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. [↩]
There is a gigantic disparity between how lore is presented in WoW, and how it would actually go if the key players were allowed for a moment to make decisions of their own.
Right now, in this period after the downfall of Garrosh Hellscream, is one of those times.
Look at the situation. The Alliance has gathered the entirety of its military might to crash the gates of Orgrimmar and end the reign of Warchief Hellscream. At their side are the Trolls, the Tauren, the Sindorei, and maybe the Scourge Forsaken1.
Would the Horde forces have been able to pull this off without the Alliance’s aid? Canonically, no. It took the help Alliance to pull this off, "by the book", and that’s what we end up with; the alliance virtually has its boot on the Horde’s neck, and at the last minute – shows mercy.
Now, in any sanely constructed world …
The following day would have revealed that there was only one real power in Azeroth, that being Alliance.
On Day 2, the Horde would have been pushed out of all the places it invaded during the Cataclysm years, such as Ashenvale.
Day Three would see outposts constructed all over the planet where Alliance could keep an eye on the Horde.
Day 4 might possibly see the restoration of Gilneas.
And so forth.
Bottom line is, in a relatively short period of time we’d see Alliance supremacy asserted throughout the land. While I doubt Wrynn would invade Horde holdings outright, I’m pretty sure he’d be keeping an eye on them and pushing back in areas that were overtly invaded by the Horde previously.
In this more reasonable world, we’d see long term plans forming to retake Lorderon. The Sindorei might read the writing on the wall and petition to reunite with their Kaledorei bretheren.
This is the kind of world that would be nigh inevitable with the Alliance at this level of superiority over the broken Horde.
But that’s not going to happen.
"War"craft implies that peace or even an uneasy occupation are simply not in the books. Few want to play a marginalized faction; the overall presentation of WoW is that there are two main factions of nearly equal power. This is what is being sold and, by gum, it’s what WILL be sold.
The lore designers simply can not drive their characters realistically in this particular case. They have to sell games for people to play them, so the lore stops cold when it comes to permanent change affecting the faction balance.
As much as they make peaceable noises, the Sindorei will never join the Alliance. As much as Wrynn makes threatening noise, the Alliance will NEVER retake Lorderon. The lore-writers’ hands are simply tied when it comes to this sort of thing. The only time we will EVER see a change in factions is when new races / factions are added to the mix.
If you’re into "the lore", if you’re into telling of stories, you have to remember this: as the story approaches the boundaries of faction balance, it will cease to make sense. You have to turn off your brain and press the "I Believe" button. Even for your own internal Head Canon, you will have to build little loops and alleyways around this anomaly in order to make it work.
If Blizzard really wants to impress us, they can try something really bold in this regard. But it’s obvious that they won’t even kill off flying mounts, as much as they say that they want to, so I doubt they have the metaphorical backbone to do something as breathtakingly bold as to merge Sindorei and Kaledorei factions in-game and substitute something new. Won’t happen. The player upheaval would leave them gibbering.
I think we all understand this, but sometimes you need to remind yourself. Don’t cross Sales. They’ll cut ya.
This needs to be said, because sometimes we forget that Lore doesn’t HAVE to make sense if it gets in the way of selling games, and when you’re trying to predict where it might be headed – don’t delude yourself into thinking that "reason" and "plot" and "consistency" have any power over the game’s design.
Speculation is running wild in the wind up to WoD, so, have fun with that. But try to keep a level head.
Not sure, don’t care, hate Sylvanas and that’s that. [↩]
Well, the big Reveal has taken place at Blizzcon, and we now know details of the next expansion. Hopefully you followed #TeamFaff at Godmother’s liveblog. I had to bail out right after the reveal because we had our weekly planning meeting at work, and the boss was most unsympathetic to the cause.
Now that the dust has settled, and I’ve had time to breathe, let’s talk about it.
There will be an expansion announcement and it will be called "Warlords of Draenor"
That was a pretty easy one, really. If they didn’t, it would have been ugly. The title this time was given to us by the trademark offices in several countries. +2 for me.
