Return of the WAR

As I think the majority of readers here knows, I took a bit of a break from WAR and have recently returned to playing more regularly with my little Warrior Priest (who dies a LOT thanks to a sea of Choppas, and contrary to popular belief!). Was talking with Spinks this morning about just how many positive things WAR had going for it, and rather than writing about it on Nerf the Cat, I thought I’d list some of  them here.

Not waiting around for looting (bags, choices, etc)

We were discussing how one of the problems I have with raiding in other games is the stopping and starting for loot, whatever choice of loot distribution the raid uses, and that’s when we realised that WAR really doesn’t have this problem because of the loot bags in PQs, dungeons, oRvR, etc and the way the need/greed system works. It’s so much better to have loot selections on offer, and to also have stuff that’s directly relevant to your class. I don’t think I realised how much I like the system, because previously I’ve focused on just how crappy my rolls have been, or how unfair 1 gold bag per keep used to be, and stuff like that. In the end it allows for some seamless play where looting doesn’t get in the way of the experience. It’s certainly not perfect, but it fits in well with the frenetic pace of  Warhammer Online.

Variety

Ok, a lot of this is due to the Slayers/Choppas and server merges, but for whatever reason, the server feels pretty damn busy at the moment across all tiers. I hear of fortress and city stuff going on via guild chat (merged guild, so new faces to learn and get used to also), while someone also mentioned Tier 3 is very busy and I know for myself that Tier 1 and 2 are. The general number of people and the spread have highlighted the variety of things to do in WAR, and I’m omitting crafting because I don’t feel any urge to do it at all!

But with public quests, scenarios, normal questing, capital city quests – there’s a lot to do to get from A to B, levelwise. Spinks and I spent a good portion of today doing PQs while waiting for scenarios to pop in Tier 2, and once the afternoon kicked in, we barely had time to hand in the scenario quests before another one popped. It was this variety that appealed from the start, and it’s great to see it there and being shown off so nicely. I hope this continues, though I fear it’s inevitable that the action eventually move firmly to Tiers 3 & 4.

Scenarios

In and of themselves, scenarios are great fun. Though, it interesting that people seem to like whichever the latest one is. I know I really enjoyed Reikland Factory and the Twisting Tower, but maybe just because they were new and fresh and after a while the others can get a bit frustratingly samey. But, having said that, something that takes you out of the normal run of the game and transports you into a fun 15-minute mini-game is to be applauded. It’s a bit like the solo instances in LotRO, something I can do that adds to my experience but doesn’t take too long. Of course, scenarios are desperately dependent on other people signing up… so they have a bit of a downside. But overall, still loving them and the concept of them!

Casual Hardcore

One thing that I’m enjoying about my return to WAR in contrast to other games, is that everything is pretty fancy-free and unstressful. If I want to try and get a group together to do something, I can give it a go. If not, I can toddle around doing random quests via red blobs, and just exploring the world and the game. Dying means very little to me, it’s too quick and easy to die when the odds are against you. It might be a pain during a dungeon, but in every other situation, I just shrug, get up and get on with things. The game is quick to pick up and also to put down, so it can be treated as more of a pastime and less of a chore. Of course, if I cared enough about the endgame, the ward armour, completing all the content or collecting every title, I might not feel this way, but at the moment, it’s a perfect game for me to decide on a daily basis if I want to be casual or hardcore or a mix of the two.

Questing

The normal quests are often shrugged off as being a sideshow to the main attraction (the RvR, which we all know and mostly enjoy!). But actually, they’re not half bad at all. The red blobs might make questing fast and easy-ish (location-wise), but the areas have great flavour and interesting storylines to follow through, so that even when blasting through you get a good sense of them. I quite enjoy WAR questing as another fairly unstressy way of enjoying the game.

Anyway, a quick overview of things we were discussing today, and of my very basic feelings after not playing very seriously for a while. Feel free to add others, or disagree at will!

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Why Play WAR Over “That Other Game”

[Hey all, here’s a guest post from a fellow guild-member in WAR (spacecowboy2071 here, I’ll  let him decide if he wants to give himself a more catchy name sometime!). I’m hoping to gather a few people willing to contribute to the blog, so expect to hear more from space-cowboy soon. And give him a good welcome pleasearbitrary]

First, I feel I should confess… I am a Blizzard fan boy.  I’ve purchased every game of theirs since the original WarCraft: Orcs vs Humans.  When World of WarCraft was released I was wet with anticipation, and like many it was my first MMO.

