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My Love/Hate Relationship with Illidan & Other Lore Thoughts From 7.3

!Patch 7.3 Spoilers Ahead!

Illidan “The Betrayer” Stormrage.  Imprisoned for 10,000 years for creating a second Well of Eternity at Mount Hyjal in an attempt to preserve the Night Elves’ magic and immortality after the War of the Ancients.  Consumed the Skull of Gul’dan to empower himself into a half demon monstrosity so he would have the strength to take on the Burning Legion’s second invasion. Forged an army of Demon Hunters and enslaved Demons to prepare for a third conflict with the Legion.  Used the Sargerite Keystone to open a gateway between Azeroth and Argus to force the champions of the world to deal with the demon threat once and for all.

Illidan is a character for whom the ends have always justified the means.  Even his own life has been regarded as but a tool to achieve his ultimate goal of eradicating the Burning Legion. For some, this can be a noble endeavor that one should risk it all to stop a unending evil in the universe.  However, this same traits can be that of a monster that destroys everything in his path to achieve that end.  It’s probably one of the best recipes possible for a divisive character that people will either love or hate.

Which brings us to the latest World of Warcraft patch, in which Xe’ra – the Naaru we have been working with through our Order Halls and has been showing us the past events of Illidan’s life to show us how The Betrayer was truly meant to be the Chosen One to end the age of demons – is destroyed in a confrontation with Illidan who has no desire to be bound to a greater power once again or playing the part of a chosen one.  The action shadows the conversation Illidan has earlier with the Prophet Velen where Illidan says that the Draenei have been using their faith in the Light to justify doing nothing in the face of the horrors that befell their people:

Not stopping the Eredar from dealing with Sargeras? Gotta trust in that Light.

Lead the Burning Legion in a chase across the Great Dark causing the eradication of world after world? Gotta trust that Light.

That’s the thing about Illidan that makes him such a complex character.  Not that his motivations or personality are very diverse or even terribly interesting but that despite the horrible methodology that harms countless numbers of people for the greater good – he’s usually right.  Without Mount Hyjal, Elven society would have likely fell apart. The Legion would continue to come to Azeroth until its world-soul was dead or corrupted. The Naaru are not the benevolent creatures people treat them as.

Some people have noted that there’s a quick mention that Xe’ra sealed Alleria Windrunner in a void pit for 60 some odd years for disobeying her.  Which is weird considering how kindly and nice the Naaru are, right?  Except we’ve known the Naaru weren’t to be trusted since the Burning Crusade.  Kirrik the Awakened, an Arrakoa who converted to Light worship under the Naaru A’dal from traditional Terokk/Shadow worship, says: “Those who have not given themselves over to the Light are mere servants of evil. They must be destroyed.”  These are the teachings of the Naaru.  Join us or die.

So was Illidan right to destroy Xe’ra? There’s definitely a worthwhile debate to be had there. Was Xe’ra wrong to try and perform a forced purification on Illidan?  Oh yea.  Of course, that would have been where the Naaru would draw the line as well I expect.  Based on what Kirrik the Awakened says, and the fact that he tasks you with such things as destroying Arrakoa eggs so they would not be born of Terokk instead of the Light, I would say that if Illidan resisted that Xe’ra would have simply destroyed him.

Stuff like this is why I never could get on board with the I-Hate-Illidan train or the Notice-Me-Illibeans-Senpai bandwagon.  He’s in neither camp.  Heck, I’d struggle to call him a Hero or even an Anti-Hero.  He acts more like a force of nature than anything.  He just acts in a purely utilitarian manner without worry about the consequences because the potential good outweighs any cost.  It’s like saying Voting is a hero or an anti-hero.  No, it’s just a thing we do as a society to improve things and it’s not perfect but damn it’s better than being gnawed on by a literal infinite number of demons.  I may have mixed up a few wires in that last sentence.

In another side note, the thought occurs to me that I have no idea why the Naaru are against the Legion.  The cosmology that Blizzard has set forth thus far is that the opposing element to Fel is actually Arcane, with them representing the spheres of Chaos and Order respectively.  The Naaru are born from the Light whose opposite is the Void with the Void Lords and Old Gods being the opposite of the Naaru.  But the Burning Legion – in its original incarnation – was started because Sargeras decided it was a safer bet to destroy worlds infested with the Void than chance them infecting a world-soul and creating a Void Titan.

So if the Burning Legion hates the Void, and the Naaru hate the Void…  Why do the Naaru hate the Burning Legion?  Other than apparently the Light is the natural enemy of all ‘negative’ elements since it also apparently can one-shot creatures of the Death domain when its opposite is Life (overseen by the Wild Gods like the Ancients or Loa.) The Light is overpowered.  No wonder they nerfed paladins to the ground, baby.

A final note on Illidan that I stumbled upon while researching some of this but couldn’t work it in anywhere else.  Apparently, during the Illidan novel, the events of Legion are foreshadowed when an elder naaru visits Illidan while he controls the Black Temple in Outland and shows him a vision of one possible future where Illidan leads the Army of Light against the Legion.  Illidan views his image as being cool, level headed and hopeful – and at that moment, because the vision showed him happy-ish, Illidan decided that he could not trust the Naaru.  And I think that’s hilarious.  Illidan is probably the most self-aware character in the game right now. “In the future I’m happy? I’m NEVER happy! You and your kind are liars!” “Chosen One? Are you kidding me? Have you seen my approach to problem solving?”

So what do you all think about Illidan’s recent developments?  Good? Bad? ‘I Hate Blizzard and Deliberately Seek Out Posts About Them on the Interweb to Voice My Displeasure’?

(P.S.  Kudos to the animation team at Blizzard.  From the blood on Illidan’s arm to the facial change when Xe’ra mentions how “Little” he got for his sacrifice – great subtle touches that sold that scene that for me)

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LFR vs Normals: How Easy is Too Easy?

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So the big thing yesterday was the release of the first LFR wing for the Emerald Nightmare in World of Warcraft: Legion and the immediate revelation that the quest items for the Balance of Power questline were not dropping from it.  This was soon confirmed by Blizzard that these items were not intended to drop from LFR, and that the questline and the artifact appearances it unlocked (as unlocking the first appearance in any row is required to receive the other three) were reserved for those who tackled Normal or higher difficulties of the raids only as the appearances were meant to be a cosmetic reward for tackling challenging pre-made group content.

This sparked a massive debate across the internet and most of it could be boiled down into the age old ‘casual vs hardcore’ nonsense that has plagued gaming for years now.  However, the thing that struck me was more so the idea that people shouldn’t complain because ‘normals are easy’.  Wait.  Isn’t that the exact reason you said this SHOULDN’T be in LFR?  Because LFR is easy?  I saw this argument used dozens of times in the past 24 hours:

Content X should be gated behind difficulty Y because difficulty Z isn’t challenging. But people shouldn’t complain because difficulty Y isn’t challenging.

If you are confused by that statement, welcome to my world.  The only explanation I can get is that the ‘challenge’ comes from assembling a premade group and actually staying as a cohesive whole long enough to kill the bosses.  An easy task for those who have existing guilds and raid teams that they are part of, less so for those who are without.  The ‘challenge’ for them becomes convincing a guild to give them a slot on the raid team or the far more daunting task of convincing a pick up group to let them come along.

That latter situation is where the headaches come from for most who are complaining about this change.  Be it social anxiety, scheduling conflicts, or simply impossible recruitment requirements (Day 1 Emerald Nightmare ‘Plz know the fights’, item level requirements that eclipse what the content drops, requiring 1+ legendaries) finding a PUG is simultaneously easy to do and difficult to join.  Oh sure, there’s a group finder, but let’s hope you get lucky on whether or not you get an invite in any timely fashion.

The same can be said about Mythic Dungeons.  As a Retribution Paladin, I’ve managed to snag one invite to a Mythic after dozens of applications to join one. Which then promptly fell apart when the tank and healer bailed due to “low dps”.  However, Mythics are a gate for a number of quests including my professions.  But it’s okay, people tell me, Mythics are mind numbingly easy.  Perhaps but then the most difficult boss again becomes actually getting a group.

So what seems to be the crux of this whole thing seems less to be about what is easy or difficulty and more so a push back against matchmaking groups.  The Dungeon Finder/LFR tools make the process of getting a group too easy. So we must reward those who eschew convenience and reward them with cosmetics and their own dungeon tier that is completely optional except for when it is not (again with the Engineer profession quest requiring a Mythic dungeon – that drops ilvl 840 gear – to get a recipe that makes a ilvl 815 item.)

