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News & Features Discussion  » General: The Hermeneutics of Questing

18 posts found
  BillMurphy

Managing Editor

Joined: 7/28/06
Posts: 1655

 
OP  9/11/11 12:46:02 PM#1

In this week's WoW Factor, Joe Sanicky gets a little philosophical on the practice of questing in Blizzard's World of Warcraft.  What's the driving force behind questing in WoW? Has it gotten better with age? Is WoW still doing things to progress the genre?

The object of today’s column is a simple one; to make as comprehensive an analysis as possible (within a limited space) of Blizzard’s opening quest line for new Horde arrivals to Northrend.  As many of you may be aware of I’ve complained about the rather lifeless inclusion of flavor text for quests in the Burning Crusade and much of vanilla World of Warcraft before, as evidenced by the following quote:
 
“…as a player who has never encountered this content before I’m inclined to try my hardest to not only experience it, but to understand it as well.  I stopped reading quest logs quite some time ago, instead being content to read through WoWwiki when I have a desire to learn some lore…and it is actually very interesting, I just wish Blizzard put some more effort into getting the lore into the game itself!”                 
 

Read the rest of Joe's analysis in The WoW Factor: The Hermeneutics of Questing.

  User Deleted
9/12/11 10:40:43 AM#2

Sorry, I fell asleep. Whatd i miss?


  Bolongo

Novice Member

Joined: 3/05/04
Posts: 24

Gonna have a funky good time.

9/12/11 11:11:35 AM#3

There's a bit more snow in Borean Tundra, and you could just as well have started there.


_____
Bright indications singe cool undisciplined hours.

  sanman7890

Novice Member

Joined: 6/25/11
Posts: 97

9/12/11 11:40:39 AM#4

Originally posted by Bolongo



There's a bit more snow in Borean Tundra, and you could just as well have started there.



 


Indeed, however my map was telling me that was a "71-74" area, and I started the content at 68...which lends itself better to starting at the lowest level area.


I did take a peak around Borean Tundra though, it was pretty cool.


  StormwindX

Novice Member

Joined: 8/16/10
Posts: 169

9/12/11 5:22:40 PM#5

I think they once mentioned that WoW quest texts were limited to 255 characters only... which is probably why you don't get pages upon pages of lore on the more interesting quests.


  sanman7890

Novice Member

Joined: 6/25/11
Posts: 97

9/12/11 7:17:54 PM#6

Originally posted by StormwindX

I think they once mentioned that WoW quest texts were limited to 255 characters only... which is probably why you don't get pages upon pages of lore on the more interesting quests.





 


Thats...horrible...


  Nifa

Novice Member

Joined: 11/07/08
Posts: 327

You can get more with a kind word & a 2x4 than you can with just a kind word

9/12/11 7:32:18 PM#7

Despite character limits on quest text, Joe makes a great point: those who have read the books know who Deathwing is (Neltharion, the Earth Warder, a Dragon Aspect who went so crazy he made Malygos look sane), but the lore cannot be found in game except in passing.


Rhonin, Vereesa, Alexstraza, and Ysera in particular could and should have useful flavor text to offer in regards to Deathwing and to my knowledge from what I have seen thus far in Cataclysm, do not. Malfurion and Tyrande are ten thousand years old. They, too, should have flavor text regarding Deathwing's history and to the best of my knowledge (my Alliance alts are all still fairly low level), they do not address the lore except in a very surface manner - no NPC does at this time.


However, there are several books that can be purchased separately from the game that explain the lore in great detail... but it should not be necessary to purchase separate items in order to understand the lore of an MMO. It is ther responsibility of the dev team to make that information available in game, not the responsibility of the players to buy novels in order to find the information.


Firebrand Art

"You are obviously confusing a mature rating with actual maturity." -Asherman

Maybe MMO is not your genre, go play Modern Warfare...or something you can be all twitchy...and rank up all night. This is seriously getting tired. -Ranyr

  chrisleko

Novice Member

Joined: 12/21/07
Posts: 203

9/12/11 8:23:08 PM#8

1.)  It's spelled Hermeneutics (I think it was correct in the article, just messed up in the title)

2.)  I don't really see any hermeneutics in your article, just a summary of the opening areas.  Where is your analysis of quest text or visual imagery? (Sorry to be critical)

  sanman7890

Novice Member

Joined: 6/25/11
Posts: 97

9/12/11 9:07:56 PM#9

Originally posted by chrisleko

1.)  It's spelled Hermeneutics (I think it was correct in the article, just messed up in the title)


2.)  I don't really see any hermeneutics in your article, just a summary of the opening areas.  Where is your analysis of quest text or visual imagery? (Sorry to be critical)



 


Ooops that slipped past editing!


