So What’s Christie Golden Doing?

/equip_tinfoil_hat

So I’m possibly reading too much into something small, but I stumbled across a rather intriguing story last night. It seems Christie Golden has suddenly moved to California so that she can work at Blizzard’s main offices for a secret project that will last until October.

The Emerald Dream in World of WarcraftI’ve been a pretty big fan of Christie Golden’s for a while now, as both an author and a person. She’s written a number of excellent tie-in novels for Blizzard’s various games, and I have had enough sporadic contact with her over the years to determine she is a pretty excellent person. Therefore, the news of her doing more work with Blizzard excites me.

But what’s really intriguing is the question of just what she’s doing there. While I’m not an expert, I have done some research on the process for how authors produce tie-in novels for Blizzard, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t normally require actually working at the Blizzard offices for months. Why would it?

Again, I might be jumping the gun, but my mind has turned to the possibility that she may be writing an entire game. It would explain why she needs to be in close proximity to the development team(s).

But what game?

Christie Golden has the most history with the Warcraft universe, but I’m not sure things quite add up for her to be working on WoW. It seems a bit early for them to be designing the plot of the next expansion in detail, and the continuous nature of WoW’s story doesn’t mesh with the temporary nature of her job at Blizzard.

Given she is in theory only there for a few months, I would think she’d be working on something with a clear beginning, middle, and end. A game that can be finished.

The Spear of Adun's Solar Core in StarCraft II: Legacy of the VoidThe only other Blizzard franchise she’s worked on in the past is StarCraft, so perhaps she could be writing a new mission pack. Blizzard’s said they were moving on from story content for StarCraft II, but they could always change their minds.

However, I see no reason she must be limited to franchises she’s already worked on.

We do know something is in the works regarding Diablo, though whether it’s an expansion, Diablo IV, or some kind of spin-off is anyone’s guess. I have a little bit of trouble picturing someone as sweet as Christie Golden working on a series that’s basically all torture and brimstone, but then I remember how dark some of her past writing has gotten, and it doesn’t seem quite as far-fetched.

The possibility that really intrigues me, though, is that she could be working on Overwatch, either a story mode within the current game or entirely new title in the same universe that focuses on story instead of PvP. There’s clearly a strong desire for such, and the Overwatch universe seems the perfect fit for her emotive, character-driven style of writing.

Regardless, I hope it is a new game she’s working on, because any game written by Christie Golden is a game I want to play.

On Pet Classes

Pet classes in RPGs tend to provoke strong reactions. Most people either love pet classes and play them at every opportunity, or hate pet classes and avoid them like the plague.

Fighting the undead in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing IIII’m a strange case in that both of those are true of me. Depending on the game, I either love or hate pet classes.

For example, you’ve probably heard me complain bitterly about pet classes in World of Warcraft. Yes, one of my most played characters is a warlock, but I started her as a leveling challenge to see if I could play a lock without pets, and once Grimoire of Sacrifice became a thing, I’ve used it as much as possible. The pets have always been my least favourite part of being a warlock.

Similarly, pets are one of the bigger reasons I haven’t spent much time playing a hunter, and it’s not entirely a coincidence I started losing interest in my mage around the time they made frost a pet spec.

On the other hand, when it comes to single-player games, I tend to embrace pet classes with open arms. When the Van Helsing games revamped their classes, I went straight for the Constructor and terrorized Borgovia with my army of dismemberbots.

I don’t have a lot of fond memories of the gameplay of Diablo II, but one of them is definitely having a posse of skeletons following my necromancer around. In D3, I never quite managed to click with the witch doctor, but I have done my level best to rekajigger my crusader into a pet class (a “zoosader”). At a maximum, he can be accompanied by three swordsmen, four archers, Kormac, and a demon minion summoned by his sword.

And let us not forget my zombie goons in Lichdom: Battlemage.

My zombie posse in Lichdom: Battlemage“…Zombie goons?”

Then there’s party-based RPGs to consider. We generally seem to separate companion characters from pets, but practically speaking, they’re pretty similar. AI minions who assist you in combat. And I definitely enjoy party-based RPGs — I prefer them to games where you only control a single character. In fact, my most common complaint about them is that the parties aren’t nearly big enough. Dungeon Siege spoiled me with its nine party slots.

So what accounts for this split?

Honestly I’m not entirely sure. I don’t think it’s necessarily one factor as much as a combination of them.

Broadly, it seems to be a difference between single-player games and MMOs.

For one thing, MMOs never really seem to take pets into account when balancing the difficulty in the open world, so while pet classes are at no particular advantage at endgame, they’re brokenly OP when soloing, and since most MMOs tend to make their solo content rather insultingly easy to begin with, it just makes the whole experience a snorefest.

On a related note, most tab target MMOs have incredibly stilted combat with little meaningful interaction between the player and their opponent. You kind of just ignore whatever the enemy is doing and mindlessly drill through your rotation. Having a pet tank hits for you exasperates the issue.

My party in Dragon Age: InquisitionMMOs also usually use an over-the-shoulder camera, which causes pets to take up an obnoxious amount of screen real estate. They mess up screenshots and cause all sorts of problems.

Meanwhile, a lot of the single-player RPGs I favour use an isometric camera, which makes pets far less of an encumbrance.

Perhaps due to less concerns about lag, single-player games also tend to allow you to control much larger numbers of pets, and I definitely prefer a swarm of minions to just one.

It could also have to do with the rigid threat mechanics that tend to exist in a lot of MMOs, but not in single-player games. Most MMO pets have taunt abilities that ensure enemies will focus on them almost 100% of the time. This, again, robs you of any meaningful interaction with your opponent.

In single-player games, pets usually don’t have taunts or threat modifiers. At best they’re a physical barrier between you and the enemy. Even in Dragon Age, where the warrior in your party will likely have taunts, it’s rare for them to hold aggro on every enemy. This means that you still have to look to your own defenses and survival at least a little.

Another divide is that MMO pets tend to require a lot of micro-management, at least in group content, whereas single-player pets and companions are almost always fire and forget. I definitely do not want to have to spend a lot of time baby-sitting my pets — that defeats the purpose as far as I’m concerned.

My Imperial agent and Lana Beniko in Star Wars: The Old Republic's Knights of the Fallen Empire expansionAll that said, I can still find exceptions that muddy the issue even further. I quite like the companion characters in SW:TOR, for instance, and they’re essentially pets. In that case I suspect it’s a combination of the fact they’re meaningful characters within the story and the fact I already dislike the combat in that game, so how much worse can the companions make it?

In ESO, also, I’ve leaned heavily on my Clannfear pet, perhaps because unlike most MMO pets it doesn’t require much management. Then again it’s also worth noting that I have been moving away from using it recently — it doesn’t fit my character’s RP very well, and it bugs out a lot.

It’s definitely a very muddled alchemy that determines whether or not I will appreciate pets. The one thing you can be certain of is that I will always have strong opinions on pet classes one way or another.