How Evil Should Thermaplugg Be?

In many ways Mekkatorque and Thermaplugg are defined by their relationship with each other.  It’s difficult to talk about Thermaplugg without talking about Mekkatorque.  They have a very clear cut and close relationship as antagonists.  Gelbin is the hero and Sicco is the villain.

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There have been some hints recently that Thermaplugg is attempting to clean up Gnomeregan and cure the leprosy himself.  I think that giving Thermaplugg more depth and development is great.  Thermaplugg’s actions inform us, as players, first hand of the notorious flaws of the gnomish race, in the same way that that Mekkatorque shows us their greatest strengths.  Seeing these two characters in active conflict is exponentially more effective at defining ‘gnome-ness’ than any out of character write up could ever be.

In order for this style of storytelling to work we need both sides to be developed.  Both characters to be interesting, engaging and little bit relatable.  Thermaplugg being undeveloped undermines Mekkatorque’s development.  Warcraft primarily tells it’s story though villains.  We spend as much, if not more, time interacting with enemies than we do allied heroes.  Confronting evil is how our characters interact with the world and it is how we as players learn to understand life on Azeroth.

I have joked that I would like to see Sicco get redeemed, saved, or even, turn out to have been the good guy all along.  It would be fun for me, but it would be bad for gnomes in general.  We need him to show us what the moral, ideological, and conceptual failings of gnomes.  I feel like currently Thermaplugg is perceived by a lot of people as Stupid Evil.  I hope that these new lore hints are leading to something that put an end to that perception.

What does it mean to be a ‘Good’ Villain?

There are a lot of villains in Warcraft.  They have different Modus Operandi, and motivations (When they have motivation) but there is no denying there is a broad spectrum of evil doers out there.

Illidan – The recklessness Illidan displays makes him a danger to himself and others. He goes full tilt on every problem he encounters even when it’s not necessary, and by doing so, he does a lot of collateral damage, which he then seems largely indifferent to.  A less obvious villain trait that Illidan displays is his dishonesty, not that he outright lies very much, but he does make a point of withholding information from his allies.  No one knows what he is planning or what he will do next.  You know Illidan is never going to have your back, because he is to preoccupied with his own plans to consider the consequences for anyone else.

Gul’dan – For all the lip service orcs pay to Honor, their culture is really build on the concept ‘Might Makes Right”.  They do not use logic or mediators to resolve conflict they use violence.  The traditions and trappings of honor they uphold, are simply a way to hold combatants to only using their raw physical prowess in battle.  It is intentionally set-up so that you can not trick, fight dirty, or outsmart your opponent. Whoever is physically strongest is correct in all matters of debate.

This set-up is a real problem for a orc like Gul’dan who is clever, but not physically very strong.  Gul’dan sees though the veil of honor that orc praise, and knows that at the heart of things, power is what they really respect.  Honor is discardable because they live in a society where killing your opponents is a legitimate form of conflict resolution.

Once Gul’dan realizes his potential and rules over orcs though the Shadow Council, he becomes vindictive.  He’s bitter and resentful of orc society for how he was treated when he was weak and revels in being about to lord his power over those that would have done the same to him.

Arthas – Arthas is like the inverse of Illidan.  Whereas Illidan goes out and jumps the gun trying to handle problems, Arthas was reactionary.  He followed a problem, to it’s source and by the time he did something about it, things were desperate.  The thing that makes Arthas so effective as a villain is that, even though you may not agree with what he’s doing, you understand why he’s doing it and why he thinks it’s the right thing to do.  That understanding of why he’s doing makes it possible to imagine that in the same situations, you might feel like you have to do the same things.

A good villain should be relatable to the player, and have a reason to give a hero pause. Make them wonder if fighting them is the right thing, even for just a moment.   In addition to being a difficult physical fight to challenge the heroes attempt to stop them.  They should also offer a narrative reason to challenge the heroes morality or conviction in their ideals. Even the most evil and malicious villain is more effective when we can see something of ourselves in how they act.