And you should be critical if I'm going to put the word in the title!  In all honesty the idea was much better than the end result after seeing what I had to work with in-game.  Looking at the quest text didn't really ispire any sort of hardcore analysis (for me at least).  It was so enormously straight forward that I decided not to do a shoddy job of it in that area (as if I put down some quest quotes and tried to get philosophical, well, it'd just look stupid imo).  


On the other hand the only sort of interesting imagery I noticed in the area I quested along before I wrote this was the architecture at both starting locations, however, that didn't really relate to the goal of analying Blizzard's creative process and growth from vanilla/BC to WotLK and Cata.  Mayhap it was a doomed effort because, in hindsight, their presentation of the story elements did become much more theatrical and impressive in the last two expansions comparatively, and having played much more now than since I wrote the piece that is painfully obvious.  And if it is painfully obvious to me then it was probably even more so to long-time players.


In short I didn't find much material to get deep with.  Blame it on me or the content, I'm still not sure honestly.


Lastly I suppose it depends on your take on hermeneutics.  If you take it to mean the more historical manner of it with relation to art and linguistics or as a more generalized study of interpretation I'm not sure, I'm guessing the former though from your 2)?


In the end I had to pull back from the quest text analysis (because it was so vacuous) and work a more general approach in regards to story presentation, which is kinda lame. :(


  sanman7890

Novice Member

Joined: 6/25/11
Posts: 97

9/12/11 9:13:33 PM#10

Originally posted by Nifa

Despite character limits on quest text, Joe makes a great point: those who have read the books know who Deathwing is (Neltharion, the Earth Warder, a Dragon Aspect who went so crazy he made Malygos look sane), but the lore cannot be found in game except in passing.




Rhonin, Vereesa, Alexstraza, and Ysera in particular could and should have useful flavor text to offer in regards to Deathwing and to my knowledge from what I have seen thus far in Cataclysm, do not. Malfurion and Tyrande are ten thousand years old. They, too, should have flavor text regarding Deathwing's history and to the best of my knowledge (my Alliance alts are all still fairly low level), they do not address the lore except in a very surface manner - no NPC does at this time.




However, there are several books that can be purchased separately from the game that explain the lore in great detail... but it should not be necessary to purchase separate items in order to understand the lore of an MMO. It is ther responsibility of the dev team to make that information available in game, not the responsibility of the players to buy novels in order to find the information.





 


If I had more time on my hands I'd probably look into the books, however I tend to spend my pleasure reading time on military fantasy, classical literature, or philosophy...none of which a WoW novel really is!  Plus I've gone down that road before with the Halo books and wasn't too happy with the result.


I do read the wiki a lot though, and because of that I recognized Malygos when you mentioned him!  Unfortunately the wiki article on Deathwing isn't very clear on anything other than "This dude went crazy and is really powerful and wants to kill everyone," which...is genearl super villainy at its best I suppose.


Its a shame I didn't have more space, I could have put in a lot more that didn't necessarily pertain to interpreting the story (which isn't really there in the beginning areas at least) however it was too off-topic to include.


I suppose I could have done some break-down on the Undead faction and their grievances.


  chrisleko

Novice Member

Joined: 12/21/07
Posts: 203

9/12/11 10:17:40 PM#11
Originally posted by sanman7890

Originally posted by chrisleko

1.)  It's spelled Hermeneutics (I think it was correct in the article, just messed up in the title)


2.)  I don't really see any hermeneutics in your article, just a summary of the opening areas.  Where is your analysis of quest text or visual imagery? (Sorry to be critical)



 

Ooops that slipped past editing!


And you should be critical if I'm going to put the word in the title!  In all honesty the idea was much better than the end result after seeing what I had to work with in-game.  Looking at the quest text didn't really ispire any sort of hardcore analysis (for me at least).  It was so enormously straight forward that I decided not to do a shoddy job of it in that area (as if I put down some quest quotes and tried to get philosophical, well, it'd just look stupid imo).  


On the other hand the only sort of interesting imagery I noticed in the area I quested along before I wrote this was the architecture at both starting locations, however, that didn't really relate to the goal of analying Blizzard's creative process and growth from vanilla/BC to WotLK and Cata.  Mayhap it was a doomed effort because, in hindsight, their presentation of the story elements did become much more theatrical and impressive in the last two expansions comparatively, and having played much more now than since I wrote the piece that is painfully obvious.  And if it is painfully obvious to me then it was probably even more so to long-time players.


