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Blizzcon 2013 Reactions

Yea, yea. I told you I’d have them posted and I ain’t no liar! Except all those other times.  But those weren’t lies.  They were just coming Soon(tm) and then we were shelved because we didn’t feel the reward of reading those posts was worth the time investment in developing them.

CAN YOU TELL I’VE BEEN OBSERVING BLIZZCON?

Okay, let’s get this right out of the gate:

Vry’s Favorite Blizzcon Moments:

Chromie & Mekkatorque crash the Costume Contest:  Oh they didn’t even get the honorable mention, but this pair won my heart.  The gear shield, the wrench mace, the pure unabashed gnome love.  There was nothing to not appreciate about these two.  Especially since, unless that was damn impressive make up, they looked to be a bit up their in the years.  Older WoW players cosplaying GNOMES?  SOLD!

Conan O’Brien Attacks Arenas: If you didn’t have a chance to watch the Arena matches, you probably missed this.  Thankfully my girlfriend caught and showed it to me because oh my titans it was hysterical.  Conan O’Brien commenting on Arena matches without a clue in completely serious deadpan voice.  Jay Mohr WISHES he could have touched this performance.  The best part? “Of course I know what the global cooldown is. I find it condescending that you would even think I wouldn’t know that.  Now tell me who won the match because I don’t have a clue.”  Oh I won’t be forget those guffahs anytime soon.

Chris Metzen’s Voice:  THAT VOICE.

Garrisons: I’ll talk more about this further down, but I have always wanted a chunk of a MMO world to call my own.  A place that I could customize to some extent and make it feel like it was mine.  Well, Garrisons are it.  And just when I thought it was “oh that’s cool, all the need is like a trophy wall where you can unlock and show off cool stuff” BAM. That’s in there too.

New Expansion: Warlords of Draenor

NOTE: This section of my reactions contains SPOILERS for the story elements of the next expansion.  If you wish to avoid that, skip to the next sections where I simply discuss the mechanical changes to the game.  If you don’t want that spoiled either, you probably should just stop reading now.

So from how they’ve been describing this one, I’m guessing it will be uh… Savage?  So for those who haven’t heard the big WoW news, the next expansion is the speculated Warlords of Draenor.  Essentially the set up is thus:  Before standing trial, Garrosh escapes and with the aid of an unknown time traveler (Some have guessed Wrathion, I suspect Kairoz) and traveled back to around 2 years before the orcish clans drank the blood of Mannoroth on Draenor.  From there he has begun to unite the clans into a single ‘Iron Horde’ and rebuilt the Dark Portal to serve as a time/space gateway to modern present day Azeroth to conquer it with a united Horde in its prime just like he was told in the bedtime stories.

I don’t really have that much of an issue with that plot.  It actually kind of seems like a cool next chapter in the tale.  Unlike a lot of people, I haven’t had the issues with Garrosh’s characterization.  He’s an orc that idolizes the Horde of yesteryear, who completely missed out on all the bad crap that happened because of it, and wants to recapture that old Horde bad asses-ness.  The time travel aspect does intrigue me though.  The Devs were quick to point out that Time Travel is more of a ‘How’ and not a ‘What’ of the expansion, and as such will not be the main focus.  Still I’d love to see some Bronze Dragonflight in-fighting, rips in space and time appearing as events, and things like that.  It will be nice to go back and see some older aspects of Warcraft lore fleshed out with a more modern problem we are trying to solve.

Some of the questing news intrigued me as well.  The idea of sparse questing, icons on the map where significant story quests are located versus the optional side chains, and more focus on leveling through random events (ala the Timeless Isle) or dungeons is calling a lot of flashbacks of Guild Wars 2.  That’s not bad, I suppose.  But I am curious how it will work.  Will leveling become a tedious mob grind because everyone is hunting events so fast that there is no chance to grab them unless you are camping them like on the Timeless Isle?  Will the hidden treasures be character specific like on the Timeless Isle?

On the note of quest, I suppose the announcement of ‘hardly any dailies’ isn’t much of a surprise.  Blizz seems like it always acts in giant swings of a pendulum.  People complain about nothing to do?  HERE’S A ZILLION DAILIES!  Oh, that’s too many dailies? NO DAILIES AT ALL! Which is sad for me, because as I’ve noted so many times I actually liked having the dailies to do.  It’s something I actually enjoyed.  Except the Golden Lotus which just felt unbalanced and long.

