WoW is starting out ever easy

So as I mentioned in my last post, I started a new character yesterday. He’s now level 15 or 16 and holy smokes, World of Warcraft is holding my hand to the point where I’m feeling molested.

Now to be fair, level 15 or 16 is maybe 5-6 hours of playtime? My /played is around 8 hours but I have a habit of walking away from the computer and leaving my dude sitting around while I take the dog for a half hour walk or something. So I’m guessing 5-6 hours of actual game time. Maybe 6.5.

The new player experience really couldn’t be much easier. Everything you’re asked to do is carefully laid out for you. You’ll never have to make a decision for yourself when questing. At the most I’ve had 4 quests in my log (if you don’t count a couple of Harvest Day Event quests) and usually it has been 1 or 2. They’ve always been carefully grouped together so I got to an area, kill 10 rats (1 quest) and picking up 6 widgets (2nd quest) and killing a named mob (3rd quest). An arrow on the mini-map shows you what direction to go. In the case of a named mob, he shows up on the map as a skull so you know exactly where he is. Anything you need to collect has huge sparklies that you can see from far, far away.

Once you complete one grouping of 2-3 quests in a location you’re led by the nose to the next NPC who’ll give you 2-3 quests in the next highly specific location. (Sometimes it’s a cluster of NPCs). So far I’ve found exactly 1 quest that was ‘off the beaten path’ a bit.

If the area you have to do quests at is more than a few seconds run away, there’ll be a temporary (and on rails) mount available to take you to where you need to go. When you level up, pop up announcements tell you if there are new skills available at your trainer (who, btw, appears on your mini-map) and reminds you if you have a talent point to spend.

Speaking of talents. When you hit ten you have to pick one ‘branch’ of the talent tree to go down. That’s the first real decision you’ll make in the game after picking your class (you’ll be locked out of the other two for a while once you choose). Once you do that, you’ll have 3 talents to choose from, so that’s another decision, but as of right now I’ve maxed one of the 3 talents and am working on a 2nd and still haven’t unlocked the next tier of talents.

The level of difficulty so far has been near 0. I’ve died once or twice from not paying attention (you tend to zone out pretty quickly – like once I was poisoned and never noticed since I was watching TV while I played) but always it’s been a few seconds away from a graveyard. Health and mana regenerate like crazy so I’ve never needed to eat anything or use bandages or anything like that. Granted as a druid I can heal myself, so that probably has a lot to do with it. That poison (corruption, actually) might’ve been a much bigger deal for a non-healing class.

Now, I’ve been sortof enjoying myself just because the lore is quasi-new and I’ve been enjoying seeing how the world changes, but I would NOT want to level a 2nd Night Elf because the actual gameplay is about as compelling and mentally stimulating as playing solitaire.

Hopefully by level 20 or so things will start to branch out, but damn, this is the longest tutorial I’ve ever played through.

Back to WoW again!

Someday I should count how many blog posts I have that are titled “Back to WoW.”

But here I go again! But c’mon, how could I resist? My history of WoW is long and at times intimate. I have a friend who works at Blizzard who got me into the Friends and Family Alpha long, long ago, and I played the heck out of WoW for the first couple years it was out. That was before it was hugely mainstream and everyone was expected to have exactly the right gear and play their classes exactly the right way — back then we played to have fun. Crazy, huh?

But the world of Azeroth became more or less real to me in some ways. I mean the locations. There are (or were) places in that world that invoked specific memories. So how could I not go back to see what’s changed?

The last time I went back was just a few months ago when, for reasons I no longer recall, I ran out and purchased the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and rolled a death knight. In 2 months of subscribing I played enough to get that death knight to level 58. That’s what? 2-3 hours of play? So that was a good investment of cash, eh? About $70 between the expansion and 2 months of sub.

So today I renewed and rolled a Night Elf Druid. Yup, starting from scratch (for now anyway). I dunno how many of the differences I’m seeing are from the Cataclysm patch, but they’re interesting to me (even if I’m not sure I agree with all of them). The Level 1-5 area for the Night Elves has been super-streamlined and you get through it in about 6-7 quests, some of which take seconds to do. Vast swaths of that area now go untouched. That’s great for vets but I’m not sure if it won’t be a bit overwhelming for newcomers, if any exist.

Owners of the WoW Collector’s Edition now get all three pets instead of having to pick one. 🙂

Here’s a really odd change (and I’m sure you can turn this off). Mobs only have names floating over their head if you have a quest to kill them. That’s really bizarre, but I have to admit it makes it super-easy to find the things you need to kill. Just look for anything with a neon sign over its noggin.

I do have Cataclysm pre-ordered but I almost wonder why. My highest level character is 60 (the cap when I last played with any kind of regularity) so the extra levels aren’t of much interest. I guess I’ll get access to the two new races but beyond that…it seems like most of the changes that come with Cataclysm, at least the ones that pertain to lower level characters, are included with the freebie patch.

