WoW Wednesday: The Rewards of Korrak’s Revenge!

World of Warcraft’s 15th anniversary is now in full swing, with events aplenty for players to dig into. On top of the LFR-styled ‘Memory’ Raids, which cover famous bosses from Warcraft’s first three expansions, Alterac Valley has returned! Based on the original build of the famous Epic 40-Man Battleground, Korrak’s Revenge is a seasonal brawl available through January 7th 2019. With no reinforcements, evolving NPC assaults and a ton of rewards scattered throughout, this is a densely packed holiday event. This week we’ll be peeling apart the particulars and set out a path to maximize your rewards!

The Alterac Valley of olde is infamous amongst Vanilla Purists and regular community goers for how long its matches were. Some took several days due to the deadlocks players would face on the battleground. Due to the variety of scaling in Korrak’s Revenge, however, most matches take roughly as much time as a regular Alterac Valley; up towards several hours long. Accessible from level 60, Korrak’s Revenge is a fantastic way to power level your characters with the anniversary experience buff.

The main draw, however, is the two limited time mounts. Featuring updated versions of the classic Alterac Valley faction mounts, the Frostwolf Snarler and the Stormpike Battle are completely remastered mounts. Featuring higher resolution textures and updated rigging based on newer model skeletons, these are two VERY excellent mounts. Rewarded from the achievement ‘Alterac Valley of Olde’ you’ll need to earn 200 Timewarped Badges while playing in Korrak’s Revenge. This currency can be used elsewhere in conjunction with Timewalking events, and this provides the best opportunity to grind quite a bit for rep tokens, mounts or toys.

“Raised in the Alterac Mountains and trained to bite dwarves.”

At first glance, Alterac Valley of Olde may seem easy to complete. Most players will pick up the breadcrumb quest, “Soldier of Time,” which rewards 400 Timewarped Badges for gaining 500 honor inside the Battleground. While this is an easy, and recommended, quest to complete none of these badges will contribute to your total. Instead, you’ll need to rely on the quests in Korrak’s Revenge.

The biggest thing to regularly perform will be COMPLETING the battleground itself. Currently, in the EU, zerging towers and the Alterac Generals has fallen back into the popular meta-strategy. Thankfully, this results in quicker games more often, and simply falls to whichever team can complete strategies quicker. In order to kill Drek’thar or Vandarr Stormpike, you’ll need to burn down every bunker and tower on your way to the enemy team’s base. Each has a nearly 3 minute cap timer, in which you’ll need to defend your claim until it is destroyed. Capturing graveyards along the way is essential to your team’s reinforcement and rewspawning. Winning a match in Korrak’s Revenge will net you 20 Timewarped Badges, while a loss will net you 10.

While most matches may go quickly there are still an incredible host of quests to perform, most of which are daily. A number are not, however, and work as breadcrumb or introductory quests. Korrak the Bloodrager and The Legend of Korrak will see players facing off against the chieftain of the Winterax Trolls. In an effort to control the Field of Strife, the Alliance and Horde will send players to slay this Champion and claim his territory for the respective faction.

Other one-time quests will see you assisting third parties in the Valley. Master Ryson’s All Seeing Eye is given to players by members of the Syndacite, the criminal survivors of the fallen Human Kingdom. Stolen by the Winterax trolls, the object of the same name has been taken deep into their territory. It will require players to group up to fight the elite creatures and push through to the Orb itself. The first faction to push into the caves and save Master Engineer Zinfizzlex will unlock his quest. Zinfizzlex’s Portable Shredder Unit will reward a portable killing vehicle for use in the Valley during the event, and all he requires are some (legally) acquired materials. Each quest will reward 10 Timewarped badges.

There are also a multitude of repeatable daily quests. Each will give 10 Timewarped Badges for your first turn-in every day, while some which include resource deposits will give an additional 2 badges every turn in. Most of the daily quests will involve capturing objectives, such as personally claiming a graveyard, capturing a tower or claiming a mine for a faction. Resources, such as armor scraps or crystals, can be collected off of the bodies of slain enemies and turned into NPCs at your home base. Once daily you can also collect resources from each mine and turn them in for 10 Timewarped Badges.

Not popularly mentioned is a quest that is given at your faction’s stable master. Awarding 2 Badges for each turn in, you must capture an Alterac Ram or Frost Wolf for your respective faction. This is a repeatable quest up until the stables are full, which takes some 20-30 turn-ins. If you join a match late, and your team is already zerging to the enemy base, this can be a great way to quickly collect a few extra badges. Just beware of preying Druids and Rogues!

“I seem to be a little out of sorts today…”

Once you are done waging war inside the Valley, there are still more rewards OUTSIDE. At the world queuing locatins for Alterac Valley, some of the older vendors have crossed into an odd aspect of time. At each entrance in the Alterac Mountains, Jorek Ironside and Thanthaldis Snowgleam have both become displaced in the time ways and are offering unique and old items. Costing both Marks of Honor and Timewarped badges, these two vendors will not only be offering some of the regular fare, but also several removed appearances that have not been seen in-game since before Cataclysm. Some are unique to specific armor types, such as mail and cloth, and must be purchased on characters of that armor class to unlock and save the appearance. Others will require you to kill Korrak before they can be unlocked for purchase. These removed items will only be available while Korrak’s Revenge is ongoing, and on January 7th they’ll be once more gone forever!

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WoW Wednesday: Pilgrim’s Bounty 2019!

The fall turns again in the World of Warcraft, and Pilgrim’s Bounty has arrived for the adventurers and claimers of the continents of Azeroth. Breaking bread with friends of all kinds, holiday goers can enjoy the wonderful food in every major city and brush up their own skills to provide the greatest feast for revelers throughout the land. From November 25th through December 2nd players can partake in Pilgrim’s Bounty and garner the rewards found therein. This week I’ll be your guiding hand to getting the most out of the holiday and how to fill out your achievements for the Pilgrim title and Plump Turkey Pet.

Most of the holiday festivities take place at the Bountiful Tables across Azeroth. These are located in each of the faction’s major cities and every minor town with an innkeeper, as well as Light’s Hope Chapel and the Ruins of Thaurissan. At any of these locations you’ll find that the tables have been stacked high with food which you can sit and eat at, even the enemy factions! Major city tables also have vendors selling seasonal goods such as toys, transmog, and recipes for the season. Eating five helpings of each available food will give players The Spirit of Sharing buff, which increases reputation gains by 10% for an hour, a vital addition for anyone grinding reputations through Timewalking or world content! This year, with the event overlapping with the 15th Anniversary now is a GREAT time to stack both reputation buffs from the holiday (along with Darkmoon Faire on Sunday) to DESTROY any remaining reputations you might be grinding!

Best known for its aid in leveling the profession, Pilgrim’s Bounty has a host of recipes that can quickly level players’ cooking skills. Gathering these is the easiest and fastest method of leveling the Classic tier of the profession, as the vendors selling the recipes also sell most of the ingredients as well. Mixed into these are also static seasonal quests and the ongoing daily quests, rewarding the Pilgrim’s Bounty satchel which contains the Turkey Shooter as well as potentially the Silver-Plated Turkey Shooter, Fine Pilgrim’s Hat or the Frightened Bush Chicken.

Two of the Pilgrim’s Bounty vendors, still celebrating amidst the war effort.

Of course, Pilgrim’s Bounty’s main draw is the nine unique achievements that can be earned towards the Pilgrim meta-achievement. It is worth noting that Pilgrim is not required for What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been, the World Event meta-achievement that requires a solid year of meeting every other holiday achievement (aside from the Day of the Dead, Pirate’s Day and other micro-holidays). All in all, you’ll need the following achievements to complete Pilgrim and claim your Plump Turkey:

“FOOD FIGHT!”
For this achievement, you’ll need to find a free seat at one of the Bountiful Tables in the world, and share food with a fellow reveler until you, “miss,” and bounce the food off of a player’s head! This will happen when the player the food is getting passed to already has the maximum amount of food, so just simply sit at a chair and pass the dishes until you’ve earned this achievement.

Sharing is Caring
In line with the premise of “FOOD FIGHT!” this achievement simply requires you to sit in each of the chairs at a Bountiful Table and pass the food to another seated player. Sit at each of the five chairs and pass a dish to earn the achievement, something you’ll more than likely do on your way to claiming the previous (and for more mischievous) entry.

One of the many Bountiful Tables located outside the major cities of the world.


Now We’re Cookin’

For this achievement, you must cook one of your faction’s specific Pilgrim’s Bounty Dishes. These recipes can be learned from Miles Standish for the Horde, or Gregory Tabor for the Alliance. Nearby holiday vendors will sell all the reagents you’ll need to cook these recipes and you’ll need at least 280 in your Classic Cooking to learn all of them.

Pilgrim’s Paunch
For this achievement, you must have a complete meal and earn The Spirit of Sharing at each Bountiful Table in your faction’s major cities. Simply travel to each major city and get five healthy helpings of each of the foods to complete this achievement!

Pilgrim’s Peril
This particular achievement requires you to put a little bit of risk and reward in. First, you’ll need to obtain an article of Pilgrim’s clothing, either the Pilgrim’s Dress, Pilgrim’s Robe or Pilgrim’s Attire which are awarded from one of the daily cooking quests. After you’re garbed in the universal attire of peace, you must then seat yourself at the Bountiful Tables in the enemy factions’ major cities. With the introduction of War Mode with the Battle for Azeroth pre-patch, this achievement has become far easier to complete by simply toggling it off.

Pilgrim’s Progress
This achievement is one of the easier on the list, merely requiring you to complete each of the Pilgrim’s Bounty daily quests. You can get each quest from the quest givers outside of your faction’s classic major cities, and all five are available every day. Keep in mind that you don’t need to cook for these dailies, all you have to do is turn in the food!

One of the Wild Turkeys currently plaguing both Elwynn Forest and the Tirisifal Glades.

Terokkar Turkey Time
For this achievement, you will need to first collect a Pilgrim’s Hat and one of the seasonal chest pieces from the Pilgrim’s Bounty dailies. Afterwards, you must then travel to Terokkar Forest and the Sethekk Halls wing of Auchindoun. While there, simply defeat Talon King Ikiss while wearing your seasonal attire on either Normal or Heroic! This is an easy one to incorporate into your daily mount-runs, but can only be completed by players who are of level to zone into Sethekk Halls (level 63).

