Archive for August, 2014

A WoW journey of 10 years, part 3

Last time I was telling you about how I left during a drama blowout between the more experienced EQ raiders and the newer players like myself. A lot of it was due to differing expectations between the two groups and I still believed that the best way to go about things was that guildies should always be helping each other, no matter what.

The road to heaven

I ended up re-rolling on Argent Dawn, with most of my RL friends and made a night elf rogue named Auray. This time around I wanted to try out smaller guilds so I started hunting for that magical guild that would both be helpful and full of good players so we could raid together. Like chasing a unicorn I couldn’t quite find said guild and I ended up switching guilds a lot as I leveled. I thought of myself as an expert player by then and only the best would do! Lord was I deluded…

I was questing in Tanaris when I was approached by a guild called Road to Heaven, ran by a couple who claimed they had raided before (lies but I’d learn that later) and wanted to get away from big impersonal guilds and to build an elite team for Molten Core and beyond. That seemed like my kind of guild and I joined up to give them a try.

At first, everything was wonderful. People were helpful while also being pretty good players. We were tearing through content and we had a great system of crafting so we’d all be ready for endgame. I ended up bringing my RL friends to the guild and finally got my first ever character to 60 after turning in one last quest in Silithus. It’s been years and I still remember that moment… crazy.

Soon enough we were doing UBRS multiple times a week and we were working on that fire resist gear so we’d be ready for the big times. All seemed perfect but WoW was about to teach me my first life lesson.

Time was passing and raiding was not happening. We were hovering around 30 members but recruitment was going at a snail pace and we were starting to lose our geared members to other guilds. I approached one of our co-leaders, Sicke, also a rogue about what was being done and he told me he wasn’t interested in discussing it with me.

That right there should have lighted a few alarms bells. There were other signs too that something was amiss like people being cut from runs so Sicke and his wife could get gear or bank access being suddenly restricted. As time passed though, I was starting to get anxious and I started more frequently questioning the leaders as to what was happening and why.

Then I made my biggest mistake, I began openly challenging Sicke and his wife. Something was obviously wrong by now but I still believed it was due to Sicke being lazy or just not being good enough and I took it upon myself to fix things.

The betrayal

Of course things went to hell fast enough. This is when the life lesson happened. Not only was I kicked out of the guild but I was made the scapegoat, big time. Sicke worked hard at making sure everyone thought it was me behind all the guild issues and he had been going at it for a while behind my back before kicking me. When it happened, I was already a pariah but I was too blind to realize. On top of that, he had worked two of my friends, a healer and a tank, extra hard because he needed them. When the blowout happened, one of them actually sided with Sicke.

So here’s how I saw things from my end. Here was this guild, for which I had spent countless hours farming, for which I had recruited my friend and other members, for which I was running countless runs with the lower levels to get them caught up and for which I just poured all my time into. This guild was now booting me. Not only that but they made me responsible for all the issues we had and to top it off they turned my friends against me.

I felt betrayed and I was furious. I remember picking up the phone that night and calling each of my supposed friends in turn and asking them point blank to take a side. Either they were with me or they were not and getting on my shit list that very instant. Now looking back I’m not proud of how I acted that day and what I said but it happened. My argument back then is that I had been screwed over by Sicke and co and that I expected friends to believe me over strangers.

I lost friends that day, people that even today I still don’t want to be associated with. Other supported me and a few made me understand later that they did not see the whole thing happen and that while they wanted to be supportive it was hard to do when you have a raging me swearing at the end of a phone.

I learned a life lesson thanks to these events about fair-weather friends and friends who won’t help you out if it inconveniences them. Those are not my friends anymore. I also learned a few important games lessons, namely about why the old raiders in Annarchy acted the way they did.

Helping out others in MMOs is fine to a point but in the end, you don’t know these people and you can get the shaft at any moment. That armor you spent 10 hours farming and gave away to Bob the warrior is great but Bob might be gone tomorrow. That guild you love can just die any moment. So spend your time in game wisely and don’t expect others to treat you the way you’d want them to.