It will involve a new "lost" continent of Draenor
It’s Draenor, Jim, but not as we know it. Instead of a lost continent floating about in the Twisted Nether, we’re going back to the past. Specifically, Garrosh escapes captivity and through means as of yet unrevealed, journeys back in time to prevent the Old Horde from becoming subjugated by the Burning legion. What we, the denizens of Azeroth, then face is the Iron Horde – the united fury of the Orc clans united and at full strength.
My score: –1 (net total 1)
Alleria and Turalyon will return
No, they won’t. Though, to be fair, the new world of Old Draenor doesn’t have them to begin with. Since the First War didn’t happen, they didn’t get trapped when the Portal was closed. But THAT is a whole new can of worms, something I’ll exposit in another post.
Score: –1, for a net of 0.
It will involve the Burning Legion
Not so much. While it’s obvious that the Legion will be involved at SOME point, the net effect is that the Orcs turn their backs on the Legion and the power it offers. But the overall theme of this expansion is All Orc, All the Time.
Score: –1, now netting –1.
Ethereals will be the new player race
There will be no new player races.
-1 for me, for a net of –2. Oh dear.
Outland will not get revamped
Technically true, though they do move the door a bit. Since the history leading to Outland hasn’t happened, Outland becomes an alternate timeline, and thus its entrance is moved to the Caverns of Time. Which I have to admit, is a pretty good way to deal with it.
I’m going to claim a win, netting me back to –1.
The new level cap will be 100
Got that one right. So we’ll see a realm first Level 100 in 2 days, not 1.1
+1, back to breaking even.
There are no indications of any new classes
Got that one right, too. This will make WoD the first WoW expansion where neither a new class or race was introduced.
+1, and I’m back in the black.
Release Date: Holidays, 2014
No mention was made of a release date. This is my surprised face. Though I keep hearing rumors of a Q1/Q2 release timeframe, there is nothing official to back that up that I am aware of.
No points either way.
You face Jaraxxus!
I was close, but he appears in Hearthstone, not WoD.
-1 to zero me out again.
I totally didn’t call it, but it’s such a big one that I think I deserve to be dinged for missing it.
And that’s the news: all character races are to get remodels with higher poly counts and a lot of new emotes and expressions. The samples shown – especially for the female Gnome – were amazing.
There IS a tiny bit of drama here, in that it’s stated that there are currently no plans to offer a free appearance change when the changes go into effect. But the door’s been left open just a crack, so let’s wait and see.
-1, putting me back in the red.
Every Blizzcon, Blizz tends to offend someone, and this year was no exception. After the buzz died down, people started noting a highly testosterone-driven theme to this expansion. Female characters, when mentioned at all, were either minor in comparison, or they were told to go home, take care of the baby, and make Thrall a sammich.
I’ll revisit this at some future time. Other than to say, if you throw your keyboard over this, you know what happens? It breaks, dumbass. So I guess you showed them.
So I get a point there, bringing me back to even.
The overall results are
As is usually the case with this sort of thing, if you guess wildly the best you can really hope for is 50/50, which I did achieve. I was wrong as much as I was right. But I’m not displeased with the result.
And now the other stuff
One of the big things for this expansion seems to be "systems", our friend GhostCrawler’s domain.
There’s a big change to bags and inventory – a lot of items are going account-wide similar to how companion pets are handled now. This’ll clear up tons of space in our bags. A lot of materials are going from 20 to 100 per stack, freeing more room. And Tabards are a possibility for this, hooray! Also, quest items, though I’m worried for Archmage Vargoth’s Staff.
Another big "system" change will be "item squish". Basically, the huge numbers we currently have will be reduced by several orders of magnitude, possibly to double or even single digit values, with some sort of hidden scaling system to keep it manageable.
Related to that, itemization is changing drastically, with most secondary stats like Hit and Expertise going away and primary stats possibly varying by spec, effectively ending the spec-change-shuffle.
