In the advent of patch five-something of WoW, an hilarious bug was found and smashed. For a day or so, druids in stag form could climb on top of each other and overpoweredly fly above the sky limit. Blizzard saw this as unacceptable and crushed the druids' dream to reach the moon. When the ruling hand of Blizzard smashed this flimsy bug, I felt a pang of sadness and disappointment, as if it had been a nerf. Well, it was, in some way: it nerfed the player's creativity. Here's the bug, if you're curious:
In the last few years, Blizzard has been nerfing here and there not just for balancing reasons, but for streamlining ones as well. In Diablo 3, game that brought me a lot of joy from its polished mechanics, and a lot of sorrow from its design decisions, Blizzard's hand has been as unwavering as if it were an MMO, if not more. The playstyle that I usually adopted since Diablo 2, the glass cannon, was made extremely inefficient through the rising of repair costs and nerfing of attack speed. It was not the intended way to play, mind you. Diablo 3, being a gear-based game, would prefer you didn't "cheat" by using a cheap 0-resistance DPS set. It is all business, you see, players are not allowed to progress through skill, they have to buy their way through.
But this was not the only thing they streamlined: farming Siegebreaker was too popular, so they nerfed the chests, the nearby dungeons and boosted Siegebreaker with some nasty reflect damage affix. Resplendent chests had been too lucrative for the effort they required (although they forget that in order to get to most of those, you have to fight your way through a couple of "real" loot-pinatas), so they nerfed the chests, and the community sarcastically baptised them as "supply chests" because they only drop potions and gems. Oh, and let's not forget the preposterous thought of weapon racks always dropping weapons - that had to go away!
Back to bugs. I don't see the reason why some of them had to be deleted from the game. Take for instance the glitch that allowed rogues to enter Karazhan Crypts with Shadow Step back in TBC. It did not harm anybody or destabilized the game in any way. Hyjal was also a touristic spot that the most dexterous players bragged about having reached. They did not only nerf (or more politically correct: fix) wall-jumping, but when the virtuosos of jumping still made it, they installed a teleport that bounced them back where they should be. Wall-jumping in itself is a controversial subject, since it was used for actual harmful exploits such as jumping off the battlegrounds' fences before the race began. But I can think of other ways of preventing that that do not involve hijacking an interesting game mechanic (raise the walls, make them insurmountable, make a faux invisible ceiling, etc).
Why such rapacious reaction against creative bug-employing (not exploiting, there is no benefit made from it)? I believe it goes hand in hand with Blizzard's authoritarian policies of hyper-balancing. The game is supposed to be played/farmed *this* way and none other, which leads to the ever-nerfing of out-of-the-box ideas that the players come up with, such as 5-man rogue tanking of Gruul in TBC. My rogue friends drooled upon watching this video, and dreamed about being able to do that one day. It bespoke of the classes' possibilities beyond what was "common knowledge." It was all nerfed, since rogues are not supposed to tank. Raid encounters have gotten a similar treatment as well. I remember TBC encounters as being much more tolerant of different strategies. No, I don't just remember, I have seen it in action just a few months ago: King Maulgar could be handled in different ways depending on your raid setup. Enough tanks, and there was little need for hunter-kiting. Fewer healers? Then you may kite Maulgar around instead of face-tanking the whirlwind.
On the other end of the spectrum, developers such as Bethesda, which will always hold a little piece of my heart, and will probably be mentioned in my testament, have taken a much more laid-back approach to bugs. If it is funny and not game-breaking, we leave it there for our players to smile. My favourite one so far was the skyrocket sabercat. I encountered a sabercat in the wilderness, drew my bow, shot an arrow at it, and it just blasted off to the skies like a veritable rocket, leaving me there agape and loot-craving. Such wondrous world, Skyrim. You can be anything, even an astronaut.
Summing up: This bug fixing triggers in me some reluctance, because it reminds me too much of other creativity-nerfs, so abundant these days with Diablo 3. When will they learn that the more unique a player feels through her actions and decisions, the more attached she becomes to her characters and her individual game experience?
Doone and Ahtchu had commented on the previous article that some people point out nostalgia as being detrimental to an objective discussion. I do not entirely discard nostalgia as having an effect on our view of the past games, even as we replay them, specially in the field of MMOs, given that those are much more dependent on the psychological marks that they imprint on us mainly through social ties. Still, when talking about individual features and the consequences they have on how we experience the game, I think that we can single out the nostalgic appeals and have a thorough discussion. In fact, what I consider that applies in this case is an issue of predisposition, rather than nostalgia.
If you tell the average Wrath-inserted player that she has to form her group through trade channel, and then work her way to the summoning stone, she will probably answer that she's got dailies to do, ciao. It could also be the case that she is interested in those revived mechanics because she has heard of the benefits of that artificial hurdle, and is willing to do the experiment. There you have it, willing. Veterans, when coming back to the previous systems, acknowledge those benefits in themselves or as opposed to the current system, and are willing to bear the short-term inconveniences. Precisely because most players required the antithetical view of the dungeon system in Wrath, they did not realise how successfully the previous system had been until then, which is why the returning experience can be better, or at least more mindful, than the original experience. It is not nostalgia, but the recognition of something that we have lost. Ee humans are keen on those sentiments.
That said, I think that it is in order to discuss those inconveniences that really were so, so that I stop sounding so nostalgia-addled. First and silliest, I miss my autoloot terribly. I have become used to holding shift while inspecting the loot by now, but then I hold shift in retail WoW and loot nothing, and that drives my perfectionistic self off a cliff. There is no inherent social gain on pressing another key while looting, and it could even be detrimental since I cannot chat while skimming the bodies of the dead.
A mechanic that I would like to pitchfork was actually the mp5 dynamic, albeit based on a personal dislike that may or may not be shared with other veterans. As a restoration druid in TBC, I never had the need to force myself into mp5-stasis, since my heals were rarely supernumerary as they were less potent and immediate but more long-term. I also had more mana regen than my envious priests. This is something I only realised after having played as a holy priest in Archangel, and having experienced the 'joy' of /stopcasting unless I was certain that the heal would land in full. On the other end of the balance was the unlimited mana pool that Wrath brought about, and the saddening consequences: healing would be less strategic and more jittery, reflex-based. It had some fun to it, there is fun in twitchy games such as Diablo 3, but I preferred the older model.