Journal Entry, JULtility 1st 2017

Midsummer Fire Festival is almost over.  We used to have a flame here in Gnomeregan, but it was maintained by the Dwarves that lived down here.  The Dark Irons have expressed no interest in maintaining one, and troggs all just yell “Fire Bad” when there is a large open flame around.  We also don’t have the heat redirections enchantments that Ironforge does so fires can get out of hand quickly.  As far as I am concerned we won’t have one until the Alliance recognizes my rule!

Addendum:  Please stop sending offers to light fires in Gnomeregan.  This means you Millhouse!

http://www.wowhead.com/midsummer-fire-festival

FireFest

Breaking Mekkatorque

Sicco Thermaplugg marched towards Gelbin Mekkatorque’s office.  He carried reports from the field, mostly bad news.  There was determination in his walk.  He had something new to show Mekkatorque today, not that it would make a difference, but it would be an opening the Mekgineer needed to get the High Tinker to listen.

There was a banging on his door, Mekkatorque sighed.  The months of fighting troggs had taken a toll, and he was exhausted.  Thermaplugg opened the door without waiting to be invited in, per usual.

“I have the latest numbers.” Thermaplugg dropped a pile of rolled up papers on the desk.  “It’s not good news.  I did want to talk to you about…” as Sicco spoke Gelbin closed his eyes, ‘Here it comes again‘, he thought, ‘that horror show Sicco had been pushing for months‘, but to his surprize, Sicco’s next words were not what he expected, “…something new.”

Thermaplugg unrolled a large schematic.  “What is it?” Gelbin asked. On the table lay a schematic for a battle armor suit, a huge one. Sicco watched the High Tinker’s face light up, clearly he’d gotten Gelbin’s attention.

The Mekgineer continued, “We haven’t updated the mecha-marine units since the war with the orcs.  They didn’t see much action, so there was not much field test data to work with. I call this rig the ‘Gnome Pounder’.  This new design gives them sufficient power to outclass the largest troggs we have encountered and is still maneuverable enough to pass through the tunnels easily.”

It was a breath of fresh air for Gelbin.  Thermaplugg had always squirmed in his position as the Mekgineer General of the Mecha-Marines.  Could this be a sign that Sicco was done with his endless attempts at one upmanship and finally getting down to the business of his position?

Sicco continued pointing at the schematics and explaining, “I had originally wanted to put a canon on it here, but the recoil was too much and I had to go with a pulverizing arm.”  Sicco turned to face Mekkatorque with a self satisfied smirk on his face.  There was hope in Gelbin’s eyes, exactly what Sicco wanted. “There is just one problem.”

Gelbin felt the brakes clamp down on his enthusiasm. “What’s that?”

Sicco took a deep breath, “We can’t build it.”

“Why not?” Gelbin insisted surprised. His eyes scanned the schematics for something he had missed. “This all seems good Sicco, there is nothing here outside our ability to fabricate…”

“There wouldn’t be, if we had free access to the engineering bay.  With the lock down in place there’s no way to get there from here without a fight.  We’ve slowed down the troggs, but we’ve also cut ourselves off from our resources.”

The excitement on Mekkatorque’s face began to fade.  He knew it was true.  Gnomeregan was built it be incredibly easy to transverse, but once the invasion had begun, the lock down protocol had changed all that.  It had been designed to keep the citizens sequestered while threats were pushed out of the city.  Turning the city into a maze of disjointed rooms and winding passages with ‘defendable’ entrances and exits.

“The engineering bay is in the lowest section of the city.” Sicco stated plainly.

Gelbin turned to look at him with a questioning look on his face that quickly fell into a scowl, ‘here it comes‘ he thought, but this time he was more than just annoyed.  “You are not going to strip my bolts with this again, are you!?  I can’t agree to that atrocity you’ve been planning.  Did you draw up these plans JUST to get me to listen to THIS again!?” Frustration bubbled up out of Mekkatorque’s voice.

Sicco had counted on getting Mekkatorque riled up, but now to see Gelbin like this it occurred to him that he had never seen the High Tinker like this before.  It was a touch fascinating and terrifying.  He really had know idea what this gnome, famous for his cool head and reliability, would do next.  Thermaplugg pushed forward.

