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Just wanted to put a quick cap on my last on-topic post RE: Elwynn and my burning disappointment – particularly as You Know What drops You Know When and I imagine I will be terribly distracted for a little while moving forward.

I finished the map and moved on to Westfall, which is also now completed. Then I rolled an actual human to see if there’s any differences. My conclusion:

Elwynn = disappointing beyond measure compared to all the other maps I’ve played through. To be fair, they’ve streamlined the flow, given you shortcuts to questing areas and they don’t make you run the map anymore which is nice. Plus they’ve taken a couple obscure quests I almost always miss or forget to do and made them much more prominent. But that’s the extent of the changes. Seriously. It’s the same god-damned map, minus the slightest little shift to the end of the Hogger questline in order to make him a boss in the Stockades.

The disappointment. It burns.

Having said that…

Westfall completely makes up for it. Completely. I have never been so delighted with a map or a series of quests. Everything is updated – EVERYTHING. The quests range from hil-freaking-arious to exciting/serious. There’s a point at the end where Stoutmantle screams at you to run and go tell Varian and I was actually so flustered and panicked by the whole thing I wound up flying out to Moonbrook by accident. It was awesome.

My one complaint? Every boar I killed dropped their liver. I swear to God. You might think that’s great, given that the drop rate used to be one liver per eighty boars, but I regret / am pleased to inform you that that quest no longer exists.

So what the fuck am I supposed to do with all these livers?

UPDATE: Fuuuuuuu! This post posted before I was done editing it apparently and none of my changes too. :( Apologies if you get this twice on your feed readers – please read this version. It’s better. I swear.

Warning: This post is both image and spoiler heavy (for Dun Morogh, Loch Modan, Elwynn Forest, and the Wetlands).
 
Addendum to the warning: I’m a little over-excited right now, so I’m just going to assault you with some pictures until my thoughts can cohere into something resembling a respectable post. Cool? Cool.

This Just In: Gnomes Are Still Awesome

Exhibit A (for Awesome):

Exhibit B (for Better than you):

Exhibit C (for Class):

For what it’s worth, Bingles Blastenheimer is quite possibly my favouritest gnome ever (I mean, just look at him!). One of the many, many, many changes that I have been gorging myself on in the Dwarven Maps (Dun Morogh and Loch Modan, I mean – I’m not deep enough into the Wetlands yet to comment in depth) is that he apparently has a son now. Well, I suppose he had the son before since apparently the guy is a teenager already, but he just never talked about him. And I suppose, under the circumstances, I can’t blame him – the boy is actually fairly “normal”, given that he’s a gnome. His quests and dialogue are all well reasoned, not over-excited, and contained no made-up words that I remember (for shame, Ando! You are a lovely character, but you fail as a gnome!). I was almost concerned…and then this happened:

And then THIS happened:

And then this happened:

And my faith in the future of the Gnomish Race was restored.

In Other News: Dwarves Are Cranky

I know this isn’t new (Aggro Management Exclusive: they’re also drunk! Who knew?!), but it seems the Cataclysm has made the Dwarves crankier than usual, and I honestly found myself chortling gleefully at some of the acidic things they had to say to me and about each other:

Dwarves are cranky

Even their hats are out of joint (awesomely so, if I may be so bold):

The Combination Thereof

There’s honestly something about the combination of Dwarves and Gnomes that I adore. Dwarves are these stout, hardy, straightforward creatures, and their relationship with the Gnomes is genuinely heart-warming. Something in the way they work with and protect the eccentric, energetic little balls of light and creativity that are the Gnomes. They’re the original straight-man and clown. It’s terribly cute. The Dwarves bear the Gnomes’ out-there-ness with such dignity and stoicism and the Gnomes try SO FREAKING HARD to be helpful and useful. They give me the warm fuzzies.

There’s a point at the end of the Gnomeregan 1-5 starter zone where you successfully win a battle against Thermaplugg’s minion as part of a coalition of Gnomes and Dwarves. After the battle, when you hand in, Mekkatorque (fully voice acted, and positively jubilant) yells:

Razlo Crushcog is no more! The people of Ironforge and Gnomeregan speak with one voice this day. Hear us well, Thermaplugg. The day of your defeat approaches!

Beautiful.

Moving Right Along…

So to attempt to slap this post into some kind of coherency, let me just work my way around to what I actually intended to talk about before I got completely derailed by my renewed love of the short races of Azeroth (soon to be joined by the Goblins, who I already want to hug and pet and love forever).

My point is thus: I have played through the Dwarven/Gnomish starting maps, and started Elwynn (…as a Dwarf…don’t ask) and wish to provide my unsolicited opinion of them.

In general, may I just say, my love for this game has been rekindled to a degree I would previously have told you was not possible. The obvious caveat on this is I don’t know how long it will last. Sooner or later I will have played through these maps a froopopapillion times again and I’m sure I’ll go back to being sour and bored and developing a wandering eye for other games. But for now at least, I am intrigued and engaged and amused and thrilled and impressed and insanely happy all at the same time – except in Elwynn, but I’ll get to that.

Coldridge Valley, Gnomeregan, and Northshire

Coldridge Valley

Nicely done, overall. Nothing too stale or repetitive. Some interesting NPCs, good continuity in their dialogue and quests – though there was the one guy that totally hit on me (who can blame him? My Dwarven shaman is hot, and that is not even remotely sarcastic. She’s awesome) in one quest, but utterly failed at following up on it in the rest of the chain. I feel so rejected.

I like that the Frostmane trolls have been given a bit more meat in their motives and back story. The addition of the Soothsayers or whatever they were called was nice, but I can’t help but notice the quest chain went kind of like this:

Dwarf #1: Go in there and kill all the troll whelps.
Dwarf#2: Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on a second. Let’s find out why they’re here before we just wipe them out.

Which I thought was really progressive, you know? Because before they were all: “look, there’s these trolls, see? And they’ve got these kids. Just go wipe them out. Don’t ask any questions, just wipe them out.” There was a brief moment when I picked up Dwarf #2’s quest where I really, honestly thought Blizz was going to let me off the hook WITHOUT murdering a bunch of troll children. Then I realized Dwarf #1 had given me a quest too – kill X troll babies.

