Shamus Plays WoW #1: It’s an Imp’s Life

By Shamus
on Sep 4, 2016
Filed under:
WoW
This series was originally written and published on The Escapist back in 2011, just as World of Warcraft was transitioning to the Cataclysm expansion. World of Warcraft was six years old at the time, which is way past the point where most online games have gone free-to-play and had their player base gradually bleed away. But instead WoW was (and still is) still top dog and outstripping the competition by an order of magnitude.

The Cataclysm expansion wasn’t just a couple of new races and a smattering of high-level quests. This was an ambitious re-working of the entire game. It was a chance to update and re-work some of the early zones, which hadn’t really changed since the game launched in 2004. Blizzard had learned a lot over the previous six years, and they were using this update as a chance to apply some of those lessons to the rougher corners of the WoW experience.

Quests were changed, graphics were touched up, and some balance changes were made. The old World of Warcraft was wiped away. Forever. For everyone. If you didn’t get the expansion you couldn’t play as the new races, but you’d still get the new Azeroth.

These first few entries will show WoW just before the update, and then we’ll jump into the Cataclysm version of the world.

In the past I’ve written these things from the perspective of my character. But this time, we’re going to see the gameworld through the eyes of everyone’s favorite oppressed minorities, demons

A lot of people have this twisted view of demonic existence. Like, supposedly we sit around all day eating lava and making big piles of skulls. But the truth is that we get to do some pretty awesome stuff and there are a lot of really interesting arts and crafts you can do with skulls. I might be biased, but I’d say mortal worlds are a dump compared to the demonic realms. Check it out:

At the time this was originally published, The Escapist was owned by Themis Media, which is what the disclaimer above was referring to. These days the site is owned by Defy Media. I assume this transition is why this particular image has been redacted from the original site.
At the time this was originally published, The Escapist was owned by Themis Media, which is what the disclaimer above was referring to. These days the site is owned by Defy Media. I assume this transition is why this particular image has been redacted from the original site.

The point is that demons just know how to have fun. Like last week I was skiing down a mountain made of the twisted corpses of history’s liars and then doing a backflip into a ball pit of skulls of the stillborn. While on fire. This isn’t even vacation I’m talking about. This is regular 9-to-5 demon stuff. It wasn’t even Friday.

The downside of this is that demons are vulnerable to being summoned, and being summoned sucks. You’ll be there, minding your own business when all of a sudden “Yoink!”, some mortal has control of you and you’re obliged to serve them until they die or release you.

Now, technically the whole summoning thing is part of our ongoing membership drive. It’s the backbone of our soul-consuming economy. We couldn’t do our thing without a steady supply of eager go-getters who turn to evil for a little dose of demonic power. But it’s still a bummer when you’re the one who gets summoned. It’s like getting picked for jury duty. Given that mortals don’t live very long, this is more of a short interruption than anything else. But it can still get on your nerves and ruin your game of Gnome skull ping-pong.

So I’m all up on Liar Mountain again. The slopes are perfect today. The heat has them all moaning and writhing in agony. I’ve got my skis on and I’m trying to decide if I want to go down the Slopes of Politicians or if I want to go crazy and brave the Telemarketer Precipice, when all of a sudden I feel myself being yanked away.

Even after 12 years, this game still looks charming. That`s what you get when you spend your efforts on maintaining an artistic edge, rather than a technological one.

Even after 12 years, this game still looks charming. That`s what you get when you spend your efforts on maintaining an artistic edge, rather than a technological one.

Whoa! Mortal realm. It’s been a while. A couple of centuries, at least. Crazy. I wonder who…

Is the Necromancer SUPPOSED to be doing the John Travolta pose when he does the summoning, or is this a bug nobody ever fixed?

Is the Necromancer SUPPOSED to be doing the John Travolta pose when he does the summoning, or is this a bug nobody ever fixed?

“BEHOLD DEMON! YOU NOW SERVE THE MIGHTY DEATHBRINGER-ER! YOU SHALL DO MY-”

“Hang on guy.”, I say. “No horns. Just one mouth. Not much fur. Lemme guess. Human, right?”

