WoW: Ganked!

So, I’m thinking it’s time to stop for a while again. I’ve hit a natural breakpoint in several respects: the lover’s festival just ended (taking its time-limited content and Achievements with it), and I just hit level 50, and I’ve just completed the lingering quests in a couple of zones I was interested in completing. Zones in this game are like chapters: each tells a story (or a set of connected stories) through its quests, and only touches the stories in the other zones lightly. It’s an interesting way to organize a game. I suppose it’s more or less how most single-player CRPGs work, but the immense size of WoW makes it clear how distinctly the different sections are authored, and the apparent seamlessness of the terrain makes the actual divisions all the more striking. Also, seeing this structure makes clear something I hadn’t really understood before I started to play: the nature of the expansions. Each expansion brings new territories into the game, and consequently new storylines, because story and territory are so tightly coupled.

But also, I’m kind of reaching a dismaying point of the game: the point where other players are killing me. For no reason. Or, well, for “honor points”, I suppose, but if you ask me, there isn’t much honor in how it’s happening. I’m venturing into “contested” zones, because after a while that’s where the quests lead you. Because I’m still mostly questing at well below my level, I tend to feel safe, when all of the sudden some Alliance player just up and attacks me, usually killing me with one shot before I’m even aware of their presence. And suddenly this seems to be happening a lot; I don’t know why it didn’t before. In one case, I was pursuing a special Fishing quest, one of the few quests I’ve seen that touches multiple zones: you have to catch specific fish in four specific locations around the world. So I’m standing there peaceably on the shore with a fishing rod in my hand when all of the sudden BAM. My first urge was to say something like “WHAT THE HELL MAN”, but then I realized that anything I said wouldn’t be understood: the game has Alliance and Horde characters speaking different languages, and anything said by people on the opposite team shows up as gibberish.

By means of this communication barrier, and the fact that players on different sides generally only see each other in contested zones, the game fosters the illusion that the opposite side is composed entirely of irrational jerks who can’t be reasoned with. Which, okay, accurately describes a sizable fraction of the players anyway, as my dungeoneering experiences show. But on the opposite side, that’s all you see. And there’s probably a lesson in that.

I suppose that if I don’t like it, I should go to another server — random PvP in contested zones is only possible on servers that permit it, and servers that don’t permit it are apparently considered “normal” by Blizzard. (Normal servers have special PvP areas, apparently.) I think back to my Everquest days. I didn’t like PvP then either, but I deliberately chose to play on a PvP server, because I didn’t want to think that the only reason people refrained from attacking me was that they couldn’t. And it actually worked out pretty well: even playing as an ogre in human territory, I quickly got a local reputation as the friendly ogre who goes around casting healing spells on people in peril. But that wouldn’t fly in Azeroth. The story of WoW is a story about war, and Blizzard has gone to some lengths to reward people for acting in accordance with that story, and to place obstacles in the way of ignoring or subverting it.

4 Comments so far

  1. Merus on 22 Feb 2011

    “But also, I’m kind of reaching a dismaying point of the game: the point where other players are killing me. For no reason.”

    More or less – they only receive honor points if their kill is within a certain level range, and you’re almost certainly not. (There’s also much better sources of honor, even if you’re intent on cheesing it.) I must admit it’s awful tempting, as a level 85, to one-shot a lower-level player because they were insufficiently watchful and they chose the wrong faction.

    (If you reach level 58 and pick up the Burning Crusade, you’ll probably see ganking reduce significantly, although you’ll likely run across a Fel Reaver, always a barrel of laughs.)

    Killing someone who’s fishing is pretty low, though.

  2. Starmaker on 22 Feb 2011

    Here’s a handy chart:

    Basically, on a normal server, unless you perform an offensive action (voluntarily put up your flag, assist a flagged player, mess with infrastructure, enter an enemy city), you’re safe: most of the world is Neutral. On a PvP server, there are no Neutral zones. Going beyond your faction’s newb territories puts up your flag.

    A Normal server is emphatically *not* a good place for more gentlemanly PvP action. People are dicks. Lacking communication, the only way to declare yourself available for honest world PvP combat is put up your flag. And once you do that, unflagged opposing faction players of similar level would feign lack of interest, wait until you’re otherwise occupied and attack without warning.

    On PvP servers, casually killing passing enemies is basic courtesy to your own faction’s newbs. Camping people on graveyards is frowned upon, unless performed as punishment for a similar offense.

    That being said, I did help random Hordies level by finishing their monsters and arrange deals with their crafters through the neutral auc.

  3. malkav11 on 22 Feb 2011

    Yeah, if you don’t like being ganked, you want a different server. On most WoW servers, you will only ever be involved in PvP if you initiate it, either by flagging, attacking a flagged player or NPC (guards and questgivers of the other faction, nothing you’d need to kill normally), visiting an enemy home city, or joining battlegrounds. Since I don’t like PvP, I avoid doing those things and my life is so much better for it.

  4. josh g. on 22 Feb 2011

    I dunno, my solution to this was to play a feral druid, team up with my cousin playing a rogue, and gank soloing casters who were 15 levels higher than us.

    Okay, so that didn’t happen often. But man, when it did, it was *so* worth it.

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