All right, says I, maybe, after killing the babies and finding out the real reason the trolls are here, Dwarf #1 will feel bad about the homicide and tell me to go make peace with them or something.
So I headed out to where the babies were and began my wholesale slaughter, all under the watchful eyes of the adult Soothsayers who were busy waxing philosophical about their deal with the fire elemental while their young charges were being murdered.

I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but that quest is now even MORE awkward than it was before. Not only am I killing children, I’m apparently doing it with the approval of the adults watching me do it. Those adults have GREEN NAMES. They are FRIENDLY to me. Why? WTF? I don’t need this guilt!

But I comforted myself with the thought that there’s no way Blizzard would make this quest so awkward unless there was a peaceful resolution in the end, right? Right?!

So back I go to hand in both quests. After handing in the soothsayer one, Dwarf #2 sends me back to Dwarf #1 with the information we’ve found out, and I’m all: here we go! Remorse time baby! We are hideous murderers and it’s totally time to make up for it! Repent ye heathens!

And he said:

Dwarf #1: Oh. Well, whatevs. Go kill moar. Check the cave. I think you missed some back there.

I grumbled and sulked and stomped my way through the rest of the quest chain. But still – despite taking the awkward-factor to a whole new level, the quest IS actually better than it was before.

I don’t have any complaints about the rest of the quests. Troggs throwing priceless artefacts at me is…well…priceless. The initial quest-giver being stuck in his own personal FPS is amusing and adds a degree of urgency to the whole questline.

But the highlight for me, I think, was NOT having to go through that fucking trogg-infested cave at the end of it. Getting to fly OVER the mountain in a gyrocopter with a gnome filling me in on the political situation in Dun Morogh? Brilliant. Much better than slogging my way through a dank cave full of the single, most irritating sounds in the world. Also, I’m amused by the “go pack your things, because you’re not coming back here” quest that gets you a cloak, some food and alcohol, and a free bag. It’s a cute way of doing it. I’ve always thought it was kind of odd when quest givers just sort of hand you a bag for no reason that I can determine. It’s like you’re the last kid to run up to Santa, but he’s out of presents so he just sort of shrugs awkwardly at you and hands you a dirty old sack full of crushed hopes and dreams.

This bag had stuff in it.

TL;DR: Well done conversion. Fun to play through, but nothing super-epic.

Gnomeregan

Complete and utter love, for the following reasons:

  1. Nothing here is revised or reimagined – it’s completely new. The Gnomes have NEVER had their own starting area. They’ve always had to run through Coldridge Valley.
  2. It’s like the quests were created by Gnomes, for Gnomes. Nary a Dwarf to be seen until toward the end.
  3. All the usual jokes are in there, but there’s some degree of seriousness to it too. You can FEEL their longing to be home.
  4. It’s GNOMEREGAN. What’s not to love?
  5. Etc.

I don’t quite know why, but I’m enamoured of the idea that your Gnome character has been living in Gnomer since the “incident.” There’s something really exciting about working with your rescuers to get yourself out of Gnomer, de-radiated, and back out into the wide world. The little heroic flare they’ve added into the Gnomer theme doesn’t hurt either.

The area has a decent sense of momentum that’s maintained through the quests. Plus, it’s all about the Gnomes. It grounds your character in its own race, and does a much better job differentiating them from the Dwarves culturally and historically speaking. I just rolled a Troll (haven’t played it through very far yet) but I imagine it will be the same for them. When you share a starter map that belongs to another race, you kind of get lost under that other race. You’re not REALLY a Troll, you’re a tall Orc with fucked up hair. You’re not really a gnome, you’re a brightly coloured Dwarf with poor judgment. You never really get a good sense of your own race, which can make it challenging to try – from an RP/story standpoint – to place your character within it.

I also liked the introduction of a few more factions within the Gnomish race. There’s the heroic members of the Survivor Assistance Facilitation Expedition (S.A.F.E.), and the dedicated crew from Gnomeregan Covert Ops. They’re just stupid little additions to add some colour and flavour to the zone, but I really like them. They add a bit of depth to the race as a faction unto itself. They hint at the organization within the Gnomish government. They add a bit of legitimacy – by virtue of their existence, and in spite of their silly acronyms (of which I am a fan) – to a race that is often sorely lacking in legitimacy in terms of the way Blizzard handles it.

I should probably move on or I’m going to go into a rant here about the Gnomish Situation and how little attention it gets and how as much as I love the silliness and fun around the Gnomes I do wish Blizz would give them just a BIT more credit than they tend to.

TL;DR: Gnomer is as awesome as the Gnomes for which it is named. Roll a Gnome, Save our Home!

Northshire

So, I rolled a gnome and play through the Dwarven lands. Then I rolled a Dwarf and played through the 1-5 map and realized I’d already done the Dwarven lands and wanted to try something new, so I took my little shaman over to Elwynn, intending to start Northshire. I ran all the way up there and stared around in puzzlement, wondering where the quests were. I ran around the Abbey and inside the Abbey, and /begged at the quest givers but nobody would talk to me. Not one of them.

I ran around screaming: But there are Goblin Assassins, can’t you see them?! And Orcs! There are Orcs! Orcs in Elwynn! And the GODDAMNED VINYARD IS ON FIRE YOU OBVIOUSLY NEED HELP WHY WON’T YOU GIVE ME THE QUESTS?!

Because they’re racists bastards, that’s why.

TL;DR: Will apparently have to roll a human to be able to report anything beyond the fact that there are Goblins and Orcs and the Vineyard is on fire and I DON’T KNOW WHY.

