Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More on Blizzcon

Sorry, I just can't come up with anything clever to say about this,
but this is why I'm not crazy about the Pandaren race. 
About the time I published Blizzcon notes the other day, I immediately started thinking about other points that I didn't get to.  So, there are things to continue from the last blog post here.

I've also had some time to reflect on notes coming in from the blogosphere about the shape of the content to come.  It seems to me that the reactions are unduly extreme: either unnecessarily positive or unduly negative. A few things about the greater world order perhaps should be observed:

The important thing I see right now is that for the first time in many years, we are seeing just the hint of the beginning of the story of this expansion, while we have gotten used to viewing the end of these things.

When Wrath of the Lich King was announced, just about every player could clearly picture nudging Arthas' corpse with their foot at the top of Icecrown Citadel.  Cataclysm was announced, and everybody I know spoke of "When we kill Deathwing,"  not "If we kill Deathwing." But that was the nature of the story arc in those cases.

But, for Pandaland, we just don't know what the denouement is going to be. We have some hazy pictures of some evil beings lurking in the underbelly of the new continent, but we can't begin to imagine the motivations and true nature of these things.  I frankly find the open-ended nature of this to be a good thing. But that's why I find a lot of the overly-positive / overly-negative immediate response to be a bit perplexing: it's way to early to make any real evaluation of what is coming up. We know less about it than we did for the past two expansions.

The other thing that seems pretty clear from the blogosphere is that there's a lot of people who really dig anthropomorphic panda bears and a surprising number of them are not 5-year-old girls. Basically, the whole thing is too cutesy for me in, but I have had to reflect and try to understand why I have been vaguely uneasy about Pandarens since first hearing "Mists of Pandaria" a few months ago. An unexamined belief is not a belief holding onto, in my opinion.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

WoW at Blizzcon: $#%ing Pandas

I'll say it again: $#%ing Pandas
Most everything I have about the first day of Blizzcon is positive, but I need to get that headline off my chest and out of the way up front.  It seems to me we should be able to do better than with cutesy-wootsy, widdle panda bear characters. I mean, Samwise Didier invented this race in a throwaway sketch to please his infant daughter. COME ON!

Moving on.

Darn, Pandaria looks good!  I watched part of the art panel this weekend and was pretty impressed with the tools they have and they way they use them.  For my money, Wrath of the Lich King was the finest scenery they have yet made for this game, and Pandaria seems like it is made from the same cloth.  I can hardly wait to get to go exploring there.

And, as for the unifying element of this expansion, I'm feeling happy that there is no new Big Bad this time around. I have little doubt that some rotten new NPCs will step forward to have our might focussed against them, but it's nice to not have the world's safety hanging by a string.  No one should be expected to have to save the world EVERY SINGLE DAY!  Not even our characters. If the Alliance and Horde factions go to all-out war, that's a good thing too.

Thinking of war between the Alliance and Horde, during the Lore Panel, an Alliance player stepped forward, braved the boos of the crowd and asked Chris Metzen point blank when he was going to let the Alliance back into the fight. And Metzen just doesn't get it. He described a quest series they are trying to write in which Varian Wrynn takes our characters as valets of sorts in a round-the-world tour to shore up Alliance support. But that's not what I want to see. What I want is to see the Horde gains to Alliance territory retaken and the cursed wretches given a drubbing. I want the political map of the world redrawn.  Cheerleading for the king is a poor, poor substitute.

I think somebody boxed Metzen and a few others about the ears before letting them out on stage this time. The roars for the Horde were a bit more balanced, but I mean... really, Metzen: appreciate he's a writer and he likes his characters, but the Alliance needs action now, not more soul-searching from the king, dammit.

There are so many other things they touched on this weekend, I'll surely come back to revisit some of these in future blogs, but just quick notes after the jump for now.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Things to Work on for the Next Release

Here's a list of some features that could use some work before they release the next patch. Please, readers, add more in your comments!

1) Fix the Flight Paths
How many times have you gotten on a griffon to fly from the Twilight Highlands to the Eastern Plaguelands and the route takes you by way of ... Ironforge.  Those FPs over Khaz Modan in particular are all sorts of messed up. Seriously, Blizzard, there is no way that flying half a continent in the wrong direction could be the "best" way to integrate the old flight paths with the countless new ones introduced after the Cataclysm.  I'm sure there are technical reason that you had to go to release before, but I hope you have fixed them by now.

