November 3, 2011 – 12:50 pm
I’ve talked a little bit, a long freaking time ago, about how I play the game with the in-game sound and music turned on. I still do that – still can’t raid without sound effects and still have the attention span of a gnat on crack, and therefore can’t raid with other music in the background. *
I was noticing though how much I really like the variety of new music that’s been made available in Cataclysm. While I thought I’d really miss the old music (and sometimes I do), I’ve found that most of it is still in game, and I can still happily waft into nostalgia remembering old RP while I wait for LFG to pop. The new instance music is really nice as well – in fact, this post was prompted by how fitting the music is in the Vortex Pinnacle.
I’ve always really liked the soundtracks for Blizzard’s games, and enjoyed the musical references they’ve made. The music in Sunwell had a hat tip to the Dies Irae chant, and much of Northrend had ties to folk music and instruments. The music of the Trolls, Goblins, and Gnomes has always had a strong thematic content as well. In fact, Blizzard does a good job, in general, of matching instruments/musical character to delineate cultures, bosses, and creepy zones in game.
Let’s take, for example, Ragnaros.
He’s Big. He’s Bad. He’s On Fire. And once upon a time*, he was THE Big Bad at the end of the first 40 man raid instance in World of Warcraft. He’s now back and still bad and causing trouble in the Firelands again.
This was Ragnaros’ music.
I’d argue that part of what made Ragnaros’ room so successfully epic and intimidating was his soundtrack.
First, it’s in a minor key. Minor keys are (at least to modern, Western ears) for “sad” and “angry” feelings. It’s also in an unbalanced time signature – count on your fingers to the beat, and you’ll find the music is grouped into 6 beats and then 7 beats, 6, 7, 6, 7, 6, 7. Most “western” music is in even groups of 4 beats. Anything with 7 feels “unsteady”. This music is meant to make you feel off balance and nervous.
That plus the use of well-known musical conventions (frenzied strings, rhythmic percussion, lots of french horn), your mind “gets” what’s going on around you on a level beyond just seeing it. If instead of Epic Boss Fight Music, Ragnaros’ soundtrack sounded like the Temple of the Moon… it just wouldn’t work. It would even be laughable.
Fortunately, it’s not just Ragnaros.
The sparse, almost non melodic piano in Dragonblight is eerily reminiscent of snowfall. Norse folk instruments are used with great success to give a familiar, but still somewhat strange flavor to the Vrykul areas (and the turtle boats!), and Grizzly Hills is supposed to sound folk-like and “familiar”. The Zandalar Trolls have their own brand of percussive music that’s similar to the music in Zul’Aman… but with a slightly different flavor. The music from Vortex Pinnacle is airy and light, with soft whooshing strings. The soundtrack of Honor Hold and other places in Hellfire Peninsula takes a big key from Aaron Copland, using sparse brass instruments to convey the openness and emptiness of space. XT-002′s music is sufficiently mechanical, childlike, and frenetic to match the giant calisthenics-doing boss, Yogg Saron’s music is truly epic, and the entire soundtrack to Icecrown Citadel matches perfectly with its inhabitants (right down to using a boy’s choir to show the sweetness and temptations of power). The music in Vashj’ir is especially watery as well.
All of that boils down to creating another layer of emotional response to the game, expanding on the colors, environment, and critters wandering around. Kinda like how, in a horror film, you can always tell when the Bad Stuff is about to happen – either the music gets really ominous or it stops altogether.
Those sounds and emotional responses are, for me, part of RP. Walking into the Pig and Whistle and I automatically go into RP mode, just based on the music – music I’ve heard a thousand times as Aely’s spent her evenings there with the Riders (and as Angoleth is slowly starting to do more often as well). A lot of my first impressions of zones are made on the music, and when I think about old RP events, they’re often connected to the music in game as well as to what actually happened.
That said, I definitely understand having RP soundtracks of non-game music as well, especially if you need to have a really creepy event in a happy, folk music playing tavern (or Grizzy Hills).
Just don’t automatically discount the game soundtrack – there’s a lot of good stuff in there, at least in WoW.
(I make no promises in other games, but given how much I love the Diablo II music, I am definitely looking forward to Diablo III…)
*Except when it’s all of vent singing Journey. That’s different. (JUST A SMALL TOWN GIIIIIIRL)
**Ok, So Blackrock was merely a setback…
***Rumors of my death may have been greatly exaggerated, but I make no promises as to regular content here. Just… had an itch to post, so I scratched. I figure I can blame NaNo.
Comments Off on Integrating Character and (role)Playability
July 27, 2011 – 6:50 pm
(For the record, I’m writing this in the Saucy hangout on Google Plus. We’re all writing together and it’s pretty awesome.)
So I’ve been playing Annorah (level 85 and running Trollish heroics now) quite a lot more than Aely. Which isn’t a slight against Aely at all, but more that elemental shamaning is awesome. It’s like ShamBLAST. Lava all over. Teuthida would be proud of all the blasting!
