Feed the Dream

Slow weekend on the blog!  Sorry about that guys. I want to catch you all up on what we’ve been doing.  It’s actually nice that there’s a reason for the blog being slow other than pure boredom and nothing to write about like the past, and that it’s because we’ve actually been playing a game.  The journey into WoW is going quite well.  My Hunter is level 56 and leveling at lightning speeds.  The experience curve is really silly and it’s not hard at all to stack your log with quests and get two levels after one excursion out into the field.  Alterac Valley has been ridiculous experience in the 50’s — something like 20% of a level per loss and 50% per win. I’ll be 80 in no time.

To those who said I wouldn’t last a week:  HAH! I laugh at you sirs.  HAH indeed.  Really though, it’s been a lot of fun.  WoW has a hook that most games lack.  A serious hook.  There’s a reason to play and want to progress faster and faster.  There’s a reason to want to do content.  These reasons are perhaps defined by nothing more than the potential to do them easily.  There are ways to get you to whatever goals you set.  While it’s dumbed down a great deal, it’s also a masterpiece of accessibility.  You’re given this sense that no matter how bad you are at the game, or how casually you want, that you  can be something if you work towards it.  Even if this truly isn’t attainable for the majority, this is the exact same hook that existed in UO, EQ, and SWG.   It’s not unique to WoW in any way.

The answer to why so many MMO’s fail in the first three months is because they lack this hook and defined purpose that has expanded beyond simply leveling to reach the level cap.  Lets look at Aion as an example.  I’ve never had more people come up to me and talk about a game being so linear and lacking in scope as I have Aion.  It might not even be true in the end yet this is the image that Aion projects on the players as they level up.  I felt it as early as level 28 on my Chanter while leveling.  What was my purpose for playing other than reaching the end?  It’s one of those situations where the player figures out on their own what the outcome will be and then the illusion is gone.

Players need to to have their imaginations and sense of self importance captured and fed immediately.  Since every single person stepping into a game has an imagination and the ability to picture their characters as become something special, that thought process should be the near the top of the ‘important things’ list.  Sandbox games capture this well because players feel like there is this malleable world ahead of them with endless possibilities.  When a game actually makes good on that expectation then we get something like UO and SWG.   Themepark games are great as well — perhaps the best given who is currently the top MMO — because they give a more structured path to the top while being able to tell a story.

In the end, players will ultimately reach a point where they’re no longer imagining the destination.  When they do, you better hope that when they look in the mirror they see what they thought they would.  What happens when they don’t?  Warhammer Online.  This is where the treadmill for WoW — the part we all hate — helps the themepark progression style game.  It’s almost like a player says “I’ve reached the top!” and Blizzard interjects “You’ve done so well and achieved your dreams, but why not dream about this next?”   The illusion is continuously expanded and even if it’s artificial it keeps the player going.

  • Just for the fun of it why don’t you do a piece predicting the consequences of Cataclysm on WoW in general? I for one think it has the potentual to capture the interest of thousands if not millions of people that woulden’t play it if they were shown the leveling game as it currently stands in the classic areas.

  • I’ll never understand the allure of an item-centric game when you outlevel those cool items you get within a couple days (or sometimes even hours) after getting them. Doesn’t the ultra-fast leveling speed trivialize those items and remove the enjoyment from actually getting anything?

    I understand this changes at end-game when you start raiding but i’ve never been much of a raider. Actually prefer the character-building/leveling up process much more which is why i want that process to last a very long time.

    I understand it’s not that way for everyone. Hey, i guess that’s my answer!

    (bahh…i still don’t get it 😉

  • Pretty well put Keen. I would add that over the years Ive taken many breaks from WoW, one of the things Ive found that gets me to come back is when Im geting tired of another games bugs and other issues, I think “man, I want to play a game that just works” and thats a huge selling point for WoW I believe.

    Ive never found a game that is so polished and I love the smoothness of the UI. When I hit a button, wham, my character executes the ability. Its hard to put into words but I think you know what Im saying. So many other games cant seem to get this right, the UI almost seems to be a barrier between me and my character.

  • @ Jordan its all about progression. Right now in WoW you progress rapidly, you out level zones quickly, you get new pieces of gear fast.

    Its a feeling of I’m having fun and getting somewhere vs the all to common I’m grinding to get somewhere so I CAN have fun.

  • I think what WoW does better than any other MMO isn’t a particular mechanic or design decision that is like “this is the reason I play WoW instead of x.” Instead, I think WoW’s strong point is that it eliminates things that are reasons for people to quit. Whenever something has cropped up that has been a major problem, Blizzard has gone out of their way to make it so that thing is either tossed out, or easily passed by. Sure, the game gives people plenty of reasons to play, but it gives the player very few reasons to say “screw it, im done.” In EVE you could lose your ship, in LOTRO you could hit a wall where you have only group quests (though I hear this is better now), in WAR you have tedious mid-late game leveling, in Champions/Star Trek you run out of content all together.

    Part of it, you are right that there is always something around the corner, but the other, equally important, half is that they WoW rarely frustrates you, or makes you want to stop playing, where as almost every other MMO I can think of has those moments.

  • @Holgranth

    OK, but where exactly are you getting to? To me, what people refer to as “the grind” I refer to as actually “playing the game”.

    Maybe i dont’ get it since i don’t have that raider menatality. I don’t play with a sense that i need to get somewhere…i just play to play. Sure, i have goals in games, like getting my epics in EQ. Hell, even getting a PGT or a BIBS in EQ were goals, and the reason that i still remember achieving them to this day is because they were cool items i knew i would use for at a minimum several weeks, all the way up to a year or more depending on the item. That’s what drives me to play these games, getting those cool game-changing items that you’ll use for a long time along with character (stats/skills) progression. Having meaningfull goals throughout the course of a game instead of just getting to 80 asap so i can raid the rest of the time.

    Playing a game where you can level to end-game inside of a month for me would basically trivialize just about everything that i got in that time. Then what? Then you play the raid game and the only character progression you have left is…getting raid items? ughh

    I know i’m in the minority, but playing games like WoW just seem to go against everything i actually enjoy in a mmorpg. Which is weird because i have next to no time to play anything anymore and you’d think i would love a game like WoW. But it just leaves me feeling…meh.

    I must be getting old 😉

  • Something interesting I found for everybody. This was found on the vator Website for a company called MyeGamer.com. I think it will be a good idea for gamers to check out on facebook,(they have a fan page there).
    “Our vision is to unite the gaming community in one place, to give them a single site that meets all of their gaming needs. Here they can read about news in the gaming industry from all over the world, where the next tournament will be, as well as the best strategies to beat their next opponent. MYeGamer.com will give gamers the opportunity to make money in high stake tournaments and get to know other gamers in their city, or on the other side of the globe. Here they can find out about the biggest game that everyone is playing, get feedback and opinions on new games or find other local gamers to compete against. Myegamer.com is to become the leader in competitive and casual video online social gaming.”
    Let me know what you all think

  • Be careful leveling up via BGs only, you do not get skill-ups off of other players. So, you may be level 80, yet your bow skill may be stuck at lvl 55, etc.

  • @ Jordan I don’t raid. Don’t have time. My favorite part of playing is character progression as well.

    The difference between us is I want to have fun, and progressing quickly and simply is fun to me.

    Likely its a stimulus thing and a mental thing, I ding two levels which takes perhaps 3-4 hours and I know that my character is significantly more powerful than four hours ago.

    The dungeon that was a challange 2 levels ago is now fairly easy and I have acess to a new dungeon that will be a challange.

    Because I’ve outleveled whatever zone I am in I move to a new zone with new quests, scenery and music.

    I have this constant feeling of growing power and a constant stream of new stimulus. Instead of staring a the same outcrop for hours on end grinding stats to gain a barely noticable advantage I know that the time I am spending is giving me SERIOUS results.

    As far as gear goes I almost don’t care about it any more. Gear is just a means to an end. A way to kill bosses and do dungeons. Nothing more. Nothing less.

  • John, unless one side performs a dreaded turtle he will never actually fight another player in AV.

  • I think Keen is experiencing this holy Grail of mmos type situation because he’s been away from wow for a while now, completely forgetting the reason he quit for in the first place. I’ve played wow on and off since launch and just six months ago I hung up my mouse and keyboard until something fresh releases (TOR). After five years there really isn’t anything I hadn’t killed, explored or re leveled to see.

    Wow is done for me especially considering that cataclysm is old content with new colors. Yeah little perks like flying over your old stomping grounds will be cool but it will still be the same old dull unimaginative raid content where the raid devs just add more chaos and mobs per boss fight instead of being creative with their boss encounters. Everquest mastered the epic feel to a boss fight. What they did to achieve this I can’t exactly pinpoint but they had it.

