Monday, December 1, 2008

"Phasing" is Dumb

Here's something I don't really understand: everyone with their panties in a bunch over this "new technology" Blizzard has decided to grace us with for Wrath. It's called Phasing, and is basically putting your player in an instance. Is that new? Revolutionary? Hardly. I've been in instances in WoW since I first ran a dungeon, and I seem to remember people complaining back then that instances ruined the overall 'one world' feeling. While I don't hate instancing in WoW's current implementation, I don't understand why everyone is suddenly so goo-goo ga-ga over this 'new' version of it.

First of all, instancing. I think it's a good thing, because if there was one version of Wailing Caverns for the entire world to farm blues out of, every. single. mob. in there would be camped to death. You simply can't have "a cave" in the world where bosses hide out and not expect EQ1 style 48 hour camping of the mob's spawn point so it can be instantly tapped and killed. That's not fun. Having your own little version of the dungeon available to everyone that wants to run it is a good thing. When I pass through the swirly doorway, I know I'm in my own little parallel dimension of WoW, and don't expect to see my guild mates that are also running the same dungeon in a different group.

This is thrown on its face when we're phased into a different area in the outside world, and we begin to see things that those around us don't. Certain quest giving NPCs are only visible if you're at that point in the chain, which seems like it would lead to confusion in group chat when "he's standing right in fucking front of you" but the other guy doesn't see it. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the concept of it, feel free to correct me. My limited exposure to it has been the starting area of the Death Knights, and the Wrath Gate quest line. If you've been living under a rock for the last month or so, the next few paragraphs may contain spoilers, whatever.

With the Death Knights, the area surrounding Ebon Hold changes over the course of your questing, from 'a regular Tyr's Hand style zone', to 'a flaming Tyr's Hand style zone'. It's my understanding that the only other player characters you'll come across are people in the same point in the DK starting chain. So if you're three quests in and the barn is on fire and you see Sally, she's three quests in and the barn is on fire for her, too. If your friend Thomas is only two quests in and the barn is still just a barn, he won't see you or Sally, even though you're all 'standing on the east side of the barn, next to the well'. This technology is being praised as 'finally giving your surrounding areas a sense of change' but the change is only on YOUR screen (and Sally's). It's not a real change to the outside world, and in fact, Thomas will tell you "the barn is totally fine, what the fuck are you going on about?"

Therein lies my main issue with it. Either actually change the world, or don't, but don't do this 'persons 1, 5, and 12 see this, while 3, 7, and 9 see that' kind of crap.

The other implementation of phasing I've come across is the Wrath Gate questline, which is apparently giving lore-nerds all over the world huge raging erections, but for me personally was just a big 'whoop de doo'. I'm going to totally ruin this quest in full detail to make a few points, so you've been warned.

The Wrath Gate questline is supposed to be some big interaction with the Lich King himself, which it kind of is. Blizz is trying to make you, as the player, more intimately aware of (and involved in) the end game conflict, so when you reach the final battle you aren't like "Illidan? He's an elf, right? I think I saw him show up for some quest dialog text in Shadowmoon Valley once". That's cool, I can dig it. I just dinged 79 on my lock last night, and decided I'd undertake this epic quest line and ride it out as a straight shot to 80. In order to actually start the 'actual' quest line, you need to have finished a bunch of minor (somewhat unrelated) quest lines in various zones first. Looking at wowwiki, I realized I was already on the last leg of the last required chain anyway, so it wouldn't be so hard to get this ball rolling. I knocked out the last of Alexstraza's requests in Dragon Blight, and was finally sent to report in to Young Saurfang at the Wrath Gate itself.

Once there, the game suddenly shifts to a cutscene that I had already heard much ranting and raving about in guild vent and general posts on forums or whatever. I was expecting full Blizzard cinematic intro like when you start the game for the first time... like 'Final Fantasy the Movie' kinda stuff, a fully rendered cut scene. Instead, you're given a machimina style thing using the ingame engine. Okay... that's cool, whatever, let's see what happens. Huh, it's like alliance guys going on and on about something, but I'm a Hordie... oh! There's the Horde! Go team! Young Saurfang cleaving three elites in the face, woo!

