Monthly Archives: July 2011

Is it the Journey, or the Win?

I’ve been reading a lot on various official and unofficial WoW forums lately, and there’s one thing that I keep seeing over and over again: The struggle between hard core and casual players.  

In vanilla WoW, raiding was an elite PVE thing to do. Not a lot of people did it, not only because the raid instances were big, therefore requiring a lot of time to clear them; but also because you need 39 of your best friends to do it.  Burning Crusade brought us 10 and 25 player raids with generally fewer bosses; which brought, IMO, much-needed accessibility. Getting 9 friends together was a lot easier. Wrath of the Lich King brought us parallel raiding in 10 and 25 player types), and that seems to be what Blizzard is going to go with for the foreseeable future.

Now, when new content comes out, the older content tends to get a nerf, making it more accessible, and many many people complain that it’s too easy.   I’m not a raider, so I probably shouldn’t really talk about this, but I’m going to anyway. Because if I was a raider, I would probably be very casual about it. Probably not even raiding every week, much less several times a week, and I would welcome the nerfs – not because I want my WoW to be easy all the time, but because I don’t want to have to be perfect every moment to succeed. But I digress from my point.  

I read a single line from someone, that was in horrible grammar, but that basically said MMOs that take more than a month to beat are too hard!  A lot of people also complain that the new content is too hard… much more often.

So I started to wonder what really drives people to play MMOs like WoW.  Is it the journey, or is it beating the game? For me, it’s definitely the journey. For guilds like Paragon, I think it’s beating the game. But guilds like Paragon are a very special breed. They’re…. Pro – or at least Olympic quality gamers (I have no idea if any of the members of Paragon are in any way paid for their gaming. I do believe they are not allowed to be Blizzard employees)

But let’s take a look at this idea of beating the game: First, what does beating an MMO mean? Does it mean having beaten the last boss in the highest raid tier? Does it mean getting the best title in PVP Battlegrounds, Arenas, or World?  Does it mean getting all the Achievements? Does it mean having gotten the very best piece of gear you can for every slot for the character?

As you can see, there are a lot of potential ways to beat an MMO. And most of them require some sort of a journey. To point back to that comment about a month being too long, well, how can you enjoy the journey in a month?  

I have to admit that I generally take the complainers as, well, complainers. People love to complain, and when they get to be semi-anonymous doing it, they don’t think their complaints through.  I’m fairly certain that the vast majority of Blizzard’s customers are generally satisfied with the product, or they wouldn’t be there. And I’m also fairly certain that we will never be able to witness that  because the content don’t talk about their content.  Being content with the state of things doesn’t make for interesting comments, after all.

A Big Downside to the Tiny Guild

Higher Authority has recently run into the biggest problem that tiny guilds have: what happens when one of the most active members either leaves or is not available for a time.

Due to Real Life concerns, one of our most active (possibly our most active) member is taking a forced hiatus from the game. While this wouldn’t affect a larger guild, even one just twice our size (which would be 8 active members), boils down to, frankly, a lot getting put on hold.

Since our missing member has two of only 10 level 85 toons in the guild (two of which have not been touched for four months, and two others of which are alts of two of the active members) our level 85 dungeons are either on hold, or require a PuG.  With the ability to bring in Real ID friends from other servers, we may be able to get around that, but it’s going to be a little slow going for a little while.

The dwarven dungeon crawl is completely on hold right now. I have another member potentially levelling another dwarf, but she is not incredibly active, and she hasn’t contacted me to bring the toon into the guild, so I’m not entirely sure that’s going to happen. Additionally, we need a tank, which we’re not really comfortable picking up randomly for this event. We’ll see what happens in the future.

Now, if I were a different sort of guild master, I’d probably be hitting my officers up to get some recruiting going, but I hate recruiting myself, and so do my officers, so it’s not particularly likely to actually happen.  All said, though, it may be time to put some fresh feelers out there, and hope we can get a bite or two. 

Just to bring this post around to a happy ending, though… in spite of being down one of our most active players, We cleared AQ40 with a 4-man, and completed Critter Kill Squad in a two-hour session of killing penguins with 5 players. Not a bad couple of weeks, really.

Dwarves on Hold

Sorry to disappoint anyone who was here only to read about Sruith and her dwarven companions. Vi, Cob and Prada have gone missing for a short period of time, and without them, Sruith, Cordagan and Kaide just don’t feel like tackling anything at the moment.

Time in MMOs

One of the strangest phenomenons I’ve ever witnessed is how time is viewed by gamers.  While you’re playing, 5 minutes is *forever*, especially if you’re waiting for something. 30-second respawn timer? Too long if you aren’t the one who killed the mob in the first place, and far too short if you have any reason to hang around after the mob is dead.

This has bled over into instances, too. Nobody wants to run a 5-man instance that takes more than 45 minutes. The irony of that is that people will spend hours running several instances, but if it was all one instance, they’d never touch it! Raids are okay at a couple of hours while you’re learning it, but I suspect there’s about a one to one and a half hour limit on those now, too.

While given a little more time than minutes and hours, guilds cannot work on anything for any length of time, either. Planning a new loot system? You better not breathe a word of it to your guild until you’re within a week of implementation, or people start clamoring for an announcement. Recruiting to raid? You better be able to recruit enough bodies within two weeks, or people are probably going to get impatient and leave for another guild. Gamers seem to have a threshold of about a week before they expect results on any project they’ve heard guild leadership is working on.

That, in my opionion, is insane. This is a hobby at best for most people, why on earth would you want to feel hurried to put together something as important to your success as your raid team or loot system (and as much as people hate to admit it, loot systems are critical to drama-free raiding.) 

But why does it happen at all? Why are we so impatient, and what are we impatient for?

Into Orgrimmar

Having saved the Northern Barrens from a tormented sleeping druid’s nightmares, we returned to Ironforge to get our equipment repaired and take a bit of a breather. Azeroth is definitely a world tormented by more than just the Shattering and Deathwing’s appearance. Everyone seems to want to try and get the upper hand.  I’ve even heard rumors that the Horde has infiltrated Gilnean and Night Elf territories!  Luckily, they seem to have left my home, Aerie Peak, alone.

Kaide and I had drawn ourselves a pint to relax while Cordagan worked on stitching a new pair of boots for me. We chatted as he sewed, and it wasn’t long before Vi had joined us. Higher Authority is a small guild, and there aren’t often many others around, as we all tend to be adventuring throughout not only our own world, but also Outland.  My own sister lives primarily in Shattrath, and another member, Kerridwen, seems bent on saving them from any further destruction.

Our chatting took the turn towards beer preferences, and we were getting quite lively, the four of us, when a Draenei walked into the room. Kaide could see the door, and she started, then visibly relaxed as she took in the armor of the woman. She was a paladin, and while she didn’t wear our tabard, we quickly recognized her as one of the most powerful members of our guild. Arianrose. Shoryl’s older sister, Taoiseach, was nowhere to be found.

Taoi and Ari had disappeared some weeks before I joined the guild, but there had always been mutterings about Arianrose. About how traumatic she’d found going back to Outland, and how she would hold no quarter for demons or anyone who consorted with them.  She looked at me, took a moment to assess me, and turned away. I felt a sense of dread, and suspected she had gone to the point where even the Shadow was too close to demons. She did not raise her sword, though, so I was safe. For the moment.

She spoke to Kaide as if the rest of us didn’t exist, “Shaman!”

Kaide nodded, an impressively impassive look on her face, “I am.”

“What do you think of demons, Shaman?” Ari asked.

“Generally, that they need to be killed.” Kaide responded, “and my name is Kaide.”

Arching her eyebrow, Ari said, “Kaide, then. How daring are you?”

Kaide looked at the rest of us at the table, then back to Ari, “What’s the one have to do with the other?”

Ari laughed, then, and the laugh was downright insane. We were dealing with a madwoman who could probably kill us all before we could put a hand to our weapons. This did not make me happy, but she was most likely to turn on me, so I held my tongue. She spoke again, “Would you go into the heart of the Horde to kill demons they harbor?”