We’ll see, I guess. I imagine I could have fun playing a Worgen for a little while..

When I played WoW…

Riffing on a quick back and forth I had on Twitter, I thought I’d wax nostalgic a little bit about my WoW phase.

When I played WoW, I lived alone. I was unemployed and in-between job interviews and freelance gigs I’d spend 20, 30 or even more hours playing each week. These days if I spend 10 hours gaming in a week, it’s a big gaming week.

Because I spent so much time playing, I was in an active guild and knew everyone else in it. We’d be on Vent with open mikes, laughing, talking, cursing, and laughing some more. I knew my guildie’s spouses and kids (tho as often as not, said spouses and kids were in the guild anyway). I knew when person X walked the dog at night, and what time person Y got home from work. These people were my social circle at the time. We weren’t big enough to be a raiding guild but back then doing 5 & 10 man instances had enough of an end-game feel that they felt very satisfying.

When I wasn’t doing something with the guild, I’d hang out in Stormwind. There was a strong role-play community at the time and I spent hours just sitting around in the taverns in Stormwind, chatting with people while drinking real beer in the real world. Not having a job to go to, I didn’t have to go to bed at a reasonable hour and so got to enjoy “late night WoW” which, at the time, was a period starting at 1 or 2 am and stretching until dawn when a lot of the ‘noise’ of the server went away and the people left felt like a real community. We’d chat until all hours. Azeroth became, effectively, my local bar to hang out in. With so much time to play, I never felt pressured to hurry through anything.

Then life changed. I got a job, got a girl, we all were sort of feeling like we’d done everything we could in-game and people started trying other titles. I didn’t have time to keep up. The guild kind of drifted apart and I left the game.

I’ve tried to go back a few times since, but it’s like going back to the places you spent your evenings-out at as a young person. There’re still people there, but you don’t know who they are, and the music they’re playing is different, and the decor is different, and the guy behind the bar sure doesn’t know you…he was probably in diapers that last time you hung out there. You just don’t fit in any longer and it just feels kind of depressing.

And yet today I bought Wrath of the Lich King and now I really don’t know why. I know I’ll log in, feel incredibly lonely because my old friends are no longer there, and log out again. Maybe Cataclysm will change things up enough that WoW will feel like a new place to me.

An evening with the CoW WoWs

I ended up spending most of the weekend in EQ2 with the significant other, but last night I jumped back into World of Warcraft. I was still running solo, taking my shaman from level 9 to 11. I’m not so used to Bloodmyst Isle that I can stack quests efficiently or I probably would’ve made a bit more progress.

I’m *loving* being in the WoW branch of the Casualties of War guild, more so (sorry CoWs!) than I ever did in the Warhammer branch. I feel much more connected to my guildies by dint, I think, of achievements. I know that sounds odd, but people are constantly getting these achievements (which I admit, I poo-pooed pretty strongly before I started playing again) and each one garners a round of “congrats!” and these in turn often spawn some chit-chat via blessed, quiet, text.

Honestly I’m very comfortable soloing in MMOs, which I know sounds really bizarre to some people (“Why not just play a single player game!?”) but with a single player game, you get what’s in the box and never anything more, whereas MMOs are living systems, always changing and growing. So being more or less alone on Bloodmyst Isle isn’t bothering me a bit, but it IS nice to have a guild to trade items with, to chat a bit with, to give and take support from. CoW WoW is currently what I’d call a mid-sized guild… plenty of people on, but not so many that you get lost in the crowd.

The only tiny fly in the ointment is that Rexxar isn’t an RP server, but you can’t have everything. Most of the guildies chose reasonable names (my main reason for preferring RP servers is naming conventions), and only one person has gone with something that really makes me cringe (have I mentioned that I’m an MMO Name Snob?), but that name is so bad I assume the person will end up getting it reported and have to change it. I’d report it if I wasn’t a guildie, but I do have some sense of loyalty. 🙂

But yeah, that’s a teeny, tiny fly. Otherwise, it’s been nothing but good feelings and good times logging into WoW again. And Winter’s Veil starts in a couple of weeks. I love Blizzard’s events!!

Remember, Casualties of War is still recruiting!

What a difference a CoW makes…

Last night I was back in WoW. After the buyer’s remorse-fest of Sunday, I’m not even sure why I logged in. Stubbornness perhaps, or maybe as a show of solidarity with the guild.

This time, I started a Drenai Shaman. Good move on my part, at least the Drenai aspect. I have started literally 20+ human characters, but only a very few Drenai. So their “crash site” starter area is still at least somewhat new. I swear I could close my eyes and run the human abbey quests at this point. 🙂

So I was already more pleased with my return to WoW, but then I contacted the Genda (I think?? Most of us are using WoW names and I’m not always sure who is who at this point) and got a guild invite, and from there on in the night was nothing but fun. I was still playing solo, but enjoying the companionship of the guild made everything feel more fun.

