Durotan – Lore, Warcraft & You!

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Welcome to the continued lore instalment here on WoW Stratics, previously these articles have featured lore figures which are prominent members of the storyline of the Warlords of Draenor expansion, set to release later this year. This time we look at Durotan, a confirmed quest and NPC figurehead throughout the Horde storyline in the Warlords of Draenor expansion.

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Durotan is the Son of Garad and Geyah. Durotan’s father, the former chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, a powerful diplomatic leader killed by the Ogres and Gronn of Draenor before his voice could be heard in protest of the decision for the Orcs to go to war with the Draenei. And Geyah; the kind hearted current day Greatmother and leader of the Mag’har in Garadar, Nagrand. Both Durotan’s parents have lived through uneasy times for the Orc race, fuelled by a world ever on the brink of war and tension, comprised of organised groups of individually lead Clans, with each a leader outspoken in their rightful leadership of their own. Durotan grew up in Nagrand with his parents, prior to the First war. In his youth he spend much of his time hunting and practicing his combat skills with fellow clan members, generally learning the ways of his people.

During a festival, held bi-annually within Nagrand called the ‘Kosh’harg Celebration’, a time when Orcs from all clans would be invited to talk and share stories and Honor the diversity of their race, Durotan met a Blackrock Clan Orc by the name of Ogrim Doomhammer. They became friends and ultimately this respect is the first step in the foundation of the Horde we know in-game today.

At the time of Durotan’s father’s death at the hands of the Gronn and Ogres, Durotan immediately became the new chieftain by his birth right. His sorrow and rage weighed heavily on his mind, but the leadership of his people had to be his foremost concern. Whilst the clan still mourned the loss of their former chieftain, a message came from Ner’zhul; the chieftain of the Shadowmoon Clan, and shaman of the nearby Oshu’gun Mountain in Nagrand. It said that Ner’zhul had been visited by the ancestors, who proclaimed the right to all Draenor should be Orc alone and that the Draenei were enemies of their people. The truth of the matter is fairly different however, as at this time Ner’zhul had inadvertently made first hand contact with the Burning Legion and the Eredar lord Kil’jaeden. Kil’jaeden was in charge of tracking down and eliminating the Eredar, or now as they called themselves Draenei (Broken Ones) as they fled their own home world Argus many thousands of years previously, escaping the Burning Legion whom completely took over the planet for themselves. Many Draenei joined the legion, but Prophet Velen, a powerful Draenei leader and priest had led what remained of his people away aboard their spaceships and crashed into Azeroth and Draenor.

Ner'zhulDurotan was ordered by Ner’zhul to meet with a Draenei hunting party led by Velen himself. The prophet revealed to him that it was infact a dying Naaru named K’ure who attracted the spirits of the dead to Oshu’gun, the very same Naaru it seems that helped the Draenei escape Argus not 25,000 years previously. This denounced the Orc beliefs and was met with somewhat hostile reactions from many Orcs. Many couldn’t believe that this alien had within one simple sentence tried to convince them that their ancestor’s spirits did not appear by choice, and that this ‘Naaru’ being was their only tie to Oshu’gun. Despite this hostility, and the general Orc consensus that Velen be brought before Ner’zhul as a blasphemer, he released them stating that there is no Honor to taking a willing prisoner, regardless of his claims. This is a particularly important point within the blood line that eventually passes down to Thrall, the diplomatic attention to detail and throughput into reasoning is very unlike other Orc’s of the time, allowing Durotan to become a great leader. Nevertheless, the Orcs Went to War.

During a battle weeks later with Draenei forces the shaman of the Frostwolf suddenly realised their ability to convene and channel the gifts bestowed to them by the spirits of their ancestors no long remained within their power. They had become separated with the spirits of Oshu’gun entirely, a prospect that haunted Durotan and his mate Draka immensely. The truth of the matter was that the spirits did not support the war on the Draenei, and that they tried to convey that by refusing their powers to be used in bloodshed, even though their voices could not be heard thanks to Kil’jaeden’s lies.

At the time of the shaman loosing their connection to the ancestral powers, Ner’zhul and his apprentice Gul’dan delved into darker magic’s, understanding the need for power many Orcish shaman followed the same routes and became the first Warlocks of Draenor. Durotan allowed this, for once not wanting to oppose a change too openly, when their people lacked any defensive skills in a time of war and when his own father had been killed for less. Things escalated quickly over time, and through direct interference by Kil’jaeden’s will, The Orcs became united in what they called themselves the ‘First Horde’, a group led by the elected warmonger and bloodthirsty leader of the Blackrock clan; Warchief Blackhand. Under Blackhand’s orders the Frostwolf clan and Durotan were ordered to assault Telmor, a Draenei city nearby to the Frostwolf Clan grounds.

Durotan possessed the ability of Recall, a spell that allowed him to relive memories in visions, a trait that would be most useful now. As a child Durotan had seen a guard of the city use a hidden crystal in the surrounding forest, which when used unveiled the city, usually shrouded and invisible to the naked eye. Ogrim had heard this story from Durotan when they played together as children, and relayed that information to Blackhand. Ultimately this is what made Durotan the leader for the attack on Telmor, and using his ability reluctantly, he brought down the Draenei shroud. The Orcs stormed the settlement and killed everyone in sight. This was a day of absolute victory for the First Horde, but a day of overwhelming ambivalence for Durotan.

Shattrath City

Shattrath City

The Orcish Horde went on to conquer and destroy many other Draenei settlements including the grand city of Shattrath. At this time, Gul’dan, who had been the figurehead of much of the puppeteering and channelling of Kil’jaeden’s will, summoned the Clans to a mountain to the far north; which he dubbed ‘The Throne of Kil’jaden’. It was here he offered the gift of the mighty demon lord Kil’jaeden; the blood of Mannoroth. Previously to the summons, Ner’zhul who at one point was the master of the apprentice and now separated from the possessed and chosen Gul’dan, had warned Durotan about the dangers that Gul’dan would unleash if the Orcs were to partake in Kil’jaeden’s gift, and so he and his friend Ogrim declined drinking the blood of Mannoroth. This infuriated Gul’dan and shortly thereafter he was told by his dark master to be rid of those who would not share in their power, calling them traitors and a danger to the plans of the True Horde.

Gul’dan schemed ways to eliminate Durotan carefully, and so settled for turning his own people against him. He released a Draenei prisoner and slave of Warchief Blackhand, blaming Durotan for the action of defiance to his rule. Blackhand was enraged by this act of treason and openly duelled Durotan. Durotan had actually had a part in all this, as he found the freed slave in the wilderness and had given her shelter so that she may survive. The fight itself took place nearby where Durotan was sheltering the slave, it came to naught when both of the powerful Orcs locked in battle suddenly realised, the Draenei had escaped both of their attentions and fled. Their duel ended, and so did much of the energy that made the battle worthwhile. Durotan left and returned to the camp of the Frostwolf clan, and Blackhand returned to his keep, angered but aware that in his absence his people were without a leader.

Medivh3During the nights that followed, Gul’dan was visited by a vision of a far away sorcerer, calling himself Medivh the human, a possessed life form of the Dark Titan and leader of the Burning Legion; Sargeras. Medivh told unto Gul’dan the next orders for the advancement of their plans for the Horde, and so instructed him to build a demonic gateway, that they could together open between Draenor and the planet that could be seen in the sky at night; Azeroth. The following day, Gul’dan began preparations for the Dark Portal’s construction. Durotan, who was now open in his opposition to Gul’dan’s twisted ideas and that of the bloodstained leadership of the short sighted Warchief Blackhand, continued his protests against the leadership of the Horde, but all was too little and far too late. The Orcs were as possessed as their leaders, under the influence of the Burning Legion and the Corrupted Blood of Mannoroth. When the portal was completed, and Gul’dan ordered the Orc forces through the portal to conquer this new world, Durotan and his clan was exiled to Azeroth, stripping them of any connection to the Horde that now reigned as a powerful hand of Sargeras, and an extension of the mighty Burning Legion.

Durotan and the Frostwolf clan marched for many miles until they settled in the Mountainous Valleys of Alterac, a remote part of the human Kingdom, covered in snow and protected by the harsh conditions many Humans avoided. Drek’thar, a powerful shaman within the Frostwolf clan, one whom had declined the path of the Warlock regained the shamanistic powers that were lost so long ago to their people, and taught others to embrace these old powers, with which they were able to survive the harsh winters of the remote mountains.

Draka; faithful mate of Durotan eventually became pregnant with a child, one whom would one day be heir to chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan. An Azerothian born child, they named Goel. The reluctant abandonment of his resolve had caused Durotan to grow old and settle into a world that was being sieged and destroyed by his now evil, corrupted kin. This realisation empowered Durotan to take one last stand against Gul’dan and so joined with nearby, also exiled brethren, Ogrim Doomhammer. At this time, Ogrim had assassinated Blackhand and became the new Warchief of the Horde, separated from Gul’dan’s own loyal forces. In fact many of the Orcish Clans separated from one force and once again regarded the conquering of Azeroth, like Draenor and the continued war against its inhabitants their primary goal.

After the meeting between Durotan, Draka and Orgim, many of the councilmen listening to the propaganda Durotan provided against Gul’dan, turned out to be spies of Gul’dan himself. Fearing that their open opposition would get them killed, Orgim Doomhammer instructed them to go into hiding with a promise they would together present Gul’dan with his crimes and see justice. The safe heaven Orgim had given them whilst he arranged proceedings to oppose Gul’dan turned out to be far from the truth of the matter, and the spies descended upon the unsuspecting family, butchering Draka before Durotan, and then cleaving off his arms so that he could never again hold his child in his arms. He bled to death there, with the only thought in his head that he would die before he would see his son, now left abandoned by the spies  in the middle of the forest ripped apart by the wolves and creatures of the mountains.

Durotan In WoD

Durotan In WoD

And so, another chapter in the lore section is completed, and opens up many questions for Durotan’s presence in the Warlords of Draenor expansion later this year. Set within a time on Draenor before all of the corruption, it’s likely, and confirmed that Durotan will take centre stage in the Horde story, with even a meeting of his son; Thrall/ Goel, as they take on the united horde of Garrosh Hellscream and the other Warlords of Draenor. Be sure to continue this discussion with any thoughts, opinions and speculation of what we could see next in Durotan’s lengthy storyline, and weather actually meeting his father will change Thrall and make him understand his lineage further. Thank you for reading; I look forward to sharing more with you, in the next Lore, Warcraft & You!

Everyone Loves Swag!

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eveBook002Especially collectible swag with major significance – and this offering is the ultimate in EVE Online swag – EVE: Source! Not only is it the ultimate in history and lore, you cannot get it online anymore – sorry – but if you are going to be in Seattle, Washington [USA] for the Emerald City Comicon, you’re in luck! The limited edition will be available, exclusively at the Dark Horse booth. They only have 200 copies, so it will be a first-come-first-get-madhouse. Price is still $89.99 (and probably sales tax) but is definitely worth it if you got the cash.

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EVE:Source is a compendium of images, lore and history not only relevant to your experience in EVE, but is DUST 514 as well. Published by Dark Horse Comics, the development of EVE:Source was done with a whole lot of input from the creative teams at CCP. The Limited Edition includes a protective box, lithographs, numbered plaque and a unique “source” code to be redeemed on your EVE account.

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Emerald City Comicon runs from March 28th to the 30th this year and is at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. You might want to camp out prior to opening day, then warp through the doors to the Dark Horse booth before everyone else as this hot ticket item will NOT last long!

Kargath Bladefist : Lore, Warcraft & You!

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Welcome to Lore, Warcraft & You! The series of articles looking at key lore figures, their past and where they fit into the World of Warcraft. This time we take a look into the story of Kargath Bladefist, Cheiftain of the Shattered Hand Clan, Warchief of The Fel Horde, and much more!

Kargath

Kargath, or Korgath Bladefist was an orcish warlord and chieftain of the Shattered Hand clan. The most noticeable thing about Kargath was what gave him his ‘Bladefist’ surname. In his youth, at the rank of Grunt, Kargath chose to cut off his right hand, replacing the flesh with a sharpened scythe. This became a sign of the limits Karagath would go to for the Shattered Hand clan, his dedication to the strength of the horde and ultimately resulting in his eventual leadership of the clan as chieftain, and a sign of loyalty that would continue as the following events unfolded.

Kargath’s story is one of pure hatred, all before the fall of Draenor into Outland. During the first invasion of Azeroth by the Orcs, Kargath was ordered to stay behind in Draenor at the order of Ner’zhul, the Orc shaman whom he only dared not cross for his sheer numbers supporting him. The Orcs who went through the portal faired poorly and when the armies of Kilrogg Deadeye, leader of the Bleeding Hollow clan returned to Draenor defeated. (Many of his Orc breathren dead or captured during this first war on the humans). Kargath was furious and immediately volunteered his clan’s vengeance in another invasion attempt. During this time, Kargath’s ordered became clear, he was to act as a distraction for the Alliance forces that had since invaded Draenor. The Alliance had set up Honor Hold as a foothold of operations, bringing troops to the front line from the open Dark Portal.

The Dark Portal

The Dark Portal

The Alliance invaded Hellfire Citadel, the great fortress in the centre of the zone, under the impression Ner’zhul resided within. Unfortunately for them, Kargath and Dentarg (an ogre mage, Chogall’s Clan of ogres are currently allied with the Orcs) lay in wait. Whilst Kargath distracted the Alliance forces from his true location, Ner’zhul attempted to open rifts to other worlds around the Black Temple in an attempt to allow the Orcs to flee this world after the decisive defeat and now impending invasion by Azeroth’s forces. The portals were too much for the world to contain and they tore Draenor apart into floating mesa’s and zones. Draenor was renamed Outland at this point. Back at Hellfire; Alleria, a ranger general sieged the gates of the citadel with her rangers, killing off the gatekeepers and opening the reinforced gates. The remaining Alliance forces invaded soon after and butchered many of Kargath’s clan in a particularly one sided fight.

Dentarg was defeated by none other than Khadgar within the raid on the citadel; in a ferocious battle involving powerful magic’s which tested both mage, until finally Khadgar dealt the killing blow.

Kargath, infuriated with his loyalty to Ner’zhul which to this point had prevented a successful invasion on Azeroth, and now lead his entire clan to extinction decided enough was enough. He collected a few members of the still living clan members and escaped the citadel before he could be apprehended by the Alliance.

In an attempt to maintain his service to the Horde and avoid disgrace, he travelled with what leftover forces he had to Nagrand to seek audience with Greatmother Geyah, to lend him warriors. She refused his request outright due to problems that affected those within the village, an illness.

Kargath angered, but respectively left Nagrand. He realised he had nothing to contribute to the war, his clan was near none-existent, and with so few troops any battle would be the last. He begrudgingly gave up the fight and he and his clan retreated in the hope of one day reclaiming his citadel.

The war had taken its toll and various staged battles reaped destruction for both the Alliance and the Horde. Until one day, Ner’zhul’s experiments and opening of gateways to other worlds saw the entrance of Magtheridon, a demon of the Burning Legion. The Pit Lord used his own blood to empower the Shattered Hand forces that remained and blessed Kargath with a new power to wield, one that could restore him to greatness. They became the first Fel Orcs, and soon after with this power and the support of the Burning Legion demons Magtheridon had brought with him, took Hellfire Citadel easily. Magtheridon then took control of the fortress and re-named it the Black Citadel. Much to the dismay of Kargath, his power had only brought a new master to outrank him, one he despised soon after, as the Pit Lord culled many of Kargath’s men for their weakness and corrupted the strong into Fel Orc commanders.

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Illidan Stormrage

 

Kargath became bitter and wished for the day he could be delivered from Magtheridon’s rule, and soon that day came. Within the events of The Frozen Throne, The coming of Illidan Stormrage to Outland changed everything. His first action was de-throning Magtheridon, with Magtheridon’s own loyal forces retreating from Illidan’s powerful display of sorcery. Illidan proclaimed his own leadership of the Black Citadel and Magtheridon was placed in magical chains in the depths below the citadel.

Kargath Bladefist pledged his allegiance to Illidan Stormrage in this moment, and the Shattered Hand clan followed behind him, hoping to see this new leadership take his clan to the pinnacle of leadership over all Outland.

The years between Draenor’s destruction at the hand of Ner’zhul’s portal experiments and Illidan’s arrival saw other lore characters deal with the changing world. Grom Hellscream saw Ner’zhul’s plans being the doom of all Orcs, left through the opened Dark Portal to Azeroth in the attempt to make a place for themselves. Many other clans also followed Grom’s example, and fled before Draenor was torn apart and the Dark Portal exploded, severing the link between the two worlds until the events of The Burning Crusade expansion.

Kargath resides within Hellfire Citadel in the game, as the new Warchief of the Fel Horde, using the imprisoned Magtheridon’s blood to empower Illidan’s Fel Orc legions against the Pit Lord and The Burning Legion’s will. Kargath is pleased to be powering this new Fel Horde, fuelling the armies that would liberate Outland from the Burning Legion and restore power to the Orcs, and so as a sign of respect and power severs off his other arm, replacing it with a sword like weapon attached to his arm, completing the look of the dungeon boss we are more familiar with in game.

This complete rule would of come true, had it not been the Dark Portal opening once again and the forces of Azeroth, both the ‘Horde’ we know in game of not just Orcs but other allied races, as well as Human and Alliance forces stepped back into Outland, where in current time, the player enacts a campaign to take Outland from both the Fel Horde, Illidan Stormrage and the Burning Legion.

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Kargath is set to be the focus of a what-if story with the coming of The Warlords of Draenor expansion later this year, where the timeline changes before Ner’zhul tears the world apart, and before the corrupted blood can change the horde.

Warlords of Draenor is set to be an exciting time for the story of Warcraft, it’ll be interesting to not only interact with characters that since before now are present only in the books and stories hinted at in-game.

 

 Hopefully this article has helped you understand more on the world that the expansion is stepping back in time to this year, and also an insight into this complicated life of Kargath Bladefist, chieftain of the Shattered Hand Clan.

Rhonin : Lore, Warcraft & You!

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Welcome to another Lore, Warcraft, & You! The series of articles where we look at prominent figures in Warcraft lore, and where they affect you in-game in World of Warcraft, how they play an integral role in the storyline and where you can find them.
Today we look into famous red-haired super-mage; Rhonin.

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Rhonin was a human mage, formerly entrusted with the leadership of the Kirin Tor during the time of the Wrath of The Lech King expansion. (The Kirin Tor being the ancient Magus Senate of Dalaran)
He did not gain this position easily as many of his exploits in his youth even made his place as a mage of Dalaran even questionable. Rhonin has been a key figure in various world-ending scenarios where he has either single handily taken on danger instead of assessing a situation or teamed alongside some of Azeroth’s more powerful heroes.
Curiously no surname has ever been given to Rhonin, yet he has had several nicknames and is sometimes referred to as Rhonin Redhair for his flame-like hair, and the accompanying hot-headed temperament in battle.
The book Night of The Dragon also refers to Rhonin as ‘Rhonin Draig’cyfail’ or in the human tongue; ‘Dragonheart’. Call him what you will, Rhonin is an extremely powerful, yet reserved, intelligent mage. Well skilled in the use of a blade due to his actions in the Scourge invasion add to the diversity and flexibility of his combat style. It’s this ability to work in dire situations and intuition lead decisions that has allowed him to be successful and resourceful in so many situations and stories over the course of Warcraft history.

Reply Code Alpha

Reply Code Alpha

Fundamentally Rhonin is best known in-game for his involvement as a quest npc in Dalaran, awarding the player with a piece of loot once they return from the depths of the Ulduar raid with the Titan Reply Code object from defeating Algalon the Observer. The reply code once the player explains to Rhonin the events that took place in Ulduar is then noted to be a pre-defined message of a possible two that Algalon should of sent back to the Titans in the discovery of either a positive or negative assessment of live on Azeroth. The curse of flesh, which ultimately resulted in humanoid life on the planet, is a deviation from the Titans original plan for the world upon their involvement in essentially conquering azeroth millions of years ago.
The Titans captured thousands of worlds like Azeroth, with the intent to govern life the way they saw fit on each world, seeing order in the universe the ultimate goal.
The Alpha reply code was to be sent back to the titans by Algalon if Azeroth was still a vision of this order and perfection, otherwise if any malignant alterations had taken place, another reply code would be given, initialising the order for planetary re-origination, which presumably would involve the complete terraforming of Azeroth and the death of all life on the planet to reset it to a point where they could start over.

Rhonin Is a key character in this expansion, yet doesn’t take an active role outside of a cutscene introducing the Ulduar raid and the quests after its defeat, however he is incredibly popular as the main protagonist of many books such as Day of The Dragon, by Richard A Knaak.

These books are canon to the story and tell a story of Rhonin that isn’t as noticeable in the mmo.
During the events of the Second war, Rhonin was seen as a dangerous, unpredictable mage, due to an event where he used his powers recklessly in battle, ending the lives of all his comrades.
This disgrace and the remorse he felt ultimately resulted in his involvement in the events of the Second war with the Orcs. Krasus, a mage and secretly a consort of the red dragonflight convinced Rhonin to reclaim his honour by selflessly volunteering for a dangerous mission to Khaz Modan, where he helped break the power of the orcs and freed Alexstrasa the life binder, whom at the time was captured by Nekros Skullcrusher.
Alongside Rhonin, a young elven ranger named Vareesa Windrunner, Krasus the dragon mage, and Falstad Wildhammer. Vereesa was weary of Rhonin and had heard of his disastrous failings in the line of duty that had caused the death of all his kin, but ultimately throughout the journey she became to respect him and in good time fell in love with the mage.
Rhonin was successful in destroying the demon soul which was used by Deathwing to capture Alexstrasa and gained the respect of his fellow comrades in the selfless and painful pursuit. The book is a masterpiece honestly, I would definitely recommend picking up Day of the Dragon if you only ever read one of the books.

Vereesa Windrunner

Vereesa Windrunner

The aforementioned love between Vereesa and Rhonin blossomed after the events of Day of the Dragon and they got married, Vareesa even became pregnant with his to be Twin- offspring.
During Vereesa’s pregnancy Rhonin was once again called into duty despite wanting to spend time with his wife and be at her side during this time.
The events to follow involved Krasus asking him for help in sealing a rift in time that had appeared, leading to an event in the past, 10,000 years ago.
They entered the rift as well as the inquisitive Orc, Broxigar who also found the rift.
This was covered in the book trilogy, The War of The Ancients.

During his time in the past, Rhonin got involved directly into the events of this time period after trying not to get involved in things that could change history forever. Unfortunately he met and became friends with many of Azeroth’s strongest lore figures, such as; Malorne, Cenarius, Aviana, Shadowsong, Tyrande Whisperwind, and of course Illidan Stormrage, whom he became direct mentor of in an attempt to harness the wild magic’s and power dwelling within him.
Unfortunately he was unsuccessful in changing anything with Illidan, and ended up changing and trying to fix mistakes Illidan had made along the way prior to Illidan’s destined defection.
It would be less useful to explain the events that took place in their entirety here in this article, so I will likely make a separate post about the War of The Ancients due to the events size and complexity.
As a reward for all he had done in the past, Nozdormu thanked Rhonin for sealing the rift and being as careful as he could to not directly impact the timeline and allowed him to teleport to Vereesa to the point of her labour so he would not miss the birth of his own twin sons; Giramar and Galadin. Along with this gift, Nozdormu also gave the twins the respect of the Bronze dragonflight if they would even need their own help with matters in the future.

Rhonin has no living family members, due to the events involving the Scourge plague taking many of his own loved ones and his own father, who was killed during the fall of Andorhil. Rhonin made the decision to make his own family, and as a part of that, when he was approached by the council of Dalaran for help, responsibility overweighed his personal life, and so accepted the leadership position of Archmage of the Kirin Tor. To defend his family and his people in uncertain times, was effectively the same goal, and his loyalty for his past mistakes still dwelled heavily on his decisions.

Theramore After Mana BombSadly in present day, Rhonin is no longer with us, and many people didn’t expect the popular main character of so many of Blizzard’s stories to die anytime soon.
Rhonin was killed trying to dampen the mana bomb that destroyed Theramore in the Tides of War book and in-game scenario events, he managed to save Vereesa, General Shandris Feathermoon and Jaina Proudmore, whom he named as his successor as leader of the Kirin Tor.
His sacrifice in the end was not for the hatred of the Horde, but for the loyalty to his people. He never saw the Horde as an evil force as many of the other Alliance members did, and did his best to remain neutral, even in dire times.
This cannot be said for Jaina Proudmore, whom hates the Horde for what has happened and swore vengeance for Theramore.

And so ends another chapter on a lore figure who changed the World of Warcraft we know and love. If you have enjoyed my article, please leave me some feedback below. Thank you kindly for reading, I’ll see you all next time!

 

Medivh : Lore, Warcraft & You!

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Medivh, last guardian of Tirisfal. The feather adornments on this key lore characters shoulders should be no surprise to Warcraft 3 and World Of Warcraft players instantly, yet not all of his lore is quite as common knowledge as most people would think.

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Eight whole centuries before the coming of the Orcs, Aegywn decided to birth a son, so that she could pass on her powers and ensure the line of Guardians for new generations to come. In this pursuit of lust and her need to do all she could to continue her lineage she settled on seducing the court conjurer, one Nielas Aran. A competent human mage of the Order of Tirisfal, one capable of supplementing the power she would pass on to her son and also noble of heart.