In short I didn't find much material to get deep with.  Blame it on me or the content, I'm still not sure honestly.


Lastly I suppose it depends on your take on hermeneutics.  If you take it to mean the more historical manner of it with relation to art and linguistics or as a more generalized study of interpretation I'm not sure, I'm guessing the former though from your 2)?


In the end I had to pull back from the quest text analysis (because it was so vacuous) and work a more general approach in regards to story presentation, which is kinda lame. :(

 

I appreciate you taking the time to respond.  Spelling can be a pain, so I just wanted to let you know about the title (I guess it came out a little jerklish, so sorry about that).

As per my number 2, I was regarding to the more modern qualitative usage of hermeneutics (an analysis of the “text” whatever that actually means) as a way to analyze the visuals or "text" (i.e. meaning) behind the text.  Most hermeneutical research I’ve read uses the text to spark an interaction between the reader (or viewer of the ‘text’) and what the text is trying to get across.  I actually think a great point to make (if a rather academic one) is that the vacuous nature of the quest text speaks volumes about the content of the game. 

I think given some time you could do a pretty good analysis of the story presentation, because it’s a MMORPG, many of the story elements are presented through more than just quest text.  When I read the title I was excited because I’m a bit sick of reading the same old forums posts and articles, and I thought someone might take a unique perspective on what quest texts really are implying or saying (as you said, they are rather vacuous and bland; which, again, might be something in itself). 

I respect you for doing something new, though, I was just hoping for something with a bit more depth (which is tough, both from what I know about the game and from what I know about other games).  Keep up the good ideas for articles though!


  sanman7890

Novice Member

Joined: 6/25/11
Posts: 97

9/12/11 11:33:35 PM#12

Originally posted by chrisleko


Originally posted by sanman7890





Originally posted by chrisleko




1.)  It's spelled Hermeneutics (I think it was correct in the article, just messed up in the title)




2.)  I don't really see any hermeneutics in your article, just a summary of the opening areas.  Where is your analysis of quest text or visual imagery? (Sorry to be critical)







 




Ooops that slipped past editing!




And you should be critical if I'm going to put the word in the title!  In all honesty the idea was much better than the end result after seeing what I had to work with in-game.  Looking at the quest text didn't really ispire any sort of hardcore analysis (for me at least).  It was so enormously straight forward that I decided not to do a shoddy job of it in that area (as if I put down some quest quotes and tried to get philosophical, well, it'd just look stupid imo).  




On the other hand the only sort of interesting imagery I noticed in the area I quested along before I wrote this was the architecture at both starting locations, however, that didn't really relate to the goal of analying Blizzard's creative process and growth from vanilla/BC to WotLK and Cata.  Mayhap it was a doomed effort because, in hindsight, their presentation of the story elements did become much more theatrical and impressive in the last two expansions comparatively, and having played much more now than since I wrote the piece that is painfully obvious.  And if it is painfully obvious to me then it was probably even more so to long-time players.




In short I didn't find much material to get deep with.  Blame it on me or the content, I'm still not sure honestly.




Lastly I suppose it depends on your take on hermeneutics.  If you take it to mean the more historical manner of it with relation to art and linguistics or as a more generalized study of interpretation I'm not sure, I'm guessing the former though from your 2)?




In the end I had to pull back from the quest text analysis (because it was so vacuous) and work a more general approach in regards to story presentation, which is kinda lame. :(



 


I appreciate you taking the time to respond.  Spelling can be a pain, so I just wanted to let you know about the title (I guess it came out a little jerklish, so sorry about that).


As per my number 2, I was regarding to the more modern qualitative usage of hermeneutics (an analysis of the “text” whatever that actually means) as a way to analyze the visuals or "text" (i.e. meaning) behind the text.  Most hermeneutical research I’ve read uses the text to spark an interaction between the reader (or viewer of the ‘text’) and what the text is trying to get across.  I actually think a great point to make (if a rather academic one) is that the vacuous nature of the quest text speaks volumes about the content of the game. 


I think given some time you could do a pretty good analysis of the story presentation, because it’s a MMORPG, many of the story elements are presented through more than just quest text.  When I read the title I was excited because I’m a bit sick of reading the same old forums posts and articles, and I thought someone might take a unique perspective on what quest texts really are implying or saying (as you said, they are rather vacuous and bland; which, again, might be something in itself). 


I respect you for doing something new, though, I was just hoping for something with a bit more depth (which is tough, both from what I know about the game and from what I know about other games).  Keep up the good ideas for articles though!





 


First off thanks for the great feedback!  Secondly now I feel really bad that I didn't do more with this!


