Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The moving walkway

First of all: I’m having a blast as I’m questing my way through the new zones of Cataclysm. There’s so much to love – so much beauty, so much imagination, so many new and thrilling quests, especially in my current zone Uldum, which has blown me away on several occasions.

So don’t get me wrong. What I’ve seen of Cataclysm so far has lived up – or even exceeded – the somewhat crazy expectations that have been built up ever since the announcement at Blizzcon 2009. But I have a little thought of doubt: hasn’t the questing in WoW become just a little bit too streamlined?

Following the pathways
Everywhere I go, I see players following the pathway that Blizzard has put out for us. Strictly speaking I reckon I could deviate from it. It’s not like when you’re hiking in one of those heavily populated nature reserves where you’re more or less forced to follow the assigned trail to preserve the surrounding grounds. But in practice this won’t happen. The quests are supposed to be done in a certain order; one thing leads to another, moving between phases. Woe the player who dares to break the quest chain! No more quests for you, ungrateful scum! Leave the trail and you’ll be condemned to trash grinding your way to 85 killing nothing but murlocs.

Every now and then, without previous notice, the screen goes black and I’m suddenly thrown into a mini cinematic of some sort. And this adds to the feeling of linearity. It’s even more linear than the experience of reading a book or seeing a movie. When you’re consuming something in those media, you can always go back. You can replay the scene you came to think about on your dvd or you can go back and look at the previous chapter if you get lost in the novel. WoW is much less forgiving. If you get distracted in some way, you’ve missed it.

A moving walkway
Over and over again an image pops up in my head: the image of the moving walkway in the room where they keep the royal jewels at The Tower of London. The only way you can see them is by standing on that walkway, and it passes those jewels at set, nonnegotiable pace.

You blinked as you passed? Your toddler came by as the quest cinematic was running? You got a phone call and didn’t see that scene where Harrison swings around in his rope on the giant statues? Too bad for you, but the conveyor band has moved passed the jewels and the exit is there. You’ve completed the quest, here's your reward! (Which on a side note feels rather bizarr - why are we rewarded for doing nothing but staring at our screen, drinking coffee?) What are you waiting for? Hurry up, step into the next rollercoaster ride! Want to see it again? Sorry, mate. Roll an alt or check YouTube. You're in a different phase now and the ride only goes in one direction.

Who’s driving?
Tam asked: “Who’s driving this story?” and my answer is simple: it certainly isn’t me. I feel like a marionette doll, secured in the threads under the rule of the designers, in a way that I’ve never ever felt before.

I remember how I back in the days sometimes used Jame’s levelling guides, with mixed feelings. It was efficient levelling on one hand, but it took away a bit of the “a virtual world to explore” feeling from the game. It quickly became a threadmill, with a tunnel vision focus on the XP/hour rate, rather than on the thrill of adventure and uncertainty.

The last few years Blizzard has taken WoW in a direction where the guides and quest addons aren’t needed anymore. It’s all built into the UI, showing where to go and what to do next, and into the pipeline quest design. The tendency started in Wrath, but Cataclysm takes it up to the next level.

I reckon it’s my lack of experience from other games that makes me react against it. Maybe this is the way that stories normally are told in games?

I’ve become used to – and fond of - Blizzard’s open-world-design. I know that some old school players sneer at it, thinking it’s more of a theme park for players that lack any kind of imagination of their own, than a sandbox where you can make anything happen.

The same meal
Until now I’ve always thought that the theme park accusations were unfair and that there were more player freedom and options than you’d think of at first sight. You could tweak your WoW experience into something different from everyone else’s. I didn’t have such a strong feeling that we’re all having the same standard hamburger meal as I get in Cataclysm.

It’s an awesome hamburger, the best one they’ve ever made. Shiny. Entertaining, full of surprises. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as curious, excited and involved as I’ve been exploring Uldum for instance. I’ve even started to read the quest texts for some reason, and this fact surely must be a sign of a huge improvement. Quest design taken at a new level!

Perhaps I just have to take the bad with the good. Maybe there isn’t any other way to make the design than by forcefully leading us through certain pipes?

Another thing to remember is that I haven’t yet dipped my toes into Archaeology. From what I’ve heard it might offer a counterweight to the streamline questing, giving the sense of freedom, exploration and individuality that rollercoaster rides somehow lack.

