The Promise of a Brand New Game

Certis sent me a screenshot from the World of Warcraft beta he's been...well...beta testing. He told me he was using it as his desktop wallpaper, and the minute I saw it, I understood why. In one simple image is captured the promise of extraordinary adventure. He who said a picture is worth a thousand words must have been bidding low. In this picture I see a thousand stories. I've made it my own wallpaper and have stared into it for a very long time. I am, at once, both hungrily excited and wistfully sad. I'm eagerly anticipating my own first steps into Azeroth, but know even Blizzard's world will not be the immersive land of lore of which I dream.

It is not the graphic prowess of the screenshot itself that offers so much promise. Certis has a graphics card that other graphics cards dream of being when they grow up. Blizzard has designed this game to function well for its purpose. Polys are low and textures are simple. The graphics are not the jaw-dropping graphics that, say, a low-population FPS would be capable of. However, the art direction absolutely screams style. It's the same brilliant design that makes me continue to play Warcraft III, despite suffering humiliating defeat after humiliating defeat. Of course, the shot itself is spectacularly framed. If you're ever faced with the daunting task of taking a screenshot, I would suggest hiring Certis as your Director of Photography.

A lone female night elf rests on a rocky clearing deep in what I assume is the forests on the island of Teldrassil. She seems weary but content, perhaps because she feels secure in the sanctum sanctorum of this village. All sense of scale is lost in these woods as the immense trees soar into the purple evening twilight. Perhaps that building in the background is a modest shop, or perhaps it is a vast hall or temple. It is difficult to be sure when everything is dwarfed by the surroundings. But if that building really is a temple, and if that tree off to the left really is that big, then what at first glance appeared to be a small well is, in fact, a structure more akin to Stonehenge. Could it be a Moon Well I've seen so often in Warcraft III? And if that really is a Moon Well, then those tiny specks next to it are actually other elves. And on this scale, what originally appeared to be a sort of menacing shrubbery is, more likely, a towering, lumbering Ancient Protector, muscular cousin of the Ent.

So who is this young elf and what is her story? Might she be a prodigal daughter, lost to the world when she was a troubled child? Ah yes, I see it in her gaze. She is Lain Gladrain, daughter of Swordsmith Eppin. Nearly eight years ago she stormed off after an argument with her father, furious that he would assume she wanted to be another Swordsmith and never leave this place. She would show him by leaving before her own Dewsong Ceremony, before she was even considered an adult. Eppin knew everyone in town and he would be forced to face his shame of having a wayward daughter day after day in his shop. Alas, the fiery fury of even the most stubborn child burns itself out in time. Lain grew tired of exploring unfamiliar land after unfamiliar land once she had earned passage on a trading ship to the Kalimdor mainland. Of all the places she called her house over the years, none of them felt like a home. She eventually crossed the waters once again and returned home to the quiet forests. The Swordsmith and his wife, her kind parents, said not a disapproving word. They welcomed her with open arms and a glorious meal.

Actually, now that I look closer, she doesn't appear to be weary from adventure. In fact, she seems caught in a rush of melancholy. Yes, that's actually poor Irilin Waywisp who just saw her older brother off to join the King's army. She adored her brother and wanted to be like him in every way. Her brother loved every minute of it, too. He felt blessed to have a sister he could confide in. She protected him emotionally as much as he protected her physically. They got along better than any parent could ever really hope for. So when Irilin's brother decided he would take the Elder's advice and join the army to help protect the wood, the poor girl was devastated. She at first begged him not to go, but knew when he set his mind on something, not even a Druid in bear form could change his course. When she had accepted her brother's decision she had tried to join him. She walked tall next to him as the village saw him and his friends off, but the Elder put a warm, strong hand on her shoulder and she had no choice but to stay back. She's been sitting in the same place all afternoon and into the evening, lost without her best friend and closest family member. She simply doesn't know what to do next as every decision she's made up until now has been run past her brother at least once for approval.

