Saturday, August 23, 2014

BETA :: Play to Win

Take the Money or OPEN THE BOX ^^

Honor and Conquest definitely are not going away, just to clarify a misconception - you'll still be earning those currencies through PvP and using them to buy your PvP gear. 
What will be going away is Justice and Valor. Over time, they've moved away from their original purpose, and given how widely available they'd become (awarded from quests, scenarios, dungeons, raids, etc.), we'd rather return to the original universal currency: gold. The final values aren't hooked up yet, but the old Valor rewards for completing your daily random dungeon or an LFR wing will be replaced with a hefty sum of gold, which should make something like the gold turn-in for a bonus roll seem far more attainable even for players who currently don't have much gold.  
That said, the feedback/suggestion of allowing repeat turn-ins definitely has merit, and it's something we'll discuss and consider.

This post by Watcher, in response to how players will be able to obtain the Seal of Temepered Fate (6.01's Bonus Roll Raid Token) has promoted more than the usual amount of interest in my brain for a Saturday morning. What especially made me sit up and think was the line highlighted in red: this would seem to suggest that one of the ways by which players will obtain a bonus roll in Warlords is by handing over what is suggested by the text could be a not inconsiderable amount of money. Making Tokens a Gold Sink is actually a stroke of genius: it will be the ultimate convenience for those who don't have the time or the inclination to 'work' for a token. However, it is tempered by the fact that I've lost count of the number of Bonus Rolls that have rewarded me with gold, and the toss-up between spending a large sum for a token that could reward me with 100g again isn't ever going to entice some people to sue the option at all.

It's those Darkmoon Faire fortune cards all over again ^^

Definition of Lucky #126

It has been made very clear we will have many ways in which to obtain our Tokens in Warlords: the Garrison has a Building that offers one, for starters, but because nothing in that structure is mandatory there are going to be various options dotted around. In Beta currently it appears that at least four options to buy are at play from an NPC vendor:

  • 100 Apexis Crystals
  • 500 Honor
  • 300 Garrison Resources
  • 500 Gold

When you look at this selection, it makes a lot of sense in a wider context. This gives most players a currency that they'll have access to, depending on their strengths in game. It also makes the option of the Lumber Mill in Gorgrond far more attractive in terms of having a stack of Resources that have uses beyond simply building and maintaining a Garrison. Apexis Crystals (assuming they'll drop like Timeless Coins) can be used to buy many things, including gear (I believe) so I can see some interesting (though some may consider them frustrating) choices in the early weeks of the Expansion. However, this has always been the case: you'd have to grind Valor somewhere, you had a choice of options. This development opens up the possibilities of currency and gives the casual player more opportunities to use the tools at their disposal to up their chances of loot in LFR.

Choice is not new ^^

I know this change will be greeted by some with frustration: as we mentioned below, people don't like change. Choices make what was once clear and easily understandable become difficult and confusing, However, this is one of those moments where the change isn't simply sensible, it is refreshing. What it also means is that all those dailies that would have previously rewarded Valor will have gold at the end come Warlords, which means it could suddenly be doubly worthwhile filling up a character's questlog with a full set of 25 before the Expansion rolls around...

More on that tomorrow :D

To Build A Home :: The Test

Someone was bound to ask...

It's been a while since we did a Garrisons Post, due to holidays and other gubbins, and I'll be doing my best to make a long-overdue update to the Dedicated Site next week. For now however, I wondered how long it would be before someone asked the following question of Blizzard, especially as it was late May since we saw any kind of 'official' Blogging on the subject:

Do you think Blizzard is putting too much emphasis on garrisons? Feels like they're heavily tied in with leveling and overall game play to the point you simple cant not do them. I feel Blizzard would do so much better just focusing on epic raids and heaps of dungeons, that's our bread and butter. 
Trying to reinvent the wheel every expansion will always bring about hits and misses. 

We're putting together (at long last) more information on the Garrisons that will hopefully assuage a lot of concerns people have and share more about the gameplay that goes with it. It will take us a little longer to put that information together for you all, but I think it will shed some light on the depth of Garrisons while also making it clear how much or how little you can interact with them (based on what you want from it). They definitely have something to offer pretty much everyone (save the rare person). 
We'll do our best to try to address as many concerns and questions as people have in those blogs and in the forums here as we go along. 

What this says to me is twofold: firstly (and most importantly) because there's been no word from Blizzard since May 'officially' on the feature it is clear that Garrisons are STILL NOT complete, demonstrated in the Beta where not all professions are as yet tied into their respective Buildings. Clearly there are a number of other factors at play, but when the first 'official' blog was debuted three months ago the gap between development and release was considerably wider than it is now. However, that gap still very much exists, and I would venture to suggest (looking at CM Nethaera's wording above) that 'take a little longer' could well mean we won't see an 'official' Garrisons comment before 6.0 hits.