    Wow has no epic feel to it even with 95 purple items dropping per 5 man heroic run. It had no economic community whatsoever…he’ll it has no type of community period anymore. You group with random strangers now with the new grouping system from different servers. It was a good addition for small population servers but for large ones it will completely kill any social community it once had.

    I may sound bitter but wow is ruining what peoples ideas of what a mmo should be modeled after. Community, economy and socialization.

  • WoW doesn’t have the community or the player driven economy (it has a good economy though) or the socialization, but it is a good mmo for other reasons — big ones.

    A good community, economy, and socialization are really a bi-product of a good game with a good hook.

  • “but it will still be the same old dull unimaginative raid content where the raid devs just add more chaos and mobs per boss fight instead of being creative with their boss encounters. Everquest mastered the epic feel to a boss fight. What they did to achieve this I can’t exactly pinpoint but they had it.”

    Are you sure you aren’t mixing up the two? I haven’t seen anything as intuitive to what Blizzard puts out as far as raids go. Every expansion they introduce new and crazier (having 40+ people doesn’t make the fight epic, it’s the process of which you go through it) mechanics, I can’t wait to see what Cataclysm holds!

  • I can’t quite pin it but i’ve done every raid in wow up to toc and the bosses don’t have that epic appeal or feel that EQ developed…I think it was the risk of a corpse recovery and exp loss that EQ had that made the bosses feel like a real feat. You die in wow and you spawn right outside the instance for another go. The encounters themselves are alright but blizzards was of making something more difficult is to just throw more adds and screen effects to disorient you instead of making bosses creative albiet not all bosses follow this trend but most do.

  • The rate WoW is going they’ll soon be giving out 80s in full epics. Seriously, why bother playing for free candy. Sometimes it’s actually nice to earn something. Still, we live in the age of instant gratification. Soon people won’t even know what it means to work for something.

  • @Kaybek
    I’d argue that its a matter of skill vs grind more than “Free epics” vs “EARNED epics”.

    How much skill did molten core take? Seriously now. I’d say sucess depended a lot more on grinding and attrition than individual player skill.

    “EARNIG” things back in vanilla WoW basically meant metric tons of boring, unnspired grind with small bursts of player skill heavily diluted by the fact that there were 40 people in a raid.

    Now take 5 man HHOR (Without being raid geared, heroic gear only) or 10/25 man ICC. Sure they both are a heck of a lot easier to gear up for. You don’t have to farm materials for 4 hours a day and spend hours and hours on trash pull after trash pull.

    However you NEED to be SKILLED to beat them. You can’t just win through grinding and attrition.

    However since the grind has gone down so much anyone with a lot of SKILL and a bit of time can earn good rewards.

    Which makes the nostalgic whiners feel bad because good gear is no longer exclusive to those with lots of time and at least a bit of skill.

  • @Kaybek

    Unless you know nothing of World of Warcraft, they do this before the next expansion releases so that the casual and -majority- of their players that did not see the end content or wear the cool gear, get their chance. This is a huge move as back in Vanilla WoW, the feeling that some got that they never were able to see Ahn’Quiraj or wear the T3 made many people sad. Blizzard changed this and keeps the game hard in the beginning, and slowly makes it easier after all the hardcore vets have had their way.

  • I agree that the journey is the fun part, but when you get to 80 you’re just going to find exactly what you describe.

    That’s why I miss games that had a somewhat unattainable level cap, it felt like the entire game was the journey, and it was never over.

  • I’m happy for Keen that he’s enjoying WoW, though I’ve recently drastically cut back on my WoW time till Cataclysm. In comparison to other games (WAR, LOTRO, DDO, Allods, RoM) the mechanics and UI are certainly polished to the Nth degree.

    But I find the content is lacking since TBC. WotLK is pretty bland recycled stuff, both the raid boss tactics and the quests.

    I enjoyed WoW until Wrath because of the journey, because of the sense of well-paced progression. Now you progress so fast to endgame and it’s yet another grind for epics. Repeat the same heroics/raids ad infinitum. I know this is the same in other games, but that’s exactly my point. I think WoW is no better than other games in this respect – replacing character progression and meaningful PVE story-based content with a repetitive gear-grind may keep raiders and gearaholics in games, but for anyone like me who focuses more on story and exploration it’s simply boring.

  • Keen, I have a feeling that you enjoy the blitz in WoW so much because you’re looking for a temporary filler (even if you’ll continue with Cataclysm, it won’t be the same game).

    Would you play a game seriously that lasts about 1.5-2 months and then you exhausted all content with game paths? Would you even consider playing it at all?

