Cataclysm is Not the Game That I Loved

(From a series of posts at Blizzard forums)

But it might become that game. That fate remains unclear though.

What I am disturbed by most in this new flashy WoW world, is this insistence on the part of the developers to discredit any quest progress that was generated in previous versions of the game. I don't care at the bottom of which locked file cabinet the notice was posted that all of the old game quests would be deleted, and the quest count reset, because I wouldn't have agreed with that decision from day one, and would have argued then just as vehemently as I will now. The only difference is that we will have the conversation now.

My only regret in playing World of Warcraft is that I didn't sign on when it was rolled out to start with. Then I would have had a chance to track down King Wryn's kidnappers. I would have been able to do the jailbreak quest. I would have been there when Eastern Plaguelands was a PvP region that was populated with players intent on game progression. I would have been able to confront Onyxia, and liberate the King from her. I could have been part of the opening of Ahn'Qiraj, confronting Eranikus in Moonglade. Instead I signed on when Karazhan was the raid of choice, and a good portion of the classic game was already a cricket chirping wasteland.

Still, it was fun exploring the old world. was irreplaceable when it came to looking up arcane bits of lore that the game no longer explained, things like who Onyxia was and why we wanted to kill her; or how King Wryn could at the same time both be in Stormwind and be kidnapped. It made me appreciate the size of the game and amount of programming that went into creation of a world this detailed.

Then I noticed that Varimathras disappeared from Undercity, and some upstart Orc took his place giving out the same quests he did, even though he claimed that he was going to put a stop to what Varimathras had done. The (always disturbing) apothecary quests still continue, right under the Orc overseer's nose, leading inexorably to the confrontation at the Wrathgate, even though they claim to want to stop it. Then I had to ask myself, "what do these guys not understand about storytelling?" the content doesn't make sense without Varimathras giving out the quests, and Putress directing the apothecaries from the depths of Undercity.

When the new maps rolled out last week, I took the time to make a new toon for each race, listen to the intro cinematic, and play the first 5 levels. Again I had to ask myself if the developers understood motivations of the players, and proper storytelling. The intro cinematic was all about events that lead to the Cataclysm, and talk about events that occur in Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King as if they had already happened; as if the players making the new characters would not spend the next few months finding these things out for themselves. "The Draenei retake Outland? Then why am I playing one? The Blood Elves stabilize the Sunwell? Guess I don't need to play that race. Deathknights defeat the Lich King? Then what am I rolling up a DK for, and why would I play Northrend?" Spoilers is what we are talking about here. Yes, the content is out there if you want to know about this stuff, but why throw it in the face of a new player? Just so they can be reminded that their next few months will be completely occupied with game content everyone else has done before? Not what I call positive motivation.

However, it was when I took my Loremaster out into the "New, Flashy" world of Cataclysm, trying to asses the changes that what was disturbing me really hit home. As somebody else noted "it's like Cataclysm is the new toy, programmed by a child. And they can't wait to let you see it" and nothing that came before Cataclysm counts. All of the quest counts are reset, with the exception of Silithus (the one area they could have nuked into oblivion and it wouldn't have offended me. That one they keep. At least I don't have to go back there) I've checked, and a good portion of the quests are identical in goals and locations. They aren't "new" quests. But I'm expected to happily do them again, with no acknowledgement that I'd done the exact quest before. As if there was no WoW before Cataclysm (here's a thought, if I wasn't playing the game, then I shouldn't have been paying for it. Perhaps a refund is in order...?) and that, as the intro blurbs hint at "all that other old stuff we've already done. This Cataclysm is all new" Well, it's not new, it's just been rehashed.

There is new content, yes. Lovely new content. I'd like to be able to distinguish between the old and the new content. I"m not allowed to do that because of this insistence that "all the old quests have been reset" and I have to do all of the content over again. I can't say that I'm interested in doing that. I will say that insisting that I've wasted two years playing a game that the developers no longer want to acknowledge existed isn't going to motivate me to re-up the 4 subscriptions my family maintains. Judging from the feedback on this site I daresay I'm not the only one.