The design of the classes in vanilla is also double-edged. On the one hand, each class has a unique flavour to it, and hybrids are truly hybrids, being able to perform multiple roles almost simultaneously without excelling at any one. On the other hand, there is a very narrow range of choices for serious raiding: if you wanted to tank, you had to be a warrior. Bear tanks were rare, their gear being as uncommon as D3 legendaries; paladins were laughingstock, and forced to dress cloth to do what they were supposed to do, healing. It is a pity, because I wanted to play a blood elf *cough, vanilla*, a human protection paladin.
Then there is the "I could live without that" features such as transmogrification. Yes, it is nice to not look like a power ranger (see the early paladin tiers excepting Judgement), but from the perspective of a roleplayer who filled her bank with pretty dresses and weird tentacled staves (for Japanese e-rp, of course), it was never a necessity. I merely changed my looks upon entering the city, often on a daily basis.
Lastly, I cannot forget that WoW has also come a long way in the area of raiding. The early raids displayed mechanics that are now seen as easy and overused, and the bosses do not sport any fancy abilities that blow your mind. Compare C'Thun to the stepped-up flamboyance that is Yogg-Saron. And yet, how many variations of the "get out of the fire" mechanic are there in Cataclysm (dungeons, I haven't experienced the raids)? I came to expect one per boss encounter. In the early days, since people did not have telltale addons that informed them of upcoming shit on the ground, and since you could barely tell where you stepped on from the overcrowding of 30 active people and 10 afk bots, each one of this now requisite abilities (interrupt this, dodge that) constituted a boss encounter of its own. Now those are just the icing on the cake, because you are still expected to do a little dance while holding two gnomes on your shoulders, and keep pew-pewing yet another dragon.
What about you, what features do you deem indispensable now? What others are you willing to relinquish, for the sake of 2005 MMOs?
While everybody is busy commending GW2 for its social breakthrough, I went back to vanilla WoW and marvelled at the tools that we have relinquished over the years. I scoured specifically for community-regulating tools, as it was the concern of my previous post, but also paid attention to the quality-of-life improvements that are not so beneficial as they may seem. I will comment on those latter first and analyse what we can learn from 2006+ MMOs.
For starters, I had been missing the longer casting bars when mining, skinning, etc. Preposterous!, you may say. Still, if you have played LOTRO, you may have realized how differently that game plays from other AAA titles. LOTRO is more concerned with the journey than with the endgame: professions take a longer time to skill-up, its recipes are much more complex, and the resource nodes are more spaced out and take longer to harvest, which is key. Vanilla WoW was like that as well. One of the instruments that the developers employed to quench our endgame anxiety was this deceleration of gathering. Gathering in vanilla WoW is less frantic. Everything is less frantic.
The actual journey to level 60 takes as much time or even more than the path to 85, and is indubitably more rewarding. The joy of the first green after that infested pit of furbolgs that is Ban'ethil Barrow Den. It was soloable, but a very dangerous venture due to the high respawn rate. In retail WoW, I cannot bring myself to level up any alts. My characters are insultingly overpowered in relation to the mobs, and the quests are a mockery. Then, I need to check my heart rate before I queue for any instances, because I know that there is a huge chance that I might end up spitting fire for great justice.
In the beginning of Wrath I took up the job of managing and leading a raiding guild, and I used to feel very pessimistic about the new recruits that we were receiving. These people had not gone through the learning process that vanilla and TBC WoW forced upon new players, and had no idea how to play their classes since the game had waived the responsibility of teaching them. Vanilla WoW has so far (at level 12) taught me that kiting with Hamstring may be a wiser strategy than face-tanking; that pulling three mobs is inadvisable when your priest is catching butterflies far away; that aggro is a vital mechanic that saves my heroic clothie. My priest learnt very quickly the 5-second rule of mana regen, because he had to make use of it. But not only does harder content work to show you your class' toolkit, it is also a goal in itself. Quest rewards feel like rewards. Every level is a conquest, not a bureaucratic procedure to be filled to reach endgame.
Another quality-of-life improvement gone awry was the addition of flying mounts that reduce Azeroth from a world to a province with huge terrain dissonances. The process of travelling added to the slow pace of the game, although it was at times a bit too much. The journey from the night elven area to Stormwind involved a ship trip, a walk through a crocodile-infested zone, a pass below the mountains guarded by 20ish-level orcs, a pleasant road walk through Loch Modan up to Ironforge, its awe-inspiring gates and melody, and the gnomish tram.
Remember the degradation of epic loot? When something is handed to us effortless, we develop a sense of entitlement, and regard the object without the admiration that a hardship produces in us. Same with world locations. That trip was wondrous because it was not a mere vista splurged on our screens. For our two night elves, it was a wonder we had pursued with effort. A dwarf greeted us at the entrance, asking what were two elves doing in his lands. Spontaneous rp ensued, in a normal, non-rp server.
PD: Actually, I am currently playing TBC, Vanilla and retail WoW, Argent Dawn, at the same time. Emerald Dream is a server run by the same team that developed the TBC server (Archangel), and has just released ED to start progression from scratch. It is the stablest server I have experienced yet, and mostly bug-free. Absolutely recommended, specially now that they have just started, so you can hop on the bandwagon of raid progression. I have edited the Contact Page if you want to reach me in-game.
PD2: For more vanilla-based blogging, you should check out this blog, whose writer records his renewed experience of vanilla in a different emulator to the one I'm subscribed to.
PD3: Vanilla WoW, how much of my enjoyment do you think is related to nostalgia?
This post is in direct response to Syl's "[GW2] Tired of Trinity Whining. Or: As if!", and a counter at that. Not very common, since I tend to agree with Syl on many topics. In this case, I believe some of the misgivings on the subject of roles are valid. The problem might be as well one of concept. Syl (as well as the proponents of the Trinity) talk about the three roles of healer-tank-dps, instead of the notion of "role" itself, which is what I found lacking in GW2. Mind you, not from direct experience, since I decided upon not buying a beta, but from footage and the report of other bloggers.
The topics that Syl's post covers are too broad to have received such a diminutive treatment in one post, but I will do my best to answer them. The issues of cooperation and communication are tackled, and mixed up, but they actually encompass many more issues than that of the roles, such as the server-wide "groups" and the incentivising of social actions such as cooperating for a quest or ressing. I will refer to my previous post on the topic because I do not think I can add anything else to it, I still feel the same way about this issue. TL;DR: Automating or incentivising what was a social act of yesteryear does indeed avoid some unpleasant events, but eliminates a choice of acting manifestly socially, and a way to distinguish the more social-oriented players. I expand upon this topic much more on the post, please check it out if there is a conversation to be had on that particular subject.