Or maybe this elf is taking a moment to collect her thoughts before embarking on a journey of her own, perhaps even leading a group of travelers into the wilderness. It may not even be her village at all. She may have stopped here to replenish supplies. She may have just completed or is preparing to embark upon any one of a number of quests or tasks or adventures - a thousand stories. However, I know that in all likelihood, she is simply the avatar of a gamer who, like myself, yearns for a little more magic than World of Warcraft will ever provide.

I certainly don't mean to pick on WoW. Blizzard is probably going to be the closest we've ever gotten to an immersive MMORPG. However, as long as that MMORPG is populated by other gamers, we're going to find ourselves playing along with the game's mechanics and following quest instructions, battling mobs, and making pants. We'll be able to live those thousand stories only within the confines of the code as it has been implemented. Understandably this is done intentionally to keep the game as fair and even to all players as possible. I mean, let's face it, if a single player were able to recruit a legion of followers, storm the castle, win the crown and rule over all lands bound by the horizon it would probably be called a bug and the next patch would stitch everything neatly back into place. If we strive for anything resembling "role-playing", we're going to be fumbling around inside these developer-designed confines to invent a collaborative story where one does not exist, and trying to do this while ignoring the various zone-wide shouts and other in-game distractions. I will be just as guilty as the next player to inadvertently blurt out, while nursing an ale in a dusty tavern, that my cat has knocked over my Dr. Pepper or that my wife is yelling at me to put away the laundry. This is, as they say, the nature of the game.

Again, this is not meant to decry the game before I've ever even played it. I guarantee there will be "gaming moments" to be had in this game. You know the kinds of things I'm talking about. You may be going about your business working your way through an area's low level mobs and wander into an uninhabited corner of the map where brightly colored birds circle lazily around a stunning waterfall lit by a fiery sunset. And you're stuck there without anyone else to show it to, which is good because you're crying. I am sure these moments will exist, and I have no doubt that I will probably look back upon my time in Azeroth fondly. But it cannot compare to the world I see right now in the screenshots - the world I have yet to even visit - the world of a thousand stories.

- Sway

Comments

are ya gonna share the screenie with us? pretty please?

or is it an NDA type thing?

Sway, that's poetry.

And so, so, sadly true. I think I still want to play it, though. It would be my first foray into the MMORPG genre since I kicked the EQ habit, though, and I don't know if I can trust myself. You know what they say, always recovering, never recovered...

Karla

That's either good writing or someone smoked something not technically legal in all 50 states Some how I'm leaning to good writing... go figure

Yah lets see the screenshot

That's like someone saying, "I've got BIG news, man! OMG! Oh wait, I can't tell you what it is, sorry"

Actually, that's one of the finest critiques I've read in a while -- way to go!

I'm guessing the point is that you shouldn't need a screenshot - imagination (and/or roleplaying) doesn't really have a place in MMORPGs. And while that's fine with me (I'm unabashedly a WoW hype-victim - and that says something considering I've never played a fantasy MMO), it is definitely worth noting.

Aww, come on! That's like talking about Janet jackson's boob and not showing it!

Mex wrote:

Aww, come on! That's like talking about Janet jackson's boob and not showing it!

The boob is in the link above you.

Flux wrote:

Night Elf

That's the one.

SS #4 is more impressive. And Sway if you are creative enough to come up with stories such as these, you should be creative enough to find a way to implement them in your daily gameplay.

I cant remember what the name of the class was in Shadowbane, but the history behind it screamed zealous bible thumper. So when we fought some bison, they werent bison, they were foul hoofed and horned demon beasts that needed to be sent back from whence they came. The world was filled with the servants of evil that needed purification. Everyone in my party followed my lead. We had a bumbling, bookish Wizard and a snickering Rogue. The world/game is what you make of it.

I added the shot so you can all witness my Ansel level of screenshot taking.

Great article Sway, a good compliment for the eventual write-up I'll be doing on my game experience.

The world/game is what you make of it.

High ideals, and in fact a mantra I've repeated since I started out with Asheron's Call. But it doesn't pan out - or at least it's fleeting. The world is also the other players and the limitations of the designers. Not admitting as much is inspiring ... but quixotic.

Certis wrote:

Great article Sway, a good compliment for the eventual write-up I'll be doing on my game experience.

