Tuesday, January 27

The End of Wrath

I forgot to wish everyone a happy Lunar Fest... so... Happy Lunar Festival! Good luck on getting the Elder title, as well, if you're inclined to go for it. I'm thinkin' I don't want to be know as "elder" anything... :)

I don't really spend a bunch of time writing terribly serious stuff for this blog. That last post was intentionally tongue-n-cheek, for example. Jumping off stuff isn't exactly new in WoW. (Although base jumping in Storm Peaks is a ton of fun, and a lot harder than you'd think. Jump from the Temple of Storms into the Engine of the Makers. Then do it again and survive. Without a Mage or Priest or Pally handy. Tricky. Haven't figured it out yet, but I will.) There are, however, a few things that have been bugging me.

And this really did start out as a post about those things, too. In my wandering, befuddled mind, however, I ended up with something completely different than what I set out to write. What I set out for was a lengthy and rambling dissertation on "casual" vs. "hardcore" players and "Wrath is too easy" QQ nonsense. Saved all that and if it comes out somewhat coherent (ha!) I might actually post it.

Bottom line, though? I love Wrath. I think Blizzard has made something that is just genius. I don't think it's too hard, or too easy. I don't care if you crunch numbers all day to get five more points of DPS, or if you spend most of your online time dancing naked on a mailbox. Good for you, either way. I think Blizzard has taken a huge step forward in the development of WoW and, if they stay the course, it will just get better and better for a lot more players.

That doesn't mean there aren't flaws. I absolute despise Alchemist Finkelstein. Not terribly thrilled about Scourge being allowed into the Argent Crusade to begin with, but I suppose it's effective to have 'em. But that guy really pisses me off. And he smells like Hairy Herring Heads. Blah. And I will NOT thrust Hodir's spear, and when I finally get my shoulders he can polish his own damn helmet. Gah!

Thinking about how, or even if, WoW is too easy, and thinking about the differences between self proclaimed "hardcore" and "causal" players, got me to thinking about what Blizzard is going to do next to make it even better. There are some very real problems in the game that Blizzard needs to address, but they are definitely making progress on focusing less on mechanics and more on giving great, interactive experiences. If I'm right (what are the chances?), Wrath's new bits just set up a whole slew of things yet to come.

That, in turn, got me thinking about how WotLK should finish. There's still plenty of middle. I'll leave that alone for now and skip to the end. No spoilers here... I'm making this up.

Here's how Wrath ends, the way I envision it:

Icecrown Citadel opens up in a series of realm events. Blizz has done this before, at Sunwell, on a smaller quest level scale. For Icecrown they take realm progression and phased questing and instancing to a whole new level. Let's say, for instance, Icecrown's got two 5-team normal and heroic mode dungeons and a massive, high difficulty 10 and 25 man raid against Arthas. Specifics aren't terribly important here, just the concept. But...

The "hardcore casuals" are busy unlocking some major events running the 5-mans. And the "casual casuals" are questing, grinding, gathering resources and such to open up more and more of Icecrown, both with bigger and bigger rewards for each accomplishment.

The raid doesn't kill Arthas. They just break him. He becomes separated from the Lich entity and the raid kills what's left. Arthas, in the confusion of the final battle with the demonic Lich leftovers, escapes.

At a certain point, after the Lich King's raid defeat, and after all else has been accomplished, a quest chain is opened for the entire realm.

Opening the final quest chain, and the final conclusion to Arthas' story, can't be done by some guild locking themselves into a Raid for a few weeks. It also can't be done by a few guilds grinding out daily after daily. It has to be multifaceted and require a huge amount of effort on the part of a large portion of the realm's population.

At the end?

What I don't want to see is 99% of a realm having to watch some uber-guild run through a raid and watch Arthas fall over in some hokey death animation on YouTube. Lame.

At the end of all the effort, the quest opens and Arthas is alone and on the run. After all the pain and suffering and loss, it's you who is sent to track him down and finish it. It's you that has been part of each event, it's you that's been there from the beginning, and it's you that has the best overall picture of what's been taking place. Thanks to the raid and the efforts of the realm to open Icecrown, Arthas is free of the Lich King but pretty much a broken shell. Regrets tear at him. His past deeds have caught up with him and now he doesn't have madness and demonic evil to hide behind. He faces his past and pays dearly for it. And then you take him, one on one. It should be a wicked hard fight. Not scripted. No buffs. Just you vs. one of the best Paladins that ever lived. You win. Arthas falls at your feet, finally defeated, having paid dearly for his crimes against Azeroth.

It should be a massive and pretty involved chain to complete. Every single player on the realm gets to do this quest. All of 'em. Everyone gets to see the end.

You keep the hard part. Massive, complex raids that require a ton of time and effort to complete. You keep the middle. Tough, but mostly PuGable, 5-mans and group quests that anyone with a enough social skills to get a group together can do. You keep the basics. The shorter quests, normal 5-mans, daily quests and resource gathering that anyone with 30-minutes to spare can do. Everyone can, and must, contribute before anyone see's the end.

There's no item drop for the final Arthas quest. No gold for a turn in. No special vanity title or pet. Maybe a small "I killed Arthas" Achievement. It's all about getting to see the end.

It won't make everyone happy. But it'll make the vast majority of players excited and feel included in their favorite pastime, in a way that's never been done before. It would be wicked fun.

Blizzard might be the only game company in existence these days that could actually weave all that together into something that is fun and engaging.

It wouldn't play out exactly like that, of course. It could probably work several ways in the end. Arthas redeemed? Lich King escapes? There's plenty of semi-lame shocker endings Blizz could do, but they've been pretty faithful to the idea that, in the end, the players win and the bad guy eats it. I don't think changing that course would be a good idea at this point. It would mess up the tone of the game.

Blizzard does, however, have all the tools they need in game now to pull something like this off. The can create an amazing experience that every player can enjoy just by actually playing the game. See also, Wrathgate quest chain! I honestly can't see why they wouldn't do something like this now.

I wanna fight Arthas, even if I don't get to fight the Lich King. I wanna know first hand what happens. I wanna see the end. I'll wager there's somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million other players that feel the same.


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