It’s too early to make the call what impact the changes to questing will have on us, too early to say if we’ll enjoy all those cinematics as much next time we bump into them, or if they’re just an annoyance, “been there, done that”.

But I can’t quite get the image of the walkway at The Tower of London out of my head. The thought is a little disturbing.

Perhaps it's there because it tells us something about our real lives. Am I living my life as if I was in a sandbox, a world of freedom and possibilities, where I'm in charge of myself? Or am I just idly standing there on the conveyor belt, waiting for the trip to end when Life is done with me?

The thought crosses my mind and I pick it up and look at it briefly, before I carefully put it back in my backhead again where it came from. Some things are too scary to give a full examination.

42 comments:

Grimmtooth said...

I think the sandbox is still there. It's just that the path of least resistance is to hurry up and get on the ride before it departs with all your friends. I think striking out on one's own will still be rewarding. So far, it has been, but you won't hear a lot about it because of the incessant chatter about who got to 85 first.

Tesh said...

Speaking from the design side, it really is hard sometimes to let go of the reins and let the player have some autonomy. They might play it wrong, or break the game somehow.

I maintain that it's better to give players control, but I can understand why some devs don't like it. It means ceding some power and likely, greater workload.

That said, it's still possible to go off the rails in WoW. You just have to pick a direction and go.

Perdissa said...

If you want to see the cinematic again, I believe you can abandon the quest, and take it again from the questgiver. One of my guild mates had one of these cinematic quests bug out on him and he was forced to abandon it. He subsequently complained about having to watch it a second time. So yes, I think it can work this way.

Incidentally, your example of the toddler coming up to you as a cinematic starts to play.. happened to me every other cinematic. True story.

On the overall feel of the linear storyline, I agree that there's a lot less room to explore. At the same time, I think you get a better overall sense of the story of the zone as compared to random wandering. I don't really mind it this way, tbh.

Raddom said...

I very much agree with the notion that Blizzard, through (1) changes in the interface which made many leveling addons obsolete, and (2) creating a more linear questing line, thus pretty much negating the need for a guide, Blizzard has made the whole leveling experience like a parent holding the child from start to finish.

I don't know if that is a good thing or not. I'm sure new players would greatly appreciate this feature because of the size of the whole WoW World, but for veterans who appreciate a diversity of experiences in leveling characters, I'm not sure that this would be the best move for Blizzard to make.

hound said...

I'm kind of bummed out about it. Granted, there were some old zones where questing was a chore, sometimes you would complete a questline and have no idea where to go next, but it wasn't the whole game, just some certain areas.

But now, everything is streamlined to get you to the level cap as quickly as possible...what's the point of even putting the resources into leveling content if we're expected to get through it so quickly?

I remember accidentally stumbling upon the Princess questline in vanilla. I could have easily missed it, never knowing it was there, but I was out exploring the zone and there it was. And the unfinished pirates beyond the "secret" cave...they may have not been finished, but accidentally finding them was an awesome feeling too.

It's a big world, but it feels far too small these days.

And come on, a flight path Goldshire? Really? *sigh*

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about the flight paths in the first towns too (Goldshire, Razor Hill, etc.), and then I realized that they're incredibly useful to precisely the people that actually need to get to those towns, i.e. the sub-20 characters.

Rhii said...

It's hard to skip *ahead* on the ride too! I have a little goblin hunter that spent a fair amount of time camping for a specific pet in Northern Barrens. Because of that, she got overleveled for her quests in Azshara, but I couldn't jump forward in the quest chain and get proper leveled ones! It was very annoying.

Redbeard said...

I suspect the linearity is Blizz' solution to phasing problems.

I can remember when I first collected the flight points to Dalaran, and I experienced phasing at Kor'kron Vanguard when my escort vanished into thin air. With the amping up of the phasing in Cataclysm, Blizz needs to prevent that from happening wholesale.

Their solution is to force the questlines into being more linear.

I think it's a tradeoff. If you want the world to change around you to a significant degree, you need to accept a more linear pattern. If you don't mind having the same environment all the time, you can allow for a broad range of questlines.

manifestpixel said...

Really well written article, I enjoyed it even if I wouldn't completely agree with you.

Grimmtooth said...

@Redbeard - Oh, good point! I had overlooked that, but it makes perfect sense.

Raddom said...

I really liked Gevlon's suggestion of red quests and yellow quests, dividing it into quests that you need to level and quests that you can do on the side for exploration, achievements, lore, etc.

Gevlon said...

Blizzard was "forced" to do it this way. Players paid for "leveling guides", either because they were too stupid to find the next step, or because they wanted the "most efficient" way to level up where they can get "phat lewt".

The quest-chain holds the hand of the moron and forces the "cba i want epixx lol" kiddies.

Len said...

I haven't minded the linearity of quests so far, but I'm guessing this is because it's my first time in each new zone and I'm really enjoying the new storylines and more interesting quests. I have a little hunter levelling in Ashenvale, a warlock levelling in the Eastern Kingdoms and a mage in Deepholm.

My worry now as I see just how linear it all is, is that it will become very tedious as I level new alts. And I have a lot of alts. I'm hoping that the different starting areas will direct me through to different zones to some extent... but yes, some of the 'magic' of discovering new hidden things is gone.

When I went back to do Loremaster before the Shattering, sure I needed some help to get at all of the most out-of-the-way quests, but it was fun to find things I'd never done before even after levelling 6 characters. Now, if you just follow each zone as you are told you'll get Loremaster. Not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing :)

However there is a new upside as Redbeard has pointed out - some of the new quest zones look absolutely epic, and it's really nice to see the world actually changing around you as you complete quests. It makes you feel a little like you're actually having an impact on the world.

Shelly said...

I like a great deal of the changes, the cinematics are a great immersion tool, especially since I can see my (omg ugly armored) character in almost every one of them. I also like that with the phasing changes, you hardly notice the change, no loading screen or bar to marr my ui. What I don't like is that I can not skip over that section of the zone because it is what unlocks the next section, ot, for the most part, I can not skip any quests in that zone at all! It kind of degrades going for loremaster of an expansion worth of content when you HAVE to do that questline in that order just to advance in the zone.
And for the most part, other games ARE linear.

Dominus said...

Questing in Cataclysm reminds me in no small way of Guild Wars.

Espeicially Uldum, which reminds me greatly of the Vabbi areas in the Nightfall expansion.

KiwiRed said...

I get the feeling I'm one of the few who are finding the new cinematics are a substantial step back (and break what little immersion I've managed to find). Perhaps it's an aesthetic thing, but watching badly animated models (or on some occasions, the default animations re-purposed as best they can managed it) turns the game back into Warcraft 3 (and don't get me started on the terrain clipping, especially with big models as you'll see in Twilight Highlands). After the glimpses of brilliance as Blizz displayed with the Wrathgate cinematic and the Ulduar trailer, these were just... primitive.

And I'm about to experience the treadmill again, with the requirement of leveling up level 80s alts to get access to the high-level tradeskill recipes, so I'm pretty sure I'll be tired of the guided tour PDQ.

Nils said...

It is very linear and I like it.
That requres an explanation :)

Normally, I like open worlds with infinite possibilities: Virtual worlds.

But WoW is so far removed from a virtual world nowadys that it doesn't make any sense to give me that kind of freedom during leveling. The stories in WoW are not player created and neither is the content. So if Blizzard creates it, they'd rather do it well; and they did.

WoW is a strange beast of Massive Multiplayer Singleplayer game. The kind of beast nobody could every imagine and that can only be created by endless (shortsighted ?) iteration.

It is enjoyable for what it is. I rejoined my old guild and am having a lot of fun. But it is a not a virtual world.

However, as long as there is no AAA polished virtual fantasy world out there Blizzard need not fear me leaving them.

Ardol said...

Having only just finished Mount Hyjal, I can only give my opinion based on that zone, which didn't feel too linear; there were often two quest givers I could go to at a time, so that gave some choice. But more than that, I have been dipping extensively into fishing, collecting herbs, leveling my professions, and especially archeology. Yes, the questing may be linear, but the game as a whole is far from it; one need only see that there is more to WoW than questing to see that.

Wolflore said...

I think Redbeard hit the nail in the head on the need for linearity when you have significant phasing. Also I think linearity makes it easier to tell a good story. I think this system makes it easier to get into the theme of each zone and get to know what is going on and that you are not just killing scorpids or hyenas for the heck of it.
Also I think the use of phasing has influenced the use of of group quests so far I have not run into a single one so far after doing Vashj'ir, Deepholme and most of Uldum. It is either that or the fact that Blizz understood that at the initial leveling zones most players outgeared the quest mobs and were going to solo the quests anyways. This kinda dissapoints me as soloing group quests added some nice cahllenges in the levelling experience.

