I regret to announce that […] this is the END! I am going. I am leaving NOW! GOODBYE!"
— Bilbo Baggins, on the occasion of his Sudden Disappearance
This shall be my final post on this blog. I will continue blogging on my other WoW site, Not All Hunters, but this dedicated site is going dark at the end of May, 2015, and will not be coming back.
It has been a delight to share my time with you here, and I have enjoyed the chance to interact with a number of people that have either commented here, or poked me from elsewhere, or just dragged me into their raiding group for a big old group hug. It’s been a sweet eight years, and I’m glad for the chance to say goodbye on my terms rather than somebody else’s.
As you may have guessed, I’m still going to be playing WoW, and will have things to say about it along the way. If I have pithy thoughts towards anything game-like at the moment, I’ll share them over on that other blog.
That brings me to my final thought. People have time and again poked at the concept of a WoW “Community”, denied it exists, denied it is any good even if it DID exist.
Well, last week, the WoW community literally saved a woman’s life. As she posted a couple of disturbing suicidal tweets, the community went into action, and instead of reading about her death, we were the next day treated to her grateful tweet explaining that the police busted down her door and dragged her off to a hospital. They saved her life.
Maybe you don’t believe in the WoW community because you’re not part of it. I don’t know. But I know there is one, and it can be an agent of good, and there are many people that are grateful for that this very night.
That’s all I have to say here. We’ll meet again, I’m sure.
Play us off, Stevie.
When I see you again, As I always do, It appears to me that Destiny rules. And the spirits are ruthless with the paths they choose. It’s not being together, It’s just following the rules. No one’s a fool.
I’ll have wordier things to say in the month yet to come, but I want to make An Announcement.
Namely, that in a month’s time, this blog will be going offline. I’ve decided that it’s no longer worth $100/year for what amounts to essentially a vanity project.
I’ll still be playing WoW – I have enough gold to buy tokens for years to come – but as time goes on I see less of interest to blog about, and certainly not worth paying real money to blog.
I may open something on a free platform, so I’ll make the announcement as to where it is, if I do. grimmtooth.wordpress.com isn’t available, as I once opened it then closed it and, apparently, that’s irreversible. Go figure.
My gratitude goes out to those of you that have taken the time to read, comment, argue, scoff, laugh, and celebrate this strange world that is World of Warcraft with us. It is very much appreciated.
As you know, the subtitle of this blog is “Say hello to the voices in my head.” This is a reference to the sort of internal roleplay I do with my toons in order to develop some internal sense of consistency in how they behave, dress, craft, and fight. While Grimmtooth (/wave) is more or less a direct channel to my daily internal monologue, the others – Jasra, Floramel, Illume, Faiella, Slithmere, Orlee, Amusmoses, Yarley, and Wojo – all more or less inhabit some crevasse of Grimmtooth Actual’s brain. And as such, I intend to write up a send-up for each of them, collectively or individually, I haven’t decided. More for my internal peace of mind than anything else. I’m pretty sure nobody else really cares that much where Floramel ends up when she retires. :)
My adventures in Elite: Dangerous and Eve Online1 have highlighted some things that have come out, albeit peripherally, in research. Namely, that third person perspective and first person perspective have profound effects on the immersion that one experiences when playing a game – and how one approaches playing that game.
You may be familiar with this in WoW. You’re sitting at the mailbox, going through the daily hate mail from Arthas and Deathwing, when some tool runs up to you, plants his pixlelly ass in between you and the mailbox, and proceeds to jump up and down.
And jump up and down.
And jump up and down.
And jump up and down.
And jump up and down.
And … well, you get the idea.
Turns out, a VR+Camera rig that gives you the same viewpoint on real life … makes you act exactly the same way you would in an MMO in which you play from the third party viewpoint.
Now, I hasten to emphasize that the experimenter did not indicate whether hir test subjects were frequent gamers, which would tend to skew the behavior a bit3, but I have to say this: even if the only place you do that sort of thing is in an MMO, you’re still … kind of an asshole. Sorry.
