Why a Sequel?

This probably isn’t the best time to be doing this discussion since MoP is 3 DAYS AWAY! Almost 2 weeks ago (I really do keep up with my blog list… honest) Matthew Rossi discussed whether a sequel is really necessary for World of Warcraft. After all, Everquest did it, and it look what happened: World of Warcraft took a big ‘ol bite out of the MMO market during the transition phase.

I’m not a guru when it comes to subscriber numbers and what makes an MMO sink or swim. Things that many people usually cite such as graphics, character models, new races, and the like have been and continue to successfully be updated with the expansion / patch model. However, at this stage of the game, with the number of years not only myself, but countless others have spent in the game, I can see at least two advantages to having a sequel instead of an expansion.

The Journey Begins

When’s the last time you started a brand new character with the intention of reaching max level? Contemplating doing that for MoP are you? Me too. You know how excited I am about it?

I’m not.

Oh, I’m excited about having a new race to play. I’m excited about the new zones. What fills my heart with dread is those 70+ levels where I’m slogging through the same ol’ quests, scenes, and annoying slow-downs that I have for the last several years. Add the horrific balancing issues as a leveling character and you’ve got a very unenthusiastic player–one who actually likes to level.

Now you might be thinking:

Expansions can fix that! Just look at Cataclysm!

I call bullshit. Were there new quests? Yes. Were there “structural” map changes? Sure. Was there a deep fundamental change to the vanilla quests and scenes? I can’t make myself say yes.

I leveled a few characters through the new vanilla. You know how many times I went to a hub expecting a wonderful new set of quests only to discover everyone I talked to had me doing the same shit, just in their now destroyed crib? A few too many for me.

Although there was enough “shiny” to get me through the zone, we’re not talking about complete transformation. Add onto that BC, Wrath, and now Cataclysm, and that’s a lot of zones that I’ve seen the backside of a few too many times to get really excited about.

I want a sequel so I can not only reset my level, but so that the entire leveling experience gets a reboot too.

A Time Machine You Say

If Cavern of Times taught us anything, it’s that time travel is… complicated. Blizzard has made some pretty valiant attempts to allow players to mingle with their past and future selves in an effort to flesh out the Warcraft universe. The longer the World of Warcraft franchise moves along, continuing to pop out those expansions, the more cumbersome and confusing all these converging story and timelines become.

Although you can successfully show the progress of time through events like the one for Theramore, or the new digs going up out in Westfall, it simply isn’t as effective as wiping the slate clean.How would you like to be a new player trying to fit the Argent Tournament into any meaningful context? You wouldn’t, because it only makes sense in the context of the expansion itself. As more expansions get tacked on, so to do we get more of these weird events that are isolated in time and space and pretty damn irrelevant to the next “story.”

And how do these time changes affect us? Time *is* moving forward, yet Jaina still looks like she’s 16, and I sure don’t look any older. How does this view of progressive time affect our ability to connect to the gameworld, the figures who inhabit them, and our own characters if time stands still for the *actors* but not the land itself?

Final Thoughts

I really enjoy and want to see Warcraft be a vibrant and successful universe for years to come. However, I also think that Blizzard is backing this Universe into a corner with the way they have handled their expansion model. By creating new lore every expansion complete with “current” events, they are continually causing cracks in the cohesiveness of their universe from level 1 – level xx. Add to that the increasing level cap, the lack of sufficient and meaningful revamps of the earlier expansion zones, and the game is encouraging players to only experience end-game content. Players are leveling their 10 85’s through the new content, or make a single new character for the novelty, but fail to remain engaged in the content from 10-80 (soon to be 85).

A hard-reboot, a sequel, might not be the answer from a business standpoint (good luck getting a few million people to wave goodbye to their virtual selves in order to set up shop in a new locale) but I think it does have benefits for the title long-term.

 

Advertisements

Motivation

Cataclysm ended for me in April. It wasn’t a conscience decision, it just happened. The Glory of the Dragon Soul achievement for our raid members, a semi-traumatic guild meeting, and a rather abysmal drop in attendance and availability spelled the end of my raiding time, and consequently, my game-time as well.

I’ve been keeping up with my community reading, making a rather annoying (to my faithful WoW readers) LoTRO post, and popping into WoW to do a random transmute or help fill out the pesky Firelands raid for that wonderful, legendary stick.

I knew I wanted to play in the MoP expansion. I even spent a little bit of time in the beta, but I didn’t have a burning desire to follow the continuous ups and downs that come with testing a new class and new abilities. I also realized I was setting myself up for disappointment. I didn’t want to experience the new zones and dungeons now. I wanted to enjoy them later, finished, ready for my enjoyment and bumbling attempts at learning the ropes.