(I am considering speccing Aely into Holy again, and trying my hand at healing, for the record. I just… haven’t exactly had the gumption to relearn it all yet. But that’s another post entirely)
Unfortunately Annorah is… difficult… to RP. Back in the early days I wrote a (rather bad) piece of fic from her perspective – the only one I’ve written with her as a main character other than her part in the Bittertongue/Maggie plot last year. Since then, she’s been the epitome of difficult to RP. She’s a farseer, so I have to struggle with how she sees the future, and what kind of future that is that she sees (usually I go with a Galadriel type oracle – “things that are, things that were, and some things that have not yet come to pass”). Also, every time I’ve tried to RP with her, she’s a totally different personality.
Sometimes she’s grumpy or sarcastic, sometimes short tempered, sometimes witty, occasionally drunk. She’s smug on occasion, and other times so painfully shy as to sit and hardly speak for an entire evening. A few people (Gharr and Marty, I think) have mentioned that her personality shifts aren’t exactly out of character for anyone with any ties to the Elemental plane in Azeroth right now, but that doesn’t make it any easier to RP. Especially when I don’t really know which Annorah is going to show up. (Multiple Personality Shaman, FTW?)
And that makes her difficult to interact with. Unpredictable characters are difficult both as the roleplayer and within the roleplay community. There’s something to be said for a character like Aely, who will always be Aely, in the face of pretty much any situation. Even Tarquin, who is always dangerous, and Bricu, who is usually a Bastard, have their levels of continuity. Being predictably unpredictable makes people in real life hard to deal with, and no less so in game.
I also wonder if I just don’t GET the character yet. Multiple folks have told me that Draenei are just hard to play, and what about “reskinning” her as a Dwarf? But she’s NOT a Dwarf. That much I know. She’s got a history, and she’s a strong willed sort of Draenei shaman, with a bit of a vindictive streak and a serious crush on Nobundo. And mood swings, apparently.
Perhaps she’ll be more revealing during the upcoming raid events (I’ll hopefully be rejoining a TRI-esque 10 man on Monday nights) when we really get to start attacking the big bads of this expansion.
I know how much a raid instance and interaction with the forces that change the world can change a character. Arthas and the Scourge DEFINED Aely for most of Wrath, and she’s still finding her feet in the new world, but that kind of confusion is AS a character, not ABOUT her character, if that makes any sense?]
Anyway, I’ll let you know how it shapes up. Maybe just forcing her into RP situations will help, but my willingness to do un-fun RP is… uh… limited. I’d rather not have my “raiding” character and my “roleplay” characters split up, as I’ve always done both, so hopefully things will sort out as I do more shamaning.
If nothing else, I can still cast frostshock? Totems totems totems?
July 1, 2011 – 11:36 am
And I know that’s totally old news and wow Anna get out from under your rock, but really, my biggest curiosity about Z’G?
Do the Splody Bat Men still exist?!
I ask because I’m quite trepidatious to set foot in there. I know Zul’Aman is relatively similar – which isn’t surprising, considering when it came out. And I WILL get a Z’A bear mount for Annorah someday. But Z’G was my first raid instance, and the one I spent (by far) the most time in. So much time that I never went back after Burning Crusade hit. Now that it’s back in game, I’m really kind of curious whether I should go or not, once Annorah hits 85 (hoping for 84 today) and gets some gear.
I mean, I know it’s crazysauce, but sometimes I wonder if I should leave the hilarious memories where they were, you know? Drunken spider pulls, for instance. And Splody Bat Men.
March 30, 2011 – 11:16 am
Warning: Pontification and Storytelling
The death of WoW.
(NewGame) is the WoW Killer.
(ThisThing) was better in (ThatOtherVersion).
WoW has been around for a long time. I’ve played since a few months past release. When I started, I was finishing up my sophomore year in college, stressed out because I was taking 18-21 hours a semester plus doing martial arts, and then stressed because of the sudden and extremely heartbreaking death (from cancer) of my Sensei. Followed shortly by the just-as-sudden and heartbreaking death (from a heart attack) of my Tai Chi Sufi. Followed by some other sudden and incredibly damaging events that I won’t discuss here.
I needed an escape, something to do for fun, and WoW provided that for me. It gave me an expansive world, a place to become a Night Elf Hunter instead of myself. To collect pets and meet new people – some of whom (like Lunauviel and Dalbarr) I’d still consider friends today. The game then was immersive, a world all to itself. It wasn’t always new-player friendly, especially to someone who’d never played an MMO before, but I learned and asked questions. I struggled to have enough cash to train, to learn how to be a hunter, and really, to learn how to play in an MMORPG.
And so the first year or so in WoW was fun and silly, puttering around and RPing and slowly getting to 60, taking my first steps into raiding and having a blast.
Once college ended, I got married to SSH… and then couldn’t find a job. For four months I plunged into a hugely deep depression that I found very little release from. I no longer had school OR wedding planning, and I was at home by myself in a new apartment in a new city by myself. A lot.
