On the Finicky, Fussbudgety Facts of Faction Fighting in WoW

Writing on the patch 8.2.5 story for the World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth expansion, Robert “Bobby” Davis blogging at Kaylriene puts into words what I’ve long thought: while I understand the need for a company to put the best positive spin into talking about their own products, Blizzard really needs to stop deluding themselves about the quality of their storytelling. Here’s Kaylriene on the topic:

“Saurfang says what I’ve thought about the writing of this story the whole time – the faction conflict is stupid and outdated, because Blizzard tries to pretend there is a depth and nuance to it that doesn’t exist in their writing. The Horde are villains, outright – every time this cycle comes about, the Horde does something awful and atrocious that pushes the world into conflict, the Horde leaders who suddenly have conscience about it reject the action and rebel, we storm up to Orgrimmar to depose whomever the despot is today, and then we move on until the next time it happens. He makes clear in-lore precisely what I’ve felt about the faction conflict the whole time – it was set dressing that no longer serves a meaningful purpose.” [emphasis added]

I’m not inclined to be generous to a story that repeats the same gimmick ad nauseam. Granted, you don’t need to look farther than our own human history—and not very far at that—to find nigh-endless faction conflict. But this is supposed to be fantasy, a genre that can have anything happen.

It’s been years since I logged back to WoW for the story—these days I play for completely different reasons than following the plot du jour. Not being a PvPer the faction conflict never was a big draw to begin with, but it used to have at least somewhat interesting turns.

Now, I also understand the difficulty of a rotating team trying to keep up with past writing, storylines, character arcs, details, all of it. There is, however, a lot to be said for storytelling, continuity, and proactive quality control, especially in case of a billion(!)-dollar tech company, lest you end up looking rather like an incompetent fool.

Flickr Robert WoWScrnShot_091106_234735

Image: World of Warcraft screencap by Robert on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.


Not Flying Yet

The latest patch for World of Warcraft, which makes it possible to fly in the Battle for Azeroth zones, has been out for a while now, but we’re still earthbound. Not because we don’t want to fly—we love flying both for the convenience of getting around and for the visceral pleasure of getting to see the beautiful artwork of the game world from new angles—but because of what it takes to get it.

The first step toward flying came with the initial release of Battle for Azeroth, with the Pathfinder Part 1 achievement, and involved playing through the expansion’s content, exploring its new zones, and gaining reputation with its various factions. All of this we did quite happily. We enjoyed questing through the new expansion and seeing the sights. Reaching revered level with six factions was a little tedious at times, but watching for world quests made it quite doable.

Once that was done, it was a long wait for the latest patch with Pathfinder Part 2, which requires more of the same: questing, exploration, and gaining rep. This time around, though, we’re not enjoying the process at all.

The difference in our response to part 1 and part 2 largely comes down to the design of the two new zones: Nazjatar and Mechagon. Nazjatar is complex, confusing, and hard to navigate. Significant parts of it are full of tough elites that make riding through looking for quests annoying. The daily quests are often vague and unhelpful about what exactly we are supposed to do, and the mobs drop tons of non-trash loot that clutters up our bags without clearly telling us what it’s actually for and whether we should be keeping it or not. The companion we have to take out adventuring with us in order to get all the quests has the annoying habit of pulling more mobs than we want, getting in the way of the things we’re trying to click on, and standing right on top of our loot when we’re done with a fight. For us, Nazjatar is pure aggravation.

We haven’t looked into Mechagon much yet, but the very little time we have spent there has similarly loaded up our bags with things we don’t know what to do with but don’t dare get rid of in case we need them later. At least it is somewhat less annoying to find our way around there and doesn’t seem to saddle us with an irritating companion. We’re saving Mechagon for after we’re done with Nazjatar in the hopes that it will be something of a relief.

I can certainly see how the things that annoy us about Nazjatar could be great for someone else with a different play style. I’m sure that what for us is confusing and hard to navigate is, for someone else, an exciting new area to explore and learn about. What we see as useless crap filling up our bags is someone else’s intriguing new inventory management challenge. The companion who is always getting in our way must make it possible for other people to tackle content that would otherwise be out of their reach.

Nazjatar is like a lot of things this expansion (island expeditions, warfronts, mythic+ dungeons, war mode): well done for what it is, but not the content we want to play. The good thing about all those other things is that we can completely ignore them and just play the parts of the game that appeal to us. If we want to fly, though, we’re going to have to drag our way through Nazjatar and Mechagon. That’s why we’re not flying yet.

How are your adventures going? Are you soaring over Kul Tiras and Zandalar already? Are Nazjatar and Mechagon exactly what you wanted? Or are you still stuck in the slog with us?

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

WoW Classic “Not a Bug” List

On their forums, Blizzard shared a list of features that aren’t bugs in the recently re-released Classic version of World of Warcraft. The list has been out since May this year, but not being a special friend of the vanilla rendition I only came across it now.

PC Invasion WoW Classic Logo

Browsing through promptly hurtled me back to reminisce over things we’ve since lost. Oh, boy—some things on the list I couldn’t even remember!