Second, I would consider myself a casual gamer.  This description fits well amongst the MMO crowd, of course my family would disagree and tell you there’s no bigger game geek out there.  I’m logging about 10-20 hours a week, and often limit sessions to an hour or two.  This leaves little opportunity for raiding or the desire to waste precious time spamming looking for group channels.

“That Other Game”

Now with that all being said, it’s no secret that World of WarCraft broke the mold by making MMOs accessible to the casual gamer.  Most of us are well familiar with the formula of their success:  you can level from 1-80 without joining a group, you have access to great items from quests and crafting (up to end-game), etc., etc.  However, where I feel World of WarCraft fails is in the end-game.  What’s more is Blizzard seems to recognize this, but is slow and reluctant to rectify how inaccessible the game becomes once you reach the level cap.  Over the lifespan of game we’ve seen raiding go from requiring 40 players with the original release, to 25 with the Burning Crusade expansion, to now 10 with Wrath of the Lich King.  Blizzard has omitted they need to make end game content more accessible in an interview by MMOGamer,  BlizzCon: Interview With WoW Lead Designer Jeffrey “Tigole” Kaplan, what’s confusing is they are taking their sweet time in doing it.

To WAR!

Warhammer Online has taken MMO accessibility to the next level.  Public Quests allow you to join open groups for “raid”-like content and rewards.  Even if you don’t have the time to complete the Public Quest, you still earn influence, which over time earns you rewards that are substantial.  Further more joining a group for a Public Quest is easy!  The interface comes outfitted with tools, so that as soon as you log on you can immediately display public groups in your area and join them.  Insta-fun-joy!

Likewise, the world PvP influence system (known as open Realm vs Realm) and the Renown Rank system also allow you to build up points over time for great rewards.  In an MMO where gear plays an importance to character progression, it is important that those that can only commit to an hour or less gaming sessions at a time are rewarded and not penalized.

Warhammer Online seems committed to making the game more and more accessible to casual gamers.  Future features include extending open RvR influence bars, token systems, easy public quests, and more uber gear drops from champion mobs in keep takes.  Snippets of upcoming features and improvements are mentioned in a Warhammer Alliance post, NYCC – A Few Answers.

The Question

Now I’ve been asking myself, “Why is Warhammer Online so much more in tune with making their end-game casual friendly when World of WarCraft is not?” Well, I think it’s important to know the senior producers and developers of an MMO, and understand what kind of gamer(s) they are to answer that question.  The original World of WarCraft was produced by Rob Pardo and is currently being produced by Jeff Kaplan.  Both of them where hardcore raiders in EverQuest as mentioned in this post by Tobold, Raid numbers.  Whereas Marc Jacobs is a casual gamer.  He has mentioned that because of his “real life” commitments and interests, he only finds an hour or so to play games himself.

And that’s the case I’m putting forth.  Both World of WarCraft and Warhammer Online offer quality PvE, PvP, and more.  However, each has a unique approach to how this content is experienced and how you as a player progress.  In  the end it has a great deal to do with gamer on the other side of the screen and the game they want to play.

Bringing in new classes

The three games we play have something big in common at the moment, they’re all introducing new classes to the game – so we thought we’d do a very brief look at how the introductions differ:

Knights of the Blazing Sun and Black Guards in WAR

Two of the ‘missing’ classes being introduced to the game sometime before the end of the year (pending date changes, of course). As everyone reading this will know, they’re both tank classes – the Knight is mirror to the Chosen and will use auras and twisting, the Black Guard mirrors the Ironbreaker but uses hate instead of grudges as a mechanic. They’re iconic classes and have been much missed, so there’s bound to be plenty of them.

Now, WAR might be the first MMO to introduce new classes so early on in the cycle, mainly because they were obviously close to being ready when cut out from release. This means that there won’t be any new starting areas, gear was already designed, and it’s still in the stages where people are testing out alts anyway. WAR has also chosen to herald the entrance of the new classes with a fairly interesting live event, which is going on in all zones at the moment. Hopefully it’s going well – some will do it for the fun, some for the chance to get a week headstart with the new classes – again, something that I believe is pretty new in the genre, but will probably be copied!

