Saturday, August 09, 2014

BETA: Old Friends

Corgi: Wistful.

Having shamelessly hijacked the 'Nostalgia Culture' Blizzard have been cultivating in the last few days, I think it is probably time I took a step back and considered the situation with a more objective eye. Because, despite what some people might be telling you, bringing back the past is hardly a radical new tactic in Blizzard's arsenal of catering to player satisfaction. Nostalgia is a potent currency after all: let 'Mad Men's Don Draper explain:

“Nostalgia - its delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek nostalgia literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It let’s us travel the way a child travels - around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.”

There are those who will remind that you can never truly go back to the past: of course, this is absolutely true, and that's why Vanilla Only Guilds are all well and good but once the moment has passed, you're out of luck. The trick that Blizzard has perfected, and it started with Onyxia at five years, is the subtle art of reinvention. It may look the same, and in many cases taste the same (Zul'Aman) but this is not what it once was, not by any stretch of the imagination. First off, all the people who 'did' the original content first time around will cross their arms and remind you, often in very great detail, just how hard things were 'back then' and it doesn't matter whatever the designers do, it will never be as good as being there. Second of all, in most cases, Blizzard don't stay at the original size: Onyxia was shrunk, so were the Zul's, because the understanding was that people wouldn't entertain the 'old ways' to begin with. Then LFR came along, and random queuing, and it became apparent that raiding with 24 strangers was actually a lot more like Vanilla content than many people were actually comfortable to admit. I mean, really, how many people did you know in your 40 man raid? REALLY? When dealing with such large numbers, sometimes, horrendous accidents*happened* and they became the stuff of legends. The fact remains, you were a small part of a larger whole. In that respect, virtually nothing has changed in ten years.

Still has wheels, still a wagon ^^

The potential success of this exercise will not depend on how faithful events are to the original. It will hinge on how much can be faked to create the *illusion* of nostalgia without people realising they're being fooled.

Please note the wording in this release. Thank you.

Blizzard, first up, are being very careful to ensure that this nostalgia isn't being trailed as the original articles: 'based on', 'relive the experience' doesn't advertise anything unusual or indeed guaranteed it will reproduce what older players will remember. We know that the scoring in the Southshore/Tarran Mill deathmatch will be based on the old style PvP ranks: the more people you kill, the higher your rank and the more points players will gain for bringing you down. We even learn from the explanatory Blog that the original designer of the Hillsbrad zone had to be bought in to recreate it because the zone had changed post-Cataclysm. However, details at this stage are very much at a premium, and I suspect that will be deliberate, because there will be those who will be expecting a de facto reproduction of the MC layout right down to there needing to be a kill order for Majordomo's adds. Will Blizzard be forced to update everything or is that actually too dangerous because of how ingrained these original tactics have become in Warcraft history? Will this be like ZG and ZA where the bosses names remain the same but the mechanics are 'altered' to accommodate 40 random people all firing (potentially) at different targets?

I doubt we'll know until these features are available for testing. The map may exist in the beta files, but there's nothing else there as yet. Until actual testing occurs (and there is no indicator it will publicly) we only have speculation and the past that exists as reference. Neither of these will be any accurate means of actually predicting the future.

Potent drug, this mount is. Clearly from MMO Champion.

Of course, the sweeteners for players are there too. Back in Vanilla there weren't even Achievements, but offering a mount in MC and a pet for just logging in during the celebration are enough to get people frustrated that if they can't, they'll miss out. This is the advertising Blizzard needs, the incentives that drive players away from normally sedentary activity and force them to log, to resubscribe. Even if it's just a 30 day timecard, that's still cash in the coffers, and as I do need to remind people from time to time, that's what this business enterprise is all about. Yes, we know everyone loves a good bowl of nostalgia from time to time, but like everything else it has to be paid with by something. Never forget this.

Personally, I'm under no illusions as to what I'll get, and inevitably it will be as much about what I put into the experience as I'll ultimately get out. That's the key to enjoying nostalgia: remembering where you are, and what it is you're ultimately referencing. It is true: you can never go back to the past, and I for one am very grateful for this fact because I'd hate to go back to the person I was when I began this game. I'm looking forward to reliving the past in my present form, and seeing just how much better I've gotten as a result. I'm also looking forward for the first time in many, many months to deliberately doing this in LFR, on my own, and seeing how 39 other random people cope with what is thrown at them.

I think this will be very interesting indeed :D

1 comment:

Singing Paladin said...

Nostalgia is nice enough, but unless you want to look like you're wearing a pair of rose tinted specs on your face you have to remember the bad as well as the good.

Kinda why I wrote my 'Warcraft Nostalgic' song...