List of ‘Back to WoW’ posts

Just for grins and because I don’t mind making fun of myself, I decided to see how many “back to WoW” posts I’ve written over the years. It actually wasn’t as many as I thought, but here we go.

Back to WoW? Maybe You CAN Go Home Again (5/25/2020)
I just wrote this one, so we’ll see how long it ‘sticks’ this time.

WoW Classic: Why I won’t go home again (8/27/2019)
Including this one because it is a lie. I DID break down and subscribe to WoW Classic and logged in maybe 2-3 times before giving it up again.

Back to WoW?! WTF? (8/09/2015)
Beer was involved with this decision and it initially didn’t end well, but I guess I gave it a 2nd chance since a week later I blogged about having completed 3 zones and reached level 20 but I was about ready to set it aside.

Back to WoW again! (11/27/2010)
Looks like it had only been a few months since my last return so not sure why I jumped back in, but I did. I blogged about it for about a month, ranting about how it was too easy and I guess doing some cross-blog arguing with another WoW blogger.

Back to WoW? (09/06/2010)
This post pairs with the one below. Between July and Sept I logged in once. This “back to WoW” reads more like “farewell to WoW”. Which lasted 2 months. LOL

When I played WoW… (07/23/2010)
This is not technically a ‘back to WoW’ post but I do mention at the end that I’d purchased Wrath of the Lich King so presumably I played at some point soon after.

Willpower saving throw: Failed (11/24/2008)
FOMO got me and I was damned grumpy about it, but soon after I joined Casualties of War (anyone remember that guild) and had some fun for a week or two.

World of Warcraft (3/23/2004)
Not “a back to WoW” but a ‘there’s this new game World Of Warcraft” post. It appears to be my earliest WoW post. I was playing in Beta at the time and having a ball.

Gillain’s Journal – Day 1 (3/24/2004)
And just for grins, an in-character journal of my character’s time in the beta.

Back to WoW? Maybe You CAN Go Home Again

I was a very early adopter of World of Warcraft. Thanks to a friend I played in the Friends & Family alpha and I kept playing pretty heavily until Burning Crusade came out. Then I quit, for reasons I don’t recall.

In the years since I’ve gone back a few times but it always felt…lonely, I guess. When I was hardcore in WoW I was in an active guild and we would play and chat for hours and hours. One of the few times in my life I’ve found a gaming group I really fit into.

Going back and them not being around was like going back to your hometown and visiting your old hang-outs, but your friends were no longer there.

With enough adds even Elywnn Forest can be dangerous

Every so often my Twitter timeline has a surge of folks who’ve gone back to WoW and I generally ignore them. For some reason, this time my FOMO overcame my reticence and I logged back in.

It’s a much different game

A LOT has changed in the 13-ish years since I played seriously. I DO remember going back after Cataclysm and HATING it. I zoomed through zones so fast and leveled so quickly it just felt frantic and bland. I’m that (apparently) rare player who enjoys reading the quest text and enjoys the leveling process and just exploring.

This time back, I started a level 1 character, human, in Elwynn Forest, same as I’ve done a dozen or more times. Difference is, this time I’m really enjoying myself. Maybe its just been long enough that I don’t feel lonely any more. Or maybe its the system itself.

The biggest change is that zones now scale. I can putter around Elwynn as long as I like and the mobs scale to my level, which keeps the gameplay really fun. I much prefer this to having a bunch of ‘gray’ quests to kill trivial enemies, and I like that I don’t feel pressured to move to the next zone. There’s a 100% experience buff so I am leveling like mad but Elwynn remains a place where I can and do die if I’m not careful (bloody murloc swarms).

No quest giver will lead you to this big spider, but it drops decent newbie loot

Questing quietly

It is also really quiet in the low level zones. I DID try to return when WoW Classic launched and the newbie zones were packed. Chat was so toxic I immediately turned it off, but I couldn’t turn off competing for spawns and being annoyed at knuckleheads cavorting around like a bunch of 8 years olds that just came home from an ice-cream eating contest where absolutely nothing was sugar-free.

I have nothing really earth shattering to reveal about a game this old that has been extensively covered my just about anyone who writes about games. But if like me you’ve been away for a LONG time, well…it just might be worth it to take another look. You can play to level 20 for free, so it won’t cost you anything to try. You might find there’s some fun to be had.

WoW Classic: Why I won’t go home again

I blame Heart1lly for this post!

