After nearly 5 years of playing World of Warcraft, I’ve come to the decision today (after a few weeks of agonizing over the decision) to stop playing World of Warcraft. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and wanted to write about it as a large number of friends and coworkers know my interest in WoW. Following 21st century logic I immediately went to my blog and began enumerating my reasons.
I recently read a very angry, bitter tirade about an excellent PvPer (a player who combats and fights other players) who was in the top 1% of the player base. He alluded to a number of really nasty things and I don’t think I feel like him, though I do feel more disappointed more than anything else. When I left EvE Online in 2008 after having lost several hundred dollars (yes, real American dollars that I had spent in the game) I too was angry and upset. But maybe now that I’ve already left one MMORPG behind, it becomes easier to leave the next.
I started playing World of Warcraft at the tail-end of the first expansion, the Burning Crusade. I fought demons hell-bent on destroying all life on Azeroth. Dave and Kameron, two of my good friends, got me started and brought me to Karazhan, a demented wizard’s tower in the midst of a gray-washed desert. I was present for the entire Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which was an epic tale of revenge, loss, heroism and defiance against an evil king who lorded over the undead. The latest expansion, Cataclysm, had me taking a day off and going to a midnight event to get my expansion immediately. I battled a vast black dragon on his back, tore off his armor and cast him into the sea–and when he tried to rise from it again, I utterly annihilated him. WoW is as epic (if not more an epic) a tale as Lord of the Rings.
And the game was so social. It brought Dave, Kameron and I incredibly close on a very arcane, specific topic. To this day we’ll still talk theorycrafting, bemoan raiding politics and talk about the good ol’ days, and even make grandiose plans to level new characters and try out a new guild. I met people on there who I likely will be friends with for years (I still talk to my EvE Online buddies), and for whom I primarily am writing this blog post. I feel the need to explain to others–just as if I were to stop playing soccer, or maybe leave my job, or move somewhere–why I am making such a serious decision.
I enjoyed nearly every minute of World of Warcraft–and what I’m about to say here is truly original–except those times where I had to grind. Leveling my weapon skills in those days took hours just for it to tick up one point, and I wasn’t really even that dedicated to grinding. I got too bored with it. When I grinded in EvE, I was at least able to do my homework in the background and get other stuff done. WoW demands a much higher level of attention (unless you’re willing to risk a macro machine to do the work for you) to be able to get ahead. And eventually, I feel like I’ve gotten to a point where I have to exchange very long periods of time to really get exactly what I want out of the game.
There are other criticisms, though, too. Catalcysm was branded as the most epic WoW expansion yet–dark, foreboding, serious, with a villain who was a gigantic black dragon. How much more stereotypical fantasy can you get? And even though I expected the game to include its lighthearted moments, I feel like it simply wasn’t as epic as the game could have been. The troll expansion, and subsequent two months of having to repeat the same two dungeons over and over, drove me insane. The dramatic upwards curve of difficulty at the beginning for heroics, as well as the subsequent raiding, really put me off. Firelands was the only expansion that I thought looked cool; I didn’t think the Dragon Soul was well-conceived, executed, or remedied after it went live. All in all I think Cataclym was a kind of a “whump” of an expansion. I just didn’t enjoy it like I did Wrath of the Lich King. The marketing ultimately didn’t match the buy.
And the future content just doesn’t excite me. One of my major enjoyments of WoW was how I connected with the story. Fascinating, intricate, and full of both high and low fantasy, I thought the lore would never cease to amaze me. But I’m sorry–I am just not excited for Mists of Pandaria. Like, at all. Ever. (I did watch Kung Fu Panda for the first time recently, this may have played into it.) It just strikes me as an idea that was marketed internally to pander to a concept that became popular, with a story, artwork, and gameplay changes fleshed out all onto this concept. It feels tumorous, almost as though it’s being forcibly grafted onto World of Warcraft. The previous games all had a connection to the entire storyline, and while I understand the company’s desire to make new stories and new epics, I feel like this is almost like creating a new Stargate franchise. It may be Stargate, and follows the concepts of Stargate, but I’m sorry, oh dear, this isn’t Stargate at all.
