Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Where WoW has failed me

As I've stated a few times in the blog so far, I've been playing WoW since Vanilla. Not since the beginning-beginning...but not much less. As I keep meaning to make a post explaining, I almost quit not long after, somewhere in late-40-levels. What brought me back to the game with a vengeance was finding the Know Your Lore series at and getting completely sucked into the story this game was built around. I'm a story-teller at heart, and the complexity of the plot of this game absolutely tickles me.

One thing that really annoys me, though, is how bad the game itself is at relaying this story. Only it wasn't until the past few months that I realized how much that was true.

Some of it is due to my general inattentiveness and short-term memory issues, especially around things that I don't have immediate context. Let me give you an example.

I leveled through Northred with San and Dal at approximately the same time. Dal went through the Howling Fjord and Grizzly Hills on his way to Zul'Drak while San started over in the Borean Tundra first and then moved into Dragonblight. After that, he went through Zul'Drak as well and the leveling paths from that point on ended up being the same.

But during that time I was so wrapped up in everything that was new and the exploration and (to be honest) the drive to 80 I missed some important story bits that didn't get tied together until way later when I started to level Maarken through Northrend.

Like that Thassarian guy? The one who is your main point of contact (for Alliance) as you quest through Icecrown? Yeah...that's the same guy you were trying to track down for the distraught woman at Valiance Keep. His sister...the one who gave up everything to get to Northrend because she believed that, somehow, her (dead) brother was there...

And the big, bad Troll Drakuru that led you on a wild goose chase across the Grizzly Hills? The one that betrays you in Drak'tharon Keep? He's the one you deceive, betray (back), and kill in Zul'Drak.

I completely missed these things my first time through. The first time I saw Tassarian in Borean Tundra, I didn't really have a context for him. So by the time I got to Icecrown, he was long forgotten. Same with Drakuru, especially because I had been 80 for a while before I completed that chain at the end of DTK.

But those are minor things. More recently, I've come to see some of the bigger things.

Like Arthas.

I read Christie Golden's Arthas back in late-February/early-March. While a lot of the story was familiar to me by then, one particular point really drove home a point that the game hopelessly failed to make...just how irredeemable Arthas had become.

Yeah, there was the Icecrown quest chain where you find his heart below ICC and Tirion ends up proclaiming he now sees the truth after a stand-off. And, of course, there's Jaina in Halls of Reflection. But, by and large, we're taking their word for it.

Not in the book. Oh no. It's made very clear. If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about. And if you haven' should. But, trust me, there's absolutely nothing left of the old Arthas to save.

Then today (courtesy of's Know Your Lore) I found this story (and, consequently this lore section of the main site that I never knew existed).

Productivity completely halted for me while I read the whole thing. It didn't take long. Here's a character, Nobundo, that is a big freakin' deal. He brought Shamanism to the Draenei and, ultimately, to the Alliance. I knew that much from the days of Daluaan's early leveling.

But the story linked above just makes it so much more...real. More meaningful. And it's important (to me) to have that. It's that kind of connection to the lore that keeps me playing this game after almost 5 years. Because, if I'm being completely honest here, the game itself is starting to get a little stale. I need a little motivation to keep playing.

Now, to be fair to Blizzard, not everyone cares about the story the way I do. So slowing down the gameplay in order to put more story front-and-center may not be the right solution.

The Wrathgate cinematic was definitely a step in the right direction. And Blizz has stated that the overwhelmingly positive response to that cinematic is prompting them to put more things like that in Cataclysm. But they have to be careful not to overdo it, or things like that will lose their impact.

For me, though, there couldn't be enough. For now I'm going to read the rest of what's available in that Lore section of Blizz's main WoW site. And I'm going to continue to follow the Know Your Lore posts at religiously. And I'm probably going to start snatching up the rest of the Warcraft novels and going through those.

But if I had my one wish for WoW, it would be to feature (emphasis there) more of the story in the game.

1 comment:

  1. In my humble opinion, I treat the novels like the in-game texts of say perhaps; the Horde version of how Night Elves came about (presumably descendants of trolls). It's one of the many versions of Warcraft lore. It may be 'official' by Blizzard standards, but something tells me Warcraft lore isn't meant to be set in stone. Kind of like news/ talkshow coverage on current affairs, or even a trial with 2, or 3 facets to a story. If everything was just meant to be *that*, we wouldn't have thousands of passionate lore freaks speculating, debating, arguing over how much evidence points favourable to which facet more. Obivously, Blizzard *wants* this sort of community interaction going on to garner support and develop the Warcraft culture (see Xarantaur).

    I don't know how many people are actually interested in the lore of Warcraft; only met about 3 people whom I can speak to passionately about it in-game. It's most unfortunate since WoW has more story depth than any game I've ever played (D&D is not counted). Still, I can't really fault them for it; like its lore, the game has many facets to enjoy! Perhaps it's meant to emulate reality where deeds of the past hold a loosening grip on what fuels current happenings. History is taught to a small extent to people, but if you really want to know what happened back then, it's all up to your own research.

    And that's where the community comes in. WoWwiki, ScrollsofLore, WoWhead. At the very least, we consolidate the evidence scattered all across the games, the comics, the RPGs, the novels like historians for people to make their own judgment. At most, we brainstorm and make predictions like market analysis.

    Maybe this is all part of what the lore of Warcraft is about :D