In my Twitter timeline it is full-on WoW Classic Mania this week. While it’s fun to see everyone taking delight in retro-gaming, I haven’t joined in.

Part of the reason is that while I played and enjoyed WoW, it wasn’t, y’know, life-changing for me from a gameplay point of view. MMOs that were life-changing for me personally: MegaWars III (my 1st MMO) and Ultima Online (the one MMO that I played to a point where it started having a negative impact on my real life). WoW was just another in a LONG line of MMOs that I played and enjoyed.

It did happen to land in a weird time in my life. I had gotten laid off and decided to chill for a few months; do some freelancing and live off savings for a bit. Because of that I could devote massive amounts of time to WoW. I joined a guild, became friends with a lot of those people and often spent upwards of 8 hours a day online with them. I knew them, knew their partners and kids, new about their real lives. We were very much a family.

But once I started working again I couldn’t maintain that lifestyle and I drifted away. By the time The Burning Crusade came out, I was ready to move on from WoW. I’ve re-subbed a few times since but without my “family” it just felt kind of empty. Which is strange since I mostly solo in MMOs and am not much of a guild joiner. But in my head, WoW = these friends I’ve lost touch with.

My favorite WoW memories have little to do with gameplay. One thing I love about WoW is how time mirrors real life and, back then, people sought out servers in their time zone. It would be 3 am, the world would be pretty quiet as most players would’ve gone to bed. A friend and I would head out to Westfall and sit near the lighthouse and watch the light play across the sea and talk about life and troubles and whatever and just enjoy the night.

Other fond memories involve silly roleplay in Stormwind, or the time friends stuck with me for 6 hours helping me get a rare pet for my hunter.

Going back to WoW, visiting those zones… it would just be sad for me. Those friends are gone and even if I could find them, it’d be like that awkwardness you feel at a school reunion. People change over time.

I’d rather keep these fond memories as they are. I don’t remember any of the pain points that there must have been. I just have wonderful memories of a good time in my life, and going back could only taint them. So no WoW Classic for me.

But I hope everyone else has a blast!

A week in WoW

I’ve been back in WoW for a week now (though I’m still playing other games too). In that time my level 8 Rogue has gotten to level 23, which means I’ve done Elwynn Forest, Westfall and Redridge.

On one level I’m enjoying the new questlines in these zones. If you haven’t played in many years (like I hadn’t), so far there’s basically been one solid quest line in Westfall and Redridge (I’d done parts of Elwynn years back when I created this character so I kind of re-entered it mid-way through so I’m not sure how much it has changed). A lot of secondary quests have been removed but each zone now tells a little story. A cheesy story, I’ll grant you, but they lead you through the zone along a clear path and at the end all your quests are finished, nice and tidy, and you’re ready for the next zone.

While these quest lines are fun, they make the game even more into a themepark. You take a quest and it leads to the next quest and the next. You might get ‘kill ten rats’ sidequests but you complete them more or less naturally in the course of doing the ‘main’ quest. If you’re not doing dungeon runs (and I’m not) it’s all pretty linear. Whether that’s good or bad depends on how much you like wandering about. Of course I could bounce around and go quest in other low-level zones if I really wanted to change things up.

The overall result, to me, is that WoW feels like a game now, and I remember in the past it feeling like a place. It all feels much sillier, too. There are people riding motorcycles, for one thing. As Bhagpuss talked about the other day, the quests riff off of popular culture. Westfall apparently spoofs CSI, which I didn’t really pick up on since I’ve never watched CSI. But Redridge spoofs Rambo and even though I’ve never seen Rambo-the-movie I’ve certainly seen Rambo-the-character with his red headband, so I got what they were going for there. It all starts feeling pretty modern. Then add in a lot of fart and poop jokes (at least more than I remember) and it starts to feel like it’s aimed at kids, too. Any sense of being in a kind of pseudo-medieval world is long gone. This is a video game, for sure.

That’s not bad, it’s just different. The Azeroth that was my home away from home for a time many years ago is gone. It took a period of adjustment to get past that, but once I did I was OK with it and I’m trying to appreciate this new Azeroth on its own terms.