Now we have an expansion date. A check-in thread started on a forums a couple of weeks ago. A couple of members have confirmed their acceptance into other guilds. We’re missing responses from others. A few hangers-on, myself included, are waiting for the expansion to begin to decide what’s going to happen and where we’re going to go.

However, it makes it hard to be really excited about the upcoming expansion. As a solo player, I know I’ll be interested in leveling up a monk and checking out the changes to my existing characters. But without the carrot of a really great raiding experience, I am concerned about how long WoW will have the ability to hold any allure for me. While I’m happy to praise LFR for those who can’t raid regularly, I know I’d pop in, complete an instance and then never see the place again. Gearing just to gear doesn’t excite me.

To be really honest, part of the motivation, the excitement of a new expansion for me is making a plan and enjoying the anticipation of starting the project, being able to check all those milestones off my list. But with my current situation, there is no pressure, no goals that need to be met.

Does your guild/raiding situation affect how you feel about the expansion?

Minipost: 5 Short Thoughts on the New Expansion

I don’t think I have anything to say that hasn’t been said before (have you seen all the links at MMO Melting Pot??) but it never hurts to yell into the void from time to time.

1. Pandas, WTF?

Really? You know what, I’ve played a Pandaren Brewmaster and I loved it. I set my own beer belches on fire to kill my enemies. Yes, it was silly, but it was also fun, fun, fun. Although the pandas interacted with the Horde (who wouldn’t be friends with the guy who helped you find your keg!) I’m pleasantly surprised they’ll be playable by both factions. I thought goblins on both sides would make more sense, but who can tell what convoluted logic goes on in the mind of developers. I say bring ’em on. (And if you think I’m just dreaming this shit up, you have to trust Rades, right?)

2. Where iz the women?

Will I play a Panderen in this expansion? I’d like to see the models please.

3. Talents & Skills

/sadface. While they might be working great, I distinctly remember how overjoyed I was every other level when I got a new skill or a new talent. The skill could be tracking drunken owlkin, and I would have been happy. Maybe all the gamers are supposed to be old and jaded now?

4. Monks

There’s nothing really wrong with monks, and I think I’ll enjoy fiddling with this one at some point. This definitely reminds me of the Runekeeper from LoTRO although the mechanic is being handled a bit differently. While I would’ve gone with a Bombardier I think the monk could be an interesting twist (and we can’t have enough hybrids, right?)

5. The Payment Game

I know I’m gonna be playing the game for awhile. I want to stay at least through the end of Cataclysm, and if I’m truly honest (I mean really, really honest) I doubt I’ll be able to help myself from taking a peek at the Mists as well. What can I say, I’m curious! So I’ve ponied up some cash and put my signature on the little dotted line because I know I’m playing, and I was going to buy D3 no questions asked. (And somehow, the SW franchise has never captured my imagination, so I doubt I’ll be taking a peek at that one.)

If I Only Had a Map

The expansion twilight keeps getting just keeps getting a shade more of the gloaming every time I turn around. Seriously, what’s going on here people?

Patch 4.0 dropped and made everyone madly scramble to figure out these new, shorter talent trees. For the most part, I found myself mashing blind at my grouping of talents, trying them out, and then running to the various drawing boards to see how I stacked up. For the most part, I ended up fairly cookie cutter for my specs–apparently, the trees ARE easier to figure out. Not to say everything went smoothly.

I’ve got a leveling destruction warlock who, for tier two, had the choice between three talents. Two of them buffed a spell she wouldn’t receive for, oh, about thirty levels, and the other one is a talent I generally look at with mild distaste on a fully leveled ‘lock. But, what’s a leveling person to do? Spec for end-game or for the next 30-ish levels? *grunt* I went for leveling, but I found the whole process distasteful. I’ve always viewed the talent trees as a progression that helps my character now AND later, and I seriously hate feeling forced to respec, not because this talent is a trifle more useful now, but because the other choice was completely empty talents that did absolutely zilch.

So far I’ve respecced and played on about 6 of my characters. Across the board, I find most of my characters feeling the love. My leveling frost mage is just too much fun for words. My DK feels more fluid now, and has lots of interesting things to clickie. My resto shaman and disc priest don’t feel majorly different, and I felt myself falling back into old rhythms fairly easily.