The Turkinator
This achievement can be one of the trickier ones on the list, simply for the level of players often trying to complete it. The Turkinator requires you to be back, and kill 40 Wild Turkey critters, with no more than 30 seconds apart per kill until you have obtained the Turkey Triumph! buff. Wild Turkey can be found in both Tirisfal Glades and Elwynn Forest, and you can choose to kill them in either zone. Using items such as Tracker Snacks or class abilities like Track Beasts can help track the turkeys and chain your combo killing spree together.

Turkey Lurkey
This achievement is no doubt the hardest on this list, requiring you to use your trusty Turkey Shooter on a Rogue player of each race (aside from Pandaren and the Allied Races), transforming the poor stealthies into a turkey! A Turkey Shooter can be obtained from the Daily Quests, but it’s consumed after a single use, meaning you’ll need to do at least 2 days worth of dailies to earn enough and complete the achievement. Be careful, if you shoot a player who has the buff and is in a vehicle (such as the Bountiful Tables) you will get an error message and be unable to earn credit towards the achievement.

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WoW Wednesday: Reviewing the World of Warcraft

After 15 long years, the World of Warcraft still marches ever onward. Despite no less than four “WoW Killers” launching and failing, the original Massively Multiplayer Online Titan doesn’t just dominate pop culture. It dominates its own section of the fantasy genre, inspiring legions of fan works, devotees, and enough loyal subscribers to make up its own pseudo-nation. After eight entire expansions, a major motion picture, over 20 novels and a legion of popular propaganda, its time to give this game the review it deserves. After 15 years its time once more to criticize the wide world of Warcraft.

We here at MMOGames.com have reviewed the entirety of Azeroth previously. In this coverage, shortly after the massive graphical revamp and it’s 10th anniversary, we gave World of Warcraft a solid 8/10; “It is grand and splendid enough to be worth a player’s time and money.” This is a sentiment echoed throughout the industry, with similar reviews passing along the desks of MMORPG.com and PC Gamer. Last year we reviewed it’s 8th expansion, Battle For Azeroth slightly less favorably with a 7/10. Still passable and a fun experience, but with serious critical flaws incumbent to its systems.

In this review we’ll be peeling apart all of Warcraft’s systems from cradle to grave. From level one to 120, I dove into the wide world of Azeroth as a very much familiar Veteran. I’ve played the game for over twelve years, raided until shortly before Warlords of Draenor, kept up in the Rated PvP scene and written more about it than I would probably like to admit. While it is no small feat, I will be endeavoring to give you the most in-depth and pinpoint review. In an attempt to keep information relevant while we will be covering things from our Battle for Azeroth review, we will be more focusing on the systems present in Patch 8.2, “The Rise of Azshara.” While promises to fix many issues are incumbent with its 9th expansion, Shadowlands, we will be focusing on the game as is in its present state.

It’s time to see if after 15 years, World of Warcraft is worth more than your money. Is this MMORPG still worth your time?

Enter Azeroth

World of Warcraft is, at its core, a world at war. The land of Azeroth is host to dozens of races both native and alien. Originally set off its axis due to the invasion of the demonic Orcish Horde, the world has trembled under its two new national superpowers. Compromised of Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, Night Elves and all noble creatures of Azeroth, the Alliance seeks to strive to do good like the knights of old. Banding together in the face of adversity, they seek the righteous way of the land and to do right by its denizens. Whether they follow the Holy Light, Elune, or the legacy of their original creators, they hope for a prosperous future for the entire land. Led by High King Anduin Wrynn, the young ruler endeavors to forge a world of true peace for his people.

Built on the bones of a dark legacy, the Horde has expanded to find its place at redemption. Composed of the once noble Orcs, the mysterious Darkspear trolls, the proud Tauren tribes and the cunning Forsaken Undead, this new Horde seeks to eke out an existence in a world that never wanted them. Drawing all kinds to its banner, the Horde promises unity and Honor no matter the cost. Recently in a political upheaval by the betrayal of its Warchief, Sylvanas Windrunner, the Horde now stands at a dangerous crossroads. While rumors of a council, a Coalition of Leadership, have begun to rattle through the ranks the future is uncertain for the Horde.

This will be your first major decision in World of Warcraft. Unlike other MMORPGs with cross faction play, tensions in Azeroth still run high. Its very unlikely that a Draenei from the Alliance would ever want to see a Blood Elf from the Horde, let alone work with them again. Races are restricted to certain factions, and who you will interact with will be. Certain cosmetic effects such as titles, mounts and more. Certain locations, major questlines and the world itself may change depending on which faction you select.


Once you’ve made your selection on the character creation screen, you’ll have 7 races to choose through (up to 11 for veteran players). Each race has its own unique storyline, racial abilities, customizations and can pick particular classes. Some, like the Trolls, are jacks of all trades but cannot pick certain heavy plate classes. Others, like the Gnomes, are limited by their diminutive size but can access every intellect-based class. Largely, based on what you want to do, your class will largely decide your race but your race will decide your faction overall. All have a slew of customization options throughout, though the interface is notably dated.

World of Warcraft is a fifteen year old game, built on an engine that is nearly 20 years old. As such, its rather amazing what can be done on it when it comes to newer content. When it comes to character customizations, however, you may find yourself completely screwed. On the large, older races like the Orcs have a wide plethora of options and selections, however these are worked through at most 15 or so static changes. While there are, realistically, hundreds of possible permutations for your character’s appearance some are better than others and are far more popular. That is, if you’re fortunate enough to have more than one favorable option; some newer races like the Nightborne or the Lightforged Draenei introduced in Legion are impossibly sparse on customizations; the Nightborne functionally only have one gender due to how ugly the male models and their faces are.

Once you’ve built up your avatar you can decide on your class. Warcraft being an older game, still works on the static Holy Trinity model of class design. Most classes are built to do one of three things: either soak punishment and deal area damage as a Tank, unleash powerful destructive fury as a Damage Dealer (or DPS), or keep their allies alive as a Healer. While most classes are tooled to perform only one role very well, such as the Mage or Hunter, just about every class can do one or the other. Some classes, like the Paladin, Monk or Druid, are Hybrid classes and can perform all three roles seamlessly.

Each class does play remarkably different, even between its three specializations. Some, like the Warrior, are exactly as its archetypical theme describes. They wade into the heat of melee combat and deliver punishment with one, sometimes two, massive weapons. Others, like the Warlock, use dark curses and stay at range while their minions deal with the enemy. Its hard to recommend a new class to newer players, simply due to the depth and volume of playstyles. This choice widens when players unlock Death Knights and Demon Hunters, Warcraft’s hero classes. These veteran-player classes are only unlocked after you’ve achieved a certain level on your first character, and as such start at a higher level in their respective expansion.

The best advice I can give you? Take your time and experiment with different player classes. Since its inception, my main has changed dramatically over time, from a Shaman to a Warrior to a Death Knight, Shaman, Warlock, Priest, Hunter and now a Warrior again. Even between them, each has up to three specializations that further customize your gameplay and feel like individual classes on their own. This is an expansive game, with plenty to do and explore.

We’re Going On an Adventure!

Once you’ve sorted out your character, and decided your class, you’re ready to get onto exploring the wide world of Azeroth. With recent graphical overhauls and a massive leveling change in it’s 4th expansion, Cataclysm, the world has never been more beautiful. From sunny high mesas in Mulgore to the steamy jungles of Stranglethorn, the world is utterly and absolutely breath-taking to explore. Even in the game’s older content through Northrend and Outland, there is not one zone I could complain about in its design, theming, or music.

Azeroth, however, is a dangerous place and even the heartiest diplomats will need to engage in combat. Being an older MMORPG, Warcraft’s systems are largely static in combat. Unlike entries such as the defunct Wildstar, heroes will often have a host of abilities to attack enemies in a somewhat standard, non-movement oriented combat style. While some classes subvert this by being based on movement, such as the Demon Hunter, others like the Mage and Warrior remain largely stagnant in order to deal damage. Instead, the complexity comes from intrinsic combat systems in order to maximize damage; buffs and debuffs to manage detrimental effects on your enemies.

You will be exploring them all as you adventure and progress your character. Starting at level 1, you’ll be working through several older RPG tropes and tools to level up. Starting with Quests, you’ll gain experience to level up and advance your character. After gaining so much experience your avatar will “ding” (gratz!) and you’ll get a little bit more powerful through new spells or advanced ranks of older ones. At major milestones your characters will unlock massive features such as mounts, class specializations, battlegrounds or new expansions worth of content.


In saying such, however, there’s a lot both good and bad in this progression system. You have 120 levels to advance through in Azeroth, and sadly there just aren’t enough rewards to make it feel worthwhile. While the journey is fun in this MMO, the RPG elements are incredibly lacking and are noticeable after your first five hours with the character. After reaching level sixty you’ll have most of your major class abilities unlocked and will be progressing onto your first expansion of content. Its unlikely, however, that you’ll see a new ability or intrinsic reward for your character’s power until another 7 to 15 levels away.

A lot of this power instead will come from your gear that you will obtain as you progress. Gear comes in a wide variety of colors, starting with White (Common) and Grey (Trash), you’ll gain Uncommon (Green) and Rare (Blue) items from questing or doing 5-man dungeons when you unlock them. Epic (Purple) quality items will drop from incredibly difficult challenges in your journey, or are otherwise incredibly rare. Legendary (Orange) are utterly unique items. Only a handful of them exist in the world and each will significantly change how you play your character. Most are incredibly difficult, if not impossible to get, but everyone knows their names. As you unlock them, you’ll save your gear appearances in your collectibles tab, alongside mounts, toys and cosmetic pets, and can transmogrify them over your gear to adjust your appearance.

Additionally you’ll unlock Talents. This interchangeable selection system unlocks tiers of abilities every 15 levels, usually themed around one type. While limited compared to previous iterations, this system allows you to change your playstyle for your class and specialization in between adventures, and offers a wide variety of utility. While most players will stick with the optimal or their favorite choice, staying flexible with your talents is rewarded in high tiers of gameplay and can massively alter what role you fill.

