Hey, What about that other Game?

Since the majority of this blog’s attention was on World of Warcraft during 2010, I thought it was worth a post to update folks on my progress there. That is to say… not much.

To be honest, I’ve played very little WoW since before the holidays. I was totally amped up about Cataclysm leading up to release and couldn’t wait to get started on launch day. My plan was to explore and gather ores and herbs during the first few days to take advantage of inflated Auction House prices (muahahaha) and let the new zones clear out a bit.

I started out in Mount Hyjal, did the first few quests, and then started flying around and gathering. The only problem was that as I flew around the zone, many, if not most, of the ores that I spotted on my map would disappear as I got close to them, and that was my introduction to Cataclysm-era phasing. Parts of the zone would abruptly change as I flew in and out of them, and it was a little disconcerting. Eventually I got high enough to mine the next level of ore, made my way to Uldum, and hit 525 mining that first evening.

I went back to Hyjal and started questing. First I have to say that I loved the story of Mount Hyjal. I’m a big fan of Malfurion and the demi-gods and the dragons, so that was all good. But as I quested, something felt a bit off. I never had more than 2 or 3 quests at a time, and they were almost too streamlined; in every instance I completed the quests at the same time. It was a bit too efficient. Still, I didn’t mind too much, because I was geeking out to the story.

Then came Vashj’ir, and that’s where it unraveled. I can’t think of a single underwater zone in any game that I’ve ever enjoyed, and even with the mechanics that Blizzard implemented to make underwater questing tolerable, Vashj’ir was no exception. I still was only completing 2 or 3 quests at a time, and just when I thought I was perhaps halfway done with the zone, I checked my achievement panel: 30/160.

I wanted to smash my head against the keyboard.

I finished it out though (ever the Loremaster), and during that time I discovered the downfall of heavy phasing. Exploration, real exploration, was greatly hindered. If you tried exploring new areas but weren’t to that part of the story yet, they would sometimes be completely empty of mobs, and would almost always look differently by the time you actually got to that point in the story. If you skipped a quest, you couldn’t go to a different quest hub. Those NPCs would just give you a blank stare, ask why you were there, and then sent you back to finish your chores.

I continued on to Deepholm, but by that point my enthusiasm for Cataclysm was gone. I was completely disheartened by the Vashj’ir experience, and while Deepholm is a stunning zone, I just couldn’t get into the story. I tried Uldum, no dice. Twilight Highlands, the same. I had stopped seeing Azeroth as a great, vast world to be explored and played in, and was now seeing it as moving methodically from quest hub to quest hub, doing 2 quests at a time and watching cutscenes, seeing the world and story not through the eyes of my character, but through the virtual binoculars that the developers had programmed for me.

This is where I confirmed something that I think I’ve suspected all along: I like worlds I can play in. I enjoy Themepark MMOs, as long as I have the ability to choose where to go and what to do. I’ve never had an issue with the previous WoW design philosophy, with quest hubs and breadcrumb quests, because I always had options. If I didn’t want to do quests in, say Skald, I didn’t have to do those quests; I could go someplace else. But while the developers had admirable intentions of becoming better storytellers with Cataclysm, it has also locked players into all-or-nothing play through the zones. That’s not as much of an issue in the lower levels, when you have multiple zones to choose from, but at higher levels you don’t have as much freedom.

I did get to do a few normal-level instances, and they were fun. But in no time folks were talking about chain-running instances to prepare for heroics, and it was all-too-quickly a return to the style of gameplay that I’ve been doing for the past 18 months, and don’t really have any interest in doing again. I had been looking forward to exploration, archaeology, and just enjoying the new world, but even that’s not happening right now.

So am I done with WoW? Considering previous history it’s highly unlikely that I’m done for good, but I am considering myself on a WoW hiatus for the time being. If I get the urge to log on, I will, but I’m also not pressuring myself to do so. I’m still keeping in touch with my guildies, they’re far too awesome to just walk away and they are the one thing that I miss from WoW at the moment.

