Goblin zones have the best quests of any game ever

Aw yeaahhh boy

The bar is raised again by Blizzard. The starting goblin zones have, by far, the best quests of any game.  (Minor spoilers ahead).

In the first 5 minutes you’re driving a car picking up your cronies and later attending a pool party, running people over, watching male models have a gasoline fight, shooting frickin laser beams from sharks, burning zombies, kicking a field goal that is eaten by Deathwing, and even riding a rubber duck. Yes, there were dozens of great pop-culture references and they were pulled off well.



I’ve been wondering for several days where we would find and see Thrall.  The cutscene that you get when you leave Kezan (should be made into a full length feature film) has the Alliance shooting your ship to stop you from witnessing their attack on the Horde… they want a precious cargo.  When you board the Alliance vessels later you see that they have captured the one, and only, Thrall!  He’s had a makeover and he’s looking fab.  This was a huge ‘WOAH!!’ moment for me as the story took a serious turn and got very real.  It continued to be excellent from there throughout the entire questing experience.

Graev and I are now in Azshara, preparing to begin our adventures through all the changed content.  If you’re not playing Cataclysm then you’re missing out on what has already been worth the box price for us.

  • I am so glad that someone is finally saying good things about Cataclysm. I cannot afford the time or money right now to get myself into the new content, but I have been reading a lot of blogs since its release. So far, out of the 20 I have read, you and one other are the only positive. All i hear is that its linear, short, and too quick.

    I am glad I come to read your site as it generally is the same way I think and is usually some good information about products I want to try and play.

  • Cars? Laser beams from sharks? Field goals? Riding rubber duckies? Yeah. Sounds like my dream MMO for sure.

  • To be completely honest, it sounds like you’re playing some little kids game. Seems the bar has been lowered again, not raised.

  • Quite the opposite. The bar was lowered when these types of quests became the norm. It was raised when they actually became fun.

    Do I prefer them over DAOC or EQ style? No. For what they are, they are fun.

  • I thought I had been done with WoW but I knew I was kidding myself. I’m just waiting for my new gaming system to come in so I can enjoy it without having to download twice. Just a couple more weeks… I am bored though so waiting is a real torture.

  • Well the Goblin starting zone does sound a little hokey [as appropriate to all “silly” races] . I played the Worgen starting zone which seems to have much the the same elements as the Goblins in terms of the interactivity of the quests. However the worgen is ALOT more serious in tone [where goblins seems to be the horde equivalent of gnomes = jokes] .

    Worgens start in a warzone, and it’s pretty much chaos in a city swarmed with other worgen, but definitely an interesting start [not quite newbie friendly i’d think, but good for veterans].

  • That’s the sound immersion makes when they drive a stake through it’s heart, Keen. Jumping the laser-beam shark.

  • WoW never had immersion. It’s had some of the best integrated lore of any MMO, though. Hyjal is a great example of that. Seeing what they pulled off just in the first 10 minutes of that zone is astonishing.

    Appreciation of the art that is the goblin experience isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for me. If I’m going to play a themepark game then it better be one heck of a themepark. It’s mean to be silly, zany, hokey, etc. When it’s elevated to sharks with frickin’ laser beams you know it’s intentional. It fits.

    What I’m more apprehensive about is how goblins have changed over time to become more like Ferengi. Now there is a thinker.

  • This has been a very strange launch for me. Cataclysm is honestly the first WoW expansion where I haven’t been openly hostile towards it – I think for the first time ever they seem to be moving the game in the right direction in terms of class mechanics, instance design, PvP, and a number of other areas. Not saying I prefer what Cata is compared to vanilla – much less a game like DaoC or EvE – but at least Blizzard is solidly moving in the right direction.

    In short, looking at a change log for cataclysm makes me think “they’re learning from their mistakes”. Oddly one area I don’t feel this is in the questing – I hate the Wrath-style linear questing-on-rails with a passion. But I understand the fun and storytelling elements are certainly improving for the most part, and frankly I’m in the minority – most people would rather quest through Wrath than the clusterfuck (but much closer to “sandbox”) experience that late vanilla questing became.