“How many gnomes have to die for you Mekkatorque?” Sicco pointed at the reports he had brought in. “You’ve seen the same numbers I have.  This is getting worse, not better.  We used the old kobold shield wall strategies and they failed, because the troggs are too strong.  We used the tanks we built for pushing back the trolls and THEY failed, because they were too big to function under the surface.  We are learning, but not fast enough.  This isn’t a lab, we don;t have time for experimentation.  The consequences are real!”

Mekkatorque began to crack, “Do you think I don’t see that?  I know each time we are forced to change strategies we lose more ground…”

“And we lose more gnomes! Yet you refused to evacuate the city.” Thermaplugg shot back, “Now we have gnomes trapped behind enemy lines.  At our current rate of iteration and development, how many more failures before we get the upper hand?  How many gnome lives are spent while you sit around trying to figure something out?”

Mekkatorque rebuffed, “Every gnome I send out there has a fighting chance of coming home. If we do what you suggest, their blood will be on our hands, MY hands.  Blast it, even the troggs don’t deserve the a cruel death you have concocted.  It’s not a defense, it’s an extermination.”

“You’re worried about the well being of the troggs now!?” Sicco recoiled.

“That’s not what I mean and you know it Sicco.” Gelbin said with a sober tone.

It was true, but Sicco pressed the point anyway, “Ten percent.”

Gelbin finally replied after a pause, “Ten percent what?”

“Casualties to the gnome martial service under my plan.  You may say that those lives would be on your hands if you do this, but I’ve seen these numbers.” Sicco picked up one of the scrolls of the table.  “You’re looking at twice, maybe triple that from any of these alternate solutions.  THOSE are the gnomes whose blood you need to think about.  Gnomes who in the end could be ALIVE because of the decision you make.  Face reality Gelbin.  These aren’t our old enemies, kobolds, trolls, even orcs.  These creatures don’t want our resources.  They are frenzied killing machines.  They will not stop until we are wiped out.  We can’t drive them back into the tunnels they can from and seal them up, we have to eradicate them before they eradicate us.”

Sicco watched Gelbin silently for a long time.  His face was unreadable.  Sicco’s heart was racing, sure this was his last chance to present this idea and keep his position as Mekkatorque’s advisor.

“Bring me the plans and formulas for the irradiator.”  Gelbin finally said; his tone betrayed no emotion. “And start setting up what you need.  Once I give the final approval I want it ready to go.” He turned to look away from Sicco, “Time wasted is lives lost.”

“Right away, Sir.” Sicco surprised himself, he never called Mekkatorque Sir, not in all the years they had worked together had he done so. “Most of it is already set-up. My mephitichemists have been collecting the materials and brewing the fuel.  We just need to cut into the main…” Gelbin held up a hand to stop Sicco.

“Just… bring me the plans and put the devices in place.  You are dismissed.”

Sicco quickly hurried to the door, but paused at the threshold. His face somber he turned back towards the High Tinker, “Gelbin.  I know this was hard for you.  It’s the best thing for Gnomeregan.  We are going to save a lot of lives.”  Mekkatorque kept his back towards him.

Thermaplugg stepped out of the room. Once he heard the door close, his face pinched in to an insidious smile as he hurried down the hall. He had done it. Despite always being one step behind Mekkatorque, he was finally going to get his way.

Faceoff

Should the Ironman Challenge Become an Option in WoW?

Iron Man Challenged is so popular, I hope Blizzard adds it as an official option when rolling a character one day.  It seems like it would be an easy thing to add, just tick a box and you can’t equip uncommon armor, enter instances or BG or learn professions…  Oh and when you die your character is dead forever.  Official integration would lead to a few ‘convenience’ features, like an official leader-board, and the ability to mail all your gold from your dead character to one of your living toons.  Heck, it could be as simple as having the title “Iron <name>” on all new toons that is then lost the first time you die or equip an uncommon/rare/epic item.

The best time to have added a leveling challenge would have been right after Cataclysm.  New leveling content and an incentive to run it in a new way.  Perhaps if they rework the level content again (unlikely) they will add it.  I think they are close to making boosting level at the beginning of an expansion so cheap and easy as to make leveling in the old world irrelevant.

wowchallcrestI was checking out the leader boards they have at wowchallenges.com. Their other challenges are really interesting too.  Along with variable levels of the Ironman (such as Tinman) They have a Pacifist and Blood Thirsty challenges.

