Interviews: A Quick Note

I’d apologise for the fairly sporadic rate of posting that’s been going on over the past 2 weeks or so, but the majority of you are likely already aware that I’ve had severe computer issues to deal with- not to mention that I guaranteed sporadic posting when I first began this blog!

I did, however, wish to make a note about interviews on this blog, such as the one I posted a few days back. Recall that this blog is strictly for my personal use/analysis, and thus has no particular community role or niche to fill.
That being said, some of the feedback I received in response to the interview made me think that it would prove to be a fun exercise to repeat in the future. I like that this is a space where I get to voice my own thoughts, and I can see the potential in occasionally hosting other voices as well. I’m very fortunate to be friends with a number of WoW players whose views and role(s) in the community I find quite interesting and worth sharing.
The fact that I’m able to conduct interviews in a purely textual setting, on a relatively unknown blog also allows for a much more relaxed atmosphere- something that some people who might not feel comfortable in a larger, spotlight-esque situation can also appreciate. Finally, the fact that I’m likely to only approach people I’m personally acquainted with means that there’s no set pace or time constraints under which I’d need to operate.

So, tl;dr? Expect more interviews in the future. I make no guarantees about who, when and how, but expect them nonetheless!


Reclusive Youkai: An interview with Mione (a.k.a. Mionelol)!

Today’s post consists of an interview with one of #Acherus’s core members! Mione has been a member of the #Acherus family since the inception of the channel, and has steadily grown from being someone I admired from a distance, to becoming a channel mod and someone I consider a close personal friend.

Mione, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences as a top world raider, avid soloer and Touhou fan with us; just remember that in the end Flandre is still best 2hu!

Welcome! Why don’t you begin by telling us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been playing WoW? What class(es) do you currently play, and which guild do you play with?

Hewwo I’m Mione and I play a DK in <Envy> on the EU-Kazzak server, ranked #4 in 25-man for both Lei Shen and Garrosh. I’ve been playing WoW since the first day of Vanilla back on the French PvP server Illidan, but never played in the Vanilla Beta. I used to play Warcraft III quasi-exclusively prior to that (surprisingly, I mained Undead…).

I played a Mage in Vanilla, then an Elemental Shaman and Warrior in TBC, and finally a DK from WoTLK onwards. Did play quite a bunch of PvP until Cataclysm, grabbed a few gladiator titles here and there (highest rating being 28xx at some point during WotLK), and I even used to be a mod on Arenajunkies, but I completely stopped PvP’ing when I broke up with my SO who happened to be my arena partner! <.<

Regarding PvE, I was in top~50 guilds until Firelands, exclusively playing on French servers at the time. At that point my current guild, <Silent>, somewhat fell apart during the summer, and a few remaining members of the guild decided to do a great performance before completely quitting the game. We swapped back to 10-man with this tight knit (?) group, and snatched a West First on both Heroic Spine and Heroic Madness of Deathwing on that difficulty (much competition in 10-man, rite?).

By that point the majority of the group decided to quit, while a few of them turned casual or joined other guilds. That’s when I made the jump to English servers and joined <Envy>, and I’ve been happy here since then.

My current alts are an Elemental Shaman, and a Prot/Ret paladin, both of which I’m quite terrible at. I’m barely any better even worse than a LFR hero.

Besides raiding, you’re a notable figure in the soloing community. What is it about soloing that appeals to you? How do you approach a new encounter that you’d like to solo?

I mostly find appeal in the challenge it presents. I like difficult video games and soloing is one of the very few ways to turn WoW into a challenging game in my opinion.

While raiding, a big part of the difficulty comes from coordination etc, wheras while soloing you have noone to blame but yourself for any mistake that may happen. I like blaming myself <.<

Coming up with creative/out of the box strategies is also part of the fun (Elegon and Reliquary of Souls being good examples), especially when it comes to bosses that would be impossible otherwise. Finally, being one of the first people (if not the first) to ever solo a boss always feels a bit gratifying, although I try to minimize that as much as possible. But hey ego is always part of human nature and you can’t deny that!

Regarding how to approach a “new” encounter, this might sound generic but I approach them just like we approach a new encounter during progress. That means a lot of thinking before even engaging the boss, coming up with some ideas, and already knowing the general lines of my strategy when I begin attempts.

Generally speaking, I require very few attempts to kill new bosses. It’s extremely rare for me to spend more than 20 attempts on a given boss, and when it happens it’s either because of a RNG-driven element or because of an extremely tight number check.

