Spider Man 4 dies so that Warcraft may live

I don’t really care about the news that the Spider Man franchise under Sam Raimi’s hand is over, except for the much more important fact that it frees Raimi to work on the Warcraft movie instead. As Harry says at AICN,

I feel confident in saying that the next film we’ll see from Raimi is going to be WARCRAFT… which after AVATAR, the concept of world building that particular universe could be astonishing – especially in 3D – especially after what Cameron just unleashed upon the globe. World creating Science Fiction & Fantasy… done by visionary filmmakers … well, it is a premium. We got THE HOBBIT coming, looks like an AVATAR 2… but the word I hear is that today – the phone lines were burning between a certain legendary locale and Raimi’s folks about firing up the furnaces to forge the weapons of war.

Some time in the next few months, I expect progress. I’ve heard that Robert Rodat (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, THE PATRIOT) has put together one helluva script.

A movie technology arms race between Jackson, Cameron and Raimi with the Hobbit, Avatar and Warcraft franchises is going to be one fun hell of a ride.

Just look at this again – click on it, zoom in, and really look at it – and imagine it on the big screen, alive:

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Willow goes to Azeroth

Unfortunately I got stuck on the Earth for rather longer than I intended. I came for a week and was stranded for fifteen years. — Ford Prefect

These words of warning apply equally well to Azeroth as Earth, as does the Guide entry which read in full, “Mostly Harmless”. That mostly bit is key, as G Willow Wilson is discovering.

The thing that gets me is this: there is nothing original about this game. Somebody mixed a little steampunk into Tolkien’s Middle Earth, changed a few names (high elves are night elves; hobbits are gnomes; trolls are troggs–the L’s replaced with a letter a mere 4 spaces away on the keyboard) and went to town. From a storytelling angle, everything about WoW is a rehash of something older and better.

But the sheer richness of the digital environment is so impressive that you don’t even begin to care. The other day (day? night? In my delirium I can’t remember) I was running along a frozen river in my little gnomish avatar when I heard the sound of bells. Around the bend came a blue-skinned elf. We stood there for a long moment, looking at each other, and then ran on, each bent on her own errand.

It was almost poetic.

Indeed, as was the occasions when I (or rather, my lvl 50 warrior toon) literally rode up on a white horse to save her little gnome mage from something or other. The sheer artisanship of the game makes even mundane encounters, epic in a way.

Meanwhile, on my flight back to Chicago from Abu Dhabi, I became acquainted with the TV show “How I Met Your Mother”. It’s amazing how WoW crops up in pop culture nowadays:

Razorfen Kraul

So, back in Azeroth I had a really enjoyable run through Razorfen Kraul with a winsome nelf priest friend of mine; the high point had to be the armada of snufflenose gophers we were parading arouund. The low point was getting those gophers to actually do their job. My warrior is level 34, on the high side for the level, but still nowhere near high enough to solo RFK. I’ve found that doing instances really requires teamwork to get anything out of them; to solo one you must be so high level that none of the item drops are going to be worth anything to you. A team of three players, all matched to the instance’s level or slightly above, is probably optimal (the Holy Trinity of tank, healer, and DPS). That’s not always possible, of course, and this experience in RFK taught me that it’s actually more fun to go with an escort at level 80. I have been escorted through the deadmines and the stockades with an 80 before, but those were boring; the 80 did all the work and my job was to sit back and get out of the way. This time, I was able to charge up and practice my warrior techniques in full melee, and the 80 backed me up as needed with heals, buffs, and ensuring that I didn’t get overloaded (since every attack they made generated higher threat). The result was a fun fight where I could experiment with my new berserker stance, but where I still had to work at it. I was high enough level that I could survive the melee and inflict damage on my own instead of being babysitted through the whole instance. The downside was that I got only average gear – I need to try the same thing out on a slightly tougher instance (perhaps something in the 30-40 range).

I’m thinking about focusing on instances for a while; I still have to do Gnomeregan. I really want to “twink” myself and try to get some better gear, as what I have thus far is mostly picked up from quests and lags behind the curve.

Azeroth and Anathem

Now that Ramadan has ended, I’m taking up my geeky pursuits again. I’ve got a copy of Anathem from the library and added some game time back to my Warcraft account. I have to confess that it’s a hard choice 🙂

Just saw the movie 17 Again starring teen heartthrob Zac Ephron and former teen hearthrob Matthew Perry. I was delighted to note the supporting “best friend” character was a geek otaku of the highest caliber, who also managed to score an otaku dreamgirl. You can always tell when writers are genuine geeks – it shows, unlike gross and absurd representations like Revenge of the Nerds and Urkel and whatnot.

your age vs your level

As my main character’s level approaches my age, I am struck by how the leveling process is both a metaphor for youth and also an escapist fantasy. In life, as you age you get stronger, faster, smarter – up to a point, and then you plateau out, and then gradually decline in most of those attributes (though not all). In Warcraft, you just keep on going up and up. Thus the early levels, say up to about 30-40, its a direct analogue for the aging process, and then above that it’s the fountain of youth. Of course the chronological time it takes for you to level from 40 to 80 is a lot less than from 1 to 40, so in practice most people arent going to be growing measurably older during the lifetime of their game character. But still, its easy to see how the game might appeal to someone older than the target age grouup of mid-20s to mid-30s. Unlike Second Life, which is basically a recreation of modern life’s drudgery, at least Azeroth gives you a story and heroic role to play.

