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Clarity

August 15, 2012

Dear Reader,

I recently received a cryptic email from one of you which simply stated

“I get it!  You hate WOW!  Why do you keep playing!(?)”

I feel obligated to respond, and I figured that on the chance that this could be a widely held misconception, I should do so publicly.

Let me start by talking about a movie.  No Escape came out in 1994 starring Ray Liotta.  It’s a rather typical Sci-Fi action movie with a bit of gang warfare thrown in.  It could even be called pseudo-post-apocalyptic, as it takes place on a penal island with little to no technology.  By many measures, it’s a bad movie.  The script is predictable, the acting is mostly uninspired, and the special effects leave a lot to be desired.  In comparison to other movies, it didn’t do much, and the critical reviews say so.

Still, I love No Escape.  Against all logic, it’s one of my favorite action movies (Waterworld is, too).  It came at a time in my life when I was first really recognizing that I wanted to be a movie connoisseur, had just started to pay attention to actors and directors, and had become interested in post-apocalyptic settings.  The first “Making of…” special I ever saw as on No Escape, and I still remember a discussion of how they shot a falling scene that was measurably longer than any previously-shot falling scene.  It came at the right time in my life, and it’s stuck with me since.

I don’t hate WoW.  I have hated WoW, and I certainly dislike some elements of it, but I don’t hate WoW.  WoW was my first MMO, and as a result, it has a special place in my heart.  WoW has many excellent elements that redefined the MMO genre, and as such has become the template that every other game seeks to remake or break away from.  Many individual elements stand out about WoW even now: the music, the ambient noises, the class design, the lore.

However, when you put it next to a game that came out in 2012, it doesn’t necessarily fare well.  Should it?  I suspect that if we put Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel (2004) or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords (2oo4) against modern games in the same genre, they wouldn’t fare well, either.  A handful of titles survive from then.  Katamari Damacy, GTA: San Andreas, Fable – but most have fallen into the dust of ages.  The video game market has an incredibly fast turnover time, and WoW’s outlived its siblings exponentially.

That said, I am critical of WoW.  I dislike many of the ways in which it’s changed.  I feel a lot of decisions have unforeseen consequences that have just come to be accepted as part of a whole package, as if we can’t design a better system.  LFD is an obvious example.  Talent trees are another, and I have no doubt there’ll be unforeseen consequences to their elimination.  I think some of the new developers have different priorities than those who founded WoW, and while I’m not going to judge the overall quality of those priorities, I can say they’re not things I personally like.  The players, too, have changed.  Some have become far more jaded (like myself).  Others simply got bored and left.  Others developed exclusive and elitist attitudes.  So you see, dear reader, it’s not so much WoW I don’t like, it’s what people have done to WoW.

Of course WoW can’t compare to The Secret World.  They’re apples and oranges.  One is class and race based, one isn’t.  One has had 4 expansions, one hasn’t.  One has been built entirely on the foundation the other laid.  You wouldn’t expect a Neanderthal to favorably compare to modern man, would you?  However, by identifying the differences, you can see a lot how we’ve changed, and that’s where I find the comparisons to be useful.  That’s what gives them merit.  Not to tear WoW down, but to build it’s grandchild, TSW, up.  Grandparents want their grandchildren to succeed, and if WoW didn’t compete with TSW, there’d be a lot more overt camaraderie about it.  Still, I bet there’s devs at both companies that play each others’ games and hope that the other succeeds.

So I apologize if I loosely throw around my comparisons and make it seem that I hate WoW.  I’m disappointed in it right now for a variety of reasons, but it’s still a comfortable home for me.  The fact that despite my feelings I still play shows something about both the game and my feelings for it.  It’s like a first girlfriend.  You’re going to move on, and you might be angry at her for some time, but you’ve still got a history, and you don’t want to see her abused by the world.

Now, I throw the question back at you: Why do you seem so angry that I am so critical of WoW?

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and responsive to readers)

P.S.

On the topic of why there’s so much Star Wars hate, which I read has been called on par with hatred reserved for divorced spouses, it’s because that’s a fair analogy.  If you hate your ex-spouse, it’s because there’s a lot of emotional baggage there that all ended in let down.  Excitement about discovering one another, pleasurable anxiety about mating, financial transactions (this makes it sound more like a prostitute, but I don’t mean it to)… all of these things turn to bitterest gall when they turn out to be a long-term letdown. As I paraphrased before (from The People vs. George Lucas), the fans’ passion has turned inward into hatred, making them the very sith he imagined.   Star Wars is hated so much specifically because it is Star Wars, not “Space Wizards Go to War(craft).”  That they love the IP so much is why they hate it.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. RimeCat permalink
    August 15, 2012 9:15 am

    A large number of people, including me, reacted very poorly to the talent revamp. After time to reflect and try to objectively go through the past I’m not so sure this isn’t a good idea. Back in TBC my Warlock (who was a fun class then) had three specs. As someone who preferred Affliction I had a Drain Tank spec that worked for soloing just about anything, SL/SL was the PvP spec, and SuccySac for instances and raids (yay, one-button Destro build). Period. If you didn’t follow the template you failed. The actual choice was nil. Old argument, I know, but still important. I think most of us old timers think about Diablo 2 talents. There were clearly right and wrong choices but there was also a proliferation of builds. That worked for a basically single-player game in a way that isn’t possible in an MMO.