Level 90 Boost

OMIGAWD THE SKY IS FALLING! SELLING LEVEL 90’S!  PAY TO WIN! PAAAAAY TOOOO WIIIIIIIN! Okay, okay, joking aside I actually dig on this idea.  Skipping right to the current content is great for those who have fallen behind or those of us who were tired of dragging every alt they want to play with through a gazillion levels.  Maybe the lower level content is fun for the first few times, and I will happily say the story stuff is fun to experience pretty much always for me.  It DOES get tedious.  And it is a bit of a disuasion to those who look to come back and think “My buddies are all 90, my highest toon is like 64.  Why bother?  I’ll always be behind them now.”

Is there room for abuse in buying 90s?  I suppose.  That really depends on how you define abuse.  Is it going to ruin the game for me if other people can just drop wads of cash to boost their army of alts?  I honestly can’t say that it will.  I tend to worry about my gameplay and not what other people are doing.  So if they want their sparkle ponies (okay, I do have one of those.  It’s name is Twilight DOOMSPACKLE.  Capitalized just like that.), or level 90s, or anything like that – let them.  I personally don’t care.

Garrisons

All I can really say is FINALLY.  Player Housing comes to WoW at last.  And right on the heels of hearing a rumor that a dev mentioned that ship customization in SWTOR will likely never happen due to the fact it is used in so many cutscenes (*sneez*BS!*/sneeze* Oooh pardon).  Not only will you be able to access other professions, send your followers on missions – even offline – that might result in loot for you, and customize an entire town to suit each character needs and wants, then add things like trophies and other vanity things earned by acheivements and whatnot to make it look cool.  Add a dash of being able to bring your friends in to see it and you’ve got a killer feature that has my attention instantly.  THIS is what makes the expansion worth it for me.  This is everything I’ve been wanting for years!

UI Improvements

Adding a toybox for all the fun items, and an heirloom interface for truly account wide heirlooms?  Potential for built in tabard storage?!  AND TALK OF FUTURE POTENTIAL IN A DIABLO III LIKE TRANSMOG SYSTEM WHERE YOU DON’T HAVE TO KEEP THE ITEMS TO TRANSMOG THEM (Granted, won’t be there for the expansion launch, but they’re still talking about it at least) ?!?!?!  It’s like christmas for the backpack space starved Vry and his minions of ever collecting crap alts.  This will free up so much bag space reserved for my toys and hopefully tabards.  Plus allow me to use those heirlooms on the three different servers I play on!  Oh happiness!  Oh joy of joys!

Some of the other things they’re adding is just slightly more conveinent stuff like letting crafting mats stack up to 100 to save space and the ability to craft from the bank.  It’s nice and all, but I wish they’d just rip off the account bank from Guild Wars 2 that has specific slots for each type of crafting item separate from your normal bank, let you craft from that, and have the button in your bags to automatically deposit all your crafting goods to that crafting bank from anywhere in the world.  That’s convenient! But one step at a time I suppose.  I guess just mimicking their questing system is enough for now. Hee hee.

Itemization Changes

Wow.  Talk about an overhaul.  This is really where Blizz stands out in comparison to companies like EA/Bioware Austin stand out.  The massive sweeping changes to things like the core mechanics and gear in their game.  For instance: Hit, expertise, dodge, parry?  All gone.  Intellect plate? Gone.  Now your armor changes primary stats to fit your spec.  A pally’s armor will instantly go from strength to intellect if they swap specs from Retribution to Holy.  And if that’s not convienent, I don’t know what is.  Instead it seems that the focus is going to be creating diverse bonuses to gear.  Not everything has a gem slot.  Gem slots don’t give bonuses, aren’t part of the budget, and gems are gonna be way more powerful.  Not everything can be enchanted.  Enchants will be diverse and powerful and give more selection to the items that can be enchanted.  Items will have tertiary stats like life stealing, cleave (adds AOE damage and heals), movement speed, or sturdiness (no durability loss) and won’t be included in the item budget.

