Shamus Plays: WoW #9: No Murloc, No Wedlock

By Shamus
on Dec 23, 2010
Filed under:
Column

This is why “philosopher” is never a playable character class in an MMO.

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  1. TSED says:

    “I’ve often thought it would be interesting if you made an online game where everything was available all the time. If crystal kelp really did appear along the coast and Murlocs really did drop it, whether you needed it or not. It would be interesting to see how many players would naturally revert to adventure game behavior, scarfing up everything needlessly and hauling around armloads of random crap.”

    EverQuest does this. Not sure about EQ2, but EQ1 does this for sure.

    “This would be especially true if the designers placed a lot of extra useless items in the game.”

    Once again: EverQuest.

    Also, I think it makes the game better, but then I’m biased.

    • Meredith says:

      LOTRO did a version of this in the last update. I got bored and rolled a new character this week only to find all the vendor trash now labeled “this may be useful for a task” or some such. So I carried around a full inventory of wet skins and bug bits for a few levels till I realised I was still in the newbie zone and ridiculously far away from task areas. So, yes, there are people who will carry around full bags of useless garbage on the off-chance it might be useful later.

      • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

        Heh, you sound like me. I haven’t played Lotro for well over a year, might be a few years in fact, but that’s still what I end up doing most of the time. Well, the rest I lose my patience and just sell everything I feel I don’t need right now. Surprisingly, I haven’t always regretted that choice.

      • Velkrin says:

        DDO does a version of this (same company so no real surprise). Mobs will randomly drop “collectibles” which you can pick up and stuff them into your collectibles bag (a bag within your normal inventory) or straight into your inventory if your bag is full (there are different sizes).

        The only real purpose of the collectibles is to turn them into the collectors (the normal kind) and get a small reward in return. Anything from magical ammunition to bane weapons. Or stew in one case. There are also a few rituals you can do with them to give your stuff a very slight power boost.

        You also have ingredients (which go into the aptly titled Ingredient Bag) which you use to create or upgrade weapons/items. These are available whenever you can finish the quest that they’re in (they’re normally in the end chest). Or you could buy them from the auction house.

      • WoW used to do this more than it does now, and the auction house still has a category of quest items. A number of things still are bought and sold for quests there (the pages in the stranglethorn novel, maps from the pirates, etc.).

        They also identify things that might be useful vs. true trash by tool tip color.

    • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

      Yeah, but it’s Everquest. Who’d in their right mind want to play that game? I mean really?

      Joking aside, I’m surprised EQ1 is still running. Or EQ2 for that matter. I guess it’s because besides WoW the only MOGs that seem to be ever mentioned are new ones, so everyone you don’t follow personally seems gone with the times.

      I think I’ll give Lotro a try, since EQs have always sounded like they’re not for me, and it was rather interesting when I played it. Also, minstrels. Defeating something by playing a lute was unnaturally amusing and for an unreasonable length of time.

      • TSED says:

        EQ is still going strong, actually. I keep popping in and out, and though there’s only a quarter as many servers as there were originally, they all have pretty decent populations.*

        *By my understanding.

        Anyway, if you liked killing things with lutes, oh man oh man you missed the glory days of AE kiting in EQ. Waaaay back, bards could clear entire zones. I’m not exaggerating. Every single mob in the entire zone. Dying at approximately the same time. Of course, the whole thing took like 20 minutes and was mindnumbingly tedious (and the slightest mistake, lag spike, whatever would kill you instantly) but there was something insanely gratifying about watching your screen explode with their death animations.

        I actually crashed a server doing that once. Every single mob in a newbie dungeon died in a 20 second or so time frame (the majority dying at the beginning and the end of that). I began chugging. Then I went LD. “Oh no,” I thought, but when I tried to go back in the server was down.

        Aaaaand that’s why AE kiting was nerfed. Zones were too easy to crash; likewise with servers, when you had that much information going through at once.

        • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

          So, what you’re saying is, that back then bards were so awesome, they could kill the server?

          What was the respawn time?

  2. qwksndmonster says:

    Hey hey! Norman is finally wising up to it. I’m enjoying the narrative much more than I’m enjoying the WoW. Keep it up, Shamus!

  3. Amarsir says:

    My favorite Escapist article ever, just slightly edging out the Shamus Plays series, is Don’t Roleplay the Bugs by Max Steele. In it he learns a valuable lesson: people will play the game they think they have, not the game they actually have.

