Though some of you may not believe it, I tend to have decently realistic self-awareness. I am acutely aware of most of my shortcomings, and I have a pretty good idea of how I come across to people, both in my writing and in my social encounters. Thus, periodically, I look back at my blog posts and try to see them with a critical eye, looking for repetitive comments and themes, and checking the overall tone level of them. Most recently, here is what I saw as repetitive themes:
- Gear sucks
- Raiding and M+ suck
- Professions suck
- Mounts suck and will soon get suckier
- BFA sucks
Hmmm, yeah, definite pattern here.
Thus, today I am resolved to write positive things about WoW and Blizz and BFA. *deep breath* Here goes:
World of Warcraft is still the only MMO I am really interested in playing. I have tried to fall in love with other games, but thus far I just have not found one that has drawn me in as completely as WoW. The ones I have tried are: Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy XIV, Wildstar, Lord of the Rings Online, Diablo, Second Life (don’t judge — at times I have been desperate!), and a host of off-title indie games. Now, it is certainly possible I did not stick with any of them long enough to get comfortable with them. I think LOTRO is the one I went furthest with, and I only got to something like level 9.
There seems always to be some aspect of each of these games that is off-putting enough that it ruins my — dare I say it? — “immersion” experience. With Diablo, it was the movement mechanic. With LOTRO, it was the crappy technology that caused the game to slow to a virtual slide show every evening during peak play hours. With ESO it was mainly the whole out-of game store thing — seemed like every time I logged in, there was the game giving me “gifts” to redeem in the store, or enticing me to buy cosmetic perks, or reminding me I could buy another race or class or expansion. With Wildstar it was, well, a lot — generally it was a game with a ton of promise and total failure to deliver. With FFVIV, it was mainly the graphics — this is personal taste, but I am not a fan of the whole anime-type rendering, nor am I a fan of weird races as my own avatar. I don’t want my own character to look like an animal or a big-eyed cutesy little critter.
In general, if I had to put my finger on a single thing that immediately puts me off of non-WoW games, it would be graphics. In particular, often I feel like the world graphics do not match the character ones. That is, frequently the world graphics are very realistic and even gritty in their adherence to real-world buildings and geography, but the characters are weirdly both too cartoonish and graphic-novel-level caricatures. This mismatch is usually what hits me in the face as soon as I start playing, and honestly I think it predisposes me to resist the game.
I know WoW has been criticized by some as being “too cartoonish”, but in my opinion it strikes exactly the right balance between fantasy characters and fantasy landscapes. It just works for me. I mean, above I said I am not a fan of weird races for my own avatar, but my main in WoW is a Worgen, and it makes perfect sense to me. Go figure.
There are a lot of third party sources of information on WoW. The game has been around for so long, and for years has had so many players, that an entire industry has sprung up to support the game. People write addons for it, there are tons of reference sites like Wowhead and MMO-C, and there are busybodies like me who write regularly about it. This is not to say there are not a few similar activities for some of the other established games out there such as ESO, but generally the number and depth of them do not come close to the ones you find for WoW.
Some people may consider this a “minus” for the game, but I actually like it. Of course, it is possible to criticize Blizz for designing a game that apparently needs all this outside assistance, but I choose to think of it as the game being so huge and interesting that large numbers of people think it worthwhile to help others love the game as much as they do.
Battle for Azeroth is beautifully rendered. I think I have mentioned before that I was really blown away with the beauty of Mists of Pandaria when it launched, and I have to say I had a similar reaction to the zone rendering in BFA. After the brain-dead graphics rerun that was Warlords of Draenor and the green-fire-and gray-rock monotony that was Legion, I was entranced with the beauty of every zone in BFA. Oh, sure, by now when I level an alt I just want to get through each zone as quickly as possible, but in the beginning I took my time and just appreciated the scenery. Because it really is pretty spectacular.
There is a lot to do in WoW. It is still true that the game provides activities for many, many play styles. It has questing, exploring, PvP, raids, small-group instances, professions, achievements, pet battling, bar fights, world events and holidays, rare monsters to deal with, factions to gain reputation with. You can play the game purely for its social aspects or for its entrepreneurial side. There are pets and mounts and gear and toys for the collection-minded. Soon, if you do not like the direction the game has taken over the years, you will be able to go back in time and play it like it was in the beginning. That my personal opinion may be that these activities are becoming ever more limited in their scope and availability does not detract from the fact that there still are a huge number of ways to play this game. It remains vast in its possibilities.
Blizz still has a sense of whimsy. Though the trend seems to have lessened over the past couple of expansions, Blizz still puts things into the game just for the pure fun of it. There are the just-for-the-hell-of it micro holidays, for example. Some achievements are there simply to be stupidly fun. NPCs often spout funny dialog. There are tons of amusing and comforting outside references — the most recent one I loved was the picnic area in Stormsong with Winnie the Pooh characters. Even the Tortollan world quests — boring and tedious as they get — are creatively amusing the first few times you do them. And there are toys — inside a game! Think about that for a minute, that there are amusements within an amusement activity — just the realization is enough to make me chuckle.
Even if the the current expansion seems less than “fun”, the fact that Blizz clearly retains some sense of what that word can mean is a good sign, I think.
The game is still here. Through all the rough times — and there have been plenty of them — Blizz has stuck with World of Warcraft. Of course, it has been a steady moneymaker for them, but it no longer is the lead dog on their team of games. Yet they continue to commit to it. For those of us who have been with the game for years and have gotten very comfortable with its rhythms in our lives, this is positive. If it were to go away, I suspect I would just give up MMOs completely. (In my opinion, WoW is one of the worst games out there, except for all the others…) Some day, of course, Blizz will abandon it, that much seems inevitable. I just hope it is not any time soon, that we have at least a couple more expansions before then.
Besides, if WoW were gone, what would I have to complain about?