World of Warcraft
On paper this all sounds like a marvelous system, despite a few drawbacks, but the new player experience is painful, to say the least. There is a very good reason why Blizzard-Activision have been pushing their Character Level Boosting Service; leveling is painful, long and dull. Due to the rapid scaling of your character’s power in the early game in order to meet the end-game’s stats, enemies are never any major challenge. Instead they sit as more of a nuisance in between you and your objective, whether that involves collecting 4 zherva hooves or just trying to open a book.

In working on this review, I logged roughly additional an additional 30 hours between a Highmountain Tauren Shaman, a Night Elf Druid and a Nightborne Warrior. I can tell you, wholeheartedly, that the leveling experience is incredibly brutal. The only character I managed to max out was my Warrior, and that was simply because they’re my new main. Leveling is a tedious, repetitive venture to work through and a lot of its meaning is lost as you progress to the endgame; what many people rightfully cite as the ‘true’ game in Warcraft.

While we have covered it extensively in past entries of our WoW Wednesday Column, I’ll reiterate it once more here. There are not enough rewards to encourage players to naturally level and progress their character. The bloating of levels up to 120 is simply too vast a distance with the game’s current playstyle philosophy to reward players with spells or abilities every level. There aren’t enough talents or unlockables to go around, and this results in one of the most painful moments of any leveling experience.

World of Warcraft
The only moment that particularly stands out in a bad way, among hundreds if not thousands of quest texts, is Outland and Northrend. At level 60, you’ll begin to unlock additional expansions of content to play through, each with its own choice. From 60-70 you’ll be allowed to choose with either The Burning Crusade or The Wrath of the Lich King and their respective continents. Its also about this time that new abilities just stop coming all together while you adventure through some of the oldest, most difficult and outright obtuse questing content in the entire game.

While it is only for this small band, these two continents can kill nearly all of your momentum. Add in the issue of sharp increase in experience point requirements and it suddenly feels like a monumental mountain in your progression. There’s a reason that, at this point, nearly halfway to level 120 people either stop outright or start looking for ways to increase their experience gains monumentally. For veteran players, this is an easy hurdle to pass with a slew of experience boosting buffs that increase gains by over 200%. Other subversive options become the norm, such as grinding dungeons in an attempt to escape monotonous and awful questing. For newer, unguided players these options are more than likely not available or unknown.

Defender of Azeroth!

But you’ve finally done it, you’ve made it to level 120 despite all the hurdles and challenges. What awaits you is a wide plethora of content to explore and adventure through. Massive raids open up to challenge with up to 20 players. Rated Player versus Player combat and the cosmetic Honor system are ladders for you to climb in slaughtering your enemies. Pet Battles, cosmetic collections and more are at your fingertips. There is, quite literally, an infinite amount of things to do in Azeroth and with every expansion’s content unlocked at max level, you can do whatever you’d like.

The gateway to your personal progression, however, is now tied to Artifacts. Introduced in Legion and revamped for Battle for Azeroth, Artifacts now tool how your character plays more than your own end-game gear. The newest form of this, the Heart of Azeroth, unlocks class changing traits on your armor called “Azerite Traits.” While initially unique and could redefine your class in totality, most have now been reworked so that there are only one or two viable traits depending on your field of gameplay. While new, socketable essences have been introduced which act as additional spells or abilities, these are locked behind a leveling wall.

Your experience for the Heart of Azeroth? Azerite Power. This resource is rewarded from almost every single activity in World of Warcraft and can be infinitely grinded through certain gameplay elements like Island Expeditions or other instanced content. Due to this, however, there is a form of soft “scaling cap” each week. While you’ll unlock all of the passive and active slots on your Heart by level 67, it will also increase in power up to level 70 with certain Essences being locked behind that level cap. Essences themselves come from a wide variety of gameplay elements and hitting certain milestones will reward them.

World of Warcraft
There are a host of incumbent problems in this system, but the largest one is its effect on gear. While leveling, your gear will be rotated out roughly every zone or so. It goes through an upgrading process, but due to the limited number of customizations you’ll often be prone to keep it as is or hunt for smaller, rarer items to complete your look. As you reach maximum level, and are able to customize and change the appearance of ANY gear item, instead it falls to the name and what it’s worth to set it apart as an enviable object.

As Azerite and Gear can come from ANY source in Battle for Azeroth, most of it being Epic, it all really begins to blend together. Instead you’ll be hunting for gear with specific stats and Azerite traits in a constant form of upgrading to maximize what you can do in your class. In reality once you hit 120 you’ll be hitting a massive statistics crunch and will begin measuring your gear based on numbers instead of looks and rewards.

That’s not to say the content to get it isn’t fun. Raiding and Rated PvP are at their pinnacle in Azeroth. PvE encounters have only gotten more complex and varied throughout the years, and conquering a major villain with 19 of your friends can be incredibly rewarding. Even moreso, conquering other players and reaping Elite rewards isn’t just a challenge but a massive learning experience into the complexities of Warcraft. Playing through the fantasy of living in Azeroth is fun to do, even if you’re adventuring to cap off a few achievements or just to roleplay in a darkened tavern.

Gameplay: 5/10

World of Warcraft is an OLD game. Older than, frankly, quite a few people playing it. However, despite its stumbling and falling in leveling and rewarding characters, it is still IMMENSELY fun to play especially in the endgame. These flaws, like the infinite treadmill of endgame content and the crippling painful nature of leveling tar the whole process. There’s a lot here, and quite a bit of it is VERY good, but the struggle to get into that content and mean something as a whole dampen the entire project.

World of Warcraft

Innovation: 5/10

Once upon a time, Warcraft defined the genre in what it could do. These days the game and its team are struggling to keep up in similar showings from competitors. Desperately trying to keep a 15 year old engine alive, Warcraft’s developers seem to constantly struggle in adding things in such as ‘color tints’ for equipment. Addressing the inherit systemic issues caused throughout the game is a struggle for them, including admitting to their own mistakes for the worse. While they occasionally make a breakthrough concept for the game, it struggles to keep pace with others in the industry.

Multiplayer: 7/10

World of Warcraft is the Notorious B.I.G., the progenitor of the modern MMO. Community is everything to any worthwhile progression in Azeroth. While wolves and the rabble of the world won’t trouble your character, you will NEED friends in order to adventure into dark dungeons, heart-pounding raids, or merely to keep your sanity during leveling. While most basic endgame content is queue-able as a single player, generating you into a larger group, truly challenging content requires friends. If you’re invested in finding such and taking on the hardest challenges the community, on the whole, is largely receptive to new players and still thrives strongly to this day.

Graphics / Sound: 8/10

Despite being built on an older engine, Azeroth is beautiful to adventure through. Thanks to large-scale graphical improvements in Cataclysm, the world has never looked better for the adventuring player though more modern innovations such as Light Rays make it seem somewhat flat in color. Together, with a wonderfully orchestrated OST, Warcraft oozes environmental theme and beautiful artistic design. Whether it’s the pounding of the drums of war in battlegrounds or the eerie strings plaguing you in Azshara’s Eternal Palace, the hills of Pandaria and the dark dungeons have never looked and felt more beautiful.

World of Warcraft

Value for Money: 8/10

I cannot understate this: Warcraft has no end to its content. If you have the want to explore its vast breadth and depth from faction reputations to achievements to PvP to raiding to battling PETS there is legitimately no end. Even with a subscription model still attached to the game, my $15 USD per month is STILL well spent in Azeroth. There is enough to do legitimately every day of the week between its eight expansions and the base game, and still not get everything done that you’d like. While there are concerns on the depth of the content, there is enough breadth to make up for it.

Overall: 6.5/10

There are a lot of problems with Warcraft. I don’t think there’s a 15 year old on the planet that doesn’t have its slew of problems, but beneath all of them is a gemstone. While there are problems in a host of Warcraft’s systems, it feels exciting to go on that next adventure through Azeroth whether as the lone Champion or among a host of friends. Whether you fight for the Horde or the Alliance, this is a game that still lives and breathes fun and entertainment. While it can be a slog, sometimes more than even the developers would like to admit, charting the world of Azeroth is an adventure in and of itself in every sense.

With promises on the horizon to fix so many of its problems, I can only hope that we’ll still be adventuring throughout the worlds of Warcraft for many more years to come.

Pros

– Easy, simple pick up and play MMORPG
– Varied Systems of Progression
– Tons of Gameplay systems and Endgame Content
– Potentially Endless Content to Play

Cons

– Painful Leveling and Level Bloat
– Little Reward for New Players
– Meaningless Gear/Character Progression Outside of Artifact Systems
– Limited Avatar Customization and Cosmetic Personalization Outside of Armor

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WoW Wednesday: The Eternal Grind

It is a very rare occasion to have one singular quest in World of Warcraft ever piss me off. Not agitate me, per se, but fill me with such an intense blinding rage and confusion as to make me question its very existence. That isn’t to say that such quests aren’t, at times, warranted. Infamous ones such as Wrathion’s Valor Gating for the Mists of Pandaria legendary cloak have been used in the past to regulate the acceleration for top-end players. Others, like infamous Vanilla ‘Alliance Tower Escort’ were terrible not due to their design but the implications of performing it in such a massive world with interfering elements and players. None of them, however, quite stack up like ‘The Eternal Traveler.’

The Eternal Traveler is an oddly unique quest which put a bad taste in my mouth before it began. For those of you not in the know, World of Warcraft: Shadowlands has, like its predecessors, a Digital Collector’s edition for pre-order. For the new expansion, however, Blizzard-Activision has their editions broken down into multiple fields. The base copy, as always, comes with the expansion and early-access to Death Knights for all races much like Battle for Azeroth unlocked Allied Races in Patch 7.3. Then there are TWO different Collector’s Editions.

The Heroic Edition includes some of the standard fair. While it includes a Level 120 Character Boost to use instantly, it also includes the Ensorcelled Everwyrm Mount (unique to the Collector’s Editions) as well as a brand-new Cosmetic Transmog Set. The Epic Edition, which is an additional $20 USD, includes a cosmetic Weapon Enchant, a Pet (which usually comes with the regular Collector’s Edition), and a new Hearthstone toy in line with other Holiday Toys.