Dàchéng said...

I'm afraid I have to agree that we're on a moving walkway with this expansion. I happened to wander into Uldum without following a breadcrumb trail. I just flew in. What an eerie experience!

As I mentioned in my blog, I think the problem is caused by phasing. Once a region is phased, it becomes very difficult to cater for alternative paths - to allow players to do things in a different order or even to skip content - and Blizzard just gave up on the idea of doing so. You must be in the right phase, or some things just don't work. For instance, the teleport in the Twilight Highlands to Stormwind. Worse, quest-enders who are out of phase with you! As a result of the problems of testing alternative paths through phased material, Blizzard decided to put us all on the moving walkway. The alternative really was to release Cataclysm next year instead of this, to allow proper testing of alternative paths through phased material.

The ironic thing is that phasing was meant to make players feel more in control; as if their efforts were changing the world. I have never felt less in control in Azeroth than I do right now!

Saga said...

I think it's a little bit too tied together now sometimes. Especially in Mount Hyjal. I found that over there you literally can't skip any quests because it won't unlock the next quest hub, but you'll be stuck.

I tried skipping ahead on the first day when there were 50 people trying to kill the ogres and get the carried loot - but you actually can't get quests from future quest hubs without completing the current ones.

Other than that I don't really mind the linear thing I guess, it does follow a story. But I still feel like it should be possible to skip a quest hub if you wanted to, and currently you can't.

Iapetes said...

'Linear questing' has never bothered me, WotLK and cata's stories have just been told much much better than in the past, in my opinion. And since they take you all over the zone it still feels like exploration to me.

I've noticed a lot of people talk about how they dont like vashj'ir because they just move from one hub to the next but for me that's a huge part of the charm of that zone. You're on a journey deeper and deeper into the ocean, accompanied by a steady cast of characters that join you the whole way down. The only complaint I have is that the zone ends in a cutscene and you dont get to do much, but in truth the real ending of the zone is throne of the tides so it doesnt bother me that much.

Iapetes said...

I will say it doesnt always work well in the old zones that were refurbished for 1-60, because to take players through the entire zone a lot of the hubs have to have only a handful of quests.

Helistar said...

@a lot of people: phasing is definitely a major problem for sandbox exploration. But it's not like questing is the only way to level. There are at least another two (instances and bgs). And if you're of the farming kind you can gather or just kill stuff. What I mean is that if you choose the path of least resistance, you cannot really complain that it's the path of least resistance....

Leveling in WoW is irrelevant, all the action is at the level cap. This is clearly a design decision, see how long (short, actually) leveling becomes at each expansion. And it's also clearly what WoW players wanted, see the success of Questhelper and xp/hour optimized guides. The message is very clear: if you're looking for something else (a "living world", sandbox, etc.) you'll have to search for it elsewhere. As much as WoW can try, a single game cannot satisfy all players.

@Saga: quest hubs in Hyjal CAN BE SKIPPED: this is exactly what me and friends did on the first night when hitting the same ogres you mention. All the quest at the shrines are already available and you can keep going. At the same time, this does not apply in all zones.... I think it works in Hyjal because it's supposed to be the first one a lvl 80 will do (and if you tried vashj'ir in lvl 80 quest green/blues you know why....)

Grainger said...

I personally like the storylines and the cinematics, but I do agree that it seems that any personal choice is gone. Even the "hidden" quests aren't really hidden. i.e. dropped treasure maps, etc, will fall from the first 1 or 2 of those mobs you kill.

I would love if they could add a few "off the beaten path" quests that you need to discover, stumble upon only when you are exploring, or drop rarely. I suspect Redbeard is right when he says the phasing has forced the game to do things this way.

I have just stuck my head in Hyjal and Uldum because I went the other path to 85, but I enjoy all the zones and have not found a dungeon I dislike yet (I think Vortex Pinnacle is the only non-heroic I haven't been in).

All in all, I have found this expac to be very fulfilling. My only disappointment (if you could call it that) is how quickly the levels go by. 80-82 is extremely quick. At least now I get to work on gearing for heroics on my mage, doing Tol Barad dailies and working at a slower pace on whichever alt I decide to go with next (probably pally healer).