Second of all, it is finally becoming apparent that, despite what Blizzard might say otherwise, this feature is a MAJOR change to 90-100 GAMEPLAY. Note I put the G word in capitals because, as the OP points out Blizzard are, yet again, re-inventing the wheel. What our poster may fail to grasp is that if they didn't do this, there would be FAR more complaints that we were simply being given the same stuff, over and over again, that Expansion = new, and this means at least in some form coming up with solutions to long-tern player concerns. Levelling has ALWAYS been a problematic gating mechanism (and it is, like it or not) and making this 'journey' interesting for every single person who plays (because that's what it has to do) is no mean feat to achieve. The Garrison makes things interesting for those who do level to give them a number of options they didn't previously have. However, it is still levelling, pure and simple. The only things that's changed are the mechanics.

Your home. With caveats.

Even though there are those who would say they are happy with just 'epic raids and heaps of dungeons', historically this is not enough, because if it were, people wouldn't have complained so vociferously when Blizzard put the brakes on current development. There NEEDS to be downtime, and that traditionally means the solo player content, whatever it might be. In the upcoming Expansion Blizzard have taken large swathes of single player content and effectively consolidated it in one place. Therefore, a Garrison is effectively your own, PERSONALISED single player quest hub. The key difference between this and any other Expansion is the fact you are the arbiter of what parts of this experience you choose to take part in and NOT Blizzard. They give the options, you make the choices: that's why in every Zone you play you'll be given the choice between one of two structures that are then mirrored in your Garrison 'at home.' That is a significant change from what Questing has been in the past and its the feature I suspect the Devs are hoping make this entire endeavour attractive to as many people as possible.

My Corgi is sad that you don't like change.

Change is not something many people are happy with, despite what might appear to the contrary. However, many parts of the single player game have been unfit for purpose for some time, with Professions high amongst that list. This is Blizzard's way of offering sensible alternatives to the processes, and thought it could be seen as nothing more than re-invention, that's exactly what is needed at this time. The fact remains that if you don't want a Garrison you can simply skip the process and move on, and Blizzard will go to great pains in the next few months to make that point. However, if you choose that path, you will miss one of the most significant attempts this company have made in a decade to allow players a freedom of choice that has never previously existed in this MMO via the medium of pre-presented content. This is the first steps towards allowing players customisable housing, gear and choices. This is what Battle Pets did to vanity collecting. This is what could well be the future for many Expansions to come.

They have to hope they'll be able to entice you to play as a result.

Friday, August 22, 2014

BETA:: Change

Oh look, some words.

In amongst a metric ton of fabulous stuff late last night, which includes all the new models in the Beta and some fantastic new tools for website designers to partner with Blizzard came the short story above. It has been published to act as an introduction to Warlords, as a way to bridge the gap between the end of Pandaria and the start of the new Expansion. Like the 'War Crimes' novel it provides information that cannot be given in game, simply because there isn't enough time to do so... and you know what, I'm just going to stop there, because this is where my head starts shaking and I realise that, like it or not, my favourite game is still failing to grasp a vital lesson in the business of narrative storytelling.

It's also really beginning to show its age too in this department, which is odd considering the technical innovations this Expansion is clearly embracing with both hands. New character models, different approaches to questing, a determined effort to make the game 'fun' and 'engaging'... all of these things are front and centre, and I must applaud the people in charge of the development for clearly taking the time to stop and listen to players and provide them with what they are asking for, what they crave from a game in the Modern World. All of this is what players want, and presumably the novels and the short stories are too, considering the number of people who clearly read them. I'm told it is all about an emotional investment from the novels that you simply can't get in game because of the restrictions of the media... except I KNOW that's not true. This game is capable of that, I've seen it, and you don't need novels or short stories to produce it. You simply need to grasp which stories MUST be told.

I mentioned the emotional impact of the Wrathgate Cinematic earlier in the week in my Gaming questionnaire, and it is a perfect example of picking the right part of the story to tell. When I lamented this issue and the need to provide people with yet another story as explanation to Mr Alt last night he replied I'd made the exact same complaint at the start of Pandaria: it shouldn't need an extra level of narrative to allow players to understand why they are doing what they are, that should be provided to you when you enter the game. You don't go watch a movie and then have to read a book to explain what you've just seen, it should be a self-contained experience... and then we find ourselves in a world where lines blur and immersion becomes less about how good one source of entertainment is and more about how willing a player is to make their own decisions outside the virtual world.

What it does highlight is that someone making this game feels that perhaps we need more than we have online to make real sense of what they are presenting us with. What isn't clear is if this is now a deliberate part of the 'gaming' experience or not.

Hooked on a Franchise.