Magus Medivh, born a human son to his mother, Aegwynn, the former guardian of Tirisfal (Guardians are an order of powerful mages, blessed by the Order Of Tirisfal, an elite covenant specialising in dealing with protection of Azeroth from the Burning Legion over millennia). Medivh was left to be raised by his father in Stormwind Keep and would be taught the morality and respect for his power, in the hopes he would learn compassion when he became a powerful mage. He became friends with other important lore figures, such as Prince Llane Wrynn and Anduin Lothar. On a day out with his friends Llane and Anduin, the three were ambushed by three jungle trolls. None of the three were hurt badly and there battle was not too much of a risk for the trained Princes, however Medivh fell ill and fainted when he tried to use his magic to defend them. In his sleep he entered a coma, only to awake later with nightmarish visions of death.

Medivh’s life was filled with torment and anger as he tried to discover to what his power should be used for. Sadly inside the womb of his own mother, this fate was already pre-determined, as Sargeras cursed his mother for her thwarting of the demon lords plans prior to the 3rd war, and so corrupted her unborn son, so that he would do the bidding of the legion regardless of his upbringing.

This fate manifested itself as Medivh neared the age of his ascension, when he would graduate to becoming a fully fledged mage; He met with his father after this coma-like state and unintentionally entered a powerful trance with him. When the two touched they both entered a coma like state, which eventually lead to the complete drain of energy and magic from his father after several days, transferring his power to his son and causing Nielas to die in front of him.

(To this day, Nielas exists in-game as the ‘Shade of Aran’ boss within Karazhan, a 10 player raid instance on the Eastern Kingdoms.)

 

Shade of Aran

Shade of Aran

Medivh soon became entranced with the idea of the Legion, and the respected powers that lie dormant in such mysteries and proceeded to experiment on dark energies and unusual forces mortals are usually unable to reach. Medivh was no ordinary mortal human, he had the blessing of Sargeras, and the power of the Order behind his resolve.

Eventually Medivh’s possession forced his mind to want to be free of everything, as sought in his madness to destroy Azeroth and the people around him. He found an answer in the Orc Gul’dan, a powerful Dark Shaman, already possessed by Sargeras off in a distant world known as Draenor. Medivh contacted Gul’dan and promised the Orc the location of the Tomb of Sargeras as a reward for killing the humans and laying siege to Azeroth. (This Tomb he refers to here is actually the Temple Of Elune, which lies within the ancient Kaldorei city of Suramar, the very same city Illidan, Malfurion and Tyrande all grew up in prior to the Sundering.)

Gul’dan agreed, and the promise of power allowed the two to use the power of a dark portal, and ancient gateway system that connects world throughout the stars above as the instrument of the coming of the Orc forces to Azeroth.

In the time of this madness, Medivh had convinced his mother, the Order of Tirisfal, and the mages of Dalaran that he was fine, and that his momentary comas were the inability of his own comprehension of power, and that now he had control.

In response to Medivh’s upbringing and graduation to becoming the powerful mage he now was, they sent him his very own Apprentice, a young mage called Khadgar. Khadgar would then live with Medivh at his castle, Karazhan, a place where he would learn his master’s art and learn to be powerful under such names as Moroes, who would be Khadgar’s aide.

 

Khadgar

Khadgar

In the course of madness, Medivh succeeded in opening the linked portal between Azeroth and Draenor with the help of Gul’dan and his own Shadow Council. This moment caused the appearance of his mother, Aegwynn, who tried to convince her son that this course of action was wrong and what he had done would undo the world. Medivh ignored her and continued with the rituals. She decided to stop him by force, and the two battled. Medivh had trained his power, and now sat on the forces given to him by Sargeras, which caused the balanced fight to break in his favour, defeating his mother and burning her alive in the aftermath of the conflicting magic’s.

This drained Medivh heavily and after concluding the business with Gul’dan and ensuring the link was established he retreated to Karazhan for rest, meanwhile the Shadow Council went back through the Dark Portal to Draenor to prepare an invasion force.

Arcanagos, a Blue Dragon has seen Medivh’s misuse of magic, of which the Blue Flight controlled and paid a visit to Karazhan in the hopes of confronting the Guardian of Tirisfal. Medivh, again refused to listen to the dragon, and they entered combat, which lead to the burning of the dragon from within, the power to great for the whelpling to survive. This dragon would later be resurrected as the formidable raid boss; NightBane within the Karazhan 10-player instance in WoW. Medivh was reeling from the past years conflicts, his mind in tatters after the death of his father, his mother by his own hand and now the meddlesome Blue Dragonflght.

Karazhan

Karazhan

Soon after, the Orcs of Draenor had pushed on with their invasion and had successfully established forward perimeters within the Human borders in Black Morass, a zone situated between what would now be known as Blasted Lands and the Swamp of Sorrows. The Horde’s emissary, Garona Halforcen came to Karazhan to see the mage. Secretly however the two fell in love and had passionate encounters throughout her visits to the castle, which would later result in the mixed-race child Med’an being born into the world.

Eventually Khadgar would be the one to realise his master was the cause of the Orcish invasion and entertained an audience with Garona, Lothar and King Llane in an effort to find a solution to the crazed fallen Guardian.

The three agreed that something had to be done about him, and that his tyranny would only regress further into the depravities of the Burning Legions corruption. They entered a battle with Medivh promptly after, but they underestimated the powerful mage before them.

Upon entering the encounter, Khadgar, whom was only 17 years of age suddenly aged several decades older. Lothar and Llane struggled on in the fight, but were ultimately defeated by Medivh, whom was to end their lives had it not been for Khadgar taking up Lothar’s blade and thrusting it through the heart of the Guardian with all his strength. Upon this deathblow, Medivh was released from Sargeras’ curse that had since been on him since his time in the womb. His mind recalled all the horrors he had committed and very literally his life flashed before him as he died.

The curse left his body with such force it cursed the very area around them, the heroes who defeated the fallen guardian fled, as Karazhan became a corrupted, twisted remnant of the Guardians corrupted hatred driven by Sargeras, which became the raid instance we know to this day.

 

The end of Medivh’s story with corruption ends there, however it was known that when Khadgar had destroyed the spirit of Sargeras that held his master, Medivh’s spirit was said to have escaped. This spirit foresaw the eventual downfall of Lordaeron, and with his mother’s help his spirit form attained form again, and was resurrected by the remainder of her powerful magic. Upon his resurrection, Medivh briefly went back to Karazhan, where he would see a vision of Khadgar from the past, seeing the apprentice bury his master. He realised his life had not begun, and for the first time in his existence, Medivh was actually himself.

Medivh Visits King Terenas

Medivh Visits King Terenas

Long after the second war, Medivh returned as a prophet, foretelling the coming of an apocalyptic threat. The current king, Terenas Menathil of Lordaeron and Antonidas of Dalaran both dismissed the prophet’s mumblings as madness.

This was shortly before the king’s son, Arthas entered into his own story. The events of Warcraft 3 foretell the happenings after this point, and eventually after the Battle of Mount Hyjal, Medivh disappeared from the story. There are some theories that he may have met his end on the mortal plane and ascended to other places, or that he is infact lying in wait in the form of a crow, a familiar form he took on throughout history’s events. The latter of these ideas could be enforced by the loading screen for the raid instance in World of Warcraft clearly showing a black crow in the corner of the artwork, and outside the very instance in the sky, a single crow flying around the castle, watching over the land.

Whatever befell the powerful mage, the Last Guardian of Tirisfal may return, especially with the events of the next expansion; Warlord’s of Draenor featuring his very own apprentice as a key lore and quest driven figure throughout.

Perhaps the mysteries of his whereabouts will manifest themselves, but only time will tell.

 

Hopefully you have enjoyed this article of Medivh, probably one of the best written characters in the Warcraft lore. Stay tuned for more soon, as we explore all the key figures that will be playing into the story of tomorrows WoW!

An Investigation into the changing world of sound design for game development

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Now, before we begin, I feel it’s important to stress why I think that this is an important topic to discuss.

Generally I have two passions in life, which i would call hobbies, yet they extend further than just simply spending spare time dwelling on any one topic, and form more of an obsession.

Those are Storytelling, and Sound Design. Now the first part of that you may of seen me write a little about in my previous post here on Stratics, but the latter, is important as both a tool, and a seperate narrative of telling the stories within the lore of any franchise, and especially World Of Warcraft.

Whilst at university in the previous year (2013), i took it upon myself to explore the world of video game sound design and i managed to collect enough data to perhaps make a congent argument worthy of being published somewhere someday. I’m happy to say that with recent events allowing me to be a part of this new, growing community, i have found that place. I feel even thought this article observes more than just the game this blog is under, it affects WoW much more than anything else i could of imagined, and indeed feels at home on these pages. So i must warn you, prepare for a particularly heavy discussion here, and hopefully this inspires some of you to reply in either your own post below or even share a page with your insights on the matters at hand. Either way, let’s get this started.

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My awesome M-Audio Keystation Mini 32. Amazing portable midi input.

The world of digitised gaming media, known as an affectionate hobby by many in the present day, and widely accepted as a growing area of career opportunities for professional voice talent, music artists, and studio musicians, to name but a few roles of an ever growing list. Is an outlet for both mainstream and less pronounced talent with a growing acceptance by people worldwide as a recognised media outlet, on par with that of film and television, with both Commercial and financial appeal to consumers and various businesses alike.

Even writing this now, it is apparent that even researchers such as Catherine Collins, whom works as a researcher for the Canadian Centre For Arts & Technology have had significant difficulties with such research being taken seriously until now with only the arrival of such acceptance within the last 8 years.

“When I first began writing about video game audio in 2002, it seemed somehow necessary to preface each article with a series of facts and figures about the importance of the game industry in terms of economic value, demographics, and cultural impact. It is a testament to the ubiquity of video games today that in such a short time it has become unnecessary to quote such statistics to legitimize or validate a study such as this” Collins, C (2008).

To get to this stage of potential mainstream acceptance, this progression is largely down to the technological, social and cross-medium changes which have bred from other industries and inventions over the last few decades. Audience interpretation and understanding of advertisement opportunities for advanced careers in a new industry were also huge in the involvement of individuals from other industries and some who would rather take a gamble in this industry than continue their hardships in the competitive world of television and film sound design.

Pong

Where It All Began… Pong

The start of the story of technological advancements in regards to sound development with the gaming world starts within the confined home of the first home computer, the ECHO IV, an highly experimental computer designed to be the first attempt at bringing computers into the everyday home in 1965, but gaming only took off with the release of a very clever piece of software known as ‘BASIC’. The name is an acronym ‘Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code.’ The first way of actively programming outside of scientific research for everyday students to learn how to write their own software. This lead to the creation of a very popular game in 1972, known as ‘Pong’, not the first game, but iconic for both its simplicity and working fluidity technically. Pong had extremely basic coding and allowed for a single sound to be emitted, a simple bleep. This sound was only generated when the on screen bar hit with the ball, and was one of the first games to have integrated sound. This simplicity shaped the future of video game sound to come. That single noise signifying a positive result in the game, lead the way for importance for sound in a video game. Without that sound, would it not be appropriate to imagine that the person playing the game would not of recognised they had performed the correct action. It is this realisation of the power of sound that intrigues me, the connections between actions and sounds, reflecting on different decisions.

Cause and effect, very simple principles within the film industry, and it is at this very first stage that comparisons could be found between the two industries, despite their difference in size and current legitimate acceptance as an actual industry not completely devoted to just a hobbyist pursuit.

It could be completely understood, though. Many early games demonstrated very little in the way of anything more than 5 minutes of entertainment followed by the realisation of costs to play them in arcades in a pretty bleak economic climate in some parts of the world. Gaming had very scientific backgrounds, but virtually no context to how enjoyable it actually was to play them. Many forms of entertainment were on offer, which offered more social experiences than this hobby allowed, and it was this, amongst many other reasons that it needed to advance before it got to the point of not continuing to be worth the time invested in making such things.

Many believed it didn’t have the potential to be anything more than just a fad that lasted the month and then got replaced by the next innovation to bide the time and offer entertainment between the daily lives of people in actual jobs. How very wrong they were.

When you look at the early days of film, it’s important to note that, that two had a significantly similar beginning with silent movies. These films used simple piano melodies and musical accompaniment to help drive narrative and tell a story without the ability to convey written messages other than on screen slates with text. The music would be catered to the original article and designed specifically for that film, with various changes in melody and tone to show changes in mood or feeling within a scene. When film eventually incorporated technology that allowed the use of actual narration and voices to be heard along side the pictures with the Phonograph, people’s reaction was unwary, and it was actually rumoured to be a failure at the time until October 6, 1927.

This day remains one of the most decisive days in the history of pop culture. It changed the course of an industry, the expectations of the public, and forever altered the form of an art and how it is perceived by all.

The event was the first public presentation of Warner Bros.’ The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson, which was the first film to feature talking sequences.

The death of silent movies was fairly sudden with this breakthrough, and aside from some belief it was the death of an industry, it actually resembled more of a evolution in terms of an increase in quality of filmmaking and quality of sound design.

