So here is my traditional one-post-per-year on the eve of a new expansion, cos I keep forgetting I even have a blog (but this is the only place to put my thoughts in longer format).
Warlords of Draenor: started off so well (after starting off REALLY SHIT with the Garrison phasing issues), and ended up being so… meh.
Questing: amazing. The storylines were great, Tyrel is my queen, and the cinematics at the end of each zone really threw no punches when it came to embedding emotion into the questlines. So well done, in every zone (although I’m still not entirely sure wtf happened in Spires of Arak…)
Raiding: I didn’t go hardcore until late HFC, so barely saw most of the fights beyond first kills and then AFKing. I saw more of Highmaul than anywhere, and it was really fun; nicely diverse fights, nice use of mechanics, and fit the zone.
BRF seemed… ok? Having an indoor raid after a lovely outdoor one was a bit shit, but hey-ho — raids are meant to be delving into dungeons after all. I think of it so little I even wrote ‘BFC’ initially because I couldn’t remember its actual name. Yay! The train boss was great fun though, but it all came too soon after Highmaul’s launch; a bit more space would have made me hungrier for it.
HFC was amazing, even though I barely know the latter fights except for Archimonde; again, nice diverse bosses, fun mechanics. Sure, we ended up spending a year in the final tier *again*, but at least the raid itself was interesting.
Garrisons: a good idea really poorly executed. To blame? The devs for shoving too much into it, making it too central to all aspects of the expansion, to the point where people just gave up and spent 2 years playing Garrisoncraft. Cos fuck it, free gold right?
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.An expansion that showed so much promise but which, eventually, would become something of a disappointment even to devoted fanboys.
Cataclysm was the first expansion I got to experience from Day 1. The changes it brought were, at first, something to get used – including the (now seemingly) minor change to the talent trees and spell abilities. The revamped 1-60 content, and being able to fricken’ FLY in Azeroth, was amazingly-well done and much-needed.
And that first tier – the new, hard heroic-mode dungeons; the 3-dungeon raids; the whole race to world and server first that I was able to follow was brilliant. Seeing the realm-first achievements popping up, and throwing a random strange a ‘GRATS!!’ really seemed to give the entire thing a huge buzz.
Trollolol Then, we waited for the next content patch. And it had 2 dungeons, and no extra raid. And the sense of disapointment was astounding. I wasn’t even PROPERLY raiding at this point. I found the trollroics difficult but, in time, fun to run – but it was hardly enough to last us through to 4.2.
Firelands The Firelands patch was much-anticipated. Not only a new raid tier, but a whole slew of new dailies which opened up gradually, revealing more story as you progressed. Sounds fun, don’t it? And it definitely sounded fun when pitched to us, but getting into it and finding out what a charmless grind it was… ugh. I still haven’t opened the second tier yet on my main. It was ruthless.
And the raid, by all accounts at the time (my guild at the time were still chipping away at T11 normal modes) was difficult, painful at times, and… red. Ragnaros not only wiped many raids, but also seemed to have killed a number of guilds through the sheer difficulty.
Dragon Soul By the time DS came out, we knew we’d be having Pandaren in the next expansion; this was the end tier, and it needed to carry Cataclysm out with a bang. Instead… it whimpered.
The new 5-mans were fun, fast, and full of story (however subtle, and missed by some). The raid, now available to everyone via LFR, was OK. It had the amazing Spine of Deathwing encounter (another guild breaker), the fun BUTTON OF DOOM Ultraxion fight (“JUST PRESS THE FUCKING BUTTON”), and the platform-oops-you-fell fun of Madness. But it was all a bit… meh.
I enjoyed Cataclysm. But I didn’t love it. I loved Wrath – the entire continent to explore, the gorgeous art throughout – but Cataclysm was like little weekend getaways to various zones that are just next to ones you go to all the time. It lacked the sense of adventure and travel that Northrend and Outland gave.
The renewed 1-60 content is great, but unless you want to level alts for a living then there’s not much to offer. And, with the general lack of end-game – especially for non-raiders – there wasn’t much else to do than level alts or unsubscribe. Guess what many people chose to do?
Tonight, we get Mists of Pandaria.
It’s needed. It’s wanted. And it looks gorgeous. This will be the make-or-break of WoW for many players. The game needs to have substantial end-game, or replayability, to retain people in the long run. We’ll soon see if this will offer it (personally, I think it will, but then I’m unlike the majority of players it seems).
I’m going to be diving into it, wringing as much as I can out of it.
The differences for me, on a personal level, are that:
1. I am in the guild I always dreamed of being in
2. The scenery in MoP is breathtaking
3. There just seems to be so much to do: raiding, 5-mans, challenge modes, scenarios, farms, pet battles, OH MY.
This blog will hopefully be updated a little more regularly now that I’m not just spinning my wheels in WoW. If I get time to post — I’m off to adventure through Pandaland, dontchaknow?
So, it dropped today as expected, with its world premiere at Gamescom, and being posted to the official WoW YouTube channel a short while afterwards.
Technically, it’s excellent.
Story-wise, I love the fact that it’s the Alliance & Horde landing on a new, unknown world, immediately go into conflict, but are thrown by a new element – a Pandaran rolling into their midst.
It’s an unknown foe to them both, and being the naturally-violent factions they are, they attack it – and choose their closest, but known, enemy as an allie.
The kick at the end, where the panda shows that, the combat is not a major thing to them but part of the balance of their lives, is a perfect balance to what will in truth be an expansion where the Alliance and Horde conflict impacts greatly on this peaceful land with its own problems.