An Expansive Fantasy Universe is not a new concept: go look at Marvel for proof that you can pick and choose your elements from within such concepts and still link disparate elements of them together. I doubt a lot of people who watched this movie even know that there's an intrinsic link between it and the Avengers (no I'm not spoiling you go find it for yourself) but the way in which Marvel are using elements inside seemingly unrelated movies to build up for a bigger tale down the line is nothing short of genius. This is the kind of storytelling that becomes ultimately compelling, that draws the viewer into the action, where the background story doesn't need to be understood in detail, just presented along the way. The biggest single problem Warcraft now suffers is that, like it or not, there's just too much lore. Picking and choosing stories has become almost impossible, which some could argue is one of the reasons why we're seeing a reboot of an existing storyline into an 'alternative' Universe, because it allows us elements of old and new without the need for sticking to the existing script.

In that regard, giving players more words to digest could confuse matters more in the long run. It doesn't help either that in a game where developers refuse to change huge portions of content, that lore remains as an unchanging example of what has come before. Efforts to move on the storyline have met with limited success too, as is testament from the Cataclysm 'redevelopment' from 1-60. If I believe what I'm told people just don't want to live in the past, they need new content to thrive in... which then makes the nostalgiafest Warlords is rapidly developing into a bit jarring in context. It is at this point I decide that it is time to invoke Occam's Razor and decide that the simplest explanation is probably the one that's right. Why do we keep being given extra source material to read instead of being provided it in game?

Because if it was, no-one would play it because the background isn't what the vast majority of players are in Azeroth for.

What makes me saddest of all, at least in this case, is that there is a perfect place to have provided all the details players need to understand the background of this story 'progression', but from where I'm standing it appears to have not been considered. Whatever the reasons for our sixth month delay: training new people, hardware issues, the alignment of the planets... it doesn't matter, someone could have set up a couple of flashback sequences in the Escape from the Dark Portal sequence to contain this information. Kadghar could reference it while we're investigating the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands, there could have been a scenario like Theramore to add some flavour... but with the way this Expansion has been built, it seems clear that some parts of the 'story' have been given greater significance than others. When time is money (friend) it is probably just easier to spend your hours on balancing the classes than worrying people get your narrative without doing some homework. This makes people like me very sad, but as I am very much in the minority, that's just fine.

Telling stories matters, but in the scope of this Expansion what now is far more pressing is actually taking the action live. I can only hope that after two expansions of after the fact exposition, Blizzard might already be listening and planning the transition to the NEXT Expansion with a little more thought.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Magic Number

As promised yesterday, this is my second hit of Community Giveback this week, this time directed at Mr and Mrs WoW, and timed to tie in with a second post later today on the start of my Pre-Expansion Grinding Activities. This morning's Community Project is entitled:


where ** in this case refers to three. You want three things to do before Warlords? I could give you a hundred, but that's not the point of the project, so let's pick the ones that *really* matter to me. Number One really should be a no-brainer:

1. Collect Mounts.


The best games turn displacement activity into an Artform. This appears to be becoming increasingly the case in Warcraft where a large, static population of players demand a continuous stream of incremental Achievements based on frankly ridiculous drop rates or the presence of two key factors: lots of friends and/or an ability to outgear content. Nowhere is this more true than the 'Collect X Mounts' Achievement. The last milestone was 200. Come Warlords, that number increases to 250 and the Felfire Hawk above is the reward. Needless to say, this has galvanised a fair few people to start the grind, and you can expect a post on this from yours truly later today because, frankly, I gotta start RIGHT NOW.

Everything drops eventually, after all.

Clearly defined totals = Attainable. Eventually ^^

Not sure long, soul-sucking and repetitive grinds are everyone's idea of fun, BUT IT WORKS FOR ME.

2. Make Gold.

Advantages of Long, Repetitive Grinds #1

Undoubtedly, there is one HUGE benefit to the business of soul-sucking and repetitive grinds: GUBBINS. All that crap that drops from the business of farming for mounts has a value, and depending on where you do it will dictate the value of what you receive. For instance, grinding Skyshards to get the Alani Mount (8/10 /flex) means you clear your way through a phenomenal number of mobs at max level which drop a pretty hefty selection of eminently useful items. The key *then* is what you do with them, and that's where the gold making comes in. Even if all I did was vendor everything I'd still make cash (in this case useful for the mats I'll need for Jewelcrafting Mount construction :D) but making more than just selling is an art form, as another static portion of the playerbase will happily tell you on a weekly basis.

Making gold's always been a bit of a sideline for me, but it will be very important in the weeks that follow for me to maximise potential in as many places as possible. Needless to say, if this old fart can do it, then you can too.

3. Get Organised.

Obligatory Reaction GIF as standard..

I can already see some eyebrows raising here. However, like it or not, this is a part of the game that I enjoy.


This means selling, and de-crapifying (TOTALLY a word), and working out what I can do to maximise XP when I start levelling again. It is working out which characters to Garrison with and which I will skip. It may also mean throwing fate to the wind and sticking a few people back into LFR for upgrades, or indeed using OpenRaid to try and grab a normal run or two for my Hunter(s) to get upgrades. It is deciding what Achievements are actually doable in the timeframe I have and which will, inevitably, have to be surrendered to the inevitable march of time.