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Al Jolson

“Did the “talkies” kill the “silents”? In some ways, yes, the rivalry is as simple as that. Hollywood has always been an industry, and it always goes in the direction of profit. When “talkies” promised increased revenue, that’s where producers invested their time and money. But in other ways, the “talkies” never killed the “silents” because silent cinema never truly died.” Gallagher, C. (2009).

The film industry could see the increased quality offered by this medium and decided that this was indeed the best form of progression for the medium, and allowed for great forms of revenue from allowing for actors and actresses to earn fame and respect for their talent now they could be both seen and heard. Eventually people got used to the change and actually realised the benefits of immersion that this new form of filmmaking allowed without breaks and constant musical drive, but rather the talent and emotions of the actors seen on screen.

Video games were no different at this point and with the progression of the medium, sharing technology from various other media allowed for progression to a more advanced form of storytelling and immersive form of game creation, past that of simply a hobbyist activity, and more of an experience growing to a level that film did, albeit just as gradually.

These confined limitations of technology lasted shortly, with these arcade machines featuring games such as pong incorporating Phonographic records and compact cassettes within the machines, with the sound recorded and played as analog waveforms, which was taken directly from the music industry. This extension allowed for more elaborate sounds and basic themes to be composed and many of the games made full use of these sounds. The biggest constraint here though was the longevity of the format the recordings were recorded onto, as they tended to be very fragile and not last very long, Ultimately resulting in much doubt as to the success of this hobby.

Longevity of the platform was a short lived problem however, with the 1980’s bringing the introduction of home consoles and with them the creation of video game cartridges, a much more robust way of playing video games in the household, and with a larger set of microchips allowing for at first 8 bit, and then 16 bit memory allocation. 8-bit and 16-bit, for video games, specifically refers to the processors used in the console. The number references the size of the words of data used by each processor. The 8-bit generation of consoles (starting with the Japan’s Famicom, the equivalent of the US Nintendo Entertainment System) used 8-bit processors; the 16-bit generation (starting with Japan’s Turbografix-16) used 16-bit processors. This affects the quality and variety in the graphics and the music by affecting how much data can be stored, and thus within the same decade the limitations of those designing sound for games was indeed increased, however the same limited capacity of the cartridge was impacting on the freedom to create elaborate themes and sounds for the games, with the majority of that allocated space being used for the game itself.

Many of the original themes and melodies were composed with the ‘noise channels’ onboard the cartridges for percussion. It was the use of everything onboard the chipset of these cartridges that allowed for innovation, and at the time of the creation of these games, competition to create a unique sounding game in a very limited space became somewhat paramount to that effect.

“By altering the volume and adjusting the timing of the two pulse channels, phasing, echo effects, and vibrato could be simulated.” Collins, C (2008).

White.noise

White Noise In A Waveform.

Noise is a huge component of sound, and noise in digitized music, especially in easly synthesised pieces found within video games are purely noise channels, bended and manipulated to form synthesised versions of effects found on other instruments, such as tremello, phasing, and pitch correction and alteration.

“As with rhythm, melody can stretch the experience, challenging the brain to find the relationships. We tend to be more attracted to music that has very little melodic information (lullabies), than too much” Sonnenschein, D (2001).

Simple melodies, created with very little expansion to be anything more were bound to be rather successful in terms of remembrance, as they were 2-3 minute loops and very little more than 8 tracks of noises resembling as close to real instrumentation as possible. Forged from simple noises, nothing dissimilar to Pong’s simple bleeps that started it all.

None can be said to be more explorative of such sound generation from the world of noise but R.Murray Schafer, a pioneer of research into the sonic environment through the development of civilisation, from simple noise to music.

“Unwanted Sound. The oxford English Dictionary contains references to noise as unwanted sound dating back as far as 1225.” “This makes noise a subjective term. One man’s music may be another man’s noise.” Schafer, R.M (1977).

The idea here is that interpretation of the limitations available to the programmers of the video games, and those in charge of programming these early midi based chiptunes and themes was the reason such innovation was found, and ultimately the boundaries of the technology were being pushed beyond their capabilities which resulted in the progression and innovation of new technology to fulfil the purpose of both better games and larger special boundaries to fill.

These limitations during the cartridge era are interesting, as the limitations that were in place prevented much other than simple looped melodies and themes, which i would argue cannot be replicated past this age in video game evolution as the constraints are significantly elevated and more intricate design can be used with very little re-percussions, especially as technology advances.

With the invention of the cd-rom driven consoles such as the original ‘Playstation’, which in many cases used un-original music created by musicians, these boundaries were stretched further. The fact that the early ‘chiptune’ themes, as they have come to be termed were created by the programmers of the games themselves, instead of an assigned musician, or composer to create an original score for the game, does see a transition into a larger media representation, and thus allowed gaming to somewhat make the first steps to become an equally represented and accepted medium as film and television.

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Metal Gear Solid for PS1. Good Times ;)

Confined conditions are what formed these sometimes iconic sounds of the period of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and dance music was largely influenced by the sounds heard in the chip-tune’s from video games of the time.

Repetitive themes run through video game soundtracks as loops, as they do within popular dance music of the time, using virtually the same synthesized technology to create tracks.

But more interestingly is the appreciation and allocation of actual music outside of the gaming sphere of influence. Many musicians are more inclined to include their tracks into a videogame simply for advertisement and a form of viral marketing and semiotic considerations that come into play when popular music is used in video games.

“Music in games is heard in highly repetitive atmospheres: to point to another statistic noted by artists, 92% of players remember the music from a game even after they have stopped playing it.” Collins, C (2008).

It’s for this exact reason that the video game industry became extremely popular with many musical tie-ins in both advertisements on television and in-game music, purely on a financial level to benefit both the artists and the success of the video game license. Much like the easly film days realised the potential of voices in their films and the use for advertistment, gaming had at this point become self-viable in it’s guaranteed place amongst the other media industries.

Influences from the world of film are clear in present day videogames, with many original scores for game soundtracks being based on film sequences from iconic films.

Hideo Kojima, the creator of the ‘Metal Gear Solid’ series mentions in many in interview that the biggest influence on both game design and sound design comes from some of his favourite films.

‘The biggest influence on Metal Gear is the 007 series — especially Sean Connery’s Bond.’ Kotaku. (2009).

The themes within the game series are heavily weighted on the theme of espionage, much like the 007 films, and as such the incorporation of Harry Gregson Williams, a composer who has worked on films such as Total Recall, Prometheus, and The Chronicles of Narnia to name but a few, was a perfect match. Sourcing top film composers and musicians to develop the feeling within the game is now commonplace, but was very recently unheard of.

‘Three of four years ago I was approached by Hideo Kojima who asked me to consider doing MGS2. He said he had a vision for his game to be scored as if it were a Hollywood action movie. He seemed like a nice bloke, and I never even considered writing music for a game before, so I thought I would give it a go. He was great fun to work with.’ Williams, H.G. (2004).

The first game was developed on a much smaller budget, and only the sequel, once the original had developed both the finances and publicity it needed was able to move to a more elaborate, movie-based soundtrack. The original game in the series was actually developed in-house at Konami with much of the music resembling midi compositions very much akin to the simple loops and themes found within the previous generation of limited sound design.

‘With a movie I’m working constantly in synch with the picture and I score every moment very deliberately. In the MGS games that I’ve done I have had to write all the music without any visual aid but from detailed, written descriptions given to me by Hideo outlining the mood, tempo, and atmosphere of various situations he was trying to create.’ Williams, H.G. (2004).

With many of the sound design elements being developed around the action on screen in film design, games like this series develop an entirely different approach to how sound design is seen within the medium and conversely, despite similarities to feeling, develop and entirely different creation process.

Unsquare_Dance_Sound_Waveform

Money = Better Sound Design, but maybe not for much longer with more accesible technology at cheaper prices.

The evidence suggests that sound design within current day video games are impacted by the success of publicity and finance, much more than it is the availability to generate original themes and elaborate scoring due to technological changes in console evolution. A factor not considered previously in the 1970’s and 1980’s when sound was a much more significant after-thought from developing the main game.

There is however a common theme which shows a more symbiotic relationship between the music industry and that of the video games industry, games are being used to promote and sell music, and recording artists are being used by to market and sell games.

“Games with a musical subject or narrative, or rhythm-action games, have generally enjoyed great success, from the electronic ‘Simon’ game of 1978 (Milton Bradley), to ‘PaRappa the Rapper’ (SCEI, 1996) on the PlayStation, and more recently, music based games like ‘Guitar-Hero’ (Red Octane, 2005) which won five academy of interactive arts and sciences awards in 2005” Collins, C (2008).

Outside of musical themed games the same applies, whether it be a sports game, such as ‘Tony Hawks Pro Skater’, or the latest ‘Formula One’ game, the music used within is memorable for the action on screen and the branding behind that scene. It actually does provide the music industry a viable generation of custom through nostalgia.

The theme of Nostalgia is a common theme within video game hobbyists, based on memories of particular boss battles, encounters against the odds in variable situations that can be instantly recalled upon hearing the theme or sounds used in that original scene. This theme shares heavily with the film industry, in films such as ‘2001: A Space Oddity’ by Stanley Kubrick, where the memories of any scene in that film can be recalled with just hearing a few notes of ‘The Blue Danube’ a waltz by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II.

“The self-reflexive and stylistic constructions throughout the film encouraged a constant questioning of image-sound relations, clearly moving the sound track away from the notion of realism and charging it with speculative possibilities” Whittington (2007).

The idea of a film, or a game being iconic is not born from simply the soundtrack it is given, but obviously the film or mediums context and ability to convey it’s story, however the sound design is instrumental in shaping that journey and has the ability to add feeling to the pictures on screen, and if the music used, either composed originally or sampled from another medium, as films and game do, fits well, it makes that film part of the nostalgic feeling associated with the memories of a particular scene, or the entire production. Games such as the ‘Metal Gear Solid’ series mentioned earlier share this feeling, and so does the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series, which used music released at the same time in the real world as the time period the game is set into.

The first experience the player encounters within ‘Vice City’ for example, is that Of ‘Billy Jean’ By Michael Jackson when you step into your first car the game gives you on a moonlit night. I could go as far as describe exactly what happened during the in-game drive to the next objective for the duration of that track. The importance of the neon-lit 80’s themed Miami and songs like this coalesced into a perfect experience.

“The narcissism of the era is apparent from the outset, as you hop into your 4-door sedan to the tune of Billie Jean and drive through the bustling city, its bright neon lights lining the concrete. In terms of video game openings, you will find none greater than your first introduction to Vice City, and its soundtrack plays a huge part in convincing you that you’re a part of this hedonistic era.” Tamburro, P. (2012).

If the game had used music randomly from a different era or possibly a less popular track of the era for that scene, it would likely not have been as memorable as it was, which emphasises the importance in driving a story and adding a form of realism, despite that realism being false.

The idea of realism in sound design is an important factor for any sound design in media. The idea that sound doesn’t travel realistically in our world does not affect the chances of us hearing sound in a space-related scene in either a film or a video game.

The idea that what is realistic and what is acceptable without our ears questioning a sound is very different, as we have grown into a world where countless science fiction television series, film and games show us a rocket flying through the air, we expect to hear that rockets projection of sound, regardless of it’s altitude or atmospheric position.

In the film ‘Apocalypse Now’ 1979, a film about the war in Vietnam features a scene involving a helicopter attack where countless helicopters fly in formation in an attack on a Vietnamese village. Whilst the attack is performed the theme ‘The Ride Of The Valkyries’ by Wagner blasts out amongst the sound of rotor blades and engine noises swooping across the air.

“The intent was to construct a visceral spectacle with image and sound that mimicked combat anxieties and confusion, as it offered shifting subjective points of view”  Whittington (2007).

Neither is the use of music realistic or capable of adding realism as we know it in our world, yet it does allow for the addition of realism to the genre in which it is placed. This is more important to uphold, for this is what ensures the scene lives up to both expectations from the viewing audience, but also the normality they are used to.

A good example of what happens if sound, un-realistic to the genre would be to include noises for realistic outcomes from activities if they were performed in real life, and then dubbed over that of a game such as ‘Super Mario World’ from the 1980’s. The result would be highly confusing and detract from the main focus of the game.

Video games are not always based on our own world, and in many ways they are an escape to reality on par with fictional films and television.

There are no written laws to what can or cannot be done, but it comes natural for example to expect alien sound effects and themes from outside our existence when playing a video game that isn’t trying to be realistic.

However some video games do try to be as realistic with sound design and effects as possible. Most modern day first-person-shooters, or ‘FPS’ games such as ‘Call Of Duty’ emphasise a somewhat realistic war environment. They source gun sounds individually, from reload sounds to how much sound changes depending on rate of fire, wind speed and more. It’s to this degree that video game sound attempts to replicate the exact conditions in each scene on screen.