Those who follow my previous work know I have little issues with pre-orders or Collector’s Editions, but I do have an issue with multiple versions. The practice, made famous by Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs series, has resulted in multiple companies creating multiple types of ‘Collector’s’ products with varying objects between them. While, thankfully, Shadowlands’ editions at their apex contain everything you might be looking for if you’re purchasing at previous expansion’s full price, it still sets a very worrying standard.

With that in mind, you collect your initial rewards from either edition. Unpacking the Enscorcelled Everwyrm for a test-ride you’ll be able to click on an interactable object just behind the saddle. This will summon the newest object of your frustrations, Xolaritos, which begins the promised questline for your transmog appearance. Belonging to the Eternal Travelers, they have moved between the veil of worlds for untold millennia. Calling Oribos their home in the Shadowlands, they’ve now come to Azeroth in sensing the rising presence of Death. You can strike a bargain with them, for the right price.

Xolaritos wants Echoes of Mortality. When the living die, they leave behind fragments of their life force behind. The strongest of Azeroth’s denizens leave behind resonant pieces; portions that tremble with the life they used to have. Collect 40 of these and not only will you become an ally of the Eternal Travelers, but you’ll receive their unique transmog appearance. All of the textures and animations are unique (so far) and haven’t been seen in-game. The set, overall, is REALLY cool and looks fantastic.


This, at the outset, is an excellent opportunity and idea. Even in just giving you those bare details, it sounds like an EXCELLENT start to an intriguing quest; perhaps a lead-in to the ideas about what the growing influence of death means. While there is the trepidation of perhaps locking ‘content’ behind an exclusive paywall, you can do quite a lot with just a little. Recent goers of the War Campaign’s finale can find such a concept littered with Lor’themar Theron. After witnessing Sylvanas Windrunner utterly destroy Saurfang in their Mak’gora, he among several characters remarked about her using magic they had never seen before. That is VERY interesting and opens up quite a bit of possibility for exploring that in Shadowlands.

The Eternal Traveler decides to forgo that by instead creating the most obfuscating and infuriating questline ever.

In reality, killing any creature in your level bracket will feasibly drop Echoes of Mortality. Within your first few kills per day you will earn anywhere between 4 to 6 Echoes. Initially starting the quest you’ll get the impression that you can quickly complete the quest for your transmog. This is not to be.

After your initial gain the drop chances reduce to a pitiful number. The highest numbers reported by WoWhead, that do not come from raid enemies or PvP-tagged targets, are a little over 1%. Most are far below that threshold, dwindling into a 0.5% range, making individual drops as difficult to obtain as Invincible’s Reins from Icecrown Citadel. This resets after the daily lockouts clock over for your server, meaning that at 8am server time, you’ll once more be able to gain 4-6 Echoes from one mob.


This is content gating at its finest. Those purchasing any collector’s edition are now essentially paying for one quest which requires hours upon hours of grinding for a cosmetic appearance with no additional lore or incumbent excitement.

This results in this very real scenario: in an effort to quickly grind through this incredibly arduous and needlessly time-gated quest, players are using the group finder. There, they are gathered together to kill as many densely packed mobs as humanly possible in the shortest amount of time to maximize their chances at getting even one Echo to drop. The two well known hotspots are the Blood Gate in Zuldazar, and the Dabrie Farmstead in Arathi Highlands. I once spent a little over 2 hours grinding through over 400 mobs for a measly 5 Echoes.

The reality is that this is all based off of luck. If you’re willing to put in the time, and you’re incredibly lucky, you’ll be able to soar through the needed Echoes with little difficulty. However, a grind that players are essentially buying into should not be faced with the same amount of time-sinking that Insane in the Membrane or Rated PvP requires. It is, by and large, no less than a slap in the face to adopters of the new Collector’s Editions. Forced arbitrary grinding for the impatient, and a needless time gating for those willing to wait. Add that to your collection tab.

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WoW Wednesday: How Shadowlands Fixes Leveling

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands has been announced to wild and dramatic buzz throughout the MMORPG’s community, even prior to its finale patch for Battle for Azeroth. In previous Blizzcon coverage this week we discussed its premise and the main hooks into its story. However, a much greater discussion is to be had about the game systems; what will build up the vital aspects of gameplay for adventurers coming into a new expansion. Before we discuss the endgame and the particularly ‘newer’ bits of content, it is far time for me to give Blizzard-Activision some accolades.

While Shadowlands is still quite some ways off, with a promised 2020 release date despite very early work being displayed at Blizzcon, Blizzard and director Ion Hozzikostas seem to be making a step in the right direction. The new player experience has become a paramount discussion, particularly with issues and questions raised regarding the Draught of Ten Lands and the widespread bans that came with it. In an effort to correct and assist in it a number of large-scale changes are coming to all of Warcraft.

The first, and one of the more controversial, is the level squish. Previously, World of Warcraft has had two major stat squishes in an effort to reduce numbers. The first, at the start of Warlords of Draenor was quickly undone in roughly two patch, with the second coming at the end of Legion to combat player health pools reaching into the multi-millions. This level squish is not unlike that, though there’s no word if we’ll see a stat squish come alongside it for the new expansion. With Shadowlands players will cap out at level 60, with all current max-level players being squished down to level 50.


The reason for this, as Hozzikostas explained, is two-fold. The first, is that leveling is INCREDIBLY long. In working on a 15th anniversary review for this website, I’ve easily clocked over 30+ hours on new max-level characters. The second, which we’ll dive more into momentarily, is that there simply isn’t enough to create intrinsic reward systems. With how few and spread out both abilities and talents are you could go for nearly 15 levels with some classes before getting a new thing. Previously, the effort to combat it was making leveling flexible in a sense; players would start on Cataclysm’s Azeroth, graduate to a pair of expansions, and unlock more every 20 levels. However, players would STILL out-level expansion related content with this new system. With a major focus on end game, newer players would apparently become confused with the lack of dungeon-guided content to participate in.

Instead, all of this has been completely scrapped.

Now, new players to Azeroth will play through their first ten levels on a completely new zone. Exile’s Reach is a small island off the coast of Stormheim, and it’s there that your faction has sent an exploratory force. They have since gone missing, and you’ve been recruited to assist in discovering their whereabouts and safety. This zone will culminate in a flexible, 2 boss dungeon for up to 5 players where heroes will thwart the efforts of a dragon-worshipping ogre cult! From there, new players will be guided to Battle for Azeroth content to level from 10 to 50, before being introduced to Shadowlands. Reportedly, this squish will make leveling through Battle for Azeroth to 50 roughly 50-70% faster.

In line with this system, Blizzard wants to have Veteran players making new characters feel like they’re investing in more of, ‘a New Game+ system.’ Players who have already completed Exile’s Reach may choose to level in their original racial starting zones, and afterwards may talk to Chromie to level through ANY expansion content. The reasoning for it is to make the player experience more flexible overall, while allowing people to enjoy entire expansions worth of content without interrupting the story. Citing Mists of Pandaria as a prevalent example for this, players would reportedly complete the Jade Forest, half of their second zone, and suddenly be ready to dive into Warlords of Draenor content. Death Knights and Demon Hunters will now start at level 1 for any starting zone, leveling up to 10 by the time it’s completed. Allied Race characters, as is the current course, will start at level 10.


This, in no simple terms, is a brilliant fix.  In discussions I just had last week with a member of my guild, the notion of making, ‘every piece of past expansions relevant’ came up; that desire to explore ALL of Azeroth and have it matter. Right now, Azeroth feels cracked into splinters with its wealth of content, but shallow level banding and irrelevant storytelling in older zones. Between initiatives in Timewalking and now this new leveling system it quite holistically unites the whole world. It makes it a cohesive Roleplaying Game again.

Imagine your first MMORPG, or even your first RPG. That exploration of a world foreign to you despite its threats. Games without enemies, like Shadow of the Colossus, do exceedingly well in this by making every piece of its world’s content relevant. Games such as Dragon Age face issues where, while new exploration is exciting, the challenge quickly begins to fade when you blow past enemies. Melding those two philosophies together, allowing you to explore a self-contained continent WHILE it still being relative to how you progress your character, is the perfect solution players have been crying for since we first broke the level 100 barrier.

This is enriched with the Great Unpruning. Jokingly referring to himself as ‘Ion the Unpruner,’ Hozzikostas revealed to a joyful crowd that classes would be having abilities returned to it. Citing issues with individual specializations carrying more identity than the class, the team has begun working on breaking down barriers to equip classes with old abilities and more utility. Some abilities, such as the Druid’s Cyclone, will be removed from the Talent Trees and reintroduced as a baseline ability. Others like the sorely missed Shattering Throw for Warriors, are being unretired and brought back into the game. Classes like the Mage will have spells like Frostbolt as a standard, with specializations adding more abilities regarding that spell, instead of mass-stripping and exchanging spells wholesale.

The idea seems to be to return to a mindset more in line with Classic’s development mentality. Each class has a large assortment of baseline abilities, some relevant to their current rolls and some not. Arms Warriors, provided they have a shield, will be able to once again use Shield Block which is currently Protection restricted spell. Activating particular specializations will then add additional mechanics and abilities around what is already available instead of resorting and landscaping hotbars en masse. “Every priest can call upon the Light,” lead game designer Brian Holinka said on stage, “And they can harness the shadow… That shouldn’t change between specs.”


In doing this every class reportedly should get something new every level. While its not necessarily a long-term fix for Warcraft, particularly if we have a whack of expansions in the future, it solves the fundamental problem currently. Players are once more intrinsically rewarded as they level. End-game and high-level players will now have a far more adaptable and complex toolkit to experiment with. Even in the case of the Warrior, where both DPS specializations are essentially build-and-spends around damage windows, even just adding Shattering Throw opens up the field FAR wider. Is it wiser to use it as an additional Colossus Smash to make the most out of an early Avatar, or is better to spend it on soon-spawning adds?