You will be able to bring one character to 90, or "boost", per account. So if you decide to change to a different raiding main, for example, you won’t have to spend weeks getting up to raiding level. I’ve been pushing for this for a while, because I hate that the lower level zones continue to get gimped in order to make life easier for raiders. Raiding and the leveling game are two different activities, and changes in one should not make life harder or less satisfying for either group. By allowing a character boost, they provide raiders with what they want without punishing those that are not raiding. Right now, it’s one per account, but I suspect that there will be infrastructure in place to make additional boosts possible as a paid service. And I think that’s a good thing.
This is actually an "in"-convenience feature, but another bit of drama – including threatened or actual sub cancellations – is that flight will not be available in Draenor until at least the 6.1 patch. I’m okay with that. In fact, if they want to get rid of flight completely, I’d be completely behind it. But a lot of people are NOT thrilled.
Garrisons were an unexpected new feature, which more or less amount to a cross between player housing and the Tillers farm. Other trade skills in addition to cooking will be involved, you get minions, and they can do things for you even while you’re offline. It’s all rather non-specific right now, and it’s hard to get a read on it, but overall it has been well received.
The big change to raiding is that all levels of raiding will be flex in WoD except the highest form, which will be called Mythic, and serves a step further than Heroic. The raid difficulty is tuned for 20 players, which Blizz claims is important since tuning at that difficulty will be too complex otherwise.
And that’s a wrap. I will be revisiting several of these topics in upcoming posts, but I wanted to first set the stage, as it were, for what is to come. Specifically, I want to discuss the lore, Blizzard’s ongoing PR issues, the game mechanics that are changing, and probably more lore, because, damn.
Actually, we won’t, because Realm First achievements are being removed from the game. [↩]
Hi, how ya been? It’s been weeks, I know! But it’s for a really good reasnon … see, Grimmtooth Actual done went and got himself a job, and it’s been keeping him as busy as a Goblin at a bank vault explosion site. It’s been pretty crazy, is what I’m saying. So time to think, compose, write, and otherwise participate in all things bloggy has been in short supply. There’s also the fact that with my WoW time somewhat reduced, I’ve had a bit less inspiration to write anything, anyway.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT, HIGGLEY PIGGLEY WITHOUT CONSIDERATION FOR ORDER OR PROPRIETY.
Note: this post contains spoilers about a fifteen year old science fiction movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, I have no pity. This is as close to a warning you will get.
It also contains spoilers about the end of Patch 5.2. If you haven’t completed that yet, you probably won’t anyway. Like me.
If you have done the Legendary quest chain to the point where you have slain the Thunder King1 and brought his heart to Wrathion, you get this bit of dialog, amongst others.
Wrathion says: WE HAVE FALLEN. WE MUST REBUILD THE FINAL TITAN. DO NOT FORGET.
I had to think about that a bit. Where have I seen this before?
"There is danger. Remember."
"There is danger. Remember."
"There is danger. Remember."
In case this scene isn’t familiar, this is from a Babylon 5 TV movie, Thirdspace. And it kind of relies on you having seen the entire TV series to date, so imma splain.
No. It is too much. Imma summarize.
The B5 universe is inhabited by many races, one which is an ancient and god-like race called the Vorlons. Nobody knows much about them, and few have ever seen their homeworld. One person, the woman in the picture above, has. Her name is Lyta Alexander, and she is a telepath. It was revealed in the TV series that she often telepathically communicated with the Vorlon ambassador, Kosh, and "carried a piece of him around" in her head – for what purpose, it is unknown. But in the past we have seen evidence that certain triggers can activate what is loosely called "programming" left behind by Kosh – for example, she destroyed the Shadow homeworld2 as it was about to be claimed by the Alliance3 forces.
So when Lyta sees this "Thirdspace" artifact that is the centerpiece of this movie’s plot, she drops into a trance and starts scribbling those four words on the walls of her quarters, over and over again. An embedded warning, we learn, from the bit of Kosh’s latent programming.
Now, if her warning to herself seems somehow familiar, look again at Wrathon’s babbling at the start of this post and tell me you don’t see some sort of parallel.
Why is this significant? Well, let’s let Lyta explain.
"I tried to tell you. I failed. Now it is too late. The door is opening."
Delenn: "What mistake?"
