Tenfold Hate

December 12, 2008, 9:29 am
Filed under: World of Warcraft

A friend sent this to me this morning. I’m not sure how long this classified will be around, but apparently, some woman who is REALLY into Warcraft is LF someone to make sweet love to as she plays arenas. This link is certainly NSFW. I’m assuming it’s a total farce, but hey, I’ve heard of much stranger fetishes than this one. Different strokes for different folks.

File Under “WTF? Oh, the Humanity!”
April 15, 2008, 2:27 pm
Filed under: World of Warcraft

I’ve known guildies who have conjured up RL romances through their virtual avatars in WoW. To the best of my knowledge, it’s never worked out. Personally, I’d imagine it’s extremely difficult (if not impossible) to forge a legitimate adult romantic relationship within the context of an escapist video game where we’re all running around as dwarves and trolls killing warp stalkers. But to each their own. Now some wing nut decided to offer sex to anyone who’d buy her an epic flyer. We’ve heard of RMT sweatshops. What next? RMT brothels?

Shadows of Silithus
April 4, 2008, 9:40 am
Filed under: World of Warcraft

A good week-and-a-half into Warcraft’s patch 2.4 and despite the introduction of Magister’s Terrace I’ve gotta say–there’s not a hell of a lot keeping my attention. I guess WoW players jump through hoops with such willingness that Blizzard is just gonna continue serving us the leftover rep grinds of yesteryear (Timbermaw rep or Gates of AQ, anyone?) until WoTLK is released. Is anyone else getting bad flashbacks of the Silithus/Naxx grind they plugged in to satiate the masses pre-BC?

Part of Blizzard’s brilliance is their ability to recycle the same 5-10 basic tasks and make them seem fresh and new, whether you are level grinding, engaging in PvP, or dungeon crawling. When they succeed, they do so on a grand scale. But when they fail, they FAIL BIG. For every great thing about Warcraft, there’s a dark side–whether we’re talking about their chronically broken PvP system; the formulaic, dry, clunkiness of their raid scenarios; or the anti-fun rep grinds they seem hell bent on injecting into every aspect of the game.

But this has been a problem with WoW since day one–the huge discrepancy between the player experience from character creation to level cap and the drastically different, often regimented, playing field faced once max level is reached. There is little if any congruity between the two. I guess 2.4 just stirred up those old feelings of discontent in me.

It is stories–fantasy–after all, that got us here, and to sub out creativity and interactive storytelling with gear grinds, heroic key grinds, badge grinds, and any other sort of grind feels hollow as a suit of armor collecting dust in a museum, the hero who once animated its actions long dead.

Dreadsteed of Xoroth, Revisited
January 22, 2008, 10:46 am
Filed under: World of Warcraft

Over the weekend, my level 60 undead lock on Sen’jin finally completed his epic mount quest–after doing all the required steps leading up to the Dire Maul run well over a year ago. The quest itself was not terribly difficult (our group consisted of two locks, a pally, a rogue, and a level 70 priest) but it did take a decent amount of time.

I had the fortune of finding a very good pick-up group. My horde toon pretty much solos. Lacking the extensive network of guildies I have on Eldre’Thalas, I’d pretty much dismissed the possibility of finding a competent group willing to run an instance that no one runs anymore.

I like how WoW post-BC still requires locks to go to Dire Maul and shammies and pallies to hit up Scholo for their epic mount quests. It gives new players the opportunity to experience some of that oft-neglected pre-BC content that is glossed over in their frantic grind to get to Outlands. With Blizzard’s ability to keep players hooked on repeatable content, I’m shocked that they haven’t done something with the pre-BC instances to keep them more lively.

There are simply beautiful instances (Zul’Gurub immediately comes to mind) that have turned into ghost towns simply because Blizzard has given new players zero motivation to make the trek into them.

I’d love to see Blizzard give players more motivation to revisit many of these wonderfully rendered yet ignored “classic” instances, whether by nerfing them to 5- or 10-man groups or creating heroic versions of the instances a la Outlands. The only problem I see with this is Blizzard’s love of adding grind where it’s not necessary.

I don’t want to haul ass to any instance, old OR new, to faction grind again and again–but maybe the occasional seasonal event–like the Headless Horseman in Scarlet Monastary–would be a good way to make sure some of these great instances can be more than yesterday’s news. I mean, think of the minute percentage of players who actually got to experience BWL or Naxx or AQ40 the first time around?

