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Posts with tag story

The World as Story: Emergent storytelling in World of Warcraft

How does storytelling function in World of Warcraft? What are its limits? Does it have to unfold solely via quest text, or can it be told via other means? I ask this in part due to a developing discussion on the scale and scope of how the world we interact with as we play reveals the story elements. Back when I first started playing WoW, game story was almost exclusively revealed via quest text. When it wasn't, it was often revealed via in-game books. I remembered being floored with the pre-fight scene between Majordomo Executus and Ragnaros because it was a bit of story happening entirely in front of my eyes via dialogue and scene.

Over the years World of Warcraft has added a host of tools to its story delivery options - cutscenes, scenarios, events like Battle for Undercity, open-ended exploration, and quest integration with each of these kinds of vectors for story. It's not all just text anymore - we have in-game cinematics, cut-scenes rendered and played through using totally in game scenes, dialogue (the end of the Isle of Thunder, when Jaina and Lor'themar confronted one another was entirely realized through in-game dialogue), scenarios like A Little Patience and Dagger in the Dark, and even more complex combinations of all of them. The Dominance Offensive/Operation Shieldwall story in particular was unveiled through all of these techniques, using every arrow in the quiver to drive the story points home.

I'm bringing this up because of the recent revelation that not all secondary objectives in Warlords of Draenor will have quest text. The discussion led to a series of tweets from Dave Kosak that I think definitely are worth discussing. How do we get story in an MMO? Can the world we encounter be the story itself? As we move through it, how can it be best presented to us?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Lore, Warlords of Draenor

The Loose Ends of Mists of Pandaria

Since the expansion is now locked in its final patch, with no future storylines to come to change the status quo until Warlords of Draenor, we're free to look over the past year and a half and say Did that actually happen to some of the stranger moments in the story. Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of the story in this expansion, I think it had some really good twists and some nice back and forth between various NPC's (for instance, I love the Jaina/Vereesa team, I think Jaina's interaction with Lor'themar is fantastically catty, and the Baine/Vol'jin bromance is a lot more relatable than previous Horde leaders) but that doesn't mean it doesn't have some head-scratchingly weird moments in it.

These moments often take the form of unexplored consequences or loose ends to the plot. Let's look at a few of them now.

The Mogu Woman conspiracy

This one got really strange because the in-game lore for the presence of mogu women got really convoluted. The way I have it worked out, there used to be mogu women, but at some point after Lei Shen became emperor, something happened. We know there was at least one mogu queen, who died by Lei Shen's hand. It seems that after Lei Shen used the power and knowledge he stole from Ra-Den to 'reverse engineer' the Curse of Flesh, he seemingly eliminated women from his society since his people wouldn't need to reproduce any longer in the conventional sense. The only two women left were in fact the Twin Consorts, and they were literally just constructs carved into the shape of women, possibly as a last dig at Monara. This leaves a whole host of questions about Monara and her relationship to Lei Shen - were they related in some way? Was she his last queen, or perhaps even his mother, or just a rival he killed to cement his power over the mogu?

I found this aspect of mogu culture - their rejection of an entire gender as part and parcel of their rejection of being flesh, being alive at all, to be one of the strangest aspects of their culture. It's got some real world resonance, as well. The mogu end up not being just cruel and callous, they're also really creepy in ways we don't see often.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

The passive faction cannot stand

Since I complained (some have said whined) about the Horde yesterday, turnabout's fair play and I should focus my complaining on the Alliance for a bit. Because if we're fair, the Alliance needs some changes in its story, too. And I think it's fair to say that what the Alliance needs isn't necessarily a victory - especially in terms of Horde/Alliance conflict, it doesn't actually drive the story forward necessarily to have one side win, and the end of Siege of Orgrimmar could in fact be seen as the Alliance winning. No, it's not really victory that's lacking.

The problem the Alliance has is as simple as the statement at BlizzCon that the Alliance is the 'Captain America' faction, the faction that has a more standard heroism about it. The problem with that is, in many ways heroism is depicted as being reactionary. You respond to a threat, you react to a crisis, whether it be Deathwing or Garrosh. Villains act, and heroes react - it's one of the reasons that actors often state that the bad guy is more fun to play. For better or for worse, the Alliance presence in Pandaria was a reaction to the crash-landing of Anduin's ship after it was chased by a Horde fleet, and everything that followed was reactionary. The Alliance stayed in Pandaria purely because the Horde was there, they weren't there to explore or even conquer. The entire struggle over the Divine Bell was a struggle to keep the Horde from getting it because they knew the Horde would use it (as they did) and so far, despite her having every reason to feel that the Horde cannot be trusted Jaina Proudmoore is being painted as villainous for maintaining this position.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Are you happy with Patch 5.3's story progression?