Kaide raised her own eyebrow, and responded “I have no quarrel with the Horde. But what is this of demons?”

Arianrsoe smiled, and actually sat down at our table, “In the heart of Orgrimmar is a place they call Ragefire Chasm. Within that chasm are borers, cultists, and demons. The cultists are, as I understand it, mostly orcs.”

“And how,” Kaide said, keeping her voice cold, “do you expect me to get into the heart of Orgrimmar to destroy these demons and cultists?”

“I have a way to get you there, and out again when you’ve killed Tagamen and his lieutenants. Your friends, too.”

Kaide looked at me. I shrugged. So long as I didn’t have to walk through Orgrimmar to get there, I could kill demons. Especially if it meant maybe not having to be looked through like Arianrose had done when she first arrived. 

Turning her gaze to Cordagan, Kaide silently asked the question, and he said to Arianrose, “In and out?” A curt nod from the Draenei, and then, “Don’t see why not. I don’t mind sticking a thorn in Hellscream’s craw.”

Vi stood then, “I’m ready when you are.” he said.

Cordagan finished tying off his thread, and handed me the boots. “These should be better than those.” I smiled as I slipped them on. They were, indeed, better. And hopefully they’d keep my feet dry.

Kaide nodded to Arianrose, “We’re ready then.”

Arianrose drew a scroll from her pack, and facing us, read aloud. I felt the familiar lurch as we were drawn through space. As my eyes adjusted to the now-dim light, I realized I was in a rather hot underground cave. Behind us, I could hear the bustle of a city, and the rise and fall of foreign calls. I slipped over to a wall, a sense of forboding coming over me. We were, indeed, in the heart of Orgrimmar.

Vi paid no attention to the city behind him, for before him were the cultists. Robed in black, they were end-of-the-world nuts. Not the Twilight cult of Deathwing’s, but the Cult of the Damned. They, I knew, were worth killing. We began our march.

The enemies fell before us more quickly than they had in the past. Why Arianrose had not come here herself, I don’t know. Perhaps she was merely testing us to see if we were on the right side of the light. Perhaps she couldn’t get herself here so easily.

I hadn’t yet seen any demons, though the cultists were certainly a worthwhile opponent. Cordagan was letting fly fireball after frostbolt, and I was using mindflay on anything that looked remotely intelligent, while generally smiting the troggs. Vi had gotten even better at keeping the enemies occupied, and Kaide kept us all alive.

The cultists were little problem, though as we got deeper into the chasm, we found them in larger groups. The borers were even less of a problem, and we dispatched those so quickly that it felt like were were riding a steamtank. But there were also troggs.  I had only seen the little troggs that were harrying chillbreeze camp before. These were bigger, gruffer, and smellier – probably from the heat coming off the lava pools within the cavern.  Still, we’re dwarves, and dwarves are stalwart, intelligent, and even crafty. We prevailed.

 As we rounded a bend, we came into a larger section of the cavern, riddled with lava pools. Natural bridges crossed the rivulets of lava between the pools. In the center was a creature who, with the exception of wings and a reddish tone to his skin, looked like a Draenei!  I looked at Cordagan, who was looking, gape-jawed, at the thing, so I turned to Vi, “is that… a demon?” I asked.

Vi shrugged, “I doubt it’s a cultist, but I didn’t know Draenei could have wings.” 

Then again, I mused to myself, he was wearing the trappings of the Cult of the Damned, maybe the wings were part of his clothing.  I was shown to be mistaken, though, as he flapped those wings once and lifted himself a good ten feet off the ground, flames bursting from his hands. He was looking at Vi.

Vi leapt, and as the fire slid down his back, he bowled into the lower legs of the demon. The demon, in turn, landed, and began to attack Vi with what looked like viscious claws. Cordagan and I both started our own spells, and I heard Kaide call forth her totems behind me. 