Dun Morogh Proper / Elwynn Forest

Dun Morogh

Very well done questing experience. The quest hubs no longer send you running hither and thither like a chicken with your head cut off, only to send you thither and hither again once you’ve done them all. Things are grouped more efficiently and sensically. There is a lot of hand-holding in terms of transferring you from one quest hub to another. It’s a very linear experience, which I don’t think is necessarily bad. In fact, it’s probably nothing short of excellent for newbies who have no idea what anything is or where to find it and are too busy being overwhelmed by things to try to figure out where the Hell to go next. But I AM a little afraid that the linearity will cause things to get old faster than they would otherwise. Even if there were two quest hubs I was handed off to and I could pick what order I wish to do them in that would mitigate this to some extent, but ultimately: meh. It’s a non-issue for me until I get bored. It’ll be a huge issue then, but until then, I repeat: meh.

I like how Blizzard has taken more care to link one quest to another, and link events to quests to other events so that everything makes sense. I never found myself committing mass genocide and wondering in a distant sort of way why I was doing this outside of some vague justification given in a quest. The linkages are done well and the zone as a whole tells a much more solid story than it did previously. Most of the quests feel like they’re moving in the same direction and coming from the same place. I had a much stronger feeling of contributing to a larger effort or towards a solid goal, and less like I was being given a bunch of busy work by a few drunk dwarves too lazy to do it themselves.

I also like how, in between trying to give their storyline gravity and weight, they throw in the occasional thing to make fun of themselves – or of us as players. When I saw the rewards for this quest in Dun Morogh I cracked up:

And there’s this gem, later on in Loch Modan:

There are also tonnes of new rare-spawns, which is awesome because, honestly, rare spawns are like Christmas to me:

And they’ve given the old monsters new abilities, which for no apparent reason pleases me greatly. I think it’s because it adds to the uniqueness of otherwise boring mobs. This is a picture of Ol’ Sooty, but all bears have this ability now. It’s not a generic spell – it’s obviously specifically for bears. It’s just a nice example of attention to the little details that add a bit of colour to the world:

Alternatively, I am easily impressed. Let’s not rule this one out too quickly.

TL;DR: Dun Morogh is fun to play through; good storyline, lots of content, solid revisions to old quests and entirely new quests.

Elwynn Forest

Are you ready to be completely blown away by the AMAAAAZZZINNNGGG changes to Elwynn Forest?! I haven’t completed the map yet, but I’m half to three quarters of the way through (barring any new quest chains I just haven’t hit yet), and I just don’t know how to capture all of it. It’s just too big! Too incredible! Too cataclysmic!

I mean look at this quest! When will the craziness stop?!

And Princess has a bow now? A BOW? I can barely keep up with all the new and exciting changes!

And even though I’ve killed a hundred thousand boars to make Stonefield bake Maclure a hundred thousand pies so I can kill Goldtooth a hundred thousand times to get back her god damned necklace just ONE MORE TIME, it’s totally a million times better now because even though not so much as a period was changed in the entire quest chain, or in fact any of the quests involving Fargodeep Mine, they moved Goldtooth. He’s on top now. That makes all the difference in the
world:

Especially because they didn’t change his location on the map so I spawn-camped him in his old spot and got respawn-raped by six god damned kobolds TWICE IN A ROW before I googled it and found out he’d moved. Exciting stuff, folks, exciting stuff.

So far, I have found a single new quest. NOTHING ELSE appears to be edited, changed, or revised. Oh, except now when they send me to the opposite end of the map they give me a horse to get there. And there’s an FP at Eastvale now so I can fly back and forth. This is actually a very, very, very good thing, but I’m having trouble drumming up any enthusiasm when all it’s doing is getting me from one tedious old quest to another faster, and preventing me from farming mines and herbs along the way.

I heard they did something or other with Mankrik’s wife. When will Rolf and Malakai get some love, Blizz, huh?

Maybe it’s because I’m playing through on a Dwarf, or because I didn’t do Northshire so I’m missing a chain or two that extends from there. Sarcasm aside, there are a few changes I’ve noted – the thieves on the map are no longer Defias thieves, as referenced above Princess is now actually accessible without a three hour walk through the forest, and so on. But none of the quest text so far has been different or revised. All of the same quests are still there. You’d think by now, between the Scourge, the Burning Legion, and now the Cataclysm, the god damned Maclures and Stonefields would have put their feud behind them and moved on so Tommy Joe can stop skulking on the river bank, but no.

I will reserve my final judgement for when I finish the map and when I actually play it through on a human (in the vain hopes that that will give me additional quests I can’t access as a Dwarf), but so far I’ve seen absolutely nothing worth shouting about. To top it off, I played through the first chunk of Elwynn AFTER playing through Dun Morogh’s new experience. The sense of momentum and contribution that was there in Dun Morogh (which is new as of the Shattering) is, of course, not present in the pieces of Elwynn I’ve played through. Because they’re the same old pieces they’ve always been with a few token changes that barely merit a mention.

Sad protflashes is sad.

I maintain hope that something, somewhere, at some point will be different on this map (I hear Hogger is new and exciting? I haven’t gotten to him yet). Pre-shattering, this map was the worst one for me personally and the one I was MOST looking forward to being updated because of how many times I’ve run it – even more than the Gnome map, and that should tell you something! But I’m at least half way through and it doesn’t look like it. I was so dejected I logged out and rolled a Troll hoping the colours would cheer me up (they didn’t…but the baby raptors did).

TL;DR: Final judgement pending, but for the moment: Blizzard, I am disappoint.

But I’m holding out for Westfall.

TL;DR

Rapidly dwindling hopes for Elwynn Forest aside, I’m still terribly impressed with the “new” Azeroth and all that comes with it.

I’ve been having a blast the last few days, even with limited play time. I’m sure at some point the honeymoon will be over and I can look at everything a little more critically, but right now I’m still at the point where if it’s a change, it’s good, and I like it, and I’m going to leap and frolic and play like an idiot.

It’s kind of funny because the actual expansion drops next week, and as excited as I am about goblins and worgen and 80-85, they could announce that they’re pushing it back by another MONTH and I wouldn’t care. I’ve got plenty to do right now – more than I’ve had to do in forever. Almost too much, actually. I have more than once found myself paralyzed from having too many options for what to play. Or, you know, post about. In case the 3000 word post and 700 screenshots didn’t give it away. I think I’m actually a little overwhelmed, I can’t focus on anything for more than a second before the next shiny comes along and pulls me away.