From a player's standpoint, the quest counts should never have been deducted. It wasn't me that started counting the quests, it was Blizzard that introduced achievements for numbers of quests done. Just because the developers think the old game was embarrassing doesn't mean the rest of us agree. We'd like our deleted quests back, at least in the count. What was done, from a players standpoint, always counts. Rather than rolling the Loremaster into a Cataclysm achievement, there should be a special set of achievements denoting just how long some of us have put up with disappearing content. How about a "Jailbreak" achievement? "I liberated King Wryn and all I got was this lousy achievement" achievement? "Varimatharas? I've seen him!" achievement? The "I knew Naxxramas when..." achievement? "Hey, where'd the dam go?!?" for having worked the previous version of Loch Modan. "Watch your step" for falling to your death in the new gulf in the map. How about we acknowledge the real changes, rather than hiding the sameness.

Here's a thought. How about a new set of quest chains poking fun at game developers that don't understand the motivations of the players after all? If they did, they would have understood that discrediting the players past work was going to make a good portion of us very mad.

Again, I'm not the one that decided that there should be achievements, Blizzard did. I happily played the game for a year before these things rolled out. Were there not achievements, I would still be offended by the insistence that something I had done before wasn't something I had done before. I may be curmudgeon, but the brain still works, and I know when I'm being fed a line of bull.

The count should never have been deducted. That this was even entertained, much less followed through on is a mistake of such gigantic proportions from a motivational standpoint that I doubt I can communicate the impact of this. No amount of promises about all the "cool new" stuff that is too come will offset the disgust that I feel at people attempting to sell me on a game that I've already willingly paid for for nearly three years now (4 accounts even) none of which would have been necessary had the developers understood the first thing about player motivation.

The two issues in tandem make playing the "new flashy" regions of the classic game a prospect that I actually dread. Probably not the response that the sales department at Blizzard was looking for (yes I have canceled pre-orders of the game. I offer that up to the sales department for their information) when they go about promoting their new product.

I would like to look forward to playing the new game. Clueless game developers have negated that possibility.

The real core problem here, is I expected more of a change. What I didn't expect is they would reduce the quest tallies as if I never did the quests; as if I hadn't been playing for 3 years; and if I haven't been playing, but I've been paying, then they owe me a considerable sum of money (I mention this because corporate types only pay attention when there are dollar signs attached to the problem) What I didn't expect is they would reset quests that are functionally the exact same quests, and then expect me to happily just do them again on toons that had already done them. To get the exact same quest credit that they took off for doing the exact same quest, previously. I have 18 toons over level 40 and only two of those are DK's. I've done the old content to death. I like the new content, when it's new. Just don't tell me it's new, when it's not.

Quest History! I'm telling you, put the old quests back, build a quest history into the quest log, and let the quests we've done show up there and be tallied but not be in the game anymore. This isn't rocket science.

The other issue is phasing and storyline. While I agree that not all areas of the game can be phased, I'd be willing to bet that the lowbies (especially on PvP servers) would prefer that the higher levels couldn't see them anymore. That should be doable and be done, in my opinion. The voice over intros are horrible and should be redone. There should be more of an explanation as to why there's a new Bronzebeard on the throne in IF. I hope there's more to be done about the Tauren and their leaders death at the hands of... Well, roll a Tauren and find out. It's in the voice over. About the only one I liked. Undercity should be phased. Varimatharas should be there until the toon in question does wrathgate. My level 5 undead hunter was just in the city. The NPC's there are telling her about the Wrathgate. That's BS from a storytelling perspective, especially since there are plague tanks all over Tirisfal now. These Kor'Kron types never go to Brill? It's just silly. If the King Wryn Abduction chain is still in the game, he should be phased for people on that chain. That's the problem with storytelling that I was alluding to, without getting into detail before. I expected phasing, to assist with the storytelling. We were basically told there would be phasing. I expected my Gnome to be able to hearth to Gnomeregan, but now he doesn't even have a place to come back to at all, other than tents set up in Dun Morough. No evidence of phasing for that in the game.