With all the time involved in playing World of Warcraft, in my more lucid moments I have thought about all the other things I could be doing. I could be using my gym membership, which has more or less become a “fat tax” for me. I could finally sit down and teach myself a musical instrument, something I’ve wanted to do since childhood. I could write more, read more, learn to cook more. It’d be really great to spend more time in real life with Taften–we already have plenty of games for him and I to play online together, and games we can play separate too. Or, better yet, I could put time and effort into my house, which needs a major update in the attic as well as work done in the basement. My house is nearly 100 years old and needs love, who cares about pandas.
Taften has been playing WoW for longer than I have. But his maximum level character is 63 (talk about casual, you newb (love you!)). His perspective on the game has taught me a lot–that end-game raiding isn’t the be-all, end-all. That having a mixture of green, blue, and purple gear is OK. That taking it slow and enjoying the quests, reading the story behind them, can be just as fun (if not moreso) than rushing through the game to get to raiding. This is a very different way of looking at and playing the game, though it goes against my instincts to get to the highest level, get the best-in-slot gear, and work to gather gold to pay for raiding repairs. All in all, I’d estimate that at the height of raiding, I was spending maybe 20 hours a week raiding, doing daily quests to keep up with gold, and rarely playing the game for pure ‘enjoyment’ purposes. It may have lacked the more obvious warning signs that EvE Online had–but it’s been approaching bad chemistry for a while.
Is this a final decision? Nah. I may come back in the future when I miss the thrill of killing bosses and getting epic equipment. I might even come back and level my mage through Pandaira, albeit at a slower pace than my usual breakneck rate. In the meantime I’ll try to do all the things I want to in the meatime–and, of course, play Diablo 3.
So it’s been about 4 days since Diablo 3 has come out. While a lot of the press coverage has been given to the terrible midnight launch event, or the speed with which Method EU are conquering Inferno-level difficulty, I myself am simply having a ton of fun at my own pace. This might be one of the more obvious marks that I am now in my late twenties (I turn 27 in about two weeks), but I think it has more to do with the maturation of Blizzard’s social gaming strategy, and the usual application of their genius at gaming, than anything else.
A friend asked me today if WoW was better than D3. Of course the answer is subjective, but I think there are definite hallmarks of improvement in D3 that WoW will likely never have. In D3, you can instantly and seamlessly join with friends in a game, regardless of level. Granted, a level 1 character will get slaughtered when he joins with a level 11, but it’s still a fun challenge, and you can level your characters very quickly. When it’s within 5-6 levels, it’s positively insane how quickly you level and how you can get caught up with your peers. The sheer fun that I’ve had connecting with friends, co-workers and even public players has been great. This is something that I haven’t experienced in WoW for a long time, and Battle.net facilitates this in D3 very very well.
And arguably, this is something that WoW tried to do with the Looking for Group and then Looking for Raid concepts. But if anything, it seemed to ostracize the old guard in WoW, who thought that this destroyed the community on servers that they had become used to. Combined with changes to raids and lockouts, it contributed to an overall anti-social atmosphere of WoW; an atmosphere geared towards the autistic players who aren’t interested in connecting with other players. Get in, get your gear, get out.
I know I’m using the term ‘autistic’ incorrectly and pejoratively here. Previously before LFG/LFR, you had to shout for about a hour (or longer
) in Trade to get a competent group together to do anything. There were exceptions–the Wintergrasp and Tol Barad raids are small and simple enough that players could get in and get out, even approaching the reset timer. But the old guard of WoW bemoan today’s lack of server community, and how these tools have essentially annihilated what used to be thriving, competitive groups that bumped and jostled and collaborated and sabotaged one another. Now it’s mitigated my machine process, complete with timers! Sure, there likely were success stories of people who meet their new guilds or buddies or see someone with a clear Reddit meme reference in their name, but I would suspect that’s not the normal bell curve experience for WoW players.
