‘World of Warcraft: Cataclysm’ Beta test preview by author Bonnie Nardi: Goblins

by University of Michigan Press on July 13, 2010

More book details Bonnie Nardi is author of
My Life as a Night Elf Priest,  a new book on the culture and gameplay of the international bestselling online world game, World of Warcraft. This is the third in a series of blog posts talking about new changes coming in the game.

For the first post, describing what the new Worgen race starting area will be like when the game’s “Cataclysm” expansion/upgrade comes later this year, click here. For the entry regarding developer Blizzard Entertainment’s aborted effort to require real names on its user forums, click here. For a description of how “Cataclysm” changes Warcraft history, click here.

Full sized image Today’s update is on the starting experience for Goblins, now a playable race of those estimable mercantile tinkerers and gadgeteers, available in this fall’s “Cataclysm” expansion/update to characters that play for the Horde faction in World of Warcraft.

Goblins begin on the island of Kezan. You know you will love it as soon as you see the mechanical pink flamingos. The cheeky, mischievous vibe of the island is fresh and funny. You get your first quest at KTC Headquarters, wherein are assembled three NPCs: Sassy Hardwrench, “Your Executive Assistant”; Candy Cane; and Chip Endale.

Don’t rush off to do your quests—linger to appreciate the humorous innuendo of these three, Candy in her brief Santa suit, the shirtless Chip Endale who, when you click on him, says things such as, “I like what you’re wearing,” and “Those other women are just friends, baby,” and Sassy, who can, presumably, assist with whatever you need.

Stroll over to the eating area, just to your right, where a red-and-white checked cloth decorates a table laden with a meal of Chinese take-out. As everywhere on the island, adorable goblinesque furniture and artifacts populate the space. Remember the old Buzzboxes first encountered in Auberdine? There’s one near the table.

But you’re soon on to bigger and better things: You are about to get a Hot Rod! After returning the first few quests to Foreman Dampwick, obtain the quest Cruising, in which you jump in your new wheels and go pick up some friends.

If you found vehicle fights like Flame Leviathan boring (or stressful like Malygos), your reward has just pulled up—the WoW vehicle technology finally comes into its own, and the Hot Rod is sweet, crazy fun. Don’t neglect its features; they are few but highly entertaining. The radio plays the Dark Moon Faire music (which I like very much) and has other selections too, such the harpsichord music from Karazhan. (And, haha, there is “only one volume setting – eleven!”). The horn squawks a big-truck sound, and “Punch It – Pedal to the Medal!” increases speed by 50% with only a 10 second cooldown.

The Goblin starting area is extremely childlike. The quests here are easy, as they’ve become in most starting zones in the game, to entice new players or entertain existing ones. The Goblins themselves look like kids. Everywhere is the stuff of childhood—inflatable pool toys, primary colors not usually seen in WoW, a proliferation of the Goblins’ toylike gadgets, and of course the play car. Don’t let your younger children have access to this zone – you’ll never get your PC back.

Of course, while kiddies played, parents could wink over Chip Endale, as well as quests like Cluster Cluck, which itself could not be easier, requiring only that you click on a set of birds (gleaming unnaturally with those awful sparkles that trivialize identifying quest-related items). The childhood theme runs with a Pinocchio gag; Dampwick is a play on Lampwick/Candlewick, and Jepetto Joybuzz has crafted your Warbot pet.

The Lost Isles, where you head next, seem analogous to Pinocchio’s Pleasure Isle. Once there, the Hot Rod of your childhood dreams is gone, and you have to grow up a little. The quests are still easy (and there’s one called Three Little Pygmies), but now the mobs aggro (attacking your character), and those level 11 Jungle Panthers are quite scary.

Full sized image The Goblin race is beautifully rendered, and they sport a fetching animation in which the Goblin looks down and moves as though crushing something underfoot while waggling her hips. The zany whimsy of the arcade-like Kezan is impossible not to like, and the Lost Isles are reminiscent of Stranglethorn Vale and the Sholazar Basin, although somehow the colors seem to sparkle more.

In the Isles, you are slowly learning your class abilities, but a splendid assortment of Goblin gadgets anchors many quests, like the Super Booster Rocket Boots which, when activated, allow you to fly over zombies, killing them with a magnificent stream of fire bursting behind you, and the Irresistible Pool Pony that you mount in the water near the Ruins of Vashj’elan in order to lure a gaggle of baby nagas who accompany you on a subsequent quest. The junior nagas, insanely cute, are done in lovely shades of purple, chartreuse, and aqua.

Like the nagas, the Goblin starting area is a design exercise in leveraging WoW‘s existing artwork, adroitly redrawn to provide current players novelty enough to stimulate interest, but also a comforting sense of continuity. I imagine new players will find plenty to excite and interest them as well.

The quests are more varied than in other starting areas; the Kill-X-of-Y grind is minimized, and the Goblins live up to their reputation as ingenious implementers of all manner of contrivance and contraption.

As for me, I’m going to park a Level 2 character at the KTC Headquarters so I can fire up my Hot Rod whenever I feel like it, and zoom off, wind in my hair, listening to those Golden Oldies from the Darkmoon Faire.

Stay tuned for future blog entries in this series, which will look at the new zones for mid-level players, leveling professions in Cataclysm, and the new areas for level-80 players. For more information on Nardi’s My Life as a Night Elf Priest, click here.

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