The aftermath

Back when all of this happened I went into hiding by rolling a new undead rogue on a new server that I told no one about, not even my remaining friends but that will be for the next post. Someone who was in the guild at the time that I came across a few years later told me what followed.

Road to Heaven imploded soon after I left. The little game that Sicke had played with my friends only worked for a small part of the guild that had been there for a while. Most of my friends ended up leaving the guild to avoid drama as did most of the newer members coming up. Since I was one of the few helping them out daily, when I left they wondered what had happened and since the story of evil me didn’t fit with what they had seen, they suspected the bullshit and left. It then snowballed and geared veterans left for raiding guilds, recognizing a dead guild when they see one. With over half the guild gone Sicke left and the guild died.

To this day, I still wonder what exactly Sicke and wife were up to. The way they acted I suspect they might have been trying to gear themselves up, steal the bank and apply to a more advanced guild but I have no proof of this so I’ll never really know.

About being helpful

This post is running long but as I was writing this it struck me how much I changed my attitude when it comes to helping others in game. Experience has taught me multiples times that helping out in game is in no way a guaranteed two way street. Many will take advantage of you and your generosity. These days I’ll help out people I consider friends and guildies if time allows but I won’t go out of my way like I used to.

But in a way it’s sad that I became this jaded. That attitude back then of helping each other out with crafting and runs and god knows what did do a lot to move the guild forward, both in Road to Heaven and Annarchy. People would gear up at the speed of light, we’d be training the new members to be good players and everyone benifited. More than that, it created that senses of community like nothing else.

I miss that… with WoD looming over us, I wonder about trying to get some of that old attitude back. I might get burned but who knows, maybe it could be awesome too.

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A WoW journey of 10 years, part 2

Yesterday I was talking about how I had been pressured by friends into trying World of Warcraft and how long it took me to get started because of hardcore classes and me being broke. But in spring 2005 I had caved in and my WoW career was starting.

My first character I really played was a Troll warrior named Draazel on the Thorium brotherhood server. My RL friends were already on the server and I figured that an RP server would have less annoying kids. Back then, I was exploring the game on my own terms and I went about things however I felt like. Draazel was equipped with a sword and shield despite picking dps talents, I had leatherworking because my friends covered the other professions and I didn’t really see the points in guilds. I was in a guild with my RL friends and a random guy one of us had picked up in SFK and that was it.

What strikes me from those early days was how much I believed that everyone should do their utmost to help one another. Me and my friends would drop whatever we were doing to help one another through quests, we would farm and craft for the others all the time. My friend would craft me armor anytime I leveled and I was crafting leather for our rogue and hunter like it was expected of us. Bags were provided free of charge and in short, it was one for all and all for one. Back then, I wasn’t really considering that other players might want to play a different way and that beating all the content might not be the goal everyone aspired to. For me it wasn’t even about being kind, it was about being efficient. If we help one another we’re all getting stronger and we’ll be able to progress.

That attitude would later be responsible for a lot of drama but for now, I was happy derping with my warrior and conquering Azeroth. But by level 30, I was starting to suspect that sword and board might not best for questing and that maybe leatherworking wasn’t serving me so well.

The webcomic wars

While I was starting to doubt my warrior a new pvp server, Dark Iron, opened up and the famous Penny-Arcade decided to invite their readers to fight another webcomic PvP-online over on that server. I was hesitant at first but when my RL friends told me they wanted to try a PvP server I abandoned Draazel in the Hammerfall inn and rolled up a human mage named Myrena (which turned out to be an exact copy of Jaina Proudmore) over on Dark Iron. I ended up in the guild Annarchy named after a character of Penny-Arcade and I was having a blast rocking the pink with my 500 new friends.

