I Want to Sav(or) the World of Warcraft

Reminiscing about the grand old days of playing World of Warcraft has me realizing how much of the game I’ve forgotten. When was the last time I dropped by Onyxia’s parlor, had a nice cup of tea? Said hi to some of those dungeons up in Twilight Highlands?

The world is huge. Just, freaking huge.

It’s hard for me to grasp most of the time, because each expansion layers on more levels like a pearl and I just stay in the new layer and mill around.

There is so much to do out there between questing and exploring zones and soloing through all the dungeons and raids.

Of what is out there, how much do I remember? I did it all at least once at some point over the years, but there were long gaps between expansions where I sat at max level and, what? Did the same dungeons and raids over and over? Leveled alts? Did pet battles?

Sure, I leveled alts, but without exception those alts were played in a zone  only until I out-leveled the area, then I dropped whatever the heck I was in the middle of and moved on.

When was the last time I ever just took a character from the beginning, the very beginning, and worked my way through every quest in every zone in as close to the original storytelling flow as possible?

The answer is, never.

How funny is that? I go on and on about how great Warcraft is with all this incredible content, but when it comes down to it, it’s been at least over a decade since I put any effort into playing through the game as one big story. In fact the last time I played through determined to be a completionist and see ALL the story there was to experience was in vanilla. And back then, it was because you needed to scrape and beg for those XPs, yo.

I wonder if I could do it? I wonder if it is possible for my short attention span ‘ooh shiny’ attitude to pick a character and hit each story zone, do it ALL regardless of whether I’ve out-leveled it or not, and keep doing that all the way to the end? To do World of Warcraft from start to finish as a single cohesive story?

It would take some planning to do it right, I can see that already. Anything ridiculous worth doing is worth overdoing, after all.

I’d need to pick a character, and a starting zone.

I’d need to group zones together into story arcs. The goal wouldn’t be to LEVEL so much as to take a character with every quest open and available in the game, then play through entire thematic arcs to get the complete experience. Using a fresh character prevents me from soloing every dungeon or raid I’d come to, but would ensure every quest in the game would be available as I travel through.

Suddenly I wish there was a way to reset your character quest progression to zero to do it all from the beginning. But no I don’t, the logistics on that would be terrible. They’d have to know which quests you’d already completed so they wouldn’t offer you quest rewards again, but not shut off quest rewards for quests you’d never done the first time, sorry STUPID idea, galactically awful, ugh.

To really do it right would take completing the dungeons for each zone once I had any final quests, since (at least originally) you would finish the story arcs in a zone by doing dungeons and then finally doing the associated raids. Only then would I move on to the next arc.

I’m excited at this idea. I’m freaking stoked about this idea. I’m ready to log in and tear it up right now!

I kinda sorta started to float this idea of playing through all the zones to Cassie last night, and she shot it down so fast it gave me whiplash.

Name a zone, and she had a reason, a perfectly valid reason, an EXTREMELY accurate and valid reason why playing an alt in that zone will suck all over again. She says I’m delusional, and there is a reason why as soon as we out-level a zone on an alt we move on. That once we’ve done the zone the very first time, we’ve let all the magic happy quest fairy dust out of the jar. You can’t go back and recapture that feeling.

I don’t know. I think she’s right, but at the same time damnit I want to try. One thing in my favor is I’m old. My memory is shot anyway, most of it will seem new to me if I come at it from a different direction.

The big challenge would be making sure I can clear the dungeons and raids at the right time in the process so I maintain the flow of the story as I go. I have a feeling that I’m going to need buy-in from Cassie on that one to get them done, especially on the raids.

I’m still going to try to do it. I think I’ll have to delete either my Void Elf alt or my Lightforged Draenei and start over from scratch. I’ll be level 20 at the start, but I could still go to each starting zone in turn.

Hmm, but would it be better to do a Worgen? That starting zone is only accessible to that race, and has some impressive story questing tied to it.

Oh great, now I don’t know where to start.

I guess from here, before I get bogged down by which alt class and race to play, I need to make a list of all the zones in each expansion/world, and then start tying story arcs together to nail down a sequence.

Yep, yep that seems like my next step.

I’m sure this will go well. What could go wrong?

Stay tuned!

 

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Wanting a Warcraft Done Up Diablo

In playing the new expansion, questing through the new areas, I’ve been struck by how… how just completely wonderful the experience has been.