The problem, however, comes in with Blizzard’s new penchant for ‘temporary’ abilities. With spells such as the Artifact power abilities and now our Essences for the Heart of Azeroth, they will disappear at the end of the expansion. These spells are irrelevant with new content. This trend will continue in Shadowlands with Covenant Powers, abilities your benefactors will impart to you in exchange for your allegiance. Invariably, much like Shaman Totems, players WILL get connected to these incredibly unique abilities and will miss them once they are gone. While Legion reintroduced several powers into Talent Trees, many are still compulsory and have the entire class built around them. Eventually we will return to the problem of ‘not enough reward,’ in leveling, especially if when the 9th expansion comes out, Shadowlands has to compete with Battle for Azeroth for the 10-60 bracket of leveling.

Ultimately, time will tell if these systems hold true. All in all, the level squish and new changes to dynamic leveling are a massive step forward. Exile’s Reach, if successful, may become a wonderful system for engaging and reaching out to new players. While focusing on getting to the endgame still seems to be the team’s main design direction, honing the first ten levels does remarkable dividends. Making what new players experience more in line with what they can look forward to in the endgame not only culls player confusion but has better chance to retain new adopters. After all, don’t you enjoy playing something if you know exactly what you’re getting into?

The post WoW Wednesday: How Shadowlands Fixes Leveling appeared first on MMOGames.com.

MMO Business Report: Q3 Industry Reports

This week we have a few industry reports to take a look at for the end of Q3 2019 as well as Superdata’s monthly revenue charts. Plus Jagex has to come out and explain that it hasn’t been sold…yet again. There are only 9 weeks left in this year so before you know it we’ll be looking at the whole year in a glance. For now though, it’s Q3 and a few random pieces of industry news in this week’s MMOGames Business Report.

 

Jagex Hasn’t Been Sold

Jagex has had to clarify that they have not been sold after a Reddit thread with some regulatory statements that seemed to announce Fukong Interactive had sold Jagex to Platinum Fortune, which was believed to be “basically a shell company” of Fukong. GamesIndustry.biz reached out to Jagex to get clarification.

“As referenced in June, Fukong’s regulatory statements acknowledged that the company was looking to restructure its finances, and that resulted in announcements regarding the potential sale of Jagex,” said director of communications Rich Eddy.

“While the situation continues to progress, Fukong’s most recent statements advise the Chinese market that it has updated its financial information as negotiations continue. This is not a confirmation of a sale, which remains one of various possible outcomes.”

This isn’t the first time this year that this very same situation has come up. It also happened in July and was basically the exact same scenario as this time. If there is anything to take away from this it is that Jagex still might be sold in the future, but that potential has been on the table publicly since January and there hasn’t been any movement yet. So who knows when or even if it will actually happen.

 

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

 

Top Games of September 2019

Superdata has released their monthly game revenue charts for September and it’s bad news for some of the industry’s superstars. World of Warcraft saw a leap from 7th to 3rd in August thanks to the launch of WoW Classic, but in September it was back down to 6th. This isn’t because of the boycott, that won’t have an impact on the charts for another month or two. This was that initial surge of people who tried out WoW Classic going back to the other games they were playing. Fortnite has also dropped, Superdata estimates that the game saw a 43% decline month over month in September making it the worst month for revenue since November 2017. On console Fortnite dropped from first place to seventh in just one month. But, this all happened before Chapter 2 started so it’s really impossible to predict what future reports will look like for the game.

In August Pokemon Go had overtaken Honour of Kings for the number one position on mobile but in September Fate/Grand Order held the top spot, pushing Pokemon Go to number 2. Honour of Kings continued its drop down the charts and finished September in 4th place.

 

Source: Superdata Report

 

Worldwide Q3 Mobile Game Revenue

Global app revenue grew 23% year over year last quarter to $21.9 billion, but that isn’t the part of the new report from SensorTower that we’re interested in. We want to look just at mobile games which grew 20% year on year. Games accounted for 74% of all in-app spending, which is actually down two percent from Q3 2018. App Store users spent the most, having spent $9.8 billion in Q3 2019. That’s up 19% from the previous year. Google Play users spent $6.5 billion in E3 2019.

PUBG Mobile was the top grossing mobile game in the world for the quarter, grossing $496 million just in Q3 2019, a year on year growth of 652%. Pokemon Go was given the distinction of the fastest growing game by revenue quarter on quarter. It was up 63% to $308 million. Summer time is always good for Pokemon Go as kids are out of school giving them more time to run around and catch em all.

 

Source: SensorTower Report

 

Tencent Supercell Takeover

Top MMO News: March 9, 2016

Tencent has been on a roll recently with their investments, most recently having invested in Funcom. Well, now we can add Supercell to their list too. To understand the details of the deal though we have to have a bit of a history lesson.

In 2016 a Luxembourg consortium formed with the sole purpose of acquiring Supercell. They bought 81.4% of the mobile game developer which at the time was valued at $10.2 billion. Tencent had a 50% stake in the consortium which has now been increased to 51.2%. According to details from a filing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange Tencent acquired $40 million worth of shares as part of a convertible bond. At this rate Tencent will have taken over the entire games industry by 2022, or at least it feels like it.

 

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

 

Q3 VR Report

Believe it or not the VR industry is still expanding. It certainly didn’t blow people away like they thought it would a few years ago but they are on track to bring in over one billion dollars in software revenue for the first time this year. Interestingly though it is location-based entertainment like those found in malls that are bringing in half of that revenue. Businesses have also caught on to the potential of VR. Enterprise headset revenue is on track to jump up 69% year on year. Superdata expects consumer spending on VR to more than double in the next 4 years to $2.4 billion.

The report from Superdata mostly looked at VR but it did also talk very briefly about AR, Augmented Reality games. There wasn’t really much data there, though they are expecting the genre to see growth from $1.8 billion in revenue in 2018 to $2.9 billion in 2022. They also pointed out that from June to August Harry Potter: Wizards Unite only earned 1% of the revenue that Pokemon Go brought in during that same period. As the report says, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite isn’t casting a spell on wallets.

Source: Superdata XR Q3 2019 Report

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WoW Wednesday: Blitzchung and the Grandmaster’s Debacle

While we have covered some of the emerging news around this week’s topic here on MMOGames, this particular issue is one that requires some further discussion. To call the fallout from Blitzchung’s ban, “intense,” might be a relatively mild understatement. After the removal of the Hearthstone Grandmaster over his political statement during the tournament, the internet erupted (as it does) into a fire of righteous fury and rage. While perhaps outside the scope of what this column could, or should, cover I would be remiss to avoid talking about Blizzard’s latest sociopolitical misstep. This week, let’s discuss Hong Kong, Blitzchung, Hearthstone, Blizzard, and the idea of ‘freedom,’ when it comes to the ‘free market.’

If, much like me, you exist solely on the internet memespace without understanding, “how the world works,” you may have missed an ongoing issue in the eastern world. For the last several months, the pseudo-nation-city of Hong Kong has been in a large-scale uproar. To understand the entirety of this situation and the severity of everyone’s actions we first need to understand the Hong King protests.

To make a VERY long and complicated political story short, Hong Kong is what is referred to as a, ‘special administrative region,’ of the People’s Republic of China. After being ceded to the British Empire during the First Opium War in 1842, the island-city-state has been largely self-governing.  Even after its return to Chinese rule in 1997 it has largely remained under its own political control simply due to its distance from the mainland. In a manner somewhat similar to Canada or America before their cession from Great Britain, they operate under a “one country, two systems,” policy. Ideally, in a perfect scenario, while Hong Kong economically and nationally supports the Chinese Government, it manages its own affairs.


This is not, however, simply due to sheer distance. A large part of this independence is due to it’s two, ‘parent,’ nations. After previously (and quite famously if you’ve ever watched a modern martial arts movie) suffering in many aspects under British Rule, Hong Kong has notoriously stood independently. Featuring one of the firsts modern universities in the territory, a major airport ten years later, avoiding economic depression and generally becoming a neutral zone and political safe-haven, Hong Kong still stands. It stands far and alone above its peers even in Mainland China.

Some of that, many would argue, is for the best. With the Chinese Government’s increasingly authoritarian moves over the last decade, Hong Kong has become that safe haven once again. After the dissolution of presidential terms by now Chinese-President-For-Life Xi Jingping, the Chinese government began to turn its gaze onto other matters of securing it’s hold on the Eastern World. Some of that involves President Xi’s ambitious Silk-Road-esque project to remap world trade routes through China, others involve enforcing some of the nation’s firm rules and introducing new ones such as the Social Credit System. Performing poorly in society (such as homelessness, poor behavior, poor social intercourse) can tank your Chinese ‘Social Credit Score’ and restrict you from several high-end lifestyle services such as High-Speed Internet. There are even concerns that the Chinese Government has interfered in the succession of the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist leader of the Tibetan Religion.

Hong Kong famously, and not just recently, has been an object of resistance in the face of the Chinese Government for years. After a mass emigration of Hong Kong’s residents when the British Empire relinquished its control, fearing the dissolution of civil rights and their quality of life, China has continued to try and enforce regulation. From unsuccessfully attempting to enact their National Security Bill of 2003 to circumvent Hong Kong laws and maintenance on many things including treason, property rights, prosecution time limits and trials by jury (just to name a few), things have only gotten worse.

Recently, Hong Kong attempted to put forward an Extradition Bill in regards to the case of Chan Tong-Kai. After killing his girlfriend in Taiwan in early 2018, he returned to his Hong Kong address and informed the police of his crime. However, as no extradition programs were in place between Hong Kong and China, he could not be returned to the mainland to face for his crimes, nor be charged. Thus it was proposed that a, ‘mechanism,’ could be established on a case-by-case basis to transfer such criminals to any jurisdiction that Hong Kong didn’t possess one with. While this sounds like an excellent solution, there was one large problem.


In the creation, facilitation, and implementation of this law in Hong Kong’s government, Beijing and the Chinese Government had a very heavy hand in creating it.

Understandably, given Hong Kong’s and China’s warring history of enforcement and civil liberty, the heavy-handed influence of Xi Jinping’s did not fly well with the city’s inhabitants. Starting as early March of 2019, the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill protests began with turnouts as large 500’000 people. While these protests were largely peaceful, vandalism began to occur during early July and violence erupted between local criminal triads and protesters as the month continued. On October 1st, after most of the protests had died with the collapse of the bill, a student protester was shot by police during a demonstration after reportedly attempting to strike the officer with an improvised weapon. Things have only since intensified, with improvised explosive devices being discharged near police stations and children being shot by police forces.