What I’m really struggling with is the pace of combat. I’ve played too many faster-paced MMOs lately, I guess. My rogue is hoarse from saying “I don’t have enough energy” since I’ve become un-accustomed to letting auto-attack run on its own while I wait for resource meters to refill. I also get a lot of “It’s too far away” messages even though I feel like I have my face pressed against the mob. It’s taking real willpower for me to chill out and let my guy fight on his own while I wait impatiently for the opportunity to DO something.

At the same time, let’s talk about easy mode. I finally died once at level 20 but it was kind of a trap and kind of a bad decision on my part. You have to get a key from a stump in the midst of a pack of sleeping wargs, and I stealthed in and grabbed it. When I grabbed it, stealth broke, the wargs woke up and killed me almost instantly. Aside from this one event I’ve never been close to dying, and some named mods seem to have a self-destruct mechanism, they die so incredibly quickly.

At level 20 I got to learn a riding skill and basic mounts are stupid cheap. 9 silver, maybe? Put it this way, I bought 3 of them just to have some variety. A far cry from the days of scrimping and saving to get a mount! Having a mount is pretty handy though my goodness do these models look terrible when riding. My rogue looks like he’s cut from plywood when he’s on his horse, the model is so stiff and upright. Maybe some day Blizzard can find the time and money to redo the riding animations.

On the other hand, if you want a bag, forget it. I looked on the auction house and bags beyond 8 slots are super expensive for a new character. Like hundreds of gold, when I have 6 gold! Balancing that out is that there are flight paths EVERYWHERE so it’s easy to recall or fly somewhere to sell your junk loot.

I also got my first set of spiky shoulder armor, so now my rogue looks like a proper WoW character. 🙂

I don’t see myself sticking with WoW for very much longer. It’s been fun seeing how they’ve redone the low level zones, but not really fun enough to spend $15/month to play. I’m a solo player so I won’t be doing dungeons or anything which means most of what I’m paying for I won’t use. There are enough decent F2P games to scratch my solo MMO player itch. That’s not a fault of WoW’s though; that’s just who I am.

Back to WoW?! WTF?

new_character_modelLast night I logged into World of Warcraft for the first time since 2011 (according to my account page).

Was it all the excitement around the new expansion that made me do it? Nope. I paid no attention to the expansion announcement. I know it’s called Legions and saw some squeeing on Twitter about a Demonhunter class and that’s the extent of my knowledge of the expansion. It was in fact beer that caused me to log in.

See Lola and I go hiking on Saturday and yesterday saw a particularly long and tiring hike as well as a couple of shorter walks (the weather was damned near perfect yesterday). By the time we were finished for the day it was 5:30 or so and I had a powerful thirst so I cracked a beer and it was gone in minutes, so I had another. Angela was taking a late afternoon nap so Lola and I continued relaxing on the couch and in due time a 3rd beer was open. I wasn’t up for any gaming so fired up Hulu and noticed they had a Gaming section. Curious I poked my head in there and they had this documentary about World of Warcraft called Looking For Group.

And in the course of watching (and having a 4th beer) I was overcome with a wave of nostalgia. I paused the show and ran upstairs to start downloading WoW “just in case.” About half-way through the show Angela woke up and I stopped so we could have dinner but as soon as that was done I was back to watching. And when it was over I ran upstairs and logged in.

I could, and did, log in with sub-20 characters for free, but noticed I had mail that I couldn’t open, being a freebie character. I also noticed that the character models didn’t seem like the ‘new’ models I’d heard about (though it turns out they are). One thing led to another and I remembered something about Blizzard reclaiming names and to save my names I had to log in my characters (again: 4 beers…in the bright light of morning I’m pretty sure this has all already happened) so I said to heck with it and subscribed for a month, and as long as I was subscribing (and with a vague hope it’d improve the character models) I’d better buy the latest expansion because I want it all! So there went $55.

Then I spent an hour or so logging into every character across the dozen or so servers I have characters on. Because saving our characters that we’ll probably never play is IMPORTANT!

I didn’t actually PLAY the game at all, but walking through Stormwind did feel pretty good in that ‘scratch the nostalgia itch’ way. At least it did until I saw all the changes. I’d forgotten about the cataclysm and that the Azeroth I remembered and at one time loved was gone forever. I was also dismayed to see that (as far as I can tell) the friends lists have been wiped in favor of friending via the accounts so even if any members of my old guild happen to still be playing, I’d never know it.

It’s true what they say: even in video games you can’t go home again.

