Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Digging Your Scene

'What was that? No-one cares about archaeology any more?'

It's a good question. When was the last time you saw anyone give Archaeology any airtime?

It was the Tillers Farm of it's Expansion, let's face it, the great idea that tied in beautifully with all the Harrison Jones mucking about in Uldum stuff. For Pandaria, it's pretty much always sat about as an afterthought, but Warlords presents an opportunity most Explorer's League members would fight you for: the chance to ACTUALLY GO BACK TO THE PAST to see how History became Archaeology. In fact, if I were Brann Bronzebeard I'd be positively rubbing my hands together in glee: a chance to understand the evolution of the Orc race up close? OH YES PLEASE. Yes, I *know* this is an alternative universe we're off to, but really, there wouldn't be ANY relevance in studying what we find...? The question then becomes: on the back of this revelation, what could we expect of the Profession come the new Expansion... because this is one opportunity I really hope Blizzard don't simply ignore.

Though I suspect I may be in the minority with this, it would be fabulous to see my most frustrating waste of time get the same amount of love as the other Professions, by giving it the most fundamental of facelifts.

Time Travel is Ruining the Past. Discuss.

However, there is a basic problem that I can see with Archaeology come Warlords: we're used to digging up the past. Draenor however IS THE PAST. This means we'd be digging up stuff that is completely different to anything else we've so far discovered, which could have some interesting consequences... most significantly the notion it is a past with absolutely no relevance to our timeline at all. I see noted Historians already pointing out we should be concentrating on the fact we're not involved in any kind of alternative-universe shenanigans but what happens if we dig up stuff that directly contradicts the history we already know has taken place, because we've already unearthed archaeological artifacts to confirm it?  No, that's not going to happen, because we've established this past is not linked to anything except itself, so I'm not going to go off on an alternative-universe trip again. Archaeology could however become a bit of a fly in the ointment of the 'virgin' past scenario we're being presented with. You see, the absolute key to this profession's significance is the ability to link the past with the present, to give some context and coherence to the events we're experiencing. I mean, look at how Mantid artefacts help us understand the motivations of the Klaxxi in the game currently... if we're meant to simply arrive and leave this era without affecting any of the past we've previously experienced, wouldn't it be positively dangerous to start digging up even more pre-history that could taint that?

What significance would Archaeology have to us in a place where history effectively has no relevance to our long-term goals?

Is there any point to this skill in Warlords?

Ironically, the potential for Archaeological exploration on Draenor is huge: imagine if we as Humans were able to go back to a period when Human beings were only just beginning to become the race they were without fear of polluting or changing our own timeline. To be able to learn and understand about motivations for actions is a massive slice of wish-fulfillment right there, to grasp the importance of certain key events in changing the outlook or progression of a race is massive. If I played either Draenei or Orc with a measure of seriousness the potential in terms of understanding and enlightenment based simply on the 'present' would be enormous enough to begin with, without delving deeper into the past. Maybe that's the answer to this quandry, if the Devs are looking for a way to keep Archaeology relevant but without it affecting what's already taken place. Maybe we don't dig things up this Expansion, maybe it stops being about what's happened in the past and becomes more about understanding the relevance OF THIS PAST in relation to the larger whole. When all the other Professions get their upgrade, perhaps it's time for Harrison Jones to come out again from behind his desk in Stormwind and throw himself into the action.

Let's not dig up the past any more, let's live it.

We are simply passing through history.
This, this *is* history.

It is time to throw away the theodolites and pick up paper and pencil. You don't discover fragments in Warlord's amended Archaeology Profession, you visit living, breathing places of historical significance and make notes, draw pictures and learn about history from NPC's. Every time you visit a sit and learn, you hand in your Research Project to an Explorer's League NPC (hey, let them be in your Garrison, go on) and they give you a token, which when you've collected a bunch you can then exchange for an item. Maybe it's a better set of drawing equipment to make your Research Projects go faster, or a clue to a quest that unearths a special site of interest off the beaten track, or in a Dungeon. If you want to go dig stuff up you still can, that's in the present, baby, but AS THIS IS THE PAST we should be approaching it in a different fashion. Hell, we should be learning as much about it as possible with this unique opportunity we've been given: there's no Butterfly Effect to worry us here, after all...

I have no problem grasping the context for our next Expansion. However, I have lots of trouble accepting how we will exist realistically within it, based on the past we've already experienced. let's use Archaeology as a way of rationalising that, with the understanding that the present relies TOTALLY on the past, perhaps even more so in Azeroth that anywhere else. I don't want to be digging up the past therefore in Draenor, I want to be understanding it, and there's a magnificent opportunity with this Profession to make it happen.

Go on, Blizzard, give it a try.


Corv said...

I think Warlords Archaeology could exist much like today's profession. The planet has at least two civilized races that have fallen into utter ruin in our timeline, the ogres and arrakoa. Warlords would give us the opportunity to dig up their past, before the destruction of the planet obliterates most of the evidence.

Then again, I fear I may have missed your point. I cannot see how archaeology of any type could reveal something contradictory; at most, a WoD discovery might rewrite the history books by providing more correct information. No paradox seems possible.

The Godmother said...

This isn't about paradox: I'm supposed to accept this world is 'separate' from the existing timeline. That means nothing that happens in this 'past' should have any relevance to our present. we shouldn't get the past presented to us AS the past, because in this context it wouldn't be.

Corv said...

Any history prior to the point in time that Garrosh arrives in the secondary timeline is equally the past of either timeline. The rise and decline of the ogres, the flourishing of the arrakoa, the landing of the draenei, and early orcish culture are all still past, and as relevant as they've always been, and potential targets for Archaeology-as-it-is.

Any events that follow that point certainly are not past, and I can hardly imagine them being presented as such. Any events between Garrosh's arrival and the completion of the expansion are present-tense, and should be played and quested and leveled and raided through, and I doubt that any profession has much of a role to play in their unfolding.

The Godmother said...

They may be 'present' in terms of timeline to us, but these are deliberately figures from Azeroth's past, represented to us to deal with in a separate, isolated environment.

Your dislike of professions is also noted :P

Jonathan said...

As excited as any Azerothian archaeologist would be to go back to old Draenor to visit a past that can only be dug up from Outland, equally they would be frothing at the mouth at the chance to start digging it up and go even further back.

So in game, I can see Archaeology being made more fun by tying it into Garrisons (maybe by getting to send off your very own Time Team to do a 3-day dig somewhere), but ultimately I think it will still come back to digging up the ground in some way.

catinglasses said...

Wonderful ideas! Making drawings, taking measurements, or even talking to local inhabitants about their local history - much better than just running around poking the ground with a pick.

Beshara said...

My impression is that the past of this new Draenor would be the same as our Draenor's past, up until Garrosh came in. If we use Archaeology to discover that past, it would not affect our present, but it would still provide information on our past. I think it would be nice to have more added in for the expansion, especially Arrakoa. Delving into their lore would be really neat.
I do think Archaeology needs some kind of revamp. The changes in Mists were nice (turning in artifacts for older fragments, pristine artifacts for greater rewards) but it still feels too reliant on RNG. The RNG on current profession research is bad enough. I understand it is not required, but RNG can really make it not fun to work with. Maybe Garrisons can provide a way to overcome bad RNG, a way to find those rare researches, and then you go out and gather the fragments for it. Also, different ways to find "fragments" as stated above would be awesome. Vary up the method for finding things.