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  • Sarog
  • Member Since Feb 1st, 2011

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Chris Metzen discusses the role of the writer at GDC Online {WoW}

Oct 11th 2011 10:22AM That's interesting. Would love to find a transcript of that. But at the same time it worries me. They did the same thing with Varian. Varian was very unpopular with part of the playerbase after the Battle for UC for a time and that prompted Blizzard to whitewash him. Varian didn't need to be fixed. He was fine as he was as flawed, prejudiced, deeply troubled King trying to protect the interests of his people. They "fixed" him by attributing everything controversial about him to that zany split personality of his and introducing the subsequent Lo'gosh possession plot that seems to have prompted the entire fanbase into a gigantic facepalm. Now what made Varian controversial and polarizing has been resolved and with the cause of all his recorded flaws resolved he's poised to be a less dynamic character. And I'm not left saying "that guy's a stud, I'm with that guy" as Metzen said they were going for.

I like Garrosh. I like that he has flaws. I like that he screws up. I like that other characters think he's crazy and doubt him at every turn. I like that he follows realistic, human motivations and thinking patterns rather than being on cruise control to the Greater Good (tm). But I don't like that Blizzard's writers can't seem to agree on him and that Blizzard's less competent writers (read: STEVIE NIX) thoughtlessly undo the progress that Blizzard's more competent writers make with the character.

So if Garrosh is getting a huge story arch, great. He deserves it. If they are aiming at making him more liked... I appreciate the sentiment, but God help me if it doesn't worry me at the same time. Blizzard's efforts with Thrall and Varian with this expansion suggest that "running deep" with a character involves a Super Sayun transformation and a step away from controversy. Unlike most other folks I think Blizzard did a good job with his characterization (until Stevie Nix) and I'm inclined to be cautiously optimistic... but the last thing I want is for him to be whitewashed.

Breakfast Topic: Have you ever seen anyone RP a peon? {WoW}

Oct 11th 2011 8:40AM Heh, a friend of mine used to RP the secret head of an illegal peon's labour union. He could be found speeding the floor of the Orgrimmar bank and grumbling about how one day he'd have vengeance on everyone running around on the bank's roof.

Chris Metzen discusses the role of the writer at GDC Online {WoW}

Oct 11th 2011 5:31AM "To us [writing] is not about the best [story] hooks in the world, or the most clever hooks," he said. "…It’s not about being the most unique in the world, or the best-written dialog in the world. To us it's about heart, it's about the engagement."

This part of the article straight away seems representative of what I think the strengths and weaknesses of Blizzard's writing are.

Engaging stories full of heart are what define Warcraft's better years. Warcraft 3, the story of Grom Hellscream, the fall of Arthas, the Third War in general... not the most original or cleverly crafted stories ever, but they had a lot of punch and they got to you emotionally.

But somehow, overlooking the craftwork of writing in favour of hearty stories just isn't working anymore. Not to me, at least, as someone who has been making every analytical effort to defend Blizzard's characterization until patch 4.2. The heart and punch of characters like Grom and Arthas is absent... and efforts at trying to recapture that emotional engagement have been shallow and cheesy. What we're getting is these increasingly silly superhero stories with characters who are each more over the top than the next, to the point that finding a thread that mentions Med'an, Varian, or Thrall on the official story forums that isn't overwhelmed by mocking them for their DBZishness is becoming really rare. The villains we see have become such cheesy caricatures that they are impossible to take seriously... Deathwing has been a gigantic derp this whole expansion and was personified as the most unoriginal bond villain ever in Twilight of the Aspects, and the Twilight Cult doesn't have a lick more substance than Team Rocket.

The heart is gone, and solid literary craftwork is the only way to save it. If Super Thrall would follow consistent personal themes rather than shifting gears to be Totally Super Awesome all the time, he'd be less plastic and more hearty (seriously, what is going on with Thrall this expansion? it is like Metzen's projecting a midlife crisis onto his author avatar). If Blizzard would write their stories based on on a consistent vision of where the franchise is headed rather than using the Rule of Cool gameshow wheel, we might get more stories about the Lothars and Orgrims of the world and less Captain Planet edutainment. And boy would it be great if they started writing as though their fans were adults.

"You're always going to get clobbered on ideas, but what you won’t get clobbered on is expressing your personal ideas and experiences -- your personal truth."

Maybe this is why the recent story seems so much like a edutaining episode of Captain Planet to me. The problem is that this personal truth that Blizzard puts into their stories is old, dull, familiar to the point that it isn't fun to fool around with anymore, and just plain not as deep as they might think it is. For the sake of the story, we need more grit and controversy and less of a morality cartoon about Neutral Faction Heroes who Rise Above It All! (tm) to give the kids at home positive role models.

