Complexity, continued

World of Warcraft is an incredibly complex game. (Thank you, Captain Obvious.) I’ve written about the technical complexity of the game before, but today I want to examine it from the player side.

Could you play this game without the aid of third party help sites?

Just think about it for a minute. What if there were no WoWHead, no IcyVeins, no Blizzard Watch, no profession leveling sites, no AskMrRobot, no YouTube videos of boss encounters, no [insert your go-to help site here]? Could you play the game at the level of involvement you do now without them? If you are a hunter, would you have been able to track down the incredibly complex quest line for Gara all by yourself? I could not, and I am betting you could not either.

I would not still be playing the game without outside help sites, because I would long ago have gotten too frustrated to continue. I am not saying it is impossible to play without help sites, I am saying that progress would be glacially slower than it is with them, and the average level of play would be vastly lower than it is now. As I am not by nature a patient person, there is no way I would have kept playing under such conditions.

Here is an example: My spousal unit used to play WoW. He started about the same time I did, with a hunter. His approach was to just wander around, killing mobs as he encountered them, getting quests as he stumbled upon them, turning them in only if he happened to see a big yellow question mark over an NPC’s head, discovering Azeroth by leisurely strolling around. He leveled mainly through killing random mobs, exploring, and mining. He is not goal-driven as I am, he is someone who lives in the present and enjoys every bit of it. (A trait I find both admirable and irritating IRL, but never mind.) Once while waiting for a boat in Menethil Harbor, he fell off the dock (no, I have no idea how) and decided since he was already in the water he might as well swim to Stormwind. It took him a loooooooonnnngggg time (hours) but he did it.

He no longer plays. Somewhere about level 50 the game became too complex for his play style, and he just lost interest. He did not want to consult help sites, thought that was a bit too much like real world work research, was not interested in joining a guild, and he was just not able to keep playing unless he got some guidance. So he quit.

Had I not started reading WoWHead and some of the hunter blogs (my guild at the time was no help), I probably would have quit, too. But I did research them, and doing so opened new levels of interest for me in the game. It also greatly speeded up my progress, further holding my interest.

I’m not sure I really have a point to all this, but a couple of thoughts come to mind. The first is, would Blizz be able to make game play as complex as it is if players did not have outside help sources? I think not. Many players would find the game far too frustrating to keep at it. Even activities like basic leveling become much more time-consuming without help. I doubt I would have found the WoD profession quests without help, nor would I have easily — if at all — found the various NPCs for some of the longer leveling and follower quest lines.

Second thought is, should Blizz provide more and better in-game resources for players to reference as they progress? From time to time they have attempted to do so, but almost always the results are half-assed and clumsy. The Dungeon Journal comes to mind. As does that ridiculous quest tracker thingie that annoys me every time I log in because you can’t turn it off and you can’t move it. So I think the answer to should Blizz provide better in-game references is yes they should but they are totally incapable of doing so, and most of the times they try, the result is they make the game interface worse, not better.

Last thought is, maybe the existence of the outside help sites is a kind of validation of the whole MMO concept. MMOs are designed to be social activities, to create virtual communities of like-minded individuals. People devote huge amounts of time, money, and effort to community help sites. Yes, sometimes they turn into actual revenue-producing businesses, but most of them did not start out like that, they started out as people in the community generously sharing their experiences and knowledge with others. This is a very good thing, something that makes me optimistic about the big picture of MMOs.

I hope Blizz realizes the huge contribution these sites make to the game and thus to Blizz’s bottom line.  And if you have a site you depend on for information, please support it in whatever way you can.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

One Response to Complexity, continued

  1. “maybe the existence of the outside help sites is a kind of validation of the whole MMO concept.”
    Wow, that kind of blew my mind. I think you are on to something pretty deep there, Misdirections.

    I really resent it when I have to go to Wowhead to solve a simple quest — beyond that though, I enjoy my few addons for outside sites and Lore summations from the Blizzard Watch guys.

    In general, I’m astounded by how big WoW really is; with ten years and five (?) expansions which were not only new game designs but entirely restructuring the classes each time, the sheer bulk of the content is staggering.

    And … I swam from Darkshore to Desolace; clueless but determined.

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