In praise of WoW!

OK so as threatened in the comments of my last post, I figured it was time to dedicate a post to what I like about the new WoW experience. Some readers seem unable to get past the concept that I can like a product while still criticizing some aspects of it.

The thing is, I’m uncomfortable talking too much about the stuff I’m liking because I don’t want to spoil anything. There’s spectacle in the new starter experience and it’s fun to come upon it. And if I talk about the new player experience for one race, someone is bound to tell me about the new player experience for another race, and ruin things for me.

I’m the guy that laughs out loud (sometimes) at quest text. Yeah, I read every word of it (the first time through). I expect the developers to have put thought into the quest text and so far in WoW (both old and new) they have. I appreciate that a lot. So I come upon a pun or a funny comment in a quest’s text, and I have to tell Angela all about it, including back story and stuff. I love quests lines and the new player experience is one quest line after another. In the Night Elf area, at least, there are very few “1 off” quests with no context.

So I give a huge thumbs up to the folk writing the quests (and this is part of why I wave dismissively at suggestions that I just leave this area and go find a better challenge…I *want* to experience all the new lore at least once).

And, there’ve been a good number of what I guess we’re calling vehicle quests? I call ’em gadget quests. Basically quests that somehow change up game play in some way. They haven’t been hard, but they’ve been silly fun and I was glad to have experienced them. Again, no spoilers.

There’ve been some little interface changes that are new to me. Like these little side-loaded portraits and descriptions of named mobs you need to take down. Love those.

I have mixed feelings about the names of mobs only showing up if you need them for a quest. They sure make things easy to find and I’m sure that’s the intent, and it does add to the immersion that not everything is clearly labeled. But it takes something away from the thrill of the hunt. Here’s a shot I took to illustrate my griping about quests being so tightly clustered. You see here Steeltalon (??) (the bird with the yellow name) and some corrupted bears (red names). I need to kill all these guys but for two completely different quests. In the name of no extraneous traveling (I guess) they all helpfully travel together:

Further good news is that I hit level 20 tonight and saw things are starting to change. Quests were getting a bit more challenging, sending me after mobs that were level 19 and clustered tightly together so adds were common. There was a quest that forced me out of my Druid’s Cat form, reminding me of how wimpy I am as a Night Elf. 🙂 For the first time I had to keep an eye on my health, and had to think about mana management. I drank for the first time after a series of quick fights that left my mana depleted. In short, I started having to *think* about what I was doing. The dreary routine of every battle being exactly the same began to fall away. The actual game play started getting fun, and the quests continue to be interesting.

Hopefully this isn’t a bump in the road but the start of a nice ramp up in difficulty. The bad news? My skinning has fallen behind so I’m going to have to back up and kill mobs to catch it up. I *really* wish I could turn off combat experience while doing this (hmm, maybe I can level up skinning on the corpses of gray mobs?) because I don’t want to get out-leveled on the quests again.

Anyway, so there’s a brief post on the things I like about WoW. One last time… I can criticize some aspects of a game (or a book, or a movie) and still enjoy the game as a whole. I’m sure you can too.

15 thoughts on “In praise of WoW!

  1. I criticize WoW all the time but I still love the game. When patch 4.0 1st hit the ptr servers I was all over twitter complaining about how easy levels 1-10 where and how I was afraid that Blizzard was dumbing things down way to much. Being able to look at a game, book, movie, etc from all aspects and walk away with a fair opinion is a rarity these days. People want to either label you a “hater” or a “fanboy” without stopping to say ok this person is at least taking the time to look at positives and negatives. I guess a lot of that has to do with the amount of actual haters and fanboys on the internet these days.

    Also you can turn off xp. I think you need to do it in the major city. I know people do it all the time now because battlegrounds give xp and they don’t want to out level a bracket. Some people even turn it off just for fun and see what they can accomplish. I heard of someone getting world explorer (this includes northrend and outland) on a level 1 character.

  2. oh so you are having fun?! Who would have known 😉

    In honesty I think your being a bit defensive, everyone will have an opinion on things and for the most part people will disagree….. or at least thats my experience.

    My comment about are you sure you want to be buying Cataclysm comes from your own comment in your about me section ‘Remember, games are supposed to be fun. If you arent having fun, find another game to play!’ – which from previous articles it seemed you were just not having any fun. Add to that having played beta I didnt find low levels (1-30) particularly challenging myself.

    Anyway glad to see things have picked up for you and the game can bring some more challenge your way.

  3. @girl_vs_mmo – Oh great, I’m going to have to look into that. I’d heard you could turn off combat experience in the battlegrounds but I’ll look into seeing if you can do it everywhere. Thanks!

    @Pitrelli – Who would have known? Well in prior posts I said:

    “on Twitter Ive been urging people to try out the new WoW starter areas for the lore and storylines. I dont think Ive said here on the blog that you should do that: so now I have. The actual gameplay is very bland and unchallenging but in between the gameplay theres a lot of narrative and spectacle that can be very enjoyable.”

    and

    “I love the spectacle of the new player experience.”

