About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier

Shamus Plays WoW #12: Hogger!

By Shamus
on Sunday Jan 8, 2017
Filed under:


Yesterday we did some poaching, murdered a family pet, accidentally pinned the blame on some other guy, then killed him, then got paid for it. That’s a pretty good day in my book, but now Norman thinks we need to flee the region for a while. So now we’re in the human city of Stormwind. Norman is here to gather his things and get ready to leave for good. He also stops at the shops and puts some of his hard-won adventuring money to use.

“Hey, you got yourself a new dress!” I tell him.

“It’s not a dress, it’s a robe!” he argues.

I dunno. I think Norman could pull this off if he ditched the shoulderpads and matched it with a really good hat.

I dunno. I think Norman could pull this off if he ditched the shoulderpads and matched it with a really good hat.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I tell him, “It’s pretty no matter what you call it.”

“It’s hard to be fearsome when you have to dress like this.”

“So why do it?” I ask.

“I thought… This is part of being a warlock. It’s in the rules. I just assumed it was something demons wanted.”

“Nah. You idiots came up with that on your own.”

“Oh,” Norman says with obvious disappointment.

“Look, the only thing we demons care about is devouring souls and destroying worlds. The dark robes, midnight gatherings, virgin sacrifice, cutting yourselves, memorizing oaths to fallen gods… that’s all stuff mortals added so they could feel like they were doing something really dangerous and illicit. You guys have to make everything so complicated. Power for souls. That’s our business. You guys can dress it up however you like.”

“I guess I feel sort of stupid wearing this robe then.”

“There’s a good reason for that.”

We leave town and head west. We’re headed for Westfall, where Norman hopes he will find people in need of help.

We're leaving the starting area. At this point a character is probably around level 10-ish.

We're leaving the starting area. At this point a character is probably around level 10-ish.

Along the way, Norman runs off the path and starts digging around in the weeds.

“Why are you picking flowers?” I ask.

“They’re not flowers, they’re herbs. I’ve studied a bit of herbalism.”


I'm trying to get my herbalism skill up to level 420.

I'm trying to get my herbalism skill up to level 420.

“And alchemy. Picked it up in mage school.”

“Wow. You know Alchemy?” I’m actually kind of impressed by this news. “What kind of potions can you make?” I ask.

“A few. I can make one that sort of heals you a bit.”

In most crafting professions, the first-tier of stuff is hilariously weak. It does get better at higher levels, though.

Back when I wrote this series, I found the gathering-type professions to be AMAZINGLY lucrative. A huge section of the playerbase was at the level cap. Often these high-level players would decide they wanted to max out (say) alchemy. Rather than going to the newbie zones and gathering for hours, they would go to the auction house and just buy all of the herbs they needed outright. It might set them back 100 gold or so, but what’s 100 gold to a high-level player? Not a big deal.

Meanwhile, just 1 gold is a fortune to someone at Norman’s level. Which means the high level characters were basically paying us low-level characters to gather stuff. Originally you had to save for a while to get enough money for your first mount at level 40, but by this point in WoW’s history, by the time I was high enough for a mount I could afford several.

It was optimal to take two gathering professions, such as herbalism and mining. But for this series Norman is going to be burning through all of his gathered herbs to level his alchemy. It doesn’t matter. I set up alchemy as part of Norman’s character but then I never used it for any jokes and it never came up again.

Oh well.

“Sort of?”

“Let’s say you got impaled on a spear,” he explains. “This potion would reduce the redness and irritation around the entry point, at least until you can find someone to pull it out. I’ve also got another one that hardens your skin, so if someone wanted to impale you they would have to push 1% harder.”

I shake my head, “Wow, I didn't realize you were horrible at other things before you went on to be horrible at magic. You're a real jack-of-sucking-at-all-trades.”

“You sound like my mother,” he whines. “She’s never been happy with anything I’ve done since I decided not to become a paladin.”

“I’m not here to help you with your family problems. Let’s find someone to set on fire.”

“We don’t need to immolate everyone we meet, you know.”

“Hey, if people didn’t want to be set on fire, then why do they make such hilarious sounds when you do it? That’s practically asking for it.”

“I don’t think they make those sounds to entertain us.”

“Well, I appreciate the effort they put into it anyway.”

Don't bother trying to decipher the sign. It's gibberish on purpose.

Don't bother trying to decipher the sign. It's gibberish on purpose.

