A Questing We Will Go!

Azeroth is Shattered. (For those of you who don’t play WoW, this means that the patch applying the expansion hit, despite the fact that the expansion doesn’t come out until the 7th.)

Rather than having an entirely phased world, Blizzard decided it would be better to “force” the changes on everyone. Especially since this is essentially an upgraded version of the Original WoW. WoW 2.0 if you wish. So all the changes were pushed to all the players. And man, were there a metric ton of changes. As a long time player, and a fan of clearly undervalued achievements, I had already completed Loremaster on my main, Joyia. I was excited to see in the flood of new achievements, zone specific achievements for the Original WoW quests. (Previously all of the Original WoW quests were merely lumped together into Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, now they are broken down by zone, with the Kali and EK achievements being metas requiring all the specific zones.) I couldn’t wait to watch all the dings from them when I logged in.

However, when I logged in, I didn’t receive a flood of achievements. Oh one or two, but not the 40 or so I should have gotten from all the quests I had completed. As it turns out, Blizzard made *far* more extensive changes than most players originally assumed. Instead of updating a small number of quests and adding new ones, they updated about 95% of all the quests in the game. In addition to adding new ones. This means that a majority of the quests were re-numbered in the system. So while my “quest total” lists at over 2000 quests completed, I have barely 50 total listed under the various zones.

I grumbled a great deal about this change. But, I looked on the bright side, at least now I had a good reason to go back and see all the changes. So I went to go see Duskwood, my favorite zone, and started to re-run all those quests.

To say I was impressed would be an understatement. Not only did they adjust the flow of quests to be better for the player (gather several quests, make a lap of the zone, return to turn in quests, repeat) but they also updated the quests to take into account things the player did in the previous incarnation of the zone. If you were a fan of the zone before, now it is better.

(Spoilers!!!! – Can you even believe what happened to Sven?! That was AWESOME! –Spoilers DONE)

I might have complained about the quest re-numbering and wipe originally, but now I am thrilled. I will be sure to re-visit each zone, read all the new quests, and experience all the new shiny the game has to offer. Also it makes it a great deal easier to get my Seeker title. Bravo Blizzard, for not taking the easy way out when updating the old world. For taking the time to revisit each quest and make it fit within the new design ideals solidified in Wrath and Burning Crusade.

Where were you when the world Shattered?

Where were you when <insert event here>? It is common to reminisce about “life changing” events by starting the conversation with this question. Usually these events are large, world changing things. Most people wouldn’t take note of such an event in a virtual world.

On the old WoW forums, there was a thread that asked, where will you log out when WoW ends? People had wide and varied answers, from the original spawn point of their character to the floating islands in Nagrand. Many players even listed what their character would be wearing or doing at the moment of the world ending. At the time, I really didn’t have an answer. Perhaps the Opera house of Karazhan. Perhaps the Stormwind Cathedral. Most often my answer was, in an inn, where I always log out. I never made a decision, because I wasn’t forced to. WoW wasn’t going to end any time soon.

Fast forward to November of 2010. The Shattering is upon us! (For those who persisted and don’t play WoW, today, 11/23/2010, the entire Old World of the game is being “destroyed” by the evil dragon Deathwing. Which is Blizzard’s excuse for an art and gameplay upgrade to the oldest parts of the game.) The world, for the character’s point of view, was ending. So where was I going to log out?

At this point I decided that no two characters would log out in the same spot. Each character would have their own reasons and logic for the place they chose.

