Why Game Designers planning Military Operations is rarely a Good Thing.

Posted: 24 March, 2009 in misc, Wrath of the Lich King

I’m getting more excited than I probably have any right to be with the new Argent Tournament on the PTR.  I was always a sucker for faction reputation grinds.  There were far too many of them in Burning Crusade, even a rep junkie like me struggled to get them all (I only hit Exalted with Sporegarr last week and Kurenai two weeks before that!) but I think Blizzard got it just right in Wrath of the Lich King.  Slightly less factions, more focussed identities for them and far more logical means of grinding their reputation.

For those who aren’t familiar with the details, the Tournament is a lot like the Shattered Sun Offensive on the Isle of Quel’danas in Burning Crusade, except for where it’s completely different.

Ok, that probably wasn’t a lot of help.  I’ll try again.  The idea of the Tournament is that the Argent Crusade are looking for champions to lead the battle against the Lich King, so the various City factions are invited to send their best to compete for the honour of leading the charge.  I’ve dabbled in the process on the PTR on Calli, my mage, and it works kind of like this:

Oooh, shinies!
You head to the area in Icecrown where the Tournament Stadium is being built and sign up with your faction, for Calli, this was Stormwind.  You then get given a bunch of starter quests to learn the basics of mounted combat.  Yes, you heard that right, mounted combat.  Seeing a Mage riding around on a charger with a Lance and Shield strapped to her back is… well you’ll get over the intial “wtf” factor soon enough, and the combat mechanics themselves are fairly simple.  It’s another variation on the various vehicle combat quests we’re all familiar with from levelling in Northrend, but it’s sufficiently different to be quite cool and unique at first.  Complete these basic quests, and you successfully enrol on the list of Stormwind’s hopefuls, get some quest tokens and open up a bunch of daily quests.  The tokens are used to “buy” loot, like the new tabards, trinkets and so forth.  Every time you gain a new reputation level with the Tournament, you gain the right to challenge for a new rank of champion, which opens up more new daily quests.  Think of it like the Shattered Sun Offensive and Sons of Hodir’s bastard love child and you won’t be too wide of the mark.  There are a ton of new achievements, new tabards, mounts, loot, all the things you’d expect of a new faction, but more.  And they’ll keep adding more content to the Tournament in each patch so you’ll always have a reason to return.  It ticks all the right boxes, is as slick and well executed as you’d expect from Blizzard.  There’s just one teensy-weeny problem I have with it all.

None of it makes the slightest bit of sense whatsoever.


Top tip, fellas.  Holding a Tournament to select the champions for your armies is fair enough, this is at least historically accurate and I can’t fault any of that.  But generally speaking, you’re going to find it’s the sort of thing that you do before assembling your army, sailing north, storming the beacheads, battling your way inland and spearheading an assault into the enemy’s heartland.  If you’re already at the point where you can see the enemy’s Headquarters from your command post, you probably don’t actually need to hold a tournament to find some good troops.  They’re already fighting for you.

While we’re on the subject, was there seriously a meeting at Blizzard where they were thinking about where to hold the Tournament and Crystalsong Forest didn’t even get a mention?  Let’s just imagine how this meeting went:

Ghostcrawler: So, where are we going to hold this tournament?
Dev 1: It needs to be someplace near the Argent Crusade headquarters, but with reasonably close access to Dalaran.  Somewhere with undeveloped real estate where we can add the infrastructure without messing up what’s already there.
Ghostcrawler: Are you thinking where I’m thinking?
Dev 2:  Sounds like there’s only one real candidate, Cryst…
Ghostcrawler: Yeah, Icecrown, baby!
Dev 1:  Yeah.  Wait.. what?
Dev 2:  Icecrown?  The heart of the Lich King’s territory.  His bastion of power?  That Icecrown?
Ghostcrawler: Just north of Crusader’s Rest should do.
Dev 1:  There’s no flat land there.
Ghostcrawler: Make some.
Dev 2: It’s deep behind enemy lines.
Ghostcrawler: Mere details!

So just in case this wasn’t completely clear, let’s just recap.  Tirion Fordrings’ conquering army, having battled their way to within visual range of the enemy’s headquarters, is going to suddenly stop all offensive operations and march a bunch of carpenters and stonemasons right past the biggest stretch of undeveloped real estate in the game with excellent communication links a stone’s throw from the Argent Crusade’s home base, to a spot miles behind enemy lines to start building… a sports stadium.  A sports stadium, which isn’t going to be complete for months, I hasten to add, which has the purpose of being built in order to select which champions from the various factions will have the honour of leading the war against the Lich King.   A war which would have been over by now if they’d not stopped it to hold a Tournament that they should have held before they even got on the boat to Northrend.

It’s madness, and it certainly isn’t Sparta.  But it’s probably going to be great fun anyway, even if the whole concept is barking mad.

  1. gnomeaggedon says:

    Whoops.. I must have missed the memo that said Blizzard were going to do sensible things in future… Maybe it’s here somewhere… I think I have Blizzard memos filtered straight to junk mail… I’ll get back to you 😉

  2. […] love them.  There are never enough.  It’s like Ratshag without the Shag. Recent Highlight: Why Game Designers planning Military Operations is rarely a Good Thing. Go, Read, Enjoy, Bookmark & add to your […]

  3. gnomeaggedon says:

    BTW, you have been tagged!

  4. pewpewlazerz says:

    Oh noes! Now I gotta write ANOTHER new post! Curse you, Gnomey, and your little mechanostrider too! 😉

  5. DW says:

    First off:
    “Think of it like the Shattered Sun Offensive and Sons of Hodir’s bastard love child and you won’t be too wide of the mark. ” -That was a horrible horrible pandoras box you just opened there, im getting mental images i’d never thought possible, and I hate you for it!! (well not all that much 😉

    Secondly. In case you missed wrath-gate, ill give you an recap; Mr Lich king (my ex boss, -remember im a DK, I know him better than most) got some nasty green flu, thanks to the Forsaken, and started coughing and then went into hiding behind a big forking door.
    A door, mind you, that not even the red dragonflight knows how to open.
    Meanwhile the knights of the ebon blade and the argent crusade has his lands pretty well covered by now (at least if you have been doing your quests), and what is left to do now untill you figure out how to open his doors?
    Thiddle your thumb? go kill some Uduarian dwarf bastion that has nothing to do with the lich king? bah no! You keep your soldiers on edge, and you keep em fighting! So you hold a tournament. Its brilliant. Its good for morale, it keeps the soldiers from getting bored and start piling up prisoners and taking pictures (what the heck… a RL commentary???) and it keeps em fit and ready to fight.
    Plus, certain mages have started to show some..ehh.. comfort fat around the belly department since they arent doing their achievements, so throwing them on a horse with a lance makes perfect sense.
    And get ready to face the priest and DK chosen of Ironforge, you wussy Stormwind champion(s)!!

  6. pewpewlazerz says:

    That big door he went through to hide on the other side? I fly over it about eight times a day. :p

    Don’t try to rationalise it, it CAN’T be rationalised. There’s just a great big hole where all the common sense should be.

    And I’ll have you know I got another four achievements today without even trying, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it fatty dorf! Pfft. :p

  7. Ithiel says:

    lol. love the dev convo!

  8. Drugar says:

    Ahh, I miss the good ol’ days where there were spaceships from just-not-demons sabotaged by evil elf pirates. Back then, everything made much more sense.

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