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10 years of WoW – Games change

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Hey, you guys still there? I know most of you will currently be busy in Draenor, now that the servers have calmed down a bit and the queues are not THAT long anymore (I hope). However, as I promised three articles in celebration of WoW‘s 10th Anniversary, I still owe you one. Last week we talked about how people change, the week before that we discussed how times change, and this week we’re gonna look at how a game changes, as that topic is more than fitting for the days after the expansion has hit us.

When I started playing World of Warcraft, the game was a lot different: each faction had only four races, and Azeroth had not yet seen any playable Death Knights or Monks. While being a smaller world, travel took longer because of sparsely scattered flight masters and being limited to ground mounts. Most importantly though, the game was far from being streamlined: while  being one of the best MMORPG’s on the market back then, some things just had not been thought entirely through. The early days of the Honor system? Utter chaos. The opening event for Ahn’Qiraj? If you think Warlord of Draenor‘s launch has been rocky, you should have seen the servers tremble when Ahn’Qiraj was about to open. As good as the game was back then, it would still require a lot of polish and tweaks.

That’s exactly what Blizzard gave the game. Over the years, the developers tried out different things with varying results. Some changes were for the better, others made the game worse. Don’t ask me to give examples for these categories, for that is highly subjective. I believe that the best addition to the game have been the linked auction houses, while I’m convinced that our current Talent system is rather bland. However, ask a hundred other players, and they will name a hundred different changes they liked or didn’t like. Different folks, different strokes.

What we can agree on is that the game has changed. Every patch and every expansion has brought some degree of that, and no one can deny that these changes have kept the game in our minds. While active players have direct contact with these changes, those of us who have taken a hiatus from the game are also not unmoved by them. When I told my brother about the features of Warlords, he smiled and we talked about how he thought that would impact the game. Mind you, my brother dropped off the surface of Azeroth in early Cataclysm, but he keeps at least half an eye on the game. Who knows, he might one day see something that has him return to the game. Changes to World of Warcraft keep people talking about it, playing it and possibly returning to it.

Of course, changes also drive people away, but the blame for that cannot be put entirely on the game alone. Times change and people change too, but a change in the game can be the catalyst for someone to recognise such changes in himself. If a change to a subsystem like Talents is enough to drive you away from the gam, were you not already halfway out the door, but did not yet have a good excuse to leave?

MMORPG’s offer persistent, living worlds. Part of life is change, and MMORPG’s cannot escape them. Without some form of change now and then, things would become boring and stale. Yes, a change can cause people we love playing together with to leave, but it can also bring them back. People change, times change, and games change.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

10 Years of WoW – People change

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“Damn Thrall, have you been…working out or something?”

When I was eighteen, I started my study to become a history teacher. I dropped that a year later, but that’s another story. While learning about the fall of the Roman Empire during the day and making raid bosses fall down in the evening, I listened to a lot of Paramore. I really enjoyed their light, pop-punk sound and the charismatic and powerful presence of the lead singer, Hayley Williams. In the clip to their hit song “Misery Business“, Hayley struts her own punky style, while also demonstrating her impressive voice. Their album “Riot!” was playing non-stop on my iPod back then, and I thought I would listen to this band forever and ever.

The years went by, and I started to care less and less for Hayley and her band. The albums after “Riot!” were not terrible, but I started to notice a shift in the style of the band. The fanboy in me immediately linked that to the growing popularity of the band, blaming success for straying from the one, true Paramore sound. The rational, quiet and boring person in me, however, understood that artists change and want to try new stuff. I might not like that new stuff, but no one’s forcing me to keep Paramore in my playlist, right?

Also, I had changed since first listening to “Misery Business” and “Let The Flames Begin”. I think that’s something many people forget when they complain about how everything was better in the past: others are not the only one’s changing, but we, you…I change too. What we like and don’t like is not fixed in our DNA. We change as new impressions are picked up by our senses, adapting to the new input and adding it to our frame of reference. No one is born the grumpy old man, but change might turn you into the grumpy old man.

The same goes for World of Warcraft. Sure, Azeroth has changed throughout the years, but the people playing have as well. The majority of people I used to play with have left the game. Did they leave because the game got worse, boring or repetitive? From their perspective, it might have. However, these people also left because World of Warcraft did no longer fit into their life. Their priorities shifted, their ambitions seemed to lie elsewhere and they simply were no longer willing to incorporate a MMORPG into their daily life. I still hang with those people, and we still think about the fun we had raiding together. Would I love to see them return to the game? Oh, hell yeah, but I also understand that who they are now is no longer who they were when we all shared a raid group. People simply change, and that’s okay.

