19/05/2015

Also a Vanilla Grouping Experience

After hitting level twenty, my next major goal was to get into a group for the Deadmines. I kept an eye on chat as I continued my questing, but at the time nobody seemed to be building any Deadmines groups - a guildie just kept spamming guild chat with looking-for-more requests to do the escort quest in Redridge. Finally she called me out directly, as I was obviously in the right area, and I caved and agreed to join. After all, that escort quest would earn me some nice XP too, right? My mantra before the introduction of the group finder had always been to take the bull by the horns whenever an opportunity presented itself, because waiting until everything lined up perfectly so that you could do the content you wanted, at exactly the time you wanted, with exactly the group you wanted, was generally a futile endeavour.

I joined a group consisting of the guildie on her level 23 or 24 (can't remember exactly) gnome mage, and another guildie on a dwarf warrior of the same level. When we trekked up to the area with the cave in which the escort starts, I realised that I was somewhat in over my head, with all the mobs being around level 25. However, I just hung back and healed the two dps while they laid waste to the enemy and that seemed to work out fine.

Then we got to the escort quest, and I saw that the exclamation mark over corporal Keeshan's head was grey to me. When the others started the mission, I received nothing but an error message that I wasn't eligible for the quest (due to me being too low level). This was somewhat disappointing, but I didn't feel too bad about it as we slowly walked down the mountain, because at least I had got two quests to kill orcs and gather their axes done on the way.

Once Keeshan was safely back in Lakeshire, the mage asked if we wanted to stick together to also do the elite quests in Stonewatch Keep. We agreed and picked up a level 19 druid on the way as well.

However, it soon turned out that in the keep, we were all in over our heads. The mobs were just too strong and numerous. While we could slowly whittle them down by pulling very carefully, it took so long to kill anything that we pretty much had to deal with respawns before we could ever get anywhere. The druid and I were actually more of a liability than helpful, due to our low level giving us an absolutely massive aggro radius. There was one particularly humorous moment when we had suffered some deaths in the first hallway of the keep and slowly reclaimed our bodies while carefully tucking ourselves into a corner. The moment the druid got up however, an orc immediately started throwing spears at him, killed him, and then walked away again.

Eventually it seemed that most of us agreed that we weren't going to be successful with this group and we decided to part ways for now. I had been lucky, as I had at least got enough quest drops from the caster mobs we had killed to complete one of the elite quests.

So far, so good.

Just after I had taken a flight back to Westfall, the gnome mage suddenly whispered me again to say that she was building a new group and that she had a tank in the high twenties now, so this group was bound to do much better! I agreed to re-join and made my way back. They were clearly desperate for a healer.

This time the rest of the group consisted of the mentioned level 28 paladin tank, a hunter and a warlock, but the two latter were once again of quite a low level. The warlock also realised almost immediately that he didn't actually have all the quests and had to jog back to Lakeshire to hand something in so he could pick up the correct follow-up. Meanwhile the paladin tank asked us to clear a tower on the side which did nothing for the rest of the group.

When the warlock came back, he got killed by respawns and the mage told him to watch where he was going, to which the warlock replied somewhat testily that she should drop the condescending attitude. We killed some more mobs.

Just as we were making our way to the boss inside the courtyard, the mage was suddenly removed from the group. I typed a question mark into chat and was kicked from the party as well. I'm still not sure why, because the mage had been a bit snarky I guess and we were in the same guild? We regrouped with the level 28 pally who had apparently suffered the same fate as us and wedged ourselves into a corner while we waited for another mage to join us to build our group back up to strength. The gnome advised the second mage to just run through all the mobs on his way, which didn't work out and he died. The gnome then went out to "help" him... and they both died.

When they were finally about to re-join us at the right spot, the warlock and hunter who had kicked us suddenly swooped in with a level fifty shadow priest in tow who murdered everything for them in seconds. Since the boss' respawn was going to take a while, we gave the inside of the keep another shot but died again. It was quite late by then and I finally excused myself, having achieved nothing but a lot of deaths.