On the edge of Elwynn forest we come to a garrison.

“Maybe we should see if they have any jobs posted,” Norman mutters to himself. “You know, before we leave Elwynn for good.”

Well waddaya know? There is a job:

Guys, Hogger is thirty yards from the sign. Just walk over there and stab him. He's like 10 levels below you.

Guys, Hogger is thirty yards from the sign. Just walk over there and stab him. He's like 10 levels below you.

Interesting note is that this quest is marked as a [group] quest in your quest log, but the quest description doesn’t say anything about it being a group job or suggest what size group you should have. Looks like a regular old solo quest if you read the description.

Kind of odd. Still, Hogger is a handful and taking him on solo would be very foolish.

“Looks good, we’ll do it,” Norman says.

“What’s a Gnoll?” I ask.

“Erm. I think it’s kinda like a pig-man,” Norman says. “They’re not too dangerous. They’re only about waist high.”

We plunge into the forest and slaughter our way to Hogger’s camp. It turns out he’s a good bit taller than “waist high”.

It's hard to tell at this cowardly distance, but he's almost human height.

It's hard to tell at this cowardly distance, but he's almost human height.

“He’s very large,” Norman says nervously. “Ah well, I’m sure the guards wouldn’t have posted it if it was too big a job.”

Norman formulates a detailed battle plan and draws it into the dirt:

1) He sets Hogger on fire.
2) I distract Hogger with a fireball.
3) Norman begins rending Hogger with tendrils of malignant shadow magic.
4) I continue to confuse Hogger with fireballs.
5) Norman heals himself by draining away the last of Hogger’s life energy.

We edge around Hogger’s camp and find a good defensive position. Then Norman launches the attack. It goes something like this:

1) Hogger runs over and begins stabbing Norman.
2) Norman closes his eyes and swings his staff around while making little-girl noises.
3) See number two.

Somehow Hogger gets slightly injured by this process. So he calls for help.

Oh great. Now we'll have to fight this Yipe fellow.

Oh great. Now we'll have to fight this Yipe fellow.

So now we have a little cluster of tiny Hoglings to fight. Things start to look grim. I won’t get credit for Norman if he dies before turning to evil, and I’d hate to see all of my half-assed efforts go to waste.

Mister Scott. Three to beam down.

Mister Scott. Three to beam down.

Just before things turn bad, a bunch of guys teleport in.

This is something Blizzard has been doing more of lately, putting cutscenes into their MMOG. There are now three different kinds of cutscenes:

1. The pure cinematics. (Awesome.)
2. The in-game cinematics where the game grabs the camera and shows you a voice-acted scene. (Rare, and usually short.)
3. The in-world “scenes”, where a bunch of NPC’s stand around and emote and type to each other. These are a nice try at making the world immersive, although they don’t really work for me. The text bubbles hang around long after you’re done reading them, which takes an epic moment and makes it stiff and poorly paced. And the bubbles tend to overlap. And it’s not always clear where you should be looking. It’s like being the cameraman when you don’t know the script.

“What? Who?” Norman says.

Some high-ranking general has come, along with a couple of mages. Also, a couple of kids came along, so they could cheer him on.

No, you guys are thinking of SPECIFIC Marcus Jonathan.

No, you guys are thinking of SPECIFIC Marcus Jonathan.

“You brought your underage fans into battle with you?!?” Norman shouts to the guy.

The General ignores him, and captures Hogger.

Holy shit. I just noticed that ribcage. What was that?

Holy shit. I just noticed that ribcage. What was that?

“You’re arresting a GNOLL?!?!” Norman shouts. He is red-faced with rage. “Yesterday the job board had me killing a human for… something. Don’t worry what it was for. The point is, he was probably a bad guy but nowhere near as bad as this demon-gnoll you’re trying to arrest. What the hell is wrong with you?”

Seriously, were you guys TRYING to make this look like Star Trek?

Seriously, were you guys TRYING to make this look like Star Trek?

The general, his prisoner, his mage backup dancers, and his adoring fanboys all teleport away, leaving us alone in Hogger’s camp.

“What the hell just happened?” Norman asks.

“Looks like the General came in and ninja’d your kill, boss.”

“We’ll see about this!” he says with fury. And then he marches us back to Goldshire. He elbows his way through the crowd, shouting at the idiots that get in our way, “Move it, freak. No thanks, I don’t duel people that drool on themselves. Put some clothes on, you degenerate.”