In the meantime, I’m playing some LotRO (level 44 hobbit minstrel, yeah!), beta-ing Rift, and looking forward to Guild Wars 2. I’m also job-hunting, learning to hoop dance, and working on some projects at the house so the break from WoW has been a productive one so far.

11 thoughts on “Hey, What about that other Game?

  1. pasmith

    Very interesting post. You’re finding at high levels the same issues I complained about at very low levels (and was often shouted down for). I mean granted if I roll a night elf I could make the trek to the human starter areas and do those quests instead, but that’s just trading one very “on rails” experience for another. Me, I adore a big full quest log chock full of options.

    1. Moxie

      I agree, I liked the days when I could have 20+ quests at once, in different zones and continents! It was part of the illusion that you’re actually in a persistent, living world. The extreme on-rails experience is more like being part of a movie.

      It’s not so bad as long as you’re digging the story. I loved Westfall and Redridge, even though they were also on rails. But right now I’m not so sure I would like them as much on the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time around.

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  3. Copra

    Great post and it seems to pinpoint the sore spot I’ve been trying to identify myself. I feel too confined in the high level quest system to feel the open world feel.

    The railroading is great for those who look forward to complete the game and start raiding as soon as possible, but it isn’t what the game experience was even in WotLK. It’s just fast track to the end with as little resistance as possible.

    Thus I’m enjoying my pacifist gnome more: levelling through herbalism and mining without killing a single creature. Much more exciting than high level warrior blasting through tons of mobs with a smile.

    C out

    1. Moxie

      I’m really glad that they added XP to gathering. My main is sitting at 84.5 right now having only done Hyjal, Vashj’ir, and the first part of Uldum, and that’s because of all the mining XP. My husband has only done Hyjal as a quest zone, but he’s level 85 from mining.

      And I agree, I know some folks who weren’t looking forward to the leveling process, and they were able to hit 85 in about 3 days and start instancing, so the streamlining was perfect for them.

  4. Petter Mårtensson

    Yeah, that streamlining is not for everyone… I also can’t stand Vashj’ir, it’s a terrible zone. Hyjal, even though it’s just as streamlined, is a lot more fun to play through. I do think that it opens up a bit in later zones (personally I adored Deepholm, Uldum and Twilight Highlands), but in many ways the progress through WoW is very much a singleplayer game in a MMO setting. It started in Wrath, with the “personal relationship” we were supposed to develop with Arthas, and this is a natural step for them. I guess the lack of choice we have during later levels has to do with all the work they poured into the low-level content – there wasn’t room for a new Outland or Northrend. Sadly. 😦

    I haven’t had any phasing issues like that, but I haven’t explored “outside” of the phased areas (and now that I’m finished with all that content, the opportunity is gone for now at least). I will take a look if I ever get my shaman above level 80. Was it Copra that posted screens of what happened when he tried to leave Gilneas without having finished the Worgen quests? That was quite scary. 😀

    1. Moxie

      LOL, I just saw Copra’s screenshots from Gilneas. That’s exactly how it looks. 🙂

      The zone storylines really have been improved, and the new content and quests are much better than the old, ie the “Joust!” set of quests in Hyjal. If they had kept the open-world feel it would have been a complete winner in my book.

  5. zeaks

    Nice post, it pretty much sums Cata up for alot of people I think. I actually didn’t mind any of the areas besides Vashj’ir, I loved the storylines and pretty much everything while leveling. I did spend the first few days mining like crazy and hitting the auction house so by the time I got started with questing the areas were not so crowded. I enjoyed the regular dungeons, but that’s where it ended for me.
    We had a few key players leave the game because they didn’t have the time to spend in heroics, our guild was small to begin with, now with the guild levels and rewards, it’s hard to find replacements, specially for healers.
    I’ve been playing the Rift beta as well, and I’ve enjoyed it so far, I’m hoping it might replace WoW for me.

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