D3 doesn’t fix this, per se, it just caters to the community you already have. Bring in the WoW friends that have done the one-year contract (or those friends who bought the Collector’s Edition anyway, then proceed to mock you because you didn’t have a copy (DAVID!)), or the friends you play SC2 with, or even try to make new friends through the public game system. A great feature is the ‘recent friends’ list, who show people you’ve connected with. I tend to remember good players clearly in my head, and this lets you quickly and easily connect with them again. So you can, if you so choose to, grow your community and connect with others.
Blizzard has essentially evolved their gaming. The “Web 2.0″-esque social networks don’t work unless they create, or leverage, or improve existing social connections. There needs to be more interaction than simply joining a group to create an actual social connection–otherwise it feels closer to a social contract. “If you tank this for me, well then I will DPS this for you. But no further–and no handshakes, if I see a purple I will Need and then jet!” By putting their one-game social system–Battle.net–as one of the centerpieces of the D3 experience and not as just an add-on functionality, it makes the game 10x as fun, and only vaguely recognizable to its predecessors. (Which begs the question: What will WoW 2.0 look like? What will Warcraft 4 look like? Starcraft 3? Consider how much gaming from the early 1990′s has changed in 20 years, and then move that forward another 20 years.)
We’ll see how I feel in a matter of weeks, months, and then maybe years. WoW and D3 are both grind-heavy, and I’m never one for the long, drawn-out grind. But I also feel that other things you need to succeed in the WoW grind–time, good guild or social connections, gold, and addons–are not necessarily as heavy a burden in D3. Just a sense at this point, because it is simply so easy to join other games that are either in progress, or simply start up and level a new character.
This final point is also entirely more subjective, but I was actually anxious staying up, waiting to play D3, wondering if I would get into a group with my friends. I felt uncomfortable that I hadn’t done any planning to get prepared or ready for this, almost like I would if it was raid night in WoW. But ultimately, the experience was more relaxed and more fun–join a group if you can, spend time with these friends if you can, switch over to this other group if you can. I think my strategy is going to be to have at least one character at every level–10, 20, 30, etc–so that I can join any friend at any level of the game, at any time. You can’t do that in WoW, or in SC2; WoW has severe limitations on connecting with others who are higher level, and in SC2, a diamond player simply doesn’t play against a bronze one. He eats him.
I’m playing both a Barbarian and a Wizard right now, but it’s amazing to note that I enjoy all the classes–except for the Witch Doctor. He throws spiders that I simply cannot differentiate between other, bad spiders and baddies on the screen. It’s a minor point, but it bugs me. The Wizard build I am doing right now (early to mid-20th-level) is what I call the “Arcane Thresher”. You can see that build here. Very excited to play with Taften this weekend and play a monk and a
death dealer demon hunter.
I think everyone knows that I am an avid reader, but I think I’m going to start doing consistent updates in regards to the blogs I have been following for, well, the better part of a year. Each of these blogs stands out for their excellent, broad content and wonderful authors. I present to you, the top 10 blogs I follow on any given day.
Technically not a blog, this is more of a community site, but something that I check every day. Focused on World of Warcraft, they compile community news, datamine the latest Public Test Realm (the WoW test server), and serve up class, trade, and game secrets. Run by near-Blizzard employee Bouboiuille (interviewed by WoW Insider in 2009), the site is one of my favorites for the sneak previews it gives in upcoming Warcraft content and Blizzard games (all of which I am a big fan).
The Big Picture
Who doesn’t read Big Picture? ….really, who doesn’t?
One of my all-time favorites, Pharyngula is written by PZ Myers, a professor at my alma mater (UMM). Often incendiary, often ridiculous, but always reasonable and logical, Myers is well-known in the atheist circles as a good friend of Richard Dawkins and often at the forefront of the ‘radical atheist agenda’. His writing style is both clear-cut and wonderfully funny. Plus, he doesn’t forget his roots in biology–every Friday he posts a cephalopod picture, always reminding you that while there is a lot of silliness in the world, there is always something awe-inspiring (…by squid).