From the visuals side of video game creation, realism is added by motion-capture technology to replicate the exact movements of a human performing an action in a game, with animations that are realistic enough on top of that to ensure it doesn’t break immersion. In the world of sound design, the capabilities of the immersion of a soundtrack and the sampled realistic audio of those guns for example, can only be as realistic as the audiences technology allows them to hear it.

“People’s media experiences are influenced by degrees of realism and they can be immersed in these experiences as if they felt were real. Because of this immersive experience, it affects our behaviours, thoughts, feelings, and arousal.” Barlett & Rodeheffer. (2009).

WarcraftMovie-ConceptArt-Purple

Dalaran in Concept of the new WoW Movie scheduled for 2015, revealed at Blizzcon 2013.

Innovations in technology such as advance surround sound allow for a more immersive experience, yet inflict on the likelihood anybody will get to hear the game anywhere near that quality based on affordability of the required hardware or software.

Technological assertions aside, realism is only the focus of some games, with many, still aiming for a more immersive break from our reality, and back into the entertainment industry away from simulation.

Immersion, “characterized by diminishing critical distance to what is shown and increasing emotional involvement in what is happening.”

Grau, Oliver (2003, p.13). This argument that realism is defined by what is shown is something that stirs debate in academia, with much interest in what exactly is defined as reality within this industry.

Salen and Zimmerman (2003, p.450) argue that the immersive quality of a video game stems from not the actual game, but rather the actual playing of the experience. Referring to this as the “immersive fallacy,”, which they say that “the idea that the pleasure of a media experience lies in it’s ability to sensually transport the participant into an illusionary, simulated reality.”

Immersion is largely relative to the concept of the story I find, getting into a characters perspective is easily doable with the right storytelling, and thus the more realistic to the genre as possible.

An example would be the most recent “Tomb Raider” game. A game where you take the perspective of a young Lara Croft, shipwrecked and completely defenceless on a stormy, tropical island filled with natural disasters waiting to happen from both the fauna and the flora.

The sound design in many sequences is that of realistic bones crunching noises when she misses a jump, howls of pain as she tries to run with an open wound in her leg, with over the top, dramatic orchestra hits when danger rears it’s head.

If this game had Super-Mario-esque jumping bleeps and a musical, happy overture, the game would not be anywhere near as immersive as it is.

“Large screens close to the players face and powerful sounds easily overpower the sensory information coming from the real world, and the player becomes entirely focused on the game world and it’s stimuli.” Ermi and Mayra (2005, pp. 7-8).

This amount of sensory information processed by our brain is vast, and we react depending on what we see on screen. We may have facial expressions when a character dies, or have emotional attachments to the on screen pixels, but that is all dependant on the immersion you perceive from the situation, and it’s basis on either the real world, or convincing enough for us to believe it could be that way in another.

In many ways the realism aspired to by video games is to try not to re-create present day experiences on planet Earth, but rather the non-naturalistic manipulation of that immersion into a cinematic realism.

Walter Murch argues: “This metaphoric use of sound is one of the most flexible and productive means of opening up a conceptual gap into which the fertile imagination of the audience with reflexively rush, eager to complete circles tat are only suggested, to answer questions that are only half-posed. Murch.(2000.)

 

In video games, much like in films, the sound design is never an ‘original’ recorded production-based environment. Rarely is there a raw recording of an actual, real object. Usually it will be a collection of sounds pieced together to create  a synthesised representation, catered and tweaked to the means of the scene. But even ‘realistic’ sounds such as gunshots are more often than not treated to make them feel more ‘realistic’ than they are. Of course this is not true, and in actual fact this process only warps them into what we as listeners would expect from the gunshot, rather than realism outside the genre.

Sound effects are the foundation for inserting this immersion and their construction can be widely varied in process.

In all the techniques and special processes to create the ideal sound effect, the approach is very much the same as in the visual world, more appropriately it can be compared much closer to photography than anything else.

“Working with sound presents challenges not dissimilar to photography. In the process of capturing sound, we have many similar concerns and production techniques available. Microphone selection is similar to the selection of lenses and filters a photographer might use, and your recording device and media might also impart sonic qualities to your source material. Other tools in the process will allow great latitude in manipulating the sound in directions impossible in nature.” Viers, R. (p.1 2008).

The choice of an effect used in a scene is paramount to the overall immersion rating of the experience, and with many techniques staying the same throughout most, if not all films with the same sound.

“In the science fiction films produced during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the body of sound effects and music tended to emphasise elements that were electronic, mechanical, and ethereal. These effects came to sonically represent the future technologies and environments and the unknown” Whittington (P100, 2007).

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The Wilhelm Scream

The ‘Wilhelm scream’, as it became known. A sound sample used throughout many an action sequence in a film featuring somebody falling from a height, or facing certain death with an iconic scream.

It comes from the 1951 movie, Distant Drums. A small band of soldiers were crossing a swamp in pursuit of Sominole Indians. Whilst wading through the water, one soldier was attacked by an alligator and dragged underwater, his last sound as he died was this scream.

The scream was placed in the Warner Brothers sound effects library, and was used regularly in their studios films, such as ‘Them!’ in 1954, The Swiss Family Robinson in 1960, and so on. With it’s most noticeable use in the first Star Wars movie. This sound effect was used in hundreds of films, and as a result, despite it’s more comedic representation of a situation in a film, still doesn’t manage to detract from the immersion of the film. This could be simply due to the quality of the original sample, and the non-defined purpose of the effect, more simply to describe somebody either being attacked, or falling from a great height in fear.

Sounds like this are commonplace in films, with many overused sounds, such as songbirds, simply used in some circumstances because they are high on the list of sound effects in a library and the sound designer needs an effect in speed, rather than taking time to ensure its exclusivity.

This is why in many films it can be noticed that the same bird calls can be heard, crickets chirping with a summer tone, despite it being winter, etc. This forced reality is expected of the viewer, or the gamer alike, and because it doesn’t detract from the experience unless you are actively aware and attempting to listen out for these re-used sounds, the immersion remains the same.

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Foley Artists, Hard at work creating those door squeek noises and weapon ‘clangs’ you all know and love!

Another way of maintaining exclusivity and more reliable, ‘realistic’ sound effects, can be to use ‘Foley artists’.

Foley is the “practice of performing sound to picture.” Viers, R. (p.252, 2008.) In very literal terms relates to the use of everyday objects to create noises which can be processed later on to generate an acquired effect.

The idea is that this forced found-sound can be more authentic for the scene within a movie or game, allowing for catered levels of different tones, surfaces and textures to be replicated to particular time scales.

“No matter who’s in the pulpit in the movie, the microphone will always produce feedback as soon as they start to talk. I guess Hollywood has had some bad experiences with live sound engineers and has decided to make them the subtle butt of the joke for these scenes. The reality is that the PA system probably isn’t even turned on during filming- the feedback is added in post.” Viers, R (p.286, 2008)

Sound is generally recorded separated within films. You have a basic guide track, but usually it is covered with noise from outside the scene, cars passing by, distant aeroplanes, other people. This is usually ironed out and Narration is recorded separately on more defined microphones on collar mics, or in some cases recorded after filming in a studio.

The job of the Foley artist is to replicate that scene, and very literally build the landscape around the scene present in the pictures on screen to develop a sound realistic to that environment and genre.

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With such amazing weapons in games, the sound effects that go with them needs to be just as good!

Purity of sound is something that comes into question in video games. Games such as ‘Call Of Duty’ which focus on ‘realistic’ war experiences use a lot of weaponry from the real world, and each gun has recorded sound for each element of that weapon. The issue is that experts in the field of weaponry can tell the difference between a sub-machine gun of American make and another type of Russian manufacture by just hearing the sound of the weapon. Much like a motor enthusiast would recognise the sound of a particular engine over another and a farmer or agricultural enthusiast would recognise the chirp of birdsong to identify the bird that produced it.

This is usually where these ‘realistic’ games come into contention.

Usually the sound sourcing behind a weapon would be sourced from a library, choosing the required sound that fits the scene, rather than making lateral sense for the type of weaponry shown in the pictures. Most often than not this is down to lack of both time and availability to source professionals in that field to acquire those realistic sounds, or in some cases deliberate, as to further distance that particular game from the real world.

“Every type of weapon has unique movement sounds.” Gun movement sounds don’t really exist in the real world. In film though, any time the hero raises his weapon to take aim there’s an associated sound.” Viers, R. (p.301, 2008.)

Again realism to genre comes into effect, even with Foley sound, and many sourced sounds for actions in a film or game will be highly unrealistic to what we would find outside of fiction.

However the recording methods are real, and Foley artists go to great lengths to replicate a sound from genre-specific and previous films and games and make them their own, again catered to the scenes in which they feature.

Military sounds can range from wooden blocks being slammed together for a largely reverb filled gunshot, to that of actual recordings of weaponry in various modes. Dropping the weapons, reloading them, changing firing modes.

Then the environment in which the recorded sound can either be digitally altered in a studio either created using effects software, or merging recorded sounds together.

Positioning of microphones is particularly important in the Foley process, for in almost all cases, perspective can be altered depending on the sounds position in stereo channels, effecting the belief of gunfire from a certain direction or explosions in the distance.

“The sonic characteristics of gunshots are directly related to the environment in which they’re recorded. A gunshot is merely a quick pop. If recorded near a mountain range, the pop transforms into a thick report as it rips across the flat plains, bounces off the mountains, and returns with an echo, giving the sound a nice trail-off feature.”

Viers, R (p.294, 2008).

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Gunshots from a .22 Pistol in Waveform format.

Usually weaponry will be recorded at different angles at the same time, so the sound can be cut between different angles to help show the progression of a bullet in bullet-time visual effects found in such films as ‘The Matrix’.

5 microphones are usually used for each weapon fire. One faces the way the gun is shooting, one facing the actual gun, one from the chosen side of the person shooting and two on the target being shot, one facing the target to record the hit from the front and one microphone behind the target to get the more bass-driven impact of the shot.

Could Foley sounds themselves be seen as naturalistic sounds themselves? Considering as they originated from natural sounds, and are not simply synthesised impersonations of the real sound, as gaming was forced to use within the 1980’s, in many ways is the use of the natural to make the un-natural sound realistic, but not real.

“From the strange to the supernatural to the gory and evil, horror effects call fro creative performances, unusual props, and a mop to clean up the mess.””vegetables and fruits are often the source for the sounds of mangled broken bones and sliced-up bodies.” Viers, R (p.260, 2008)

Obviously you would not go and literally record the sound of an actual murder for a murder scene, and the Foley artist needs to have an ear for sounds that do not sound out of place in these scenes. Celery is mostly used for broken bones snapping, as the sound is short and cracks like a bone, depending on the speed of the break. The likelihood is a bone snapping will not be as loud in the real world, but again this common belief for what you expect comes into play, and most humans would react with a grimace in that scene as they would be horrified by what would appear to be the actual breaking of a leg in a scene.

The power of recorded sound and foley is much more important for sound design in a video game, as many of the visuals will not be close to representing reality, and the more ‘realism’ you can add to a scene the better the overall immersion will be.

 

Aside from Foley work, much of the remainder of track layout in sound design for a video game shares it’s layout with film and television. There will always be a foley track, background ambience track, narrative and speech, music and effect tracks.

Each element is as important as the one above or below it, as they cumulatively pain the picture for the visuals, and help drive the narrative of a story. Sound is instrumental in both the belief and immersion within a scene, the closer the final mix gets to without discrepancies the less our brain can notice this reality is broken, and thus like on stage, the idea is to never break the fourth wall, unless that is the intentions of the piece.

“No matter what snake is in the movie, you will always hear it rattle. It’s a Hollywood sound staple.” Viers, R (p.216, 2008).

Various effects are used to change Foley, synthesised, and found sounds to give the impression of effects. For example using a low pass filter over narration gives the effect found when you hear somebody talking on the telephone, because the line has limited capabilities and as such runs on a low band frequency, which we accept as the norm. If you were to pick up the phone and hear the other persons voice perfectly it would likely be fine in real life. But if heard within a film would sound off, and completely unbelievable.

Schafer Argues that : “a sound event is symbolic when it stirs in us emotions or thoughts beyond it’s mechanical sensations or signifying function, when it has numinosity or reverberation that rings though the deeper recesses of the psyche.” , Shafer, R.M (p.169, 1977).

It’d true that a sound is a signifier of a certain event or scene, especially so when you hear the branding of a logo, such as ‘Metro Goldwyn Meyer’s iconic lion roar at the start of their films, or the Title credits to ‘Super Mario World’.

Music can be used to convey feeling and emotion to virtually any situation :

“Muzak is probably called elevator music because soothing melodies were used in early skyscrapers to make people feel less nervous about stepping into a contrivance that looked like a death trap.” Owen, D. (2006).