I don't think I realized the GWJ guys were in the WoW beta. Is your write-up due soon? Or will it be an end-of-beta wrap up? My impression is that the beta will go on for some time...

I don't think I realized the GWJ guys were in the WoW beta.

Only one of us is, and he throws it in the rest of our faces every freakin' day. What Sway doesn't mention is that Certis was probably taunting him with the screenshot.

Well you dont play PnP everyday and RP on top of it. Most people involved in MMO' play every day. If we set aside a GWJ group night, maybe we can see how a GWJ RP group night would work out in addition.

Most of the time, the backstory, lore, etc. for most PC roleplaying games is so lame, trite, and uninteresting that the last thing that occurs to me is to roleplay. This is especially endemic of MMORPG's. I mean, look at the freakin' acronym! More Pigs!

Anyway, WCIII is cool and all, but... I still find the story / setting / characters wanting... It hasn't occurred to me to try to roleplay in WoW yet, I've been too distracted by playing / leveling / exploring / etc.

You know what would be really interesting for roleplay is if they implemented a user-definable PvP zone of a certain radius. Then my Druid could be "Guardian of the Grove of Ancients" or something... Players that moved into my zone would have to abide by the laws of the forest or suffer my wrath! Sometimes that sounds so cheesy though But it'd still be more interesting than saying, "I am the foul wizard Morganth! I shall set your soul to the eternal flame! ... ... well, not really.. I can't, except on fridays and saturdays when my guild has scheduled PvP matches in the zones. But, if you'd care to step outside into the PvP arena, I shall promptly smite you! Have at thee!!"

...

Anyway...

Certis, you'll have to let me know who you are in-game. Might be interesting to do some adventuring with someone I kinda know-but-not-really-on-the-internet-sort-of-thing

Elysium wrote:

Only one of us is, and he throws it in the rest of our faces every freakin' day.

Make that two.

Is your write-up due soon? Or will it be an end-of-beta wrap up? My impression is that the beta will go on for some time...

I was hoping to write it and have it up tomorrow but looking at my schedule for the next couple days it may have to wait a bit. Early next week latest.

Articles like this are the reason I left my trollish ways to take part in discussions here at GWJ. Intelligent, well-written, and leaves me drooling once again for WoW. Great read, great edit(if there needed to be one), and overall great site. Contributions like this are to be applauded, and I am glad to be in the audience.

That was a great article Sway. So good, in fact, that it inspired me to write my own story about the little Elf.

She looks despondently at the grass, feeling drained. She'd spent all day working and not a single scrap of coin to show for it. "Could you help me, I'm lost?" she'd start in, "I'm so new here and I don't know where to go." Her innocent doe eyes would flash and then she'd work her magic, stringing them along. Some Dwarf would mention something technical, "Oooh, I wouldn't know about that stuff, tee hee." Some haughty Paladin would show her a new item, "It's so big! I wish I could have a sword like that." In the other world's she'd visited the routine would bring showers of gifts and money. It was laughably easy, really. Here though, she'd had a hard time going at it. Everyone she had tried today gave her nothing. Maybe it was her name. This time she'd chosen Sexxy Grrl, perhaps it needed more x's? As she pondered a young man walked up to her. He looked nervous and seemed a little shy. Moreover, he was decked in full plate. Bingo.

"R u a real girl?" the young man muttered, under his breath.

"Sure thing cutie, that's an awful big sword you have there" she replied. She was lying on both counts, but she didn't have much time before she had to leave this world. Her master's mom would need the phone.

"You want it? I got plenty more, baby." the young man replied, now a little cocky.

She accepted and walked toward the man, slightly more satisfied with this world than the last. Maybe she wouldn't have to cyber anybody for her epic this time.

The screenshots are nice; but what bothers me is what the people are saying. "What is a good trade skill for money?" "Hey I hear if you kill that it drops good loot" etc..

That whole mentality just sucks the fun out for me.

Pyroman[FO] wrote:

That was a great article Sway. So good, in fact, that it inspired me to write my own story about the little Elf.

