Sunday, August 7, 2016

Community Service: WoW, We Happy Few

Keen is going through one of his periodic spells of self-reinvention at the moment, this time in the hope of getting more involved in the games he plays and the communities that surround them. It's a fine aspiration but I just thought I'd mention that he's still an "influencer" without even trying.

A few weeks back, when he was covering the E3 convention, Keen dropped a throwaway comment about a game he'd seen promoted there called We Happy Few. The sum total of his coverage was "WTF…Creepy. Skipping." It was enough to make me google the game, find a video of the promo that had so disturbed him, watch it and decide it was a game well worth following.

The game went into Early Access via steam in late July. I was thinking of picking it up but it's currently selling at the equivalent of a full-price release while being, in the words of the developers themselves, unlikely to be ready for launch sooner than "between six and twelve months" from now.  It has a decent Overall Rating of Mostly Positive based on almost a thousand reviews but reading through them tells the story of a game with great potential that's yet to be realized.

I decided to take the advice of many of even the most positive reviewers: wait until the game is finished - or at least getting there. This really is one of those cases where the main reason to buy in now is to help fund the game and do your bit to try and make sure it eventually gets made.

I'm interested but not that interested. If it was an MMO then I'd be all over it whatever the stage of development but survival games are a long way out of my comfort zone to begin with.

In the meantime, however, I'll keep watching the progress and there is one small thing I can do to help. I mentioned We Happy Few briefly in a post shortly after I heard about it from Keen and regular commenter Simon was kind enough to point me at the blog of one of the creative forces behind the game, Alex Epstein.

It's an excellent blog, insightful and amusing on the subject of making games, and it ought to be in my blogroll. It is now!

This morning I read a post there about the problems Alex is having with Wikipedia. Apparently the Wikipedia editorial stance is that primary sources are ineligible as authority for amendments. He's quite upbeat, even supportive, about it but you might equally argue that it's The Intentional Fallacy gone mad.

Alex says that We happy Few is based in an alternate timeline where Britain was invaded not by The Nazis, as Wikipedia asserts, but by The German Empire. For sound commercial reasons as well as, no doubt, aesthetic ones, Compulsion Games want to avoid any reference to Nazis in their 1984/Clockwork Orange-inspired survival offering.

While Wikipedia won't accept the person who wrote the story as an authority on what the story is about, apparently they might look more favorably on a third party referring to that author's testimony. "Hopefully, someone will quote this blog post in their blog, and then I can cite myself", he says. Well, here you go Alex. Cite away!

It's probably safe to say that Keen won't be playing We Happy Few ("WTF…Creepy. Skipping.") but he is playing WoW. Again. So am I, in Veteran Starter Edition kind of way. He's playing a Gnome Hunter, which he boosted to 100, and he's been providing practical guides on where to find and tame Mechanical pets, almost all of which would one-shot me from the next zone.

A lot more useful for me was his discovery of an Add-On that turns WoW into Guild Wars 2. I am not a big fan of Add-Ons or Mods. I try to avoid them in most games but I'm not religious about it. I've used them, sparingly, in EverQuest, EQ2, ESO and others. When I subscribed to WoW I used a couple that ran in the background - I think one auto-declined duels...

The screenshots of this one looked fascinating and although I hadn't been struggling with the default UI I thought I'd give it a try. After four years of GW2 I would imagine I have a lot of muscle memory accrued so maybe I could get some benefit from that.

Not, of course, that anyone's going to be struggling to eke out that extra one percent of DPS in WoW's first twenty levels. The compliments I gave WoW a couple of weeks ago over the pacing of the low-level game turned out to have a hollow ring even before my hunter hit double figures.

It seems the only reason she was having decent fights was that she had no armor and no stats. As soon as she acquired some green gear the mobs started dropping on the second hit - sometimes the first. Add to that the firehose of xp from quests that took about twenty seconds and all the bad things people say about WoW's modern leveling game begin to come true.

Not that I wasn't having fun. And even having capped out at twenty there's plenty to do on a free account. There are pets to tame and there's reputation to grind for a start. And last night I spent some of my capped gold to buy a mount.

WoW is a lot of fun and I am more than ever minded to buy Legion and sub for a month or two. The GW2 mod has only increased the likelihood. The whole layout is so much better than the default, which itself is not at all bad. It feels natural and comfortable and I am able to find the buttons I need a whole lot faster.

The real benefit, though, is something I don't think Keen even mentioned: a complete revamp of the entire quest interface. I believe this is available separately, so you can have a vastly improved, far more "immersive" questing experience without having to go the whole hog and clone your UI to GW2's. I wholeheartedly, enthusiastically recommend it. If you enjoy questing and, especially, like to read the quest text, you won't regret it.

WoW has good quests, usually well-written and often very amusing. The game also has possibly the worst color palette, font and general art design for presenting them that I have ever suffered in an MMO. It turns what could be a pleasure into a pain.

The GW2 UI mod does away with all that. Instead you get a center-screen panel that shows your character on one side and the quest NPC on the other. You click on the panel to progress the dialog and it plays out perfectly, like a conversation. The characters even use emotes to emphasize what's happening. It's brilliantly done and it transforms my questing experience almost out of recognition.

So, thanks Keen. Your community service credentials remain intact, even if you do think they need a bit of a polish!


  1. Huh. That's... very interesting, and the UI is one of the (large) handful of things in GW2 I still think fondly of. Don't you kind of run short of hotkeys, though? Still, I may download it and give it a try...

    1. There are four small hotbars that only appear when you mouse over them or hit the hotkey. You can see one with pet summons on in the last screenshot. That sounds fiddly but it's surprisingly intuitive in practice. You can also put up the two right-hand vertical hotbars from the default UI. I think in the end you can have the same number of hotkeys up as in the regular UI.

  2. I have actually been tempted to try that UI mod since Keen mentioned it, as a diversion if nothing else. I'm playing WoW, but mostly fiddling around with lower level alts. Of course, the pre-Legion stuff starts this week, so maybe that will change.

    1. I think if you are already habituated to and comfortable with the normal WoW UI there wouldn't be much point in swapping, although as you can see it is very clean and leaves a lot of the screen free. The quest UI, though, is transformative. I'd definitely recommend trying it just for that.

  3. Noice. Don't personally play, but my coworker is always talking to me about all of these different mods. I sort want to get into it. Nice post!

    I’m actually the Community Content Manager for, and I would be thrilled if you considered cross posting your stuff to our platform. If you don’t know much about us- we’re the same team behind, and push to give awesome writers (like yourself) the exposure they deserve. Feel free to email me!


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