Lyta: "The first one. The one from which all other mistakes proceed. The error of Pride."4
"The saw us as gods. And we, in our pride, began to believe them."
"We were so intent on getting out, that we neglected to think of what we might be letting in. Until it was too late."
"They are a power beyond comprehension. A hunger beyond understanding. They are anti-life itself."
We’re in tinfoil hat territory, folks.
This is not the first parallel between B5 and WoW. Not by a long shot. B5 had a prophet named Valen. We have a prophet named Velen.
Valen was actually a "present-day" human that went back in time to fight in the last Shadow War5 and transformed into a Minbari (an old, wise, race that did not have horns and hooves, but other parallels are there) named Valen, who then led the Minbari to victory, and who prophesied about the NEXT Shadow War, which, coincidentally started up just before he went back in time.
Velen is a Draenai, former Eredar, of Argus. Or is he? For all I know, he’s Anduin Wrynn, come back from the future.
There are other parallels, but just whetting your appetite there. Are the Orcs equivalent to the Narn?6 Or maybe the Tauren? Forsaken = Drazi? Does this cast Jaina as Delenn or Ivonova? Oh, there are so many possibilities – and of course, I’m not saying Blizz is drawing its script from J. Michael Strazynski, I’m just saying that there are notes that I hear in both songs, as it were.
And that’s where Wrathion’s babbling comes in. His warning – DO NOT FORGET – really smells a lot like Lyta’s warning to herself. And if that’s a parallel, then what are we saying here – are the Titans cast as the arrogant Vorlons? Some other force – the Legion, for example? – in the role of the Thirdspace aliens?
And what is the equivalent to the Thirdspace Artifact, then? Portal’s done. Sunwell’s closed. The Maelstrom? Could Mad Deathwing’s demise there have caused something to start cooking? Could somebody possibly drop a benny in the Well of Eternity under Nordrassil? Well, there are a few possibilities, assuming they didn’t just do something new. I hear there’s a corner of Stormwind still standing.Let’s open a portal there!
Things to Come
We know from a specific roadmap allegedly from 2003 that the next expansion is likely (by that map) to be "Legion Set", which really ties in well with this. I would not be at all surprised if the next expansion, assuming it’s the Legion Set, opens with Wrathion delivering a dire warning about something that the Dwarves or Goblins or both were tinkering with at the Maelstrom, or maybe the Tauren and Elves at Nordrasil. Or maybe he just flips out and does the deed himself. Either way, the setup seems pretty … convenient.
So there’s that.
The epic struggle at the heart of B5 was the Alliance / Shadow war, or more specifically, the build up to the war, the struggles internal and external, the realization that the Shadow War wasn’t strictly a war against The Shadows, and the discovery that no matter how big you are, there’s always a bigger fish.
While it hasn’t always been front and center, the war between the Legion and the Titans has always been at the heart of things, and unexpectedly, the Pandaria campaign may have just dropped us right back in the middle of it. We have a pretty strong suspicion that it’s coming, anyway, but this and previous things from Wrathion really do seem to point in that direction.
It’s the end of the Plan as we know it
Blizzard’s never been happy with that post on Allakhazam, especially since it seems to be so accurate. I’m sure they’ll be happy to get past the Legion expansion, should it happen, so they can venture into territory that we have even fewer clues on. That’s not to say the Titans won’t figure into it again.
As Lyta concluded: "One mistake. One of many. So many."
Today, patch 5.3 drops, in which things ramp up towards an ultimate confrontation with the Big Bad in 5.4 or later. This is the first patch day I will have missed since Vanilla, in that I am using a tethered cell phone for network, and my game time is currently zero’d (no point in paying for something I don’t use).
I had barely gotten into 5.2, which my experience thus far leads me to regard it as a vary bad idea1. All signs point to 5.3 being more of the same, with a different location.
Well, I won’t pan it until I’ve tried it, which will be in a week or two, depending on how our move goes this weekend.
Those that wanted more frequent updates, well, they’re getting what they asked for. I feel a little rushed, though – I barely had time to explore the 5.1 story line before 5.2 dropped, and I didn’t have a change of location to blame for that one. I was still getting caught up with 5.0 things!