Throughout this situation, the Chinese government have attempted to paint the protesters, who’s groups have risen to the multi-millions during active events, as a small grass-roots movement. In an effort to paint the situation in a better light, the government of the People’s Republic of China has painted the effort as homegrown terrorism and riots driven by separatists. In an effort to curb the western world’s reporting and politics on the matter, the Chinese Government has cut off several personal and public personas from broadcasting in the country. Most famously, China stopped broadcasting National Basketball Association matches following a pro-Hong Kong tweet by one of the team’s managers. Later, they banned the irreverent adult comedy South Park from broadcasting after the release of their episode, “Band in China.” According to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms would later investigate and ban several pro-China ads which had ties to Chinese Governmental offices. These ads painted images and coverage of the protests as, “conspiracy theories about Western involvement in the protests.”

With all of that in mind, let’s now finally discuss Blitzchung and Blizzard.


This year, during the Asia-Pacific branch of the Hearthstone Grandmaster’s league tournament, pro player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai came out on top. Taking the tournament win, he later appeared on the official Taiwanese Hearthstone stream for a traditional post-game interview. Unlike past winners, however, he appeared on camera wearing a gas mask. Lifting it upward, he shouted in Chinese, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” – a familiar rallying cry to the protesters in Hong Kong. While the interview did continue afterward, it did not go unnoticed by Activision-Blizzard, who facilitates and funds the worldwide tournaments.

As of Tuesday, October 8th, Blizzard decided to ban Blitzchung for this moment in his interview. Citing the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules, specifically page 12 and section 6.1:

“Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard(s) image will result in removal from the Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.”

Pursuant to this rule, Blitzchung had his prize money taken away and was given a full year suspension from the league. After looking through the Official Competition Rules, I can personally attest that this rule isn’t an anomaly; other rules can have players banned for FAR less.

This is where the main crux of the issue began. While section 6.1 cites issues that an action which, “brings [a competitor] into public disrepute,” the entire rule is incredibly flexible. As with any major sports star (aside from OJ, Kobe, etc.), Activision-Blizzard ideally wants their winners to be as non-controversial as possible. This happens with a number of free-market companies and e-sports competitors and has emerged to a sociopolitical high point over the years. Some proponents of rules such as this point to cancel culture and the impact of public backlash, others hint towards some current cases such as Gearbox’s CEO Randy Pitchford as the ideal situation to avoid.


In a bubble, this decision makes sense in pursuant to the rules. What did not make sense was immediately firing the two casters who interviewed Blitzchung. “Blitzchung is ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 12 months,” the official statement reported, adding additionally that, “[Blizzard] will also immediately cease working with both casters,” who interviewed Blitzchung during his interview. This raised the concern over the interfering influence of the Chinese Government and Free Market with 5% of the company being owned by Chinese super-conglomerate Tencent. This fear was later backed up and stoked by Blizzard’s Official China presence.

Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website, is one of the largest social media platforms in China. As such, it makes sense for companies such as Activision-Blizzard to use the website to make official statements in the region, using their partner Netease to manage it. Lined up with their announcement of Blitzchung’s ban, the Weibo page eviscerated his conduct in a vicious tone previously used on the NBA’s Weibo apology. Originally reported by Rod Breslau on Twitter, “We are very angered and disappointed at what happened at the event and do not condone it in any way,” the page read. “We also highly object the spreading of personal political beliefs in this manner. Effective immediately we’ve banned the contestant from events and terminated work with the broadcasters. We will always respect and defend the pride of our country.”

Almost immediately the internet burst into flame. Rallying around the social media hashtag, ‘#BoycottBlizzard,’ fans and critics alike put the company’s feet to the fire. Just a cursory glance of the hashtag’s users show players unsubscribing from Blizzard Games en-masse including Mark Kern, one of World of Warcraft’s original game designers. Fellow Grandmasters players such as Brian Kibler stood out in solidarity with Blitzchung, quitting the league and cutting ties from the company to show their support. Blizzard employees staged mass-walkouts from work throughout last week, covering up several sites and company locations in protest. One of the more famous images features a group of Blizzard employees gathered at the famous statue out front. Holding umbrellas, the symbol of the protests in Hong Kong, the employees stand around a taped off portion of the Warcraft statue. Covered by a piece of lined paper, this section used to describe several of the company’s core values including, “Think Globally,” and “Every Voice Matters.”

Most entertainingly, or horrifically depending on if your profession is involved in marketing art, #BoycottBlizzard activists turned their gaze on Blizzard’s one Chinese character. Taking Overwatch’s Chinese climate-scientist, Mei, they’ve begun to create a legion of artwork of and about her. Citing her desire to make the world a better place for everyone, they’ve begun to draw and illustrate her as a symbol of resistance and defiance for the Hong Kong protests. Clearly, the motivation has been to have the character, if not the entire game, banned in China with artists claiming such in their work. Some, such as what we’ve featured below previously on the website, is far more tame than others on the internet.


Things reached a vital fever pitch during the Collegiate Hearthstone Championship. American University’s team during a telecasted match held up a rather familiar sign. Emblazoned with the words, “Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizzard,” the clip was only on screen for little more than six seconds before Activision-Blizzard cut away from the footage. In a contrary decision to Blitzchung’s ban (though the rules for the collegiate tournament were not available for confirmation), the AU team was not penalized for the move and had their next match scheduled for the season. Choosing to stand with the protests, and to highlight the inequality of the rule-system, AU forfeited their match and departed the season, citing Blizzard’s hypocrisy over the issue.

Boycotts and protests continued throughout the week, even as Activision-Blizzard stated that they were assessing the ongoing situation. It is at this point I have to comment my own opinion. Whether or not you may share my pro-freedom opinion on the protests in Hong Kong, Blitzchung’s ban does fall within the rules. I share Brian Kibler’s notion that he overstepped his platform in the post-win interview, and that while the ban was justified the firing of the two casters was not. This decision, whether or not it was a mistake or an oversight, solidified it as one made by influences outside of the rule books. That is what spiraled this political dissonance with the event’s rules to a greater issue wholesale and is not condonable.

However, returning to the facts of the matter, Activision-Blizzard finally made a statement on the company’s website last Saturday. In the article, President J. Allen Brack discussed the company’s perspective on their ban, citing that their, “relationships in China had no influence on [their] decision.” The company, “now believe(s) [Blitzchung] should receive his prizing,” and re-awarded the $500’000 in cash rewards to the pro-player. However, the article was so rushed and poorly written that it failed to answer several vital questions; it took a Blizzard employee’s discord presence to confirm that Blitzchung was NOT removed from the Grandmaster’s league and would have the option to compete in the 2020 season.


This is one of those situations where both newspaper editorial pictures and internet memes seem to collide in a strange unification. While normally diametrically opposed, just about every single person hated everything about this politically charged situation. It exposes a large-scale issue with, even if Chinese money had no hand in the situation, the perception that it does. With several political discourses from the eastern world leaking into our own news systems, it is becoming very abundantly clear that the Economic and Political West DOES NOT want China’s involvement in their content. Problems arise however when we look at the world stage.

China since the early 2000’s has been making increased efforts to control the world’s political and entertainment stage. Possessing one of the largest populations world-wide, they are a major political and economic force. Political concerns have arisen during the Trump, Trudeau and May administrations in America, Canada and the UK respectively, where western diplomats are often being outnumbered in the dozens by politicians from Beijing. Continuing their entertainment subsidies from the turn of the century, China prioritizes homegrown Video Game, Art, and Movie companies for its economy. These government grants award land, buildings, infrastructure and money to native entertainment startups such as the infamously abusive Chengdu Ai-Shan Technology (which later rebranded as Blue Sky in 2014, SakuraGame in 2015, Paradise Project after a wave of public backlash in 2018, and has now returned to SakuraGame in 2019). Other foreign companies receive similar grants for their business and work in the country, which many are eager to jump on.

Highlighted recently by YouTube philosophy channel Wisecrack in their video entitled, “South Park on Freedom,” the ‘free market’ is not so free. China’s influence creates massive waves of change throughout the world’s economy, creating situations we are not aware of specifically to appease the foreign power. While jokingly referred to as the ‘Chinese Expansion,’ during its Mists of Pandaria era, World of Warcraft has begun to lean FAR more heavily into those markets with in-game stores, mobile-phone styled mini-games and increased random-number-generation rewards. Potentially, this change has been spurred on by Tencent’s ownership and Netease’s partnership, but such examples can be far more readily found in the works of Disney’s foreign films such as Iron Man 3. In this movie, an entire scene was concocted that cannot be found in any non-Chinese version of the film, where Tony Stark instead travels to China to have the arc-reactor magnet removed from his heart.


In an effort to appease the market, inevitably we will be either continuing to delude ourselves and them or suffer the consequences. Such is the problem with free speech in a free market. While notoriously more of an American concept, freedom of speech has been a hotly debated issue around the current political mine-field. As my neighbors to the south can tell you, the freedom to say WHAT you want to say, HOW you want to say it (provided it doesn’t infringe upon another’s rights) is a bedrock of democracy. It is not, however, a bedrock of economy. As we continue to see time and time again, we cannot say what we want to say (or what SHOULD be said) if we want to make money. While this has reached a fever-pitch in sociopolitical phenomena like cancel culture, China will and has taken firm-line stances on it. Weaponizing their impressive population to great effect, they effectively tanked the NBA’s earnings by refusing to air certain shows. Cutting off a demographic of that size can and will invariably damage company profits and forces the ‘free market’ to not-so-freely toe the line.

Inevitably, this situation became political revolving around China. However, like Trey Parker and Matt Stone, it is up to you if Activision-Blizzard is truly to blame in this case. Much like South Park’s non-apology, perhaps their Chinese influences too make them think that, “We too love money more than freedom and democracy.”

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WoW Wednesday: The Legacy of the Black Emperor

SPOILERS AHEAD!