Pacifist has gotten a lot of attention from Polygon’s series “World of Peacecraft” staring the gnome rogue Raandyy, and before that the extreme efforts of the pandaren shaman Doubleagent.  In the past, I’ve said that Pacifist should be a separate ‘class’.  I say that because I think it’s the easiest way to make a character that does not have the ability to attack.  As a class they could get a low level sprint and some kind of aggro reducing ability.  Lorewise they could be cast as Merchants, leading to them being unfriendly/neutral with the opposing faction.

Blood Thirsty is challenging (all grinding mobs, no quests), but it feels like it’s missing something.  If Blizzard added something akin to Blood Thirsty, I think they would have to amp it up. They could making it starkly the opposite of pacifist and put you are at war with BOTH Alliance and Horde.  Those characters would need to have their own starting zone.  Story wise, they could lump all those characters together, like remnants of the Twilight’s Hammer, or make them unique per race, like Leper Gnomes and Grimtotem Tauren.  Something that puts them on the outside of society story wise.  There are certain places that tweaks would need to be made so that these characters could get around the world, like up to Northrend.

The biggest challenge I see with making these philosophically, is that they can not join groups or guilds.  Not being able to party up puts these type of characters at odds with the social nature of the MMO.  That being said, I don’t think anyone would play a challenge mode as their main.  I would love to see some new ways to play baked right in as an option.

WoW Challenges can be found on their website at wowchallenges.com and on Twitter: @WoWChallenges

Why Wait? Mekkatorque in Heroes of the Storm

We know that Blizzard has planned to put Mekkatorque in Heroes of the Storm for a long time (Since 2011 at least) so why wait?  My first thought was that they wanted to wait until the HotS meta was in a certain place for some reason.

But does it make sense to hold a hero until either a counter hero, or until a certain map has been released first?  Any new hero that is added needs to function on all the existing maps without breaking them, and will need to be countered by multiple heroes that already exist.

It could be they are waiting for Mekkatorque to do something in World of Warcraft.  We’ve seen Mekkatorque in his new battle suit.  I wonder if he has some kind of upcoming scene where they will show him doing things that they want to bring in to HotS, but they don’t want to spoil what’s going to happen for World of Warcraft players.  Admittedly, that’s a reach, and might be 100% wishful thinking, but the idea of it makes me excited for BOTH games.

Maybe they want to make him a multi-class character, but that he got too complicated.  Now they are watching how Varian does.  Working kinks out of the multi-class concept with a straight forward character before trying a more complicated one.  As a bonus, they get to test the waters for how multi-class characters are received, and get us the player familiar with the basics of how the system work before adding a layer of complexity on top of it.

Of course, this is all assuming that Mekkatorque hasn’t been scrapped in favor of Chromie.  I highly suspect that the HotS team would like a character that represents each race and class from WoW and that Chromie ticks the ‘gnome’ box.  Datamining had shown Mekkatorque with a ‘tar barrel’ attack that might have turned in to Chromie’s Slowing Sands.  Chromie also has the Gnomeregan score as her theme music instead of the Caverns of Time music.  Doesn’t leave a lot for future gnomes.

The worst part is I can’t just say “we’ll see” because if Mekkatorque is never released, we could speculate forever.  On top of that he could get scrapped, and then picked back up later for a completely different concept.  HotS is so random I am completely unable to guess what character might be coming next.

Journal Entry gMAY 1st 2017

Children’s Week is here.  I wanted to do something for all the orphans from Gnomeregan, but I have been unable to locate where Mekkatorque has hidden the gnomish children that were evacuated  when the troggs invaded.  They must be some where.  How could he hide that many children?  I’ve been searching for these kids for almost 20 years. Where could they be!?  In the mean time, we continue to make toys for the little tykes, including Jerry Hatchet Hands, the Spark’n’Flash race car, and the EZ Mix Explosives Kit!

GnomeBaby