The question remains: does the increased frequency in patches also carry over to an increased frequency in expansions? I’m thinking not likely … Blizzcon is the most likely time to announce it, and if they wait until then, the next expansion will be out on approximately the same schedule as the past ones have.
I am NOT one with the doomsayers that say that the last two quarters’ numbers indicate that WoW will be dead by 1Q15. First of all, two datapoints is a stupid wrong way to draw a trendline. As an example, if you take the past THREE datapoints, WoW ends 1Q14 – a whole year earlier – instead. Even they aren’t being that bold, possibly on purpose. One should only choose the data that supports one’s foregone conclusions, after all.
The one valid point of the we’re-doomed crowd is this: if the next two quarters don’t look better, or at least level off, Activision will likely try to pull the plug. I realize that the ultimate optimists at Blizz’s core management team claim that Activition would NEVER have that level of control, but I assert that Bobby Kotick’s an assertive enough asshole that he’d make it happen by coup. Never underestimate the power of a determined asshole.
A final question I have – a hypothetical – is how far Pandaria goes? Is 5.4 the end, or will there be one more? 5.4 is rumored to be the one where we settle Garrosh’s hash – and who doesn’t like that – but what we don’t know is if that is the end of the matters as far as Pandaria is concerned. I’m not sure it is.
Well, happy patch day to you. I’m off to replace a heating element in my new place’s water heater.
I am quickly joining the camp of people that think that dailies are a lazy, uncreative way to fill players’ time so that they’ll keep paying, rather than other more satisfying approaches. [↩]
Fojar: Following the fall of Garrosh, will the Alliance be turning its attention to reclaiming its lost territory in the Northern Eastern Kingdoms? I speak primarily of Lordaeron, Gilneas, and Stromgarde.
Fargo: This is something we struggle with, because after Cataclysm we seriously question the time-investment of re-doing old zones. Presumably, from a lore standpoint, the Horde is going to have to back down from areas on the edge of conquest (particularly Ashenvale.) But we don’t want to re-do that zone – it’s an important Horde level-up area. And even if we DID re-do it, we’d still have to have quests – it couldn’t just be night elves /dancing. On a related note, would you guys be willing to sacrifice a new zone in the next expansion for us to re-do Gilneas? As an Alliance only zone? What gameplay would we get out of it?
So it’s an open question for us, how we show the impact of the war without re-doing zones that we just re-did for Cataclysm.
Kamrian Green: A fear many Alliance players have is that everything that the Horde has done to the faction up until this point will be laid on Garrosh and all will be forgiven. Can we safely assume that this will not be the case? To the Alliance, the Horde has a lot to answer for without Hellscream.
Fargo: I address this somewhat in an above answer1- how SHOULD we depict Alliance justice without deleting a bunch of old zone content? Also, we still need to make sure a Horde EXISTS after Garrosh falls, because, you know, they’re half our players. But certainly going forward into the next expansion we can carry forward the themes of Horde trying to rebuild itself from an absolutely terrible war and the Alliance – a unified victorious juggernaut – taking the initiative in the challenges that lie ahead.
Orgrimmar is going to be a bloodbath.
There seems to be the perception2 that the zone revamps of Cataclysm were, by and large, a failure. There are many reasons given, but by and large, the finger usually points to execution – it was in general done poorly.
One example would be the added real estate that remained, by and large, dead. Go to EPL and have a look at the highlands in between the northwestern and southwestern halves of the zone. Lake, devoid of life. Hills, devoid of life.
There are other examples to draw upon, of course. How questing was "on rails". How you ran out of XP headroom before you ran out of quests. How the lore was treated disrepectfully in some cases. The retcons. And so forth.
But there were some good points, too. The whole Wrathion storyline issues forth from one of those revamped zones. Oversized zones3 were cut into manageable sizes. Things moved forward as time passed (WPL, to some extent).
In general, if you ask someone how they feel about revamped, updated, or modernized zones, as a thing, they’ll be positive. But if you ask them how they feel about how Blizz executed the revamped zones, the response will be overall negative.