In terms of progression, what were some of your favourite bosses to approach as both a 25HM raider and a soloer this expansion? Were there particular bosses that stood out for you?

As a 25H raider: Dark Animus, Siegecrafter Blackfuse and Paragons of the Klaxxi. OH AND ZOR’LOK, how could I forget my favorite ability of all times, Attenuation.
(Magdalena’s sidenote: You should all check out this *awesome* video of a very um… unique… strategy for Heroic 25 Dark Animus that Mione decided to implement during progression!)

As a soloer: Ragnaros (normal mode), Yan-Zhu the Uncasked (Challenge mode), Will of the Emperor, Elegon, Gunship 2.0.

As both a raider and a soloer, what have your thoughts been on Death Knights been this expansion? Are there particular aspects (specs, glyphs, talents, rotations, etc) that you’ve felt could be improved?

Blood: Going to be blatantly honest: I feel like we were one expansion behind. Our MoP model was a slightly improved Cataclysm model (which would have done extremely well in Cata itself), but not comparable to any other tank’s model. Death Strike scaling off actual damage taken instead of unmitigated damage was simply not up-to-par. As a result Blood has always been underpowered this expansion, IMO. The lack of DPS coming from Blood (compared to BrM, etc) was the icing on the cake that made Blood completely undesirable in any progression setting. Not unplayable, as Blood was still within a somewhat reasonable margin from the other tanks – just undesirable.

In terms of playstyle however, MoP Blood was the best the class has ever seen, minus 2-3 minor issues (DRW!). It’s fluid, it’s engaging, it’s all around healthy and fun. Despite all I said above, I still played Blood on a few progression fights, namely Will of the Emperor, Shek’zeer, Lei Shi, Sha of Fear, Dark Animus, and Garrosh. I’m generally the offtank of choice if there’s any need for a 3rd tank for any given encounter.

Frost: DW is mindnumbingly boring (disclaimer: my opinion), while 2H is fun. Killing Machine is ignored, but quite frankly I never remember a time where it really mattered (even in LK it didn’t matter that much, let’s be honest). I also don’t think a world where the current Killing Machine would matter would be fun to play.

I wish Frost had some more engaging mechanics (ICC rotation with glyph of pestilence was way more fun than the current ones), and stopped being so dependant on Howling Blast on single target. Generally speaking I still think Frost didn’t adapt at all to the Cataclysm rune model, and will never really work until both sets of runes regenerate at the same time. Permanent death runes alleviated the problem, but ultimately it remains there. Soul Reaper is a good example of this, seeing as how awkward it is to try to integrate it into the 2H playstyle

Unholy: I’ve never been a fan of Unholy to be frank, and I’ve barely played it outside of ToT during Festerblight’s days. As such, I honestly don’t feel qualified to comment.

This expansion has seen a number of other classes (Warriors, Paladins, Warlocks and Monks most notably) also become very capable soloers. How do you think they stack up compared to the Death Knight? Have you ever played or thought about playing one?

I think Monks are actually comparable to Death Knights (arguably better), aside from the fact that they lack Anti-Magic Shell, which can be a dealbreaker on certain fights, and have slightly inferior single-target damage in low vengeance scenarios. In every other respect, I feel that Monks outclass DKs.
Fortunately for DKs, single-target damage is still a very important metric, and I have access to way more gear, much more quickly than any Monk currently interested in soloing.

Warlocks are … Well, dunno. They are blatantly overpowered so IDK 😀 Nerf pls!

Warriors and Paladins are similar to Monks (Warriors only in medium-high vengeance scenarios), except they lack a lot more damage in low-vengeance scenarios.

We often see mentions of Touhou on your youtube channel- both as a game, and the music that you use in your WoW videos. What is Touhou? Why do you play it, and what can you tell us about Touhou music?

Touhou is a video game series created by ZUN, a drunk Japanese guy. Generally speaking, the game is a 2D vertical shmup (Shoot ‘em up) where, instead of playing as a plane against tanks or other planes, you play as a magical girl against other magical girls. Of course, bullets are replaced with magical bullets. The goal of the game is to dodge these bullets, which come in various patterns, speeds, shapes, directions, etc.

I play it because of the music, quite honestly. It’s fun and challenging (although the difficulty of Lunatic is overstated IMO), but the BGM is what appeals me the most; I’m not attracted to any other shmup. Touhou music, which I blatantly use and overuse on my Youtube channel, has some magic in it that simply touches me. Although it has diminished a bit lately, the community and circles around Touhou have a lot of creativity and there is an innumerable amount of arranges in nearly every possible genre, whether it is electronic, orchestral, metal, piano, happy hardcore, dnb, jazz, rap, dubstep, whatever.
My favorite circles are Jerico’s Law and Demetori.