But then again, it’s been so long since I had shinies to chase! It’s so nice to be back in the game.

So, as you might have noticed from my general blogospheric absence, I have been in something of a slump in terms of WoW. I’ve played here and there, off and on over the summer and into the fall, but not with any kind of regularity. I kept up the PvP for the most part, right up until 4.0.1. We still have our regular five-man group once a week, and every now and then layte will rope me into a heroic PuG or two (which typically leave me a slavering mass of rage and hate). And we still hop onto our alts every now and then to muck around in the old world.

But that, I think, was a large part of the problem. The old world – and, in fact, the “new” worlds of BC and Wrath – is old. Like a nice, rock-hard chunk of stale bread, too far gone to even use for croutons. I know some people are still enamoured of its charms, and I will admit that even for me it has its moments, but the fact of the matter is I’ve been playing this game for almost the six years it’s been in existence. I have deleted more alts than most people have made. I grow more concerned by the 50-character cap as time goes on.

I have six 80s (five of them tanks, including one of every class that can tank – woo! At least one pre-Cataclysm goal achieved!). I can now officially say I’ve PvPed with some degree of seriousness. I’ve raided up into ICC, dungeoned, soloed. I’ve played every class in the game to at least level 40, and the vast majority of them up past 60, and a chunk up past 80 now. I’ve played all of the races (though I freely admit my tauren have never even made it to 20, poor bastards). There isn’t a map to be found that I haven’t beaten my face off of at least thrice. Certainly there are physical corners of the game I have not at least peeked into, which is to say a few of the old world and BC raids, but that’s it.

I’ve played this game. I’ve played it to death. If I have to make the run from Goldshire to the Eastvale Logging Camp one more time I am going to cry. For serious.

I’ve wished more times than I can count over the last few months that I could go back to my early WoW days – back when I thought Intellect was an awesome stat for warriors because it increased my weapon skill, and I would taunt monsters while soloing because why would they put it on my bar if I’m not suppose to use it maybe threat is a special kind of damage, and I thought add-ons were the devil because they were probably illegal and Blizzard would ban my account the instant I installed one and besides they would probably give me viruses and I could never figure out how to work them anyway.

I was so new back then, everything seemed so complex and vast and beautiful. I read my quest logs because I wanted to understand the world and what I was being asked to do; I studied my talent trees in deep, loving detail so that I could make the absolute wrong choice 100% of the time; I blundered about Azeroth flailing ineffectually at boars and gnolls and whelps and had a deep-seated phobia of murlocs and fell off a lot of cliffs and towers from whipping my camera around while auto-running to get a better look at some pretty tree or amazing sunset or cool looking mob. I left a lot of corpses around Azeroth, most of them mine.

For a long time now, I’ve been a long way away from that. I haven’t read a quest log in ages, because I know all my favourite quests off-by-heart and no longer care about the others. I know more about the lore than I ever thought I would. I throw my talents in where I’ve always put them, knowing full well it’ll be good enough until end game and when I get there I can compare against the cookie-cutter build then. I’m decked out in so many heirlooms and GB blues and epics that I don’t really die at low levels anymore, even if I manage a terrible pull or blunder into a camp of gnolls just as it respawns. I’m not afraid of anything in the game anymore. And neither am I constantly awed (though again, there are still moments). And neither am I very interested.

And then 4.0.1 hit and for a brief, blissful window, I was interested again. They’d completely revamped the talent trees, and in some cases the mechanics of the classes. I loaded up my 80 paladin and panicked, not understanding anything on his bar or how it worked, so instead I made layte roll a pally alt with me to re-learn the class from the ground up, rather than trying to figure it out at 80 with too full a toolbar. Forgiving the sheer OPness of the low levels right now (1-shotting three targets at level 10 with Avenger’s Shield…Jesus Christ…so awesome, and so not awesome at the same time), it’s been fun. Plus the new talent trees briefly allowed me to overlook how repetitive and boring and trivial heroics have been lately on my warrior because I wanted to try out my two new warrior builds.

Rend! On a prot warrior! Who’d’a thunk it?

(Aside: One of my warriors has a Blood and Thunder build, and the other doesn’t. Currently I’m leaning toward really liking the Blood and Thunder mechanic. I’ve always been kind of sad about rend. It was like this pretty little button I never pushed and severely neglected and it stared dolefully up at me from my toolbar, as though to say “why do you even have me here if you’re never going to push me? Relegate me to the Bar of Suck with Slam! Do it! You heartless monster!” Now Rend and I are totally BFFs. And it makes me push Thunder Clap more, which I should have been doing anyway. And then that makes me Shockwave more, which I was actually doing anyway, except now it’s more fun because it’s all synergized with TC. Buffs come up, buffs go down. I like it. Also, a DoT on all my targets is sort of useful, what with no one understanding that they’re supposed to actually kill the skull first, not last.)

But even that didn’t last long for me. Ultimately the warrior doesn’t have any sweeping changes to the feel or mechanics. Short of tapping rend at the start of a fight, my priority list is basically the same, the threat distribution is the same (there’s just less of it to go around), and both my warriors are already geared to the point where I don’t have to stretch my brain too hard on gear choices yet (which means I actually haven’t adjusted to the lack of DEF yet and probably won’t ’till Cata). The baby-pallies remain fun and new in terms of mechanics, but ultimately they’re running back and forth across Elwynn. Which I’ve only done a hundred thousand times.

I clung to it as long as I could though and it got me through to yesterday. 4.0.3.

I was beside myself with hope and excitement and eagerness all day. Then layte sent me an e-mail and told me the servers weren’t expected back up until at least 8PM our time. Kill me. Seriously. I had already plotted out half my new alts with the class/race combos and which zones I wanted to play in and so on. Then, around 6:30, I idly opened the remote AH to check my auctions, forgetting I can’t do that when the servers are down, except the servers weren’t down and I’d made 33g 52s on auctions.