We meet again, dumbass.

We meet again, dumbass.

“Greetings, citizen,” says Marshal Dughan, “How can I-“

“So the general can teleport in, arrest people, and then teleport them directly to the stockades?” Norman cries angrily.

“I don’t know, maybe,” Dughan stammers.

“So WHY did you post Hogger to the job board, then? Why waste my time if the general was just going to arrest him?”

“He did WHAT? Great, now we have a bloodthirsty beast right beneath the streets of Stormwind, with a whole army of gnolls at his command. Definitely an improvement, I feel safer already. Here’s your reward. But promise me you’ll check in with the Stockades guards in Stormwind at some point, just to ensure that things are going smoothly.”

You know I would not lie to you:

But... but... but...

But... but... but...

“Waaaait a second,” Norman says slowly. “Are you saying Hogger is TOO DANGEROUS to be kept in our own stockades?”

Dughan gives one of his little shrugs.

“THEN WHY DID YOU POST IT TO THE JOB BOARD? You’re telling me this job was piss-easy for the general, and too dangerous for me, and it’s a pointless waste of time anyway since he’ll just escape!”

“Here is your reward,” Dughan says calmly.

“Thank you. I hope you die in an avalanche of Kodo waste.”

This quest is actually a set-up for a dungeon you can run later. The Stormwind Stockades are one of the lower-level dungeons in the game. You can go there in your twenties and fight some bosses. I haven’t done them, but I’ve read that the quest to go in and kill Hogger is level 30-ish. In case you’re wondering, the quest we just did was level 11.

We leave town in a hurry. Someone stops us along the road to ask for help, and Norman cracks them on the shins with his staff as we jog by.

“Nice follow-through on that one, boss.”

We head west, making for Westfall.

For those of you who haven’t played WoW before, let me try to give you a sense of scale. So far, this entire write-up has taken place inside of a single zone, Elwynn Forest:

The region surrounding Goldshire Asylum for the Criminally Over-Leveled.

The region surrounding Goldshire Asylum for the Criminally Over-Leveled.

Elwynn Forest is but one small zone within the Eastern Kingdoms. The highlighted zone below is Elwynn:

The Forbidding Sea? Is it really bossy? Did you mean "Foreboding"?

The Forbidding Sea? Is it really bossy? Did you mean "Foreboding"?

And the Eastern Kingdoms is just one of three continents on Azeroth:

All of this is now outdated. WoW has been printing geography for the last few years so the world keeps getting bigger. I'll bet it's hell on the real estate markets.

All of this is now outdated. WoW has been printing geography for the last few years so the world keeps getting bigger. I'll bet it's hell on the real estate markets.

And Azeroth is one of two worlds in the game. The other, Outland, isn’t quite as big as Azeroth, but it’s still huge. and there are a couple more high-level continents tucked away here and there that I Haven’t even visited yet.

All of these zones have vivid and unique scenery. Okay, buildings and types of trees get re-used from time to time, but there’s a lot of variety and I’ve never really felt like one place was just a recycled version of another. In our story with Norman and Gobstab, we probably won’t see more than three or four zones in the game. Speaking of which, they’ve just arrived at our second zone…

It smells bad, the monsters are stronger, and the locals are as dumb as ever, but we're miles from Marshal Dughan so I'm happy.

It smells bad, the monsters are stronger, and the locals are as dumb as ever, but we're miles from Marshal Dughan so I'm happy.

Westfall. For some reason, crossing the river has moved us from eternal summer to eternal autumn. Whatever. Not my problem.

Looks like there’s a crashed cart here. And some dead people. I like this place already.

Next week: CSI: Westfall

Comments (16)

  1. Hector says:

    Of course, the whole Hogger thing was done because he massacred so many lowbies. I tis pretty funny to turn him into an early dungeon boss, kind of like a promotion for good (evil) work!

    One aspect I find interesting is that players tend to complain if NPC’s do nothing, or if they back up the PC’s, and also if they go out and beat up monsters themselves. I think it’s something of a no-win situation for Blizzard, since there’s always going to be people unhappy about it.

    I’d be amused if they built an entire zone just to have capable NPC’s tell the players to get lost, since they’re camping this zone and completed all the quests already.

    • DerJüngerLudendorff says:

      I’d say that people want them to look like they’re actually doing something about their problems instead of just shunting them at the nearest schmuck who walks past so they can continue standing around twiddling their thumbs.

