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More of the Same

Editorial By Steve Wilson on January 25, 2007

Casual Play: More of the Same
By: Steve Wilson

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Steve Wilson. The column is called "Casual Play" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Wilson. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

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Burning Crusade released last week and it turns out that like everyone expected it is more of the same. For many casual gamers however that is exactly what they were hoping for. More of the same when it caters directly to your playstyle is definitely a good thing. And from the number of people I’ve talked to who have a renewed interest in grinding through quests for that magic level cap Crusades is a great thing.

The number of quests available is insane. From the very starting zone there’s more to do than most casual players could ever hope to finish. After moving onto the next zone there were easily a dozen quests in my journal that would be discarded in order to make room for the quests in the new territory. Just like in the original the quests have been breadcrumed constantly leading the player to areas that perfectly match their character’s level. It was a brilliant idea in what many hardcore gamers thought was a dumb game. And while achievers may complain of quest grinding the massive number of small quests does have the advantage of giving casual players short easily achievable tasks to make them feel like they accomplished something. Even if there is no discernable difference in their experience bar.

WoW has always chosen game over world and it continues to do so. The casual players I’ve talked to seem to enjoy that. The world doesn’t change overnight and so they know what to expect and can get right to the parts they consider fun. While the concept of owning homes and shops may sound interesting adventuring is where the real fun is. SWG tried the home and shop route, the world over game route, and it felt more like work than WoW ever has.

While the levels are long (it took me two weeks to go up one level playing about a dozen hours a week) there is a lot of variety. The faction grinding however is out of control. Standing around in some random location killing the same mobs is very reminiscent of DAoC. Instead, the missions to gain faction should be segmented. After completing an hour or two worth of faction gaining players should receive rewards in smaller doses. The way battlegrounds do now.

Loot is a double-edged sword, some people are already complaining that within hours people that never ground out instances were starting to get better gear. Just the random drop uncommons from the first zone were much better than the rares I had prior to the expansion. The gear gets pretty insane with bonuses as players level up. One priest I spoke with ended up with more hit points than warriors I knew before the expansion. The focus on a gear-centric game doesn’t really thrill most of the casuals I chatted (either time or commitment casuals) as they felt it would just lead to the same type of end level grinding as the original game.

One of the best additions is the re-inclusion of world PvP. Every zone now has towers or cities that can be controlled by either faction. Controlling these resources grants a damage and sometimes experience bonus for all the players in that region. While this has reinvigorated world PvP, which went mostly by the wayside when battlegrounds were introduced, it has meant typically that the faction with the most players tend to have those bonuses permanently. PvP in some zones also rewards tokens for objectives and kills which can then be turned in for nice gear whose costs are completely outside the typical honor system.

There was some jeering from the hardcore that one person managed to hit level cap in a mere 28 hours after the game’s release. What they typically forget to mention is that it was with the help of an entire hardcore raiding guild dedicating all their efforts and having practiced months for the event throughout beta. The average casual gamer will probably find their experience close to mine, taking about a week to hit one level, and probably 3 or 4 months to hit cap. If they don’t get distracted like I found myself doing and being drawn into the world PvP aspects. For forty dollars and subscriptions fees that’s not a bad shelf life.

The casuals that continue to love this game will of course be derided as fanbois. But hardcore players really need to take a serious look at the game that will be the yardstick of many games to come. It must being something right if after 2 years of the same old same old it manages to sell 2.4 million copies in the first 24 hours.

3 to 4 more months of the same? It seems that a lot of casual players look forward to that.

Steve Wilson / Did some dumb stuff, grew up, then against better judgement went and did some more.

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