Immersion

I’ve been slowly working away at the Loremaster achievement for my main, Millya. This is something I’ve spent time doing off-and-on since the beginning of Wrath. She’s actually not doing badly! Because she’s a tailor – I was one of the first folks back on my old server to have the Deathchill Cloak recipe – she already has Loremaster of Northrend.

Now I’m done with Kalimdor, and I have about 520/700 done for Eastern Kingdoms. Duskwood was a real find – I’ve gone through on other characters but Millya hadn’t touched it at all. I’m hoping it will be as easy. The problem with Kalimdor was that Millya leveled there and has done various other things – mostly what was left was odds and ends. There was little in the way of “Oh, I haven’t even been to this zone.”

I actually completed the Noggenfogger achievement for the first time on any character. I don’t know why – I think I’ve always dropped the chain at “The Thirsty Goblin” stage because I could never find that dew gland thing. So now I have finished it, and I can be a skeleton should I so desire. I add this to Millya’s repertoire of other shape-changing abilities. She does make a rather fetching blood elf, I think!

I think she looks sort of like Fyreuni.Only with different-coloured hair, naturally.

I took a break from Eastern Kingdoms to go and clear some quests out in Blade’s Edge Mountains last night and I’ve been struck by some differences between “old” Azeroth, Outland, and Northrend. Now, I haven’t conducted any comprehensive study in this regard so please feel free to add your own examples in the comments. Since I’m far from being perfect, I’m sure there’s things I have missed. However, in terms of immersion, it’s striking just how different Outland feels to me compared to Northrend and old Azeroth.

For example, I was at Toshley’s Station picking up some quests, when I noticed a disturbance at the other end of the little town. These Gore-Scythe Ravagers were just pouring up the hill. All of the gnomes in the area started pitching in to help as these monsters swarmed in and began to attack. I took a screenshot because it seemed like something exciting and memorable was happening.

We're under attack!

Since the quest chains in the area deal with some related things (Gnomish ingenuity,  launching me into the stratosphere, encroaching dangerous monsters) – it really made the area feel alive to me. These crazy gnomes really need my help. I don’t know how often the ravagers attack Toshley’s Station, but that’s part of the beauty of it.

Earlier in the evening, Vosskah and I were working on Ogri’la reputation. I had been checking wowwiki and had read something about an assault on Bash’ir Landing. He said, “Hey, this guy is saying something about an assault on Bash’ir Landing?”

“Let’s goooo,” I replied, “It must be happening right now!” We high-tailed it up to Bash’ir Landing to find swarms of various ethereal elites and other things moving in. A few Sha’tari Skyguard NPCs are conducting experiments there. As far as I can tell (obviously I didn’t do Ogri’la during Burning Crusade) the purpose of the NPCs is to purchase flasks and have other items made. Obviously, we don’t need any of those things, but I had a blast taking part in the event anyway!

The assault happens in three phases; initially there are just a few misty mobs meandering around. Some are elite, and some aren’t. Once you destroy towers that are there, it triggers the second phase. The two of us were able to handle the first phase pretty easily, but during the second it began to get hairy. More and more elite ethereals were spawning, Voss was zooming all over the place to pick them up, and I was trying to DPS them down. Once you’ve killed enough of them the Grand Poobah of Etherals spawns. I ended up dying in the fray, as did the NPCs, but Voss managed to finish that guy off.

From what I understand according to Wowwiki, the first phase was considered do-able by five people. The second phase “requires a Kara-sized raid group,” and the third phase “takes a raid group of 25.” Obviously that’s not true any more, and I doubt anyone would bother. The only tangible rewards from the event were an Apexis Crystal that dropped. But it was still exciting because something was happening! It had nothing to do with me as a “player” in the game, it was going to happen regardless, but I could and did influence the outcome. Obviously, it’s not something permanently world-changing. But it made the world feel more real.

Later, I was doing a quest in Blade’s Edge where one of the Ancients asks you to plant seeds. To my surprise and delight, planting the seed actually changes the landscape (with an accompanying creaking and cracking sound of sudden and abrupt tree-growth). I’m sure it resets after a time, but while I was around it was still evident.

I moonlight as Johnny Appleseed. Except it requires sunlight.

I love this stuff. I was thinking back, and off the top of my head I can remember a few other places in Burning Crusade where there are “unusual” or notable things happening. Every once in awhile, Honor Hold is assaulted by Legion forces. I remember the first time it happened, I really didn’t know what was going on! Were we going to be killed? This was back on an RP server and someone shouted, “Run for cover!”

