Do you ever wonder what you missed by not playing WoW back in the early days? You've seen the classic instances, of course, as you've swatted aside their bosses during mining expeditions for transmogrification gear -- but what were these viragoes like back in the day when conquering them took 40 players at the top of their game hurling themselves against the storm, before modern levels, gear, abilities and game mechanics reduced them to mere echoes of their former fury? Screech "rose-colored glasses!" all you like -- WoW classic and The Burning Crusade were far and away the eras that pinned me most devotedly to my keyboard, smitten by the game. (Others think very differently, as demonstrated below.)
You can't really relive the classic experience today; there's simply been too much water under the bridge. Still, I'd love to be able to give newer players a taste of those old raid instances in a way they just can't get from muscling through the instances today. But if playing through won't do the job, neither will videos from the past. Boss kill and strat videos cast an analytical eye on the proceedings, remaining aloof from the atmosphere and focusing more on the spray of combat text and special effects. On the other end of the spectrum are roleplaying epics that, while entertaining, represent the particular personality and experience of a specific group of players.
If you've got time to burn, though, you might enjoy sinking into these vanilla-era flavor films by Order of Watchers on Ragnaros (EU). WoW Insider reader Karol discovered these old-school gems ("Maybe it just found me in a nostalgic mood, but I think both of them are masterpieces from the old times and worth a mention" -- we agree, Karol, so thanks!), tipping us off to this abstract of one Hungarian guild's march through classic encounters and The Burning Crusade. Somewhere between a guided tour, a roleplaying narrative and guild memory book, these videos attempt to preserve a glimpse of the wonder the guild felt on the path through the earliest endgame content in World of Warcraft.
As it turns out, the GM of this still-active guild speaks excellent English and was happy to chat with us about how Order of Watchers created these labors of love and what it'sup to in today's game.
WoW Insider: Before we talk about your guild's videos, Larenon, let's set the stage for readers. When was Order of Watchers founded, and how has the guild played the game over the years?
Larenon: Order of Watchers was founded on 3 August 2005 in Darnassus. The founders were IRL friends and new to WoW (as everyone else back then. The reason for founding the guild was to combine under one banner all the Hungarian players on the server who had similar mentality as them. The server Ragnaros was chosen because on the official Hungarian WoW fansite, this server was designated as one of the official Hungarian servers.
At the time of the founding, the average character level in the guild was around 30. The majority of the group didn't even know what a dungeon or a raid is, so endgame raiding was not in the goals of the guild at the start. When more or less everyone finally reached level 60, we started running the 5-man instances of the time, though back then these instances were actually 10-men instances; the only real 5-man endgame instance was Dire Maul.
After we cleared these dungeons several times and then some, the need to visit Molten Core purely in the name of fun arose somewhat naturally, I'd say. The head count of the guild was enough so that we could put together a 40-men raid. We didn't raise head count expectations, but of course we thoroughly familiarized ourselves with the challenge ahead of us. We read long, long tactical descriptions about the bosses, everyone had their individual job given, and even then we thought there could be several days of wiping ahead of us. So we were very surprised to see that on our first MC raiding day, we couldn't stop until six bosses were dead before us. Starting from then, the goal of our guild became to experience all the raid content of the game, to beat the biggest and baddest threats to Azeroth.
Since at that time, the raid content was not separated into normal and heroic modes, this goal also brought the requirement that our guild needed to become more hardcore, and raiding began to be an almost daily activity for us. As Blizzard made the raiding game more and more casual-friendly, we could slowly start switching back to lower gears. Nowadays, WoW is such that we can afford to play in our original casual tempo, and even at this reduced speed, we can still play through the full story of the current content patch (in normal mode, 10-men version) by the time the next challenge arrives. We are quite happy and content with this and welcome this approach to raiding Blizzard seems to have embraced. Our IRL goals are to form and maintain a friendly community where people are not confronted by hardcore expectations and commitments but rather the spirit and fun of just playing together.
And so at what point did the idea of these movies come about?
The founders of Order of Watchers were quite knowledgeable in Warcraft lore and had their roots in tabletop roleplaying games. So from the very beginning, our guild had some RP feeling to it, which we wanted to capture in our movies, too. The idea of our first guild movie is tied to the first birthday of the guild, so this idea came up some time in the summer of 2006. As this celebratory occasion drew near, Soloriens -- who had already done a few movies about various IRL campings -- thought we should make a movie about the world of WoW too, particularly about the adventures of our guild.
Back then in vanilla WoW, the raid content was experienced and seen only by a select few of the playerbase, and this didn't change too much during The Burning Crusade either. Thus, one of our goals with our movies was to provide insight into the raid instances for those players who might not had a chance to see them firsthand in-game. Since there were lots of boss kill videos back then, just like nowadays, to make our video stand out from the crowd, our goal was not to show the fights from a tactical viewpoint but rather by focusing on the atmosphere, the feeling and the visual presentation of the instances.
We have also included in our first movie a PVP battle scene, which was kind of rarely seen back then in a WoW movie to the best of our knowledge.
Who was involved in putting the movie together?
More or less all of the guild members took part in the making of these movies. For the first movie, Soloriens did the lion's share, including shooting the scenes, cutting and editing, DVD authoring, DVD cover and menus -- so in a word, pretty much everything. Shooting of the scenes here was done by our guild members Galso and Enokh; they also did the cutting with help from Soloriens. Post-production, DVD authoring and the DVD cover was done by Soloriens. Innovindil and Pio helped greatly in collecting suitable music for the movie. Narration in the first movie was done by a professional Hungarian voice actor, Péter Korbuly. In the second movie, one of our guild members, Enokh accepted the challenge of being the narrator.
