Monday, July 23, 2012

One Year Later: My Return to the World of Azeroth

One Year Later: My Return to the World of Azeroth
Let start out with my World of Warcraft credentials, that way whatever I say from now on is validated. I started playing this WoW back in 2007 shortly after the Black Temple (Patch 2.1.0) released, and continued playing until just after Patch 4.2.0 (The Firelands). Over the course of my time playing I rose as high as the 9th best Paladin and 3rd highest ranked Holy Paladin on the server of Hellscream. Yes, Hellscream the powerhouse Beta server that still thrives today. My services came recommended highly for knowing my role as a healer, and keeping Tanks alive. I was also a formidable DPS as Retribution, but nowhere as skilled as my healing side. Although with Cataclysm I switched my main spec to Retribution as I always found it more fun than healing. The only reason that I walked away from the game is because I no longer found it fun, and spending $15 a month on a game I no longer found fun was made absolutely no sense to me.
That being said I have kept an eye on the game from a far simply because you don’t spend 4 years of your life playing a game without wanting to see what happens to it. I also have tried to keep in touch with the multiple friends I have made in this game, and that is ultimately what brought me back. While playing Diablo 3 one of them asked if I planned on coming back, I said no, but I would log onto the old Vent server for old times’ sake. After listening in on a few of my friends chugging along in a Heroic Dungeon, I told them to send me a Scroll of Resurrection and I’ll give it a week. I figured, “I’ll give it a week to entice me into coming back. Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say.”
After installing the game, and the Mods to make it feel like I never left, I loaded the game up and was pleased to be reunited with the city of Stormwind. It felt like I never left, I instantly knew the layout, and was flying around it on my old Cenarion War Hippogriff. I was soon drug into the 3 new Caverns of Time instances (my favorite set of instances) to work off some rust. As we stormed through the instances I was at first pleased with the design of the dungeons and the variety to the bosses. Everything looked well crafted, and to be fair WoW always was good for scenery porn. Don’t get me wrong it’s not Crysis, but the environments do look good from an atheistic and artistic view.
After completing all 3, and picking up a few pieces of gear for my troubles, I found myself sitting in the Stormwind bank and tabbed out and reading something while chatting on vent. It was then that I realized I was doing exactly what I did when I quit this game the last time. I just wasted time sitting in a city instead of actually playing the game. So I took advantage of the free character boost to level 80 and leveled my Warlock from 48 to 80. As I dusted off my old Gnome friend I headed to Hyjal because fuck Vashj'ir, and was ready to hit the grind.
Then I did the first 3 quests and stopped because it was far too boring to do again. I only had 1 level 85 toon, but I had 3 that made it through Hyjal; so these quests had no impact on me and I ultimately found the whole grind boring as sin. It was then I decided that I would not be making a full return to Azeroth as I knew I could no longer handle the grind. I ran into the same problems when I gave SWTOR a go, but that game had other issues that lead me to shelving it for the foreseeable future.
I know the first argument to be held against me is the timing of my return. The fact Mists of Pandaria is releasing probably in the fall or winter of this year, and I’m coming back at the end of an expansion both sound like solid arguments to be held against any critiques I hold against the game at this point in time. However, the fact I have been gone for over a year and there is no content that is currently out or coming in MoP to draw me in and want to play doesn’t help the games case. There were 3 new Heroics that I got to run through, but upon reflection I remember little about the story, and even less about the mechanics of the fights. Everything just has become a routine, and routines don’t always make for the fun times.
Another thing that got me was my friends’ response to the question, “Why are you still playing this game?” The responses were startling to say the least.
“It’s something to do.”
“It’s fun to laugh at the stupid people.”
“I don’t really know.”
All of these responses lead me to understand why over the last year WoW has lost around 1.8 million subscribers. Most of these losses were suffered before the 4th quarter of last year when the Hour of Twilight Patch launched (November 29, 2011). So that shows that there are people just are tired of the game no matter the content that is on the horizon.
Back to the responses I had to think about it, but after pondering these I found one solution to serve as a substitute for WoW that would scratch both those itches…YouTube. Through YouTube you have something to do, and over half the videos on YouTube it seems are people making themselves look foolish. That third one…I have nothing except the sad feeling that my friends and maybe others with similar thinking are hopelessly addicted to the game. It gives me the feeling that a sad empathy has descended over players of this game that they no longer care about the quality of the product, but will just happily throw money at the game so they can continue to go through the routines they set for themselves, regardless of whether or not it is actually fun or not.
Isn’t that the point of a game, to have fun? Or to just go through the routine day after day in hopes of eventually getting to something new which you do over and over until it becomes the new routine that takes over your free time? It’s sad to think that this is what the once revolutionary game that helped to define the MMORPG has been reduced to, a digital drug. Blizzard already has the market cornered on addictive gameplay. Both WoW and Diablo 3 feature addictive-as-crack leveling that keeps you going wanting more. With flashing light, epic sound effects, and the promise of new more powerful gear and abilities. However, after you come back off the high and go through the withdrawals you feel refreshed and actually not tempted at all to return. By then Blizzard has already added oodles and boodles of your cash to their pile, and still will get more from your comrades. That or you remained complacent with where you have ended up and run the routine gauntlet like I mentioned before.
Don’t interpret this as purely a hate speech; I love World of Warcraft for what it represented in its prime. Wonderful environments, a great cast of characters supporting a massive story with a lore that has stood the test of time, and gameplay that truly made it top of the MMO throne (a throne it still holds to this day). I invested so much of my time into this game I can’t fully hate it, I just have walked away from the game as it has evolved into something I can no longer support. I don’t discourage people from giving the game a try if you think you will enjoy it. The new Free-to-play model they are employing gives you a chance to give the game a go without spending a dime, and there is still a lot of good content in the game to make playing the game worth it. So Denizens I leave it to you to decide for yourselves, and I hope you found this analysis to be knowledgeable, and entertaining. Feel free to leave a comment on this post, follow the blog if you like, and share it to like-minded individuals. 
But until next time guys, I’m S.F., and what do you seek within the mountain?



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