The areas are beautiful, lush with life, expansive and gorgeous to look upon yet still in keeping with the Warcraft that has come before.

Most of the settlements I’ve seen evoke feelings of original Warcraft city or village design, but expanded upon.

As an example, my very first impression of the new starter city, Boralus, was that it was what I thought Booty Bay was going to be like when I first journeyed there. The actual Booty Bay, when I first saw it… well, let’s just say it brings to mind a favorite old quote from the movie Roadhouse; “I thought you’d be bigger.”

Boralus is the style of Booty Bay, while being as large and bustling and alive as I could hope for a coastal trade city to be. And it’s not even that it’s that much larger than Booty Bay, but it rolls on into the rest of the massive city and dock areas smoothly, giving a sense of scale that Booty Bay never really did.

Booty Bay, for all its history and place in the world, is still a one dock, one ship town. I always felt like a ragtag band of misfits could take it over with a rusty saber and a stuffed shark. Not so Boralus!

So yes, establishing shot. I love the look and feel of the areas. I love traveling in the wilds between quest hubs and seeing the wide variety of non-aggressive wildlife to be found everywhere. It’s very nice to not have to fight every raccoon, fox, deer and eagle I see. Sometimes, I’d like to feel like I’m part of the environment with the wee pretty critters rather than El Destructo, massacre lord of skinning, killer of all he surveys. Sometimes. Depends on traffic conditions that day.

But there is another key ingredient to my enjoyment, nay my delight in adventuring in Kul Tiras.

I never see another living soul once in the game.

Call it hitting that blessed sweet spot between the vast horde racing to max level but not yet bored enough to shift to all alt leveling all the time.

I travel from town to town, righting wrongs, interacting with people along the way, finding treasure chests and piles of ore, and generally being immersed and having a great time.

Somehow, and call me an old antisocial curmudgeon if you like, but my immersion has never felt enhanced by running into <I’dSapThat> the rogue sitting on his largest mount on top of a quest giver. Or any of a thousand other annoying dipshit things people do in an anonymous world filled with other people to hopefully troll.

Cassie started playing this expansion before I did, and she says that as soon as she hit max level, boom, there were all those world quests and players phased in with her everywhere you looked, racing each other for mobs and resources. And she hadn’t finished questing in the third zone yet, so she’s now trying to deal with that while enjoying the quests and story and environments. Yay.

So looking forward to hitting max level now.

The truth for me is simple. No matter how many ‘fixes’ or modifications a developer tries to put in a massively online game to prevent trolls from trolling, it’s not the actions of the trolls that annoy me nearly as much as the forced awareness that the trolls are there in the first place, in your face, trying to be a little dick. Or just being, well, “me first me first” annoying little gits.

I don’t want to play a massively multiplayer online role-playing game anymore. I don’t like strangers in general. I don’t even like people in general. I like individuals I meet on a case by case basis. The world is a very big place, and just sharing the fact we both like World of Warcraft is no longer enough to make me include you in my band of brothers and sisters. Lots of assholes play the game too.

Case by case basis.

But, and this is the sticky part, I do love playing with friends in games. I like playing solo, but I love having an online guild of friends to chat with and be there to help or just hang out if the opportunity pops up Or to come see their awesome new transmog, pet or mount.

I like grouping up, but in small groups.

I like having every challenge in the game be possible to achieve solo, but fun in groups as well.

Basically, what I love is World of Warcraft, but if it had the Diablo 3 multiplayer system.

You know, funny thing about Diablo 3. Somehow, there is this big world in the game, and yet they don’t force all the players to share the same small cramped zone to save server space. But you can still play with friends when you want to!

You can group up with friends, drop in on their game and help them out or just roll with them killing stuff, and somehow this does not destroy the game world or shut down servers. Up to four or five, can’t remember off the top of my head, people can play together at any given time. You can even trade loot back and forth too!

Basically, Diablo 3 has the most perfect “I want to play the game and also be able to play with friends but not have to deal with dicks” system I’ve ever seen in a multiplayer game, and I dearly wish, oh HOW I wish that it could be applied to World of Warcraft.

I’m just saying.

This game would be freaking awesome if it wasn’t for all the damn people.

When You Think of WoW, What Do You See?