 

Much to our excitement, and my own surprise, Patch 8.3 has been announced! “Visions of N’Zoth,” will take players to the sleeping city of Ny’alotha, where an untold terrors await the champions of Azeroth. There the old god, N’Zoth, has laid dreaming for untold millennia. His dark fortress is one just on the other side of a dark reality; a world of twisted promise for what he plans to unleash upon a slumbering titan. But in the sleeping city, there rests a familiar face.

Along with extensive data-mining about new Allied Races (which we’ll talk about in the coming weeks), an old friend was revealed:

Wrathion, the Black Emperor: Despite all his schemes, Wrathion could not avoid succumbing to the madness that claimed his father. With his mind corrupted by N’Zoth, the Black Prince is a force of unbridled hatred, capable of annihilating all who oppose him in blood and flame.”

This patch brings forth the final conclusion to a tale of power and absolutes. For this WoW Wednesday let’s take a moment to discuss Wrathion, the Black Prince, and the steps that opened him to corruption in more than just his legacy.


Players who leveled through Azeroth’s new world in Cataclysm might remember seeing Wrathion, just not without his characteristic turban. Lain by the black dragon Nyxondra, players first encountered the Prince as a humble egg being studied by Rheastrasza. This red dragon wanted more for her black brethren, who’s patriarch was busy on bringing about the end of the world for a second time. Corrupted wholesale by the influence of the Old Gods, the Black Dragonflight had become pawns in their bid for freedom and were eager to corrupt the entirety of Azeroth to get their way.

Introduced to this earth-shaking conflict well before his technical birth, Wrathion would be freed from his father’s legacy by Rhea’s efforts. Using a titanic device known as the Eye of the Watchers, she did the impossible and managed to purify the egg of its corruption. Quickly secreting it away, Rheastrasza was slain by Deathwing for her hubris, and the egg thought destroyed.

Everyone, however, was deceived. For in killing Rhea and destroying an egg, Deathwing had destroyed one of the red dragon’s own clutch. Wrathion, still unhatched, was quickly secreted away to the Vermilion Redoubt, one of the Red Flight’s hatcheries and sanctuaries. There he would remain until eventually being, ‘collected,’ by the rogues of Ravenholdt Manor. Hatching from his egg, Wrathion swiftly took charge of the shadowy organization with one goal in mind: Deathwing and all of his corrupted brood must die if Azeroth was to survive the Cataclysm.

Empowering a rogue adventurer, Wrathion set his champion upon Deathwing. Subverting the assault on Wyrmrest Temple and preventing the literal end of the world, Wrathion’s Agent traveled across Azeroth to attack the Black Dragonflight. It would be by his orders that Creed, Nalice, and even Ravenholdt’s own Fahrad would be revealed and slain as Black Dragons. Using his knowledge of the void gleaned through his time in the egg, the Black Prince created the tools for rogues to deliver the true lethal blow on Deathwing. Now the last free Black Dragon of his flight, he recruited those of Ravenholdt who would travel with him and vanished from the public world.


With the emergence of Pandaria, Wrathion traveled there after experiencing a terrible vision. Foreseeing a return of the demonic Burning Legion, Wrathion is set on uniting the Alliance and the Horde by any means necessary. Even if that requires one to decimate the other in total world war. Initially throwing his lot in with both the Horde AND the Alliance in an effort to bid them into war, Garrosh Hellscream’s rule as Warchief tips the scales into a terrible manner during the war. Throwing his support behind the Alliance, the Black Prince quickly finds himself at a crossroads.

Taking relics from across Pandaria to heighten his own power and tip the scales of chance; the heart of the Thunder King, a Lance of Lightning, even basking the power of the Celestials. But yet the War spirals on and not to his liking. With the Siege of Orgrimmar and High King Varian Wrynn’s allowing the Horde to continue existing, Wrathion’s plans were foiled. Instead of believing that one made the other truly stronger than if they were alone, the black dragon was instead certain that were they to be divided, even for a moment, all of Azeroth would fall.

Thus, he decided to create a second plan. A better plan. Conspiring with the bronze dragon Kairozdormu and the infinite dragonflight. Freeing Garrosh Hellscream, Wrathion sent the pair back thirty-five years to an alternate Draenor. There, Garrosh took it upon himself to create a second Orcish invasion, one that threatened to tear Azeroth asunder. Uniting in the face of such adversity, the Horde and the Alliance tore through to the other side of the Dark Portal to quell this invasion.

But Wrathion watched throughout. Taking the opportunity to recruit the Alliance’s elite forces to his guard, the Black Prince kept an especial eye on the Kirin Tor and Cordana Felsong. Only when his former champions found him, did the dragon often quickly take his leave.

Thus, the Legion came, and Wrathion was nowhere to be seen. Though his plans were not unfathomable.


With the beginning of the Blood War, the Black Prince was already eager at work. Despite being an outcast from his own race, Wrathion was eager to discover any information he could find to further his kind. It began, initially, with seeking out the location of the Dragon Isles. This was the dragon’s greatest hatchery, their greatest stronghold, and their best kept secret. Even as he searched for more, his eyes were everywhere. Blacktalon Agents were present not only in Nazjatar, watching the developments of Queen Azshara’s trap, but they too were waiting in the old lair of Deathwing to watch a particular Spiritwalker collect a dark essence.

Finding his searches coming to dead ends, and with N’Zoth freed by the naga queen, Wrathion knew that time was short. With an Old God left unchecked for the first time in over ten thousand years, it was possible that anyone could become a victim. Anyone could become a thrall of darkness. Scouring the world, Wrathion left a journal for his old champions to direct them to an artifact of power.

Scouring the library of Shen’dralar, the records of the Pandaren Lorewalkers, even searching the ancient titan facilities, he looked for a way to purge the taint of the Old Gods, even on a small scale. Believing that the Forge of Origination, a titan artifice that could create an apocalyptic scouring of Azeroth, was key Wrathion searched the Vault of Archavon and beyond. Eventually, his feet found him before Karazhan and the spectral remains of Medivh, the Last Guardian. Taking his words to heart, Wrathion prepared to make his plans to change the future by any means necessary. Even if that meant tipping the scales of fate once more.

Taking all he had learned in his travels, Wrathion prepared a plan those familiar with the Void Elves may find familiar. Standing in the darkness, much like the Shado-Pan, he intended to both ‘poison’ the influence of the Old Gods and weaponizing the power of the void against it.

Once more, this comes to the forefront in “Visions of N’Zoth.” Doing what he does best and picking his Champions carefully, Wrathion will delve into the darkness where the Void lingers the strongest. Helping the Champions of Azeroth in rooting through the corruption of Ny’Alotha, he will assist them in forging legendary cloaks (once again) to protect them from the darkness. But as we’ve seen so many times before, undoubtably when one stares into the Void, the void too stares back…

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MMO Business Report: Raph Koster Forms a New MMO Studio and Game Companies Avoid Paying Tax

This was a pretty exciting week for the MMO industry with the announcement of Raph Koster’s new MMO studio and Tencent investing in Funcom. We also have news about the revenue for Pokemon Masters and a report that shows 4 major game companies are using a UK tax policy meant to boost local developers to dodge paying millions in taxes. All of that and more in this week’s MMO Business Report.

 

Tencent Becomes Funcom’s Biggest Shareholder

Funcom Are Expanding With 40 New Jobs To Fill

Perhaps the biggest surprise this week was the announcement that Tencent had invested in Funcom and become its biggest shareholder. The Chinese company now owns a 29% share in Funcom. This is on top of owning or partially owning these others; Grinding Gear Games, Riot Games, Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, Paradox Interactive, Frontier, and Supercell. As part of the agreement Tencent acquired all the shares that had belonged to the Norway based KGJ Capital AS.

“We are very pleased to see Tencent come in as the largest shareholder of Funcom,” says Funcom CEO Rui Casais. “Tencent has a reputation for being a responsible long-term investor, and for its renowned operational capabilities in online games.The insight, experience, and knowledge that Tencent will bring is of great value to us and we look forward to working closely with them as we continue to develop great games and build a successful future for Funcom.”

Funcom recently announced it had acquired exclusive rights to develop and publish games based on the Dune IP over the next 6 years. They’re already working on an open world sandbox game set in the Dune universe and they’re working closely with Legendary Entertainment who are releasing a new Dune movie next year.

 

Source: Press Release

 

Fortnite Revenue Down Significantly in the US

According to US market tracking firm Edison Trends Fortnite’s US revenue in July was down 52% year on year. That’s a 75% drop from its peak in December 2018. The firm also had a look at what consumers are spending their money on. In Apex Legends and Fortnite the answer was overwhelmingly virtual currency. Apex Coins accounted for 96% of spending on Apex Legends while V-bucks accounted for 83% of the money spend on Fortnite. For PUBG and Call of Duty it was the game itself that accounted for the majority of money brought in. For PUBG the game accounted for 94% of the game’s revenue with G-coins accounting for 4% and Packs accounting for 3%. Black Ops 4 was a slightly different story. The game accounted for 69% of revenue, 19% from CoD Points, 4% from Passes, and 8% from other add-on content.

Finally, the firm tracked loyalty by looking at how many people purchased something in game in June then did it again in July. Apex Legends performed the best with 62% of spenders buying something in June and July. PUBG was at the bottom of the 4 games they were studying at 38%.

 

Source: Edison Trends

 

Raph Koster Launches a New Studio with $2.7 Million in Funding

MMO icon Raph Koster has announced that he is launching a new studio, Playable Worlds with a starting fund of $2.7 million. The investment is being led by Bitkraft Esports Ventures with 1UP ventures, and multiple angel investors. The first project won’t have an esports emphasis though. The studio has said that they’re creating “an online world where a broad range of players can find a home, whether their preferred playstyle is exploring, adventuring, socializing, crafting, or player versus player combat.”

“I’m incredibly excited to bring a new world to players,” Koster said. “Technology has caught up to the visions we always had of alternate worlds where entire societies can form. It’s time for that dream to be fulfilled.”

