Monday, 10 January 2011

WoW vs. Call of Duty

If you came here for a crazy video of an orc warrior throwing axes at a WWII soldier, I am deeply sorry. This is just one of my little reflections on the game(s), and on social interactions.


Have you noticed how it’s cool to play CoD but deeply stupid and sexual life-threatening to play WoW? I mean that’s what everyone seems to agree with. It seems strange. After all they are just two different kinds of games. If I were to make an argument for one of them being “better”, it would probably be WoW. I mean, it requires social skills, reflection, preparation, and (and that’s one of my favourite aspects) it has a fascinating universe. Creating the lore is a huge part of the design process. There’s little details everywhere, a huge world that has been created from beginning to end for this (these? we should include the original Warcrafts) game.


Wait… what if this was the problem?


See, everyone knows about, and can relate to, World War II, and wars in general. It’s easy, that’s why it is called a world war. In Call of Duty, you have real people fighting in real places, for real historic reasons (“real” is used lightly here, but you get the point). World of Warcraft is so much more difficult to understand: dragons, orcs, elves… There are some humans, but half of them turn into werewolves, and there are no vampires to fight them. The rest is fantasy creatures. I know almost everyone has seen Lord of the Rings, and most people enjoyed it, but that’s as far as it goes, and anything that did not look human was evil and in most cases severely retarded.


That’s it… People instinctively dislike what they don’t know. So yes, Call of Duty is and will remain more socially acceptable, because the game’s world makes sense to everyone. Is there anything we can do about it? I don’t think so. There is some hope though. If the World of Warcraft movie works (and by that I mean, worldwide success, not just the 12 million players)... Inject our favourite imaginary world into “mainstream” culture, and suddenly (if I’m right) people will understand why such a game could be appealing.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Pop Culture references in WoW

If you have quested in WoW for more than eight seconds, you know what I am talking about. There are little references to Internet (and mainstream) culture all over the place. From real life, Star Wars, Plants vs. Zombies or Guns and Roses, these “easter eggs” cannot go unnoticed.

Most of the time, it’s fun and drives the mind away from the repetitive grind that leveling can be. However, it raises a question: when is it too much? When does that become annoying? When does it start to affect the player’s immersion in the game? For the moment, I haven’t had too much of a problem with them, but I do find some of them too obvious (like Haris Pilton, pictured above).

I think it’s only funny if it’s a bit obscure. If everyone instantly get the reference (“olol Parris Hilton”) where is the fun? I prefer the ones like the quest “It goes to 11” in Icecrown: kill a few mobs for most people, little reminder of Spinal Tap for some others.
I’d be interested to know other people’s opinion on those references, especially (but not exclusively of course) of roleplayers: when do they limit your immersion in the game? How do you deal with them IC (if you do at all)?

Thursday, 6 January 2011

I met Deathwing today

(Warning: This post contains a few spoilers regarding quests in the Badlands.)

Well, not technically today… but I met him. As I wrote in my first post, I am leveling a worgen mage. My journey took me to the Badlands, where most of the questing revolves around helping the red dragons against the black dragonflight. The result is a “purified” black dragon egg. The big bad guy does not seem to notice you at all during the questing.

Until the very end…

In a short in-game cutscene, he surprises your red dragon friend, reminds her that he doesn’t like people getting in the way of his evil plans, and proceeds to toast her, not noticing you because of your incredible hiding skills (you are hiding behind some knee-high grass).

This event got me thinking about a few things, besides the fact that Deathwing needs glasses if he wants to be a danger to anything smaller than a mountain.

Blizzard seems to have changed attitude towards their big villain’s appearances in each expansion. Illidan was basically not here. You heard about him, he told you that you were not prepared, he was scary and all, but if you did not raid Black Temple, you never really met him in game. This was a problem, and Blizzard tried to fix it with Wrath of the Lich King. Arthas was everywhere. By the time you got to ICC, he was your best buddy. While it is nice to actually feel the presence of the main enemy throughout the game, this had an annoying side effect: he became much less scary. In most encounters (apart from the Halls of Reflection, where he actually meant to kill you), he would just threaten players, tell them to stop questing around, and then say something like “I should kill you right now, and I could, but I’m late for a BBQ with Putricide right now, see you in a few quests”.

Of course, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point: I want to be scared (well, as much as pixels can scare) by the all-powerful enemy I’m here to stop. In Cataclysm, so far (I haven’t played through the 80-85 zones, shame on me), Deathwing’s presence seems more subtle. He is felt everywhere, because he broke pretty much everything we see in Azeroth, but he rarely appears before the player. And when he does, he actually kills people, and the only reason my worgen is still alive is that he did not notice me in the first place.

This time, I have the impression that Blizzard found the right formula: Deathwing will remain as scary as he should be, and the whole player base will be able to interact with him in some way.

What do you think? I have not played through all the Cataclysm zones, so I’d be interested to know how the Aspect of Death is handled later in the leveling process. Do you prefer an “invisible” villain? Did you prefer the way Wrath presented Arthas?

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A lot of things happen in the Trade District

Stormwind - Trade District
It's not only about trade. Of course, that's one of the main activities, there's the bank, the auction house, merchants, etc. But it is far from the only one. There is life, movement, social exchanges, “prophets” announcing the end of the world, a flight master... The inn provides shelter (and a hearth point) to anyone. The Hero's Call board is there too, sending you all over Azeroth.
My point is: a lot of things happen in the Trade District. If something is in WoW, it is probably reflected there somewhere. This is what I want to do with this blog. Yes, trade/auctioneering is interesting, but there is so much more to this game. I do not want to have a too narrow focus. This blog will be about anything that is worth talking about in WoW, or about WoW. There will probably be a lot of posts about social interactions between players, and general reflections on the game, because these are my main interests, but I don't want to set any limits, because what makes us play is not one aspect of the game, but all of them together, and how they fit so well together to create one of the most enjoyable and fascinating world I know of: Azeroth.
I have been playing WoW on and off for a while now. I have pretty much started over from scratch with Cataclysm, and I am happily leveling my Worgen Mage in the new world.
I just have one thing to add for this little introduction: what makes a good old Trade District alive and colourful is its barkers and all the random people that stand on boxes and shout at the crowd. For that reason, I happily welcome guest posts and I hope I can create a community of commenters and posters that will help me keep the Trade District alive.