    I dunno, call me weird but I’ll take the hellish old school globe trotting quest lines any day over “convenient” quest hubs like we had in Northrend.

    All that said, despite having a more positive attitude and opinion towards Cata than any previous WoW expansion, I just find myself thinking “but what’s the point? A hundred hours of questing through Azeroth with a mindlessly simple character, only to be stuck with the irritation of Outlands and Northrend again? No thanks”.

    I just can’t bring myself to get excited for the same old leveling grind again, only to be faced with the huge cock block that levels 60 to 80 now are… And the idea of just leveling to 60 to see the new Azeroth feels like a total waste, since you don’t even get access to all your character’s skills or any of the “real” content of the expansion. I know it says more about me than Wow, but I feel it’s a real problem when your “fun content” feels like a waste, if you’re not going to get to level cap where you can actually play the “real game”.

    The whole situation just makes me even more anxious for GW2 to come out – there I can play the leveling/questing game as casually as I want, while still having access to competitive PvP and a fully functional character from day one (at least in PvP). This is a huge deal to me – in WoW I have to spend dozens of hours leveling a character without really knowing how they’ll play – I’ve already gotten 4 classes to 80 and promptly gotten bored of, why should I buy Cata and level another?

    Eh, like I said, this is all about me and my hangups. I’m glad to read positive things about Cata, and I hope you guys keep enjoying your time in the new-old-world. ^^

  • If I had any lingering desire to purchase Cataclysm and get back into WoW, you certainly shot it down, Keen. Thanks for that and I mean it truly!

    What you describe should be in a game like Toontown Online or some other game for pre-teens. It is horrible in a game that used to be as great as WoW was. They have certainly jumped the shark.

    I have no problem with the occasional pop-culture reference but they always seemed to be a bit more subtle in Vanilla WoW and that is how it should be. Now it is thrust in your face and it is just horrible. I think that began the day “Haris Pilton” made her debut in The Burning Crusade and it has only gotten worse from there.

    WoW has crossed the line from a MMO that I love but had a few ideas I hated (Random Dungeon Finder, Cross-server battlegrounds, lack of focus on World PvP and immersion) to a game I now absolutely abhor. This is the nail in the coffin.

    To think that the glory days of Blackrock Mountain has been replaced with this….tripe, actually pains me.

    So sad.

  • @esloan:

    You sound like one of those die hard PvPers that played a AQ40/Naxx equipped Rogue in Classic, ganking MC/BWL raiders for hours at the northern entrance of Blackrock Mountain just to reply to the inevitable hatethreads with “u mad bro?” or “stop whining and transfer to PvE”.

    World PvP never was and never will be balanced, so your love of that and hate of everything that actually helped players enjoy the game instead of being corpse camped at summoning stones or instance entrances shows me that you are not really someone Blizzard should listen to when designing their game. If you were actually up for a real chellenge in PvP, you’d embrace cross-realm battlegrounds and arena. But that’s not what you’re really after, is it?

    And regarding the pop culture references: what exactly was more subtle about Linken, the Lost Vikings, apes with empty barrels, the countless Diablo-inspired items, the fight club in Old Town, Muigin and Larion and all other easter eggs in Classic? And on a related note: ever heard of Richole Nichie? Can you get more subtle than that?

    Regarding Keen’s posting, I totally concur. The Goblins are a race of madmen, best to be described as a mix of Ferengi and the A-Team. An all serious starting zone wouldn’t suit them at all. In my opinion, Blizzard found the perfect balance between engaging storyline (which isn’t a joke at all) and hilarity. They are tinkerers, have a thing for makeshift “engineering” and they love to blow stuff up. So why should we expect anything but that from Kezan and the Lost Isles?

  • @Luggage

    Way to jump to conclusions. Yes, I prefer world PvP. I love the randomness of it and the feel of danger while questing but I also love battlegrounds. Just not cross-server BGs. Before cross-server BGs there was an actual server community. You knew everyone you fought against and you knew everyone you fought with. There were rivalries and friendships made. It was an actual community, something WoW sadly lacks now.

    Never really liked Arenas because I simply do not enjoy PvP in a box. I played them all through TBC but only for the gear.