If you know someone who has not changed one bit in the past ten years, you know a really boring person. I love how I’ve changed, I love how my friends have changed, and I love how World of Warcraft has changed. I know there’s still a lot of change for me in store. Who knows what I’ll be like when I (ever) get married? How will my future children influence my personality? What impact will my career have on who I am? In ten years, will I still be a person who will log in to Azeroth at the end of a busy day, to have fun with guild members and slay dragons?

Well, Hayley has changed a lot, but she’s still in Paramore. I think I can change a lot and still enjoy World of Warcraft, and so can you. Understand that it’s not just the game…it’s also you.

LIAR!

LIAR!

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.

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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.

Legacy – building on the success of those who’ve come before

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In a world where we want to get more and more out of the games we buy, replayability is a word that gets thrown around rather quick. As a buzzword, gamers are quick to use it in order to praise or criticize a game. It’s no longer enough to have a strong storyline of fifty hours: gamers want to be able to replay that story with new tools and approaches. They want to take their experienced character or a totally new one through an identical experience, but possessing means and powers they had not on the first run through. To sate this thirst for replayability, more and more games contain “legacy” systems, which grant new things to those who have already completed the game once. These new things range from new powers to increased experience points, but they always augment the new play-through in a way. Not everyone is a fan of these, but I want to take the time to tell you why I believe legacy systems are the key to a great replay.

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Blizzard playing butt-naked Twister

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There’s just some things too damn embarrassing to do. One of them is playing Twister without any clothes on. Next to deciding to play a game that forces you to grope your fellow players in order to not fall with your (now naked) buttocks on the ground, you will also show everyone all of your mortal husk. As much as we think of our own bodies as beautiful works of art (at least I do), the reality is different: everyone’s corpus is littered with imperfections and flaws. Standing around butt-naked is already bad enough, exposing all your weaknesses to the world around you. The only thing worse is to play a game like Twister naked, forcing you to throw around every bit of excess fat, loose skin or abundant body hair. Everything that people can criticize about you is flung around, as you try to win a game that is already pointless to win.

This year’s April Fool’s, Blizzard thought playing butt-naked Twister was a good idea.

It started of well, with a barrage of cool announcements, all of them obviously jokes. My personal favorite were the patch notes for WoW 6.0, which showed that the developers know what their target audience is about. One-liner after one-liner, Blizzard delivered a cool prank everyone could laugh about. A few other obvious April Fools followed, and soon a link to a new ArtCraft article popped up. ArtCraft! Heck yeah, finally we’ll see some new models! Right? Right?

Wrong.

This was the moment where Blizzard thought they were doing well in their game of April Fool’s Twister. Right hand on good joke, left foot on brilliant fake patch notes; so far so good. Why not up the ante? People are laughing about how we’re bending our body ever so gracefully, why not show them all of it? So Blizzard decided to pull down its pants, throw of that XXL shirt and come out with the big guns: a fake ArtCraft article.

Now, a fake ArtCraft article isn’t bad. It’s nice to play with your audience expectations. What’s bad is to illustrate a sensitive topic in it: gender depiction. I don’t feel attacked by it, trust me. In fact, I could get a good laugh out of it. A little bit of satire doesn’t hurt me, so when Blizzard decided to continue playing in their bare skin, I was the guy in the audience laughing about how ridiculous they look. To Blizzard’s regret, most of the audience didn’t like seeing them naked. Most of the audience wasn’t entertained by that ArtCraft article. Most of the audience was at least mildly enraged.

So, while Blizzard’s busy getting dressed and recouping from a backlash no April Fool’s joke of them has ever seen, all I can tell you, dear readers, is that there’s two things not worth your time: writing satirical, out-of-taste April Fools articles about gender stereotypes and playing Twister butt-naked.

Oh, also, asking your Twitter followers for article ideas is also dangerous. You might end up writing an article like this!

Faffing to 90 – Electrical!

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Music makes everything better. Absolutely everything. Annoying chores you should have done two weeks ago? Pump some Rise Against through my speakers and I’ll do them like my life depends on it. Having to wait at the bus stop because the drive decided to show up too early for a change? No problem, my homeboys from The Gaslight Anthem got me covered. Ideal background music to faff your way to 90, playing a blond elf hell-bent on carnage and bloodshed? Electric Six!