  • Joyia, my main, a Human Warlock, chose to log out in Stormwind, the capital city of the Alliance. After all, she was born in Silvermoon City, and yet that place had ceased to be home. So she went to the Slaughtered Lamb for a drink, then stood in the Valley of Heroes to watch the world burn.
  • Pandari, my Night Elf Priest, chose to log out at the moonwell in Auberdine. Many people disliked Darkshore, but I hold a fondness in my heart for this night elf leveling zone, one of the first places I truly explored in WoW. Her healing arts would be needed in the tidal wave to come.
  • Summerriver, my Draenei Shaman, stood overlooking the Barrens from atop a mountain peak. Her shamanist powers telling her the source of the disturbance was here, and here was where she would be needed.
  • Feirea, my Human Mage, chose to stand by the side of Lady Jania Proudmoore. If her services were needed, she wanted to be near command.
  • Pandara, my Night Elf Death Knight, returned to the Acherus, her world already ended, but at least here, she could have some peace.
  • Birgitta, my Night Elf Hunter, on a hill in Winterspring, where she first turned level 60, looking into Hyjal, a zone that seemed to be coming to life.
  • Lumos, the Human Paladin, bringing light to the people of Darkshire. Patrolling Duskwood to cleanse it of Worgen and Undead.
  • Lindrelle, the Night Elf Rogue, battling for Southshore, against the vile Horde.
  • Dizdemona, the Human Warlock, on the hill overlooking Booty Bay. The crisp sea air blowing across the bay, whispering warning of distaster.
  • Leafdotir, a Night Elf Druid, returned to Ashenvale, to battle back the Horde, and protect the great forests from the upheaval.
  • Pouf, my Gnome Death Knight, on a hill overlooking Darrowshire. Perhaps she could help that poor lost soul, searching for her family.
  • Roivas, the Human Priest, a banker at heart, deep in the mountain of Ironforge, guarding her stockpiles against looting, with the hope of making a few gold once the dust settled.
  • Riaetha, the Draenei Priest, in Thousand Needles, watching a race.

Each of these locations are significant to the character, or significantly changed in the Shattering. It’s my way of saying good bye to all those locations, npcs, and quests that I experienced that are going to be lost in the change to Cataclysm. As odd as it sounds, I am going to miss some of this. I am sure the changes will be mostly for the better, but one can’t help but be nostalgic.

Alright, done with that. Now, on to the imagined Elitism that comes from being able to say: I remember when the Barrens was 1 zone, had a terrible chat channel, and I LIKED it.

You do your chores or I am not tanking tonight.

Early in my time in MMOs, playing Dark Ages of Camelot, I knew families played together. More often than not, when playing DAoC, I, as a healer named Feirea, was healing Monolith, a character played by my brother. We bonded and became friends, in ways we couldn’t do at home, in a virtual world. It wasn’t until WoW though that I met a parent who played with a child.

His name was Zeus (not really, but close enough) and he had a son who *desperately* wanted to play “Daddy’s Game”. Now, Apollo, as we shall call the son, wasn’t quite 4. Which is a tad young to be engaged in most of the activities in an MMO not to mention the players. So Zeus packed up one of his toons and moved him out to the middle of nowhere Teldrassil, left the chat channels and taught Apollo how to fish. Fishing in WoW is fairly simple, you click on a hot keyed button then click on the bobber when it splashes. Apollo not only grasped the concept, but *loved* it.

When fishing in WoW, there are variant levels of skill, and at the time as you skilled up, you could move to new locations and catch better fish. Each time Apollo out leveled the zone he was in, Zeus would move Apollo’s fisher to a new zone of the appropriate level, and the fishing would continue. Of course, after a while the random character Zeus had picked for Apollo to play had maxed out fishing, a feat not many WoW players would do, because fishing was so mind numbingly boring.

By the time I met Zeus and Apollo, Apollo had reached the tender age of 6, and every single character Zeus played had max fishing. Not to mention thousands of gold from selling Apollo’s fish on the Auction House. Zeus would buy the most expensive non-combat pets for every one of his characters, not because he wanted them, but rather because Apollo liked to have a pet out while fishing. Zeus liked to brag and call Apollo his little gold farmer.

One night, Zeus signed on and told the guild, “Sorry guys, i can’t raid tonight. Apollo scored a perfect score on his spelling test today, and we promised him he could fish tonight if he did. It’s really time to start thinking about his own account.” Not only had Zeus taught his son to “play WoW” by teaching him to fish, but he had also off-loaded a very dull and repetitive task that many players complain about, was using his son’s play time to “farm gold”, but also was using this as a reward for his child for doing well at school and behaving!! Talk about a win-win situation.

These days Apollo is nearing 8 years old and is finally playing the actual game with a great deal of help from Zeus. He plays a hunter, who skins and picks herbs, and still fishes. He only tames pets that eat fish. He has acquired the turtle mount, found from fishing in Northrend pools, for all of his father’s high level characters. He can’t wait to be high enough level to get one on his own character.