Owen talks how music in early elevators was used to soothe those who used these un-reliable, highly unseen until now devices which could result in your death. Simple melodies that would calm and make the process and enjoyable and everyday as possible. This also drowned out any sounds from the high-tension cables above the elevator and the squeaking of the devices movement up the elevator shaft. This iconic genre of music caught on and even to this day there are companies specialising in themed elevator music, catered to businesses, which in many ways become branding itself for the company.

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The Soundscape By Murray Schafer

Iconic sounds to incite nostalgia or signify an action with a sound are extremely prevalent in the real world too. The sound of a phone ringing will always have the sound of a phone ringing in a certain style, unless the setting is of an age where that sound is different, as to ensure that you instantly know that is the sound of a phone, and not a toaster for example.

“if we must be distracted ten or twenty times each day, why not by pleasant sounds? Why could everyone not choose his or her own television signal?” Schafer. R. M. (p.241-242, 1977).

Shafer speaks from a time when telephones shared similar tones and you could not simply change a ‘ringtone’ like we can on present day phones. The point that he is implying that changing the tone lessens the irritation of hearing it interrupting him during his day is unlikely, but it does show that he is psychologically effected and notes the urgency of a telephone ring. The likely hood is that if it had played a more pleasing sound to his tastes, would he not of wanted to instead listen to it rather than answer the phone, and as a result remove the urgency behind the telephones ring in the first place? Some noises are implanted into our subconscious, and any real change to that in what we see and hear in films, television and games is likely to seem out of place.

The effect of distance is also a key factor as to the location of the phone, once we hear the phones ringing and identify it, we then try to determine it’s location, as we would subconsciously in the real world in the aid of answering it.

Various effects with low band filtering can give the impression of a noise from a different room or the other side of a solid wall, different depending on the thickness of the wall and it’s density.

Phasing could be used as a technique to show dissipation of the telephone in a storm, hearing it occasionally dipping in and out of wind or other weather conditions where sound travels differently and is smothered by other effects tracked periodically through the recording. Boat scenes in video games in giant storms such as the ‘Tomb Raider’ game of this year feature the same effect. People try to shout out to the main character, but only some parts of the dialogue reach the player in the attempt to show the intensity of the storm around them even as they raise their voices.

These effects add tension and suspense, even when there may not of been any in the actual scene otherwise.

Voice acting is another avenue of careers within film television and indeed more so in video games. Many actors who have stared in big films lend their talent to a video game characters dialogue, as the familiarity of voice talent can be a selling point for the game, and in turn another way of the actor getting more apriciation and income outside the world of film and television.

However it can be said that the success of voice talent does not simply rely on the person acting within the game, many occasions in recent times have seen re-occuring voice talent, and some games, such as ‘World Of Warcraft’ for example sometimes make the error of featuring conversations between two different characters with the same voice actor. This is mostly accidental, however there have been occasions, such as in the popular game series ‘Mass Effect’ where voice acting talent is deliberately used to cover upwards of 300 none player characters within the game, with slight inflections or post effect processed channels to represent them as a different person.

Many reason could exist for this, mainly budget costs to actively recruit over 300 voice actors is unreasonable for a video game, it would take much more of the budget than would be feasible, so instead voice actors try their best to voice other characters. This is sometimes a factor in video game immersion breaking that we don’t find within television or film, yet in those other medium, there are very rarely more than 6 or 6 main characters with dialogue, with minor parts from extras. Games like ‘Mass Effect’ learn from the rather replicated voice act talent used in the same areas by making the voices more varied in areas, meaning your more likely to hear that guards voice again, but not until the next room, instead of hearing him talk in one part of the room and scream in the other as aliens attack.

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My Samson C01U Mic. Excellent for podcasts, recording and more recently used for my voice acting attempts in WoW machinimation.

Various journals exist as guides to potential developers on ways to cut costs and help make games more viable and successful to an audience.

“Voice actors are usually able to do a number of voices, so using the same voice actor for several different characters is another way of reducing your costs. Of course, it’s worth remembering that asking a voice actor to a large number of characters can affect the quality of the final product, so it’s not advised to go overboard on this one.” Filskov, D. (2013).

Some games are trying to both reduce the need of multiple voices in scenes by reducing the amount of characters within the story, alleviating costs and making the game more ‘realistic’, or simply flow much better with a flowing, un-interrupted narrative, instead of a jolted experience where the audience questions the situations and believability of the scenes in question, breaking the fourth wall.

In an interview with a games journalist website, the developer of the ‘Thief’ games talks about re-use of his main characters voice onto other characters.

“We could have pasted Stephen’s voice on top of the actions and stunts of someone else, but this wouldn’t appear natural. It really wouldn’t make any sense to capture the full performance for our other characters, but not for our star.” Verbert, J, C.. (2013).

Genuine quality of successful voice acting is much more often than not down to the quality of the takes and voice talent being provided with enough information to truly generate that character as their own, and truly represent their traits clearly and as naturally as possible. A monotone recording is unlikely to have the same effect as a passionate speech rehearsed as though it was being performed on a stage. Ways to provide this are obviously host rehearsals of a properly designed script checked and ensured to be what is needed to be rehearsed by the talent, but also in the inclusion of extra material for back up purposes.

“To bring life to your game characters, it’s often a good idea to add a selection of exclamations for each character – even though you might not think you’ll need them at first.
Recording these extra lines don’t add much overhead – but if you later decide to add them in, it may be more expensive and time consuming if voice actors will have to be brought in again to record those additional lines.” Filskov, D. (2013).

In many ways with limited technological advancements, despite animator’s best efforts, voice takes have to be much more involved and believable than they do on live action sequences in films and on television. Voice acting is therefore a much more strenuous profession, as all you hear of the actor is his or her voice, and not the actions which usually accompany them, and many voice acting situations in games, the actor has to imagine what scene will take place and react accordingly with no aids visual or otherwise, only the explanation from the director and the words on the script pages, as the games development will likely more often than not advanced to that part of development.

Usually concept art for characters is drawn up roughly to allow for actors to better get an idea of the character they will be portraying and help them get a better understanding of who or what they are lending their voice to. This helps keep actors in the mindset of what tone and stature many of the characters portray, and prevents issues where higher pitched voices are used on aliens that look as though they would talk fiercely for example in games like ‘Mass Effect’.

The availability of near professional level technology, weather it is software or hardware has allowed for many home-developed games to sound as good as their larger budget counterparts, and in many ways has only extended a new genre within the video game world which used to be riddled with potential failure.

Game development software is now easily available from the larger companies who develop computing engines for the latest games. Companies like ‘Cry-Engine’, ‘Unreal’ and ‘Adobe’ allow for their older developed engines and programs developed specifically for budding beginners in the industry to pay a small charge for a license to use their software, but some have access to powerful tools for free:

“Only Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR let you deliver your game to 500 million iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire, and NOOK mobile devices and 99% of connected computers — with no additional install. One codebase. Use amazing tools and take advantage of simple, powerful APIs and frameworks enjoyed by a large and growing game developer community.” Adobe. (2013).

This software, albeit some small costs, with the impacts on the wallet of the developer and team, virtually non existent. Which means costs can be placed into areas of actual game development, Audio deign and indeed improving the quality of the overall game, as half of the work behind how the game works, has already been achieved by one of the most powerful, and expensive systems that has been instrumental in creating the potential inspirations for the games they are making.

‘Unity’, for example is a platform service with allows for both tools specifically designed for professionals or complete beginners to game design to have access to not just the ‘Unity Engine’ which nearly all ‘indie’ games are based, but also various online tutorials, documentation and an entire community of forums and guides to help create the project you desire and have dreamt about from virtually nothing but a basic concept written on a notepad and a basic understanding of the technology and concepts behind the processes involved.

“Here at Unity our mission is to democratize game development. If you’ve arrived at this page you’ve likely already downloaded our Editor, and want to learn all the skills you need to make great games and interactive content.” Unity. (2013).

The service does require a small fee, but the offer of all of those options and tutorials as well as the development platform means that most developers will choose this format over other alternatives, which would require more expensive training and research to create an equal quality end product. And with many open source, and in many cases free platforms of audio software, editors, plug-in’s and even automated voice technology, the vastness of production costs are virtually eliminated. It’s for this reason the gaming industry is thriving, and the non-profit examples shown by companies is huge encouragement for everyone within a career related with the media, as they of course know that those individuals will likely one day work alongside them and only in turn help make there own games more successful, and grow the market as a result.

Independent companies exist and flourish, and through these programs they get noticed and they evolve to new heights and opportunities because of this freedom.

Not only has the quality of the games increased overall through technological advancements in both game engine perspectives, but also the quality of audio through cheap, affordable programs such as ‘Avid’s ‘ProTools’ software, which allows for professional level audio tracking and editing which used to be only available to extremely high budget productions at recording studios such as ‘Abbey Road’ where they recorded ‘The Beatles’ music in the 1960’s, but it is also easier to distribute an ‘indie’ project through services set up by digital distributers such as ‘Steam’s ‘Green Light’ program, which allows for new developers to post their concepts to the world and get direct feedback and support from their audiences and potential investors much more easily.

Another great inclusion which has recently become an international affair, which previously only included the United States of America, is that of ‘Kick-starter’.

This service allows for similar feedback, but also the inclusion of getting the audience of the game to invest in the development costs themselves, and in turn get the game constructed with their feedback and involvement.

Feeback amongst many other offers from these services is much more important than one may originally think, as many games of the past would of benefitted from more audience research, and would of ultimately resulted theoretically less disappointing sequels that came from various game series.

It also allows for an audience to actually create a game they want to play from the ground up a lot of the time. Many opportunities to ask their audience or potential audieces what they think of a change to a certain element of the game, or what they think of difficulty changes, themes, story plot changes, etc. It all basically results in an effective form of additional, free Q&A (Questions and Answers teams: those who test games in-house before releases of actual games.)

This in turn saves companies money with extended testing, and in many cases they offer access to a downloadable ‘Alpha’ version of the game, which they test for free and upload comments and suggestions to the games forums. Allowing for potential bugs and issues with game mechanics that would otherwise mar a successful game launch, without the need of panic at the release of the final product and the costs of patching and actively changing things with a game that has already been released so it is playable, and doesn’t get bad reviews from critics and consumers alike.

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Kickstarer Success story Flight-Space-Sim MMO scheduled for a 2015 release generated over 25 million dollars in one year.

Hundreds of success stories are appearing from this new form of funding and has ultimately allowed for sound designers to work on project which have the potential from going from nothing, to becoming a gaming classic, and thus making them a significant amount of money and acclaim in the outcome.

Of course gaming doesn’t invent itself and will continue to thrive off of the success of advancements in other media, and not necessarily of technical nature.

Experimentation with what and audience will find interesting is the forefront of design, and direct influences to older works can only last for so long before innovation is the key to having your product more valuable over the next.

Techniques found in sound design for film and television has always been the progressive parallel to gaming, and it has always followed it. Now we look to the internet for inspiration, as websites such as YouTube have allowed for the everyday person to share their artistic and opinionated contributions on an international scale. Inspiration for some television programming comes from the viewing of these online shows and ventures, as it is the perfect, non-loss environment to test an idea or theory before the eyes and ears of millions of people worldwide.

The world of digitised gaming media and the progression of its sound design is advancing at the same rate as the technology can be developed for it. Much like films and television shows, it shares the talent of these other media to better create the idea of ‘realism’ within a genre and better suit the audiences needs. The simple changes in how sound was recorded from the 1980’s to present day has impacted the seriousness of the games that are developed today. From simple hobbyist ventures like ‘Super Mario World’ where noises are made from jumping around a simple palette of reds and greens in level design, to fully featured Hollywood-esque adventures on movie scale with voice actors of actors and actresses famous for roles in other media.

It’s a world where music has become an advertising tool and a method of increasing revenue and exposure to artists worldwide during an economic struggle in digital distribution in the music industry.

Allowing for changes in that industry to the point of turning a small time bad into a well known figure in society through the use of their sounds in games.

It’s this use that allows cross-bred media ventures which ultimately increase the quality of both video games in breadth and scale, but also the continued succession of the other industries involved in all aspects of the media.

Jobs are born from where there were none before and work opens for visual artists, technicians, support centres, composers, motion capture recorders, and more.

The fact is that an industry in the early 1970’s which was rumoured to be a potential failure extended so far above expectations, that it is, in actual fact one of the largest career paths of opportunity and success in all visual and sonic media, and is now widely accepted as a valuable asset for both advertisement and exposure of hundreds of different talented individuals and technology to support it.

The overall quality of productions is increasing, how much exactly is clear by how many successful games make it from concept to selling millions of copies every month on digital distribution outlets across a multitude of platforms.

