Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Guest Post: First Impressions

Somaric: "Does this helmet make my ears look big?"

[Merinna's Note: Today, I'm happy to bring a guest post from longtime WoW friend, Somaric. He and I both play on the Oceanic realms, so our times represent Australian standard times instead of Blizzards American PST. Please enjoy!]

As a long-time questing sidekick of Merinna, Somaric thought it might be interesting for a first impression posting about the new release, Cataclysm

I seem to be levelling very fast.  I made level 81, yesterday, in about 4 ½ hours.  Most of this was done in Mt Hyjal.   

The realm I play on was locked up on the 7th, so I didn’t get to do anything except gain my Azeroth riding skill. Consequently, I got up early the next day.  

Imagine my surprise when a system announcement came up at around 1pm, that “such & such” had just become the first level 85 Priest on the realm.  Subsequently, I watched as other classes became the first to 85.  It seems to me that, from 7pm on the 7th, to 1pm on the 8th is 19 hours.  

Now, if someone wants to play all night, to get the achievement of first in realm, well good luck to them.  But, if you think about it, that doesn’t seem like much excitement for $40 USD.  

I remember about a week of questing, in Lich King, to get from 70 to 71.  Then, more weeks of questing to get to 72.

Now, based on the information of how quickly Azeroth heros raced up to level 85, and my own, short stint, from 80 to 81, I ask the question, “Has Blizzard nerfed character levelling to make it easier?

The questing in new areas seems much more linear than it used to be.  As examples, my first trip to Vash'jir: Arrive, watch a video to enhance the story a bit, then begin to quest.  But, it’s only one or two quests at a time.  

After the world was torn asunder, with the release of 4.0.3a patch, I travelled around looking for new quests.  There are a lot of new Alliance areas in the Southern Barrens and Stonetalon Mountains.  I road into these areas, looking for quests.  Oops, none to be seen.   Strange.  Finally, I realised that I needed to go back to virtually the beginning of the new Alliance areas, pick up the first quest, then progress through, to the various areas.

The same thing seemed to happen with the new areas in Ashenvale.  Once I received an invite to go to an area, the quests in that area would open up.  I never did receive an invite from a quest giver for the crazy troll area in north Darkshore.  

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but this seems to be a much more linear questing progression.   And, this seems to be a major departure from the questing of previous releases

What has been puzzling me is why these changes might have occurred.  Then, after watching an old episode of one of my favourite Australian TV shows, Good Game, it dawned on me.  Blizzard has adopted some of the First Person Shooter questing methodology evident in Call of Duty, Red Dead, or Assassin’s Creed.  Do this, kill these guys, watch a video of the plot update.  

Now, if one assumes this theory for the moment, why would Blizzard developers be moving this way?  World of Warcraft is, basically, a world exploration and questing game that was free-flowing.  By this I mean, that you could, if you wanted to, go anywhere pick up quests anywhere.  You might have died on the journey, but, it was worth it.  

One of the personal achievements I’ve had been working on, was to roll a new alt and see how high I could get it, before a death.  Of course, this means he has never gone into  any dungeons.  But, still, this was fun.   The trick was to roll, say, a Night Elf, finish the Nelf starting quests, then catch the boat to Azuremyst do the Draenei starting quests.  Level to 8 without risk of a death.  Then, back to the Dolonar for more easy Nelf quest.  Free flowing gaming for the explorer.

However, it has occurred to me that Blizzard developers, like the normal humanoids they purport to be, would play all the FPS games.  Have the FPS games influenced the developers of Blizzard, to adopt more of the FPS game flow?

Or, has the crop of Azeroth gamers changed so much?   Do gamers now expect to have a game be more linear?  Do gamers expect to level up very quickly, rather than quest for days and weeks?  Do the gamers now require a video update of the plot?   Even, to push the point further, does a game NEED a plot, a subtext?  

I do not have answers to these and many other questions, such as, what is  the secret love affair between Thrall and Jaina.  But, I think I am right in stating that World of Warcraft has become more linear and that levelling is much faster. 

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