Here are some of the things, not all mentioned on the list, that I absolutely wouldn’t take back:

  • The abysmal creature respawn rates. Sometimes in the later expansions it seems mobs just spawn way too quickly, but I’d rather not go back to the Classic speed, either.
  • Gold accumulation. It was just. So. Slow! (I don’t enjoy the current rate of inflation either, for the record.) And, in connection to that, how difficult it occasionally was to get your armor repaired. Remember the little armor image that was superimposed in the (right?) corner of your screen when you took enough damage? The one that first turned yellow and then red as the damage on each area increased? I actually remember at times having to pick and choose which armor piece to repair, even occasionally taking spare pieces with me to a dungeon to switch to when the pieces I wore got too damaged. At the time I was still new to the game, though, and playing a clothie with another clothie. Not very smart, perhaps, but it did teach me a lot. 🙂
  • Frequent bugging during escort quests. Aaarrgh! Nopety nope!
  • Limited bag space. Need I say more.
  • No tracking available on the minimap, either of quest areas or points of interest. As a visually oriented person and a map lover, I give minimap tracking my highest seal of approval!
  • Non-shared gathering nodes. Remember when ore nodes were only available for whoever got there first? In multi-faction areas it was sometimes impossible to mine on a lower-level toon. (I hate pvp, so I’m so out of luck in some places.)

I’ve come to enjoy the increased player character animation when looting or interacting with quest objects, so that’s nice. The graphical upgrades are also lovely, even if it took me time to get used to some of the new face designs. The new terrain and environmental design I’ve already talked about elsewhere. Finally, a few pragmatic details I love to bits in modern WoW include mass looting and the Flight Master’s Whistle. Wouldn’t change them for the world!

What about you? Chime in with your favorites, features you love to hate, or both.

Image via PC Invasion.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

First Rise of Azshara Impression & Some Bad Jokes

Rise of Azshara is out! We’ve been taking it slowly, partly because the new zones remind us of Argus (and not always in positive ways—for example the drop rates, the rep farming) and partly because adulting is a thing. Mechagon looks fun, albeit maybe small; we’ve barely started there.

WoW BfA RoA Nazjatar South Monk on Mount

Anyway, the other night we first played some new zone content, especially Nazjatar, and then rolled through earlier Battle for Azeroth dungeons when my brain apparently went into bad jokes mode. Here are three of the funnier ones:

You could say that the drop rate for these Fathom Flesh is… abysmal.

I really hit the bottom with that one!

A tank and a healer walk into a 5-man dungeon. Three hours later they walk out.

Told you they were bad! 🙂

(Okay, fortunately it really doesn’t take three hours for the two of us to clear a BfA dungeon, but it does feel like very slow going!)

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Away from Reality Rezzed #1 – Tentacular

I used to make a World of Warcraft comic called Away from Reality. I loved doing it, but it took a lot of work, so about four years ago, I gave it up. I don’t have the time or energy to start it up again, but every now and then I get an idea and think to myself: “That would make a good AFR comic.” And so I proudly present to you the first AFR Rezzed, an occasional return to the lives of Gord the long-suffering warrior, Alaxia the gentle druid, Hurgon the grumpy priest, Targe the blissfully ignorant hunter, Thizzible the role-playing lore-obsessed mage, and Morgatha the smart-ass warlock.

There’s an awful lot of tentacles around Azeroth these days, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Image by Erik Jensen

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.

Blue and White Transmogs for 120

I’m slowly getting all my alts up to 120 and often celebrating with brand new transmogs. My holy priest and outlaw rogue recently made it and, without any particular plan, I ended up giving both of them blue and white transmogs. Here they are for your enjoyment.

My holy priest in his Stargazer’s Perfection outfit.

My outlaw rogue decked out in her Storm-Angel’s Descent look.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Quotes: Cribbage Boards Are as Common as Wooden Spoons

Cribbage boards are as common as wooden spoons in the kitchens of this island. Children raised in this part of Maine often learn to play cribbage before the can tie their own shoes.

Linda Greenlaw writes about Isle Au Haut, Maine, not far from where one part of my family has its roots in the rocky coastal soil. This was one of many parts of the book that had me nodding in recognition. I can’t honestly say whether I learned to play cribbage (a curious card game for which you keep score on a wooden board) or tie my shoes first, but I can say that I don’t clearly remember a time in my life when I couldn’t do both.

Greenlaw, Linda. The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island. New York: Hyperion, 2002, p. 111.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Never Gets Old: Surfing on a Flaming Harpoon Bolt

Northrend has some of my favorite areas in World of Warcraft. I love the music in Grizzly Hills, and both Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra have nice, varied environments. (Then again, Northrend also has one of my all-time non-favorites, too: Icecrown. So dark and spiky and empty, brr. But I digress.) Whenever I level a toon through Northrend these days, I visit all three zones, and pick and choose the rest as mood strikes me.

One of the Howling Fjord quests never gets old: Let’s Go Surfing Now lets you ride down an impossibly tall cliff standing on top of a flaming harpoon bolt. I took my Dark Iron Dwarf through there last night:

WoW Dark Iron Dwarf Howling Fjord Riding Harpoon

Whee! 😀

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.