Along with Raph Koster the studio has a lot of other big names from the MMO industry that include the following impressive list:

  • Mat Broome, Studio Art Director – H1Z1, Planetside, DC, and Marvel
  • Brian Crowder, Lead Server Engineer – SOE, EA, Zynga
  • Greg Costikyan, Lead Game Designer – Backflip Studios, Boss Fight Entertainment

 

Source: Games Industry

 

4 Major Video Game Companies Avoiding Millions in Taxes in the UK

According to a report from The Guardian, Sony, Sega, WarnerMedia, and Take-Two Interactive have all taken advantage of a UK tax policy that is intended to boost the domestic video games industry. They’ve been using the Video Games Tax Relief to avoid paying tens of millions of pounds in corporation tax.

WarnerMedia has reportedly claimed up to £60 million, Sony £30 million, Sega £20 million, Take-Two Interactive £42 million. Alex Dunnagan, a researcher at TaxWatch UK, said the new findings show the scheme had “become a cash cow for large, tax-dodging multinational corporations who are milking the system to extract hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidies from the British taxpayer. It is clear to me that much of the subsidy is unnecessary, as many of these corporations were producing hugely popular games since long before the introduction of VGTR.”

 

Source: The Guardian

 

Pokemon Masters Brings in $33 Million Globally Its First Month

Pokemon Masters has now had the second highest grossing launch month for a Pokemon mobile game, second only to Pokemon Go. Japanese spenders led the pack, accounting for 58% of the first month’s revenue. Meanwhile players in the United States brought in 19% of the spending, $6.3 million. Hong Kong, Taiwan, and France rounded out the top 5 markets for the game. Total spending during the first week averaged at close to $3.5 million a day, but since then it has been declining. Spending now averages $230,000 per day.

The game has been downloaded by nearly 12 million players globally on the App Store and Google Play. This puts its average revenue per download at $2.80. However, the Japanese playerbase spends an average of $12.90 per download, which matches the spending on Pokemon Go for the country. Players from the United States on the other hand are spending $2.33 per download.

The game isn’t taking the world by storm like Pokemon Go did, but it is performing incredibly well and it looks like it will have a long life, at least in Japan.

 

Source: Sensor Tower

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WoW Wednesday: Weeping For the War Campaign

With this last week we finally saw the Blood War, now known as the Fourth War, finally come to an end on Azeroth. This was one of the most pivotal parts of the expansion, being the predominate narrative marketing behind Battle for Azeroth. Hyped up with the beginnings of its previous expansion, Legion, World of Warcraft has been awaiting a major confrontation between two polar opposite figures in its world for quite some time. Truly, two no better candidates arose than Anduin Wrynn, King of the Alliance, and Sylvanas Windrunner, the undead Warchief of the Horde. The world was prepared for two diametrically opposing forces to strike in a total conflict. How did that play out?

Of course, spoilers ahead.

Veteran readers might recall our article nearly a year ago on the first volley fired in the War Campaign, the War of Thorns. This was a pre-expansion event that featured a host of gameplay problems, from repeated armor drops, no meaningful rewards aside from a quest-gated faction mount, and wretched issues with the server sharding systems. Insult was only added to injury with merely unlocking daily quests, which were later replaced with live content in patch 8.1 and the massive void left by Legion’s artifact weapon system. All of this was compounded by a mind-boggling narrative.

In an effort to stop a war before it begins, Sylvanas Windrunner and her two right-hand men, Nathanos Blightcaller and High Overlord Varok Saurfang, decide to wage a surprise war on their neighbors to the north. The Alliance-loyal Night Elves had often waged war on the Horde’s holdings and could be a threat to their continental hold. So they charged the Elven homelands with a goal in mind: to capture their island home Teldrassil and hold the natives hostage until the Alliance left Horde territory. Ideally, they’d also kill one of their major heroes and kill any hope the Night Elves might have in their future.

This is immediately where Battle for Azeroth’s writing took a nose-dive for the worst.


While fighting the Warchief, Night Elf hero Malfurion Stormrage was ambushed by Saurfang with an axe to the back. Instead of killing him herself, Sylvanas left his murder to be done by a Saurfang who was clearly in shock and disgust in himself for such a dishonorable act. Then, Tyrande Whisperwind, another Night Elven leader, rescued Stormrage and fled the war. However, she did not return to their fortified island home, they instead fled to another continent and abandoned their people.

Then, after Saurfang reported the heroes had escaped, Sylvanas decided to set Teldrassil on fire and kill thousands due to the cajoling of a dying Night Elf.

If that last paragraph seems a little odd in terms of its narrative structure, you’re not alone. There is a lot of, ‘and then’s, instead of, ‘therefore’s. Instead of, ‘Saurfang let Malfurion flee, therefore Sylvanas destroyed Teldrassil,’ plot points do not feel they have consequences or at least consequences that matter. Something similar happened famously in the adult American animated sitcom South Park during it’s 20th season. Featuring a large over-arching parody of the 2016 Presidential election, acts between characters featured consequential narrative actions.

For example, because a character’s internet trolling antics angered the Danish people, they threatened to release everyone’s private internet history. Therefore, because Hillary Clinton has something to hide (in the show, of course), she is forced to hire that same internet troll to erase her dark history. Consequential storytelling builds off of ‘therefore’ and ‘in retaliation’ moments. Peak decisions that have cause-and-effect relationships. While Battle for Azeroth does possess these, in a way, most are either very poorly handled or simply don’t exist.


Take, for example, the Alliance’s first War Campaign quests. It is discovered as the Alliance begins to encroach into Zandalar, that Sylvanas has allied herself with vampiric mages known as the San’layn. These horrific undead were once the most zealous of the Lich King’s commanders and possess an unrivaled thirst for living blood. Opposed to the Alliance’s stealth operations, the San’layn attempted to curb them step after step and time after time again. Therefore, the Alliance make them a primary target. As such, the San’layn try to retaliate and the plot builds over several quests. Finally, they are slain during a Horde operation on the open sea, killed dead by alliance assassins…

…And that is the end of that plot hook.

Then we come to a problem in the plot overall, not just simply in Battle for Azeroth. Due to the gaps of time that World of Warcraft has between major expansions and their current plan to build new expansions from older characters, things get slow. At least when it comes to narrative development. This is all well and good when it comes to major characters such as Gul’dan, who at the end of Warlords of Draenor set up Legion.

Then we have situations like the San’layn. The San’layn never comes up ever again in either the Alliance or the Horde War Campaign. In fact, if you exclusively play as a Horde character, you’d never know these San’layn existed. This rather demonstrates one of the more effective concepts of narrative development known as Chekhov’s Gun.


Chekhov’s Gun is the narrative concept that describes how every single element of a story should contribute to the whole. In a novel, commentary about the world around you adds to the world building. Dialogue in a movie should add more to the story instead of, like in films such as Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, filling random scenes with needless drivel. Every portion of a story should contribute in a way that makes sense and pays off. In the words of the man who coined the phrase, Anton Chekhov, “If in the first act you have a hung pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it in there.”

From the San’layn, to Saurfang, this principle applies through Battle for Azeroth’s storytelling. This, more than any other character, ultimately applies to Nathanos Blightcaller.

From the get-go of the expansion, Nathanos is the Horde’s dour overseer. He’s cruel, cold, calculating, but entirely devoted to the task at hand. While he fights avidly for the Warchief (and will tell you so to your face), it’s clear his goals are in line for the Horde as well. Despite clear affections for her Champion, Sylvanas was publicly rebuked all throughout the expansion’s storyline and beyond. His anti-Alliance sentiments were high and powerful, even to the point of murdering treasonous members of the Horde without command. While he is a dog of war, he is spurned on solely by his hatred of the living Alliance and revenge against them. While his devotion to Sylvanas is fanatical, it’s clear he is in no mood to mingle outside of his purpose.

Then we come to the Mak’gora. Saurfang’s now famous, and excellent, moment of redemption and heroism is witnessed by every mortal who matters on Azeroth. However, Sylvanas’ revelation that the Horde is nothing to her falls on only two important ears. The first of them being ‘Bannerbae,’ the First of Her Name and true *Tink Tink* of the Horde (that is canon, look it up). The second is every member of the Horde and the Alliance except Nathanos. Catching up with the pair after Sylvanas’ escape, one can find Nathanos calling her his, “love,” seemingly leaving all of his development to one side. His vengeance is abandoned, his battle lust discarded, and his cold demeanor finally accepts unrequited feelings simply ‘because.’

war campaign
This is only one of several unfired ‘guns’ throughout the plot, or moments that seem written simply to advance the plot because it frankly has nowhere else to go. Dazar’alor, the capital of the Zandalari Empire, is besieged and ransacked because despite their firm refusal to side with the Horde, they are a clearly neutral port allowing the Horde a place to stay. A neutral tactical target raided, ransacked, and having their king slain. In the same raid, we have the, “Death” of Gelbin Mekkatorque, leader of the Gnomes.

Except he’s not dead because he’s in a frozen cryogenic pod that no one can open. For some reason. Then of course we have the infamous moment of Tyrande Whisperwind quite literally telling Anduin Wrynn to piss off, merely to undertake a life-threatening ritual to the 1% of her surviving race to kill the Horde just because.

Some of this is incumbent of a game that now tries to setup its next expansion with the content of a current expansion. There are some plot threads that will inherently be dropped or avoided even when they don’t make sense to do so (ie. Why is Malfurion not fighting Azshara? Why aren’t ANY of the major Night Elves who didn’t take the ritual?). But that develops a weakened narrative as a whole, especially when a side-plot begins to be set-up to take over the end of the expansion. Despite us being sold a total world war with Battle for Azeroth, instead we now have an odd thing.


It’s often said that the only things we remember about a story are the beginning and the end. The beginning for how well it steps off and the end for how heavy of a conclusion it leaves. Much like the newest Avengers: Endgame, Battle for Azeroth was very much tied as the powerful continuation of a building tension in Azeroth. Instead of an engaging, earthshaking story we were instead taken on a trip of terrible stutters and stops. Where a cohesive, self-contained tale could have carried Azeroth up until Patch 8.2.5, instead we now find ourselves with a muddled mess. Where Red and Blue once clashed to light the world aflame, we now instead have a morally grey trash-heap. In an effort to make a story with Game of Thrones-esque twists and turns, we were left with an unfulfilling pile of confusing drivel.

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