Away From Reality

July 25, 2014

AFR #302 – Downer

Filed under: Uncategorized — tabulacandida @ 9:12 AM

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Now, I rag on Blizzard a lot– more than is really fair– for the sake of a joke, so let me be serious for a moment.

I’m actually fairly neutral on the Warlords flying issue.  I think it makes sense for us to start a new expansion on the ground.  The ground is where the action is and where quests happen.  It makes sense to me that part of the challenge of fighting our way into a new and hostile land is going to be navigating the terrain and dealing with wandering monsters.  I think flying from the beginning in Cataclysm was one of the many things (along with the disconnected questing zones, the railroaded plot, the cutscenes, and the quests that had us follow NPCs around and watch them do cool stuff instead of doing the cool stuff ourselves) that made us feel like we weren’t really part of the action.  I don’t mind that we’re going to start the new expansion with our feet on the ground.

What worries me is the possibility that we might not get to fly at all in this upcoming expansion, because I like flying.  Flying is fun.  Flying is one of the visceral pleasures of World of Warcraft.  As satisfying as it may be to get the ding and the swirl and the fanfare for your last level, there is nothing that quite conveys the sense of having arrived like soaring into the air and seeing the zones you’ve been questing through from a whole new perspective.  There is a joy in simply seeing the sights from the air and it gives new life to old content.  I would hate to see Blizzard deny us that primal pleasure out of a misguided design philosophy.

Here’s how Bashiok characterized the flying/grounded problem:

As an example, let us consider a quest to assassinate an enemy leader. From the ground you approach a fort with guards at the gate. You charge and are able to dispatch them and sneak in a side hallway. You methodically take out packs of roaming sentries, and some of them shout at you as they run toward you. You notice they’re in the middle of practicing dark and forbidden magics, and you take a moment to disrupt their ritual. Dashing into the main courtyard you spot your target, sneaking and fighting your way to him–and with a forceful slash–the fort’s captain is vanquished, and as guards are alerted you fight your way out, glorious and triumphant in your success.

Alternatively, from a flying mount, you fly over the gate, see some guy whose name is highlighted, land on top of him, kill him, and then fly away.

You can see what he’s getting at, and he has a point.  There is a basic formula in game design which states that challenge + reward = fun.  As a basic principle, it works.  But you can’t just increase the fun by simply increasing the challenge.  We all have a lot of experience with the kind of “penetrate the enemy base and kill the leader” kind of quest he’s describing.  It’s been a staple of WoW since the beginning.  I bet that, like me, as you were reading that description, you pictured some building somewhere in Azeroth you once fought your way into.  (For the record, mine was the orc camp in northern Desolace.)  Here’s the thing, though: killing all those wandering guards on your way in and out of the building is not actually fun.  It’s a part of the challenge that makes the quest as a whole fun, but you don’t make a quest more fun by turning up the dial on the stuff you have to do just to get to the thing you actually came here to do.  If trash-killing were actually fun, no one would skip the trash.  The fact that people do is not a sign that they’re missing out on an important part of the game, but that that part of the game just isn’t enjoyable in itself, and the game won’t be made better just by having more of it.

Now, there’s a place for trash.  It’s part of the flow and rhythm of the game; without the valleys, you don’t notice the peaks, but let’s not mistake it for something it isn’t.  Like I said, I think it’s fine that we’re going to start without flying, but to never give us flying at all would be to confuse the things that make the game fun with the things that make the game challenging.  They’re not the same.

July 18, 2014

AFR #301 – It worked in Blazing Saddles

Filed under: Uncategorized — tabulacandida @ 8:21 AM

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Mrs. AFR and I had almost this exact conversation a couple of weeks ago.

I’m dating myself again with this, so in case you don’t remember the movie in question, here’s the relevant scene.

Edit: Curse you, YouTube videos, and your habit of suddenly disappearing!  The video I linked to yesterday is now gone.  I think that’s a record.  Here’s a slightly lower-quality version of the same scene.  (If that disappears, too, and you’re still curious, just go looking for “I have a mole” from “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and good luck to you.)

July 11, 2014

AFR #300 – No-stalgia

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — tabulacandida @ 8:17 AM

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You may remember what happened the last time Thizzible had an idea for a comic.

So, here we are at 300 comics.  It’s been a fun trip getting here and I’ve still got ideas in me, so as long as you all are happy to keep reading, I’ll keep making them.

I’d also like to take a moment to say a special thanks to Amanda Miller of WoW Insider for linking to AFR every week for all these years.  For whatever reason, my new computer and WoW Insider’s new comment system just don’t play nicely together, so I can’t comment over there, but I’m still grateful for the mention and humbled to be in the same company as some much better artists and writers than myself.

And my thanks also to all of you have been reading, whether you came here from WoW Insider or anywhere else.  All of you are the reason I keep making comics.

Will I make it to 400?  Who knows.  We’ll see in a couple of years.

Until next week, thanks for reading, be well, and may all your drops be purple.

July 4, 2014

AFR #299 – Not quite 300

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — tabulacandida @ 11:32 AM

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Yeah, this joke would have been a little better timed a couple of months ago, back when we still hadn’t heard a peep about Warlords since Blizzcon and everyone was getting fed up with old content and radio silence, but it wasn’t my 299th comic a couple of months ago.  /Shrug.

You’d really think Blizzard would have a better handle on this by now.  I know it’s hard work creating all that new content and I don’t blame them for focusing on the new expansion rather than the passing one, but it seems pretty clear that expansions take about two years to work through their life cycle.  Cramming all the patch content into the first ten months of those two years doesn’t actually help the next expansion come out any faster.  It’s like eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner all before 10 in the morning and then being surprised that you’re hungry at 8 in the evening.

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