The ol’ switcheroo: The problem with the capital city change

It’s funny that this is coming up just after I put up a post about why I’m excited about the expansion, but it’s a hot-button issue and I feel like I needed to post my thoughts on the matter.

In the first previews of Draenor, Blizzard said that the Alliance and Horde would have their capital cities on the continent, each one taking up shop in an existing structure.  The Alliance would be granted asylum in the majestic draenei temple of Karabor (before it became twisted and corrupted into the Black Temple), while the Horde would rout the Bladespire ogres from their fortress and claim it for themselves.  For something like a bit over half a year, this is the info we had been given, and this was the info we had taken to be fact.  And then, just a couple days ago, a tweet out of nowhere shattered the perceived solidity of that information:  the faction capitals would instead be moved to opposite sides of Ashran, the world PVP zone.

Naturally, people were not pleased.

The outcry

Within minutes of Mumper’s tweet going out, fans were in an uproar over the change.  While there were a good number of Horde players upset, a considerably larger amount of Alliance players were pretty damn peeved; they had been told that they’d get such a cool location as Karabor as their capital, only to have it taken away from them.  There was confusion as to why the capitals had been moved to Ashran of all places.  Wouldn’t the massive PVP battle cause lag in the cities, or vice versa?  What was wrong with the original plans?  Why make that decision so late in the game?

Blizzard has since posted several more tweets on the matter, as well as a longer post by Lore detailing their reasoning.  I’ve posted the long post in its entirety below, and will reference other tweets as necessary.

Okay, there’s a LOT of misunderstandings and misinformation floating around, so let me try to clarify what I can.

Warlords of Draenor’s story is about the people of Azeroth (namely, the Alliance and the Horde) venturing into an unknown world and building up a force strong enough to take out an enemy stronger than anything they’ve encountered before, on that enemy’s own turf. While there are certainly some alliances to be made along the way, and those are definitely major parts of the story, the core theme is about you and your faction fighting for survival.

So, as development continued, we came to the realization that it just doesn’t make sense for the Horde and Alliance to spend so much energy and resources building up a stronghold on Draenor, only to base their efforts out of someone else’s city. We’re not helping the Draenei or Frostwolves fight off the Iron Horde – they’re helping us. The Alliance and Horde both have major bases of operation on Draenor. That should be where they’re working from.

That, along with the continued development of Garrisons into the overall quest and story flow of the expansion, led us to the decision to develop the Horde and Alliance bases on Ashran into the major faction hubs instead of Bladespire and Karabor. Promoting the world PvP area on Ashran is a nice perk, but it wasn’t a factor in making that decision.

That said, the Temple of Karabor and Bladespire Fortress are still there. We haven’t removed them or anything like that. You won’t be able to use your bank or check your auctions there, but they’re still fully built home cities for the Karabor Draenei and Frostwolf Orcs, respectively. You’ll still be able to explore them in their full glory.

As to the Alliance and Horde staging areas on Ashran, allow me to lay out a few key facts to hopefully allay some concerns:

  • They’re located on Ashran as a geographical location on the map, but they’re not part of the Ashran world PvP zone. They won’t be subjected to the realm coalescing we’re using to keep Ashran’s PvP area populated, and they won’t flag you for PvP on non-PvP realms.
  • We’ve also made some major improvements to the way PvP flagging works on non-PvP realms that removes “accidental flagging” from mistargeted abilities or ground effects. Unless you manually flag yourself by typing /pvp, you will simply not be able to attack enemy players, or heal friendly players who have flagged themselves.
  • They’re populated with guards, and the only land-based entrance is directly through the Ashran world PvP zone (including a major fortress). It’s certainly possible for someone from another faction to attack it, but it’s not any easier to do so than it is to attack the enemy faction’s shrine in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.
  • There will be a fast travel option between the staging areas and your Garrison. You can pop over there quickly, conduct your business, and leave again if you like.

This isn’t a question of whether or not Bladespire and Karabor are cities. They are. It’s just a question of whether the portals to Orgrimmar or Stormwind are there or somewhere else. You’ll still be able to explore them, they’ll still be fully populated, and they’re still going to be every bit as beautiful as they would have been with a Transmog NPC. We’re looking forward to them ourselves!

Now let me tell you why that’s bullshit.

Why that’s bullshit

First, let’s consider this from a lore perspective, since this was the first thing detailed in this post.  Lore mentions that it didn’t make sense for the Alliance and Horde to spend all those resources building up their defenses only to have their base of operations be an existing structure; naturally, this means that they should build their own structures instead.

But this line of reasoning makes no sense whatsoever.  Why wouldn’t they want to put their base in an existing, massive structure?  It would save considerable resources in construction, enabling the factions to spend their time reinforcing the existing buildings instead of just building new ones.  Also, it’s not like they’re moving into a shack or something; these are enormous, defensible buildings we’re talking about.  One is an old ogre fortress, which would be more than strong enough for the smaller races of the Horde; the other is a giant draenei temple, surrounded by walls and built to last.  Instead of building generic Alliance base #810 and generic Horde base #923, why not make these buildings safer?