"[For] writers at Blizzard, more often than not, writing isn’t their primary role on the team."

Maybe this is why 4.2 seems like an awkward teenage romance fanfic. Maybe its why the questing experience is so riddled with wacky joke characters at the expense of actual lore. Maybe its why the body of lore is so riddled with contradictions, with night elves growing up in Dolanaar and all. Maybe that's why every installment of the franchise is increasingly bloated with references and steps closer to blatant, audacious plagiarism.

Know Your Lore: The Shattering, part 1 {WoW}

Oct 9th 2011 8:28PM Interestingly, Thrall's thought process as detailed in the book doesn't even mention Vol'jin as a candidate. Saurfang, Cairne and Eitrigg are mentioned, but not Vol'jin. Poor troll didn't even make the short list.

Know Your Lore: The Shattering, part 1 {WoW}

Oct 9th 2011 8:24PM This short story goes into detail on Horde leadership's reaction to the broken front incident. You should read it for perspective.

Aside from that, your comment doesn't invalidate the section you quoted. Player perceptions, founded in modern morality, are not at all the same thing as the cultural values of the Horde. Regardless of what players think of him, the reasoning and justifications behind his popularity in lore are perfectly solid.

About the Bloggers: Matt Walsh {WoW}

Oct 5th 2011 7:15PM Yeah I also divorced WotC from my wallet with 4e. Liked several things about the new system, but the negative changes (mechanical as well as the, erm, adjustments to the established settings) outweighed the positives for me. And the play experience was rather like taking a night off from WoW just to play tabletop WoW.

I absolutely love Pathfinder though. It does a heck of a lot to give 3.5 the tune-up it needed without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

About the Bloggers: Matt Walsh {WoW}

Oct 5th 2011 7:09PM Heh, I remember how "4e = WoW" turned the WotC forums to vitriolic internet trench warfare back when 4e was just coming out. This brings back memories.

For my part, as a WoWplayer, the comparison was always solid. That's just the nature of the 4e beast. Heh, I remember describing 4e to my playing group right after receiving the books, and the resounding response I got was "oh, like in WoW?". That's not necessarily negative (and can certainly be taken positively in a few ways), but there's honestly no use in denying the comparison.

Breakfast Topic: Is transmogrification bringing you back? {WoW}

Aug 27th 2011 9:36AM It is a great - and long overdue - feature, but I don't see it bringing anyone back. Not for long anyhow. Unless you enjoy the state of the game as it is (in which case you are more unlikely to have left), the effect of a bit more character customization will wear off quickly If people are bored with the game, frustrated with how it plays, tired of the story, or any combination thereof, they will be just as bored, frustrated and tired whether or not they are in current gear or their favourite gear from yesteryear. I doubt many people will resub just for visual novelty. Transmogrification is an important step in improving the quality of the game, but I think it will need to be accompanied by quite a lot more before the individual tweaks and additions are enough to form an enticing basket of new features.

About the Bloggers: Daniel Whitcomb {WoW}

Aug 17th 2011 8:08PM As a long time Horde advocate, I find I often agree with what Mr. Whitcomb has to say about lore and faction politics, strange as it might sound at first. As much as I reject the "Horde is evil" in general, it really is silly how blatantly antagonist the Horde has been and how Thrall's hands have somehow stayed clean in the narrative. I remember nodding my head at the "Varian Wrynn is right" article at several points and wishing that all the tensions mentioned would get proper narrative attention, rather than the continual whitewashing and "greater threat" wash-rinse-repeat cycle that has plagued faction politics. Alas, the "war back into Warcraft" campaign hasn't panned out like I hoped, and things seem set to continue the cycle of disregard-for-political-consequence. But I still hope that eventually the faction conflict will get the attention it is due, without being subverted by author bias and superhero stories.

Anyhow, the point of this comment is that as someone coming from the complete opposite factional perspective as a lore fan, I enjoy and appreciate Dan's comments and perspectives on the story. Wouldn't mind seeing more of them on WoW Insider, to be sure.

Tyrande Whisperwind leader story up on official site {WoW}

Aug 12th 2011 8:41PM To quite an extent, yes. But honestly, it is a step up from recycling the submissive female housewife. At least the amazon version was independent, out there doing things, having her own opinions instead of mirroring her man, providing the lore with a strong, take-charge female character, and providing night elves with a cultural flavour unique in the setting.

In some ways it is Wonder Woman all over again... but Wonder Woman did have a lot of positive influence, despite the objectification and the weirdo bondage fetish of the creator.