Last night, in World of Warcraft, the first new content was released for the game in about ten months. It was released just a bit more than one week in advance of a new $40 expansion.
I recap that because I do have friends who come here who don’t play WoW anymore, haven’t in years, and probably couldn’t care less about it. It’s good to provide some general perspective before launching into discussion, right?
In the short time the scenario has been out, I have seen dozens of blog posts, hundreds of tweets, and some pretty incendiary flaming directed at it.
A lot of folks are upset.
Scenarios are a new addition to the game, and I’ve read that we will see a bunch more of them in the new expansion aimed at level 90 players.
Whats the big deal?
In the current game of World of Warcraft, there is the questing content for solo players (and lately we’ve seen just about all of the old group quests nerfed down to be soloable), there are dungeons designed for groups of five players that must incoporate a tank, a healer and three damage dealers, and then there are raids, content for groups of from ten to twenty-five players that again are designed to require some of the players be designated tanks and healers to succeed. Or to be pretty damn crafty and overgeared for the raid. Druids and Death knights and Paladins, I’m looking at you.
Scenarios, on the other hand, are a very new concept for World of Warcraft.
Scenarios are designed for groups of three players, they are supposed to be of shorter duration than a traditional dungeon instance, and most importantly, they are designed to allow groups of any composition, so long as most can do damage, to succeed. I’m sure groups formed of three healers will be… interesting to watch. I can’t wait to see videos spring up on Youtube of groups of unlikley combinations having fun.
Scenarios can still grant nice loot rewards, but they seem to be meant to be little mini-stories. True scenarios, where you are presented with a beginning situation, and work through the events towards a conclusion. more than a quest, less than a big dungeon full of complicated boss mechanics.
From a bald description of scenarios, you’d be left to wonder why so many folks are upset, right?
The answer to that is tied up in player expectations and story shit that has nothing to do with scenarios.
There have been quite a few expansions for the game now, and for each of the previous expansions, there was a special event within the game starting a week prior to the expansions release.
The events really only last a week or two, and typically end the night before the expansion is live.
Having done these cool little one-time-only events so many times before, there was an expectation in the game that we’d see the same thing this time; something coming out that was special a week or two before the expansion landed on store shelves.
So far, there is only one week remaining, and what we have is this one short ten minute scenario.
The next issue a lot of people have is that the Fall of Theramore is an act of aggression by the Horde against the Alliance, serving as the single most visible catalyst for the eruption of full scale war between the factions going into the expansion.
There was a book, The Tides of War, that deals with all of this story development and the buildup of these events, but within the game, everyone expected to see some kind of playable event or even quests or content that would allow us to take part in and feel involved in this huge whopping change that was about to take place.
Basically, we all expected to be playing something that would involve us in events and allow us to become more emotionally invested in going to war.
Again, instead of any cutscenes, quests, or outward manifestation of what led to the moment, within the game we got… a 10 minute scenario.
Many players are a mite upset at this. And I do get that.
What I question is whether it is right to heap all that anger on the scenario.
I’m not looking at all the lore stuff, and I’m not judging the scenario based on my expecations for an in game event. I didn’t really expect it to be taken as one, but maybe I’m crazy.
I expected the scenario to be exactly what it was; a tease of the kind of new content I’m going to be able to play in Mists. And based on that expectation, I really enjoyed it. I loved it. It made me very, very happy. I can foresee many happy evenings with my family doing scenarios on whatever bloody character we’d like to bring.
The scenario is really two completely different scenarios, one from the Horde/aggressor point of view, and the other from the Alliance/defender point of view.
I like that, and for the first time I really, really wish I had at least one Horde character at level 85 to be able to experience it. My bad. I will next time, my Panda Warrior will be Horde all the way.
From the point of view of the Alliance side, my first expectation was met. I was able to group, on whichever character I chose, with Cassie and Alex and enter the scenario. I did not know if there was a quest or just to queue like you do with world holiday events, so I checked, and there were scenarios listed under the Dungeon Finder. The three of us queued, and in we went immediately.
The event itself spawned quests that flowed naturally from one to another. We did not try to ‘zerg’ it, or beat the clock, but instead took part as if we were in the story. We read the chat, followed the quest clues, and took part in the retaking and defense of Theramore Isle and Jaina. Alex felt pressure to avoid wandering level 85 elite wolf patrols, and loved being able to engulf each of the ships in flames. Cassie had to remind him to please let us get OFF the ships before he set them on fire. I’m totally going to use that in a book someday.
Each part of the scenario story flowed naturally into the next. At one point Cassie was irritated because she was taking considerable damage without time to heal between waves, but that’s what Natures Swiftness/Healing Touch is for. It’s back, baby! I feel like a real hybrid Druid again. Mangle Swipe Thrash BIG HEAL Mangle Mangle…
The scenario did exactly what I hoped it would do. It showed me a new type of content where three people will be able to play together in an interesting fastpaced storyline without taking the length of time of a full instance, and without the normal worry over having one of each necessary role or making sure each person was stopping and healing/holding aggro, etc.
It is indisputably selfish, but now Cassie, Alex and I will have current things we can do when we’d like together without needing to make sure we’ve got a tank, a healer, and two other people who may or may not be asshats. And I freaking love it.
For what I expected, it rocked.
I think it’s damn unfortunate that it was released to stand all alone a week before expansion, pushed out the door to be devoured by a crowd starving for new content.
I picture the scenario almost like a comedian being tossed out on stage to do a quick bit of standup to chill out a crowd that has been waiting five hours for Axl Rose to appear for a GNR concert. Poor scenario. Poor, poor scenario. Nobody deserves that fate.
I’m just not ranting or raving this time around. My expectations… were met.
I already did the pissy thing about the age-old question of how much of the game do we get to play as the main characters, and how much as the spectators. I ranted about it back when Cataclysm came out and the world just… switched over without my having any involvement whatsoever. When the cataclysm came, I apparently watched the waves roll in while drinking rum shots with little umbrellas in ‘em.
I said it all then, I’m over it.
After the great Cataclysm world flip, I no longer had the expectation that I would be seeing or taking part in any of that story or lore that tranforms a world. I am a spectator, and as was pointed out to me then, the game world exists in it’s own time, an ever-fixed ‘now’.
As a critical piece of lore, standing alone to usher us from a world at peace in the aftermath of the defeat of Deathwing into a world where Horde and Alliance strive for conquest and domination, the scenario would be pretty sad. Maybe it’s just the tip of the iceberg this week, I dunno.
As an introduction to a brand new style of WoW gameplay,my expectations are met, and all I gots to say is, HELL YES!
Bring them on, the more the merrier I says.