Then it gets weird... the Lich King comes out and one shots Young Saurfang, and is about to one shot the alliance guy, when who should show up to kick everyone's ass but the FORSAKEN, my home team?! Not the SCOURGE, who are the bad buys, but the FORSAKEN, who are the whole undead playable race. Yet this is somehow a bad thing, because those dirty undead are totally jerks for wanting to kill the alliance and Lich King, and anyone alive.

Okay stop. Just hold on.

I know this is an article about phasing, but I've really kinda branched off here and need to tie this off. I'm undead. Every toon I roll is an undead girl with the same hair color, hair syle, skin color and face as the last one. I roll another Isobelle, and just choose a new class. I roll undead, exclusively. I can break fear, eat dead people, and have a bonus +10 to shadow resist on all of my toons. That's me, the one with no skin on my knees or elbows. Ever since I left my starting area, and ventured to Brill, I've been on one quest or another to create the 'new plague' that will wipe out EVERYONE. Yeah, we're Horde, but that's just a convenience thing. It's like a black guy who says "Yeah, I'm a democrat, but I'm black first and foremost".

One of my main quest themes throughout the entire game, given to me by my undead bretheren, has been to formulate this new plague. It's meant to be a way for the undead to eradicate the Scourge (the 'bad undead'), as well as the humans, elves, dwarves, trolls, orcs... pretty much anything other than themselves. Yeah, it's kinda dick, but that's MY TEAM. So here comes my team, chucking finished buckets of the new plague on everyone, and even the Lich King himself runs like a little ol' bitch back into his castle and locks the door behind him. Hooray! We win! Right...?


I'm instructed to go through some portal to Ogrimmar to meet with Thrall, and discuss how we can beat up the undead. Call me crazy, but if a portal to the Ku Klux Klan's headquarters opened up, and young Dwayne A. Black was instructed to go through the portal to discuss how to 'set those blacks straight' how would this go over? Here's an idea, let's have a portal to Auschwitz open up, and send the Jew thru it so he can figure out how to make the Nazis win! Bad analogies aside, why would I want to go fight the Undead, when I AM UNDEAD? Maybe it makes more sense as a troll? Probably makes way more sense as a human. Whatever.

I go to see Thrall in a phased version of Ogrimmar where the bank works, but there are no vendors or anyone that can repair my gear, oddly. Even more strange is that the trade channel still works, so in between every line of 'important lore dialog' I get spammed for gold sales, people announcing all the crap they just put on the AH, and the usual routine of dick and fart jokes. Plus there are dozens of forsaken refugees laying around and SLEEPING all over Ogrimmar. That's the undead for ya, a buncha lazy good for nothing leechers. God! This is 'my own phased version of Ogrimmar', so there are no other actual players, and I have to wonder if anyone else was on the same quest part if I would have seen them as well?

Thrall and Sylvanas (some ex-elf tramp calling herself a banshee queen, and claiming to be a FORSAKEN herself) now decide we need to kick the Undead's asses, because they've managed to take over the Undercity... you know, our CAPITOL CITY? So here comes ol' Ixxobelle the Undead Warlock, ready to sell my whole race out to get on Thrall's Christmas card mailing list or whatever. We port to another phased version of the Undercity. Just for kicks, I ran to Brill just to see if there was an 'edge' to the phasing, and found no NPCs anywhere. At the UC, though, demons are everywhere, and the ground is covered with plague gasses. A mysterious 5 minute timer begins, so I stand around for 300 seconds just... uhhh... waiting. I assume this gives anyone else on the questline a chance to 'join me' in the ransacking of my hometown, but being in Japan, I was doing this at odd hours during the server, so no one else popped in. As time goes on, I reckon it'll be more and more rare for anyone to happen to line up on this one quest at the exact same time, unless two friends actively decide to line it up.

Next comes the 'fun' part. Sylvanas starts to sing, which gives me like 44k health and basically unlimited heals, and Thrall and her walk painfully slowly through the Undercity, mopping up demons and fighting a boss or two. This whole part is the biggest boner-giver to everyone that seems to have done this quest, but for me it was just long and tedious. I started out in earnest, throwing Seeds of Corruption around and spamming Searing Pain, until I realized that I was basically in God Mode and couldn't die. Then I tried to kill myself by just running into the densest pack of big mobs I could find and just Hellfiring over and over.
I couldn't die, no XP was being awarded, and Thrall and Sylvanas kept walking as slow as possible while emoting the same things over and over (Sylvanas: My aim be true! My aim be true! My aim be true! My aim be ---aguahgahghg shut the fuck up!). At this point, I just took my weapon off, started leveling my unarmed skill, and played with the talent calculator in Wowhead on my 2nd monitor and trying to figure out what spec I was going to use at 80.
Call me jaded, but there was no point for me being there, nothing I did had any impact at all, and there was no fear of dying. On top of that, I was still a little pissed about the lack of choice in selling out my race. I was being forced to be Thrall's Bitch, and there was nothing I could do about it.

In the end, it was basically a HUGE drawn out interactive cutscene showing how Thrall and Sylvanas 'took back' the Undercity, I recieved a pair of trashy blue pants that were garbage compared to what I was wearing, and the whole ordeal netted me something like 3% of a level for something like an hour plus of playtime. I could have gotten more XP / reward / fun out of doing a single 5 man run, and wouldn't have been forced to crap all over my race in the process. After it's all done, the mysterious 5 minute timer pops back up saying 'this event will reset in 5 min'. No thanks!

So now it's over, and what's changed? The Undercity, Ogrimmar and the rest of the world went right back to exactly how it was before. There's one change I could imagine that may have taken place, but I'm at work right now and can't log in to check. Can you guess what it is? It's pretty minor! The only change I could imagine that would make any sense at all would be the Young Suarfang NPC being gone forever from outside of the Wrath Gate. The site of the big conflict, where the undead chucked the barrels of poison down on everyone below got razed by dragons after the whole ordeal, and maybe that area of the map is burned from now on for me, but I'll have to check when I get home tonight. If that's the case, we run into the paradox thing from before where I'm in a group with someone who hasn't done that questline yet and I'm like "wow that area sure is burned, huh?" and he's like "huh? looks fine to me".

Conan was reviled for it's random instancing of the outside world, where you and your friend would need to join Conall Valley 34a to see each other, or you could just jump over to 37b if you got ganked once in world PvP. Warhammer ran into some flack earlier on for having your cloak and some emotes appear differently to yourself and other players. At guild level 15, you could put a guild logo of sorts on your cloak, but after a while people realized only YOU saw this (the cloak has since been changed after enough people cried about it). Having 'local client-side only' effects kinda defeats the purpose... like you could do a model swap to make your lame level 1 1h mace look like Thunderfury, but only YOU see it, so what's the point? Warhammer emotes apparently weren't even visiable at all to other players which COMPLETELY defeats the point. A cloak? Whatever. But if you're going to /wave, and have it only show up on YOUR screen? It's a slippery slope.

With the whole phasing thing, I feel like this is a bad path to go down, because the more people that are like "hey! I love this new thing where the world changes, who cares if it's only for me!", then Blizzard feels like this is an okay solution to add immersion to the outside world. Maybe later, in your version of the world Ogrimmar has burned down, but I'm still standing inside the AH, doing my thing. All that's going to do is separate people from one another. I'd much rather prefer that Ogrimmar burned down for everyone.

And I'm not just saying that because Thrall's a jerk that thinks all the Undead are sellout shits. Seriously. : /


Anonymous said...

Iso I've been following you for the past couple years and i love your posts.

Now about wow. Honestly I've never played such a poorly thought out game. I haven't purchased WoTLK and I'm holding off until Darkfall comes out. my wow subscription went down after Kara and i don't think it will be coming back up.

I still enjoy reading the changes they've made though your point of view, keep it up

Anonymous said...

Sorry its late, i said ISO



Anonymous said...

Single player MMO for the win!

It's hard enough to not label it all a giant timesink in which we could all be learning other languages or rocket science, but to waste time only for me to see... damn that's lame.

Anonymous said...

/listen to rant

Sorry man but you are way out of line here. You consistantly argue for more realism in your MMOs whether it be in trade skills or quest progression. So lets examine the flip side of the argument you are making:

Orc leader X wants you to torch Barn Y. In non-phased events you would walk up to an already burning barn that has been torched 584,082 times in the past 3 hours and you would, you guessed it, throw a torch on it, to complete your quest.

And you say phasing makes no sense...

I agree that Bliz needs to be careful to not apply this concept to liberally or the entire concept of reality in game comes undone. However for quest lines like Wrath Gate or even in Icecrown I feel this tactic has been used with a great deal of care.

It is obviously more complex to code, design, and implement. So to that degree Bliz again gets points for trying something innovative and not just resting on their laurels *cough* TBC *cough*.

Your point about the forsaken is taken with a grain of salt. I mean on the one hand I see where you say undead would side with their undead brethren. On the other though Thrall and Sylv have to keep the Horde entact, losing the forsaken would be devastating (GDI I hate talking lore). So they need to keep those boys in line. Besides I got screens of my retardin critting for 43k, thats worth at least something :P

Hatch said...

I like phasing. I think it's the most elegant solution they could come up with for the problem: "I want the player to be able to see him/herself change the world, but I can't have 11 million people all changing the world." As long as they keep using it sparingly, it's good.

But it does have some major, infuriating cons. The most important quest hub at 80, Dun Niffelheim (rep with the faction based here, Sons of Hodir, is the only way to get pve shoulder enchants), is phased in multiple steps. The entire area where you do dailies is phased, like, 5 times. What this means is that now that I've done this long questline to unlock the dailies on my rogue, I can no longer help my healer friend complete the questline to unlock the dailies herself. So that sucks. They really should have planned that better.

As for the Forsaken thing...I think it was more the apothecary society always telling you to make a plague, and not really the Forsaken establishment themselves. They were basically an evil offshoot faction within the Forsaken, and that's what you wipe out, and you actually put the Forsaken in charge of Undercity again, rather than the DEMONS that were controlling it when you, Thrall, and Sylvanas showed up. You may have noticed that you were fighting demons and Scourge, not Forsaken, for control of Undercity. Sylvanas has been the queen of Undercity since the game came out. She's undead, just like you, just happens to have started out as an elf and not had her entire face rot off yet. :)

But they really could have explained that in-game a whole lot better. Also, the questline leading up to the Wrathgate was oddly unrelated to the ending, and the assault on Undercity was tedious as hell and could have stood to be about 1/10th of the length and, like, vaguely dangerous rather than making you immortal.

Rich said...

godstorm: hehe, the "ixo" thing is actually relatively new. i wrote as (and had my first toon named) isobelle for a long time. was already taken (go there, it's totally blank, gg), as was after making a bunch of alts (izobelle, issobelle, isxobelle, ixobelle), i made my rogue my main (ixobelle), and that name is never taken, anywhere, so there ya go.

regarding phasing / wrath gate: i know we were fighting big demons, but clearing to the demon bosses was a bunch of little undead chicks with the bride of frankenstein hairdo. like, regular undead. it just felt silly to be hellfiring them down, but then again, when you think about it, the other races have been dealing with this quandry for a while now ("bad orcs" in UBRS, "bad trolls" in ZG, ZA, ZF, Z-whatever). i guess it's about time I kill some undead, too :(

The phasing thing still feels like i'm throwing a torch at the same barn over and over again, though. i think it just splinters the playerbase, as noted with the questhub thing mentioned where the rogue can't help their friend anymore... although the same thing happened with the ogrila faction earlier on, where after becoming friendly with the ogres, you couldn't help your friend catch up.

i don't really need to feel like *I PERSONALLY* need to have an effect on the world at large. i'd just like the world to change from time to time for everyone. it could be a scripted event, or something players work together for... i just want to log in one day, and find a smoking crater where the UC used to be (that EVERYONE SEES), and have to ask in general chat "/1 wtf happened to the UC lol?", and have another player fill me in. that creates a social experience, without any single player needing to be the one that CAUSED it.

no means nomad said...

