This past weekend, we were treated to some new models – including several beasts, ancients, pets, mounts, and some faction leaders – from the Warlords of Draenor alpha, courtesy of Datamining. One of these is a new Thrall model.
My first impression was that, in general, I liked him. Upon reflection, however, there are definitely aspects of this new model that irritate me, and cause me to have questions that will probably never be answered to my satisfaction.
Much has been made (correctly) of the male-centric-ness of this brutish new expansion that we’re awaiting. The announcement page at Battle.net has a header with seven male orc legends on it, and further down there is a “meet the big bad (or good) dudes” section, which features ten males: the seven orcs, plus Prophet Velen, Vindicator Maraad, and Khadgar. It’s like the ‘The Stone Age meets the Steroid Era in pro baseball’ expansion, with a couple of good guys thrown in. Oh, and there’s ONE (1) female Draenei paladin Champion that we don’t know much of anything about. Things are very male and barbaric and stuff, at any rate. Hopefully that imbalance will be alleviated somewhat once we get involved, but I’m not holding my breath.
Anyway, with that in mind, here’s a picture of Thrall’s new model (via MMO-Champion):
For comparison purposes, here’s a model from April 2011, from Blizzard’s 4.2 ‘Elemental Bonds’ preview:
This second model is the one we saw for a good portion of Cataclysm’s life cycle. He appears in basically this form in the Elemental Bonds questline, the Hour of Twilight dungeon, Dragon Soul, his wedding to Aggra, and at the Maelstrom, striving to hold the world together.
Finally, for the sake of further comparison, here is a picture of (the old) Thrall at the Argent Tournament (screenshot taken by Jocelyn at DK Diaries):
In between this time and the second shot above, Thrall went to Outland and met Aggra and began his growth/ascent into less-Warchief/more-uberShaman-ness, and ended up holding the world together at the Maelstrom while we found the pieces to the pillar in Deepholm, and so on. He emerged at the beginning of Cataclysm in his new shaman garb, with upright posture and some long braids. This is the Thrall the vast majority of us have known since he ceded his position to Garrosh and went on to address the bigger, more urgent problems that Deathwing caused.
At the time, the old model was fairly impressive, although artist renderings were more impressive than his in-game model, which was a very common Orc model with unique Thrall trappings. The Thrall of the past two expansions has been more reflective of his new position in society – a hero to all in the world (rather than just Orcs/Horde) regardless of faction, a shaman of great power, the substitute Earth Warder – as well as his visibility and importance in the game.
As for this new Thrall, I can only speculate.
I can tell you one thing: I miss the long hair/braids. This new shaved-head-with-top-knot look does nothing for me. In fact, if we look at the WoD Orc faction leaders that I mentioned in the beginning, three of the seven – Kilrogg Deadeye, Ner’zhul, and Grommash Hellscream – also have top knots. This leaves me to wonder if there is some explanation for this.
Does Thrall travel to the old Draenor and decide that he wants to look more brutal? He seems to have dropped some, but not all, of his shaman garb and slapped on some, but not all, of his plate armor. Perhaps he anticipates more hand-to-hand combat, and wants to be prepared… or, perhaps he thinks he looks more intimidating this way, with plate armor, a weirdly-hemmed cloak, and his top knot.
Honestly, if that’s the case, I would have left the hair the way it was before WoD, ditched the cloak, and definitely equipped the ol’ black pauldrons, because that would have looked way more badass than this does. But if he (or someone advising him) thinks this is both more impressive-looking and more statesmanlike, then so be it. I don’t personally know any old-world Orc leaders, so I’m not sure what impresses/intimidates them.
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@gloriaboboria wrote a post this weekend called Thrall – What Happened, Man? over at Corgi Island, lamenting Thrall’s descent into Human-ness. In it, she describes Thrall’s new WoD alpha model, and compares it, side-by-side, with the new Orc model and the regular human male model. (Her post is a great read, by the way – check it out!)
And she has this to say about it (with visual comparison below):
“The model is of a vaguely orc-like looking guy in a trenchcoat…robe…thing. The outfit is interesting, but now Thrall stands completely erect. Shoulders back, neck held high. The main thing that marks Thrall as an orc at this point is his green skin. He actually looks more like a human than an orc. If you don’t believe me, here’s a side-by-side image comparison of the new male orc model, Thrall’s new model, and Gilbert the improverished (. . .) human warrior.”
The picture illustrates how well Thrall stands apart from other Orcs, while looking more like a human (in the general male, He-Man-ish way that males tend to look in WoW anyway).
However, while @Gloriaboboria and others express dismay at the new model and its Human-ness – and while I see her/their point – I would argue two Things:
1a) The new model is structurally almost identical to the old model – the one we’ve seen for the past three years. His straight back, high neck, slender-er torso, etc., are evident all over Cataclysm in the places I mentioned in the beginning of this post, and in the picture from April 2011. It can also be seen in this rather recent video (WARNING: Siege of Orgrimmar spoilers…):
1b) As such, his “Human-ness” looks exaggerated in the new model because the old “new” model was already so human. Rather than having the Roid-lats and hulking shoulders that the common Orc model has, Thrall circa Cata and MoP has a very Human body as well. Add all that thick plate armor – sans shoulder plates – and that hulking appearance is lessened even more. Take a look at (Human) King Varian Wrynn, another faction leader and warrior (via WoWWiki):
This isn’t the best pic for this illustration, but I’m currently on break from paying for WoW, so I grabbed this one for convenience’s sake. It shows something that I’ve noticed about Varian for a while, which is that the combination of his belt and chestplate serve to somewhat smooth out the tapered-torso/huge lats/big shoulders (Varian’s huge shoulder plates notwithstanding) look that many of the male races sport in WoW. His torso also seems to stick out in the front a bit more than I think it should, but I’ve always chalked that up to the cartoony-ness of the game.
In a similar way, on top of Thrall’s established (Cata-forward) model, Blizz took away his hood, gave him a trench-cloak, slapped his plate back on him, and gave him (something of) a midlife-crisis hairstyle. Upon putting that armor on, Thrall’s silhouette evolves even closer to a cylindrical shape, and less orc-like. Here’s that new-model picture again; in particular, you can see what I mean in the image on the left:
(I personally think it makes him look short…)
(I also think his huge boots make him look like the Hero of Oakvale in the first Fable game… but I digress.)
So, I would argue that, other than refined textures and new armor/hair/cloak, Thrall’s basic model is actually the same as it has been for the past three years. Of the in-game models, I personally like the current in-game shaman look best.
* * *
I like Thrall. He’s a fairly polarizing character… and his wedding annoyed me because I was thinking “Why isn’t other, more interesting lore about Thrall in the game instead?” And also because it basically marked the beginning of the end of players interacting with Aggra, who I think could be written as a prominent, enduring, strong female character. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we will see that for a while, from what I’m reading…
But despite Thrall’s many critics (and critiques), I still enjoy learning about his life experiences and seeing what he will do next in the game. That holds true for Warlords, in spite of all of the likely social justice-related mis-steps in the expansion that are bound to stick out like awkward boners. I still like Thrall. But I think his WoD alpha model looks a little stupid, and that’s in part* because Blizzard’s artists didn’t flex his figure (OR his armor) to make his wearing of plate look more proportionally appropriate. (To me, humans and Thrall and others sometimes look like they’re wearing huge shields on their bodies instead of custom-fit chest armor.) In this instance, not doing so diminishes the silhouette and the general figure of Thrall as we go forward.
