Cataclysm: We didn’t remake the low level zones for YOU!

brillcata Brill 2.0

It’s been an exciting week so far in Azeroth. Player numbers are way up, on my server (Argent Dawn EU) there have been queues every night stretching up to 30 mins. The lower level zones are populated and busy again. Faction cities are bustling, and Orgrimmar is already developing a reputation as a death trap (no you can’t just jump down from a zeppelin tower without safe fall, yes Gamon will kill you if you attack him.) It’s as if the whole world – the meaningful one, not just the expansion zones – has come alive.

True to their word, Blizzard have indeed redone all of the levelling zones. 1-60 is a different game, or at least a different version of the same game. There are old quests which remain untouched (usually distinctive because the drop rate for quest items is lower than 100%) but they are mixed with the new stuff. Also, travel has become much less of an issue. There are far more flight points in the game now, and questing characters are often offered a lift via the quest chains to any distant locales rather than having to run off and discover them on their own.

I took Spinks to have a look at the new Eastern Plaguelands, now greener, less plaguey, and with less Scourge. And it wasn’t very long before I decided to leave it and just level a new alt to check out the new low level stuff. Why? It wasn’t there for level 80s. It isn’t just that the quests were trivial (they may be trivial at level also) but the NPCs’ timeline wasn’t in check with mine. Tirion Fording, who fought the Lich King alongside us in ICC, is settled in Hearthglen as head of the Argent Dawn (an organisation now looking for a goal, I imagine). If you talk to him, he doesn’t have a special response for a Kingslayer, even just to acknowlege a rather important and character defining moment for him. He’ll treat you like the level 35 you are supposed to be in that zone.

Also, the storyline doesn’t make a lot of sense for a high level character. The NPCs came back from Northrend and got on with defending/ attacking places and various other tactical plans, but the high level characters who came with them are … somewhere else. (What was so important for Spinks that it outweighed defending her home against worgen invasions? Who knows, and the game doesn’t say …)

The other issue for me is that my home faction has changed in tone, and I feel as though I blinked and missed it. Up until now, the characters’ timelines had been that they started in Azeroth, went on to Outland and then to Northrend in a continuous journey. That timeline is now weird. When new characters get to Outland or Northrend now, they are effectively going back in time.

So taking Spinks through the low level zones was just going to be confusing for me. I’m not a hardcore RPer in WoW but I like to keep a sense of my character’s personal story and background and not being sure where I am in my own timeline is something I want to avoid. Also, when I first levelled her, the forsaken had a gothic hammer house of horror vibe which I quite liked. The feel now is not the same, some of the more tragic little personal stories are gone and there’s more slime. I don’t really know what to make of that.

There could have been ways round it. There could have been a new introduction/ bridging video for high level characters explaining what their faction has been doing and where they have been in the time between Northrend and Cataclysm. There could have been ways to sidekick your level down or frame the new content as if it was a story being told to you by a minion or lower level friend. But in a few months time, the majority of levellers wont’ hang around in Northrend or feel this sense of disconnect. It won’t matter to them that they’re going back in time because they won’t be killing the Lich King anyway. It would have been a lot of work just for us, right now. (Although Blizzard doesn’t exactly suffer from a lack of resources…)

In any case, on the new alt things make more sense. At least for now.

In links we trust

  1. Can Gaming make a better world? Rick at /random writes about Jane McGonigals well reported speech at TED on this subject. But heck, we know how hard gamers work on problems like organising raids and killing raid bosses – which are social as well as mechanical puzzles. Would they be as interested in complex real world problems too? And here a local government blogger, inspired by the same TED talk, ponders World of Govcraft. Could people get more involved in local government and solving local issues if they pretended it was a virtual world?
  2. Scott Jennings writes at mmorpg.com about the hard numbers behind SW:TOR. How much money does this game need to make? How much has been poured into it so far? Is this model sustainable?
  3. Dusty shares some insights into social games. And particularly the mechanics that allow a player to progress by either inviting more people OR spending money. Paying to avoid socialising?
  4. Oh yeah, apparently some little Finnish guild killed the Lich King on hard mode. Awesome work, Paragon! Even now people are inspecting their lineup and preparing the inevitable whine posts if their favourite class/spec didn’t make the cut.
  5. Ravious finds that the way he sees his online community has changed. He feels more connected to other gamers (ie. bloggers, twitter community etc) than just to his guild in his game of choice.  And I’m going to twin this with a column in The Guardian where a journalist writes about the value of virtual communities – she’s comparing her son’s community in WoW with her favourite political bboard and concludes … that much of the experience is the same.
  6. Gevlon analyses why his undergeared project is floundering. His conclusions are on the button and won’t surprise any experienced guild or raid leader. People are shallow, fickle, and selfish. But that doesn’t mean it was wrong to try.
  7. Melmoth runs into some mobstacles in Moria. This is one of the big reasons why I was so delighted to escape to Lothlorien (it does get a lot better). Player vs Developer also describes why he thinks the LOTRO economy just isn’t working and the problem with emblems and multiple ‘currencies’.
  8. Fulugaris on Killing Em Slowly asks whether Burst DPS is More Fun?
  9. Brigwyn at The Hunter’s Lodge is calling time. It’s an awesome blog and he’ll be dearly missed, but as he says himself, “I’ve done pretty much everything in the game at least once.” Dwism also picked up on Whiny Post Day with a post about when you run out of fun (note: the tone of these whiny posts is of course whiny and does not reflect what the blogger is usually like ;) ).
  10. And the Big Bear Butt blogger gives some good and heartfelt advice to new bloggers. I don’t entirely agree that spelling and grammar aren’t important (some of your readers may not speak English as a first language and good spelling/grammar will help them) but it’s not something to fret about in your first draft.
  11. Finally, the press embargo on The Secret World was dropped this week. Ysharros is here with links to all the reports around the web from journalists who tried it at GDC.

Did Ensidia deserve a ban?

So the big WoW drama story today is that Ensidia got the world first kill on 25 man Arthas last night … and then later all took a 72 hour ban, and had the title and achievement removed. Allegedly because of an exploit involving engineering.

Larisa discusses the ban here, and whether people feel sympathy or not for one of the most opinionated raid crews on the planet.

But now events have taken an intriguing twist. Boubouille of mmo-champion, a respected blogger who is best known recently for being spot on with his Cataclysm leaks, has been provided by Ensidia with the logs from yesterday’s raids.

He uses these to show that the bombs had been part of the rogue’s regular rotation on other bosses, and comments that he didn’t think Ensidia had any way to know that the bombs were causing the problem. So of course they just thought it was a buggy fight.

Does seeing a respected blogger pick through the logs change your view on whether Ensidia deliberately used an exploit? And do they deserve a ban?

I think the harshest part of the whole thing will be if losing the achievement means that they can’t start on the hard modes next week with the other top guilds. And that will be a loss for all of the players who enjoy competing for progression kills.

Edited to add: And here’s a post on mmo-champion where one of the Ensidia raiders gives his point of view anonymously, and explains more about how it feels to be in that sort of guild and in that kind of situation.

Spicing up farm raids, external auction access, and the Lich King is dead

First up, congratulations to Blood Legion on the world first 10 man Lich King kill. (I did think it was funny that they praise their non-vent voice chat in the bboard post at mmo-champion but their website has an advert for vent hosting.)

I suspect  no-one was surprised that Arthas didn’t even last until the end of the night, and I’ll be amazed if at least one of the EU guilds doesn’t kill him tonight also after our patch goes live. None of which means that it was particularly easy, just top guilds are that good and this isn’t a hard mode that was set up specifically to test them.

edited to add: Yup, as expected, Ensidia got a kill in on 10 man Arthas this afternoon, on their 5th attempt. They comment that some of their raiders were quite moved by the lore and RP, which is sweet.

External Access to the Game and Auction House

Bornakk announced yesterday on the official forums plans to let players access the Auction House without being logged into WoW, either through the Armoury or an iPhone application.

Today, we wanted to give you a heads-up about a new service now in development that will let players access the Auction House directly through the Armory website or Armory App for iPhone or iPod touch.

It’s important to note here that certain elements of the service will be premium-based, which we’ll go into more detail on once the service functionality is finalized.

Player vs Developer discusses some of the implications of this functionality. He suspects Blizzard will require the use of an authenticator to use the Auction House remotely, which does seem likely.

The biggest implication for me is that Blizzard is eyeing up the casual gaming market. Maybe some Farmville fans (who also happen to be WoW players) would also enjoy playing the WoW auction house during lunchtime at work. If this is successful, it could herald the way to more mini-resource management games which could be played outside the game client but still give some bonuses in game. That would certainly fit into the something-for-every-playstyle model of MMO.

I could also imagine far more automation of Auction House activities. Imagine an addon which logged into the AH once an hour remotely and could be set to check current prices on desirable commodities and automatically buy or sell if the price is right. For example: check the price of  titansteel and buy if it is selling for less than 150g.

And finally, Blizzard are showing a marked preference for the iPhone, which has got to be disappointing to anyone with a different smartphone. (Possibly even one that features true multi-tasking :P ) There’s a balance between offering neat functionality to the Apple lovers and saying ‘actually, you really need this gadget to really get the most out of our PC game.’ Although I applaud their business nous at realising that iPhone users will probably happily cough up premium rate subscriptions for the privilege of gaming via their favourite toy.

The Advent of the Weekly Raid Quest

I almost missed this one but today’s patch has also added some extra weekly quests to the Icecrown Citadel. They’re available from various NPCs inside the Citadel, and hopefully we will soon know more about them.

They feature extra mini-bosses, and reward extra frost badges, gold, and … inexplicably … xp. Here’s the quest list from wowhead.com.

I love the idea of throwing in some random extra encounters to spice up otherwise dull farm raids. Comments from wow.com imply that these weeklies aren’t a walk in the park, so they might also add some extra optional difficulty and rewards for guilds that are bored of normal modes but maybe struggling with hard modes.