Now, getting in someone’s face and jumping up and down is small potatoes compared to other things that people playing in 3PP4 frequently do. They tend to – apparently – not believe that the people they are interacting with are real, and thus they treat those people as if they are not people. Now, personally, I tend to not treat non-people like shit just because I can because I’m not an asshole5 but there seems to be a lot of people that treat abstract entities online badly if they can, because they can.
And here, at last, I get to the point of contrast between Eve Online and Elite: Dangerous.
Eve plays constantly in a third party mode, even when docked. You’re actually viewing your SHIP in 3PP, not even yourself, in that game.
Elite, on the other hand, sticks you in the cockpit and leaves you there. To view your ship in 3PP, in fact, is a DEBUG control. And you can’t do much of anything in debug mode.
If you follow Eve’s politics and drama even peripherally, you’ll know that in 0sec space, no one’s safe unless you have some sort of protection from the “corps”6, you’ll probably end up podded7. At the upper levels, there is constant backstabbing and outright crimes against fellow corp-mates, sometimes taking down entire corps. Basically, everything goes, and while the game’s creators may not encourage this sort of behavior, they don’t discourage it, either. Honestly, they don’t really appear to care.
In Elite, the same lack of constraints on one’s behavior exist, but running into this sort of situation is extremely rare. I’ve been attacked by other players for no real reason from time to time, but it’s rarely malevolent in nature – i.e., just a pirate, doing his job. They’ve even offered to help me out before shooting me up for non-response.
The best example of this is the Goonswarm. In Eve, the Goonswarm is a force to be reckoned with. They have taken over entire corps, terrorize 0sec space, and generally specialize in griefing.
Goonswarm exists in Elite, as well, but they are oddly ineffective. They have all the tools they need to effect a system-wide shutdown – which they attempted – except, of course, the whole ‘corp’ framework, which can be replaced by an external framework like Mumble – but as it turns out, lowly CMDRs like me just skooched along and took care of business. Eventually, the lack of dread and loathing from the general population caused the Goonies to lose interest. When nobody reacts to trolls, they go elsewhere looking for attention.
The entire Elite community has, at least in-game, been extremely polite and helpful. The worst behavior I’ve seen has been in system-wide chat, which is a newly implemented feature, and the behavior is consistent with the 3PP theory – people in a chat window aren’t people, so you can treat them like shit without repercussions. 8.
There are dozens of potential causes for this disparity between the two games that are otherwise very similar, so I won’t draw a conclusion as to cause. All I want to do here is point out that research that I’ve mentioned before, and note that what we see in the skew between Eve and Elite tracks very well with those conclusions.
The message you get in Elite is that piloting a starship is a very personal thing. It isn’t an abstract thing involving armadas and ‘swarms’. It’s just you, your starship, and the Big Black.
Does this mean I would switch to FPP in WoW to try to replicate this experience? Not likely. WoW is designed around a different paradigm than Elite is, and doesn’t enforce the other players playing the same way, so I don’t see any point to it. Though, I will note, that it does suggest an interesting thing.
To wit: What if everyone in WoW was forced to first person perspective? Would the social dynamics of the game shift significantly?
Over the course of a couple of decades, I have pined for an experience I enjoyed back in the 80s thanks to a little 8-bit game called Elite. When I heard that one of the original creators was bringing the game into the 21st Century as an MMO-ish sort of thing, I was verra excite. It was launched this past December, but I held off for a few reasons.
Draenor had my full attention
The game had some … quirks to work out.
The game had some system requirements that were a bit out of my processing budget1.
Recently I’ve acquired the necessary horsepower and enough dosh to buy the thing, so I did so and, for the past three weeks or so, have been alternating my time between alt-ing in WoW and flying a Sidewinder from the rim of the galaxy towards Sol. For most of that time, I’ve been blogging about it.
Previously I mentioned WoW Insider as somewhat akin to that weird, cranky uncle that you had that the family loved like mad, but kinda wished he would keep things on the down low.
I knew something of rumors of a contingency plan at the time of that last post, but declined to mention those rumors because it was somewhat less than an actual rumor.
