Touring the Old World Before the Cataclysm

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Since reading up on the next WoW expansion Cataclysm, I’ve been debating touring through the places in WoW that have been announced to change. I’m a screenshot bug anyway and well there’s already a pretty good list of the parts of the WoW map that will never be the same.

The old world of Vanilla WoW is actually pretty cool to me.  Though I started playing WoW well into the Burning Crusade expansion, I still loved traveling and questing in the old world and I was really excited to see the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. So safe to say I’m looking forward to Cataclysm and I’m also looking forward to the changes they’ll be making to the old world.  Hopefully it’ll bring folks back into the old world and breath new life into a place that’s really been pretty empty.

I’ve been mentally working on some of the stops I’d make but since the list is getting a little bigger than I’d originally thought, I figure I should probably break it out into a few posts, starting with my favorite faction the Horde, then the Alliance, and on to the more faction Neutral hits.

I don’t work for Blizzard or have any inside track into what changes are coming down the pike. A lot of these things I’ve gleaned from the WoW Cataclysm site and from the info and press releases on WoWWiki. That means that any part of this is subject to change, I mean hell maybe none of it will change, maybe other stuff will change, maybe stuff I hadn’t considered looking at will change. The point of the exercise is just to take a look at the way things were, then maybe after the change, it’ll be kind of cool to compare the before and after heh.

I’ll also pose this question to folks who’ve been playing a while and may or may not still be playing. What places would you visit before the Cataclysm that really left an impression on you during your time in the old world of WoW?

  • Horde Stops (Link)
  • Alliance Stops (Link)
  • Faction Neutral Stops (Link)

The Ladys Necklace an Example of an Excellent Quest

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I have to say that my favorite WoW quest is “The Lady’s Necklace”. It’s a very low level drop quest in the Ghostlands (post Burning Crusade).

What grips me about this quest is really the story of the destruction that occurred to the Blood Elf lands and the tragic story of the Dark Lady of the Forsaken, Sylvanas Windrunner. (Link)

Upon turning in the quest, Sylvanas spawns ghostly singers to accompany her in a beautiful and sad song.

It’s not a cut scene, it’s something that even those running in to turn in something else can stop and watch.

This quest is one of the elements of WoW that really makes the kill x of y worth it. Unfortunately it does take time and planning to add it into the game. Also for folks powerleveling, stopping to listen to the haunting song or paying attention to the backstory really isn’t as important as rushing on to the end game.

For me though elements like this in games adds to the suspension of disbelief. It adds to the illusion that you are a part of this magical, fantasy world. Quests like this where you actually report directly to the leader of a powerful political faction makes the player feel a little more important in the game, and a little less well, of a mercinary or gofer.

I’m really hoping that more quests like this will be part of the development plan for the Cataclysm. This one quest line ties in why the Blood Elves have allied themselves with the Forsaken and the Horde. It’s a nice bit of lore that adds the illusion of a personal side to what is otherwise a scripted entity.

It’s tricky and I like it.

While creating a game with only quests like this would remove it’s magic and force players to travel way too much, but it does tend to add a bit more to the game.

I think that in nothing else, the work that Star Wars the Old Republic is doing to add voice overs to quest lines helps quite a bit in adding immersion to the game. I really don’t mind reading the quest text. I actually kind of like watching it scroll across the page in  WoW. BUT, if you try out Everquest II where voice overs have been implimented for some quest lines, having the second form of communication does make it easier, at least for me, to get the gist of what’s going on a lot more swiftly. I also found that I retained the information that the quest giver doled out much better when I read the quest text as the quest giver was speaking.

Since using two methods of communicating the quest uses two different neural systems, when you think about it, it’s more likly that you’ll retain a path back to the spot where your mind stored the info. Otherwise you’ll be hitting the quest log every five minutes.

I’m sure this kind of thing is really only striking for folks that may have something like oh, a learning disabilty (*cough* ADHD *cough*). But it is something that I’ve noticed over my gaming experience.

When planning on making a game of my own using the Open Simulator, I toyed with the idea of having videos act as npc’s over building them. This way folks would be able to see an animation as well as hear a voice associated with the quest.

There might be something to that, so I should probably hold on to that idea.

Really NPC’s make it easier for folks to play at any time they want to play. You don’t have to pay them, just script them. Also players logging in at 1am would still be able to participate in the same content as players loggin in at peak server times. While it would be cool to have actual players doling this stuff out, who really wants some asshat to be at the reigns of Orgrimmar? Nah NPC’s are the way to go. They can be human enough to get us attached to them, with out being so human that we feel threatened by them. While yeah we do get annoyed by some of them, we don’t have to feel like we’re bowing to a basement virgin that does nothing but play a game in order to be the ‘king’ of a faction, or having to deliver a quest to someone who’s afk while watching TV.