    Players have become conditioned to a “stuff is important” attitude and they will play this way. They can’t not play this way. So if you put them into a world where they find lots of crap, most of which is meant to be discarded, they wouldn’t. You could tell them to trash it and they still wouldn’t. Instead you would be overwhelmed with complaints that there isn’t enough storage space. The result would be unhappy players whose behavior is at odds with the game they’re trying to play. Some would adapt, and enjoy doing so. But most find it easier to change clients than change behavior, and that’s what they’ll do.

    • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

      I don’t doubt that, but it’s bad. Not only will it cause most games to be similiar, but being conditioned and not fighting it, or even attempting to fight it, is bad by itself.

      Although, I think it’s possible to get even some of those to enjoy a more serious game. You just need to ease them in. Also add more ways for NPCs to punish them than “kill till dead”.

      At least do this: NPC explains that they need to talk to a druid, and he’ll lead them to him. If the PCs start killing fauna, he’ll mention that the druid won’t like it, but may accept some deaths for food etc. PCs don’t listen and keep up, he’ll leave. PCs meet druid, who is pissed off. Druid beats them, but instead of everyone dying a script will launch. Blackscreen, wake up. Everyone is out of the forest, close to the orc fortress or whatever. There’s no fauna, no druid, no XP from fauna (or the NPC, if they killed him) and no meat (or other loot).

      Of course some still wouldn’t adapt, even if the game was designed properly unlike my version of the session, but you can’t get everyone to like your game anyway. Which is something that some publisher’s marketing (or management) needs to get.

      PS. Have a gradient for punishment, and always offer them a carrot. If PCs don’t kill anything, the druid will give them enough food to cover what they could’ve gotten from the killing and some training (xp). If they kill some, have him give some rations, but that’s it. If they kill many, but not enough to get him to attack, have him give them the bird and nothing else. And always make sure that going against sane behaviour will be never give out better or more stuff than doing things the sane way. So always make sure they end up with more food the less they kill. So if they kill two (2 lumps of meat), drop three from the reward. Of course, when they go too far you just have to make sure they don’t gain anything from it, and lose whatever they would’ve gotten otherwise.

      Of course, that might be really hard to do, especially with the NWN toolkit, but I’m talking about quality, not feasibility. As is usual.

      • Sounds like the PETA area of Northend.

        • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

          I don’t know if it’s just the impression I’ve got, but wouldn’t PETA area of Northrend have a druid that rips players’ throats open if they so much as look at animals funny? And steal/destroy any clothing that even looks like it was made from animals, because it’ll “make/keep up the animal-skin wearing fashionable” or something.

          “My” druid is much more sensible, after all he’d accept a few deaths without foaming at the mouth. Also some of the food could very well be meat, it’s just that he knows which and how many to kill without upsetting “nature’s balance’ or whatever. The only reason for giving more for killing none is to feed the “you don’t need to kill everything” -thinking, and to avoid “optimal killing” due to meta gaming. So in order to get the most out of a situation no-one needs to check a faq for how many deers is the right amount to get the most food, supplies and XP.

    • Galad says:

      wow, thanks a lot for that link. As an avid NWN1 player, this was a very enjoyable read for me..and an eye-opener as far as any possible thoughts of world-building go.

      • Joshua says:

        I also played a lot of NWN back in the day(it’s also where I met my wife) and did some module designing. In my experience and opinion, there were plenty of other people who tried to make the game more like tabletop(the writers of the Hardcore rules, the people behind City of Arabel), without realizing that their attempts to “fix” the rules by making them more like the PnP and less like a CRPG actually broke them since the game *was* actually a CRPG.

        One of the examples was like mentioned in that link with full PvP turned on. Traditional players might sneer at the ability to throw a Fireball at ground zero, but conversely their tabletop games aren’t done in realtime with miniatures that are moving while they’re taking their turn.

  4. Ian says:

    “I once caught a murloc this big.”

    Wow, thanks a lot, Shamus. Now I’m never going to be able to go to Northrend because I’ll crack up every time I see Bolvar on that damned loading screen.

  5. Brandon says:

    This series keeps getting better and better Shamus. I think by the time I did Elwynn forest in WoW I was so used to just grinding through quests, it never occurred to me that the invisibility potion quest is basically a quest to help some teens have a booty call. :P

    It is really interesting when you look at the quests from a critical philosophical viewpoint. There are a lot of places where the only justification for your actions is “Well is evil! They need to be slaughtered!” This is especially true in a lot of the earlier quests (although it certainly persists throughout the whole game).