Well, the cat’s out of the bag now, and I’m pleased to see that the team has established a new website called Blizzard Watch, which is going to cover more than just WoW. That’s kind of ironic when you recognize that they were already covering all things Blizzard before AoL shut them down; this is more or less a nod at the reality of the situation.
This new effort is contingent on a crowdfunding effort through the Patreon site. The goal was to cover basic expenses at $8000.00 a month, with a couple of stretch goals. The campaign went live on Feb 3, 2015. I’ll let Alex speak for himself after that.
In the middle of the draft, I had to stop and start over. Because our Patreon passed that $8,000 milestone and hit $9,000. That’s the milestone at which we can begin bringing class columnists back into the fold. I couldn’t simply ignore that so I started the post over again.
To which was added another addenum.
The original opening of this post was as follows: As I’m writing this, our Patreon fund is currently sitting at 1,571 patrons contributing a total of $8,828 per month. We hit our first milestone of $8,000 exactly six hours after our site went live. Update: We’ve now passed over $10,000 per month.
If there was any doubt that the WoW community would come together to back this effort, it was gainsaid authoritatively by noon on the 4th of February.
I said before I have on many occasions mocked, poked, and otherwise bickered with some of the things I saw on the old WI website, but I also said that regardless of that, I read that site every day since they started posting, basically. Part of running a site like that is to spur discussion, and they did and they do. So I had absolutely no problem ponying up a few dollars a month to get this new enterprise rolling.
You can go as low as a dollar a month, which is practically nothing if you can afford 15 a month to play a game, and I can think of few enterprises more worthy in our own gaming community. So I encourage you to have a look at their Patreon site and kick in a few bucks as well. They might have made all their stretch goals already, but the more we can put into this, the better the site will be. If Anduin Wrynn was old enough to have a credit card, he’d do it! If Thrall knew what money was used for, he’d do it too!
Everybody’s got that cranky old uncle that they rarely get along with, but if anyone says one cross word about, you’d defend to the last. In my WoW-blogging world, WoW Insider is that cranky old uncle.
Earlier this week we heard rumors that Joystiq, parent of both Massively and WoW Insider, was going to be shut down, along with its companion gaming sites. A lot of people wrote about this, but in my heart, I hoped they were jumping the gun.
Today that hope was dashed. Tuesday, February 31 will be the day that the music dies for Joystiq and its kin, and WoW Insider logs out for good.
Now, when I say I didn’t get along with WoW Insider, that’s a sort of overstatement. I did tend to ridicule them for their over-reliance of fifty-dollar words, for apparent word inflation to up word counts, for seeming to be so intent on sounding impressive that they forgot to BE impressive in their writing. For meekness, for not getting in the middle of anything controversial2. For being as bland as store-bought biscuits and gravy-from-a-pouch. For playing it so safe as to make one wonder if they were getting kickbacks from Blizz.
I subtweeted the SHIT outta that, and I regret nothing.
And for all that bluster, I read that blog Every. Titans. Damned. Day. EVERY day. Because bland and overtaped though they might have been, they WERE a bunch of people trying to get it right. A room full of kindred spirits. And it was one place that you could go to reliably to find useful information about WoW.
I would have liked it if the fare were a little spicier. If they would have maybe tossed away a few of those thesauruses that they found outside the used book store. If they mixed it up a bit, stuck out that lower jaw and dared Blizz to knock that chip off their shoulder. But they chose a middle road and I can’t really begrudge them. It was a choice. It was a safe choice3. And one of us was getting paid to do it, and one of us wasn’t, so there’s some context into which my opinions can be placed.
Fact is, they provided something helpful – an omnibus, central clearing house of WoW stuff, and there is NO ONE in a position to take up that banner once it has fallen.4
Being critical is not the same as hating. I was critical of this site because I cared, and saw so much more potential there than they were able to deliver. I wouldn’t be tweeting those snarky little subtweets if I hadn’t been reading the site. And I would not waste my time reading the site if I didn’t care about what they were doing.
Cranky old Uncle Edwin was a gigantic pain in the ass, but he was OUR gigantic pain in the ass and we all miss him to this day. So it shall be with WoW Insider, in a slightly different way. I’m going to miss them. A lot.
There is, at this point, a tremendous vacuum in the WoW blogosphere. Someone could step in and make something out of it if they could get funding. I hope it happens. Maybe with members of this very crew.
I have one last thing to say, and it is the title of this Penny Arcade tribute.
So say we all.
Incidentally, the anniversary of the destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia. [↩]
And, in fact, for backing out of teh dramaz when they killed off Guildwatch all those years ago. [↩]
WoW is in a similar position to a lot of high / gothic fantasy and terrestrial MMOs, in that adding new play areas is often a case of the game designers pulling new zones out of their metaphorical asses. WoW is in a lot better position than most in that there are plenty of other canonical worlds out there, though oddly they’d rather go the time traveling grandfather killer route than actually explore those other worlds1.
And they said his predecessor was grim.
While I usually look forward to exploring other worlds, the thing I actually am enjoying when I do that is the exploration of new zones, regardless of where they are, and the discovery of fun things. But I’m very sensitive to the harmony of the zone with the established dogma of a fantasy world, and I often feel the “new world” approach is very disharmonious with the established dogma when it comes to my completionist makeup.
What is he going on about?
Let me put it all out there: I think that the three worlds we know now – Azeroth, Outland, and Draenor – are only partially explored, only partially revealed to us.
Draenor and Outland are, at this point, only conjecture on my part, but it’s common sense. Looking at the tiny island that makes up what we know of Draenor, there are only two possibilities. The first is that Draenor as we know it is a speck of land half the size of Khaz Modan and an ocean the size of Azeroth. The other possibility is that Draenor as we know it is just one land mass among many, that the world of Draenor is largely unexplored by ourselves.
This does of course open all sorts of possibilities, including lost tribes of Draenei, Orcses, Ogreses, and other denizens of Draenor that we have either encountered or been hinted to.
Honestly, they might be trolling us already.
And since Draenor as we know it is the bedrock upon which Outland is built, that also means that for every lost continent of Draenor, there is a possibility of the same lost continent of Outland, only with more shatteryness. For lore purposes, it also opens a lot of possibilities since we have 35 years of Azerothian lore on that shattered land mass and its supposed compatriots.
Azeroth only makes sense, from a climatic point of view, if you assume that it is only half explored.
Kalimdor and Khaz Modan make excellent sense climatically if you assume that they are northern hemisphere continents. Both continents are arctic to subarctic in the north, and tropical or arid in the south. Khaz Modan’s northern half is very European, while its south is very tropical. Kalimdor’s northern parts are very North American, and its south is very African – arid, dry, desert.
If Kalimdor and Khaz Modan were truly global, you’d expect Tanaris and Stranglethorn and Pandaria to be subarctic at the very least, rather than the tropical – dare I say, equatorial – climates they exhibit.
It only makes sense that the equator of Azeroth passes somewhere in the vicinity, or just south, of Pandaria, rather than in between the Arathi Highlands and Wetlands as depicted on some representations.
You Can’t Prove a Negative
Mea culpa – the possibility that those two continents are northern hemispheric does not in any way prove the existence of one or more southern hemispheric continents. It merely opens up the possibility. It provides an opening into which these land masses could be inserted.
For all we know, the southern hemisphere of Azeroth is an empty ocean, devoid of little more than the occasional island kingdom that would provide a content patch’s worth of exploration at most. But there is one or more expansions’ worth of space in this alleged southern hemisphere, and not exploiting it seems to me, as a certain fictional astronomer’sfictional father said, “a waste of space”.
The Solid Case Against
There is, however, a solid case against the possible existence of these alleged continents. In fact, there is a solid case against Kalimdor and Khaz Modan being northern continents rather than globally spanning. There are three such cases that I am aware of, in fact.
Hard to see detail, admittedly.
The first is revealed either when raiding Black Temple, or doing the Warlock “Green Fire” quests. At one point you can look up, and see, in the sky above you, the planet Azeroth. I have absolutely no explanation as to why this is – you can’t see Draenor from Azeroth, after all – and from any other point on Outland, you can’t see it. But from that particular point, you can. And the planet you see shows the two continents spanning the planet from north to south. This makes no sense whatsoever on many levels, but it is there as established game lore, and that’s that. Azeroth, as seen from The Black Temple, has no missing southern continents.