Perhaps I'm jumping the gun on the story issues, the full game isn't out yet. Still, they were so clueless as to think that players wouldn't get pissed off (or even notice) at having their quest tallies reduced, I'm not holding my breath on storyline.

Ancient Loremaster achievement with title "The Curmudgeon" for anyone who had Loremaster in Old Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, and I'll shut up and go away.

Would like to note that the major offense, the reduction of quest tallies, seems to have been corrected. Thanks to the programmers that corrected that oversight.

Would love to see some achievements for those of us who loved and took the time to play the old game, to the point that fellow players would ask "but why are you doing that?" (Never did manage to get a fired seal of ascension. Does the quest still exist? and why? Not listed on wowhead anymore) But I'm not going to hold my breath on that count.

I would really suggest that the voiceovers be changed. They are buzzcrushers, not invitations to explore the world of Azeroth; including Outland and Northrend, not just the shiny new areas. Of course the average gamer will quest until they can dungeon or hit the battlegrounds, then will power level to 85 and only then begin to wonder where the fun is. That would be their problem. I have always enjoyed playing the different areas at level, and will try to overlook things like plaguetanks in Tirisfal glades, just outside of UC, a city occupied by Orc guards who talk about the incident at Wrathgate as if it already happened...

...hmm, guess I'll need to work on that last bit. But seriously, at least I can continue down the road to the new quests without having to contemplate -1301, -1300,-1299 at each step. That does make it possible to enjoy the process again. Here's hoping I can re-suspend disbelief.

I have now been told by three GM's that the lowered quest tallies are intentional. Were I a programmer or a developer for this game I would be backpedaling from any statements that this punishment of the long time players was in any way intentional, and would instead treat it as a bug that will be corrected (by raising the numbers back to the correct level, the higher level) ASAP.

"So you care about a number? How does another player even see that?" There's a function in game to compare stats, but you don't even need to go there, it's right on the forum now.

Isn't that nice? The correct number is 2384, BTW.

This is the really insulting one.

The correct number is 3083.

Or this one.

The real number here is 1865.

This reduction, this punishment is going to cost Blizzard money. My money, for starters.

For what it's worth, I know how to make the Cataclysm expansion work with the superseded previous expansions as a continuous narrative. The BE's and Draenei starting areas could be tricky to fit into the scheme, but the voice-over could be tweaked to mention the Bronze dragonflight placing them back in time to relive blah, blah, blah... which would then tie into the fix for the previous two expansions that weren't revisited (DK's don't need any work other than to have them go straight to BC after the beginning area) they could even write in Chromie to introduce the newbs to the fact that outside the beginning area the world has changed, when they 'graduate' from the beginning areas.

Now for the unedited expansions. Redirect the portals in the cities that lead to blasted lands to the CoT, and have the starting area for BC and WotLK placed there, with a leader quest in the capitols (much like the one for Cataclysm at 80 now) directing 58's (and 68's for WotLK) to go there to speak to the Bronze's about problems in the past needing to be addressed, yada, yada, yada.

Tie the required visits to the past to the already established time travel work done in CoT, it really is that simple. They could even poke fun at the anachronism at the different boat and zepplin landings. Have the NPC's talk about the strange rumors of the ships traveling to the past, and that Arthas still sits on the frozen throne according to the people who return from Northrend...

They may have already thought of something like this and are ready to implement it. Considering how much programming work remains to be done on the game, I wouldn't be surprised at much of anything that would emerge over the next month or so.

Something needs to change. The way things are now is too jarring. I would have preferred that they wrote in new content for levels 60 thru 80 (as the original announcement stated they were going to, "new content for levels 1 to 85") that would have provided an alternate for going through the superseded expansions. I can see that was never going to happen, though. What I described above would at least allow the player to pretend it all makes sense...