    It’s a little bit different say, in Northrend when you are fighting mostly undead that wants to wipe out all life on the planet. Or Outland even, the demons there DID pretty much annihilate that planet, and they want to do that to Azeroth as well. But the murlocs? And furbolgs and gnolls and however many other “animal” races there are that you end up slaughtering from time to time? But, we do all the quests because we won’t get our shinies otherwise. :p

    Also, WoW would be absolutely gruesome if everything you ever needed was available always. Especially near the beginning of the games, because bag space is really limited. They gave the players some love in Cataclysm, making bags drop more frequently and giving them out as quest rewards in the early game, but if you could collect and carry all of your quest items without having to have the quest? Yuck.

    A lot of the cooking recipe quests can be done like that, because they make you gather the items that are used in the recipe, which can be obtained at any time. It’s still a huge pain in the butt.

    • Jarenth says:

      In defence of the Kobold Homicide Plan, those candles of theirs áre pretty sweet.

      But yeah, I’ve also never understood why Murlocs are considered evil. They’re incredibly annoying to fight, sure, but only if you run into their camps to murder them anyway.

      I guess they did almost kill the Darkspear Troll tribe at some point, though.

      • Will says:

        The Murlocs themselves aren’t evil, they’re aggressive and tribal, dangerous sure, a threat to civilisation maybe, but ‘evil?’ Not really.

        Now the Mur’Gul, their bigger, nastier, Old God corrupted buddies? Thems be evil.

        • Felblood says:

          Wait. The murgals ware bad guys now?

          I don’t play WoW, so in my head they are still the pathetic, enslaved construction workers of the Naga faction.

          Poor murgals; nobody will ever love them now.

        • Jeff #3 says:

          As the recipient of a number of drive-by murloc patrol ganking and their dense spawns and quick respawn time….. Yes, they are evil.

  6. Daimbert says:

    For reasons that should be obvious to anyone who’s ever read my blog, I DESPERATELY want there to be a “Philosopher” class in an MMO. I’d certainly play that one, even if it sucked, just to play that [grin].

    As for other games that did things like this, KotOR: Sith Lords did that, by deconstructing you getting XP from killing things (why do you get more powerful the more you kill?) and having your bounty hunter companion who doesn’t kill when doing bounties asking why she has no problem killing people when she’s with you.

  7. lazlo says:

    I think everyone has their pet MMO insanity. For me, it’s banks. In the real world, banks offer their services for free, or even pay you to use their services, because while they have your money, they’re using it to make loans to other people. In MMO’s, (well, WoW at least), banks never loan you gold, which really isn’t particularly surprising given the credit-worthiness of the average level 10 warlock. Also not surprising given that, on the other side of the equation, money seems to be the only thing (besides keys) that you absolutely positively *cannot* store in the bank. It’s always in your bag.

    So really the only service offered is that of a safe deposit box. And they charge a one-time flat fee for those. But of all the sense that all of that doesn’t make, I could accept it, but the thing that really blows my mind is this: These bankers will happily greet you and continue to do business with you after you’ve used their safe deposit boxes to store 60 raw fish for 4 months. Try doing that in a real-world bank, see how well it works out for you.

    • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

      Does anyone have 60 raw fish that are perpetually fresh and never go rotten?
      Does anyone have money for a safe deposit space large enough to house them?
      We need you to get together and do a little test for us.

      I see problems like that part of a network of similiar problems, but solving them all with create a game very few will play. So I try not to be bothered by them. What bugs me more is when the game behaves unpredictably about them.
      For example: Pies always stay as fresh, never going hard or cooling. Then having a quest where you need to get a pie delivered before they get cool, and you’ll actually have a time limit. Double penalty, because there’s a time limit mission involved.

    • TSED says:

      You can store money in EQ’s banks. And they let you do business with them for free. Coins used to have weight so everyone actually used that, but sometime recently they removed that, so there’s not much point to it now.

      The ‘raw fish’ thing is hilarious though. Food on your person gets eaten, but food in your bank stays perpetually there. I’ve got some severed heads in my bank that have been there for in-game CENTURIES (time flow is about 15-to-1 faster than the real world). Nobody’s cared.

      Speaking of centuries, how come the same human NPCs are still around? It’s been, well, centuries. I can buy the socially-static world (even if some things HAVE changed) due to MMOs, but nope, not unchanging names. Go figure.

  8. Robyrt says:

    There are two ways to explain the indiscriminate murloc slaughter and the never-curdling milk:

    1. Azeroth is stuck in a temporal causality loop, like Groundhog Day. You gain experience without altering the permanent state of the world; eventually you and the other heroes get bored and create an elaborate metagame, i.e. the raid and PvP systems.

    2. The rules of WoW apply to NPCs as well. It takes 3 minutes for murlocs to respawn because that’s how long their walk is from the nearest graveyard. Genocide? More like prank calling Papa Murloc next door.