Another concern comes from the whole “we’re not helping them, they’re helping us” line.  That’s bullshit in semantics, right there.  Of COURSE we’re helping them fight off the Iron Horde; that is literally the first thing you do as an Alliance character in Shadowmoon Valley, and I’m presuming Horde characters would definitely have to help out the Frostwolves once the Iron Horde learned they weren’t about to join up.  And if they WERE helping us, wouldn’t help come best in resources?  Like, I dunno, a CAPITAL?  Something to help us survive on this savage™ world?

My last lore-related concern comes from the faction pride shit they seem to be wanting to pull again.  I’m starting to wonder how long they’re going to try and force this before they realize we’re sick of Alliance vs. Horde shenanigans.  I mean, I can’t say to speak for everyone, but I found that stuff to be the least interesting over the last few expansions.  Every time they fight, I feel like Wrathion, watching as forces that have no justification fighting each other give their lives for idiotic ideals, weakening the potential combined force that is supposed to stand against the greater threats.  If they’re seriously doing this just to make us feel more faction pride (after an expansion where they flat-out said pride was dangerous), then I don’t know what to say.

Now, gameplay.  Part of me originally felt like the decision to move the capitals to Ashran was a decision to avoid players double-dipping on their hearth locations; if they chose to hearth in either Bladespire or Karabor, they could easily fly over to their garrison and do their business.  The same holds true in reverse.  But after seeing that last bullet point where there will be a fast travel between the capital and the garrison, I dunno anymore.  Though to be fair, they didn’t say what that “fast travel” is, a flight path or a portal.  If it’s a flight path, then that sure isn’t all that fast and would support my double-dip theory; if it’s a portal, then I don’t even know anymore.  I also feel that, if this was a factor that played into their decision, this factor would be inconsequential if they had gone ahead and let us put our garrison anywhere on the continent.

They also seemed to wish to allay concerns that the hubs being in Ashran would cause PVE players to be flagged for PVP against their will, and stressed that the capitals would be heavily defended both through terrain and a large amount of guards.  But if you’re going through that much trouble to make the hubs practically immune to attack, why bother having them be on Ashran?  Why not just have Ashran’s hubs be related solely to the PVP, and have the capitals elsewhere?  The only positive note I can see about this is that they said that they’re not part of the Ashran world PVP zone, so that might allay fears of one lagging the other; I still think it’s stupid though.

I do find problems with some of the more insulting statements they’ve made, either directly or indirectly.  Lore said in his post that Karabor and Bladespire would still be there to explore, but what good is that going to do?  Yes, some people like to explore for the sake of exploring, but the vast majority of players will just decide not to go there if there’s no gameplay reason to go.  It also completely ignores the issue that a lot of players were excited to have these as their capitals; while this was less a thing on the Horde side, I don’t remember hearing a single Alliance player upset over the prospect of shacking up in Karabor.  It’s like they took away the cake and replaced it with bread and told you it was the same thing.  No matter how you spin it, it’s not.

This is also an aesthetics issue to me; personally, I got real sick of orcish architecture after spending two years in Org in Cata.  The prospect of having to spend another expansion in orcish buildings is not something I’m looking forward to, especially since we already have our garrisons for that.  The main reason I’m upset over this change is that I was looking forward to a new location to have as a capital; the architecture was simple, sure, but it was at least different.  Now, it’s just going to be SW/Org 2.0.  Thanks, Blizz.

Oh, and let’s not forget the passive-aggressive tweet (also by Lore) that said if they can’t change their minds on something after they’ve shared it, they just won’t share at all.  Don’t even begin to threaten us like that.  We’re not saying you can’t change your minds on shit; that’s part of game development, iteration and modification until you’re pleased with the result.  We’re saying that changing your minds on something so irrationally and illogically and then springing it on us like it’s nothing is a bad move to make, regardless of what decision you’re making.

And one last tweet from Bashiok replying to someone who pointed out that while Dalaran was also not on the continent of Northrend, it was also smack dab in the middle of it; you could see the whole continent surrounding you, as opposed to Ashran being so far off the coast you’d be lucky to see a bit of Tanaan Jungle, and only from one side.  He replied that an island in the sky was apparently okay, but an island in the water wasn’t.  Gotta love those logical fallacies!

It’s not too late (maybe)

At the time of this writing, a poll in the biggest topic on this matter on MMO-Champion (started 36 hours ago, currently 3800+ posts long) has 80% disapproval of this change, with over 2000 votes in total.  While some people are saying “it won’t be so bad,” that’s really not the point.  Yes, I’m sure we could all get used to having our bases be on Ashran instead of where we thought they were going to be, and yes, technically they never took anything away from us considering we’re not in the expansion yet.

The point is, this entire decision seems ludicrously illogical from the start, with no good justifiable reason from a gameplay or lore perspective as to why it was made.  They gave us some answers, but those answers either raise more questions or are just insufficient.  I hope that Blizzard reconsiders their decision given the overwhelmingly negative response, but a part of me fears it might be too late.  The expansion is already pretty delayed with all the other shit they’re trying to get done, and this might just be passed off as a “we’re just too far in development to change it now” excuse.

Still, keep voicing your concerns (constructively), and we’ll see what happens.

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