Okay, so I finally broke down and got myself into World of Warcraft. I figured it was high time I figured out what all of the buzz was over, since it is arguably the most successful MMO in today's market. But, why? What makes this game so fantastic that it is the monolith of today's gaming genres?
To be honest, as of yet, I'm just not sure. I mean, yeah... it's interesting in terms of eye-candy. The graphics are non-traditional in comparison to other games out there. It has its own look and feel way beyond what any other title offers. But is that enough? I don't know... I've played many games in my time, and what I look for is not only look and feel, but also the other aspects of great gameplay: UI-friendliness, music, lore, immersion. I want to believe what I'm playing, and I don't want to be frustrated in the process.
WoW already frustrates me, although not in a completely negative fashion.
Listen, before you go off on me... the one thing I cannot stand is corpse-recovery. I mean, seriously. So I die... I should take an armor hit if I choose to find something else more fitting to my level to do and don't want to head back out to the area that killed me in the first place?!? Really, don't make me chase my corpse. Let me revive and move on. Way back when, EverQuest II had something similar... it was not your corpse, but a "shard". Basically, a portion of your "soul" that would be in the world. You could either return to retrieve it, or you could choose not to and be at a reduced health for a period of 24 hours until the shard disappeared and was "reabsorbed" into you. This was very annoying and frustrating, especially if you died in a dungeon or surrounded by beasts. You had to actually gain the point of death to retrieve your shard.
Now, while we're on the subject of reviving. Why can't I have a choice of where to revive? Maybe I'm stubborn and want to continue again and again with the mobs I'm actively trying to beat, and in World of Warcraft, I have to run all the way back across the map to get where I was. I much prefer being able to choose the location of where I revive from a variety of areas around the map. Maybe I want to return to town... or what if I'd prefer to go to another location and start on something different? In WoW, there is no choice. There are Spirits in select areas around the world and that's it. You revive there. Period.
Yes, I like challenge. No, I'm not lazy. But for someone with limited play time, this could be a constant source of irritation. Half of my play time could be spent running back to an area I want to be in after I died.
And don't give me the "Well, don't die then!" speech. You're all MMO players, right? You all know that death is imminent at one point or another, regardless of your level. You'll either die in PvP or in PvE at some point in your playing career, and to tell me otherwise would be a blatant farce. So why does death have to be more annoying than it already is? I mean, I curse at my computer screen along with the rest of you when I die what I deem to be an unfair death. Naturally, I should always win. Right? C'mon... you know it's true!
Believe it or not, I do not hate on WoW - I'm merely providing some thoughts on what has annoyed me so far. And some annoyances actually add to immersion. The death aspects do not. When you die, you shouldn't be expected to recover your corpse... it's just not... natural!
So let's talk about some of the other things that annoy me, but I accept as a part of the immersive quality of the game.
Run speed. I hate going slow. Seriously, I want to get where I want, when I want, and as fast as I possibly can to do what I want to do. Don't we all? But... if you think about it... if you don't have a mount, you're stuck on foot. And unless you've got a family of cheetahs in your background somewhere (I know my mother liked cats, but not that much!), you're going to naturally move only as fast as your legs can carry you. So, kudos to Blizzard for not automatically giving people some silly way of moving faster. In EQII, players can make or purchase totems that will grant the user a limited run-speed buff. It's magical, for sure... but I think I prefer the actuality of natural speed. Yes, I know... once you're level 30 and all that jazz. And there are some potions that you can buy. But still, for total immersion, natural run-speed is the way to go in my book. And even if you're not seeking immersion, at least you'll appreciate that mount or potion all the more once you're able to have it!
Regenerating health and power by sitting to eat and drink is another quality that, while annoying, is based on realism. Granted, in today's society we tend to eat on the run, with drive-through hamburgers falling apart in our laps while we're speeding on the freeway and dodging each other like a friendly game of bumper cars, or NASCAR, whichever you prefer. But in truth, in the time of the world in which we choose to play, this was not the case. People ate while sitting down. Even in Lord of the Rings, Frodo sat to eat his elven bread with his buddy Samwise, and the ever-plotting Golem.
One thing that I truly do find fun is the avatar movement when talking to another player. It's nice that Blizzard was smart enough to give us some interaction beyond just standing and staring at each other while typing. If you're having a conversation with someone, your avatar is also having a conversation! It's a fantastic and innovative way to bring players together when face-to-face. Add to this the voices when emoting... I do love a good hearty chuckle when I type /laugh! And it's great to see that we're not just making strangled noises at each other. The vocal aspects of our avatars add dimension to the game, along with the movements when interacting with one another.
Yes, how very single-minded of me. But I'm a gamer! We want what we want when we want it... right?!? /looks around the room
However... it is true that if this were reality, interrupting a possible employer in the middle of their speech might get you a turned-up nose or a withholding of promised riches for being insolent. I mean, we all know that the nobles were not famous for their pity or patience, right? And, I suppose it adds to the immersion to force us to listen to their babbling... but I don't like feeling as though I'm being held hostage just to gain another quest. So this particular annoyance is a "six of one, half-a-dozen of the other" level frustration, I suppose.
There is something that I thoroughly enjoy in World of Warcraft over most other MMOs I've been privileged to play... the mapping system. I am quite excited to see how Blizzard has created the world map and the particular areas you're in - and you move through it as you're going along! That is to say... as I am on auto-pilot running through the world, I can bring up my world map and see where I am at, and watch my progress through the area. The fashion in which it is presented to the player is very friendly and pleasing to the eye, as it doesn't force you to remember where things are, it just shows you. However, with that being said, I did find it a bit disappointing that you have to download an add-on just to get some sort of in-game help as far as where to find things for your quests. Yes, the quests themselves offer hints... great hints, in fact. But again, I prefer a bit of ease to my game play as I have limited time with each title I get involved in. However, all in all, I thoroughly approve of the mapping system. It's a wonderful feature, and I applaud Blizzard for their forward-thinking in this respect.
Oh, alright... I'll admit something else I'm enjoying; the races and creatures. Sure, some are traditional... like bears, elk, and carnivorous plants. But the blue butterflies, the ghastly-looking women, and the funky fur-covered ettin-like creatures... definitely some very creative thinking going on in the world of Blizzard, as these creatures are great fun and interesting. So are the races, such as my Draenei. It's nice to not see a bunch of half-elves or dwarves running around for a change. Instead, there is a wide variety of things that offer everyone something they might be interested in playing, thus creating a balanced world of races on which to feast our eyes.
Of course, I'm just beginning my World of Warcraft career. I'm still a young Draenei, with much left to explore. But I've always found that the first 20 levels of any game will either catch or release you from its grasp, and so far, while World of Warcraft is slightly intriguing, I still find myself drawn back to my other titles - one of which is capturing me in the early stages of game play. Does this mean I'm done with WoW? Most likely not. I'll keep playing to see if I can get hooked on it like a street walker to spandex. Until then, I'll remain slightly unsure of the title and curious what everyone else sees in it.
And I invite anyone who cares to show me to send me an email, and I'll be happy to be taught a lesson or two in the finer things of WoW!
Tomorrow, our very own Brian "Wordaen" Kincaid will give us his insights into WoW, including his thoughts on my experiences so far. Join us then!
Maggie "AutumnKiss" Olsen
Senior Editor, ZAM Network