The guy seems a little surprised, “Oh! You can talk. I guess… I guess that makes sense. Hi. Yes. I’m a human.”

“Since when are humans 200 feet tall?”

“I’m not. I’m just six feet, although mother says I’d be taller if I didn’t slouch.”

Yes, DETHBRINGER was taken. I had to go with DETHBRINGERR. Having ten million players who can all create a half-dozen characters per server can lead to this kind of extreme name shortage.

Yes, DETHBRINGER was taken. I had to go with DETHBRINGERR. Having ten million players who can all create a half-dozen characters per server can lead to this kind of extreme name shortage.

“Are you telling me I’m only two feet tall?

“Is that unexpected for you?”

“Look human, I’m tens of thousands of years old. I’m so big that, in my proper form, I could probably swallow you without noticing. Like, I wouldn’t even taste you before you slid on down to the fire.”

“Uh, well…”, he stammers, “I’m not sure what went wrong. I mean, I summoned you according to procedures and…”

“No, you didn’t summon me. You summoned part of me. A tiny sliver. This would be like if someone tried to summon you, and all they got was your nose. And one eyebrow.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t sweat it. You probably just botched the incantation. Just release me and summon another one. And put your back into it this time.”

“You don’t understand. This is as much of you as I could pull through.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I nearly passed out as it is!”

“What are you, new at this?”

The little demon you summon kind of meanders around on its own, which means it was REALLY fiddly trying to get properly posed screenshots.

The little demon you summon kind of meanders around on its own, which means it was REALLY fiddly trying to get properly posed screenshots.

“Actually, yes. You’re my first summon.”, he says proudly, “Apprentice Warlock Deathbringer-er, at your service.” He gives a slight bow.

“I’m pretty sure the service thing goes the other way, but fine. Let’s just do whatever it is you called me to do.”

He looks excited, “You mean you’ll really help me?”

“Not like I have a choice, remember?”

“Super! I can’t believe this is working!”

Man, the Blizzard artists are AMAZING at making attractive buildings with ridiculously low polygon counts.

Man, the Blizzard artists are AMAZING at making attractive buildings with ridiculously low polygon counts.

I take a look around the place. “So what’s the plan, Boss? Plague? Rain of fire? Genocide? I see a church over there. Maybe we start by getting rid of that?”

“Gosh no!”, he cries. “These people are on our side!”

“You just summoned a demon. Which means you’re a warlock. Which means there’s nobody on your side. That goes double for people in churches.”

“Except you. You’re on my side.”. He says this like we’re buddies now or something.

“I don’t think so Goldilocks.”

“But…”, he protests, “I summoned you. They said you have to serve me! You even said so yourself a minute ago!”

“True, true. I have to do what you say, but if you fell into a vat of Kodo urine and drowned right now it would be a huge time-saver for me. So I’m not exactly cheering for you.”

Hey, I`m down here, genius.

Hey, I`m down here, genius.

“I guess that’s reasonable.”, he admits. “Okay, the Northshire guard has put out a call for volunteers. The lands around here are in trouble and the militia is no longer enough to hold back…”

“Got it. Bolstering military support with demonic power. Pretty standard stuff. Just need a little darkness and fire to solve the problems those lunkheads with longswords can’t.”

“Oh! Not just fighting. I mean, we’ll be doing whatever is needed.”

“Needed?”

“To help!”

I turn my head slightly sideways. I’m still not seeing how he’s getting ahead in this, which is usually what people have on their minds when they go to the trouble of summoning a demon. Finally I ask him, “Help? Who?”

“The people!”, he shouts, exasperated.

“You – a guy named ‘Deathbringer’ – summoned a demon to help other people?”

“It’s Deathbringer-er, actually. And yes.”

“Do you have a brain, or does that mustache go all the way to the center?”

“Come on. Let’s see how we can help.”

So mister ‘Deathbringer-er’ leads me over to a town guard and – I kid you not – volunteers for service.