You ever step back from something for a long time, and when you come back to it, most of your memories have softened a bit and you’re left with only a few vivid moments that stand out?

That’s happened with me and WoW. I’ve been away from the game since Legion ended, and coming back to it I’ve forgotten all of the normal day to day things that actually make up the game.

What I’m left with, I’m figuring anyway, are the things that made the most impact on me. The events or things in the game that I really connected with.

Since I can’t plan on this kind of thing happening again, I wanted to share them with you now, and maybe see if some of you have similar events that really burned themselves into your hearts.

Here are, in no particular order, the things I really think of when I bring WoW to mind;

Exploring the Darkmoon Fair for the very first time.

This is a two-parter. The very first time I heard of a place called the Darkmoon Faire, during Vanilla WoW. I was playing my first (and for the longest time only) character, a Night Elf Druid. The Darkmoon Faire was coming, a carnival that wasn’t in game all the time, so seeing it was a rare event. It was going to be in the Tauren starting zone of Mulgore, outside of Thunder Bluff, and I really, really wanted to go see it. But… Horde!

I can still feel the intensity as I stealthed my kitty druid butt into Mulgore just outside of Thunder Bluff to peek at the wonders of the Darkmoon Faire, feeling all illicit and naughty and at risk of being pounced on by Horde Guards (and immediately ganked thereafter by players as soon as the guards broke me out of stealth). Which did, in fact, happen. I didn’t have any idea what I’d find there, or what it was about, but I knew I wanted to see this magical special Darkmoon Faire place, and I had to work my feline butt off to make my way through all the Horde dominated zones to get there.

The second part is that moment when the Darkmoon Faire got it’s own special island, and stepping through the portal to see this mystical dark place with all the spooky (this IS a kid’s carnival, right?) trees, shadows and slightly dark-natured take on the carnival. Looking down from above where the portal brings you for the first time, seeing this huge dedicated area for the Faire was just amazing. There was a ton of awesome that followed, including the Darkmoon Rabbit, but that is the second ‘image’ that is in my mind when I think of WoW, standing there on the island looking down on my first glimpse of the Faire spread out before me.

FEL REAVER INCOMING!!!

If you played then, you know it, you hated it, and you love it just the same. I can still feel that pulse pounding OH SHIT NO RUN adrenaline rush while running around minding my own business questing through the incredible number of ‘collect 15 drops of x’ in Hellfire Peninsula, when all of a sudden the ground starts shaking under my paws and I spin around wildly because OH SHIT HERE COMES THE FEL REAVER OMG RUN RUN RUN pound pound pound CRAP! Graveyard run….

Karazhan. All of it.

Karazhan stands out in my memories of WoW like a freaking lighthouse illuminating everything around it with this ridiculous rosy glow. Apparently, I love Karazhan enough I’d like to make it my home and move right the heck in there. EVERYTHING about Karazhan stands out vividly in my memories, and I think maybe a large part of that was it was the first time there was an intense in-game event that my wife and I spent a lot of time doing together. We’ll always have Karazhan, raiding together side by side. The single biggest, shiniest moment etched in my memory is standing there in the Shade of Aran hall with a fresh group of random players hoping and praying everyone else could keep their itchy little fingers off the damn mouse so we wouldn’t blow up.  Do you know the song? I still know the song.

The Lich King, but like, not the Lich King raid fight.

I remember the Lich King as well, this one moment first time playing Wrath of the Lich King, when I’ve arrived at this cool wooded area at the feet of a huge stone tower of some kind with all these Viking type monstrous large dudes in furs everywhere with spears and I’m just out there questing and freaking Arthas just turns the hell up out of nowhere and I’m like “oh shit I’ve got to fight the Lich King right now minutes after setting foot on this continent OMG wtf bbq” and I attack Arthas and next thing I know I’m dead and hey guess what I didn’t have to attack Arthas it was supposed to be a cool scene I passively watch and oh that was kind of stupid let’s not do that again.

What a great moment. I loved it. And then, later on, that big moment before the gates when it shifts to cutscene and the Lich King is there and there is this huge fight and the Horde undead up on the cliff catapult blight on everyone down below and all seems lost and the dragons come from out of the Sun and just OMG epic.

The Original Game Trailer.