That part cleared, the Trinity itself has to be analysed for what it does or does not in the game. The arguments of the proponents of the Trinity as listed by Syl are the following:
a) No holy trinity means there is no cooperation anymore! *GASP*
b) No holy trinity means people do not coordinate / communicate in groups!
c) No holy trinity means zerg-mode and needing no strategy!
d) No holy trinity means there can't be difficult combat!
A) Is wrong. The Trinity is not the issue with cooperation, as I discussed above. What the Trinity is, is a system that subscribes a class to a specific function in a party, making it more clear for all the participants the way to tackle the challenges. A "crutch", as Syl herself called it. The problem is not with a Trinity-less system, but with a role-less one. The Trinity is just one possible arrangement of roles, and the one we have learnt to expect, and translate into many other games which are not MMOs. I'll expand upon that later.
B) Coordinating and communicating are different acts, and thus have to be considered on their own. There is some sort of coordination in WoW's PvE content, even in randoms, although it is automated by the Trinity itself. The tank pulls first (or if a dps does, I let them eat the mob and go on my merry way), the healer keeps them all topped, and the dps do their thing and once in a blue moon CC some mob. This type of coordination is so ingrained in our gaming habits that we no longer see it as a coordination, which is why 5-man randoms work so well. The Trinity does the coordination for us, selecting the role we will be filling. The problem is, Guild Wars 2 has not created an alternative to the Trinity that involves any more complex cooperation than the one that we have automated.
C) That would depend on how the developers tackle the issue. We do not know yet if high-end combat will require more cooperation than the ascertained easy content that dynamic events are. In the end, we might be seeing fights like Aran in Karazhan, a favourite of some friend of mine, and that model will succeed. The concern that many people have is that high-end PvE will involve the same zerging that dynamic events are. You die, you get ressed or run back, and people pew-pew away; strength in numbers, no penalisation to chain-ressing, etc.
D) Same as above. It depends on how the encounters are designed. Zerging is the lowest-resistance path, but the qualms against zerging are only partially related to the difficulty of the encounters. In a zerg-rush, nobody stands out. You are the lowest common denominator, an expendable DPS helping the bar get lower a bit quicker. That is why zergs are not interesting.
When people deplore the loss of the Trinity, what they really miss having is a particular role in the combat, a role which may enable them to outshine through their performance. People do not miss the Trinity, they miss fulfilling a role. That role could be aligned with the Trinity (I felt proud of one-man healing Karazhan), or be something particular assigned to the individual at a given moment (Mage-tanking Maulgar, Warlock-tanking one of the Twin Emperors; Hunter-kiting in Maulgar again). If ANet is cunning enough, they will be able to pull these off in high-end PvE, and the lack of role-based performance will be diminished by an individual-based performance, but I am skeptical about it, given that there has been no instance of that in low-end PvE.
It is extremely difficult to replace the Trinity model with something completely original. No matter where you look at, people will be arranging their groups into roles similar to that of a meatshield, plus healer, plus damage dealer or control. Diablo 3: The multiplayer is so inefficient and unbalanced because classes are not designed to complement each other. A workaround in the vanilla game (before many nerf patches) which allowed one of the top WoW guilds to defeat Diablo in Inferno was to create a pseudo-Trinity with a Barbarian tanking, two Monks healing, and a Wizard dpsing. In Diablo 2 it was possible to play with friends without feeling hindered because the game was much more forgiving, and thus there was no need for a Trinity, or any role-based system. Team Fortress 2: One of the basic strategies to advance the line was to shield a Heavy or a Soldier and bring down the enemy's turrets while healed and invulnerable. Healers were key to the survival of the team, but there also existed other roles which are not easily translatable into the MMO environment unless there is a major paradigm change in the way encounters are designed. These roles were that of the Spy or the Engineer, the former to take out key targets and the latter to defend a position. Conclusion: There ought to be a major change in the way encounters are designed for other role-model to become viable in the MMO setting. Either that, or have a role-less system, which in turn does have those negative effects the Trinity-supporters claimed: loss of the individual performance, zerging and zerging-designed encounters, chaos.
The Elder Scrolls Online never ceases to amaze me with its ridiculous development decisions to cater who knows whom. No matter how preposterous they might seem, what makes me most uncomfortable is that TESO is not alone in this, and that it is merely following a particular trend that I will never be able to make sense of.
MMOs were -and should be, if you ask me- a world bigger than any one particular hero. The sentiment of bigger-than-you is better achieved when you actually cannot overcome everything on your own, when the world resists your individual influence, just as the real world does. That is why for me the world of Warcraft is more real than Tamriel or the Mass Effect universe, because I participate in it as an individual, and I am at no point the demiurge of it all. In Skyrim you could be at some point both the hero of the world and the cruellest assassin, while hoarding such a big pile of money that the next reasonable step would be to open a bank. Yes, it can be fun and engaging; but those stories are singleplayer for a reason.
Whereas in MMOs we are sometimes involved in quests that require our suspension of disbelief to work (how many times does The Missing Diplomat need rescue?), in general terms, none of the world-shaping events fall on the hands of one player. At least it wasn't that way prior to Cataclysm, after which you were fighting along with Malfurion, shoulder to shoulder. That would be to the detriment of the integrity of the world as something bigger than one hero. That would also harm the mystique of the major lore figures. Nevertheless, I don't mind being in someone else's story, so long as I can shape my own.
The last part is essential: I need to be able to shape my own story. For RPers, it'd be a more straightforward process, as they usually consider the career of their characters in narrative terms. For non-RPers, the story that surrounds their characters tells about their accomplishments, events they participated in, PvE content they downed on that character, PvP rank they obtained, the professions they took, the recipes they found, pets and cosmetic items, etc. Even the zone you quested in establishes a connection between that virtual entity and the image you have of her. The more you cull from a character's resumé, the more homogenised they become, the more blurred her individual story.
So what does this have to do with TESO and singleplayer content? For starters, the quest of the lonely hero does not make sense in a multiplayer environment, no matter how much phasing you shove into it. Even if said quest is brought forward, the developers need to understand that the career of a hero is not the very rigid quests they experienced, but rather the way in which they interacted with the world, and which distinguished them from another players/another characters they have played. The hero quest is fun the first time you undertake it, on the second playthrough you will notice how little of a special snowflake you really were (Bioware's latest innovation, the choose-your-path story, does not stand against the test of a second playthrough, as the choices were merely cosmetic). My father, who is an altoholic, enjoyed very much questing until Cataclysm, when he was forced to play through the exact same questline with all of his characters. There was no choice, no possibility of shaping his own story ("I did Nagrand on this character, skipped Blade's Edge, and went to Shadowmoon").