WELCOME TO THE CONDESCENDING TUTORIAL ON HOW TO MOVE AROUND AND CLICK ON THINGS.

WELCOME TO THE CONDESCENDING TUTORIAL ON HOW TO MOVE AROUND AND CLICK ON THINGS.

“Well met!”, says the guard. “The Stormwind guards are hard pressed to keep the peace here, with so many of us in distant lands and so many threats pressing close.”

“I’ll do whatever I can!”, the Boss says. This makes me cringe.

“Right. Speak with my supervisor, Marshal McBride.” The guard points to the church behind him, “You’ll find McBride inside the Abbey.”

I`m pretty sure the guard sending you to talk to McBride is just part of teaching you to navigate.

I`m pretty sure the guard sending you to talk to McBride is just part of teaching you to navigate.

“You are NOT taking me into a church.”, I say when we reach the doors. “Ugh. It reeks of paladins here. I may have to puke. I had scorpid eggs for breakfast and you do not want those to come back up.”

“Oh hush.”, the Boss replies. “You’ll be fine.”

“But these losers don’t even need your help. Look how many of them are just standing around, doing nothing.”

“They’re guards! They’re guarding!”

“They’re guards with other guards supervising their guarding. If there were any real problems around here, this lot would have plenty of hands to spare.”

Finally he blows his top, “As your master, I order you to stop being so… annoying!” Then there’s this long pause, after which he adds, “Please?”

“Sure. Let’s help these guys. Maybe they’ll ask us to guard something. Maybe we’ll guard that cart over there. That thing looks like it’s in a ton of peril.”

Inside, the Marshal fellow gives a little pep talk and then assigns us a job: He wants us to go to the field behind the church and kill a bunch of Kobolds. Boss man takes the job, and off we go.

“You have got to be pulling my hoof.”, I say when I get to the field. “THIS is the emergency that they needed volunteers for?”

This approach to quests wasn`t bad in 2004, but it wore out its welcome when LITERALLY EVERYONE began mindlessly copying it.

This approach to quests wasn`t bad in 2004, but it wore out its welcome when LITERALLY EVERYONE began mindlessly copying it.

“What?”, Boss says. “They’re Kobolds. They breed fast. They’re aggressive. Sometimes.”

“They’re vermin. Those armored guards could wipe these guys out in two minutes.”

“They’re busy protecting the abbey!”

“From what?”

“Threats!”

“You mean threats like Kobold infestations?”

“Well… I… I don’t know. Something. The point is, we’re doing it now.”

“So what, you want me to run around like a sheep dog and shoo them away?”

“No. I think we’re supposed to kill th-“

It might look visually exciting, but WoW combat is actually pretty slow-paced, and really uninteresting at low levels.

It might look visually exciting, but WoW combat is actually pretty slow-paced, and really uninteresting at low levels.

“Stop! Stop!”, Boss man is yelling a few minutes later. “That’s good. That’s enough.” He waves smoke away from his face and steps away from the burning Kobolds we’ve managed to pile up. I can hear a few of the corpses sizzling a bit.

“You sure?”, I say. “There’s still a few left over there.”

“Yes. We only needed to kill eight. Ugh. It smells like… roast pig.”, he coughs.

“And wet socks. Filthy creatures.”

“That was… awful.”

“Awful? We wiped these guys out. Just like the guy asked!”

“Yeah. But did you need to kill them that… hard?”

I tried to get a huge pile of dead bodies for this screenshot, but they de-spawn too fast to make that happen.

I tried to get a huge pile of dead bodies for this screenshot, but they de-spawn too fast to make that happen.

There is a long silence. Finally I say, “Look, are you sure you’re a warlock? You’re not acting like a proper warlock. I mean, you’re supposed to be into death.”

He pulls out this neat little card and shows it to me. On the card is printed, “WARLOCK UNION”. Underneath is written “DETHBRINGERR, APPRENTICE WARLOCK IN GOOD STANDING.”

I hand him back the card. “The word ‘death’ has an A in it. And there should be less R’s on the end.”