And then we come to my paladin. I want to shoot myself. It’s not that AoE threat is more difficult–I could live with more target switching and paying more attention instead of just spamming more AoE bombs, but that’s not what’s happening. Instead, I’m winding up a good head of steam, and then fumbling through, waiting for things to come off cool-down and forced to rely on taunting to keep my team alive. HELLO! I don’t want to taunt to maintain threat. I associate taunting with hitting the wall, and totally failing at my job of threat generation. Not to mention they took my totally fluid rotation, and mangled it so it feels clunky and like I’m constantly standing around with my thumb up my arse waiting for things to go wrong because, well, I can’t do anything about it.

Now, I don’t think this is some diabolical plan to screw up my game. Not quite. I think it makes some nice little holes that will be nice to throw in things like bubble-wall and salvation, and other awesome cool-downs. However, if I don’t need/want to use a cool-down I don’t have anything else to fill that hole. I just have dead-time–the bane of my existence. I can’t really use my holy power for anything besides SoR, because of the way the mechanic works, taking a minimum of 9 seconds to build up sufficient charges to keep my holy shield up, and then, I spend the next round of time building it back up to renew my shield. If it’s supposed to be a renewable resource to help power abilities, either make my charge on something I think most paladins would agree is essential (holy shield) longer OR make my freaking holy power renew button cooldown faster so I could build up for some other hole-filling ability… or something. I’m not a game-crafting genius here, but I know darn well when I’m frustrated.

Otherwise, things are sitting rather oddly at the moment. I haven’t seen a raid in a few weeks, and it’s getting downright depressing. I’m still having the main problem I’ve been having for, oh, months now, and I still haven’t resolved it. I was starting to get used to the idea of going back to my paladin, but my current angst over the class is making me lean the other direction towards Nightfall, who is currently who I’m spending most of my time on anyway. I’ve flirted with the idea of finding a guild, but the whole thing feels like spring cleaning right now–I know it needs to be done, and that I’ll be happy with the result, but oh lord, the drudgery, the pain, and having to examine all that crap that searching brings up will just make it a crappy job. I’m still safely ensconced in PK, but they haven’t seen much of me, as my DK is guilded with my bank vault, and I find myself randomly logging in and out.

The other problem is an old one between my spouse and I–he wants a happy fun guild that raids like they’re hardcore (and I’d be happy with that too) but I’m generally more realistic and tend to look for hardcore guilds that, if I’m lucky, don’t think they’re paragons of the universe because they can down content. As you can imagine, we’re never too happy in each others ideal homes, and it’s another component in the search for a guild that has me throwing up my hands. However, some interesting things have come of it. We’ve been talking more recently about exploring Horde-side servers. Our warlock/shadow priest duo died after encountering the prepubescent trade chat of one particular server, and another suggestion didn’t even get a toon rolled because I don’t fly on PvP servers.

Currently we’ve tentatively settled on a horde server that my brother played on for a couple of years, and so far we haven’t run screaming from trade or general chat. We’ve got a couple of VERY flirty cows who ramble around the countryside… well, if two giant cow-people in mail can really ramble. This time around we rolled up a pair of warriors–I’m trying prot out since it’s barely seen the light of day on my arms warrior, and he’s going arms (charging stun FTW!) Whether they’ll live or die, and whether we move or not is yet to be decided, but it’s a nice interlude of stress-free playing that we don’t often allow ourselves, so if you see a herb-picking prot warrior on Rexxar, feel free to /wave.

The other thing that’s changed since the various changes, in guild and in game, has been my use of Real ID. I honestly thought I’d rip off my arm and feed it to rabid wolves before I’d countenance using it, but the constant hopping between servers to talk to people and try out new characters has left me bereft of my favorite people. So, instead of being sensible and playing one of the 9 characters I could play on my current server, I gave myself permission to be contacted my not strangers who manage to get my e-mail addy. So far, I must say, I like it, even if it’s slightly confusing. My legal name isn’t what ANYONE would call me, and I’ve found that I’m not alone with people having accounts under all kinds of name that make you scratch your head, and wonder if the telemarketers have cracked the code. Fortunately, they do give you that nice little note section so you can give a biography of all your toons to assert your authenticity as a REAL friend.

As you can tell, I’m still a little lost, even after a couple of weeks to think things over and try to get used to the changes here and there. I’ve noticed a slew of players quitting either the game or the blogging scene recently–Cataclysm isn’t holding the appeal that they thought it might, so they’re writing things off before investing in the next expansion. That’s not me. I think me and my pixels are ready for the next stage of the game–I just wish I’d bought a map so I knew where to go from here!