A WoW Retrospective… and thoughts on the Future.

So, after playing the game for close to a year of my life I’m finding myself dissecting it, taking a good look at both its positives and negatives and assessing the reasons why I continue to play.

I thought I would put down my thoughts and post them in the hopes that it promotes discussion. I posted this on the EU WoW General board and, of course, it was lost almost immediately in the deluge of non-constructive detritus.

I have two level 60s, both well equipped with blues/purples. One is on a PvP server and the other is on a PvE server. My current main is in a guild which does full MC runs in a few hours and has just taken down Nefarian so we’re essentially waiting for AQ whilst farming the existing high-end instances.

I don’t consider myself a ‘hardcore’ player. I have a full time job and various evening commitments etc. I’m simply very efficient with the gaming time I have available. I was an avid player of WCIII but WoW is my first MMORPG.

In the simplest terms, there are three reasons why I enjoy the game:

Immersion – I love the look and feel of the game world. Even at level 60, it’s still fun to hit Alt+Z and ride around taking in the scenery and I still get a kick out of little things like leaping from the Booty Bay dock into the water. WoW gets criticised as being cartoony but I consider it to be very stylised and I like the look. I grew up on Adventure Gamebooks and, at least from a visual and aesthetic point of view, it reminds me of the imaginary worlds I inhabited as a kid.

Interaction – Whilst I will always consider real life to be better, I do believe that the social interaction involved in WoW is both genuine and positive. I’ve had some really good laughs with friends in the game and it has spawned countless in-jokes and reminders of good times had. The interaction is not limited to the social aspect, however, as I very much enjoy interacting with the opposing faction via. PvP. Friendly competition is also a draw – the success and advancement of your character is something of a visual ‘hi-score table’ which can be compared to other players. I don’t consider myself elite or have a ‘higher than thou’ attitude but I think everyone can appreciate the joys of getting a rare or cool looking item.

Advancement/Goal Achieving – Obviously this is a satisfying element and could be considered the main object of the game. Leveling to 40, saving for a mount, leveling to 60, mastering the tactics for instances, becoming proficient at your class, leveling skills and reputation, etc. This is something I do feel satisfied about, considering I have leveled two characters to 60 and have essentially seen/conquered most (if not all) of the content in the game.

This brings me onto what I feel I now need from the game in order to sustain my interest. When I first started out the game world seemed incredibly vast and amazing. The ceiling on the game world is now clearly visible and the game world seems decidedly smaller. From an Immersion point of view, I think some freshness could be brought back (at least for me personally) by such simple things as new music and new loading screens. I enjoy exploring lesser travelled areas so the addition of more lonely, open spaces would also be something I’d enjoy. Things that would require a bit more to impliment (but which I would love) would be weather effects (I really hope this is added in the expansion) and greater character customisation (perhaps the ability to customise the colour of armour, equipment etc.). From what I understand, much of the original creative team left Blizzard, so I hope the new designers can produce as good (if not better) work on the game’s aesthetics.

The Interactive side of the game seems to work fine as it is, although I would like to see a larger (and annotated) ignore list. As for PvP, however, I think the system needs a complete overhaul. I refuse to join in with ‘rank grinding’ as it is an entirely flawed system and is not ‘skill based’ enough for my liking. It bears no relevance to the opposing faction since you are essentially competing against your own side for Honor. I very much enjoy PvP from a combatative point of view, though. From my experience on a PvP server I felt that Battlegrounds killed the player established, balanced, “wilds” PvP. Less fights for the fun of it because skillfull PvP has been replaced with repetitive Honor grinding taking place in instanced Battlegrounds. PvP servers seem to have just become PvE servers-with-extra-griefing. Consequently, I’d really like to see more ‘PvP enabled areas’ such as the Gurubashi Arena but perhaps extended to the size of an entire zone so that there is the possibility of healthy “wilds” PvP even on a PvE server.

As for Advancement and Goal Achieving despite having experienced a large portion of the game already there are still things I’d like to personally accomplish. Leveling my cooking, fishing and all my trainable weapon skills up to 300, for instance. I have also yet to own an Epic Mount (mostly to do with having a full time job, and thus my playing time is taken up with raiding and not farming for cash). I do think the game would benefit hugely by more ‘alternative’ goals in the game (such as becoming Admiral of the Bloodsail Pirates). I don’t really have the inclination to grind faction reputation (due to time constraints as mentioned above) so anything that provides an alternative ‘path’ in the game which isn’t a deliberate timesink would be a nice addition. Incidently, I really enjoyed the Epic Hunter quest because of the fact it had to be done solo and was a nice change from the usual instanced, 40-man raids. I really like the fact that such great movies have been made from the game, and that too is something I want to create at some point.

How confident am I that my game needs will be met? Well, I’m not entirely sure. Blizzard will no doubt continue to impliment new content/instances but will they be really all that different from what’s currently in the game? Will boss encounters be a bit more innovative or will they simply stick to the same old formula of aggro retention and ‘do X in Phase 1, Y in Phase 2’ structure? Also, I do think the game really needs to have something injected into it to make it feel newer, rather than slightly different coded variations of the same things. I’ve actually found myself drawn to other MMORPs simply because of the potential to ‘start over’ again with something that feels completely new and be in a position where the ceiling of content seems like many, many adventures away.

I am looking forward to the future of WoW but I also feel that there’s every possibility my expectations will not be met. In the short term, we’ll see how AQ pans out, and in the long term I guess a lot will be riding on the Expansion. From a personal point of view though, I can’t help but feel like I’m coming towards the ‘end’ of the game. :\

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