Rune Keepers and Wardens in LotRO

Came in with the Mines of Moria expansion. They can be various races (covering all of the races in-game, but each new class skips one race), but the starting areas remain the same. Turbine have added gear for the classes to each stage of the game, including raidsets etc.

Interestingly, both new classes are supposedly decent soloers, and together they form the tank-healer combo, with some good dps between them. A good design decision for the overwhelming number of the new classes that started in the game this week.

Death Knights in WoW

Came in as part of the new expansion, although none of the pre-expansion events specifically featured Death Knights. They’re well known as part of the lore, have featured previously as raid bosses in pre-Burning Crusade WoW and anyone who played Warcraft III will be familiar with them. This class also starts at level 55 so skips the bulk of the levelling process.

They have a full Death Knight specific questline when you create a new character of that type, in a semi-instanced setting that reminds me a lot of the LOTRO introductory quests. The questline is solid and fun, and features lots of WoW-trademark style quests with the customary pizzazz and sparkle. There’s an associated storyline to do with redemption from evil and choosing to fight against their previous overlord. It’s well written and  culminates in a fairly epic battle scene. They also get a full set of good quality gear and a fast mount thrown in for free, which you are awarded as part of the intro questline.

The gear they release you into the outside world with on a Death Knight also looks absolutely fantastic. (Well, until you start replacing it and look like a clown again, but it will last for awhile.)

Podcasts

I’m a bit of a podcast nut, because I have a 1.5 hour commute to and from work on the days I work (yes, I’m lucky enough to be a part-timer). I also tend to think podcasts can ease some of the blah from grinding, as and when I need to do it. So it falls to me, fairly naturally to give you a quick overview of the podcasts I listen to – I’ve tried to stick to WAR and gaming ones, but if you ask nicely I might list all the ones I have on my listening list (even ones I’m ashamed of ;p).

Warhammer

No Prisoners, No Mercy – now here’s one we can rely on! Part of the Virgin Worlds collective, this is really top notch and makes me laugh like no other WAR podcast. Sister Julie and Sister Fran put such passion and heart into the podcast that it’s impossible not to get caught up in its infectiousness. It’s a great insight into someone else’s experience of the game, and also raises some really interesting points. But let’s put it this way, the minute I get this one downloaded on iTunes it goes to the top of my listening list!

The Warpath – another weekly WAR podcast from the Virgin Worlds collective, this time helmed by Phillip and Stephen. long-time friends and players of Warhammer tabletop – which is great for me, because it helps fill in some of the lore that I’m really lacking in. I’ve really enjoyed their breakdown of classes – it gave me a lot to think about! There’s quite a bit here about progression through the game and how they’ve found the levels and tiers they’re currently playing, and I find it fascinating to listen to how others view these things, it also sometimes kicks me out of my doldrums and reminds me why I’m enjoying the game, and I look forward to the time when they hit their first fortress.

WARP – yay, another regular WAR podcast, and another one I’ve been enjoying recently. It has quite a few hosts, which means they bring a lot of different experiences to the podcast which is pretty cool. They cover things a wide variety of things, and taught me a lot about the various things different archetypes could do to siege equipment, and I think the show is developing really nicely even if it’s not quite as polished as it’ll probably be in a couple of months – but I still enjoy listening a lot.

Destruction Dollswhat can I say, it was a fun couple of episodes they put out, and I was greatly looking forward to more of it. But it’s been put on hold indefinitely. Shame, but it’s happened a fair bit. Still worth downloading and listening to the episodes they produced, but it’ll be pretty out-of-date.

Chaos Cast – produced and presented by THE triumvirate of WAR bloggers, Syp, Snafzg and Keen, this was once a fortnightly show. It seems to have also fallen by the wayside though, but I’m sure we’ll see the odd sporadic episode. The camaraderie between the three is obvious from listening, and it was always enjoyable to listen to.

Podcast of Reckoning another podcast that seems to have drifted off a little, but I’m listing it here because I know Orlock from MMOgeek fully intends to record another and get back into the swing of it. I remember it being full of fun and good humour, as well as having a British voice as part of it. The WarhammerGeek parody songs are simply fantastic, so even if you don’t go download the back catalogue of podcasts, head over to the site, listen to them and bug Orlock to record the ones he’s written!!