I suppose in some ways we’ve gone full circle.  We’re back to the Molten Core days where “wrangling the cats” was the hardest part of the job.  Only now you get exclusive rewards along with the better gear.

So am I upset about this? Eh. Maybe a bit peeved, but hardly anything I’d quit the game over.  Blizzard did confirm in a blue post that story/profession quests that require raids will be doable in LFR, so you won’t get locked out of finishing Suramar and getting the last Pillar of Creation.  It’s just the “Valorous” artifact appearance that is locked behind the wall.  And while my inner completionist screams “nooooooo!” I’ve long learned how to deal with him.  Mostly single player RPGs.

(I AM still irritated about that Mythic dungeon engineering quest though. Because that’s just dumb. 830 ilevel requirement to get an 815 helm? Who did that math?)

Leave No Witnesses: The Lost Isles SI:7 Mystery

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If you’ve ever rolled a Goblin in the World of Warcraft and played through their starting area where Deathwing descends to erupt Mount Kezan after getting hit with a football (Or at least that is my interpretation of events) you’ll get a cutscene after boarding the ship to get the heck off the island where the goblin ship stumbles upon a fierce naval battle between the Horde and the Alliance.  Strangely enough its the Alliance who turns cannons on you first and blows the goblin shipped pack with you in the prison hold below due to being tricked into being sold as a slave.  Now of course this is a good reason for the goblins to want to join the Horde right?  That the Alliance are a bunch of jerks and the Gobbies were just sooooo innocent.  Of course the goblins had no way of knowing that it was the Alliance that shot them from below deck and even more interesting to me is the comment that the Alliance commander makes before they fire on you – No witnesses.  They want no witnesses to what they’re doing.

Why?

It’s no strange concept to anyone on Azeroth that the Horde and the Alliance have been at each others throats since the Wrathgate broke whatever hope there was for the vulnerable peace that was forged in the wake of the Third War and the Legion’s attack on the World Tree Nordrassil. So what were the Alliance doing that was so suspicious that they didn’t want any witnesses to their actions?  Well, we do get a few clues as we continue our quest to find a new home on the Lost Isles.  One is that the ship that attacked us was carrying a very important prisoner: Goel the World Shaman, Former Warchief Thrall or Green Jesus depending on how you want to view him. Thrall was on his way to the Maelstrom to help the rest of the Earthen Circle protect the churning hole in the center of the ocean from imploding the planet after Deathwing, that Old God driven mad dragon aspect of being a nuisance, destroyed the World Pillar in the Plane of Earth that held things together.  And wow wee does this sound like Chris Metzen’s D&D campaign notes when I write it all out like that.  I should steal some of this for my own campaign.

Back on topic, we also learn that the ship is being crewed and overseen by the SI:7, the Alliance’s black ops secret forces. Which would make sense if you wanted someone to go on a secret mission to capture the former warchief of the Horde and the current holder of the title ‘World Shaman’ that was made up just for him.  The real question comes in the form of WHY the SI:7 and in turn the Alliance would want to capture Thrall.  The Alliance leadership KNOWS he has stepped down from his position with the Horde and left Garrosh Hellscream to lead to rabble.  They KNOW that Thrall is on a diplomatic mission to aid the Earthen Circle to help stop the world – that place that they too live – from shaking itself apart. So why try and stop him?

I think the answer strangely enough comes 80 levels or so later on the opposite faction.  When doing the quest chain for the Alliance to head into the Twilight Highlands, you find yourself investigate some strange activity around Stormwind with the young Prince Anduin who has begun to take a more active interest in his people’s welfare.  Throughout the questline you make something of a disturbing discovery that the current head of SI:7, the man standing to the right hand side of the King himself, is a member of the Twilight’s Hammer – a cult devoted to the Elementals and Old Gods that seeks to bring about the End of the World.  You ultimate stop him and prevent an assassination plot on King Wrynn but this plot element may in fact be the missing piece to solving the question of the Goblin starter zone all the way back at the start of the game.