Zy said...

This really gave Blizz a chance to let the story shine and I enjoyed the heck out of that. I didn't enjoy what happened when Cindermaul bugged and basically locked Hyjal out for me. There was nothing I could do in the zone because I couldn't complete a single quest. It was very frustrating.

So I miss the lost of freedom and flexibility. I'm going to wait and see the long term effects before deciding if this really is for the better.

Bronte said...

Aaaah yes, the themepark vs. the sandbox argument.

Consider EvE, the epitome of MMO sandboxing. It is limitless, it has a wide variety of activities a plethora of zones and multiple ways for you to contribute to your (or your corporation's) well-being. You can mine, trade, refine, build, reverse-engineer, planetary-mine, craft titans, explore, engage in PvE, engage in epic 3,000 player PvP, the list goes on and on.

You know what is the one complain I hear from most EvE players, including myself? It's too harsh, the learning curve is too steep and they don't really do much to hold your hand through it.

I think I am OK with imagining that as long as your having fun, it doesn't matter if you have to choose your adventure, or if it has already been decided for you on a no-nonsense on-rails roller-coaster.

Ratshag said...

Me, I's always thought Blizz's questing system worked best when it went linear. Darrowshire, Thrall's grandmother in Nagrand, DK starting area, the Forgotten Hero of the Horde, Wrathgate fer ta name a few. Were the dang "I know ya gots ta save the village from invaders and all, but would ya mind terribly killing twenty lesser whatsits fer me? And then twenty mature whatsits? And afters, twenty elder whatsits?" The fact what ya could choose what order ta save the village, kill whatsits, and gather baby dragon livers just never excited me that much. Had very much a "well, that's how EQ did it, so it must be right" feel, I thought.

That said, a rewind button fer the cut scenes would be awesome. Like, mebbe ya got some goblin followin' ya around with a camcorder, and ya can get yer posterities on laters watchin' the vids at home.

Hugmenot said...

The wife and I are altholics and we do not see much replay value in the new Cataclysm linear quest lines.

As dailies are not our cup of tea either, we'll likely level most pairs 3- and 4-manning the new instances (we've 4-manned Blackrock Caverns on several pairs already).

I am cautiously optimistic about the heroics as the few guildies who attempted them said they are very hard.

Talarian said...

You want a cohesive story, the easiest way to do it is make it linear. You want a non-linear completely sandbox exploration game? There's not going to be much story to interact with so much as the history of the world around you.

Which one is better? Neither, they both have their place, and they're both fun in their own way. However, with the Wrathgate cinematic and the praises people put on that and other strong storylines in Wrath, Cataclysm is the natural business direction.

Not that it in itself necessarily precludes a sandbox world, but to make the story strong Blizzard introduced phasing, which as Redbeard quite aptly points out, enforces linearity.

But that's not just it. Gevlon is correct too, and you are as well, Larisa. How many people used QuestHelper? How many people used levelling guides? This linear, streamlined questing is exactly what the playerbase wanted (speaking in general terms, maybe no what *you* wanted).

In the end, I think it has made for a very consistent, polished experience that clearly had a very strong design from the start, making it quite enjoyable. WoW is the theme park, and the easiest way to enjoy it is to take the path laid out in the tourist brochure. Whether or not you do that is entirely up to you.

Nikodhemus said...

I recently took my lv 49 Shaman into Felwood and did the questline going into Jaedenar Fortress or whatever it is... the one where you fight the cultists that are summoning demons, and the big long cave? Had a blast doing it, but there is one thing worth mentioning in regards to this article. While it was nice to be down in that pit, killing one boss, completing the quest and being put on the next part of the chain without having to go back out and fightyour way back in... but it really took teh suspension of disbelief to its limit. How did this other shaman find out instantly that I killed such and such a boss? Did we have an engineer make Goblin Walkie-Talkies? Either way, it felt like a real old-school dungeon crawl, and as a newer player I enjoy the linear story-lines quite a bit, especially the sing-posts in the capital cities that tell you "Call of the Horde! Get yer arse out to Un'Goro Crater!" and then off you go!

Anonymous said...

The moving walkway is a good analogy. The sad part for me is that we're not passing by the Crown Jewels. The Cataclysm story isn't bad -- it has its moments and the zones are beautifully modeled -- but it isn't a story I want to read again.

I'll be figuring out other ways to level my alts.