    Regarding pop-culture references, as I said, I do not mind them but they are a whole lot more in-your-face now than they were then, with a few exceptions. The ones you mentioned were even more subtle than what you see now. I know many players who did not even pick up on Linken et. al..

    WoW has slowly become a virtual chat-room where people sit in the Capital Cities while waiting for their next mini-game to pop. I am sure people are out exploring now, while everything is new, but give it a month and no one will do anything but sit in the cities. They may have an occasional excursion outside for a couple of dailies or to farm mats but then its right back to the city to wait for a queue to pop.

    WoW is in a sad state right now, unfortunately. I am glad some enjoy it but its not for me anymore. I prefer my MMOs with an actual world.

  • The pop culture references might work if it’s your pop culture they’re referring to. Unfortunately, for me most of those activities don’t have the benefit of familiarity so there’s no recognition factor.

    Added to that, I’m in my 50s so even if the teens-and-twenties references were culture-appropriate they’d still be several decades out of synch either with my own nostalgic memories of youth or my current interests.

    Now, if the goblins were taking long walks in the countryside, spending hours curled up in front of roaring fires reading or taking trips to other parts of Azeroth to admire the architectural achievements of other cultures, then something might begin to chime.

    Although those would be some weird kind of goblins…

  • I’ve enjoyed the Goblin area quite a bit. It is a bit ‘silly’ at times, but they are Goblins after-all. It is quality and the use of phasing has been pretty good.

  • Having the day off yesterday, I managed to get through both the worgen and goblin starting areas entirely (11 on the goblin and 13 on the worgen, which I thought was strange.) I’d have to tip my hat SLIGHTLY in favor of the goblin, but I must say, it’s the most fun I’ve had in WoW in a long, long time. I’ve been very impressed with everything so far, and I was sure I’d be let down.

    WoW has never really been anything more than a theme park, but they just made the attractions a whole lot more fun.

  • Driving cars … pool parties … running people over with cars … male models having gasoline fights a la Zoolander … sharks with laser beams … gobbo girls with blonde hair?

    I thought WoW was a fantasy MMO? It sounds like a mish-mosh of all sorts of pop culture fluff chock full of references to make today’s youth reference something else. GTA4 … the Sims … subpar Ben Stiller movies … Dr. Evil.

    I’ve never played WoW and for all the hype I was going to give it a brief spin. Sounds a bit not what I was expecting. I’m sure this is all fun in some ways and gobbos sure can be zany … but is this somehow a part of the bad turn this game took when “space goats” were added? What were space goats anyway? I keep hearing about space goats.

    I like whackiness … played Ratchet & Clank …
    I like pimpin’ around … played GTA …
    No desire to chill in the pool … hate the Sims …
    The photo above looks like Gobbo Entourage.

    I’m not hating on this but am really confused. Someone please explain.

  • I am surprised at all the jump the shark comments, Goblins are everything the new starting zone is about… thats the point as they are an over the top race. The Worgen starting area is much more serious and in line with what some peoples expectations are for a fantasy MMO.

    Both areas are incredibly well done, and most importantly TONS of fun to play.

    As I was playing both zones and experiencing the fantastic story telling and phasing I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this is what a top tier MMO experience should feel like, one of my favorite games EQ2 is starting to look and feel very dated in comparison.

  • If you want seriousness, don’t play a Goblin.

    If you want true seriousness, don’t play WoW.

    If you want a real MMO, play something release before 2004.

    That is all.

  • I disagree that immersion wasn’t ever present in WoW, but that’s another issue (i.e. immersion is almost totally based on the player and not the game).

    Also, methinks WoW is about the most serious, quasi-modern “themepark” MMO you’ll find now, at least if you make it into the top 0.5% of raiders. Gearing up an *alt* to a level very few will realistically achieve on their mains, just to wipe for hours on a limited-try boss? Sounds pretty serial.

