Anything and everything.
Back to World of Warcraft
A while back my brother sent me a Scroll of Resurrection for World of Warcraft, which gives a week of free gameplay in an effort to lure back players. I’ve had my account since February of ’05, a few months after launch, though I’ve taken intermittent breaks here and there. My last, and longest, break began shortly after Cataclysm’s launch, around March of 2011. Before cancelling, did I manage to get two of my characters to 85, and a few to 81/82.
I’ve never really had good luck with finding guilds. I’m not a hopper, I try to stay fairly loyal. But I’m also the kind of person who tries to help out whenever I can, and in the end I usually get crapped on.
During The Burning Crusade, when Karazhan was the raid to do, I watched as the guild I’d been in for a year and a half swelled with new members. Gradually, these new members pushed me out of my raiding position, even those raids I had explicitly signed up for and was expecting to do. Needless to say, it happened once too many times and I /gquit. I found out a month later that three of the people who “got geared” via those Kara runs jumped ship to another guild as soon as their gear was good enough.
With Mists of Pandaria’s launch drawing ever closer, the pre-expansion lull is definitely noticeable. While I’ll probably be one of the many people who line up outside the local Future Shop for the midnight launch with the intention of scoring a Collector’s Edition, I can’t really say that I’m all that excited. My biggest complaint with WoW, and this has been true for the last four years, is that the “endgame” experience is lacking. It’s a never ending cycle that goes like this:
1. Collect gear to do more difficult content.
2. Collect gear from difficult content.
3. Wait for new content, while doing increasingly less-difficult content.
4. Go to 2.
For me, there’s no longer much satisfaction in the endless gear upgrade circle. I want more than just replacing blue items with purple items while waiting for the next expansion. I want to continue to develop my character when the maximum level has been reached, rather than just changing his clothing!
EverQuest addressed this with its Alternate Advancement system. Introduced with the Shadows of Luclin expansion, AA (as it was shortened to) allowed the player to allocate a portion of their earned experience to a separate leveling mechanic upon reaching level 51. If I remember right, it required the same amount of experience to go from 50 to 51 to gain an AA “level”. Gaining AA levels granted the character points that could be allocated to Generic, Archetypical and Class-specific abilities.
The basic bonuses one could assign AA points to included increasing base stats, protection stats, movement speed, and regeneration. Archetypical AA abilities fell in to four categories: Fighter, Priest, Caster and Hybrid. They included increasing damage done, reducing damage taken (avoidance and mitigation), spell effectiveness and a host of other abilities. Finally, the Class-specific abilities included, as one might well guess, a variety of class-specific buffs such as improved dual-wielding hit chance, mass group buffing, transformations (into an elemental, for example), cooldown reductions, and far too many other abilities to mention.
This gave the player much more customization, and in my opinion was an amazing addition. It also allowed a lot of differentiation between two characters of the same class. Two tanking type characters could spend their AA points in different ways. One could be a soak tank, with a larger HP pool, while the other might instead opt for a mitigation tank, reducing damage taken.
World of Warcraft, on the other hand, has given us a seven year and counting endless gear grind. Really, they haven’t innovated very much at all. The Glyph system, while a nice addition, doesn’t offer much in the way of variety. For each class and spec combination, the number crunchers have long advised the players on which glyphs to use and which to avoid.
With the redesigned (or excised, if you prefer) talent system of MoP, World of Warcraft is losing the only real feeling of customization it had. Sure, there has always been the cookie-cutter specs that one had to use if they wanted to remain competetive, but at least there was the illusion of choice. And by max-level, there was usually a few talent points left that could be allocated where the player wanted after all the core requirements were met.
After playing the recently released Diablo III (and being sadly underwhelmed by the game as a whole), I can only say that I wish the D3 and MoP developers worked on different continents from one another, with no communications between them. World of Warcraft is shaping up to be Diablo III, only on a different world and with a monthly subscription fee.
I continue to hope that Blizzard will add some sort of secondary leveling system that will allow players to customize their characters beyond just the “gotta get the new ilvl 9000 item from that raid” we’ve had for so long, but I shall not be holding my breath for it. They continue to dumb the game down to appeal to more subscribers, and it seems like ample choices in character customization are #1 on the chopping block.
Oh, and then there’s the Transmogrification system. Compared to Lord of the Rings: Online, Warcraft’s implementation is a joke. In LotRO, one can opt to display a costume rather than their equipped gear, and it’s no more difficult to use than equipping the costume item to the appropriate slot and clicking a “Show This Outfit” button. In true Blizzard fashion, the Transmog system is little more than another gold sink, where each wardrobe change requires spending in-game money to change the appearance of a worn item. Disappointing, to say the least. Every time a piece of gear is upgraded, the player must pull the piece they want their gear to look like out of the bank (or the other new gold sink, Void Storage), and again pay to apply the appearance transformation to the new item.
I really don’t know why I keep going back to WoW. I have missed out on about 95% of the raiding content over the course of the game’s lifetime, have only made two lasting friends who no longer play very much anyway, and on the whole don’t find the game to be very compelling any more. Sure, leveling characters is fun for me, and I do enjoy a lot of the quests and their dialog, and the story as a whole is interesting enough. Yet once I reach the level cap, I just move on to the next character and plow through it all again. Every expansion leaves me feeling less satisfied than the previous, and I know this feeling is going to reach critical mass eventually.