Archive for the “Lore” Category
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.
I made some cheeky predictions, so let’s see how I did!
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, 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
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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.
FAIRLY WARNED BE YE, SAY I.
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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 King 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 homeworld as it was about to be claimed by the Alliance 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."
"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 War 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? 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."
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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 idea. 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.
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In the recent developer Q&A we find this exchange:
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 answer- 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 perception 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 zones 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!
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Gonna go meta for a few, please bear with.
Trigger Warning: references to rape and rape culture beyond the cut.
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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 out 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 Theramore 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 certain.
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 bomb.
The mechanics of the fight were fairly clear. 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 Jordon. 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 time.
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 best of all 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.
It Gets Worse
Big Bear Butt has read the book, and has some thoughts on 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!
Compare this to the Old Stratholme instance in Wrath, where there was that long RP-ish event that people got TIIIIRED of after a dozen times. Somewhere in between these two extremes there is a sweet spot.
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.
The Fall of Theramore scenario didn’t receive any beta testing. There are those that say that it didn’t make it to beta because it was savaged badly by internal testers and there was no time to fix it. That they know it was crap and didn’t need to hear more about that. This does not jibe with something that Ghostcrawler said in the Reddit AMA:
Q: Are you going to finish the Neptulon storyline? He was taken by Ozumat in throne of tides and then, nothing. His fate is unknown.
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 scenario 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 team.
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.
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Somewhere in Dalaran ….
… a plaque?
… what’s it say?
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Between Grimm in DS and my own undergeared butt in Heroics, we’ve finally – as of last night – gotten to see all the threads in the endgame story for this expansion. It’s gratifying to see that the endgame has a more solid narrative than ever before. Only twice does it succumb to what I call the "Gallery of bads" syndrome.
If you remember the pilot movie for Babylon 5, you no doubt remember the Gratuitous Alien Gallery, a venue that Sinclair and Alexander cut through on the way to somewhere more useful. The Alien District, as it was called, resembled more of a toxic petting zoo than a place where aliens lived and carried out business – glass booths with aliens standing in them, cubicles with aliens standing them, empty spaces with aliens standing in them – you get the picture.
A lot, it might be noted, like Icecrown Citadel, and many other raids. Just dudes. Standing around. Doing standing around dude things.
- Karazhan – you have to beat up the stable boy, the castellan, and a travelling group of troubadours to even get close to the guy that’s making the place go bad. And even then, there are rooms off to the side with a couple of dragons, a bereaved father, and a studious demon that you can go beat up just for funsies.
- Icecrown Citadel – With an airship at your disposal, you can just fly to the spire and take care of business. But instead we go the long hard way through a gallery of bads, none which even matter, and some which were plain made up – had no previous connection to lore – for this instance.
- Naxx – For this gallery of bads to even make SENSE, they had to force you to clear each wing as part of unlocking a portal to the one guard dragon that stands between you and the big bad.
- The Eye – Aside from Alar (and who doesn’t want a shot at a flaming mount?), you can walk right in to Kael’s throne room and start beating on him. And speaking of dudes just standing around. Don’t belfs own chairs?
- Ulduar – After taking down XT and Kologarn, not much stopping you from just jumping down into the pit and getting jiggy with Yogg. Well, aside from the invisible barrier that forces you to go the long way, but it is not mentioned as part of the lore.
The common thread here is that you have a bunch people standing around scratching their butts, doing nothing but looking decorative until a bunch of mercenaries comes along to rob them. You don’t have to kill off Moroes – he doesn’t drop a key. You don’t have to kill off Putricide to get to the Lich King. Notwithstanding game mechanics, why exactly is Ignis standing around? What is the purpose of Aran, other than fleshing out some lore that didn’t, really, exist?
While this is coming off as a rant against how artificial and contrived the circumstances of most raid bosses are constructed, it is intended as praise for Dragon Soul.
The five-mans leading up to it, while somewhat contrived and confusing at times, do actually link up to the raid elegantly. The escort quest at the end exists for a reason (as any raider knows, the front door is blocked). And, granted, the "echoes" do fall into the "contrived bad dude just standing around thinking bad dude thoughts" trope, but the next instance in the chain more than makes up for it in integrating the bosses into the story.
The only raid-related boss issue in this case are Zonza and Ballchucker. They exist only to be beaten and looted. They serve no part of the story other than to stand around and look lootish. Had they been integrated better I’d have no complaint, but they weren’t. They block nothing, unlock nothing, drop nothing related to the story. They are Miscellaneous Bad Dudes. In holes.
But, overall, the endgame for this expansion has proven to be far superior to what we’ve seen before. I don’t know how much of an actual story that MoP will have. If it does, I hope they improve on the linear story-based raid instance over the collection-of-loot-piñatas rogues gallery approach. It was a lot more fun and a lot more interesting.
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In a vaguely worded drive-by comment on the official forums, community manager Zarhym (aka talking head) dropped an incredibly vague hint about something getting leveled. There was somehow a rumor that Theramore was going to get trashed by the Horde in 5.0, people were upset over obvious Horde favoritism, and Zarhym stepped in with this.
So, at BlizzCon we provided a few details about a new expansion and how it’s going to have an ever-growing focus on the fight between the Horde and the Alliance in the wake of dispelling many very powerful threats to all of Azeroth. Then we find out a vague detail that some sort of unrelenting attack by the Horde on Theramore is to come. The Horde, to remind you, is currently a faction with an overzealous ruler and significant turmoil among their faction leaders; while the Alliance has almost never been quite so unified and far removed from the days of imprisoning orcs.
