Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A reply to Bellwether

(The second half of this post was written while listening to A Dark Knight, the final track of The Dark Knight soundtrack. If you can't find it anywhere else, it's available here)

On having my usual look at Pike's blog, I came across her response to this post on another blog, written by Bellwether. Pike had responded to this post herself, but I thought I'd take a break from the story I'm currently working through, to reply to Bell also.

Bell, I empathise with how you're feeling. Probably less than a week ago, I wrote here that I was having even more extreme feelings myself in the same direction.

I want to offer you two theories. First, on why I think this is happening, and secondly, about the only thing which I feel we can do about it.

You sound like you've been following the beta changes to Hunters as well as, presumably, your own class. That being the case, I'm sure you'll probably be aware that my own native tree for the Hunter class, Survival, has undergone some fairly radical changes in the beta so far.

Expose Weakness, the DPS buff that used to be the reason why people were willing to put up with us in raids, has been made self-only. Trap Mastery, our new combined trap talent, no longer has a duration buff to Freezing Trap, and the other major nerf that happened for me a while back was to boar Charge, and now I hear tell that it is possible that in WoTLK, my boar may not be able to even get Charge at all. On top of all that, I don't really feel that some of the new damage talents (Lock and Load is the main one that comes to mind) really belong in the Survival tree at all.

I will admit that I don't know how Restoration for Druids is being changed or nerfed in the beta, and you didn't really mention that in your post. Can you maybe tell me a little about what is happening to it?

Something you said which was particularly revealing and insightful, I think, is that the current company (I won't call them Blizzard, because they're actually not, in the same sense we're used to thinking, and I'll explain that in a minute) are trying to create an entirely new game from the original game's foundations.

The reason why that struck me is because, in truth, they are doing exactly that. They've been doing it since the release of The Burning Crusade.

You see, the people who are working on World of Warcraft at the moment aren't the same people who originally created it. Mark Kern, the original Live Team Lead for the game, left around a week before the release of The Burning Crusade, and he took a number of the other people who were involved with WoW with him, to form a new company.

Bill Roper, a member of the now-defunct Blizzard North, the old, core group that was responsible for the creation of all of the company's most successful game titles, (Diablo, Diablo 2, Starcraft) also confessed that before its' initial release, Blizzard did not have excessively large scale expectations for WoW, and hoped the game would sell one million copies. (Source:-

This is important, because it is a marked contrast to the pervasive greed which now dictates the game's development strategy, a level of greed which I'm sure you yourself have noticed, as have I and I am sure, many other people.

It is also at this point in our story, (to quote V) that along comes a spider. In 2004, Blizzard hired Tom Chilton, the man who previously was primarily responsible for running Ultima Online into the ground, with the Age of Shadows expansion for that game.

It is worth noting that Age of Shadows fundamentally changed the core mechanics of Ultima Online in a very similar manner to that which TBC, and now more completely, WoTLK, are doing to WoW. Chilton has a recognisable modus operandi which he methodically follows, which ultimately leads to the destruction of the games he works on. I explained that in more depth in this post.

That, then, is essentially what has happened to World of Warcraft. The game's original developers have at least partially left, and the development of the game is now being (mis)managed by a group of individuals whose only real motivation is the maximisation of profit, rather than creative integrity, or creating a game which players might genuinely find enjoyable.

That's the first point; what has happened. Here's the second point; what we can do about it. The point of what I'm about to say here might not become immediately apparent, but bear with me.

I've had some praise for the rp story I've been doing about my Hunter, so far. I appreciate that, but the point is that there is an old saying in literary circles, to write from what you know. Metaphorically speaking, that is actually what I've been doing. I will leave it to you to figure out which parts are allegorical, and which are not, but in some cases, the truth of that might surprise you.

The reason why I mention this is because for a long time, like the character I'm writing about, I've been a reclusive individual with a traumatic past, and am in the process of attempting to achieve social integration with the rest of my species, or at least a small subset of it. My plan for this game (and others like it) has been to use it as a means by which I could develop social skills within a comparitively low-risk virtual environment.

Although I had a levelling guild for a brief period in 2007, for the most part, my 2+ years playing this game have been spent largely alone; for at least part of that time I had a number of abusive offline relationships which prevented me from focused participation in a raiding guild, or from forming any other strong social connections either within the game, or outside it.

However recently, that changed. I not only began to have more time, but I joined a raiding guild. This was in response to a belief that I had finally reached, that if I could form social relationships within this game, it was worth staying for me, but that the game in its' current form had degraded sufficiently that I was no longer motivated to play alone.

This finally brings me to my central point, and the reason why now, I actually am staying, regardless of whether the game's mechanics continue to be trashed in WoTLK or not; that I've come to realise that this game is ultimately only about one thing.


I watched a video on YouTube recently where a large group of people, including many from outside of the guild in question, came together in Nagrand on their server to mourn the death of a woman who was the co-founder of a guild, and who had essentially become a maternal figure for many of the people there. Pike also wrote a post about something similar which occurred on her own server.

If it hadn't been for this blog, and the forum, I would have left this game probably a year ago; maybe a bit less. There honestly wouldn't have been anything left for me if I'd tried to continue on my own.

Pike. Rilgon. Trackhoof. Efri. (who I've lost contact with, although I've had AIM open again recently; so if you're reading this, get on!) Zulazilu. Tamuka. Nagara. Great Green. Mama Druid. Maevet. Nomakk. Rakan. Alarand. Ashraf. Bandet. Brigwyn; and more, like Boozsha and Awlbiste, who are only just recently joining this list. Even Alumatine, despite the degree to which he has cut me apart verbally at times. I can still see his skill, even if I also see his arrogance.

These are the reasons why I stay; these people. I don't know how many of them you're in contact with, Bellwether; but they're good people, and there's more out there like them. They're worth staying for.

It's true that this game doesn't have much time left. Chilton will drive it into the ground as he did UO, because he's an incompetent, creatively barren, cynical, excessively capitalistic, greedy bastard, and that's all he knows how to do. Mythic will then probably be stupid and gullible enough to hire him after WoW crashes and burns, so he can then do the same to Warhammer. He will survive, no matter how many games he destroys, because he still knows what the suits like, and he knows how to give it to them; in their minds, the players be damned.

That isn't what's important. What is important is that we find those individuals within this virtual environment, and the virtual environments which follow, who are worth keeping.

Try to meet someone in this game who, when they die, if they do, it causes you to cry like a baby, simply because of how crucial they've become to your own existence, no matter how stupid that sounds in the context of a game.

That, however, is what WoW is about. It's the only thing it really can be.

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