But who knows? Perhaps the design will change between now and Warlords. There’s always a chance…
*And in part because of his hair. Did I mention his hair?? :P
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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!
In my “free time” – which, in World of Warcraft, generally constitutes time spent “not advancing” my level 90 characters or professions in some shape or form – lately, I’ve been leveling a new hunter.
Now, there is no need for me to make a new hunter, at least for the sake of hunters per se. I already have three hunters on my realm, and two of them are max level. However, I do love the class, and so when the time came to work on a new project, it was a fairly easy choice for me.
Anyway, I’ve got this new hunter. And this hunter has a purpose. Due to this purpose, it’s extremely likely that he will never reach max level.
* * *
If I think about the history of my experience in WoW, with an eye toward my favorite parts of the leveling experience, something interesting happens.
Some people love(d) Vanilla WoW. And, the truth is, I did too; I didn’t start playing WoW until the month after TBC launched, but I did spend a ton of time leveling through the “Vanilla” parts of the game when I started playing – I didn’t have my first level 70 toon until just over a month before Wrath launched! And while there were frustrating and faulty aspects of that part of the game, I have a lot of good – fuzzy, but good – memories from that time.
However, that part of the game is gone. Forever.
It’s not 100% gone, of course: there are areas of the game that survived the revamp (the “kill 10 Young Stranglethorn Tigers -> Stranglethorn Tigers -> Elder Stranglethorn Tigers”-type questlines come to mind, for one), but they’re relatively few in number. As a whole, the Vanilla WoW experience no longer exists.
As such – and this is the interesting thing that I realized – the earliest “nostalgia-era” content that is still available in anything collectively resembling its original form is The Burning Crusade. And Wrath follows that, of course… and those two zones are the reasons that I made this new hunter.
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, as well as some of those from before, you may know that I’m at something of a crisis point as far as the game goes with me. A lot of times, what’s needed in these situations is a break from the everyday endgame experience (or lack thereof), and that’s what I’ve been looking for lately. Looking at the game, I realized recently that I had no characters that could play in Outland at-level – seven 90s, an 85, and two toons at or below 30. One of those lowbies is a hunter, and the other a shaman. I don’t enjoy the shaman as much as I had hoped, and the other hunter is reserved for a different project, should I ever return to it.
Anyway, I decided that, while I’m not a fan of leveling the revamped content on Azeroth, I wanted to take another toon into Outland and Northrend… and I didn’t feel like leveling a second DK (not that that isn’t fun, but my DK is the last toon I leveled, so I’d like to give DKs a bit of a rest for the moment). So, hunter it was.
But, why Outland?
When I look back at the past few years and think about the toons I’ve brought to max level, starting with Mushan and including a (now deleted) mage, warrior, replacement mage, second hunter, and DK, I realized that my favorite zones to revisit during the leveling process are Outland and Northrend. They were the continents/expansions that I played before I raided, which means “back when I sucked.” Back when I had no idea what was going on, or how to play. Back when the world was a complete wonder to me. When things were scary and new.
For some reason, nostalgia brings me back to those zones, to those expansions’ content. To a simpler time. That’s the number one reason. The revamped Vanilla content was okay for the first play-through, but there are certain aspects to the leveling process that make the experience uninteresting to me, including the lack of virtually any challenges along the way and the updating of the content to the current-as-of-Cataclysm time period.
* * *
I’ve set some parameters to encourage discovery, exploration, and learning… and also to ensure that I do not simply blow through to the higher levels like I usually do.
No heirlooms past level 58. I did use several heirlooms through level 57, because the goal here was absolutely to zip through large chunks of the pre-58 content at a time. Once I hit 58, I did away with them, replacing them with quest greens I had saved for exactly that purpose. I even equipped a level 15 (ilvl 22) cloak as I prepared for Outland, because that was the last one I had saved. Not that that mattered – everything has been nerfed, so the simple fact that I had something appropriate equipped in every slot ensured that questing would still be very easy.
I’m also not in a guild, for guild perk reasons (including the bonus XP perk).
Based on past (post-4.0) experience, a player can hit Hellfire, Terrokar, Nagrand, and SMV or Netherstorm, run a couple of dungeons along the way, and easily be 68 (and ready for Northrend) before completing any zones, and skipping the vast majority of the Outland content. My aim with this toon is to spend time in Outland, so skipping content is anathema in that scenario. Therefore, I went to Wowhead and looked up the required levels for quests in each zone. For instance, virtually all of the quests in Hellfire are available by the time players hit 61; thus, when I hit 61, I lock my XP. This means that, once I finish the zone, I can unlock my XP, move on to Zangarmarsh, and continue gaining XP until I get to 62 (when all quests in Zangar become available). Then, when I finish Zangar, I can start Terrokar with unlocked XP and re-lock it again at 64 for Nagrand. This preserves some semblance of “I’m playing at-level,” which is another goal that I have. I could do each zone and run each dungeon without locking XP, but I would quickly outgrow each zone well before I finish it if I did it that way. I’m likely going to spend more time in Outland with my XP locked than unlocked, but that’s ok.
By the way, I discovered the other day that locking XP also interrupts the accrual of “rest,” which, for these purposes, does not disappoint me. Knowing that I won’t be out-leveling a zone quite so fast makes for more fluid progression within the zone than 30 bars of rest would – to a point, of course.
Ground mounts only. Some people may think this is crazy, but I’m determined to play it very much like I did when I first took Anacrusa through it in 2007-08. And I couldn’t fly back then. Taxis (flight paths) are allowed, of course.
Additionally, while I do have a vendor mount, I will not use it with this toon.
There are quests in zones, once you get to a certain point/level, that send you to a dungeon that corresponds with the story; in Hellfire, it’s Hellfire Ramparts. In the interest of playing through the story, I will run the dungeons. However, I will only do this while XP-locked.
It’s fairly clear, at this point, that managing the throttling of XP-gain is a large part of this endeavor. Part of this is an experiment to see how it affects immersion; I’m of the opinion that while going back several times to Stormwind to (un)lock XP is a slight annoyance, it’s no more immersion-breaking than any other non-core activity in the game, such as doing my farms every day on max-level toons, or raiding the same instance every week.
* * *
It’s an imperfect science, obviously: there are several aspects of the game that are impossible to recreate. LFD didn’t exist back then, there were group quest elites, stats and specs and talents have been revamped, glyphs have been added, and things have been heavily nerfed. There’s no way to go back 100%, but that’s something I was fully aware of as I began the project.
The goal is to immerse myself in Outland. Revisit and enjoy the lore, and experience it as authentically as possible from a playstyle perspective. Revisit some memories of formative times in my WoW-childhood. There really isn’t a way to completely and accurately replicate that experience any more, but I can do things to mitigate the hyper-leveling paradigm that plagues** old content.
** “Plague” indicating a certain perspective; I know that there are many who are absolutely done with Outland in every way, but I also know that there are a lot of people who love TBC and love spending time there. So for my purposes, leveling quickly is the opposite of what I’m interested in. However, for others, it’s a necessity.
At any rate, along the way, I am taking a lot of screenshots, reading quest text, and completing each zone the best I can.
