So this week, I dispensed with my EU Account and started anew on the US Servers.
Whilst I was away on holiday, I thought long and hard about what I really enjoy in Warcraft, and how end game (as it stands) is currently lacking the elements I crave. I also realised just how much of a slave I have become to the litany of ‘I must finish this Achievement’ and ‘Oh yes, there’s a pet/mount/toy that drops from this mob, let’s camp it.’ In fact, if truth be told, that’s my entire Azeroth life right there in two statements. I don’t raid any more (simply no time with real life considerations) and the dungeon access I get is largely dictated by the number of friends I can find on line at any given point to help out, which is perilously few at present. Everybody, it seems, has their own considerations at heart, and if I’m honest? I can’t really blame them.
I’ve pretty much been a solo player for large parts of my life in Azeroth: breast feeding my daughter, insomnia, most of the free time I’d have playing whilst most of the people I knew were at work. That means that I’m not bothered that much about being alone, or unguilded. A complete fresh start, at least for me, ticked all the relevant boxes because actually, it didn’t inconvenience anybody. I already had my EU account set up with a US game thanks to the generosity of a US writing compatriot, reactivating it for 10 days using the free game time ability inbuilt into the client was a doddle. The best thing of all however in this situation was the completely clean sheet I was handed when I logged into my server of choice for the first time.
I had no achievements, no mounts except the Hearthsteed I won when the game came out and I got swayed by the lure of the cross-game promotion. There were a handful of vanity pets from my Virtual Ticket purchases over the years but that was it: zero gold, no help whatsoever. I was starting completely from scratch. It was in turn both exciting and daunting: could I actually enjoy myself without the comfort of heirlooms and gold? Would it be possible to thrive with no help at all? Well, as it happens it’s not only possible, but for me at least it is rapidly evolving onto a fascinating look at how much has changed in a decade. Because actually? I’m not woeful at playing this game.
Oh and OF COURSE I rolled a Hunter, because OBVIOUSLY BEST CLASS WORLDWIDE.
I’ve deliberately decided to avoid Dungeons until I can solo them, and I have zero interest in PvP until it’s effectively divorced from PvE play. That leaves me with the reason I came here: quests, and the fact that once you hit end game in Warlords the story’s currently non-existent. Fortunately for me, there’s more than enough quests to keep me happily away from organised content until I make it to Draenor, and what’s been most fun is losing myself in the stories I’d forgotten.
I may have rolled a Dwarf but I’ve spent the first thirty levels of my life in the Human areas of Duskwood, Westfall and Redridge: it’s where I levelled the first time with my husband back in 2005 and actually? It’s hugely entertaining. In terms of gear, I’m really not suffering from either a lack of power or difficulty in eliminating my foes. Wandering into a high level area will still kill me, but that’s mostly true regardless of what class you are. I’m still in leather as a Hunter which is frustrating because I want to get to 40 and be able to mog something better than what I’m wearing. The quest rewards for the 1-60 grind do match, but as of yet I’ve not found a complete set of mail I want to use. I feel therefore a bit disconnected from my character as we level, but part of me knows that as soon as I’m able to, she’ll have a cohesive look and that will actually just add to the overall awesome of the experience.
The other thing I was concerned about was cash: however, being deliberately unguilded has its perks, like the ability to go and sign someone’s Guild Charter, take the money and then politely leave. There’s no real residual guilt if you’re pleasant after all, and this is a decent means by which you can build a nest-egg to begin your travels. Not feeling the need to collect anything on this character (especially mounts) means a lot of cash will go straight into the coffers, and similarly I intend to sell my Archaeology pets when I get to them.
Yes, I’m doing a full professions sweep here too: I took Herbalism and Skinning, which are both already paying for themselves and then some. Fishing has been a real boon to my Cookery skill, as I remember it was back in the day, and First Aid is far more tolerable than I remember. All in all, the experience of levelling, at least in this first week, has more than exceeded expectations. Actually, that’s an understatement: levelling like this has rekindled my love of why this game has been played as much as it has over the years, and it is the journey that matters to me far more than the eventual destination.
Of course, the overriding benefit of bringing a pet class to the party will begin to show as I start to out-level the Instanced content: then I can start making gold in order to buy tokens on the US Auction House which is a far better way to finance my future endeavours than a long-term subscription would be, because that will depend on me actually doing the work for a change. I’ll be able to revisit all the Classic Instances one more time, but it won’t matter if I skip a few because I don’t need the Achievements.
What matters more than anything else is the freedom to do what I want, without the feeling I’m beholden to the end game.
For just over nine years I was a GM of an EU Guild, and I’ve only now begun to realise how much this has tainted my view of how this game operates at max level. I’m also really rather disappointed with myself for letting a number of people dictate my actions for a number of years when it came to how things would work. However, it is no longer my problem any more, I have handed the reins to someone else, and my relationship with that side of the equation is done and dusted. I’ve said this week that I have no need to complete Hellfire Citadel on any difficulty and it’s true, I know how this story ends, and I sure as hell don’t need the gear that instance provides to aid my passage anywhere. So, in the end, I’m here for something that 6.X just hasn’t provided.
And when the story dried up for me? Time to go and find my fix elsewhere.
What surprises me most is the attitude of some who feel that by publicly starting again I am somehow betraying the legacy of Warcraft’s current content: that you should want to get to the end, and take part in what’s given, without feeling that something is missing. To this I can say only one thing: the game is what you make it. If that’s L19 PvP twinking or Roleplay in a Goldshire Inn or competing for a World First? They’re all perfectly acceptable pursuits in a game this size with this many players. Remember, there is no right way to play, and that’s pretty much been the case since Vanilla. So, if I choose not to use a flying mount on a max level character? That’s also absolutely fine. Yes, you can call me weird now too if that makes you feel good. There’d be a measure of truth in that regardless. The fact remains, gaming has never been about anything except what makes the individual content. Ever since Pong in the 70’s, the basic principle remains sound: yes, of course there’s at least one way to win, but that’s not the point. It’s the playing that matters: the journey, the learning, the understanding and the eventual mastery of what the game means to you. After that? Everything’s pretty much sauce for that 150 skill Cookery Recipe the boar kindly dropped for you. So you decide to learn it or it goes on the AH. Either is cool, and both have different results. Pick the one that’s right for you.
That means while most take to the skies and go AFK above their Garrisons instead of in them, I’ll be starting the Stranglethorn quests as a L30 Hunter with the understanding that pretty every mob I kill is skinnable and that means that I’m one step closer to financial autonomy.
As long as everybody is satisfied? That’s really all that matters in the end.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, MMO, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday