it’s unfinished, and blowing that off anyway, because, pageviews.
The staff of WoWInsider and Massively can take umbrage at being looked down for the pageviews thing if they want. Truth is, it’s not that that people get annoyed at. It’s the cheapness of the sort of ploy in these three articles. You wanna go with that sort of piece? Fine. Do so, but put some substance behind it, and don’t be foolish enough to try to recommend a game based on data that will likely be invalid at time of release.
The thing that bugs me most is WoWInsider’s silence on this. Where are they? I’m sure the editors there read their sister site, since they publish a weekly linkshill for each other. If Lefebvre’s beefs are legit, why did we hear it from Massively instead of WoWInsider? And if they aren’t, why haven’t they brought out a good rebuttal? I mean, wanna talk linkbait? Two AoL sites sniping at each other on the basis of turf and seniority sounds like a great way to get pageviews.
If WoWInsider is eschewing relevancy for access, then it’s starting to look like one can best be served by reading elsewhere. They used to at least provide some link love to indy blogs, but since they stopped doing that, reading that site has become more and more frustrating – over stuff like this, as well as watching them fail to meet potential on a daily basis.
Hey, I admit up front that the view’s great from the cheap seats. Being an indie hipster dwarf makes it easy to ignore things like pageviews and SEO and funding and all sorts of silly stuff like that. But it also means that I do this for reasons important to me, and have the option to be uncompromising. I’ll never make a living at it, and never have to make that difficult call between relevancy, editorial freedom, and solvency.
But I am so, so, very disappoint in everything this affair brings to light.
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This is one of those articles that challenges one to complete it, as things keep changing and I keep having to rearrange or adjust things. So, if something appears a little off, please keep that in mind. But I’ve determined to finish it today before it becomes part of somebody’s “history content” features.
This article started out as a focus on the departure of Ron Pardo from Blizzard, but a recent set of blog posts featuring Mike Morhaime threw some new light on the situation. And, finally, some commentary on the beta brought more fuel to the fire just today.
Really, if this article grows any more, I may have to buy a new domain to house it. Which is why I really need to either post or get off the poster, if you take my meaning.
This all started a few weeks ago when Rob Pardo announced he was leaving Blizzard. Now, followers of his Twitter account may have noticed a lot of activity, but none of it game-related over the past few months – more or less right after he had said some fairly sketchy things on the topic of diversity.
Anyway, all of the activity on that twitter feed post-sketchiness was, with one exception (E3), about vacationing. Cabo. Vegas. That sort of thing. Which is a rather interesting factoid if you happen to be the lead of the next major expansion to your company’s cash cow.
Even more interesting was, in the middle of all that hard vacationing, that he posted shock and surprise on his twitter feed that something he’d said had caused a stir. He hadn’t even looked at Twitter – an app originally designed to be used on a cell phone – during all that time? Really? I mean, who even does that?
Once noting the shocking news of the stir he’d created, he attempted some basic damage control, including the always popular “That’s not what I said!”
After that, and an intense vacation in Venice, we saw the announcement, along with this little gem.
I’m not exactly sure that’s the tweet of a man that left altogether willingly.
What I wouldn’t give for ValleyWag to be on this.
So, a week later, almost to the day, we see this article on WoW Insider, which was titled and presented in an fairly deceptive way which was wrong in every significant way except for the name of the exec involved. But it did include a link to the origin of the letter, and *it* included a link to the impassioned original post on Tumblr.
A few points of interest.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns about your experiences with our games. I appreciated the points you made, so I shared your letter with others on our teams here and included it as part of the ongoing discussions we’ve been having on the subject.
This is encouraging on the face of it, in that my perception up to now is that Blizz has been rather dismissive of critiques the casual sexism in their games.
[…] we want everyone to feel welcome, safe, and included in our games and communities. We have made some mistakes in how we’ve communicated about this and how we’ve reflected it in other ways, but we are working to improve.
Not entirely sure what to make of that. Are they working to improve on communication of what they want, or improving the actual thing? It’s a bit vague.
We are very conscious of the issues you raise and are discussing them more than ever, at every level of the company, in an effort to make sure our games and stories are as epic and inclusive as possible. And we know that actions speak louder than words, so we are challenging ourselves to draw from more diverse voices within and outside of the company and create more diverse heroes and content. […] There is no reason why inclusivity should come at the expense of an amazing game experience.
But this seems to be fairly straightforward, and I welcome what he has to say on that.
