Thursday, December 19, 2013

WHYlords of Draenor

Wrathion was right.

Even though we agreed with Tong and nodded our heads collectively and shook a finger at Wrathion for doing things wrong and being so brash, he was still on the right track.
Great danger is coming to Azeroth and our fights are indeed distractions from the real problems that are soon to come.
Yes, they shape and temper us to become better, and no one would deny that Garrosh's actions needed to be dealt with in a timely fashion, but let's not forget our objectives.
And "WE MUST REBUILD THE FINAL TITAN. DO NOT FORGET" sounded kinda urgent and someone should be looking into that... right?...


Unexpected Lore Detour
That's why the Blizzcon reveal was a true surprise to me.
I felt like raising my hand and asking "Are you guys sure at all we should be going in that direction? Because you've kinda nailed home the facts that things like the Old Gods and the Burning Legion are baddies that we should be addressing ASAP. Like, right now."
We have a stable of enemies, a list of potential enemies, and a few handful of characters that could swing either way - all of them that could make several expansions already and could tie in with each other with a few waves of a writer's magic wand.
However, we're just going to let them sit in the wings for another expansion and leave many questions unanswered, yet again.

I was okay that we let them stew a while as we delved into Mists of Pandaria.
The MoP reveal was not a shocking surprise for me and I totally bought in and accepted that, indeed, we needed to take a trip away from all of our past concerns, and learn what we are fighting for.
However, I was expecting us to return from our vacation to jump back and deal with our issues with our new Pandaria-influenced attitudes and perspectives.
What I got was the impression that we were going to be dodging again our top priorities to go on an errand that is not necessary at all.

WoW is in a good place
I agree with everything else that isn't lore-related : the many quality-of-life changes are excellent (items, raids, stats, etc.), and I would also be ecstatic if they could deliver on that gear collection (at any point in the future, really - even mid-expansion) that Ghostcrawler hinted at in a podcast.
I'm happy with everything else - and I'm not about to go into all that in detail because everyone has been pretty vocal about how happy they are and you can include me in that lot - , though maybe not as raving about garrisons as some people have shown.
Maybe it's because I've played a bit of SWTOR and got a taste of that follower system.
It'll come down to the math of: is "Time Spent on Garrison" more or less than "Time Spent Farming Mats by Myself".
So really, I won't know if it's gonna be worth it until I can see the nitty-gritty of the whole system.

I also feel like the game overall seems to be in a good place.
The systems are cool and are still getting some tweaks, but everything in the game is solid and not crazily imbalanced or lacking of types of gameplay to spend our time on.
All they need to do is feed all the types of gameplay with fresh new challenging content and people will play.
The devs and CMs all seemed to be very happy with everything (as far as I could tell through the live stream, anyways) and always as passionate as ever.
I've always trusted Blizzard to make fun games that I like to play and I still do today.
The gameplay is engaging, the content is always fun, and I'm expecting everything to be at the same quality level as everything that I've seen and experienced throughout the Pandaria expansion.
And I trust them to do the same with Warlords as well.

For the Alliance?
However, I don't trust the part of them that takes care of the story.
Well, I can't go "all in 100%" trusting them, anyways.
Because there's been a disconnect that's happened during the Cataclysm expansion and hasn't been addressed, or even frigging acknowledged (as far as I know).
I speak of course of the inherent depression and frustration of playing as a member of the Alliance.
I don't mind if the people at Blizzard that take care of the story will favor the Horde - just as long as they repay the Alliance in kind.

Players have spoken back and forth about this issue for months and months and I don't want to spark that debate here. (I'll spark that in future posts.)
I just want to establish the fact that I, as an Alliance player, feel like there's still blood to be paid and we haven't been given the opportunity to spill it.
Furthermore, I want to point out that hints of the Alliance having moments to shine during the Pandaria expedition have been few and muted, and again, almost all in books.
Hints were dropped at the previous Blizzcon by the lore team and I was expecting to find those "Fuck yeah Alliance!" moments in-game.
There were TWO.
And no so-called "Trials of the High King".
And no elements of rallying the members as an Alliance throughout the expansion to bring them to the doors of Orgrimmar.
We just played through the raid and all the factions showed up.
And although that was pretty cool to see - all the Alliance leaders showing up for a concerted effort to take down some Horde - I would've liked to know how the heck they managed to all show up and work together.
There was Varian that went "Tyrande, calm down for a second. I think this might be a trap." and then the Alliance showing up in Orgrimmar going "Yep, we're all working together now!".

How? Why? When? Did I miss something?
And I know this statement isn't fair - but it really felt like we were told to shut up and enjoy the fact that the Alliance is invading Orgrimmar.
Meanwhile, I was wondering if that was going to be used as an excuse to make the Horde do something horrible to the Alliance in return.
Because that's the kind of relationship I'm now used to expect.

Blizzcon Jaw Drops
At this latest Blizzcon, Chris Metzen made a rousing speech to the Alliance.
And I loved it!
I was drinking every word, every second of it, thinking "THIS IS IT! We're going to totally fucking RULE this expansion!".
And then he said "Horde - you've been taking a beat down."

