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4:42pm on Wednesday, 19th November, 2008:



I ordered a copy of Wrath of the Lich King from GameStop in the USA on Friday. It arrived by UPS on Monday, which is quite efficient, and would rather impress me if I hadn't had to pay 16 quid's worth of excise duty on it before the driver would hand it over. I didn't bother to install the software — I didn't have to, I got the EU version working — but I did enter the DVD key to upgrade my account. As a result, my long and painful slog to level 80 can begin.

Some of the things I've seen so far (level 71 plus 25%) are a little bit different, but they're fleeting: yes, I like the net-things-in-the-sky idea, but no, I don't actually want to spend 5 minutes netting things in the sky. At the moment, such flashes of "Ooh, I like the way they've done that" are still coming frequently enough for me to be able to endure the periods in between without resorting to stoicism, but I don't suppose that will last.

Now while this means that WotLK is not yet torture for me, there is some torture involved. Specifically, this quest. Basically, you have to take some kind of cow poke and zap a prisoner until he talks.

I'm not at all happy with this. I was expecting for there to be some way to tell the guy who gave you the quest that no, actually I don't want to torture a prisoner, but there didn't seem to be any way to do that. Worse, the quest is part of a chain you need to complete to gain access to the Nexus, which is the first instance you encounter (if you start on the west of the continent, as I did). So, either you play along and zap the guy, or you don't get to go to the Nexus.

I did zap him, pretty well in disbelief — I thought that surely the quest-giver would step in and stop it at some point? It didn't happen, though. Unless there's some kind of awful consequence further down the line, it would seem that Blizzard's designers are OK with breaking the Geneva convention.

Well they may be, but I'm not. Without some reward for saying no, this is a fiction-breaking quest of major proportions. I don't mind having torture in an MMO — it's the kind of thing a designer can use to give interesting choices that say things to the players. However, I do mind its being placed there casually as a run-of-the-mill quest with no regard for the fact that it would ring alarm bells: this means either that the designer can't see anything wrong with it, or that they're actually in favour of it and are forcing it on the player base to make a point. Neither case is satisfactory.

Gawd knows what the people on role-play servers will be making of it...

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Copyright © 2008 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).