I felt utterly drained by the whole experience, the constant dying with no progress, fighting the same pulls over and over again, and then having other people swoop in to kill the mobs we needed before we could get to them. To be honest, the gnome mage's aggressively hyper attitude also started to grate on my nerves after a while. At one point early on, a level 60 swooped past us with someone he was boosting and the mage called him names in /yell. When the other group "stole" the boss right in front of our noses, she also suggested running after them into the keep and trying to steal their tag on the boss in there. I just didn't want to hear any more of it.

I didn't play for several days after that.

15/05/2015

Azeroth Trek III: The Search for XP (and Cash)

When I had finally wrapped up all my business in Elwynn, I checked my /played time and was surprised to see that it was sitting at just under six hours. (This included a couple of trips to Stormwind for things like the paladin class quest to learn the resurrection spell. Remember the days when you would run into pallies who couldn't res because they'd never bothered to do that quest? Good times.) I was quite impressed that the starter zone alone had managed to keep me busy for so long, but of course things were only going to become more time-consuming.

I remember having that plank and nail on live!
In Westfall, I was off to a good start. I picked up pretty much every quest that I could find (of which there were quite a few) and then just started running around killing things almost at random, which worked surprisingly well, as nearly everything in the vicinity counted towards some quest objective or another. It was only towards the end that I had to range further to hunt down the last couple of remaining targets specifically.

The Defias in Westfall gave me even more trouble than the ones in Elwynn had done, especially as there were some nasty casters among them. I suffered my first death, and more followed soon. Mostly they were caused by me getting unexpected adds in a confined space such as inside a mine, where I had no space to run away. Since Vanilla WoW mostly restricted itself to one graveyard per zone, the corpse runs were quite substantial, though still not nearly as bad as I remember them being in other zones such as Darkshore, the Barrens or Blackrock Mountain.

Hello again...
I was a bit dismayed to find that once I had completed nearly all of the quests in the zone aside from a couple of higher level ones, I was still only level 15, far too low to go to the Deadmines. It made me realise just how little XP most of the quests awarded compared to what I'm used to these days. Most of them gave less than you would earn from killing about ten mobs of your level, so whenever I returned to a quest giver to hand in, I was a little disappointed by just how little my experience bar seemed to move. It was a stark reminder that while WoW gave rise to the quest-centered theme park MMO, Vanilla WoW still bore the clear marks of its mob-grinder predecessors. Sure, WoW was revolutionary in regards to the sheer amount of quests it launched with, but it still expected you to run around and kill a lot of mobs to actually level up.

I was sent to deliver a message to Lakeshire and noticed that the quests there did start around level 15, but considering the trouble the Defias had given me and what I remembered of the local gnoll camps, I really didn't want to go in there at the absolute minimum level. Instead I decided to make the journey to Loch Modan, where I had another delivery to make.

I have fond memories of my first Vanilla character, the paladin I tried to recreate here on Kronos, questing in Loch Modan. I distinctly remember getting into a group with nothing but dps to kill troggs for the quest at Ironband's excavation and it being pretty manic as I became the dedicated healer of the party and people were charging off in all kinds of different directions. I had a really fun time with that.

Fortunately, Kronos didn't disappoint in regards to recreating that experience either. I hadn't even got to Ironband's yet, but I was working my way through the quest chain to kill regular troggs in Stonesplinter Valley when a dwarf priest and a hunter threw me a group invite. Even though we quickly established that I wasn't even on the same step of the quest chain as them yet, they were happy to help me get caught up. We had a good laugh at the hunter's boar pet bugging out like crazy inside the caves, aggroing things left and right and evading others. Just like Vanilla WoW indeed! Initially I felt a bit flustered by the kindness of the two dwarves and their willingness to kill troggs they didn't even need for their own quest anymore, but of course this also goes back to what I wrote about quest XP: it's not all that. Just being in a group that can kill a large number of mobs quickly and safely isn't half bad even if you're not on the quest yourself.

More positive grouping experiences followed. I grouped up to kill ogres in the Mo'grosh ogre mound in the north-eastern corner of the map, and even though we died a few times in there, we were always in good spirits as we ran back to our bodies, keen to give it another try with a slightly different strategy (which repeatedly turned out to be: everyone with the ability to heal, spam heals on the warrior). I also joined a guild almost by accident, as one of the people in that group started throwing everyone guild invites while we were in the middle of a cave fighting ogres. I wanted to ask what sort of guild it was, explain how I wasn't sure if I should even join one etc. but in the heat of battle I just clicked accept. At least the guild name, "You had me at LokTar", is vaguely amusing. It does seem to be a levelling guild as well, as I checked the guild roster a bit later and the highest level character in the guild was only in the low forties at the time.

