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Bad choices in Game Design: Paladin Epic Mount quest
Bar Harbor
While I think World of Warcraft is, overall, a masterpiece of game design, even a master stumbles now and then. I'm in the middle of an experience that strikes me as a pretty major stumble.

My Blood Elf Paladin has recently hit Level 60, a major milestone in the life of any WoW character. Among other things, 60 is when you get to upgrade your horse to a much faster one, reducing total travel time significantly. For most players, buying the horse upgrade is a significant expense. For Paladins...

When you talk to semi-informed people about the Paladin class, one of the perks they mention is, "...and you get a free horse!" This turns out to be only approximately true. Your initial horse is, indeed, free. The upgrade at level 60, however, is anything but.

To get your L60 horse upgrade, you have to complete a seven-part quest chain. In and of itself, this is reasonable -- but this particular quest chain has lots of problems. The first two steps are trivial, "Go and speak to X".

With the third, things get annoying. You are sent on a shopping trip to pick up 4 sets of items, plus deliver the questgiver 150 gold on top of that. Already this 'free' is looking a lot more expensive than I had thought. The first of the four item stacks, Runecloth, is easy to get, any humanoid of an appropriate level range has a good chance of dropping some. The second, Arcanite Bars, can only be created by high-level Alchemist player characters, and requires rare components provided in turn by Mining PCs (who are almost never also Alchemists). The third type of item you need, Sungrass, is only created by PC Herbalists. The fourth stack is five Dark Runes -- which are fairly rare drops that are only found inside an instance, and an instance that you need to solve a long quest chain just to be eligible to enter! Moreover, the quest, despite coming with an associated scroll object that has room for unlimited text within it, doesn't tell you how to find *ANY* of this. Guide Dang It! Even if you *did* know where they came from, you couldn't possibly get them all yourself without a lot of help. In practice, I expect most players end up getting all of these items from the Auction House, where they are not cheap.

Part four of the quest is "Go kill these undead." Perfectly reasonable.

Part five is "Go get this heavily-guarded item from the Bad Guys." OK, although it isn't really reasonable to solo this part. It's not hard to complete this part with a friend or two, but I object to being forced to group up for a class-specific quest. It's much more fun to be able to share quests with other people.

For part six, we're back to a shopping trip. This time, pretty much literally. You need four items. Two of these are only available from NPC vendors, and their only purpose in the game is to be part of this quest. So that's another 200 gold down the tubes, only slightly prettied up with a microscopic fictional gloss. A third is an Azerothian Diamond, another rare Mining item. The fourth, a Pristine Black Diamond is another super-rare drop that's only found inside instances -- more instances than just one, at least, but still something you can't get by soloing. Once again, the quest gives no indication of where to find the rare ingredients. Once again, the average player is likely to resort to the Auction House. This "free" horse is looking to cost just as much gold as the ones that other classes get, except it comes with tons more busywork on top of it!

Part seven requires the player to accomplish a task inside an instance. Again, this is something you need a group for, even though you can't share the quest with them. I haven't had the time to organize such a group yet, so despite hours and hours of post-60 effort, and hundreds of gold pieces, I *still* don't have my "free" fast horse yet. And though a few parts of the quest line have been enjoyable, these are more than offset by the annoying ones, and by the overall sense of bait-and-switch. If I ever get another Paladin to 60, I may just buy a standard mount, rather than go through this nonsense again.

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(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
Is this some other quest Paladins get at level 70? I'm unfamiliar with it...

I think it was a much more interesting idea earlier, when finding people to run those instances was essentially trivial. The key isn't the freeness, per se; in the end, the second Paladin mount costs the same as the second mount for anyone else. The key is the specialness. Lots of MMO rewards center around that; that's what the entire concept of achievements is about, for instance. Paladins get to have something different, that other classes can't have.

If that doesn't motivate you? Yeah, just buy a normal mount. You always have that option, but you also have an additional option as this special class.

(Incidentally: from a game design perspective, what do you think of WoW's character customization options?)

Visually, they're quite poor.

Game mechanics-wise, I'm a big fan of the talent trees. They're rarely perfectly balanced, but continually striving towards that goal, and often close to it. There are almost always multiple talents that look attractive at any given level-up. Different builds do play significantly differently. Even min-maxers who run the numbers usually admit the existence of 2-3 viable 'best' builds per class at any given time.

Does that answer your question?

Part of this, I think is, game-no-longer-stops-here-itis, but dude get yourself a wolf, and move on... :-)

And let me know if you need anything else.

giant chickens now come in black... just saying.

cant find quest-giver

Can anyone tell me where and who is the quest-giver ?

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