Monday, April 11, 2011

A Treatise on Disillusionment with WoW (A Post Informed by Warhammer)

I recently decided to give another go to a game I played on release, very briefly. That game (as I've already spoiled with the post title) was Warhammer: Age of Reckoning.

When this game was nearing release, many of the WoW forums lit up with people adding things to their signature like "WoW: Waiting on Warhammer." As with so many other games, though, when Warhammer released there was no mass exodus from WoW, there was no great apocalypse, and really the world of Azeroth never felt the least bit different.
It's not that Warhammer was necessarily a bad game. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that, as MMOs go, it was really pretty good. It had some very inherent problems, though, that marred it from the very beginning. Chief among these (in my opinion anyway) was the fact that despite it not looking any better than WoW graphically (and in some cases, looking much worse - I'm looking at you, horribly choppy animations of any character further that 30 yards away!), it still managed to run worse on my computer back then and still runs worse on my new computer now. I will grant that WoW's aesthetic is not to everyone's personal taste, as I've heard more than my fair share of people throwing around words like "cartoonish" and "kiddie", but in the end WoW just looks cleaner than almost any other MMO out there. Polish in an MMO amounts to much much more than most developers realize when they start building their own.

Furthermore, another major flaw WAR displayed was an inherent lack of things to do. There was PvE questing, of course, and the Public Quests that were touted so heavily, but from my experience during the month after release, once you hit about level 10 there was really nothing more to do besides open RvR (PvP) and Scenarios (WAR's analog to WoW's battlegrounds).

When I returned to Warhammer this past week, my main goal was to try a class I hadn't tried when the game first came out: Witch Hunter. I had read a little about it and it seemed intriguing: a mostly melee class with "Accusations" instead of combo points and ranged-weapon "Executions" in place of a standard rogue/feral finisher. So I rolled up a Witch Hunter and started questing a bit to level before I jumped into Scenarios.

It appeared to me at first to be every bit what I was hoping - the PvE quest flow seemed to have improved a bit and the gameplay of the Witch Hunter was quite similar to feral or rogue. You built up to 5 Accusations using things like a stacking bleed, a standard melee attack a la Mangle/Sinister Strike, and a Backstab/Shred-style ability, and then you used one of your Executions, one instant damage similar to Eviscerate/Ferocious Bite, one a bleed akin to Rip/Rupture. "Cool," I thought to myself, "a class that mostly revolves around bleeds and finishers."

My bubble was soon burst, however, when I joined a random guild that happened to be recruiting in the Advice channel, and one of the members taught me the "error of my ways." "Fervor," a player named "Shareef" explained regarding that stacking bleed, "is terrible after level 5. If there was an Elitist Jerks for WAR they would tell you to take it off your bars."

"But," I reasoned in return, "surely the pressure on, say, a healer, would help bring him down."

"No," he replied, "as a WH you're pretty much going to be spamming Torment," that aforementioned Backstab ability.

"Why is that?" I questioned.

"Because it's burst and Fervor isn't."

I sat a moment in my chair, puzzled. Surely there was more to this game touted for its amazing PvP than just WotLK-style lolburst. But as I engaged in further discussion, Shareef laid out for me how tanks are there to put pressure on casters and healers, and DPS's job is merely to blow them up. And then he said this: "Compared to WoW, this game is much more about teamwork."

Wait, what?

And here's where I transition into talking about disillusionment with WoW. I've come to realize that, 90% of the time, WoW players who decide that WoW sucks have a very limited set of reasons why they make the choice to quit, and I've found that, even more often, these reasons are almost entirely the fault of the person and not the game.

As Shareef (himself an admitted former WoW player) pointed out so clearly to me, some people just don't get WoW at all. He implies that WoW's PvP doesn't have much in the way of teamwork (which may certainly be true in most random Battlegrounds), but if he had ever played a single round of arena (especially post-Cataclysm), he would know that you absolutely cannot succeed in competitive PvP in WoW without incredible teamwork. Setting up and rotating CC and burst cooldowns in order to secure a kill is absolutely necessary in 3s and 5s, and properly guarding a node or a flag carrier is completely necessary to securing victory in Rated Battlegrounds. Shareef must have had blinders on when he was playing to not see things like this. (Failing that, he probably played during that lolburst phase in WotLK I already referred to.)

Another reason I hear about many players leaving the game is "There is nothing to do anymore." When I hear this I can't help but laugh. I realize that not everything in WoW appeals to every person, but especially since Cataclysm, there are just so many varied things to do that I can't fathom ever "running out." Building reputations, doing battlegrounds, fighting in the arena, hunting for rare mobs, achievement-whoring, raiding, dungeons, leveling alts, trying ridiculous specs like Shockadin, Disc DPS Priest, and Arcane Mage or Beast Mastery Hunter (trollololo), soloing old content for the challenge or the gold, and the list just goes on and on. Most of the time these people have not partaken in half of these activities, and have just gotten bored of the game in general. That's completely acceptable; people fall in and out of hobbies all the time. But why is that when they fall out of interest with WoW, it's always WoW's fault? If you love golfing but then do it all the time on the same course and get bored of it and decide to quit, is that really golf's fault?

Commonly cited as another reason for "WoW sucks" is one of two things: 1) the game is too easy or 2) the game is too hard. It's really kind of hilarious that there are such wildly differing views on a game that is, by all rights, the same for everyone. On the other hand, there are some very common distinguishing factors between those who say the game is too easy and those who hold the opposite view.

The first is that the people who claim that the game has become faceroll are the players who aren't actually doing the hard content. They walk into BWD and kill three or four bosses and suddenly believe themselves to be king of the world. When the best guilds in the world - Paragon, first and foremost - come right out and say that this tier of content is incredibly challenging (yes, I know it's been nerfed some since but even still), it is very hard for me to believe that the "ez-mode" criers are anything but self-inflated morons.

Secondly, the people who claim the game is too hard are almost universally not trying. The PvE in this game is "easy" at its core, when you get right down to it. It generally doesn't boil down to who can press buttons faster; we are all locked by the same global cooldowns. It does rely some on reaction time, responding to events and moving out of void zones, but these are things that a monkey could do with training. No, the people who think that this game is hard are the people who are doing content they don't have the gear for. They are running dungeons with randoms or with people who don't know a sheep from a skull. They are not researching proper skill priorities or gemming or enchanting or reforging or gearing in general for their class/spec. Worse still, when someone tries to give them a hint to make the game a little easier for them, they usually respond with, at best, belligerence, and at worst, a reply that they somehow know better than you do, despite the fact that they haven't any reason to know what they even think they know.

No matter how you look at it, a massive majority of people who quit WoW don't quit because of WoW. I'm sure there are occasionally people who quit simply because they don't like the direction their class is taking or what-have-you, but in even most of those cases, it's a resistance to change and unwillingness to adapt that are at fault, not the progression of the game.

If you are exhibiting any of these symptoms, take a step back. Relax. Play another game for a while. Go try Rift, all the people quitting WoW and then coming back to the MMO Champion forums later the same week say it's AMAZING. /eyeroll


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