One of the most awesome things about being in the game and in my particular guild is being surprised. I don’t tend to like surprises in my real life. I don’t deal with them well, either due to disappointment or stress. In game (and in my ‘fandom’ life in general) I get to have surprises without inevitable disappointment or stress. Aside from the occasional bit of guild drama.
I’ve been surprised by the WoW Community many times – when guildies clubbed together to buy me a Mammoth as a thank you for sorting out the guild website, when I get to hang out with a friend and introduce her to stuff I’ve always taken for granted. The proliferation of pie jokes in guild. A former raider going all out to support the roleplayers in the guild.
But when was the last time Warcraft the GAME truly surprised you?
The First Time I Got Bitten
I ‘knew’ it was going to happen. I’d read the tactics time and time again for Queen Lana’thel, and we had a snazzy addon that was supposed to reduce the randomness of who got bitten. Never mind that the Melee tended to ignore it! Blood Queen Lana’thel is a truly great fight for ranged DPS. You get to nuke and nuke your heart out, it was a fight where I (an Elemental Shaman) could go all out with very little silly bits of running. It was a caster zen for me, proving I was capable of being top 5 DPS, stoking my fragile self-confidence.
And then the bite. I knew it was coming. I’d see the whisper. I was not prepared for the heart thumping adhrenaline rush that I got. I don’t think my hands have shook that much since Illidari Council. It was all on ME now. If I fucked up, we didn’t have a 30% buff to carry us through. That attempt would have been over. And then with the fears and then with the ‘OH GOD WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU VIR’.
I learned quickly. The fight is not so interesting now, but at the time it was like a bucket of ice-cold water after relaxing soak in the steam room.
The Wrathgate Cinematic
Somehow I managed not even to know there was a Cinematic. The whole questline had me enthralled and surprised. So many moments of *loresquee*. Plus I ‘finally’ found how why people who got the ‘Wrathgate’ achievement were so mysteriously silent for such a long time. Seeing the moment of the Dragons arrival was reminiscent of “The Eagles are Coming!” from The Hobbit and Return of the King.
Betrayal and Mistrust, Death and Horror. Hope. I don’t know how I wasn’t spoilered for this, but it was an amazing moment for Wrath of the Lich King. As much as I am not a fan of every MMO being centred around a single player’s story, it was a great moment for me, personally.
Controlling a Geist
I didn’t know it was coming. I love the Geist model in WoW, one of the creepiest and fun creations of Wrath of the Lich King, this is one of those small models that does a lot of work in Warcraft now. Simple, but effective in how horrific they are, and their superb animation. Getting to control one was a real surprise. How fun it was to control their leaps and bounds was even more of one. This was a ‘vehicle’ quest done right.
Defile is something of an iconic mechanic now. The rallying cry of ‘Fucking Defile’ is near universal in it’s tones of frustration and hate, the blood sweat and tears, and the cause of so many a wipe since raiders first started tackling the Lich King. The oily mess that spawns at your feet is an obnoxious, hungry fire, clutching at the heels of every raider. As with being bitten by the Queen, you’d read about it and planned for it, but there is nothing like your first ‘SURPRISE DEFILE ON YOU’ moment. The panic, the lack of muscle memory helping you on your way. The times when you got over trigger happy and ran the wrong way. For many less serious raiders, even after the mechanics of Sindragosa, Defile ((I wrote ’Deflail’ three times there, which shows my standard ability for dealing with surprises.)) is that bucket of cold water after a long time in the muggy steam room of Lowerspire/Halls.
What Has Surprised Others?
I did a little twitter survey while I was writing these, and this is what I got back by the time I decided to hit ‘post’.
@lorekeepercat said: The connection betweenhttp://bit.ly/aqqGUu and http://bit.ly/cprrBk Also, I know that’s old news, but it was the first thing that sprang to mind since we’re in the middle of season 4 right now. though in general I love little surprises that show more shared interests between myself and the people who make the game.
@NDMiko said: The feeling I had when my group finally downed LK. Tears when the cinematic loaded. All the struggles I had to get there. I did not expect that reaction at all. It came out of nowhere.
@Guillin said: That’s a very good question, and I honestly can’t think when WoW last surprised me.
Well, what I take from the above is the obvious – we’ve had no new content for some time, so there is very little about Wrath to surprise us, and it’s a while since it did. Those of us who enjoy pop culture references and lore details, or who missed Vanilla and TBC when they were ‘fresh’, will have more current mileage out of the existing game, as there is a wealth of detail out there to discover.
How Important Is Surprise?
Larisa posted a little while ago about the reasons why ‘Beta’ was fun. The lack of obvious, mapped out path, the lack of pressure to do exp/h efficient levelling and so on. Beta has been something of a magical experience for me, and I’m saving much of the 1-60 content to do on the live servers because I don’t want to burn out on it. I’ve been doing a lot of quests in Deepholme etc while being ‘maxed out’ on XP, and it brought back to much how much I enjoy the stories of these zones. How much I prefer something like Deepholme, while it is a process of discovery, over a more open ended and random zone. I might be a ‘sheep’ needing my shiny path, but I truly enjoy narrative story and lore. If I reactivate my account before Cataclysm my plan is to chill out and go for Loremaster, Seeker, and a complete set of Hippogryphs.
Combine that with a lack of map, and ‘kill 10 rats’ quests that have an element of surprise in them and questing without maps or addons has been a fun experience (and I’m looking forward to going back in live.) These zones feel massive. I thought Storm Peaks was ‘big’, well, nothing is big like a Whale Shark. The surprise of some of these questing elements and story twists has been a large part of the fun for me. Those same old same old quests have elements in them that make them more than collect/kill ex, and the way Blizzard has done this is make the mobs do interesting things, and made them more powerful in general. A surprise add makes a much bigger difference now. As a player you need to use your knockbacks and silences, interrupts and CCs just to complete quests, it’s not just a nuke-fest anymore.
They are still kill/collect quests, but phasing and mob mechanics contrive to make each one different. So in PVE solo play you have constant mini-surprise. I also recommend turning your map off, because it really makes you LOOK around.
And yet I’m also a raider. I learn the steps and I try to execute them competently. A lot of folk compare raiding to ‘scripted play’, yet I wouldn’t deny that dancing doesn’t take a huge element of planning and preparation, of know what you’re supposed to do when, of working with your team, be it a Ballroom dance, or ballet, or formation. Yes, you can improvise, but much of the skill is in choreography and practise (so does that mean PvP is an improv dance off?) There is fun in that too, even without the surprise of going into a fight blind ((Every guild should do a fight blind every now and then, just to keep their raiders thinking.)) The ‘surprise’ in raiding comes from unexpected situations, the first time you have to deal with a mechanic, the miraculous recovery, the triumphant kill.
‘Surprise’ can’t last forever, of course, but maybe sometimes we have to go looking for it.