I more or less finished up Loch Modan by killing Ol' Sooty, the elite bear on the mountain south-east of Thelsamar. That was quite funny too, as I got a mage to help me who didn't even have the quest, and at first the two of us didn't seem to be powerful enough as Sooty killed us on our first attempt. On our second one however, we got him down via some epic kiting by both me and the mage, and even though the mage still died eventually, I managed to finish Sooty off with less than ten percent of my own health left on my bar. We had a good laugh about that. The only downside was that I was still only level nineteen.

Next to experience points, the other thing I found myself struggling with was money. Mobs generally only dropped a few copper, quests awarded a few silver... and everything I needed seemed terribly expensive in comparison. Even taking a flight was not a decision to be made lightly, considering that it would cost me at least one silver. More than once I slunk away from the paladin trainer with my metaphorical tail between my legs, unable to actually afford all my ability upgrades. Though I suppose I didn't help my case by trying really hard to keep up with all of my professions, including the secondary ones - I had forgotten just how much of a money sink profession training could be, especially the training of new ranks and recipes.

On the plus side, this constant need for money also gave me more reasons to not be shy about killing mobs in my way, and turned even minor surprises into major events for me. For example I fought my way inside the very heart of a kobold cave, even though the associated quest didn't require me to do so, and found a rare mob there. When I killed him, he dropped no less than three green items. What riches!

One of my guildies commented that he was excited about hitting the milestone of having earned one gold, and we mused on how it was funny how valuable money felt in early Vanilla.

Eventually I moved on to Redridge, and after a couple of rounds of killing gnolls and wildlife, I hit level twenty with a /played time of 25 hours.

10/05/2015

Old-school Experiences in Elwynn

When I first logged into the Kronos server with my newly (re-)created human paladin, I was pleased to immediately see other people around me in the starting zone. It wasn't exactly heaving the way it was when I first started playing World of Warcraft back in 2006, but it was reasonably busy. The lowbie world certainly felt more alive than it did on the live servers during my brief visit during Mists of Pandaria. A system announcement sent out a global message every time a battleground popped, and the level 60 PvP seemed to be reasonably active. Later I also started using the /who command to gauge the population, and while it only displays up to 50 individual characters, it did also show the total number of characters online, which seemed to hover between 300 and 500 most times. I'm not sure that's enough to support all forms of group content, but it was obviously enough to make the world feel alive (during the early levels at least).

For all my appreciation of Vanilla WoW, I realised instantly that I, too, had been spoiled by the incessant streamlining that WoW and other MMOs have performed over the years. I immediately looked at my mini-map to look for quest icons, but of course this being Vanilla WoW, there weren't any. I actually had to walk around Northshire Abbey and look all the NPCs in the face to see if they had an exclamation mark over their head or not. Once I had picked up my first couple of quests, I habitually opened up my map to look for the quest markers telling me where to go. Nope! Vanilla WoW expects you to read the quest text and to actually look at the world around you. I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I also got confused briefly because some items that I was supposed to pick up from the ground weren't indicated by giant sparkles... Fortunately it didn't take long for me to adjust and to pull my eyes back towards what was going on in the world around me instead of being entirely focused on UI overlays.

Cue heroic music...
From a gameplay perspective, my first couple of levels were hilariously bad, though this was at least in part due to the fact that I chose to roll a paladin; on a different class it wouldn't have been quite so pronounced. For those who don't know/remember: in Vanilla, paladins started out with a buff and a heal... so when it comes to fighting, you can literally do nothing but auto-attack for the first few levels. My pet tank looked over my shoulder with a frown (as he only started playing during Wrath of the Lich King himself) and I broke out into hysterical giggles as I assured him that Vanilla WoW and just auto-attacking everything was totally awesome.

