The lone cynic

There’s a ton of stuff I want to write about lately, but I find myself lacking the time to do it due to being busy either a) finishing up my PhD applications or b) procrastinating about finishing up my PhD applications by reading random stuff. Ok fine so maybe I just need to be better at time management or actually have some semblance of willpower.

One thing has struck me repeatedly though when reading through various WoW blogs recently. I hadn’t read them in a while, so there was a lot of catching up to do. And not surprisingly, the most talked about subject is of course the upcoming Cataclysm. I’ve read multiple posts lavishing praise on Blizzard for “being bold enough to radically alter a game this way” and they go on and on about how the new Azeroth is great and much better than how it used to be.

And I just picture myself standing in a room of excited people, going “Hello? Am I the only sane one here?”

First off, I am very excited about Cataclysm. Much more excited than I thought I’d be, so much so that I am actually very seriously contemplating resubbing to WoW (yeah yeah, together with the other 5 million ex-WoW players).

But come on, there is a reason why Azeroth was redesigned. THEY HAD TO DO IT. It is one giant bug-fix expansion. The expansion is not lore-driven; you can bet your mechanobikething that somewhere in Blizzard there was a meeting where some designers sat down and said “Ok we need to totally revamp the 1-60 content because it is totally broken and inconsistent with TBC and WoTLK, somebody come up with some plausible idea why Azeroth has to blow up and we’ll ask some guy in marketing to do the rest”.

They have said before that the reason why they couldn’t enable flying mounts, which were introduced in TBC and met with much joy and girlish squealing, to be used in the old world was simply that the old world was not designed that way and it would require a total revamp of the models and landscape. There were tons of weird stuff and hidden zones packed behind supposedly impassable mountains that would have been revealed to players. If you’ve ever coded any portion of a major project, you would probably have some inkling of the scope of change that would need to be done and the amount of error-testing, so it wasn’t something that they could just roll out after changing a few variables (like enableflying=true).

In addition to the flying, the entire questing design was 3 years out of date. There was a very jarring change whenever a character passed through the Dark Portal into Outlands at 58. You went from ridiculous quests that sent you all over the place for a completely useless reward (like plate legs with spirit) to quest hubs with 10+ quests at a go that sent you on a nice circuit around the zone, with lead-in quests to go to the next quest hub and useful reputations along the way. And the quest rewards suddenly became amazing even though they looked like a hobo suit. Dungeons in the old world had also become a complete joke due to all the changes to talents, so much so that most people could solo or duo them at level.

So basically, the expansion should rightly be thought of as “81-85 and an update for long-requested features”. The Shattering is not some omg awesome and original idea. It is a side effect of the necessity to completely redo the 1-60 experience (hence why Outland and Northrend is left untouched, even though it makes no sense story-wise). Since they had to do it, they might as well make some cosmetic changes here and there and market it as part of an expansion. It’s a great patch, and one I fully support and am quite excited about. Without it, I wouldn’t even be contemplating resubbing at all since the main attraction is to level a new bunch of characters on possibly a PvP server. But I don’t really see any risk or originality from Blizzard here, it’s like praising Nvidia for updating a bunch of 3 year old graphics drivers to conform to current standards. Actually I think even Blizzard tacitly agrees… which is why the Shattering is not exclusive to Cataclysm subscribers. It’s a bug fix for all players, not a feature of Cataclysm.

Are people so easily convinced by hype and marketing? Or am I just a grumpy curmudgeon who always sees the practical (i.e. real) motivations behind the spin? I guess people are just happy that their favourite game is changing (for the better) and there’s new stuff to see and explore.

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