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This post is a wall fo text… I’m sorry

The new Blizzard cinematic is out and it’s making the rounds around the MMO community at the speed of light. Some love it, some are disappointed, everyone seems to agree that it’s at least beautifully done and quite a few people have commented on failing to kill engineers. I also posted a tin foil hat moment yesterday on Twitter about this expansion maybe leading to a future World of Warcraft 2 and I want to expand on that today. So grab your tinfoil hats, we’re going for a ride.

Once upon a time, there were Orcs and (some) Humans

I’ve been a fan boy of the Warcraft universe since the very first game when it seemed the game boiled down to Orcs fighting humans. However, if you paid attention to the game text between missions you would glimpsed a rather elaborate story about how a mad wizard summoned the invaders and how demons were somehow involved with the Orcs. At the time, me and my friends were arguing about the connections between the events, about which ending was cannon and a lot of other things.

Then, Warcraft 2 came along and my mind was blown. The story was vastly expanded and the foundations of a lot of the current WoW lore were laid down. Most of the events that would happen in Warcraft 2 and its expansion are still the foundation of everything that followed up to this day. The burning legion, the orc clans, Gul’dan, Orgrim Doomhammer, Outland and so many other lore elements originated in this game that it’s crazy. In many ways, Warcraft 2 is the lore foundation of the Warcraft universe.

Sadly though, fans of the first hour like me that still play WoW are getting fewer every year and I find it a bit sad that so many WoW players are unaware of all the reasons why stuff is happening. WoW does a decent job of going over relevant events to the current plot but still, many people are missing out I feel.

Enter the Metzen!

Whether you like him or not, Chris Metzen is at the core of the Warcraft lore. You might think that he’s antiquated or that he lost his touch, you can’t argue that he’s behind the lore of three separate, extremely successful, franchises. And like me, he’s often publicly lamented the fact that so much of the WoW fanbase is unaware of the old lore of the first two games and now, even Warcraft 3. He’s also said that it’s been a continuing headache for Blizzard writers, himself included, to write story in a way that both moves the plot forward while explaining to newer players the events that led to what’s currently happening.

This is the main reason why we have the Caverns of time, the flashbacks of Arthas in Northrend and so many other instances of sending the players back in time through various devices. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the reason behind the infinite dragon flight was to have a tool to justify all that time-travel.

And it’s also one of the main reasons behind Warlords of Draenor. They could have done a lot of things with Garrosh but they chose to go back to the beginning because, as Metzen stated, they wanted to show players how it all began without having to make them play Warcraft 1.

Also and I believe that’s very important Metzen wants to bring back the horde closer to its roots as a “savage” faction. I remember hearing him around Wotlk time saying that the felt they (Blizzard) went a bit too far with the noble savage idea and that the Horde had lost its edge as a result and I know some of the older RTS players (myself included) agreed with him. There was something fun about being part of the invading horde of barbarians who liked nothing more than loot and pillage.

Seeds of the future

Another important point I want to address before truly delving into tin-foil hat territory is how Blizzard is always writing the Warcraft lore in a way to set-up the next few games. Since Warcraft 2, you can see how certain missions/quests/events are in fact way of setting up the next few games of expansion. Warcraft 3, The frozen Throne set up events and elements up to Wrath of the Lich King for example, one game and two expansions… up to five years. Burning crusade and Wotlk started to prepare us for Garrosh and the infinite dragonflight for example that are now core elements of WoD. Vanilla and Burning crusade are full of elements referring to Deathwing who would make its appearance in Cataclysm. The list goes on and on…

I’m not saying everything is planned to precision but the core elements of the story are definitively set-up a long time in advance. If you look carefully, I think it’s possible to be able to guess as to where the story will lead us next.

So what are the current story elements that still feel like it needs resolution and have been hinted at?

  • The infinite dragonflight and its goals (likely tied to old ones)
  • The Garrosh story arc
  • The fate of Thrall… he has kids now…
  • Anduin
  • The old ones and the titans
  • The burning legion
  • The new Lich king (this one feels like a game device though but you never know)
  • A second Azeroth? (WoD)

There’s likely more but I think that at the moment this is what we’re looking at.

Where we’re headed

Of the elements above I take away three main things. First, the Old ones, the titans and the burning legion are up to their old shenanigans as always and I don’t expect much significant progress to be made in WoD on this front or at all, ever. These are cosmic forces and unless we want to close the books on WoW forever there’s likely not going to be a final resolution… but then again we’ve been fighting the old gods for so long now that you never know…

However, of greater interest is this recurring theme of the next generation starting to make its way. Anduin, Garrosh and Thrall’s kids feel like they’re slowly being set-up to be part of the next big chapter of the story. However what that next thing is hard to say at the moment since we don’t have any clues…

Oh wait… we do… time travel shenanigans and a second Azeroth… and it would involve the Infinite dragonflight which by extension means… the old ones, which bring us the titans… omg, we can link nearly everything up there now.