8 damage! This is going to take a while...
In all honesty though: no, I don't think that particular design decision was very well thought-out, however I do think that it made sense back then to start things off slowly for the benefit of complete newbies to the genre. I distinctly remember being confused by simple things such as orientating myself or figuring out what my two buttons actually did when I was true WoW noob myself.

Fortunately it didn't take long until I got an attack move (judgement, on a ten second cooldown), even if that would remain my only offensive ability for quite a while. However, already at level four things got interesting in a different way. I was sent across the river to the vineyard full of Defias, and those guys were deadly. Their aggro range was considerable, they hurt, there were multiple patrols and several locations where mobs were grouped up in packs of two or three, not to mention that they were all pretty densely packed to begin with. My ability bar may have been nothing to write home about, but I was extremely focused on my surroundings, trying hard to dodge patrols and making sure to run away or at least back off far enough to cause any adds to evade if I overpulled by accident. Instead of being all about the second-to-second gameplay of hitting your buttons, the Vanilla WoW levelling experience is all about tactical movement. I really enjoyed going back to this style of play and feel confident in saying that this was not an inherently worse levelling experience than WoW has today, but simply one with a very different focus.

Once I had made it to Goldshire, I wanted to learn how to mine. Nope! Why would miners hang out in the middle of a forest? Go to Stormwind and talk to the dwarves there, they are all about mining. In other words, this was my reminder that Vanilla WoW still put "a world that made sense" ahead of gameplay convenience in many respects. Another reminder came when I failed at mining my first copper node and had to try again. Why of course, you don't always succeed when you try something new for the first time, makes perfect sense! Ore was hard to come by in general because I had forgotten just how sparse mining nodes used to be in the old world before the Cataclysm revamp. I'm not going to pretend that all those little things didn't also result in minor annoyances, but minor was all they were - and at the same time they created all kinds of challenges and goals you could work on aside from questing. When was the last time that taking a break from questing to leg it all the way to your trainer was a genuine thing that you planned around? There was gameplay in overcoming these minor obstacles that is missing from today's World of Warcraft.

Fail. :(
Finally, the social side: I think I had more chats with random strangers during my hours in Elwynn than I had in my last three months of playing WoW on live servers. I grouped up to kill Goldtooth and Hogger. A friendly gnome mage offered me some bags, an offer which I gratefully declined since I had been extremely lucky and had found four six-slot bags (!!!) relatively early on during my questing. A random person from general chat exchanged some whispers with me on the subject of experience gains in a party. And I got invited to a levelling guild, though I respectfully declined that as well as it wouldn't feel right to me to join a guild when I'm not sure how invested I'm going to be in this project. But it was nice to receive a personal, genuine guild invite from someone, compared to the constant, addon-based auto-invite spam that was running rampant on the live servers last time I played.

Just meeting other players out in the world was generally a positive experience, even when we didn't talk or group up. Occasionally there was competition for mobs, but since they were so densely packed in most areas, there was no real shortage of things to kill and it was just a relief to have someone else cut a path through the area and reduce the number of threats. Meeting people on the road also meant "drive-by buffs" - I was quite happy every time I met a priest or a mage in particular. With how tough I found the mobs to fight, every little stat increase was appreciated. My own five-minute paladin blessings didn't feel like a great gift to return, what with their short duration.

When you're knee-deep in kobolds and all you have is a shovel, any company is welcome.
So how has this whole "emulating Vanilla WoW" experience been holding up from a technical point, considering Dodgy Kebab's video review in which he repeatedly called Kronos "flawless"? Well, it wasn't completely flawless: I ran into a couple of kobolds that were stuck in a wall and a few copper nodes in a cave that came up as "invalid target" every time I tried to mine them. I can't say that I perceived this as a huge negative though, considering that those things are the kind of bug that occasionally showed up on the original Vanilla WoW servers as well. So far, it's certainly been a good recreation of the Vanilla experience - including the fun.

 Oh, and this.

07/05/2015

Adventures on Kronos: The Background

Private WoW servers have been around for a pretty long time. I'm not sure when I first heard about one, though it must have been a very long time ago. It might even have been during original Vanilla WoW, though back then it would have been something along the lines of: "My friend runs this private WoW server where he can one-shot everything and solo all of Molten Core!" It sounded both dodgy and weird.