Location: Baradin Hold, sometime during the first month of T13.
Reason: to face off against Alizabel. Again.
Company: a ragtag bunch of strangers from Trade.
I fell into a BH 10 pug as a tank on my DK main, Reliq, because I was bored. No other excuse. I had no real reason to be there; I didn’t really need or want the gear (and wasn’t interested in the possible PVP drops), but it was something to do.
The raid leader was, if I recall correctly, one of the healers or DPS. The other tank was a warrior, and we then had the usual mix for a typical 10m class run. We cleared the trash, and stood facing Alizabel in her many-armed glory.
“Tank #2, after her spinning attack, I’ll taunt her back”, I say. I like to make this clear just so we both know who will do the pickup duties. It’s not necessary, but I feel it helps rather than both wasting our taunts at the start of the next section of the fight.
Then the raid leader piped in: “LOL you taunt on Skewer. Do you even know this fight?”
“Umm, yes,” I said. “I’ve done it a few times now.”
“Doesn’t even know the fight,” he said again.
“Just go,” said one of the DPS, and so we did.
The fight went its usual way – the odd DPS not moving from the boss as she spins around the room doing her whirly-gig blade-spin thing. Meanwhile, the raid leader is saying, “I bet he gets the achiev after this.”
I ignore it. He’s judging me because he misunderstood my statement to the other tank. That’s not my fault, and can’t be helped.
We finish the fight; I don’t get the achievement, as I had it from the first week Alizabel was available, like many other people. I hearth home, drop group, and go about my business. But I’m pissed off.
I’m not pissed that the raid leader questioned my ability, but rather that he jumped to the conslusion that I deserved to be judged because of his own misunderstanding. He came to an immediate judgement of me based on one sentence.
He decided I didn’t know the fight
He decided therefore that I’d never done it before
And, no doubt, he decided I was a lesser player because of it.
The fact was: if he’d tanked the fight himself, then he would have understood why I’d said that to the other tank (as that tank did). But the tactics around this are moot — what’s important is the jumping to judgement.
This is all too common in many areas of WoW (and other games too, I’m sure).
Someone logs into a 5-man wearing nothing but PVP gear, therefore he’s a shit DPS who’ll fail.
Someone gems/reforges for X rather than Y, therefore doesn’t know his class.
Someone asks for clarification one a boss, therefore doesn’t know the entire instance.
Where does this get us? The PVP-geared player often out-DPS’s whoever was giving him crap. The player who prioritises other stats may well have their own reasons, and simply doesn’t follow the EJ-sheep herders. The guy asking for extra info on one boss’s tactics may have done the entire thing before, but can’t remember one tiny strat.
Why do we do this? Once someone forms a judgement of a person, it’s difficult to get that person to retreat. They’ll hold onto their opinion like a rabid dog, no matter how hard you hit them around the head with your logic shovel.
It makes the game impersonal, causes people to pull back from doing anything with strangers, and once we get to the point where people will only run content with people they know, what’s the point of playing an MMO? Why not just make the game into a single-player adventure with co-op modes?
WoW has never translated well to the E-Sports stage. Despite having live Arena matches at Blizzcon and elsewhere, WoW has failed to take off the way SC2 and other games have. Primarily this is because, to understand exactly what’s going on in Arena, you need to have some understanding of the classes, and their mechanics, involved in the battle. Otherwise it’s just 6 characters running around throwing random crap at each other.
So, it’s often been said that as an e-sport platform, WoW is a non-starter.
However, the last month – and Blizzcon 2011 – has shown that there is one way that Blizzard could further embrace the e-sport scene and do so with their flagship product: live raids.
With Blood Legion v. Vodka at last year’s 2011 Blizzcon (where they raced to finish Firelands Heroic first), and this year’s 2 live raid competitions via Athene’s OPSharecraft.com benefit (Vodka v Method, and then Blood Legion v Paragon v STARS v Exorcus), live competitive raiding has proven to be a huge draw. The 100,000 viewers for the last four-team live raid should have proven as much.
So why is live raiding so compelling compared to Arenas?
First of all, you don’t need to understand the class system, or even necessarily the specific boss mechanics. What you see, instead, are groups of highly-skilled individuals working together as teams through game encounters that are, at the basic level, easy to understand. And, it’s a simple race: which team gets that boss down quicker; how far behind is that other team, and OMFG THEY’RE CATCHING UP HOLY SHIT.
However, having world-top guilds competing on a regular basis would be difficult to keep active (unless there were sizeable prize pots). What is needed is a way to encourage the ‘normal’ players to compete without having to devote 2-3 hours of gametime to do so. And Blizzard has precisely the platform coming with Mists of Pandaria.
Challenge Mode dungeons will be coming in with patch 5.0, with the new MoP dungeons open to ‘speed challenges’ whereby teams will be rewarded bronze, silver and gold rewards based on how quickly they can complete the dungeons. Their gear will be normalized, and as such it will take pure skill and team work to excel.
Put this in a situation where teams can race each other in some way, and we would have an exciting platform where skill will be matched against skill (rather than gear against gear). Then have a way for these match-ups to be watched on replay, throw access to that to YouTube and streaming casters, and voila: a WoW e-sport that many more players can relate to than arena does.
Add in semi-regular live competitive raids, with the support of the larger gaming sponsors and networks, and the WoW e-sport scene would, I’m sure, blossom.