Funny enough your description of what you meant by hermeneutics reminded me very much of my stints in semiotics.  That was an exercise in tedium drawing correlations between both the literal and symbolic meanins of the text, author intent, and then physically analogous objects/events/people.  However in the rather short timeframe I spent writing this piece it never occured to me to broaden the typical hermeneutical scope to include the varied aspects of an MMORPG.  I really appreciate that idea, and I'm going to toy with it over the next month or two as I play through wrath and cata.


It is very challenging (at least to me) to put forward a piece that is academic, entertaining, and an editorial all at the same time.  Very daunting.  I have to keep in mind that not everyone wants all of those or any of those in an article.  I'm really pumped to revist this idea asap, however I'm not sure how much the readers or the editor would appreciate another article like this any time soon, but I'll see what I come up with.  Perhaps more reading is in order concerning the subject!


In the mean time I'll be trying to think of something clever for the next one, oh boy.


  User Deleted
9/13/11 12:43:03 AM#13



Originally posted by chrisleko



1.)  It's spelled Hermeneutics (I think it was correct in the article, just messed up in the title)




2.)  I don't really see any hermeneutics in your article, just a summary of the opening areas.  Where is your analysis of quest text or visual imagery? (Sorry to be critical)







 


And this is why academic words should not be used like this. The concept is so much larger than a few sentence.





Edit: but the concept of your article is fun. Keep it going :)

  sanman7890

Novice Member

Joined: 6/25/11
Posts: 97

9/13/11 1:20:27 AM#14

Originally posted by mymmo








Originally posted by chrisleko








1.)  It's spelled Hermeneutics (I think it was correct in the article, just messed up in the title)








2.)  I don't really see any hermeneutics in your article, just a summary of the opening areas.  Where is your analysis of quest text or visual imagery? (Sorry to be critical)















 




And this is why academic words should not be used like this. The concept is so much larger than a few sentence.











Edit: but the concept of your article is fun. Keep it going :)




 


No reason they can't be used, we just have to accept that words with so much weight behind them will create different expectations from different people, nothing wrong with that!


I coudl have made the title something much more mundane, like "Questing with the King" or something silly like that, but it was an honest attempt at a serious analysis.


I just found out too late you can't treat a video game like a text. x.x


  User Deleted
9/13/11 3:25:35 AM#15

Originally posted by sanman7890




Originally posted by mymmo



















Originally posted by chrisleko


















1.)  It's spelled Hermeneutics (I think it was correct in the article, just messed up in the title)
















2.)  I don't really see any hermeneutics in your article, just a summary of the opening areas.  Where is your analysis of quest text or visual imagery? (Sorry to be critical)































 








And this is why academic words should not be used like this. The concept is so much larger than a few sentence.























Edit: but the concept of your article is fun. Keep it going :)










 




No reason they can't be used, we just have to accept that words with so much weight behind them will create different expectations from different people, nothing wrong with that!




I coudl have made the title something much more mundane, like "Questing with the King" or something silly like that, but it was an honest attempt at a serious analysis.




I just found out too late you can't treat a video game like a text. x.x





 


Well, the thing is that when we use words like the hermaneutic circle, social capital and so on in a popculture context we are doing the social science a big unfavor. Mostly becuse we are watering down a quite complex theory but we are also missusing the word. That is my take on academic words/text, I do understand that Im not in majoirty with that approch :) 


ps My edit of my first comment didnt get update. I like your style of writing and I hope we will see a contiune :)


  Alalala

Advanced Member

Joined: 8/03/06
Posts: 273

9/13/11 5:54:34 PM#16
I found a video today of an old turtle trying to mate with a shoe - this article is less interesting. WoW is dying as every expansion is more of the same. Quote me: WoW is now a WoW clone, and not a good one compared to more recent & upcoming MMOs.
  sanman7890

Novice Member

Joined: 6/25/11
Posts: 97

9/13/11 11:56:55 PM#17

Originally posted by Alalala

I found a video today of an old turtle trying to mate with a shoe - this article is less interesting. WoW is dying as every expansion is more of the same. Quote me: WoW is now a WoW clone, and not a good one compared to more recent & upcoming MMOs.

 


Good comment. :l


  Foomerang

Elite Member

Joined: 11/10/05
Posts: 4634

A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still

9/14/11 12:15:03 AM#18

Props to the OP for giving quest text a fair shake. I enjoy reading back story and character bios in quests. Its hard to find an mmo these days that has good writing. But its out there. Definitely a rare breed anymore.

If you thought the events were dynamic, you'll think the stories are living.