By the way, I’m leveling as Marksman on this hunter, which is what I leveled Mushan and Ghilleadh with back in the day. I don’t play Marks anymore on those toons, but it is absolutely killer for leveling. I approach the mob. I plant, and (unglyphed) Aim, and Shoot. 95% of the time, the mob either dies from a single shot or is critically injured (and is subsequently finished off with a Kill Shot). For elites or higher-level-than-me mobs, I do the “Aimed/Chimera” combo, and if it doesn’t kill them, it usually does serious damage. Even without heirlooms, the damage is punishing if it crits, and with Careful Aim, that happens quite often…
Playing this way makes me feel more like a ranger than just about anything else in the game. And that’s a fun aspect of this project, too.
* * *
As I mentioned above (and in a previous post), there’s no way to 100% accurately replicate the experience of playing WoW or a new expansion for the first time – once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. However, there are ways to revisit it. I’m a leave-my-poor-arms-at-the-emergency-room-afterward raider, but I also love leveling, and I love some of the old parts of the game. It’s fun and relaxing to lose myself in my new character, imagining him seeing this content for the first time and experiencing that wonder and awe with him. I’ve seen it before, but I also like seeing it again. And perhaps I’ll learn something new along the way.
Of course, this dovetails somewhat nicely with the idea that it’s nice to see Outland as it was a couple of years ago on the eve of Warlords of Draenor, since a great deal of that lore (along with that of the relevant books) will be somewhat pertinent to that expansion as well…
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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!
Friday evening, 11/15
I haven’t posted anything about Warlords of Draenor yet. The reasons for that are fodder for another post; suffice to know that I’ve been both very busy with work and otherwise distracted regarding the game.
I have, however, had a chance to check out the updates on MMO-C, as well as several blog posts and discussions on the changes, the new content, and so on. I haven’t been as active as usual around here lately, but I’ve also not been living under a rock, in that respect.
One of the recurring subjects of some of these posts has been women – or rather, a lack of women – in the presentation of the new expansion. The reveal video featured a female Frostwolf encountering a male Dreanei hunter, a tribal-dancing Orc female, and a female Draenei protagonist… and a bunch of brutish Orc males from Draenor-past. In giving us a whiff of what we will encounter – obviously, an orcstosterone-driven, warring society, where Orc-men waged war and everything else, including Orc-women, were of lesser importance (and worse: read Unbroken for a picture of the devastating shit that went on) – Blizzard introduced us to the warped and primitive Orcish society in WoD.
The “Story, Heroes, Villains” page at Battle.net shows us seven male Orc leaders from old Draenor, as well as Vindicator Maraad and Prophet Velen – both powerful male Draenei – and Khadgar, the Human male wizard. We also find out that Thrall will be going to Draenor, but Aggra, his wife will not. And so on.
There’s a lot about this expansion’s story – which will be told throughout the expansion – that we don’t know. But what was presented to us was that we’ll be fighting quite a bit against a literal horde of male Orc entities.
The lack of strong women portrayed in the general introduction to WoD has sparked the aforementioned discussion about women in the new expansion. I’ve read a small handful of posts over the past week that discuss it to some degree or another, and I’ll point out a few of those posts now:
- First Impressions – Alternative Chat, November 9th
- First Thoughts on Warlords of Draenor – Harpy’s Nest, November 10th
- Lords of Draenor: Where are the girls at? – Restokin, November 14th
And I know I’ve read others that I am failing to remember at this point – please forgive me if I didn’t include yours! I haven’t really been on Twitter or listened to any podcasts in a while, but I’m sure that there have been many interesting discussions in those formats as well.
At any rate, I read the above posts over the past week. I found them to be interesting, and their points logical. Reading them again tonight, I didn’t find any of them to be ranty or ravey. Lissanna’s article – the only one I’ve linked above that is a complete post on the subject – does a great job describing several points of concern about the lack of women in the presentation. Lissanna has never, in my memory, written a post that is less than extremely well-written, or failed to make her points in a compelling manner, and this post is no different…
…which is why I was struck by a succession of reactions – surprise, disbelief, revulsion, and so on – this morning, when I read this over breakfast: Massive Offensive Rant: The Story Belongs to Blizzard by Big Bear Butt. I was so strongly moved that I desperately wanted to stay home to write a response. I had to go to work, so that didn’t happen. But the topic stuck with me all day, and the more I thought about it, I was glad that I had been forced to think about it for a shift before writing this.
In his post, BBB comes flaming out of the gate with the following:
I’m seeing a lot of bitching, pissing and moaning among the community of active players about the story and characters revealed at BlizzCon.
Hmm.. Let’s see what happens. Well, he repeats the “bitching, pissing and moaning” part again – his quotes, by the way. OK, so that’s been hammered home. We now know that something has struck him as pretty offensive. If I hadn’t already had a bad feeling about where this could be going because of the feminist nature of some of the discussion I’d seen lately, I might have been thinking that this could be good. But instead, I was thinking “uh oh…” – and “uh oh…” is what I got.
“Oh no, I don’t see any strong female leads to base my existence off of and to inspire my daughter to be a whole person!”
“Oh my, all the characters in the story are male, it’s a big boys club, I feel so excluded!”
“Oh, there’s a token female Draenei they mentioned, but she’s described as being like Joan of Arc, and nobody knows what that really means so I’ll make tons of assumptions about Blizzard, the other players, the story, the characters who will be in it and everything ever based on my worldview and prejudices.”
“And then I’ll go rant about it and tell Blizzard how they’re doing it wrong, and need to change things to be more like what I want.”
So at this point, we know exactly what this is about.
His major issue, as he tells it, is that Blizzard are the creators, and we are the consumers, and if we don’t like what Blizzard is feeding us, we can fuck off.
However, there are telltale statements in his post that indicate other motives. The fact that he chooses to “bitch, piss and moan” specifically about the feedback from community members regarding the apparent lack of strong females in the story, and to characterize them so – as opposed to, say, people who complain about no flying until 6.1, the timey-wimey concerns, ‘do I have to do Garrisons?’, how PvP has been broken, no new class or race, etc. – tells me that his real concern is that he is tired of hearing people complain about the issue. And by people, I mean women.
And you know what? I’m tired of hearing about the issue, too… but that’s because I’m tired of it being as much of an issue as it is. Look around, read up, listen to some podcasts on the subject, and you can find all kinds of problems with the presentation of women in the game: past, present and future. It’s a troubling subject. It’s a subject so very worth all of the discussion that it has gotten lately – and more – that I’m surprised that Blizzard doesn’t seem to have processed the message very well, yet.
So I do get tired of reading or hearing something Apple Cider Mage or Erinys or Anne Stickney or Tzufit or someone else brings up from time to time… but when that happens, it’s not because they brought up the subject, or because they brought the subject up, but because they bring to light /SMH examples of what-the-fuck in the game. Because it’s 2013, and a very important part of the community (and that includes males and females, of course) is continually disappointed with how the game depicts women in various situations.
And hey, I’m as male as a male can be, but that doesn’t mean that I have to vomit out some angry, offensive piece in order to get my point across.
What I find somewhat hilarious about this post is that while he spends it “bitching, pissing and moaning” about people who are “bitching, pissing and moaning” about feminist topics relative to the expansion – somewhat ironic in itself, as the sensational nature of his outburst makes his post hard to read and weakens his point – I can’t say that anything I’ve read on the subject by any of these other bloggers even approaches B,P&M. They’re not even in the same time zone as B,P&M. But the posts I’ve seen, which I found to be thought provoking, he finds “sickening.” He says that “people I normally respect and admire . . . (are) ranting and raving about it in public.”