Besides your Youtube channel, where else might the community find you? Do you post on particular forums or hang out in certain places? Who is that purple-haired girl we keep seeing on various forum avatars?!

#Acherus of course. I’m Miyako on there.
Twitter: @maiohnee
Reddit: /u/mionee
Twitch: twisparkz (Yes! It’s all cute and stuff, but I stream maybe once a month if even that). You can always PM me on MMO-C, I guess… Well no, screw that.

The purple haired girl is Miyako Shiina, which I do not recommend googling!

Getting back to WoW for a moment: We’ve seen some major reveals about changes coming to Death Knights in Warlords of Draenor. Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share on what you’ve seen so far? Any particular concerns?

Blood: Every single change is magnificent, ASIDE FROM THE FACT WE END UP WITH ABSURD DOWNTIME. Yes, that is in capslock, and for good reason: We currently have over 50% downtime and no, I’m not kidding. Fix this downtime issue, and Blood is going to be a magnificent spec.

Frost: Nothing was changed yet besides a few minor QoL changes. I don’t think Blizz has anything particular in store for us anyway, which is disappointing.

Unholy: IDK. Nothing changed much, just like Frost, but Necrotic Plague has interesting implications. Can’t really tell until we hit level 100 to test Necrotic Plague though =X

Overall: Losing Army for Frost/Unholy is sad, losing Raise Dead and Death Coil for Blood/Frost is even more sad. Otherwise nothing particular to note yet.

I would appreciate removing RE in favor of a talent that allows both sets of runes to regenerate at the same time.

Speaking of Warlords of Draenor, what are your thoughts on the expansion in general? Changes to mechanics like Hit/Expertise, bonus gear rolling, Garrisons, item squish, etc.

Hit/Exp being removed is a great change, but I don’t like how they are removing reforging because of it. If anything, with the removal of hit/exp reforging would not have been a nightmare that required addons anymore, and would have greatly helped to compensate for…

The loot changes: I am extremely skeptical that anything good will come out of it.

Garrisons: I don’t care about them in the slightest :X

Item squish: I will test it in old instances to make sure that our player power level remains the same compared to old creatures, but that’s about it. I don’t particularly care about the numbers themselves so I don’t really understand the need for a squish either (aside from going out of bounds).

It seems like we have a very long time to go- September 24th of this year at the very least- before Warlords of Draenor premiers. Do you still see yourself playing WoW if and when the expansion comes out? Will anything major change for you, if you do?

IDK! 😀

Tell us the first 3 words/phrases that come to your mind when you think about any of the following: “#Acherus”, “Developers”, “Warcraft” and “Death Knights”!

#Acherus: Fengore.

Developers: Not perfect, but deserve way more credit than the general populace gives them.

Warcraft: – This was literally my entire childhood.

Death Knights: – Same deal.

Last question: Why on Earth did you agree to an interview with Mag?!

He promised to stop biting me.
(Magdalena’s sidenote: I totally lied.)

Staving off boredom in 5.4: The Alt-ernative route

As it’s past the 1st of April, it’s finally appropriate to wish most of you a Happy Belated April Fool’s day. I trust my little joke from before wasn’t taken too seriously by most of you!

While it’s true that I haven’t *actually* taken up Turkish Oil Wrestling as a hobby (sorry if you were expecting training videos!), my joke post did contain an element of truth to it: I am indeed fast on track towards completing a third legendary cloak on an alt within the next week or so, and also heavily contemplating working on a fourth and potentially fifth cloak.
This can only be indicative of one thing: Welcome to World of Altcraft!

In retrospect…

Up until this expansion it would be fair to say that I largely treated alts as a means to an end, rather than as separate characters to enjoy for their own selves. “Will improving some aspect of this character benefit my main in some way, preferably economically?”, was a question that I subconsciously asked myself whenever considering any number of alt activities. This included levelling, investing in new professions, raiding on said alt, etc, etc. I unashamedly cut corners too- unless I was stepping into raid content, there didn’t seem to be any reason to bother with gemming or enchanting the gear of what was essentially a glorified bank alt.
This isn’t to imply that I didn’t bother researching basic theorycraft and understanding behind whatever alt spec I happened to be playing- simply that the desire to progress and experience as many facets of content as I did on my main was rather muted, if even existent.