So, here I am. Two weeks out from Cataclysm release, and faced with having nothing else to do in the game but endlessly rerun dungeons for gear, the only way in game to realistically gear up toons, once again. I was bored with that in Wrath of the Lich King two weeks ago. New dungeons? Sure, 5 of them, and those 5 are all that's available in the dungeon finder (the only way anyone does group efforts that aren't raids, anymore) and with no way to get to the old content except fly, those 5 is all anyone will be doing. I don't know how else to define "even more boring" than 5 instead of 16 possible dungeons in random. I don't know if I'll ever find out how many dungeons are available in heroic. Since I'm not going to endlessly repeat dungeons looking for gear, I may never get to heroic level dungeons. I would have hoped that they would have updated all the previous 'heroic' dungeons (they are as useless as 'tits on a bull' as the saying goes, now. Providing gear that is surpassed by any measure of the game other than vanity) so that a random was as likely to send you to Hellfire as it is to send you to Blackrock Caverns. But I'm not bothering with hope anymore, considering how much possibility with this expansion was just left lying on the table.

Would have loved a mage portal to summoning stone locations ability, that would have made it possible to get to the old content easily. Ah, well. So many things that "could have been done" but weren't done. Things like real professions for gearing purposes, instead of profession limited buffs being the focus of every profession in endgame.

I'm going to winge on about professions here for a bit, professions being one of the major stumbling blocks in the game as currently structured. The worst off is strangely enough the most recent addition, Inscription. Sixty of the glyphs for this profession are only learnable by finding a Book of Glyph Mastery, and they are a rare dungeon drop in Wrath of the Lich King dungeons only. Consequently the supply of these has dried up of late, since no one runs those dungeons anymore. The 450 to 525 levels don't even concern the making of new glyphs. Since they've made scroll effects duplicates of potion effects, they've made glyphs permanently learnable; and the trinkets, off hands and 'ranged' are all surpassed at level 85 heroic, the only reason to do inscription is the shoulder buff. Big woop. Leatherworking is in a similar fix, I've gone on long enough about that one elsewhere (seriously? 5 for one Heavy Savage Leather? Not reasonable) Complaints about blacksmithing are similar to those with Leatherworking, being only in slightly less of a fix because the mats are at least reasonably farmable on off hours. Extra buffs for wrists and legs, or wrists and belts. Not motivational as far as maintaining the profession goes. Tailoring? Haven't even looked. Two more slots on bags isn't enough to motivate me to worry about it. Engineering? Gave up on that before even getting past Outland level. The cost of the vanity bike at the end of WotLK was enough to do that. Seriously, how much gold? Unless that's my focus in game, I won't ever have it for that, unless I go to a gold reseller, which will potentially get my account banned. Enchanting, Jewelcrafting and Alchemy remain the only professions that have relevance in endgame, because they have buffs that can be given to other players at raid level.

Rare mats once again seems to be the rule, scarcity being the motivator of choice to keep people occupied in the game.

I would spend some time exploring the updated content, but since they've chosen to punish old players with reduced quest tallies, I'll have to do that with a new toon; and a new toon will have to play through the bypassed areas of Outland and Northrend, 20 of the longest levels of work, in content that serves no purpose in the current storyline, just so I can once again face those interminable last 5 levels of new content, and the same gearing roadblock. Strangely, I'm not hyped up for that journey.

Perhaps it is time to find another game. I always said I'd quit playing when I wasn't having fun. I can't say that I'm having fun playing WoW right now...

World of Warcraft Endgame Professions Critique

Actually, it's mostly about leatherworking in WoW. But it applies generally to the other secondary WoW professions.
Having now leveled every profession except Engineering through the functional end of WotLK (425+) I have some basic complaints about the endgame LW in WotLK that weren't present in any of the previous incarnations of the game; things I would like to see not happen again in Cataclysm.

The first one is mats. None of the professions require you to initiate a sequence 100 times in order for you to make one item of 'epic' quality, other than LW. Heavy Borean Leather, which is manufactured at a rate of 6 to 1 from Borean Leather (twice as much as Heavy Knothide Leather, and there is no classic equivalent to this process that I know of) the skinner/Leatherworker if they want to make level 78 to 80 items, takes Borean Leather skinning drops and combine them to make Heavy Borean leather, which does not drop. One item for about a stack of 20 Heavy Borean Leather. Crafted epic items which are promptly replaced as soon as Heroic dungeon level gear is available because that gear is superior. This bottleneck of mats has literally caused me to abandon the practice of making gear for my alts, in favor of simply repetitavely running dungeons in order to obtain badges and points for gear that is far superior, and cheaper from a time/gold spent perspective.

