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Posts Tagged ‘blizzard’

I’ve been having a great time playing Starcraft 2′s campaign this week – I was really bummed to only get one mission done last night but I had some trouble with it and had to restart. Sure, I’m playing easy mode but I still feel like I’m playing the game.

Anyway as we’re getting flashbacks and cinematics explaining who Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, is, and what’s she’s up to, little “this seems familiar” bells are going off. Powerful female warrior, risks everything in defense of her cause, then defeated, left to die – but no, it’s worse, instead she is transformed into what she most hates and becomes the embodiment and leader of it? Hmmm. Sylvanas, is that you?

Now some Forsaken loyalists may accuse me of being unfair with my further characterizations here but bear with me.

I’m a writer. I work on novels sometimes (like in November; plug for http://www.nanowrimo.org, National Novel Writing Month). I’m totally into characters and characterization, and I’m loving Starcraft for the amount of character interaction they put into each little cut scene. Each character is recognizable and different and the way Raynor interacts with everyone on his ship is great – each interaction is slightly different. He doesn’t talk to his old friend the way he talks to a new ally. It’s awesome.

So why, oh why, are the very few female roles so – well – weak? I’m not talking about how apparently women are medics or fly med transports (or, yes, the Banshees. Yeah.) Or the way the medics speak – dripping with innuendo even in innocent lines. Whatever. The Thor sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger; they’re not going for realism.

So far in Starcraft, I’ve encountered three females: one mercenary who I had a mission to pay off (she was creepy as hell and hasn’t been seen since), the aforementioned Queen of undead Blades, and a scientist chick who I had along for a while. Now, when it came time for her to leave, I had a choice of missions and I picked the one that lead to her [spoiler!] getting turned in a zerg and killed. So that doesn’t help my perception of the game so far.

Then look at World of Warcraft. I can think of precisely two female leader-hero type characters: Sylvanas and Jaina. Jaina may not be a victim-villain-bitch, but she’s not much to recommend her sex either. We’re talking about a character whose defining characteristic is “I used to date Arthas and I abandoned him at Stratholme and feel guilty as hell about it”. Realistic character? Maybe so; I think feeling guilty is reasonable and I liked Jaina just fine up until the Halls of Reflection, where she went all angsty -”No, I must know if he can be redeemed!” Since then, I’ve seen her once, showing up after we kill Saurfang and being Varian’s cheerleader-slash-mommy, simultaneously patronizing the leader of the Alliance and demeaning herself.

Where are the women with stories as complicated and interesting as Thrall, as Tirion Fordring, heck, even as compelling as Thassarian or Varian Wrynn?

My guess is it just doesn’t occur to the writers that there’s anything missing. Kerrigan, Sylvanas and Jaina are all powerful women. They lead factions or movements, wield power, stand toe-to-toe with male counterparts, yes – but as characters, they are ridiculous caricatures. And they don’t have to be. Blizzard does an awesome job creating stories in a medium that doesn’t lend itself to real character development. You’ll never confuse Thrall with Garrosh, Tirion Fordring with Darion Mograine – so could they take just a little of that ability, maybe talk to a woman or two, and create a woman who isn’t a victim?

Or am I just being overly critical?

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As mentioned previously, Reversion and I have rolled alts on Argent Dawn to be part of Single Abstract Noun, the blogger guild. I started a druid, and he started a gnome rogue, and as we levelled 1-10 in separate zones, we  started having similar complaints.

“Where’s the quests? I’m level 6 and all the mobs are level 8.”

“I know I need to go here next, but there’s no quest telling me that.”

“All the quest stuff is filling up my one bag”

“Wow, you die easy without heirlooms.”

It had been a while since we had levelled without heirlooms, or not together, or not as draeni, and while it was not really difficult, it got us talking. So this morning I rolled a draeni paladin and compared the experiences I had with my night elf druid and my draeni paladin.

Parameters:

Classes I know well

No heirlooms, no help beyond my addons (no quest help beside the built in quest helper)

Same level range

Darnassus versus Azuremyst Isle

Experience:

Both zones start off with a “kill some of these critters” quest. Nice and easy – the critters are right there and Blizzard puts your abilities right on the action bar. After that you get a few more quests. I found the Azuremyst quests very nicely sequence, where I could complete all the quests I could pick up at the same time. On the other hand, the Darnassus quests often had me covering the same ground three or more times.

Equipment: in the first five levels, my draeni quests gave me a four slot bag and a fishing pole. I know they’ve increased the drop rate on small bags, and in fact both my alts have full sets of 6 slot bags, but awarding one as a quest reward is a nice touch, and the fishing pole was awesome.

Where to go next:  Azuremyst led me by the hand. Darnassus took figuring out.

Mobs: All critters in the 1-5 area are now yellow.  The first red mob for my draeni was at the fishing quest when a murloc popped out! I could see a complete newbiew being very surprised by this. Darnassus has several spots where the mob respawn rate seemed bugged and I was hard pressed to get out.

The Cave: All the 1-10 zones seem to have one or two cave complexes where you’ll go in, kill a named guy,  and come out. In Darnassus you have a cave full of demons where you kill a guy who turns into a cat, and a barrow where you wander around for eight years looking for four relics. In Azuremyst you have  a  cave full of nagas where you kill the boss, and a cave full of furbolgs where you kill the named boss, 9 others, and the Kraken hound. The Azuremyst versions were considerably easier and less frustrating. I never did finish the Darnassus version.

Quest rewards: About the same, slightly better (and better named!) gear in Azuremyst

Professions: Most professions could be learned at Azure Watch. About the same for the Darnassus hub, There’s no ore in Darnassus of course, while you can learn anything at Azure Watch.

Summing up:  a brand new player is going to have a much easier time in the draeni area compared to old world zones. I had some guild members talk about Azuremyst being “hand holding” or “spoonfeeding” and they’re right, but I think Blizzard has realized just how many players come to the game with NO previous MMO experience, heck, often no game experience at all. Before WoW, my major game experience was in Civ II. Not hardly the same. I’d have had a much easier time if the draeni area had been there.

In fact I think they need to make the first ten levels even more user friendly. If you’re still getting used to cameras, looting, and using your abilities, there are a number of things that can be annoying. Even experienced players can miss things when they roll a new class. For instance, we ran with a player last night who didn’t have her paladin res; there’s a quest you have to do at 12 to get it, and if you don’t know that, it’s easy to miss the quest.

After I get to 20 on both alts, I’m going to come back and finish comparing the two sequences. I don’t think it’s as drastic but I do have some really nasty things to say about Loch Modan, designers, and getting eaten by many many mobs at once.

(My two alts are Analogue the druid, and Annalogue the paladin, both on Argent Dawn-US)

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