It’s 4.2 patch day and all sorts of interesting things are happening. The two specific things I’m looking forward to are finally getting a new gem bag for Jana, and hopefully the onrush of people to the auction house to buy my cut gems for their shiny new gear. I’m not sure there’s much more to say about either of those things. ”Yay, 12 more slots!” kind of covers the first, and “Mmm, gold gold gold gold gold…” covers the second.
So instead I decided to write about something that I’ve been thinking about for a little bit: Immersion.
Obviously there’s an RP sense to the word, but I’m not really talking about RP per se. Immersion is a sense that there is actually a character in an admittedly fictional world, doing things according to the rules of that world that all make sense. My belief is that Warcraft is at its best when you are able to immerse yourself in the world. Someone is sending you to collect five snapdragon bulbs and you care because otherwise this innocent kaldorei priest is going to die from a poison inflicted by a dastardly undead rogue. Or something like that. If you don’t have that, you’re just pressing buttons, and there are plenty of games out there that allow me to press buttons without paying $15 a month. Or whatever it is.
There are, however, inevitable moments when gameplay interrupts immersion and reminds you that you’re playing a game, and for gameplay reasons the “story”, as it were, becomes unrealistic. Roger Ebert had a term for such things: “Clang”, defined as “a moment that breaks the fabric of a film with something that is impossible, illogical, tone-deaf, out of character, amateurish, or otherwise goes Clang!” In Warcraft this happens frequently.
The other day I took Saxsy to the Twilight Highlands to fish. I wasn’t after the fish so much as I was after volatile water (itself a Clang on a minor scale). But if I was going to fish, I might as well fish for things that are useful. Instead, I was fishing for Algaefin Rockfish, which are only marginally useful since they make crit food and I don’t know anyone who would use that as their first choice of food. I was fishing for those not because I wanted them, but because the pools of Algaefin Rockfish are tied to pools of Highland Guppies, which are actually useful for raid feasts. Clang! I suppose that’s bad enough, but I was working my way through the Twilight Shore, where the alliance and horde are fighting hand to hand, with artillery explosions everywhere, for the purpose of controlling some beach that seems to offer no real tactical advantage for anything. The merits of taking the beach aside, Saxsy flew onto the side of one of the horde’s boats to reach a pool of Algaefin Rockfish. Clang! Clang! Clang! The whole scene is ridiculous.
Crafting materials are a problem. Later that afternoon, I went to the pools of lava to fish up volatile fire. Consider: that same fishing pole that I used to catch fish is now sitting in a pool of molten lava. Clang! What am I trying to catch? Volatile fire. But what is volatile fire? What does it look like? Why am I able to catch it with a fishing pole? How am I able to hold onto it? Clang!
The concept also comes into play in RP. Someone emotes that they “think” something or other or “decide” something or other that onlookers wouldn’t be able to tell without being a mind reader? Clang!
Of course, there’s more to immersion than just “Clang” moments. I think I wrote about this a while ago, but I think it’s one of the reason I prefer mages to death knights. With the mage class, each spell has a clear different effect and consequence. Fireball is your basic spell; pyroblast is bigger and therefore takes longer to cast. Scorch is less powerful and works directly on the target rather than traveling. Fire Blast is an instant cast and therefore takes more effort to cast.
Death Knights are different, at least to me. Consider the difference between Death Strike and Obliterate. The two things have different effects, but if I’m considering how Traxy is actually moving differently between the two abilities and I just can’t imagine it. I don’t know the difference.
I think it’s something to watch for, even if you don’t RP.