The original game trailer for World of Warcraft. The Night Elf holding a broken sword, then lifting her head, starting to run and shifting to cat form. The Dwarf with his rifle, giving a tiny head nod to his huge buddy bear. That’s the core of WoW for me even still, those two scenes from that video.

DEATHWING.

Not the final raid fight chasing Deathwing through the skies in an airship. That comes after I think about it. No, just the image of Deathwing that Blizzard gave us in the cinematic, soaring through the skies peacefully before unleashing a crazy gout of hellfire that broken continents, and then that whole biker quest chain culminating in your punching Deathwing right in the face on top of a burnt off flattened cliff.

I have to wonder if the things that stand out to me say more about me than they do about the game.

With so much of the vast world to experience, each in our own way, what is your strongest memory of it? Just when you sneak up and surprise your memories of WoW, what comes bursting out of the recollection closet first?

I genuinely would love to know, because I’m tempted to play a low level character all the way through instead of continuing right on into the new expansion, and try and relive ALL of these moments (that still exist, anyway) all over again.

Can’t See the Talents for the Trees

Hi!

Since I don’t do photoshop and I don’t have a paid staff to make my blog look all pretty and professional, just imagine there’s a graphic at the top of the page of a Bear Druid standing upright, gazing with confusion at an open Talent Tree, with little question marks over their head. Okay? Thanks bunches.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…

Coming back to World of Warcraft after the end of Legion feels a bit strange, as you can probably imagine. It’s been a while. Everyone else is 120.

Why are we here, anyway? Who’s the big bad of this episode?

Every other expansion has had a clear ‘sell’, a concept meant to get you pumped up and ready to claw that tree one more time. Fight the Burning Legion! Fight Deathwing! Fight Arthas! Fight the evil Warchief! Fight the ‘Mirror, Mirror’ evil goatee versions of the Horde! Fight the, er, um, Burning Legion again, but this time for sure!*

*That’s a Rocky and Bullwinkle joke, for those of you who are also ready for the nursing home. Ah yes, random access memory bear, it’s all coming back to me.

Anyhoo, what was I supposed to be pumped up for this time? Fighting the Horde (or the Alliance)? Um, wait, what? We put aside our differences and fought together to save all of existence from the Legion. We literally JUST proved the power of friendship. You want me to, what, go claw the face off of my fellow Druids just because they’re factionally challenged? Yeah, no, I think that would make things a bit awkward around the watering hole in the Druid Grove later.

You know, that bipartisan Druid Grove we all hang out in? Sure, YOU might call it a hippy commune, but just because we sit around a campfire smoking weed, drinking homemade wine, growing mushrooms, nurturing the surrounding wildlife and telling stories about what we did to protest the war against OMG we ARE a hippy commune.

I’m saying, just because Blizzard Ex Machina says our faction leaders did some evil crap doesn’t mean us war heroes with godlike power have to give in to their stupidity. I’m not above using a faction leader as a scratching post if they tell me to go commit some random atrocity to ‘get even’ with those mean old baddies that we trusted with our lives on the front lines last month. Sure, burning a tree is bad, but my buddy Druid JimmyJoe Hordebob didn’t do it. I should know, he was puff puff passing it on to me, bub. Wasn’t anywhere NEAR that dang ole tree. Want a shroom?

Sigh.

Okay, but expansion! New hotness! FUN!

Meh to Horde vs Alliance, but if Blizzard is true to form, we only THINK this is what the point of the expansion is and sooner or later a new patch will bring a real big bad earth shattering faction uniting challenge to get all up in arms about. So in the meantime, log in for the first time in a year and OH SHIT MY TALENTS WERE RESET.

MY TALENTS WERE RESET

—– The point of the post. Yes, it took 400 words to get to the point of the post.

Logging in after a long time away (remembering to update addons first, I’m not a total noob) and finding my Talents were reset is, well, a tragedy. Or a comedy. Comedy is tragedy happening to other people, right? So for you, the reader, this is a comedy, but for me, ugh.

A blank slate, a long list of Talent choices to make, and I’ve been away long enough that I’m looking for clues on my action bars as to what the HECK I used to have.

Hmm, that Talent icon looks like that icon on my action bar, what does that do. Hmm, I don’t know if that sounds like something I would have chosen. Aw, heck with it, what does Icy Veins say?

It’s exactly like seeing all of the Talent Tree choices for the very first time, evaluating each one on what the description implies it MIGHT do and then trying to figure out if I want it.