Then we have the example of GW2 and its personal stories. I am not entirely sure how these work, but I hope that they will not tell me who my character is, or develop my character's personality for me. If they are a development of the traditional class quests, I'm fine with it. If they on the other hand provide a very narrow path for me to necessarily walk, I might shun them. As I am not sure of what they exactly are, I will hypothesize: a) if they constitute a very personal narrative, through which your character will grow (Bildungsspiel?), I will not like it unless plenty of choices are provided. b) If they are just a questline which is freely available but does not shape your character, all is fine.
I want to define my character based on what she did in that giant bigger-than-her playground, not on what the developers write about her. If I wanted that, I would play a regular RPG, a singleplayer hero's quest.
Bethesda, please respect your world and your players. The persistent world of an MMO should not be plundered by any one lone hero, but shaped by the community. I want to see more elites roaming the world, more Fel Reavers that step on you while you humbly quest. Do not let me kill the Daedric Princes, the evil gods of Tamriel, on my own; that would make a very poor story. By all means, give me solo quests and epic storylines that my hero can tackle on his own, just do not lie to me about being the unique hero that will save us all, since I prefer to savour victory with my friends (and strangers-potential friends).
I'm having a blast at the TBC private server. Some people attribute our delightful remembrance of the past to nostalgia, and our desire to relive those moments as an ultimately futile one. For most people it might be the case, I won't deny that, but what does it tell you, the fact that I feel completely realized in, literally, the past? I would think that it means that the past was rightfully better than the present in the case of the MMO genre.
The MMO genre has evolved into an "alone together" singleplayer theme park from which there seems to be no turning back. Bethesda's latest endeavour is a horrifying mess that bespeaks of the little idea the developers have of what appeals to MMO player and Bethesda's own fans. They are aiming for a WoW-clone, not even from the time WoW was successful; similarly to SW:TOR, they will draw from the current design of WoW, lacking its polish and long career, adding some uninformed features that innovate very little and in the wrong direction.
In this hopeless climate, what can MMO gamers turn to? Perhaps GW2, although I remain sceptic. On the other hand, we've got projects like Psychochild's, who could have been a great contribution to the genre, but that haven't gotten as much attention as they deserve. All other AAA-MMOs are drone-like following a trend that I will never understand, and that has proved to be a failure.
And yet there seems to be some appeal about the solo part of MMOs, as Azuriel and Bernard argue. Nevertheless, I think that catering to that huge demographic that visits an MMO for its singleplayer content will neither give the company as much money as fostering social ties, nor be healthy for the genre itself, which would turn into a three-monther as SWTOR did. I remember the time where solo play was a choice which did not hurt the multiplayer aspects of the game. Having singleplayer (leveling, farming), multiplayer (dungeons, raids, arenas) and alone-together activities (battlegrounds) meant that people who wanted to play alone could do so, as well as those who are more social but need some time for themselves. What we cannot do is espouse the current design which polarises casuals and hardcores and forces most of the playerbase into alone-together activities (LFD, LFR).
The problem is that, although I can think as alone-together MMOs as a valid choice, especially for that demographic that can't participate in the social part of them, there is no such choice when all are designed this way. I wouldn't count EVE, it makes me very uneasy. There are no multiplayer MMOs anymore (some years ago, the epithet would have been redundant, now it is a necessity).
What about old-content servers? Officially supported vanilla, TBC, even Wrath servers. This has been discussed multiple times, and Blizzard would never agree to it because it would mean implicitly admitting that their game has been led astray. Nevertheless, 2.4.3 is their game too, why not offer it along with Cataclysm and everything else? I am certain that it would attract a lot of veterans back into the game. Some of them might give it a try and discard it altogether, as time passes and nothing leaves untarnished, but many others would, like me, enjoy their second ride (as we're talking about MMOs as theme parks). Most of my guildmates at Feenix agree that they would definitely pay a subscription to Blizzard if they would open "nostalgia servers." After all, nothing beats Blizzard's server stability (at least that's what I thought before error 37) and customer support.
What could they win from this deal? There seems to be a much larger number of people who have played WoW but not any more, than people who are currently playing. Some of them are people who have tried the game/genre and didn't find it appealing enough, but many others are veterans who are dissatisfied with the current course of the game. Most of the newest additions to the MMO market are either PvP-centric (GW2), or repeating the model of 3.0+ WoW. I don't know yet what to think of the oddity of The Secret World, but the emphasis placed on the quests makes me suspect of a one-time ride kind of MMO, much like SW:ToR. Another big win for Blizzard would be that these servers could be self-sustained. They wouldn't need to add any content, and shouldn't force any patches in either, to keep the experience the most genuine. The players would have to admit some inconveniences for the sake of not disrupting the experience. For instance, although the double specialization is much cherished, I would not allow it into TBC, just for the sake of immersion. These servers could provide a huge amount of money too if Blizzard implemented paid migrations from older content into newer. Imagine a player who starts in vanilla and, one year later, has finished all the content. She might want to keep advancing with the same character, and could do so paying for a migration into a TBC server. How can Blizzard not hear the ka-ching! of this idea!?
There has to be something that prevents them from carrying out this project. What could be the potential losses? Well, I am not sure about financial losses, but there would be some major consequences to this undertaking. Blizzard would be admitting that their game was more appealing in its earlier versions, and that could finish off the moral of the company. For WoW to keep going, they have to maintain the illusion follow the idea that what they are doing is the best course for their game. There would be certain difficulties at the pacing of the patches in the nostalgia servers. Nothing that a good brainstorm couldn't solve, nonetheless. Shall they open the servers with all the content, pace it, keep opening new servers for those who missed the first wave? It might be somewhat costly, but I am fairly certain that they would recover their inversion on the first week.
Would you want to see something like this happening? Or do you think that perhaps there will be a messiah-MMO around the corner soon enough?
I want to discuss an specific aspect of GW2 which I have seen praised but not enough scrutinized around the blogosphere. The social aspect of it - how it delivers the "massive multiplayer" part of an MMO. It's of course still a beta, and thus some of the initial observations cannot be as accurate as in the real game, but the features are still there, and it is possible to extrapolate a possible trend out of those.
I'll start saying that it is indeed a massive multiplayer game, perhaps the most genuine iteration of this genre. In GW2, for any grand-scale activity to succeed there has to be a contingent of players. PvP sieges, PvE events and I suppose that end-game encounters, they all need a raid-like size number of players. Throughout the game you are encouraged to team up -in the abstract, because no actual grouping is required- to overcome challenges. What is more, there is an inordinate amount of incentives to do so, in almost all of the activities that in previous titles used to demand a traditional group and a particularly helpful personality. In GW2 you can do these social things seamlessly, without the inconvenience of arranging a group. Without the benefits of being forced to group. Yes, you've read right, benefits of being forced. I can put it more lightly so it doesn't sound that ominous: being compelled to group up is a positive thing.