    • Ian says:

      2. The rules of WoW apply to NPCs as well. It takes 3 minutes for murlocs to respawn because that’s how long their walk is from the nearest graveyard.

      Tell that to the mobs in Vashj’ir on Cataclysm’s release day.

      *shudder*

      • Ryplinn says:

        It turns out the NPCs are just as excited as the players about a new expansion.

      • Jarenth says:

        There’s a quest in Mount Hyjal where you have to kill X slave-driving ogres who are each walking a couple of slaves down the road. You kill an ogre, the slaves escape, jackpot. And each of these ogre-slave packs look identical.

        I can’t stop picturing this now as one ogre who’s desperately trying to get this annoying escort quest done, but every time he starts it this random elite mob spawns out of nowhere and kills him. And now he has to run to his corpse, respawn and wait for the questgiver to reappear, all the while muttering under his breath about how Blizzard really messed up the game balance on this one and how he can’t wait for the next patch.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Now youve made me wonder what is the longest quest chain(not counting the main quests)in an rpg.

  10. Jeff says:

    Vindictus, a very pretty free-to-play action MMO I’ve been hooked on has a hybrid system. Certain items only drop when you’re on a quest, but they have a 100% drop rate. Collection quest items are random drop, so you can end up having items before they even ask for it.

    Seems to work fairly well, since it’s an instance-based action game, and the areas that have “only drops when on quest” tend to be unlocked alongside the quest.

    • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

      So you still won’t end up killing them again because you couldn’t collect the items the first time around? Sounds good. If the items are the sort no-one would collect without a reason (in-character, like dingo’s kidneys etc.), then it’s doubly good.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Wait,you need a reason to collect dingo kidneys?

        • Atarlost says:

          Some people collect stamps, some people collect arguments for the nonexistance of God and get killed crossing the street because they can’t tell black from white.

          Don’t ask me how that works since being hit by a lorry is something one should want to avoid no matter what color it is, and a failure to distinguish black from white would prevent you from recognizing the crossing and you’d therefore be killed not at the next zebra crossing.

          Or maybe it was zebra. I think I remember a zebra in the guide animations on the BBC TV miniseries, but I have it on the authority of a Boer that zebra crossing does not refer to bichromatic equines in a former British colony that is actually on a continent that has them so I see no reason why it should in England.

          And by now this has gone on too long to actually be funny unless the sheer rambling length becomes amusing. I probably shouldn’t hit post, but I will anyways because maybe someone will explain how proving black is white and visa versa should get a man killed at a zebra crossing, whether meant in the colloquial of punic sense.

      • acronix says:

        I can think of one that follows your rule: getting a piece of kobold skin that was stuck on a giant polar bear.

        Then there´s an example that is the exactly opposite: A level 30 something quest that asks you to get 5 red gnoll furs. At level 8, the ending boss of one of the levels drops red fur too. But you can´t give those to the NPC, he wants the level 30 red fur.
        The really horrid thing is that the story-wise reason the NPC asks for that fur is because he wants to make the same armor the player could make at level 10 with the fur of the level 8 boss. So yeah…

        On a side note, the best gear is crafted and requires lots of different components. And there is no bank.

  11. Joshua says:

    “What does it say when thieves live in more harmony with nature than you?”

    This was the joke between my wife and I when we first started playing LOTRO four years ago. You have bandits, Angmarim, undead, natural animals, spiders, etc. all walking around each other with ease because they live in perfect harmony. Who’s the evil ones?

    • Kyte says:

      On the other hand, most of those are allied or in some way connected through Sauron, so in the end, there’s a (shaky) explanation.
      Plus, most of mob mixes are pretty decent. Bree has natural wildlife plus goblins/orcs, maybe the latter ought to hunt the former but we can leave that implied. There’s Wargs/wolves mixed with bandits, but there’s always some kind of wolf-tamer around to explain that. Near the Blood Circle in Lone-Lands, the undead pretty much ignore the insect/plant-like wildlife around, while the orcs give the entire area a wide berth.

      • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

        But from what I’ve understood nothing explains the spiders, since there’s only supposed to be one giant spider in Middle-Earth. And she’s not faffing about in the north.

        • Sekundaari says:

          Depends on how you define giant. There’s plenty of great spiders in Mirkwood.

          • Will says:

            While there’s only one Spawn of Ungoliant still around, Shelob herself has had more than a few kiddies who are scattered all over Middle-Earth as dog to horse sized spiders.

            • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

              And those are hanging all over Eriador?

