Alas, Theramore

The all-consuming concern of the week is, in case you were asleep, the Fall of Theramore scenario.  I didn’t participate in it on Monday when it came out ((I don’t do first-day for this sort of thing. It’s always gonna be bugged.)) but last night I got to take Jasra in Disco form.

Having not healed much in the last two-ish years, she’s still getting the hang of the Smite/Heal process, so the scenario was a good place to practice that, since the other two members of our squad didn’t need much healing.

So, things break down into two areas of concern: A) the scenario itself, and 2) the lore.

Running the Scenario

It starts with a cinematic as a goblin drops a mana bomb on Theramore ((About which more anon.)) and blows the place up. How Jaina managed to survive while everyone else did not is not adequately explained here. I think it has something to do with Rhonin’s selfless act, but I’m not certain ((I’ve read a summary of the book here that is pretty decent.)).

As you zone in, you’re on the (presumably) last surviving Alliance ship, and from there you’re given a series of tasks to accomplish. First, survive a couple of waves of attackers, then kill three ship captains, torch their ships, and slaughter all Horde in sight. From there, you charge to Jaina’s side, carry out a couple of tasks for her, and then cover her while she extracts the Focusing Iris from the bomb ((What kind of bomb blows the hell out of a city and yet remains intact? Apparently, a mana bomb. Noted.)).

The mechanics of the fight were fairly clear ((Except right at the beginning, where I understand that you can bug the scenario if you rush off the ship too quickly.)). Objectives were easy to determine, the mini map was used well, and, as far as scripted events go, it worked well. I liked how the quest tracker area was repurposed to display objectives clearly. Nice touch.

So, mechanically, at least, I call it a win. If future scenarios work the same way mechanically, this is a new feature that deserves a permanent place at the table.

One final thought here: the Embersilk drops were insane. Jas came out of there with at least six full stacks, and the other tailor in the group got as at least that much.  I’ve run entire raids without seeing that much cloth drop, and with two tailors in the group, it’s even more impressive!  Hooray for murderating your fellow humanoids, I suppose?

The Elephant in the Room

Hoo boy.

Let us preamble this with the observation that the story leading up to this event, and the event itself, is told in the book Tides of War. This is a continuation of the now-traditional shunting of lore-heavy events into books.  I must admit that the excerpt that was dropped a few weeks ago really put me off wanting to read this book – I’m sure that wasn’t what they had in mind, but the attempts at romance were cringe-worthy. There is no amount of lore, no amount of badassery, that will suffice to get me to suffer through that again. I suffered Asimov. I suffered Jordon ((Reflexively tugs on beard.)). No more, I say!

I digress.

Based on Alas’ comments about "Emo Jaina", I feared we’d get more of what we had in Icecrown.  I was actually pleasantly surprised when I found that "Emo Jaina" in this case was "Angry Jaina". She talked some seriously good smack.  More, please, plus some actually smacking, in the future, one hopes. I cannot emphasize this enough: Blizz has got to get away from writing strong female leads only as Dark and Sinister. Righteous fury has its place.  Or, whoa, just for the hell of it, write a strong female lead that doesn’t have to be angry all the time ((I loves me some Fanny.)).

At any rate, everything about this scenario seems to be hell-bent on disrespecting the lore surrounding the characters, factions, and places involved. And that’s what’s got people fired up.

Saxy @ I Like Pancakes summarizes best of all how badly this scenario and its alleged lore clash with previously established lore.   Some questions she asks, such as how Garrosh seems to be acting without thought for consequences, appear to be rhetorical, since we already know that he’s under foul influences and not acting rationally, even for Garrosh.  But she also brings up more macro issues around all this. The Horde just crapped in its own bed, and the world should be rightfully turned against it now.

What about supposedly neutral factions? Do you really think the Argent Crusade will want to have anything to do with the Horde after they’ve done this? The Cenarion Expedition? The Earthen Ring? The Scryers (who know a thing or two about mana bombs)? The Aldor (who know a thing or two about cities being leveled)?

And then there’s Dalaran. Why does Sunreaver’s Sanctuary still exist? Why is any horde player not killed on sight upon entering Dalaran? Are you seriously suggesting, Blizzard, that the Kirin Tor is going to allow anyone even loosely associated with the Horde anywhere near Dalaran?