But in GW2 we don't have such compulsion. What we have is an automatized system that rewards "social" activities.
My argument is as follows: by providing incentives for certain social activities, they are no longer indicative of a social attitude. By automatising what used to require an effort -which in turn provided an equivalent satisfaction-, no links are formed between the players partaking in said activity; that is regarding grouping. Regarding other social gestures, such as resurrecting a comrade or helping her through a hard pull, the social aspect is muddled up by the incentives that they provide.
It's much easier to explain through examples. Let's see. Regarding grouping: I haven't played the GW2 beta, but I have tried Rift for a few weeks, to check out those dynamic events. For what I've seen, they are pretty similar in concept, although the delivery of the older game might not be as innovative. Both in Rift and GW2, you step into a zone which has an event, and you can participate in it along with everybody who is around. In the former you'd get into a "public" group by just clicking on a panel, if I remember correctly. No strings attached, no fooling around asking to get into the group. In GW2, they've accelerated the process even more - there is no such thing as a group, you just contribute and get your portion of the cake. In Rift, after the event was over, everybody parted ways. Sometimes it would be less alienating when the group was having a hard time, and some actual conversation was required to strategise. I don't know how it will be in GW2. Not having any clear roles established may end up being even more of a zerg-fest where the numbers and common-out-of-the-fire sense will prevail. I know Doone has more faith in this role-less system than I do ;).
On the other hand, we have the tradition of grouping for elite quests, dungeons and the like. I'm going back to the EQ, pre-LFG WoW times, which is what I'm now playing. By the way, I'm happy as a lark :). Well, grandma Milady in TBC has been doing some elite chain quests with random people, and ended up adding one or two of them to the friends list. Not just necessarily through elite quests, I had also stumbled upon a mage who was going to kill the same mobs as me, and grouped up to speed up the process and not trampling on each other's progress. We ended up farming the spot for reputation items, then grouped for a while, then added on friends, and finally we reach each other out when we need help or just want to talk for a while. I had to give up some comfort (playing alone, at my rhythm, not having to make conversation), to group up with an stranger that perhaps would have been not as nice as he turned out to be. There's always the risk. But I am glad I took it. Now, if in GW2 my loot is independent of the group I'm in, and I don't need to talk to that stranger to play with him, I will not meet this person. I wouldn't have met this nice lad.
As for the other social gestures, such as untagged mobs for all to attack, I argue that they are not social at all. If my neighbour is playing alongside me, helping me with my mobs, in TBC WoW I know that she is actually helping me out. In GW2, she might as well be just doing her objectives, looting her mobs, with coincidentally are yours too. Getting resurrected is always nice, but it is nicer when the caster doesn't have anything to gain from it. I am able to appreciate much more the gestures that are not done out of personal interest (getting an achievement or whatever the incentive was). Despite this wariness of mine, there's at least one feature which I regarded as very positive, as Dusty Monk reported: "Additionally, the big thing is any time a player dies, a marker goes over their head and a marker appears on the minimap. And any player at all can go over and revive that player. And because you see them on the minimap, it makes them easy to find. It's hard to describe just what a huge thing this is. But more than any other MMO I've played in, you are encouraged to help each other out". As for the other features - the area buffs that reach everybody, the lack of "penalization" for working together, etc, I regard them with suspicion. They are not working together as in group-together, they're all there, doing the same things, but they don't talk to each other. Well, some of them might; they haven't sworn a vow of silence. But if they are not even grouped together, there is no need to reach out to each other. They might as well be playing with bots.
I am aware that WoW has a certain reputation of "pitting players against each other". Dee even states that "Players are scum. WoW taught us that, and we turned insular." But I believe that this was the last generation problem of WoW (post-LFG), when server community became inconsequential, and the game became easier and more accessible to certain types of players which no longer had to behave themselves (pre-LFG, you wouldn't go very far in group-content/dungeons if you had a reputation of ninja or jerk). Nevertheless, there are douchebags everywhere. What GW2 does is hiding them behind a veneer of incentivized cooperation. I prefer to take my chances with people behaving their own way.
I am also aware that traditional group-content is a manner of forcing an attitude. Psychochild had commented on a previous post that he believed in "forced" social interaction. But this is exactly the difference between GW2 and older models where this worked: doing an event along with other players can be thought of as interaction, but it is not social, as nothing occurs on a personal level. Nothing is gained, except virtual currency. I also believe that unless you "force" people to group up, their deeply rooted social shyness will prevent them from interacting with their neighbour. In a society where talking to strangers is almost a sin, where only individual success is lauded, we develop a certain mindset that carries on to our games. We set up a barrier which, when we are conscious of it, we often desire to lower down, so we can reach to other people. I'm not talking just philosophy here, I believe that MMOs can be a vehicle through which a community may thrive, a way to overcoming our barriers.
You have to give players the opportunity to behave socially, or unsocially if they wish so. If you completely remove the choice, the system that you create is an artificial construct of apparent cooperation, where everybody is still going on their own, playing alone together more than ever. Oh, it is much more comfortable, indeed. Dealing with people is such a hassle. But what are MMOs for, then?
Eliminating the competition factor seems beautiful at a first glance, it is one of the few things that ought not be that outrageous. Still, it forfeits the possibility of behaving socially for real. I have competed for veins a lot of times, but I have also stepped out for a low-level character to get her skill up. I have at times competed for a mob, at others I have teamed up and ended up questing with a prospective friend. I still need the system to force me at times to get into groups, but I do not abhor the system, I am usually grateful for the opportunity it grants me.
I am having the time of my life. I never thought I could have so much fun in an MMO as I did 5 years ago, when I was almost a complete noob and was treading the world of Azeroth for the first time. I never thought there was a possibility of return; I am not the same person, I have grown accustomed to other things, and the video game industry isn't supplying the kind of MMOs I like: hard, social and, at the same time, accessible. You could say I haven't found what I was looking for, because what I have found is what I used to like. I've gone back to WoW several times this past few years, trying to find my place in a world that offered less and less excitement, which seemed to be catering to a different people, to the dreaded casual/newbie mass. In the process, it stripped the world of all of its uniqueness, and particularly, what hurt me the most, of its social foundation. The last time I played, I could not get past TBC. I stepped into my first WotlK dungeon with my priest and felt a clutching apprehension, a foreboding of ill omens. I endured from 15-70 the random instance colleagues, the oppressive silence and the alienation of it all, until I saw myself running the exact same easy-boring anecdote-less instances of WotLK. I had indulged in some nostalgia while running the TBC instances with the LFG, but that was a mirage.
