As I slowly work my way towards the fabled max level I’ve inevitably hit my personal low point in both interest and incentive to play. As demoralizing and depressing this feeling is for me as a gamer, I know it will not only pass, but after it is over I’ll be even more hyped to play the game. However if you sat me down at this point in time and said “Joe, play an MMO this instant, right now!” I’d invariably open up one of the other handful I’ve been testing out. Why is that? I’d have to say it is the utter redundancy of gameplay that I’ve encountered so far within World of Warcraft. This “gamer’s block” made me consider my difficulties on a wider scale, which eventually led me to consider the topic for today’s column.
There are three main activities to partake in if one wants to level in most MMOs, and we all know them well. You have questing, PvP, and dungeon running. Sure there are alternatives (if you count flying around gathering discovery experience and crafting quests as an alternative) but these three methods are the crux of anyone’s levelling gameplay. Sad to say, outside of PvP, these undertakings are hardly an entertaining experience. Questing is largely the same anywhere you go albeit Blizzard’s attempts at spicing things up which, don’t get me wrong, are great fun. Rolling around in a vehicle or using a quest item to accomplish a certain objective are all well and good, but at the end of the day you still live by the paradigm of “get x for y” or “kill x number of y for z.” Now would be the time for all of you to chime in “Welcome to the modern MMO noob!” if you’re feeling especially cantankerous, otherwise read on.
As an aside, I really should consider the nature of gameplay in any genre/title before I can claim any sort of objective stand on the topic (while also keeping in mind that any objectivity I can attain will still be highly tainted by my own subjectivity, sorry guys!). If we take a look at any game of any genre, the gameplay is technically going to be incredibly redundant and repetitive. In a First Person Shooter you do one basic thing, shoot things. Of course you could be capturing a position or assaulting a base or whatnot, but at the end of the day you’re constantly shooting things from a first person perspective. The player usually has grenades and other abilities to make the game more interesting, but odds are that you’re aiming down the sight and shooting someone in the head. This rule holds true for basically every genre of gaming, the core gameplay mechanic is going to be used ad nauseam and it will fall on the content (dynamic or static) to make the player feel like they are having an exciting, fun experience. And what does World of Warcraft have if not colossal amounts of content I ask you?
Really, what is the difference between my questing experience in Nagrand..
Well, content isn’t so much the problem as unique content is. Sure every realm of Outland has markedly different environments and monsters to fight, but at the end of the day a purple sky and red dirt doesn’t change much compared to the blue sky and green grass of the next area. I’m still casting my skills in the same exact order every time to maximize my killing speed and potential, and outside of the odd knockback or interrupt quest mobs throw at me nothing extraordinary occurs. Questing literally holds one thing over my head as a player and that is being the most efficient means to gaining gold and experience. Better gear is to be had in dungeons and much more dynamic gameplay can be found in a battleground. I touched on dungeon grinding in the last column, so I’ll leave that topic be, but needless to say only the odd bad tank or healer makes a dungeon any more interesting than “count to 5, AOE, loot.”
…and my questing in Hellfire Peninsula other than color palate?
To further play my own devil’s advocate I must address the reality that I’m playing through old content, which has been noted by commenters on my last article. Mellkor summed it up nicely:
“You have to remember, it was a different time when OL (Outland) was created. The levelling was MUCH slower and objectives seemed to be much more in proportion. You were never meant to pull 15 mobs in hellfire ramps. It’s a side effect of the insane class buffs that have been issued in recent years.(Hellfire) Ramparts was quite difficult back then, requiring you to actually use crowd control and strategic pulls in order to avoid a wipe. (lets also note that standing in the fire for the final boss used to be fatal but now is trivial).”
In reality how critical can one be when judging old content that has largely been relegated to experience fodder for people looking to get to end game? I’ve never been a power leveller in MMOs, I leave that for single player RPGs. Odds are any of you seasoned WoW vets could have levelled my mage to max and decked her out in raid gear by now, and that is all well and good, but as a player who has never encountered this content before I’m inclined to try my hardest to not only experience it, but to understand it as well. I stopped reading quest logs quite some time ago, instead being content to read through WoWwiki when I have a desire to learn some lore. I actually have over ten tabs open to WoWwiki currently (as I’ve been reading lore all morning) and it is actually very interesting, I just wish Blizzard put some more effort into getting the lore into the game itself! I’m sure all you players who played Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King in their prime know the lore and got the full experience, but that won’t happen for me unless I drag some guildies down to do old content that they’ve seen too much to begin with.
The last point to be addressed has to be the most obvious one, I’m complaining about repetition in an MMO. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but all MMORPG players would do well to remember that “Massively Multiplayer Online” is only three of the words that comprise the genre, the other three are “Role-Playing Game.” I understand it is the nature of these games that we’ll all feel like a droplet of water in an ocean of players all accomplishing the same heroic (or non-heroic) feats, but I would have thought the kings of the genre, Blizzard, would have done something to entice players into their world beyond a faster pace to levelling and raiding-done-easy.
I count myself lucky that I’ve finally warmed up to PvP. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is where I’ll find the most entertaining content until I get to progression raiding. At the very least I will die many times and learn a bit more about each class as I play the game (whereas solo questing gives no incentive to learn the extremities one’s class is capable of, dungeon running just slightly more incentive) and get me prepared for end-game PvP. So far I’m enjoying the more basic Battlegrounds, whereas my handful of matches in Alterac Valley have left me dazed and confused to be sure. Nonetheless the prospect that some complicated content exists is extremely enticing! All I know is that there are sidequests to do, generals to kill, bosses to kill and summon, forts to burn, and reinforcements to slaughter. A bit more complex than “hold three bases for 20 minutes” I’d wager.
Noob’s guide to PvP – die, die a lot.
Let me know in the comments if there is some old content with cut scenes and some story-driven sequences that I inadvertently passed up and I’ll definitely go check them out! Until then, I’m off to kill some more Alliance in Arathi Basin!