Monday, July 21, 2014

... And the times, they are a-changin'

I know this blog hasn't really been about World of Warcraft in a very long time.  I think my real enjoyment of WoW vanished right around the time I moved to Texas.  I mean, that was two years ago.  In that time, I think I've played maybe a month or two, at most?

Most of the blogs I used to follow have also gone silent.  Some of the ones I'd see an update from on the daily have been dormant for over a year now.

What happened to WoW?

I'll tell ya.

It got simultaneously too easy (1-90 is insanely simple now), too complex (but you still have to level four million other things to be "viable"), and entirely too big (to actually accomplish everything is borderline psychotic).

Let's break it down a bit.

Too Easy
Getting to max level is effectively as simple as going through the starting zone to level 10, then grinding random dungeons until you hit 90.  Gear falls in your lap as you go.  I mean absurd gear.   And if you've already gotten a max character or done whatever it takes now to get the BoA gear (like join a guild), you're going even faster.  If memory serves, you can boost your monster-killing and quest-completion XP by like 40% with the BoA gear.  Also, it's by far better than any gear you'll get in the dungeons.

So getting to max level no longer feels impressive.  Same for all the professions.  I mean, it used to require some serious work to level cooking (just going for the easiest example).  Now it just takes... what? a few hundred gold and fifteen minutes at the Halfhill Market to get from "Is this a fish?" to "And now we make a lovely red wine reduction while those serpent eyes finish in the oven".

Reputations are also very easy.  It seems to me that Blizzard decided to effectively negate the value of the reputations from everything that isn't current content.  With the advent of tabards-and-dungeons, you could easily hit exalted with pretty much everyone with no real added effort.

End-game is also easy.  I mean, I realize that most of my experiences are in LFR and such, and I haven't really raided since Cataclysm, except for those LFR moments.  But the fact that I was able to go into most of my raids with shit gear (because I didn't do much in the way of grinding for valor or buying epics), and I could still produce mid-pack numbers for DPS or even chart-topping heals shows how simple it's all really become.

The talk was always about mana-conservation.  "The new healing models will require healers to be more on top of their mana."

Sure thing, boss.

I overhealed my ass off with little regard for my mana, and because LFR was so oversimplified, it didn't matter.  It reminded me of my glory days in Wrath.  Except that at least there, I still had to pay attention to everything that was happening while I heal-bombed raids.

At least those days required some skills.

Too Complex

Let's get real for a moment.  Blizzard has long since stated they wanted to make the game more balanced so that there was no "cookie-cutter" spec to go with.  But despite their best efforts, there was always that one path to take if you wanted to be a performer.  Same for reforging.  That was supposed to enable you to make "gameplay choices" without affecting performance and throughput.  All it wound up doing was costing more gold.  Get this drop.  Now go reforge it.  Now enchant with this specific enchant.  Okay, NOW it's a good piece for you.  Until then, it was shit and you were shit for wanting to wear that shit.  But now it's okay, because you did the additional extra steps required.

I'm reminded of the story about the airport's baggage claim complaints.  People hated waiting for ten minutes to get their luggage.  They complained.  So the airport put up walls and corridors and made the path from the arrival gates to the baggage claims ten minutes longer.  And you know what?  Complaints went down.  No time was shaved off the trip.  No time was saved on baggage claims. It still took ten minutes from landing to get your luggage.  Only now, those ten minutes were spent doing something, and so the passengers didn't notice.

"Gear is too easy to get" Then lets add in reforging.  One extra step the player needs to do.  As a bonus, we'll charge gold for it.  Especially since "Gold is too easy to get".

It's needless complexity.  It's not added steps that offer the player more choice or require the player to exercise some thought or shake up the brain cells.  No, it's just a longer hallway to the baggage claim.

Too Big

You cannot complete the game.  Just call it what it is.  You simply can't do it.  You can spend so much time doing every quest.  You can get every achievement for questing in all the different zones.  You can bash your face off a rock for days to get Bloodsail Buccaneers to exalted (I did it when it took MONTHS of a seven-minute respawning dickhead in the Badlands)

Here's the worst part, though, about how big it all is.  Because there is so much to do, you almost feel as though it's pointless to do any of it.

Which is, I think, where I finally broke out.

My fourth (fifth?) character was at 90.  Sunsong Ranch? Check.  All sixteen plots.  Dailies from Halfhill Market alone took up a solid two or three hours a day for those toons.  Plus more if I wanted to do any Timeless Isle or Thunder Isle or anything else.  Order of the Cloud Serpents?  Only if I wanted to sacrifice doing Halfhill.  But I needed to finish Halfhill because I wanted to get max cooking.  But I wanted Cloud Serpents because flying snake lizard things.  But what about the August Celestials?  What do they even DO?  Golden Lotus?  No clue.

That's the kicker, I think.  It got so big that I couldn't even really take the time to experience all the nuances of the game.  All the little details of the lore that I'm sure are incredible were lost in the infinite morass of five trillion new quests for those next five levels.

Now let's add in that everyone-gets-a-legendary questline from Wrathion.  I started it.  I put in the time to get to Honored with the Black Prince.

But lets face it.

It was just. Another. Grind.

Go kill 700 of these things, take two aspirin, and call me in the morning.

Okay, now go kill about a hundred raid bosses in that previously mentioned joke known as LFR.  Just queue up, hang back, and occasionally throw a heal at someone so they'll keep getting those pesky bosses down for you.

Grind grind grind.

Ultimately, the game became the same thing over and over.  Go to a zone.  Do all the quests there.  If there's a new faction, grind them to exalted, either by buying their tabard and running dungeons or by grinding this mob or that mob.

Or better yet, artificial "difficulty" through the enforced delays of making reputation gains from dailies.  That's not harder, it's just longer.  It's just making it seem like it's harder.  But it ain't.  Not even a little bit.


I quit WoW because it no longer provided me with any real mental stimulation.  It no longer provided me with any entertainment or enjoyment or even escape for a moment.  No, it basically became a thing that I did because I wasn't actually doing anything else and didn't feel like staring at the wall.  So I'd stare at the computer screen instead.

I've finally seen WoW for what it really was to me: a distraction from the rest of my life.  And, in all honesty, I think it might have been better if I'd never played in the first place.  Because yeah, I had some fun times.  But those times were all with the people, not the game.  It was the jokes over Ventrilo, not the discussion of which piece of gear would provide better damage mitigation in a magic-heavy fight.  It was the sense of accomplishment with a group of people I'd come to know, not the actual boss fight itself.

WoW was, at best, a medium for me to safely interact with other people.  It allowed me to engage up to my comfort level, and then back away as needed.  I think I developed more social skills in WoW than I actually did in High School.

Which is terrifying, when I actually think about it.

Point is, I've grown up.  I'm approaching the age of thirty (good Lord, it's less than a month away now) and I've simply put away the more childish things.  I still play other games a bit, but they're the ones I don't have to invest any significant amount of time into.  I play some console games when I want a quick chance to blow off some steam.  Or I'll play Clash of Clans on my phone when I'm on break at work because it requires very little action on my part.

But for me, WoW is gone.  And I think the overwhelming silence of my former WoW reading list is a testament to the fact that I'm not the only one who thinks so.  Most of the "Most Recent" posts I see are titled "Goodbye" in some form or fashion.

So, I suppose that's it.

Goodbye, and thanks for all the memories... But I don't need those memories anymore.  Not from the game.

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