Monday, 3 May 2010

Expand or Die? [A Personal Thought about Cataclysm]

So, there's a new installment of the on going epic that is World of Warcraft, this will be the game's third expansion pack, and it takes on the theme of a cataclysmic disaster across the original game's two continents of Kalimdor & the Eastern Kingdoms.

One of the burning questions amongst my fellow personal circle of game players at present is whether they are going to actually buy this offering from Blizzard.

One of the main bones of contention I myself, and I know several of my close friends have with World of Warcraft is the sheer amount of time it takes to achieve the level of reward we pride ourselves on achieving. We literally play the game until we're sick of it to reach our unyielding high standards. The other major problem we have with the series is that, being players of the game from the original release, players who also daddled in the beta testing of the game, we as a group tend towards reminiscing about great times long lost in the game.

Now, I know this is a bit whiney, I know it's a little bit of a jibe at WoW, but lets face it, the game you have the option of playing today is different to that which was originally shipped to us.

And that original incarnation was with us for a very long time, it had no expansions, just a few game play tweaks for the best part of three years. Essentially from release until the first expansion [The Burning Crusade] came out WoW was under an extended development phase, a sort of out in the open evolution into a really really nice game. A nice game, where nice rewards were offered, rewards which gave you a little pride in having worked for them, and which didn't turn you into some sort of Universal Soldier overnight. And as such the players experiencing the game contended with the teething issues, and later with patches to include content which has missed the original release date [e.g. Maraudon]. But most importantly they came to know the game, to feel it's vibe, to know where the pulse was.

Quite whether the likes of Rob Pardo and the rest of the team intended WoW to go through such a long initial version is unclear. It's a question I'd like to pose to them one day though. Certainly there were patches by the dozen. However, people still invested a long time in the activities they undertook. This long post-natal period really lead, at least in my opinion, to lots of players sitting into the game and taking what they were achieving somewhat to heart. This has been particularly true of those players I have talked to about the later expansions of WoW, whom had the original game as their first MMO experience, and they expressed to me many thoughts, but overwhelmingly they've said how much they value the work they put into the character. Scarily too much at times.

However, one of the first shocks to the system for them was the first expansion, with it's release many players suddenly felt their invested effort in the game was totally devalued. Overnight a complete market crash in the value and Kudos they drew from their epic raiding sets, as greens from trash monster kills in Outland were suddenly "better". Many of my personal friends were utterly disheartened to find the simplest of items handed out freely in the expansion were better than the items and equipment that they had spent a lot of time working on. I'm also aware of this feeling being out in the WoW community at large, and at the time of release there were certainly mixed scentiments, ranging from sheer delight [to at last see something new], to blind rage [because of losing so much value in their items], to quiet sobbing [seriously, my vent server was certainly a wash of quiet mumbling and then we all started to rock slowly backwards and forwards with our knees drawn up to our chins and a glazed look on our faces].

Indeed, the release of Burning Crusade crushed one or two large successful Raiding Guilds on my original PVE Server, to such an extent I took the opportunity to completely reroll on a newly opened PVP server.

I can tell you now, that rerolling on a newly opened server. Was "Easy" mode for an experienced player, but it did give a whole new approach to enjoy Burning Crusade, and did allow me to weave a small personal barrier to the numbness I felt leaving my much worked for original characters behind. A fresh start with fresh rules.

It was only too bad, that after making level 70 and investing a vast amount more time in the PVP rewards and burgeoning Arena system, along came Wrath of the Lich King which promptly devalued all efforts once again. I personally got so tired of this that I didn't get WotL straight away, I in fact left the game after playing the 10 day trial. And was only coaxed back by friends telling me "it's not so bad".

Indeed, I found myself returned to the game, but a member of a much dwindling social group, with everyone around me grumbling [rightly so in many situations] about the pointlessness of striving to replay the same game mechanics, through lands which look pretty similar to what came before, for rewards which simply rubbed it in their face that Blizzard were keeping them playing. I don't know if I've become more anti-social with my gaming, but I don't mix like I did in the original game with WotL groups. Pugs, especially with the dungeon finder are very much fire and forget...

Dungeon Finder is the condom of WoW today, you slip into a PUG, you do your dirty deed, and you're out again, gone. Ready to whip off the bad memories and chalk everything down to bad lighting at the local night club. No worries, you didn't get infected, you feel no shame, you used those people as much as they used you.

And that's the key, my experience with WoW is that we're no longer playing with one another, we're using one another, climbing in some eerie approximation of a selective pressure, pushing players to stomp on everyone around them, to bash heads and grind teeth to attain whatever Blizzard have put in the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness and made the most Fabulous Object in the Universe this week.

Indeed the struggle with this feeling, of repetitive pointless exertion, leaves me in the midst of a problem... Should I be ready to forgive [what I see as] Blizzards past mistakes, and get stoked up to experiencing Cataclysm? Should you? Will there be any from my gaming cadre willing to come along for the ride?

I'm sure, with the population of WoW being as it is, and so many players out there literally being addicted to the game, it'll be massively selling, it'll be played, it will re-write what WoW is once again I'm sure. It'll also be the biggest smack in the face to the experience of the original game, as it will destroy the lands which we all once ran through, and which many of us have fond memories of.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great plot move to be changing the original land masses, indeed it was done before. Just I have to question, for my last shred of interest in the Warcraft game, is this going to introduce anything new, or is "new" actually being defined by Blizzard as "replace" and "devalue"?

I'm sorry to say, I don't trust Blizzard to direct the game in a way which is wholesome to the past adventures, they seem to my mind to have completely missed the value of the lands from the original game, and the experience of playing 1 through 60. They've further added obsolescence with 61 to 70. And now they're going behind the green curtain once more to twiddle our dials up to 85... So I think you can tell this is where I stand, I feel Blizzard have simply changed mechanics, and altered the game to force everyone to continually pass through cycles of re-gearing up, this new expansion is going to completely revamp the original lands, which were deprecated by Burning Crusade. But I feel deprecation, and predation on the old stomping grounds is going to cut through a few more hearts than Blizzard realise.

Now, I sound a little alone in this argument, certainly not many bloggers seem to complain about the devaluation in Warcraft, certainly new armour sets which replace old are not new to the genre of games. However, I think with the player base in Warcraft, with it's size it clearly does not contain too many hardcore RPG players of old. Warcraft is very accessible. So the audience Blizzard entertain includes people who need constant new features to keep them interested.

As such I think Blizzard have completely fallen to pitching their game to the masses, not to the RPG community [and rightly so]. At the end of the day, it is their choice to do this, it's sound for them financially, it's a shame for me and the group of friends I represent... but there's no going back now... To paraphrase an ancient Roman proverb...

"We Expand or Die!"

And I've picked out my retirement plot on Boot Hill.

A great example of why I quit end game raiding is this, this is a chap, a Guild Master, from my original Server [Thunderhorn(EU)], and though I was never actually in his guild [Wipe Club] I have often thought of his reaction to people and shuddered...

Divas is much better known for his epic Onyxia wipe rant, affectionately and alternatively known as "Minus 50 DKP" or "More Dots", depending on what ethereal internet thread you find it on... So check out "More Dots"...

But, I'm affraid to say, I won't be partaking in the delights of Cataclysm, I will stick to doing a whole other kind of dots....

Post Updated by Xelous [to make it make more sense than his usual babbling bullshit].

1 comment:

  1. well i just might and try it out.
    And i know already that when i do i will play it until im bored again :D