I wanted the real thing. I thought that perhaps I could not find it again in the games I'll soon be playing. GW2 is fine, I guess, but there is just so much PVP I can do before feeling that I'm repeating the same over an over. It's a personal preference of mine. I enjoy some PVP, but it starts getting repetitive after a while, quicker than PVE content, specially if said content is a dance which involves step memorization rather than intelligent management. Pandaria, as we have seen (link to Doone's blog), doesn't offer much to us veterans. I had not been hoping much, but still I wished to see Blizzard take steps into a certain direction, a backwards direction maybe?
So I took the step myself. I went back to TBC via a private WoW server. It's been a long time since I last played something with a semi-permanent smile painted on my face. I have to admit that I felt some estrangement regarding some of the missing features that I had grown accustomed to (the double spec, some of the skills which were absent or different, the cost of riding, the mechanics of threat...), but I adapted pretty quickly. After one day, I was already in my old BC mindset, looking forward to running normal instances to grind the reputation and face the challenging heroics. I remember how hard they were depending on your group setting, and I felt thrilled to go through them again as if they were progression content instead of equipment dispensers.
One of the things that made me enthusiastic about this server is the community I have been interacting with since I started. Most of them came very recently from WoW retail, and we all share the same motivation and excitement about the prospects of this "new" experience. In two days I have made more friends than in 1 month in current WoW. I met all of them thanks to the little gestures that the game encourages, such as exchanging buffs (which is not a triviality, I kiss every paladin's feet when I receive a Blessing of Wisdom), teaming up for an elite, or saving them from an angry mob or Alliance character. In retail WoW this does not happen because people do not need each other during leveling, neither their buffs nor their company. They do not need other players to run instances, they do not meet the population of their server and add friends to their lists to play with them again, or just because they were nice. There is not much opportunity for nice behaviour. At the time, when I played retail TBC, I didn't realize how important these little gestures are. I did not pay much attention to the newbies that were doing their elites because I had my father with his 10 alts to do these with. I lost many opportunities of getting to know people, which I now regret. I think that many people have become aware of how important other players are in MMOs, after experiencing the complete isolation that the new WoW encourages. Yes, you still had your guild, but you had not selected them because they were an amiable bunch to be with; you chose them because of the endgame, and had no contact with the people from your server, did not meet potential guild members or people you would like to be with, not minding their guild.
I even like the idea of farming instances and raids for the new players that will be coming into my prospective guild. This allowed for a deeper connection between the guild and their members, because I was be able to help them become stronger and warm to the intimate ties that link each one of us to our guild, not the artificial benefits that belonging to a guild now provides. An additional benefit of this farming is that players no longer get exhausted with the latest content, and get to chill out on already surpassed content after three weeks of wiping on Al'ar (we had not very experienced tanks, to put it mildly).
The server opened recently (until then, they had been maintaining 2 Vanilla WoW servers, so they are not a brand new team which might close overnight), and therefore the stage in PVE has not yet reached Karazhan; in fact, Karazhan still has to be uploaded into the server. I may take my time to do those instances, find a suitable raiding guild and get prepared for raids. Also, the rates in the server are not the same as in the original WoW, you level up 14 times faster. It might seem wrong to some to be able to reach level 70 in 2-3 days, but I haven't had any problems with this, as I am one of this people who do not level up alts and enjoy the max-level content much more than the journey. The questing process has not become trivial by this, because as you level up faster, you collect less money and gear pieces, and thus you have to make do with less skills and low-level gear, which compensates for your outleveling the mobs. There is the option of switching to x1 if you wish so too. I wouldn't have minded a x1, Blizz-like server, but this one attracted my attention because of its newness and high population (about 1.8k at peak, raiding times). It is also EU-based, although there are several American and Oceania guilds and players from all over the world (I've seen a couple of Spanish guilds too, but I'll be applying for an English one so I can practice my English while playing. That's how I learned all I know now).
Perhaps the telling of my experience has sparked your interest and you want to play TBC as well. It might not be the case for many people, as it is hard to go back to previous, sometimes not as polished, systems. Perhaps you are not the same person as you were then. I myself have become more casual, and wouldn't be willing to raid more than 3 days per week, which I think is more than enough. I don't want to rush it, I want to savour it. WotLK is not coming any time soon.
If you are interested and would like to try this out too, I'm leaving my toon name here and update my contact information, in case you want to reach me in-game, for whatever you need or just to chat. I'd love to see you there (*winks at Doone*). Name's Thornne, Blood Elf Priest (currently Shadow, will switch to Holy once I'm done questing).
PD: I'm not entirely sure what is Blizzard's stance regarding the emulation of old versions of WoW. Probably not very liberal, as it is some kind of competition and it is their product after all. If Blizzard were to open vanilla servers, I would be the first one to migrate to one of these, because their service would obviously be better. But I won't be a consumer of their current product as it stands now. I'm still buying Diablo 3 and might buy Pandaria to take a look at the new zones. I've never supported private servers that rip off the developer's content when it is available through legal means, but sadly TBC isn't, so I won't apologize for wanting to play something that is not legally available.
PD2: If you'll be coming to the server, I've got several pages of addons that might interest you. Here they are: Addons 1, Addons 2, Addons 3, Addons 4, and WoW-Ace, which supports early versions.
Since I found Ironyca's "The 10 most Creepy Things in WoW" I have been thinking about making a list of my own of what I had gathered during my stay in Azeroth, which lasted until very early Cataclysm. Thus, I will be listing secrets, rumours and locations that may not be in Azeroth anymore, removed or changed for better or worse.
I'll be including videos of the means to get there when possible. You might want to turn the sound off for some of them, though.
Hyjal before Cataclysm
In Vanilla WoW and some early patches in BC, Hyjal was accessible for any obdurate enough player. Via wall-jumping, which was a sort of glitch that allowed you to climb, and which was at middle-late BC fixed, you could climb up to Mount Hyjal from Winterspring. Before they fixed (or rather limited, because it was not entirely removed) wall-jumping, they had no choice but to implement an auto-teleporting wall for those who got into Hyjal, and it was not to be explored in live servers again. The joy of climbing that mountain after countless free falls was indescribable. Or so a friend told me, I was not playing at the time when this was possible.