So this morning I’m sitting here with a slight headache and a big old truckload of buyer’s remorse. It’s not the first time alcohol has lead me to make bad buying decisions but I hope it’s the last. Of course in the grand scheme of the universe $55 isn’t going to break me.

But now I have a month of time on my account. I can’t decide if I want to play (and potentially ruin all my good memories of the game) or just eat it as a bad decision. I did prod Angela at one time with “You should come play WoW with me” (As an EQ 2 fangirl she’s never played much WoW) and she actually said “Maybe I will.” If she does maybe we’ll roll a couple of panda people or something, and see where that takes us.

WoW update; time to rile up the natives

It’s been a tough week here at Chez Dragonchasers. I was sick as heck, then Angela got it, then the puppy needed to go get spayed and came home hurting something awful (requiring lots of cuddling on the couch). So not a lot of gaming has been done, but when I’ve had a few minutes I’ve been puttering around on my Worgen.

But y’know, I haven’t gotten the WoW Faithful all in a tizzy by saying something bad about their beloved game, so I figured I’d shoot out a post anyway.

The Worgen quest line has possibly been even more hand-holdy than the Night Elf quest line is! There are some quests that literally task you to click on a vehicle. Once you do, your character jumps in, goes on a canned ride where you have no control, then jumps out in front of a quest NPC that you have to click on to finish the quest. SUCCESS! You’re an awesome wolfie, you pulled it off! It’s like an MMO for pre-schoolers.

So anyway yeah… I’m loving it. Ha, psych! You militant WoW SOBs can put down your torches and your pitchforks. I mean, there are a couple of quests that do just that and from a pure gameplay point of view they’re beyond trivial, but by the time I got to them I was so immersed in the lore and the storyline that I didn’t care. I was just anxious to see what happens next.

Right now WoW, for me, is a lot like Dragon Age: Origins. I’m playing different races to experience these difference storylines and they’re all interesting and fun to go through. The Night Elf has, so far, been my least favorite and it was the one I did first when I returned, which had a lot to do with my voicing concerns with the gameplay. For my 2nd run-throughs I’ll be skipping quests and finding other ways to advance, probably.

The other thing the Worgen quest line does is really show off the power of phasing. I don’t want to spoil anything, but if, like me, you think of phasing in terms of an NPC moving from spot to spot (which is most of what I’d seen up until my Worgen days), well you ain’t seen nothing yet.

There’s a nice variety of quests in the Worgen start-up too. Sure, some of them are old school trivial fetch quests along the lines of “Go 5 feet outside my door and pick up that object” but even then they kind of lead up to something…they seem deliberately dull in a semi-successful attempt to lull you so you can be surprised (it’d be more successful if the starter area wasn’t so populated that you see things happen before you get the quest to do them, but I don’t see any good way around that). But others having you manning guns or riding mounts or sneaking around… things feel mixed up so I never get bored doing the same thing over and over. Some great new swamp environments, too.

At one point you have to save innocent people from alligators in a swamp. I saved the requisite number to complete the quest but on my way out, I just couldn’t leave the others to fend for themselves. I kept saving more and more of them; that to me is a good sign. I was immersed in the task and not just ticking off a check box of “Things to Do” (and I’ll admit, leveling up my Skinning at the same time).

I’ve also been reading a WoW novel (Christie Golden’s World of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King) which is helping me stay immersed in the lore of the world. When I’m questing in a town that I was just reading about in the book the previous night, it kind of adds to the overall experience.

I honestly thought I’d be done with my return to WoW by now, but I’m still anxious to play more of the human starter area, and I haven’t *touched* horde side yet. I’ve managed to snag the week between Christmas and New Year’s as vacation days from one of my jobs, so I should have some real time to devote to WoW during that week.

I still have no interest in jumping into the Dungeon Finder and dealing with other people. WoW has been completely a single player game for me so far, and I’m not sure that’ll change, but we’ll see. But there’s enough new stuff that I do not regret my purchase of Cataclysm at all; something that was not true of my purchase of Wrath of the Lich King, which I regretted buying after just a few hours of playing as a Death Knight.

Maybe I just wasn’t ready to go back to WoW, or maybe this content is just that much better (for as much as I bitch about it being too easy, and yeah, it is still too easy) but for whatever reason, WoW is ‘sticking’ this time around.

My only real gripe at this point is that there are SO many servers and people I know are scattered all over them. How come we can get tossed into a dungeon with a random stranger from another server, but we can’t choose a friend on another server to jump into a dungeon with (or can we?).