Now, let’s look at the above quotes again. Fargo gives the impression that, yeah, they want to modernize zones, but, because they didn’t work out, they don’t feel that putting resources into it is a worthwhile thing.
The thing is, I think that the response to the bad execution is being taken as a response to the whole idea of zone revamps, and I have to disagree with that perception. I think that if they had done a better job of it, the response would be far, far more positive, and Blizz would probably see this as a thing worth pursuing.
Right now, moving the lore on Old Azeroth forward seems to be held up by their unwillingness to try to revamp a zone again. Look at the comments above; yeah, would be nice of Alliance took back Gilneas, but that would require a zone revamp. Yeah, Alliance justice would be interesting to depict, but we’d have to revamp a bunch of old content. Yeah, Alliance would probably assert itself in Ashenvale again, but that would require a zone revamp.
Eventually it stops sounding convincing. Eventually it sounds like a bunch of weak excuses.
The lore should move forward. If that means revamping old zones, you do it, or things start to fall apart. Eventually you’re not going to be able to staple all the old lore to new expansions’ lore without some change.
On a lighter note:
Guest: Turalyon and Alleria are still absent after all these years. Did they find a portal to a tropical island planet and are sitting on the beach drinking cocktails with the little umbrellas in them right now or something?
Fargo: I LIKE that answer! But I suspect they opted to do something heroic instead. We’ll come back to them when the time is right.
Keep in mind where it is that we lost track of these two, and we see some foreshadowing that points towards Outland once again. Goody!
The all-consuming concern of the week is, in case you were asleep, the Fall of Theramore scenario. I didn’t participate in it on Monday when it came out1 but last night I got to take Jasra in Disco form.
Having not healed much in the last two-ish years, she’s still getting the hang of the Smite/Heal process, so the scenario was a good place to practice that, since the other two members of our squad didn’t need much healing.
So, things break down into two areas of concern: A) the scenario itself, and 2) the lore.
Running the Scenario
It starts with a cinematic as a goblin drops a mana bomb on Theramore2 and blows the place up. How Jaina managed to survive while everyone else did not is not adequately explained here. I think it has something to do with Rhonin’s selfless act, but I’m not certain3.
As you zone in, you’re on the (presumably) last surviving Alliance ship, and from there you’re given a series of tasks to accomplish. First, survive a couple of waves of attackers, then kill three ship captains, torch their ships, and slaughter all Horde in sight. From there, you charge to Jaina’s side, carry out a couple of tasks for her, and then cover her while she extracts the Focusing Iris from the bomb4.
The mechanics of the fight were fairly clear5. Objectives were easy to determine, the mini map was used well, and, as far as scripted events go, it worked well. I liked how the quest tracker area was repurposed to display objectives clearly. Nice touch.
So, mechanically, at least, I call it a win. If future scenarios work the same way mechanically, this is a new feature that deserves a permanent place at the table.
One final thought here: the Embersilk drops were insane. Jas came out of there with at least six full stacks, and the other tailor in the group got as at least that much. I’ve run entire raids without seeing that much cloth drop, and with two tailors in the group, it’s even more impressive! Hooray for murderating your fellow humanoids, I suppose?
The Elephant in the Room
Let us preamble this with the observation that the story leading up to this event, and the event itself, is told in the book Tides of War. This is a continuation of the now-traditional shunting of lore-heavy events into books. I must admit that the excerpt that was dropped a few weeks ago really put me off wanting to read this book – I’m sure that wasn’t what they had in mind, but the attempts at romance were cringe-worthy. There is no amount of lore, no amount of badassery, that will suffice to get me to suffer through that again. I suffered Asimov. I suffered Jordon6. No more, I say!
Based on Alas’ comments about "Emo Jaina", I feared we’d get more of what we had in Icecrown. I was actually pleasantly surprised when I found that "Emo Jaina" in this case was "Angry Jaina". She talked some seriously good smack. More, please, plus some actually smacking, in the future, one hopes. I cannot emphasize this enough: Blizz has got to get away from writing strong female leads only as Dark and Sinister. Righteous fury has its place. Or, whoa, just for the hell of it, write a strong female lead that doesn’t have to be angry all the time7.