Allow me to speculate.  The SI:7, a powerful organization with little oversight that carries out secret missions for the safety of the Alliance and headed by a man who is secretly in a cult that wants to bring about the apocalypse, attacks and kidnaps the former leader of the Orcs who just so happens to be on a mission of peace to help stop the apocalypse.  They attack the Horde ships hoping to sink them and chock the whole thing up to inter-faction conflict while they secure their prisoner and inadvertently aid Deathwing in bringing about the Hour of Twilight (ie said apocalypse.) However, a group of goblins accidentally happens on the scene and knowing if the word got out that this was more than just two groups that hated each other attacking each other got out – especially by the hands of goblins who are by nature greedy, not above blackmail, and have had dealings with both factions previously –  well, you’d probably want to make sure that your secret activities of abusing your authority to help further the goals of an insane dragon would remain hush hush and thus give a simple order: No witnesses.

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I submit for your approval that the leader of the SI:7 ordered those ships to destroy any witnesses because they actively sought out Thrall’s ship and Thrall himself to stop him from ever reaching the Maelstrom.  Does my idea seem far fetched?  Perhaps, but remember this is the same expansion that required you to play an Undead to level 20 to find out what happened to the rest of the Worgen starting zone story as well. Or the truth behind the Tragedy of Camp Taurajo that required playing both the Alliance and Horde side of the story AND had additional information in the Jaina novel about what happened. The Cataclysm expansion is full of weird intersects in the story.  So is it that hard to believe that they planned this?  I would argue that no, it’s not.  In fact all the pieces fit together a bit too well for this to just be a coincidence in story telling.

Because I will say this: I don’t have a ton of love for the content of the Catalcysm expansion, but damn did it have some great story moments in there.

Welcome to the TRUE Horde! Garrosh Hellscream Plays Democracy 3

“I’m going to make my OWN Horde. With blackjack. And hookers.” – Garrosh Hellscream, probably.

No Campfire can best him, no Shadow Hunter troll can dissuade him, this time Garrosh Hellscream is out to prove he is the one true Warchief the Horde needs AND deserves…  by emulating it in Democracy 3.

To find out more about the 2010 Warchief Election at https://oddcraft.wordpress.com/category/other-stuff/warchief-election-2010/

Vry versus The World (Of Warcraft)

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Believe it or not, enthusiasm comes fairly easy to me.  A well cut together trailer will do the trick without incident.  Some good news or an awesome character design can spur my wheels to pre-order.  Heck, one glance at the Crusader on the character creation screen and a mere hour playing with Loot 2.0 not only had me dropping cash to pre-order Reaper of Souls but also nab the digital deluxe edition while I was at it.  I am exceptionally easy to please, and like to think I maintain a level of optimism and excitement for things I enjoy.

That being said, let’s talk a moment about Warlords of Draenor, the upcoming expansion for World of Warcraft.

I have never felt this lack of excitement for a WoW expansion.  NEVER.  Even expansions that seemed dubiously “not up my alley” like Cataclysm was able to get my smile on with stuff like the remade old world.  But Warlords?  Man oh man and I struggling to find something to get happy about.  There’s Garrisons I suppose.  Player housing has always been a dream of mine, and then combining it with a potentially more elaborate (or just as likely identical I suppose) version of SWTOR’s crew skills (which I liked). That’s something right?  There’s also new models.  They are very cute.  Puff the Death Gnome will be adorable, I just know it.

But then I hear things like “plan is no flying at ship and see how it plays out” or the big proud emphasis on NO dailies whatsoever with everything being based around a Timeless Isle like system of dynamic events.  Man, you just took all that Garrison happy and beat it into the ground with a Gronn sized club. No amount of gnome cute can help that.  Maybe a kitten?

Even a free level 90 doesn’t seem that tempting to me, even with all my alts.  It’s clearly not an offer designed for me, and I recognize that.  But likewise it feels like this entire expansion is pretty much one giant bag of nope for Vry.  Flying? Gone, potentially for the whole expansion.  Dailies? Gone. There goes my favorite way of experiencing the world.  Timeless Isle random events are so short lived that there’s no time to join in if you aren’t constantly camping or getting lucky.  At least in Guild Wars 2, the events seemed to be spaced out with spawns and objectives or multistaged, and  had a teleportation transit system that gets me most places in a blink of an eye.  Warlords seems to be more so “Events will die quick, so always be ready, and if you aren’t within 1 minute of it via ground mount, just forget it.”  I hope that isn’t true, but I haven’t seen anything to support otherwise.