“Yes”, he says with a sigh. “They made me change it. Apparently there was already a Warlock out in the Wetlands that goes by ‘Deathbringer’.”

“So you spelled it wrong? Why not just pick another name?”

“Look, I tried. A lot of names were taken. A lot. I was just tired of filling out paperwork. It doesn’t matter. It’s not like that’s my real name anyway.”

“So what is your real name?”

“Norman.”

“Norman the Warlock?”

“You see why I went with ‘Deathbringer’.”

“Deatherbringer-er”, I correct him.

We head back to the church and I wait outside while Master Norman goes in and gets paid for the killing.

Look at those doors. Imagine the effort required to move them.

Look at those doors. Imagine the effort required to move them.

“So, what did we get?”, I ask when he comes back out.

He looks down into his palm, “Twenty-five copper.”

“What do you think one of these guys gets paid for an hour of standing around doing nothing about the Kobolds?”

He looks down at the coins again, “Mother says helping people is its own reward.”

“So why’d you take the money then?”

“I just wanted to… feel appreciated.”, he whines. He makes this motion like he’s going to throw the money away, but then he stops and drops it into his pocket.

“You feeling appreciated right now?”

“No.”, he admits. “Not really.”

“So… arson?”

“We’re not burning down the church and that’s final!”

“What is your deal anyway? Why are you working for these guys?”

“Because I want to help them!”

“Yeah, I get how you’re pretending to be good so they’ll trust you, but what are you really after? What’s your angle, here?”

Actually, CAN you close those doors? It looks like they don`t even fit.

Actually, CAN you close those doors? It looks like they don`t even fit.

“There’s no angle.”

“I’m your own personal demon. You can tell me your evil plans.”

“See, that’s just it. I’m not evil. I’m actually a good guy. I just decided to use the powers of darkness to serve the Light.”

“That’s a perversion!”

“You demons do the same thing to the good guys all the time.”

“Yeah.”, I say laughing. “Good times.”

“So now we’re serving good.”

“This was not in my contract.”

“But you have to help! Those are the rules!”

He’s got me. He really does. “Fine. So we – at least you – are serving the Light. So is this the plan? To get screwed by shiftless town guards? Is this how you’re gonna save the kingdom?”

“Hopefully not. Maybe the next job will be different.”

“Whats the job?”

“He wants us to kill eight more Kobolds.”

Next Time: No, really. He wants us to kill 8 more Kobolds.

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201636 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. MichaelGC says:

    This is somewhat monopolising the frontpage! :D

  2. Droid says:

    Yeah, I read the campaign a while ago. Was great fun, and now you’re gonna revisit it! Yay!

  3. Jokerman says:

    Huh… never read this one, i think i was catching up with the whole of the LOTR, but planed to go back and read this one, and never did… good time to start :P

  4. MichaelGC says:

    Is the Necromancer SUPPOSED to be doing the John Travolta pose … ?

    Well, you can tell by the way I use my staff
    I’m a necro-man: no time to quaff
    Nurgle’s rot and itches stinging
    That’s the stuff that I’ll be slinging
    And now it’s dark night and it’s OK
    I’ll bind your soul another way
    You’d best not try to understand
    The Cult of Damned’s effect on man

    Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother,
    You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
    Feel the tombstones breakin’ and all the bodies shakin’,
    And you’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
    Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
    Muah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ aliiiiiiive

  5. krellen says:

    Man, this just reminds me how WoW could have been so interesting and cool and instead they went with a boring Horde/Alliance thing with stupid BS like Warlocks as a playable class (without having the Burning Crusade be a faction).

    • WoW has nearly collapsed under the weight of two factions, I don’t think it would’ve been physically possible to properly incorporate a third. Would’ve been cool, though.

      • krellen says:

        Should have been four – Horde, Alliance, Night Elves (and friends) and Forsaken (and friends).
        Could’ve had Druid and Warlock as the faction-unique classes for NE and Forsaken, could have avoided the weird BS of the Night Elf/Alliance and Forsaken/Horde pairings.

