Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Veteran of the Wrathgate

Having played my first character to 80 using only the zones on the right half of Northrend, it was only this weekend that I finally saw the Veteran of the Wrathgate quest chain, including cinematics and battle for Undercity. It is impressive to what heights story-telling in World of Warcraft can rise. Is this the future of questing?

In general questing in Wrath of the Lich King is better than in classic World of Warcraft or The Burning Crusade. There are still a lot of kill 10 foozles quests, but the number of quests where you get to do something else than just go somewhere and kill some mobs has gone up considerably. And there are more quest chains in which the player is actually able to change the world, with clever use of phasing, that is showing different players different views of the game. And there are more scripted events, in which you can meet the Lich King, but not fight him directly.

The Veteran of the Wrathgate quest series adds cinematics and a large-scale battle to the mix. Cinematics are ultra-rare in World of Warcraft, there is one on character creation, and one in the middle of the Magister's Terrace dungeon, and that's about it. Death Knights get another large scale battle as finale of their destiny quest chain. The Wrathgate story really brings the player closer to the lore. The whole thing just feels epic, like a real "quest", not just some errand you run for the local farmer.

That isn't to say the thing is perfect. To get to the good part of the quest (Good write-up of the required quests for Hored here.) you need to do several series of pre-quests, which in hind-sight are related, but would be impossible to find without a guide. The average player basically arrives at the Veteran of the Wrathgate achievement because he was trying to do all the quests in the Dragonblight zone, not because there was an initial grand quest design to follow.

But the whole thing shows what is technically possible. And makes you wonder why there aren't more events like that in WoW. Sure, it wouldn't be possible to make every quest epic, but would one epic quest chain with cinematics per zone be asked too much? I sure hope that Blizzard adds more epic quest chains with cinematics and phasing in content patches and the next expansion.
I Wasn't using a guide at all nor was i going for the achievement. Was just quest gridning early on the friday morning after realease (Going for server first) and then suddenly the cinematic popped up. guess i just latched onto the chain early. as i do remember a chain throughout dragon blight leading up to it lasting me all though the early hours of friday morning with me getting the achievement at around 5am. On of the best, if not THE best chain i've ever done in WoW by far. more please.
I think epic quest chains are a fantastic idea and mixing in cinematics is even better. You refer a lot to the Tortage series of quests in AoC and that's the sort of thing I really enjoyed - actually feeling like you were influencing your character's development and the world he lives in.
You understand now why lots of people were suggesting that you not skip Dragonblight.
i swear i'm one of three people on the planet that think phasing is having the exact opposite effect that its intention. rather than having players ACTUALLY have meaningful change in the world around them, they're faking it, and while we're both standing next to a tree in the forest, I see it as cut down, and you see it as still standing.

Even worse, were that to be the situation, I wouldn't even be able to see YOU standing next to me, because we're in different phases of "plot of land 3A in zone 7B". I've been in situations where someone is standing directly on top of me on the minimap, but they can't see me because they aren't at the same point in the quest chain. The solution? 'fly west until we can see each other again'. not very elegant.

This whole drive for "having the individual player leave a lasting impression on the world around them" really makes no sense to me. The world changes around me every day (IRL), but rarely do *I* as an individual affect that change. A building is torn down, or a new freeway onramp built. I don't need to be the single person that changes the world, and would rather see the world changing (in drastic or subtle) ways where EVERYONE is on the same page. It doesn't need to be a questline... just burn down ogrimmar. let the whole world see it, not just players 76b, 34a, and 63z.
for the record, i'm fine with cinematics. I just think phasing is dumb. ;)
However, the questchain is not without technical problems. When I first turned it in and the sequence should start it simply didn't. I experienced a small lag followed by screams and burning things WoW abruptly threw me into the new Phase. Quite a shock, for some moments I asked myself if I broke something ;)
Turned out there is a problem with not using your native client and playing with another language. I switched to my native client, talked to the dragon queen and was able to experience the sequence. Still, it took out some of the flair.
The following battle for UC can also be quite buggy, I had to wait more than half an hour for it to start.

Having completed this achievement just recently myself, I have to say that I thought the phasing effect was particularly effective for the purpose of immersing your character in situations that, without phasing, would have been rife with distractions and very disorienting for other players. For instance, the culmination of the chain is a huge struggle in a major capital city. Imagine for a moment if that *actually* occurred every time a player triggered the quest. You would have huge sections of the population displaced *repeatedly* by the same occurrence. Since quests of this nature can't be repeated, phasing provides an amazing storytelling tool with which to allow some players the opportunity to do things that they otherwise couldn't.

Is it perfect? Certainly not. You make a good point about the problem interacting with other players across different phases. I think phasing quests may be the only ones in which friends can't be brought in ad hoc to help out, because they are unlikely to be on the same part of the chain as you. There ought to be a way for the party interface to overcome this, perhaps by synching the entire party to whatever phases the leader can see. This would let people group up and participate, even if they weren't right at that point exactly.