Honestly what it sounds like is that items will have a randomized ‘third spot’ for things like tertiary stats or a gem slot or an enchantment slot.  Kind of like in Diablo III (honestly, WoW seems to be borrowing a lot from Diablo III in this expansion.  Not bad at all either.)  Which makes me wonder if this will apply to raids too outside of tier armor.  Like one week you get Shatterstorm, Bad Ass Sword of Some Orc with a gem slot, the next week Shatterstorm, Bad Ass Sword of Some Orc with the Cleave stat drops instead.  None of these are part of the item budget, so you could have a set item with a randomized spot on it so there’s more variety in the items that drop.

Finally, the item squish is happening.  But they’re assuring everyone that they are gonna to take care to make sure that solo-ing old raids and whatnot continues to be a viable past time what with its recent rise in popularity with transmog and battle pets since the first time they talked about the item squish (when soloing old raids was something that they didn’t mind but weren’t gonna go out of their way to support with future changes).  Honestly, I am indifferent to the item squish.  Big numbers, little numbers, as long as the bosses die I’ll be fine with it.

Raiding Changes

The big changes here is the whole LFR/Normal/Heroic (Formerly LFR/Flex/Normal) is all flex, with the super heroic “Mythic” mode being 20 person only.  I don’t do heroic raids.  I just don’t.  Never have.  Unless it’s two expansions old and I’m farming titles, chievies, mounts, or transmog stuff.  My bigger question is that all non-Mythic modes will be ‘Flex’ and scale from 10-25 people.  That includes LFR.  Does that mean as long as we have 10 people in the LFR group that the stuff will scale to it?  I can see that being good and bad honestly.  As a primarily LFR raider (Yes it’s raiding. I’m a raider. I enter a raid where raid is a group that exceeds the group size of 5.) I can see having a flexible size being great for late nights when gathering 25 isn’t nearly as easy as it would be at peak hours, but it also means that as long as there’s 10 people in the group, there’s less safety from being kicked.  No more is there this “Oh if we kick them, we’ll have to wait for more people.”  Oh no.  Now it will scale.  Kick all you want, and we’ll keep plowing through.  It’s a double edged blade for sure.

New Character Models

If you want to see the thing that flat out sold me on the next expansion, here:

bconArtOfWoW052

Oh yes. New gnomes.  I’m there.

Final Thoughts

Warlords of Draenor seems to be a pretty cool expansion.  It’s not a “THIS WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING!” expansion like it kind of felt with Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria were.  Which is good.  Because those expansions didn’t change everything, so maybe a little less hype and a bit more ‘Ooh this will be neat’ this time around will do the game some good.  This expansion FEELS like an expansion, and not a revolution.  And that’s okay.  I’ll be interested to see where it goes and what happens as we move forward to it.  It definitely has some features I am looking forward to trying, and is whispering of some very big changes to questing that I am excited to see.

I know I didn’t really go into Starcraft or Diablo III: Reaper of Souls much here, because honestly I don’t follow them nearly as much as I do with WoW.  There’s a Diablo III expansion coming, it’s adding a bad ass transmog system that WoW needs to steal like yesterday.  Starcraft II has a third installment coming.  I don’t think they announced anything about it.  There ya go.

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Blizzard’s Storytelling: Bad or Just Unfair?

story

A lot of times I joking will post stuff from the WoW Forums, or poke fun at the BioWare forums.  I know that really it’s just a festering pool of every inane complaint where the smallest slight is trumped up like a national tragedy, and every idea demands the weight of the cure of cancer, but sometimes… just sometimes…  stuff like THIS pops up.  And it really, REALLY, gets under my skin.

GOOD storytelling isn’t always FAIR storytelling.  Everyone wants their faction to be the heroes and to win the war and come out on top.  There is a reason that Warcraft: Orcs and Humans and Warcraft II had TWO separate endings.  In Warcraft 3, the factions united to drive out the greater threat of the Burning Legion.  In WoW, a game built on continuity to the point where the slightest changed is burned in effigy among the chants of “Retcon! Retcon!” that the former option is impossible, and the latter has been done to death in every expansion.

