Shamus Plays WoW #13: Dial M for Meme

By Shamus
on Jan 15, 2017
Filed under:
WoW

Our journey has carried us to the land of Westfall, where there’s more sunshine, bigger farms, stronger monsters, and basically the exact same breed of idiot that we’ve been dealing with so far. My master Norman is still set on ruining himself by helping others, and I’m trying to save him.

There’s a wrecked cart in the middle of the road, attached to a dead horse. The cart’s owners are nearby, face-down in the dirt.

Maybe they were trampled by the millions of alts that have passed through here over the years.

Maybe they were trampled by the millions of alts that have passed through here over the years.

Have you ever tried to get directions from old people in a small town? “Yeah, go down the road until you get to the flower shop that used to be a gas station, then turn right and go until you get to the empty lot that used to be a Denny’s. Turn left, and head on past the old school.” I think it’s kind of impressive how someone can have numerous overlapping versions of a city in their head, keeping track of not just what a place looks like now, but how it looked thirty years ago. Although it does make their directions incomprehensible to young people.

World of Warcraft is now suffering from this.

Pre-Cataclysm, these two idiots were standing here along with their horse and a loaded cart, giving out quests. Their story was that they had been driven from their homes by bandits and were fleeing Westfall. Their quests had you running around, gathering up stuff for them. One quest had you get feed for their horse by running around swiping sacks of oats from other farms.

So now quests and locations are often references to how things used to be. This is not a bad thing, it’s just odd to see this phenomena appearing in a virtual world.

...on top of the horse.

...on top of the horse.

We have arrived in Westfall to find a murder scene. One detective Horatio Laine is conducting an investigation. Since Norman is a rube, he stops to see if our help is needed.

The detective turns to us, “Here’s the deal, kid …”

“I’m twenty-five,” Norman says. “And my partner is like, a million years old or something.”

“We’ve got a full-blown murder on our hands. Double homicide … Single horse … icide.”

“Horse murder would be ‘equicide,'” Norman says.

“Worse yet, we’re in Westfall. I could throw a rock behind me and hit a dozen hobos with enough motive to want to wipe these people (and horse) out.”

“Motive? They were broke and homeless. The only thing they had of value was their horse, which was killed with them.”

“Now I don’t know who did this and I sure don’t appreciate having to come to this dump to investigate the deaths of a couple of squatters…”

“They weren’t squatting. They were passing through. You have no idea what words mean.”

“…but I’ll be damned if I don’t find the perp. You want to help?”

“Not particularly.”

“Good. Go talk to some bums. The hobo … knows.”

In case you’re not picking up on it, this quest chain is a reference to the CSI: Miami meme, where detective Horatio Cain says a one-liner while putting on sunglasses at the top of the show, which would then segue into the opening credits. The standard form would be:

Looks like they put the cart …

*puts on sunglasses*

… before the horse.

YYEEEAHHHHHHH!!!!

This game is filled with memes and pop-culture references. For example, there’s a fashion designer named Harris Pilton. But this CSI one is a bit odd because of how obvious it is. This isn’t a sly wink or a nod to a meme, this is outright participation.

Back in 2011 when this series originally ran at The Escapist, I said:

“[this joke] probably won’t age well. The quests in original WoW ran for six years before getting an update. Imagine how stale the CSI joke will be six years from now. Imagine if there was an All Your Base quest in the game right now, where you have to talk to a guy named Cats and move a zig. It would feel pretty rusty, and this quest is probably doomed to a similar fate in a couple of years. It cracks a smile now, but in 2015 this will be met with a shrug or an eyeroll.”

I think time has proven me right. Although I suppose Blizzard may have freshened up this quest since then. Maybe they replaced the detective with a gorilla named “Hajambe”. That reference is only a couple of months past due.

The lack of contrasting colors makes them hard to see, but there really are a bunch of hobos living in this field. For the moment.

The lack of contrasting colors makes them hard to see, but there really are a bunch of hobos living in this field. For the moment.

I nod at the vast field of hobos in front of us, “Good crop this year. Really poor and smelly.”

“I guess we just ask these guys if they saw anything?” Norman shrugs.

