12 Jul 2008

A Double-edged Sword

Since March of 2005 I've been a committed player of a certain MMORPG going by the name of "World of Warcraft." You may have heard of it perhaps. Since then I've racked up pushing 200 days of game-time, predominately on my only character to hit the level cap (currently 70), and the only one to have moved beyond level 30.
Those who are interested can check out my sexy dwarf hunter and his various equipment pieces here.

Having played WoW over 3 years now, I've certainly witnessed a lot of the game and surrounding culture. I was around at the start of the Leeroy craze, witnessed such epic events as a day-long war in the battlefield of Alterac Valley - a battleground that since then has gradually been denied of it's grandiose feel, and has been relegated to a fast-paced zergfest; The Scourge Invasion which came with the launch of the Naxxramas raid dungeon - a well-designed server world event that probably won't be offered again, not even with the new expansion. I've had two particularly memorable moments, namely the two dings to the level 60 and 70 level caps respectively, prior and after the Burning Crusade expansion pack. I like to think of myself as being pretty inventive in how I approached those points in the game.

<I did have two images showing the events that got me to levels 60 and 70 respectively, but these got wiped from this blog when I transferred from home desktop to laptop and didn't bring the screenshots with me>

My ding to level 60 followed an extensive night of zombie-slaying in the Plaguelands (about half the total amount of XP for 59 to 60 in one night) and completed by handing in a set of Scourgestones (markers of allegiance to the Scourge held by said zombies) to the Argent Dawn (a multi-racial force of warriors, paladins and priests fighting the aforementioned Scourge), using the XP from the quest to push me up.

In the case of level 70, I utilised the game mechanic that grants experience on discovering new regions of the game world.

Also note the extreme difference in my user interface and various add-on's, essentially marking a difference of 1.5 years and how my playstyle has varied since then.

So yes, essentially I've played WoW for some time now. I won't go into how it's affected my life since I first lifted a copy off the shelf in GAME 3 years ago, that's for another time; rather how I feel the game is for me as a player.
- I enjoy the game. Significantly. I've honestly never had such an engrossing experience as playing World 'o' Warcraft before, and the terrain, character, creature, weapon and game mechanics design never ceases to amaze me.
- I've gotten a lot out of it. Made many friends among guildmates and other players, a few enemies as well... as you do ;-) There's that great sense of camaraderie and feeling of cohesion you get at around 1 o'clock in the morning when that set of 10 of you, spread across Europe and beyond, linked only by bytes of data and strings of 1's and 0's, banded together in a guild, finally finish off a certain boss fight after a night of attempts and weeks of stagnated progress.
- Call it addiction, but I've developed a strong 'bond' to my avatar in the game world - Dobmeister with his ginger beard, as well as his own band of bestial companions a Hunter has at his side in the game world. I think it would honestly break my heart if the plug got pulled on WoW; not much out there that can replace it, not when I've already had my soul latched on to by the merciless Blizzard Entertainment.

However, I do feel that the game currently has become a double-edged sword for me. I get loads out of it, as mentioned above, but now I feel I need something else.

ostly it boils down to guilds and raid content: I am not slating the hardcore element of WoW here. I personally enjoy playing it at a 'hardcore' level, but I want more of it in terms of progress. Currently there are 6 Tiers of raiding content with a few sub-Tiers in between, in terms of gear and the difficulty/quality of the dungeons you and your cohort must battle through. I've only done 1 and 4 [T1 being the first raid level at 'vanilla' WoW stage, T4 being first one at Burning Crusade]. Even then this is limited. Those are the only 2 levels that I've had that chance to experience.

Since I started I've never been in one of those respectable high-flying guilds taking down bosses like Illidan, Nefarian and Kil'jaedan. I've just been a bit-player in a 10-man group that will run Karazhan once a week and get Prince Malchezaar down once in a while. Partly this is down to a lack of hardcore full-on commitment from my part. With a full-time job I don't have that chance to sit down at 4pm, power through until 2 in the morning and get an Archimonde kill before crashing out; neither do any of the guilds I wind up in it seems.

As a matter of fact, charting my game history, all of my guild involvements going back to December 2006 (a full 1.5 years now) have been tracked to one point of signing up to guild A, which then collapsed to partially form B, merging with C, splitting to form D, splitting again to form E and then merging finally to F, where I am now.

All the constant recruitment messaging you see on chat channels never has any openings for me, sometimes down to gear, sometimes down to "u needz to be unemployd n abul to play til 6 in teh morninz lol", predominately down to "We are looking for players on Class X. You need to specced in Talent Tree Gamma, with this specific breakdown of AA-BB-CC." Not something that floats my boat really, even if I was in that field.

I play for fun, but finding the fun is getting harder these days. You have the casuals, playing 1 hour a night, levelling as they please and enjoying the game. You have the hardcores, playing 100 hours a week and slicing through the Sunwell Plateau like the proverbial hot knives through proverbial butter. You also have Casually Hardcore - those who know the game well, devote a good bit of time to it, but still aren't pro. I'm probably in there, but it's a wide spectrum, and finding somewhere to fit in is tough in the game really.

As a result of this lonely journey of mine, I'm essentially sticking to the Player-versus-Player content, farming the Battlegrounds for the kills of mages with their Ice Lances, rogues with their Shadowsteps, then warriors with their Mortal Strikes. No wait, hang on a sec, those guys farm me. Of course, that got repetitive after a while, so I did take a break for a few months to play stuff like Portal, Rome: Total War and Unreal Tournament.

I think that break did allow me to come back, take a fresh look at things and start over, but now I feel that renewed enthusiasm is draining out. With the revision of the PvP gameplay, to upgrade the level of gear attainable through the rewards system, that part has started over again. The guild I'm in as well, about 2 months ago, had a small wave of quits from a core group of those doing the 25-man large-scale content, which has set us back. I'm certainly not getting out of it as much as I did initially. And yet I still play the game and pay my £50 to Blizzard every half-year. It's interesting how it can draw you back to this expansive never-changing (they still haven't fixed that bridge in Redridge 3 years after I found the bloke's spanner) gameworld and how you accept and grin-and-bear some of the tough elements of gameplay to get your [Epic] gear in the end. Like I said, double-edged sword.

And if you're wondering, the URL section murlocking is in fact inspired by these fellows. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether I chose it as MurlocKing, or one form of the verb "to murloc", which I propose as a new term meaning, "to engage in a replication of that guttural murloc mating call cry".

Wow, third (second if you count a proper wall-of-text) interblogoblagnet post, I might be getting somewhere with this project.