I honestly don’t care much about the whole Proving Grounds Silver to do the dungeon finder,  despite that the fact that it still reeks of pointless exclusionary tactics, because you would supposedly be able to gear up for LFR in normals, and I don’t do anything BUT LFR anymore in terms of raiding, because I got sick of watching guilds implode and explode because of raiding.

So what am I trying to say?  That my long drawn out love affair with WoW is over?  Well, maybe not that extreme.  I might pick up Warlords on a black friday sale or something and give it a whirl, then level up my main-ish-es. But really, yea.  This will likely be the first expansion launch I’m not going to be there for.  I’ve found other MMOs that I have fun with, and WoW seems to be going in a direction that quite honestly isn’t fun for me.  If others find it fun, more power to you.  But I’m gonna sit this one out it seems.  Maybe just maybe I’ll get lucky and the next expansion will have gnome lore. Till then, expect more focus on stuff like The Old Republic, Final Fantasy, and more Lets Plays. Sorry devoted WoW playing readers, but you know regardless if I’m playing or not I’ll still be weighing in on any big news that goes down.

(Okay, honestly. I think we can trace all of WoW’s problems to Basic Campfire NOT getting to be Warchief. Don’t you?)

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.

I Swear Blizzard is Reading My Post Drafts

Guess I spoke too soon?

Your Garrison will be woven deeply into the storyline of Warlords of Draenor, beginning when your faction leader commissions you to establish a beachhead on this alien world—but the ultimate fate of your personal fortress on Draenor is entirely up to you.

Garrisons Preview

I don’t have the slightest clue if this is going to tackle some of my issues with the story telling mechanics that I discussed in my previous post, but it definitely seems to be pointing in a good direction.  Hears hoping.  I’ll have my full thoughts on the Warlords of Draenor posted later, but I really wanted to point this one out!

The Hero of Your Own Story

With my recent return to Star Wars: The Old Republic, I keep finding myself mentally comparing things to World of Warcraft.  I have no ill feelings toward WoW in my heart, and it still stands as a fun game.  In fact, I will be one of the first to defend Mists of Pandaria in a conversation.  After all Mists has done wonders for the way that Blizzard has decided to portray story in their games.  However, there is something that has been gnawing at me since I’ve come back to SWTOR.  Where do I fit in the story?

Dating back all the way to the Ruins of Ahn’qiraj, WoW has had an ever shifting sense of perspective that seems to draw less on the player characters being heroes and more that they are the upper echelon of the nameless grunts.  More and more the stories, especially for raids, have focused on large organized armies assaulting the dungeons/bosses/whatever to accomplish the goal, with you simply being the tip of the spear (or in some examples the rest of the arrowhead with an NPC being the tip).  No longer are you the hero, but simply the ones more likely to survive out of a massive attack by a hundreds if not thousands.

For example, the Shattered Sun Offensive’s assault on the Sunwell, the Ashen Verdict’s battle in Icecrown, the Guardians of Hyjal in the Molten Front and assaulting the Firelands, backing Thrall and the Aspects during Deathwing’s Fall, The Sunreavers or Kirin Tor breaking through the Thunder King’s walls, and the entirety of the Alliance or the Darkspear Revolution during the Siege of Orgrimmar.

In each of every one of those examples, you are not the heroes or saviors.  You are simply one part of a much larger effort to defeat the enemy.  This has even extended into questing in Mists of Pandaria, where it no longer matters if you’ve killed C’thun or defeated Kel’Thuzad the master lich twice, you are just another nameless faceless piece on the board along with so many others.  Now this isn’t universal either.  There have been raids and dungeons throughout the expansions that have you and your group as a small team working your way into a dungeon to silence a dark big bad all on your own.  Historically, these usual are the first tiers of raids in each expansion.  Karazhan, the Molten Core, Blackwing Descent, Mogu’shan Vaults…  there’s no army with you for these.  It’s just you against the dark.  Imagine if all of Ironforge joined together for a massive assault against Ragnaros with an army that took over the Dark Iron cities with Magni leading the assault.  Magni who steps on Majordomo Executus’ tail and demands to be let into the Firelord’s chamber.  Magni who proclaims victory once the Hand of Ragnaros is firmly planted in the earth and the enemy vanquished.  Would that be better?