It seems like there is a disconnect there. The most ranting/raving blog post I’ve read since Blizzcon was his post. Maybe I’m missing something in those other community members’ text, but I don’t think so.
Many of us are critics of the game. I’ve criticized aspects of the game in the past. And so has almost every every blogger that I’ve ever followed, to some degree – even BBB himself. So the idea that criticizing and presenting feedback to the devs is wrong falls flat. We’re all intelligent people, and we all have points to make and things to say, and constructive criticism is a part of that. And the vast majority of the discussion that I’ve seen on the feminism topic has been constructive indeed – far from ranty and ravey, in fact.
And – to top it all off – the devs want this type of feedback! They’re always interested in hearing constructive criticism, presented fairly and respectfully:
Any editorials you liked covering #Warlords features that were critical/negative? Trying to dig through all the pure fact-based reports.—
Zarhym (@CM_Zarhym) November 15, 2013
So, I don’t know. I was taken aback by BBB’s post. I didn’t expect it from him, first of all, and, as I thought about it throughout the day, I became more concerned about the mixed messages that the post conveys, that it’s ok to rant and rave about people who present critical feedback to the devs of World of Warcraft – and to dismiss an entire set of perspectives themselves as “rants” and “raves” – because that problem seems intended to be trumped in his post by the over-arching premise that you don’t demand This or That from the creators, which is a fallacy in multiple ways in this case.
It’s really unfortunate that his “respect the purity of the creator’s intent” argument was so particularly-targeted, belittling, and disrespectful. I hate seeing people I respect and admire thrown in the mud, and I also hate seeing it done, with so little maturity, by someone that I have long respected and admired.
Thanks for reading this post.
On Monday, I got my first ever hit via Reddit.
That’s what I said to myself when I saw that. As far as I know, I have never been linked on Reddit before. Since I was curious, I followed the link back, and it was to a thread by someone who is new to the game and chose to roll a hunter.
The link to Mushan, Etc. was put there by my friend Cheap Boss Attack, who referred to my blog as “a nice hunter blog.” To which I say, thanks! and /salute! @ Cheap Boss Attack. :)
But at the same time, I was troubled, for two reasons…
1) While this may be a decent blog – and perhaps even fun to read from time to time – I don’t know that I have much specifically helpful hunter content to offer a new hunter here; and
2) There is no longer quite as long of a list of places to send a new player/hunter for advice.
Nonetheless, in case other brand new players come to my blog looking for guides or whatever, there are a few places that I can, in turn, recommend.
Resources for new hunters/players (Not a complete list by any stretch!)
WoW Insider is a wonderful site. It’s extremely active, with many new posts a day concerning most aspects of the game. There are weekly class columns for most of the classes, including hunters. WoW Insider is also a great source for up-to-date news, lore, commentary on the design of the game, daily Breakfast Topics to promote reader discussion, raiding and PvP columns, a weekly podcast, and much more. It’s a site with something (or many things!) for virtually everyone, and has a very large base of active commenters. Additionally, there is information in the form of new-player “getting started” guides there for new players (of any stripe), which can be very helpful for someone just beginning to explore this huge game.
Scattered Shots – specifically – is the hunter class column. It has been written by different people over the years, and went through a long hiatus during the spring and summer between columnists. However, it is currently active and is being written by Adam Koebel, who seems to be doing a great job. The previous columnist, Brian Wood, wrote Scattered Shots for several years until this spring, and although the game tends to change from patch to patch and expansion to expansion, the pre-Adam posts are definitely worth the read if you’re looking to get a feel for the history and culture of the class and the hunter community.
If you’re looking for a site that is chock full of information on gear/items, quests, NPCs, professions, loot tables, and more information than I am willing to categorize in this post, WoWhead is your place. It’s a massive database/news site/blog that has a just a ton of info on just about anything you could need to find. Definitely a place to bookmark and visit often.
For good basic guides on how to raid with your class once you hit the max level – as well as dungeon/raid boss guides, news, forums, reputation guides, lengthy quest lines, etc., Icy-Veins is a great resource for any class.
Darkbrew (The Brew Hall) not only blogs about hunters, but he’s a co-founder of the Hunting Party Podcast, which is the podcast for World of Warcraft Hunters. He posts each episode on his site, and you can also find podcast information at OutDPS!, which Darkbrew recently took over when the podcast’s co-founder, Euripides (founder of OutDPS!), retired. The Hunting Party Podcast is both entertaining and informative, and listening to back episodes can provide a further look into the history of the hunter community, and of the game itself.
For all the latest news, datamining, first looks at new gear/quests/mounts and pets/blue posts and changes, etc, MMO-Champion is a great site. Not only do they have frequent posts (and updates to those posts) with info on the game as it changes, but there are also forums with helpful guides to many aspects of the game. Additionally, in the past couple of years they’ve put together a great site in WoWdb, which is, among other things, a comprehensive item database with some excellent search-filtering features. Another great resource.
Have a question about hunter pets? Wondering what special abilities certain pets have, which pets are best in certain situations, or which pets bring which buffs to your group? Want to know which food you can give your pet without him spitting it back at you? Petopia is your one-stop shop for pet info!
Fishing can be both an enjoyable and profitable activity. If it interests you, or if you need to find certain fish, or have any other questions about anything fishing-related in WoW, El’s Anglin’ is the top resource. He cover’s fishing, cooking, achievements, and related topics on his site.
WoWpedia is the wiki source I use whenever there’s something I want to know about the game that I feel they might cover better than most. There’s information on almost everything – I tend to use it most for lore and history, but over the years I’ve gone there for information on just about anything you can think of.
Looking to optimize your gear and character for end-game raiding, dungeons, or PvP? Mr. Robot can help you gem, enchant, and reforge your gear, as well as find upgrades, and also has an in-game addon for all of that. There’s a lot to explore on Ask Mr. Robot – I use it all the time. Check it out!
As I noted above, this is nowhere near a comprehensive list of resources. There are also some important links to resources that I didn’t include on this list at the right side of my blog, so feel free to check them out. Additionally, check out resources you can find on other peoples’ blogrolls, and links to great sources of info in articles on the sites I mentioned. There’s a lot of info – and fun stuff to read – out there, and I don’t even know about all of it!
World of Warcraft is a big game – and by that, I’m not referring to how many copies it sells or subscribers it has. What I do mean is this: we’re four full expansions past the game’s release, and looking at possibly a fifth during the next year, which is also the 10th anniversary of the game’s release. That’s a lot of lore and history and community and commentary to discover: you could theoretically lose yourself for hours on some of the sites I mentioned above, and for days on others!
I hope that someone finds this post helpful. I’m not a guide-writer or a theory-crafter, and I’m not even a nine-year “been here since WoW-beta” veteran. But I’ve been around a while, and have found all of these tools useful. Hopefully, sharing them with you can open your eyes to new things as well.
Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged!
I’m just sort of winging it here…
The past couple of days, I’ve been thinking a bit about the next expansion and how I want to approach the opening week(s) of play.
With the past two expansion releases, I made increasingly concerted efforts to get to 90 quickly. In Cataclysm, my druid went first, leveling as a tank, and my hunter came second, leveling as… well, as a killing machine!
(/queue a Joe Swanson “YEEAAAHHHH!!! LOCK N LOOOAAD!!!”).
The druid took longer, obviously – I finished on Friday after playing almost non-stop other than sleep and meals since the Tuesday morning of that launch. The hunter wasn’t speed-leveled, but it took less play-time regardless. In MoP, I reversed course, leveling my hunter in about 30 hours and finishing on the Thursday, after starting at about 6pm on the Tuesday of that launch. The druid and warrior soon followed, but the speed-leveling was done at that point.
The reason I leveled the druid so fast in Cataclysm was because I wanted to devour the content. In retrospect, I should have done that on the hunter, but I wasn’t thinking about it that way at that point. In MoP, however, the reason that I speed-leveled the hunter was because I wanted to be ready for raiding as soon as it was available. I was chomping at the bit to start raiding, without a doubt.
So, how did that go?
Well, it had its positives and negatives.
I had fun leveling on Mushan, because it’s the toon I would have the most fun doing most things with anyway, but I also blew through content that I could have enjoyed more, particularly given the speed at which we actually started raiding. (For those not in the know, it took us more than six weeks to get into Mogu’shan Vaults.)
In light of those general facts, I’m contemplating different leveling strategies for BC2*. More on those later in the post.
In addition to the 90-95 or 90-100 grind that is forthcoming, I’ve also been thinking about the leveling game as a whole recently.
Right now, I have seven 90s. Of those, one raids, two can do LFR whenever I want, and the others are currently in various states of “profession mule”/”play when I feel like”-ness. In addition to these, I have my 85 scribe druid – and I am loathe to level her right now (although I probably will sometime before the next xpac, because I do like having a scribe) – and low-level (25-30) hunter and shaman.
I usually enjoy leveling, and had some good fun leveling my death knight during this expansion. But I can’t get into leveling either of my lowbie toons right now.
This is a somewhat sad thing for me, because I remember a time just five years ago when the game seemed much bigger. There was so much that I didn’t know about it: I was leveling my druid, and having so much fun. The quests were awesome (if painful at times), there was no way to fly around and air-drop into quest spots, there were a ton of materials and items that I had to figure out what to do with. As this was my first MMO, and one of my first RPGs, there was a lot to learn about crafting and questing and the like. I made my way through this completely huge world in constant awe of everything before my eyes, which is something that I miss – indeed, it’s even something that’s easy to forget when you become a jaded veteran, which is what I sort of consider myself.
These were the days before I was a raider. The days when I was scared shitless just thinking about PvP. When I got stuck on some quests in Dragonblight and got so frustrated with questing that I grinded Crystalized Water at The Mirror of Dawn (to sell on the AH) for two-thirds of a level so that I could just skip to Grizzly Hills… which took me for-EVER…
Yes, you read that right.
There is something terrifying and wondrous about being a complete noob and learning new things through the sheer experience of encountering them in the game. It causes you to work through problems in your own way, even if your solution seems completely asinine to others or upon reflection – like what I did back then in Dragonblight. It causes you to tread with care, to learn by trial and error what you can handle and what you can’t. It causes you to make mistakes – like using a rare crafting mat to make something that maybe you don’t need, or wearing something from the wrong armor class because you thought it might help, or spending your gold on something dumb and then not having enough to buy your first mount – and to learn to both live with the consequences of that choice and to get by in spite of it. This all comes in addition to the constant joy of new discovery through exploration and interaction.
In some ways, those experiences are both irreplaceable and unrepeatable. You can look back nostalgically, and revisit, and even still learn new things, but the first wave of eye-opening is a powerful thing.
There’s one time you can do this again (without rolling a toon on the opposite faction, which is still an incompletely new experience), and it comes every couple of years or so: when a new expansion drops. And even then, it can’t be a completely new experience, because there are elements of the game that are the same as they’ve been since the beginning, and you’ve already experienced them to some degree or another.
Regarding what I said toward the top of the post, I’m thinking about these things as I imagine Week 1 of BC2*.
*BC2, for those who haven’t read me lately, is my attempt at a semi-humorous working title/reference for the next expansion, which may, or may not, be about the Burning Legion. Your mileage may vary… and we’ll find out in about a month what’s really going to happen!
There’s not much that we know about it at this point. There’s speculation, based on the tooltip for the heirloom weapons in Siege of Orgrimmar, that the next expansion will feature a level cap of 100. Presumably, this will mean that individual levels will be achievable more quickly, since the last thing many people want is an even more brutal leveling experience..
Beyond that – and that there will be many changes to how we play the game – not much has been confirmed. But it’s pretty much certain that there will be new zones to explore, new characters to meet, and so on.
My current m.o. is that I prepare and conquer, but I’m not so sure that that’s the way to go in “6.0.Whatever.” Based on my experience at the beginning of MoP, there probably wasn’t much value for me in getting to level 90, and getting geared to the teeth, as fast as possible. I sat and waited – impatiently, I’ll admit – for six weeks before we started raiding. And it took a long time for the raid team to come together even after that.
Oh, there was definitely value in being as geared as possible when we made our first foray into raiding. That extra preparedness on my part certainly didn’t hurt our efforts to kill the first boss or two in MsV. Being 90 in less than a week meant reaching the Valor cap the first week, being able to do LFR on schedule, getting the long rep grinds underway, getting the legendary grind started, and so on. But was it more fun than the alternative?
At the time, I spent a sizable portion of my time stewing over the fact that people weren’t leveling as fast as I thought they should. Several people had talked enthusiastically about raiding, but then disappeared, or whatever, and while there were several of us that were getting there, ready to go, there were others that took longer than I liked or even fell off the map. And the key here – given that switching guilds isn’t really an option that I’m interested in, since I’m playing with my friends (Period.) – is that I spent time resenting people when I could have been enjoying myself and my game-time more.
So the value was there, but I think I went about it the wrong way. Perhaps the uber-intense Mushan isn’t the best Mushan for Mushan’s guild.
We’re a casual guild – like, hard core. And I think that I’d like to embrace the opportunity that that can afford by enjoying my leveling time and experience in the next expansion. I’d like to complete more zones, get into the story a little more, and not worry about being the first to everything, the most heavily armored, one of the best-geared peeps on the server right away; that sort of thing.
I think that taking a different approach to this next expansion can help heal some of the malaise that I’m feeling about the leveling game right now. If I’m going to raid with good players / friends in a casual guild – in due time – perhaps I would have more fun if I allowed myself to enjoy the process of getting to that point.
I know this is all sort of general and abstract, but hopefully it makes sense.
This morning, I talked with a Pandaren NPC. Of course, at the end of the encounter, he left me with “Slow down. Life is to be savored!” I thought to myself that, given what I am contemplating for the next xpac, there’s a certain irony that I’m thinking of “slowing down and savoring” my experience a bit more, but an expansion late.
Ah well, better late than…
P.S. I’m going to suggest that the new expansion could be called “World of Warcraft: 100″… not that it should be, of course! But “100″ and level 100 both go with the 10th anniversary kind of well, do they not? :)
Thanks for reading this post by Mushan by Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!
The Vale of Eternal Blossoms represents different things to different people.
In fact, it represents different things to the same people, too.
At level 87, leveling players do a short questline at the Temple of the White Tiger which leads to their participation in the opening of the Vale by Xuen and the other celestials. Once this veritable paradise is opened, visitors, heroes, and refugees alike are treated to wonders both natural and constructed: majestic waterfalls and sparkling water, brilliant autumnal colors, colossal statues, magnificent buildings, and a beautiful soundtrack. The opening of the Vale represents opportunity, hope for a new and better existence, for all who enter (including players).
