[Tooth & Arrows] Cross-Faction Cooperation

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

And so, on September 25th, 2012, the race to level 90 began with the official launch of the fourth World Of Warcraft expansion, Mists Of Pandaria. First, let me say that I really, REALLY am enjoying the new continent, the new content, and the awesome new race. They really spared no expense when they designed the Pandaren – their facial expressions and animations are absolutely beautiful. They make my Worgen look sad and like her lips are stuck in a permenant snarl (which they are). The Monk class is also really fun so far (what I’ve played of it – which is just the first 13 levels). Lona’s gotten a bit farther on her monk, though, so I’ve seen a bit of what we get later.

I, on the other hand, have been traveling through Pandaria proper. Don’t worry – no lore spoilers in this post at all. I just had something happen recently that once again drew my attention to the possibilities of cross-faction cooperation, and I wanted to share.

It’s no secret that I’m Alliance. Now, I love my troll druid, but my Worgen is and will always be my main. And I’ve also made no secret of the fact that I do my best to play true neutral, and help out the opposite faction wherever I can –  as much as I help my own faction – as long as they aren’t being jerks. (And that goes for both factions! There’s no faster way to get me to stop helping you than to insult another player or /spit on someone.) I’m getting quite a lot of opportunities to put this philosophy into effect, as with the drop of the new expansion I am (for the first time, as I wasn’t max level when Cataclysm dropped, and I only started playing during Wrath of the Lich King) finding myself surrounded by other players of both factions as we progress through the new content. But with the phasing and “choose your own adventure” type quest lines and progression, I find that nothing’s ever actually crowded – it just feels…alive. I actually really like it. It’s been rare until recently to encounter other players in a meaningful way while leveling and progressing. Mostly people seemed to hang out in the main cities and just leave via dungeon and raid finder queues, or the (now defunct) Have Group Will Travel spell that allowed one person to make a journey and then teleport the rest of their group right to them. It lead to a big, empty world…and I’m shocked to find that I wasn’t enjoying it all that much.

I grew up on single player games, and they still hold a bit of their appeal. WoW’s goal is to still make you feel like you’re important and a big hero while still allowing the reality that there are thousands of people playing the game and experiencing the same thing you are, at about the same time. For awhile, it wasn’t working – competition for quest mobs became a big deal when you’d end up sitting with several other people waiting for one bad guy to respawn so you can kill him, only to have it yoinked away by someone who got there after you did but was faster to the punch to tag it. They fixed this by creating a special category for quest mobs – they don’t “tag” the way other mobs do, in that the first person to hit them is the person who’s credited with the kill and gets the loot when it’s dead. Instead, they have an exclaimation point next to them, marking them as a mob needed for a quest, and all you have to do in order to get credit for the kill is hit it a few times before it dies. The mobs also respawn faster – sometimes before the corpse of the previous version has despawned, which results in the amusing image of the quest mob walking around on top of it’s own body for a few minutes – or even a pile of corpses of the same mob all in the same general area, with the living version standing in the middle of them. Always funny to see.

Why am I talking about the change in game mechanics, though, and what does it have to do with my topic? Well, it’s that very change in game mechanics that made what happened to me the other night work. It turned two people who should have been at best competitors and at worst mortal enemies, into a cooperative unit that got me much farther through the first zone in one night than I would’ve thought possible.

So here’s what happened.

I was questing through the Jade Forest, just exploring, taking my time and picking up all the herbs and ore I found, leveling my professions along with everything else I was doing. I was following a circuitous quest string around the zone, waiting patiently if there were others who had gotten somewhere first so that they could finish what they were doing before I got there. During one of the times that I was sitting and waiting, the Troll Mage I was waiting for became overwhelmed with mobs. The respawn rate is very fast in a lot of areas to deal with the sheer volume of players tearing through the zones, but sometimes this can cause you to get completely overwhelmed and flattened by the very mobs you’re trying to kill en mass for the quest the respawn rate was designed to help with. That’s what was happening to the Horde mage I was watching. I’d been sitting there for awhile, watching him kill, and I think he had the idea that I was waiting my turn – which I was. Or perhaps he thought I was AFK, since I do like to sit while I wait and that’s the pose your character assumes naturally when you get marked as away.

Anyway, he was getting swarmed by these mobs and didn’t look like he had much left to defend himself with. So I did what any true neutral would do – I leaped into the fight, slashing and clawing with everything I had, and got him out of the tight spot by pulling the mobs onto me – a fresh target with many ways of healing myself while in combat. He rallied and we finished the mobs off together. Then he /thank’d me. I /bow’d to him, then started doing my kills for my quest as he ran off.

The quest string in that area went around in circles for awhile, sending you to and from the same general areas over and over before resolving. We passed each other several more times, and then met up again at a “boss round,” where a quest mob needed killing. This time I attacked it first and he helped, so we both got credit for the kill. Now we were at the exact same place in the quest string. He mounted up, so did I, and we rode back to the quest giver side by side. This is where it starts to get interesting – before now, this had been simple – I’d helped him, and we’d continued on our way – they just happened to be the same way.

I was looking at my map to figure out where I was being sent next, when I realized the Troll was still sitting on his mount beside me. No, not just sitting there – he’d started to leave and then come back. I put away my map, and he /point’d in the direction the next quest was. So I went with it. I did a /yes, and we rode together.

For the rest of this faction neutral area of the zone, we rode and fought side-by-side. If the mobs were the tag type, he’d kill a few and then I’d kill a few until we were both done, and then we’d move on. When I found a quest item, I /point’d and /dance’d next to it so he’d see it. He returned the favor when he found a quest item that I had missed. We were close enough to each other to tell what items each of us had and didn’t have. The one time we got mixed up, a couple of /no’s from either of us was enough to communicate the point, and we moved on.

We finished the section together, and then were forced to part ways by the fact that we were being sent in opposite directions as the questline diverged into the Alliance and Horde versions again. We stood on the road together, /wave’d at each other, then reared our horses – his skeletal, mine not – turned in opposite directions, and rode off.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see that mage again, but I kind of hope that our questing through Pandaria sees us run into each other again. Were we of the same faction, we’d probably have added each other to our friends list. But as we weren’t, I just have to hope I’ll recognize him if I see him again. And even if I don’t, I will never forget an evening spent questing in tandem with a Troll who should have been my mortal enemy.

There are times I really enjoy being able to call myself “faction neutral.”

[image credits: Blizzard Entertainment]