Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Where Next?

In these first days of August, Blizzard has announced they will reveal the next WoW expansion on Aug. 6 This is really important for Blizzard to do at this time, but it's hard to say if it's soon enough.  

Typically, Blizzard reveals new WoW expansions at Blizzcon, but waiting another four months for a reveal would be a disaster for developers trying to avoid the 14-month stalemate we had with The Siege of Orgrimmar at the end of Mists of Pandaria. Moving up an announcement to next week
would be the bare minimum they would need to accelerate the next expansion's release.

But, does this accelerate the expansion enough? 

We can only generalize about the history of past expansions, but Blizzard hasn't let 10 to 12 months passed between an announcement and the release of the new expansion. There's nothing saying they can't do better, and maybe they will this time. But,following this historical trend, we really wouldn't expect to see the new expansion before next summer.

And that's not much better than the last time. It also depends on fairly flawless execution by the blizzard developers.

So, I'm not saying that it will be a year before we get an expansion, just that the historical trends are not favoring us. 

What's it going to be?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Merinna on her first Griffon
Last week, WoW lead designer Ion Hazzikostas gave an interview in which he noted that there would be no flying in Patch 6.2, in fact, he didn't think there would be any flying in Draenor at all.  And you know what? He suspected they may never allow flying again in any future expansion pack either because the developers liked that idea so much.

The reasons stated are that "flying makes the world feel smaller and less dangerous." Which, truth be told, is entirely an accurate statement. The developers have chafed at a character's ability to simply jump on a flying mount, go kill something that needs killing, and jump on that flying mount to escape the multitudinous ground forces that might get in your way. I presume flying above it all is a way to avoid PvP entanglements on an open PvP server.

So, with those caveats in the previous paragraph clearly written out and agreed to by me, let me state unequivocally that to remove flying as an ongoing feature in the World of Warcraft would be a disgraceful, terrible idea. Removing flying from the game gives way to lazy design by the developers and is disrespectful to the players who have spent years building characters around the flight ability.

Lazy Design

Hazzikostas says that it is difficult to design around the convenience of flying. He completely ignores how successfully Blizzard has done this in the past.

Wrath of the Lich King was brilliantly designed for the use of aerial transportation. Many of the zones of that expansion had an impressive verticality that took the ability to fly as a key feature of its exploration. Do you remember the first time you flew into the Storm Peaks, all full of straight inclines and monumentally-sized Titan features? How about Icecrown Citadel, where the ground was so full of enemy Scourge that you had to fly above it to get where you needed to be?  How about the Howling Fjord, which, although a starting-level zone for Lich King, gained so much more beauty when you reached max level and could sail through the air jetties of the deep chasms and foothills.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Spring Malaise

Well, I honestly didn't want it to go this way, but 6.1 has been a bust for much of anything interesting.

I don't know what else my expectations were. A few posts ago I wrote explicitly of how disappointing patch 6.1 looked coming up on the horizon. And it turned out to be pretty well everything I wrote about then: fixes to systems from 6.0, stretching content in the garrison, minor fixes to problems in the garrison without any ambitious overhauls. No new areas of content whatsoever.

I've finished the legendary questline, involving that ring and Garona Halforcen. Or... I've finished as far as that story goes for now. 

Spoiler Time (skip this part if you get nitsy about the legendary questline) 

Having Garona as a "legendary follower" is nice enough, except that on a storyline basis, I just don't trust her. Garona, in our original timeline flipped allegiances and even after her "brainwashing" by Gul'dan was defeated, still managed to slip off to assassinate King Llane of Stormwind at the warlock's behest. Khadgar should presumably know better this time around, but I don't see him doing anything different from what was done before.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Warcraft vs. The Industrial Revolution

Again with the Orcs and their crappy places to live
Several weeks ago, I ran an article in which I wondered aloud about what effect advancing technology would have on Azeroth and our World of Warcraft.  There was much consideration given for the steampunk aesthetic, but my feelings were that the developers have been letting in-game technology creep closer and closer to the present day to where it was threatening the concept of a "fantasy" world.

That was all before I ever got a look at Blackrock Foundry. So now I gotta just vent a little.

I hate Blackrock Foundry. I've never hated a raid as much as this. I hate the setting. I hate most of the bosses. I hate the color dialogue and I hate the incidental themes about technology that it shows us.

There are some interesting raid mechanics here that are ruined by stupid boss dialogue and the trappings of a fully mechanized and mostly automatic industrial factory. 

I like suspension of disbelief and all, but any army that could possibly build all this mechanization in such a short time, including the train depot and underground shipping port is one our medieval butts would be incapable of beating. Conservatively, this kind of mechanization took decades of active development and construction in the real world. I'm still a little hazy on how much time has passed since Garrish was deposed at Orgrimmar, but a year or two is the tops. All this should not have been built in that amount of time.