The old Hyjal, being inaccessible and mythical, promised much in terms of what it might hold in the future. When I finally got to explore it in Cataclysm, I felt that this potential was not fully developed. Perhaps it could never be. In an MMO, there is nothing more magical than a quest-less place, although not purpose-less - they have stories to tell. Old Hyjal voicelessly told of the World Tree emaciated by a great power which still lingers, clutched to its roots, and of the desolation that it brought.
Another path along the road leads to an instanced zone, a barred dungeon. I found a video of its content, and was agape for a second, as the torches seemed to lit a very dark and awe-inspiring corridor. But it led to a familiar instance which was either a prank or a placeholder. I wish I hadn't watched it. My imagination had conjured up a much more bizarre illusion. Nothing concrete, just the illusion of something inconceivable.
Entrance into the Emerald Dream
It was rumoured that you could access the Emerald Dream through Cot3, Battle for Mount Hyjal. I never actually saw the exploit working, but supposedly you had to climb up a few mountains until you reached the edge of the map. Once there, the sky changed from blue to a grey, thick mist, and the terrain descended abruptly. There was no path, but steep mountain slopes and two distant bright green fumes on the mountainside. What for? It seems like, for what I gather, there used to be (around patch 2.1) a trigger there which could be glitched into teleporting you to ED. I have found no videos where this actually works, but I always thought that this method had a particular eerie feeling to it. You hold your breath as your character is engulfed by the green flames, and might or might not come out the way she was before. As when you drive your character near a precipice, you cannot avoid feeling anxious for what would happen to her, or to you if said precipice is a bannable offence, like this was. Perhaps you do not think any of this when confronted with such a mysterious sight. I prefer to be awed by potentialities than hardened by facts. Azeroth seems much more magical this way.
The Actual Emerald Dream
Cataclysm skipped one page in the history of Azeroth, which had to do with the Nightmare that was populating the Emerald Dream at the time of the Plague and the Burning Crusade. They closed this chapter through a novel (Stormrage, by Richard A. Knaak), and we saw the aftermath in the game, once Malfurion destroys the corrupter of the Dream, Lord Xavius, who had only been a pawn to the Old Gods, and dismisses Fandral for having been allied to the corrupter. Seeing this video, and the amazing possibilities that a dream world granted, I feel like Blizzard lost a wonderful opportunity when they skipped this chapter of Warcraft's history. As with many other events that were not handled in-game, most players are entirely oblivious to them or even misinterpreted the little context that Blizzard provided. One such example of a lack of continuation in the story is Kael'thas, with his ravenous corruption that neither Vanilla WoW nor Warcraft 3 built to. There had been a plan for a novel that would have explained it, but it was not developed. In this case, there is a novel, but don't expect much writing quality from it. The Emerald Dream has been reduced to an anecdote, a certain intermission in WoW's events, and a tale of a world never beholden. I like it this way as well, as a rumour that only the Druids know for certain. On the other hand, it is ravishing! Why didn't we get this instead of Pandaria?
Swimming along the coastline, a checklist
To reach these spots you needn't glitch around, you only had to be patient, or a little less so if you had Swimming Form. Some of them have been wiped out, others made inaccessible, and some remain the way they were, with no visible additions after Cataclysm. What they all have in common is their desolation and disconnection with any person, place or legend. That's why they could be wiped out and nobody would care.
Tauren encampment & Massacre Cave
With Cataclysm, the encampment has disappeared. The cave remains, with its pilings of bones scattered all over the place. Had it had some furniture, it would have been a neat meeting place for a seedy organization. It has the same cave pattern as some in Zangarmarsh, if I recall correctly.
This zone is no longer reachable, neither by air nor by sea. Now there is a wall that prevents players from accessing it. Since I knew about this place, back in TBC, I was excited about the prospect of Blizzard remodelling it after the original Quel'Thalas. They had considered implementing it in Vanilla, but the project had been scrapped. It might, some day, perhaps in the expansion following Pandaria, become a full-fledged zone. But it shall not be the glorious Quel'Thalas of the high elves, as it was the first victim of Arthas' onslaught. I remember reading that you can, or could, trick the server into letting you in if you blinked through the portal with a mage. Instead, what I found is the old glitch of getting under the world, and navigating your way from below. I wonder what else can one do with such trick.
Crops by the sea - Arathi Highlands
Another zone that seems to serve no purpose and is reachable by water. Similar to the Wetland's farmland, between the Ironforge Airport and the marsh, there are dwarven farmers pacing the fields and houses, some of which are now bricked off.
Wetland's crops and tunnel
The fundamental change that has been implemented in this zone is a barrier to the tunnel that led into the mountain. Pre-Cataclysm, you would access this zone after climbing the mountains that led to the Dwarven Airport (which now has also been tweaked, and quite enlivened). As these were zones that were only seen on the gryphon route, their actual contents were not polished, and some rough edges had been left unattended, like the tunnel that led to the void. If the night was clear enough, the stars were seen through it, far above. If you jumped into it, you got stuck in a falling animation and had to be summoned out to get back. Now, a nod to the players who cherished this spot, Blizzard has erected a barrier through which you can still see the blue-gray end of the tunnel.
Gilneas before Cataclysm
It was merely a long stretch of land without much texture, except for a little path and a lamppost by the entrance. My friend and I attempted to climb the mountains, wall-jumping, parachuting and auto-unstucking, to no avail. But the accomplishment of getting through the gate was enough for us. Oh, about that. We just threw away our hearthstone and used auto-unstuck. I don't know if that function is still in the game. Use with caution, it seems like you could get into trouble.
Before the Whispering Forest: Above Tirisfal Glades
The zone immediately above the starting zone for the undead used to be a large mass of untextured terrain with steep inclines and weird geological formations. I loved those areas, with their abrupt palette changes and unhindered sights. You could get there with a precise set of mount-jumps, nothing too difficult. It was wild and untamed. The refined Cataclysm zone is a sight to behold too, no doubt, with its fairies and murder victims under parasols. But once flight was permitted throughout Azeroth, no more unincorporated terrain was possible. I miss the spikes that sprouted from the ground.
Stonetalon Peak: the Great Chasm
This zone in Stonetalon mountains was reached by the customary jump-and-error procedure. It was next to a flight path that showed some elven ruins and an abandoned orcish camp. In this area, the height difference between the Stonetalon Mountains and Desolace was resolved in all bluntness, by a huge chasm whose bottom could not be seen from above. When jumping, you could not deploy the parachute until only one fifth of the fall remained, or you would be too high to land safely. The screen above shows how three different people forgot about their parachutes simultaneously. At the time when mammoths took no fall damage, it was the best place to test your friend's trust in you. On the bottom level there was more stretched land and a cave which was walled in by the mountain, but without altering its interior. We tried everything to get in, but it was not possible.