              I admit I have a dislike for giant spiders, or giant anythings, in video games, but I’m especially bothered by them in LOTR-related games, since in the book there was only one. And the references about her children lacked indication that they were large (implying only that they were less “great” or whatever). Granted, I don’t remember much from The Hobbit and haven’t touched Silmarillion, but would it hurt for a video game set in a fantasy world to not have giant spiders for once?

              • Jarenth says:

                No giant spiders? Then where will I get my silky silk?

                • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of cynicism and venting says:

                  By collecting it from silkworms/whatever? You know, like in real-life? And it would explain how the silk isn’t superstrong.

                  I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s strange how every gameworld expects it’s population to put their lives on the line just to collect basic ingredients. I bet there’s a game where the only source of wool is yetis, and you have to fight them to the death in order to get it. While indubitably cool, it would be bit much. After all, aren’t the NPCs supposed to be able to make clothes as well?

              • guy says:

                Large chunks of Mirkwood were completely overrun with giant spiders in The Hobbit.

          • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of bile and cynicism says:

            Big enough to be considered monsters and therefore you have to fight them. And isn’t there a mountain range between Mirkwood and the low-level areas of Lotro?

            • Sekundaari says:

              I don’t know about Lotro, but I guess more spiders could live somewhere in the old Angmar (Carn Dûm?) or something. I imagine the game might be a bit short(er) on monster variety otherwise (obligatory).

              Anyway, the great spiders of Mirkwood caught the dwarves, and talked, I think, in the Hobbit.

              • Will says:

                Yup, there were giant talking spiders in Mirkwood in the Hobbit. I don’t remember the details, but i do remember the spiders.

              • Sumanai - a grouchy ball of cynicism and venting says:

                “Whoever wrote this story has no imagination at all!”
                Funny, since lack of imagination/originality is what I think is the reason for Giant X -monsters. Though the problem is partially that every X, is a Y. If it’s an orc, it’s the same orc, but at a different level. Excepting bosses. It’s just that, couldn’t there be different tribes that fight differently? Or could, now I know this sounds completely nuts, but could we possibly not be fighting something all the time? Offer a possibility of leveling through both paths would allow players to not fight orcs when they get sick of them, and return back to them when they feel farming or whatever is attempting to kill them with boredom.

                I didn’t remember that, but yeah. Now that you mention it I recall that they were caught by spiders in the Mirkwood. But it’s still on the other side of a mountain range, what’s up seeing them in the Eriador en masse?

      • Atarlost says:

        Time to re-read The Hobbit. Wargs are not animals in the moral sense. They’re intelligent and ACE, just like orcs, dragons, balrogs, and spiders of the house and lineage of Ungoliant. And possibly trolls, though trolls occasionally act like constructs.

        And unlike Murlocs they’re not merely informed evil. They actually go out and engage in violent mayhem.

        Tolkien doesn’t seem to put much stock in what we call lawful evil. Apart from Saruman all examples are Numenorian. And anything neither Elf, Dwarf, nor Human is either always evil or always good. Or for huorns maybe always neutral habilophobic.* Based on Ainulindale and the QS chapter on dwarves hobbits have to just be short humans if we assume that another dwarf-like exception would be mentioned.

        It makes one want to do thought experiments involving capturing baby orcs and raising them as humans.

        * or something like that: fear of tool users. I’m pretty much pulling the term out of my arse and it’s almost certainly wrong, but IIRC homo habilus is man tool using so I hope it at least has the right latin roots.

        • Will says:

          As Orcs in Middle Earth are corrupted Elves (i think it was Elves?) i’m pretty sure their evilness is an inherant characteristic of the species.

          • Sekundaari says:

            As far as I know, Tolkien never reached a satisfactory conclusion with this. “Always irredeemably evil” orcs went against his views, and he said so, but he didn’t give any counterexamples so it is a reasonable solution.

  12. Jarenth says:

    I have nothing inherently funny to add here except that it’s been months since I last killed a Murloc, and now I have the Murloc sound playing on infinite loop in my head.

    Thanks a lot, Shamus.

  13. drlemaster says:

    So far, I have tried to avoid killing murlocs, as I think they are kinda cute (in an aquarium pet sort of way). However, having done a few corpse runs due to furbolg ambushes, I lay into those guys whenever I come across hostile ones.

  14. Sem says:

    Late post but I couldn’t resist. Although philosopher is not a class in WoW, there is tabletop RPG based on philosophy : Dungeons and Discourse. Inspired by the webcomic Dresden Codak (which I wholeheartedly recommend) : see here and here.

  15. Felblood says:

    Dwarf Fortress used to have a philosopher class, but it went away because fans couldn’t agree on whether they should be completely useless, or be the only profession with the ability to kill gods.

    Apparently, DF players hate the very idea of game balance.

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