Now you are probably grumbling at this point and saying “Oh Vry, so you think the Alliance should just lie down and take it?” Not at all, I will happily go on the record saying that the Alliance seriously should have had more victories, especially in the Eastern Kingdoms.  Honestly a quest line in the barely touched Dustwallow Marsh where the Alliance forged a path into the Southern Barrens by breaking through Horde strongholds would have been nice, since the Horde was busy dealing with the Grimtotem threat in the region to begin with.

FAIR storytelling is what people seem to want.  That special kind of story, where everyone wins, Everything blow is matched for an equal blow, and every loss is always met with an equal gain so that nothing is ever really lost.  I’ve played that game.  It was called SWTOR.  Seriously, go play through both factions stories and you’ll see.  Both Factions “win” Correllia.  Taris and Balmorra are lost and then retaken. And the only reason the Imperial’s are losing (or so we’re told, we never really see much losing going on from the Imp side) is because the Sith keep shooting themselves in the foot with stupid internal power struggles.

Speaking of stupid internal power struggles…  Loremaster Cho points something out that I think is very telling of where this story is going.  The Horde is tearing itself apart from the inside,  every race only concerned with themselves: The Blood Elves feel used and have decided to act on their own,  Sylvanus and her Forsaken have always acted in their own interests, the Goblins are naturally out to make a buck because that’s how goblins are, and even Baine enters the Battlefield Barrens story hesitate to join Vol’jin in open revolt because he must think of the Tauren before the rest of the Horde.  Only Vol’jin and his Darkspears seem to be working for the betterment of the Horde supposedly.  I say that because it’s unclear how much of this revolt is taking back the Horde from Garrosh, and how much is just straight up revenge for his treatment of the Trolls.

The Alliance on the other hand, is uniting together.  Bridges are being built, issues being resolved, and treaties made.  There is something happening with the Alliance.  It’s not just “Yea, we’re IN the Alliance, but we aren’t THE Alliance” anymore.  And while we haven’t seen the payday on this yet, I have no doubt that Blizz is laying the groundworks for SOMETHING with the Alliance.  Heck, the Garrosh storyline took 4 whole expansions to play out in totality.

What Blizzard is doing is GOOD storytelling.  They’re laying the foundations and foreshadowing events, they are establishing characters and their relationships, and the events that unfold make sense in the greater narrative.  I’m not going to say that Blizzard’s storytelling is PERFECT, and hardly what I would call FAIR, but it is most definitely GOOD.  There’s lots of hiccups here or there, or plot lines that vanish for months/years before resolving that drive me nuts.  But I always remember that storytelling in an MMO is very different from how you tell a story in a single player game, and definitely different from how you tell a story in a book.  Compared to some MMOs I’ve played, they’ve definitely got a good story going.  Compared to others, it’s still a bit lack luster but fits for the style of game they’re making.

Personally, I’d rather have a good story than a fair one.  But maybe that’s why I don’t pour out my frustration and bile onto the forums. (Besides, I have a blog for that)

CDevs? CDevs Post? Post Devs Post!

Some people play WoW for the PvP, some do it for the raids, and others want to get the shiniest gear and then rub in the face of others (Don’t roll your eyes. You know they exist. We all do.) Me?  Well, I play WoW for the Lore.  The stories, the characters and the idea of ever evolving world.  I latch onto the continuity of WoW like a comic book fan beating their head into their desk because DC decided to bring back the multiverse (That reminds me, I still need to read ’52’).

So when the Creative Development team at Blizz decides to post a Q&A, I take notice.  More than that, I comb through that thing with a fine tooth comb.  More than more than that, here are the results of my combing:

Q: Are the Warcraft and World of Warcraft RPG books considered canon?

A: No. The RPG books were created to provide an engaging table-top role-playing experience, which sometimes required diverging from the established video game canon. Blizzard helped generate a great deal of the content within the RPG books, so there will be times when ideas from the RPG will make their way into the game and official lore, but you are much better off considering the RPG books non-canonical unless otherwise stated.

I made a passing joke about this on Twitter that this eliminates half of WoWpedia.  They actually responded saying that it doesn’t but they welcome feedback on the site.  Of course, they said this while the site (and all of the Curse network) was down.  Dare I call their bluff?  I don’t even know where to begin with all the information that I’ve used here on this very blog that came from the RPG books.  Info on the Dead Goliaths?  Yup.  Populations of various cities, towns and countries?  Uh huh.  Details about day to day life in certain places in the game as well as info on races and characters?  Oh there’s a ton of it in those books.  See, WoWpedia can claim that this minor statement doesn’t invalidate a good chunk of the lore they keep stashed on their shelves, but it has essentially rendered any article citing those books as unreliable as most people think the real Wikipedia is.  I’ll be using WoWpedia and WoWwiki with a grain of salt from here on out.

