Datamining is a double-edged sword. As someone who has been writing professionally about World of Warcraft since The Burning Crusade, it means news. It means video, screenshots, new models and things to write about. But it also means very few surprises and that makes me very sad.
So, during the weekend, when I booted up the PTR and took my pre-made mage to explore Old Ironforge, I was ambivalent. On one hand: news news news and oh wow, check out the architecture down there. Seriously, that place is huge and there in the middle is a crystalised Magni. Ooooh! On the other, a tiny piece of me died and more pieces followed when I explored the new incarnation of ZulGurub or saw the new mounts and weapons.
You see the writer in me loves news and the fruits of datamining but the actual me - Saia the gamer, Saia the geek - would love not to know. I imagine Blizzard feels the same way: theyve worked their arses off on a content patch and, within a few hours/days/weeks, the entire storyline is unleashed onto the internet before the patch even goes live. Its like someone telling you Dumbledore dies as you swipe your credit card to pay for that must-have copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Yes, Old Ironforge is now open
Yes I know, technically the patch is in the public domain. Theres no NDA, as was the case during the beta, and so anything discovered is fair game. But that doesnt mean its still okay to do it, it would be nice to have some surprises now and again. You know?
The other problem with datamining is the information retrieved. For example, the biggest outrage from all this 4.1 stuff is the appearances of Ragnaros the Firelord with legs. Previously, like Neptulon, hes been composed of his element and the addition of legs, especially to those of us who began playing during the classic era, well it seems just wrong.
But that said, Ragnaros is wearing armour like one of those metal cages used to bind elementals to the will of the Twilight Hammer. Ragnaros doesnt like mortals, or Dragons, but who is to say his will is still his own, especially since Deathwing returned him to Azeroth. We dont know the whole storyline behind the raid and whose to say that this is his final model? Even then it could only be used in part of the fight, say the final Ah you killed my minions. Im sick of you and am going to wipe the floor with you myself phase. Its all conjecture at this point - and this is an important thing to keep in mind.
Datamined staves don't come fully assembled, you know
Datamining is like being given pieces of an abstract jigsaw puzzle but not a picture of the finished piece. To give you an example, the picture above is what folks are guessing is the new legendary caster staff that will probably drop from the new War of the Ancients Caverns of Time instance. Boubouille didnt just find the staff fully assembled, oh no, he and folks on his forums pieced it together from icons and animations. Its actually fascinating and I admit to not knowing much about how to datamine and I dont really need to when MMO Champion and Wowhead do all the work on players behalf. But seeing this thread and watching the logic as random people got together to piece this amazing staff together took my breath away. Also, I kinda want that staff on my boomkin.
You see, theres guesswork and then theres educated guesswork and were arent in the Blizzard devs' inner circle, we dont know what they have planned for 4.1 and beyond. Dataminers might get some stuff right but they might also get a lot wrong and even then, were seeing pieces of the bigger picture and not the whole thing. Right now, we dont know if the Firelands is going to ship in 4.1, why Old Ironforge has finally been opened up or even why ZulAman and ZulGurub are returning. And you know what? I, for one, dont want to know.
Yes I have the PTR, I report the news and watch videos like those by TotalBiscuit and Ten Ton Hammers own Jesse Cox. Sometimes though I would rather just discover everything for myself, as its meant to be seen, live, through quests, lore and cut scenes. Id like to see everything finished rather than having to join the throngs guessing and piecing everything together. Sometimes Id like to be surprised and Im pretty sure Im not alone.
[Editor's note: Ten Ton Hammer does not condone the rampant datamining discussed in this article, and in fact many of us find it rather infuriating. What most folks may not realize is that Blizzard has strict rules against that kind of thing which we must abide by or suffer the consequences. Yet, somehow, certain sites mentioned above are repeat offenders and remain blissfully free of consequence. That has to change.]
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