Lastly, a little treat.
This one is neither a secret nor a hidden location. It is a place I like to share with the people I play with because of its unique atmosphere. The island is off the coast of Ghostlands, and holds one quest for the Blood Elves; a sad quest of slaughtering their once-kin. I used to go there as a Night Elf, and sit by the moonwell to listen to the music theme, which used to be unique to this place, and now is shared with the Temple of the Moon in Darnassus. In addition, I had a good time terrorising young blood elves who thought that I was a big boss or something.
Finally, you have to check out Ironyca's list of secret zones that were incorporated in Cataclysm. The ones I knew of are much less interesting that these!
Milady consorting with the enemy and showing a terrible fashion sense.
I'm 100% sure that if you have played WoW past level 15, when the world is finally open to you via LFG, and jerks start knocking at your door, that you have heard at some point that "elves are gay". Even the Alliance bull-shouldered Night Elves are subject to this "smear", when they seemingly fit the rigid definition of masculinity. I ought to provide such a definition, to clarify my argument. This is taken from a master's thesis in Spanish1 and translated and summed up the best I could:
The masculine ideal follows four basic mottos:
1- He should not be effeminate.
The true man lacks any kind of femininity. It is required of him that he renounces to a part of himself, forcing him to repress his capacity to express affection and his most sensitive side. Tenderness and sensitivity are usually female-attributed virtues. Man, above all, shall show that he is neither woman nor homosexual, which would denote his lack of manhood.
2- He must be an important person, in possession of status.
Manhood is measured by reaped successes, by harvested power. Also by the admiration that causes in others. Man's goal is to achieve superiority with regard to the others, to possess a higher status than those in his environment. To be important, man needs to see his work recognized and triumph economically.
3- He ought to be strong.
Man has the obligation of being completely independent, powerful, autonomous and implacable, so as to not show any sign of weakness. Phrases such as "men don't cry" and "man up" signal the duty of a man to show resistance and endurance. Even against their own strength, men ought to keep firm.
4- He ought to exert his authority
Man is trained to be the strongest, and allowed to make use of force if necessary. Man is culturally violent in the necessity to show his fragile identity. To avoid any doubt regarding his masculinity, a man has to publicly show that he can be reckless, abuse of power, humiliate the weak and make use of his strength. This grants him authority. This man, much like Marlboro's cowboy or Stallone's Rambo, is the toughest among the tough. He seems to be better equipped to face death than marriage and childrearing. This, according to Badinter, makes him an affection-mutilate. Such mutilation has its origin in his first years of life, when he is taught to abdicate his feminine side, inherited from his mother, and submit to the hard work that is becoming a great man.
I suppose that it is important to make plain that this description accounts for the gender stereotypes of masculinity, not for the biological sex nor any particular man, not even Rambo. Masculinity and femininity, this is never stressed enough, are social labels traditionally pinned to one sex or the other, and they don't appear unadulterated but intermingled with each other. In fact, you can consult your degree of each of these labels with the BSRI test.
The point which interests me the most is the first one: "He should not be effeminate". I reflected upon what made Elves in fantastic literature effeminate, and could not find any examples of passivity, subservience, or even sensitivity. It would depend on the source you claim, but in general none of these traits are espoused by the Elvenkind. In Tolkien, for instance, we find quite the contrary: the Elves, who were there before the Men, were a quarrelsome kind who engaged in war with the Enemy and with each other, and showed indisputable bravery and endurance and all those masculine characteristics. It might have harmed their reputation Peter Jackson's portrayal of elven battle prowess, which was ridiculously over-the-top for Legolas. What is most curious is the fact that Legolas' ideal beauty and grace was not translated into the big screen. But Arwen's was.
The only remaining point that accounts for their 'gayness' is Beauty. Not mundane beauty that derives from a fine build, a display of athletic strength inherited from Greek sculpture. Intangible, aloof beauty such as Arwen and Galadriel's. 'Feminine' beauty.
It was apparently of a shape similar to that of an earthly being and was completely covered by a transparent, glassy envelope or suit, as supple as gauze. Through it a pair of enormous and brilliant eyes looked at him curiously. Its skin, where visible, was the loveliest, luminous blue that Dirk had ever seen, its features human in outline, yet strangely alien, as though the spirit behind them were of another essence and tempered in unknown fires.
Although standing a foot or so taller than his own goodly height, it seemed almost to float with an effect of airy grace instantly noticeable and arresting as though it was impervious to the influences of gravity. (Vaughan 1932: 367).
This is a fragment of a science-fiction short story called "The Woman from Space". The title already gives away that the being which was initially neuter is a woman. Notice the adjectives used to describe it. They are reminiscent of the descriptive pattern of thousands of similar stories about alien women, and of earth women of an aloof and distant quality, physically and psychologically veiled. But this could very well be the description of an elf.
The undeniable beauty of the being from space seemed more natural now that he knew it to be feminine. (Vaughan 1932: 369).
Beauty, or at least this kind of distant, mystical beauty, is more natural in women. Have you noticed that none of the aforementioned points on masculinity mentioned beauty, or even physical attractiveness? It is derived from the strength factor, and not valued as a means to attain masculinity, although it is certainly esteemed in the social spheres. You can find proof of this duality in the language itself - We are taught that 'beautiful' is more appropriate for women than for men; 'pretty' is reserved for women; and 'handsome' is exclusive for men. Notice the etymology of the word? It is related to physical aptitude, not to attractiveness.
Thus, beauty is a trait which is conventionally attributed to the female, due to a multiplicity of factors. One of them is the hegemony of the masculine point of view in literature. Men, who held the pen exclusively for centuries, fixed their view in the other sex, and depicted it as an unreachable mystical figure, a natural phenomenon to dissect, the object scrutinized. What happens when this exclusive beauty is appropriated by men (or elves)? They become partly feminine and, as we have seen, to be rejected by the masculine, which ought to be clean from such influences. People who identify wholly (perhaps subconsciously) with the masculine ideal, and which believe in biological sex to be equated to gender, are those who subscribe this view.
Male Blood Elves, even though they conform to most aspects of masculinity, are deemed 'gay' because of the alien beauty of the feminine, often paired with a certain haughtiness which may render them insufferable. But I like them, nonetheless. They make fine bastards in roleplay.
And they needn't be sexualized to be appealing.
1Rodrígues González, Clarissa. La recreación del andrógino y sus representaciones en el arte y los mass media: un estudio etnográfico sobre roles de género. MA Thesis. Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, 2010.