A taste of Worgen

So it turns out if you marinate Worgen flank steak over night, then slow cook it over moist heat, it can be very tasty!

OK so this is why I’m not a stand-up comic.

I got a late start last night and it was closing in on 10 pm before I tore the shrink wrap off my Collector’s Edition of WOW: Cataclysm. I’m a little annoyed with myself for springing for the CE. I mean, it’s a great CE: it has a very nice art-book, some Friend Passes, a soundtrack CD, “Making of” DVD, some CCG cards (I guess) and of course the game itself. Oh and a mouse pad. But what generally interests me in Collector’s Editions is the in-game goodies, and it looks like the only in-game goodie with this one is a mini-Deathwing vanity pet. Or maybe I’m missing something. I still prefer the Panda Cub that came with the original WoW CE.

Anyway, installation took no time at all (a wee bit of data loaded off the DVD to supplement what I’d already d/led in the patch, then a quick online patch) and I was ready to play. I’ve found that a few people I know on Twitter play on Argent Dawn so I was going to roll my Worgen there, but there was a 15 minute queue. That’s not *too* bad except that about 5 minutes later the queue was still 15 minutes. Given how late it was I didn’t want to spend too much time waiting. I decided maybe I’d work on my Druid on Silver Hand, but that realm was listed as Full. Eric at Channel Massive has been bugging me to roll on Tanaris, but I had trouble logging in there. By the time I got into it and created a shaman goblin I’d come to realize that I really wanted to be a Worgen.

So I headed to my old haunt, Kirin Tor. No queue and before too long, Bartowski the Worgen Hunter was born.

Even without a queue there were plenty of fresh-made Worgen-to-be scurrying about (you start out as human, y’see), but not so many that it made completing those early quests difficult. In fact the “bad” Worgen were spawning so fast that we players relied on each other to keep ourselves alive. It was madness and totally fun. I kept waiting for someone to scream at me for kill stealing but it never happened.

Things got glitchy a few times with the ‘phasing’ technology but it was more amusing than annoying. Overall, given the press of players, I thought things went swimmingly.

I love the Victorian vibe of the Worgen starting area. The quests were more story-driven than interesting-game-play driven, but that was OK (keep in mind I only played for a half-hour or so…maybe level 5? 6?). I still think the new Human starting area is my favorite. The homage to Mario Sunshine tickles the heck out of me.

Tales of werewolves are so ubiquitous that I don’t know how Blizzard could’ve added real tension to the process of being turned, so instead they went for camp. When you get bit (or is it scratched?) by a Worgen your character says something like “Ow! That beast bit me. I’m sure it will be all right but it does sting a bit!” and I couldn’t help but LOL. And there are a few clever quests that, if nothing else, offer a spectacle to other players.

I didn’t get to play for long as a Worgen. Shortly after I transformed I also turned into a pumpkin and had to head to bed.

Now of course I have to decide if I want to keep playing on Kirin Tor, start a new character on Argent Dawn, or go back to Silver Hand. Maybe I’ll just give the crowds a few days to thin out while I decide.

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.

In defense of new players

I was going to let this WoW discussion go but then Spinks described my humor post as “whining” and got me all riled up again. 🙂 Apparently the first commandment of MMO blogging is “Thou Shalt Not Question Anything Blizzard Does.”

I do admit that one of my problems is mixing twitter and blogs, though. I’ll be having a conversation on Twitter and it’ll inspire a blog post and without the context of twitter the blog post can seem a little unbalanced. For instance on Twitter I’ve been urging people to try out the new WoW starter areas for the lore and storylines. I don’t think I’ve 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 there’s a lot of narrative and spectacle that can be very enjoyable. You can easily burn through this on a 10-Day Free pass or a Scroll of Resurrection and I do believe it is worth seeing.

But let me roll up my sleeves and get back to pissing off the WoW Devoted out there.

A lot of the pushback on my concerns about the new low-level experience is that it wasn’t made for me, it was made for new players coming into the game.

Well I have a lot to say about that.

First of all, I just mentioned the lore and the narrative. Well guess what? Those will mean *nothing* to someone brand new to WoW. The reason I enjoy them is that I have a vague sense of what has been going on in the world of Warcraft. So when I hear about the return of Malfurion Stormblade or whoever, even though I can’t remember the name enough to spell it right, he’s at least familiar to me. When the story goes on about the Night Elves losing their immortality…that means something to me from playing the ‘old’ WoW. A brand new player is going to be totally lost. A hardcore WoW player (which I am not) who is very familiar with the lore will revel in this content.