We’re recruiting, by the way. If you’re playing, or are interested in playing, Warhammer Online or World of Warcraft, and you’re looking for a guild, give us a look. I don’t even know how to describe us anymore, but I’ll just say we’re a generally mature and easy-going guild. We get that games are games and real life is real life and that the latter is more important. Lots of us have kids and/or spouses that deserve attention, and we get that you probably can’t be (or don’t want to be) in-game every single night.

We’re still a fairly young guild, too. Just a few months old. But the plans are for eventual expansion into other MMOs, and “unofficially” some of us are gaming together on the XBox or in non-MMO games like Left 4 Dead.

Look, I’m a bitter, angry, cynical old man, and I get around the CoWs and just grin and have a good time. If *I’m* not finding anything to bitch about, you can bet this is a great bunch of people. So give us a try! Start by registering at the forums. Tell ’em Pete sent you; they probably won’t hold that against you.

Willpower saving throw: Failed

So at approximately 11 pm last night, I renewed my WoW subscription. And yes, the baby polar bears figured into that decision, more in terms of timing than in terms of the decision to renew. I felt it coming on, now that CoW is moving into WoW, and figured I may as well get the cute little rat pellet while I could.

I logged in a bunch of my old characters to get the bear and to be baffled by all their gear and crap, then rolled a new character on Rexxar, the CoW WoW server (how could I resist that). And I felt an overwhelming feeling of buyer’s remorse.

THIS again? Kobold varmints, kobold workkers, kobold laborers… defias headbands, grapes and garret’s head? It all came back in a rush. And it really struck me how little WoW has changed in the past 4 years, from the point of view of a level 1 character. I was astounded that, for instance, hovering the mouse over gear in your backpack doesn’t pop-up an “Equipped” window to allow you to compare (though this does happen during quest reward pay-offs). I was surprised that the graphics haven’t changed, that there were no new options for faces or hairstyles. That the character voices were exactly the same. It just felt old to me.

I mean I know that leveling is crazy fast now, and I see some interface tweaks like the fact that PvP has its own Tab, and Blizzard put these totally pointless Achievements in. Pets now ride in a tab on your character sheet. People who’ve played WoW all along told me “It’s like a totally new game now.” and I guess I took that too much to heart. Yeah there are some changes but it doesn’t feel ‘fresh’ in any way, shape or form.

I’m just a bit annoyed with myself. I now have subs to EQ2 & WoW and the on-going LOTRO Lifetime. Which means no going back to Warhammer for another month.

At the same time, I’m excited to be trying a PvE game with CoW members, where everyone is pretty much doing the same thing. We’re all rolling fresh on Rexxar and are going to check out all the old instances and stuff. I’m still trying to decide on a class. The character I rolled last night was a Rogue but I dunno if I’m into that experience. I get impatient with all the skulking around. I might start a drenai if for no other reason than the fact that I haven’t run through the newbie drenai experience a dozen+ times, like I have all the original race areas.

WoW am I ever tempted

This weekend is World of Warcraft’s 4th “birthday” and to celebrate it, anyone with an active account gets a baby polar Blizzard bear pet (as well as an achievement I guess…I don’t even get what the point of WoW achievements are).

This probably circles back to me not fitting into the “too old and too male” comments that sur- rounded Wizard 101, but I’m seriously tempted to re-activate my account just to get this little guy!! I’ve always been a sucker for non-combat pets in MMOs, for whatever reason. Probably the same reason I’m a sucker for non-combat pets in real life, I guess.


WoW isn’t forever?

There’s a post over at Terra Nova entitled WoW-nnui where the author discusses his lack of interest in World Of Warcraft after, presumably, playing for quite some time.

His main point, admittedly, is to ask what happens to the MMO market as more and more of the 6 million plus WoW players hit this point. But once again, people are treating WoW as some new thing. What happened to the DAOC players when they got bored? What happened to the Everquest players? This isn’t a new phenomenon, after all. Some players will move to a new game, some will realize that their time is better spent in the real world. Same as it ever was.

Don’t get me wrong, I love WoW. But I just get tired of people acting as though it was the first MMO. The scale is different, to be sure. But we’ve been down this road before.

Anda’s Game

I just finished listening to the podcast version of Cory Doctorow’s Anda’s Game (and yes, its a deliberate play on Ender’s Game). You can get it at Doctorow’s site or as part of Voices: New Media Fiction at

I highly recommend the story, and particularly to gamers. Its all about a MMORPG and a young girl’s adventures in it. She’s a good player…good enough that there are people willing to pay her real cash to do in-game missions. The intersection of real-world and in-game economies is a fascinating topic to me, and that’s all I’m going to say about the plot, because I don’t want to spoil anything.

Its read by Alice Taylor who is charmingly real. She stumbles here and there, not enough to be distracting but enough that it feels like honest story-telling.

If audiobooks aren’t your thing, the story is also in text form at Salon.