You better believe I did! I ended up attacking some of the invaders after a few moments, but it was accompanied by a genuine rush of adrenaline. To a lesser degree, a similar thing is happening in Shadowmoon Valley. It’s less random and believable though because the NPCs are constantly engaged in combat with attacking forces… But in a way, that is believable. After all, it is one of the major strongholds of Legion influence. I’m eager to re-visit Shadowmoon Valley and see if there is anything else I’m overlooking there.

I can’t help but think – Wrath of the Lich King had many big, grand events. They used phasing technology for things like The Wrath Gate event and building the new Argent stronghold and other things. But those tended to be large, grand things that changed the world irrevocably – not small, random occurrences that added flavour. Maybe it’s just me, but I love those little things – if you are a Night Elf and have never done so, listen to the conversation between the Night Elf guards at Star’s Rest sometime. If you aren’t a night elf or can’t be bothered, I’ll just tell you about it. They are making fun of the Draenei there, Modoru, because of the robe he’s wearing! The first part of the conversation happens in Common, but they carry it on in Darnassian afterwards.

Sentinel Sweetspring says: [Darnassian] “Psst. Naohain. Why does Morodu still wear those ridiculous robes? He looks like some interdimensional bumpkin who stumbled out of Ammen Vale not six hours past.”
Naohain says: [Darnassian] “I… I do not know.”

What makes it even better is that you can purchase the exact Draenic Silk Robes from Hakmud of Argus with some fun flavour text. (All my draenei own and wear them with pride). Incidentally, interdimensional bumpkin? I resent that remark. This little interchange is one of the few times that Draenei are actually directly mentioned in this expansion – a story for another time.

Whoops, is this a fashion faux pas?

Even though it’s nothing attacking, it is a small way of adding extra “dimensions” to the world we’re all running around killing things in. I think some parts of Wrath were great for it, but I sincerely hope that Cataclysm has as many immersive elements as The Burning Crusade did. I can’t wait for the pre-expansion events! What things have increased your immersion on the game? I haven’t touched on “old” Azeroth as much, but I’m sure there are plenty I haven’t seen or haven’t thought of!

P.S. – I am diligently avoiding spoilers for the pre-expansion events and any other quest/lore occurrences in Cataclysm as best I can. I ask you to respect that in the comments – it’s been hard avoiding so many blog posts lately, and I know other people are excited (I am also excited!) But I like surprises. Thanks, I appreciate it!

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16 responses to “Immersion

  1. There are a few things in Wrath, like the constant attack against Valgarde in Howling Fjord. I remember spending about 30 minutes in there zipping around and defending the city. Good times!

    I think with the advent of the phasing, they discontinued the small changes that would disappear after a while. While I agree that fighting this assault was fun, I think I do enjoy the phasing and our ability to change the world in a major way. We’re heroes, are we not? If not, someone please tell Tirion and Dreamwalker to change their tune.

  2. Something that really made things feel “real” for me were things like the gnomish questgiver in Wintergarde Keep talking about how “Our noble Scarab Lord” and the warriors who fought for A’dal in the Sunwell and were given the title “Hand of A’dal” were on their way, so all couldn’t possibly be lost!

    And then the quests – how for once, to me anyway, it seems like they’re singling you out. You’re not just another warrior in the battle – you are a hero. People’ve heard of you. When you first roll into the Borean Tundra, one of the first quest givers says it’s good to see someone of your calibre, and how if the rank and file see you fighting out on the field with them, maybe it’ll give them the moral boost they need to keep going. How Bolvar actually REQUESTS YOUR SPECIFIC PRESENCE at the Wrathgate, to be the envoy to request Alexstrasza’s help, to guard the base camp while he leads the attack on the Wrathgate. You might not be the biggest hero who ever heroed, but you’re someone people’ve heard of. You’re someone who’ll be remembered. THAT, for me, is just… amazingly immersive, even when it’s quest text. And from an RP standpoint, since I’m not actively RPing with Lisan, since she’s, y’know, not on an RP server, it lets me say that YES. SHE /IS/ THE HERO WHO DID ALL THESE THINGS. Sure, she didn’t do EVERYTHING, that would be silly (and I’ve never set foot in the Sunwell), but she really IS one of the people who killed this person or that person, and she really IS a hero. (Incidentally, this is quite baffling to her, as she’s never really seen herself as anything notably special. I love my girl. *hugs her*)

    • All very good points, Apple! I’d completely forgotten that special feeling of rolling into Borean Tundra and them saying, “Oh no, you don’t wait in line,” that was pretty cool. (Incidentally, if you’ve never entered Northrend as a Horde character, that’s a study in contrasts!)

