Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tides of War vs Theramore's Fall

While chatting with someone on Twitter (I got sucked into that deliciously evil time annihilator) they commented that they wished they could know how the opposing side's run went.  This sparked an idea so for @cuppy Ill be comparing the book vs the Alliance RP vs the Horde.

Of course this may spoil things like a sparkly vampire so beware.

Christie Golden said a few things in interviews that spoiled the plot and left me irritated but she also said something that I brushed off as hype.


Wowhead: The actual details for the in-game Battle of Theramore (both pre-release events and MoP scenarios) have been kept under wraps. Did you have any input in the pre-MoP event? I know Invincible's grave was added in Tirisfal Glades after Arthas.

Christie: This was actually one of the most exciting this about writing this book. I worked very very closely with quest designers. We wanted to do something that I thought had never been done--create a scenario in the book that the reader gets to participate in from both Horde and Alliance perspectives. You can see a little part of what happens to Theramore. There are references to it--we see it play out in the book, you're a part of it--there's even a part in the book saying "Jaina turns to her friends" and that's you. She has 5 compansions, we keep them very vague as to what races they are or class, and these people are involved, they are a part. I don't think that's ever been done before, and it was very difficult to go back and forth, back and forth. I must have written the part of Theramore's Fall like four or five times to incorporate each new thing they wanted to put in, that it dovetailed correctly. I'm really anxious to see how it goes and play it myself!
So remember this event was supposedly directly shaped by the author of the book to be something epic.

Tides of War PG 203
Garrosh to Baine and others
"While the alliance focused on us, a small team infiltrated Theramore.  Their accomplishments were twofold - they rescued Thalen and were able to cripple the Alliance aerial defenses.  And now-we shall wait no longer!"

The scenario begins on the Horde Side. You appear on the Horde boat tied to the Theramore docks.  Captain Drok says "The Unthinkable has happened: Our siege on Theramore has failed.  Your the contingency plan.  Your mission is to infintrate Theramore Isle.  Burn their ships.  Butcher their Flight Master.  Sabotage their war machines.  And rescue our spy!"

So right away we have a timeline flaw.  In the book they were to be sent in during the fighting in the scenario you went in after the fighting.  in the book you didn't sabotage the ground machines at all.  Thats not touching that you come into the scenario (if you haven't read the book) asking 'Siege? What siege?'  Other than this reference and Jaina's thoughts on 199 (The roosts of the hippogryphs and gryphons had been destroyed by the intruders who rescued Songweaver)

The rest of the scenario plays out as a standard dungeon/quest.  You never do anything to the roosts though you do kill the gryphon master and a whopping two gryphons.  Not really a big mass slaughter.  You fight a big siege engine in a baffling fight to anyone who knows the book, slaughtering your way through the peaceful town ending with you invading the keep, killing its commander and freeing the prisoner.

In the scenario the 'stealth' squad does most if not all of the killing with no thought to stealth and there is no aftermath of a battle visible at all.  Not really a well written or designed questing experience such as Christie talked of.

In fact here is what you do, remember this it will come up later.

  • Click 6 things on 6 ships in the harbor.
  • Talk to a guy
  • Kill the Gryphon Master and 2 Gryphons
  • Kill 1 siege machine and click on 3 clickie machines.
  • Kill the warrior trainer for the spy's key in the top of the keep, set the spy lose in the bottom of the keep.
  • Watch cut scene of the destruction.

Oh in a weird twist the GY everyone chats about outside Theramore isnt there and Jaina, Kaelec and Ronin are in the central tower.  Just..dont poke them.  They may not know any magic but boy can they box!

So...I'd give the quest a D+ overall.  Then you add in the failed world design, cut scene graphics, and sheer nonsensical nature of it all.  Moving right along to the Alliance side, which was the focus of the book through Jaina.

Why do they depict her in agony under water?  It never happens anywhere and really is a strange choice.

So we start with the cutscene the Horde eded with and its just...awful.  How awful?

Tides of War, Page 208 Rhonin to Jaina
<snip> "...my efforts to drag the cursed bomb here instead of letting it strike the heart of the city..."
Tides of War, Page 209 Kalec vs Zepplin
"A huge boom echoed, and this time, Kalec wasnt able to dodge the cannonballs."
"Jaina cried out as she saw Kalecgos start to fall.  At this precise moment the sky galleon released its cargo."

So we have a blue dragon missing from the cutscene and the bomb being diverted into the tower so its protective wards could minimize destruction and so it wasnt in the city heart.  Trouble is the tower is in the city heart and the bomb plops in front of it with no falling blue aspect.

The alliance appear on their ship and...

  • Fight off some orcs.  
  • You kill 3 orc captains, click on 3 things on ships, and kill 20 orcs.
  • You kill an orc shaman and his two wyvern and kill 8 mor eorcs.
  • You talk to Jaina and must beat up people while she plays with the Iris.
  • You kill a siege machine and click on 3 banners.
  • Kill a lot of orcs trying to attack Jaina.