Q: Where is X? (X = Calia Menethil, Turalyon, Alleria Windrunner, Med’an, Gallywix, etc.)

A: There are several “missing” characters in the Warcraft universe, but they are not forgotten! While we’d love to talk about these characters, doing so would spoil a number of the plots we have for Cataclysm and beyond. Believe us when we say that you will definitely hear about these characters when we’re ready to talk about them!

The trick to this answer isn’t that they let slip that they haven’t forgotten about these characters. It’s the little bit about plots for Cataclysm “and beyond”.  You catch that?  I wonder how far ahead they’ve got planned.  The next expansion?  The next three?  Also the choice of examples here are very interesting.  Calia Menethil, now sole heir to the throne of Lordaeron and had a crush on Deathwing’s human disguise, could she be returning to face off against the Forsaken?  Maybe she was hiding out in the safety of Gilneas until the Cataclysm?  Hmm…  My brains a boil with the possibilities!  And Alleria (no doubt ashamed of her sisters) and Turalyon, lost during the expedition into Outland, could this be a hint at a return to the desolate remains of Draenor?  Or their triumphant return during Azeroth’s darkest hour?

Med’an and Gallywix are not so surprising.  One’s a AWOL faction leader who is bound to turn up eventually (Fingers crossed for Her Tallness to boot his fat goblin butt out of office though) and the other is a Jesus allegory second only to Thrall who may be the key to finishing out this expansion ala Sunwell Girl. (Naturally Med’an will be even more upset when he learns what the Forsaken did to his REAL father.)

Q: Why isn’t there a(n) X Archaeology branch? (X = Tauren, Aqir, Faceless One, Furbolg, Murloc, etc.)

A: This is more of a game design question than a CDev one, but it was asked enough that we wanted to at least point out the following: just because a race doesn’t have an Archaeology branch now doesn’t mean there aren’t artifacts for that race, nor does it mean that the race isn’t a candidate for possible future additions to the profession.

Yes, yes, you can add more stuff to archaeology later.  We know, we know.  Moving on.

Q: Have we seen a true titan yet in World of Warcraft?

A: No, only their creations.

Well that closes out a lot of speculation doesn’t it? I had always assumed that everything we’ve seen thus far were just creations (Guardians of Ulduar) or interns (Algalon) of the Titans. But it’s nice to have a confirmation.  Especially on Algalon who really could have gone either way with him being a lesser Titan of the pantheon or just their…  /sunglasses Star Intern. YEEEEAAAA…

Q: Are night elves related to trolls in some way?

A: See issue #5 of the World of Warcraft Official Magazine!

Low blow, Blizz.  Low blow.  Somehow I expect to flip open the magazine and just find the big words “Yes” in there.  Come on, do we really need to dance around this?  Especially when just further down you state that Pre-Titans there were no night elves but there were trolls.  Do you want us to believe that elves were titan creations too?  Really?  Were there pointy eared stone golems running amuck that got corrupted by the Curse of the Flesh and they just happened to look like the homo sapien to the trolls’ neanderthal?  YES.  ELVES ARE RELATED TO TROLLS.  That simple.  But nooo… you had to pimp your magazine.

Q: What is the relationship between the Ancients of the Emerald Dream and the loa?

A: Troll druids visiting the Moonglade have been overheard calling the wisps who reside there loa, just as they refer to Goldrinn, Aviana, and the other returned Ancients as loa. Night elves and tauren have tried to counsel these trolls on “correct” druidic nomenclature, but the trolls thus far have been stuck in their ways.

This could indicate one of two things. A) Trolls simply have different names for  things, and that includes Ancients, nature spirits, and perhaps even Old Gods. or B) The trolls simply refer to or assume anything supernatural is related to a loa.  “Hey Mr. Troll! This is a lighter.”  “Dat be a powahful loa, mon.”  “No…  it’s a lighter.”  “Loa.”  “Light-er”  “Lo-ah”  You get the drift.  Though if the Ancients are just Loa, like how Goldrinn is also Lo’gosh, does that mean that you can siphon their power away from them and become more powerful like the Drakkari did?  Hmm…

Q: If trolls are able to regenerate their limbs, why didn’t Zul’jin’s arm grow back?