    What about your beloved LOTRO? You had nothing but good things to say about it and it was released after 2004. And do you mean MMO or MMORPG? Because quite frankly the current WoW design, whilst being linear and all that clichéd crap that burnt-out MMOers use, reminds me the most of DA:O, which some people seem to think is actually a good game and RPG (lol): just with a slightly more light-hearted story, much better combat, less realistic graphics, much better animations and an actual incentive to keep going.

  • Wow….

    It sounds like warcraft totally jumped the shark. It sounds like you’re playing lego star wars or FreeRealms or Baby’s Day out the MMO.I must admit, i liked the LIGHT touch of pop culture reference in vanilla wow. It felt like they were slightly hidden or obscure most often. this just sounds like some ADHD ridden teenagers on sugar highs wrote the quest scripts.

    I know that the goblins are supposed to be wonky…

    hey wait, we’re talking about WoW here, why are we discussing lore continuity?

  • Goblins are what they are, and their starting zone reflects that perfectly. That doesn’t mean that every other zone in the game is like the Goblin starter zone. Stonetalon Mountains as McJigg said above, that’s a very serious zone, it ends with an event that some people may even find very sad and disturbing.

    As for those that see Cataclysm as a reason not to play the game I’d say you are missing out. Is WoW my idea a perfect game? No, far from it. Is it by far the best made most enjoyable game on the market today? Absolutely.

  • Could not read the article as I start my Goblin tomorrow (assuming I can breach Argent Dawn EU’s 2 hour queues).

    I will then see how they match up the Worgen start

  • which I completed yesterday – taking me from L1 to 15 in an interrupted, involving and fantastic quest line.

    The Gnome 1-5 start is also a lot of fun.

  • “Be sure to play through Stonetalon Mountains”

    Hey, that is what I was going to post. Just about to finish that up when I went to bed last night, and man. So much fun. Easily the most fun I’ve had solo ever, but I haven’t done the new starting areas yet.

    Cata changes nothing about the core of WoW. If anything it’s more jokey, more pro-soloing, and more linear than ever before. Heck, virtually every time you need to move to a new hub you now get a fast-travel sequence. However, as said upthread, they just replaced most of the rides with great new versions. Although some of them just got a thin new coat of paint (ahem, Mulgore).

  • Just finished the Goblin starter zone, and I thought it was fantastic, havnt laughed so much from a game before, they have done really well, and im dissapointed some people dont like the goblins, theyre meant to be whacky, no one is complaining about the gnomes.

    I believe the lore available in cataclysm is going to be bigger and better than ever, who doesnt like dragons woo! 🙂

  • Keen you make me want to try it out. WOW has always had a silly side and I gave it up a long time ago. If they would get the trial version for Cata up I would try it, have to rebuy the entire game so dont want to without a trial, but you make me wonder.

  • Well not my cup of tea but glad you’re having a good time! I will have to be content with the wait.

  • I quit WoW around the beginning of this year and resolved to come back and roll a Goblin mage and get back into raiding come Cataclysm but then I stumbled back into LOTRO during the Summer and haven’t seriously entertained thoughts of making the journey to Azeroth since.

    It’s a shame though…as much as haters will hate, Goblins sound as sweet as ever.

    Worgen not so much.

    There are a couple themes, I think, to pick up from the comments here. On one side, Goblins are rad and fun and that’s what WoW is supposed to be. On the other, Goblins are rad and fun and MMOs should be all srz bsnz.

    I like a little srz on my cereal as much as the next guy or gal, but I tend to err on the side of the former. Still, I think I’ll pass for now. Good to hear with all the upheaval the Goblins still know how to have a good time.

  • Yeah I loved the goblin starting zone as well. I was fully expecting it to be a nightmare once I started mine around 20 minutes after the launch. But the phasing and super crazy fast respawns were great. When i got that very first quest to kill 6 of the worms I was like “great now I have to camp 6 of these with 1000 other people.” However they instantly respawned as soon as one died. I literally did not move and I killed all 6 heh.

    And yes that cutscene was great, much better then the last game model one from dragonblight that looked down right horrible. This one looked fantastic, I hope who ever worked on it gets a bonus.