Certainly private WoW servers are still a bit dodgy these days. I'm pretty sure that it's against WoW's terms and conditions to play on a private server, and even more so to create and maintain one. That's not the same as it actually being illegal though. If anything, the fact that private servers that openly advertise themselves on the web and on YouTube are still around years after their opening seems to imply that it's not something that Blizzard can or at least cares to take measures against. Though I did hear rumours that streaming WoW from a private server was banned from Twitch or something.

Regardless of the strict legality of the matter, I have a hard time feeling like these guys are doing anything bad, especially if the whole project is offered to the public for free. I just can't see Blizzard missing out on a lot of potential revenue here, considering just how disgruntled many ex-WoW players have become with the direction of the live game (myself not entirely excluded).

This brings us to the "weird" part - private WoW servers are definitely a lot less weird and unusual than they used to be. With every expansion that completely revamps the game, Blizzard potentially alienates another set of players that loved things the way they were. And unlike for example SoE Daybreak Games, who even gave their official blessing to a project emulating the original Everquest from 1999, Blizzard has no interest in pandering to people's nostalgia. Rather, it's the opposite: they've explicitly said that they believe that WoW's current state is always the best it could possibly be and that anybody who would like to play an older version is obviously blinded by nostalgia because all the older versions of the game were clearly so much worse.

As more and more people disagree with this stance, private servers that allow people to return to a version of the game that they enjoyed more are seeing a distinct rise in popularity. Back in 2013 I remember seeing a video advertising the Emerald Dream private server, and shortly afterwards Wilhelm of The Ancient Gaming Noob wrote a short series of posts about his adventures on that server. (Sadly he stopped and seemed to lose interest before he even made it to Westfall.)

This year, an ex-WoW acquaintance of mine even posted on Facebook that he had started playing on a private server, inviting people to join him. On YouTube, I noticed more and more "Vanilla WoW" videos popping up that were obviously very recent and not recorded during the actual Vanilla WoW period. What was even more surprising was that the world in all those videos seemed incredibly busy.

Eventually I found these videos by a YouTuber called "Dodgy Kebab" reviewing the two newly opened Vanilla servers Nostralius and Kronos. My sense of intrigue grew, and I also started to develop a certain respect for the people creating and maintaining these servers. Somewhat naively I guess, I had always thought that creating a private server was simply a matter of pulling all the information out of an old client or something like that, but clearly a lot of NPC behaviour and such has to manually be re-scripted to resemble what people were used to in original Vanilla WoW.

In the end I was just too intrigued... I had to give it a go myself. Kronos ended up being my server of choice since Dodgy had so much praise for it, and it was also the one I had seen advertised on Facebook.

Getting the whole thing up and running still felt a bit awkward, not least because it required a download from a dodgy-looking website that caused my internet security to ring some serious alarm bells. It didn't help that it was all in Czech so I didn't understand a word of what it said and that the "I don't want to sign up for your dodgy website" free download option took a full eight hours.

Nonetheless, I got there in the end. Once I had the actual files, getting it all set up was fairly quick and straightfoward. There I was again, at the Vanilla WoW login screen... Next time: What awaited me upon actually logging in!

04/05/2015

No Nostalgia for Blizzard

I've been thinking about WoW again lately. When you read as many MMO blogs and news sites as I do, it's hard not to stay at least vaguely up to date with what's going on in the World of Warcraft at any given time.

Back when Warlords of Draenor was announced, I thought that this might be the expansion that might get me back into WoW, at least for a little while. In practice I ended up checking out MoP for a couple of months last year but still haven't bought WoD to this day. And if I'm being honest, I don't think I will any time soon.

Everything I read about it just sounds thoroughly underwhelming to me. I'm not against log-in rewards, but the way Blizzard implemented them with garrisons just sounds horrible. (What could be more against the spirit of the original World of Warcraft than sitting in a small base all day?) Professions, which I used to love, have finally been relegated to the realm of complete pointlessness. And while I've heard that the quests are supposed to be quite good, a couple of decent quests are just not enough for me to want to invest the time and money (full box price + sub) in what I know is only going to be a secondary MMO for me at this point.