General Gaming

Virgin Worlds though I might like to pretend I don’t pay much attention to other games, of course I do. And Virgin Worlds is a great way to hear about developments in the MMOsphere. I may not agree with Brent on a few things (mostly to do with LotRO rather than WAR), but he’s terrific at what he does and always puts together an informative and entertaining show.

PC Gamer this is the PC Gamer UK podcast, and I adore it – despite the fact I don’t play many games at all. My husband and my friends are quite games-fanatic though, so it allows me to keep in touch with releases, and the contributors are always entertaining. It’s probably not work-friendly, but I love the banter between the contributors!

Shut Up, We’re Talking Darren and Karen host a podcast where they and their guests discuss the most up-to-date or interesting MMO news. Part of the Virgin Worlds collective, it’s another one I just wouldn’t miss and have been listening to for a while. It’s really interesting to get all the experiences of various MMO players and I’ve never failed to find this one particularly worth listening to.

Rock Paper Shotgun Electric Wireless Show – newish podcast from one of our favourite websites out there (I’m sure you’ve guessed we love it). Again this covers PC games, has great repartee and may not be entirely work-safe (if you’re prone to listening to podcasts on speakers at work that is!). But it always makes me smile, gives me a great insight into games I can then recommend to my husband/friends and has that nice touch of British humour about it. Episode 4 is basically a couple of the guys from Rock, Paper Shotgun, and Paul Barnett on a British train, chatting – which nicely encapsulates the casual and fun nature of the show. It’s only up to show 6 now, but I hope it continues for ages.

So that’s it in terms of gaming podcasts currently on my list, though it seems I may be trimming them down somewhat if those on hiatus don’t return soon!

Hope you enjoy them, if you go investigate. Or suggest some others for me to check out – remembering that some of my time is given over to comics, TV and film geekery too 🙂

All things in moderation. Except this rant.

Wotcha everyone,

Thanks BBC.  You’ve just pointed out that addiction to online gaming is bad.  In such a way that makes me want to go and buy Wrath of the Lich King RIGHT NOW and play it ALL NIGHT.  Just to spite you.  Yes, you, BBC.

I think it’s the just-one-step-from-hysteria tone of articles commenting on online gaming addiction that annoys me most.  And now here is a justification blog.

Yes.  Online games are addictive.  Yes, they really are.

I know this.  I freely admit I’m addicted to them.  I will not even try and append any disclaimer “buts” to that statement.  “Hello everyone.  My name is Hawley, and I’m an addict”.  Single player games just don’t offer the same draw for me, and I do play them for a few hours most nights.  And during the day, if I can.  I have also seen friends start playing them, become addicted, and lose their social lives to online gaming.

Yes, our health can suffer.  For every hour spent fighting my way around Praag, I’m wasting an hour I that I could have used training for the London Marathon.  Or practicing to climb the North Face of the Eiger.

Yes, there is a lack of personal contact.  I’m spending my time looking at a screen, instead of engaging in actual, honest-to-goodness face-to-face conversation with actual, honest-to-goodness people.

Yes, I’m removed from the community at large.  I could be spending time working within my local community, volunteering for charities, and generally helping little old ladies cross the road, but, well, you see, the forces of Destruction need holding back, you see.  And if I don’t do it (whilst getting to level 40) then who will?

But then again, if all the people who weren’t addicted to online gaming were off training for marathons, conversing politely to all and sundry, and filling their spare time volunteering for their local charity, then the world wouldn’t just be a better place, it would be unrecognisable.  We’re just following their lead.

And please, can we also point out that there are a lot more, far more harmful addictions out there.  Because, let’s face it, *anything* can be addictive, given the right person.

I could sit here and go through a list of everything, in order of how dangerously harmful they are to the addict, and those around them.  But there’s no point, is there?  We all know what they are, so why should I waste all of our time going through them, and making this seem like a guiltily defensive moan.

No, this is an aggressive rant.  Why is it that online gaming, and World of Warcraft in particular, is hauled over the coals whenever something happens in online gaming?  Why does it always have to be reported in the same semi-hysterical way?

Why is it that games are the bane of modern civilisation, the root of all of our modern evils?