WoW was my way to find fun and social contacts, my way to get out of that little apartment and into a bigger world. It kept me busy, and Annorah was born. I threw myself into being a shaman, and I loved it. Burning Crusade was when I found TRI and the Wildfire Riders, two groups of people from whom I’ve made real, quality friends (like Bricu and Tarquin and Yva and Beltar – and eventually Arrens too).
The game changed though, and raiding was my new game.
And blogging. Too Many Annas started about a year after Burning Crusade released. Boss Kill strategies were a newish thing, since previous raiding had been a lot less accessible. Class strategies were new, because there were so many new players. I had tons to write about, both from roleplaying and from raiding, and I learned that I loved (and was marginally good at) blogging. I also got a job writing about WoW for an online magazine.
The immersive nature of the game was changing, but I was becoming more immersed.
With the advent of Wrath of the Lich King, I took on a new role – an officer in a raid group – at about the same time as SSH and I bought a new house. Our lives outside the game were changing – no longer transient apartment dwellers, we were truly putting down roots here in Houston. We also put down strong roots with TRI in game, and had a really fantastic run of things. The game really helped me have an outlet when I lost my job again, but I also threw myself into working on the house and gardening and all the various things that come with home ownership.
But people started to notice that things were different in game. Each expansion changed classes, raiding, instancing, armor and gear, leading to higher and higher levels of accessibility. Each expansion added more information into the game, and new websites cropped up as professionally run places to find boss strategies and information. WoWHead took off like wildfire, Bosskillers and TankSpot became regular staples. The game itself became both more sophisticated and more accessible, the classes became more streamlined, talent trees became more focused and made more sense.
For new players, that has been awesome! They can get into things right from the beginning; their game maps give them hints about quests and things are so much more friendly for new players now, especially since Cataclysm released.
But the big change with Cataclysm, at least for me, isn’t related to the game.
Where /I/ am now, and what I need from a game is different. In fact, to some extent, I need to not be gaming. There are Really Big Things going on in my not-game life that I have to square with. I’m older now (in my late 20’s instead of early 20’s) and my personality has gone through some big shifts. I’m no longer using WoW as a way to manage some really big, ugly psychological things – I’m dealing with them for real.
This is not to say that WoW was “bad” as an escape – I couldn’t have done then what I’m doing now. WoW was a necessary way for me to manage and be functional. I’ve grown up enough to be able to get the proper (professional) help I need now, and so my “needs” in game are different.
On top of that, I have a new job that’s both physically and emotionally tiring, especially in the midst of all the other mental stuff I have going on.
Those real life changes have changed me as a writer as well, and I’m no longer really feeling the draw to blog about the game. The new system is linear, and linear systems are more self contained. There are tons of great resources for learning strategies and mechanics, so it makes little sense for me to rehash those. And I’m not playing on the same levels as I was, so RP is a smaller, more spontaneous and less intensive “game” for me as well.
The death of WoW.
(NewGame) is the WoW Killer.
(ThisThing) was better in (ThatOtherVersion).
WoW has been around a long time. With each expansion, the game has always changed. It will continue to change. That change is neither good nor bad – it’s change. I like an immersive rather than a scripted world. That’s me. I’m Anna. I pay $15 a month, and if I don’t like that change, I vote with my credit card.
But we, as gamers and bloggers, have to also realize that WE have changed. We’ve grown older, our lives have changed. Some of us have kids now, or are married (often to other gamers). We have new interests and hobbies, new jobs, new houses in new places. Our reasons for playing have changed.
Both changes are OK. In some cases, the changes to WoW in Cataclysm have made new matches that are like falling in love with the world all over again. In other cases, it’s just not worked out that way. That’s how games work. Old players leave for things that suit them better – many of us might still look for the things that drew us into WoW in the first place (see: Anna likes immersive, only semi-scripted worlds), while others have found that the new, scripted, linear modes are exactly what they wanted and love.
It’s the nature of the better part of a decade to induce change. For those of us to whom WoW was a constant, a release and a way to escape, the changes in game seem really disruptive. But those changes are as much about us as they are about the developer team. In fact, I’d venture to guess that we, as gamers, have changed a lot more over the last six years than the game really has.
WoW does share some of that blame, of course – the developer team has always been interested in new subscribers. This expansion is incredibly focused on newer players and lower levels – which is hard for those of us with 10 level 40+ characters on our preferred server to deal with. But that’s their choice (and I do remember a lot of us saying that some of the old world content really DID need an update…) and I’m sure they’re smart enough to know that with each change they’ll lose as many players as they gain.
I know, though, that what I expect from the game is very different today than it was when I started playing six years ago. I’m still Anna, but I’ve changed quite a bit and am still undergoing a lot of that change.
WoW is still going pretty strong. I expect it will continue to do so as new players continue to fall in love with Azeroth.
If I end up leaving the game, moving on to different things, that’s where I’ll go. And I’m pretty sure it’ll be a huge adventure, just like this one has been.
Video: Time of our Lives
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