I have told many people about Zeus and Apollo, and most people think it is silly or just funny. A few people have had wildly insightful comments. One friend said “How interesting. I mean, in ancient times you had children to help you fish, farm, hunt, etc. And here it is happening again, only in virtual worlds.” I was floored by how accurate this comment was. Thanks to the fish selling so well on the auction house Zeus was a very wealthy person in game, but almost all of it gained from his son!

More recently I came across a group of people who play. A father, mother and two children, both in their teens. The father had originally started playing WoW to check and make sure it was appropriate for his two children, who wanted to play. Needless to say, within a month Dad and kids were engrossed in the game to the point that he purchased computers for the kids so that all three of them could play at once, together. (Apparently before that there had been a great deal of side seat playing and arguing and Mom was convinced to approve the expenditure to keep the peace.) After a few more months, Mom decided to try out this game that had so consumed her family.

As a bonding experience Dad and Kids re-rolled and played with Mom. Dad played a tank, Mom played a healer, and both the kids played dps. A nuclear family present both in game and out of it. They generally run dungeons together, but occasionally join a larger raid. Mom is quick to point out that her kids are very smart, well behaved, and are never in any trouble, mostly because she knows where they are. They are in Azeroth, with her. Dad beams with pride as they execute a complex fight to perfection. The kids, in true sibling rivalry fashion constantly battle to top the dps charts and take less damage or die less often than the other one. Family time is WoW time. Chores must be done, or Dad doesn’t tank. School work completed and doing well or Mom doesn’t heal.

I see in them bonding between a family that is on par with my bonding with my mother, built over years of playing games, reading books, watching movies, and generally being silly together. Perhaps we are looking at a new generation of families that will bond over video games.

Finding the Fun – Facebook Edition

Recently I decided to wade back into the putrescent and vile waters of Facebook gaming. I clearly did not have high hopes. Most Facebook games seem to be a small step above Progress Quest with monetary purchases that either completely unbalance the game to those who buy or have no worth. It seems to be an all or nothing deal which I believe is indicative of an overabundance of marketing/business people and a dearth of true game designers. The thing is, I can *see* the potential. Much like I imagine early game designers saw the potential in 3d graphics, online multiplayer, and motion control. This *could* be the next great stage of gaming. This could be the thing that pushes gaming into the wide main stream and silences all such arguments about the “outcast violent gamer” stereotypes.

I don’t even want to say how disappointed I am that such a cultural shift might come from something as absurd as Facebook or even any other social networking site. It feels like a thing that should come from the indie community, or from a AAA publisher. But I will take it any way I can get it.

Square Enix released a Final Fantasy “Mafia Wars” type game. I did not believe that this game would be true FF quality, as I was fairly positive it was outsourced to some for hire studio. But it was possible it had at least improved upon the quality of Facebook games.

To begin with, this game has very little to do with Final Fantasy, with one major exception. You have classes, and each of these classes are able to be changed out as you play. It seems even like one of the major goals is to gather new classes. The art is simple drawings, without a single animation. You go on accept quests, with no narrative and collect gear that simply allows you more access to new accept quests. You collect 7 of randomly dropped items for collections which are then converted to a new class medallion. They could and should take this about 10 more steps forward in complexity and make class decisions an actual choice with independent leveling in true FF style.

The interesting thing was, not much varied from other games of it’s ilk, except for a bug. This bug allowed you to add “companions” of other players without adding them to your Facebook friends. It allowed you to ask for help on click quests and such, without having them be friends. Now, you couldn’t send free gifts to each other, but you could send items you had already acquired.

And I was having a blast. I had added almost 400 random people from the discussion boards and was merrily tromping through quests and pvp fights with the greatest of ease. I didn’t know any of those people, but I gifted extra items, clicked on chest links, clicked to help with quests, and gifted action packs. I was wildly enjoying my progress quest, even though it meant very little, because I had all these friends helping me.

Of course, the company eventually fixed the bug and I lost all my ill gotten friends. Now it is me, and the lowly 4 people I managed to convince to play with me. And to be honest, it isn’t as fun or as consuming. I can still win at pvp, I can still quest with the greatest of ease, it’s just not as much fun because I don’t have 400 people to share it with. I don’t have 400 people to share items, help on quests, and give power packs to. I had found the fun in a game that had no business being fun. Then the developer ripped that fun away.

Now the true question is: How do I replicate that in a game, while still retaining the marketing desire for you to peer pressure your friends into playing?