Is it because we’re WASTING OUR LIVES™ by playing them?  Okay, that’s a valid point.  But then again, I spent three years commuting four hours plus per day to get to work and back.  Four hours.  That’s 20 hours a week.  Almost a whole day every week spent sat on a train, or waiting for one that would never come.  But no-one told me that was wasted time.  No!  Being at the mercy of the British rail system was a good thing, because it was spent going to and from work!  But I tell you what, it felt like I was wasting my life at the time, and I still feel that way 5 years later.

Besides, I spent much of that time reading books, and everyone knows that reading books is good.  Don’t we?  We shouldn’t collapse in front of the television every night, we should do something constructive, something edifying, something worthwhile, like reading a book.

What?  Are they taking the piss?  When I was a wee whipper-snapper, before the internet, and before mainstream gaming, I lived my life in books.  If I wasn’t told to do something by my parents, they would find me with my nose in a book.  Anytime, anywhere, there I was with a book.  To the point that they got worried.  Yes, worried.  They deliberated on whether they should take books off me, or just hope and trust I would be “all right”.  If only books had had their positive, wholesome and uplifting image then, my home life would have been much easier!

I’ve spent a lot of time reading books.  I still do.  And not one has changed my life.  I may have learned some things, I might have discovered how different people thought during different periods to our own time, I might even have vicariously lived the exciting and varied life of the author through their writing.  But no, I have received none of the enrichment that seems to be promised by reading actual treeware nowadays.

No, the point here is that whenever Online Gaming hit’s the press, someone somewhere decides to bring out the same semi-hysterical Online Gaming is Addictive! story, and present it in the same way that they no doubt inform people that “MY HAIR IS ON FIRE!  MY HAIR IS ON FIRE!”.  Yes, we can see that your hair is on fire.  Thanks.

Is it that online gaming doesn’t make for the same exciting sexed-up news that makes the mainstream viewer or reader sit up and take notice?  Are we living in the sort of society where the average person is too busy checking their crampons to look up unless the geeks are shown to be dangerous geeks?  And in a way that all the studies that show that gaming can help improve cognitive thinking, social skills, and hand-eye co-ordination stories won’t?

We all choose the way we want to spend our leisure time.  And anything that makes us feel happier, empowered, or powerful can turn us into an addict.  Those happy joy-joy feelings make us want more happy joy-joy feelings.  Anything taken to excess can negatively impact on our lives, and our personal well-being.  And one of the wonderful, amazing things about people is that we’re all different, and as such, can take different things to different extremes.

People drop out of the mainstream all the time, and a lot of the time, what they’ve done isn’t the real reason for dropping out.  The student who drops out of university can blame World of Warcraft all he likes, but it’s quite possible that if it hadn’t been getting phat lewtz and epixxx that got in the way of his degree, it would have been something else; I remember trading essay-writing time for Warcraft 2.  Not because I was addicted to Warcraft 2, but because I really would have done anything rather than write that sodding essay.  Warcraft 2 was just the easiest, shiniest escape route.  And didn’t involve canoeing up the Amazon.

Geeks are an easy target, after all.  We don’t have “normal” hobbies.  We’re playing a game, and by doing that, we’re doing something that many people just don’t understand.  They don’t understand the attraction, they don’t understand how it works, and most of all, they just don’t understand how we can be so passionate about it all.  And, like most people confronted with something they don’t understand, they mock it.  And it doesn’t help that many geeky hobbies are inherently silly; I know, I do most of them.  But then, after ridiculing our hobby, John Normal goes back to shouting at 22 grown men in tribal colours chasing a ball around a field.  And refers to his tribe of choice as “we”.  “We” won.  “We” lost.  Despite the fact that all Mr Normal did was shout ineffectually from the crowd of John and Janes.

I’m geek and proud.  I don’t hide my geeky nature; I revel in it.  I stopped bothering to hide it a long time ago, and when people mock me, I’ll mock back.  I’ll also try and educate those who don’t understand.  But it doesn’t help when the people who bother to listen have already been informed by the media that we’re all raging addicts with no ability to differentiate between a fake world and the real one.  That we’re all ready to shiv each other up for stealing something that never existed in the first place.  That we’ll never leave our games to go and do something else.  Something involving real people.

