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.
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:
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.
Whoa! Mortal realm. It's been a while. A couple of centuries, at least. Crazy. I wonder who…
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“I nearly passed out as it is!”
“What are you, new at this?”
“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!”
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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
“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?”
“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!”
“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-“
“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?”
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 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.
“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.”
“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?”
“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.
The plot of this game isn't just dumb, it's actively hostile to the player. This game hates you and thinks you are stupid.
Lost Laughs in Leisure Suit Larry
Why was this classic adventure game so funny in the 80's, and why did it stop being funny?
The Best of 2012
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2012.
There's a wonderful way to balance difficulty in RPGs, and designers try to prevent it. For some reason.
Could Have Been Great
Here are four games that could have been much better with just a little more work.