We walk up to one of the dirty bums standing around the field. Norman gives him a couple of coppers and asks him what he saw. His answer is that he tries to kill us. “You can’t buy me! DIE!” he screams.

Oh good. I`ve finally made level 10. I`m sick of killing murlocs and wolves. I can`t wait to find out what sort of strange monsters I`ll get to fight in the next area!

Oh good. I`ve finally made level 10. I`m sick of killing murlocs and wolves. I can`t wait to find out what sort of strange monsters I`ll get to fight in the next area!

Norman sets him on fire, yanks out his soul, scorches his mind with searing agony, and then bonks him on the head with his staff. I don’t even get a hit in before the guy drops dead. Afterward, children rush in and take all his stuff.

Not sure what the deal is with the kids that spawn and loot the hobos. I guess it`s to keep you from farming these guys for loot?

Not sure what the deal is with the kids that spawn and loot the hobos. I guess it`s to keep you from farming these guys for loot?

“Not sure why he attacked me,” Norman says scratching his head. “I mean, he could have just said ‘no.'”

“I guess we just got lucky then,” I say.

Can you be both homeless AND a citizen of Stormwind, while at the same time living far from Stormwind?

Can you be both homeless AND a citizen of Stormwind, while at the same time living far from Stormwind?

We try again with another hobo. She’s only about ten paces away and she couldn’t have missed what just happened to the last hobo, but she decides to try her knuckles up against Norman’s demonic power, and ends up overdosing on fire.

You hobos aren`t a terribly surprising bunch, either.

You hobos aren`t a terribly surprising bunch, either.

“What is wrong with these guys?” Norman asks once the smoke clears and the kids have robbed the corpse.

“They smell.”

“No, I mean why do they keep fighting us?”

“I don’t know, but don’t jinx it now. Let’s go three for three.”

The next guy gets mad and runs off, screaming about Murlocs. The next one picks a fight.

The next hobo shouts something about Gnolls before he runs away. Then we kill a couple more.

Now I can put "reduced homelessness" in my list of accomplishments.

Now I can put "reduced homelessness" in my list of accomplishments.

“I would not expect a murder investigation to involve killing this many hobos,” Norman says.

Eventually we head back to the detective. Norman gives him the story, “I didn’t find out who perpetrated this murder, but I committed about five more over there.”

More like... Horatio LAME, amirite?

More like... Horatio LAME, amirite?

“Did you find any evidence?”

“Well, I created some. But then a bunch of kids stole it.”

“I’m talking about THIS murder.”

Oh! Gosh, I dunno. Some of the hobos were screaming about Gnolls and Murlocs?”

“Gnolls and Murlocs? Horse poopy, pal! Gnolls and Murlocs didn’t kill these people. I’ve seen what Gnolls and Murlocs do to people that they kill and this … isn’t it. Too pretty. Too … perfect.”

“Perfect? It looks like they were ran over by their own cart. Anyway, that’s all the bums had to say.”

“This is murder, plain and simple and we’re gonna get to the bottom if it… “

“Maybe they were killed when they asked a perfectly innocent question to one of these murderous, bloodthirsty vagrants?”

“I need you to head out to the Longshore, west of here, on the coast, and shake up some Murlocs. Try to find a clue or some info that can help shed some light on the murders.”

“Er … what? You said yourself that Murlocs didn’t do this. You’re saying you know the Murlocs are innocent and you want me to kill a bunch of them anyway?”

“Gnolls, too.”

The next time some teacher or librarian gets all high and mighty about the importance of literacy, remind them that only literate people have to worry about reading quests like this one. Illiterate people can run around happy and carefree, killing Murlocs and Gnolls without worry or guilt. Literate people are tormented with this absurdity and end up doing drugs to try and make sense of it all.

My advice? Don’t learn to read. If you already know, try to forget as fast as you can.

I`ve solved the case. It turns out the REAL killer is indifference and stupidity.

I`ve solved the case. It turns out the REAL killer is indifference and stupidity.

