Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My love for things that don’t carry yellow exclamation marks

The first thing I met when I entered Azeroth the very first time two years ago in the shape of a completely clueless paladin was a yellow exclamation mark. I didn’t know anything about MMOs or even about gaming, but still I was sort of drawn to that yellow sign. My intuition told me I should interact with it somehow and soon I was off questing my way through Azeroth.

Ever since that moment my WoW experience has pretty much been dictated by those marks. When I’m not raiding or gathering supplies I turn on my internal radar, look for the marks and do what they tell me to, mindlessly. You know the drill. Click mark. Get an assignment. Perform. Deliver. Get the reward. Repeat until fed up.

Too obvious
Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with it. Especially these days, when the kill-12-pigs quests are less common than they used to be and we’re treated with sophisticated inventions such as and vehicles, phasing and even little movies. The yellow exclamation mark often leads to some sort of entertainment.

Still there’s something about the yellow exclamation marks that turns me off a bit. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think it’s the fact that they’re too obvious. Yellow, big and shiny to make sure that not a single newbie player will miss them. And so are the quest items since last year I think it was. Sparkles all over the place, more or less shouting to me in red letters: “hey! Don’t look there, look here, pick me, I’m all yours!!!”. It’s convenient. But it lacks the taste of discovery.

What I like are the hidden things that there’s no way you’ll find out unless someone tells you about it – or if you’re really curious minded, constantly experimenting on your own and have oceans of time available to explore every little corner of the world. Like the hidden Westfall Chicken quest. I love it. OK, there’s a quest mark there, but it won’t appear unless you do something really silly. (I can’t help wondering who found it out in the first place, before there were guides on the Internet which told you to go there and fool around like a chicken. They surely must have got the hint from somewhere?)

Recently I saw another hidden jewel, revealed to me thanks to Letters from Birdfall – the little drama taking place if I bring out my brand new Stinker when there’s a Bombay Cat around. There’s no exclamation mark anywhere, no sparkles. The only reward from it is the smile you get on your face (until the poor creature is heartbroken), but that’s good enough to me.

The hidden jewels
I simply adore those little hidden jewels in the game and I think it’s an example of what makes WoW so great. The developers don’t only care about making up huge, impressive Raid encounters. They care about the art of clam opening and they sprinkle the whole place with small scenes, full of humour, without any other purpose than making us smile.

I’m absolutely convinced that there are a lot more of those “secrets” out there that I don’t know of yet. Have you got any that you come to think of? Feel free to share your exclamation-mark free surprises in the game! I want to make more of those discoveries.


Anonymous said...

Then of course there are the blind Gnomes like myself, what would still be stumbling around the starting areas if not for the !, ?, sparkles, beams of light.

Actually despite these things I can't do the quests... maybe they should just remove them and put us all on a level playing field...

Blindly Yours,


Anonymous said...

Ah the Westfall chicken...

After hearing of that quest and doing it and getting my chicken pet I spent an awful lot of time going /chicken to about any chicken or bird-like critter I could find in the world. Never had any success like that in Westfall though :-(

Carra said...

Heh, I also wondered who was the first crazy guy getting rep with the bloodsail pirates by killing booty bay guards...

Anonymous said...

Thats what i love about the game and its how i explain it to the likes of my brother or workmates who play there xbox,ps3 and wii's.

Its a game even if you only ever play 1 character that you can never complete it or do everything.

There is always something new to get or place to go.

Anonymous said...

How about the Haunted House on the outskirts of Goldshire, just to the north-east by the lake.

If you go upstairs in that house you'll hear very spooky music.

Not only that, 5 scary children sometimes hang out there, standing in a circle in the upstairs bedroom. They'll sometimes go on a run around the roads of Elwynn Forest, completely silent, then return to the bedroom to plot whatever evilness they're involved in....

I think they're possessed or something

Anonymous said...

I remember Vanilla Wow, and how hard it was to complete some quests simply because you couldn't find the items unless you were almost standing on them. Two examples:

The dig site in Wetlands, and the quest to find 3 or 4 tablets amidst the dinos - horrible.

The Shady Inn in Dustwallow Marsh, and the pixel-perfect clues you had to find (not that you knew there were 3 clues; even examining the foot prints was difficult).