    But yeah, that was the point of this post. I’ve been telling people on Twitter (where a lot of the commenting about these posts has been taking place) that I’m having fun but realized I wasn’t really conveying that here.

    Also frankly, if I wasn’t having fun I’d just stop playing. 🙂

  4. Wow, that was awfully nice of you, taking the time to research that for me. Thank you!

    Sadly the cost is a bit above my budget for this character but it’ll come in handy on my next one.

    Very much appreciated!

  5. What Pitrelli said. You, just like everyone else out here, is allowed to have an opinion, no matter how negative. As long as we don’t get personal, and stay within the unsaid boundaries of common decency, you never need to be defensive about any of it!

    Rock on!

  6. Oh I know. But enough people took away that I was not enjoying the game that I did want to correct that impression. For all intents and purposes I’ve been away from the game since The Burning Crusade came out, and it’s fun to be back and see what changes have happened to the world.

  7. “(and this is part of why I wave dismissively at suggestions that I just leave this area and go find a better challengeI *want* to experience all the new lore at least once)”

    Well, sure, but you can’t have it both ways. If the devs want the most people possible to experience the lore, they have to make it easy. If you want a challenge, you’ll have to self-tune because it’s so variable per person. I’m with you on the lore exploration, definitely. I just go off the beaten track to challenge myself.

    This is a dichotomy we see often in games, incidentally. Story vs. gameplay. The Final Fantasy games divorced the two and let players grind through the game sections at their own pace and watch pretty cutscenes. On another hand, Chrono Cross paced the game *very* tightly, and grinding was almost useless. The game was tuned to medium difficulty, though, so those wanting an easier ride or a harder ride had to either learn to play or hobble themselves, respectively. It’s not a conflict to be taken lightly, and it’s not one with One True Answer. WoW has decided, for whatever reason, that they want their story front and center, so they made it easy to access. That’s probably a sensible business move with SWTOR in the wings, even if it does mean that challenge isn’t the spine of the early experience.

    It comes back to the question “what’s really important to get people to see in WoW?” or “what will hook players into paying a sub to keep playing?” If it’s the lore and story, it makes sense to make it readily and even easily available. If it’s the ding and the loot, give it out liberally at first and then taper it off to keep the drip feed going. If it’s the social stickiness, make it easier to play together (not necessarily “easy to play” together, but easier to “play together”, if that makes any sense). If it’s challenge, mechanics and the intricacies of the game, story can take a back seat. Seems to me that Blizzard shifts those priorities as the game goes on, and that’s a decent compromise. Starting with a story focus and shifting to punishing raiding in the endgame with a veneer of story seems to have been their general trend for a while now.

    Oh, and I *think* you can still level Skinning on grey mobs. I remember doing so before the Shattering anyway. I still need to do a bit more Skinning myself, incidentally. And Mining. It does seem that the pacing of questing in the early game outpaces incidental gathering professions. That’s another of those mild annoyances that comes with a faster overall pace.

  8. “Well, sure, but you cant have it both ways.”

    Sure I can! I’m the customer and I’m always right! 🙂 Maybe not in WoW, but other games let you choose a difficulty level for quests. We’ve had that as far back as Anarchy Online. Though admittedly in AO they were ‘generated quests’ and so very light in lore, and in more modern games the difficulty setting tends to be only for instanced quests.

    But FF XIV lets you pick a difficulty level in open world quests, so it is possible. Want a challenge? Crank up the difficulty. Want to blaze through content? Turn it down.

    But WoW is half-way there. Now they just need to remove this 5 gold cost for turning experience on or off. Make it free and then players like me can just turn off experience when quest lines are getting too easy, in order to slow down our leveling and keep up the challenge.

    They have the mechanics in place (this is new info to me, and thanks again to girl_vs_mmo for pointing it out); I’m not sure why they’d charge to toggle it on or off. But that could make the new player experience a lot more interesting for vets who want a challenge, while not impacting the experience at all for new players.

    It seems like a great solution to me, but then, I may be missing something.

  9. You can level skinning from grey mobs. If you’re lucky, you’ll come upon someone else that isn’t a skinner standing amongst a pile of corpses and you can catch it up quick. If you were on my server, I’d be happy to meet up with you and slaughter a huge pack so you could get back to the fun stuff faster. 🙂

  10. Yes but what if the day came that we ended up staring at each other across the battle lines? That’d be AWFUL! I don’t wanna kill ya!

  11. LOL! You would just be killing my avatar hon. I’d forgive ya. 🙂

    Jack and I often meet up in the underbelly of Dalaran to duel, and he routinely kills me. I don’t think I’ve beaten him once. Dang kid — as an adult, I’m supposed to go easy on him so he can win, not try my hardest and have my arse handed to me! hehe

  12. Agreed, a difficulty slider/setting with an XP toggle on top would be a great thing. As much as I think the difficulty *should* be low as a baseline to get many people playing, I similarly think that players need control of the difficulty. I do think that you can control some of that by going out and finding trouble, but if you want to follow the lore and still be challenged as you go, absolutely, we need some way to tune our own experience that isn’t as silly as removing gear and ignoring skills.

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