As such, I can’t begin to overstate the irony of Mists of Pandaria being the expansion where I have exclusively dedicated a great deal of time and effort into not only levelling and gearing alts, but also actively playing them as much as possible. Anyone who has played with or known me for an appreciable amount of time will know of my disdain for levelling, thus the fact that I managed to get four full toons to 90 (and one to 60, in order to take full advantage of its Veteran boost) will be fully appreciated by them for its usual implausibility.

When MoP launched it was widely considered to be one of the most alt-unfriendly experiences since Vanilla-era WoW, in part due to the enormous grind associated with daily quests and faction reputations.
I was so repulsed by my experience with several hours of daily quests a day (no, I don’t want to hear any nonsense about how it was “optional” for raiders), that I bitterly vowed not to level any toon besides my Death Knight, unless it were for the specific goal of taking advantage of professions that my main could benefit from.

Tempus Fugit

Patch 5.1 introduced the Grand Commendations system, which doubled the amount of reputation earned by toons with a faction at least one character on that account was already exalted with. I purchased them out of habit, but still wasn’t pushed- the mere act of levelling my Paladin was a process that took many months, and much (self-contained!) whining on my part. When I reached Level 90 on the Paladin, I stayed in the Blue and Green pieces that I had received from quests and concentrated on her Jewelcrafting and Mining capabilities.

Then came Patch 5.2, and with it several significant changes. I’d love to say that having an entire tier of content become “old” (and thus, be nerfed and become cross-realmable) was what drew me back towards alts, but that wasn’t it. Believe it or not, Zandalari Warscouts and Warbringers were what truly focused my attention back on the alt experience- in a roundabout sort of way!
Being a Death Knight, naturally, meant that soloing both types of mob was quite easy. Furthermore, the lure of three unique mounts and a bounty of raw materials (in the form of Zandalari Bags) made them highly tempting targets. Utilising my ever-growing Battletag list’s cross-realm teleportation capabilities, I soon found myself in possession of new mounts, a lot more gold andStolen Insignias.

Aha! There we go: The item that truly brought me back to alts. Insignias represented a significant departure from the 5.0 reputation system. While it wasn’t quite the same as implementing “championing” tabards such as what we saw on WoTLK and Cataclysm, I found myself with an excess of these insignias to utilise. While they vendor for a significant amount of gold, I decided to go ahead and send them to various alts- something about just selling them seemed wrong!
In short order, I was exalted with almost every relevant faction that I would need- even on Level 85 toons!

Around this time, curious about the mechanics of the newest class in the game, I decided to level Monk to 90. This was much easier to stomach than the Paladin for two reasons: First, the mighty experience buff conferred to Monks made the process a lot faster than any toon I had attempted to begin from scratch thus far. Second, I levelled the Monk as a Tank: Anyone who has had the experience of levelling as a DPS and then levelling as a tank will be able to relate to how much easier the latter is, especially in terms of queuing for and quickly completing dungeons.

Unfortunately, my brief foray into Mistweaving at Level 90 left me largely disinterested in seeing any real progress on the Monk- for the time being. However, it did spark my interest in healing as a concept. Despite largely using alts as a means to an end, I recalled that Healing had presented a significant change of pace from my usual melee DPS/Tank role. As such, I turned back to the character that has come to be my “main alt” (pardon the sensible oxymoron- oops!): My Druid.

Distractions… For now

Let’s jump ahead a couple of months: Tier 16 and Siege of Orgrimmar have been “over” for my guild since January. We continue to clear the instance once a week for the sake of mount farming, but it almost never exceeds a two-night farm period at best. It’s also safe to bet that most other guilds in our bracket are largely done with the tier as well: Welcome to the dreaded doldrums of waiting!
As it’s now 100% safe to say that we won’t see Warlords of Draenor prior to late September, this has left us with roughly nine months to do little more than twiddle our thumbs.  Given that WoW is currently the only Blizzard game that I play, it’s not as if the recent release of the Diablo III expansion has done anything to break this tedium. Thus, my only refuge has been my alts and alt play. At last count:

-My Paladin remains a glorified bank alt. The fact that I already main a plate melee DPS has meant that my interest in Retribution has never been considerably high. Add my strong aversion to the Inquisition mechanic into the mix along with the fact that neither Holy nor Protection currently appeal to me, and it’s easy to see why the toon is in a sorry state.
Perhaps I’ll polish off the dust for Warlords? We shall see.