To say Dark Iron filled up fast because of Penny-Arcade and PvP-online would be an understatement. Just under a week, it went from new to full and hordes of leveling characters were fighting all over the place. Stranglethorn became a no man’s land and I was avoiding roads like the plague so I wouldn’t get ganked. I even learned to quest hidden behind trees so I wouldn’t be spotted. Towns were raided daily and we brought the server down multiples times fighting all over the place. For fans of open world pvp it must have been heaven. For me not so much since I wanted to quest but even I enjoyed the occasional town raid.

This was also the first time I became exposed to MMO nomenclature and to some serious theorycrafting about how to spec and what were the best builds. I learned about the holy trinity, I learned about dps and about how to properly spec. I learned about how a group should behave in a dungeon and about CC. I was still a bit oblivious to endgame but so far that hadn’t been a problem. It was about to change though.

The first time I became aware of endgame was during my first raid of Scholomance (yeah back then Scholo was 10 man) at level 52 I think. While most of us in Annarchy were newish players, we had a pool of EQ/early WoW raiders that wanted to raid and were intent on showing us how it was done. The shock between the old raiders and the new ones like me was brutal to the say the least. Here we were in Scholomance these guys were barking orders and telling us we needed to be better geared, that we needed to do better dps, better rotations and all sort of stuff I wasn’t used to. I wasn’t the only one either. Lots of people in the guild were starting to wake up to that these weird raider people were about and we weren’t sure if we liked it.

The endgame blowout

So drama started brewing… big time. Looking back on it I now know that we had a ticking time bomb in the guild by mixing experienced raiders with new players and that the wake-up would be brutal. So when we were told to gear up, finish leveling and be better I answered that I’d do it but I expected help. I wanted the high levels to help me finish leveling, to run instances with me and craft me gear. For me it was the logical thing to do, if they wanted more raiders, it was their job to help gear them up. And I wasn’t the only one thinking that. A lot of people in the guild thought exactly like me, that since raiding was a tough task, the levels 60s had to help us out.

Pressure kept building and soon we had two camps. On one side you had the veterans who had raided in EQ and in WoW and wanted us to shape up. They didn’t want to hold our hands and spoon feed us though, it was our responsibility to get ready and they felt they were under no obligation to spend their playing time running content or farming for us. On the other side you had the people who had never raided before and thought that it was the sacred task of the raiders to help us transition as fast as possible by crafting stuff and helping us level.

And then shit hit the fan… I don’t remember how it happened but overnight over half the guild quit. I wasn’t around for the exact event but from what I gathered a raider and a member got in a heated argument over gear and performance in an instance it generated a storm of drama in the guild which had a domino effect. Ultimately the guild survived and even raided up to Wotlk I think but myself I quit during the drama storm. I was tired of a getting ganked for hours in plaguelands, I was tired of what I figured were elitists assholes and I wanted to find a guild where people helped each other. Back then I was under the impression that the problems were caused because Annarchy was a huge guild, so I set out in search of that wonderful new guild…

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A WoW journey of 10 years, part 1

World of Warcraft is getting close to its 10th year anniversary, an achievement that is worthy of mention for a game that changed the gaming industry in a way that very few games have. Whether you like it or not, it has its place amongst games like Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros, Doom and their likes.

But beyond that WoW has been a companion of mine for the past 10 years in one way or another. I have quit, taken breaks and fallen in love again with this game so many times that I lost count. It has also changed me in very concrete ways by teaching me about leadership, about thinking about what I really want out of a situation and about diplomacy. It has gotten me to blog, which in turn led me to meet and talk with wonderful people, some of which I now consider close friends. All in all, for something that’s just a game, it has had profound impacts on my life.

So today I’m starting a journey chronicling my time with WoW in honor of the game 10th anniversary. I hope you enjoy going down memory lane with me.

20$ a month?! You’re crazy!

I did not start playing WoW the day it came out back in November 2004. I was aware of the game due to my being a fan of Blizzard but MMOs at the time seemed a waste of time and money to me. Why would I want to pay 20$ (Canadian) a month to play a game that was about grinding mobs? Back then, I had a few friends playing Everquest and from watching them I figured that MMOs were boring as hell.