The first pawn on the chess board of what is to be the story for Mists of Pandaria is being moved, and you’re angry at whose turn is first? I only offer that maybe there’s a little more to the Horde and Alliance story lines in Mists than an Alliance town being leveled… like the entire expansion story you don’t know about yet.
This was interpreted, far and wide, as absolute confirmation that Theramore would fall. Let’s dissect a little.
Then we find out a vague detail that some sort of unrelenting attack by the Horde on Theramore is to come.
DID NOT SAY that Theramore was to fall. DID SAY, "unrelenting attack". I’m not gonna look up "unrelenting" for you but I assure you it does not mean "Theramore falls."
The Horde, to remind you, is currently a faction with an overzealous ruler and significant turmoil among their faction leaders; while the Alliance has almost never been quite so unified and far removed from the days of imprisoning orcs.
Really, why did Zarhym put that in? What does that have to do with anything?
Well, since we’re guessing, I’ll guess that it means that Theramore does not stand alone. Why would Zarhym say that? What does it matter unless Theramore does NOT fall? I mean, if it falls, it’s a sure bet that the entire Alliance will stand with Jaina Proudmoore. There is no doubt. So it doesn’t make sense to go out out of the way to say this, unless it means something. I’m gonna guess, Theramore stands, and the Alliance stands with it, and the war front between Theramore and Orgimmar becomes a key part of the next expansion’s PvP game, at the very least.
The first pawn on the chess board of what is to be the story for Mists of Pandaria is being moved, and you’re angry at whose turn is first?
Again, implying Theramore is the first pawn in the game (or Org’s armies are the first pawn, depending on point of view), is not saying that it falls. Theramore might be like Pearl Harbor, or it might be like Lexington and Concord. This is as noncommittal as you can get.
I only offer that maybe there’s a little more to the Horde and Alliance story lines in Mists than an Alliance town being leveled… like the entire expansion story you don’t know about yet.
In other words, this isn’t all there is to see about this situation. And AGAIN, Zarhym went to great pains not to reveal anything or confirm anything with this statement.
I did not come away with conformation of anything. Other than, duh, war. In Warcraft. Holy coincidences, Batman!
Recently, Dave "Fargo" Kosak published a "Dev Water cooler" article about faction favoritism. Besides a clear indication that, yes, Alliance has taken a serious pounding, were a few more interesting things relevant to the above.
Garrosh Hellscream has a vision for the Horde, a vision of a united Kalimdor that can only be realized over the ashes of the Alliance. He’s craftier than any of his foes realize, and his grim determination to win at all costs — even at the expense of his own people — is plunging the world into chaos.
If nothing else, this is clear indication that things are heating up in Kalimdor and confirmation that he’s going to stop at nothing to raze anything in his path to make it happen. All hail the King of Ashes. /spit
I’m not going to try to deny that war is going to happen. I’m just not sure that Lady Jaina’s going to roll over.
Makes no sense from a gameplay perspective, either.
Suffering is the gasoline that drives our story engine.
Remove Theramore, and the only remaining war front for the Horde on Kalimdor is the Night Elf front, and it spreads down the entire length of the western side of Kalimdor. Plenty of room for suffering there. But the thorn in the Orcs’ side, no doubt about it, is, and always will be, the Humans that humiliated them time and again in the East. The game NEEDS this conflict to fuel Garrosh’s hatred. He’s a hater, and he’s gotta have something to hate.
The Taurens are also not likely to allow genocide of the Night Elves given their commonality across the Druidic arts. But they can’t possibly feel as kindly towards Humans that rampaged across their borders and slaughtered entire villages. They won’t stand for all-out war on Elves, perhaps, but I bet they’d at least be willing to tolerate all-out war on the Humans. I’m sure Garrosh, despite his thick skull, will see the advantage of a war on the Humans.
All of this falls apart if Theramore falls, though. There is no war because there is nothing to make war upon. This is the peace of the Orcs, brutal and nasty business, but neither the developers or the players want PEACE. They want war, and war upon Theramore – sustained war, with many opportunities for "honor" (/spit) is the perfect excuse for Garrosh to whine about resource shortages to keep the Warsong offensive going. I can’t imagine a more perfect opportunity to not only keep the fires burning, but to plant the seeds of the next "great" war upon Ashenvale as they grasp for more trees to burn and fluffy woodland beasties to grind into nutritious paste.
Conflict is necessary
Fargo makes quite a few good comments in his post. Fact is, you need conflict of some sort to have a compelling story arc. And expecting the faction balance in one expansion to be completely even is, while *seemingly* realistic, in practice ridiculous. One side winning and one side losing provides inspiration to the former and desperation to the latter, itself a form of inspiration. And holding out the possibility that it could all turn around just further fuels the losing side to fight harder. Again, destroy Theramore and you turn the possibility of defeat into actual defeat, and that’s a lot harder to draw inspiration from – for either side.
I’ve asked around. I’ve asked may times, of people that I am told are pretty solid in lore, what the source for this certainty is. Everyone keeps pointing back to Zarhym’s post on the forums. So, barring a better, more conclusive source, this is all still guesswork.
I’m going to take a no doubt unpopular position here until I see something more concrete from an actual Blizzard source that, yes, Jaina Proudmoore is in the market for a new apartment.
Show me the Monet.
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