To many players, the Vale also represents the brutal Golden Lotus reputation grind. Players spent weeks, doing more than a dozen quests per day for a pittance of reputation per quest. (I know that it was mid-November before I myself reached Exalted.) The Golden Lotus became the poster boy for the complaints about dailies leading to burnout due to the gating of gear behind reputation requirements. I remember finishing my Golden Lotus grind, getting my necklace, and swearing off that faction for a while. And mine was one of the kinder reactions: many players finished and never looked back.
This is unfortunate, because Blizzard’s basic design for the Vale as a questing and dailies zone was extremely well-crafted. We got to know the Golden Lotus pretty well, and their story was vital to the telling of the story of Pandaria itself. It’s a place and faction rich in lore, and tied in with raids in both tiers so far (and will, of course, with the 5.4 raid as well). Blizzard crafted more than 80 quests that made it into the game in the form of dailies, which is really just phenomenal, and the Golden Lotus questline as a whole was very interesting if one both a) cares and b) can look beyond the brain-numbness that the daily grind brought to so many of us.
In truth, while the rep gear gating and the resultant grind were a bit of an overreach, it was an honest attempt on the part of Blizzard to ensure that players had plenty to do when the leveling process was over. And the result was a fantastic zone and faction that were, unfortunately, tarnished by the amount of repetitive slog that players felt forced to put into them for the sake of gear.
The Vale and the Golden Lotus at the end of 5.3
As our time with Mists of Pandaria pre-5.4 drew to a close, I had in the back of my mind that I wanted to take a bunch of screenshots for posterity and memory, since we know that Garrosh is going to do something today…
(We players are a prescient and privileged bunch, aren’t we!)
…and then on Sunday, Matthew Rossi of WoW Insider tweeted this:
I have decided I'm going to do all the Golden Lotus dailies today as a send off.—
Not a Gorgonopsid (@MatthewWRossi) September 08, 2013
…and I thought that was an excellent idea. So I, Mushan, went back out into the Vale and dutifully did every Golden Lotus daily available that day. It was fun and fairly easy, and as I quested, I visited with old friends in the GL, thought about how I felt about the places I visited, and recalled some of my memories of times of yore (such as when killing Thundermaws was a perilous undertaking early on…).
That was a great experience, and I’m completely glad that I did it. But in doing so, I almost forgot to take screenshots.
I would have regretted that error, so on Monday night, I decided to buckle down and take some screenshots, which was an adventure of its own. I took 58 pictures, and then I remembered that, while I have a decent computer, I typically run with custom settings for better performance during raids, since I’m not running a top-of-the-line rig. So I stuck all of those shots in a folder, moved my settings to high/ultra, and took another trip around the Vale to the tune of 64 more screenshots. They turned out beautifully, and I’d like to share a couple dozen of them with you.
Without further ado, here we go. (Click pictures to enlarge.)
The Summer Fields/Mogu’shan Palace
The Golden Pogoda/The Emperor’s Approach
Mistfall Village/Whitepetal Lake
Ruins of Gou-Lai/Setting Sun Garrison
Thankfully, from what I understand, Setting Sun Garrison will be untouched by the coming destruction. Because, you know, they don’t drink water there, and stuff.
And finally, a bonus…
When the coming destruction was first announced, I watched the video and looked at the pictures, but that was months ago. I know what some of it looks like, but I will be seeing it again with new eyes when I log in later today. I’m looking forward to it… but I’m not looking forward to the awfulness, if you know what I mean.
The changes to the the Vale are devastating and probably irrevocable. They are also not phased, so every player will see the same thing, even those opening the Vale for the first time post-5.4. The Vale may heal at some point, but it will never be quite the same. I wanted to document how the Vale used to be for posterity, so that I can tell the young night elves about it when I am an old one.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and my amateur photography. This is a sad day, but we press on. Garrosh will fall!
Saya from Heals n Heels posted a haiku yesterday that is fitting for how many of us feel about what has happened and what is to come. Check it out here.
Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!
As 5.4 – reportedly the final raid patch of Mists of Pandaria – draws near, along with Blizzcon 2013, speculation is ramping up as to the exact setting and nature of the next WoW expansion. We’ve seen announcements and hoaxes and so on… I won’t go into those here.
However, I do wonder about how the story in the next expansion will affect our gaming experience, with respect to the intensity of conflict between the Horde and Alliance. As I see it, there are several possible factors that will determine this – beyond, of course, how much priority the game’s creators give to the conflict itself.
Here of a few of them, and, while they’re all related of course, to my way of thinking, these fit into two subsets of the equation.
A) The Antagonist and The Setting
1. Who is the big baddie, and what is the nature of the threat that he or she presents to the entirety of Azeroth?
2. Where will this entity come from / where will we be questing and fighting it?
Let’s expand a bit upon these questions.
1. Who is the big baddie?
I don’t know about you all, but to me, Garrosh Hellscream, the Thunder King, and the Shas don’t seem… quite as much the dire threats that recent end-bosses have been.
We’re coming off the threat, and subsequent destruction, of Deathwing. As in Deathwing the Destroyer. Consider that during the Madness of Deathwing fight, Deathwing periodically attempts to invoke a second cataclysm. The spell tooltip states that he is “trying to finish the job he started” – during the boss fight! It doesn’t get more dire than that, in my opinion.
Previous to this, we fought through a fairly long mess of Arthas’ minions en route to the Frozen Throne, where we fought the Lich King himself. Arthas, who murdered his own father and destroyed his kingdom and birthright, along with the lives of untold numbers from virtually every race and civilization on the known planet. Who made his presence felt all over Azeroth – even before players stepped onto one of the boats to Northrend – and constantly threatened and taunted us thereafter, until we came face to face with him.
While we did fight the Lich King in the coldness of his throne room, as opposed “out in the world” with Deathwing, it was still the climax of a story that went carried us throughout the expansion. One of the overarching themes of Wrath was that fighting the Lich King was a do-or-die task: if we did not defeat him once and for ever, he would eventually overwhelm the entirety of Azeroth with his might and that of his ever-growing Scourge army, and we would join him in our own unwilling undeath. And Icecrown, with its constant threats, the undead and insectoid trash, the ever-presence of his voice, all had a creepy effect on the raid instance, giving it a vast yet claustrophobic feel that enhanced one’s dread. The Lich King was an amazing antagonist for an expansion.
In contrast, the mogu and the sha – while obviously fascinating from the Titan connection and the burying of emotions manifested in as corporeal malevolent power – seem to really only be an imminent threat to the serenity and normalcy of Pandaria and those who live or go there. Sure, we’ll be descending on Orgrimmar shortly, and Garrosh is intent on using heretofore unseen power to expand the strength of his New Horde, but it still seems to me to be isolated in a way that we didn’t see in the past two expansions or so. Ok, so it’s Pandaria and Orgrimmar. And Theramore, before the expansion came out. Certainly not insignificant, but we’re already looking beyond this raid, and it’s not even out yet. And we’ve been looking for a while now.
In summary: while the Lich King and Deathwing were omnipresent threats to the whole of the peoples of Azeroth for the entirety of their respective expansions, Garrosh still seems like something of a noob, comparatively. And while his transformation has been swift and terrible, as apparently are his dreams of destruction, the situation seems less like a world-wide threat like those others, or like the Burning Legion.
