warcraft

10 Years of WoW – Times change

Chromie

When you’re sixteen, you think you have your priorities straight. You know what matters in life, and neither your parents nor your teachers can convince you otherwise. This mentality was part of sixteen-years old me, which caused me to be a lazy, uninspired twat who cared only about two things: finally getting noticed by the pretty girls in my class and video games. The latter were way easier to get, so I mostly settled for them. While my grades declined and all of my attempts to score with the other sex failed, I found myself having ample free time to invest in gaming. As fate would have it, I found that brown box with the grim orc on it in March 2005, just a few weeks after my birthday. That’s where it all began.

For those who started to worry about the quality of my youth by now: relax. I might have been a fat nerd back then, but that didn’t bother me. Sure, I was convinced that being a bit more attractive would improve my quality of life (which turned out to be only partially true), but I actually enjoyed having a lot of time for myself and my games. Doing the math, I think that back then, I could easily invest sixty hours a week into games, and I sure as hell did. The problem was that I did not own any game I could pour that much time into before getting bored, and at first I thought World of Warcraft would be no different. Oh, was I wrong.

Almost ten years later and I’m still busy exploring Azeroth, Outland and soon also good ol’ Draenor. I’ve had my breaks but in the end, this game lures me back. A lot has changed though, and one of those things is how I invest my time in World of Warcraft.

As said before, back in my Warcraft “prime”, I could easily invest a whopping sixty hours a week into the game. Today, I’m glad if I can put an hour or two each day into the game, right before I hit the gym, catch up with friends or simply enjoy a moment of evening serenity. Time’s change, people, and we won’t do anything against that.

Change. It’s something many of us struggle with. As a species, humanity likes security and stability. We love the predictable, and condemn chaos. Change, then, is something we fear, especially if it is a change outside of our control. Time brings many changes we cannot influence, and that scares many of us. If we could decide the course of time, we would have affected its stream as if it were a river that meandered the wrong way. If each and everyone of us had the power of the Bronze Dragonflight, we would surely see no changes. We would stick to what we know, and never sail for new shores.

I’m glad no one’s Chromie.

nozdormu

Time has been good to me and the people in my life. I have grown from a fat nerd into a somewhat athletic and healthy…nerd. I have been fortunate enough to experience a spectrum of emotions, with ample chances to flavor what the world has to offer and now live in an environment where I am loved and safe. Like all others, I float on the river of time, curious to see what lies beyond the next turn.

And Warcraft? Warcraft has also changed in these years. It also has been fortunate enough to allow people to experience a wide spectrum of emotions, offering them to taste the different flavors of a digital world. Time has seen it grow and shrink at the same time, as the game changed to fit a world that would not stand still. There were times that had me believe that I would never return to this game, seeing as we were moving in different directions. Well, here I am writing an article in honor of the game, while taking a break from leveling my Troll Priest. Time has proven me otherwise, it seems.

None of us can hold or turn back time, and so the only option we have left is to go along with it and adapt. I will keep on changing as the years keep passing by, and so will that game we love. No matter if I have sixty or just a dozen hours a week, Azeroth has not gotten rid of me yet. Will it ever?

Time will tell.

How I stopped worrying and learned to love gaming ADD

Focusing my gaming time on one title has shown me once again how much I suffer of a condition referred to as “gaming ADD”. Just like regular ADD, patients of this affliction suffer from an inability to play one and the same game for a longer time, being distracted by the beauty and “shiny factor” of new titles. To a degree, all gamers know this:  when a new game hits the stores, you want to have it and play with it. However, many of my fellow button-bashers are able to focus on one title for some time, while I’m already knee-deep in another game.

I haven’t been always like this, and for a time, this gaming ADD was driving me mad. However, I learned that it isn’t bad, and that you actually get more out of your gaming life when your attention span is similar to that of a hyperactive dog. This is my story (cue epic intro music).

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Story matters

As I ventured forth into the continent of Pandaria, curious to see what this new land had to hold for my warrior, I noticed that Blizzard decided to change the way quest achievements were tracked. Instead of rewarding you with some e-peen points after finishing a certain number of quests in a zone, you work off a list of quest “storylines”, and are notified as soon as you finish one. Once you have rounded up every storyline in the zone, you get a nice achievement, showing everyone that you helped all those in need in a part of Pandaria. It’s a nice change from the old way, but next to giving you an easier way to tracking your quest process, it also shows how even the behemoth company of Blizzard has laid their focus on storytelling in their flagship title.

Of course, this way of tracking quest achievements is just a minor part of their new focus on the story of Pandaria. The use of many cutscenes and spoken dialogue helps to immerse the player into the setting, making him a part of the story. I’m a big fan of this focus on the plot that many contemporary MMORPG’s show. Considering the roots of role-playing games, story is a big part of the role-playing experience, but for years, it was taking the backseat in most online titles.