So we go out and kill a big pile of innocent Gnolls and Murlocs. They don’t have any information related to the case, but once we’re sick of butchering them Norman gathers up some scraps of random stuff and calls it evidence. We get back to Horatio and Norman gives him the stuff he found – a torn piece of paper and a bit of cloth.

The detective takes the litter, “Is this some kind of joke, rookie? Because I’m not laughing.”

Norman shakes his head, “No. Your investigation is enough of a joke for us, thanks.”

“Looks like we got ourselves a real ‘whodunit’ here, rookie. Unfortunately it looks like the locals aren’t willing to talk and the clues you got off the Gnolls and Murlocs are damn near worthless.”

Norman rubs his temples, “That’s because the guys you sent me to kill weren’t suspects. Look, are you really a detective?”

Also, sorry for standing on your murder victim. In my defense, isn`t it about time you carted these two off? They must be getting pretty ripe by now.

Also, sorry for standing on your murder victim. In my defense, isn`t it about time you carted these two off? They must be getting pretty ripe by now.

“We’re going to have to initiate plan… be on the lookout for Two-Shoed Lou. Two-Shoed Lou is a coincidental informant of mine who, ironically, makes his home at the Furlbrow’s old pumpkin farm. Head over to the farm and find out what Lou knows.”

Horatio sends us to a farm house where Two-Shoed Lou, his informant, is waiting. So we head over there.

“You okay boss?” I ask on the way.

“I guess so,” he says. “Why?”

“You seem … grouchy.”

Aside: I really love Westfall. Elwynn forest starts to feel a bit smothering after a few hours.

Aside: I really love Westfall. Elwynn forest starts to feel a bit smothering after a few hours.

“Yeah, I guess I thought it would be different here. I thought maybe now that we’ve left Elwynn Forest things would stop being so nuts. But Horatio seems just like Dughan. We’re doing his job, and his job doesn’t even make any sense.”

“Look boss, this is perfectly normal and healthy. You’re seeing the world clearly for the first time. That always upsets people.”

“I just wish that somewhere we’d find a place that isn’t run by an idiot.”

“If you want something like that, you need to do two things. First, put yourself in charge. Second, stop being an idiot.”

The farmhouse is a mess. Vagrants are all over the place. Poor, hungry people are huddled inside.

You should really change your name to "Awesome Tophat Lou".

You should really change your name to "Awesome Tophat Lou".

Norman greets Two-Shoed Lou, who proceeds to yammer on about murder and living in boxes and some crap about a conspiracy.

Suddenly Norman turns to me, “Hang on! Look at all these poor people. These are exactly the people I came here to help!”

“You came to help Lou?” I ask.

“No, I mean all these other people,” he shouts. “This has been my problem all along. I’ve been working morons instead of going to the people who need help. Look at his place. It’s filled with poor homeless orphans! I lost sight of my goal when I started taking these quests, and got caught up doing all of this stupid stuff, when all I needed to do was find someone hungry and offer help.”

“Fine. Go ahead. Try to help them and see how far you get.”

“I will!” Norman says, as he storms into the dilapidated farmhouse. He meets the woman in charge of the place, Mama Celeste. She is only to happy to accept his offer for help.

I had to post this image or you would assume I was making this up.

I had to post this image or you would assume I was making this up.

“Life in Westfall’s hard, sonny! Every day is a struggle. We can sometimes go weeks without a decent meal. That’s why it’s important that we all help each other out. Maybe you can lend a hand, eh? I’m making dirt piles and need some ingredients. Get me some fresh dirt from the pumpkin patch out front and a bunch of coyote tails.”

Norman looks out the door to the farmland outside …

THIS ZONE IS AUTUMN THEMED. I GET IT ALREADY. GEEZE.

THIS ZONE IS AUTUMN THEMED. I GET IT ALREADY. GEEZE.

He looks like he’s going to be ill. “So you’re saying you want me to out outside, into the fields…”

“Yes,” she says happily.

“Where there are ripe pumpkins …”

“Yes.”

“And gather heaps of dirt for you …”

“Oh yes!”

“To eat?”

“Oh, you are a smart one!” she coos.

Norman stops for another look out the door …

I was going to ask why coyotes are doing in a pumpkin patch, but then I realized they`re probably waiting for idiots like me to come along.

