Love and Hate in Azeroth PDF Print E-mail
Written by Adam (Vergil)   
Monday, 30 July 2007
A monologue on my 2 month departure and then return to the World of Warcraft.

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I’m still not entirely convinced I’m an MMO kinda guy.  At least not the way MMORPGs have been presented thus far.  The fundamental game play concept behind them seems flawed: We need to allow as many people as possible to experience this encounter, so the encounter must always come back to fight again.  In addition, to enforce group play, we’ll make the encounter too difficult for you to do solo.  In order to ensure players will form groups to kill this encounter, we’ll come up with a reason why the same person should want to complete the same encounter time and time again.

How this is done in a game like World of Warcraft is through mostly the way drops are handled.  Gear is the greatest factor in determining your player’s power, 2nd only to level, which given how attainable level cap is, feels irrelevant.  WoW isn’t like some RPGs you may have played where no one reaches level max because level max isn’t needed to “beat the game,” it’s more like hitting level max opens up what many consider to be “the true game.”   Because level isn’t what gets you through these final dungeons, one must rely on increasingly more powerful equipment to get you through, and the disparities this equipment can create is staggering.

That’s your encouragement: the “gear” as we say. However, this “gear” is not attainable on the first pass.  Oh no.  Depending on the nature of the “gear,” you’ll need to make multiple passes on an encounter before you can get said gear. Even PVP works this way, forcing you to do battleground after battleground, or arena match after arena match, just to get one piece of these gear sets. At least, in my mind, this makes more sense.  When one PvP’s one typically wants to play match after match to test their skill against different opponents, and if the gear is to be a symbol of skill, it should be verified by the player having to test themselves against a wide array of opponents.

And of course, none of this gear attaining process is doable on your own.  Each time you want to make an attempt you need to be a part of a group no less than five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, sometimes even fourty, people.  At least the game finds your 40 for you in the 40man pvp encounter.

All this in the end comes down to time.  I only have so much time to be able to play a video game these days and I want to make the most of it.  And if in order to get something accomplished I need to do a group activity, I now must spend time finding a group, then doing the group encounter, which means the minimum amount of time I need to spend to get something done becomes a measure of “hours” instead of minutes. 

Then there’s having to schedule your life around the game, or what some people call “raiding.”   These encounters, the pve encounters that require 10 or more people, take so much time to complete that you and your 10 have to agree on a time and then block it out to play the game.  Suddenly you may find your Friday’s gone, taken up by the all consuming quest for that next piece of phat lewt.  It’ll only take a few Fridays of this before your non-digital friends will get very confused and perhaps upset that you’d rather grind your nose to a game then go out with them.  This is especially painful for relationships, and it’s no secret that MMOs have probably ruined more “WoW-widows” than it has created happy families.

 

Strangely enough this list of grievances is not exclusive to games like WoW.  In order to stay competitive in many PvP games, one cannot quit playing it less they fall to the new tricks learned by the community in your absence.  This summer has been a lesson of that for me and Super Smash Brothers Melee as my apartment mates, who have been playing the game for the last three years straight, can out-perform me with tricks and tactics I am not used to seeing at all.   Farming was something that I can recall myself and others reading this doing in Phantasy Star Online.  We’d go online to find out where/when something would drop, and do the same place repeatedly until the gear we wanted dropped. The reward of having that unique tool or that cool armor the next time the party got together just seemed so worth the effort.  And even when I wasn’t playing PSO for gear, I was still doing the same dungeon over and over again, seeking money and experience.  And traditional RPGs, where one sits down in front of a table and plays make-believe for several hours, require just as much time-blocking and can take just as long, if not longer, than any raid encounter in World of Warcraft or similar games.

So why then are these aspects so evil in this one game when they can be totally ignored, or considered just an inconvenience in another?   To this, I do not have an answer.  It’s not like I find being randomly teamed in UT as frustrating as the BG pugs in WoW.  It’s not like I find the time and effort required to set up and do an sit-down RPG as much of a pain as finding groups for a wow 5-man, which is really far far less work.

This leads back to the sort of obvious question.  Even if I don’t understand why these things bother me so much, why did I re-subscribe?  Why did I come back?  Why do I sit here now at work wishing I was at home playing WoW if I can’t be out spending time with my friends?

I have no for sure answer for this.  I know one factor for sure is that come early August Kitty comes back from Japan and she and I have a pair of night elves that need to hit 70.  Another factor is I tried many competing games in my time off, and the only one that managed to be good enough to compare to WoW, I can’t play on my apartment’s internet.   A third factor is that I still enjoy the community, especially the creative side that makes web comics and machinima and seeing what they spit out.

I think the greatest reason I returned though is that despite these flaws, the game itself is still a ton of fun.  Sure getting a group is a pain but if you get the right group, it’s a blast demolishing a dungeon with impunity.  With the right group, you can win pvp match after pvp match as if you were gods who even the many servers across your battle group can’t hardly stop.   And once you do have the gear, the game rewards you for it in spades, giving you all kinds of pve and pvp opportunities to flex your muscle.  Every class in the game too has this wonderful set up where it’s so easy to learn pretty much every class, but watching a true master play any class is also a real treat.

Perhaps the reason I grew frustrated before was not because of farming, or because of group finding, or gear, but rather because the group I once played with fell apart (it is true: the expansion caused a lot of unexpected duress on my guild when what we used to specialize in slowly fell out of importance in the game) and so now I find myself floating alone, not sure what to do, and with no one there to help guide me.   After all, a game like this is only as much fun as the people you play with and if most of your favorite people from these groups have jumped ship on you, going on to parts far unknown, it’s only natural to perhaps feel a little lost and confused.

I still don’t know my solution to this.  For now, I’m going to just play what I feel like when I feel like and see what comes of it.   I still have a pretty strong feeling that once we are graced again with a real good, more real-time action RPG, like Hellgate: London, I’ll quit WoW and switch over to that.  Until then though I think I’ll just keep dancing around with what I got and see what comes of it.   I might consider moving at least one character to another server or guild so I can start working with a fresh group.  We’ll see what comes of it.

Last Updated ( Monday, 30 July 2007 )
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