All of these kind of fit into my idea of why people play games. I’d like to blog on that, especially after Tobold’s series. I really think there are some fundamental aspects of why gamers play that Tobold didn’t hit, or sort of hit but didn’t highlight. I’m just not quite brave enough heh.

Thoughts on the World of Warcraft Cataclysm

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The thoughts are… Why do I have to wait so long!!!!

Yep I like the concept and so far I like the fact that they’re going back to revamp the old world. What I don’t like about most MMO’s is how static they are. They also only work on content for the last remaining members of their subscriber base… Yep the elitist raiders.

Though the raiders will get content in the world after the Cataclysm, they’re not the only ones *wiggles eyebrows*.

Player vs Developer says it best really here (Link). Blizzard is breaking away from the *Kill 10 Levels to Kill the Boss Mob* model and going back to a model that promotes solo player content. So yeah, you can kill the big bad boss if you want to…. or you can run back through Azeroth completeing one of the 100’s of new quests that Blizz is adding into WoW.

It almost makes me want to check out the old world now and visit the places set to be destroyed by the cataclysm. You know actually use my ‘Prophet’ title for once and display the way things are, but discuss how things ‘will be’. It’s an idea but not sure if I’ll have the desire or time. I know I could do it with Geistig without a problem. She could even hit the Alliance areas without too much hassle. But I think I’d rather go back through them as a tiny and do a little more leveling. Who knows *wink*

One thing though I’m really excited about though…. Worgen.

Sadly I love the Horde, but I admit, the Worgen are… well…. HOT. They add a much needed spooky element that the Alliance has been sorely lacking. I love the Horde for the Undead. They give the Horde that added touch of spookiness that gives the faction more depth. Sort of in a, “well if you think I’m evil, look at what these guys are bulding in thier basement” kind of way.

Checking out the Worgen, I think I’d be willing to re-roll Alliance to be a Worgen, but I think I’d have to make a Worgen Death Knight.  That is since they can’t be Paladins. Why Paladin… Well that’s a story for another day.

OpenSim and RealXtend

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I’ve been tinkering with the OpenSim server platform quite a bit. I’ve even had a region up and running on the OSGrid for a little bit (took it down last night though to play with another server version). So far I really like the concept. It’s pretty easy to design a custom landscape and custom objects. As far as my limited scripting experience can tell, there’s a lot that can be done with the platform.

I’ve gotta say though it’s a LOT of work. OpenSim is still changing pretty rapidly. While there’s a lot of documentation out there. What is out there is the typical coding style of documentation which usually sits in one of two categories, the “hello world” or here’s the baby steps and the super complex stuff. It usually takes time to get the middle stuff fleshed out a bit.

It has been a lot of fun running my own region and being able to build as much as I want. The more I learn about the platforms though and the more I want to do, I’m finding that there’s still some limitations in the platform that are making it kind of tough on me.

There’s things I’d like to do such as set up npc’s, have quest text tailored to individual class types, and display video. These are things that the platform is technically capable of, but I really don’t want to spend the next year learning how to make it happen. The RealXtend platform does have a little more functionality in that respect. The only downside is learning Python and then figuring out how to tap into the server since there really isn’t a documented api. For OpenSim there is a documentation website that lists the classes, methods, etc, but there’s very little in the way of examples so that kind of makes it tough (at least for me) to dig in and get to work. I’m ok at tinkering with code etc, but I’m not quite up to just throwing things together without a guide book. At least not in C# and Python.

I do still want to play with these technologies. There’s a lot of cool things that can be done here and they are after all still in development so who knows how far they’ll go. I’ve also got a nifty idea for a game that I’d like to try to put together in some form or fashion.

Whew, it’s just a LOT of work.

I do need to start documenting some of the things I’ve worked on though and what successes I’ve had. If nothing else just so that I can remember what the devil I did.

I’d really like to work with RealXtend or the new ModRex version of the RealXtend server. It has some nifty features like Direct-x shading/rendering, flash support, and even media url’s in textures which makes it a LOT easier to add web content and videos to prims. It also has npc coding built into the core making it a little easier to add quest givers or random mobs (you know adding life to the world heh).

I just have to actually get it working.  😛

On the downside it means I’ll also have to run a solo installation or run in grid/hypergrid mode. Other folks will be able to stop into the game to check it out but I won’t be connected to a main grid that supports a lot of traffic. Reason being is that I don’t really want to pay a lot of coin to be connected to one of the few grids supporting RealXtend and I don’t want to connect the server to grids that aren’t supporting the server.