2. Where does this entity come from, and where will we be playing?
This is a huge unknown. While the speculation recently has been about Azshara and N’zoth, and about the return of the Burning Legion, we really don’t know who and where we’ll be fighting. Will it be Azeroth, phased? Will it be a new place, like an underground/underwater expansion (please, dear Lord, no…)? Will it be a phased Azeroth and a phased Outland? Will there be some other dimension that we go to, or some island off the coast of whatever that has only ever previously been hinted at?
In BC, Wrath, and Cata, we had a host of neutral factions that chose to put themselves apart from / above the Alliance and Horde for the good of the world. In MoP, we have several as well, but we seem to have more Alliance or Horde factions than we’ve seen recently. The Kirin Tor Offensive vs. the ousted Sunreavers. Dominance Offensive vs. Operation: Shieldwall. Jinyu vs. Hozen. Tushui Pandaren vs Huojin Pandaren. And while we’ve had conflicting Horde-based and Alliance-based factions before, it has long seemed that we were generally fighting for a common cause, regardless of affiliation: the Argent Crusade/Ebon Blade/Ashen Verdict. The Avengers of Hyjal, and so on.
Based on Wrathion’s forboding conversations during parts of the Legendary questline, it’s easy to presume that there is an imminent, dire threat to the world. When he beheld an image of the world, and spoke of an unimaginable power threatening Azeroth, it was easy to let our thoughts go to their speculative space. “Hmm, does he mean Sargeras? Old gods? Bolvar Fordragon going insane? Azshara? Something we’ve never heard of before?” Etc.
While we don’t know what we will face, if Wrathion is right and, in the next expansion, that unknown power surfaces and threatens the fabric of the Azerothian universe, the Horde and Alliance will likely have to put aside their differences again.
B) The Warchief, the Horde, the Alliance, and the world
3. Who replaces Garrosh?
Names have been thrown about. Some are reasonable, others seem less so. The popular ones include Vol’jin, Sylvanas, Lor’themar Theron, Baine Bloodhoof, and Varok Saurfang. The most divisive idea – even more so than Sylvanas – seems to be that Thrall could reassume his position.
There seem to be some generally accepted thoughts on the levels of Alliance-Horde conflict that could result from the choosing of some of these people. Baine, Vol’jin, Thrall, Lor’themar, and Varok seem to be somewhat less hostile and more reasonable. Sylvanas has been one of the more aggressively anti-Alliance leaders of late (see: the northern part of Eastern Kingdoms, post-Shattering), and would likely be the leader that the Alliance would have the most objection to. Which leads to the next part of this subset…
4. How does his replacement come into power? Who has influence over that decision?
One of the biggest questions, post-Garrosh, is how much influence certain entities will have over the selection of the next warchief.
Assuming that Thrall isn’t reinstated, will he have a say? And will his be a “final say,” giving credence to the idea that he ultimately has the most universal respect among Horde-related leaders (and the Alliance, for that matter)?
And, for that matter, how will the Alliance be involved in all of this? Are they going to march on Orgrimmar – the combined might of all of the factions along with the Darkspear Rebellion – unseat Garrosh, and then say, “Well, good work, all. Grats on loots, see you next time” and head back to their respective homelands? Or will they insist upon sitting at council with the remaining leaders of the Horde and the “neutral” parties involved (such as Thrall), in order to monitor, moderate, or otherwise influence the picking of the next warchief, directly or indirectly?
Will they allow the Horde to be as they were – allowing them autonomy, while insisting on some treaties to keep things copacetic – or will there be an Alliance Kor’kron-like presence in Orgrimmar for the foreseeable future?
Or, will Wrathion’s prophecy fall upon us and the world before there is any resolution?
Looking at what has happened doesn’t make predicting the future any easier. The general questions I ask in this post merely splash the waves in the sea of possibilities regarding the next expansion, and I’m not enough of a lore nut to write cogently about anything much deeper than this.
I do think that we’re facing multiple “mind. blown.” scenarios in the next several months. Assuming that Blizzard announces the next expansion sometime within the month-long window leading up to and including Blizzcon, it’s likely that we’ll soon have a grasp of the nature of the next expansion’s lead antagonist, the new “area” – if there is one – and perhaps even some idea of the level of faction antagonism. And if there is indeed a post-Siege patch that wraps up the warchief question and begins to lay out foundations for Expansion #5, we’ll have some closure there, too… maybe.
My gut feeling is that we will face a danger that once again makes the Alliance-Horde squabbles seem trivial, and that, while there will be different flavor to the factions’ leveling experiences, the anti- nature of those differences will be toned down compared to what we’ve seen in Mists of Pandaria.
Of course, I could be completely wrong.
Thanks for reading this incomplete thought by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!
As a diversion from end-game burnout, I decided last week to explore an area of the game that has long fascinated me from a distance: the Forsaken starting zone story in Tirisfal Glades, Silverpine Forest, and Hillsbrad Foothills.
I’ve only ever played an Undead character once before. Back in early 2007, when my better half and I were just starting to play WoW, we made several little toons in different areas. We made humans and night elves, and then we branched out and made little Draenei. Eventually we tried out the Undead area – I made a warrior, can’t recall what she made – and played it for a few levels, but we didn’t really enjoy it much, so those toons were soon deleted. We were basically Alliance, and have remained so all this time.
However, with Cataclysm, almost all of the zones were revamped, and the results were sometimes extremely compelling. The Undead zones were particularly so, as they represented an intersection between the Aftermath of the Lich King, conflict with the ‘new race’ Gilneans/Worgen, and their own territorial expansion into Hillsbrad Foothills and so on. And Sylvanas. Etc.
My connection to the Forsaken has been by way of disgust and revulsion, for the most part. During Cataclysm, I spent a not-insignificant amount of time in modern Hillsbrad while engaged in both Archaeology and farming herbs. Beginning in 4.2 with the announcement that transmogrification was coming in 4.3, I also found myself in the Old Hillsbrad Foothills instance via the Caverns of Time, chasing a couple of elusive pieces to complete sets that I would eventually wear. It’s a place I still like to revisit from time to time, because it’s like a Sanctuary from what eventually happened… but it’s also not, really.
One of the things that I liked about Archaeology was that it brought me to places that I didn’t normally visit – or, in this case, a place that I didn’t have reason to visit any more. And while I’m not someone who has been with the game since the original beta, I’ve been around for six years. As such, I spent a fair amount of time in Hillsbrad before the Shattering, and really, REALLY enjoyed that entire zone, as well as Alterac Mountains.
There are places that the Shattering destroyed that are sad, like the destructions of Auberdine or the dam in Loch Modan. But nothing approaches anything close to the emotions that I’ve felt while exploring every nook and cranny of the new, forsaken-controlled Hillsbrad Foothills.
I’ve mentioned these feelings before, in the following post: Of Southshore and Oakvale: the complete and utter destruction of something good.
Well, this time, I’m playing the other side of the story, doing all the quests; reading all the quests. Not because I am shallow and forgetful of my feelings on the genocide at Southshore etc., but because I want to see it for myself. I’ve finished the quests in Tirisfal, and I’ve just started Silverpine at this point. The plan is to play through the culmination of the Gilnean story and into Hillsbrad, get that under my belt, and then possibly abandon the character for the most part.
It has taken me years, obviously, to get to the point where I am interested enough to explore the morbid reality that is present-day Hillsbrad and have time to do so, and now seems to be that time.