Stop it.  Just stop it.

According to the media, gamers buying Wrath of the Lich King at midnight so they can go home and play it immediately are damaging themselves.  Their addiction is wrong.  But parents taking their kids to the midnight launch of a Harry Potter book at a bookshop is perfectly fine, it appears.  And something to be celebrated.  And I’m sure NOT ONE of those kids went home and immediately started reading when they should have been sleeping.  No.  Not one.  All tucked up in bed, sharpish.  Their parents too.

Please, can we have a more balanced view?  One that says we may be daft, but we’re mostly harmless?  That some of us are addicted, but not in the way that means we’ll be mugging old grannies and stealing your toaster to sell for subscriptions?  And that most of us aren’t addicts?  Please?  Do us a favour, and don’t make us have to justify our hobbies to our parents, as they try and hold an intervention?

Cheers,
Hawley.

[WoW] Storytelling in MMOs

NOTE: There’s some minor spoilers in here for the starting Death Knight questchain. So skip this post  if you don’t want to be spoiled.

There are three types of storytelling that go on in MMOs. The first and most traditional sort are the stories we tell about players. Ask anyone about their worst ever PUG or the most amusing mistell they’ve ever seen — we all have stories to tell. Our guilds have histories, our servers have ‘famous’ personalities, we have scandals and drama, and all the flotsam of human nature is there. Game design can definitely have a big effect on the way communities form and interact but for the main part, these are interactive stories that are completely player driven. They aren’t always particularly good or thematic stories but that’s real life for you. At least we can guarantee that most get better with retelling.

The second sort is the type of story that players tell on roleplaying servers, from time to time. These are stories about characters that are partly driven by the game lore but aren’t directly driven by developers. If you’ve ever thought about your character’s backstory and where s/he came from, you’ve done some of this.

(Cybering usually falls between the above two categories because two players writing smut to each other isn’t really roleplaying and has more to do with playing out real life fantasies. Which is basically harmless as long as it’s not inflicted on minors or anyone who isn’t interested.)

The last sort are quest based character storylines. You follow the quests and as you do so, there’s some kind of storyline that your character is experiencing. It may involve helping old ladies to find their lost chickens or saving the world from the Big Bad but the story is written into the game. Human beings enjoy stories, it’s how we are wired, but there are major difficulties with these kind of questlines. The main one is getting players to buy into it. Or even to actually read it at all.

And in Wrath, Blizzard have pretty much taken this to the next level in MMOs (in a good way). The starting Death Knight quests are remarkable in that as a player, you feel personally involved in the choice that your character is making without actually being given a choice. They’re remarkable in other ways too – Blizzard did a super job of showcasing everything they have learned about creating fun and memorable quests, there’s the bombing run, the disguise yourself as a peculiar object quest, the nuke vast amounts of enemy quest, the ‘dodge the elite mob’ quest, and so on. But the writers really outdid themselves with one specific part.

Now backtracking a bit, everyone who plays WoW knows that Death Knights begin their careers as loyal thralls of the Lich King. They also know that Death Knights will eventually be fighting the Lich King alongside the regular members of the Horde and Alliance. Which must mean that either they get a redemption storyline or else they are all really really bad spies (if they were good spies, they’d be disguised as Retribution Paladins – all you’d have to do is whine constantly about not wanting to heal and carry a big 2 hander, no one would ever know).

So the Death Knight starting quests present the player with a redemption quest line. The turning point is where you encounter a member of the same race who remembers you from your time before you became a Death Knight, when you were a hero … And they call you brother/sister and ask if you have the strength to resist. I don’t know anyone who has done that questline who didn’t respond emotionally to that piece of writing, and my hats are off to the Blizzard writers. It is probably the most important piece of quest text in the game because if you don’t buy into that, you can’t buy into the character at all, and they make it work.

I can’t overstate how difficult a thing it is that they pulled off with this. Any tabletop GM will tell you that there are some types of storyline that you just can’t run with some players. I’ve had players who hated storylines where they got captured by the enemy and had to escape (even though I thought it would make from an awesome Escape from Colditz type plot), I’ve had players who were offered a redemptive type storyline and refused it because they liked their character the way it was. Some people just like to feel in control and that they are making their own choices.

