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What would you change about WoW?

February 8, 2011
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I’ve been terrible about keeping up with Shared Topics lately due to raiding a ton and spending a good deal of time writing guides.  Here’s hoping this is the beginning of getting back on track!

This week, Naithin from Fun in Games provides the Blog Azeroth shared topic:

“Pretend for a moment that WoW hasn’t yet been released. Or perhaps it is, but you’ve never heard of the whole SWG NGE debacle, and thus have no fear about dramatically changing how everything works post-release.

You have the original (or BC, or Wrath, or Current, your pick) design docs to start from, but you’re free to change absolutely everything if you so choose.

With all this power, what would you change? What would make WoW the dream game for you?”

This is a fascinating, though huge, question.  In the interest of time and not wanting to end up with 5,000 words on the subject, I decided to limit myself to picking one thing I’d like to see more of in the current incarnation of WoW: Class-specific quests.

Blizzard has done a really fantastic job of revamping the starter areas for all of the races in Cataclysm.  The Gnomes and Trolls have reclaimed their racial homelands; the Dwarves, Humans, Orcs, and Tauren are all dealing with Deathwing’s destruction on their home fronts and with the corruption of the Twilight’s Hammer cult in their cities; the Night Elves have finally realized that Fandral Staghelm was a massive jerk and the Forsaken are watching their faction leader go bat sh*t insane; the Worgen and Goblins are still brand new; and then there are the Blood Elves and Draenei who … um … well … that’s their fault for being created during BC.

Love it or hate it, you can’t leave any of the races’ starting zones without having a clear sense of what it feels like to be a member of that race and what conflicts they’re currently facing.  (Those who hate it might argue that Cataclysm’s linear quest design has given you too much of an idea of who your character is and has limited your own ideas about character creation.)  For each of the classes, however, there is a very short quest available at around level 5 that basically asks you to go to a training dummy and use one of your new abilities on it.  A few moments later, you return to your trainer and she gives you your first Uncommon quality piece of gear.  Score!

But then, well, things trail off for a bit.  There are class specific weapon quests available from trainers at around 20 and then again at 50 which require you to kill certain bosses in Scarlet Monastery and Blackrock Depths, respectively.  So, maybe 3 quests per class, one of which just “rewards” you a new ability (you can still pay to train it without actually doing the quest), and 2 that award weapons which anyone who bought heirlooms during Wrath is unlikely to use.  Doesn’t it seem like we’re missing something here?

I’ll admit that I’ve been spoiled when it comes to class quests because my primary characters were a warlock during BC and a druid in Wrath.  Druids had a ton of class quests in their early levels, including a really cool trip to Moonglade to meet with the Great Bear Spirit who’d decide whether you were worthy to learn how to take on the form of the bear.  Awesome, right?  Sure, we also had one of the most punishing tasks in the game to learn Aquatic Form, having to brave bloodthirsty threshers off the coast of Darkshore and then trek all the way to Westfall on foot in order to brave more bloodthirsty sharks off that zone’s southern coast.  (Remember, young ones, that this was before there was a convenient boat from Darnassus to Stormwind – back then you’d have to take the boat that left Auberdine and dropped you off in Menethil Harbor.  Then you’d get to corpse-run your way through Eastern Kingdoms to Ironforge and take the tram down to Stormwind, followed by more corpse-running through Westfall.  You got this quest at level 16; the mobs you had to run past were sometimes as high as 35.)

I guess it sounds a little crazy to be fondly reminiscing about quests which were so obviously a huge trial to complete – remember that this was a time when druids had to do a quest to be able to learn to Cure Poisons, and almost all of the classes had to complete some kind of quest line just to get their Resurrection spells.  I’m not at all suggesting that we should go back to that game model; corpse-running the entire Wetlands isn’t fun by anyone’s definition of the word, nor is having a healer in Deadmines who didn’t get around to completing their Redemption spell quest.  I just wish that Blizzard’s design team on Cataclysm had had the time to take everything they applied to their new leveling design and been able to apply it to some of these old class quests.

Druids weren’t the only ones who had amazing class quests.  Paladins had challenges to earn spells, weapons, and their chargers.  Rogues got to go on some pretty epic missions to learn to make Thistle Tea and disarm traps.  (CORRECTION: Squelchy has pointed out that the rogue quests were actually to learn poisons and lockpicking.  The recipe for Thistle Tea was learned as a part of this quest chain, and Disarm Trap was not learned from a quest but tested by one.)  Shaman had a quest to prove themselves to the elements for each new totem they learned.  Warriors needed to complete a quest for each of their stances, and had to fight one of the nastiest low-level elites in the game to get an epic weapon.  Warlocks, though – Warlocks had it best.

