But Where Did The Real Garrosh Go?

Garrosh Hellscream: villain of Mists of Pandaria. Altogether all-round bad egg. Corrupted, sinister, and irredeemable.

How did that happen, exactly?

Rades is steamingly furious at the progression Garrosh has gone through from complex, flawed character to mustache-twirling archvillain, and he explains exactly why, how it all fails to make sense, and where it seems to have gone wrong in this fascinating post:

“But then it was announced that he was going to be the end villain in Mists, and I guess Blizzard wanted to make EXTRA SURE that we knew he was bad? They’ve made it pretty clear that, oh hey, just in case you haven’t noticed, HE’S EVIL NOW. First there’s Malkorok playing the role of enforcer Gestapo, who literally came from nowhere and STILL feels bizarrely forced and jarring. And of course, the bombing of Theramore, which only goes against every aspect of Garrosh’s honor-driven personality we saw so carefully constructed during Cataclysm and the excellent Shattering novel.

I’m still not really sure how “I would never use a bomb to kill innocents, Krom’gar!” turns into “I’m totes gonna use this bomb to destroy innocents, Malkorok!” I guess that’s character growth, or something?

So that’s been bad enough, and that was even before Mists launched! And it’s only gotten worse. Garrosh in pursuit of evil artifacts. Garrosh sending assassins after his own allies, or abusing them so bad they start thinking of switching sides to the Alliance. Garrosh trying to control the Sha, even as Pandaria is torn apart by their re-emergence and even as his strongest warriors are twisted and slain by the negative energies he’s trying to wield.

Because oh, it’s not like HELLSCREAMS have any important history of being corrupted by evil forces that would make Garrosh think twice about such an act. Nope, not at all.”

Read the rest of “Thoughts on Garrosh and Baine’s “betrayal” comment” »

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LoTRO Roundup: Evil, Story, Horses and More

It’s a quieter MMO than others in terms of blog posts, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on in Lord of the Rings Online. In this week’s roundup, we’ve got everything from massive charity events to a great look at whether the Riders of Rohan expansion has been a success:

  • Big congratulations to the Casual Stroll To Mordor crew, whose Fellowship Walk charity event raised over $8,000 for Child’s Play“I cannot say it enough. The LOTRO Community is simply amazing. Thank you to all who donated in all forms be it monetary, those who donated prizes and auctions, or in terms of your time to join us on the walks in-game.”
  • Ravious praises the way that LoTRO’s storyline actually looks back at your past heroic deeds” I almost shed a tear at the thought that an NPC really seemed to notice that I had killed ten rats and stayed in their thoughts and prayers”
  • Syp begs to be allowed to be less than heroic in LoTRO – although he does get a bit carried away at the end” I’d stop my questing once and for all, and establish my base of operations as I sought to take on Saruman, Sauron, and the Free Peoples in a no-holds cage match for the dominion of Middle-earth. I’d make my coat of arms a terrifying clown face and my army a hired band of unstoppable Hobbits and Dwarves.”
  • And Roger at Contains Moderate Peril takes a detailed look over what he considers the good, the bad and the lazy of the expansion” By and large I am enjoying the new content which is written to an extremely high standard. It would seem even the most minor quest have an interesting back story to them”

Are you playing LoTRO right now? If so, how’s it going?

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Does an MMO need a good story? And what IS a good story, anyway?

And what exactly IS a “good story” in an MMORPG context, anyway? Is it narrative forced down your throat, brilliant stories of emergent behaviour, or something else?

Wilhelm Arcturus is attempting to answer these questions in his latest, fascinating post. Taking as a jumping-off point the claim almost every game makes to offer more “freedom”, he asks himself why he plays the games he does and gives up on the games he does, even when he feels that he wants to play them

” I went on several structure shoots in EVE Online last month. Structure shoots are, objectively, not fun. I stopped writing about them in general unless they represent significant milestones in a war. Unless, of course, something fun happens, like we decide to moon the bad guys in the home system, get caught with our pants down, and have to run for home as fast as we can. That, too, is objectively not fun. But it is funny and makes the story worth telling to my mind.

Likewise, overcoming the petty trials that used to face us in WoW… basically being able to relive the past… seems more interesting to write about than, say, 99% of my battles in World of Tanks. I think I have mentioned two battles in posts total. And it is certainly more interesting (to me) than my solo quests or instant adventures in Rift.

As this blog will attest, I have a lot of stories that focus on the past and times when things were more difficult. There is a series posts about TorilMUD, the direct predecessor to EQ. I will go on ad nauseum about EverQuest of old and the Fippy Darkpaw server and trying to relive the past, while telling tales from the old days.

Basically, it seems to me that when we face constraints, when we face difficulties, when things go wrong, when we face failure and hardship, those are the times that also generate the memories and the stories, those are the bonding experiences that become the touch points, the guide posts that create the continuity of the story of a given game.

An oyster that is not irritated does not produce a pearl.”

This is a really interesting addition to the ongoing discussion about inconvenience and hardship in MMOs, and how much is enough. Indeed, overall, I found Wilhelm’s post fascinating – and all the more so because he doesn’t come to a clear, simple answer. There aren’t any clear, simple answers here – or someone would have made the Perfect MMO already.

If you want a lot of questions and ideas, rather than a single “IT’S LIKE THIS, OK?” point, I highly recommend this post!

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Weekend Roundup: WoW

The world of WoW blogging is interesting right now. Whilst you might have expected it to be filled with tales of endgame raiding and hardcore theorycrafting, instead it seems that Blizzard’s mission to diversify WoW’s activities has really worked. People are discussing story, they’re discussing pet battles, and all sorts of things. It’s very interesting and very spread out.

Here are some of the most interesting or entertaining posts from the weekend:

  • Garrosh Hellscream has ended up in Karazhan, and he’s taking the opportunity to put on a show! Well, two, actually – if you’ve got some time and fancy a parody, check out West Azeroth Story and the Roshy Horror Picture Show
  • Typhoon Andrew looks back at this day over his last five years of blogging“It didn’t break the economy at all, in fact I’d say that they folks buying this thing now for real money are the folks who want it themselves. Crisis averted.”
  • The Godmother looks forward to the next patch, and finds herself worried in character at the way events are turning“Have no lessons been learnt from the war in Northrend at all? Apparently not, because I’m being told now I’m expected to ‘valiantly defend an outpost’ I think is both badly considered and frankly unacceptable on a continent with such a rich cultural diversity.”
  • And The Grumpy Elf is, frankly, bouncing with excitement at what the datamining from 5.1 is revealing (warning, spoilers)- ” Blizzard is really making sure that mists takes warcraft to the next level. Old game be damned, it feels new again, new with excitement. Lets hope these quicker patches keep coming and the story keeps rolling out with the intensity that 5.1 seems to be bringing with it.”

How’s MoP for you, three weeks in? Are you raiding hardcore or doing something else?

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Things About Guild Wars 2 Which Kind Of Suck

Guild Wars 2 is very, very cool. But it’s not perfect – and today, three players are pointing out some holes in its otherwise perfect vista.

I’m thoroughly enjoying Guild Wars 2, still, as are millions of other people. But no game’s perfect. From lack of direction in your character’s story (and yeah, I’m getting a little annoyed with how chirpily positive my human thief is too) to jumping puzzles FROM HELL, here are a few things that, well, aren’t going so great:

  • Mystic Worlds tells the story of the Vista from Hell“I’m at the 4-pull mob group for the umptenth time. I tried waiting further down for other players to get up here but people venturing this deep into the cave are far and few. All my gear is broken and my resolve is failing. Each fall having unnerved me, I’m more tentative with each attempt. “
  • Hunter’s Insight looks at the problems with uneven difficulty and broken mechanics facing many GW2 dungeons” It wouldn’t be that bad if the blossoms didn’t cover every inch of space, but that wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t respawn literally every 10 seconds, but that wouldn’t be so bad if we could kill them without being obstructed, but that wouldn’t be so bad if the bosses weren’t already a fairly formidable fight, but that wouldn’t be so bad if we could dodge freely, which wouldn’t be so bad if when we died and had to run back we didn’t have to get through the blossoms again.”
  • And Erik at TL:DR discusses why his character is forced to wear underpants – and more seriously, why they’re forced down a single story path“You could have just gleefully murdered a town of Skritt and stolen everything they owned, gone for a run through the city of Divinity’s Reach in your underpants (though, alas, not totaly naked), and punched a friendly dolphin in the face all in one day, and you would still be THE HERO.”

Is there anything about GW2 that’s driving you up the wall right now?

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Believable monsters, wretched scum and loud music

Of all the gifts Star Wars has given our culture, I sometimes wonder if the phrase “wretched hive of scum and villainy” will be the most enduring. Find out why it’s being applied to WoW (this time) below, plus some discussion on the lifecycle of Secret World monsters, the plot of Isengard in LoTRO, and a selection of MMORPG musical hits…

  • Jeromai at Why I Game highlights the alarmingly well-thought-out lifecycles of the hideous eldrich creatures in The Secret World“OMG. Through all of Solomon Island, I’ve been shooting dozens and dozens of these brood pods to stop Draug from hatching out of them, but it wasn’t until I watched the entire incubator cycle that it really hit me where the hell these brood pods COME FROM.”
  • Green Armadillo at Player vs Developer discusses the successes and failings of LoTRO’s solo Isengard storyline“This expansion feels like it’s increasingly putting the player in larger conflicts involving large numbers of NPC’s, presumably in preparation for the battles that are to come in the IP over the next few years. “
  • Jasyla at Cannot Be Tamed categorises the players she has found in WoW’s LFR, and their extremely unfortunate interactions” In another LFR we had a Mage who thought it would be clever to put a portal to Theramore over the portal to the Eye of Eternity. Charming!”
  • And Redbeard at Parallel Context highlights some of his favourite, less “rah, charge!” pieces of MMORPG music” WoW has a history of music that evokes and complements the scenery of a region, but for some reason they really hit one out of the park with the soundtrack to Hellfire Peninsula. “

Enjoyed today’s posts? Please consider sharing them!

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Four Cataclysmic Story Disappointments

Remember the Abyssal Maw? Remember how it was going to be a raid in Cataclysm?

Today Rades revisits the old promises – and the old, promising plot hooks – of Cataclysm, in an interesting look at the expansion that could have been

“Speaking of Deathwing, how about that smooth-talking, clever, sneaky, manipulative villain we all knew and loved from the old games and the novels, huh? I sure did enjoy the way Deathwing used his infamous guile and silver tongue in Cataclysm to twist alliances, turn friend against friend, and trick his enemies into doing his dirty work. And it was a great touch seeing his old fake identity, Lord Daval Prestor, make an appearance.

Oh, wait, that’s right. None of that happened, at all. He just burned things.

This is a CRIME, Blizzard! Deathwing’s personality in the novels was so good! A trickster, a spy, a master orator, and a puppet master, novel-Deathwing was always in control, had his claws in every pot and was playing ALL the sides. Call me crazy, but I LIKE an intelligent villain who’s got plots and schemes! And he had style, too. He might end up betraying you and roasting you with dragonfire, but dammit he’s going to deliver a witty line and dryly have a chuckle at your expense first.

But the Deathwing we saw in Cataclysm was a sad, sad shadow of his former self. We didn’t get ANY of his charm or flair, instead we just got…well, an angry dragon. I was (and am) incredibly disappointed that his character was so drastically gutted. ”

There are no exceptions here – everything that Rades highlights would have been a fantastic addition to an expansion that was somewhat anemic storyline-wise. And as usual, he does a fantastic job of bringing the stories and the characters to life, giving complexity and depth to the world of Azeroth.

It’s a pity that Cataclysm didn’t live up to this post. But on the upside, have a read through it, and you’ll be able to imagine, at least for a moment, the glory that might have been WoW’s third expansion…

What did you think of Cataclysm’s storyline?

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Do MMORPGs stop you writing your own character’s story?

With the flap over Mass Effect 3’s ending, and SWTOR seeking to define itself by its narrative, the focus is firmly back on story in gaming at the moment.

Today two different bloggers are musing on the role of story in MMOs, and whether it’s possible to have a unique story in a world where almost everyone will be experiencing some version of the same narrative.

First up, Zoso of Killed in a Smiling Accident discusses the Schrodinger’s Cat nature of NPCs in SWTOR, where it’s possible to have both killed and saved multiple sympathetic, voiced characters, multiple times

“In a single player game this might crop up again later; perhaps you’d bump in the Captain on another planet and he’d be grateful that you spared him, while down the other leg of the trousers of time another player would meet the First Officer who’d taken over after his Captain had been demoted in a mysterious lightsabre-based industrial accident. In the shared universe of a MMOG both things happened, Schrödinger’s Captain is both alive and dead depending on who you talk to. Chat with someone who’s done the flashpoint a few times and it’s even more confusing:

“Oh, you’ve done the Black Talon, did you spare the Captain or kill him?”

“The first time, we spared him. Second time, we killed him. Third time I wanted to spare him, but got outvoted. Fourth and fifth times we were after the loot from the Republic group that spawns in if you spare him, then sixth through ninth was speed runs for social points so we killed him.”

As always, Zoso delivers a sequence of interesting, thought-provoking points, from the way Mass Effect 3 puts the lie to the claim that “no-one plays games for story” to the extent to which SWTOR fails to engage or feel personal for many people precisely because of this multiple universe situation.

Meanwhile, Pewter of Decoding Dragons has been musing on Guild Wars 2’s customisation, in a series of small musings on elements of MMORPG personalisation

“Even in Warcraft, which is starting to look relatively uncustomisable, there are hundreds of thousands of artefacts from the lives of individual characters out there. Fan fiction, fan art, twitter accounts, blog posts, moments shared on vent about the time when that warlock did that thing that one time. The personal story in Guild Wars 2 is unique to each individual character, but the players will create their own artefacts and ways to share the immense diversity of experience that ArenaNet has enabled. Just look at the discussions about FemShep – there are thousands of FemSheps out there, and yet I see so many discussions about ‘my FemShep’. The possessive.

Pewter covers a whole gamut of topics here, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this post spawn a number of responses and more in-depth explorations. I found the quote above particularly interesting – the way that we bond with a game character, even the same game character that thousands of other people have bonded with, is one thing that separates games from any other medium. We may enjoy watching Chuck, but he’s still the same Chuck other people are watching. By contrast, Shepard is “my” Shepard.

And finally, roleplaying in MMOs is one of the most immersive ways to create a unique experience in a non-unique world. [Edit – Jana and Saxxy of I Like Pancakes wrote this guide. Apologies for the misattribution.] has written a fantastic, comprehensive and lengthy guide to getting started with (MMORPG) roleplaying. If you want to know how such things work in a world without a DM or if you fancy trying something new in your MMOs, I higly recommend it –

“After considering the character physically, it’s time to consider the character mentally. Creating a bit of a backstory is important because it guides you as to how to act in RP. I like to create a “defining moment”: a story about the character’s past that resonates with the character and defines what drives them. For Jana, that moment is her failed relationship with Jeremiah. She sought and continues to seek some form of reconciliation, allowing her to love without being driven to hurt or be hurt. For Saxsy, that moment is her leaving Auberdine to travel to Eldre’thalas. She is driven by justifying her decision to become a mage, defending it against her family, and maintaining a joyous attitude in the face of it all. ”

Do you find yourself disconcerted by the thousands of other players running around with similar stories to “yours”?

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Two contrasting views of the SWTOR Trooper’s levelling experience

Today we’ve got something really interesting – two contrasting views of the entire experience of playing a Trooper in SWTOR, from the start to the endgame.

First up, Shintar has just hit level 50 with her Commando, and over at her new blog (named, yes, Going Commando ), she’s reviewing the entire experience – which she, overall, found extremely entertaining

“As far as the trooper class story goes, from the starter areas I’ve seen so far I thought that the trooper had one of the best tie-ins to the main plot of the class story’s Act I. With other classes I often felt that the starter planet was a self-contained mini story that had little to no relevance to the main plot that was dropped on my head immediately afterwards, but for the trooper the entirety of your starter experience is pretty much a powerful set-up for what comes later.

Otherwise I think the main point that stood out to me over the course of the trooper story is that it’s a story about being a hero of the people. When you start out as a Jedi of either flavour, you’re basically being told that you’re special from the moment you arrive on Tython. You may not have done anything remarkable yet, but people can tell that you’re extraordinarily strong in the Force and that by itself is amazing. As a newly created trooper on the other hand you’re being told that you’re being given a chance to join Havoc Squad due to past achievements, but otherwise you’re pretty much a normal person who just happens to be both smart and strong and is slowly working their way up.”

I’ve not hit 50 with my Commando yet, but from what I have played of the storyline I’d echo Shintar’s comments about the starting area in particular. The Commando’s interesting partially because it feels like a Military SF novel that just happens to have popped in on the Star Wars universe – maybe not very Star Wars, but very enjoyable.

However, all’s not rosy in Commando-land. Dude, Where’s My Bantha has also levelled a commando to 50 recently, and he finds the story as a whole, shall we say, unconvincing

“Here’s the thing. Bioware didn’t have to do much to make this all far less stupid. You have to give them credit for at least trying to give you the option of playing as a Republic Trooper and making it work as if you really were a member of the Republic military, but it doesn’t work, and it never will work as long as you have the freedom to pick and choose which quests you will and won’t attempt. To make a completely believable Republic Trooper levelling experience you’d have to have a completely different levelling experience to every other class in the game, not just different class quests and the same pickup quests as everyone else on the planet, completely different. Every quest would be a military quest written especially for Troopers and you’d not have the option of not doing them, soldiers operate under these things we call orders. Of course, that’s never going to happen, and much though I may despise Sony Online Entertainment for the way they utterly ruined Star Wars Galaxies, they realised this sort of thing was far too much work to do properly and too restrictive for players if done right, and so they point blank refused to ever allow players to be Stormtroopers for exactly these reasons. Bioware at least tried to find a middle ground, and they came so incredibly close.

This post is spoiler-laden, as you’d expect – indeed, you’ll pretty much know the entire Trooper storyline by the end of it. But the criticisms being levelled are both fair and interesting – whether you agree with them or not. And it’s a very entertaining rant post besides!

Trooper storyline – good or bad?

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3 Things That Might Not Work (in future MMOs)

We’ve got some interesting analysis going on today from a variety of folks in the blogosphere, as the informal phrase of the day seems to be “O RLY?”. Yes, the hype’s dying down a bit, and Bio Break, Decoding Dragons, and In An Age are taking a long hard look at the promises for the future made in Wildstar, Guild Wars 2, and Mists of Pandaria:

  • Syp at Bio Break is decidedly less than impressed with Wildstar’s decision to tell all stories in 140 characters or less“I mean, why stop with 140 characters? Why not 50? Why not do away with words altogether in quest assignments and use just pretty pictures and arrows? “
  • Azuriel at In An Age explains why he thinks the much-vaunted removal of the Holy Trinity in Guild Wars 2 is doomed to failure“If you have attempted group content in WoW at any point in the last two years, you probably recoiled in horror as I did at the thought of looking forward to shared group responsibility. We have a term for that now – The Dance – and every indication that it was the principle cause of the nearly 2 million subscriber exodus.”
  • And Pewter at Decoding Dragons highlights the things she did like in Dave Kosak’s postmortem on Cataclysm and promises for Mists“In Warcraft, the issue is not so much the open world, but that locations rarely flow naturally into each other. Verdant jungles sit next to icefloes, and deserts impinge on primordial craters.”

What features of upcoming MMOs do you think are doomed to failure – or massive unexpected success?

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