  • Glad you’re having fun! Don’t now why, but WoW just never had that hook for me as other games did. There just wasn’t much for me to do there for my play style. But obviously it has a hook for millions.

  • I think that WoW is going through many changes for the better. I’ve recently gone back, and do you know what the community wants most with their new dungeon system? They want the ability to talk and group with people across servers.

    Judging from what the new battle.net is working on (You can talk to people playing WoW while you play Starcraft II, and WoW players can also talk across servers) I’m sure they are working towards this goal.

    Honestly, whoever played Wrath knows that WoW is really growing. The Death Knight starter zone was amazing, while the quests from 70-80 in Northrend blow you away. WoW has taken the idea of phasing and literally made it possible for someone to feel they changed/affected the world…

    If they go back and do that with all their 1-60 content in the old world… that is a HUGE accomplishment. Frankly, I can’t wait.

  • That hook keen is talking about will only be temporary…I think everyone who has returned to wow has felt that same sense of “omg this is awesome, what did they change?”. After five or six months in you realize nothing has changed when you start seeing the same trends prior to quitting the first (or few) time(s) you quit.

    Wow has destroyed any lore it had left really and they’re putting the nails in the coffin with cataclysm.

    I completely understand the feeling of wanting a good mmo to play but there’s much better substitutes than wow IMO. Give eq2 a shot. Great story, awesome boss encounters and fantastic graphics paired with a great (mostly) player driven economy between crafting rares and master 1 skill/spell books, epic weapon questlines which are challenging and a fantastic story (did both swasbuckler and wizard fabled versions). The crafting is fun…it’s not perfect but it’s lightyears beyond wow. Oh and hey, if you make enough money from selling your stuff you can buy a nice 3 bedroom loft in the middle of Qeynos or Freeport to show off rare dragon heads or sell stuff right out of. It has so much more depth than wow and it had a very big hook but that hook tends to catch adults by the mouth. Eq2 doesn’t hand out epics by the dozen. Nor is the content trivial or dumbed down.

    Eq2 has a mature community where players earn a name for themselves. If you’re known for being a fantastic healer or dpser you’ll be spammed by not only your guild but complete strangers because there is *gasp* a community where unbeknownst to you people are reffering you because they appreciate focused players who play the game right.

    In wow as long as the kids get their epics they couldn’t care less how many times you saved them from death at 3% health (because they’re a deathknight who mainspecs dps gear but gathers blues claiming to be a geared tank) or the fact that you did 60% of the groups total damage for the instance.

    You’re indeed right Keen, wow does have a hook but a few months in you’ll find it’s made of paper and that appeal will dissolve after it’s been in water for too long. Mark my words 🙂

  • “Wow has destroyed any lore it had left really and they’re putting the nails in the coffin with cataclysm.”

    You just nailed the coffin on yourself, I’m afraid.

  • @Chris

    As much as Im happy that you find EQ2 “deeper” its kind of ridiculous how many people post here that Keen will be done with WoW in a few months. That’s just depressing and negative. I have been playing WoW for 5 years and have run out of content many times but things like rerolling, new professions, questing, pvp, and everything keeps me playing. EQ2 is no different, I played the crap out of the game and have found a barrier where I no longer find it fun. It’s the same feeling I get with WoW now, but instead, I know I can reroll a druid and it will not take me a year to get where I am with my EQ2 Mains.

    Everyone needs to stop these “Play something better” comments. He’s playing WoW, and I am too, and there is nothing wrong with that and praising it.

  • @Chris

    Some of your comments have made me wonder whether we are playing the same WoW. I am no WoW fanboy, it has many faults, but over the years it has kept my attention more than any other MMO out there.

    As far as your opinion on Cataclysm . . . I see no logic in what you are saying. Personally, I am greatly looking forward to it. I think Blizzard is finally doing something that virtually EVERY MMO should eventually do (and as far as I know, none have). That is, making the old content new and fresh again for the veteran as well as the newbie. I think this is one area that has been overlooked in the past and to the great detriment of other MMOs. With Cataclysm, Blizzard is ensuring that WoW will be on the top of the MMO heap for many more years to come.

    I’m still looking for something better, but until then I play WoW.

  • Glad you’re having fun with WoW still. I have played that on and off and on again since it’s release. At this point I’m not playing it. Once Cataclysm was announced and I could be a Goblin or a gnome priest I kind of quit knowing that there was no point in gearing further as I would just reroll after Cataclysm anyway.