It is, in essence, what the #TEAMFAFF hashtag is all about, and what I probably enjoy most of all in Warlords. It is doing things at my pace, in my timeframe and to keep me happy so I have fun. If you don't like this definition, or indeed if you are one of the funsucking leeches that this Project was set up to counter?

I have but one thing to say to you:

I'll see everyone else in game :D

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

You're History

As people have been good enough to spread the word for my wee Podcast doobrey, it seems only right and proper to give stuff back as a result, so today I'll be taking part in the first of two recently-launched Community Projects. This is for Jasyla, whose Blog 'Cannot be Tamed' has been running since 2009. She's recently shifted focus to general gaming topics which are relevant to my interests, and her Questionnaire on Gaming Habits is something I thought you lot would find some interest in as well.

Strap yourselves in folks, gonna be an interesting day :D

1. When did you start playing video games?

It is 1975. 

I am nine years old, and my life revolves around a small portable record player, reading, and the TV. That meant Wonder Woman, Rutland Weekend Television, Space: 1999 and The Goodies, give or take. I clearly remember being allowed to watch Dr No on ITV for the first time, and promptly deciding I wanted to be a secret agent when I grew up BECAUSE BOND DAMMIT. 

One day, my dad comes home from work with a brand new 'game' that doesn't involve a board or counters that will change my life forever.

BEEP.... BOOP...

2. What is the first game you remember playing?

Pong is the first game I can recall with clarity, and it was one of many Atari consoles that ended up in our house. My Dad was a techno freak (and still is) and this was a window into a world that I now realise was possibly one of the biggest influences on my entire life from that point onwards. I was never any good at it either, which kind of set the tone for my future relationships with Consoles generally :P

3. PC or Console?

I will play both, and as I began my life on consoles well before personal computers were even invented I'd like to think I don't consider there to be a bias. I also play on a Tablet and a Phone so I'd also hope I'm not going to restrict myself to a particular platform. I think the best designers understand the limits and strengths of each platform and plan their games to play accordingly, but as I have spoken to many Game Designers over the years the fantasy and the reality are always a little different ^^

4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?

Yes. All three are plumbed into the TV /points at front room. This is not a house that limits itself to simply one format, and I hope that remains the case for many years to come. All three have their plus points: the Wii is a perfect 'family' console thanks to the presence of the Italian Plumbers. X Box is where my son no scopes with impunity, and the PS is now a substitute for a DVD Player when it's not churning out FIFA or the latest single player adventure. There are, scattered around the house, various Nintendo and Playstation handhelds. There are Tamagotchis and all flavours of other electronic 'toys.'

Our garage? You'd love it :D

This is truly a House of Gaming.


5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?

These kind of questions are awful, because trying to pin down one game in a nearly forty year history of playing is nigh-on impossible. You might also be amazed to hear that Warcraft isn't what I'd automatically jump to as being the best game, even though I've existed within it for the best part of a decade. It would all depend on what I'd define as 'best' in a number of highly subjective contexts: there were huge numbers of games I'd play on Amiga and Commodore back in the 80's/90's. However, I am going to name a Blizzard title as the best game, and it seems relevant considering that this week this same title finally ends up on the platform it really should have begun its life on to begin with.

Still Awesome.

If there was ever an indicator of Blizzard's potential for greatness, it was here. Diablo was wasted on PC back in the late 1990's and only with a LAN connection did the true potential come alive, something Consoles will now allow to flourish and thrive in a D3 World that I suspect will only make this title more popular than it already is. It is ironic that we had to wait for the technology to catch up with the game in this case, but it isn't really a surprise. Blizzard have always been ahead of the curve in that regard, and although I know some people would like to be critical of the group of middle-aged men who run the company, they've done nothing but right things with this title since they reinvented it for the third time.

Watch and learn, gaming competitors. Watch and learn.

6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?


Guild Wars 2.

If you want to know why, ask me privately. You can also feel free to hate me now.

7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.

Black and White. It was just too far up it's own hype for me to be able to identify with anything I was given, and although I do loves me a good God Sim, this was just a wee bit too close and personal for my liking.

8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.

I have thought at length about this and I reckon I'd pick Child of Eden.

Part of me would like to think this is where gaming is heading in the next 20 years. I can but hope.

9. What are your favourite game genres?

Single player adventures are a particular favourite, but I like to think I'll try anything if the concept is sound. I'll deliberately err away from first person shooters because I simply don't have the hand/eye co-ordination with a controller: ironically if I could play such games with an actual weapon I'd be far more willing to pick one up. I like innovation, and I am encouraged by games that deliberately force the player not simply to think but to venture outside of their own comfort zones.

10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?