At any rate, everything about this scenario seems to be hell-bent on disrespecting the lore surrounding the characters, factions, and places involved. And that’s what’s got people fired up.
Saxy @ I Like Pancakes summarizes bestofall how badly this scenario and its alleged lore clash with previously established lore. Some questions she asks, such as how Garrosh seems to be acting without thought for consequences, appear to be rhetorical, since we already know that he’s under foul influences and not acting rationally, even for Garrosh. But she also brings up more macro issues around all this. The Horde just crapped in its own bed, and the world should be rightfully turned against it now.
What about supposedly neutral factions? Do you really think the Argent Crusade will want to have anything to do with the Horde after they’ve done this? The Cenarion Expedition? The Earthen Ring? The Scryers (who know a thing or two about mana bombs)? The Aldor (who know a thing or two about cities being leveled)?
And then there’s Dalaran. Why does Sunreaver’s Sanctuary still exist? Why is any horde player not killed on sight upon entering Dalaran? Are you seriously suggesting, Blizzard, that the Kirin Tor is going to allow anyone even loosely associated with the Horde anywhere near Dalaran?
And now the Dragonflights. Why are the Horde allowed near any Caverns of Time instance? Why are they welcome at Wyrmrest Temple? Why would any member of any Dragonflight trust any member of the Horde with any task?
Now, I’m sure she knows as we know that those are all points from elsewhere in the time stream, but ALSO she’s correctly pointing out that actions have consequences, and we should see them, but we won’t, and that’s disappointing from a lore fan’s perspective.
It’s interesting that, after all these years, my little alts Orlee and Yarlee have found a sympathetic voice.
Orlee is one of two orphaned Draenai that I took in when the portal opened. Her brother, Kutath, was able to stay centered and cope, but Orlee became bent on revenge. To her, the only good orc is a dead orc, Horde in general would be better off without them, and her entire reason for staying on Azeroth in the first place was to find more orcs to kill. It’s all perfectly logical to her. It’s quite simple. We kill the Orcs.
Yarley was one of the many Night Elves unhomed by the Warsong in Ashenvale. She had started out as a warrior, as many of her gender do in Night Elf society, but her outrage at the way the Horde violated the land motivated her to learn the way of the Druid. She’s routinely offended by what she sees of the Horde’s treatment of Azeroth, and figures that if they’re not put down, they’ll destroy the entire planet and leave it as they left Draenor – a pile of filth at best, shattered and drifting in the Nether at worst.
Sidebar conclusion: when I read Saxy’s angry screed above, Orlee and Yarley were in the back of my head yelling, See? See? We told you. Would you listen? NOOOOOoooo! So they get some perverse satisfaction in the fact that eyes are opening around the world right now.
To be honest, the lore violations would have been more palatable had they been couched in some sort of bread crumb quests and so forth, and Saxy has yet another good screed on that topic.
[…] this was the Wrathgate sequence. It was without question the most epic questline in Wrath, involving plot, new mechanics, real interaction with heroes, betrayal, etc. Anyone who did this questline will tell you that Blizzard did an excellent job of not just telling the story, but letting you feel like you were living through it. That you were an integral part.
Wrathgate was the sort of thing that, after I had experienced it, I went out and told people that it was something they would want to play the game for.
There aren’t many opportunities for a Wrathgate event. I believe that the fall of Theramore was one.
A minor quibble here is that Wrathgate was a mid-game event, and Theramore is either an end-of-game or start-of-game event, depending on how you want to view it. But otherwise, I totally agree: Blizz had a chance to shine, and they blew it.
First of all, if you thought the lore issues were merely because of poor execution on the part of the development team, think again. Golden’s book is full of the same sort of thing, and it rankles. I’m not going to blame Golden for the plot points. She got handed an agenda and had to write a story that fulfilled its requirements.
Unfortunately, those requirements pretty much had no respect for the lore surrounding the people in the story.