Not only did Warlocks have to complete a quest chain for every new demon they were able to summon, the also had to summon, fight, and subdue that demon in order to be able to use it in the future.  Then, at around level 50, your city’s Warlock trainer would send you out to the middle of nowhere in Felwood where an imp named Impsy asks you to gather some odd materials for him so he can make a “pet.”  He’d send you into the Sunken Temple to gather feathers from the troll bosses there, and reward you with one of the coolest looking weapons in the game.  Throughout the quest chain, Impsy amuses himself by cracking jokes about his master, a exiled gnome warlock named Niby the Alimighty who could be a distant relative of Wilfred Fizlebang.  Fortunately for Niby, he’s actually a worse warlock than Wilfred and instead of summoning JARAXXUS, EREDAR LORD OF THE BURNING LEIGON, he only manages to summon El Pollo Grande <The Black Chicken of Death>.  Oddly, this apparently was enough of a redemption to give him a spot in the Ashen Verdict, selling warlock T10 armor in the entrance hall of Icecrown Citadel.

But if you really wanted EPIC – and I mean goosebumps-inducing, spine-tingling EPIC – you had to do the Warlock questline to summon your Dreadsteed.  The quests in the chain were a wild ride of gathering rare old world materials, sneaking into a cultist den to make deals with a dreadlord, and trying to find a group of people willing to run through Scholomance before the days of the dungeon finder.  Once you’d gone through all the trials and gathered all the materials you needed, you were sent off to Dire Maul so that you could create a huge summoning circle (after, of course, you’d cleared the instance).  Your party would have to summon and then subdue a dreadlord who was constantly calling for other demons to aid him – all while using the tools you’d created throughout the questline to help keep you alive.  Once you’d defeated the dreadlord, then you could fight the dreadsteed itself, and only when it was finally dead would its spirit return to teach you how to summon your very own demon horse with flamey feet.

I was fortunate enough to get to complete this questline twice before Cataclysm’s changes removed it from the game – once with my original BC warlock, and then again with the warlock I created during Wrath on my roleplaying server.  The second time through was just an amazing experience since my guild was nice enough to help me turn it into something of an event – we RPed throughout my warlock’s progress of the questline and then performed the ritual in-character (which is much easier when you have a few 80s there to keep things under control).  To this day, that quest remains one of my favorite moments in WoW.  Not only was it an amazing ending to a quest that required a good deal of time and effort, but it also gave me a clear sense of what it meant to be a warlock.  Making deals with demons, crossing your fingers that they’re lying to you less than you’re lying to them, working out dangerous new rituals, and binding creatures that should be able to kill you with one look: Warlockery in action.

The Dreadsteed questline is (SO sadly) no longer available in game, and WoWHead has the druid Swift Flight Form quest marked as obsolete as well.  The flight form quest was another Epic experience – from visiting the Nightmore-corrupted Moonglade Barrow Dens to summoning Anzu in heroic Sethekk Halls.  I’d actually be a little surprised if the flight form quest can’t be completed anymore, since Blizzard left Outland virtually untouched by the 4.0.1 changes, but WoWHead is rarely wrong about these things.

My point, which I’ve taken a rather long and nostalgia-soaked time to get to, is that I really miss these glimpses into the mindset of the particular classes in WoW.  I don’t miss painful material grinds, gold sinks, and elites that are about as hard to kill as Hogger.  But how awesome would it have been if the people who worked on streamlining leveling and questing in Cataclysm had been given a few days to revamp these old class quests?  Imagine all the epic scenes I described above, but with much less running back and forth all over Azeroth.  I’d hope that they would still be a bit of a challenge to complete or they wouldn’t feel so special, but they’d be a more reasonable kind of challenge.  I love the idea of returning to a class trainer who is a mentor, sending you out into the world to learn new abilities and face challenges – rather than someone who takes your gold and sends you on your way.

But, for now, it’s time to bid a fond farewell to Impsy and Niby, and El Pollo Grande.  Thanks for all the fun, and good luck bringing “Death by chicken” to Stormwind.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Squelchy permalink
    February 8, 2011 4:48 pm

    Minor correction: rogues didn’t go on a quest to learn trap disarming. We went on quests to learn lockpicking and poisons (the latter also included the Thistle Tea recipe). And that poison quest was awesome–as part of it, you got a disease that prevented you from using Stealth for seven days. Yes, seven days. Sure, it was cured as a result of the following quest chains, but I sure as hell didn’t know that at the time, and I didn’t even know Thottbot or Wowhead existed; I considered just not playing the game for a week.

    It was an innocent time…

    • February 8, 2011 5:24 pm

      What am I remembering, then? Wasn’t there some sort of elaborate quest up in Ravenholdt where you had to use your Disarm Trap on a bunch of treasure chests – some have elite mobs that pop out, some have .. um .. good things?

      Did I dream this?

    • Squelchy permalink
      February 9, 2011 6:40 pm

      The only Ravenholdt quests I remember were the one to get you a nice weapon in Sunken Temple, and the Heavy Junkboxes turn-in.

    • Squelchy permalink
      February 9, 2011 6:43 pm

      Actually, I see from Wowpedia there was a quest I forgot about; one where your Disarm Trap ability was tested, although not learned. It was the quest which originally led you to Ravenholdt Manor.

    • February 9, 2011 7:45 pm

      Ok, THAT sounds familiar. It’s been ages since I played a low-level rogue (due to my habit of deleting and rerolling them over and over). But I knew I remembered doing some kind of trial at Ravenholdt and getting ganked by an elite popping out of a box. It was traumatic. The nightmares persist.

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