A Persistant, Living, Breathing World – WoD

livingworld

tim

Whilst exploring the Alpha testing of Warlords of Draenor, I found myself amazed by many things. What I found on my initial play-through of the new Garrison feature, was a living, almost breathing world.

To clarify, the preliminary questing structure of the Horde and Alliance zones; Shadowmoon Valley and Frostfire Ridge, task you with the creation of a forward base of operations for your faction, hence ‘Garrisons’.

What I didn’t expect to find was the process to create such a structure to be so unique and ultimately groundbreaking for the genre. The world around me is covered in snow, with thick blasts of icy air flowing across the ice plain in front of my character, signified by a new visual effect representing an accurate depiction of snow-drift we find in real life in the Arctic Circle. In the distance, large obsidian-like mountains stretch up to the heavens. Closer to my character, the area where I stood, was surrounded by the same black spikes of rock, affirming its hostile, raw nature.

The plan was simple, each quest tasked me with a laundry list of potential hazards and menial operations. These would need to be completed to ensure safety for the lore figures that had given me these orders, and those of the Horde army, of which I was now actually in charge of as ‘commander’ of the Horde.

nastiesFirstly the area was covered in various nasties that could pose a threat to any building operations, and since we had our experience with dealing with beasts of all types by now in the game, we were to cut them down. Until now, this is your basic list of quests, kill this thing, kill this big named thing and so on. Expecting the obligatory ‘collection’ quest as I approached the next yellow exclamation mark, and I right clicked on the lore figure. Yes, it was in fact another collection quest, but not exactly what I had envisioned but I wont spoil it for the purpose of this article. It seems that now, with the new title of “commander”, it was up to me to place markers on various trees in the surrounding area of the camp. The trees would then be cut down by peons, peons that were effectively under my control. The idea that Blizzard had realized I had slain the mightiest of foes, lords of pure death, old gods, and so on and had finally come to the conclusion, I should perhaps not be in charge of collecting the lumber myself made me actually smile, stand up and salute in awe.

Is  this the reason that I’m writing this article? No. You see the process in which the peon cuts down the trees, now that’s the reason for an article.

shittyquestAround the area of the ‘camp’ stand around 60 trees, give or take. Around 30 of these have icons next to them, signifying I can place a flag next to the tree and watch as a peon walks up to it, cuts it into lumber he can handle, then carries it back to the camp and the quest givers. Then it hit me, each one of these trees didn’t need to be cut, and I needed only 8 to be marked, with each one that I didn’t cut down having a chance to survive. I thought to myself how cool it would be if these trees stayed cut down, and how more immersive the experience could be, that was until after handing in my quests, and realising that, despite my own doubts, the trees I had cut remained stumps and those I left alone still stood proud. Not cut down in some awkward cut scene, but still there, standing proud like a massive middle finger to my doubts of the technology of what is a game aging over 10 years since its release!

amazetrteesIt is safe to say, the following gasp of air and explicative’s made me rush straight onto Adobe to make a video on what id seen. To share this feeling with the world, in the very much the same way as I would of if I had managed to get a shiny Pokémon card in a booster pack when I was five with my neighborhood. The feeling of elation seeing the changes so far in the Warlords of Draenor Alpha, and now Beta testing phases have re-invigorated my belief that Blizzard still reign supreme in innovation and perfection when it comes to the worlds they create.

Sure another game my create better looking worlds, or the finest graphical overhaul that requires £800 graphics cards to enjoy. But at the end of the day, Blizzard can create a more enjoyable, immersive world, with minor tweaks and adjustments, and STILL have their content playable on 5 year old equipment. What video game company can still say that?

It’s truly phenomenal, and the attention to detail and undoubted love they have for the World of Warcraft is shown triple over in all the media they involve themselves within. The books are fantastic, written by amazingly detailed and passionate authors such as Christie Golden, or beautiful models and toys crafted with the same interest and passion as the games they are based upon. All of this is paramount in the success of a franchise, despite the enormous budget they have to play around with for all aspects of the company; Blizzard cannot be confronted with the frankly boring and disturbing lack of consumer service and belief in their own worlds over just monetary concerns. If there ever needed to be a restorer of faith in the Warcraft universe, Warlords of Draenor is sure to be that exact reason you need. Just watch any of our videos or read any of these articles on WoW Stratics, if you don’t feel impressed after then, Im not sure you can call yourself a gamer anymore!