No, no they haven't.
They've been winning all the way, and when Garrosh pushed them in an uncomfortable place, they united under Vol'jin and put the beat down on Garrosh.
That's not taking flak for atrocities and abominations or getting attacked by the Alliance.
They just willingly let some Alliance in their hometown to help them get rid of Garrosh.
And the Alliance couldn't turn on them, because Big Bad Vol'jin told them in 5.3 that it wouldn't be wise to try to take advantage of the situation because his Horde would crush them.
Nope - the Horde still had the upper hand throughout the expansion, even while Garrosh was at it's helm.

And then the reveal and explanation of the expansion was all "Orcs, orcs, orcs, orcs, more orcs, savage, orcs, savage orcs, orcs, garrisons, savage."
Let's say my buzz was killed.

And they said in the lore Q&A that Turalyon and Alleria weren't going to be in that expansion.
Happy they have plans for them, which is an improvement.

I'm happy that the Draenei are gonna have something happening for them.
Especially because I play one and have been hoping for this to happen.
(Also, this article from Matthew Rossi has got me pumped up for the future of Draenei, the way that I would've hoped that Blizzcon would've made me feel.)

But my friends who don't play Draenei and are in the Alliance - what's there for them?
To quote my best friend "I like the quality-of-life changes, but there's no story for me to be interested in".

What did they say about the Alliance in their presentations?
They hinted at a lot of issues of Orcs with their ancestors, of Thrall and Garrosh having Daddy issues, and maybe some existential questioning for Vol'jin's Horde.

But besides those nitpicks, of course, as the feedback was coming in, we got Blizzard people letting us know that there are many things about the story that we don't know yet and we shouldn't judge the expansion entirely on the information they gave us.
And that's fine and dandy and logical to me, and I'm intrigued to discover what trip they have planned for us.

So if that's the case, then why did I write that cryptic post about not feeling anything about the announcement?

The question that has kept bothering me and nobody seemed to ask.
This is the question that hasn't been answered for me, and I want to repeat it until I get an answer.
Most players seem to be on board with this expansion - maybe someone can explain to me what they're seeing in all of this that gets them excited.

Why take this direction?
To come back to what I was saying earlier: why not address the unanswered questions we already had?
Why do we need to go back in time?
Why was it deemed necessary to take characters from the past and re-write them another arc, another destiny, another end?
Why not move the overall story of Azeroth forward with the elements that we currently have in our possession?

Why decide to continue working with the character of Garrosh Hellscream?
Why take that character and have him drive the whole content of the expansion?
A video they've released explained a bit of the thought process and what they've been aiming for, and they seem to have hit the nail on the head of many players.
Just not me.
Because I don't understand why we're doing all of this.

How will Warlords advance the story of Azeroth?
Not just "Well Garrosh is doing that right now because we said so, and you have to stop him".
But after stopping Garrosh and his shenanigans, how will we end up advancing the future of the game?
Will we be the same, with garrissons built, levels advanced, better gear, heroes gained and heroes lost, more potential enemies - and then nothing to help us deal with all the threats that are looming above our heads or hiding out of reach in the shadows?
Will that not even be adressed at all as we go into expansions that will cover the events of Warcraft 2 and 3?

Again - what is the point of all this?
No, I am not convinced that Warlords of Draenor is the expansion that I need nor the one that I've deserved.
The Beta floodgates will open and we'll see if more justifications will win me over.

Are you done moaning about things that don't matter?
What should be taken from all my verbiage is that I feel there's a disconnection here that I don't fully understand or know how to handle.
Yes I'm bringing up petty, nitpicky lore points and they can easily be brushed aside with a simple "lol lore" and I get that.
I think that what I'm experiencing is what some of the player base was feeling when Mists of Pandaria was revealed and they weren't sure of what was in store for them.
I was on board with that sales pitch because I knew of the Pandaren kit and what they've told us about the expansion content was convincing enough that I didn't have any worries.
This time, however, I'm on the other side of the fence.

The sales pitches, both from Metzen at the reveal and from Kosak at the lore panel, didn't win me over - and that's the truth of the matter and the core of this big wordy post.

I'm not sure this is a good idea, I'm not won over, and with the way they seem to portray the current situations of Horde and Alliance, I shouldn't be expecting them to address what's been bothering me about the game.

I just can't tell you that I'm excited about it or that I'm convinced I'm going to enjoy it.
Maybe it's time for bucket lists.
Both for Pandaria and the game.
I'm not sure anymore.

Conclusion: This feedback is not fair
It isn't fair for anyone.
It's not fair for the community managers and the Blizzard devs to be receiving negative feedback about things they didn't address and can't address until the actual expansion is released to the public.
But they work with the feedback we give them and there's been a huge positive feedback for the expansion.
I've just been temporarily stunned by the reveal not being what I was expecting it to be.
My concerns aren't huge and extremely problematic, but they're the things I care about in this game.
And they're also the reason why I feel a gap has been created between Blizzard and me and I don't want our relationship to be falling apart.
The big difference and very positive aspect of Blizzcon 2013 was that the devs showed they were prepared and ready, not only for Warlords of Draenor, but also for many expansions to come.
So my hopes of Blizzard acknowledging my concerns are up.
Just not for Warlords - that's where things are being a bit muggy.

Many podcasts I've listened to - even the ones that had critical concerns about a few aspects of the reveal - are still pretty jazzed about Warlords.
And hearing them be excited makes me want to be excited as they are - but I just can't, right now.
I guess I'll have to wait and see.