-My Druid is my best progressed alt. I exclusively play Restoration on her, and have also recently completed all 9 Challenge Modes with Gold on the character. Needless to say, I’ve also completed the legendary questline on my Druid. At a 561 ilvl (currently) and a number of Heroic SoO bosses under her belt, this would be the toon I’d be most likely to seek a consistent, permanent raid team for. At some point, I also intend to use the toon to get through 30 waves the Endless version of Healer Proving Grounds.
Have I mentioned that it feels ridiculously satisfying to pop Nature’s Vigil, Swiftmend (thus triggering Soul of the Forest) and then Tranquility? That raw HPS!

-My renewed interest in the Monk emerged from my desire to explore the Active Mitigation system around which most Tanking specs in MoP were designed. Brewmasters, being the newest addition to the Tanking family, were likely to have been fully designed around this goal rather than having existing mechanics adapted to suit it. While my heart still lies with Blood, I’ve had a great deal of fun with Monk Tanking. The heavy utilisation of Avoidance and using Critical Strikes as a core form of mitigation offers a very “different” experience to the control and timing that Blood demands. I’ve also felt that some aspects currently defining Brewmastery (such as having multiple forms of Active Mitigation, instead of just one) are also signs of what direction the developers might take with “older” specs such as Blood.
While I have yet to venture into even normal Siege of Orgrimmar on this character, I have enjoyed my time playing on it immensely. Most recently, I also put it through 9/9 Gold Challenge Modes- not as enjoyable an experience as with the DK, but definitely worth it. Oh, and in case you were wondering: This is indeed the character that will complete its legendary cloak…. Assuming the RNG Gods don’t continue torturing me.

-After levelling four separate toons to Level 90 (a true Feat of Strength for me), the idea that I’d play yet another class at max level seemed laughable… Until the announcement of the boost to Level 90 provided by preordering Warlords of Draenor. While the initial idea was tempting, what really convinced me was the Veteran Bonus- a mechanic that would fully level both secondary professions on the boosted character from 1 to 600, provided that the character was Level 60 or above at the time of having the boost applied.
It seemed too perfect an opportunity to pass up, and thus resulted in my 5th Level 90 toon to date: A Discipline Priest. To date, I’ve greatly enjoyed the (grossly overpowered) playstyle, and will probably enjoy it for some time to come.

At the End of the Day

Unfortunately, my enjoyment of a variety of playstyles across different classes, not to mention each character being at different stages of various endgame profession paths, is inherently limited by the types of paths that I take. I have has little to no interest in Pet Battles and PvP this expansion. I have completed the entirety of HM content on my main toon, and don’t particularly see myself enjoying the prospect of relearning/redoing bosses I’ve already killed on my alts.

The fact of the matter is: Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I’m getting bored.
Let’s say I complete a fourth legendary cloak on the Priest (and in the process discover new, unplumbed depths of my loathing for LFR), run it though Challenge Modes, and even progress with Heroic raiding on the Druid and Monk- ultimately, I’m still constrained by the fact that every toon must travel down the same path as the ones preceding it.
Older content from this expansion holds little value to me, both for the inferior quality of the rewards and also for the fact that I’d be experiencing a pale shadow of the tiers I enjoyed on my Death Knight.

A question that’s recently begun nagging at the back of my mind is: “Am I having fun?” Truthfully, I can’t tell any more.
Perhaps a large part of the reason I continue to spend so much of my leisure time on WoW is because of a lack of a better alternative in the immediate present. There is also the definite presence of several communities within the game that I am proud to be a member of, and enjoy playing with; I imagine I would have quit till WoD quite some time ago, had they not kept some facet of my attention engaged.

I do acknowledge that the WoD Beta and subsequent theorycrafting/exploration to follow will likely pique my interest- but to what extent? More importantly, how much longer is it reasonable to anticipate something I’ve been waiting on for what seems like a long time?
While I clearly speak for nobody but myself, I wonder how many other players can currently relate to the sentiment I’ve expressed here. While I’m grateful to still have some reason to log into the game, I also recognise that that interest exists on borrowed time.
Don’t keep me waiting too long, Blizzard.

Goodbye to WoW: On startling realisations and new affirmations

It is with regret that I announce my imminent departure from WoW and the gaming world forever.

I was struck by an epiphany at exactly 11:59 pm last night: I am set to complete my third legendary cloak on an alt this coming reset. While on one level I was impressed with my ability to dedicate myself to a mind-numbingly excruciating experience, on another level I was utterly horrified. Have I truly become so bored and disinterested with what the game has to offer that I turn to a gruelling, months-long questline on multiple toons instead of partaking in the joys of random Battlegrounds, Pet Battles or simply running my toons off cliffs for hours in a row?! Am I really prepared to continue this trend with fourth or even fifth cloaks for fresh alts, whilst Mists of Pandaria drags on till the end of summer?
No. No, this requires drastic action that I absolutely must take. Not even the promise of the Warlords of Draenor Beta tomorrow is enough to dissuade me.

