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Why Am I Still Playing Warcraft?

It’s that time of year when a mature woman’s mind turns to motivation, and after a long and very public discussion yesterday I’ve summarily trashed the original idea of this week’s column in favor of a better topic. Why am I still playing Warcraft is a question that gets asked at least once a year; not because it’s healthy to constantly re-asses your priorities but as a salutatory reminder that this is just a game. What is the biggest single issue over time with being a columnist for an MMO that’s started fights, ruined marriages and driven people to both verbal and physical abuse? People take Azeroth WAY too seriously, and often to unreasonable extremes.

This was very apparent last weekend when there was a lot of discussion over the rate that Artifact Power is currently collectable on individual characters. Without, in many cases, a phenomenal amount of time spent grinding AP over World Quests, Dungeons and Raids, many players who have come to the game late will find it incredibly hard to get to the level that characters who’ve been here since late August have currently reached. This, in Guilds currently struggling to complete content in both the Emerald Nightmare and the Trial of Valor, is causing understandable heartache. Once upon a time one could simply buy a max level character and with a basic amount of work be ready for raiding without the need for hours of time spent grinding in content.

Except that is no longer the case. To make progress requires not simply a notion of effort, but a level of organization that I’ve seen players describe as ‘unacceptable’ as if now it is Blizzard’s task to micromanage individual abilities so that players know exactly what to do in order to maximize their own outputs. I’ve spent days reading arguments about how the system is basically flawed. That because rewards have changed and are now far easier to obtain there should be an increase in collection rates or at least a cap so people can feel they’ve ‘finished’ and there’s then a finite end to their journey.

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There’s a lot of variables at play here too; because the weapons can be customized, there are guides available that suggest what major traits you should be maxing out first. Here’s the single biggest problem this game’s had to deal with since someone sat down with a spreadsheet and mathed the hell out of what made the best combination of items on a particular character. Theory crafting, like it or not, was the beginning of this game’s Min/Max culture. It was why Gear Score became both indispensable and reviled around the time of Wrath of the Lich King. It’s an arbitrary number generated from the items you were wearing that could inform other players just how competent you were in End Game content.

After that, Blizzard tried its damnedest to remove the avenues that would make min/maxing either necessary or significant. In fact, one could argue that the AP Weapon levels the field completely in that regard because in the end everybody ends up with exactly the same buffstick for an entire Expansion. However, there has to be some form of customization, and that’s (presumably) where Relics come in, though as I don’t raid I’m just using the three with the highest iLevel. I’m betting somewhere somebody’s got a guide to what does the most damage, but I’m not going to look for it. This game for me is no longer about squeezing the last percentage points of DPS from a spec.

If it were, I’d be forced to level two more pure DPS artifacts and presumably max them both out too. On the limited playtime I currently possess, It would be the end of my game career. That’s why I’ve watched people complain this weekend about how unfair it is that they can’t raid at the pace they want and found myself wanting to point out that maybe they’re lucky to raid to begin with. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that with your life as it is, the things that you consider as detriment others may grasp as massive benefit and vice versa. Just because it appears that other people are being listened to by the developers does not mean that your issues are no less important either: personal perception is perhaps the biggest single problem this game has ever had to deal with in over a decade.

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It was like that moment yesterday when somebody else suggested they knew why I’m still writing about this game, and I realized that all of the theoretical discussion and dissection of mechanical systems and potential changes don’t actually amount to a hill of beans when all is said and done. I’ve said here before that it’s the people who I love that I remain for, except when they make me annoyed and frustrated and then I have no reason left to continue being a Warcraft writer at all. When I take all of these things away, what am I left with? The basic understanding that if this game is a metaphor for life, at some point somebody has to stand up and tell everyone to stop being so bloody stupid and get along. I am, I now realize, here to offer dispute resolution, which is ironic when sometimes my outlook begins more arguments than it solves.

That’s why I feel duty bound to remind players that at no point in twelve years has any designer made a decision that was intended to upset any part of the player base with malicious intent. The whole flying debacle (remember that?) never started life as a method to upset, it simply ended up that way when so many players grasped what the change entailed. It’s like the max draw distance storm that ended up being largely forgotten or indeed any of the class buffs/nerfs that have happened over time that resulted in swathes of utter indignation. I know people who still start sentences with ‘Blizzard ruined this game for me by breaking my class’ as if that’s even true or possible.

It also means, at least this time around, that the AP game isn’t likely tuned for raiders but is far more biased towards casual players because, like it or not, they make up a significant portion of the player base. That won’t be anything that Mythic raiders want to hear, especially with the preview for the Nighthold going up yesterday and the opening of a new 10 boss instance less than two weeks away. There will be those who will complain that there’s simply too much to do regardless, and they’d be right too. The plan is to provide too much content and then you have to pick and choose what you grind. Oh, and you people now complaining that World Quests are too samey after three months? STOP IT. You’re not fooling anybody, and it’s not going to work. There are 500 world quests and if you’ve done them all? Well done, but that’s not Blizzard’s issue. They gave you what you asked for. Please stop complaining it’s not what you want.

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This is exactly what players wanted after Draenor; you have a brilliant selection of quests and diversions, far more than ever existed in Warlords. You have story that’s not been this good since we were in Northrend. If your only complaint is that you don’t have enough hours in the day to do this? I’m sorry, but it’s not fair to criticize the gaming company for your own restrictions. It’s unreasonable to attack devs or CM’s for their personal outlooks when they decide to pass comment on where things stand. Most of all, do you seriously believe a social media rant is acceptable as constructive criticism? It really isn’t. You know where the Forums are, and you need to use them. However, if the complaint doesn’t change things, it is not a personal sleight. It just means you didn’t get to alter the game.

I remember now why I’m here. All those people who left because their words never changed anything, that there was never an NPC or an item named after them. All the ‘commentators’ and ‘pundits’ who thought they were more important than the sum of this games’ parts never understood the truth. That keeps me tied to Azeroth and reminds me at moments like this we are not the ones to record what succeeds or fails. We simply watch and observe, report and discuss. The only thing that will ever be remembered in 500 years time is the game. None of us will matter, not one iota, and why we are doing this has nothing to do with getting respect or being noticed. I am here because I love what I do, and someone is good enough to pay me money to do so. After that, everything else is largely irrelevant. I still play Warcraft because I love it, but I love the community who plays it more.

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About AlternativeChat

A player of games (of all varieties) since her first Atari 2600 in the 1970's, Alt's genuinely been in Warcraft since Vanilla. She was GM of a Smart Casual EU Guild for over eight years, and so brings a fairly large wealth of experience on the game and the Community to the table. She also has far too many Hunters for it for probably to be healthy. When not in Warcraft, you'll find her as an Assassin, playing God in various flavours of Civilisation, and trying to be a mum to two teenage children. Check her blog here: http://alternative-chat.com