    On the meta-topic I believe that you have to draw a line between hating WoW and hating the WoW community. Most people are decent, and silent. In any large group there will be negative people who are only interested in causing problems. WoW seems to offer them a megaphone. Everyone, I’d imagine, has tales of reporting people for racist/sexist/generally vile trade chat for days before just giving up and ignoring the person. That is the change, not that those people exist but that they seem to have an increasingly large percentage of the population. Back in vanilla, when everyone was nice and no one ever caused problems, I had to ignore multiple people on my Priest because they insisted on repeat whispers inviting me to a group when i was already grouped and healing an instance. My Warlock stopped trying to find PuGs after being kicked repeatedly for a ‘better’ DPS, before the run had started.

    The interesting thing is that while the vanilla problems were really beyond the scope of Blizzard’s control the current set are not. They could implement an auto-warning program that scans Trade for blacklisted words and provides escalation if the same account (note, account) has multiple warnings. This will not catch people who mask the language but it would at least eliminate the most obvious. They could institute a ‘three strikes’ policy for repeat violators. They could provide tools to permit the players to reasonably mange LFD and LFR, to include a switch to look for server-only groups. That they do not take any steps says that they prefer this system.

    WoW is a game. If they do not or cannot provide good entertainment value in MoP it is easy enough to leave – and I wonder how many will if this is a repeat of Cataclysm.

    • August 16, 2012 2:53 pm

      You’re right, of course, about the difference between WoW and its community. However, it’s not just the negative side of the community I dislike; its other decisions made that have affected the game, and I totally agree that many of the current problems are simply issues the developers don’t want to spend time dealing with. Being stricter and cleaner won’t make them more money, and I think that’s a fundamental shift in the overall corporate attitude at Blizz. I don’t think every employee there fits that description, or perhaps even most, but the ones who set the tone of the business do.

      I truly hope MoP isn’t another Cata. I probably won’t jump in to MoP when it first hits and will instead sit back and see how its received. Until then, one can only hope.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. August 15, 2012 11:00 pm

    Solid post, and you nail my reasons for disenchantment within it.

    I liked the idea of LFG/LFD, but the implementation, while it has its pros, has so many cons that I can’t imagine people enjoy it all that much, even though it gets them groups more easily. I mean, they still have to bribe tanks and healers with that elusive satchel at the higher levels, no?

    As to the removal of the large talent trees, I, too, cannot exactly tell what the consequences will be, but I fear they’re there. Gone will be the early-warning systems of “bad” specs leading to “bad” players, when you could easily inspect someone’s talent tree or look them up on the armory and go “oh God, I’m in trouble” in one of those LFGs. I feel that simplifying the trees both makes the game easier (which I’m not really a fan of doing, to be honest) and makes the game more annoying or even difficult (what? I have to respec after every boss fight to make the most of my potential abilities? I have to figure out which abilities are going to serve me best on this fight?).

    The newer devs definitely have different priorities than the older devs. I’ve welcomed a number of changes that we’ve seen, but I will admit I’ve become more elitist as time goes by, because, by golly, I used to have to work hard to get into a raid. Now people can queue up at max level with PVP gear on and do craptastic damage, healing and, sadly, tanking. Raiding used to be more of a privilege for those who wanted to challenge themselves against the most difficult encounters in the game. Now, it’s something anyone can do — and they can do it badly and there are basically no repercussions. I’m all for people advancing their characters and learning how to play better, but people don’t learn in LFR and that’s my major issue with making raid content “accessible”. There’s no learning going on, whereas with “real” raiding, a raid team learns something after just about every single wipe.

    Finally, the players and I, I’ve realized, are not the same types of people anymore. I’m the kind of person who makes sure her DPS characters are hit-capped before I walk into a raid or even a dungeon. I get my crap enchanted, I gem my gear, I research my characters before I play them in a group environment because I do not want to be a drag on my group!

    And yet, for every dungeon I run and see one other person like myself, there are doubtlessly 20-30 other people who are content to be carried along or who go out of their way to make life miserable for the others they’re grouped with.

    I’m glad to see there are still a few people out there who are disenchanted with the game, even among all this “pandamonium” (hehe, couldn’t resist). Great post, thank you for it.

    • August 16, 2012 3:14 pm

      I think you and I both have gotten more elitist but have gone in separate directions with it. I still look up people’s armory when my wife’s complaining about their performance (usually it’s people in our (her) guild who turn out to be raiding in ungemmed, unchanted, and mis-reforged gear. Main tanks like that. I am not kidding). My response, though, was to stop raiding. I simply didn’t have it in me to deal with that anymore, nor the time it would take to be a better raider in a better guild.

      I also agree with you that there’s little to no transferablility in what’s learned in questing/dungeons/LFR/and raiding. Each requires a unique skill set (or no skill at all) which is different than what’s expected in the next tier. That design is foolish.

      I, too, agree about the change in the players. I know I’ve changed a lot, but the other side of the fence has, too. Both changes have made the game less attractive for me, and the game can’t really be blamed. I’m just getting older and tireder of the same genre, and the genre’s getting simpler and simpler to allow more people in. More people also means more jerks, and I haven’t any time for them anymore. We know the result.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and it’s nice to see you over here!

  3. August 16, 2012 1:19 am

    Curse you, Red Baron! /shakes fist

    I’ve been trying to write a post similar to this over the course of the past four days, and you beat me to it. You said a lot of what I want to say, although I’m probably going to end up in a slightly different space.

    Well done!

    • August 16, 2012 3:15 pm

      One of my most commonly complimented ties is a Snoopy tie of him on his doghouse roof in his flying getup. I look forward to seeing your post, too, to see where we overlap and where we differ. Thanks for dropping in!

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