I would love to see every zone have something like the Wrath Gate chain, but I think this one is so effective exactly because it's unique.
@Ixobelle: I saw Orgrimmar burning. I saw Infernals marching towards Crossroads and Doomguards sundering the gates of Undercity. But as this was the last day of the classic beta, many millions of WoW gamers didn't get to experience it. I bet many would have liked to have it as phased content instead of an lasting change in the world that is ultimately wiped out when the last beta server shuts down.
And if Orgrimmar had burned for real and was not resetted some month before you started playing, I bet you would have liked to see it how it looked like in all his living glory ;)

We killed those petty Infernals and Doomguards like the flies they were, none of them crossed the gates! But well, you got to stick with the official story, don't ya? ^^
Short answer: Making a "Kill ten foozles" quest is cheap, making a multi-part questline with several different phases and a cutscene isn't. As long as people will pay for the former, you won't see much of the latter.
"Sure, it wouldn't be possible to make every quest epic, but would one epic quest chain with cinematics per zone be asked too much?"

You mean almost exactly like the whole of Guild Wars? :D
I didn't expect the Wrathgate cinematic; as far as I knew, it was going to be a typical 'talk to the NPC, get a few gold and maybe a pointer to the next zone' encounter.
How wrong I was!
Getting the "The Loremaster" achievement was worth it for this part alone. It just felt as a letdown that you have this awesome cinematic then you are like "what, there's more?". The whole battle for Undercity part felt very anticlimactic for me because the highlight of the questchain had already happened. Maybe if they had made the conversation with Varian into a cinematic as well it would have felt more epic. An important part of lore happens there and it doesn't get the respect it deserves.

On the other hand seeing Orgrimmar under martial law was great, I wish that would happen more often without the phasing thing. Having trade chat clear during certain periods would be awesome.
It's odd you say that the Wrathgate quest like was, more or less, happenstance. Maybe it's different for Horde or something, but for Alliance it was pretty straightforward.

You initially get sent to a new quest hub, the first quest you see there (the "choplifter" quest) is the start of the whole thing, and three or four quest lines open up that all converge down to the Wrath Gate event. It was obvious and well designed - except the initial quest, which was annoying as anything. My main missed the Wrath Gate completely because he gave up on the choplifter quest as tedious and boring.
is there an Alliance equivalent?
The Wrathgate event has two sides to the story, one for both Horde and Alliance. The cinematic in question is critical to both paths, though there is a brief divergence during the follow-up battle in Undercity.
I think the phasing technology is cool, however, what I find *extremely* distracting about it is the amount of lag it causes in the zones. I had times when Zul'Drak was just awful from everything going on in the zone. If you think about it, you have the chain for the troll you kill in Zul'Drak, it has the questline where you get to ride on the giant (both of which use the phasing technology), and then Blizzard went and put the champion of anguish in the same zone! And event that tons of people flock to at level 75, keeping a constant flow of players coming into the zone. It's just too much going on in one place at one time for the server (at least my "full" day 1 server anyhow) to handle. That being said, I do not get the same lag in Ice Crown or Stormpeaks, where there is just one series of phasing happening.

That being said, I do think it's a cool concept that I really do enjoy.

Oh...however, I DO think that nodes ought to spawn in both phases. There is nothing like fighting an 80 elite to mine that titanium node only to watch it disapear due to someone in another phase mining it...or herbing and herb only to get an error message instead of a loot box when you complete your herb cast =)
Beruthiel is right, there are some definite annoyances with the phasing technology that I hope Blizzard addresses in a coming patch. The worst on my PVP server is the guild that likes to camp out in the phased "underworld" section of the Altar of Quetz'Lun in Zul'Drak all day farming HKs off all the hapless 75s and 76s who are passing through trying to complete their quest chain. Normally it would be easy to chase them out of there by calling in backup from zone general chat and/or level 80 guildys, but because almost no one else of our faction is at that exact point of the quest chain where the Altar is phased into an "underworld", help is impossible to find. I know, boo-hoo, reroll on a PVE server, etc., but it just makes it apparent that not all aspects of phasing were thought through fully by Blizzard during development.
I find the phasing to be generally good, but it can be a bit bizarre when you are questing with someone else in your group and they suddenly disappear right next to you. It also makes it difficult to help people with group quests after you have already completed them if there is phasing involved. I'm not sure if they can solve this problem or not -- maybe an option to turn off phasing in the interface so you could help friends/guildmates and not worry about people phasing?

There are several good "epic" quests like the chain in Dragonblight, but it is the best of the lot. The others just have scripted events that happen towards the climax of the quest -- Borean Tundra, Zul'Drak, and Icecrown all have at least one that I remember.
I really enjoyed the Wrathgate cinematic and the battle to save Undercity afterwards. Although, the insane buffs provided by Thrall and Sylvanas gave me outrageous spell records! :P

I would love to see more epic questlines like this. As for the discussion about phasing.. yeah there are some issues, but this is the first time Blizz has used it, so we can't expect it to be perfect. We can only hope they'll work on tweaking it so that it is a smoother system.
It's odd you say that the Wrathgate quest like was, more or less, happenstance. Maybe it's different for Horde or something, but for Alliance it was pretty straightforward.
You do literally stumble upon the Wrath Gate as Horde. You spend the whole zone doing various unrelated errands and when you have done them all you're finally sent to the Wrath Gate. There's no buildup whatsoever. And if you started at the Howling Fjord, you probably don't even know who the orc in the cutscene is.
I loved the Wrathgate quest and when I was speaking to my friend (who also plays WoW) about how amazing it was. I was shocked to hear him say that he just escaped the cinematic. He reckons he didn't have time for it, needed to get to 80 and raiding as soon as possible. I guess these sort of things just don't appeal to the hardcore people.
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