That isn’t to say that the world isn’t still competitive. Many small developers and sound design companies related to the gaming media find it increasingly difficult to get a job lined up that will pay, considering the amount of studios and bedroom-savvy technical composers and programmers who will offer there equally perfect services for no fee in return of a chance to generate the experience they need to progress their own careers. The only saving grace here is through a lucky break, as it always has been in many situations cross-media. Weather it be a sound designer for a game or a film, a portfolio and contacts are much more important now than ever, much more so than an educational degree or certificate that certifies your expertise. As ever experience is 90% of the necessary components needed to land a job in this or any environment, and technologies availability has indeed been instrumental in both positive and negative aspects of growth within all media aspects.

This procedure will definitely increase the bar in terms of requirements from prospective employees and employers will have a much varied amount of choice for whom they choose, as the monetary concerns don’t always have to be an issue, as they did in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

The human sphere of entertainment can only keep growing as technology does, and at the current rate, who knows what technology we will have in 10 or 20 years time.

Perhaps we will develop further into research into ‘3D Sound’, a new theorised format of digitised music. Perhaps we will instead look to ‘retro’ styles of development and make a full circle to create more ‘authentic’ representations of video games from a specific era as we do with Music and recording.

Personally I think that we will see a decline in ‘big-budget’ companies having an monopoly of the greatest titles, and instead with the power they have donated to new independent developers they could be sitting on an equal playing field, where only the contents of the game will be the consumers active choice to make, rather than concerns of quality or experience the developer has.

It’s highly logical to conclude from this that no matter what direction the digital gaming media does take; in essence it will only be towards growth of more cross-media platforms and will only further entertainment levels as a direct result.

The only definite answer to any predictions is that new careers and new media are generated every time it does advance, and in this climate of the media, that is ultimately welcomed beyond recognition by all.

Samuel Thomas Limb (Meoni) meoni@stratics.com.

Hopefully you have found this of interest, i feel as though i may of gone further than most would, but at least you know i didn’t attempt this by any half measures.

I heartidly welcome any comments or feelings you have for either the post or your own experiences and feelings towards the games industry and the way sound design and development is important in your own opinions.

A full reference list of ALL those i quoted or mentioned can be handily found here : Reference List

Lore, Warcraft & You! -Introduction

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Welcome to Meoni’s lore column, each week we’ll be talking about events or opinions on general Lore elements and how they are told within the World of Warcraft videogame franchise! This week in Lore, Warcraft & You! I take a look at what lore actually is, and why it’s important to the games we play, ensuring a continued value for money experience in a growing world of ‘competition’.

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As a child, books were never things I would actively seek out, nor did I find much interest in written media at all until much later in life, but the one thing that stays in my mind are stories such as the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, or any of the Terry Pratchett works. Like most children, I had stories read aloud to me by either my parents before bed or at school, and honestly I preferred it that way, and have continued to be this way to this day, with many audio books adorning my media player library in preference to the books on my shelves. I feel this relaxing, almost meditation like state allowed my mind to race away with conjured up images of what a Hobbit even looked like, or what I believed Smaug the dragon would sound like in his bellowing narrative.

Such grand, epic stories, so colourful and rich, written so beautifully the narrative medium they were delivered upon was always clear and painted the scene perfectly. That in my opinion is then the definition of a good story, one that can be told without too much guidance to the reader, and one that doesn’t require time to understand what is happening on the pages during action sequences or heavy interactions between multiple characters. Translation between media allows for a much purer experience, but only if delivered properly, which is why making content based on pre-designed lore, such as a film or game, is the most important thing there is.

Now if you look at the Warcraft franchise, it’s clear to see that development in all aspects of the medium has resulted in more and more time to focus on enriching story elements to the point of equality, or in some cases even better than what could possibly be explained in pages in a book.

Lore in itself is not the story, but the context of that story, and a slight error can mean the difference between a fluid experience and one of pure misery when trying to piece a world together, especially as vast and intricate as Azeroth. A good example of this was during the Cataclysm expansions premiere at Blizzcon 2010. A fellow gamer and now well known lore enthusiast Ian Bates, better known as ‘Red Shirt Guy’ by both the panel and the wow community, asked a question based on one of these discrepancies he had discovered.

The question referred to a recent book in the Warcraft universe, The shattering, which told of the events leading up to the Cataclysm expansions present timeline. He pointed out that a character that Blizzard had forgotten about, ‘Falstad Wildhammer’, presumed dead by the lore panel team, was actually in fact actively playing a role within the vanilla WoW game all the way up to the end of the ‘Wrath Of The Lich king’ expansion, yet completely missing from the ‘Council of Three Hammers’, an organised group of leaders within the Dwarf race.

Chris Metzen and the lore panel then checked this and declared the ‘red shirt’ guy correct, changed the game to include the missing character in the next expansion in his rightful place, and even included the gentleman asking the question as the ‘Lore Checker’ NPC in the game, stood next to the ‘Council Of Three Hammers’ themselves.

Mistakes are easily made, and the previous example shows the dedication and following behind the Warcraft games and the respected lore behind each and every storyline. As a result of this community interaction, the game has enforced standards to be both met and addressed with each and every game design decision, which in turn has helped create World of Warcraft into the rich, story driven game it is today.

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It can be said that the game has never been as story driven as it has been in recent Expansions, with many new methods of telling those stories introduced into Mists of Pandaria. Lorewalker Cho for example, voiced by the fantastically enthusiastic Jim Cummings, a veteran in lending his vocal talents to the video game world is key to this discussion.

The Thunder King official trailer that Blizzard released prior to the raids release to the public, featured rhyming couplets and a poetic projection of the events involving the resurrection and history behind the end boss of that raid.

This by far has to be one of the most impressive works of art the Blizzard team has put together in my opinion, with an extremely high quality presentation level and frankly spine tingling delivery.

As Cummings’ character tells the story of the Pandaren people, raised as slaves under the ancient Mogu empire, ruled by the powerful Thunder King, you get a sense this is more than just the amalgamation of ideas on paper, but a whole intricate thought out part of why the Pandaren even accept the outsiders eventually and try to trust the player throughout their adventures in Pandaria.

To get such a talented vocal inspiration working on a project like this is no easy feat. Consider the distance the game has had to travel before not just the money, but the renowned respect the company was there for this to be possible. For it’s progression in dedication to both customer service and delivery of a worthwhile, value for money product for consumption, is obviously the key concern of the whole development team. This is just one of many other reasons we could talk about in a future post of why WoW still reigns as the number one subscription based MMORPG around.

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The community behind a project like this, is what makes World Of Warcraft what it is, without our ‘Red Shirt Guy’s’, and our passionate interaction with the entire franchise, a game would just not be as rich, or even half as interesting to play, regardless of end game playable content, which I feel is where the games ‘competitors’ go wrong.

A player is given the chance to experience the in-game content at their pace, which is expected of a premium pay to play model in today’s society, with anything less than that a sure-fire way of not making even a dent in competition.

Thank you for reading this article, if you would like to continue the discussion, please do. What are your most favoured Warcraft moments? What would you like to see added to the game to further enrich the experience? Let us know, Cheers!

 

GameSpy: Guilded: Stop and Smell the Lore in Guild Wars 2 By Tom Chick

New Elekk Model.

 Tom Chick  of Gamespy wrote a great article talking about the lore of Guild Wars 2 and how it feels as a MMO. A really great read and I hope you all enjoy the article.

 

 

 

Thank you Gamespy and Tom Chick  for having this up for all the GW2 fans and players to read.

 

 

Guilded: Stop and Smell the Lore in Guild Wars 2

  By Tom Chick | Oct 11, 2012

This MMO has a story to tell, but you can leave your reading glasses in the bank.
If I may draw conclusions from strictly personal anecdotes — this is the internet, after all — most people who play MMOs don’t read quest text. They don’t read the books lying around in Bethesda’s games. They don’t read the quest entries in Borderlands 2. The most text that I’ll read is the subtitles for dialog that voice actors are reading to me anyway. I’d probably go so far as to read the flavor text on a legendary item in Diablo 3, but I can’t say for sure until I find one.

                            Gather ’round, and I shall tell you a story of telling stories.
Guild Wars 2 is hip to my aversion to reading. On one hand, that might lead you to believe there is no lore in Guild Wars 2. You’re right if you consider lore something dumped into your lap for you to ignore; you’re wrong if you consider lore something behind the game, or maybe underneath it, or lurking around corners where you don’t expect it and might just stroll by without noticing.

It’s In There Somewhere
“I don’t mean the Ranger named Legolass that you haven’t deleted because you were surprised that name wasn’t taken.”
Some of the lore relates to characters from the first Guild Wars, who show up in the higher-level story missions. Yes, there were characters in the first game — and I don’t mean your main character, the alt you never leveled, and the Ranger named Legolass that you haven’t deleted because you were surprised that name wasn’t taken. The first game introduced heroes saving the world or some such thing, but I only know this because it comes up occasionally in Guild Wars 2’s overarching storyline which is — quite literally — a bunch of guild drama. Kind of like when the Fellowship broke up, but without the licensed characters.

Other lore in Guild Wars 2 relates to the multiple-choice questions you answer when you roll your character. These answers play out in short story arcs specific to your character. My favorite thing about these is that you get achievements when you finish them. My second favorite thing is that they’re not as awful as they could have been.

The Rest of the Story
The best lore in Guild Wars 2 is what fancypants game writers might call “environmental storytelling.”
But the best lore in Guild Wars 2 is what fancypants game writers might call “environmental storytelling.” This just means it sits there and doesn’t bother you. It doesn’t get all up in your face. You can ignore it like those books in Skyrim — but unlike those books in Skyrim, it’s not a mess of text. It’s stuff in the world. Environmental.

                                                     I’m not just killing you for fun, I swear!
For many players, Taigan Groves is a place you pass through on the way from level 6 to level 8. It’s a hunting lodge in the snowy forests of the Wayfarer Foothills, the area where new norn characters level up after leaving the city of Hoelbrak. Lumbering wild dolyaks graze among the trees. You can find blueberries here, as well as a patch of thyme down by the river that runs behind the armorsmith’s pavilion. You might notice some beehives and a merchant selling honey. You’ll certainly notice a bunch of kids running around throwing snowballs at each other (I love how Guild Wars 2 is buzzing with the activity of children, something sadly absent in most game worlds).

Tales from Taigen Groves
“If you stick around, or if you talk to the locals, you’ll find and participate in a story.”
Many players will do some of Taigen Groves’ level 7 tasks and then move on to the next area on their way to level 80. But if you stick around, or if you talk to the locals, you’ll find and participate in a story. The hunter Gareth makes dolyak jerky, but he’s also a single father. His wife is away making her legacy. Gareth insists she’ll be home one day with scars, stories, and trophies. The implication is that something darker has happened and he isn’t ready to acknowledge it, but the point is that he’s got his hands full watching his three kids. The last stranger he enlisted to help lost his right foot. They found it on the roof a week later. Adventures in babysitting.
The kids in Taigen Groves seem innocuous enough. Most of them are just throwing snowballs. If you take up a snowball, you’re fair game and you will be attacked. In fact, if you want to get through Taigen Groves, bean enough kids with snowballs and you won’t have to fight a single mob. But the real troublemakers are Jafri, Henna, and Signy, who usually loiter sweetly in the main lodge. These are Gareth’s kids.

                Because being good at climbing mountains makes you the best hunter, apparently.

“If it’s okay to use the sword, surely it’s okay to use the battle axe, right?”
The bratty Signy asks her father if she can use his sword to kill a bug. He gives her permission and she merrily giggles, twirls, and kills the bug. She then decides to sample a battle axe. If it’s okay to use the sword, surely it’s okay to use the battle axe, right? At which point, oops, she breaks one of her father’s dolyak trophies on the wall. This leads Jafri, her brother, to look for a willing adventurer (you?) to help him hunt down a new trophy for his dad. Many players will just come across this is a group event in which several people attack a giant ram. They might not even notice the norn boy making off with the ram’s head, much less presenting it to his father, who then hangs it on the wall after kindly reprimanding his son.
The Bear Facts
Signy also talks her smarter and more practical sister Henna into using the family honey jar for a bear summoning ritual. The girls hand off a giant jar of honey that Signy asked her father if she could use. If I may offer a bit of parenting advice, Gareth needs to learn to say “no” to Signy. The ritual gets out of hand and Taigen Groves is assaulted by an army of bears. A bear moot, as Henna calls it as all the children run inside and barricade the doors. Many players will come across this is a “kill x bears” event that locks down the local merchants until it’s finished.

                                                     I am so gonna rat you out, sister…
None of the above is embellishment from me. It’s either in the dialog, or it unfolds in the context of dynamic events, which are where most other games just have fetch quests.

More Where That Came From
There’s plenty of stellar voice acting to be found, such as the banter between Signy and Henna.
There’s a lot of criticism of the voice acting in Guild Wars 2, and much of it is appropriate where voice actors read exposition on behalf of the talking heads in the cutscenes for the story missions. But there’s also plenty of stellar voice acting to be found, such as the banter between Signy and Henna. If I talk to Henna, she asks if I want to play yeti hunter with her. When my asura accepts — asura are tiny people roughly analogous to World of Warcraft’s gnomes — she tells me I’m too small to play a yeti. I’m not sure what happens if a full-sized character accepts her offer.
Taigen Grove is not an anomaly. Guild Wars 2 is full of this sort of storytelling, beginning with domestic dramas like the story of Gareth’s family and gradually building into stories about warring armies and massive dragons. If you want an action RPG, or a loot chase, or just an MMO, Guild Wars 2 will certainly oblige you. But if you want stories, they’re here as well, waiting for you to see them at your own pace.

