Friday Links: Proving Grounds, Faction Walls and More

Sorry for the silence this week – personal matters have meant that I’ve been unexpectedly AFK.

But I have managed to get back here in time to do a Friday roundup! So, here’s the stuff that caught my eye over the last 24 hours:

  • The Grumpy Elf wrote a great piece about WoW’s upcoming Proving Grounds – as someone who has been calling for a benchmark for players for a while, he’s definitely one of the people Blizzard has to convince with this new feature. Did they?

    Read “Will Proving Grounds Help or Hurt?” »

  • Bhelgast writes a really interesting piece about the walls between in-game factions, and whether they’re actually necessary. Looking at games from Everquest to The Elder Scrolls, this one’s an informative and eye-opening read.

    Read “Abolish Faction Walls” »

  • Defying the latest news about WoW’s subscriber count, The Godmother looks back in the history of what Blizzard have said about future expansions to predict WoW’s next adventure.

    Read “Who Wants To Live Forever?” »

See you next week, when hopefully things will be well and truly back to normal – and I suspect we’ll be hearing about WoW’s subscriber loss and Blizz/Activision going independent…

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Happy Players, Scared Players, and Olymp – er – London Sporting Events

It’s a real grab-bag of interesting writing to round out today – from Stubborn’s terrifying adventures in The Secret World to Zoso’s parody of the Sporting Event That Shall Not Be Named, let’s go!

  • Stubborn discusses The Secret World’s success in producing an unsettling and even terrifying MMORPG“In the game’s first haunted house, there’s intermittent periods of shrieking, laughing, and crying just on the edges of your hearing. The ambience is truly horrifying – not scary – but unsettling to the point that it can be distracting.”
  • Zoso considers the possibilities for some MMORPG Sporting And Athletic Events That Aren’t Connected To London Or The Current Year At All““On to the actual sporting events now. First up: Archery. Now the bidding was particularly fierce for this one, wasn’t it Barry?” “It certainly was, Clifford, and it looks like the committee have hedged their bets slightly by awarding Archery to: All Of Them! Or, to be technically accurate, Almost All Of Them, Apart From A Few Of The Modern-Day Or Sci-Fi Ones, Though Even City Of Heroes Has Archery Powersets””
  • The Grumpy Elf brings up an intriguing possibility – what if the cross-faction Pandaren are a stalking-horse for being able to take most WoW races cross-faction?“Could we ever see an alliance tauren or a horde dwarf? It might be possible if the pandas are a test to see how one race would work on both sides of the fence. “
  • And The Godmother looks at people complaining about reputation being tied to daily quests in Mists of Pandaria with some bemusement” Professions will require you to have reputation that you can’t simply go and slog out with multiple dungeons. Placing a time constraint means the world won’t be flooded with 1001 Jewelcrafting Mounts in the first month, and I for one think this is a good thing. “

Seriously, I’m taking no chances with discussion of the Olyp – er – thingies. After all, if you’re nearby, you can actually get yourself arrested for not looking happy enough

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Factions in Mists of Pandaria – the Tillers, the Lorewalkers, the Brewmasters, Golden Lotus, the Shado-Pan, the Anglers and more.

Yes, with Mists of Pandaria come a whole host of new factions for us to grind up reputation with. But with this expansion, Blizzard have really let their imaginations go, and there’s some very cool stuff headed to your Reputation window. The Tillers let us farm in a more literal sense, the Anglers will delight fisherpeople everywhere, the Lorewalkers promise to make Archaeology interesting, the Brewmasters let us finally return their damn keg, the Shado-Pan let you get your Shaolin on, the order of the Cloud Serpent let you grow your own mount from an egg, the Klaxxi let you ally with cannibalistic insects, and the August Celestials and the Golden Lotus – well, just feel really damn Oriental. Plus, of course, there’s Wrathion, the Black Prince and Hander-Out Of Legendaries.

Here’s everything we know so far about the people you’re going to be kung fu questing for.

Updated September 17th 2012

Tillers

Never let it be said that Blizzard don’t learn from other games. In this case, Farmville.

Yes, by going down to Halfhill in the Valley of the Four Winds, you’ll be able to start up the idyllic agrarian lifestyle for yourself. Starting with the quest chain Lore and Grow, you’ll acquire an instanced farm of your very own. You can do the first chain at level 85, which will teach you the basics of WoW farming – the earth-based version, that is – but after that you’ll need to be level 90 to get your farmin’ on.

Every day, two farmers will come into the Market with a variety of problems. You’ll fix their problems for them – which will apparently involve less monsters and more ploughing than we’re used to – and plant crops, which you can harvest the next day. You’ll also care for your farm, deal with pests on the vegetables, and presumably shout at young Pandaren to “GET ORF MOI LAAAAND!”

Apparently there will be quite a bit of customisation available for your farm too. The details are still a bit thin, but Blizzard mentioned being able to grow an apple orchard, breed pigs and maybe even plant herbalism ingredients. You can even grow a pet there.

Is it me, or does this sound like Blizzard sidling into player housing through the back door, as it were?

Lorewalkers

The Lorewalkers ask you to collect books from around Pandaria, as well as Archaeology items, to build reputation with them. They’re meant to be an optional faction, although currently a couple of profession items require Lorewalker rep.

The books that you collect can be found all over Pandaria. Some of them appear to be quest items, wheras others can be found out in the world.

The Lorewalkers will be great fun for anyone who enjoys WoW’s stories. You can build a historical library with them, and bring back items from all across Pandaria to their base in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. Apparently they’ll sometimes give you a spontaneous historical presentation on items you bring back. I can see that being a bit of a love it / hate it feature – I know the serious lore people will love it, but I’m rather seeing Open University Azeroth here…

Brewmasters

No longer in the current build of MoP – they appear to have been scrapped in development.

Shado-Pan

And now we’ve got the straight-up kung-fu warriors. Created by the Pandaren Emperor to protect aganst the Sha (the forces of “bad” emotion in Pandaria), they’re found in Shado-Pan Monastery in the Kun-Lai Summit area.

You’ll need to have some reputation with the Golden Lotus to start doing Shado-Pan quests. They have several huge questlines, plus daily quests to protect Pandaria.

Once you’re training with them, each set of dailies will take you to a different corner of Pandaria, where you’ll fight various enemies of the Pandaren. You’ll also get the opportunity to defeat other members of the Shado-Pan in an arena – after which time you can recruit them to join you on your Shado-Pan dailies!

The Shado-Pan are one of the four factions in MoP which offer epic armour as rep rewards, so you’ll probably end up grinding reputation with them at some point.

Finally, and interestingly, the Shado-Pan appear to include a number of references to another force of guardian warriors in fantasy fiction – the Night’s Watch from George R R Martin’s “Game Of Thrones”. Notably, several of their common emotes seem to reference Game of Thrones!

The Anglers

Yes, in Mop, Fishing has a posse.

The Anglers are a fishing-centric faction, with whom you gain rep from fishing-based dailies, and from whom you can buy, well, fishing-based items. But some of those items are very cool – new fishing poles, yes, but also a new mount and even a fishing-specific mount, the Water Walker, which we believe we’ll be able to fish from!

And in a touch WoW lore lovers will appreciate, you’ll recognise their quartermaster – one Nat Pagle, who was apparently ahead of the curve when it came to getting shipwrecked on mysterious islands…

The Klaaxi

Rebel mantids working to free their queen from the influence of the Sha, you’ll encounter them whilst fighting the Mantids. Subsequently, they have several long questlines and a lot of quests, involving freeing their leaders amongst other things.

The Klaxxi are one of the four factions in MoP which will give rep-based epic armour and weapons (along with a neat scorpion mount), so you’ll probably be getting quite familiar with them throughout Mists…

The August Celestials

Followers of the four guardian creatures of Pandaria, Yu’lon the Jade Serpent, Xuen the White Tiger, Chi Ji the Red Crane, and Niuzao the Black Ox, the August Celestials are a dailies-only faction. You’ll need to be Revered with the Golden Lotus before you can even start questing with them.

Every day, you’ll be directed to one of the four temples of the Celestials, where you’ll get 5 quests to help Pandaria.

The Celestials are the second faction in MoP which will offer rep-based armour, so you’ll probably be doing those 5 daily quests a lot to get your gear up to LFD/LFR standards. They also offer a couple of unique Cloud Serpents and some enchanting recipes.

The Golden Lotus

And here’s the last rep-based armour faction! They open up both the August Celestials and the Shado-Pan factions, so they’re pretty much going to be a must-grind for most players.

Lore-wise, they’re a mysterious society focussed on defeating the Mogu, the brutish creatures found in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. You’ll start their questline around level 87.

Other Factions

  • The Order of the Cloud Serpent are really cool – they’re the faction that let you breed and train your own mount. We’ve got an entire article about Cloud Serpents and the Order – go read!
  • The Forest Hozen and the Pearlfin Jinyu are the two factions at war in the Jade Forest, the opening area for MoP. The Hozen are a crude race of monkey-people, whereas the Jinyu are reserved fish-creatures. No word yet on their rep rewards.
  • Wrathion, the Black Prince, has come to Pandaria too. Information on his questline and rep is very vague, but it’ll be raid-level and connected with the many Legendaries that MoP offers us.
  • Shang Xi’s Academy is the starting faction for Pandaren, training Pandaren heroes. It doesn’t have much impact outside the Pandaren starter zones.

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Hour of Twilight and Patch 5.0 Miscellany – Faction Storylines, Responsibility for War, and more

There have been lots of great posts over the last day, and some of them are quite hard to categorise.

So, here are some of the best bits and pieces that have cropped up over the last few days of Patch 4.3 madness, that otherwise might be missed:

  • In An Age does a great take-down of the Blizzard “Factionally imbalanced?” Developer Chat – “Bottom line: the Horde interaction is multifaceted with many conflicting goals and desires among the groups. Alliance interaction is one-dimensional, for basically no reason. Horde has Wheel of Time meets Dune whereas Alliance has goddamn Jack and Jill meets See Spot Run.”
  • Tesh has some fantastic Druid-themed Signet Rings available for sale. Great presents for the lazorchicken or bear in your life.
  • Blessing of Kings would like to see the Horde’s players forced to take responsibility for the sack of Theramore“One of the problems with this method is that it’s never the player’s fault that the Alliance and Horde are at war. It’s always that angry Garrosh, or stupid Varian. If only they were sensible and intelligent, then all these problems could be avoided.”
  • And Riorel at Postcards from Azeroth takes the End Time dungeon and produces one of his most evocative images ever

Any other titbits from the last few days that you think should get more publicity?

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Epic Slant: Factions Are Bad, Mkay?

Ferrel over at Epic slant has a bone to pick with the Horde. And the alliance, too. He’s saying that forcing players to pick between segregated factions in a PvE game is a Bad Idea, plain and simple.

Good and evil have been a hallmark of fantasy literature and games for quite some time now. Someone is always the hero and someone else is the villain. In more complex stories you’re not always sure who fits what mold and you often see it as an issue of perspective. Such is the case with the Horde vs Alliance. Is it really fair to say that the Horde is evil? What is the true evil here? I’ll tell you: the true evil is splitting players into two factions. This is a mechanic we simply do not need in a PvE focused MMORPG.

He makes a point of how little horde and alliance can interact and suggests that forcibly dividing the community doesn’t help the community grow.

After all, Ferrel says, that’s half the population (give or take) on your server that you can’t have a laugh with after a wipe, or make friends with. And that’s twice the content the developers need to make.

I’ve always thought that the factions having different languages has been a good call for immersion. But some way to communicate wouldn’t go amiss. Ferrel’s looking back, minus the rose tinted glasses, at a game that did it well …

I missed those good old days, but maybe you can tell me if he’s got the right idea, and if WoW’s faction developers could learn from other games?

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_Quote taken directly from Ferrel’s post_

_Epic Slant’s homepage is here_

Edit: Syl from Raging Monkeys has posted a response to Ferrel’s post. Syl’s post is a great read, and has some interesting ideas on how Blizzard’s gone wrong with the factions and what could make them work better.

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