Are you happy with Patch 53's story progression
Frankly, as a solidly Alliance player right now, I find patch 5.3 satisfying. I get why some players don't, but frankly I don't mind spending some time exploring the Horde from an Alliance perspective, without having to faction switch or roll a new character. In fact, I hope it's something they hold onto for future content - I'd love to see a storyline where a group of Horde had to infiltrate Ironforge and work alongside some Dark Irons, or even a story that pit blood elf agents against their forsaken allies by using the worgen as catspaws. My point is, getting to directly interact with Vol'jin was pretty fun, getting to bring the war to the Horde itself while setting up the Darkspear to do the heavy lifting made sense to me, and in general I enjoyed all of the scenarios and quests I've done this patch.

But just because I like something it doesn't follow that you all feel the same way. This patch's story is unfolding in interesting new ways - there's no reputation faction to unlock via daily quests, there are scenarios but no dungeons, and quests that don't repeat. It's quite possible to see much, if not all, of the storyline in one day. It's definitely a departure from what we've seen in previous Mists of Pandaria patches.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Mists of Pandaria

Catching up with the lore for patch 5.3

Okay, so let's assume for the moment you're interested in the advancing storyline for the Mists of Pandaria expansion as we head into patch 5.3, but are wondering if you missed anything or have just started leveling to 90 and want to make sure you get caught up with what's happening. Why is the Horde in such a tizzy? What's the Alliance planning to do? Who are the major players, and why are they doing what they're doing? Don't worry. We here at WoW Insider have been covering this all expansion, and we can help you get up to speed.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Mists of Pandaria

People live in Pandaria; or, our house in the middle of the sea

"And that night, her mom said that the two of them and the now-dead guy were the only 3 people who ever lived in Las Vegas. Everybody else just arrived, ate their complimentary shrimp cocktails, and left."

Blizzard's focus is, as they've repeatedly professed, "to create the most epic gaming experiences ever." But for all the world-ending threats we've encountered in the last few WoW expansions, Azeroth just isn't that big. The entire Eastern Kingdoms are about the size of the island of Manhattan. We're made to believe that hundreds of thousands to millions of people of various races inhabit the planet, but examining the amount of residential space in each zone shows us room for far, far fewer.

Now, yes, the Azeroth we see could simply be an abstraction of some other, larger, "real" Azeroth that doesn't tangibly exist. But this one is the one we get, and it seems sillier and sillier each time when you ponder things like where exactly King Wrynn managed to find a hundred thousand troops to send to Northrend, or where night elves have lived for the past ten thousand years. The same goes for Azeroth's endless supply of doomsday villains and the cultists they inevitably find to do their bidding. They had to come from somewhere. And they definitely don't live in Stormwind.

But the problem isn't even really where they live. It's how they live. It's where they come from. Outland presented a unique opportunity to show us the how and why of the many strange alien races on an entirely new planet, but we learned more about how they died than how they lived -- the fate of most non-player races in World of Warcraft. Their homelands were a theme park, a casino, and we run through pulling levers, grabbing drinks, buying t-shirts. Nobody lived there.

Pandaria, though? People live there. The continent feels more like a brand new planet than even Outland ever did.

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Filed under: Lore, Mists of Pandaria

Why World of Warcraft lore matters

The importance of lore
I started playing World of Warcraft with no real idea of the Warcraft universe. I'd played a lot of RPGs, but I wasn't a big RTS player and I was generally more into tabletop play. My gateway drugs for the MMO genre were games like Planescape: Torment. (Man, I loved Planescape.)

As a result, my first time through the game, I barely paid attention to what I was doing, who I was fighting or why. It wasn't until I got to Molten Core that I started really thinking about what was going on. How did Thaurissan summon Ragnaros when he clearly had not intended to, and what was the Firelord up to? At the time, Ragnaros seemed astonishing to me, an entity of pure fire older than the whole world. The war between his Dark Iron servants and the dragons and orcs atop the Blackrock Spire became a central part of my game as I moved on to Blackwing Lair. I started paying a lot more attention to the dungeons and quests I was running.

