WoW: Special Quests

Up to level 12 now. My last session involved a couple of quests of particular interest.

First, there was a “quest” to, in effect, sit and watch a cutscene. This isn’t really a game that can support cutscenes in the truest sense, but it can play out scripted actions and dialogue between NPCs while you watch, kind of like in the Half-Life games — and, as in Half-Life, you’re free to jump around and act silly while it happens. I suppose this wasn’t really the first event of this kind I’ve seen, but it was considerably longer than previous ones, and of more obvious importance: it concerned Lady Sylvanas herself demonstrating to a major orc leader that she has the ability to create more undead to swell the ranks of the Horde, and the orc reacting with horror and disgust, rejecting Sylvanas in no uncertain terms. The Lich King was mentioned, and this is a point where I’m at a disadvantage for having joined at so late a date: I don’t know whether they’re talking about stuff that happened in the “Wrath of the Lich King” expansion, or whether it’s all part of the basic WoW backstory. Not that it matters a lot. Either way, it’s part of the gameworld’s history now. The more important thing is that the confrontation itself seems like it’s also an important part of the gameworld’s history. This is a major diplomatic moment, a shift in the world. But it’s also something that happens afresh every time a new undead player character reaches this point in the quest tree. There’s nothing unusual about this in single-player games, but it seems a little strange for a shared world. I’m told that one of the expansions actually introduced mechanisms to keep players who were at different stages of the overall scripted plot in their own separate worlds, but I have no idea if this event is significant enough to merit such treatment.

Second, I finally got a variety quest! Most quests up to this point had been of a few basic types: go talk to this person, kill a certain number of that creature type, gather a certain number of this plant, or kill as many of that creature as necessary to gather a certain number of that item drop. This last is probably the canonical WoW quest, the sort that people bring up when they’re making fun of the game (“Bring me eight blood weasel tonsils!”). There were a few exceptions to this pattern, mind you. At one point, a quest required riding a bat to the Undercity, but that was mainly done as a tutorial in hiring bats, which are basically inter-city transit. This new quest also involved riding a bat, but not in the same way. Instead, I rode it in a repeating loop over a couple of islands so I could bombard them from the sky with vials of plague. In a sense it was just another “kill N of this creature” quest, but it didn’t use the normal combat mechanics at all — it was essentially a special-case minigame, where you have no control over your movement and just have to try to target your throws close enough to as many of the victims as possible. Anyway, it was a welcome break from the familiar grind. I’ve heard about other special-case quests, like the Cataclysm Plants vs Zombies quest, and look forward to seeing more of them. Does that mean I’m getting tired of the core game already?

2 Comments so far

  1. malkav11 on 15 Jan 2011

    WoW now has a somewhat odd chronology due to the revamp of the original areas that came just before the Cataclysm expansion. The 1-60 content in the “old world” is now considered to be roughly at the same point in the timeline as the Cataclysm expansion content from 80-85 – a lot of the changes come from the cataclysm itself, and the politics are current, etc. It possibly slightly precedes the stuff you’re doing from 80-85.

    But then you go into Outland, and all that stuff dates back to the Burning Crusade expansion. You’ll do stuff like rediscover Garrosh Hellscream (son of famous Warcraft RTS orc hero Grom Hellscream) living among the Mag’har, starting the journey that has led to his current role as Warchief.

    And then of course Northrend is Wrath of the Lich King era content where the feud between the two major factions heats back up, Arthas is killed, and so on.

  2. Merus on 15 Jan 2011

    The val’kyr you’re seeing here were introduced during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. While it’s ‘new’, newer players aren’t expected to know it. The phasing technology you mention, that keeps players in two separate copies of the world, is only in play in the sense that other players can’t see the two leaders argue before they get to the point where they’re supposed to watch what happens. Blizzard tend to assume that it’s already ‘happened’ for players who don’t do the quest, and, much like the Lich King, that event will become part of the backstory even if you don’t personally see it. The undead guards in the Undercity were replaced by orcish guards late in the Lich King expansion for everyone, even those players who had skipped the quest that justified it.

    One of the big changes in Cataclysm is that the ‘variety’ quests are increasingly frequent. This is an extension of the ‘vehicle’ technology from Wrath of the Lich King, which allowed Blizzard to give players control over an independent vehicle with its own abilities. They tend to come out at the climax of a quest chain; this might be part of the reason why they feel exciting, because they’re infrequent and they tend to act as cappers for the storyline.

    Re: cutscenes; actually, there’s quite a few (in places, they’re overused). Many of them are in-engine, starring your character; a few of them are pre-rendered, using in-game models but explicitly interrupting the game.

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