Larísa said...

@ Grimmtooth: It might be just the levelling that is affected. Maybe I’ll poke around more, enjoying the freedom there might be, once I’m done with the level-gear-up-race.

@Tesh: It is possible, but there are SO few incentives to do it. I noticed as I started to level a gnome priest after the Shattering that I had absolutely no reason to go to IF and detect the tram. You just go from quest to quest and the world feels kind of smaller than I remember it used to.

@Perdissa: Ah, abandon it before I turn it in? Cleaver. Didn’t think of that. So the phasing sort of winds back then?

@Raddom: I think it’s both. There’s good stuff about it but like anything else it comes with a price. If it’s too high or not is probably too early to tell.

@Hound: Yep. I wonder if there still are any hidden eggs out there. I still hope there are. I want to be surprised every now and then.

@Anonymous: actually I agree that the increasing amount of flight paths isn’t so bad, especially for new players. I can’t say I enjoyed running all the way from SW to Lakeridge particularly much.

@Rhii: Yeah. It reminds me of how they design certain annoying stores where you have to walk a certain path to get to the exit, walking three times as long as you wanted to.

@Redbeard: Yes, maybe it’s inevitable with the phasing, which indeed is kind of cool, with a changing world.

@Gevlon: Well, yeah, a bit maybe. I wouldn’t use the word “forced” but you’re right, probably a majority of the players like it this way. For various reasons.

@Len: As I said: I do enjoy the questing, it’s not as if I’m suffering badly. But I do have a worrying thought if this is the best way to go for the MMO genre in the long run.

@Shelly: I like the animations too, but I think I prefer when it’s i first person to third. I loved shooting at the enemies from an aircraft as we were fleeing and I actually could do something myself. But when I see Larisa strolling around with someone else having control over her, I get mixed feelings. It sort of puts a barrier between my char and me that normally isn’t there.

@ Dominus: I haven’t played it myself, but I’ve seen it mentioned here and there so I reckon you’re right.

@KiwiRed: All of them aren’t brilliant. Especially when they’re talking – without any voice acting – and you’re expected to read those chat bubbles and they give you SO much time to do it because everyone doesn’t read at the same pace… That feels a tad clumsy at times tbh.

@Nils: Sometimes you shock me! Are you the Nils I used to know? Am I the Larísa you used to know? Aren’t you the one that’s supposed to be talking about world? And shouldn’t I be talking about that one thing doesn’t exclude the other?

Larísa said...

@Ardol: I suspect that levelling professions helps a bit. I don’t have any gatherer profession on my main and I haven’t taken time to do archaeology since I’m off for a couple of weeks and need to get ready for raiding asap in January. If I hadn’t been in a bit of a hurry I might have stepped down from the rail.

@Wolflore: Oh, I miss the group quests a ton! Levelling has indeed become a solo game.

@Dàchéng: ” The ironic thing is that phasing was meant to make players feel more in control; as if their efforts were changing the world. I have never felt less in control in Azeroth than I do right now!”

That is very true.

@Saga: It’s possible that you can, but it takes quite a bit of research to figure it out. Gevlon had some suggestion about this to have a colour scheme for it. He has a point.

@Iapetes: Yes, the story telling is better. But I still think that it’s at the expense of player freedom and control.

@Helistar: Yes, I think Blizzard has moved further away from the world idea. The world is shrinking, replaced by a very well designed and shiny amusement park. Because that’s what most customers probably want.

@Grainger: Maybe there ARE some off-the beathen path quests after all? I haven’t seen and done everything yet. Just let hope there is.

@Zy: That’s annoying! 

@Bronte: I don’t think EvE would be the game for me either. In the end I’m pretty lazy. But I like at least the illusion of choice.

@Ratshag: Oh, Darrowshire! <3 Does it still exist? A rewind button is a good idea actually.

@Hugmenot: The heroics are very hard indeed. I dipped my toes into Blackrock Caverns hc yesterday. We wiped. And how I enjoyed it!

@Talarian: Yeah, you wrap it up nicely. I figure it’s inevitable. And I’ll try not to turn into a grumpy veteran.

@Nokodhemus: hehe yeah those long-distance turn-ins don’t really make sense. But how I enjoy them! I can’t truthfully say that I miss the turn-in-runs particularly much.