Back up the stairs we went to log in. I rolled a baby undead hunter and gleefully watched the totally new opening narration for it and exulted in every single difference I found. I didn’t know where anything was, I couldn’t find the quest givers, I was an undead hunter. It was new! Everything! All of it!

IT WAS NEW!

And then, fifteen blissful minutes later, I had to log off and log onto my warrior (not even the one who gets to push Rend) for our regular guild 5-man dungeon-run. Of Northrend dungeons. Which I have run a hundred thousand times and see in my sleep. And have absolutely nothing new about them as a result of this patch.

Insert the sound of me chafing and banging my head on my keyboard and biting at the chomp.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those runs and that group, but there was new stuff out there! And it wasn’t to be found on my 700th run of DTK! /cry

But I did manage some time running around and gawking at Orgrimmar. Cue OCD-raging at Garrosh because he’s standing where my bank is supposed to be, and running in circles around the new zep tower and flight master unable to find my way down.

Did you know there are flight masters now at all the little towns and quest hubs? Holy shit. I don’t know why this wows me as much as it does, but it does, it so does. I right-clicked the new FM in Razor Hill, got the “You have discovered a new flight path!” message, and just stared at him in awe for a moment.

After our dungeon runs were done, I logged onto my little 40ish hunter and – after consulting a vastly different Zones By Level list than I’m used to – ran down to the Bulwark and into the Plaguelands. Which have, you know, farms and shit – like actual farms where they grow things that are not the Plague. And like…living bears. And foxes and flowers and grass! And Koltira is there and he’s all emo and I guess that’s not really new, but he’s in the Plaguelands now! And they’re not level 60! And Andorhal didn’t chew me up and spit me out! And I tamed a Mastiff! And I looted like three hundred Blindweed which isn’t new but it kind of is because they didn’t used to grow there! And ALL THE QUESTS WERE DIFFERENT! And when you click on a quest in your log it shows you a picture of the person you’re supposed to kill! AND I KILLED THE RAVENIAN FOR THE TWELVE HUNDRETH TIME ONLY THIS TIME HE WAS IN A TOWER IN ANDORHAL INSTEAD OF IN SCHOLO!

The whole damn zone is basically a level bracket below mine (I’m supposed to be in EPL, not WPL) but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave even though the gear was all crappy for me BECAUSE IT WAS NEW and there were chain quests I’d never done before and I was actually READING MY QUEST LOG. What if there were quest chains that spilled over into the EPL?! How could I start the EPL when I didn’t know what happened in the WPL?! I actually DIDN’T KNOW what happened in the WPL!

Apologies for the rampant abuse of CAPS, but I think I may actually be getting excited about WoW again. From a mere forty-five minutes worth of play in a single zone on a character that is far from my favourite.

Fuck raiding. Fuck heroics. Fuck Northrend and Outland*.

Oh Azeroth! I’m home!

*With apologies to Northrend and Outland, both of whom gave me many, many, many hours of joy – probably more joy than angst, whatever else I may say – up until they got as stale as Elwynn.

Layteknight and I were chatting about Cataclysm the other day (who isn’t these days, I guess). The conversation ran the gamut:


  1. Cataclysm is a panacea that will heal all wounds, give sight to the blind, raise the dead to the living, and cause the lame to walk again!
  2. Lifegrip sounds very, very, very dangerous. I trust Blizzard, I do. But man. I spend most of my time in a group screaming for the DPS to run toward the tank if they pull aggro. Reinforcing the awayness of their usual plans doesn’t seem wise to me. To say nothing of apparently removing even the small personal responsibility the DPS have traditionally had for staying out of fire / watching their aggro.
  3. I was really excited by the class previews, then read them, then realized I won’t actually understand how any of that is supposed to work until I can physically press the buttons, then was generally pouty and bored with them.
  4. We are not excited at the moment about 80-85. At all. We are excited about getting 1-60 back and playing it again and having it be new. I cannot wait. I can haz alts!
  5. Manifold goblin/worgen class combinations and which we would play and how we would play and so on and so forth.
  6. Then we looked up the Goblins – did you know their intelligence is pale in comparison to their race’s old smarts? And that they’re losing it more and more every generation? This is why their shit blows up – they’ve got the old schematics, but they no longer understand how it actually works. This is fascinating to me.

So then I started thinking about Goblins. I have long liked the Goblins as a foil for the Gnomes. Forget Horde/Alliance, the real conflict for me has always been Goblin vs. Gnome. It started when the option was first put to me to be a Goblin or a Gnomish engineer – complete with the following descriptions:

You want to know about Goblin engineering? Try asking one of their best and brightest engineers about it – I think his name is “Nubby Stumpfingers.” Want to know why he’s named that? THAT’S Goblin Engineering. (Ringo Tragediction, Gnome Engineer)

Know that feeling you get when you finish making something and turn it on for the first time to experience the power and joy of invention as your device springs to life? Gnomes don’t. (Nixx Sprocketspring, Master Goblin Engineer of Gadgetzan)

There was just something in those quotes that described in fantastic detail to me the rivalry between the two races. That was the moment I gave in and picked a side. I was immediately and properly offended I had even been offered the choice. I was a Gnome. What did they think I was going to pick?

And I harbor a secret hate for Goblins and Goblin engineers to this day. I turn up my nose when I pass the Goblin trainers. I get huffy when I see other players – God forbid a Gnome – talking to them. I named my Mechanostrider “Goblin Killer 3000.” It’s like the rivalry between two schools in the same town – and I bought into it hardcore a long time ago.

The place where this conflict plays out most obviously in game is in the Shimmering Flats, at the Raceway. I just…can’t deal with this place – it’s too awesome. Long, long ago, when I first started playing, someone told me about it and I walked (waaaaayyyy before mounts at 20) all the way there from Dun Morogh just to see it.

There’s a gnome camp, with their unnecessarily mechanical houses, and their gadgets, and their win. And a Goblin camp, with their pineapple wallpaper and far too many explosives in one place, and their other-kind-of-win-that-I-have-arbitrarily-decided-is-fail. And they’re racing each other to prove who’s inventions are better (the results of the races are also obvious if you know where to look, embedded in the stone walls around you).