It feels weird to be playing something just for the lore, and to explore my fascination with the Undead situation. It’s a unique one, in my opinion, because – and maybe this is just me – this will be a time, and possibly the only time, where I don’t feel any connection at all with my character. This has nothing to do with Alliance or Horde. I love Tauren, for instance… except in PvP, of course. I’m not much of a fan of most Orcs, Trolls, or Goblins, but I’d still put them a few ticks above the Undead on the “I might actually care about you and your cause” list. But, while I’ll acknowledge feeling a smidgen of ‘sorry for (my toon) the guy’s situation,’ that’s all. In this case far more than any other, he’s simply and solely a means to an end; that end being discovery and experience, and that’s it. This isn’t to say that I’m not enjoying my time. But that connection isn’t there, and that’s fine.
The Forsaken experience is different from others I’ve experienced. There’s a grimness to every aspect of it, from the “we just resurrected/birthed these new Undead, but some of them aren’t with us and need to die – make that happen” situation, to the blinders-on focus that they have for building their armies and developing their plague, to the icy coldness that the decrepit old undead lady is feeling when you gather pelts to make a covering for her. It’s definitely a different feel from the zones of other races. I do like that.
It’s early to definitively say this, but I’m nonetheless certain that playing this set of zones isn’t going to change either my general apathy toward the Undead or make me feel any better about any justifications for their actions in Hillsbrad – the logic for them can be damned, as far as I concerned.
And when it’s all over, I’m still going to mourn the Hillsbrad Foothills of years past. Nothing can rip that from me.
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Since I’ve had some game time on my hands recently, I went back last week and played through Fable 2 for the second time.
A little backstory: I was a huge fan of the first Fable (I played through Fable: The Lost Chapters many times), and when Fable 2 hit the market, I bought the collector’s edition the first day. It then sat on a shelf, as I was playing WoW a lot, and I wanted to savor my time with Fable 2.
So I put it off, repeatedly, and eventually Fable III came out! Well, at that point I found some time to pull myself away from WoW, and I played through Fable 2 exactly one time – so much for savoring it, right? – but I enjoyed it, although it had its issues. Overall, I liked it a lot. I had to finish it, though, because I wanted to play Fable III. And when I played through that game, I was disappointed with several things, although the main thing was the integration of the menu system with “The Sanctuary” – it slowed down gameplay so much to have to “go to a place” to be in the menu, and then to “go to the correct room” in order to access gear and other things.
And that was my experience with the Fable sequels – wore out my copy of the first, blew through the others.
But I went back to Fable 2 last week, and played through the whole game, and did all of the quests, and got very rich, and so on. And I had a great time.
At one point, I decided to do some exploring. This included both in-game and via the Fable Wiki. And I had an experience that echoed one I’d had in WoW.
From Southshore to the Ruins of…
As virtually everyone knows, the humble port town of Southshore, the last remaining human town of Lordaeron that Alliance players could interact with in-game, was destroyed by the Forsaken around the time of The Shattering. It’s now a stinking mire of undeath, patrolled by Forsaken and otherwise just ruins.
As an Alliance adventurer, I have no reason to go to the beautiful Hillsbrad Foothills or Alterac Mountains, as there are no quests available for us anymore (other than the Singing Songflower questline, which is great, but also basically instanced). However, as an aspiring Archaeology Professor, I have been to the area many times during Cataclysm, and each time I’ve found myself revolted by the changes wrought by the Forsaken.
Going to Caverns of Time to occasionally assist Erozion in his quest to stop the Infinite Dragonflight from preventing Thrall’s escape from Durnhold allows me to visit Southshore as it was a decade ago. It’s a time of sadness and nostalgia, as I can walk among old friends (disguised as a human, at a time before they could have known me, since I didn’t first cross over to the Eastern Kingdoms until after the campaigns in Outland had begun). I am a stranger to them, but they are dear to me, and though I almost never talk with them, I do stop their vendors from time to time to bring some souvenir shirts to the present.
And then, the next time I go to Hillsbrad to further my archaeological studies, I visit the Ruins of Southshore, and my sadness is ever as deep as it was the first time I laid eyes on them.
From Oakvale to Wraithmarsh
In the first Fable game, you play as the character who becomes known throughout history as the Hero of Oakvale. It is your hometown, and at the start of the game, the town is attacked and burned, and your sister Theresa is assaulted, blinded and kidnapped.
The town is rebuilt by the time you return as a young adult, and is beautiful and flourishing, an iconic place in what is a beautiful game.
Oakvale is surrounded in part by Darkwood, a creepy-as-hell place that includes a mire and a bordello. In Fable 2, both Oakvale and Darkwood, along with many other places, are gone from the game. Since it is 500 years later, it’s understandable that things would have changed, but I didn’t think too much about it when I played through it the first time, since there is no way to pull up a full map in 2, and since I was looking forward to playing Fable III anyway.
Well, this time, after reading some of the in-game books, I went to the Fable Wiki to find out what the hell the area called Wraithmarsh was.
And after I found out, I went to Wraithmarsh itself to have a look around. And for me, the person, the player of both Fable and WoW, it was deja vu.
There are three heroes you are looking for during Fable 2, corresponding to the three disciplines: Strength, Skill, and Will. The Hero of Skill is this a-hole named Reaver, a crack shot if there ever was one. However, unlike the other two – Hannah (“Hammer”, a monk) and Garth (the Hero of Will), Reaver used his power for his own personal profit as a prolific and feared pirate.
And Reaver has a secret, a “burden” as he calls it. He never ages, due to a deal he made with some of the most powerful and evil beings in the world.
From Fable Wiki, Oakvale entry:
It is revealed later in the game that around two centuries before the events of Fable II, a young man who feared death, who later became known as Reaver, made a deal with the Shadows that would allow him to stay youthful forever. The Shadows took the lives of everyone in the village as a down payment, and established a Court at the back of the field that Theresa and the Hero of Oakvale [stood] in as Oakvale [was] attacked for the first time. With no one left alive to help fend off the evil creatures or the swamp itself, Oakvale and the Barrow Fields were absorbed by the marshes and turned into an area of evil. The area is mostly destroyed and most remnants of the Old Oakvale were swept away in the 200 years since the massacre. However, a few of the buildings still seem to surface above the swamp; there are a few recognizable Oakvale landmarks, most notably the large bridge that spanned the entrance to Oakvale . . . Oakvale and the surrounding areas are known as ‘Wraithmarsh’, possibly due to the large amounts of undead creatures and Banshees found in the area.
Further investigation shows that Wraithmarsh consists of the old Darkwood regions mentioned above, along with Oakvale and the formerly beautiful Barrow Fields.
Reaver allowed his hometown to be destroyed in order to be eternally youthful. In addition, each year he has to make a sacrifice at the Shadow Court. Apparently, he tricks a ‘messenger’ into carrying his seal to “some old friends” at the Shadow Court, and per the deal he made, the Shadows take the person’s youth and credit it to Reaver. It’s pretty awful.
Anyway, I went to Wraithmarsh to explore, dispatching a Banshee and her minions, several Hollow Men and a few Balverines along the way. I had taken the aforementioned bridge spanning the entrance to Oakvale several times before on quests, but this time I went under it, to the old town, to view the destruction. (I wish I could take screenshots on our TV, but alas…) And while the area right in town is cut off (damn invisible walls), you can still see it from afar. As someone who loved the first game and played it a lot, this was a heavy thing to witness.
Like the Ruins of Southshore.
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