Take these places and put them in the hands of the casual players who may never have had an opportunity to see them the first go around. The hardcore will always have their flavor-of-the-day conquests and fresh raid content to gnaw on that Blizzard throws their way. It’s clear that a lot of work went into each of these dungeons. Yesterday’s hard work and artistry should not be ignored just because there’s a new kid on the block.

Absence Makes the Smoking Heart of the Mountain Grow Fonder
January 9, 2008, 2:33 pm
Filed under: World of Warcraft

Over the past week, I ran both my level 65 rogue and 62 priest through Ramparts and Blood Furnace, two of the introductory five-man instances in Burning Crusade. Each can be completed in under an hour. This casual instancing was a refreshing change after memories of whole nights spent in MC and BWL with nothing to show for it but a hefty repair bill. WoW is the only MMO where I made it to–or participated in–endgame. And it was ultimately the monotony and scripted class roles of endgame raiding that burnt me out just prior to Burning Crusade’s release last year.

BC has given me the chance to return to what made WoW so appealing to me when I first discovered it three years ago–exploring the quirky, stylized world; adventuring with, and making new, in-game friends; and feeling like I’ve progressed in at least some very little way virtually every time I log off at the end of the night. My guild is a very big factor in making the game for me as well, so I have all of them to thank. I’m sure my year away from the game did a world of good too, but I have to give credit where credit is due.

Another thing WoW does right that many new games are always missing the boat on is Blizzard do a LOT with a little. Though the graphics are not the most advanced, I’d argue it looks better than any game out there outside of LoTRO and EVE. I know a lot of people have qualms with the Disney-esque, cartoonish world, but I’ll go to my grave preferring that look and feel to the rigid Barbie doll avatars of most other titles.

My relationship with WoW is definitely love/hate and right now I’m in the midst of my second honeymoon. If nothing else, my return has reminded me that just because I tend to root for the underdog, that doesn’t mean that the prom king can’t have redeeming qualities too.

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Game Master, There Are Grinds in My MMO!
December 12, 2007, 1:05 am
Filed under: Gaming, MMORPGs, World of Warcraft

On this week’s Shut Up We’re Talking podcast, Brent from VirginWorlds dared suggest that despite all our bitching, MMORPGers LIKE grinding on some level. I immediately thought, “Hell no!”

As I finished my fifth “Kill 10 scary monsters and return to me with 10 scary monster scalps” quest in Vanguard tonight, something hit me. I was having a good time. And damn it, Brent had a point. But the fact remains, even if Marilyn Monroe is dangling a carrot in front of me, eventually I’m gonna get tired of looking at her. It’s not a question of whether or not MMOs will ever be grind-free. All “grind” really implies is that something has stopped feeling rewarding. Or perhaps more accurately, grind begins once repetition and monotony outweigh potential reward.

As the Ancient Gaming Noob pointed out in the same podcast, there are things that’d be downright monotonous that become a lot of fun if say, you’re engaging in those tasks with a group of friends. The multiplayer element of MMOs throws a random factor into tasks that, if performed solo, would become brain-numbingly repetitious pretty darn quickly. The right group dynamic offers a built-in social element, an added tactical element, and the extra satisfaction of working as a team that turns even the most repetitive Whac-A-Mole Furlbog rep grind into a night well spent.

If there’s enough variety to how they make me jump through hoops, I’ll do it again and again. Sometimes I want Marilyn dangling the carrot. Other times I’ll settle for Jayne Mansfield. I am a pretty simple animal. Initially all designers had to do is change the pretty scenery every so often, make the monsters bigger and scarier, throw me some coins and decent loot here and there, and I’d grind ’til the cows come home. This is where WoW lost me. They began using the same old formula for every rep grind and virtually every dungeon and every form of character advancement.

I don’t necessarily need an MMO that plays like a console game or an FPS. Eventually it’ll be a fun twist once someone actually gets it right–but honestly, for all my longing for that ‘next-gen’ title to blow the lid off the industry like UO or WoW did, all game companies really have to do is come up with more clever ways to throw me off: different formulas, different game mechanics, and different types of character progression.