She was a deliberately-proportioned joke, the wet dream fantasy that the male playerbase demanded, but the fact remained: here was a female protagonist for the first time, an actual woman at the centre of the action, and she has effectively become a metaphor for how female forms have been perceived in a virtual setting ever since. I've watched her change and morph and now reboot as something closer to what I'd have hoped she'd begin her life with, but still her existence is filled with controversy, because as attitudes widen in the real world they are effectively reduced and amplified in the virtual. At some point both places will find a measure of equilibrium, but there's a Hell of a fight coming before that happens.

By the way, you Troll Haters? Not gonna stop us, because resentment is a pointless weapon to wield and just shows you're incapable of winning an argument with actual facts. Equality is real, will happen and if you really think waving your virtual dick on the Net's going to solve anything, time to turn around and walk away RIGHT NOW.

Remind me to make a proper post about this at some point.

11. Describe your perfect video game.

World of Warcraft.
That was...

12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?

Solid Snake, PS1 Version. BECAUSE NINJA SKILLS.

13. What game has the best music?

Sill gets me EVERY DAMN TIME.

14. Most memorable moment in a game:

If there were ever a moment that so beautifully encapsulated my feelings about what I was involved with and what the narrative of a game actually involved, then this piece of 'cinema' is that. It distils beautifully the relationship between Alliance and Horde, how the Horde's basic stance is of a house divided, that factions can put their differences aside to defeat a common goal, and that Dragons (despite their Magic Reset Button properties) can turn up and make things better. Not RIGHT, just better.

15. Scariest moment in a game:

Metal Gear Solid (PS1) still gives me nightmares. That is all.

16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

See 14 :P

17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?

The Internet is a dangerous place to read about gaming, as a rule, and so I do not have any favourite generic gaming sites. I don't listen to generic Podcasts or watch videos either. What I do have is a massive list of Bloggers who play Warcraft as well as a ton of other games and I will freely admit that this 'Community' is a far better tool for judging current trends than any site or place on the Internet will ever be. Bloggers tend not to pull too many punches, they'll say if they hate something and there is no mucking around as a result. It is interesting to watch the people who obsess and fanperson over their new 'best Thing' and then the people who'll make objective judgements on what they play... and all points in-between.

So, if you were trying to sell me anything, gaming companies, time to act like Blizzard and become part of the Community, because that utterly works.

18. What’s the last game you finished?

I don't play games you can finish, as a rule, so if I'm honest I'd say that was Journey.

19. What future releases are you most excited about?

Nothing major is grabbing me right now, but part of me is expecting Blizzard to pull another HoTS Rabbit out of the hat come November. I'll be over here, with my ear to the ground ^^

20. Do you identify as a gamer?

I'm a woman who likes playing computer games. That still seems to be enough of a novelty for some people after nearly forty years to give me genuine cause for concern. I think I'd prefer less labelling generally and more general acceptance and tolerance in the World as a whole. I identify with the concept, certainly

21. Why do you play video games? 

Because every day is a School day :D I learn, I enjoy, I understand and the World becomes a bigger place. I am challenged, and the adventures I have become a part of what I am just as the music I listen to and the books I read become too. Games are part of my landscape, and if you do not understand games then you do not grasp a vital part of what I am.

I play games because I love them.

Why do you play?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

So You Win Again, Redux.

It's a long time ago...

Back in November of 2013, I started a Contest. Its aim was very simple: guess the Warlords Release Date. Back then we were all working on a theory that the Game would be far earlier than a year from this date (which would have been the case had not circumstances transpired beyond Blizzard's control.) However, a Contest is a Contest, and even though we have a THURSDAY as a date (and with a very good reason) I'm still duty bound to reward those who were closest to the date we now know when Warlords arrives:

Looking at our Contest Matrix, that gives us the following Winners:

Except, there's a small problem here, that makes me sad even now as I type. @theeriver is no longer with us, as he passed away suddenly earlier in the year. Along with Belghast he was closest to the actual date, and I had considered only awarding four shirts as a result of this. However, as @pirateami is the last person on the Matrix (I didn't give any dates past the 25th to consider) I think it is the right thing to award five people the prizes. So congratulations go to those who have guessed correctly.

It will take 7-10 days to order the custom shirts once I have all the details in hand, and another week to ten days for shipping depending on your geographic location in the World. I'll keep winners up to date on the progress of their prizes at every step of the process.

Thank you to everyone who took part :D

Welcome To the Future

[Author's Note: If you have a Tinfoil Hat, I'd strongly suggest you put it on before you read this Post. The Management thanks you for your understanding.]

I finally managed on Saturday night to watch the Warlords Cinematic for the first time.

I'd seen a fair deal of commentary on it beforehand, which is a first (because normally I'd have watched it 'live' with everyone else) and I was aware of a number of dissenting voices after the Première. Some complained that there was no relevance for Alliance players, others that there simply wasn't a hook for either faction. The fact this is a single and pivotal moment in Warcraft history wasn't lost on me however. Like Arthas and Sindragosa, or Deathwing and Azeroth, this is a moment when the storyline rises and falls into the path of the viewer, and there are inevitable conclusions to be drawn as a result.