Jumping around among conveyor belts and dodging dozens of locomotives while some orc shouts 19th Century railroad jargon at us is not my idea of "savage." The parody of Hans and Franz, one of my least favorite Saturday Night Live regulars from 25 years ago, was stupid. I'm just surprised they didn't call one of their abilities "Pump You Up!"

Pant, pant, pant.

Yeah, I'll be glad to be done with this place so I never have to hear  "Bat the stack off her!" ever again.

"Masochist tweet of the night..."

The essence of PvP in one image
Boy, was that an understatement!

Late last week, WoW's primary PvP developer Brian Holinka, asked this question on Twitter:

Masochist question of the week: Do you play WoW and Heroes of the Storm but you don't PvP in WoW? I'd love to hear why.

Responses that I saw tended to fall along complaints that it's unbalanced, and Holinka sort of got in trouble replying that balance was an experienced player's problem, not one shared by people who don't PvP. I can agree with that...for the most part. But other people thought he sounded dismissive. I think those "other people" should read the question more carefully. 

I am somebody who doesn't PvP. In any game. There are a few places I have tried... Including WoW, but it never takes. And I'm unlikely to purchase a game that was PvP only. That's a bummer with Blizzard's two newest products coming out aimed to be just that: PvP only. I'll give them a try, but realistically, I don't have big expectations. 

Before I get into some reasons why I don't PvP, I was wondering why the comparison between WoW and Heroes was being drawn here. Isn't Heroes still in a closed alpha stage? It may be in beta now...I'm not sure. But, like, Heroes of the Storm might be the most incredible experience of all time that would forever change my view of PvP games, but I wouldn't know because the damn thing hasn't been properly released yet.

Anyway. WoW PvP doesn't work for me because...

It Attracts So Many Toxic Players
Toxic players are the ones who type all-cap expletives for a whole match, are quick to point out how much everybody else sucks and that they must be homosexual because of this. You know the type. In truth, I think these players have always been everywhere, but in my experience, they just seem to congregate in battlegrounds. I'd think this fun-quashing personality type would be at the top of the list for many people who won't darken a battleground's door.

I Don't Like the Pacing
This part is very subjective. I realize that and wouldn't argue with anybody who does like PvP pacing. But, short bursts of high activity, followed by periods of waiting drive me crazy. That pretty well describes the arena, I think. But it's much the same in battlegrounds. Sometimes, I've been giving the good fight in a BG, and then I die, and it just about ruins it for me as I sit in the graveyard waiting to resurrect for 30 seconds. This sort of thing pulls me out of the fun.

Bird Brains: What's Going on in the Spires of Arak?

Skyreach, in the tippy-top of the Spires of Arak
I've run several characters through the Spires of Arak now but had all sorts of problems really getting the details of the conflict there worked out in my head. Honestly, I like the Arakoa and I appreciate their history being expanded in Warlords of Draenor. But it's not been easy.

So, today, dear readers, I'm prepared to tackle all this Arakoa lore and maybe figure out why we should care.

The Gist
The real problem today in Draenor is that a severe caste system has sprung up among the Arakoa that has moved to a point of genocide. Whatever the reasons for this are, I think we should all agree that genocide is bad, okay. And that putting an end to genocide broadly falls within the range of things that heroes like us would work towards. To that end, we are faced with defeating the Adherents of Rukhmar in order to save the mangled, cursed brethren we find in the lower forest.

How Did All This Start?
Way way back a long time ago, there were three eternal bird beings: Rukhmar was a free-spirited happy demigod, Sethe was a nasty thing full of jealousy for Rukhmar. Anzu was a deity known for his cunning. Sethe tried to get Anzu to assist in taking down Rukhmar, but tricky Anzu pulled a double-cross that led to Sethe undoing. With her dying breath, Sethe uttered a curse on the world to cause it to rot in shadow. Anzu bravely consumed Sethe in an attempt to contain this curse, but there were two problems. First, a little bit of the curse got out and fell on the area of Spires known as Sethic Hollow. That land was left bereft and any Arakoa setting foot in there receives Sethe's curse. Secondly, Anzu was warped and wracked with pain from the curse that he contsined. Soon after, he retreated to "a place of shadow" that seems like suspended animation in order to heal. Rukhmar, was horrified, seeing what happened to Anzu and ran the hell away. She stayed gone until Patch 6.1.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

How are the Other Classes Playing?

It's like Hollywood Squares, only cool.

I've spent so much time with Merinna this expansion so far, but there have been alts. For better or for worse, I almost never put much research into the alts. I do have fun with them, of course, but there's jus not really space in my head to min/max multiple classes.

As such, I don't really have much idea of an idea of what everybody else thinks about their classes and can only go with my own limited observations. That sounds good and scientific, right? Of course, right! So, let's look in on:

Ephaena the Hunter
Ephie has long been a gatherer character and was the first alt to get moving after Merinna due to the need to animal skins in Mer's leartherworking.