Clearly, I have no choice but to go cold-turkey: I am quitting WoW and deleting all of my characters immediately. I do not make this decision lightly, but I still see a bright future ahead of all this madness. Therefore, I intend to fully repurpose this blog, Son of a Lich, #Acherus and any other theorycraft I may have contributed toward the community, all towards my newest hobby!
Join me, won’t you?

Wowhead Guides: Ask, and ye shall receive!

This is just a quick note to announce that my new ‘Fresh to 90’ guides for both Blood and DPS DKs are now up on Wowhead. These guides are intended for players who have just reached Level-90 on their Death Knight, and act as primers for an introduction to endgame play.

Although the majority of my DK-centric work will continue to remain at Sonofalich, I’m also opening this post up as a more informal means for readers to get in touch about questions concerning the guides. As always, remember that you can get answers to almost all of your questions in #Acherus as well- especially if you’re ready for more advanced play on your Death Knight!

What If? Exploring the potential closure of Class Role Forums

Yesterday’s news concerning the closure of the Class Role forums for EU posters raised some debate on Twitter about what implications this might have, particularly if this practice were applied to the U.S. forums as well. As it turns out, US players needn’t have worried- Nethaera confirmed that that there were presently no plans to do so.
In this light, the closure of the EU forums is perhaps more of a reminder of the disparity that exists (both player and developer activity-wise) between the U.S. and EU forums. I could devote this post to discussing this disparity further, but it would probably diverge too heavily from my intended topic. So, for the sake of succinctness, let’s agree: The U.S. forums are currently a lot more active than the EU ones, and thus potentially closing any of them would probably result in a more vigorous response from the community.

I began to consider a “What If” scenario- suppose the Class Role forums on the U.S. side were also slated for closure? First thing’s first, let’s be clear: The current Class Role forums are divided into Healing, Tanking and DPS. The stated logic behind shutting them down on the EU side is that there is a desire to concentrate player discussions in existing forums.

In the past, it’s been no secret that the WoW developers have not paid as much attention to the Individual Class forums as they did to their more broad spectrum Class Role counterparts. The stated rationale has been that the former are largely filled with pointless whining and lobbying for buffs, which thus results an echo chamber effect that detracted from more valuable feedback. This is not to imply that the individual class forums have not had their uses- only that, for the purposes of feedback, it has thus far suited the developers to pay more attention (officially, anyway) to the Role forums.

This has meant that a great deal of the player community that actively participates in the forums has come to recognise the Class Role forums as more of an “official” avenue towards Blizzard-Player communication (social media such as Twitter aside).

Let’s analyse some of the potential Pros and Cons such a move could have on the U.S. forums:

-On one hand, it can kill off a great deal of useful, inter-class discussions. Being able to have knowledgeable players compare mechanics side-by-side can sometimes be useful feedback in an of itself by showing the developers how players perceive things. The developers recognise this, and have said so in the past.

-On the exact flip-side, more often than not, inter-class discussions quickly descend into “Blizzard loves your class/spec more than mine!”-esque whinefests. Just for the sake of proving my point, I loaded up the Damage Dealing forums and clicked on the first random thread that caught my attention. I’ll let the results speak for themselves.

-Concentrating feedback can be a good thing because it means less spread out forums for the developers to trawl through. It’s a matter of simple math here: Going through threads on four potential avenues of feedback is easier than going through seven.

-Conversely, it can also mean that a lot of that potential feedback is lost when one is restricted to specific class roles. Sure, the intrepid Rogue or Warrior poster can stop by the Death Knight forums, but chances are that they will be limited in how much inter-class perspective they can offer before they stray into the “not on topic” offence.

Ultimately, all one can do is speculate. The harsh truth of the matter is that the majority of WoW forum posters will not be affected by these changes, given the discrepancy between EU and U.S. activity. There’s plenty of debate and discussion to be had here about how this negatively affects the EU community, and perhaps this move should give U.S. forum-goers something to consider about the current state of our own forums.

That’s all from me for now though. Until next time, have a pleasant evening.

The Long War: Factional dynamics and cooperation in World of Warcraft

Factions. Allegiances. Sides.