Less. Than. Three.

But we’re losing the Shimmering Flats in Cataclysm – more accurately, they’re supposedly becoming a great big lake (/sob…my mining run in 1KN…how will I farm mining now?!). So where will the Goblins and the Gnomes find an outlet for their rivalry? Especially now that they’re actually on opposite factions?

But then I was thinking…

That’s how Blizzard could get me into PvP (which I happen to believe is one of their ultimate, super-secret goals – get Protflashes to PvP). I don’t care about the Horde vs. Alliance conflict because I think it’s massively short-sighted and completely ill-advised given the many, many, many, many, MANY shared enemies they have, whose main goals seem to be the destruction of all life on Azeroth.

But Gnomes vs. Goblins?

Fuck YES!

I will be the first person in the queue for that battleground. Hell, I’m already embroiled in that particular faction war. I want to Gnomish Death Ray a Goblin. I want to so bad. If I’m honest, I always have.

It’s just a stupid little subplot playing out in the grand scheme of things that is Warcraft, but I honest to God care about it. Maybe just because it’s one of the first sub plots I stumbled into. Maybe because Engineering was my first and my favourite profession. Maybe because it makes more sense to me than Horde vs. Alliance.

But what it means is that I don’t care if I die a million times, I don’t care if it means I have to learn WTF Resilience is, I don’t care if it means having to research ratings and how to get them.

I would get to Gnomish Death Ray a Goblin.

For Gnomeregan!

So in the spirit of the Cycle of Burnout, I’ve moved from the “Sight of the Log-In Screen Makes me Burn Like the Sun with Resentment” Phase to the “Life is So Much Better Without WoW” Phase, and am currently entering the “Hmmm, I Wonder what my Warlock’s Doing Now” Phase.

I’m not quite ready to jump back into the fray entirely, but I’m getting there. More importantly, I miss my blog. Yes I do. Who’s a cute little bloggie? Who’s my cute little blog? You are! Yes you are!

/pet Blog

Anyway…

I half-took the very good advice of those of you who posted on my last Burn-Out Post (and though I’ve epic failed at responding to comments like I said I would, I read them all and they all helped me sort out my brain quite a bit). Probably should have taken it in full, but taking good advice is like eating healthy. I know I should do it, I know I will feel better for it in the long run, but God damn I want that burger.

In the end I wound up pretty much cutting out all WoW with the exception of the pre-committed raid/group nights (roughly three a week), and put certain plans in motion that will free me of the majority of those commitments at some point in the next few weeks. Knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel has done wonders for relieving the stress it was causing me.

Specifically, I took the advice of the lovely Tamarind, acknowledged that I am not the only tank in the village, and shacked up with Garrus for a while. It has been a much needed break from the grind.

Aside: if you haven’t played the Mass Effect games yet, you probably should. Like, for real. Even if you don’t like sci-fi/games where you shoot people instead of stab them. It has been a very long time indeed since a game absorbed me quite so completely as that one did. Also, it’s got Garrus. Garrus is win.

Though now that I’m starting to consider playing WoW as my main game again, I’m facing an intriguing conundrum – when I finally get back up to my computer room, load up the log-in screen, and hit “Enter World”…what do I do with myself? If I actually manage to extricate myself from the world of raiding and pre-determined commitments, and having to grind various resources in order to even play, what is there to do?

What did I do before I raided? What did I do before I heavily engaged in large-group play? Has it honestly been so long that I have trouble remembering?

I played alts, I know that much. But I was to the point where I’d look at my alts and see nothing but potential subs for our raids, possible buffs, useful professions – not a class, not a character.

What were my goals for them before they became little more than tools? When I first rolled them?

Did I ever really just play this game for shits and giggles?

Looking at my character screen kinda feels like I’ve just woken up. I blink and stare blearily at the list and go: Oh! Oh my God! That’s a Shaman! Not a melee-DPS slot, healer in a pinch. And holy shit! I’ve actually GOT a hunter there! Not just a ranged-DPS/kiter when required. And even the multitude of various tank-specced characters inhabiting that list have gone from being “alt-tanks for other raid groups if required” to being “my pally, my warrior, my druid, my DK”.

I’ve got my babies back.

The timing couldn’t be better, either. Last speculated date I heard for Cataclysm was September/October. That means I’ve got the summer to make whatever preparations I need to in order to be ready to jump right into Cataclysm at the points I want to – and I can enjoy the ride while I’m at it. I want to make sure I’ve got a few options at 80, on the Alliance and the Horde (one more 80 should do it. Maybe I could get my priest up…), a few options around level 40ish, and a few slots open for alts because while 90% of the rest of the game is running from 80 to 85 I fully intend to be picking Peacebloom in Elwynn or mining copper in Durotar and seeing what changes Blizzard’s made to the 1-60 game (which has long been my favourite part, no matter how stale it got after making the run 2 347 439 times).

Oh yeah, and I want a Worgen and a Goblin, because I have some kind of Pokemon complex.

I think I’d like to get either my rogue or my warlock into the 60 bracket a minimum, because I’ve never actually gotten either one past 20 under my own power. My rogue currently sits in the 40 bracket, but levels 20-35 were basically one big boost which means I don’t understand how to play him and that’s bad. They remain the two classes I’ve never gelled to in terms of playability.

I’d also like to get my mage into the 70 bracket. I don’t know if I have enough time for that, though. She’s in the 60 bracket, so not far off, but as I believe I’ve mentioned before, I spend a lot of time dead as a mage.

And the best part is, whatever I manage to achieve from that list, I won’t be doing it for the group. I won’t be doing it for the raid. I won’t be doing it for the guild. I’ll be doing it for me. And as selfish as that may be, I think it’s a lot of what I’ve been missing lately.

Oh Shits and Giggles, how I’ve missed you!