      While I do like and appreciate the feeling you are describing, by the same token (to me personally) it is something that’s semi-immersion breaking! Especially having come from an RP server, I know that we always struggled with the continuity and believability – for instance, when we talk about “assaults on Icecrown Citadel,” at least with my folks it’s always assumed that we’re part of a much larger force. When we took part in the final battle against Arthas, it’s very “we were one squadron among many,” because it just doesn’t make as much sense any other way, and we can’t all be that special (although I secret love being THE hero, as I’m sure we all do.) ;) I love hearing different viewpoints about this for sure – what leads to an immersive experience for one person isn’t guaranteed to do so for everyone, but it’s really interesting to hear the what and why.

      • I don’t know if there’s an equivalent Alliance-side, but Horde-side in Dragonblight you roll into Agmar’s Hammer, and a questgiver flags you down and gives you a note. It’s from Saurfang, who informs you that he’s mistrustful of the path that Garrosh is leading the Horde Expedition, and to combat this he put his own son in command at Kor’kron Vanguard. Essentially, he wants you to remain loyal to Trall’s vision for the Horde, and to support his son at the Vanguard.

        There’s also the magical image of Sunreaver at Agmar’s Hammer, and he sends you on a bunch of quests to figure out what the Blue Dragonflight is doing. When that last quest finishes up, his eyes get really wide and he says, “WHAT?! Of course, we should have guessed that this was what they were up to all along. Quickly, there’s no time to waste. Wyrmrest must be warned!” And he sends you straight on to a meeting with Alexstrasza.

        Those two little parts of the story, all by themselves, keep a player right in the thick of things.

  3. For me it’s the little things that make Azeroth really come to life, and I hope Blizzard have been working hard on the small as well as the large in Cataclysm. My first rainfall in Auberdine, watching wild animals actually attack each other on the tundra as they would in real life, coming across racing shenanigans in thr shimmering flats, just little things that let you know there is a world happening around you that you are simply a part of, and that carries on even when you’re not around. Those little things pull me back time and again, and go hand in hand perfectly with the large phased changes in places like Icecrown and the Storm Peaks. Sometimes less really can be more.

    • Omg yes, the weather. When it first came out I was all “whatever”, but these days when it starts raining and I’m* caught out in the open I turn “display helm” on, as though I’m pulling up my hood. Or if I’m waiting for a zepplin I go and wait inside the building instead of out in the rain.

      *my character, I mean.

  4. I was so totally not done with TBC when Wrath came out (and the patches that came out beforehand nerfing SSC and TK). I have huge nostalgia for lots of areas, events, raids etc in TBC. Reading your post makes me realise I loved a lot of the same things that you described.

    Wrath felt epic, the zones, the quest lines etc, but after a while I really felt like I was going through the motions with them. Just getting through them to level up a character and amass XP the most efficient way possible. I don’t know if it was a change of attitude on my part or a change in the game itself, but I don’t feel the same love for Wrath that I did for TBC or certain places in vanilla WoW.

    I am really looking forward to Cataclysm though, there are so many new major changes coming up, and because I’ve been bored with the game for a while I really feel that for me it’s exactly what I need to get back into things.

    By the way, are you going to PuG your paladin to 85?

  5. Q wants to know who the fetching Blood Elf is. I told him to go be quiet and hang around the Dal fountain for a while, but Millya might want to start running now.

    Ah, Bash’ir Landing. I got to there after I finished Northrend, so I figured “Hey, another event!” After about 15-20 minutes of beating back ethereals, the team finally died. I grumbled a bit and got on WoWhead to find out what the heck I was supposed to do. It was then that I discovered that it was an event to allow you to buy things. Oy, I felt stupid.

    About Shadowmoon, I assume you got the key made for Hellfire? It drops from one of the Fel Orcs outside the Black Temple. Also, I don’t know if there’s an Alliance equivalent, but there’s an Orc way off in a farm who is a sworn enemy of Gul’dan, and you end up getting sent on a quest chain to go beat up all sorts of people to bring his sons back home.