Regardless of what synonym one chooses to use, it still refers to the same concept that has come to define core aspects of the MMO experience. World of Warcraft’s faction dynamic is arguably one of the most iconic, as it relies on storylines and concepts that already had a strong root and standing among much of the Warcraft franchise fanbase.
In some ways, it was too good of an opportunity for Blizzard to not utilise the Alliance vs. Horde dynamic in WoW as it had in previous Warcraft games. Therein, unfortunately, also lies the problem: Factionalism, as both a concept and a practice, has gotten old.

A foray into nostalgia

Let’s take a journey back to the origins of factionalism.
In the original Warcraft game, I would argue that “Alliance vs. Horde” was near-synonymous with “Good vs. Evil”. The Orcish Horde represented a brutal invading force that was responsible for pillaging, genocide and the upset of an otherwise “peaceful” kingdom. Indeed, in Warcraft I “Alliance vs. Horde” simply meant “Humans vs. Orcs”.

Warcraft II and its expansion attempted to present more nuance on both sides by introducing additional races for both the Alliance and Horde, as well as more complex storylines. On the whole, I would argue that the “Good vs. Evil” concept wasn’t toned down fully: The spectre of the Horde’s demonic heritage and the Alliance’s image as victims defending their, still remained to a large extent.

Enter: Warcraft III. From a storyline perspective, I consider the last Warcraft RTS and its expansion to have been tremendous successes, in part, because they effectively shattered our old conceptions of the Alliance and Horde duality.
To begin with, the introduction of powerful new factions such as the Undead Scourge and the Night Elves presented alternatives to a dynamic that, while familiar, would have felt quite stale on its own. This was then followed by dramatic changes introduced to the original factions: Ogres and Goblins were no longer members of the Horde (not as a collective race, anyway), while the majority of the High Elves left the Alliance to become the more sinister Blood Elves.
Supplanting all this was an exploration of identity: Darker sides of the Alliance were revealed with Arthas’s betrayal, as well as Admiral Proudmoore’s zealous attacks on Durotar (the latter, in particular, served as an excellent throwback and rejection of the old dynamic). The Orcich Horde, meanwhile, gained new allies in the Tauren and also began to reconnect with their shamanistic roots. Indeed, if Arthas the Human’s was a story of downfall and betrayal, then Thrall the Orc’s story was one of triumph and new hope- both very important threads that served to flesh out our understanding of what the Horde and Alliance were now.

Sidenote: In this post, I’ve deliberately chosen to ignore the problematic aspects of presenting Orcs as “noble savages”, since that strays so far enough into real-life connections to postcolonial theory, that I am convinced it would detract from the more lighthearted nature of this blog and its various analyses. Just know that it’s very much something that I’m both aware of and contemplate often- not only in relation to Orcs/Warcraft, but to many games, Blizzard and non-Blizzard.

Setting the stage

I first began to pay attention to World of Warcraft’s development around 2004. My first reaction, upon reading plans for factions in the game was: “What? They’re bringing back the Alliance and Horde?!”
Bear with me for a moment: I had just finished playing both Warcraft III and The Frozen Throne. The very idea of the villainous Forsaken, whom I have just helped to gain their independence, joining the Horde was unthinkable. The idea that the proud, distrustful Night Elves who had banded with the other mortal races out of desperation to defend Mount Hyjal, were now members of the Alliance seemed equally silly. I also recall thinking “Wait… Wasn’t humanity largely wiped out after the Scourge and plague of undeath obliterated much of the Eastern Kingdoms?”
You can only imagine my horror a few years later, when I learned that the Blood Elves were… Becoming members of the Horde?!

Fast forward to ten years later, and it would be foolish to say that Blizzard’s venture was anything but successful. Despite my misgivings on the seeming improbability of various factional backgrounds being unable to put forward a convincing story of “unity”, we’ve seen a lot of effort put into exploring the intricacies behind each faction’s individual races and their interactions with one another.
I don’t deny that some of these interactions have been poorly expressed in game (like say when nearly half your “capital” cities remain distressingly empty!), but on the whole I’m impressed with how far Blizzard has managed to take what initially seemed to be rather improbable pairings, and make them work.

Unfortunately, it also puts into sharp perspective just how dated the factional concept really is. As a franchise, Warcraft has moved beyond “Orcs vs. Humans”. We have also moved beyond “Big ugly demons” as the ultimate Bad Guy, and we’ve also clearly gone beyond the need to continue relying on Orcs vs. Humans being the driving force for the many conflicts which we are all embroiled in. Consider, for example, that even the Siege of Orgrimmar (possibly one of the strongest throwbacks to “Orcs vs. Humans”) contains elements of Old Gods, Proto-Drakes, and plenty of bouncy Panda wisdom, all to spruce it up beyond the original idea.