I don’t know what it is about the silliness of their lyrics or their actually pretty cool instrumental work, but for some reason, grinding your way through the levels goes a whole lot faster when I’m being told that electric demons start fires and someone has naked pictures of my mother (no matter how wrong that sounds). I can actually imagine Lorellis humming some of their tunes while doing the dirty work of the Argent Crusade in the Eastern Plaguelands.

 

Talking ’bout those fellas…I really love the Eastern Plaguelands. Well, scratch that. I love the people I meet in them! Fiona’s traveling band is fun to travel along with, though most of her companions don’t get much personality. The focus is on Tarenar and Gidwin, who want to join the Argent Crusade for…reasons. Well, they’re fun to have beside you, and the fact that Fiona offers you free transport from one quest hub to the next (along with entertaining dialogue) is a nice bonus. Plus, one single quest to get my reputation with the Argent Dawn up to Revered? That’s service, Blizz. Lazy service, but service. Also, the Brotherhood of the Light (see screenshot below).

"Where do I sign up?" Lorellis shouted after hearing this.

“Where do I sign up?” Lorellis shouted after hearing this.

I parked Lorellis in the Badlands yesterday evening, after wrapping up my journey with Fiona, her ambitious paladins and the other members of her band (Fiona & the Paladins should be a real band). Outland is just a rough ten levels away, though I won’t mind staying in Azeroth until level 60. Questing in ex-Draenor is such a chore and I will probably need some strong support to make it through that part. But heck, as I said: music makes everything easier.

What do you say? Electric Six has a new album? Heh, this will be smooth sailing!

 

Faffing to 90 – a plague upon thee

Does he got the booty? He dooo!

Does he got the booty? He dooo!

I blame one Blizzard game for not playing another Blizzard game more than I want to. Ironic how Blizzard is its own competition. Not that they care: I paid for both Reaper of Souls and a monthly subscription to World of Warcraft, so the guys in the financial department aren’t making sad faces as far as I know. Still, kicking all kinds of supernatural ass in Diablo 3 has kept me from my fabalicious Blood Elf, but there’s still some progress to report.

Monday evening I made the XP sprint to level 40, which is a nice milestone due to the fact my riding speed increases. Also, I finished one of the two Plaguelands, giving Lorellis some rest in Andorhal before moving to the other. While out there questing, I noticed two things about the quest design that came with Cataclysm: Blizzard made the quests either really serious in tone (though you miss most of that when you’re one of those guys who don’t read quest descriptions) or just plain silly (which you will also miss if you just follow the built-in GPS to the quest location). Personally, I don’t mind these two extremes, but I can understand when people say that questing feels like a fantasy comedy show with a dose of pop-cultural references. To me, that’s what makes the leveling process enjoyable. I’ve seen enough of WoW‘s attempts to be gritty, dark or even grimdark, and I feel like the game is suppossed to feel somewhat satirical. So, when a Forsaken researcher complains about the fact that the druids and paladins have been cleaning the Plaguelands too well, I get a smile on my face and happily help him with re-infecting the local population and wildlife.

HOW DARE THEY?!

HOW DARE THEY?!

So, here is my brave warrior at level 40, gathering some rested XP in the inn, waiting for me to make the push through the “old world” and into what used to be Draenor. Will he find spectacular looking armor in the demon-infested lands? Will my patience last me through the terrible quest design of Burning Crusade? You’ll read all about it right here!

Faffing to 90 – Killing with style, killing in style

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Readers, I have to thank you.

In my previous Faffing to 90 post, I was somewhat cynical about the fact that you forced me to play a Blood Elf. I decided to make the best of it, made a blondie with one of those crazy hairstyles (only Varian has more wicked hair than those pointy-eared freaks) and named him Lorellis. The name is somewhat inspired by Loras Tyrell from A Song of Ice and Fire. For one because Loras is a badass warrior, but more importantly because the Knight of Flowers has that certain “fab factor” I’m going for. The result is the smashing elf you see above.

So, why do I have to thank you? First of all, because playing this Blood Elf has been a blast so far. Being the roleplayer that I am, I had to give Lorellis a personality. Being fabulous is sadly not enough to be an interesting character, so Lorellis had to be more. In my head, he’s a fashionista hedonist who has gotten in deep with some goblin loan sharks (who might be using actual sharks to enforce their will) to finance his extravagant lifestyle. In order to work his way out of debt, Lorellis has to do the only thing he is even better at than being the pinnacle of beauty, namely being the pinnacle of slaughter. And so, Lorellis’ adventure across Azeroth and beyond begins, always looking for beauty in all the bloody places. It’s killing with style, while killing in style!