I’m 35, and as of this writing my main toon is lvl 32. I’ll hit equal age-level sometime next week, in all likelihood. Maybe I should throw a party.

the endless summer/winter/fall of Azeroth… in the Myst?

Things are moving along nicely in my part-time Warcraftf addiction. I basically play for about 30min in the afternoon while my youngest is stuck onto me after I get home from work, and since this involves 50% fewer hands on my part, I use this time to do housekeeping like AH, trainers, etc. A lot of fishing, which is pretty surreal if you think about it. In the evenings, I get another 30min or so in, after everyone is asleep, usually as a way to unwind and build up motivation for some productive work time. This is unfortunately time I used to spend blogging or watching anime, so I may need to go alternate days or something. I do get longer bouts of questing in once in a while, an hour or more online maybe on average 2-3 times a week. Thats when I do the plot coupon-type quests.

Having spent enough time now to no longer be a newbie by any reasonable definition of the word (except when it comes to PvP), I feel entitled to gripe about various things. This really counts as thinly-veiled praise, since I am basically complaining that Blizzard hasn’t been awesome enough. Were Blizzard less awesome then they are, I’d probably be satisfied, but they keep such a high standard that I’m left noticing the tiny margins between awesome and perfection. Enemy of the good, and all that, though in this case it’s more like enemy of the super-awesome. There are numerous small things, like the fact that night and day seem to make no difference in terms of the wildlife and the population. While quest-giver NPCs should indeed be available at all hours, wouldn’t it be nice for some variety in terms of different guards on duty at night, or minor npcs being asleep in their beds and requiring rousing to talk to? Or for the flora to vary a little – are pigs really nocturnal? Granted most of the animals are usually part of some farming X of Y quest most of the time but you could make the quests adapt – get 10 pig snouts OR night wolf skins, etc.

Far more bizarre is the fact that seasons seem to be perpetual in every zone – even the ones with ostensibly “normal” histories. Why is Elwynn forest in perpetual spring? Dun Morogh in perpetual winter? Azshara in perpetual fall? ok, some of these zones are twisted by some wierd horrific cataclysm or another, but still, if the world events can follow a seasonal pattern, surely the lighting and texture can follow? It would be amazing to see Teldrassil cloaked in snow in December and to see what Westfall looks like in spring.

While I am on my wish list, wouldn’t it be interesting if Blizzard were to do some cross-promotional stuff? Like sell cheap mini expansions for minor zones that aren’t part of the mainstream Azerothian narrative but rather just for fun? What springs to mind immediately is how awesome it would be to recreate the Myst island and let you basically play that game as an in-game adventure. Myst was tailor-made for the WoW engine – you interact with objects using the mouse, carry around minor things (and blue and red pages would be pretty easy to implement as soulbound quest objects), and the various Ages of Myst are essentially branched instances. The folks at Cyan actually redid Myst in real-time with a rendering engine already, so its not just static screenshots anymore – so they are already 90% of the way there. It would really be an incredible experience, and I’d gladly pay $20 for the experience. I’m sure there are other similar cross-overs possible – for example what about the island on Wii Sports Plus/Wii Fit? Or a few levels in Portal? Or Castle Wolfenstein/Doom? In fact if Blizzard opened up Zone development to indie developers you could see all sorts of potential opportunities arise.

World of Warcraft: The Movie

Sam Raimi – Sam “demoncam” Raimi – will be directing the World of Warcraft movie. In other news, there’s going to be a World of Warcraft movie.

The last major update that we had on AICN on the WORLD OF WARCRAFT came from Moriarty here, back in 2007. The last major bit I heard was a rumor that Uwe Boll was offering Blizzard untold tonnages of gold left crowns of undetermined origin to direct – and that allegedly BLIZZARD laughed his ass out of the place. In Mori’s piece we were supposed to get this movie in 2009 with a $100 million budget. With LEGENDARY’s main man telling BLIZZCON that it’d be over that figure. And there was some concept art.

Well, I don’t have concept art. I don’t have the firm release date, but I do know who is directing the WORLD OF WARCRAFT film and that is Sam Raimi. It will come out in trades later this week or next. But you can take this one to the bank. Sam is going to make a huge budget fantasy bit of unf&^kingimaginable coolness – and it will be yanked from the WORLD OF WARCRAFT.

From that previous AICN story two years ago:

The plot for the film will take place approximately a year before the start of World of Warcraft, including races you have played and lands you have wandered in, where lots of plot arcs are melded into a two and a half hour story. The film itself will revolve around a ‘badass’ new hero, with a theme towards conflict and culture – being a War Movie rather than a quest movie, from an Alliance’s perspective.

OK this has the potential to be all kinds of awesome.To be honest I dont care if they screw it up completekly, anyway – the licensing profit for Blizzard alone will mean more money for the game development, so we fans of WoW win either way 🙂 But just imagine seeing Ironforge on film? Or Booty Bay? In fact, there’s already concept art for Teldrassil: (click to enlarge to insane resolution to see all the detail)

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Wow. Just… WoW, literally.