She looks despondently at the grass, feeling drained. She'd spent all day working and not a single scrap of coin to show for it. "Could you help me, I'm lost?" she'd start in, "I'm so new here and I don't know where to go." Her innocent doe eyes would flash and then she'd work her magic, stringing them along. Some Dwarf would mention something technical, "Oooh, I wouldn't know about that stuff, tee hee." Some haughty Paladin would show her a new item, "It's so big! I wish I could have a sword like that." In the other world's she'd visited the routine would bring showers of gifts and money. It was laughably easy, really. Here though, she'd had a hard time going at it. Everyone she had tried today gave her nothing. Maybe it was her name. This time she'd chosen Sexxy Grrl, perhaps it needed more x's? As she pondered a young man walked up to her. He looked nervous and seemed a little shy. Moreover, he was decked in full plate. Bingo.

"R u a real girl?" the young man muttered, under his breath.

"Sure thing cutie, that's an awful big sword you have there" she replied. She was lying on both counts, but she didn't have much time before she had to leave this world. Her master's mom would need the phone.

"You want it? I got plenty more, baby." the young man replied, now a little cocky.

She accepted and walked toward the man, slightly more satisfied with this world than the last. Maybe she wouldn't have to cyber anybody for her epic this time.

Comedy gold, Pyro (even if sadly true).

Why is a dude dressed up like grapes moving to attack that elf?

Very nice article, Sway. Oh, and feel free to post as many WoW pictures as you would like. I promise I won't complain It looks great!

That was a great article Sway. So good, in fact, that it inspired me to write my own story about the little Elf.

Good stuff Pyro. You just forgot the dwarf's name: Gymleeeeeee. And the only reason he is playing a dwarf to begin with is because he couldn't find a variation of Legolas that wasn't taken, or wasn't 'totally lame'.

If I were a MMORPG man I'd personally be waiting for the Warhammer game which is still on the horizon, firstly because it seems more intriquing and secondly because frankly I feel like the only one who notices that Blizzard's Warcraft and Starcraft games ...as good as they are, borrow so heavily from the Warhammer and WH40k universe in areas of art, content and backstory as to verge on plagerism. Expect something well crafted but utterly unoriginal IMO.

Like a cocaine junkie's eternal search for that first sweet heavenly high, I've been looking to recapture the first experience I had with a mmorpg, back when Ultima Online began. Bugs and lag notwithstanding, it felt like real magic to be a part of a living, breathing world, and it seemed then that anything was possible.

Now I'm older and jaded, but I still get that pang of hope when I see screenshots like the ones offered here. When I start a new mmorpg I tell myself, "This time I'm going to be a real roleplayer, never breaking character for anything." A few days later I'm out of character talking football and computer specs with anyone who will listen.

But not when WoW arrives. This time I'll be a roleplayer, never breaking character for anything.

Very nicely written, Sway.

I am, at once, both hungrily excited and wistfully sad. I'm eagerly anticipating my own first steps into Azeroth, but know even Blizzard's world will not be the immersive land of lore of which I dream.

Ain't that the truth.

Sadly, this is the very game we would have sacrificed several internal organs for back in the days of Zork and Bard's Tale; we seem to grow jaded at roughly the same rate new games come out.

illum wrote:

If I were a MMORPG man I'd personally be waiting for the Warhammer game which is still on the horizon, firstly because it seems more intriquing and secondly because frankly I feel like the only one who notices that Blizzard's Warcraft and Starcraft games ...as good as they are, borrow so heavily from the Warhammer and WH40k universe in areas of art, content and backstory as to verge on plagerism. Expect something well crafted but utterly unoriginal IMO.

want. to. play....
http://www.warhammeronline.com/

Personally I 'd prefer warhammer becaure it'll be less popular (i'd imagine)
So hopefully WoW will act as a 'tard filter...

Plus they have some of the most evil looking cats I've ever seen.
http://www.warhammeronline.com/showi...

Eoin wrote:

Plus they have some of the most evil looking cats I've ever seen.
http://www.warhammeronline.com/showi...

What is that a crack smoking demonlike child killing mokey-not-liking crossdressing she-male zombie cat?