    So here I am now.. bored. 🙂

  • I agree with those that are saying it will get old again in short order. Maybe not 1 month, maybe a few months, I dunno. However, every time I’ve gone back to WoW I’ve played it insanely for a while, then one day I hit a wall very suddenly where I say…I just can’t do it anymore, and then I quit again.

    WoW comes easy, it plays silky smooth, and like I said early, gives you very few reasons to become fed up/quit. Its great until the moment it isn’t.

  • I thought the big attraction of WOW was what we talked about last week – stability. WOW is always there and there is a sense of continuity where we know the game will be around.

    Some of the stuff we mention now that is so great about WOW is also the stuff that brings us shallow gameplay. Is shallow gameplay necessary to attract the crowds that make a game stable and be around for a while?

  • I have to say that I have tried many an MMO and WoW has definitely got me hooked. Many of the reasons Keen and others have stated are why I still play.

    But I will say this. I was getting bored on my main character. No secret about it. So I up and switched Alliances. A whole new world of quests and “Story Lines” have opened up that I have never seen. New Comraderies to be explored since I know no one on this side of the pond.

    So yes, WoW was getting boring, but Blizzard found a way to make it exciting for me again.

    IMHO THAT’S what Blizzard does best. Find ways to make it exciting again for the players.

  • I do see where you are coming from Keen. It’s all about what a player wants from the game. I’ll play Cataclysm when it comes out for sure, but there is no chance of me raiding due to lack of interest.

    When it comes to WAR, I like Tier 4, not for any items but just playing and progressing slowly. RR80 is still a long ways off for me and I actually hope I never reach the cap. If I do, there are 23 other classes to play.

    I think it really comes down to whether or not you enjoy the gameplay or not. If you are suffering through the gameplay to reach some goal then it will not likely end well.

  • Recycled content.

    Glad you’re having fun though. Wish I could still enjoy WoW in any form, shape or manner.

    I’ll see you in SWTOR soon enough 🙂

  • Back in the good ol’ days, our entertainment wasn’t fun! Now even people with jobs/families/friends can play these games! It’s a crying shame. Games shouldn’t be fun — you’re supposed to have to work at them!

    Too much sarcasm?

  • Absolutely agree about the whole goals thing. Having goals is what keeps people moving forward and a game like WoW is a master at placing minor goals constantly in front of the user to keep them progressing.

  • @ Darella

    Console games are very entertaining and usually have no learning curve! Great for adults with kids!! They can both play and understand the game!! All that with no subscription…imagine that!!!

    Too much sarcasm?…

  • A few tidbits I got off the FAQ.

    11.) Will there be PvP?
    Yes, the game is open PVP with consequences and a sparring / training combat mode. In the early Prelude towns will be safe zones.

    Check! has PvP.
    16.) Can I build anywhere or are is it restricted to certain locations?
    You can build anywhere, but only tribal areas are currently safe zones.

    Can make a fort where ever we like and terraform it similar to Wurm, so I hear.
    17.) How do quests work?
    Players can create quests for other players to collect resources or hunt creatures for them. There will also be delivery quests and more social quests added as the game evolves.

    Player created quests. Looks like it’ll be implement through totems in villages/towns. Like a bulletin board.
    23.) Will there be a skill cap?
    There is a soft skill cap based on your overall skills and grouped skills such as actions, combat and crafting.

    Skills apparently degrade (not sure how much) if they go unused from what I’ve gathered as well.
    25.) Will there be instances?

    Very nice.
    31.) What are the limitations on terraforming?
    Players can’t terraform hard rock surfaces or near existing trees. Players will be limited to changing terrain within tribal zones in order to not mess up the entire world.

    Ok, it has some restrictions, but you get to do it at all which is a huge plus. It also says ‘existing’ trees and says you can chop trees down. Maybe you can chop the tree down and then terraform the earth under it?
    32.) Are player levels visible to other players?

    Always prefer games that don’t tell you everything about another player. Deters some gankers if they’re not sure they can one shot you as well.
    34.) Will there be NPC vendors or quest givers?
    No. There are currently no NPC characters. The world is entirely player driven.

    Interesting… never played an MMO that went for no NPCs at all.

    It’s also set in a post-apocalyptic world. So, it could be a possible alternative for those who didn’t get into fallen earth.

  • Xyson looks nice, and promising, hopefully it will fufill it’s duty but I’ve heard it’s story before. We’ll see if the developers can keep what they are promising while keeping servers balanced, up, and active.

  • Yeah, it does sound promising and I am curious but highly skeptical…like it would be a miracle if it was actually worthwhile.