    Okay, immersion…

    I doubt you’ve hung around Falconwing Square, the Blood Watch for the Blood Elf starting area. If you have, you get to hear the cheese vendor complain bitterly about… selling cheese. “Why did my mother have to sell cheese? I’m stuck with the smell of moldy feet all day!”

    In Tranquillien, if you go to where Dame Auriferous and High Executor Mavren are speaking, you can tell that the High Executor is a bit of a lech. Just wait, and you’ll see.

    Also in Tranquillien, if you speak to Arcanist Vandril after you complete his quest chain, he calls you the hero of the day and asks if you’ve been beating back the Scourge at every opportunity.

    You get random attacks in various Horde outposts as well. Tranquillien has the Scourge assault the city at various intervals, and Hammerfall has a troll assault. In Kargath over in the Badlands, you don’t get an assault, but the Horde will send out a patrol. While the patrol is gone, you’re not able to acquire any quests from the NPCs involved.

    Now, in Stonard, over near the Sunken Temple, the warlock Cersei Duskbringer mixes it up with several Orc trainers:

    Greshka says: Look at her down there! Just who does she think she is?
    Kartosh says: Hmph, no doubt she believes herself to be the new mistress of Stonard. Perhaps we should offer to help her succubi tidy up her messes?
    Rogvar says: Her methods are cowardly. She reminds me of the Forsaken apothecaries.
    Cersei Dusksinger says: You have something to say to my face?
    Cersei walks up the stairs, looks at them and returns to her desk
    Cersei Dusksinger says: I thought not!

    (See? It’s not just the Draenei that dislike her!)

  6. There is a little questline event in the Eastern Plaguelands that is somewhat similar to some of the things in Outlands. There, a dwarf named Guard Didier leads a set of four pack mules from Light’s Hope Chapel to an Argent Dawn camp on the southeastern edge of Plaguewood. There’s no particular event that triggers the guard to leave; apparently it happens twice a day. If all four mules successfully make it from Light’s Hope to the camp, the guard will offer a quest called Writ of Safe Passage. You can get that writ signed and take it back to Light’s Hope Chapel in exchange for an Insignia of the Dawn or of the Crusade, which was one of the various currencies used for Argent Dawn awards.

    Now, there is nothing in particular to tell anyone to guard the mules. You just have to watch and figure that out for yourself. A while back I protected the mules on Jana, having lucked out into seeing the mules leave Light’s Hope and deciding I would see what would happen. Unfortunately, since I hadn’t looked it up at all, I didn’t know where to turn in the writ and now have the thing in my bags, unsigned, as the person to whom I would give it to sign despawned about ten minutes after the safe passage. I doubt I will ever complete the quest.

    The only other “event” that I can think of in the original WoW world was the battle for Darrowshire. That one was quite fun, but it was more conventional in that you had to have someone specifically start the event.

    If there’s an equivalent to the safe passage quest anywhere else in the game, I don’t know about it. I would understand why Blizzard wouldn’t want to make something like that again; it’s something I would wager very few people ever experienced, and it would be a quite difficult quest to do at level.

  7. Great post Millya, it is these little things in the game that have kept me playing all these years. I’ll co-reminisce with a few of my favorites:

    -The Stitches questline in Duskwood. It was hard to level in that zone without at least hearing the shouts from the town once or twice. And it wasn’t uncommon to run into him along the road. Of course at that level, he would completely annihilate you. It made it all the more fun when you finished the Abercrombie quest line and [*spoiler alert*] realized your efforts help to let him loose! I always enjoyed a zone that had a mob or two that could destroy you, kept you on your toes. It made the zone feel like less of a, move from quest hub A-to-B grind (my major complaint of Wrath).

    -In the same vain as the Writ of Safe Passage from Traxy’s post; the Private Thorsen quest out of the Rebel Camp in Stranglethorn Vale was another one you had to just happen upon. Every so often Private Thorsin would leave the rebel camp and walk a bit down the path. Eventually he would be ambushed by a few mobs that would easily kill him without help. If you kill them off and he survives, he gives you a quest that leads to a fun questline involving the Kurzen camp nearby. Like Writ, you are given no prompt to help this guy, but if you are riding by (it happens by the road) and see a friendly NPC getting killed, you are rewarded for being the good Samaritan.

