Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Going deep underwater

Some days ago Blizzard announced they're working on what can be the most exciting or deceiving of the Catalysm zones: underwater areas. Some screenshots were shown too. As a scuba-diver I'm thrilled to see how this is going to be handled.

What we have until now is not very friendly: you can swim in lakes, sea, etc and you have a limited amount of air (amount that was highly increased with the launch of Wrtah from 30s to 3 minutes, much more realistic) that lets you stay underwater until it runs out and you begin to die. There're also zones that cause fatigue (and your death if you don't get away from there very fast) but these are only there to keep people away. While swimming your movement speed is reduced, even if you swim mounted (something you couldn't do until a later Wrath patch). Underwater zones haven't been very used since playing there is quite limiting. Until now we've had some quests (to recover several objects or kill aquatic mobs), access some dungeons (the Coilfang Reservoir) or even get a good fishing pole in old vanilla Wow.
Almost no information has been disclosed, only that they're working on a new way of moving around and fighting in these zones. And they better do a good job here. If you plan to use underwater mounts, please no more mounted fights unless you can use your own skills (we've had enough jousting in ToC). The second problem I see coming is the 3D environment. Yes folks, expect a new batch of Oculus 2.0 whining. Diving is very simmilar to floating (why do you think all astronaut training is done underwater?) and you have to take into account the three dimensions when moving down there. It's a great sensation in real life, but you must be careful with reference points or you can get a little confused. If it was easy to get lost in Oculus (until you got the grip of the place) I don't want to imagine what can be playing in an underwater zone where your only reference points are some rocks, seaweed or sunken objects. Was it that rock the same I saw 10 minutes ago while trying to get out of here? At least we have the compass and minimap to help. Getting lost or disoriented in real life while diving is quite dangerous. There're places where there're no reference points and this can mislead you to dive deeper instead of heading for the surface, exposing you to the dangers of nitrogen narcosis and other gas accidents. While the nitrogen narcosis (something I've experienced and I don't want to repeat) may be dangerous in real life, would be fun to see it implemented in deep water areas. This sickness is also known as "the rapture of the deep", as Jacques Costeau himself described it. Now imagine being drunk underwater... weee!

Another point to take into account, something already reflected in current game, is water being 800 times denser than air, so that's why you move slowly down there. And the more you go down, the denser it gets. Of course battles in slow-motion are not fun (add an arcane mage casting Slow to make things worse) so here they better do something. I'm pretty sure nobody imagines playing an underwater dungeon at snail speed.

I can't also forget to mention one of the worse accidents you can suffer while underwater: decompression sickness. Dives are not only limited by the amount of air we can carry, but by the amount of nitrogen our body can absorb.
Basically the more you stay at certain depth, the more nitrogen your body absorbs until it reaches maximum saturation and forms bubbles. Now imagine gas bubbles in your tissues, bones... painful? yes, specially if you ascend: gas expands, and so do bubbles, increasing the pain in your body. This can even cause worse accidents like lung or arterial embolisms (which are almost deadly). But let's not get that negative, this is a game. I don't think they will limit the amount of time we can stay in underwater zones while using that new method of moving/fightning (we have magic in Azeroth, remember!), but I'm curious to see if they add some kind of limitation or debuff (in real life you can't perform repeated dives until you eliminate enough nitrogen from your body)
Yep, that's me diving in the Red Sea, visiting the SS Thistlegorm wreck. Where' re the murlocs?

So, as a diver this new underwater area will be watched closely by me. Not because I will whine and complain if it doesn't reflects the real underwater world, but because I find underwater to be a fascinating place.

Post soundtrack: Underwater Love - Faith No More

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