Reddit: Linking the Human Gods to the Elder Dragons by ratphink

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Dragons

I definitely love the lore in Guild Wars 2 and this was a very good and interesting read by Reddit poster ratphink. I hope you enjoy and please stop by Reddit and give an upvote for his hardwork.

 

 

Ratphink: Linking the Human Gods to the Elder Dragons

EDIT: Should clarify. I don’t want to suggest that the Elder Dragons and the Human Gods are one in the same. However I would argue that the Human Gods are in some fashion linked to the Elder Dragons.

It was in this thread that I saw somebody mirroring my own theory that there is a link between elder dragons and the 6 human Gods. However, because for some reason I can’t effectively log in, I’m posting my thoughts here and seeing what you lot can make of it.

Now, I do agree with there being a link between the Human Gods and the Elder Dragons, but I think there’s also a big point that needs to be addressed in this theory. The Six Gods that are being worshiped now are not the Gods that would have existed during the last cycle of the Elder Dragons reign of terror. This even offers us the ability to ignore certain problems surrounding the nature of a certain God that has arisen with Orr.

The Dragons we know of: Zhaitan, Primordus, Kralkatorrik, Jormag, and “Bubbles”, however there is strong evidence to support the existence of another as of yet unrevealed dragon. The 6th World Devourer of the Jotun legends. Whether or not this proves to be the Pale Tree I won’t touch on because I do not know where I stand on that theory. That being said we do know what the make up of the original pantheon was.

We all know of Balthazar (God of Fire, War, and Murder), Dwayna (Goddess of Life, Air, and Lightning), Melandru (Goddess of Nature and the Wild), Lyssa (Dual Natured Goddess of Beaty and Illusion). However what is not being accounted for in the discussion above is that prior to current events we actually had 2 other Gods. We had Dhuum, the unyielding, remorseless God of Death and the Underworld as well Abbadon, God of Secrets and the Ocean Depths. Now, if I had more info I would even argue that the as of yet Un-Named predecessor of Abbadon could even have existed during the last cycle of the Dragons, the dead “Insect God” hinted at in the .dat file of the Domain Anguish in GW1.

People are having problems trying to place the current pantheon against the Elder Dragons because frankly the Pantheon has changed drastically since the last time the Dragons raged across Tyria. You can’t effectively place Kormir and Grenth in this selection because they’re not easily placed.

So now it’s far easier to make appropriate corolations:

  • Balthazar -> Primordus
  • Dhuum -> Zhaitan
  • Abbadon -> Bubbles
  • Lyssa -> Kralkatorrik

Now this theory is by no means perfect because we run into problems placing both Dwayna and Melandru on this comparison. However I think the relation to Dhuum and Zhaitan and Abbadon and Bubbles is that much stronger considering the circumstances. Abbadon’s own secretive nature mesh’s quite well with how little information we’ve been given on code name “bubbles” and Zhaitan’s stance on death eternal seems to fall in line with Dhuum’s own. Or perhaps Dhuum’s own hatred for the undead arose through his confrontation with the Elder Dragon of Death.

However I would like to point out that this manner of looking at the Elder Dragons does strengthen the argument that the Pale Tree, if not an Elder Dragon perhaps as Champion, could be linked to a Melandru-esque Elder Dragon of Nature.

Now the only God that is difficult to place is effectively Dwayna. The Goddess of Air, Lightning, and Healing. However, I would put forward that this was not necessarily her portfolio thousands of years ago. For instance look at the current changes to the porfolio of the Gods. When the Gods had bound Abbadon, they gave his portfolio of Water to Grenth who became the God of Death and Ice. However if we look at the portfolios now, Anet has actually split Water into two different Portfolios. Ice remains with Grenth, however Lyssa stands as the Goddess of Water (No doubt for its link to reflection, I think fittingly suits the Goddess of Duality).  Could be it be so difficult that our Dwayna could have been a Goddess of Cold at one point? Are not the skies and heights of mountains some of the coldest points of earth? I understand I am drawing a bit here to create a link to Dwayna and Jormag, however with little else to draw upon I see no other reason why she couldn’t be.

And so I bring my long speil to an end to be discussed by you all. Reddit, what are your thoughts on this?

Digital Gaudium: We Talk to ArenaNet About Professor Yakkington, Mobile App Development Progress, Lore and Structured PvP in Guild Wars 2

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A really great interview and if you are still wondering about GW2 Apps us fans get an answer for now. I loved the questions and I definitely enjoyed the lore. Great read and definitely worth it. Digital Gaudium my hat is off to you. Great work!

 

 

Thank you Digital Gaudium and all our readers please support these guys by taking time to visit their site.

 

 

We Talk to ArenaNet About Professor Yakkington, Mobile App Development Progress, Lore and Structured PvP in Guild Wars 2

Note: We were not told who answered these questions for us but, as soon as we are informed we will amend this piece with those details.

Q: I really like design of the Asura, from their character animations to their architecture. What were the primary inspirations when you were creating the race for the Eye of the North expansion and in what ways did you expand on that race’s attributes for Guild Wars 2?

A: The Asura were originally conceived as a highly magical race, and the nature of that magical ability quickly took a turn towards the idea of a race of mad wizards with teleportation gates, golems, and floating citadels. They have been small races of tinkerers before, but the big thing with the asura was that their creations actually worked.

In Eye of the North, the Asura had arrived on the surface, chased there by the champion of an Elder Dragon. In the 250 years since, they have settled in. The biggest example of that is Rata Sum, their main city, where they have levitated a huge cube of stone into the air and have carved it out into their own magical citadel.

Q: MMOs are constantly evolving and changing in many ways, will there ever be events that occur that affect everyone in Guild Wars 2? e.g: An Elder Dragon is killed and stays dead permanently or a notable city is destroyed.

A: All events affect everyone in the game; those who are in the map with the event have the option of joining in, or not, but the event plays out around them within the shared world. For the most part, those events are cyclical, returning when a certain set of conditions has been met, to allow Player Characters to play through the events of the chain once more.

Story dungeons, on the other hand, are designed to be played through only once (although a player may choose to do so multiple times). When a player has completed the story version of the dungeon, those events are considered to have played out for that Player Character.

In the world, some events (typically holiday ones) will come and go, playing out temporarily and possibly leaving permanent changes to the world. We’ll have to leave that up to the Live team!

Q: I really enjoyed exploring the continents of Cantha and Elona in the original Guild Wars. It’s been 250 years since the original game, have any elements of those cultures bled over into Tyria in Guild Wars 2?

A: Elements of those cultures have absolutely made their way into Guild Wars 2. The city of Divinity’s Reach has notable sections that are shaped by Elonan and Canthan culture; some naming practices, legends, and the histories of great heroes all still exist within GW2. If you choose to play a human, you can pick racial features and skin tones suitable for a character with those backgrounds, and in some of the story chains, you have the option to identify yourself as a descendant of one of those great nations.

Q: My friend and I developed a love for Professor Yakkington while trying to fill out our Hall of Monuments in the original Guild Wars. So I really want to know if Professor Yakkington is immortal and will he be present in Guild Wars 2?

A: Sadly, no. Professor Yakkington has gone to the wide fields and joyful plains of the Mists. But he hasn’t been forgotten! If you visit the Ascalonian fortress of Ebonhawke, you will find a memorial to him — and to Nicholas, who loved him so well. Much like you, we never forget our loyal and beloved friends.

Q: I was pretty excited about the announcement of the Mobile and Web Apps, from the blog post it seemed like a much more complex project than your traditional MMO Companion App. Will the Apps be ready for launch day?

A: For launch we won’t have any GW2 apps available for use for players. However, soon after launch we’ll be launching a robust app development program in conjunction with our community that should allow for the development of some truly spectacular GW2 app and website development. We’ll discuss this more post ship, right now we’re focused on making the release of the game the greatest it can be.

 

 

 

 

 

Q: Have you considered adding more weapons for classes down the road or changing the weapon skills they have?

A: We have definitely talked about new weapons for the professions. However, it isn’t something we take lightly because once a weapon is introduced it needs to compete with what is already out there for that profession, including not just how effective it is, but what roles it fulfills. Weapons are the heart of your character’s tool set or “build,” they really set the tone for how your character will play so it is important that we get them right. I don’t think we would consider changing skills on a specific weapon unless they were not working in any parts of the game.

Q: Some players have complained about being underleveled in the early zones of the game, have you balanced the game in any way or added any tooltips that will guide players in the right direction?

This is definitely something that we’ve looked at very carefully, and we’ll continue to monitor long term. We’ve made a couple major changes to address some of these concerns.

First, we overhauled the hint system, adding a panel that shows you the full text of all the hints in the game. You can track your progress in each category, and you can access this panel at any time to review hints that you might have missed in the heat of battle. There are even achievement points for getting every hint.

Second, we made some significant changes to the way that our low level areas play to make sure that the challenges you face are level-appropriate. Part of this update was on the code and mechanics end, by changing the way that our content scales. We also went into each start zone and looked at where players were congregating and how we could make changes to direct players a little more. After analyzing the maps and feedback, we added a bunch of new content to each starter zone to help address issues with flow and scaling.

Those are just two of the ways that we’ve balanced the early game and guide players, but there’s always room to improve. We’ll continue to iterate and explore new ways to provide an awesome experience for our players.

 

Q: Unexpectedly I have found that Structured PvP is my favourite part of Guild Wars 2, and will probably dedicate a large amount of my playing time to it. What were your main goals that you had when you were working on Structured PvP and what are some of the most useful pieces of feedback you have received?

A: We had a lot of different goals with our structured PvP, but the most important ones were to make it accessible and fun, skill-based to keep players playing, and to support it well (a goal which we look forward to achieving). We worked hard to build a combat system that had the depth that players expected from an MMO, but had more of the action and strategy that we think has been lacking. I think the most important feedback we receive in general is about usability. Structured PvP is no exception. At each beta event, players wanted to be able to play more with their friends. This is an extremely important aspect of any online game, so we worked hard to make changes to the system to account for this feedback. From BWE1 to BWE2 we added tournaments so players could take organized five-person teams and compete with other teams. We also added the ability to follow your friends from your contacts list into games, as well as inviting party members to follow you into a game through chat links.

From BWE2 to BWE3 we allowed users to queue into tournaments with partial rosters so that 5 players was not a requirement for joining with your friends. Speaking of supporting the game, there are more social features we have talked about for PvP that we will continue to work on. From allowing players to “rent” servers, to spectating games, and other community features we will continue to work towards making Guild Wars 2 structured PvP a fully fledged gaming experience.

 

Q: Are you working on more Structured PvP modes or do you feel that the current mode is all that is needed? Do you envision that game modes as complex as what we saw in Heroes Ascent to make a return?

A: Throughout the development process, we worked on almost 10 different game modes including Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, and a two-track Golem map where teams tried to push their own Golem to the finish line. Each of these modes had some merits, but ultimately Conquest was far and away the most fun mode in our internal tests. At some point we realized that the best thing to do was to fully support this mode, from polishing the map creation pipeline, to the score UI, we put all of our effort into this game mode. This was really the internal turning point for structured PvP that started us down the path to the enjoyable game that we have now, so we will continue to focus on making this mode as fun as it can be. That being said, we would like to introduce new game types at some point, however we feel that simple objective based modes that encourage positioning, a healthy amount of group fights, as well as force interesting tactical team splits are the key to making successful games types for our game.

Q: As there are far less skills in Guild Wars 2 compared to Guild Wars 1, I feel like the impact of changing the effects or properties of one GW2 skill is much larger than changing a GW1 skill. Do you feel it is easier or harder to balance the game this time around?

A: I think the number of skills is a bit of an oversimplification. There are actually almost 1000 player skills in Guild Wars 2, but we have built a very layered infrastructure that makes balance a lot easier. In fact, changing a single GW2 skill has much less impact because of all of these layers. We have worked within this system for a while to build a strong baseline of balance. How this works is that while there are many skills, a specific skill isn’t competing with all of them. For instance any given heal skill must find a place of balance within the subset of <30 heal skills. A given weapon skill must be useful on that weapon, but the balance of the game rarely depends on that skill because it exists within the rest of the skills on that weapon. All of these things give us a good understanding of the context in which a skill will be used.

Guild Wars 2 is set for release on the 28th of August, 2012 (25th for those with the 3-day headstart) on the PC (Windows only for now folks). Continue to check out Digital Gaudium throughout the month as we drip-feed you more Guild Wars 2 content to keep you going till release.