For readers who might not have time to watch the videos in their entirety, what content did the first movie cover?
In the first half, we can see the full clear of the classic Molten Core instance; the second half is a PvP battle scene. At the start of the movie, the narrator briefly summarizes the story of the in-game founding of Order of Watchers. According to this, after the last Guardian Medivh retired, the leaders of the Alliance appointed three Watchers from the races of humans, dwarves and night elves and charged them with the task of founding a secret order. The task of this order would be to guard the borders of the Alliance and actively face the threats to our world, particularly any demonic attacks and schemes. According to the story of the movie, that's exactly why we went to Molten Core, to thwart the schemes of Ragnaros and his lieutenants.
The PvP battle scene was done with the help of a Hungarian guild of the Horde called Unholy Syndicate.
What about the second movie? What did it cover?
In the second movie, the guild fights against the threats facing Outland. The majority of the movie then is about the deaths of the bosses of various Burning Crusade raids. We show the content of Magtheridon's Lair, Gruul's Lair, Serpentshrine Cavern, The Eye and Black Temple. After all of these boss kills, we could also squeeze in a little roleplaying scene at the end, which in my opinion is the best scene of the whole movie. In this scene we paraphrased the end narration of Optimus Prime from the first Transformers movie with Outland in mind; even though we came from another world, we feel Outland is now our home as well and the people of this distant world can also count on us to protect them.
I notice the captions and narration in the movie are in English. Was using English a decision designed to draw in more viewers across the world, or is it a common language for your guild?
The guild is a Hungarian-only guild. Once, though, we had a Greek member who couldn't speak Hungarian at all -- just a few phrases -- but he wanted to be in the guild badly because his best in-game buddies were with us and he just wanted to play with them, despite the language barrier.
We added English subtitles for the movies for several reasons:
We wanted to share the movies with the greater community of our server, and even though there are lots of Hungarians on the server, there are at least as many players who are not Hungarians, and so they wouldn't have understood the narration.
The official language of the game is English, so we just thought our movie must "speak" English, too.
The original source for the narration at the end of the second movie was also English.
These movies are absolutely pure gold in terms of giving players a feel for the older raid content that's trivialized right now. Does your guild run any of the older raid for nostalgia?
Yes, we have weekly events of nostalgic raids on the weekends. Currently, the goal is to let those who joined these weekend events later to get all the achievements they still miss, to collect transmogrification gear and to finally get the guild's first Thori'dal, The Stars' Fury, which just doesn't want to drop for us even though we run the instance sometimes with five different groups each week for a time now.
How do you think the feeling (not the mechanics but the actual story and immersion) of the current raids compares to these early raids?
My personal opinion is that I think the newer raids are better than older ones. I feel them somehow more epic than the raids before. I think it's a very good idea, for example, to have short descriptions and background story of each boss in the Dungeon Journal, giving a reason for each of the bosses about who are they and why are they in the instance, what their purpose is. I feel this brings the raid instances more alive, and the boss we conquer is not just a name anymore but a known enemy with motivations and goals of its own.
I also like the transition videos used much more frequently in Cataclysm instances very much. Dragon Soul in its entirety is an epic experience; for example, when we parachute onto the back of Deathwing from the ship, well -- it's spine-chilling, really. So based on these, I think the newer raids are better than the old ones, but this is not surprising. Obviously, Blizzard had much time during the years to perfect and improve the raid experience. Molten Core's endless trash packs, for example, I don't miss at all ...
Does your guild still take a light RP approach to the game?
Yes, though not with the same emphasis on it as before. The game changed a lot, and players nowadays not really think of WoW as a roleplaying game, but they rather see numbers, optimal gear, tactics, CCs, ratings -- in other words, pure game mechanics -- and on a PvP server, it's even harder to swim against such a current. And of course, this is not a goal for us.
Still, we try to remind our members that this is basically a roleplaying game in an awesome world. This is emphasized by our main goal that in each content we want to play through the whole story and also we have specific RP events, too.
What content is your guild working on now?
Based on our principle goal of playing through the content, after we conquered the 10-man Dragon Soul normal mode raid, we set our sights on the last evil boss not yet killed by us, Sinestra. She is the one we are currently working on. Besides this, we also would like to finally get our hands on the above mentioned Thori'dal and also we'd like to finish the guild's first Dragonwrath.
Since the previous season, we also regularly do Rated Battlegrounds too, but according to our guild mentality, we are taking it slowly in a relaxed manner, without any dramas or hardcore expectations.
Are there any plans to create additional movies?
We've done small videos almost every year, but these cannot be considered as sequels to the two big guild movies. Among these small videos there are some birthday videos, but also there are raid videos too, like the one about the Battle of Mount Hyjal.
During the making of the second guild movie, we were already eager to do and planned an even bigger sequel. Back then, we thought we will realize it in the Lich King expansion. Our first long movie was a mixed roleplaying and raid movie; the second was almost completely a raid movie. We wanted the third movie to tip the scale fully toward the roleplaying end. We started writing a script, but we had to conclude that this is really a much harder task, and also the project leaders got some IRL stuff to handle, too. Since the original plans and ideas were laid down, we haven't really touched the project. Maybe in the summer, we open that box again. After all, the stars are right, since we are having much fun in this expansion, too.
For more movies from Order of Watchers, from the longer movies discussed here to shorter features for the guild's anniversaries and special events, visit Order of Watchers. "I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.