Now this just...this didnt happen, couldnt of happened, in the story.  We have two event chains that are mutually exclusive.  in the book Jaina is teleported away, tracked down by Kalec and argues with him then teleports back.  She brutally kills and torments the first scavengers to enter the ruins, which are a fantastical place of floating bodies and twisted skies and land.

Tides of War Pg 223
"She felt the tingling that was the hallmark of arcane energy growing stronger.  The whole city was bathed in its residue."

Not so in the scenario where the effects are small, localized and well...puny.  There is no blast wave of power shown that would matter and the crater is weirdly disproportionate for the explosion and leaves untouched parts of the city.

Something else is you help Jaina attune the Focusing iris while in the book she is hiding it away and denying to everyone, Kalec included, that she has it.  I dont see that making a lick of sense or this.

I mentioned that the quests would seem similar, their really close to being mirrors of each other for goals and mechanics with characters tossed into the mix that mean nothing when they live or die.

They didnt even have anything to tug at your heartstrings about whats her name...the redshirt Christie introduced to try and up the ante by killing someone 'important' off.  That really surprised me.

In summary I dont think Christie had as much impact as she believed in the design of this event.  They might of started out trying to include her with good intentions but Blizzard over reached and just mismanaged this project.  They failed to give insufficient time to it and then pushed it out with no polish.

Scenarios can be good.  like dungeons they will learn to design them.  You can draw a great comparison between Dungeon and Raid design and their starting evolution.  But as the opener for an expansion that is supposed to set the stage for its...just criminal.

How could they manage to mess up something so fundamental?


  1. I think I am a bit of a Blizzard fanboy, always one of the first in line to defend them no matter how dumb the reasoning behind it may be. But there are so many things wrong with this even I cant defend it.

    Theramore's Fall is a very important "thing" in WoW. It serves as an introduction to scenarios, a build up to MoP, a pre expansion event, a cross over with a book, a medium to drive the story forward.

    As an introduction to scenarios it fails. The ones tested in beta were so much more fun, ok its hard to make the destruction of a city a fun even but still every scenario that has been tested is much better. Maybe its the lack of testing and player feedback which has resulted in something a bit lackluster?

    As an introduction to MoP, dumbed down content that you can aoe blast through in 5 mins. Well unless there has been some major changes they haven't tested in beta nope thats not MoP at all.

    A pre expansion? Blizzard have said its not, and its clearly not. Yes its nice to have something we will be able to go back to once the expansion hits but it was also nice to have limited timed events that any of your chars could do. Something that once had been done made a real change on the world. Something that started small and got bigger and bigger as expansion got closer raising the excitement of players. But, we dont get that for MoP. We had a patch and suddenly there was these panda areas in our cities and monk trainers everywhere, a society lost for over 10,000 years returns without so much as a single firework going off.

    For the book, as you pointed out its tenuous link at best :( Had this of been a world event it could of been epic, a slow build up of horde troops at Northwatch hold throw in a few daily quests like fishing and cooking (got to keep troops fed), the building of a defence at Theramore with again quests to give something to do. Baine and Vol'jin sitting in a tent having secret conversations. Jaina and her soon to be dead friend walking round Theramore talking, heck Jaina could even go for a walk with Kalec through dustwallow marsh and when he isnt busy holding her hand have him flying round azeroth in search of the iris that npc's throughout the world are talking about. Have this slow build up for a month and then unleash the scenario. The story for a great event was spoon-fed to them and it was just ignored :(

    I haven't done the alliance side, not got a char geared well enough for it and even when its level 90 not sure I will, from the sounds of it not going to make too much effort to do it. Ok sure there is a chance I can get some epic loot but chances are will just end up with same lame fireworks as a reward :(

    Enough babble, think I wrote more than you did and no pretty pictures from me :o But to get to the point, was disappointed with it

  2. Thoughts on Theramore’s Fall

    The Tides of War was a really good read. Everything I expected from Christie Golden. The scenario was very lackluster. That I wasn’t expecting from Blizzard. The parallels are scant.

    Having been through the Wrath of the Lich King Launch event as well as Cataclysm’s, I’d have to stay that the Mists of Pandaria doesn’t stack up. In fact it falls short, very short. There has been very little ramp up and it’s rather anti-climactic. That being said though if I was a player that had never laid eyes on a book from Warcraft, the scenario meets all the requirements of a fun time. It’s a mini dungeon with a minimal queue, minimal amount of people, and rewards at the end for minimal effort.

    If we are to ignore story and focus on mechanics I can see that scenarios will probably do well as Blizzard tweaks them. Bringing one in a launch event though was a poor idea on their part. Don’t get me wrong, I love Blizzard and their IP’s but things like this really disappoint me. The event feels really detached from the rest of the game. There should have been more build up in the weeks leading to the scenario’s release. Perhaps I’d feel a bit better about.
    My biggest gripe would have to be how Theramore looks from an alliance perspective. I expected to be wandering a place that has minor remnants of Theramore strewn about in a purplish hazy cloud much like what we find in Netherstorm.

    I hope that perhaps Blizzard can take what they have learned from this particular scenario and at least use the feedback to make sure the future scenarios don’t come across in a similar fashion.