Just more work for me in the end I guess heh.

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BYOG: More Research

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I’m still really interested in the concept of a dynamic gaming platform that would allow you to build your own game. After spending some time in Second Life I’ve seen some pretty interesting examples of how folks are using the Second Life platforms to create what are basically 3D live action role-play scenarios.

Granted these range from the good to the bad and to the just plain ugly, but each kind of add to the picture of just what can be done using something like the Second Life platform.

In one RP Island I was able to see multi player pvp combat including arial combat between players. It was pretty cool to see. It also lagged the area horribly as the player’s viewers where trying to keep up with one another. I’d love to see something like this repeated in a zone where folks took off the flappy wings, twitchy tails, and thier animation overrides to see if that was part of what lagged out the combat, but that’s for another day.

On Erie Island (Second Life’s role play Island of the year for 2009) Game Master Van Reinard answered some questions for me about their home brewed combat system the RCPS (now called Osiris) and even let me try out some melee combat. I could see damage received on my heads up display and I could see damage given drop health points on my oppenent. Thanks again to the Erie folks for letting me lurk around and get a feel for how things work.

Non spell/ability based combat in Second Life, at least for the RCPS (Osiris) and DCS2 systems rely on zooming in to mouse look and kind of puts you in a first person shooter mode. Then you just use the mouse and arrow keys to shoot or slash depending on your weapon choice. Oh and there’s an infinite number to choose from too, hehe.

But combat doesn’t end with physical combat (melee/ranged/etc), nope there are also spells/abilities that the players can use to buff, debuff, or attack other players. One thing I did like about the DCS2 system coming from an MMORPG back ground is that it includes a spell bar much like you’d find in a standard mmo. So if a player didn’t bind an a bility to an F key, they’d be able to click away happily with thier mouse. The RCPS (Osiris) system didn’t have a graphical spell bar, but it does let players bind abilities to their keyboard. It also has a smaller screen footprint which is pretty nice.

As in all things there are trade offs.

The concept of creating a game using the Second Life platform is totally possible. Folks are actually doing it all of the time. Granted these games aren’t the same as walking into WoW or LotRO. The combat movements are a bit choppy (sometimes better or worse depending on the developer). There’s also some pretty severe lag issues. Sometimes though this has just as much to do with the players lumping as much useless goodies on themselves as possible, but I won’t go there.

For the most part, the biggest problem with building in Second Life, is well, Second Life. Technology wise the platform is little behind and it’s really expensive to cobble together enough land to build on. In fact the prices now are high enough that only folks looking to build businesses or ‘rent out’ land can really afford Islands in Second Life.

A lot of developers, educational institutions, and the curious are starting to work with OpenSim. The OpenSim project started in 2007 when Linden Labs released an open source copy of the Second Life engine. While missing some of the bells and whistles of the current Second Life engine, some of the current OpenSim based distributions include integration with gaming engines, include server side scripting for more dynamic resources, and even the inclusion of Skype for voice communication.

Not too shabby for a two year old project. I downloaded and worked with the realXtend distribution last night. Once I stopped facepalming over the Vista permissions systems, I had a stand alone virtual world. I added a region, played built a couple of things and really liked some of the stuff that realXtend has added to the OpenSim platform.

I’ve also visited OSGrid which is a live grid running the OpenSim platform. I really didn’t see a lot of diffrence between the OpenSim client interface and the Second Life client interface (yes I was using the OpenSim viewer, not the Second Life viewer). One of the first things I noticed (that bugs me to no end in Second Life) is a tab that displays what’s currently equipped on my avatar. I can’t tell you how much time it takes to sift through my inventory to find what I’m wearing. That or I end up bald because I yanked my hair off on accident…. hehe, that’s just funny to watch really.

While my adventures in Second Life have been a lot of fun, I don’t think I’ll invest a lot of time and energy building on thier platform. For testing purposes it’s not remotely cost effective, even for a crazy person like myself. I don’t think I’ll stop logging on to the grid for a bit though, there’s still folks I want to see there.

I do think however I’m going to get started on my own little experiments in open source via creating a personal mini grid and seeing just what I can do with it.

Saying Goodby

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So this past week I did finally say goodbye to my LotRO Guild Smaug’s Legacy. If you’re on Landroval and you’re looking for a guild, talk to Dragco.

I had a lot of fun in LotRO, the people on the Landroval server are absolutely amazing. In fact if it weren’t for the people on that server I doubt I’d have played LotRO for as long as I did.

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Blizzard LOL

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world of warcraft
see more Lol Celebs

Yep even Arthas can be funny.

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