I can't even say that I care very much about the story anymore. I don't know if Blizzard's storytelling genuinely got worse over time or not, but fact of the matter is that it all broke down for me in Cataclysm. Up until then I had always known what was going on around me in terms of lore, because I read all the quest text and actually listened to NPC dialogue. But then they started confining world-changing events to their novels and comics and I just didn't know what was going on anymore. Important NPCs seemed to have full personality transplants from one patch to the next; it was thoroughly confusing. Sure, I could look up summaries of what supposedly happened on YouTube, but that's hardly the same.

Cataclysm also killed my ability to connect to WoW via nostalgia. I know that you can never go back and truly relive those early days, but I think that I would absolutely be willing to pay Blizzard to be able to take the occasional trip down memory lane in the old newbie zones, even today. Thanks to Cataclysm's old world revamp however, I can't even do that anymore. The new questing experience isn't bad, and it made it fun to level a couple of alts purely for the novelty value of seeing the new storylines, but that experience was fairly short-lived. Now I just miss the dusty canyons of Thousand Needles and the lush meadows of Southshore.

It's really kind of sad because for all the flak that Cataclysm got for things like dungeon difficulty and lack of endgame content at launch, I never thought that it was a bad expansion. I had some good times there: fighting some genuinely challenging bosses, mucking about on Darkmoon Island and doing rated PvP. But looking at it now, I think the destruction of the world I used to love (that Cataclysm sold as a feature no less) severed my ties to Blizzard more thoroughly than anything else.

Of course, this being the year 2015, there are ways to get your WoW nostalgia fix even if Blizzard doesn't want to provide it...

To be continued...?

25/10/2014

New Character Models

A friend pointed out to me that Blizzard was offering seven free days of playtime for lapsed players right now, and even though I hadn't received any kind of notification about it, the promotion was sitting in my Battle.net account as well. I wasn't willing to re-sub purely to check out the new character models, but for free? Sure, let me see how my "old friends" are faring in this brave new world of higher polygon counts.

First off, let me say that the new WoD loading screen instantly made me feel a pang of nostalgia, considering how similar it looks to the BC loading screen I grew up with (just with a different colour swirly in the middle.)

First I checked on my old main and her brethren, the female trolls. It seems to me that they look a little edgier and grumpier than before, but this feels fitting considering that they are, well... trolls. Overall they seem to have fared well in regards to the revamp.

Sadly my second favourite Horde race, the female tauren, have not been so lucky. Their new models are a pretty big departure from what they used to look like. In fact I would say that the dog-like noses they were given cause them to not even look like cows anymore. In a race based on minotaurs I consider that a pretty big failure. I physically started when I took my hunter's (on the left) helmet off and saw her new face. It's sad because this problem was very evident from the very first preview Blizzard gave of these models and people gave plenty of good feedback on how the worst issues could be fixed. Sadly Blizzard chose to ignore it.

I've seen some complaints about the updated models for the Forsaken, but personally I was pleasantly surprised by them. My own undead ladies at least looked pretty close to their original versions - just a little more badass than before maybe, but that's hardly a bad thing.

In all my years of playing WoW I never made an orc because I don't like their pug faces, but I did make a male troll once. His model, too, looks like a substantial upgrade that's very true to the original. I like how the tusks feel a lot more substantial now.

On Alliance side, I logged into the very first character I ever created, a human paladin, and miscellaneous other human ladies. They looked pretty good, though like the female trolls I feel that they look a little... edgier, older now. I suspect that this is a side effect of the more detailed textures, which took away that soft smoothness that many of the faces used to have. Their facial expressions also seem a bit odd, like someone spent a lot of time tugging at the mouths and eyebrows in an attempt to recreate the facial expressions of the original models, but the results look a bit unnatural. Still, overall I feel that this is a good update that I could get used to.

My old Alliance main and her brethren, the night elves, seem to have come out of this update pretty well too. My priest (on the left) felt like an extremely faithful update. My druid (on the right) looked a little off - and not just because I caught her mid-blink - but it seemed to me that her hair had lost its bounce and her mouth had shrunk. I reckon that's something that could be ameliorated with a visit to the barber shop though.

My Draenei ladies, probably my favourite Alliance race these days, were updated in such a subtle fashion that I hardly even noticed much of a change on most of them. That's not a complaint though.

