267: Azeroth Is Burning

Azeroth Is Burning

Locations and environments in games can evoke emotion in games easier than in characters. Quintin Smith posits that Cataclysm proves that point and that the destruction of Azeroth has much more emotional breadth than at first glance.

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I really like this take on the changes occurring in Azeroth, and it only makes me more eager to experience the expansion.

Nice work, Quintin.

Great article and a great move Blizzard is making, it seems, with Cataclysm.

Perhaps we should have been able to play for a little while in Kvatch before it got annihilated...

Reminds me of my days in Mulgore. How I love that place.

Great article. Having played WoW on-and-off since 2005, I definitely feel strongly for some areas, especially those of Azeroth itself since the game was all new and awesome when I first played it. I was sad when I realised I would never see them again, but, as you say, perhaps Cataclysm will only solidify those great memories.

I'm going to be the voice of dissent as often as that usually happens. I understand the perspective of game journalism nowadays and how it's tied to the industry, but at the same time I'm a bit surprised we aren't seeing more "Gerstmann" type rebellion as people break from the pack.

I say this because we've been here before. A lot of people probably don't remember what happened with a PnP RPG setting called "The Forgotten Realms" where the company (then TSR) decided to do something much like this called "The Avatar Crisis" and pretty much level and reform vast tracts of the world. Borders were altered, key NPCs and locations died or changed, even gods were wiped out (oh boy were they). It was all very cool at the time, and a big deal, but it pretty much opened the door for the same thing to be done pretty much every few years, and for it to become more trite and banal each time.

Now, you can say "I trust Blizzard", but I will point out that people trusted TSR and guys like Ed Greenwood back then too. I think established world settings exist for the sake of familiarity and stability, you start messing with that and there is no way to undo it. If WoW keeps going on as long as the original "Everquest" did (and is still going), despite the company releasing other MMOs, will you still think it's as awesome the third time around? Do you think that your not going to say "well this is wild, and all but I really preferred the original" after a while? Unlike with AD&D you can't just blow the dust off your old books and run a campaign with what you felt was a superior product.

I guess part of the big problem is that Blizzard is very corperate now, I don't think it's the same company it was when WoW launched attitude wise. I think the release of the very Kotick-like "Starcraft 2" with it's limited content and $10 higher price tag sort of shows this.

Oh sure, I'm the old fogey (35! you young whipper snappers) but I can't help but feel that I've seen all this before and know how it will turn out. Of course I'll probably buy it anyway... which is again what they are counting on.

BTW> another good example would be DC and it's "Crisis" gimmick which was cool the first time but we're up to what 3 or 4 of these now every time they want a burst in comics sales or make changes? It kind of got old, predictable, and kind of silly. Making me wish the door was never opened to begin with.

Is it strange that I don't have feelings like this myself? It is a good article, and I enjoyed reading it, but ultimately I feel less human than I did before reading it because I simply don't care and maybe I should.

EDIT

@Therumancer; I like SC2.

Therumancer:
I'm going to be the voice of dissent as often as that usually happens. I understand the perspective of game journalism nowadays and how it's tied to the industry, but at the same time I'm a bit surprised we aren't seeing more "Gerstmann" type rebellion as people break from the pack.

I say this because we've been here before. A lot of people probably don't remember what happened with a PnP RPG setting called "The Forgotten Realms" where the company (then TSR) decided to do something much like this called "The Avatar Crisis" and pretty much level and reform vast tracts of the world. Borders were altered, key NPCs and locations died or changed, even gods were wiped out (oh boy were they). It was all very cool at the time, and a big deal, but it pretty much opened the door for the same thing to be done pretty much every few years, and for it to become more trite and banal each time.

Now, you can say "I trust Blizzard", but I will point out that people trusted TSR and guys like Ed Greenwood back then too. I think established world settings exist for the sake of familiarity and stability, you start messing with that and there is no way to undo it. If WoW keeps going on as long as the original "Everquest" did (and is still going), despite the company releasing other MMOs, will you still think it's as awesome the third time around? Do you think that your not going to say "well this is wild, and all but I really preferred the original" after a while? Unlike with AD&D you can't just blow the dust off your old books and run a campaign with what you felt was a superior product.

I guess part of the big problem is that Blizzard is very corperate now, I don't think it's the same company it was when WoW launched attitude wise. I think the release of the very Kotick-like "Starcraft 2" with it's limited content and $10 higher price tag sort of shows this.

Oh sure, I'm the old fogey (35! you young whipper snappers) but I can't help but feel that I've seen all this before and know how it will turn out. Of course I'll probably buy it anyway... which is again what they are counting on.