      But it’s still a video game, so if you have the NPC’s do something the players don’t want them to get in their way. Like by coming out of nowhere to interrup their quests and stealing their kills/loot/experience.
      I bet few people would complain if, say, some guards tagged along with you, or if they were seen actively fighting the mobs (without depopulating the area of course).

      • Viktor says:

        There’s ways around it, but it takes care and effort and a lot of players won’t appreciate it anyway. The basic options are:
        1: Useless NPCs. Its easy, just make them questgivers and loot dispensers. However, the downsides have been chronicled by Shamus above.
        2: NPC allies. This is more work for scripting, balance, and AI, and you run into trouble with the NPCs pissing off the players, but it’s more realistic than Major DoNot.
        3: The SG-3. The NPCs aren’t lazy, they’re just all busy holding off a demon invasion or fighting a Gnoll army in the tunnels that will be a dungeon later, so they’re hiring anyone off the street to fill out their ranks. This takes good writing to make it believable and consistent, but works really well when it’s pulled off.

        • Syal says:

          There’s also just lowering the stakes and making early quests more of an initiation. “Think you’re tough stuff? Well that pig thing over there’s wiped the floor with guys like you for a while now. Go give it what-for!”

      • ehlijen says:

        I think there was another issue to strike a balance on here:

        You need NPCs that can defend certain zones against high level enemy faction PCs. If you don’t have those, all those Goldshire mad duellers could be camping all the trainers in the enemy capital for example. You don’t want to rely on mods or friendly players guarding those places, so strong NPC defenders are the obvious choice.
        So you can’t just have useless NPCs around, you need combat capable ones (in particular, threats to high level PCs). But once you have those, you need an explanation as to why they’re not running all the errands.

        WoW was one of the earlier MMOs, it’s entirely possible that they decided to err a bit on the side of caution there.

  2. Jonathan says:

    I don’t even see Hogger in the first screenshot that he’s supposed to be in.

  3. MichaelGC says:

    It’s not forbidden to use ‘forbidding’ as an adjective where it has a different meaning from ‘forbidding’ the verb, although a forbidding aspect may well give rise to forebodings perhaps especially when a body failed to forego that which was forbidden.

    Anyway, it’s nice to see Gobstab back! Or perhaps … awful to see Gobstab back, if that would be preferred.

    PS Typo: ‘It it really bossy?’

  4. Echo Tango says:

    Man, that map looks massive. I’m glad I never got sucked into WoW; I’d probably have neglected all other games (and possibly my job) if I’d played it. I’m glad games actually have this kind of scale, though. I’m watching a let’s-play of The Last Guardian, which is reminding me of Shadow Of The Colossus, and my time in Mass Effect 1. We’ve got things in games now that can truly be called massive, and it’s one thing that can really help sell a world. :)

    • WoW’s only gotten bigger since. Post-Cataclysm, when this series takes place, Blizzard has introduced three new landmasses consisting of more than two dozen zones and dozens of five man dungeons, 10+ man raids, PvP battlegrounds, and arenas supporting 110 levels of content. There’s a lot of stuff to do in Warcraft’s world but the major detriment is that it’s all mostly the same thing.

      Almost everything in WoW revolves around the game’s combat system, and if you don’t like that then the only thing you’re left with is a fancier version of Active Worlds. Despite Blizzard’s strides you’re still playing through the same basic quests and dungeon archetypes that have been around for more than a decade. The game may not lack content but it certainly lacks variety.

      That’s a similar problem so many of these other big, open world games are facing: Their worlds are huge and there’s plenty to do, technically, but it’s almost all minor variations on the same handful of fundamental activities. That can still click with plenty of players, but without significant variation on that formula it can make subsequent experiences overly familiar and bland.

      Bigger is often more impressive, but it isn’t always better.

    • Somniorum says:

      As Shamus mentions on one of the pictures, too, his map is outdated – they’ve added one large southern continent, and a cluster of large islands for the new expansion close to the centre. He mentions the Outland – which is roughly the size of one of the continent in the far north that you can see – but the second-last expansion added a version of the Outland in the *past* (time travelling) – before it was the Outland – which is roughly as large.

