Wednesday 5 August 2015

Archimonde and other nobodies

Raiding in Draenor feels like a pastiche of the good ol' days of raiding during the days of the Burning Crusade. The problem, for me, is that the developers don't seem all that interested in telling stories. Not that they've skipped it altogether: the main story, of the struggle between Gul'dan, Grommash and Khadgar is well told. But the problem is that there is not much story that prompts us to enter the various raid and dungeon instances around Draenor. It seems that the developers are simply asked to produce a fun instance, with challenging fights, and not bother too much about how it fits into the story.

The dungeons are at a double disadvantage in that one now normally enters them through the dungeon finder while levelling, long before discovering their entrances. That leads to a story-telling problem. As a designer, you don't want to introduce a breadcrumb quest before the adventurers are at the level to enter the dungeon, but once they are, they've probably already seen it before they got the breadcrumb quest. Or else the quest is offered out of thin air, by the GUI rather than by any individual (my least favourite form of questing).

There was a solution, back in the days of Wrath of the Lich King, that I thought was very good: Jaina offered a breadcrumb quest and before you had got the quest off her, you simply couldn't queue for that particular instance. Later versions of the dungeon finder didn't allow queuing for dungeons whose entrances you had not found. But for whatever reason, these ideas were scrapped, and now dungeons seem like separate games, where the real world of Draenor or Azeroth is just a waiting-room or lobby.

The raids in WoD particularly bother me, though. I can think of no good reason for wandering into Highmaul, except to exercise my lust for death and gear. Kargath Bladefist, at least, has a story we all know from Draenor. We've seen him at Bladefist Hold in the Spires of Arak. I believe he has also been seen in the company of Grommash and the other Warlords. Kargath Bladefist is a bona-fide boss with a back-story. But Tectus? Brackenspore? Even Imperator Mar'gok seems to have no story*. Why do I care about these monsters?

Frankly, the bosses in the other two raids are not much more interesting, although at least Blackrock Foundry itself has a worthwhile storyline. But in Hellfire Citadel, bosses are name-checked and killed with no story attached to them, nor reason for their presence. You're supposed to just remember the good times you had with them in Outland. Even Archimonde only turns up in order to get killed.

Without  stories*, it's hard to remain interested in the goings-on in Draenor. Perhaps it's time to return home to Stormwind. Beneath the sands of Silithus, in the cold vastnesses of Northrend, and in the dread wastes of Pandaria, qiraji silithid nerubian mantid toil endlessly in the darkness, extending their underground empires.

Blaugust, Day 5

*I exclude stories written in novels in another universe that our adventurers cannot enter.


  1. I agree. I think you should be required to visit the dungeon first, though I also think they should do more with what they have. I'd really like a personal instance version of dungeons while leveling that focuses on individual challenges and story telling. The max level could be the same ole group-oriented final product then.