Once we hit Outland and I got to Shadowmoon Valley, I ran the Cipher of Damnation quest line (a quest that is all I could hope for in a long quest chain, frankly), and the end of that quest line raised so many questions that I often point to it as the beginning of my lore nerd status.

What is the Cipher of Damnation? If it's the spell Kil'jaeden taught to Gul'dan that he used to raise the Hand of Gul'dan and sever the connection between the orcs and the elements, it's clearly not all it can do. Since using it summons Cyrukh the Firelord and since Oronok Torn-heart says it has been used "in the history of our worlds," I am now convinced that the Cipher is the spell that Thaurissan used to summon Ragnaros. But where did he learn it? It was also the spell Kael'thas used to try and summon Kil'jaeden through the Sunwell, which continued past Kael's death in Magister's Terrace.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Burning Crusade, Lore, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

Mists of Pandaria: Dave "Fargo" Kosak interview

Dave "Fargo" Kosak, lead quest designer for World of Warcraft, sat down with us at the Mists of Pandaria press event for an interview. We talked about the Horde/Alliance conflict, voice acting, pop culture references, Mists' accelerated production schedule, and more. Check it out!

WoW Insider: I guess I'm just gonna start off with some basic stuff.

Dave Kosak: Basic stuff is good!

Let's start with your overall philosophy for Mists of Pandaria.

Well, we're constantly experimenting with quests, and in Cataclysm, we created some pretty linear zones, as I'm sure you might've noticed. Some really big story arcs and big finishes. Certainly like in Mount Hyjal, we phased a huge amount of the zone, which worked because it was a pretty linear zone. A couple drawbacks, though: It was a shame that on your second or third time through, you had to play it exactly the same way. You know, you kinda lose some of that open-world feeling, you lose a little bit of that exploration when it's linear like that. But we loved the storytelling, so what we wanted to do with Mists was keep that kind of storytelling but make sure that you have the opportunity to go out and explore and experience the expansion differently, so ... let's see.

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Filed under: Blizzard, Interviews, Mists of Pandaria

Breakfast Topic: Is that you?

As is often the case with Breakfast Topics, I write about what interests me, asking commenters questions that I genuinely want to know the answers to. So it should be no surprise that I read the comments pretty religiously, and often they will spark ideas that lead to more Breakfast Topics. You've only yourselves to blame for being such interesting folk.

On a recent BT about gender in WoW, two commenters got my attention. Dez and Nagaina, thanks for replying! The parts that caught my eye from their comments were as follows:

Dez wrote: I know some players consider their toons to be extensions of themselves (1st-person narrative), but personally I see them more as other people whose adventures I am following (3rd-person narrative).

Nagaina wrote: I'm principally a roleplayer. When I create a character, I'm usually doing so for storyline related reasons not representing myself in game related ones.

I personally consider my characters to be extensions of myself. When I refer to them, mentally I'm thinking, "I'm over here," "I'm getting my face chewed off by a murloc," or "I'm going to get myself a kickass new cloak." When I'm talking in game, I do much the same.

The idea of the character as a third person fascinates me. I suppose it might be reflected in games like The Sims where you control the life of a character in a different way or maybe in FPS games where you're controlling a character with a predefined story. Or perhaps it's something that is a big part of roleplaying, creating a story for a character that is (maybe by definition) not your own story. I freely admit to knowing barely anything about roleplaying, so of course there is the strong possibility that all that might be utter nonsense!

What do you think? Are your characters extensions of yourself? Are you representing yourself in game? Or, like Dez and Nagaina, are you following a third person? And why?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Chris Metzen talks about heroes

Chris Metzen
Eurogamer.net recently sat down with Blizzard Senior Vice President of Creative Development Chris Metzen. They talked about the story for all three of Blizzard's big franchises and the ins and outs of creating stories and heroes for each one.

On Warcraft, Metzen waxed philosophical on creating a meaningful story for 11 million fans who are each carving out their own individual stories on their own characters, and on translating that story culturally as well linguistically between all the different cultures of the people who play WoW. As Metzen observed, a story that goes over well in North America may fall flat in China. He also talked about making lore decisions and balancing the needs and wants of the players and the writers. Sometimes the players want you to go right when you want to go left, and it is a challenge, he says, to decide which way to go.