Compare this to Star Wars: The Old Republic where you are cast in the role of the hero for the entirety of the narrative.  YOU the Jedi Knight confronts and battles the Sith Emperor.  YOU the Bounty Hunter who wins the Great Hunt and goes after the Supreme Chancellor single handedly. YOU the brave imperial that freed the Dread Masters from their prison.  The game devotes itself to you and you alone being the central figure of your tale.  Compare Rise of the Hutt Cartel Imperial Side to the Horde side start of Mists of Pandaria.  In both, a small tactical squadron lands in the area to cut a swathe of it and get what is of interest to their respective faction.  The big difference is that in Mists, you are a lackey to General Nazgrim who is leading the team.  You report to him and he tells you what to do.  In the Rise of the Hutt Cartel, you are the leader of the small team.  Mostly guiding the narrative and giving the orders to your subordinates who provide support and information to you, their leader, to help carry out the mission.  Star Wars: The Old Republic goes to great lengths to make you feel like you are the star. Even in the Operations (Raids) and Flashpoints (Dungeons), you are treated by the NPCs like they HAD to get you because you are the best of the best and only you are capable of handling this problem, not because hey, you’ve got a better health pool than the grunts, so you make it to the end.

However, that’s not without it’s drawbacks either.  When you see five bounty hunters rocking the ‘Champion of the Great Hunt’ title, it breaks the illusion a bit since your brain stops for a second and goes, “Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t I win that?” And the answer is yes, yes you did. This isn’t the worst thing ever, but I will admit it’s a drawback to the immersion.  But ultimately it comes down to experiencing the story and the feel of leading the narrative along.  I say feel, because honestly there are no dead ends, and no real way to break off the rails that Bioware has laid down for you.  This may cause issues with role playing a character when everybody has followed the same path, but I’m not a real hardcore role player in game so I am not even gonna attempt to go down that road.

So which one is better?  Well that’s for each to decide for their own.  I personally enjoy feeling like the hero and leading the story forward, but I can see that there’s an allure to the whole thing.  And honestly, when you sit and look at all the NPCs that are aiding in raid boss kills or massive armies tackling the citadels of evil, that’s really our fault from the get go.  Since I can remember I’ve heard things like “It’s ridiculous that X boss can be killed by 10/25 nobodies.”  Well, okay then. We’ll have a somebody do the killing. You just help.  And it’s not for me. I won’t lie, it makes World of Warcraft – a game I LOVE the lore to enough to create an entire site like the old Oddcraft blog and do things like the Warchief Election – a little bit harder to get in to and enjoy.

So what about you?  Which form of storytelling do you prefer and why?  I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, Internet.

Looking Back at Mists of Pandaria

mists-of-pandaria-overview-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-new-world-of-warcraft-expansion

It’s been just over a year since World of Warcraft died.  Or at least that’s what people on the forum tell me.  I can still log in it seems, and I see people running around.  Maybe that’s the WoW afterlife.  Doing the same thing you did before WoW died.  Kinda like Dawn of the Dead and that damn mall.  But with WoW.   And unlike the time WoW was ACTUALLY overrun with horrible zombies.  I miss that event.

Anyway, the big raid has come, we have a new “warchief” (I’m still unsure if he’s a warchief or just the leader of the Horde.  There’s a subtle distinction there that I might go into in another post) and we’ve learned what Wrathion was all on about this whole time.  Everything’s all tidied up now, eh.  So it’s time to look back and talk about what I really loved and hated about this expansion.

Let’s start on the positive with the things I actually really liked:

VRY’S BEST

Grummles: Is there anything these little guys don’t make better?  They brought a smile to my face every time I ran across a camp of them.  From their on-click statements that make to giggle to the demanding of a replacement yak at the “Yak temple” in Townlong, the grummles never got old, never got on my nerves, and still get me to smile and laugh every time these little trailblazers speak up.  Especially the munchies crunchies bit since they do always remind me of Gurgi from Disney’s version of the Black Cauldron.

The Story:  Everyone who reads this site or knows me online should know that oh man did I ever not like the story of Cataclysm.  The whole thing just felt like a giant let down.  Oh sure, the 1-60 revamp was top notch in terms of storytelling, but 80-85 was a completely divided up mess.  The events of Mount Hyjal had nothing to do with Deepholm or Uldum.  The conflict between the two factions that the entire 1-60 revamp spent building up has practically non-existent except for moments of Vashjir and the Twilight Highlands.  So would Mists be able to pull it all together and deliver a cohesive story?  The answer was Hell freaking yea!  The Shas, the killik swarms being early, the yuangol pushing outward into Kun-lai? All connected.  The battle in Krasarang and the story of the Divine bell? Wonderfully delivered.  And I will be one of those people who defends the Garrosh turning evil story and go on record as saying it was wonderfully told from Burning Crusade straight to the Siege of Orgrimmar.  The only story hiccup I didn’t like?  Well…  I’ll get to that in the Worst section.