A new Azeroth sounds so much like something that a new generation of heroes could mess with don’t you think? And not just them! How about we bring in the old ones who, having failed on first Azeroth want to try a second time on the new one? Who else would like a new place to invade? Burning legion, yeah it sounds like something it would love. And just for fun we can even throw in the new Lich King so we have some undeads over there.

And you know what else would be great on a new Azeroth, Blizzard could set-up the horde the way it wants to, they could also show all this lore to a new generation. Why have us play the old Warcraft 1 when we could be part of invading or defending that new Azeroth.

Finally do we have an example where resetting the timeline of a beloved franchise worked well? Well, Star Trek did it and according to most it was an awesome success.

To WoW2 or not?

I think a new Azeroth is not that far-fetched of an idea but WoW2, now we’re in real tin-foil hat territory.

My reasoning here though is much more down to earth. Simply put, WoW is old, very old. 10 years is a very long time for any game. We know it and Blizzard has acknowledged it. So even if they wanted to plan content for the next 5 years, they might not get 5 more years. They can make WoD as awesome as they want, it still won’t prevent an aging game to slowly head toward its end.

Thing is Blizzard loves money (who can blame them?) and I don’t think they want to let go if a few millions subscribers without doing anything. If they have any business sense (and they seem like they do), they are currently searching for ways to offer a new product to said players.

Now, you might recall a certain Titan project that is an MMO that was supposed to be about a new IP. But last year they scrapped what they had and wanted to reassess the direction of game, maybe it might not even be an MMO. What it does though would be opening a new slot for a next-gen MMO…

In fact it’s pretty simple. Blizzard needs a new game to retain the WoW players. WoW 2 sounds like such a good answer to that problem and look, the lore is even moving in that direction.

Funny how tinfoil hats work no?

 

Been quiet here for the past few weeks but again, I’m not dead. Between Real life being a dick, steam sales and sunny weather, I haven’t had much time to give to MMOs and Wildstar in particular. My character is still a way from max level (27 atm) and I’m taking my sweet time getting through Whitevale.

On the whole I still like the game a lot even though the new game smell is gone. I wish I had more time to devote to it and could make some real progress but it seems that for now I’ll have to go at it at a slow pace which might be a good thing in the long run. I guess time will tell. I have to admit that I’m missing FF14 a bit but there’s no way I can play two MMOs at once right now so I guess this will have to wait.

I suppose that’s pretty much it for now. Nothing special to report.

I don’t usualy talk much about real life on this blog because I figure that people are not reading my blog to know what I had for dinner and because I like my privacy. That said, I had a craptacular confluence of real life events happen to me and my family in the past weeks and while I’m okay, I got bruised. Needless to say, blogging and gaming were close to non-existent beyond a few quick sessions here and there to pass the time between hospital visits or just to keep my mind off things.

Fittingly enough, one of the games I discovered was Plague Inc: Evolved, a game where you try to create and evolve a super virus/bacteria/killer nano bots/etc… to wipe off the human race off the earth. It’s incredibly adictive while at the same time being crazy morbid. I mean, you win by extinguishing the human race… There’s likely a few books to be written about abstraction in videogames based on this game alone.

Wildstar on the other hand has suffered greatly in the upheaval. When I play Wildstar, I like to have a good chunk of time to devote to it before playing. Maybe it’s just me but super short sessions are just not that fun to me. Since I’ve had very little continuous time these past few weeks…. Wildstar suffered.

Now that the game has been out for a while, I’m more ambivalent on Wildstar future. I still believe it’s an awesome game and I still think that aiming for more challenge is a good call… for an MMO that is. What I’m wondering though is if old style MMOs have still a place. I’m wondering how much of the old hardcore, play everynight, type of players are still around.  My gut feeling tells me not so many…

Anyways, that will be a topic for a later post.

So after a quite a few pugs, I have successfully tanked both Kel Voreth and StormTalon, Wildstar first two dungeons. It wasn’t easy and it took a guild group to overcome StormTalon but it is finally done. I learned quite a bit beating my head against the wall but I’m more amazed than frustrated that Wildstar had me research and try out a lot of things just to beat those two dungeons. It may look like it but Wildstar is not WoW or any other MMO I’ve come across so far.

So with the hope of maybe helping out a few other tanks out there, here’s a quick list of random thoughts and tips.

  • StormTalon is by far the worst of the two starting dungeons to Pug. Not because of the encounters but because it’s the first choice of most players and every run there’s at least one or two person who runs in thinking it’s going to be like WoW. Rude awakenings follow.
  • Kel Voreth last boss is something special. He even features a bullet hell phase. I was floored by how fun (and chaotic) that fight was.
  • Tank stat building. I made the mistake of going in with a heavy focus on Tech in order to get as much Support power as I could. Big mistake. Unlike other MMOs where you focus on a single stat, a balance of support and health was necessary here.
  • Both instances are tuned for level 20 players in level 20 gear. Don’t go in with your questing greens expecting to tank and have no issues.
  • Damage reduction talents, life stealing amps and shield regen talents are your friends. Take them, use them.
  • Having a guild team makes all the difference in the world. It’s like running two different dungeons.