A: For the most part, it is the speed at which trolls regenerate that makes them formidable foes. When in balance with the loa of their tribe, they are also able to regrow digits (fingers and toes). Tales abound in troll culture, however, of those blessed by the loa with extraordinary regenerative abilities, such as the ability to regrow limbs and even vital organs lost in battle. The tale of Vula’jin the Void speaks of how he regrew almost his entire body after standing in a pool of shadowflame. But just as the loa can bless, they can also curse; troll children are taught legends of those cursed by the loa, unable to heal even flesh wounds, to instill the proper respect for their patron spirits.

Really?  Cause the patron spirits seemed pretty keen in Zul’Aman to…  /sunglasses Lend a hand? (That was the last Sunglasses joke. I promise.) I know that this is essentially the voice of god telling us that he didn’t get his arm back because he was cursed by the gods (for defending his people? Going against high elves and humans?  What exactly did Zul’jin do to tick them off exactly?) but would it really be that hard to say that the wound was cauterized before it would grew back so he wouldn’t die of blood loss?  I mean he was only regenerating 5 hp per second (but to be fair, there was nothing the Alliance could do about it.)

Q: What races were on Azeroth before the coming of the titans?

A: Besides the elementals, the only known sentient races on Azeroth when the titans’ forces arrived to subdue the Old Gods were the trolls, the race known as “faceless ones,” and the aqir. Due to the Old Gods’ war against the titans, as well as the extensive terraforming that followed the war’s conclusion, records of what races existed before even the Old Gods’ arrival have likely been lost forever.

See! No night elves!  Just trolls, Aqir and “Faceless Ones”.  Which is slowly become a very broad category actually. We’ve seen faceless ones in Northrend, we’ve seen them in Vashj’ir, and a couple of other places too but they generally differ in appearance.  My only assumption is that a Faceless One is some sort of highly corrupted form created by an Old God, and that each Old God creates slightly different looking Faceless Ones.  The Water-type Faceless Ones are created by the Dark Below, which according to WoWwiki is a plane of monsters and demons possibly below the crust of Azeroth.  This information comes from the Manual of Monsters, one of the Warcraft RPG books, which means it’s worth JACK SQUAT.  *head to desk* Hands up for the folks who think the Dark Below actually being Old God related? Possibly N’zoth?  Yea I thought so.

Q: What contact, if any, have the tol’vir in Uldum had with the rest of Azeroth over the course of their existence?

A: Although the systems keeping Uldum hidden from the rest of the world worked flawlessly from the ordering of Azeroth up until the Cataclysm, the tol’vir inside did have some knowledge of what was going on outside their home: many of the titans’ security devices in Uldum were in communication with the other titanic cities (Ulduar, Uldaman, etc.). The Halls of Origination were actually the system that Algalon the Observer intended to activate upon his arrival in Ulduar… which the players prevented from automatically triggering when they sent the “Reply-Code Alpha” signal from Dalaran.

In case you were wondering what the actual answer to the actual question was, it was ‘No’.  They haven’t had any contact.  You kinda have to infer that from the answer we were given about…  Wait.  Wait wait wait wait WAIT.  Algalon the Observer had the authority to activate the Halls of Origination?  Never mind the stuff about the tol’vir, what was the point of Reply Code Alpha then?  If the titans had entrusted Algalon with the power the re-originate the planet using the Genesis Device – I mean Halls of Origination, then shouldn’t Azeroth not being rebooted been enough of an all clear?  I thought the whole point of that was that Algalon was here to, you know, OBSERVE and then report his findings to the titans along with whether or not the planet needs to be rebooted.  We stop him before he can send his report, so he gives us the all-clear code to send back instead.

So did we stop Algalon by defeating him and showing him that we don’t need to be rebooted, or did we stop him by sending the signal?  Because one of these answers invalidates the other.  You can’t have your plot cake and eat it too, Blizz.  Don’t make me contact the Red Shirt Guy.

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