Okay, strap yourselves in people, HERE WE GO.

I watched the whole thing once, then again in as high a quality as my intermittent French Internet would allow, and two things immediately jumped out at me when the Cinematic ended. No, I didn't notice the ‘Orcfest’ or think the whole thing was a deliberately skewed presentation for the Horde players in the audience. The points that that grabbed me immediately?

That would firstly be this title card:

and secondly, this Special Guest Villain.

These are Interesting Times we are heading into, and I'm not talking about the new character models or the change to item stats. For the first time in ten years we're in Alternate Universe territory, remember? Look, there’s even a CM who'll turn up here and remind you of the fact in case you've forgotten:

MULTIVERSE. Hands up if you're still confused? ^^

Yes, it's okay. I get that this is another timeline we've ventured into, and that's why Outland can exist at the same time. The question however I now want to ask as a result of this key change in our location is simple:

How long do we intend to remain in this Alternate Universe, exactly?

Part of me thinks, looking at the nature of the Cinematic, that this isn't necessarily a one Expansion deal I've just signed up for in the now established Multiverse.

Coming around *again*

Hollywood loves a reboot: just look at Stargate (above) as an example of that, or Superman, or Spiderman… in fact, backing a completely new and original idea is often the risk that major studios aren't prepared to take because they can’t be sure that concept will ever make back the money invested to begin with. Warcraft’s history is vast and rich, but a great deal of it had already taken place when the original game was conceived, and we've spent the last ten years referencing the key moments in that past, and being conveniently dropped into their narratives via the Caverns of Time instances. When you think about it, these key markers in Azeroth's History have been the best part of the whole process for many people: the Legion, The Battle for Hyjal, the Well of Eternity...

Which is where the first pointer, our Title Card, now comes in.

Thirty Five years is a VERY specific frame of reference. They could have simply titled it ‘Draenor’ or ‘The Past’ but no, we get a very deliberate marker, and I feel this is significant for several reasons. First off, it sets the player in a hugely momentous point in Warcraft history. Forget the ‘DocBrown’ explanations that have become popular, this is Warcraft plonking players at a crossroads: because the Orcs don’t drink Mannoroth’s blood, a whole slew of significant events then could also simply fail to take place in the Alternate Universe we now find ourselves drawn to because of Garrosh's intervention. Let's be clear here: I'm not talking about the past we've left, but the present we now find ourselves in WITHIN THIS MULTIVERSE. A Multiverse where, it must be said, a large number of the Burning Legion's major players may well still live and could be sent out in the NEXT expansion for players to kill YET AGAIN. After all, we all know that death is 'only a setback.'

I dunno about you, but that could be a great way of reinventing our basic plotline for a second turn of the wheel.

Blizzard could very easily be setting us up for a reboot of the Warcraft Universe from this point forward. I think a lot of that will depend on what the Warcraft movie's got hidden up its ample sleeves in a year and a bit's time.

There's reports floating around the internet of a trailer that never saw the light of day outside the San Diego Comic Con, of a trailer that pits Orcs against Humans in a manner that will be eerily reminiscent to those who understand the early Lore of the Warcraft games that came before the MMO. There's a mention in the trailer description of fathers and sons too, which is of course what we ALSO see front and centre in the Warlords Cinematic. There have been those who have questioned Duncan Jones' pedigree in producing this movie considering the two major motion pictures he has under his belt: 'Moon' and 'Source Code', which BOTH ironically have a lot to do with bending and warping the fabric of time. Without spoiling ether for anyone who's not seen Jones' previous outings, this is a man who is very adept at making the process of 'linear time' work to his advantage in a dramatic setting. Part of me now wonders whether this entire setup isn't part of a bigger picture, that perhaps the events we know that make up the movie aren't as cut and dried in Lore terms as maybe they might be... and that maybe Jones' appointment is deliberate. If you want someone to help you re-write your timeline, this guy has bags of experience. Oh, and before you remind me he's only directing, go check the movie's IMDB credits. Go on ^^

And then, on top of all this, there's this year's Blizzcon to consider as a way to link the present and the future together.

Some people are already speculating that we could have announcement for the NEXT Expansion before the last one is out, which would be largely ironic considering the six months we lost along the way this year. However, what many people will be failing to consider is the importance of linking together current playable content with the Movie release: if I know Blizzard as well as I believe I do, somebody somewhere already has a plan for this. After all, as has been established on many occasions:

Just remember to substitute the word 'Blizzard' for 'Russians' in that clip and you're up to speed.

I've been making this point since it was clear we had a Movie to go with the Game: Blizzard will want a way to link the two together, and how would that be possible if the Movie's going to reference some key points in the game's past we can't visit because they already took place?

That's not a problem if EVERYONE reboots along the way, now is it?