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Filed under: Lore, Interviews

Faction leader short stories continue with Sylvanas Windrunner

The leader short stories continue with Sylvanas' own tale of vengeance, loss, and coming to terms with the death of Arthas in Edge of Night. Finally, we get to see Sylvanas ascend the Frozen Throne and come face to face with the broken and empty armor of the former Lich King, her pact with the Val'kyr, and the war front in Gilneas. There are lots of unexpected twists and turns, especially involving Sylvanas' pact with the Val'kyr, that may not be exactly how we imagined things had actually commenced between the former allies of the Lich King and the leader of the Forsaken.

Personally, I think this is one of the strongest leader short stories, delving into answerable questions and giving us real, solid lore to fill in the holes in the story. Seeing Sylvanas' grief and lack of focus after Arthas' death was something I had hoped would be addressed, as well as the Val'kyr, both of which were discussed and explained. Check out the story, written by non other than Dave "Fargo" Kosak, and marvel at a new chapter in the Dark Lady's story.
Brace yourselves for what could be some of most exciting updates to the game recently with patch 4.3. Look at what's ahead: new item storage options, cross-realm raiding, cosmetic armor skinning and your chance to battle the mighty Deathwing -- from astride his back!

Filed under: News items, Cataclysm

Baine Bloodhoof leader short story now available

The tauren have witnessed great change within their own society and culture with the coming of the cataclysm, from political upheaval and great sadness to unbearable loss. With the death of Cairne Bloodhoof, the tauren people turned to his son, Baine, with reverence and hope that he would lead in his father's footsteps and be as great a high chieftain. With the ascension of Garrosh Hellscream to warchief and the bonds that held the orcs and the tauren together stretching thinner, Baine must work through his troubles and the troubles of the tauren people and help hold the Horde together.

Baine Bloodhoof: As Our Fathers Before Us by Stevie Nix (not Stevie Nicks) begins with Durotar in dire straights. The goblins, now fully members of the Horde, have gummed up the Southfury river and made the water undrinkable. Garrosh has come to Mulgore to work with the tauren to begin water shipments to Durotar of fresh, clean water. Attacks on these water caravans, now frequent, pose a huge threat to the survivability of Orgrimmar. Hamuul Runetotem does not let his emotions get in the way as he confides in Baine that his love for Garrosh is lax. Baine insists that despite Garrosh's foolishness, the tauren are to remain as members of the Horde, just as his father had wanted.

Check out the full story, Baine Bloodhoof: As Our Fathers Before Us, for some intriguing and action-packed new lore about our favorite tauren's son and his rise to chieftain.

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Filed under: Lore, Cataclysm

Patch 4.2: Thrall's quest sound files reveal major spoilers

Major spoilers ahead, friends. On the other side of this jump is Thrall's dialogue from the epic quest coming in patch 4.2. What fate awaits the former warchief of the Horde? Is Thrall gone for good, or is there still a chance we can save him from his elemental fate? Click faster, time is of the essence!

Major spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

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Filed under: Lore, Cataclysm

Breakfast Topic: What happens next?

The leader short stories Fire and Iron and The Judgment were great pieces of Cataclysm lore and recent history that shed some light on the motivations of Outland hero Kurdran Wildhammer and embattled troll leader Vol'jin of the Darkspear tribe. Each of the Cataclysm leaders is getting the short story treatment as time goes on.

We don't know many of the stories left to tell in Cataclysm. The future of the blood elves lies in the unpublished prose of Lor'themar Theron's short story. Sylvanas' potential madness and craziness can have explanations hidden in those words. While the Firelands will continue the story of the rejuvenation of Hyjal, we still have much to learn about Malfurion and Tyrande and the night elves in general. So what comes next?

Will these stories shed light on these leaders and their peoples' futures? Can we expect timely lore reveals through these stories that will do part of the story advancement? Personally, I'm really excited for the next story.

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Patch 4.2 preview: Thrall's fate revealed in epic quest [SPOILERS!]

Well, this is certainly big lore news.

Blizzard has just released a preview of the patch 4.2 epic quest line that awaits players involving Thrall, former warchief of the Horde. After the events of Hyjal and the successful thwarting of Ragnaros' invasion, things were quiet for a short while. A meeting between the many heroes of Hyjal, the Earthen Ring, and the dragon aspects took place at Nordrassil, where Thrall's fate was severely changed.

We'll talk about it more after the break, which has some spoilers for those who are concerned about such things.

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Filed under: Lore, Cataclysm

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