@Anonymous: I haven’t done Vashj’ir at all. So I might do it as I level my druid alt at some point in the future. Mostly I think I’ll level her instancing, learning to heal in Cataclysm while levelling.

Redbeard said...

@Larisa: Yes, Darrowshire is still there. I rode by it not too long ago, and it looks like the "fight" in the main part of the Darrowshire quest chain is actually ongoing now.

Ratshag said...

The Darrowshire questline done been trimmed down a bit, and re-tuned fer a soloing 40-45 adventurer, but is still there. Is now part of the overall "Journey ta Light's Hope" questline what everyone questing in EPL gets.

Copra said...

No more sandbox before you have dinged the cap. I tried to skip the worgen starter quests for my super-pacifist-flower-picking-druid, but that is impossible: you have to do the scripted and phased things to get on the road.

Like someone stated in the earlier comments, phasing ruined the last bit of the levelling freedom due to the fact that the phasing is triggered through the quests. So if you want to level up, you either grind mobs and gathering professions or quest. No inbetween.

sucks.

C out

Sthenno said...

I think the most constructive comments coming out of all of this are of the "Can't it be both?" variety. There is no reason there can't be quests off to the side in hard to find places in a modern, phased zone.

Cataclysm was one extreme, and I think we'll see that after the feedback they'll swing back next expansion, and we'll probably get both. The idea of different coloured question marks is a good one, but the main thing is that there are optional quests, visible in all phases, that you can find on your own and do at your own pace.

Mike Price said...

The more I play Cataclysm the more I'm starting to see through its skin deep beauty to the linear railroad line the questing experience has become.

It reminds me of when I first caught a glimpse of the giant white warehouse buildings that contained Disneyworld's "Splash Mountain".

I'm currently taking a third character through Vashj'ir and as cool as the story of the Battlemaiden was the first time - I want to kick my monitor over seeing it a third time - and not being able to bypass it - or branch out to different quests - or deviate in any way

Mordred said...

I started a mage alt and did the Azshara quests. They felt linear, but at the same time I enjoyed feeling more immersed in immediate conflict. The antagonism between the Alliance and Horde has been ramped up and it feels more exciting.

However, when playing my level 80 through the new zones, there is some that I like (Deepholm, mainly), and Uldum was excruciatingly easy and didn't feel like Warcraft to me anymore, with all the cut scenes and the cinematic-instead-of-quest moments.

I remember my early days of killing Quillboar in the Barrens, finding a treasure chest guarded by an elite, wondering how I would get it, having to group with someone, learning about the infamous Crossroads, etc, etc. The game had personality and questing and leveling was fun.

However, after leveling a main and three alts, I didn't have it in me anymore to level again because the process was sort of exhaustive with the "kill 60 of these" quests or the "retrieve some random hard-to-get weird thing" quests or the dreaded Stranglethorn Vale levels. So, I think Cataclysm just streamlined leveling in a way that breathes new life into it again.

However...if so, then why 85 levels? Why not reduce even that because 85 is still pretty labor intensive. And why not streamline the game in other ways, like allow mounts and vanity pets to apply across your alts so you don't have to rep grind for each one?

So, as is obvious, I'm not totally against the Cata changes, but I agree with the spirit of this post and if I could change one thing it would be to return some of the challenge to questing at all.

Toggle said...

Personally, I'd rather have a game that is 100% linear, but interesting things happen in it, than a game that allows for 100% freedom in how I collect my 12 tiger ligaments. In fact, I'd say the freedom is only illusory; they didn't tell me exactly where to go to find the ligaments, but the end result, the carrot on a stick that you're going for, ends up being the exact same thing anyways.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see a game environment wherein the 'story' is more player driven.

Personally I am tired of the current faction scheme. It is too simplistic. Reminds me of the current crap we're fed in the U.S. under the guises of morality and politics.

The old Southshore / Tarren Mills PvP was a prime example of designers ignoring an opportunity to incorporate player behavior into the game design. Wintergrasp was far more enjoyable when you could join a team of 3 or 4 raid groups and have truly epic battles all being coordinated over vent. That was on a non PvP, RPG servor.

To often WoW feels scripted. Whenever player initiative and spontaneity arises, it is killed due to increased server demands or somesuch. I'd giveup Cat for more of the old Wintergasp and some real player influence (phasing is not what I'm referring too.)

That said, I still respect the work they did on Cat.

-A