My name is Alt, and I’ve loved World of Warcraft for what is officially now over a decade.
I’ve had brief flirtations with MMO’s like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Wildstar, but I can’t stay away from Azeroth for long. In fact, some people find it amazing that I won’t try other titles, that there’s not a secret game I sneak away to when I don’t live in Azeroth. The thing is, I have no desire to go and learn a new MMO from scratch. There is nowhere else that I can play this way, or with this level of effective immersion, and so I find myself looking at other franchise and just not spending the money. Then I find myself asking the question: was it it that makes Warcraft such a consistently enjoyable experience for me?
I think it has a lot to do with the fact that, now more than ever before, there is no right way to play this game.
I’ve not really given you guys any backstory about myself: I’ve been gaming now for over forty years, a relationship with consoles that began with the Atari 2600 and Pitfall back in the 1970’s. People always seem slightly surprised that I’m a gamer when they meet me in real life: I don’t really fit the profile, let’s be honest. The fact remains I’m as passionate now about the gaming experience as I was back then. I backed Elite: Dangerous with pride, I’ve watched Lara Croft grow from pixels into a real woman… and a lot has come and gone in those four decades. At the back of all of this is an implicit understanding that a good game, at least for me, has the ability to allow me to not worry about how I play.
I can remember quite clearly, a point about three weeks into Warcraft, when I almost stopped playing for good. The interface was complicated and stuffed with abilities I was finding difficult to grasp, and with a two month old baby girl I wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders. Then there came a moment at 3am on a Saturday morning where I found myself at the Sun Rock Retreat in Stonetalon with two other Alliance players, engaged in an intense PvP firefight with the Horde, and suddenly something clicked. I could effectively just spam-click a few abilities and have a whale of a time… so I did. Then it dawned on me. The interface wasn’t the hindrance to my progress: I was. If I just stopped worrying about everything and just relaxed, things would be great.
A decade on, not much has changed in that respect, except Blizzard caught up with the notion that things need to be easier to grasp.
What the new Tanaan Jungle Zone has proven, at least for someone who wasn’t going to play it immediately but ended up being charmed by the content, is that once you take difficulty away things don’t automatically become easier to grasp. In fact, you could have the simplest interface in the World and still struggle coping with content, if where you find it and how you approach its attack is presented in an challenging fashion. And that, in essence, is what 6.2 has become for me. My class is easier to play than it has ever been yet that matters not one jot if 30 mobs all pile on me simultaneously and I can’t deal with the consequences. The key is management not simply of your own abilities, but also of what the World throws at you.
Tanaan provides a remarkable number of ‘aids’ to players: food buffs liberally strewn on the ground which provide regenerative buffs, items to be be picked up and thrown at mobs for massive damage boosts. More crucially, gearing yourself in the Zone is probably simpler than it has been at any point in the game’s history. The key is accessibility, so that even your grandmother could pick up this game from scratch if she so desired, a concept which is both presented and embraced with a measure of enthusiasm. Items can be obtained to provide any class with an out of combat Resurrection, to fly you high into the air, to speed travel in the Zone by several hundred percent… yet I am still hearing a stream of complaints from players that content is ‘too grindy’ or that the company has failed to listen to player complaints about ‘appropriate’ rewards.
I find myself wondering therefore if these people are actually playing the same game I am.
What seems to be the biggest single issue right now for most is that the provision for obtaining a flying mount, which Blizzard had initially planed to omit completely from the Draenor expansion, has been effectively locked behind three Reputation ‘grinds’ which require more than a cursory amount of effort. Looking at the problem, and then seeing how much progress I’ve made towards them by simply playing a couple of hours in the evening over the last week, I’m close to completion with two out of three without even breaking sweat. The third is justifiably difficult, but that’s not stopped many people finding groups using Blizzard’s own Group Finder tool and having this done in less than seven days after the content went live.
The only restriction on content completion is players, pretty much most of the time. If it matters enough to someone one assumes that they’d simply put in the hours to complete… but many people seem to think that even this amount of effort is unacceptable. In fact, listening to people complain about how the company has lost its way and the myriad of issues as to why this might be has become something I’m quite adept at tuning out. I think Blizzard is left in absolutely no doubt when it does stuff wrong: social media does an excellent job at communicating displeasure in all its forms. And I firmly believe that 6.2 has done much to correct many of the issues players have reported with the game in recent months, and then some.
Except, of course, some people refuse to be happy, because it is easier to complain than put in the work.
Ten years ago, I found myself making a choice I still don’t regret a decade on. Yes, I’ve had moments when I’ve almost left, but every time that’s happened I’ve forced myself to stop and take a step back and work out WHY I wanted to leave, and on every occasion I’ve learned lessons not only about myself but the game I’ve grown with. It’s made me a better person, introduced me to some amazing people, improved my hand eye co-ordination, taught me patience and comprehension skills I never had, has made me a better writer and ultimately got me this job. All in all, I have a great deal to thank Azeroth for. And then I look at those people I know who think that Warcraft is somehow not worthy enough to be considered a ‘serious’ MMO any more. It’s become the corporate behemoth that nobody likes and everyone feels needs to be criticised simply because of what it is.
And to those people I have nothing more I wish to say.
You can believe what you wish about the game, and why you no longer enjoy playing it, but the fact remains it isn’t just Blizzard that’s to blame for the end of your relationship. Like it or not, you changed too, and you can spend all the time you like bemoaning how the company’s lost touch with what mattered, or that it stopped relating to its player base, or that it simply started caring about money more than the sanctity of creative development. The fact remains, gaming companies aren’t simply artists. They’re established as businesses. Just like this site has to make money to survive, so do they, and when you chose to part with cash to anyone in exchange for a service you have the right to withhold that money at any time if you’re not happy.
Social media has given millions of people the opportunity to voice their displeasure of Warcraft, and they do. Every day. I actually read as many of these as I can but I’ll freely admit there comes a point where you grasp that if all someone wants to do is complain, they’re probably not a great person to hang around with anyway. I made a choice back in 2006 to begin a relationship with this title and it continues as long as I have words in my head and joy from the process of playing. When that’s done, I’ll move on too, but from where I sit in Tanaan Jungle, that’s a long way off. It may not be cool to love this MMO but frankly, at this point? I don’t want to be cool, or clever, or seen to be anything other than 100% honest about my reasoning and motivation.
I still love this game, and I am happy to report that feeling shows no sign of diminishing.Related: Column, Patch 6.2, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday