Written by | Posted November 19, 2013 – 4:46 pm Deconstruction

Bad things are happening in Stormwind – and beyond.

The Hand of Lothar, they call themselves.

Yva Darrows was their first target.

Tirith and Aely were their second and third.

They have since… expanded their reach and escalated their methods …

Questing in Steps
comment 3 Written by on January 18, 2012 – 8:25 am

I share a lot of the same reservations as A New Dope about the linear questing styles of WoW and Star Wars.

Linear questing is not my favorite. While I’m not going to say I love being trekked around the world every five minutes, I like it when there’s a feeling of connectedness between zones (though that’s more a criticism of WoW, where the zones are actually next to each other, than it is of Star Wars, where the zones are actually PLANETS, and as such don’t really have a lot in common).

And while the linear style of questing does add a lot to the “big hero” style of play, it’s rough on replay value and rough on RP. Not everyone can be a big damn hero, and not everyone wants to be. If I have to suspend my immersion to be part of a great heroic quest chain, that’s time I’m not feeling lost in the atmosphere of the game and the mind of my character.

And frankly? That gets boring, fast. I don’t think you have to be a big hero to be connected to a zone or a world, or to feel immersed in a game.

I generally think Blizzard did a good job with Northrend’s zones. There were several hubs within each zone, and you could progress through them one at a time if you wanted. You didn’t need to go to Borean Tundra to finish quests in Howling Fjord. You could also skip areas you hated (the undead part of Zul’Drak comes to mind) or entire zones altogether. I’m pretty sure you can level without setting foot in Zul’Drak or even Sholazar Basin… or Icecrown, for that matter. There’s enough duplicate leveling content that you can pick and choose what makes sense for each character.

While the Cataclysm zones are somewhat like that, in that there’s enough content to be able to skip certain zones, the zones themselves are entirely linear. You can’t skip ahead and do only the Harrison Jones quests in Uldum or just the second half of Hyjal. The zones are linear, and they’re setting you up to be the big hero every time.

The new leveling zones have this same model, so it’s hard to skip areas or pick and choose. They’re also geared towards fewer levels per zone, meaning you get to see more zones as you level, but there are fewer to choose from (unless you’re leveling in heirlooms and with guild XP bonuses, where you’ll outlevel almost all the content very quickly). Combine that with the chronology issues that WoW currently struggles with in their leveling progression, and it makes even a die-hard altoholic like myself struggle with leveling new characters.

Star Wars is very similar to this model so far, and I’m told it doesn’t change much. While each character has their own class quests, which is nice, Coruscant goes from Merchant’s Gang to Black Sun to Justicar, no matter what class you are. I can’t speak to upper level areas that overlap, but I’m pretty sure the progression from planet to planet is pretty well secured.

And the Big Damn Hero complex is there too. It’s a little disconcerting, to be THE BEST at everything, instead of just part of a group. My Jedi Knight is THE MOST SKILLED Padawan, not just a skilled one. She’s also the second character I’ve pathed through Tython, and I can’t say it felt all that new and exciting, beyond the class quests.

So the jury is still out, for me, on the replay value of Star Wars. I like immersive rather than linear style questing – and I’ve always seen two as mutually exclusive. The use of class quests will hopefully help with replay value, but there are 4 sets of class quests and 8 classes, so perhaps I’ll have to explore the Empire side of things.

(I didn’t intend to be playing Empire side, but I do somewhat have an idea for a Sith Sorceror rattling around in my head.)

WoW, Social Media, and Roleplaying
comment 3 Written by on January 17, 2012 – 11:04 am

So Cynwise has a really excellent post up about what makes WoW different from other games and other forms of social media – it’s worth a read, so I’m going to just link to it and let you go read it before I start thinking about it over here.

Go now, read, come back when you’re done.

On Snow Crash, Virtual Avatars, and Warcraft’s Social Network Appeal

What really stuck with me, and tickled my brain cells, was the bit about guilds – beyond a general resonance that yes, what makes WoW (and other MMO’s) stick is the combination of social network and doing things. (See my earlier post on needing immersion and community - my versions of doing things and a social network.)

See, I don’t wonder if there’s a dichotomy between what WoW assumes guilds are about and how RP guilds work. Totally Raids was a way to raid beyond guild affiliation, because guild affiliation for roleplayers is about RP community, not about who’s a raid main and who’s an alt. So my raiding experience prior to 4.0 and the new guild achievement/ranking system was totally unrelated to my guild – in fact, I switched guilds a few times before settling in with the Wildfire Riders, all while still raiding with TRI.

Cyn also talks about the change from small server communities to a more global community – which is, I think, mostly a progression in the right direction. As much as we look with some nostalgia on the 3+hour wait times for Alterac Valley, back before cross-realm battlegroup PVP, it’s nice to be able to PVP whenever you want. You did lose the sense of server continuity though. Back in those days I knew who to watch out for in Feathermoon’s Horde PVP scene, and could generally tell pretty quickly who I was up against. Now you’re not likely to ever see the same players twice.

The same thing happens in LFG – which in its earliest days (back when I was leveling Annalira as a holy priest in 1.8 or so) was one of my primary ways of making friends on the server. Even of making roleplaying friends.

Now, in LFD, if I run into some roleplayers it’s a random treat, but I don’t use RealID (for a number of privacy reasons) so I have no way of connecting with any of those people again. And roleplay is really about being able to connect to people outside of just running dungeons or battlegrounds or raids.

RP guilds generally have different goals – but community is the biggest single goal that I’ve experienced. That community often (but not always) extends out of character, but in the end it’s about having a group of characters that relate to each other and tell stories together – all things that the “new and improved” guild system doesn’t measure. Which, in a way, means that RP can move out of guilds and into channels, but there is still something nice about being part of a community that has a guild tag, guild chat, a guild forum, etc.

Granted, my experience with TRI was the reverse of that, so it’s definitely possible to have cross-guild RP communities with chat channels and forums while still being part of a tagged raiding guild, if that’s what floats your boat.

But I don’t always think that the move to bigger and greater communities is one that is always good for RP

For one thing, a lot of RP is slow – it’s based around building trust and getting to know people.

The constant stream of players through LFD/LFR/BGs means you’re never seeing the same person twice – so you either have to jump to the idea that you can trust everyone, and give out relatively personal information (which comes at a cost, especially if you’ll only ever see that person in other dungeons and not out in the general world), or you enjoy a little pick up RP and move on. I almost exclusively choose the second option, simply because I don’t openly trust everyone I run into, roleplayer or not. I’ve been burned too hard for that in the past.

If I were to engage in larger community RP, it would require having some way to meet people and get used to them in “small” RP situations (like pub night) before diving into creating stories together. Most of the people I’d be interested in fostering that kind of relationship with are people I’ve met outside of WoW, usually on Twitter or through this blog. Meeting other like-minded RPers is harder than ever, now that there’s not really a lot of difference between RP-PVE and regular PVE when it comes to choosing servers, and server populations are enormous on most RP servers. Plus, your battlegroup makes a bigger difference in the people you run dungeons/battlegrounds with than your server, unless you are already cultivating a relationship …

A relationship with a guild.

RP guilds offer the opportunity to know that, at the very least, the people you’ll be socializing with are RP tolerant, if not outright roleplayers themselves.

So maybe Cynwise is right, and guilds are going to go the way of the dodo. But for those of us for whom guilds serve a rather different function than groups, raids, and battlegrounds, I don’t wonder if there will always be throwbacks to the current system. I realize that RP guilds are vastly in the minority for WoW guilds – most guild leadership guides don’t know heads or tails about what it takes to be a member or leader of an RP guild because they’re even more scarce now than they used to be. But we do exist, and it will be interesting to see where and how we fit into new systems in the future.

Whether or not future environments will be more or less RP friendly remains to be seen, however.

My gut feeling is that they will continue to be less RP friendly (as they’ve moved in that direction over time), but that is, as always, just my opinion. And probably the subject of another post.

Hope for the Best (part 2)
comment 1 Written by on January 17, 2012 – 7:28 am

Master Sideth was not, in fact, entirely comfortable in the Drunkard’s Vote cantina. He was there looking for someone named only “Jeb”, a human trader of some repute. Just WHAT repute, he wasn’t entirely sure, but contacts on Coruscant had said he did a lot of traveling around various parts of the Galaxy, was generally known for not losing members of his crew to the Empire, and could be counted on to be, when needed, discrete.

The uncomfortable looking Jedi stood out amidst the general riffraff of Coruscant’s trading and spaceport centers in such a way that several people had already asked if he was lost. The fourth such person to approach him hadn’t had such worries.

“I’m Jeb. I’m not entirely sure what you folks want from me, but I was told that the idea wasn’t one I should pass up, at least not without hearing what you had to say.”

“Er… yes. Captain Jeb. I’m Master Sideth, of the Jedi Council on Tython. We have a rather unusual situation on our hands, and as such were hoping that some sort of accord might be reached regarding two very skilled Jedi that have previously been in my employ.”

“Previously, eh?”

“Well yes. They’ve been removed from their positions within the Temple for… er… misconduct.”

“Oh, so you want me to babysit them while they’re in time out, huh?”

“Er… not exactly. But… well. Yes, and no. They need positions away from teaching, and away from impressionable Padawans, but they’re highly skilled and useful, as well as being largely pragmatic individuals.”

“So what do I get out of this, besides two hand-waving Jedi to keep out of trouble?”

“You get the best star-chart reader we have, and one of the best battle healers we’ve ever seen. Both were in teaching positions in the Temple, but … that is no longer an option for them. They’d be valuable members of a crew, and I can guarantee their willingness to obey orders. Both are capable in flight crew duties as well.”

Jeb seemed to think about that for a moment. He didn’t currently have a full time healer. Star charts weren’t so much a problem, but an extra navigator was never a bad thing to have around.

The Jedi looked even more uncomfortable. “There is also this.” He lay a bag of credits on the table. “It’s not much, but it’s their pay for the rest of the month. They’ve agreed to let me use it to help secure an appropriate assignment.”

Jeb weighed the bag in his hand. It wasn’t much, but it was something. And he really could stand to have a trained medic on staff. “How long do you want me to play ‘keeper’ for you?”

“That’s unknown at this time, Captain.”

“Then this ain’t enough pay. Make it six month’s salary and you got yourself a deal,” replied Jeb with a dark look on his face.

Master Sideth frowned. “And how am I to know you’ll pay this to these two Jedi properly?”

Jeb grinned. “How are you to know I won’t space them as soon as we leave the atmosphere? Look, sunshine. Fact is, I ain’t never stiffed a member of my crew. Ever. You don’t believe me, well, there ain’t nothing I can do about that. But if you want me to do your job for you, you’re gonna pay me in advance. Right here, right now. Otherwise, you can take your misbehaving children and your coin and your lightsaber, and shove ‘em both where the sun don’t shine.”

Sideth focused and waved his hand before Jeb. “One month’s pay will be fine.”

Jeb smiled. “No it won’t. And your parlor tricks won’t work on me. Six months pay. Final chance, sunshine.”

Sideth grunted, reached into his robes, and added to the pouch before handing it over.

Jeb felt the wait of the pouch, grinned, and shook the Jedi master’s hand.

*****

Two days later, Aely found herself and her (admittedly few) worldly possessions waiting on a transport ship bound for Coruscant. Someone named Jeb would apparently be meeting them there for assignment details and her duties within something named the Coruscant Trade Company.

It didn’t sound promising, for what she knew of most unaffiliated Traders, but … well, it was better than being thrown out entirely. Master Sideth hadn’t had much to say about the assignment, other than that it would likely take them all over the galaxy, and would probably be at least somewhat dangerous. There wasn’t a lot known about the Empire’s movements in the farther worlds, but it was common knowledge that traders were usually the ones doing questionable assignments.

Arrens sat dozing in the last of the Tython afternoon sunshine, unconcerned at the moment. At least, regardless of what happened with this Jeb person, they’d be handling it together.

Can you hear me now?
comment 2 Written by on January 16, 2012 – 8:08 am

Parallel context posted recently about the seeming dearth of people in leveling zones. You should go read the post, because it struck a chord with me.

I’ve been trying to level up Ancelyn, my warlock, and it’s been a very lonely adventure. Feralas had only three players in the zone on Friday evening. Even Outland has been mostly deserted, leveling Annata usually means being in a zone with fewer than 10 other people, many of whom outlevel the zone and are there to farm something, or to help speed-level a friend or alt.

Seeing that, and reading Redbeard’s post, I don’t wonder what’s in store for the leveling game in Mists. Blizzard’s re-do of the original world for Cataclysm provided a new leveling experience, for sure – but it’s a disjointed one. It used to be that you moved forward in the game from “old to new” as you leveled. Now you’ll complete the Plaguelands, where it’s obvious the Lich King is gone, only to later encounter him, alive and well, in Northrend.

The original zones did a good job of not being tied specifically to an end game – they were non-linear, often having quests that traded back and forth, which was occasionally a pain in the ass, but also helped the world feel more connected. Azeroth didn’t feel like it was always gearing up for a big fight against any one bad-guy – the raid instances were their own separate story that you didn’t encounter until you were at or close to level 60. Moving to Outland was a normal progression, because Illidan really only made a lot of influence in Shadowmoon Valley, and you didn’t see Vashj (just lots of Naga) unless you actually raided Serpentshrine Cavern.

That got a lot of criticism at the time, because people had trouble finding a connection to Outland – which I understand partially (it was a huge environment jump), but moving into Wrath, Arthas shows up a LOT. There is no question that Northrend is the home of the Lich King, even if he’s already been killed. And now that the original world has been revamped, a lot of the content is both extremely linear and oriented towards Deathwing. Some areas aren’t (Hinterlands, Arathi Highlands), but Annata’s entire leveling path through the southern half of Eastern Kingdoms was related to the Twilight Cult and Deathwing.

So the leveling chronology is just weird now. Outland isn’t so bad, because it’s easy to level there without having a feeling of “time” in the greater story – but hitting Northrend after doing Eastern Plaguelands is just /weird/. There are also fewer leveling paths now that the quests are streamlined, so it’s harder to choose a totally different experience for each character.

Once Mists hit, it’ll be interesting to see if anything changes or if Blizzard will stick with the Big Hero fighting the Big Bad Guy style. I know I’ve had a lot of trouble caring about replaying the Cataclysm zones – I have two characters stuck at level 81, and I leveled one of my 85′s entirely through Archaeology. (Which is probably another reason the original leveling zones are quiet – you can level entirely through PVP and LFD.)

So we’ll see. Mists will revive the leveling game again, at least for a short while, but I can’t help but wonder if Blizzard would’ve been better not putting so much of the end bosses in the actual questing of the game. Supposedly Mists will be less heavy on the “Big Bad” style of storyline, so perhaps it’ll be better at being immersive in the new zones.

I’ve got more thoughts on linear questing too, especially as it relates to Star Wars, but I think that’s another post.

Deconstruction

November 19, 2013 – 4:46 pm

Bad things are happening in Stormwind – and beyond.

The Hand of Lothar, they call themselves.

Yva Darrows was their first target.

Tirith and Aely were their second and third.

They have since… expanded their reach and escalated their methods …

Patrol

November 13, 2013 – 9:59 am

The cathedral bells stop ringing overnight, except for chiming the hours. Three bell strikes, and Angoleth padded softly around another corner of the Cathedral District, staying carefully in the shadows. Trained ears picked up Mogget’s soft breathing – nearly inaudible …

Riders in Lordaeron – Memory

November 7, 2013 – 1:33 pm

(Written by Jolly, Tarquin, and Annalea)

The highlands of Lordaeron were not for the faint of heart; be it the putrescence of the Scourge’s long-lingering remnant, or the rock-strewn hills and valleys that made farmers out of only the most …

Riders of Lordaeron – Logistics

September 13, 2013 – 7:11 pm

(With Tarquin and Annalea)

Once more, four people made their way through the thickets and hills of Lordaeron, this time in the crisp chill of late morning, seeking after the Rider. Aelflaed had snatched what sleep she could while Chryste …

Riders of Lordaeron – Problematic

September 11, 2013 – 9:47 am

(With Tarquin)

She hadn’t wanted to leave Jolly – not so soon after finding him again – but once away, it took about five minutes for Aely to figure out she had a problem.

That problem had just announced that …

Riders of Lordaeron: Arrangements

September 9, 2013 – 10:05 am

It was an uneasy goodbye for him, but it was agreed by both he and Aely that a stroll back to Hearthglen would not be very easy to explain, nor would the explanation needed for the three Argent soldiers once …

Riders of Lordaeron

September 7, 2013 – 9:02 am

“Light sent me ye when I needed ye afore – an’ now again when I need ye. I canna ask fir more than tha’.” She sighed and slung the shield back across her shoulders. “It’s… Light. Been awhile hasna it? …

Dark Rider of Lordaeron (Part 4)

September 6, 2013 – 2:02 pm

She blinked, but did not drop either of her shields. “Aye, though I’ve been Caltrains fir th’ last near three years. Canna say I’ve any memory ay ye.”

“Yeh’ve far moar’n yeh realize,” he replied evenly, his grip tightening on …

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