You might have noticed a lack of my Sneakin’ Around and other WoW related posts. I’ve cancelled World of Warcraft again. The truth is that I absolutely loved playing in a strange way, but not enough to feel like a $15 a month charge is money well spent. But what really drove the nail into the coffin was the constant feeling like the game was broken.
It isn’t broken. Not really. But I play MMOs for two things: community and immersion. The enemy of both of those things is leveling.
It was almost impossible to play without leveling at an absurd rate. The experience rewards for quests are so out of whack that I can’t finish a line of quests, finish a story, without being horribly overpowered by the time I read the final mission. That boss who is supposed to be hard to fight isn’t when I’m now three to five levels higher than him. My other option is to chase quests that have the most challenge and ignore the story. Abandoning quests just because they go green made me feel bad. “Hey guys, I know was helping you with your problem, but, ah, I’m gonna move on to the next area now. Hope things work out!”
And lets not forget that unless my friends and I played dozens of alts, we could almost never play together because missing a single gaming session could leave you five or more levels behind your friends. Slow leveling of old games never felt like work to me, but constantly playing catch-up in an attempt to just be able to effectively group with my friends did. I supposed I could do what most other people do and just accept the fact that we’ll even out at max level, but the prospect of playing for 85 levels as filler until I get to the real game doesn’t entice me to want to log in.
The reality here is that Blizzard has seen that people are generally happier when they are “progressing” and rather than allow people to actually work for and earn things, they just lowered the bar so that you practically can’t log into the game without gaining something. And most people seem to want that. They’ve become reward junkies, the constant dinging of achievements and levels and other random things bringing them joy. But to me, it’s all empty. I’ve got over 50 levels and dozens of achievements on one character, but I look at him in the armory and don’t feel any attachment to any of it. I didn’t really earn it.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t hard earned achievements in WoW, there are plenty, at the high end. However, the 85 level escalator to get there is full of Fool’s Gold and cubic zirconia. And I think escalator is the right word to describe the ride. You get on and it is pushing you forward and if you’d like to stop, you can’t, but you can stay relatively still if you run backwards, working against the flow.
Where am I going with this? I don’t know. I really don’t. I only know that playing World of Warcraft simply doesn’t get me what I want from an MMO, and I don’t think any of the offerings coming down the pipe will either. I want a game, where I’m playing the “real game” from the moment I exit the tutorial, and I want that real game to have as few restrictions as possible, to let people make their own rules. A guild should be a guild because the people want to be a guild, not because raids require X number of people with Y number of tanks and Z number of healers and a DPS output of greater than N.
Back in my EverQuest days, I used to tell people all the time that it’s “not just a game”. And maybe that’s what I want most, to feel like it’s more than a game, and WoW, with its flashing lights and rapid rewards feels very much like just a game.