And now the Dragonflights. Why are the Horde allowed near any Caverns of Time instance?  Why are they welcome at Wyrmrest Temple? Why would any member of any Dragonflight trust any member of the Horde with any task?

Now, I’m sure she knows as we know that those are all points from elsewhere in the time stream, but ALSO she’s correctly pointing out that actions have consequences, and we should see them, but we won’t, and that’s disappointing from a lore fan’s perspective.

Sidebar. (RP-ish)

It’s interesting that, after all these years, my little alts Orlee and Yarlee have found a sympathetic voice.

Orlee is one of two orphaned Draenai that I took in when the portal opened.  Her brother, Kutath, was able to stay centered and cope, but Orlee became bent on revenge. To her, the only good orc is a dead orc, Horde in general would be better off without them, and her entire reason for staying on Azeroth in the first place was to find more orcs to kill.  It’s all perfectly logical to her. It’s quite simple. We kill the Orcs.

Yarley was one of the many Night Elves unhomed by the Warsong in Ashenvale. She had started out as a warrior, as many of her gender do in Night Elf society, but her outrage at the way the Horde violated the land motivated her to learn the way of the Druid.  She’s routinely offended by what she sees of the Horde’s treatment of Azeroth, and figures that if they’re not put down, they’ll destroy the entire planet and leave it as they left Draenor – a pile of filth at best, shattered and drifting in the Nether at worst.

Sidebar conclusion: when I read Saxy’s angry screed above, Orlee and Yarley were in the back of my head yelling, See? See? We told you. Would you listen? NOOOOOoooo! So they get some perverse satisfaction in the fact that eyes are opening around the world right now.

To be honest, the lore violations would have been more palatable had they been couched in some sort of bread crumb quests and so forth, and Saxy has yet another good screed on that topic.

[…] this was the Wrathgate sequence. It was without question the most epic questline in Wrath, involving plot, new mechanics, real interaction with heroes, betrayal, etc.  Anyone who did this questline will tell you that Blizzard did an excellent job of not just telling the story, but letting you feel like you were living through it. That you were an integral part.

Wrathgate was the sort of thing that, after I had experienced it, I went out and told people that it was something they would want to play the game for.

There aren’t many opportunities for a Wrathgate event. I believe that the fall of Theramore was one.

A minor quibble here is that Wrathgate was a mid-game event, and Theramore is either an end-of-game or start-of-game event, depending on how you want to view it.  But otherwise, I totally agree: Blizz had a chance to shine, and they blew it.

It Gets Worse

Big Bear Butt has read the book, and has some thoughts on it.

First of all, if you thought the lore issues were merely because of poor execution on the part of the development team, think again. Golden’s book is full of the same sort of thing, and it rankles.  I’m not going to blame Golden for the plot points. She got handed an agenda and had to write a story that fulfilled its requirements.

Unfortunately, those requirements pretty much had no respect for the lore surrounding the people in the story.

The one that sticks out the most here is how Thrall – excuse me, Go’el – has become hippie-orc and is fully aware of the mess that Garrosh has made of things, but doesn’t seem to care.  This is not the "honorable" Orc we’ve had preached to us for years. It’s like a few tokes and getting some sexy tiemz with Aggra has somehow removed his integrity. John says it best.

Thrall walks on into the new throne room, sees Garrosh standing there with the Blackrock Orc, wanders around listening to some of the news about guards and the Blackrock smacking around anyone that voices dissent, hears about how some vanish in the dark, gives a quick chat to Baine and Vol’jin..

Are you seriously telling me that he couldn’t stop it?

With two sentences he could have shut the whole thing down.

“You are a disgrace to the memory of Grom Hellscream and an enemy of the Horde. Get out of my sight or I will kill you where you stand.”

He’s Thrall. He forged an Orc nation from nothing and brought his people out of despair, forged an empire and saved the world. Fuck an Orc that grew up in some pussy place like Draenor, where there are so many animals to kill and eat nobody has to farm in Nagrand.

Seriously. Thrall. Disappointing, man. That shit is weaksauce.

Maybe they feel like it’s time to put the ol’ fella out to pasture. No, sorry, you don’t get to do that. Heroes don’t go off and sit in drum circles until they die in their sleep from food poisoning or something. No, they go out in a blaze of glory. That’s just the way it is in Heroic fiction. Nothing else will do.