What’s that? Choose some Talents, test them out at the targeting dummies, mix them around and actually, like, TEST them to see what I like? You’re new here, aren’t you.

Never resort to sense what you can hyperbolize into a blog post.*

*I used hyperbolize in a sentence at work, and I watched as one of my coworkers, a boilerman, stopped, pulled out his phone and Googled it. Kinda made me sad. What IS my life, after all, if not a living tribute to the joys of hyperbole?

What I’m reminded of is, not all Talents are created equal. Or at least, equally exciting.

At their best, I love the Talent choices that add a new ability that synergizes off of a core ability.

I know I didn’t explain that right, so let me try again, this time using my words.

I like Talents that activate when you use a core ability, and do something to further personalize your chosen playstyle.

See, I like the idea of creating your own chain combos tailored to YOUR playstyle. Having a set of core abilities, and then other, choice driven abilities that can activate as a free option during a fight.

At the most basic, say, you get to choose between three options in the Talent tree to see what happens when you cast Judgment; a new ability triggers that does an AOE damage or effect, does a big single target strike or stun, or gives you an enhanced or instant-cast self or targetable heal.

Now, that was only an example. Being given a choice between AOE, single target damage, or support options aren’t really having a true choice. You’re going to feel driven to select what best enhances your assigned role in a raid or group environment. It’s a non-choice.

But you know what kind of Talents I mean. Passives and stuff are all fine, but they feel like a cop out to choose them. If you choose one they’ll just sit there in the background and do their thing no matter what you do. You don’t get to click a shiny new button, and I like shinies, dangit!

Or to put it another way, I like to have options that will change the way I play my character, change how I react to a given situation. If I have the option to choose a Talent that gives me defensive buffs that increase in strength if I’m surrounded, selecting that will change how I view a fight. I will start LOOKING for large groups to pull to get myself surrounded to take advantage of it. Wouldn’t you?

And THAT is exactly the kind of Talent I love. Something that, once you choose it, changes how you view your tactical approach to encounters, whether solo or in a group. It’s a choice that excites me, because you have to make a conscious effort to play differently to best take advantage of it.

I like to read the descriptions of the Talents, imagine the kind of playstyle and ability synergy you’d need to flow with to best take advantage of them, and make my decisions that way.

The only problem?

Talking to Cassie (my lovely Paladin wife) highlighted the issue perfectly.

She resubbed a week ago, ahead of me, and she tells me, “They reset my Talents, so I went to Icy Veins to find out what I’m supposed to take.”

That. That right there. Have you ever felt that pressure?

That feeling (or assumption) that there is a ‘right’ Talent to choose, and two wrong Talents that ain’t near as good.

If it’s true, do you ever wonder why there are two extra bad choices? Are they there because the designers had to fill out a tree?

Do you ever wonder if the developers honestly thought all three choices were equally valid, valuable and vital? Or do you think they secretly knew that one would be the ‘good’ one, and the others were, well, kind of meh?

In a world of gearscores and playtesting in a sandbox environment, someone will ALWAYS have a ‘approved’ Talent list. One reason I like Icy Veins is, the authors of their class and spec suggestions always make a point of only recommending some of the key Talents that have a direct impact on raiding or groups, and specify that the rest are flavor Talents you can feel free to enjoy as you like. I’ll choose what I like anyway, but you like that reassurance that you’re not going to have everyone that inspects you 0.2 milliseconds after joining a random group kicking you from the party for noob Talent choices.

But wouldn’t it be cool if with each set of choices, you got the feeling the designers brought their ‘A’ game and wanted to give you an actual hard choice with each tier of Talents. Where you’re having a hard time picking among three things you really want, rather than trying to pick the least bad of a group of three meh Talents? Or worse still, trying to pick the one Talent out of three choices in a tier that you might actually get some use out of.

I’m just coming back from being away and looking at it cold, so what do I know?

What do you think, having played the game to this point? Has Blizzard done a great job with your Talent choices? Do you have a favorite that actually stands out and means something great to you, the way old school Stampede did for Hunters when it came out?

Let me know in the comments, especially if there is a particular set of Talents you like to use as a Kitty Druid, Ret Paladin or BM Hunter. Not that, you know, I’m selfish and want advice on fun choices to try out or anything. Just because, uh, hey look at the time!