Indeed, I would argue that some the most exciting times (and this is a strictly personal perspective) in the game were when we plumbed the depths of Ulduar in search of Titanic knowledge, fought against Ragnaros and his elemental minions or thwarted Nefarian’s plans to raise an unstoppable army of Chromatic minions! This doesn’t even begin to touch the epic feeling associated with actually meeting characters in game whom you controlled (and often, helped rise to power) in earlier Warcraft games, such as Illidan, Arthas, Kael’Thas, etc.

Looking to the future

To be clear, I am not arguing for the elimination of factions as a concept. They’ve become such an integral part of WoW, that it would be silly to do away with them entirely. I’m not even making arbitrary suggestions about including third or fourth factions, since that strays more into “Where I wish the story would go”, rather than what I hope for actual gameplay.

What I do want to see is the “Alliance vs. Horde” concept to be challenged. It’s easy enough to pit members of both factions against one another (both in PvP and in PvE), but what about cross-factional cooperation? The Alliance and Horde have already cooperated in concept to fight against threats such as the Lich King, and even in the Siege of Orgrimmar itself- why not manifest this in-game by giving players the ability to adventure with their Horde friends?
My characters may be of the Alliance persuasion, but do they have to necessarily see each and every member of the Horde as enemies? If the situation were desperate enough, why wouldn’t they willingly join forces with the Horde to achieve common goals?

Yes, my factional leader may have expressly forbidden me from doing so under pain of death- so what?! Since when do all subjects of any kingdom obey their ruler without question? Does the presence of neutral Auction Houses not already suggest that clandestine trade among the Alliance and Horde is already reality?
In addition, I don’t know about you but constantly being at war with the Horde is starting to get boring. We’ve already seen examples of in-game characters such as Jaina attempt to forge peaceful ties with the opposite factions, so the idea of players being able to cooperate cross-factionally is nowhere near as far-fetched as some might think.

The proverbial “fourth wall” that separated the Alliance and Horde (in-game, anyway), has been shattered by the inception of technologies such as RealID and BattleTag. If anything, seeing so many of my Horde friends on and being unable to group with them is a reminder of a limitation that feels increasingly archaic now.
Put simply: If I can battle my own faction in Arathi Basin, why can’t I team up with a Blood Elf and a Troll to put an end to the evil lurking inside the Temple of the Jade Serpent? Consider further that groups such as the Cenarion Circle, the Ashen Verdict and the Argent Crusade exemplify the ability and willingness of traditionally “Horde” and “Alliance” races to cooperate.

For the sake of emphasising a point, let me repeat that I am not calling or factions to be eliminated, or to stop mattering completely. It is doubtful that we’ll see Orcs walking the streets of Stormwind, just as it is doubtful that Genn Greymane will forgive the Forsaken for destroying Gilneas.
Doubtless some players will balk at the concept of being able to raid/dungeon or even quest with opposing factional players, to which I say: “There’s always PvP servers!”

Jokes aside though, I feel it’s high time for players to begin experiencing and even taking an active hand in attempting to begin breaking down barriers between factions in the game. There’s dozens of ways in which this could be implemented without ruining the factional concept: Limit what types of content can be experienced together, make it so only certain parts of the world allow for this type of interaction (i.e. not in front of your capital’s very gates!), and ensure that trade, while incentivised, still remains in the hands of a third party.
All things considered though, I can see the potential for much added gameplay and a furthering of the immersive experience of the game by allowing players the option to cooperate and play together more. Indeed, if I could make one specific request off the bat, it would be to allow for linguistic comprehension between factions to also be implemented in game.
It also helps that the conclusion of the Mists of Pandaria storyline sets the perfect stage for such cooperation to begin: Garrosh’s mad bid for power serves as a stark reminder of what factional supremacy can turn into, and his subsequent defeat (along with the cost of the war) would probably leave large numbers of both Horde and Alliance citizens rather disillusioned. What better time to try and explore the potential for change?

This has turned into an overly long post, but one that I felt wouldn’t have done well if split into multiple parts. While we’ve already seen initial plans for PvP zones and Horde/Alliance cities (ah, Dalaran and Shattrath, how I miss thee!) in Warlords of Draenor, there’s no telling how the story- and in-game tech- will pan out.
Here’s to hoping that factions in WoW continue to evolve and hopefully shake off outdated concepts of immersion.