BTW> another good example would be DC and it's "Crisis" gimmick which was cool the first time but we're up to what 3 or 4 of these now every time they want a burst in comics sales or make changes? It kind of got old, predictable, and kind of silly. Making me wish the door was never opened to begin with.

Pen and paper isn't the same thing at all. You can go back and run older campaigns if you think the new one sucks, because it's entirely player run.

If you read the Greg Street interview, the initial idea for Cataclysm wasn't the destruction of the world, but that grew out of "wow, we really could improve these old zones that suck."

(Also, it bears mentioning because you brought it up. Warcraft 3 and Diablo 2 both had recommended retail prices of $55-60 long before Bobby Kotick.)

This article makes it hard not to restart my account but I will stay strong. (That and I am having a blast with the SCII map editor)

Another Kalimdorite, eh? Oh well. Great article. I have to say that I'm feeling the pain on this one too, though. Way back before the Burning Crusade in what players now call "Vanilla WoW", I was plodding along at level 40ish with my undead holy priest on a fresh mount exploring the places I hadn't seen yet. That's when I first came to the Thousand Needles, and I remember thinking that it would have been really great if I could fly around and just jump from needle to needle. After two expansions we finally get flying in the "regular" world and the stupid area is just gonna be flooded. WTF Blizzard T_T

John Funk:

Therumancer:
I'm going to be the voice of dissent as often as that usually happens. I understand the perspective of game journalism nowadays and how it's tied to the industry, but at the same time I'm a bit surprised we aren't seeing more "Gerstmann" type rebellion as people break from the pack.

I say this because we've been here before. A lot of people probably don't remember what happened with a PnP RPG setting called "The Forgotten Realms" where the company (then TSR) decided to do something much like this called "The Avatar Crisis" and pretty much level and reform vast tracts of the world. Borders were altered, key NPCs and locations died or changed, even gods were wiped out (oh boy were they). It was all very cool at the time, and a big deal, but it pretty much opened the door for the same thing to be done pretty much every few years, and for it to become more trite and banal each time.

Now, you can say "I trust Blizzard", but I will point out that people trusted TSR and guys like Ed Greenwood back then too. I think established world settings exist for the sake of familiarity and stability, you start messing with that and there is no way to undo it. If WoW keeps going on as long as the original "Everquest" did (and is still going), despite the company releasing other MMOs, will you still think it's as awesome the third time around? Do you think that your not going to say "well this is wild, and all but I really preferred the original" after a while? Unlike with AD&D you can't just blow the dust off your old books and run a campaign with what you felt was a superior product.

I guess part of the big problem is that Blizzard is very corperate now, I don't think it's the same company it was when WoW launched attitude wise. I think the release of the very Kotick-like "Starcraft 2" with it's limited content and $10 higher price tag sort of shows this.

Oh sure, I'm the old fogey (35! you young whipper snappers) but I can't help but feel that I've seen all this before and know how it will turn out. Of course I'll probably buy it anyway... which is again what they are counting on.

BTW> another good example would be DC and it's "Crisis" gimmick which was cool the first time but we're up to what 3 or 4 of these now every time they want a burst in comics sales or make changes? It kind of got old, predictable, and kind of silly. Making me wish the door was never opened to begin with.

Pen and paper isn't the same thing at all. You can go back and run older campaigns if you think the new one sucks, because it's entirely player run.

If you read the Greg Street interview, the initial idea for Cataclysm wasn't the destruction of the world, but that grew out of "wow, we really could improve these old zones that suck."

(Also, it bears mentioning because you brought it up. Warcraft 3 and Diablo 2 both had recommended retail prices of $55-60 long before Bobby Kotick.)

I've got to get admin zapped at some point for all the comments I've made just in this issue alone, but this is finally something I can really comment on because of personal experience... sort of. That being said:

Blizzard has been promising all sorts of WoW treats to players for years now. Player owned housing, siegeable buildings/terrain, etc. etc. I can't really think of any good examples right now but the point is, that, to do a lot of these would require an entire overhaul of the existing game engine. Now that they're actually doing that for an expansion this is their chance to do things like upgrade the graphics for newer, user hardware. They can fix confusing stats in the game. I've been playing since day one and I still couldn't tell you the difference between my Armor and my Defense O_o

Actually, as corporate they've become, I think we should all be proud of our little underdogs at Blizz who have now achieved what many developers only dream of. I, for one, am very glad that they are still able to bring us the same, great games that they've always made and haven't totally sold out or fallen into oblivion like so many other developers. I realize that I'm completely leg humping the giant monolithic company that is now Blizzard, but, as a 30-something gamer myself, I prefer to think fondly of how far gaming, as a medium, has really come. From John Carmack and Kevin Cloud programing Nazis in a garage to millions of gamers world wide.

Tarrker, Blizzard has never promised player owned housing, and Wintergrasp and Isle of Conquest have siegeable buildings.

They can fix confusing stats in the game.

They have been doing that since alpha. You don't seem to be keeping up with beta news. The stat UI in particular and the rest of the UI in general have also been overhauled. As for the game engine, Blizz prides itself on making game that run well on low-end PCs and are a visual treat with the setting turned up on better PCs.

Edit about siege stuff: Blizz admitted that they had wanted to add a lot more with the siege aspects but they didn't feel the things that hadn't made it into the game were ready.

Quinns is the bestest writer. It's about time RPS is giving him a proper byline! (Or maybe they aren't? He'll just keep insinuating himself into the annals of web-journalism until we all take it for granted? Clever! Dream high! You'll get yourself a byline in The Guardian yet!)

Actual feedback:
Personally I find it astounding that persistent world games can exist for long enough to warrant a nostalgic reaction from people, and to me really speaks volumes to the psychological power that place has in videogames.

This is actually sort of daring on Blizzard's part. The only MMO I can think of that altered the basic starting experience of a game this much was Star Wars Galaxies, and we know how well that worked out for them. Blizzard's certainly in a stronger position than SoE was at the time, so I suppose Cataclysm might ultimately come across as a refinement of the current game rather than a radical re-imagining of systems that even further polarizes an already ailing game. Either way, I agree changing Azeroth seems designed as much designed to rile up the old blood as it is to entice the new.

MadCat55329:
Quinns is the bestest writer. It's about time RPS is giving him a proper byline! (Or maybe they aren't? He'll just keep insinuating himself into the annals of web-journalism until we all take it for granted? Clever! Dream high! You'll get yourself a byline in The Guardian yet!)

I have been wondering when Quinns will get his spot among the Four in their About page for some time now. I think I'll make a comment to that effect on RPS, too. They should be Five, it's only right.

At first I was starting to worry that this was going to be another story about "blizz destroying the cool old zones". But right there at the end you hit the nail on the head.

My personal example: Final Fantasy X. I freaking LOVED that game. I laughed (sincerely) during that stupid laughing scene, I gasped in shock when I learned that Sin was Tidus's father, I even cried in that moment when Yuna fell through his disappearing body. I probably played through it 3 times in a row just to catch all of the nuances.

Now...playing through it is hard. The emotion of the story is still there, but being jaded by newer games, the gameplay is kinda slow and repetitive. Its hard to even finish it.

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing because we develop these fond memories, not because the thing itself was all that stellar, but because we haven't had access to all of the things that really are stellar.

I loved leveling back in vanilla WoW, I loved hunting down all the quests for a dungeon and going to do them. Now, in helping my wife track down those same quest, I want to throw my keyboard through the window at having to trudge across the world to find one quest.

Nostalgia is fine, as long as it remains a memory. Better to retain those fond memories of Durotar and come back to find a whole new Durotar awaiting your exploration, then to come back to the same old Durotar and find that it hasn't aged well. Which will really destroy your fond memories more?

John Funk:

Therumancer:
I'm going to be the voice of dissent as often as that usually happens. I understand the perspective of game journalism nowadays and how it's tied to the industry, but at the same time I'm a bit surprised we aren't seeing more "Gerstmann" type rebellion as people break from the pack.

I say this because we've been here before. A lot of people probably don't remember what happened with a PnP RPG setting called "The Forgotten Realms" where the company (then TSR) decided to do something much like this called "The Avatar Crisis" and pretty much level and reform vast tracts of the world. Borders were altered, key NPCs and locations died or changed, even gods were wiped out (oh boy were they). It was all very cool at the time, and a big deal, but it pretty much opened the door for the same thing to be done pretty much every few years, and for it to become more trite and banal each time.

Now, you can say "I trust Blizzard", but I will point out that people trusted TSR and guys like Ed Greenwood back then too. I think established world settings exist for the sake of familiarity and stability, you start messing with that and there is no way to undo it. If WoW keeps going on as long as the original "Everquest" did (and is still going), despite the company releasing other MMOs, will you still think it's as awesome the third time around? Do you think that your not going to say "well this is wild, and all but I really preferred the original" after a while? Unlike with AD&D you can't just blow the dust off your old books and run a campaign with what you felt was a superior product.