I would agree that Wrath Gate is dumb. At no point is it interesting on any other level than the story they're trying to tell there, and given World of Warcraft's track record they should probably just assume that nobody really thinks text bubble orc exposition is all that interesting.

Phasing as a whole however made leveling very enjoyable to me. World of Warcraft has moved further and further away from the actual world you level in. Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor are barren besides for a few mid-30 night elf hunters. Outlands exists solely to acclimate Death Knights to the game and feels extremely removed from the rest of universe. Even most Northrend zones will burn out after people finish leveling.

People confine themselves to two cities (one with an auction house and Dalaran), and then fly miles above the landscape or get teleported straight to instances, PvP zones, and raids. More and more the actual world of WoW is becoming a single player game that exists as the entry barrier to raiding and PvP, two things that avoid the game world completely and rely on instances.

Someone not seeing the same thing is not really a big deal any more. Two people see two different things at Wrath Gate? The real question is who the fuck cares? Why would anyone go back there unless they plan on putting a raid entrance there in a future patch.

Don't judge phasing based on Wrath Gate. It doesn't utilize it well. Zul'Drak, Storm Peaks, and Icecrown all effectively use phasing. You can raid cities that later end up becoming home bases for you, and are able to actually benefit from questing on a level beyond earning gold (something you can easily find in many other places). Instead phasing allows you to unlock new factions, daily quests, towns, flight points, etc.

I see phasing as a way to create more diversity between the player base in a way that doesn't really segregate them while giving questing it's own set of rewards. I'm much more likely to finish off the remaining quests I have after hitting the level cap in Wrath of the Lich King than I did in Burning Crusade because of it.

Anonymous said...

I'm half and half on this one. On the one hand, I was also disappointed by the cinematic, since I avoided all spoilers for it and didn't expect the kinda lame looking machinima thing. Was hoping for something as impressive as the proper cinematics. The whole slow march through UC in god mode also got a bit tedious.

However it was a real story with a real reason for being there. This wasn't the usual "Complete quest, hologram of Illidan says something cryptic, 4 gold and some gloves". This was a game changer in the 'story' of WoW.

If you're not into that sort of thing, yeah you're not going to enjoy it. Unless the reward was an upgrade there's nothing for you there.

The thing with the undead was, as far as I could gather, that a bunch of them (under varimathras and putress) wanted to kill *everyone*. Not just Arthas and the Alliance, but every fucker.

But the real kicker for me was the teaser of reigniting the Horde/Ally war. An actual war and not the uneasy truce we have now. Just like you I always roll horde (usually undead). The bit at the end with the Allys showing up actually made me think "Wrynn is a fucking dick, I want to tear him a new one now". Not that we'll see any repercussions of that for a while, but it was hopefully a teaser for more to come.

I'm not much of a huge lorenerd but WoW has some interesting stories and characters. I enjoyed the story they told with it, even if the overall event was a little sub-par. It was an interesting distraction and a nice surprise.

As for phasing, you're missing it a little bit, because it's not instances. When you're standing "next" to someone on a different stage, you are actually standing right next to them, not in a different instance. You just can't see them. I think if you play around on private servers you'd find that it's possible to see everything at once, 3 thralls wandering around in his throne room, people doing the Underity event next to bank alts.

You weren't in an instanced Orgrimmar or Undercity, you were in the same city as everyone else but they were hidden from view.

Also if you've done the quest chain, Varimathras is gone. If you didn't do his quests with that character, too bad. You killed him.

So yeah, could have been better but it was a nice change of pace.

Anonymous said...

You have some good points, phasing is lame when it stops you from helping a mate. But its still the only way to have some change in the game. It was cool to see something going on in the capital cities for a change, and something to actually happen when you do quests, as opposed to burning barns and the same barns being fine anyway.

The battle for uc was too long, but I think john q gamer who just does 5 mans and bgs would have a fit when he got to shadowbolt things for 50k for a change, or maybe not.

For the wow haters who seem to appear from time to time on blogger, sure you may hate wow, but its hard to disagree with the masses who love it, espically when you say your off to play random crappy mmo #343.

