When I started this segment of my blog the original intent was to highlight games that are not getting a lot of press and talk about all of the things I like about them. That said since the column is called “MMOs Worth Playing” I knew eventually I would have to get around to talking about some of the bigger names. So as a result I am going to have a momentary lapse of purpose here… and go with serendipity. Today’s is coming on the morning that BlizzCon 2015 starts, and as a result it just felt natural to talk about World of Warcraft. There was never a point where I would not ultimately end up covering the game, given that in many of the discussions I end up talking about it. So here we go… my attempt to create an overly positive discussion about the benefits of World of Warcraft.
In every industry there is a leader that for the most part everyone gets compared to. In the MMO world this leader is World of Warcraft. Even though this has become the stuff of internet memes… it is by no means the first MMO, or in truth did it invent many of the things that folks attribute to it. That said it did manage to take the model that was burgeoning at the time of its release… knock off the rough spots and sand it to a mirror shine. Blizzard is really good at making games that appeal to the masses, and World of Warcraft is no exception. The problem is… the “appealing to the masses” has been a moving target causing the game to shift and dodge numerous times along the path. Each time it has changed course it has created a set of fans nostalgic for their imagined version of “the way things used to be”. So here we are today, with a legion of fan… some joyous, some in denial, and some begrudgingly along for the ride. Everyone has a World of Warcraft story, and if they don’t… they should. Every so often a questionnaire circulates through the community asking what game you would suggest a person with zero experience in MMOs should play… and the only actual answer you can give is in fact World of Warcraft.
This is the game that takes the complex concepts of an MMO and feeds it to players in bite sized chunks at just the right times to convert them from a MMO gaming neophyte to a seasoned veteran. The problem is that we have seen is that Warcraft is really good at creating Warcraft players, because many of these gamers never really venture out into other games. This is in many ways a failing of the other companies to embrace the same sort of low level educational campaign that Warcraft has. Sure to us long time players we see the Cataclysm revamp of the newbie zones as a travesty, but in each case they just work better… when you view them through the eyes of someone who has zero ancestral knowledge into the way that these games work. Each blatant breadcrumb, or cheese quest designed only to deliver you to the next quest hub… is honestly not for us, but instead for the players that NEED those clear indicators of what they should be doing next. We recently saw the subscription numbers for Warcraft and in part that number is due to the fact that a decade later they can still manage to induct brand new players into the tribe of WoW.
I am naming this section the Paradox because it highlights something odd in the game. When people leave Warcraft it is generally stated that they are leaving because they have “run out of things to do”. The problem that a game like WoW creates is that in order to keep the front edge of players happy, they have to keep cranking out content… something that Blizzard has proven to find difficult in the massive lags between end of expansion patches and the new expansion. The paradox comes in that one of the big reasons why I would suggest this game is that there is so damned much content to experience. Sure it might not be anything a veteran player wants to do… but for a brand new player this is a smorgasbord of brand new experiences and over a decade worth of sights and vistas to experience. World of Warcraft is by no means a gorgeous game at this point, because it feels a decade old at times… but there are still moments that are breath taking, like the first time you roll into Booty Bay and see the giant Goblin statue, or the first time you look down from the top of Thunderbluff onto the valleys below. These are important experiences that I feel like no one should rob themselves of.
So many of my good memories of this game however come from the interaction with the people. Part of my nostalgic chagrin however is realizing that so many of those players are no longer playing the game. Many of my best memories are tied to specific moments in the games history that will never come back. That however is not to say that each and every night new memories are not being made. People are still loving this game with all of their heart, and I have stated this before that I am more than a little jealous of them. I miss the types of experiences I used to have in World of Warcraft, but since many of those were tied to my “first time” doing this or that… I realize those are experiences I will never be able to have again. This is a game I was utterly devoted to for over half of that decade, and still have pangs of remorse when I think about those things I have lost. This game is powerful, and the experiences you have through it are equally powerful. Which is why I feel like everyone should step foot in the game and find their own version of those “first times”.
As I said many of those moments were because of the other players, but one of the benefits about starting World of Warcraft at this point… is that essentially everything is available to you as a solo player. That is not to say that I do not suggest that you find your way into a really good guild, because guilds make the entire experience better regardless of the game. However there really should be nothing locked from you because you did not bring a legion of friends into it. The game itself is subscription based, but you can get a free trial account to start and dip your toes into the water. If you end up liking it, the base game is $19.99 and will carry you through level 90, with the latest expansion Warlords of Draenor costing $49.99 on top of that. The later comes with a free boost to 90… which I highly suggest you don’t use at least not for your first character. There is a bunch of really awesome content to experience, and part of my frustration in the past is that it feels like these boosts cheapen the older content. Some of the best content in the game, is well below the level cap… so to skip over a Deadmines, Wailing Caverns, or Dire Maul would be a travesty. Then to maintain your account it is an older monthly subscription model of $14.99.
Over the years I have said a lot of hurtful things on this blog about Blizzard and World of Warcraft, and in many case those were about specific problems I had… that most players would never even care about. If I were creating a Facebook profile about my relationship with Warcraft… the only thing I could possibly pick is “complicated”. Similar to my feelings about Star Wars, with all of the hype and disappointment… I also hold in my heart a lot of frustration and disappointment with all of the possibility that was squandered. I’ve also come to realize that I wholeheartedly love Blizzard as a company, it is just one of there franchises that I have some issue with. Diablo 3 and Heroes of the Storm are both amazing… and what I have played of Starcraft 2 was really fun… even though I am not really an RTS player. I anxiously look forward to Overwatch and seeing how it does… and occasionally I break out a Hearthstone game even though that is not a regular occurrence. With World of Warcraft… I know that eventually I will go back and resubscribe because I always do. This game has a hold on my heart that even though I have tried to purge it so many times… it stays there clinging tightly. No matter what my current feelings are for the game, that power cannot be denied. So regardless of what the current hype cycle thinks… this is a great game and has so many excellent experiences that you would be robbing yourself of it you did not experience them. That is not to say that I don’t also think there are so many other amazing games out there… but when creating a column called “MMOs Worth Playing”… Warcraft had to be included among that number.