Sparkles and exclamations have made some quests too easy to complete, but on the whole I'm glad for them. It saves a lot of time.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see the yellow exclamation marks, I do keep thinking that we are just lab rats clicking on buttons to get cheese. Calling the Northrend quests interesting is being a bit generous. They are only marginally more interesting. People do quests for the reward, not for the fun. Try attaching no rewards to quests and see how many people do them.

We are all grown adults clicking on the cheese button. That is what is giving you pause about the yellow exclamation marks. It's no fun to be the rat.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about the ! points. At the beginning of the game I thought they were a distraction from my thirst for exploration and focused my attention of the wrong things. But later on, once I had spent a lot of time exploring the world and was going back to areas I'd visited before, I found them very handy. I haven't completed Loremaster yet but I simply can't imagine the tedium of trying to do that achievement without the marks.

I also think it's interesting that they chose that particular symbol for quests. WoW truly is an international game and symbols can have entirely different connotations in difference cultures. I've always wondered if there was a group at Blizzard that had long discussions about what symbol to use for what purpose. In America, yellow is the color for caution (though it can also be cheerful and happy) and the exclamation point is for emphasis. So when I see the sign my reaction is "Caution: this is important." But I've wondered if it has that same connotation to a person from China, or South Africa or if they see it as some random "wow quest sign".

Ashuna said...

The thing with the ! and ? marks are that they shrink the world. In a game without these marks you are left with a feeling that there could always be something more out there. Or that going back to an area you had been previously could yield a new quest depending on what you had done since you first quested there. With the ! - you can pretty much see whats what. You have a good idea of what's out there and what you have done.

The downside to not having the ! - is that it quickly becomes a huge pain as you wonder around aimlessly looking for things, or alt+tab'ing to thottbot.

The other thing I think that shrinks the world, are the boats / travel. In EQ the world just felt so much bigger. To get from one continent to the other, you had to cross the ocean. And wait for the boat to come every 20 mins or so.

The world felt bigger and more real because of it. Something WoW lacks, it feels smaller and less cohesive.

The downside to the boat was a lot of wasted time.

Anonymous said...

@Gnomeaggedon: I'm blind as a mouse too and I'm sadly depending on guides, addons, exclamation marks, sparkles, you name it. Still I DO like those little hidden pearls when I manage to hear the rumor and then find it in game.

@Tessy: Ah wouldn't that have been fun! Oh, how I wish I did a discovery one day. Just imagine, breaking the news on your blog about something you discovered randomly that noone else has seen before! Won't happen. But you can dream, can't you.

@Carra: yeah, there must be a lot of people out there who experiment wildly and then tell the unknowing crowd about their findings.

@Esdras: oh yes it is, if you have the right mind for it. If you can let go of all those work like demands that you put on yourself and just take in and enjoy whatever you see. I really should do that more - I think I'm a little bit too goal orientated as it is now.

@Davarnus: Cool! I definitly should seek up that haunted house... Hey, Friday 13 is upcoming! Could be good thing to do then!

@Vlad: Oh I agree, I don't want them out of the game. But I DO want those extra things that come without the sparkles. Those things really are the cream on the cake.

@Anonymous: hm... Sadly enough I give you a little bit right. There IS something ratlike about the half mechanical clicking and completing of quests. Sometimes. Luckily enough there's a lot of other things to do in the game if you just bother to look around and use your imagination.

@DeftyJames: I guess you can use some addon to help you out for the achievement to find the quests. But yes, I can't pull myself to go for that either. Too many hundred quests all over the place. It seems quite undoable with my gaming hours.
Yes, it really is interesting how they design the game so that it works for an international audience! Most of the cultural references are US ones. I wonder if it will keep that way as it grows bigger in Asia? Actually I would say that red is a stronger warning color than yellow where I live. But yellow is also used for attention reasons. Most traffic signs are yellow and red.

@Ashuna: Oh, a very good observation. I think you're right. As a mage I'm teleporting my way through the world a lot, which is very handy, but definitly adds to the shrinking. I must say though that the world has shrunk as I have become more of a veteran in the game. I remember my first trip over the ocean, when I as a young, innocent little gnome was fooled away all the way from Stormwind to Stonetalon mountains, of all places, just to get some scales from the basilisks there. It took me three playing nights just to get there, since I didn't have any fp:s and absolutely no clue about the best way to go there. It was a big adventure and a HUGE world at that time.