 

Here’s a video of my first encounters with Frostfire ridge, Shadowmoon Valley and a little overview of Garrison controls and the development of this player housing type structure. We upload many videos on Warlords of Draenor over at Acegamestv, drop by and say hello! Enjoy!

Flying, Garrisons & WoD News. 13 March 2014.

woddington

Today marks the release of more information via social media, that Warlords of Draenor will NOT be using flight throughout the world of Draenor at launch, and has not been confirmed to be used at level 100, despite the likelihood obviously that it would be. Alex Afrasiabi, lead world designer for World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment go’s on to say that perhaps players would perhaps learn to enjoy the world without flying, and that they are waiting to see how players react to this limitation.

Personally I would say that I’d have to agree with the idea that the world we play in each expansion would benefit more from players having to explore more, allowing for much of the hard work that go’s unseen in the world more noticeable. If you look at fellow writer; Samkos recent post about Easter eggs in World of Warcraft, it could be argued that many of those aspects of the game would be more seen if flying did not exist in Azeroth. That being said, I would have to then counter that by saying flying is purely a convenience tool, and allows for players who have their daily routines in game to do that content easier and less laborious than it would be without. Either way, it’s interesting to see the approach to flying they are taking with Warlords of Draenor, and I share the curiosity of Mr Afrasiabi on how people will react.

Other information today, also through social media was that the starting event leading up to Warlords of Draenor’s release will be set in and around the Dark Portal in Blasted Lands. It has been said that the initial quests and events will take 40-45 minutes and will feature the player defending the world from invading Iron Horde through the Dark Portal. The event will see players attempt to shut down the portal itself, presumably leading to the events where Garrosh steps through the portal. Alex Afrasiabi is keen to emphasise the realisation of how bad the Iron Horde are, and mentions that we will see how important it is for us to address the problem immediately, or encounter a full invasion comparable to the first war.

Yesterday saw the launch of Hearthstone, and indeed the Hearthsteed mount (which you can read the article further to learn how to get your own). Speculation on what came to the original red version of the same mount was answered by Blizzard Employee; Corey Stockton, who confirmed that the model will infact be used in the future and that they have plans for it’s implementation. This comes as players wondered if the original designs were faction specific colour variants, only now it seems that this could be a future reward for WoW from Hearthstone. The release of Hearthstone itself did not avoid the usual issues with a new launch release, and some players reported difficulty redeeming their mounts in game. Blizzard addressed this by asking players to log out of their accounts and back in, which seems to be a fix for the issue.

garrison

Finally we got more information, or rather confirmation on the possible scale of Garrisons; the player housing / instanced area in Warlords of Draenor from Jeremy Feasel, an employee of Blizzard who works on Garrisons, pet battles, the Timeless Isle and more features of the game. Upon joining he shared this screenshot, which features the Alliance player buildings present in the Garrison feature. The screenshot itself supplies the realisation on both scale and progressive features unlocked through achievements and progress in the game. The fountain in the centre for example, that would be built over time and presumably from a reward, achievement, or time related unlock process. What can be said is that personally I think the whole thing looks fantastic. The implementation of this feature alone to World of Warcraft will bring more addictive and enjoyable elements for players to be involved with outside of raiding or pvp. The original scale of the buildings I saw at an early stage of last years Blizzcon were tiny in comparison to what can only be a more progressed and advanced Garrison. This is fundamentally one of the most anticipated implementation for WoW, and with many other games doing it arguably less well planned than they could of, it will be interesting to see how this affects daily WoW life.

With WoD just around the corner now, and Beta invites expected very shortly, be sure to bookmark WoW.Stratics today, the only place you need to be for everything