      They’re getting much better at making the land feel *interesting*, too. For a lot of the earlier history of WoW, a lot of zones felt like fairly large, bland areas with wide-open fields or forests or the like that were just kind of… flat and simply had enemies vaguely roaming around spaced roughly equidistant from one another. Ever since the fourth expansion in particular (although you can see a little of the trend in previous expansions too), they’ve worked to make the basic design of the land to be rather more interesting, with a greater amount of twists and turns and little secrets hidden around – special enemies, little treasures, odd sights of events, stray quest-givers or what have you. Space feels *much* better utilised these days than in the past.

  5. Somniorum says:

    Ah, onward to Westfall – land of clogged quest queues.

    Seriously, I don’t know why Westfall in particular, for all the grouping of second-zones low characters graduate to, is so hugely popular. I mean, it’s fine enough, but unless you go questing in the middle of the night, you’re likely to see HORDES of players (… not Horde players) rampaging through fields and mines, slaughtering everything that spawns into existence for a half a second.

    Only humans are naturally funnelled into this place, too – Dwarfs and Gnomes are sent to (the fairly dull) Loch Modan, Draenai have their own couple starting areas, Night Elves go to the actually rather interesting (imo) Darkshore, and Worgen have one larger-than-normal opening zone which is roughly the size of two… yet you’ll STILL see almost all of these (not likely Worgen, they can’t freely travel until they’re done their opening bit) marauding through the gentle hills of Westfall.

    • Shamus says:

      I LOVED pre-cat Darkshore. This always earned me strange looks from other WoW players. Apparently, a lot of people hated it? (The population numbers seem to bear this out. Place was always deserted for me.) When I asked why they didn’t like Darkshore, the answers always seemed so nebulous. “It’s boring” was the most common reply, but I could never understand what made Darkshore less interesting than Westfall. I loved the feeling of constant twilight, and the dense forest was a nice contrast with the beach, so it didn’t feel like it was a single-color zone like Loch Modan or Westfall.

      I always hated Loch Modan. I forget exactly why now, but IIRC there was a cliff wall running through the zone that made you have to run a long way around to get from the town to the quests. Also I got tired of all the snow.

      • Phill says:

        Darkshore was a long thin zone, and by the end of it you are making lots of runs up and down the length of the zone that makes the Elwyn Forest run to the logging camp seem short. Maybe that is what makes it dull for many people.

        Loch Modan had a large lake in the middle of the zone: the loch. It had various high level beasts lurking in the water making it dangerous to swim across, which meant lots of trips all the way around the loch to get to the quest areas on the far side. As with Darkshore the early quests are near the main village in the zone, but the end ones send you on many long trips around the loch and back again.

        Also, no snow in loch Modan. The snow is the first Dwarf area Dun Morogh (I know I’ve spelled that wrong), and that did have lots of cliffs that made you take longer routes around the place then you might have wished.

      • Somniorum says:

        I liked the original Darkshore, too, personally – though I’m kind of inclined towards spooky places in general, so I recognise that’s part of it. Phill makes some sensible points about why people wouldn’t have liked it, though. I know that PERSONALLY I hated the end bit where you had to escort that doddering old fool, Remtravel, around the archaeological site… vanilla WoW’s escort quests were tedious at the best of times, hair-pulling at the worst. There used to be another quest at the end of Darkshore where you escorted someone right into the next zone, Ashenvale, which was extremely hard to do solo (and worse if on a pvp server, as someone from the Horde might wander along and just kill you or the npc just to be a jerk).

        IMO, Darkshore’s even better now, though – I’m not sure if you’ve seen it. It’s a dramatic zone – the first thing you do is go along the coast and find loads of dead vendors and quest givers (with a few survivors) from pre-Cataclysm – the landscape has changed significantly (it’s still got the same mood that you and I liked, though) as the Cataclysm broke fissures in the land, which has created tons of rivers all over… there’s a big whirlpool (which has a secret area if you hop in… assuming the game doesn’t glitch like it did for me once), a wind vortex in the centre of the zone with one of the most important characters in the game at the bottom of it… and the issues Phill mentions about the tedious travel are mitigated with little panther-cabs that take you to certain questing areas, and new quest hubs spread out along the way.

        Remtravel’s not even so hideous to escort anymore (and they completely removed the one horrible escort into Ashenvale)!

    • Sleepyfoo says:

      Way back in the day, I had a night elf druid and a night elf rogue. The Druid followed the standard night elf route, and is the character I did first.

      My Rogue, however, I ran all the way to stormwind for 2 reasons. I didn’t want to follow the elf channel again, and I had heard there were more humanoid and thus pick-pocketable enemies in the human areas.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>