At the same time, I had recently started classes for my programmer degree. I had enrolled in an intensive class for people who already had a degree in another field and didn’t need to go through the basic classes like French, English, philosophy, etc… I was in for 21 months of intensive study hell and back then, I was all about the classes and had no time for anything else, much less a game like WoW. Also, I was broke as hell and 60$ for even the game seemed too much.

So I missed the launch and for a while continued on with my classes with virtually no contact with the outside world besides a weekly game of Vampire: The masquerade and that’s where WoW started to make its presence felt. WoW was all my friends would talk about before, after and even during the game. Even friends who I knew not to be MMO players had picked up the game and were raving about it. I was pretty tempted myself but that 20$ per month plus the fact that I was broke were still holding me back.

You will be assimilated.

A few months passed and still my friends were hooked and still were talking about it all the time. On my end, I was beginning to feel isolated in my world of constant projects and classes at odd hours and wanted to have a bit more of a social life. WoW seemed a solution since my friends were all playing it and I could play it at any time so it would fit in my weird schedule but still, I was undecided.

So one day I bit the bullet and asked my friend if I could try out the game on his account for a few hours to see if I’d really like it. He agreed and I went ahead to create my very first WoW character, an undead warlock whose name I have forgotten sadly. I remember being thoroughly impressed by Brill and the scarlet crusade. It felt like I was truly part of this world and that beating the crusaders would actually improve the situation. I knew it was mechanics and that things wouldn’t change but I didn’t care, for the moment, I was an evil warlock intent on bringing victory to the Forsaken.

WoW had its first hooks in me but I was still on the fence because of that pay every month scheme it had going so I made a second try with an orc warrior this time and the experience was as awesome as it had been the last time. Then I tried a night elf druid to see how the Alliance was and I still loved the experience. Over the course of a week, I taken a few characters out of their respective starting areas and each time it was a blast. It started dawning on me then that despite all my reservations, I really wanted to play that game that everyone else was always talking about.

And so in early April 2005, I went to my local EB Games, traded in a butt load of games and added in all the money I could scrape together to finally buy World of Warcraft. For the monthly payment, I had a deal with one of my friends where he would put me on his credit card in exchange for me painting his Grey Knights army which he would pay me for.

My WoW journey had begun…

This post is already running long so I’ll get into my first experiences later but for now, let’s just say I didn’t see much daylight that first weekend.

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Once more, into Azeroth

Welp, it seems I am back in WoW again and the age old maxim “Wow is never out of the question” remains true. Like my friend was saying, I’ve been hit by a bout of Metzen fever and the cinematic reveal did nothing to help my condition. Quite the opposite in fact.

Full disclosure, my return to WoW was not solely motivated by the smell of new content. While I love the design of a lot of things in Wildstar, the lore never really took with me and I ended up losing interest. FF14 was considered but I felt like I needed to relax and not jump right back in heavy duty extreme mode healing which is the exact opposite of relaxing.

I did take something away from all of this and that is I’m a huge lore nerd. I need to connect with a game setting and I’ve been immersed in the Warcraft universe since I was twelve. Just for that reason alone WoW will always have a special place in my heart. So yeah, Metzen fever and all that.

So what have I been up to? Well, a bit of everything really but mostly it’s about being ready for Warlords. I’m leveling up my professions, gathering some gold and polishing up on some skills. LFR is still a living hell but I found the Brawler’s guild to be a nice place to shake some rust off the WoW skills.

Between farming for mats I’ve also been trying to catch up on old achievements and mounts/pets. My original account which had years of raiding, achievements and reputations completed is well and truly locked thanks to a fun hacker. Since I didn’t want to have to jump through hoops to get it back I took the easy way out a year ago and got a second account cheap during a MoP promo. So now, I’m trying to get back a few of the things I lost and that means doing old content like Firelands or the Argent tournament.

So this is what I’ve been up to lately. Preparing for WoD and catching up on old content.

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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?


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