        • Ivellius says:

          What would your faction races have been in that set-up? Tauren would’ve felt better with Night Elves, but they were staunchly Horde in Reign of Chaos. Forsaken would’ve been low on races early.

          I’m not sure it would’ve quite worked, but if there’d been playable Furbolgs I’m in with this alternate vision.

          • Belves and Forsaken make sense. Horde would be orcs, trolls, tauren. Alliance: humans, dwarves, gnomes. And then nelves and space goats.
            You could go with the worgen as part of the nelves pretty easily, but the goblins would have to be reworked a bit to make them fit in with the forsaken faction (which they’d have to to make all 4 factions even, race-wise). Pandas would get to choose any of ’em, of course.
            Edit: Furbolgs would have to be nelf, but is there another race the forsaken faction could have, like yetis?

            Also, those doors would fit in the outside edge of the doorway and the lip behind ’em might make them harder to bash down?

        • Rodyle says:

          I don’t know. The NELF/Alliance and Forsaken/Horde pairing were fine back in the days. I’m not sure how much they changed to the story since TBC.

          Also: they did have faction unique classes before the expansions: Shamans were limited to the Horde, while Paladins was alliance only. It was a sad day they changed that, imho.

      • Kylroy says:

        The game is overwhelmingly PvE to begin with. Arbitrarily sectioning their playerbase into four rather than two factions would have made many existing issues worse. You think Team Instinct has it bad? Imagine how empty a fourth faction in WoW would have become.

        And the absolute microscope every aspect of the game’s balance has been put under as the premier MMO made two faction-specific classes impossible, much less four.

        The WoW that “could have been” sounds like a niche game that would have done Dark Age of Camelot level business. I can see why Blizzard went the way they did.

        • Trix2000 says:

          Yeah, pretty much. There’s a point at which gameplay and what the playerbase wants has to take precedence over focusing on lore too much.

          Though the more recent expansions have been doing a much better job on writing and story, I think. They’ve still had to make a lot of changes, compromises, and retcons to make it work… and it’s still not on the level of, say, a good single player game…. but I think given the circumstances it’s worked out fairly well.

          The game has lost a lot of players over the years, but that it still retains a great many of them and every expansion seems to bring a bunch of us back… I think they must have done something right (though I won’t deny it doesn’t appeal to everyone).

    • TMC_Sherpa says:

      The Horde got a short enough end of the stick as it was you very much. Maybe the early quests got ironed out after BC? Dunno, I left before Lich King came out.

      • Trix2000 says:

        I would say yes, though things have changed so much since then I really don’t know how it would compare to your past experiences. I do think things have kind-of see-sawed between factions over the years.

  6. MadTinkerer says:

    “DETHBRINGER was taken”

    Fun fact: this sort of thing is also why I’m MadTinkerer. That name isn’t taken most places, though someone claimed it on Ebay before I could.

    My intended Steam account name actually was taken… but I accidentally misspelled it and confirmed before I caught my typo. I currently own 1337 games as a misspelled webcomic character, though I was able to change my profile name (separate from the Steam account login name itself) to MadTinkerer.

    Funnily enough, 1337 really was not intentional. I almost bought 4 games two days ago instead of 3 and I would have skipped over to 1338 before I realized the missed opportunity. I’m going to keep it at 1337… Until the next big Steam sale, of course.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The old World of Warcraft was wiped away. Forever. For everyone.

    Not quite.There were private servers for quite a while that ran the original(maybe some still exist,after the purge),and I think blizzard said something about bringing the old game back for those that want it(and want to pay for it),but Im not sure about that last part.I am probably misremembering something about that whole story.

    • Somniorum says:

      He means officially, though – the private servers were totally non-affiliated with Blizzard, and Blizzard could’ve taken legal action to close them (and, in the case of Nostalrius, did just that).