Yesterday I finally got to try Stormtalon, one of the first proper Wildstar dungeons and I did so with a bit of apprehension to be honest. I kept reading how hard it was and how it was turning people away from the game and so on. I did some research on the instance to prepare myself and took the plunge with a good old pug. How did it go? Not so well if you consider that I didn’t get to complete the place in either of my two runs but I still had fun and I believe the problem here lies more with the players than the game.

But first a quick recap.

  • Run 1 was a short affair. The dps insisted on running the place WoW style and just face pulled everything, paid no attention to target priority, interrupts or even dodging telegraphs. After it became obvious that they wouldn’t listen, me and the healer left.
  • Run 2 was a lot better but in the end the healer just couldn’t keep up with the damage of the second boss. This run was a lot of fun and most of us were learning the fights and the details as we went along. The healer gave up after a few tries on Aethros, saying he didn’t feel like he could heal it. It was getting late so I was fine with things as they stood and figured I’d try again soon enough.

Teaching the players

So is Stormtalon hardcore? Nope, not at all. Is it harder than Ragefire Chasm? Of course it is, way harder, but that’s because Ragefire Chasm is ridiculously easy. The mechanics I’ve encountered in Stormtalon were dodging bad stuff on the ground, giving priority to a mob over another, pulling carefully, using my cooldowns to reduce damange and placing an AoE under a boss.

These are all mechanics we’ve seen before multiple times in WoW and other MMOs. It might surprise people to find them in the very first dungeon but I think it’s great. Realm Reborn did the same thing and by level 20 you had a proper raid fight with Ifrit as part of the storyline. Looking back now it was easy but for the first timers it felt like a real challenge. And the difficulty kept going up from there so that by level cap players were familiar with rather complex fight mechanics that you would see only in the harder raids in WoW.

What I’m saying is that people will learn. What seems super hard now will become easy as people learn to deal with the mechanics. Then as they progress and the mechanics keep getting harder, they will keep learning and it could just be that by the time they get to max level they will be able to handle really complex fights. Don’t underestimate players, they can and will learn if given the chance.

However, if someone idea of a good raid is only facepulling everything without any thought to strategy and tactics then I’m fine with them leaving. I don’t want my MMO to be dumbed down to that level.

Lately, to my great surprise, I’ve been defending Wildstar decisions a lot and not only on this blog (in fact it’s been mostly out of this blog). The discussion also usually revolves around the same points, the game is too hard, long, hardcore with me replying, of course it is and that’s a good thing.

Then follows a longer convo about how a game doesn’t need to be for everyone, how it’s important not to try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one and how copying WoW endgame setup might not be the best idea. Mind you, this is coming from people not playing WoW because it’s too easy, casual, dumb, boring, etc…

I feel like the arguments have been laid out here and elsewhere and now we’ll have to wait to see if Wildstar gamble will pay off. Nobody, not even Carbine or Blizzard, has a crystal ball or a time travelling DeLorean and while they can make educated guesses, no guarantees as Cataclysm so aptly proved.

At long last we have a MMO made by a good team, who has all the required quality of life improvements, who has raiding, pvp, housing and tons of stuff and who has made a statement about taking it’s endgame in a different direction than WoW. How come people are not cheering for it?

The debate about Wildstar difficulty and raid sizes continues to rage and I have to say I’m baffled by some of the logic and arguments I’ve seen on some blogs and forums. So today, a short history lesson.

Most people now agree that WoW was at its peak in terms of design and player satisfaction during the time of Burning Crusade. Subscriptions number support this as this expansion saw continuous and sharp increase of the player base. In essence, WoW was at its most popular while it was still pretty difficult and still had attunement quests.

As WoW lowered its difficulty and tried to cater to more and more type of players with its endgame, it started to lose players. By now, WoW is at its most accessible and yet most bloggers and critics out there are openly dissatisfied with it and again, the game keeps losing numbers.

Now, Wildstar looks to be similar to WoW Burning crusade and the same people who keep criticizing WoW current state are now demanding of Wildstar to make the same changes that led to WoW current situation. Lowering difficulty, making multiple version of raids, easier access, etc…

WHAT IS THIS MADNESS??? You want to fix a game (Wildstar) by copying another game (WoW) that is by now viewed as an horrible mess by most critics and players…. Again, you want to make a game better by copying decisions that in fact made a game worst…

If you don’t like Wildstar difficulty, there’s a game called WoW that has evolved just for you. If you don’t like WoW and Wildstar I’d suggest you try some other MMO. If you don’t like those either because they are too much like WoW… then you might want to reconsider playing MMOs altogether.

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