Thursday, November 10, 2016

Saving Something for Later versus Getting to the Fireworks Factory

As I get older, one of the most disturbing things I've come to realize is that there has been about one and a half times more Simpsons episodes than there were after the show "stopped being as good." Generally, to those of us who were born in the 80s and grew up in the 90s watching America's favorite jaundiced family, the Simpsons "stopped being good" after about ten seasons. That's not to say that there haven't been great episodes or even great stretches since then, but through the 90s, the Simpsons was so cleverly tapped into the zeitgeist and had such incredibly sharp writing that the show was pretty much undisputed as the best on the air (and possibly of all time.)

Anyway, the point of all this is to define a term I'm using: "Getting to the fireworks factory." There's an episode of the Simpsons where corporate executives, who don't understand what makes the show-within-a-show Itchy and Scratchy so popular, decide to "improve" it by adding a new character who is an amalgamation of buzzwords and trends that don't actually add up to anything interesting. In I believe his only cartoon, this new character, Poochie (voiced by Homer,) spends the entire duration rapping (because making a character rap was how adults who didn't understand kids tried to make things cool for kids back in the 90s) about himself. Rather than getting to a fireworks factory where Itchy and Scratchy would certainly have gotten up to all the horrifically violent mayhem that their show was beloved for, they spend the whole time introducing this awful character. While watching, one kid (I think Milhouse) asks "When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?"

Ok: the point:

I like to use the term "Getting to the Fireworks Factory" to mean having a story move forward to the point that we've all been waiting for, rather than dragging it out so that the writers can keep the audience hooked.

What does this have to do with World of Warcraft? Well, Legion has been an expansion full of "Getting to the Fireworks Factory."

Ranging from small things, like finally seeing the island home of Deathwing (a few expansions later than we thought we would) to things that we expected to have their own expansions - like the Emerald Nightmare and Argus.

After two expansions that either came up with totally new territory for us to explore or had us revisiting old characters and places we had already seen, Legion is inundating us with things that we've been waiting to see for years (The Emerald Dream was rumored to be the first expansion, way back when.)

For the most part, I'm very happy about this. Basically ever since Death Knights were introduced, it seemed like you'd have to also bring along Demon Hunters, and now we have those.

But I also wonder if we're using it up too fast. The Emerald Nightmare is a single raid (well, it also plays a big part in its zone and one dungeon.) What they have is, I think, really cool. But I also wonder if perhaps they could have mined more out of the Emerald Nightmare concept. It seems unlikely that we'll see it again.

As much as I would love to see more of the Scourge, I can't exactly say that we were shortchanged on our dealings with the Lich King. Wrath was a very satisfying expansion. They did leave the hook that the Scourge continued to exist, but they haven't done a ton with that (yet.)

We really don't know what it will mean for us to go to Argus in 7.3 or 7.4 or whenever we wind up actually going. But it's highly unlikely that we'll have the multi-zone leveling experience and "continent" with different stories going on and different kinds of environments. I've joked with myself that while most of my characters are blown away by the magical city of Suramar, my Draenei Death Knight, who was born in Mac'aree, thinks of it much as he thinks of all the other cities on Azeroth - as a quaint little primitive village. If we're going to Argus, that means that we're almost certain to see Mac'aree (which has probably become a dystopian nightmare under the Legion.)

All of this stuff was made up at one point, and so there's nothing preventing Blizzard from just coming up with new stuff for us to see as we move forward in WoW. And I imagine most people far prefer this sort of expansion compared to the extremely convoluted time-travel-but-not-time-travel excuse to have us fight a bunch of WC I and II villains in Warlords of Draenor.

Still, while I expect Blizzard will try to produce a new expansion regularly for as long as they possibly can (and if Everquest is still going, WoW will go a lot longer,) I'm kind of shocked to see the makings of three potential expansions (Emerald Nightmare, Tomb of Sargeras, and going to Argus) all rolled into one.

We probably won't hear anything about expansion seven for at least a year (meaning next Blizzcon) and if they're really taking their time on Legion, possibly even longer than that. But I really do wonder what's in store, because we've been bouncing around in the fireworks factory quite a bit this round.

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