A cynic might claim that this is nothing but a simple reaction to the demands of the market. While struggling with many other issues, the storylines of Star Wars: The Old Republic are considered the best in any MMORPG, and Guild Wars 2 also puts the personal story of your character into the center of the game. My favourite The Secret World almost drowns the player in symbolic and enigmatic storytelling, and looking at the positive reactions all these games get for their attempts at being more than just a grindfest, it seems like the people simply demand a good story.

I mean, who can blame them? Years of simply hacking away at monsters with but a notion of lore and motivation have dulled us, and we want to know why our digital alter egos venture forth to be heroes. We want to the stories we know from offline games online, to share them with our friends. We want to form our own band of daring knights and sorcerers, and fight against evil out of a strong, personal motivation. In the end, we want to know why we had to kill those ten rats, and how that helped achieving our character’s goals. This focus on story and the narrative aspects gives us the means to do just that, and I hope that it will be a part of MMORPG’s that will receive lots of love in the future.

Love the people, not the game

“The Guild” by Irrel

A week ago, I wrote about my return to Azeroth. Currently, my brave little panda is having some aquatic adventures, and as I kill sea monsters and gather crab meat, I wonder what called me back to World of Warcraft. Many things have changed, but the two expansions that I’ve skipped didn’t add anything entirely new to the game. Also, there are several other MMO’s out there that are just as fun (and more up-to-date) than WoW (like my beloved The Secret World). So what makes me put so much time in this old love of mine? Well, it’s the people.

MMORPG’s are a social experience (or at least they should be). In fact, every game is a social experience. You can’t play Monopoly all by yourself, and neither can you have much fun playing football without two teams. While one half of the joy we experience during game comes from the quality of it, the other half comes from the people we play it with. The greatest MMORPG in the world could hit shelves tomorrow, but I wouldn’t linger long in it if I had no one to share my excitement with.

One reason I left Azeroth behind me after the Cataclysm was because of boredom, but that boredom was born from a lack of fellow players. My guild, in which I had experienced two expansions, had started to fall apart, and we all followed our own paths. Some of us had left WoW, others were busy leveling new characters, and the rest had moved on to other guilds. The social unit that I had called “home” was no more, and so there was no guild chat in which we could tell lame jokes and no Ventrilo on which we could annoy each other with our bad taste in music. Most of these people were more than pixels to me; I knew them in real life. I knew what they looked like, and I recognised the timbre of their voices. This knowledge made their characters come to life, and thus, I travelled across Azeroth with real, organic beings, with whom I shared victory and defeat. In a way, we were a digital band of brothers.

Now, I have a new group of people who are exactly that. The people who dragged me back into a world I had almost forgotten are also the people I would have a beer or go to the movies with. Sometimes they’re silly, sometimes they’re childish, but they are always there with me in the game. It’s a feature no game has, but that you add yourself: friends and buddies, journeying with you into new adventures.

So, be thankful for all the gaming buddies you have. Next time you rage about their low damage output or their annoying habits, be grateful for the fact that they add something to your gaming experience. Because no matter how awesome a game can be, nothing is as demotivating as a silent, lonely guild chat.

I’m the Chindividual, and I salute all gaming friends out there!

World of Warcraft – it will never let me go

bokuzen northrendWhen Funcom announced that The Secret World would go B2P, I rejoiced and did my happy dance. Not just because I like to do silly dances, but also because I’m a Scrooge McDuck and like to keep as many Euros for myself as possible. The fact that I can keep enjoying TSW without paying a fee meant that I could dabble in other MMORPG’s, possibly even one that might require a subscription fee. That was when World of Warcraft reared its not-so-ugly head.

You see, WoW and I have a long history. I started playing the game-changing MMO one month after its release, and took only short breaks from it until Cataclysm. The world-shattering expansion also shattered my last shreds of interest , and so I said goodbye to it for quite a while. Then, Mists of Pandaria was released, and a month after its (surprisingly positively received) launch, I bought the expansion and started playing a new toon, together with some returning and veteran friends. To my surprise, I found the changes made to the game really enjoyable. The new talent system is limited, but now I have the feeling that choosing a specialisation and a talent actually matters. The Pandaren are less whimsical than I had expected, and the Monk is actually a really fun class to play. Damn you, WoW, for being fun again!

So, for the last months, I’ve been playing WoW on and off again on multiple characters. I hit 70 with my Pandaren Warrior today, and I’m working my way back to the level cap together with a group of friends. It doesn’t feel as great and fantastic as it did “back in the days”, but I have fun rediscovering a world I thought I knew so well.

Azeroth, I’m back!