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This Expansion has relied a lot on word of mouth, far more than any one previously. It has also been intractably established that, whenever a patch releases, there’ll be stuff within that hasn’t been data-mined. Certain events and items have become the worst kept secrets in Azeroth, yet vast numbers of players won’t know they exist until someone else discovers them, and everyone else reports it. Welcome to a World of Puzzles, frustration and rewards that gain unique prestige in a whole new manner.

The poll above asks whether you’re aware of 7.3’s most recent reveal, the Lucid Nightmare mount. Of the 27% of people who didn’t know or care, some thought it was a raid, others simply had no interest in being told. Someone DM-d me to point out that if the ‘secret’ has been solved less than a week after 7.3 launched, then this experiment next time should be made more complex, or the Devs need to change their tack. I have to say, there’s a measure of personal agreement with that pronouncement.

riddler

I hang around with people quite close to the sharp end of Warcraft ‘discovery’ and find myself wondering how much that knowledgeable percentage above would drop as you move away from the players doing the solving. What these secrets are showing, in effect, is twofold: allowing early adopters a chance to deconstruct puzzles ‘live’ and in real time, meaning everyone benefits from a glorious ‘undiscovered’ early burst of exploration. Once the inevitable Guides are written… well, that takes us back to the glory days before major MMO sites, with the feeling that anyone could end up being credited for exposing something special.

Except, of course, it’s still an elegantly crafted version of exactly the same content you’d get with a ‘commercial’ Guide. The only difference is that the big guys report only when the minority’s hunt is complete. With my cynic’s hat on, I can’t help but personally think we’ve just uncovered this patch’s version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. I understand only too well the enjoyment such exercises give to others, but the fact remains this is still only a game, played in this case by a very select few. In a certain light, one could consider it live play testing for future content.

It has become almost impossible to offer constructive criticism of World of Warcraft: anyone who doesn’t like content or has issue with implementation had best watch their mouths, or they will incur a wrath the like of which is seldom seen outside gaming circles. Having spent many, many months being told that my disagreement with popular opinion was somehow just wrong, often without any explanation as to why, it is clear that the UI and those who make it have become almost sacrosanct. To be critical or contrary puts you in the same boat as trolls and idiots, those who threaten Devs behind anonymous accounts and send destructive, hateful tweets.

The thing is, you can love something and still be critical. It can be helpful to offer instructive, intelligent observation. There are You Tubers and Podcasters who do just this, but the bloggers that used to offer a sensible, objective counterpoint are drifting close to extinction. The words remain in the hands of large, well-funded individuals and organisations who rely on advertising to keep them solvent, and this in itself makes for a different set of editorial decisions to those of us who work at this for love. It has nothing to do with the people involved, or loyalty offered. It is everything to do with what matters long term to keep people paid.

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I am genuinely troubled by the current state of live play, and being told by well meaning ‘friends’ that I should just enjoy myself is not massively helpful. I can be objective and lucid enough to understand what is taking place, how things can look different and yet be exactly the same as they were, and that will be great until too many people see through or object to the issues before everything resets to the last ‘good’ save point. In effect, it is like being in a game, inside a game. Once you’re aware of how everything works, it becomes virtually impossible to recapture that joyous wonder in quite the same way.

Once you know how magic happens, a vital spark of innocence is forever lost.

For some time I kept quiet because I liked not being hated by friends who play, and when you start pointing at the man behind the curtain, many of them (quite justifiably) get aggrieved. Why can’t you just enjoy what you have will get trotted out, followed shortly afterwards by well if it’s so fucking predictable why are you still here? My husband asked yesterday that if he stopped paying a sub could he get his characters back. He’s the benchmark, line in our play sand. There remains no desire for him to take part in a series of end game catch-ups which only serve to make a certain group of players more powerful, the ones that effectively play this game ‘properly.’ We all know that’s the point, especially those of us who have chosen not to take part.

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Looks are no longer greater than stats in this game. That was the joke, back in the day: if it looked great, you wore it and nobody really cared, except of course that was the biggest lie going. Now I’m swayed by 7.3’s amazing vistas and massive upgrades, but when I ran into an Invasion instance Wednesday night expecting a raid there were no character portraits or even a party group. You complained about organised play, so Actiblizz aappear to have removed the other people from your AI creating the perfect illusion of a single player game… but it no longer matters.

In the final, probably most damning change nobody will make a fuss about, because in effect most people simply won’t care, World content’s been neutered. You’re no longer in Azeroth at all, but a carefully engineered series of shards (instanced areas) which pretend to be organic and are anything but. The experience of fighting with others is transposed to small pieces of existing terrain simply redesigned and engineered to offer an illusion of multiple, unreachable worlds. As long as you get a ton of loot, really, who cares?

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This GIF is me, in a nutshell (I’ve got that Austin Powers one too, before you ask.) I choose to remain here because writing about what’s wrong with this game is rapidly becoming one of my main reasons to keep playing. I’m determined to maintain my hobby, and yet at every turn this becomes more and more like a job, and I’m not having it. Some days it is roughly akin to watching everybody else laugh at a joke that makes you uncomfortable. Not one person asks what’s wrong, because if you don’t find this funny, you’re not a Warcraft fan and can just shut the fuck up.

I can love this game and still be critical. For a while, I had a job that prevented that from happening, but I no longer write that column any more. If you pay for my Patreon, I can officially attest this blog NOT part of that deal, isn’t mentioned in the literature and is off the grid when it comes to input that isn’t mine. However, some of you can’t see the reality I live in, and are unable to make the distinction. That’s cool, I’m not doing this for you anyway. This goes out to the people who understand, and for my own particular enjoyment, as that is what writing this post has most certainly been.

Breaks over, kids. Alt’s back.

Time to say what I see.

One thought on “Secrets and Lies

  1. Word of mouth and secret stuff – hasn’t this always been the way with gaming? I remember buying Crash! to get tips, find out secret stuff – hell back then it even was near enough the only way to get an in game map. We traded maps, tips, cheats (and copied tapes) at shcool – we had a social network around gaming way before i recall Fax machines being common, let alone the internet.

    I moved onto a Sega magazine, and then a PC magazine came with a CD and a cheats and tips data base. I know this is not the same as a mount that you haven’t heard of using instructions that need a guide, but in some respects I think it is how gaming can make use of the internet. In a game datamined for spooilers and PTR doing the same, some secrets are good. And introduces hard to get stuff without gating it behind top level raiding.

    It could irritate me but doesn’t. Why? Largely due to finding a small but vibrant, friendly and supportive guild. We’re organising a Lucid Nightmare night when we’ll go together. Someone in the guild spotted the instructions and posted them into our Discord (which I think has grown up alongside Legion to be immensly useful), and i think this type of secret helps build commuity – the right kind of community, and for me goes someway to repairing the damage done by Mythic raiding breaking up many medium to small guilds in Warlords.

    The UI could be better, there should be an active development where Blizz is taking the most popular add ons and making them part of the core experience – like Valve taking over CS. Nothing wrong with a complex game having a complex and deep UI provided the games works witha simple one and you can turn on advanced options.

    I’m hopefull that as so many other aspects of the game have been fixed in Legion that the UI is on their list. It needs to be modular, let people choose advanced or standard modes (so as not to piss anyone who likes ht ecurrnt one off) and still allow addons to completely replace it.

    Like

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