Pet Collecting: I am a collector at heart.  I collect things in games, out of games… furbies (currently at like 30 of them), so when they added a metric crap ton of new pets to collect, I absolutely fell in love with running around and getting them all.  Oh sure, a lot of them were just look alikes or reskins of other pets, but that was fine.  It was something to collect! And it could be done on my time and didn’t require a group!  …Until Throne of Thunder.  That’s got to be the dark spot with the whole pet collecting craze is when they made them raid drops.  Why? WHY?  Even if you could do it in LFR, the drop is so low on some of these that you’ll be running them into the next expansion getting them to drop.  You know, the old raid pets were fine.  It gave you a reason to go back to old stuff that could quite honestly be solo’d most of the time. But Throne of Thunder?  COME ON!  /sigh.  Still it provided hours upon hours of entertainment just collecting these little things and unlocking achievements with it.

The Seat of Knowledge/The Farm:   Well after the last one on the list, I’m guessing you can probably figure out why this one is a two-fer.  Yes, they both involve collecting things. But more importantly they collect things in the actual world that you can see.  It’s not just an UI option with a list.  I can actually go to the farm and see the yak that was given to me, the cat wandering around, oh and there’s the dog I saved and fed, and the nice little house that was decorated for me by my friend.   That’s a nice feeling when you can tangibly see the reward in the world around you.  Even if no one else but you can.  It feels awesome to walk into the Seat of Knowledge and see the intact artifacts I found lining the walls in shining displays.  Now if only Blizzard would get it together and do player housing where I can customize it too.  Put trophies from defeated raid end bosses on the wall, and my old armors on mannequins for having a complete set.  I would just die for that.  But the Seat and the Farm is about as close as we can get so far and I love it.

The Pandaren:  Much like the grummles, I found the Pandaren a joy to just mingle with.  The NPCs are given so much enjoyable life throughout the Jade Forest and Valley of the Four Winds that they have permanently embedded themselves snug into my heart.  I still find myself saying “Slow down… life is to be savored!” to people in my best pandaren voice.  Of course, it would be unbecoming to talk about the pandaren and not mention the tragic ending to the tale of Aysa and Ji.  I won’t go into detail for those who wish to avoid spoilers for the Siege, but oh man.  The feels.  There are so many of them.  Large quantities to be sure.  Surplus sale for all these feels. That’s how many.  Who knew those two bit characters from all the way back at the Wandering Isle would show up again at the end of all things?  And who could of predicted such a sad way for it to end?  Still, overall the pandaren have that love of life that I can only wish for.

VRY’S WORST

Golden Lotus Dailies: You know, I actually liked most of the dailies in the expansion.  I didn’t have the driving hatred of them that so many did.  It was a fun thing to do everyday.  With one exception.  The Golden F-ing Lotus.  Maybe it was the fact that as soon as you thought you were done, another link in the chain was added?  Maybe it was because you could only do the hubs in order?  Or maybe it was because all the mobs seemed ridiculously tough for a fresh level 90 and are still some of the toughest non-dungeon/raid mobs around?  I did not lament seeing them go when the Vale blew up.  I usually avoided them using the farm and dungeon finder when I could on alts.  Sure it takes longer, but less of a pain.  These dailies just sucked, and the fact that were smack dab likely to be the first thing you tackled at level 90 I can see how many people grew to hate dailies in general.

The Throne of Thunder:  Behold! The one storyline that Vry actually hated in the expansion!  Yea, I didn’t like the story for the Throne of Thunder very much.  Mostly it came from the fact that the actual villain wasn’t very well established.  Oh sure, during the quests in Kun-Lai we HEAR about all the evil stuff he did way back when, but what does he do when he comes back?  Runs off to his island fortress and then… nothing.  We actually go up to his house and start poking the hornet’s nest with a sharp stick for not much reason either.  He hasn’t done anything since coming back to life to warrant this reaction!  I know, I know, better safe than sorry but it stills feels like an over-reaction.  So what does the terrible Thunder King do?  Well,  he came back from the dead.  He uh… sent his lackies?  And then he totally like broke that bridge and dropped us into a sewer level.  And sewer levels suck! He must die!