      After Blizzard shut Nostalrius down, they had some sort of “talk” with the folks who made it, giving fans hopes that perhaps Blizzard might just somehow create a nostalgia server or perhaps some sorts of events or *something*, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any real information coming from the “talk” they had. Blizzard has obviously *considered* it, but it doesn’t mean they’ve considered it *seriously*, and we have no information whatsoever. Somewhat unfortunately – while I don’t want to go back to how WoW used to be (it really was a clunky game, compared to how it is today – it’s STILL clunky in many ways, but people who’ve been with it since Vanilla are able to see just how dramatically the game has changed over the years), it’d be kind of nice to try out Vanilla again, for old times sake.

      There are a few areas in WoW which are, more or less, as they were in Vanilla though – the oldest raids. Er, at least… I think. To be honest, I wasn’t doing them at the time, but to play them today, they *feel* very old in comparison to everything else. Surely there’s a small change here or there, but I *think* places like Ahn’Qiraj and Molten Core are basically the same today as they were when released.

      • Rodyle says:

        I’m still hoping for Vanilla servers, to be honest. I didn’t like the feel of the dungeons in the expansions. Although they were still okayish in TBC, in WotLK and beyond everything 5-man became a simple tank-N-spank instance that took 20 minutes tops, regardless of gear. I miss the days that tanks had a little buildup time for threat and had to time their pulls well not to aggro additional packs, healers had to use lower level healing spells to prevent overhealing and going OOM, and DPS had to be careful not to overaggro and make sure that in larger packs the cc went well. I have really good memories to the older instances, which took a lot longer, but were also way more interesting. I remember the time where I used my succubus to CC one mob, fear, curse of recklessness and another mob to CC another (which was really tricky, I can tell you) and still provide enough DPS. It was a team effort from everyone to make sure that a dungeon went smoothly and it was, in my experience, much more fun than the endless AoE grinding of trash in WotLK, followed by a boss on which I could go all-out on DPS, since there was no possible way to for the tank to lose aggro.

        This wasn’t my only gripe with WotLK though; I soloed my way through the entire continent on my Warlock, handling solo quest as well as group quests with ease. The content was entirely too easy for my liking and I never felt there was a significant chance I’d die at any point.

      • I actually ran one of the older raids…can’t remember which one, but it involved driving something like a car through something like that Clint Eastwood movie The Gauntlet, then fighting a boss where you NEEDED the vehicle to survive.

        Keep in mind that I was either 90 or 100 at the time, and I’d soloed two wings of Naxx with literally no challenge whatsoever outside of inventory management, since I was getting ALL the drops to myself and that was still worth a decent bit of money considering the time I was putting in.

        (thinking it was 100 since during Pandaria I’d farmed the hell out of Ghost Iron and made a decent amount of cash and soloing LK raids was about as profitable as that was…)

  8. tremor3258 says:

    I remember this one. Do a Legion follow-up! :)

  9. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    “He wants us to kill 8 more Kobolds”

    “See, I told you we should have roasted more! Stupid human!”

    I’m discovering WoW through this. Doesn’t make me want to play it, but I can appreciate the art style.

  10. Sean says:

    The guard in the picture after “You’ll find McBride inside the Abbey.” looks amusingly small. It’s almost like he’s supposed to be far away, but it just looks like he suddenly shrunk to be smaller than your demon. I’m assuming it’s the same guard you were talking to in the previous picture though, so I could be wrong.

    Also, regarding the hovercaption for “can the doors even close” — I think they’re supposed to close, but the inside has the stone wall a bit smaller than the doorway proper. It’s probably a siege thing ( harder to bash down the door when the edge is reinforced by stone ). It’s not just a weird artist choice or graphics glitch either — found a door on Google Image search that looks pretty similar.

  11. Zane Desantis says:

    I came back to this post today after reading the last post, which referenced Gobstab’s skiing hill, when I noticed something funny, in a very nerdy way.

    Gobstab is two feet tall, Norman is six feet. Assuming that he is at his normal height, Gobstab assumes that Norman must be 200 feet tall.

    Going by those proportions, that means that Gobstab, at his normal size, is 66.6 feet tall.

    I have no idea if that was intentional, but when I found that out it made me laugh.

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