Anonymous said...

Larisa, there is an Alliance-only quest that is meaningful and heartwrenching and off the beaten path. The quest name is Sully Balloo's letter. Check it out, it's worth it. :)


Anonymous said...

One of the things that I've always liked is finding hidden and out of the way places in the game. Some places seem like Blizzard had a purpose for them but then abandoned them.

For example: The abandoned Tauren camp on the coast south of Silithus. If you hit the shore in Feralas and swim South along the edge all the way to the Southwestern edge of Kalimdor, you'll see a Tauren camp. There's a large tree, a tent, a windmill, a canoe, an animal pen, and a large cave. If you continue along the coast to Southern side of Tanaris, you'll hit Land's End Beach with an island visible way out in the distance. This might be for a future Maelstrom x-pac. You can also talk to the naga in the water that was used for the AQ quest line.

There's also some places that I wish Blizzard would open up in the future, such as Uldum and Grim Batol.

Anonymous said...

I love finding interesting things off the beaten path in WoW, whether it's quests, NPCs, camps, etc.

And I can't answer for all people, but I have to disagree with something Anonymous said "People do quests for the reward, not for the fun. Try attaching no rewards to quests and see how many people do them."

I have done plenty of quests for the fun of it. I remember when going back to the starter areas to do quests didn't give full rep (or going back and doing other gray quests), but some of the lore/questlines were interesting to me anyway.

And I've completed plenty of quests that don't give me "meaningful" rewards. I don't really look at the reward when I first pick up a quest. I read it and then enjoy my adventure.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous.
I'm with Syrana. I'm afraid the Northrend quests have so far given me nothing but DE mats.

Likewise I am currently running around Exodar doing the level 1-12 quests... definitely no reward there, well except for the story line.. and I am so glad that I can easily find the quest givers (Track low level quests FTW!)

@Ashuna & Larisa... As much as I would like to dream that I had the patience for a "larger" world, my Mage has spoilt me, as has flying mounts. With limited playtime, I am reduced to tears everytime I have to land mount it somewhere. I find myself mounting to run 20 yards, just because it feels faster.

I haven't yet been on the "turtle boat"... and I intend to.. but a friend tried to discourage me, as it would take forever for the turtle to arrive, and forever for it to reach it's destination.

Anonymous said...

@AllianceGirl: thanks, I’ll check that out! Don’t think I’ve heard of it.

@Jayzug: I think there’s a strange place like that in Nagrand as well. A hidden little valley with a bunch of kids running around. Sometimes I wonder if it’s sort of forgotten quest hubs?

@Syrana: I think I’m a little bit of both. I sometimes fall into the rat race as everyone else, looking for “whats-in-it-for-me”. But sometimes I manage to think for myself and enjoy it just for the enjoyment. Much better.

Haven’t done the turtle? You have to do it at least once! It’s a beautiful cruising tour if you just can rid yourself of the fixed idea to get things “done”.

Anonymous said...

Not too sure how obvious this one is but has anyone noticed the large Dalaran rat and the 4 turtles in Dalaran underbelly amongst some ooze :)

Reminds me of a cartoon or movie I saw a little while back...hmm... :P

KT said...

Another hidden place that I just found out about and now want to try to find is the "Shatterspear Troll Village" it's a hidden village of trolls neutral to alliance, friendly to horde, in between Winterspring, Felwood, Darkshore and Moonglade.

WoWWiki has an article on it with pictures and there's a video on how to get there. Looks cool!

Unknown said...

Same. If you learn to wall climb there are alot more of them. Forexample if you climb the waterfall behind Northshire you can find a camp, near which is a "school of fish" which always fishes up Peaceblooms. Also if you carry on climbing (it gets VERY hard from that point on) you reach a house with a cooking fire. Apparently that whole place is a memorial to someone who died at blizzard. I've also heard of this place called "dead man's landing" on the coast north of stormwind, but i've yet to find that. (should be easier though what with Stormwind Harbour now and all, just swim there)