Vi was able to mostly keep the thing’s attention, but once in a while it would turn to me or Cordagan and throw a ball of fire. We tried to dodge, but the magical flames seemed to be able to follow us. After each searing burst, though, Kaide would follow with a heal, and we would continue casting our own spells. The fight seemed to drag on, and then, somehow, the demon grew. He let out a howl, enraged that we had persevered. I focused on my spell-casting all the more as the thing clawed at Vi, trying to pull away his armor. At least it had stopped casting spells at us as well!

I stood a moment, dumbfounded, as the creature fell, dead. We’d killed our first demon.  “She said Tagamen and his lieutenants.” Kaide said, as we poked around the area near the creature, seeing if there was any treasure worth taking back with us.

“Well, I hope that was Tagamen, then,” I responded.

Vi pointed, “Looks like there’s a path. Let’s see what’s back there.”

“Better than going into Orgrimmar.” Cordagan said, brushing char marks off his robes.

We continued, killing more cultists, though thankfully we ran into no more troggs. The next demon we saw was smaller, and a caster. After the previous fight, it seems almost not worth mentioning. He fell comparatively quickly.   We’d found one lieutenant, then, and this pointed toward the big demon being Tagamen.

It took us quite a while to find the path to the second lieutenant. It was against a shadowed wall, and we had to go single file to get through a particularly narrow spot. Luckily, we were not ambushed. If I were holed up in a spot like that, I would certainly put my minions on that narrowing in the passage as a choke point.  I guess the demon figured we’d never find him.

Again the cultists fell with ease, while the demon failed to lift a finger to help, even in their death throes. This demon wasn’t a caster at all, but he swung his sword very quickly. Vi was hard-pressed to dodge his blows, and I think only partially dodged several, but we were once again the winners. As we finished that fight, I felt the now common sensation of being dragged through space. 

When things settled this time, we stood in front of Arianrose once again. She looked at us briefly, then said, “so it is done?”

“Yes.” I said.

“Good.” She replied, turned on a hoof, and marched out the door.

We looked at one another. No thank you. No explanation. Just. Good.  It was confirmed. Arianrose had gone insane.

A Bit about gaming in general

There are a lot of people out there who say that WoW is on the decline. The “facts” sited include

  • Subscription numbers are reported to be down from the release of Cataclysm (While this is true, I don’t beleive that subscription numbers are down from the end of Wrath of the Lich King overall)
  • It has become prohibitively expensive to purchase the original game and all of the expansions (This one is debatably true. Whether it is actually true is left to the individual who has to buy all the games.)
  • The WoW community has become such a cesspool of mannerless twits hiding behind anonymity that no one new will stick around. (A pure opinion)
  • The latest expansion just didn’t have as much new content as others have. (not true at all)

 Any of these things may be true, except the amount of new content released with Cataclysm, but there’s also one thing that stands out in my mind as an inidcator that WoW is not dieing, at least not yet:  Blizzard is not shutting down or merging servers.  Sure, there are still low-population servers, and no, I don’t believe Blizzard had to open up any new realms with this expansion. But the first sign that an MMO is actually losing a significant amount of the player base, to me, is when servers start getting shut down.  When physical resources are taken away from a system because they are no longer needed, that system is getting smaller.

My own gaming history is oddly checkered. I’ve never really been a console gamer, until my partner brought her love of console games into my consciousness. I still don’t play them much.  I’ve played PC games since I was a youngster and those games were all text-based. I have fond memories of an archaic golf game that my grandfather had on his Wang desk computer.

I played the Bard’s Tale trilogy until my 486 died, and then I moved on to Civilization II, which I played until I upgraded my computer and ended up with Windows Vista.  I’ve played WoW since early Vanilla (around 4 months after release), and I probably won’t quit playing until I can’t figure out some new way to play. And even then, I may still play so long as the servers are up.

I rarely check out other games while I’ve got something that I love enough to play every day.  Apparently, for an avid gamer, I’m actually an odd bird. Almost everyone else know who considers themselves an avid gamer plays at least 2-3 different games regularly, but not me.