So my conclusion is that this new low-level experience is intended, at least in one aspect, to give the veterans something new.

Second issue is that Blizzard needed to make things easier for new players because the old system was too hard. The astonishing arrogance of this statement boggles me. Essentially the WoW vets are saying “Well of course WE were smart and clever enough to learn it, but those people out there who don’t yet play WoW are much too moronic to figure out such a complex game without extensive hand-holding.”

This is bullshit. Someone mentioned that 70% of people who try WoW never get to level 10, the implication being that this new, easier newbie experience will reduce that statistic. Well guess what? 70% of the people who try Farmville never get to level 10 either (I made that stat up but I feel confident the percentage is pretty high). If Zynga made Farmville easier (somehow?) would that stat go down? I doubt it. It isn’t that Farmville is too hard, that’s for sure. And y’know what? Low level WoW isn’t that hard either. It never has been.

Maybe 70% of the people who try the game just get bored? Or don’t see the appeal? Or maybe it isn’t exciting enough.

I’m thinking of the much maligned ‘casual’ player coming to WoW from Diner Dash where she (I dunno why the casual gamer is always assumed to be a woman but I’m going with it for now) has had a constant progression of challenge as she advanced through levels. Her brain is in overdrive as she constantly scans the game board and the mouse dances under her fingers as she guides Flo back and forth at breakneck pace to keep the customers happy.

Now someone convinces her to log into $15/month WoW where she finds she is mostly a passive observer. It’s pretty and kind of interesting but she doesn’t really DO very much. Combat is slow paced and no matter how nimble her mind and fingers are, she can’t speed it up.

Now, you and I know that things will get very very different later on in her WoW career, but she doesn’t know that. As far as she is concerned, after playing for 4-5 hours, WoW is kind of an interactive storybook. That she has to pay $15/month to play. So she goes back to her more exciting casual games.

In a recent post Spinks said “Maybe you have even forgotten what it was like to panic every time a mob attacked you, freak out any time you thought you might be lost, and not really understand how the genre works yet.

She may as well have said “Maybe you have even forgotten what it was like to have fun playing an MMO.” Panic from being attacked, freaking out at getting lost? Not understanding every number and nuance of the world? Hell yes, sign me the heck up, PLEASE! That sounds wonderfully fun to me. Robbing new players of that fun seems downright criminal.

Anyway… I think I’ve vented my spleen on this now. I’m not quitting my return to WoW over the new player experience or anything and I still have Cataclysm pre-ordered (Collector’s Edition, even). But, as with so many other games, when I see what I perceive as a design flaw, I’m going to talk about it. WoW doesn’t get a Free Pass just because Blizzard made it.

I love the spectacle of the new player experience. I just think that, if anything, Blizzard will lose MORE new players with this new system since they hold the player’s hand too firmly and for too long. Most players (I think anyway) want some excitement in their games. They want to feel a sense of risk/reward. Take away the risk and it just feels boring. Remember as far as these new players know, this is the entire WoW experience.

Currently my new Druid is level 18 or 19 and still spamming 2-3 skills over and over again. Even when I deliberately ‘broke’ a quest (I left an instanced area prematurely) and got jumped by 4 mobs I wasn’t in any real danger, though I did have to self-heal. By doing just the quests you’re hand fed, you’re constantly 4 levels above the trash mobs and 2 above the named mobs. I don’t think at this point a new player would be learning very much. I *am* very interested to see how the game transitions from this hand-holding phase to “OK now you can go and make your own choices.” I hope they do it well.

Sure, give new players 2-3 hours of hand holding to get them started, but by the time the player has put in 5 hours (for normal people this is 2-3 evenings of play) they should start getting a sense of what the real gameplay is all about. At least, I think so.

When WoW subs shoot up to 22 million you can all say you told me so. 🙂

Next Gen WoW

Good news! Last night I made the final tweaks to my time machine and traveled 5 years into the future where I got a chance to watch you play the next WoW Expansion: WoW: Epic Thrills! I wanted to report back on how Blizzard will do a great job of streamlining the experience and getting rid of all the parts of gaming that we all hate.