  8. -Another great immersion tool for this game is the music. This has just kept getting better and better. I remember 2 specific moments in Wrath the zone music made my experience so much more engrossing. The first came in Grizzly Hills when I came across the giant tree trunk sticking out of the ground at an angle. So naturally I decided to run up this broken tree that was as tall as a mountain. As I was climbing I suddenly because aware of the music. For those of you who remember the zone music, there is a piece that uses a lot of strings to create a gentle, harmonious, sound that fits the serene landscape of Grizzly Hills very well. There is a point in this piece where the sound begins to swell and it builds to a wonderful musical pinnacle. Well, this musical emergence was happening as I climbed, and right as I got to the top and I was able to see beyond the angled trunk to the picturesque zone in it’s glorious entirety. At that moment music also climaxed with perfect timing. It was so perfectly timed that I was convinced the game started the music when I crossed some invisible threshold on the tree, designed to create this moment. But of course it was pure coincidence.

    The next musical moment came in Storm Peaks. I was already impressed with epic feel of the zone. No other part of any game I’ve ever played made me feel more legendary than Storm Peaks. One such epic moment comes in the massive quest line involving Brunnhildar Village. After many, many quests to “prepare” you, you are tasked with passing the The Drakkensryd where you must defeat you opponents by literally jumping from one dragon’s back to another, EPIC. My first time on the quest as I was taking the automated flight up to this event the music kicked in with the most inspiring, heroic tune I’ve heard in any game thus far. Once again it peaked right as I realized what had to do to complete this quest, a truly heroic moment.

  9. I completed Loremaster… a year ago?

    I love all that nuanced stuff.
    But the thing I miss is that so many of those experiences are ‘once in a lifetime moments’. And with the distance of time and the accumulation of new shiny things to pull my attention away I forget them all :(

  10. The first thing I thought of was a little quest chain in Redridge Mountains. You get to the Lakeshire inn and one of the waitresses there asks you to bring a lunch she’s prepared to a guard stationed some distance from town. You know who the guard is, because you passed him on your way into town from Elwynn Forest and, in fact, picked up a quest from him. You bring the guard his lunch, telling him who it is from, and he is quite delighted. He asks you to bring the waitress some flowers for him. He directs you to the town florist, but tells you to act as if you are buying the flowers for your own purposes. The florist comments about how quickly you’ve picked up a sweetheart, for being so new in town. When you bring the flowers to the waitress, telling her that they are from her guard, she recognizes that they are the florist’s favorite type of flowers and makes a comment about what a jealous woman the florist can be.

    I loved this little story because it made the whole town feel more like a real place.

  11. The things that increase my immersion the most are the things I don’t expect. Like running into rare elites I didn’t know existed – I fondly remember farming turtle meat and grinding weapon skills near Alterac Mountains, chopping my merry way along the river when suddenly A FUCKING DRAGON appears. I was only marginally less surprised than I would have been in real life. I think I just stared at it for a good thirty seconds. (Then I attacked it to see how long I would last, which I proooobably would not have done in real life. But… um… it was *in character*! It really was! Because I was an orc in his first full set of plate! Seriously, though, even the corpserun was immersive.)

    Or that one time, on my cat druid, questing with a rogue friend in Hellfire Peninsula… There’s a hill directly behind Thrallmar where we had to kill some demons. At this point in our HFP career we had already killed quite a few demons, so we were getting too bored to be really efficient, taking frequent break to just sit around stealthed and chat. So we sit on the top of this hill, dead demons strewn about, looking down on the little Horde outpost called Thrallmar, talking about nothing in particular, when we suddenly see a fel reaver where a fel reaver should not be. Specifically: a fel reaver walking through the gates of Thrallmar. Like the rest of its kind, it is a) about twice as tall as most of the houses, and b) furious.

    It probably didn’t actually make that strange, metallic roar every WoW player knows and dreads, but that’s how I remember it: continually making that sound while proceeding to obliterate the place. My poor screen resolution somehow made the whole scene all the more apocalyptic – I could practically hear the guards screaming over static, like in some amateur recording played back years after the disaster: oh shit oh shit what the hell is *krrsh krssh* …*krsssh* the commander’s head holy shit GET THE CHILDREN UNDERGROUND.

    We both stealthed, but we didn’t go down from the hill. We just sat up there, watching the apocalypse unfold. Eventually a level 80 paladin showed up and did his level 80 paladin thing, the guards respawned and everything returned to normal. But for a while there, Hellfire Peninsula was truly, magnificently hellish.

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