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The Queue: PVP, player models, and applying to WoW Insider

Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Allison Robert is your hostess today, because no one else was around. She is pretending to be writing from the Stranglethorn landscape above.

Man, I haven't written in a Queue (or its predecessor, Ask a Beta Tester) in a long time. It looks like my last one was in December 2009. Well, let's see if I can avoid the temptation toward extreme talkativeness here.

Nah. I like talking.

Most of the comment thread on yesterday's Queue was concerned with discussion on Mists of Pandaria or suggestions for what to name the eventual monk column, but I picked three questions past the cut to answer.

Stella asks:

A lot of people are saying that Mists of Pandaria doesn't have a story, a main enemy, or a Big Bad. I suddenly realized that we, that is the Horde and the Alliance, and our conflict is the real Big Bad of MoP ... I also gather from some of Metzen's comments that something big is coming after MoP. Something that we'll never be able to handle if we're focused on fighting each other. Am I seeing things here?

Probably not.

There's a rumor running around that Kat Hunter accidentally broke the upcoming Warcraft 4 during the BlizzCon 2011 DirecTV livestream. While I think the sound bite in question has a pretty good chance of just being a joke, the prospect of another Warcraft game does raise an interesting question about Blizzard's plans for the franchise. If the developers are planning a Warcraft 4, that story line might very well piggyback off the increased Alliance/Horde antagonism in Mists of Pandaria and then proceed to set up the next World of Warcraft expansion.

... which, when you think about it, allows Blizzard to skirt a knotty problem: How do you advance a PVP-centric story in a PVE-centric game, where most players would probably hate being forced to fight each other in order to advance their characters? The answer is to put it in another game and let players decide if they want to experience that. There are certain elements of the Warcraft story that are probably better told in an RTS than an MMORPG, and WoW's next expansion could simply pick up where Warcraft 4 ended.

But this is just a bunch of arm waving. Whether it's plausible or not is anyone's guess.

Andre asks:

How will you guys be hiring a new monk columnist? Will it take you a while to set up because you need to find somebody who's willing to learn EVERYTHING about a new class? How long did it take after Wrath for the DK column to start?

Before an expansion hits, the editors send around an email asking us if we plan to stay with our current characters, switch to an alt, or reroll entirely, and if this will affect any class columns or content we're writing. The death knight class just clicked for Daniel Whitcomb on the Wrath beta, so he left his druid and started playing his DK full time.

So Lichborne actually started in August 2008 during the Wrath of the Lich King beta, and it wouldn't surprise me if something similar happens during the Mists of Pandaria beta. Actually, it will probably happen even earlier, now that so many staffers have the annual pass and thus guaranteed access to the MoP beta. Alex Ziebart was reportedly getting texts from people eager to write for the monk column less than 10 minutes after Blizzard had revealed it.

Terrrant actually replied to Andre's comment above with something that's pertinent:

... An enterprising blogger could get into the MoP beta, start his or her own blog about the monk class, and hope WoW Insider does an open call for columnist submissions. Then you'd have your quality blog as evidence you could do the job.

Yep. While an involved article on WoW Insider's hiring practices is way beyond the scope of the Queue and my limited experience, I can tell you folks a few things:
  • When an existing staffer can't write a column, we'll open applications. You'll see an article on the site describing what we need and the application/column requirements.
  • Things that will help your chances Running a blog on the class or spec in question, posting a lot of thoughtful comments on the official forums or a site like Elitist Jerks, and/or writing a really kick-ass application will all give you an advantage. (I should stress that we don't expect you to have blogged previously, although it does give us a preview of your "voice" as a writer and, just as importantly, how you react to commenters.) Raid experience is a major plus, though obviously we won't expect you to have raided on a monk.
  • Things that will not help your chances Being a jerk to others on your blog or Twitter, trolling us or other sites, accusing the developers of being unable to pour piss out of a boot with instructions written on the heel, and/or just being someone who's likely to cause problems if employed here. Remember, folks: We've all got Google, and we're 5% less stupid than we look.
  • Even if you run a successful blog, keep in mind that making the transition from being an independent blogger to a professional one is a lot harder than you'd think. Writing whatever you want whenever you want bears only a faint resemblance to writing to deadlines and editorial requests.
Broadwaybobby831 asks:

Does ANYONE truly feel like they will be "too attached to their model if they are changed" because I for one don't care how they fix it, but they just NEED to be updated.

Robin kind of answered this one for me. The problem for Blizzard isn't so much redesigning the older races -- it's redesigning them without losing the stuff that made players want to roll them in the first place. I think Dea ex Machina also has an unfortunate point concerning player psychology in that "the way the character 'looks' is at least partly in your head," and that artists may "update" your character into something that no longer feels the same. Players aren't attached to low-poly models as such, but they're generally pretty attached to characters they've often played for years.

Hell, they're even attached to characters they don't play. As an example, you might want to compare the comment threads on the update to Sylvanas Windrunner's model with that of Jaina Proudmoore's. Response was overwhelmingly positive to the new Sylvanas, but a lot more equivocal on the new Jaina ... and these are just NPCs. Unsurprisingly, Blizzard is picking its way very, very carefully through the minefield of player characters.

I rolled my gray-furred, green-eyed female Tauren druid on the first day I ever played the game and have changed her very little since then. To me, she looks intelligent and observant, and I really hope that Blizzard's artists can update her without losing these essential traits.

Have questions about the World of Warcraft? The WoW Insider crew is here with The Queue, our daily Q&A column. Leave your questions in the comments, and we'll do our best to answer 'em!

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