The NEXT Expansion is now the thing I'm really interested about, because I've had this concept sold to me for a year now, pretty much non-stop. I've grasped the past, but this isn't something I as yet want to embrace, because I'm not an Orc. However, I'd put a lot of money on the fact this is deliberate planning on Blizzard's part, because the NEXT Expansion could well focus on Humans, thus meaning we have both sides of our Warcraft Movie's twin protagonists fresh in the memory. Throw in the possibility of some MAJOR Demon Showdowns (TM) into the mix and I can see a way to get Orcs v Humans to fight each other, and then turn to attack a common enemy: the Burning Legion. You'll notice there is NO real indicator of exactly what we'll get in turns of plot in this Movie as yet, and no concrete evidence of what viewers can expect in terms of actual battles. It's all deliberate speculation for a very good reason. A good marketing department won't show their hand until everything is ready.

This is not the Reboot you are looking for ^^

Those of you who are wondering why Grommash is the end boss of the Expansion? You defeated the son, now you'll defeat the father, but to what end? The Legion is already knocking at Draenor's door, and even if Mannoroth has not corrupted the Orcs, his shadowy mates are very much aware of where this planet lies and what potential it offers as a result. The scope for adventure in 'alternate universes' is huge, as in the possibilities for movie tie-ins. How this all fits together? We don't know as yet, but I'll GUARANTEE it will, because this won't just be about getting bums of seats in cinemas. This will be a way of getting new watchers of the Movie to sub to the Game, and that will mean giving viewers a world to play in that is reflected in the plot of the 'adventure' they go see.

That means our World of Warcraft could be about to undergo quite the radical shift of emphasis.

Monday, August 18, 2014

This Week, I Will Be Mostly ::
Me and You and a Dog Named Boo

My prayers have been answered. I will indeed be back on the road (again) come Tuesday as I return to the game: we finally have the certainty of a Thursday release date in November to look forward to and plan for, including the inevitable 6.0 Events that will precede it. I can remember how I felt back in January when I thought we'd be doing this some time in May, and it was with a certain level of irony I discovered midweek that I was right all along, the Expansion is six months late. Planning then was a large amorphous blob of uncertainty.


UBRS is gonna vanish in its present form sometime in October. Many dungeons will change forever at the same time. Unless someone has a miracle in their back pocket I'm not going to get a Garrosh clear or a set of CM Golds before this happens, but I will be able to get myself set up with the two Hunters I intend to level simultaneously for Warlords. I can try and knock off the Green Fire Quest on the Lock. There's the possibility of getting some Jewelcrafting Mounts for the new total I know I need to aim for, 250. In fact, I suspect that the next week will be spent with a pencil and paper making an awful lot of notes not simply on what I've missed in the week I've been away. There will be ALL OF THE PLANNING and, if you're interested, I'll bring you along for the ride.

I suspect that #TEAMFAFF Facebook Page might yet get created at some point in the next few weeks to boot, because PRIORITIES PEOPLE.


There's a lot to sort out now I'm actually back at Alternative Towers, a lot of which has to do with those ten questions I asked you about ten days ago now. Expect far more planning come the morning, and an official announcement on the Winners of the #WarlordsReleaseDate Contest that is, of course, finally resolved. Oh, and I'd expect you'll need to find some tin foil to make a hat or two, because I'm going to start off the day tomorrow with my take on what we saw in THAT Cinematic... :D

Right, if you'll excuse me, there are THINGS to do :D

#10Years10Questions: The Brilliant Things

Not a bad week, all told...

Those of you paying attention will have noticed I've been AFK [Europe] over the last week, but today sees me travelling back home and beginning the task of sorting what I know has been left for me in my absence, which is a MASSIVE response from you guys to my request just over a week ago. I asked you to share with me your Warcraft memories and you have done that IN YOUR HUNDREDS, and frankly I am still stunned every time a new Blog Post is pointed in my direction or a new Form is filled via my Google Docs.

As it stands at time of writing, I have the following to pour over:

  • 200 plus Form Responses
  • 70 Blog Posts (updated as of the 18th)
  • 6 Audio Responses
  • 6 Video Responses
  • 40 e-mailed Responses

with more promised in pretty much every department. I'll make a concerted effort on Monday evening to sit down and make sure I've picked up every response from over the weekend, and if you're reading the Master List Post on Tuesday and don't see your post mentioned, PLEASE poke me to be added.

I wanted to again thank every single person who has contributed in any way, shape or form to the Project, even if it has only been to retweet the original 10 Questions (yes I'm looking at YOU, Dave Kosak!)

Mention by Blizzard Staff = Priceless :D

I hope I can do justice to everyone who's taken part (and yet to do so) and I'll be sure to keep everyone informed of what stage of production I'm at in the weeks that follow. If you've not yet taken part in the Survey, you have until the first week of September to get your answers to me!