(Incidentally, PZ Myers is apparently famous enough to warrant his own enchantingly nasty article on Conservapedia! That only makes him more of a hero in my book.)
Ran by two friends of mine and their brigade of hipster-esque funny-men and women, Guffaw lists both funny blog entries, comedy events, and just general zany fun. Guffaw covered the Minnesota Beard-Off this past year, which I had the fortune of winning in the Freestyle Category.
The Skeptical Juror
Sister Catie got me hooked on reading the CNN Justice section, but their excellent coverage of the Casey Anthony case quickly degenerated into essentially celebrity news. And now, I don’t want to read about celebrity hackers or missing white girls or Amanda Knox. They focus on the biggest cases without actually delving into any of the details–evidence, courtroom experiences, outcomes and details.
Skeptical Juror solves all of this. He dives deeply–very deeply–into case details and essentially acts as a how he expects a juror would on that case. He’s clearly an expert on legal matters, and some of his analysis has even been published into books. I love his work and his focus on the real element of the legal process–justice.
This Is My Next
Focused on technology and tech buzz, the latest gadgets and widgets, and interesting news and articles. This has been billed as their temporary home, but I am hoping that this site either becomes permanent or is strongly integrated into the author’s next project.
As someone who did not grow up with the tomfoolery of Better Homes & Gardens and Good Housekeeping strewn about the house (our coffee table had Tolkien, Salinger, Lewis, Brontë, etc…), I find these pictures hilarious. Especially as someone whose house is essentially the opposite of a catalog and who relies more on “This rearrangement will look fun!”.
Three Pound Brain
I revere R. Scott Bakker as an author, and for his incredibly complex and beautiful trilogy of trilogies (The Prince of Nothing, The Aspect-Emperor, and The Trilogy That Shall Not Be Named). They have, in very short order, become a favorite of mine for their level of detail, treatment of philosophy, epistemology and religion, and for their kickass sorcerers and wizards, who sing to cast their incredibly powerful spells.
Bakker also has a very wry sense of humor, as evidenced by my favorite post of his this year: Questions to Fuck Up Your English Professor.
We Got Served
Being a lover of food and vaguely incapable of cooking good food for one person, We Got Served is typically where I go when I want to learn about something new to experience, food-wise, in the Twin Cities. And they cover everything–cost, drinks to eat with the meal, appetizers, and everything from fancy to street vendors. It’s a bad, bad idea to look at this blog when you are hungry and/or between grocery cycles (when you only have rations like EasyMac or leftovers in your fridge).
Some of my favorite recent articles have also introduced me to new dishes and experiences at places I know and love, like 128 Cafe or Bad Waitress or Black Forest Inn. I thought I had tried essentially everything on the Bad Waitress menu, but a chorizo sausage, bacon, and cheddar cheese burrito never made its way to my table…yuummmmm!
Mac Wilson at the Current
Call me biased, but Mac and I went to college together at UMM, and now I find myself listening to his show every weekend and following his music recommendations online. I used to be fairly active and continually publish my iPod playlist every month, but since having transitioned to Google Music and long having lost my good connection to tons of music at Best Buy, I’ve fallen off the path. So now I follow Mac and his excellent recommendations! His latest articles cover a bunch of my new favorites–Hot Chip, Girls, and Middle Class Rut.
Recruiting Geek’s Blog
It’s always good to keep up-to-date on your company’s leadership, especially when they write and make it public online. Doug Berg (and I think other elements at Jobs2Web) handle this excellent online blog focused on the geeky aspects of recruiting–namely, data, analytics, metrics and measurement. More often than not I listen to these competitors and analysts who talk about recruiting online but never bring up the numbers–namely, the data! I like how our company focuses on the unambiguous, scientific, measurable results that good online recruiting can bring.