I was going to ask why coyotes are doing in a pumpkin patch, but then I realized they`re probably waiting for idiots like me to come along.

“And then…” he says, “You want me to go out into the field…”

“Correct.”

“And find several coyotes …”

“I hope so.”

“And kill them, and cut off their tails …”

“If you can!”

“And you want me to bring you those tails, so you can EAT THEM?”

“MMMmmmmm!”

“And you want me to leave the rest of the carcass to rot in the field instead of bringing it back here?”

“What would I do with a coyote carcass?” she asks in confusion.

“What about the rest of you?” Norman says to the other wretches in the room. “Don’t the rest of you object to this plan?”

Nobody says anything.

I have no idea what the glowing green Z is all about, and it`s really bugging me.

I have no idea what the glowing green Z is all about, and it`s really bugging me.

Norman begins blubbering, “I HATE being an adventurer!”

“It’s okay boss, let it out,” I say. “This had to happen sooner or later.”

“I don’t want to help these people anymore,” he says at last.

Next Week: The end is coming!

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201131 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. MichaelGC says:

    I like the pictures in this article after the third gold box.

    Edit: I tried to edit that but I can’t.

  2. Agammamon says:

    ‘For the moment’

    Hehehehehe

  3. 4th Dimension says:

    Really? That is an actual quest? BUT WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY. For the fucks sake why?

  4. Nick-B says:

    It looks to me like the cart IS before the horse. The cart is a pretty basic 3D model, but it looks like the T on the far side is where a pair of horses would be standing, tethered up and “pushing” the rest of the cart. Still though, old Blanchy. Fond memories of that horse. Doing a quest for those guys got you your first extra bag. It was 4 slots (later buffed to 8), but that was HUGE when you had no others besides the basic backpack. Then they up and murdered the horse in the Cataclysm patch and threw in these CSI guys

    And the big glowing green Z is because there is (hard to tell) a human female sleeping on the bear rug. NPC’s had animated green Z’s coming from them, and you seem to have caught it when the Z was REALLY high above the model.

  5. Bubble181 says:

    I don’t want to stray into political territory or derail, but, yes, of course you can be a homeless citizen far away from home. There’s masses of homeless Syrian citizens around here (there’s a refugee camp across the road from my work).

  6. eaglewingz says:

    I don’t know. I got the Horatio ref right away. But then, I see the sunglasses emoji used regularly that way to this day.

    Webcomic forums are weird.

  7. Amarsir says:

    I like the idea of kids running in to loot the body. It adds color. Unfortunately that color doesn’t work with any of the other context. An overcrowded area with lots of poor people, some of whom are violently unstable – that could be poignant. It just doesn’t work so well in a game that’s about grinding kills on enemies so indistinct we’ve taken to calling them MOBs.

  8. Somniorum says:

    In regards to the Horatio Laine quest – no, they haven’t changed it. Still that old cheesy reference. The CSI Miami reference was actually *already* at least a little old when WoW inserted it into the game, and it’s just a LOT older today : P

    They do a lot of this in WoW, and generally not to any decent benefit. They *really* went overboard, I think, in the third expansion (ie, the one Deathbringrr is in at the moment) and shoved them into even important quests. In my view, the worst was in the Worgen opening – there’s this one point where the Worgen (for people who don’t know, they’re werewolves – they had just recently been humans, and their capital city was conquered by the Horde’s undead faction) rally outside their city just before invading to try to take it back. The fellow leading it gives a speech which is a *direct* and shameless rip-off of Churchill’s famous “we shall fight them on the beaches” speech from WWII. This makes absolutely no sense for them to do, because…

    A. This reference is so obvious, *very* few people would not realise it’s ripping off an important historical speech.
    B. The only reason to do this, then, is for comedic value. But they don’t even try to be funny in this scene – it’s actually an important part of the story, and there are no attempts to silly it up.
    C. The overall segment is serious as well.

