Torture in WoW Lich King quest causes controversy for old school game dev



3:59 PM on 12.09.2008

Famed co-author of the Multi-User-Dungeon and MMO pioneer Richard Bartle is getting his knickers in a twist thanks to a mission in the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. Bartle recently discovered a mission in which a character is tortured for information, and he is highly offended.

Basically, you have to take some kind of cow poke and zap a prisoner until he talks.

I'm not at all happy with this. I was expecting for there to be some way to tell the guy who gave you the quest that no, actually I don't want to torture a prisoner, but there didn't seem to be any way to do that. Worse, the quest is part of a chain you need to complete to gain access to the Nexus, which is the first instance you encounter (if you start on the west of the continent, as I did). So, either you play along and zap the guy, or you don't get to go to the Nexus.

I did zap him, pretty well in disbelief — I thought that surely the quest-giver would step in and stop it at some point? It didn't happen, though. Unless there's some kind of awful consequence further down the line, it would seem that Blizzard's designers are OK with breaking the Geneva convention.

Jesus, calm down Dicky, it's only a game. 

Bartle is famous for not having fun when he plays MMOs, something he attributes to his being a designer. It should be no surprise, then, that he's throwing a wobbler over Blizzard apparently "breaking the Geneva convention." Come on though ... lighten up. Lich King is not the first game where you rough up a character for information, and won't be the last. I doubt Blizzard was laughing at Iraqi prisoners or anything when it designed the quest, either. 

Next up, how killing boars in Warcraft promotes animal cruelty.



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Jim Sterling

Former Reviews Editor