And letting people make their own meaningful story choices is something that’s been very hard to pull off in MMOs. So colour me utterly amazed at the writing in the Death Knight quests, because it feels as though a meaningful choice has been made and that the player was personally involved, even though it’s a static questline with no choices in it.

Mrs Spinks Goes to Northrend


Aside from all that, I’ve been very much enjoying questing with my warrior. This is basically what I bought the expansion for and it hasn’t disappointed me. It’s the Blizzard way to deliver a lot of basically competent quests with a few gems in each area. I’m just about done with Howling Fjord, have finished every quest I could find and run the first instance a couple of times with friends.

I really miss the red map blobs from Warhammer!!!

It is also that time in the cycle where there’s a lot of guild swapping going on, as people jockey around and decide how hardcore they want to play for the next few months. My semi-casual guild has lost a few people to more hardcore establishments. It’s inevitable that we likely will lose a few more – experience from TBC says that some people will hit 80 a few weeks ahead of the rest and if they get bored and frustrated while wanting to raid, they’re likely to find different raid groups. C’est la vie. It all happened before and no doubt it will all happen again.

Wrapping up for the Winter

Wotcha everyone,

Wrath of the Lich King.  Warcraft’s new expansion.  I have to mention it at some point, because for me to try and ignore its imminent release would be like trying to ignore the imminent arrival of Winter.  No matter how much I might run around in Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts (geographical dressing FTW!), it’s still going to get colder and colder.

So, here is me putting on a big woolly jumper and a scarf.

Will I be playing Wrath of the Lich King?  Probably.  At some point.  Hopefully, my mates who still play World of Warcraft will froth at me about it, in the hopes that I will join them.  If they don’t, it will be because it’s rubbish, or they don’t want to spend time in my company.  Either option would be bad.

Good games are good for all of us.  It keeps raising the bar, it means that standards rise, and that means that we all get to play better games.  So a good Wrath of the Liche King is great for everyone.

But I don’t want a repeat of the playing carnage that was Burning Crusade.  An entire server in one zone, desperately trying to level as fast as possible?  No, no thanks.  Neither would be trying to play whilst thousands of Death Knights are desperately trying to get to level 80 to assure themselves a place in their raid.

I might play later, but not at launch.

But there is something about the launch of Wrath of the Lich King that vaguely disturbs me.  And that’s a continuation of something that really started to strike me during the closed beta, NDA days of Warhammer Online.

For me, one of the things I love about online games is getting out there and discovering stuff.  I don’t have to see every single square foot of the world, but I love discovering things.  I love discovering the plots arcs, and taking part in them.  I love seeing the various places, and discovering what sort of trez there is to get.

Yet more and more, it seems that letting all those juicy little secrets out is part of the marketing campaign.  Now, I haven’t bought gaming magazines for a while, but this month’s PC Gamer has a number of pages dedicated to Wrath of the Lich King spoilers.  I can only assume that there have been similar amounts of NDA leakage to gaming websites as well.  Whether there’s more or less leaking than for Warhammer Online’s launch I have no idea, and nor do I care to find out, but something does worry me.  Is one of the reasons that we look for these leaks to give us a leg up, an advantage over our fellow players, rather than to help us form an opinion about a game, and if we should spend our hard-earned spoondoolicks on it?

It’s quite likely that I’m going senile, but I remember a time, a much gentler time, when gaming was about fun.  It was about levelling your character, so you could do different fun stuff.  It was about “ooing” and “aahing”, and generally going “squee!” when something nice dropped.

And then, somehow and somewhere, that ceased to be the case.  Suddenly it was about getting to maximum level as fast as possible, with the levelling content being there purely to stop you getting bored and going elsewhere.  Suddenly it was all about the epixxx, and moaning because “your” item didn’t drop.  Again.

Will Wrath of the Lich King change this?  Will it bring peace and love back to online gaming?

Or is Wrath of the Lich King just another excuse to wave our e-peens about the ether, in the way that Warhammer Online, and the rest of the current wave of 2nd Generation Online Games have been doing for some time now?

I really, really hope it’s great.  That it becomes more than the sum of its parts.  That it brings happy joy-joy feelings to online gamers everywhere.

Most of all, I’m really hoping they’ve got rid of the grind, because that’s what keeps sucking all of the fun out for me.

Cheers,
Hawley.