I guess part of the big problem is that Blizzard is very corperate now, I don't think it's the same company it was when WoW launched attitude wise. I think the release of the very Kotick-like "Starcraft 2" with it's limited content and $10 higher price tag sort of shows this.

Oh sure, I'm the old fogey (35! you young whipper snappers) but I can't help but feel that I've seen all this before and know how it will turn out. Of course I'll probably buy it anyway... which is again what they are counting on.

BTW> another good example would be DC and it's "Crisis" gimmick which was cool the first time but we're up to what 3 or 4 of these now every time they want a burst in comics sales or make changes? It kind of got old, predictable, and kind of silly. Making me wish the door was never opened to begin with.

Pen and paper isn't the same thing at all. You can go back and run older campaigns if you think the new one sucks, because it's entirely player run.

If you read the Greg Street interview, the initial idea for Cataclysm wasn't the destruction of the world, but that grew out of "wow, we really could improve these old zones that suck."

(Also, it bears mentioning because you brought it up. Warcraft 3 and Diablo 2 both had recommended retail prices of $55-60 long before Bobby Kotick.)

I pointed out that with paper and pencil RPGs you can dust off your old books and play, with the Cataclysm changes you don't have that option. Not even on a private server since apparently Blizzard is taking that very seriously (looking at an article about a multi-million dollar life-crushing lawsuit that was also here on The Escapist).

Oh, I understand the arguements about re-furbishing old zones that were "bad" despite having held people's interests all this time, but that also largely comes down to opinion. I mean is replacing Azshara with what is by all accounts a giant goblin resort/water park an improvement?

I'd be a little less wary of things had they decided to use the "cave of time" gimmick to place the cataclysm zones as a "possible future" you could travel to, or some such thing. I'm a big fan of "don't try and fix it, if it isn't broke".

But then again part of my irritation is that there are plenty of areas in Azeroth that haven't been visited in detail like the Naga kingdoms and the like, not to mention moving into the actual hell dimensions where the Burning Legion hails from (rather than fighting them in Draenor). Part of what irritated me about the constant PnP "cataclysms" was that constantly redeveloping the same core areas came at the expense of moving out into other places that could have been explored.

I'm sure the idea is also that Blizzard is hoping that by re-doing all of the starting zones they will encourage people to start new characters, and create a friendly and exciting enviroment for new players/customers to come into, rather than walking into a nearly dead zone where everyone else is power leveling through things rather than learning. It admittedly makes the entire thing rather intimidating and lonely for genuinely new players, and I imagine they hope this will expand their player base especially with competition on the way from games like "Old Republic". On the other hand as a veteran player I'm a snob of sorts and notice that I'm only getting 5 extra levels to advance through and doubtlessly less in the way of new content than previous expansions.

This is to say nothing of other things like player housing, and numerous core balancing issues and such which would take a lot of work which this is being done in lieu of.

I don't expect you to agree to me, but the bottom line is that I think this expansion should be getting a bit more of a critical eye directed towards it. Nothing can stop it now of course, millions have been spent, and even if it was to suddenly be massively reviled the people building it would release it in hopes of recouping some of the development costs.

I myself am almost doubtlessly going to get it irregardless because in a way I'm sort of "trapped" given my long term play, and involvement with a guild full of people I've hung out with for years (the closest thing to friends you can have virtually on the internet). On the other hand it's going to be a hard sell for them to keep my subscription long after I've tried it for a bit. Who knows, maybe I'll think it's great despite my current opinions, but this might very well end with my retirement from the game.

No, my analogies are not perfect, and yes I seem to dislike a lot of things, but WoW is one of those things I've defended heavily over the years, and have been very invested in. I was psyched up for "Burning Crusade", and "Lich King" (even if I do think they should have resolved the storyline via a RTS game), Cataclysm is just "meh". I mean yeah, it's kind of cool that we'll eventually get to see what's on the other side of the wall in Silverpine forest, but at the same time is retiring Shadowfang Keep and Archmage Arugal really nessicary? Furthermore what exactly is wrong with that zone? Hatred of "Sons Of Arugal" is almost as iconic for horde players as the Alliance jokes about Hogger. All nostolgia aside you can't call that zone objectively bad, and yet it's apparently one of the ones slated for massive revision. That entire zone is something that a newbie hordie is going to genuinely enjoy playing even today.

-

As far as prices go, I will say flat out that I purchused Diablo 2 when it was new, and I don't remember paying $60 for it, and I think I would have noticed. I came to the WoW party a few months late because being an Everquest veteran I tried "Everquest II" first, and again I do not remember paying a higher price than video games were normally going for then.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, perhaps you are, it doesn't much matter. The bottom line is that "Starcraft 2" is $10 more than the current going rate for PC games, as the market is now.

Like most things we will have to agree to disagree (we rarely see eye to eye). This is simply my opinion and what I think on the subject. I do not like the direction of this paticular expansion, think people should be more critical of it (whether they agree or not), and preferred the way their previous expansion packs were done with entirely new areas rather than overwriting old ones.

This is a very cool article. I love your perspective on the value of the nostalgia as well as the need to move forward and embrace the changes.

Tarrker:
Another Kalimdorite, eh? Oh well. Great article. I have to say that I'm feeling the pain on this one too, though. Way back before the Burning Crusade in what players now call "Vanilla WoW", I was plodding along at level 40ish with my undead holy priest on a fresh mount exploring the places I hadn't seen yet. That's when I first came to the Thousand Needles, and I remember thinking that it would have been really great if I could fly around and just jump from needle to needle. After two expansions we finally get flying in the "regular" world and the stupid area is just gonna be flooded. WTF Blizzard T_T

This waws my reaction as well. Thousand Needles has always been one of my favourite zones partly because of the stark beauty of the Salt Falts and partly because the Spires were so radically different to everything else in the game. I was not a happy bunny when I saw what they did to it.

OT: Great article. I'm a player who has never been a fan of the story or the NPCs in WOW, but I always loved the landscape (had every map explored in the old world by lvl 50) and I'm really looking foward to exploring everywhere again.

Good article. I stopped played WoW earlier this year after only playing for a few years (I started about 2 months before BC) and started both an Alliance and Horde character.

I have lots of memories for both of my mains (probably more so my alliance), but when I got to play the Horde, I have many fond memories of running through the Barrens and Durotar with my brother as we'd team up quests or instances etc. I do want to see the changes, but I know that a lot of memories will go too. I just don't know if I want to rejoin just to see those changes, or just let those old memories live on.

On the first page you described about all things that separate good games from excellent. And there ain't a game I would describe as truly excellent.

Fantastic article, I don't play WoW. But I've developed attachments for plenty of game locations. The most prominent probably being the No Mercy and Blood Harvest campaigns in L4D1.

I played a lot of Versus mode with a group of my friends pre-survival pack, so all we had were those two campaigns. We knew those maps like the back of our hands, and we played every single day. I guess I just associate those maps with the good times I had with my friends.

Therumancer:

No, my analogies are not perfect, and yes I seem to dislike a lot of things, but WoW is one of those things I've defended heavily over the years, and have been very invested in. I was psyched up for "Burning Crusade", and "Lich King" (even if I do think they should have resolved the storyline via a RTS game), Cataclysm is just "meh". I mean yeah, it's kind of cool that we'll eventually get to see what's on the other side of the wall in Silverpine forest, but at the same time is retiring Shadowfang Keep and Archmage Arugal really nessicary?

Some food for thought: Maybe after going through BC and WoTLK, you're just bored and possibly jaded? After all, it's been, what, 2-3 years between these expansions.

Maybe you grew older and wiser as well.

Many of us fail to consider that maybe the designers aren't necessarily doing a poorer job, it may just be the players growing up, assuming more responsibilities in life and enjoying different things.

Lovely piece and one thing popped out at me because of these lines:

Quintin Smith:
But what does it mean for Blizzard? They're putting their own work to the torch. They were the architects of World of Warcraft's original Azeroth, and soon nobody will ever be able to see their creation as it once was. That is huge.

This made me wonder if they could release the original world (up to WotLK) as a single-player campaign, or as a Diablo-style semi-multiplayer-online world without the updates, support and monthly subscription.

They'd effectively be competing with themselves, but it would also crack the MMO playerbase who refuses to pay fees. I don't see it happening, but I liked the thought anyway.

I'm sure they've kept the original maps (touched up of course) for some time-travel based quests/instances they can add in later on down the line, to tickle our nostalgia.

They need to make these changes, leave them for a couple years so the old maps have faded into distant memory allowing our nostalgia for them to grow, and then release said quests in a patch, using it as a selling point: "Re-visit the Barrens as it once was, before the sundering!" To tempt back old-old-school veterans.

Or is that excessively jaded?

Azeroth has always been burning.
they should make their motto 'come in for the possibilities, stay as thefor the BBQ'

 

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