The one that sticks out the most here is how Thrall – excuse me, Go’el – has become hippie-orc and is fully aware of the mess that Garrosh has made of things, but doesn’t seem to care. This is not the "honorable" Orc we’ve had preached to us for years. It’s like a few tokes and getting some sexy tiemz with Aggra has somehow removed his integrity. John says it best.
Thrall walks on into the new throne room, sees Garrosh standing there with the Blackrock Orc, wanders around listening to some of the news about guards and the Blackrock smacking around anyone that voices dissent, hears about how some vanish in the dark, gives a quick chat to Baine and Vol’jin..
Are you seriously telling me that he couldn’t stop it?
With two sentences he could have shut the whole thing down.
“You are a disgrace to the memory of Grom Hellscream and an enemy of the Horde. Get out of my sight or I will kill you where you stand.”
He’s Thrall. He forged an Orc nation from nothing and brought his people out of despair, forged an empire and saved the world. Fuck an Orc that grew up in some pussy place like Draenor, where there are so many animals to kill and eat nobody has to farm in Nagrand.
Seriously. Thrall. Disappointing, man. That shit is weaksauce.
Maybe they feel like it’s time to put the ol’ fella out to pasture. No, sorry, you don’t get to do that. Heroes don’t go off and sit in drum circles until they die in their sleep from food poisoning or something. No, they go out in a blaze of glory. That’s just the way it is in Heroic fiction. Nothing else will do.
So, character-wise, and lore-wise, Thra — ‘scuse me, Go’el — is completely inconsistent with the story of Thrall / Kal-el that Blizzard has given us so far.
Cleaning up the broken glass
The community has been pretty vocal about this, and it’s good to hear that maybe Blizz is taking it to heart. From a recent Q&A, Dave "Fargo" Kosak has this to say.
I’ve been watching the Theramore feedback closely, and this comment seems pretty universal. We tried to keep everything all in the scenario, to make it really self-contained, but not burden it with lots of story that you have to slog through every time you played the scenario. It’s pretty clear from the feedback that people wanted more story. We should’ve surrounded the scenarios with more quests or explanations to help round out the story for the people who wanted to know what exactly was happening. Lesson learned!
Let me say this: I don’t think that Scenarios were ever planned to be lore-establishing events with lots of RP-ish elements like Wrathgate. But Wrathgate points the way to doing it right. We don’t need to stick a ton of cinematics and RP in a Scenario or Instance. Preface them with individual quest chains in which each person will get to experience any cinematics and story elements once, and at their own pace, and then you don’t have to worry about RP-ish elements in Scenarios.
A. We weren’t happy with the way Abyssal Maw was shaping up. It managed to take on a life of its own in players’ minds, but believe me, if it had been an awesome raid, we would have shipped it. One of the hardest parts of this job is killing a feature you’re excited about because it doesn’t meet our quality bar. I suspect you’d see far more complaints if we had shipped a bad raid than not shipping one at all. We took the resources and put them back into Firelands and got a couple of extra bosses out of it.
The conspiracy theorists imply that it was withheld from beta because they already knew it sucked and were unable to do anything about it. One of the lead developers tells us, with a specific example, that if something sucks, it won’t ship. I’m going to go out on a limb and believe Ghostcrawler, but make up your own mind on the merits.
That does beg the question, though. Are the internal testers that disconnected, that naïve? I don’t know, but I cannot envision a scenario8 in which somebody didn’t raise a red flag and say "guys, this doesn’t jibe" or "Hey, people are going to be confused!" I can’t envision a world in which this sort of thing gets past what I see as a very rigorous internal QA team9.
The overall take-away for me is a sense of ennui. I can only carry water for Blizz for so long before I start to see logic in the arguments of those that claim that Blizz has lost its touch, or its soul, or its ethics – or all of the above.
I get the sense that MoP is going to be the expansion that makes or breaks this franchise. If they do well, get their footing back, then this game will continue to flourish with a varied and informed playerbase for years to come. If they don’t do well? There are MMOs aplenty out there that represent the true End Times.
Maybe Murozond was right.
I don’t do first-day for this sort of thing. It’s always gonna be bugged. [↩]