So, character-wise, and lore-wise, Thra — ‘scuse me, Go’el — is completely inconsistent with the story of Thrall / Kal-el that Blizzard has given us so far.

Cleaning up the broken glass

The community has been pretty vocal about this, and it’s good to hear that maybe Blizz is taking it to heart. From a recent Q&A, Dave "Fargo" Kosak has this to say.

I’ve been watching the Theramore feedback closely, and this comment seems pretty universal. We tried to keep everything all in the scenario, to make it really self-contained, but not burden it with lots of story that you have to slog through every time you played the scenario. It’s pretty clear from the feedback that people wanted more story. We should’ve surrounded the scenarios with more quests or explanations to help round out the story for the people who wanted to know what exactly was happening. Lesson learned!

Compare this to the Old Stratholme instance in Wrath, where there was that long RP-ish event that people got TIIIIRED of after a dozen times. Somewhere in between these two extremes there is a sweet spot.

Let me say this: I don’t think that Scenarios were ever planned to be lore-establishing events with lots of RP-ish elements like Wrathgate. But Wrathgate points the way to doing it right. We don’t need to stick a ton of cinematics and RP in a Scenario or Instance.  Preface them with individual quest chains in which each person will get to experience any cinematics and story elements once, and at their own pace, and then you don’t have to worry about RP-ish elements in Scenarios.

The Fall of Theramore scenario didn’t receive any beta testing. There are those that say that it didn’t make it to beta because it was savaged badly by internal testers and there was no time to fix it.  That they know it was crap and didn’t need to hear more about that. This does not jibe with something that Ghostcrawler said in the Reddit AMA:

Q: Are you going to finish the Neptulon storyline? He was taken by Ozumat in throne of tides and then, nothing. His fate is unknown.

A. We weren’t happy with the way Abyssal Maw was shaping up. It managed to take on a life of its own in players’ minds, but believe me, if it had been an awesome raid, we would have shipped it. One of the hardest parts of this job is killing a feature you’re excited about because it doesn’t meet our quality bar. I suspect you’d see far more complaints if we had shipped a bad raid than not shipping one at all. We took the resources and put them back into Firelands and got a couple of extra bosses out of it.

The conspiracy theorists imply that it was withheld from beta because they already knew it sucked and were unable to do anything about it. One of the lead developers tells us, with a specific example, that if something sucks, it won’t ship. I’m going to go out on a limb and believe Ghostcrawler, but make up your own mind on the merits.

That does beg the question, though.  Are the internal testers that disconnected, that naïve? I don’t know, but I cannot envision a scenario ((C wut I did thar?)) in which somebody didn’t raise a red flag and say "guys, this doesn’t jibe" or "Hey, people are going to be confused!"  I can’t envision a world in which this sort of thing gets past what I see as a very rigorous internal QA team ((Herbal miscues notwithstanding.)).

The overall take-away for me is a sense of ennui. I can only carry water for Blizz for so long before I start to see logic in the arguments of those that claim that Blizz has lost its touch, or its soul, or its ethics – or all of the above.

I get the sense that MoP is going to be the expansion that makes or breaks this franchise. If they do well, get their footing back, then this game will continue to flourish with a varied and informed playerbase for years to come.  If they don’t do well? There are MMOs aplenty out there that represent the true End Times.

Maybe Murozond was right.


Posted on September 20, 2012, in Game mechanics, Lore, Meta, O teh dramaz!, Relevant to my Interests. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The internal/PTR/beta testing is an interesting thought. Right now, the scenario might not be completely satisfying, but it does make sense if you’ve read the novel. But I suppose if they had beta tested it months ago, before the novel was out, then 100% of people wouldn’t get it? Maybe that’s what they wanted to avoid – but of course, on the other hand, maybe that right there is more than enough reason TO beta test it. If people who hadn’t read the book don’t get it, and that’s LITERALLY EVERYONE at the time, that should probably ring some alarm bells.


    • That’s exactly what I was thinking. If it hits beta, and everyone goes “whoa, a little bit esoteric, donchathink?”, they would at least have a shot at avoiding that. But the internal / QA testers may simply be assuming that this sort of thing is being taken care of by some other department. I mean, gotta say it, the thing was certainly polished in execution. Technically, it’s solid. But I think the internal testing requirements might have left the storytelling aspect out.


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