The race that really seems to have got the short end of the stick on Alliance side are the female dwarves. This was somewhat surprising to me, as I thought that the previews for these looked pretty decent. They are not nearly as horribly off as the female tauren, but all the faces have extremely wide noses and heavily lidded eyes now, which definitely wasn't the case before, and it makes them look kind of old and tired. I went to the barber shop to check if there were any options that didn't have this problem, but they all had the same issue.

Speaking of the barber shop, I never noticed that they have all these wigs on male goblin heads - that made me smile.

I was going to say that I never played a gnome either, but then I remembered that I rolled one for a blogger project back in the day. I don't have much of a connection to her, but I don't recall her looking quite so deranged and murderous before. Those eyes...

I also have two token male characters on Alliance side. Wilson the human warlock seems to have survived the changes pretty well, though the eyebrows of this face make him look angrier than before.

Iyan the night elf warrior actually looks sleeker than before, less... malformed than male night elves used to look, which is a good thing. His new running animation looks really weird though.

I generally didn't check out the animations in great detail, though I noticed that all the running animations seemed to have gained a bit of a "cartoony bounce" that wasn't there before, or at least not to the same extent. I didn't seem too bad on most races though, with the male night elf being the noticeable exception.

I also noticed that characters change their facial expressions now when they run around and use abilities, which is neat but also a bit... weird. Like, when my night elf casts a healing spell here, she looks angry enough to want to bite someone's head off (watch those canines), which struck me as slightly over the top.

Overall I think Blizzard did a good job with these though, with more good results than bad. Still, it's a shame about the female tauren and dwarves. Knowing Blizzard, I think it's unlikely that they will go back at this point and make any more changes though, even if people post mega-threads on the forums begging them to do so.

16/08/2014

World of Warcraft Cinematic Reactions Over Time

Vanilla WoW



Cinematic message: This is Azeroth, a world full of varied locations and fantastic races who get into badass-looking fights with each other.

My Reaction: This looks amazing, can I be a shape-shifting elf lady too?

Burning Crusade



Cinematic message: Here are some new races you can play. Don't worry though, the old ones are still badass too. Watch a mage sheep a guy and a warlock incinerate murlocs. Hilarious! Also, something about entering the realm of a guy who says that we're not prepared for him.

My Reaction: I have no idea who that demon guy is, but still: looking great! Bring on those new races!

Wrath of the Lich King



Cinematic message: Watch this guy who looks like Sauron raise a skeletal dragon from the ice in a faraway frozen land. He also has a zombie army. The narration implies that he was once a good guy and that there's something like dramatic irony at work.

My Reaction: Well, I'm not sure what this has to do with me, but I guess someone's got to fight that zombie army.

Cataclysm



Cinematic message: Watch a giant, angry dragon wreck the world.

My Reaction: Oi, I was still using that! Quick, let's get him while he's still in Stormwind!

(I wish.)

Mists of Pandaria



Cinematic message: An orc and a human fight each other in a foreign jungle, which seems quite foolish considering that they are shipwrecked with nothing but the clothes on their body. A panda appears and kicks their butts in a humorous fashion.

My Reaction: So, are pandas the bad guys? And will this usher in a new age of peace between the Horde and Alliance as they unite to fight a common foe?

Warlords of Draenor



Cinematic message: Some orc in the past is about to do something very unwise by drinking green goo. But then things don't go as expected and the orcs beat up the big demon and the clearly evil guys.

My Reaction: Go orcs, I guess? Whose side are we on anyway?

The bottom line is, for an MMO trailer to inspire me, it has to make me feel like I want to be part of the pictured world. I can kind of understand why Blizzard moved away from the "look at random characters engage in cool fight scenes" style of the first two trailers, as it probably would have been hard to keep making them that way without things getting repetitive and boring after a while. But especially the trailers for the last two expansions have felt increasingly directionless to me. Why should I be invested in this as a player? This isn't advertising for a movie, where I'll be happy to watch someone else's story play out for two hours. I need to know what this expansion means for me.

Sure, some lore fans will go nuts over seeing Grom again, and seeing him refuse the demon blood and survive. But I reckon that for a lot of people, this is just going to be a bunch of orcs doing stuff that doesn't really relate to anything.