2) Archaeology Specialization
At some level of archaeology, they needed to provide a means of specialization. Just ask anybody trying to accumulate Tolvir artifacts and keeps getting fields in Winterspring they have to go chase down instead.  I think archaeology was probably released this way so that no one could monopolize, or rush after certain rare artifacts, and I generally appreciate that too. But like, in the next expansion, there's bound to be a new racial group's artifacts unveiled and if I'm still forced to go pick up Troll artifacts instead, Imma gonna spew.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Blizzcon Predictor

Just a few days til Blizzcon!  I just went to look up all I wrote about last year's Blizzcon and as I suspected, I never really said that much. I think I generally tried to stay positive and while there have been a few times this year that I have toyed with addressing last year's Blizzcon again, I'm pleased to see that I have refrained from doing so. Just a model of self-restraint I am.

So, I'm going to stay positive now. Watch this!

Here's what I think we can expect from Blizzcon this year:

The Foo Fighters are Going to Rock
I just had to get that one out of the way first. Because it's just absolutely true.

This Blizzcon should be a Hella Lot Better Than Last Year's Blizzcon
Basically, there was no news at last year's Blizzcon and there has got to be some news this year, so it's going to be better just by default in that respect. Almost every panel had panelists who looked strung out and nobody had done anything to prepare besides bring a chair so they could listen to an endless stream of lousy Q&A. It was right on the eve of the release of Cataclysm, so I can't entirely blame them or anything, but it still made for crappy panels.

To recap the whole "Mists of Panderia" expectations that bubbled up this summer and then went oddly quiet.  Back in June (I think), Blizzard filed trademark papers on the name "Mists of Panderia" in the same manner that they filed papers on "Cataclysm" two years earlier. Back in the day, that was the earliest widely-known hint as to what was coming in this latest expansion, so the fans pounced on "Mists of Panderia" name with relative certainty.

Since that time, various blue-post and media comments from Blizzard people have both suggested confirmation and suggested denial of the validity of the Panderia predictions, which, I'm sure, is exactly how Blizzard would like it.  They have kept their secret about the next expansion pretty well this time out. But you can expect them to show us their cards at Blizzcon in five days time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Long Pause

Rest time. 
Greetings, fellow WoW geeks. I still don't entirely like getting all meta and writing about real-life in my WoW blog, but by now I think the serious break in my writing habits is showing. I can't remember the last time I tried to explain myself but around the first of September, I started a new job, teaching 2nd Grade in my city's public school system. And boy, is that hard work.

Let nobody try and convince you otherwise: being a first-year teacher in elementary school is a monster of a job requiring more hours than could be reasonably put into it, and even when you bust your gut to try to get it all done, you don't.

It's maddening. You don't sleep well. Your weekends are consumed with trying, and ultimately failing, to catch up on everything you have to do. You try and maintain a social life, or at least a fain semblance of one, but when you go out with your friends, all you think about in the back of your head is what you have to do for school, or how you're going to address the problem with somebody stealing crayon boxes in your classroom, or why did a fourth of the class all forget to put equal signs on their math work.

So, long story short: my WoW playtime has suffered tremendously. I mean, it's really ugly. Merinna goes online almost every day to beat up Anzu and make him give me that Raven Lord Mount. (61 runs and no mount. Bleah), but that is just about all of my play time right there. It takes six minutes to skip most of the trash in Setthek Halls, Kill Anzu, curse him for not making the drop, and then log out again. You'd think that I'd just put my WoW account on hiatus.

But truth is, I don't think I could stand not playing in Azeroth. I'm sure there are some people crowing, "Addiction!" and trying to feel all morally superior about it for whatever reason, but the truth is that I just like my character too much. Merinna has been with me for years now. She's my alter-ego! And I just don't want to not get to visit for those six minutes each day.

So, there's that.

Anyway. I'm hoping I can get a bit more free time in coming months. And it is the week before Blizzcon, so that cannot pass, unremarked upon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The History of the World, Part 2

"Hey, skull. How's it going?" "I'm good, Illidan. How 'bout you?" "I dunno. I'm bored." "Feel like messing with the naaru, maybe?" "Are you sure that's a good  idea?" "Sure. What could go wrong?" "OK, skull. Let's do that." "Alright, let's do a warm-up by corrupting some more orcs first."

For Part 1 of this series, originally written about a year ago, click here.

"The Problems with Elves"

The Burning Crusade felt like a big bait and switch story. What was our primary objective in Outland? Doom Lord Kazzek reopened the Dark Portal so we go running through to deal with the demons...

... Only to find that the most significant power threat in Outland is really Illidan Stormrage. So we refocus and spend A LOT of time taking apart his forces...

...Only to find that somebody had a secret agenda and ZOMG!! Kil'jaden is about to stroll through the front door, back in Azeroth!