The other issue is patterns. There aren't enough of them, especially at endgame. Full sets of mail, leather (and plate for BS) should be available every 10 levels or so (and they should be able to be worn at vaguely the same time, unlike the patterns in BC) When new content is added to endgame, trainer patterns for the gear that drops there (or similar to that) should be made available. Doing this would actually stimulate profession usage, and gameplay at endgame levels, broadening the already tending to narrow focus of endgame play.

I'd really like to see a blue post that addresses my concerns here. I see this as a serious flaw in game design, that the profs are left out of the endgame play, other than vanity items like engineering choppers and the like. Please, please make Blacksmithing and Leatherworking(and tailoring! tailoring at least has bags to make. Leveled a mage to 80 just farming mats and making bags for my other alts) relevant at endgame. Reduce the boredom repetitive dungeoning brings. Please.

New World of Warcraft forum location the post above can be found here.

I'm working through Cataclysm Leatherworking profession now, and I just hit the leather roadblock again. 50 kills to make one item? Bloodied Wyrmhide Shoulders, just as an example. Not to mention the rare as all hell volatile water? 10 of them? For shoulders that will be replaced as soon as you get a heroic drop?

Did you people think about drop rates and relative work to create items before you programmed it? Or just pull numbers out of a convenient orifice? Because if point systems are structured as they were in Wrath of the Lich King, I'm once again going to be (borrrriiiinnnnnng!) endlessly repeating dungeons in order to gear toons rather than doing the even more (borrrriiiinnnng!) lengthy work of farming leather for gear. Ya'll are making me think I need to find another game.

If a pattern of a particular level requires a particular weight of leather, then skinnables of that level should drop that item. Basic rule of thumb in game design. It's strange that I need to remind the programmers at Blizzard about this.

FIX THIS!! It's a simple thing to change the skinning drops, so change them!

Stossel and Prop 19

Content of a letter I just wrote. Let's see if I get a response.

Watched this segment when it aired. My wife had to make me turn it off. It started playing in the background just now, and I found myself yelling at the screen again "shut up you #@$%^&!" I do actually despise Bill O'Reilly. He's a religious zealot that is only slightly more in touch with reality than Glenn Beck, which makes him that much more of a problem, frankly.

Why did you air this segment, and his outright lies, without challenging him on them? If you really want to know why the proposition failed, try watching this video. Contact these people, get their facts and set the record straight. I've followed you to FOX because I respect your integrity. You're being at FOX and not having to argue with ABC's management about libertarian ideas has made you lax, IMO. Either that, or you are under constraints not to talk back to FOX's big baby, Bill O'Reilly.
Those who profit from the current system (cops, pharmaceutical growers, the governments of several nations) lined up against this measure. It was very clear to anyone paying attention what the real motivation against 19 was.

Gaming's Potential Contribution to the World

People ask me all the time "Why do you spend so much time playing that game" Warcraft is but the latest in a long line of game obsessions of mine (been working on that post for awhile now. That one and a religion one and a citizenship one and a disability one...) This is the first explanation of why that ever rang true to me. It's also an explanation of what gaming might be able to do for the world.

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century

CATO event. Here's the Podcast link.
But that's not all! There's an hour of video too!

If a person names as his three favorites of my books; Stranger, Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers, then I know that he has groked what I meant. -RAH

If you'd rather just purchase the biography of Heinlein that this event is about, here is the link for that.

MSNBC spanks Olbermann for Forgetting he Doesn't Work for FOX

In the For What It's Worth department, we have the following;

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
MSNBC Suspends Keith Olbermann
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Here we have Jon Stewart making fun of MSNBC for slapping Olbermann's wrist over something that FOX does all the time. As illustrated in this segment;

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Yes, that's right. FOX fabricated the entire story (and I have to watch The Daily Show to get this news!?!) MSNBC, of course, pretending to still be a journalistic news source, while FOX is simply the video version of the National Enquirer. Quite literally.