It also doesn’t appear to have Pandaria or Northrend, either. So the infallibility index of this sighting just took a dive. If you’re gonna use this sighting as an example of why the North is alone, it needs to at least include all of current lore within it. And the weak tea excuse of “But it was made before Northrend was part of the map” also works for “But it was made before the southern continents were part of the map” as well, now doesn’t it?
Moving on, then.
Dungeon delvers in Ulduar are familiar with the room just prior to Loken’s in Halls of Lightning. It bears within it a holographic representation of Azeroth. And, just like the BT sky-orb, this holo-orb shows no indications of there being more to Azeroth. It also doesn’t show Pandaria, so once again we have no evidence that this ancient holo-orb is actually accurate, or if the Titans are trolling us.
Finally, we have the globe that Algalon uses as an instrument of destruction against Azeroth. Not only does it show no more than the other two representations, it also shows one of Azeroth’s moons as a crescent, which is just weird if it’s supposed to be an accurate representation. Clearly it is not, nor intended to be.
These are the facts
The facts are, there is no evidence that there is a southern hemisphere beyond the shores of Tanaris and Uldum. No sign of a missing southern continent. No support for a theory that there is more to Azeroth than we can see right now. But there is also no solid evidence against it, nor against a missing continent (or raft thereof) on Outland and Draenor.
All we have is this.
in 2007, there was no reason to believe that Northrend or Pandaria were real, and they were not depicted in any available representation.
The physical climate of this imaginary world of Azeroth makes absolutely no sense without an unexplored southern hemisphere.
Draenor and Outland are too small to be entire planets. There must be more.
The Possibilities are Endless
We know that Blizz is near the end of its planned story arc for WoW. This arc, so widely known, has proven to be a burden that they’ve fought hard to shake off, coming up with the ridiculous plot of WoD as a way of bucking the system and shaking up our expectations. But even if the next two expansions adhere slavishly to that timeline, there is so much potential left in that prophesied timeline of Azeroth.
But imagine an entire set of southern continents equal in size and scope with Khaz Modan and Kalimdor. What might we find there? Feral Elves that predate the Titans? A whole continent of Trolls? What of Draenor / Outland? Might we find an entire land where the Draenei reverted to Eredar ways? Did Turalyon and Alleria start a new Alliance-based2 trade empire just out of sight? Where might there be dragons? A lost Ogre empire?
There are clues. That anonymous bit of land to the southwest on the Draenor map. The ports on Draenor! Why build massive ports unless you are trading with people that you can’t reach by land?
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’s been quite a bit of – well, “whinging” might not be totally inaccurate, but it might be viewed as some as offensive1, so we’ll call it “whinge-like sounding critique” – about the pre-expansion event associated with Wierdos of Draenor2, and that puzzles me. It’s as if they remember other pre-expansion events that I do not. Neither Pre-WotLK nor Pre-Cata were all that big a deal, and were done after a handful of quests, unless you were the kind of jerk that liked to get the zombie curse and grief your own faction3. I’d even say that the Cata event was much shorter. And maybe I missed the Panda event, but I really don’t remember one. So whatsamatta for u?
I just don’t get the haters. Well, I do. Haters gotta hate. If they got nothing to hate, they make something to hate. So yeah I get it, but I hatin.
OH DAMN. NOW I BE A HATR!
I do have one issue with the event, and it’s with the way that quest events are indicated in the game. They’ve moved from a “sparkle” highlight or a “gear” highlight to a “faint outline” highlight that I absolutely hate. Maybe I’ll get used to it, but right now I can see a LOT of trips to WoWHead in my future as I grapple with hidden items in Draenor.
If I had been ambivalent about the Iron Horde before, this would have changed it.
YOU KILLED KERI! YOU BASTARDS!
Us Dwarves have a fairly low threshold of outrage when it come to killing off our booze vendors.
Clearly, somebody’s going to have to pay for this.