One Giant Leap
Jan 28, 2009 15:59:18

By Julie Whitefeather
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" - Neil Armstrong, July 21, 1969

When Neil Armstrong, very much a modern day Magellan, uttered these words as he stepped down onto the surface of the moon for the first time, the way we saw the universe was changed forever. Yet, in retrospect, it is easy to forget about the turmoil that ran through society during the sixties in the figure of the Viet Nam War.

Using a bit of dramatic license we can easily see an analogous situation in online gaming communities now - No subject amongst gamers seems to cause as much turbulence, as much heated debate, and just nasty behavior as the Activision/Blizzard's World of Warcraft (WoW). Love it or hate it, the 800 pound Blizzard Gorilla seems to leave NO ONE with "no opinion". Truly hell has no fury as a gamer whose game has been scorned, and that seems especially true of WoW players. I have had WoW players hurl anger and angst at me when I scorn WoW. Yet if I praise WoW and Blizzard those same players ignore the praise, while Warhammer Online (WAR) players get their dander up faster than a cat in a room full of pit bulls.

Still, whether you love WoW or hate WoW, and even if you are all set to burn Rob Pardo and Jeff Kaplan in effigy, there is no denying one thing - phase technology, as Blizzard has introduced us to in the Wrath of the Lich King (Wotlk), is one of those giant leaps in gaming. Here is an excerpt from a recent review by PC Gamer's, Adam Oxford:
"But Blizzard's story telling is front and center more than ever before, thanks to something it terms 'phase technology.' With it, two people can be in the same region at the same time and see two totally different things...Finally your actions in WoW are no longer meaningless; the universe can and will be different after your actions without breaking the game for players of lower level. That's a pretty big step forward." - Adam Oxford, PC Gamer Magazine

Ironically, Mythic Entertainment's now famous front man, Paul Barnett, was quick to tell us all how public quests were that giant leap forward. In an interview in Beckett Massive Online Gamer magazine, prior to the release of WAR, we were told "public quests are one of those things that pass my genius test." He went on to tell us how "public quests will change the face of MMOs forever."

In the end, as grandmother used to say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

What looked good on paper, what seemed to work in beta, is a far cry different from actual practice now that the game has been out awhile - with the early levels of WAR all but deserted, public quests without enough players are like a car without fuel: it doesn't run without gas (or players) to power it.

I am sure at some point that someone will point to another game and say "they did phase technology first". Heck, who knows, it may even be me. But whether Blizzard originated it or adopted it, the fact remains that phase technology IS that giant leap forward that will change the face of MMOs forever.

Many is the time that I have played through a raid instance or quest line to finally defeat the "boss" only to come face to face with that same boss at a later time. The same thing always passes my mind when this happens: "Didn't I already defeat you?" I have heard columnists and players alike complain about not being able to have a permanent affect on the virtual world of the game they are playing.

Now that can all change.

For those of you who have completed the "Wrath Gate" quest line in Wrath of the Lich King (no spoilers here) you will have seen that it has a very permanent affect on the land of Northrend (the new land mass in Wotlk). Yet if you have not completed this quest line you will not see parts of Northrend the way I do. In fact some of it will be completely different. This presents interesting possibilities that Blizzard seems to have only begun to explore. I can only imagine how the developers that worked on phase technology must feel about it, but the words of Rick Ellis, head of Monolith, may just express it:
"The next time you are playing and have a strong reaction to a game, as you walk away from your experience, know that somewhere, there is a developer with a Joker-like grin on his or her face, basking in the knowledge that their work made you jump, scream, or cry." - Rick Ellis, Head of Monolith

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Jan 28, 2009 15:59:18 CST (comments: 2)


'WOTLK is great' by Eli
Submitted on 2009-01-28 18:23:41 CST
WOTLK is great, I gotta give Blizzard credit. The did a LOT of things right with this expansion. They moved xp gains 70-80 from grinding, which gives weak xp, to quests, which you can turn in 10 of at a time for 20k xp apiece. They added vehicles, which are a blast and the basis for much WOTLK content and fun. They abolished Heroic dungeon keys forever and started the Raids simple, so it\'s never been easier to get in with your existing toon and get geared up for the Tier 8 and 9 content coming up. They put in a lot more quests where you have to use items on items instead of just killing x number of mobs and coming back. They added scripted encounters to the world, where the most elaborate thing you\'d see in the past was an escort quest. They made the world denser, designed the City of Dalaran to be almost perfect, and all wrapped up in a new graphics engine that looks totally fantastic. Now if only they could understand pvp or class design, the game would be that much better.

P.S. The quote is actually \"That\'s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.\" It\'s just hard to hear. :)

'Phasing rocks' by jasoneth
Submitted on 2009-02-02 21:29:16 CST
You're right, phasing is a fundamentally good idea, in that it gives a kind of permanence to one's actions in a persistent world... at least from your own point of view. Given it's a share world, with everyone who's questing doing the same set of tasks, this limitation makes perfect sense. The Wrath Gate quest line is memorable for me because of it. It's a shame that Blizzard didn't make more use of it in WotLK, though as you say they're just beginning to explore its possibilities.

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