pandaria

Flexible raids and why I’m not that disappointed

wow world of warcraft raid

Image courtesy of Blizzard

When Blizzard’s Community Managers started talking about an “unannounced feature” coming to WoW in 5.4, the world went crazy with wild ideas of what it could be. I wrote about one of mine (which is one that was shared by many other fans) a few months back, and through it all I hoped that 5.4 would give me the option to have my Dwarf Shaman join the only faction relevant to Azeroth (at least if you ask the story writers responsible for the plot in Mists of Pandaria). Sadly, it turns out that the 5.4 super-secret feature are flexible raids.

Okay, I shouldn’t say “sadly” there, because it doesn’t make me feel sad though it should. I should be angry that this unannounced feature is nothing but a stupid different version of raiding, and I should feel entitled to get what I beg for. Wow, so that’s what it feels like to be one of the ever-complaining players? I couldn’t do this for more than a paragraph…

All joking aside, I think that the Flexible Raid system might turn out really nifty. The fact that it has no Item Level requirement means that you might be able to gear new guildies that need to catch-up, while you don’t have to cancel raid night because only eighteen people have showed up. If Blizz also decides to retrofit the earlier Mists raids, this feature might turn out rather interesting.

Of course, 5.4 is still far away, and Blizzard might have a trick up their sleeves. On the other hand, they might also screw this up. I mean, it’s Blizzard: they either do something really well, or they mess up in a grandiose manner (don’t name Cataclysm, don’t name Cataclysm, don’t…). Time will tell, but  it’s  reason enough for me to not feel disappointed about the fact that I won’t be leveling up my Dwarf alongside Tauren and Orcs. My day will come…I hope.

Ding!

Ding!

Well, spending a day sick at home can be useful, it seems. After a day long gaming session, my brave Bokuzen finally reached the level cap. All that endgame stuff can wait, though, ’cause my bed is calling me. Today’s Geek Jitsu will be posted a bit later, but it will be there!

Happy gaming!

Breaking the chains of factions

Earlier this week, Ghostcrawler (the well-known CM of WoW, acronyms ftw!) teased us with a very interesting tweet about adding an unannounced feature during Mists of Pandaria’s run. The entire community has been thinking and writing about this, and some of the ideas that have been proposed actually sound interesting. One thing that I haven’t read or heard yet, however, is a feature that had been discussed a while back, and that I would love to be inserted into the game: races not restricted to one faction.

You see, I can understand the idea behind implementing different factions in a multiplayer game. It’s cool to be part of a team, and having these teams compete against each other is something many players enjoy. But what I don’t get, from a rather logical point-of-view, is why membership of a faction should be limited to a handful of races, and why I shouldn’t be able to join forces with my enemy to take down a greater threat. It defies logic, and it also takes away some great storytelling opportunities. However, since Blizzard has given the Pandaren the possibility to join both factions, I wonder if the same thing shouldn’t be offered to all races, in a way identical to that of the fluffy bears: you finish your starting zone, and then you pick which faction you want to swear allegiance to. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Instead of just having you choose your faction freely, it would also be great to group with members of the oppossite faction for PvE content. RIFT has added this possibility shortly before launching its first expansion Storm Legion, and in The Secret World, the only thing you can’t do alongside other factions is PvP (which I guess is kinda logical). Cross-faction communication and gameplay would add an additional layer of gameplay, and I can already hear thousand roleplayers cry out in joy when they could finally talk with Orcs or Worgen.

Bottom line, thinking “in a box” is nice and well, and also important for any kind of PvP, but if Blizzard would join other titles in opening those boxes a bit, I would be more than pleased. I would even be so damn pleased that I would give them another expansion to implement player and / or guild housing. Seriously, Blizz, what’s keeping you from that?!

Story matters

As I ventured forth into the continent of Pandaria, curious to see what this new land had to hold for my warrior, I noticed that Blizzard decided to change the way quest achievements were tracked. Instead of rewarding you with some e-peen points after finishing a certain number of quests in a zone, you work off a list of quest “storylines”, and are notified as soon as you finish one. Once you have rounded up every storyline in the zone, you get a nice achievement, showing everyone that you helped all those in need in a part of Pandaria. It’s a nice change from the old way, but next to giving you an easier way to tracking your quest process, it also shows how even the behemoth company of Blizzard has laid their focus on storytelling in their flagship title.

Of course, this way of tracking quest achievements is just a minor part of their new focus on the story of Pandaria. The use of many cutscenes and spoken dialogue helps to immerse the player into the setting, making him a part of the story. I’m a big fan of this focus on the plot that many contemporary MMORPG’s show. Considering the roots of role-playing games, story is a big part of the role-playing experience, but for years, it was taking the backseat in most online titles.

A cynic might claim that this is nothing but a simple reaction to the demands of the market. While struggling with many other issues, the storylines of Star Wars: The Old Republic are considered the best in any MMORPG, and Guild Wars 2 also puts the personal story of your character into the center of the game. My favourite The Secret World almost drowns the player in symbolic and enigmatic storytelling, and looking at the positive reactions all these games get for their attempts at being more than just a grindfest, it seems like the people simply demand a good story.

I mean, who can blame them? Years of simply hacking away at monsters with but a notion of lore and motivation have dulled us, and we want to know why our digital alter egos venture forth to be heroes. We want to the stories we know from offline games online, to share them with our friends. We want to form our own band of daring knights and sorcerers, and fight against evil out of a strong, personal motivation. In the end, we want to know why we had to kill those ten rats, and how that helped achieving our character’s goals. This focus on story and the narrative aspects gives us the means to do just that, and I hope that it will be a part of MMORPG’s that will receive lots of love in the future.

World of Warcraft – it will never let me go

bokuzen northrendWhen Funcom announced that The Secret World would go B2P, I rejoiced and did my happy dance. Not just because I like to do silly dances, but also because I’m a Scrooge McDuck and like to keep as many Euros for myself as possible. The fact that I can keep enjoying TSW without paying a fee meant that I could dabble in other MMORPG’s, possibly even one that might require a subscription fee. That was when World of Warcraft reared its not-so-ugly head.

You see, WoW and I have a long history. I started playing the game-changing MMO one month after its release, and took only short breaks from it until Cataclysm. The world-shattering expansion also shattered my last shreds of interest , and so I said goodbye to it for quite a while. Then, Mists of Pandaria was released, and a month after its (surprisingly positively received) launch, I bought the expansion and started playing a new toon, together with some returning and veteran friends. To my surprise, I found the changes made to the game really enjoyable. The new talent system is limited, but now I have the feeling that choosing a specialisation and a talent actually matters. The Pandaren are less whimsical than I had expected, and the Monk is actually a really fun class to play. Damn you, WoW, for being fun again!

So, for the last months, I’ve been playing WoW on and off again on multiple characters. I hit 70 with my Pandaren Warrior today, and I’m working my way back to the level cap together with a group of friends. It doesn’t feel as great and fantastic as it did “back in the days”, but I have fun rediscovering a world I thought I knew so well.

Azeroth, I’m back!