So you start the game and pick a race, then a class. This would feel pretty familiar to today’s gamers except there isn’t a lot of description. You’re just prompted to pick something that looks cool. Then you log into the game for the first time.

You’ll see your character standing in rags with a splintered 2×4 as a weapon. There’s an NPC to one side with a huge ! over his head and behind him is a wall on which a movie is playing. In the movie you can see a village with all its people going about their business. The graphics are amazing.

If you don’t do anything the NPC starts waving his hands saying “CLICK ME! CLICK ME!” Once you click on him he tells you a story about this village and how it is being attacked by bandits. You have to kill 5 bandits! The movie changes, showing bandits descending on the village, and suddenly 5 bandits pop into existence in front of you. “CLICK ON THEM!” the NPC yells so you click on one and your character swings his 2×4. The bandit screams and crumbles to the ground. You click on the next bandit, your character swings, he crumbles. You quickly click on the remaining 3 and all die. “BOSS INCOMING!” the NPC yells and suddenly a slightly larger Bandit appears before you. You click on him, your character swings and the boss dies.

Fireworks go off. “QUEST COMPLETE!” appears on the screen and the NPC says “You leveled up! You’ve learned Thorns. Thorns is a defensive spell that protects you from harm. Oh, and here is your reward.” The NPC taps his staff on the ground and your character changes. Now he is wearing better clothes and carrying a dagger. The NPC has a new ! over his head, so you click on him.

The NPC goes into a spiel about how the villagers will freeze to death because the bandits stole all their clothes. Their only hope is bear hides. The movie changes to show a woodland scene. The NPC tells you that you have to kill 10 bears.

Suddenly 10 bears appear before you. You click on it and your character thrusts with his knife and the bear dies. Yay! But Bear #2 bites at you! You notice a Green Health Bar drop a bit and the NPC yells “You lost some health, but your Thorns damage the bear!” and Bear #2 dies.

At that point, in the real world the phone rings. You pick it up to talk to a telemarketer. You watch the screen as Bears 3, 4 and 5 bite you and die from your Thorns spell. Bear #6 bites you and dies too, but at the same time he kills you. A huge green button with the word “GO!” on it appears on screen. You click it and your character stands up with his health bar full again. Bears 7, 8, 9, & 10 bite you, reducing your health, and die from your defensive spell.

“QUEST COMPLETE! You gained a new level! You learn FIREBALL!” the NPC yells. Your health bar fills up. When he taps his staff this time, a shield appears in your hand and shoulderpads grow out of your shoulders. The NPC has a ! over his head.

You click him and he says “The villagers need food. Hunt some deer!” The woodland scene continues to play on the screen and 10 deer teleport into the room. You’re off the phone so can focus again. You click the first dear and your avatar stabs it. It dies. You click the second deer and your avatar shoots a fireball at it. It dies. Click deer #3, another fireball, another dead deer. Click deer #4 and it’s a stab again, and another dead deer. You quickly click the remaining 6 deer and the NPC yells “SPEED BONUS!” and suddenly there’s a decorative butterfly fluttering around your avatar’s head.

As the 10th deer dies the NPC yells “QUEST COMPLETE! You gained a new level! You learned Hack!” His next quest has you fighting 8 tigers to get their teeth to make daggers to arm the villagers. The woodland scene is replaced by a jungle scene. When the tigers appear and you click on them you sometimes swing you dagger overhead and yell “Hack!” when you attack. Other times its a thrust and others still, a fireball.

The NPC pauses the action and says “In WoW 2.0 you don’t have to worry about what skill to use…we take care of that for you!” You pause a moment and a tiger bites you and you die. The big green GO button pops up and you click it and continue where you left off. This fight has a Boss Tiger at the end. You click it and your avatar does a crazy cool combo attack that consists of a fireball followed by a hack. “QUEST COMPLETE!” yells the NPC. “You’ve gained a level. Only 196 to go!”

And then my time machine pulled me back to the present. But I can’t wait for this version of WoW to arrive. I loved how you could do everything with 1 mouse button. There was no pesky moving hither and yon, or inventory or stats to worry about. No painful death penalty. No having to figure out what skill or spell to use next. I mean, these are COMPUTER games, right? Why should WE have to make all these decisions when the computer can do it for us!? Let it keep track of the numbers, right? We just want to click on stuff.

I read that the internal code name for the next generation of WoW is: Bubblewrap.