Note, however: no actual apology.
But here is the comment that I find most interesting in the Rob Pardo context.
There have been times when we’ve been seen or painted as being uninterested in hearing feedback or making changes. I want to be clear that this goes against the philosophies and core values on which Blizzard has been built and continues to operate. We will always listen, and we will always work hard to make games that appeal to as many people as possible.
I am certain that Morhaime chose his words very careful, so the phrase “seen or painted as” may bear some significance. Is this a rebuke of Pardo and Browder’s earlier statements about not being in the business of, well, leading by example? It’s very difficult to tell, as it’s been fairly well crafted to leave a LOT of wiggle room, but it is possibly indicative of an internal conflict at Blizzard. One which Pardo, possibly, didn’t win.
Well, that’s one theory.
The final piece came to light by way of this post on Massively. The final piece is not in this particular post, but it brought a series of conversations to light on Twitter.
These discussions focused around how a lot of people were seeing Blizz as the bad guys in light of the Massively articles, seeing as they had “changed the rules” on what Garrisons were supposed to be, and things like that. There were proponents on both side of that argument, and understandably so.
While it is true that even entire zones have been torn down and redesigned during beta, there was a general feeling that the ball had been dropped, dropped hard, and dropped repeatedly during alpha, beta, and prior to that.
One of the lead designers of this expansion, and in fact the lead designer of WoW in general, was Rob Pardo.
There are several possibilities, here, and office politics at Blizz are pretty much as opaque as any company’s, so anything proposed now is going to be based on conjecture.
Never stopped me from baseless speculation before, though.
After the Morhaime letter, one possible scenario is one in which Blizz, deciding to move actively in a direction of greater diversity in-game, and there were those that were probably not actively against diversity, but felt that giving in to the pressure sent the “wrong message” on the topic. In this scenario, Pardo is one of the resistance; Emperor Mike won this one easily, probably gave Pardo an ultimatum (“Go on sabbatical and think it over”), and eventually Pardo realized that “it wasn’t fun anymore”.
Option 2 is a lot more simple: WoD’s production was a disaster, and it was management that was to blame. Possibly the bean counters needed a head for their pike. Wouldn’t be the first time. It’s important to know that Pardo, Morhaime, and most of the other names you are familiar with are only on the creative management team. The real power resides in the hand of the financial management team, and even they’re not safe from infighting.
Option 3 is: there’s no here here. Everything is exactly as it appears. Pardo just got tired, went on vacation and decided never to come back. Morhaime is concerned about his company’s corporate culture as a logical consequence of what he’s seeing on the internet, and is taking perfectly reasonable and logical actions to correct and mitigate this. WoD was botched, yes, but Blizz has always been capable of recovering from this sort of thing, have done in the past, and while this is not pleasant, they’re not about to go hunting scalps at the expense of “getting things done.”
A lot of people will say (and have said) that it’s not really any of our business, that it’s his personal business and the company’s internal affair.
… it’s relevant to our interests.
Option 3 is the least encouraging of all the scenarios because it implies that things will continue as they have, with no change in corporate culture and no improvements in the product that gets delivered. The other two options, while a bit tawdry, do offer the possibility that someone has been drawn into doing something about it.
As a player and not yet decided on whether to even *buy* Warlords, I find this *incredibly* relevant to my interests, to the tune of approximately sixty clams.
What comes next is going to be watched with great interest here at casa de Grimmtooth.
My views on Pardo’s departure are mixed. A lot of people have tweeted to him how his work at Blizzard has made a difference to them, and this is true. And if he’s not the bad egg there, I’m sorry to see him go, too. If he is the bad egg, I have no reason to weep. The attitude at Blizzard, especially among its upper creative management, has sucked and needs changing.
No matter what, though, I won’t be crying for Pardo. His early arrival at Blizzard and his lofty position means he has a pretty good nest egg, assuming he didn’t invest it all at Aereo. Any man that can take three months sabbatical is probably swimming in gp. I have no doubt he’ll land on his feet, as long as “conspicuously lead team that felt it had no reason to speak out on the place of women in gaming and took great efforts to conspicuously avoid doing so even when team members were conspicuously pulling the rope in the other direction” doesn’t impact future hiring opportunities. Given what I’ve read of Silicon Valley culture, I’m sure he’ll have no end of suitors.
And I *conspicuously* hope that this marks the beginning if significant change for the better at Blizzard. And not the other thing.
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