I am livid right now. We had what was, to all extents and purposes, an excellent raid last night (well…a couple nights ago by the time this post is live). We got a fuck tonne of achievements. I got my Champion of the Frozen Wastes title finally (I’d “had” it, just scattered across three characters, so even though I’ve done all the content, I never had the title). We had a grand total of four wipes, each of them instantly corrected. Things dropped quickly, cleanly, and efficiently. Then it all went to fucking Hell in the last 30 minutes. Fucking. Hell. And not because of performance – because of personality. Because of drama. Because of afudkalfjweiahfjvzxnm,huewfajkxcz!.

But I’m not going to talk about it. And I’m not going to think about it. I’m going to go to my Happy Place.

My Happy Place is a spot, hopefully not too far in the future, when the entire world of Azeroth is torn to shreds by a great, burning dragon – and along with it, the hordes of drooling, over-geared, under-skilled, ignorant, arrogant, elitist pricks who think they’re better at this game than the rest of us because they’ve been handed their Tier on the backs of other people’s work and wouldn’t know a CC from a decurse if it bit them in the ass.

In this Happy Place of mine, Kill Orders are not just pretty icons designed to make the game more visually entertaining as the mobs dance in your AoFuckingE. They’re actual Orders, like a military commander might give you. They’re placed strategically to ensure priority targets are taken down quickly and efficiently, with minimum casualties. And if you don’t follow it you die and you wipe the group. Do that often enough and you won’t have a group.

In my Happy Place, AoE is a strategic decision, made after careful consideration of a given encounter. It is not a part of anyone’s rotation. Indiscriminate use will carry heavy consequences. Tanks will no longer be blamed for a poor AoE decision – rather, the AoEer will be expected to bear the weight of his own mistakes. I will never see the following, in relation to AoE, again: “wtf y i die/”. Instead, it will be: “wtf y u aoe rtard/”

In my Happy Place, there are consequences for idiocy, because tanks and healers can no longer indulge in, or compensate for it. DPS will be just as important as the other two roles because their job will encompass more than damage. They will not be selected based solely on two numbers – gearscore and Recount – they will be selected based on their ability to maximize their DPS to the extent possible while also CCing, decursing, and kiting. Their role will require skill, which no gearscore can passively compensate for.

In my Happy Place, all the cockweasels (to use my new favourite word, courtesy of Tamarind) who have been facerolling this content without any skill or attempt at improving themselves as players and members of the community will quit the game, because raiding and maybe even instancing will actually require you to wipe once or twice in order to learn the mechanics, and they just can’t deal with that. These people will wander, guildless, through a desolate wasteland of failpugs, trying to find a group willing to carry their unskilled, impatient, ungrateful ass through content that will forever make them its bitch.

In my Happy Place, regular raiding will require a fairly stable group – either through a guild, or perhaps a friendlist. This means it will require positive attitudes, a sense of community, and good behavior. You will have to be skilled at what you do, able to carry your own weight, and a nice enough person that people like you. Because you can’t just faceroll this shit anymore. You can’t just PuG it out to the drooling masses. You have to pick and choose who you take with you. And as I’ve already said, raiding in my Happy Place requires wiping, and nobody wants to make the run back from the graveyard with an asshole howling the whole way.

My Happy Place will also have weather. Because I agree with everything in this post.

In my Happy Place, the game has finally found that elusive balance between the hardcore and the casuals. Between accessibility and facerolling. Between PvP and PvE. Between major plots and an individual’s story. Between soul-sucking frustration, and free-soaring triumph.

I’m there right now, in my head. I can already see it. Every douchebag who’s ever made the in-game lives of me and my friends Hell is dying in the fires of the Cataclysm as we speak, writhing and screaming and too stupid to even know they’re standing in bad. The rest of us are gathered together on a hill somewhere in the Barrens, basking in the warmth, reveling in our sudden freedom from asshats. The General chat is curiously free of Chuck Norris jokes; someone requests the location of Mankrik’s wife. Someone else answers. A bird chirps, a zevhra is born, and the Circle of WoW moves on, unfettered from the chains of sloth and idiocy that repressed it for so long.

“Hey,” says someone in the group on the hill, “let’s go run heroic Deadmines.”

“Yes,” I respond, nodding slowly. Smoke rises from the ashes at the centre of the crater below us, and in that slender, ephemeral trail I find peace between myself and this game at last. “Let’s.”

One thing that’s always impressed me about the World of Warcraft is how many moving pieces are involved in its story(ies). At any given point in Azeroth’s chronology, there are probably three to five major storylines (i.e., something that could become its own expansion someday) moving at the same time (often interlinked), countless subplots, and thousands upon thousands of individual questlines, most of which are stories in their own right. So much so that if you haven’t been playing these games since their start – what, fifteen years ago? – you likely won’t fully comprehend just how all these things are related. I gave up trying to keep track of it years ago (and I only started with Warcraft 3). We’ve got a couple lore-whores in the guild who are more than happy to answer (in detail) any random questions or curiosities, and for everything else there’s WoWwiki. Keeping it all straight and moving is an impressive feat.

This is not to say I necessarily think the writing behind WoW is strong – in fact, sometimes I think it’s pretty terrible (not on a quest-log level, but on a higher level – at the macro-plot level) – but there are moments of genius in there, and the overall package is more than good enough to make up for any weak pieces.

What I’m most impressed with is how Blizzard manages hundreds of moving plot-pieces and keeps the story moving along at a good clip. They’re getting better at it as time goes by. The macro-plots are tighter than the used to be, and more accessible. I know sweet-fuck-all about what Illidan was doing in Outland (was he still with the Legion? Was he against the Legion? I don’t remember from Warcraft 3 and never found the answer in BC), but I think we’re all pretty aware of Arthas and his shit. You can’t throw a stone without hitting an Image of the Lich King these days. He killed me, personally, on the steps of UK once. It wasn’t even a quest objective. He was just there, chilling (ha ha!).

Also, I imagine it would be incredibly difficult to weave a plot with any kind of intricacy, to say nothing of maintaining the laws of the universe, in and around game mechanics and, more importantly, balance. I remember, during that period prior to the release of Wrath when the scourge were attacking all the capital cities, in the comic books that introduced Varian there was a bunch of scenes of the various capitals taking on the Necropoli (or whatever they’re called).