I had hoped that Lei-Shen would get a bit more fleshed out as to why he’s a threat during the dailies, kind of like how the Landfall dailies showed the story of the Divine Bell and what not.   Nope.  Just the Sunreavers and Kirin Tor fighting to take over the island or each other.  That’s all.  Lei Shen shows up once to send a lackey at you ala Rita Repulsa but that’s about it.  What a fricking let down for what seem to be a great build up for a new threat.

Battlefield Barrens: Oh geeze. The grindfest that was Battlefield Barrens.  It’s like a TV show that had a really great premiere followed by having the same rehashed formulaic episodes week after week until the season finale/next patch.  There was nothing exciting or interesting about Battlefield Barrens other than it wasn’t a daily.  It was a weekly!  I supposed it had those tap-to-anyone-who-damages-it boss mobs that would spawn.  That was a neat mechanic.  But all it did was give you more resources.  The same resources you got from everything else.  And you just grind them. Then turn them in.  That’s it.  That’s all it was.  It just seemed like small potatoes considering what it was building up to.  Heck, the new scenarios gave us more plot than the battlefield barrens quests did.  Mechanically cool, but extremely underwhelming.  The whole thing felt like a technology test for the Timeless Isle.

Pet Battling:  Oh I love pet collecting.  But I hated battling.  Especially the trainer battles.  Right around the end of Outland going into the Northrend, the strategy quickly changed from ‘level up your favorites and battle with them’ to ‘prepare three precise pets at ze proper level with ze proper abilities to ensure victory over ze veak minded fools!’  It make me miss pokemon where yea, if I didn’t have an optimized team I’d be at a disadvantage, but it didn’t mean a guarenteed butt whoopin! See even the final bosses in Pokemon Red/Blue only used like level 60 or something pokemon.  So if you were determined and had a lot of time on your hands like High School Vrykerion did, you could level any team up to 100 and have a good chance of winning.  But with the trainer battles here, by the time you’re hitting Outland they’ve started using level 25 pets.  That’s max level.  You can’t out level the battles from that point on. So it’s level the right pets or gtfo.  I decided to gtfo.  I still haven’t beaten that undead using punk in Crystalsong Forest.  Go level three rare quality turtles to 25 to win.  F. THAT.

Pride: The ever looming question in the expansion was the identity of the seventh Sha.  Oh there were plenty of guesses, mostly around the seven deadly sins but heck if I know why since ‘Doubt’ and ‘Fear’ are not deadly sins.  But it was eventually revealed that it was of course, Pride.  Now my problem isn’t with Pride being the seventh sha.  It’s the other stuff surrounding it.  Pride was the Sha that Shaohao could not defeat.  His pride took the form of the Mists that cut off Pandaria from the world.  So why did the Sha of Pride let the Horde and the Alliance in?  I mean, if the mists were his pride that would mean the Sha of Pride would be able to manipulate it yes?  That’s how all the other Shas seem to work.  Using your doubt, fear, hate, etc to take control of you.  So why let them in?  To unleash havoc? How would they know they’d unleash panic? To unleash the Sha?  Well, they do release ONE Sha.  But timeline indications seems to imply that the others may have been active long before the Horde and Alliance found Pandaria.  Especially Fear, who has been causing a good deal of trouble.

So what’s the deal with the whole pride thing?  It’s stated that Shao Hao possibly parted the mists because his people had grown stagnant and fallen to their own Sha.  Well, that means Shao Hao was in control of the mists?  Did that mean he conquered his pride?  In the Seven burdens of Shao Hao he says he creates the mists because he people needed time to prepare and learn the lessons he did.  So if they grew stagnant instead, why did he wait to part the mists until now?  Why did Yu-Lon say that they parted for a reason involving you (the player)?  GAAAAAH! IT JUST RAISES TOO MANY QUESTIONS!  Nothing else in this expansion has made me pull my hair out more than that.  The puzzle of pride.  Truly it is good until it is bad.

So that’s my best and worst of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.  Overall, it was a pretty good expansion.  Not my favorite, but far far FAR from the bottom of my list.  What were some of your best or worst moments this expansion?

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)

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