Modern gaming has become somewhat tedious. Anytime a player finds him or herself up against a challenge, the solution is simply to look up some videos or a walkthrough detailing how to proceed. Games such as The Secret World tried to introduce challenges that would test real world knowledge and detective skills, but all that lead to was players Googling for Morse code translations. There are few legitimate puzzles left in games. The past two weeks, though, World of Warcraft had its own ongoing puzzle, and it took the combined detective work of the hunter community to solve it and tame Gara.
Gara is a void wolf found in Shadowmoon Valley on Draenor. Earlier in the beta, Beastmaster Hunters had a special option for interacting with her – to scratch behind her ears. Nothing happened after that, though it prompted noted hunter Bendak to inquire with Muffinus about how to proceed. A few beta builds later, Muffinus informed Bendak (and the world at large) that the quest was live, and the race to tame Gara was on.
Led by Bendak and Darkbrew among other well-known hunters, the Petopia forums exploded with players searching all throughout Draenor for the items and procedure for taming Gara. Darkbrew even started #solveGara on twitter for tracking everyone’s research. Ultimately, uselessx on Petopia datamined some information from Wowhead and shared a sequence of spells that sent players scrambling for the reagents. When the materials were finally acquired after a few days of searching, the players were treated to some NPC dialogue that culminated in Gara disappearing. A few more days went by, and finally, someone found the location to take an item to find Gara and ultimately tame her.
It was impressive to see the Hunter community rally together on this challenge. Blizzard did a great job of introducing a challenge that forced hunters to work together to solve the mystery. With all the assorted players searching all over the continent, this quest played out more like an ARG than something from an MMO. Any hunter who tames Gara now knows directly who helped discover the way to do it. Many thanks not only to Blizzard and Muffinus for giving hunters such an opportunity and an amazing experience, but also to Bendak, Darkbrew, uslessx, and all the other hunters who spent days wrestling with this feat.
Yet the joy of taming Gara is bittersweet. Provided players avoid spoilers, anyone not in the beta can have the exact same experience as everyone currently on Draenor (presumably, a better, less buggy experience) once the game is live. There are no world firsts. Your first time doing a quest is the same as everyone else who came before and will come after. The only difference is that players in beta know they will have to retrace their steps once the game is live. This has been true for all prior content, but #solveGara changed all that. While any player could follow the excitement on twitter or petopia, only players with beta access could actively contribute to the investigation. Players may come later and attempt to solve Gara on their own, but there will be no hashtags, and any attempt at searching for information will lead them to a completed thread instead of an ongoing adventure. If you are a hunter who was not in the beta, you missed your opportunity to participate in an amazing mystery.
Sadly, there is no solution for this. Perhaps Blizzard could have held off on implementing Gara until the PTR for a later patch. Even then it was a mere six days from Muffinus’ announcement of full implementation to the first tame. The only way Blizzard could get this to the community at large would be to put this directly on live, but since most patches live on the PTR for at least a week or two, it would have been discovered there. Plus, to do so would avoid any public testing, which negates the purpose of the PTR and beta. Gara is a victim of Blizzard’s open beta philosophy, which emphasizes streaming and sharing as part of their greater marketing plan as opposed to secrecy and NDA’s – and even then, that just means the guide would have been composed in secret, still to be posted the day Warlords goes live. There is no practical way to hide a quest chain like Gara until live.
It appears the tenacity and cunning of the Hunter community caught Blizzard off guard. In response to some players frustration at the difficulty of the puzzle, Muffinus responded, “It’s ok if not everything is discovered before the game goes live :) Gives everyone a fighting chance at being the first!” It would seem Blizzard had expected that it would take players the rest of beta to solve the puzzle, allowing everyone to join in the fun. Yet that was not the case, and one can only wonder if the next puzzle will be that much harder, or if Blizzard will consider Gara a failed experiment. Given the overall reaction of the Hunter community to this void wolf, the latter would be disappointing.
It will be slightly less exciting when after release, I can go and check guides such as Bendak’s summary and have Gara within a few hours of travel and grinding (admittedly, not being able to fly around Draenor will add some delay in completing this challenge). However, I am very glad that Blizzard put this here. It hearkens back to the days before built-in quest trackers when newer players endlessly hounded Barrens Chat about Mankrik’s wife. I think all hunters will be glad to add Gara to their stable (provided they have the space). It’s just a shame that due to beta, not all hunters could participate in this event. But I guess that’s just the nature of the beast.
FINALLY, confirmation that a transmog vendor will replace the reforging vendor on the Grand Expedition Yak. Blizzard said this would probably happen back at Blizzcon, because what other options did they have? A Blingtron??? Wait… that would have been awesome!!!! https://twitter.com/Warcraft/status/509495734899449856
The patch 6.0.2 PTR is now live! Copy your character over and stare at the pretty new models for hours! https://twitter.com/Warcraft/status/509490713155739648
The Undermine Journal is back! Now I can play the Auction House and win all the money!!! https://theunderminejournal.com/
Lords of War Part II is up. Grommash has a face tattoo and bites people’s ears off. I look forward to finding out about his flock of pigeons. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/15663731/lords-of-war-part-two-grommash-9-5-2014
The Blizzcon Virtual Ticket is now available. If only it could be purchased with virtual money… http://us.battle.net/blizzcon/en/blog/15663730/attend-blizzcon%C2%AE-from-anywhere-with-the-virtual-ticket-9-4-2014
Blizzard did a live Q&A last week on Twitch. The big news? THE MURLOC MUGS WILL BE AVAILABLE!!!! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/15487823/live-developer-qa-replay-available-9-5-2014