Thursday, June 05, 2014

ALPHA :: Don't Believe the Hype

We start here.

I've just finished my first Twitch stream with voice, so today is a load of new experiences all at once. What is immediately apparent, in the two or so hours I played and the one level I gained, is that Warcraft is trying to evolve. Some will say it's neither sufficient or soon enough, but what is abundantly obvious in the first steps into Draenor 'proper' is the understanding your gameplay has changed. Frankly, most things have altered: whether it is the coloured glow around quest targets or interactive items, the random events scattered across the landscape or the Rares that appear to populate every cave or out of the way area. Lessons have been learnt from previous endeavours, and from the word go your Garrison becomes the metaphor for your new journey. It is the centre of all things, an instanced area where you move and work before being sent out to explore the land. Of course, you could just explore and ignore it, and because of the last couple of months of bad press many people just won't be starting the journey at all, which is actually a shame.

Personal bias aside, this really IS a good idea to reinvent the Questing mechanic.

It begins with a fire.

The first gathering quest you're presented with is to cut down the wood you'll use to make your Garrison. After that, things play out with a speed that might jar on some but that is just right for the process of establishing your outpost: everything I've seen in the Alpha files is in place, but only for the Horde at this point, and with a great many holes inside it as you would expect from an Alpha Client. However, and this is absolutely crucial, IT IS REALLY FUN TO PLAY. No, you're not visiting other people's houses and matching curtains with cushions in this version of 'housing' but there is the potential for a very great deal along those lines once the final model is done. For now, it really does evoke memories of W3 and building things in SimCity, with a very distinct Warcraft slant, which means people will fight each other. That's the point here: this is a war, and even though we don't have the Portal Event as backdrop just yet, the sense when you arrive in Frostfire is of a land that is anything but at peace. It also looks bang up to Blizzards exacting standards for polish and atmosphere, right down to the background music.

However, it's anything but finished.

Yes, we get the idea :D

The thing about this Client is that I feel many people are expecting it to be far further forward than it is, just because we started talking about it in November. I even had some discussion yesterday about how I thought that we'd not see this for a few more weeks because so much Garrison shizzle is missing (it is, no Alliance questline at present, Alpha's only playing Horde) and this is a client that does everything you'd expect a work in progress to do and more, including being unable to capture screenies without a manual command line imput (which means I need to go and rescreenie a ton of stuff shortly.) However, the effort to make things easier is so apparent it's almost jarring in places: my bags are full of items with gold coin 'markers' which tell me what I can sell easily because its trash. Every Garrison menu screen already has explanation text in place. Quest mobs now show up as yellow dots on my map (which is confusing because my brain thinks that means they're a herb ^^)

Most importantly of all, I've seen one quest reward that I can equip in two hours. Every other reward gives me material for my Garrison's building efforts. If you didn't already grasp just how integrated the Questing experience has become to this building, you'll be left in absolutely no doubt by the end of your first level. The moment you land, you can ignore the idea, but I cannot urge you strongly enough to at least give the thing a try. Even at this early stage, the potential for this feature is immense. It all depends now on whether Blizzard can pull it off for a realistic launch window.


Ultimately, whatever anyone now writes about this game, there is going to be taint. Whether it be the complaints it's the Female Orc that stays behind in the Village to defend it while the men go to fight, or that the first time you actually see a female NPC she's a potential villain. Many have walked away knowing whatever Blizzard try and change, it won't ever be enough, because the damage is already done. I felt a real pang of sadness this morning knowing the discussions that forced these changes will be less rich than it was because many people have moved on, and whether that means that there will be no attempt to improve the way certain things are depicted and presented in game. There is change, however, and enough of it to give this Alpha the feel of something entirely different from what precedes it. Lessons have clearly been learnt, and mistakes are being addressed. For many, it will not be enough.

For me, this is a very encouraging start.

PS: Grammar Police are sadface :(


TheGrumpyElf said...

Now that is what I call a pet. Make sure you feed it well, looks like it could eat you whole if it gets hungry.

sprowt said...

Even though some of the graphics obviously need a polish, I still liked how good it looked ... everything seems more well defined and, well "real" in a weird way. I'm hoping that they still need to do a lot of tweaks on things like how long it takes to level .. you reached 91 well before I would have expected it, for example.

Although I love the idea of the garrison, its integral part of the quest lines and at least the illusion of placement choice, I hope they put something in place for those of us who have a silly amount of alts. I wouldn't want to be forced to do those same quests over and over again.

I suppose, when/if you choose different buildings to focus on, they may involve different quest lines, but it still seems rather linear at the moment, whereas, even in Pandaria where there was really only one "entrance" into it, once you knew the area you could simply skip to the regions and quests you either preferred, or missed previously.

Finally .... playing, or watching someone else play, a short character drives me nuts .. I keep wanting to pump up the driving seat to raise my viewpoint :p

Tim Bongers said...

Thanks a lot for sharing your first thoughts, looking forward to reading more about it :D

marathalbt said...

these are the types of reports I really want to read. Overall impressions, the feel for what's new. The live streams and detailed reports spoil it for me. Looking forward to reading more impressions.