Did you know Thrall can one-shot an entire Necropoli? Seriously. Why do I have to go into Naxx, again? Just get Thrall to shoot the fucker out of the sky. And Varian himself practically one-shotted Onyxia, if I remember correctly. And don’t even get me started on Broll (a druid). Jesus fuck. There’s nothing that man can’t do.

And every time I see these characters do these physically impossible (largely unbelieveable) things, I feel a brief moment of dread, because I know that somewhere out there, someone’s rolling a Shaman right now and they expect Blizzard to make it possible for them to one-shot a fucking flying-city-of-the-dead – because it happened in the books, so it should be possible in game. They’re writing up a forum post right now.

I’m not going to go into what I think of Thrall being able to one shot a fucking necropolis (*coughbullshitcough*), but I understand what they were going for. They have a limited number of pages and panels to make all the world leaders look epic. Go big or go home, I guess (there was a lot of that in the comic. Suffice it to say they never chose to go home. Ever. Even somebody doing something as mundane as making a tea had to have some epic battle on the way (except nothing’s really epic because everything gets one-shotted). Sorry, I said I wasn’t going to go into it, didn’t I? Yeah, I think I did. My bad!). But how do you keep something like that from breaking the temporary suspension of disbelief for your players when they load up the game and they can’t even one-shot, say, a gnome?

You hope they’re smart enough to understand the difference between comics as a medium and a game as a medium. Optimistic, perhaps, given my past experiences, but hey.

But none of that is what actually – for me anyway – defines the story of Warcraft. Not the books, not the raids, not the comics, not the movie if it ever comes out. The real gems in terms of WoW’s story are actually at the quest level.

Arthas, Illidan, the Scourge, the Legion, the Old Gods, whatever. They’re all context. They’re setting. They’re the forces that shape the world we play in, and set the tone for a given expansion; they’re the borders of our sandbox. Outside that, they’re loot piñatas. But the really good writing, the strong story-telling, the three dimensional characters and emotional depth happens, ironically, when you talk to Joe NPC in Quest Hub 4. Here is where you see the impact of the major plotlines. Here is where those big-name NPCs actually matter (not in their halls and thrones and pits).

The Burning Legion doesn’t make me care about the Scarlet Crusade – Clarice in Thunder Bluff does, when she gives me a pendant to leave on her dead, Scarlet Crusader husband’s defiled grave. Arthas doesn’t engage me in the Scourge plotline; but Pamela Redpath does, in the Darrowshire questline.

These stories – minor though they are in the grand scheme of things (one of them’s a go-to-the-next-quest-hub quest, for God’s sake) – are the pieces that communicate with me on an emotional level. They’re the pieces that make me care about the larger plot. They colour in the lines drawn by the main characters and plots; the provide detail and texture and give me a reason to be personally offended by a given boss’ existence.

I don’t need to see Arthas in person, although if it’s used sparingly it can be effective in a different way. What I need to see are the effects he’s had on other people. Show me that and I’ll care. Show me what he’s done and I’ll be involved. I’ll only hate him (or pity him) if you give me a reason to, and in a medium like an MMO, that’s more effectively done through NPCs and little quests, than through Arthas himself. Sticking a scary hat on him and giving him a sword with a skull on it isn’t going to make me get involved in the story itself. It just identifies him as a Bag o’ Loot. And having him go on long rants about what he’s done and how terrible he is, is kinda boring. First rule of story-telling, right? Show, don’t tell.

I think the story telling in BC was weak, if for no other reason than Blizz managed to miss half their audience. I don’t really understand Outland or its plot, because I never did the end-game stuff. Even the instances I did don’t have any context for me. Auchindoun…WTF?

I think the story telling in Wrath is much better, and they’re hitting more of their audience, but they’re still not there. Wrath almost feels like the individual quests suffered at the cost of the major plotlines and characters. And the quests feel like they’re suffering under the weight of our own levels. Another challenge for Blizzard is how to make killing snow-moose feel cool after letting us utterly destroy demons bigger than our houses? In the game’s continuity, we’re pretty fucking powerful, here. That needs to be acknowledged (especially for the RPers), but somehow balanced against the fact that the snow-moose population is really getting out of hand.

I trust Blizzard to get better as time goes on. I’ve never known a game company to be as quick on their feet and willing to learn from their mistakes as Blizzard. The game and its community and continuity are constantly changing, and they’re doing an admirable job keeping up. I won’t condemn them for any perceived weaknesses when the sheer scale and scope of what they’re doing is well beyond anything I would be capable of.

I think what I hope to see in the future (Cataclysm and beyond) is some combination between Wrath and Classic-WoW. Keep the grand, sweeping major plotlines, but balance them against tiny, gorgeous one-shots (at the quest-level). Weave your larger story out of many smaller stories. Stack the individual consequences, tales, and experiences on top of each other, so that when you pull them all together not only do you get your major plot, but it’s one we’re all personally affected by and caught up in. It resonates emotionally with your player base. I’ve mentioned it in the blog before, but a lot of people play the game to pretend to be a hero. A hero needs someone to rescue.

Give me someone to rescue, or avenge. Give me a reason to care. Give me something to build my own involvement off of. In the RTS games, this was less important. I was Arthas, so events impacting him directly impact me directly. But in the MMO, I’m not Arthas. So I don’t care about him anymore. I care about Protflashes, because that’s who I’m playing. You need to give me a reason to care as Protflashes.

Ultimately, when I down Deathwing, I don’t want it to be “Gimme loot!” I want it to be more along the lines of: “That was for little Timmy Braveheart, whose father was killed in the cataclysm and whose mother was corrupted by your cult and sacrificed his sister in your name. For little timmy who stayed true through it all only to die on the escort quest because my fucking scatter-brained hunter went AFK half way through the stupid thing and I can’t kill five fucking fire elementals by myself. For Timmy, you bitch!”

For Timmy.

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