    It results – for me, at least – in this really tone-deaf sequence that basically just shoots itself in the foot. Blizzard has commonly been pretty bad at depicting drama in WoW (though I think they’re getting better as the years go on, especially with the newest expansion), but having this bit just ruins any attempt at getting us to take this segment seriously, and simultaneously kind of feels… almost insulting. By ripping off this line, they kind of cheapen the significance it had in the REAL, DEVASTATING CONFLICT of WWII.

    So yeah. : /

    That said, for people who aren’t familiar – the ridiculous quests Shamus is doing in *this* one actually *were* intended to be silly, so there’s a bit of an excuse for all the stupidity. Laine is supposed to be kind of a moron, and the quest to get dirt pies really is supposed to make you goggle your eyes at how ridiculous that lady is.

    • Sartharina says:

      I never saw the speech as a parody. They needed a stirring speech for that section, so they went for the most famous stirring speech they could find.

      • Somniorum says:

        Right, exactly – it *wasn’t* a parody at all, because parody is comedic. What they did was simply ripped it off. The only justification would’ve been if they HAD done it for laughs.

        If you rip off something as iconic as Churchill’s speech for something *serious*, you’re just going to make your own work significantly worse. Imagine if they did that with other things – what if Thrall started talking about his hopes for the Orcs to live in peace with a big “I have a dream” speech? Even if the writers wanted people to take it seriously, and wanted the scene to have emotional gravity, few people would be able to do so because all they’d be thinking is “are they really trying to steal Martin Luther King’s speech and act as if we don’t know?”

        It is totally unjustified for a writer to go and say “this bit is rather serious and needs some real gravity – so let’s plagiarise something else that has loads of gravity.” Properly, when faced with this, a writer just *writes something with gravity which is their own work completely*.

        • krellen says:

          I don’t know if there’s a cultural divide here, but for the most part, Americans (which includes Blizzard’s designers) don’t view World War II as “devastating”, probably because our country was relatively untouched throughout. Instead it’s kind of a Big Damn Hero moment, where we as a nation saved the world from fascism.

          (The reason I’m assuming you’re not American, incidentally, is your assumption that Churchill and his speeches should be common knowledge. I do not think that is actually the case among the majority of Americans.)

          • Somniorum says:

            I’m a Canadian – so basically American : P

            I’m sure plenty of people *wouldn’t* be familiar with Churchill’s speech, don’t get me wrong… but, for that matter, plenty of people couldn’t point out where, say, Vietnam is on a map.

            No matter what people may think, WWII *was* devastating for everybody, including USA. Lots of American culture surely shows the horrible side of it, and Americans certainly felt hurt by Pearl Harbour and the vicious fighting in the Pacific in general.

            • Sartharina says:

              Yes, WWII was so devastating to the U.S. it hauled us out of the Great Depression and made us the most prosperous and powerful nation in the entire world for over half a century afterward, and those who lived through it became known as our Greatest Generation.

  9. MichaelGC says:

    So is there something I’m missing about the gameworld which makes that a remarkable number of shoes?

    • Somniorum says:

      He’s surrounded by beggars, many of which have no shoes at all.

      Being called “two-shoes” means he’s – at least compared to the rest of them – relatively successful.

    • mechaninja says:

      I assume the idea is that poor people in a sort of medieval setting are most likely to have one or fewer shoe.

      As a guy who’s played WoW for rapidly approaching 10 years, I have never seen anything providing additional context.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,the site be broken.

    On the main page,its fine,but when I enter individual posts,the sidebar jumps all the way to the bottom.Like this.Also,replying to a comment opens a new page instead of opening the reply box below that comment.

    Same results for opera and internet explorer.

  11. BeardedDork says:

    In the town I come from, basically everyone gives directions like your old folks, though often without the accompanying (what’s there now)

  12. mechaninja says:

    For the most part, those of us who’re long term players spend all our time trying to convince the devs that numbers are something that can be balanced using MATH of all things (as in, class A shouldn’t do ridiculously more damage per second than class B, and that’s easily solved, you see, if only you would APPLY MATH) . As soon as a new expansion comes out, they change a bunch of mechanics resulting in all new skewed numbers.

    We just never have time to try to get them to create a slightly less preposterous world for the low level. We just try to level past it as quickly as we can.

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