I look forward to hearing from even more of you in the next seven days :D

Sunday, August 17, 2014

REPOST: Let's Get Serious

In our second Repost this week, I tackle an issue that has actually developed a measure of accuracy from its original post date in April. This post was again chosen for inclusion in Blizzlist, for which I continue to be very grateful.


I hope everyone can agree, regardless of personal opinion toward flight vs. non-flight, that flying fundamentally alters how content is approached in a world where the gameplay exists wholly on the ground.

The PR exercise of 'making non-flight attractive' continues apace, in anticipation of Warlords.

Even the Marketing Department got the memo this time around.


Look closely and yes, this steed that got everyone excited HAS NO WINGS. Oh, and I have no doubt you'll be able to fly on this. Just don't expect to be able to to in Draenor in 6.1. Anyone want to bet there might well be the promise of free 90's attached to this deal along the way?

Yeah, didn't think so.

However, what this should now indicate to anyone paying more than scant attention to the way Warlords is being handled is that, like it or not, this is on Blizzard's terms. They are not going to back down on the no-fly, they are not going to be rushed on development timescales, it really will be ready when its ready, and it is not as if there is no historical precedent for either. There are bucketloads of both, and if the plan is as it appears to return us to TBC with a modern twist but to do it without the seeming convenience of circumnavigating content by just flying into it and flying away, there may be more to this move than simply reinforcing the desire that flying is now not an option. In fact, there's a paragraph of explanatory text I think everyone really needs to read:

In Draenor we’re designing max-level content, portions of zones or zones in their entirety that will be dedicated to max-level gameplay—and not just the top of a cliffside, or some dailies in the Vale. There’s a harsh change in how the game plays between leveling, and when you hit max level. Hitting 100 and instantly switching everything you do to raiding or Arenas is pretty abrupt, and we want to try to keep that questing experience available at max level with something more robust than daily quests. We don’t think having all of that content inside buildings, or constantly challenged by sky cannons, or with magical no-flying smoke, or within some kind of dismount bubble is the most straightforward or best solution to the ultimate issue in that World of Warcraft is not a flight sim, and that's just not what the content of the game is about. Even at level 100 there will be no small portions of the game world intended to provide relevant content even to max-level players. These zones may even unlock over the course of the expansion, or the content in them will progress in story and scope throughout content patches. Content has to be designed with the expectation that there either is or is not flight, and approaching ground-level content from the ground offers more compelling gameplay. Raids, dungeons, and PvP continue to disallow flying for this same reason.

That last statement is the killer in all of this: it may not just be your Garrison that has an intrinsic relationship with your progress in game this time around, it could be ALL the content in the ENTIRE expansion, and if that is the case then keeping people on the ground isn't just a convenience, its a part of the progression mechanic. That's a fairly big admission by Bashiok, even though he is quite careful not to confirm anything concrete because, as we know, that's not how Blizzard ever operate. However, if this *were* the way forward for content it will encourage people to start from Step One and not think they can turn up late and simply pick up at the end. At least part of the incentive here seems to be that if you start this journey there is now the real possibility it will feel far more cohesive than it did in previous expansions. There is, of course, another possibility which might actually benefit the player that turns up at patch 6.3 and starts from scratch: if the content doesn't unlock and then remain static, and you do that by travelling, then that's a HUGE step forward in keeping the game current. In fact, that might be part of the Holy Grail for Warcraft rediscovered right there.

Isle of Thunder. Hints of what was to come?

The Isle of Thunder was an exercise in unlocking progression for this who turned up first, but anyone who turned up late didn't get nearly as an immersive experience as the rest of us. If I read Bashiok's comments correctly, what if Warlords was being designed to unlock content ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS? That means that it wouldn't matter when you started a zone, you'd always be there at the beginning and wouldn't turn up late and find everything just in place without explanation. So, when you arrive for the first time you'll unlock the content even if half the server's already done so, and the game will remember your individual progress for EVERYTHING and not simply the quest areas. There's a massive downside to this however, and that's that there'll be no more getting your high level mates to drag you through a zone, because it could mean that everyone is phased to everyone else, regardless of their progress. However this would finally put pay to zone desolation like we see in Blades Edge with the Ogri'la. You could be in a zone and have people in different phases, unaware of other people playing until everyone's relative 'position' matches up.

It would certainly have the effect of making the game feel fresh to the solo player.

Extinct marketing material.

However, and this is crucial, there will be those who will not see any benefit in what is being suggested, and won't look at the long term consequences of this action. All they will continue to see is what the removal of flying prevents them from doing. I'd urge everyone to read Bashiok's complete statement at least once, if only to understand that the guys who make the game really do grasp the issues, but this is not negotiable. The choice then comes down to players. If you can't understand what's being asked of you, or you just don't care and think this is a way to make more money out of players, time to unsubscribe. Seriously, stop letting these guys take your money and go do something else. If you do this and then continue to complain about it, don't be surprised if the people still playing stop listening and move on.

For those of us who remain, this is the right choice overall for the game.