For the time sink person, do you come home from a long hard days work and learn a language ? or play tennis or rocket science ? Ok you might do it one night a week, but what do you do the rest ? play xbox or watch tv ? replace those with wow and you pretty much have most people, its not a waste of time if it was already going to be wasted.

Anonymous said...

You're dumb, I hate your face and phasing is the most awesome bonerific thing to ever happen to wow. YOU SUCK!

Rich said...



Anonymous said...

So....if this is the big "innovation" in WOTLK, I am really dissapointed. Most of the other "new" ideas are more stealing of games workshop ideas, and the one thing that is "innovative" seems like it is pretty lame.

Tom Phoenix said...

Yes and WAR did not "steal" a single concept from WoW and other MMO`s, right?

Also, the game was created by (EA) Mythic. Games Workshop only contributed as far as the setting is concerned.

Anyway, I personally like phasing. It has it`s downsides, but at least it allows you the feeling that you are actually affecting the world around you. I do not know about Wrathgate (I have not been able to play much), but I did really enjoy the Death Knight questline.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm well i see your point...

Phasing suxx and I agree the changes should go for the whole world... Sometimes I wonder when you have to complete quests which have the terms "erradicate" and "exterminate some poor mob soul" why the hell do I see them spawning endlessly... but whatever.

Oh and seriously... with the introduction of the "space-ranger" draenei and the kill of "our favorite stars from WC3 (Illidan, Kael and Vashj) the lore really started to suck... "how the heck can u kill a god with 40ppl?"

What about blood elves killing blood elves in Azshara? kek

But then again... "/care" about the lore of some fictional game...

Danshir said...

I have to agree with ya on a lot of your points Ixobelle. Phasing is shallow attempt at atmosphere and the "You can actually affect the game world" mechanic that I think many MMORPG players have been wanting. Really though it just highlights that your playing a mindless grinding game.

It's a shame considering the Warcraft RTS series had a solid storyline. What I would give for a MMO that actually made you felt like your actions meant something.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you on this. This phasing is a really nice way to immerse yourself further in the storyline. It seems like a lot of your complaint is that the reward (xp and loot) wasn't worth the time invested.

This was their first implementation of it, and they did a fine job. I'm looking forward to seeing how much further blizzard can take this concept. What they could do better is explain to the player base what phasing is. Until I read this article I wasn't aware of it; I had assumed I was in a huge instance.

I'm alliance, and I was able to enter the instance inside Org and get the acheivement for the place.

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading after you questioned why you're undead self is asked to stop the undead plague. Sylvanas is your fucking leader first of all. Second varimathras and the fag plague brewer betrayed sylvanas. When you helped them make that poison in the low levels you didn't know it was behind sylvanas back I guess but it was. They betrayed the forsaken to kill off everyone and everything, thats not what sylvanas (forsaken leader) wanted. So of course your going to go out and kill them to clear up your factions name. Now you can continue to be a whiney cry baby bitch that complains about everything like "phasing" its not special, its not new, but its something new to wow to help make the game more dynamic. stop complaining or make your own fucking game.

Rich said...

the saddest part about trolls is that they won't "Becoming back" to read the followups.

while i wish you had bothered to read further, to realize that the whole point of the forsaken is to kill off everyone excluding themselves (the orcs & trolls, and 'fellow' horde included), we're punished for having it come halfway to fruition. I know the whole lore behind sylvanas, i even read the silly WoW books by Knaak. I just think it's silly that she's too busy groveling before Thrall to realize Putrice and Varimathras are actually getting shit done towards that goal, demons or not.

the whole stop complaining or make your own fucking game is trite. I've got more articles up on the NEW blog here on how to improve tired concepts in MMOs that keep being implemented for the sake of following the 'code'. I tried to click your name and read YOUR blog but alas, you're content enough to just complain on mine, so...


Anonymous said...

Just had to add this:

It is actually possible to die during the Undercity event. On the boss in de torturing area I somehow pulled aggro by dpsing, and he oneshotted me... so I had to corpserun. Didn't fail the event though, I guess it was ok for me to die.

That'll be all

Cheers, Gouka