Sunday, July 27, 2014

BETA: Look at Me

Compelling visuals.

Yesterday evening I had a really interesting couple of hours guesting as a voice on Group Quest. One of the subjects we discussed was the 'new' Warcraft logo that has been 'designed' as an accompaniment for the movie (a trailer of which was shown at the San Diego Comic Con yesterday which I'm hoping will eventually see the light of day.) Of course, for a traditionalist like me this logo has absolutely no connection to the Warcraft I know and love, and this is EXACTLY the point. I'm not the one being 'sold' to by this logo, it is all about snagging an audience that's never played the game and knows zero about the franchise. That is their lead-in, not mine, because I'm already a guaranteed bum on a seat.

Visuals matter, as we discussed on Friday. They have a significant effect on how people view and grasp your product. They are also possibly one of THE most intensive parts of the gaming construction process, and when you are running out of time on your project and have your eye on a specific release date, sometimes they'll mean some tough calls on what stays in your product and what goes. That's why you've got a picture of Ashran up there and not Karabor (or Bladespire), and this will be the underlying argument behind shifting the Alliance (and Horde) faction bases away from the homes they were initially promised during Blizzcon. You were told you'd have them, but as we discussed last night on Group Quest we've been promised a great deal that's never, ever come to fruition.

Approach by air.

This Expansion is about a sell: new features and a new way of playing the levelling game via the Garrison. In the latest Beta Build, as soon as your Garrison is established, you are sent on a Quest to Ashran where you will pick up a follower. There you are met with the architecture and buildings you yourself will be able to place and shape inside your own structure when you have completed your questing experience: The Mage Tower, the Inn, the Dwarven Bunker are all there in their completed magnificence. The new Faction bases at Ashran are a trailer for your Garrison, and the Alliance one works really very well, especially against the backdrop of Draenor. The visuals are compelling, and very well placed. This is what my races can build on Draenor, and so can you if you take the time to complete the set of tasks the Garrison presents you with.

New does matter.

There are a number of us who have pushed for changes to the architecture of the game as well as the characters that inhabit it, and this high definition version of the client is going to raise some questions about what Blizzard leaves behind. After all, it is not just the buildings that have changed in this new world: when you walk or ride in Draenor, plants and grass make a rustling sound and actually move as you pass through them. These are subtle changes but affect the whole continent, and will make going back to the Old World particularly jarring for some. Will these changes be applied retroactively to everything Human in the Alliance? Is the plan to produce a set of architecture for every Horde and Alliance race and then go back and apply it to the old World to slowly bring everything to the same standard? It is probably too early to tell, but certainly the potential is there.

I understand the disappointment of players over Bladespire and Karabor. The buildings are still there however and there is nothing to stop Blizzard from retroactively populating them during the Expansion, but the designers have, by their own admission, run out of time. All the art you see above was produced for the Garrisons and is freely available for immediate use, and has the added advantage of reminding players that if they like this style, it is theirs to command in their own structure to boot. Ashran serves a number of different purposes therefore as Faction hub, and I have to applaud Blizzard for a subtle and clever use of game resources that will help market this new hub as a genuine replacement for the originally promised location.

I still won't live there, but I certainly won't be adverse to a visit :D


Anonymous said...

I must say, as an avid WoW player for many years myself, I don't take it too hard that some features or "promises" are there at launch. I still can't wait to see the end product and the structures in Ashran is, in my view, amazing :)
Just hope it won't be another tug-of-war pvp site like it has been so far on the beta. Anyway, nicely written there, good stuff :)
- Phy (from WoDcast)

Anonymous said...

Was meant so say "aren't there at launch", lol