Next to giving me the foundation of an enjoyable character to roleplay, rolling a Blood Elf also allows me to level through content I haven’t seen in ages or haven’t seen at all. The last time I played through Eversong and the Ghostlands was around the launch of The Burning Crusade, and I didn’t have a chance so far to even touch the reworked northern part of the Eastern Kingdoms. Imagine my joy when I noticed how much fun those zones are, with interesting mini-storylines and some fantastic quests. Always wanted to be a quest giver in the name of the Dark Lady? Make your way to Hillsbrad Foothills, and you can be one! Also, as with all the zones that received a facelift when Cataclysm hit, leveling in Hillsbrad, Arathi and the likes has so much…flow. Some might call it boring, but the fact that I can easily auto-pilot through these quests makes leveling so much more enjoyable. Kudos, Blizzard, kudos!

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Finally, an honest quest giver!

By now, Lorellis is level 32 and starting his adventures in the Hinterlands. It’s been a blast playing him so far, and I think I have to thank you guys for making this decision. You are truly the best readers are blogger could wish for!

Faffing to 90 – you asked for it

Dear readers,

when I give you information regarding my opinion of things, I hoped that you would handle them with care. I hoped that you would respect them, maybe discuss them with me, but ultimately, respect them. I thought that you came to this place to enjoy my readings, enjoy my opinion…not to confront me with them and have me act contrary to them.

Alas, I have discovered that you, dear readers, like to watch me suffer. I don’t blame you for that though: I find happiness in the pain of others on a regular basis. If I were you, I had also forced me to go and play a Blood Elf, no matter how much that would dent my honor and respect for myself. No hard feelings, guys and gals. No hard feelings.

So yeah, I will be playing a Blood Elf, and this will be the last time I’ll bitch about it. Instead, I’ll embrace it. My Blood Elf will be the coolest there ever was. He will re-define what it means to be a Sin’dorei, bring coolness to a bland race and will, all in all, be the best damn thing that happened to Azeroth since Thrall became Warchief.

In order to get this show rolling, I decided to pick the class myself. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Lorellis, the Blood Elf Warrior:

lorellis…what have I gotten myself in to?

 

Releases, releases, releases

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Another year means a slew of new titles to be put on our plates, waiting to be devoured by our hunger for some good gaming. So far, 2014 looks interesting for people like me. And when I say “people like me”, I mean people who love some new massively multiplayer online games. Okay, almost everything is “massively multiplayer” these days, but you know what I’m talking about. I’m stoked for some of the games waiting on us, especially when it comes to the following three.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
Until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t care less about the upcoming expansion for Diablo 3. After binge-playing the day for two days after its release, I felt like Diablo 3 was nothing compared to its predecessor. The game started to gather dust on my PC, just to be uninstalled a few weeks after its launch, never to be installed again…until that fateful day.
Yes, that fateful day was the day the pre-expansion patch hit. Suddenly, Diablo 3 was fun. The loot was more fun, the game felt more fun and finally it started to step out of the shadow of its older sibling and other hack ‘n slay games. This patch alone has convinced me that Reaper of Souls will be worth my money, so I can’t wait until the end of this month to start my crusade of righteousness through Westmarch.

WildStar
Do you actually still believe so-called “leaks” about games are actual leaks? I don’t, and the “oops”-moment that revealed WildStar’s release date today feels more planned than accidentally. Anyway, knowing that early summer will bring this colorful space MMO cheers me up. The game has been on my radar for a while, but the lack of any release date to look forward to kinda bumped me. Knowing I’ll only have a few months to go  means that I can start making those tough choices, like: which class will I play? Are the Mechari worth joining the Dominion? Will I break the habit and not roll a support and / or healing character this time? We’ll know more on 3 June of this year!

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
As much as I love their games, I wouldn’t want to work at Blizzard. Imagine all the hate you get for a great announcement like the start of pre-orders for Warlords of Draenor. After taking some critical feedback about the price tag for the level 90 boosts (and for the actual existence of these boosts), the entire community goes apeshit about the possible release date of 20 December 2014. Sure, it’s far away and chopping your way through the Siege of Orgrimmar over and over again will make you hate that place even before the Dark Portal re-opens, but guys…come on. Spew your bile, unsubscribe and play something else until then. Hard to believe, but World of Warcraft is not the only game around.
My taste for Draenor isn’t spoiled though, and it won’t be long before I reserve my spot on the frontlines against the Iron Horde.

Well, that’s the releases I’m looking forward to. Feel like I’m longing for the wrong things or want to share your “I can’t wait any longer”-titles? Hit me up in the comments!