  • Keen – thanks for the comments – I have enjoyed reading your blog for some time, but this is the first comment I’ve left. So what in your opinion is the MMORPG for the more “serious” crowd these days? I really enjoyed DAoC and pre-NU SWG, then WoW, but I left WoW after Burning Crusade and haven’t been back since. I’ve been orphaned for more than a year now, bouncing from game to game looking for a new home, and everything else I’ve tried has been a big disappointment. I just resubscribed to Warhammer Online, which I thought was a pretty good effort (even if it fell well short of the hype) initially, and it actually seems to have gotten worse over the last year. Without a substantial player base, the Warhammer design just doesn’t work. I feel bad saying that, but I’m just being honest. I’ve been tempted to give WoW another go, particularly with all the new Cataclysm changes, but with only one 60 and a bunch of guys in the 30’s and 40’s, none of which have decent gear, it’d be like starting from scratch at this point. Would that be so bad? Help!

  • There aren’t many “serious” (as in humor/setting) MMO’s worth playing right now. There are the greats, but they’re like a cake that’s been sitting out on the counter for a few years… at one point it was delicious but it’s just too old to enjoy now.

    Now is the best time to start playing WoW again. You can literally start a level 1 character and not be behind ANYONE. I spent several months at the old level cap (80) and got decent gear. Now a level 78 does 1 quest and has better gear than I did. It’s a complete reset as the cap is now 85 and all this new content is out.

    If you’re wanting to give it a try, you really can’t go wrong starting now.

  • Don’t do it, folks! Don’t fall for the trap. The “newness” will wear off quickly and then its back to the old “sit in the city and queue for BGs, arenas and instances”. The world will again be dead and it will be the same old virtual chat room with queue’d mini-games. Might as well sign up for virtual poker, its pretty much the same thing.

  • No, instead sit around bouncing game to game desperately trying to find one that isn’t generic and rehashed or will last longer than six months before losing 70% of its players. Now that sounds like fun.

  • Dammit – that’s what I was afraid you were going to say! Argh! Now to find a cheap copy of Wrath of the Lich King…

    I was just reading over some of your old posts. It seems we agree completely on Warhammer (and its shortcomings relative to DAoC). God – if Mythic would just relaunch DAoC with an updated graphics engine, I’d subscribe to that in a second… unfortunately, the existing version has that “stale cake” feel that you referenced in your post.

    Despite the fact that BioWare makes quality games, it seems near-certain that SW:TOL is going to disappoint, so I’m not getting my hopes up there.

    Is it just me, or are there no viable alternatives left? It just seems impossible to compete with WoW at this point, which I find really scary from a consumer standpoint. I’m by no means anti-WoW (Blizzard makes consistently high-quality, well-tested games IMHO — and they wait until they’re actually finished before releasing them, unlike everybody else…), but it’s freaking me out that there’s so few “real” options left.

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback Keen! Keep up the good work.

  • “will last longer than six months before losing 70% of its players…”

    It seems to me that it’s more like two months. The recent empirical examples show that nobody subscribes after the first 30-day period. It’d be genius if somebody included 90-days in the box instead of 30 because at least then they’d be giving themselves a chance…

    I guess that’s sort of what FFXV did, albeit not intentionally?

  • @Russ: I’m sure SWTOR will be a good game. It’s the type of the game that will turn some people off, though.

    That’s why I’m playing WoW. That’s why all my friends are playing WoW. None of us ever wanted to go back after years of playing, but we came to the conclusion that there is nothing else available that can compete — nothing even worth playing. WoW may not be the best type of MMO or have what we ultimately want, but it’s the best to play right now. If I want a piece of cake, I’ll settle for white cake and vanilla frosting over nothing. Eventually I’ll find a Chocolate one.

    And you’re right about the 2 months. I was just being generous. 😉

  • esloan’s post above accurately reflects my concerns / fears, but as much as WoW was as he described (sitting around waiting for queues to trigger), I actually enjoyed the journey (the leveling up experience) more than I enjoyed the end-game. Or at least I think I did. I know there were some raids I enjoyed, but mostly it seemed like work. I was never hardcore enough to get to do much raiding, since I’m an adult with a serious job and my schedule is rather unpredictable, so my guild raids were more like glorified PUGs. That said, I enjoyed the hell out of the 5-man’s back in Vanilla WoW. I’m no nub either — back in the day, though, I organized and lead the first successful keep capture on my DAoC server!

    Anyway, I’m secretly hoping (and trying to convince myself) that Cataclysm will be like an entirely new game. Although, admittedly, I like my MMORPGs dark and gritty — so the goblin humor is a significant turn-off to me.

    Keen – do you think WotLK and Cataclysm are necessary to fully enjoy the game at this point? I haven’t seen you (or anyone else for that matter) write anything about that. I know you can’t play Worgen or Gobs without Cataclym (I’m less clear on what’s in WotLK other than Death Knights), but what would I be missing without those expansions? I’m not that fast at leveling up, so it’d probably take me a couple of months to get back up to 60 anyway (and if I was having fun, I could just buy the expansions at that point)… Is there anything in the middle of the game (say level 40) that I’d be locked out of? Are the new tradeskills expansion-dependent?

  • I’m a fan of the journey as well in WoW. The end-game is fun the first time through the content but it quickly loses its flare. Lucky for me, the journey is now reset and a.m.a.z.i.n.g.

    Cataclysm has its moments of pure awesome with Deathwing, Chogall, and additional WC2 lore coming back. It also has its isolated moments of Goblin zany lore but you can avoid that if its not your thing.

    You couldn’t do the new 80-85 content or the new races. You can experience an entirely new 1-60 experience though for free since Deathwing changed the whole world. WotLK is 70-80 content on the Northrend continent (Where Arthas went to be the Lich King.)

    I’m not sure about archeology. It might be Cataclysm only, but I don’t think so since the trainer is right in Orgrimmar.

  • Well, $15 to give it a go then… I’ve wasted multiples of that trying out various flavors of crap, with Cryptic crap leaving a particularly foul taste in my mouth.

    I was reading more of your old posts. You should think seriously about revisiting Global Agenda and writing about it, since you seemed to like it too. Of all of the games that I’ve tried out over the past year, that one had the most unrealized potential in my mind. Net-net, it was still mostly a fail, but there was something there that was fun. I actually liked the (mostly superficial) MMORPG side of it — and wished there were more quests to do, etc.

    Although you’re mostly focused on WoW, I really appreciate your comments and thoughts on some of the less publicized titles, and I’m sure other readers do as well. Thanks for engaging with me.

  • The journey is definitely the best part of wow. What hurts me is that some people don’t seem to realize that you can enjoy the journey and not have to deal with the sitting around in town all you want! It’s not hard to get all the enjoyment out of wow you can then unsubscribe til they add more. Hell, most people do that. It feels like to me that there are always people taking breaks and coming back from breaks on my friends list all the time. It is quite refreshing to be gone for 9 months, log back on, and say hi to some of the people on your friends list.

    You definitely don’t need to be subscribed to wow all the time unless you enjoy raiding. But if you don’t, it is such a great game that it is worth the money just to do everything BUT raiding.

  • Archeology and flying in Kalimdor/Eastern Kingdoms does require the Cataclysm expansion.

    But you can’t fly in the old world anyway until 68. At which point you head to Outland and don’t need to return until your ready for 80-85.

    Also avoid Arathi Highlands. No quest changed at all, only 2 roads added for easy access to the pirates and the Hinterlands.

    On top of that, Hinterlands is balanced for ignoring Arathi.

    A shame as visually and lore wise I really enjoy the zone.

  • “If you’re not playing Cataclysm then you’re missing out on what has already been worth the box price for us.”

    Well, i guess i´m missing out, after playing thru all that zones in the beta, i´m absolutly sure the expansion isn´t worth the money, and i wouldn´t recommend it to anyone.

    “No, instead sit around bouncing game to game desperately trying to find one that isn’t generic and rehashed or will last longer than six months before losing 70% of its players. Now that sounds like fun.”

    Esloan has a point there it will wear off very quickly, and bouncing around can be more fun than WoW. Because it is more of the same.

    To be fair you have some good points and i too think that the Goblin starting zone is very good. But saying that this game has a good implementation of lore is just…words fail me for this. Because i like the lore very much and love the books, i get a headache everytime someone says “but it´s there in the game blabla” it´s a pathetic presentation. Let´s just fight Ony for the 3th time, oh and why not another round against Nefarian and against Chogall who happens to be “dead” like two times allready in the lore, and why not against Sinestra too, i mean she just got destroyed once…i´m sure it was just a “set back”.

    I do agree with you that there is nothing really worth playing right now, but the same goes for WoW and i´m very glad i don´t fall for that crap again.

    But since all your friends play it too, it´s very understandable that you play it too. I would do the same.

    When someone asks me i would rather tell them to try out any other mmo they have never played before buying this.

  • My problem with “the journey” in WoW is that for the vast majority of that journey, you’re playing a gimped class that only has a handful of abilities – and none of the most interesting abilities, many of which are skills which only become trainable during the levels of their respective expansion – for example, all the cool new spells being added in Cataclysm.

    I’ve just found all my WoW characters crushingly boring until they have, at minimum, the terminal talent from my chosen spec. Now sure, that may have more to do with my choice of class than anything else – however, I’m not inclined to risk another couple hundred hours to find out, after the first 3 times…

    All that said, I’m surprised no one has mentioned EvE online as a WoW alternative. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but you can’t argue that it’s stable, successful, and offers many of the old school MMORPG delights that are so lacking in other modern games.

  • I’m up for suggestions of viable alternatives before taking the plunge!

    It’s just that virtually everything I’ve tried in the past year has been a disappointment — usually a BIG disappointment. I maintain that Warhammer has some redeeming characteristics, but it’s a victim of its own arrogance. It just doesn’t work with the low population that it currently has, and, as a result, I think it is going to be virtually impossible to recover. Maybe a Plan B F2P version would work since that might get the population numbers back up.

    I thought that Fallen Earth was interesting, too, but it isn’t a AAA-quality game by any stretch of the imagination. It’s vaguely reminiscent of pre-NU SWG, but with a much lower production quality. It’s hard — I’m spoiled such that I have trouble seeing past bad graphics and interface at this point, even if the underlying game play is reasonably solid. And while I’d say I would take game play to graphics any day, the truth is that I demand both.

    I’m actually thinking about giving DDO another go. There seems to be widespread agreement that it’s gotten much better since going F2P (which I think is very good for the industry!) — and that the shop is well-implemented such that you’re encouraged to buy things, but aren’t forced to do so in order to enjoy the game. As Keen has written many times before, the problem is that $15 is too much to pay for a 2nd-rate game — and nobody seems willing to admit that they’re not as good as WoW (where I’m using good as a proxy for polish and breadth and depth of content, not necessarily underlying mechanics) and instead ask for $5 a month or $10 a month in order to reflect that disparity of content. While I’m a cheap bastard, I’d easily pay $30 a month for a MMORPG if it was truly satisfying.

  • @Sisphean – I’ve tried EVE Online, and I enjoyed it. I did get tired of it after a couple of months, but it has been the most satisfying of the existing alternatives that I’ve played. I’m ashamed to admit that it was a little TOO hardcore for me. After playing for a couple of months, the progression slows down to a trickle, and you’re mostly forced to join a large guild out in the far reaches of space — or so it seemed to me. There was very little that I could continue to do solo, and I like games where I’m not explicitly forced to group (but can if and when I want to, in order to tackle challenging content).

    But I’d certainly recommend EVE Online to everyone. If you haven’t tried it, it is innovative in many, many ways — and might provide some inspiration for other MMORPGs to think outside the box. The fact that skill progression is explicitly unrelated to time spent in-game is a big one.

  • @Keen – You commented that there was no other game worth playing other than WoW. That seems unduly harsh for any number of reasons. I think Blizzard makes the most polished MMO, sure, but to make a statement like that…holy smokes!

  • @Roger: Right now there is no other MMO worth playing. That is, like everything on my blog of course, my opinion. I could go down the list and state why every other MMO isn’t worth playing, but that would be overkill. Right now, at this time, Blizzard has the best available MMO.

  • @Keen – That’s more or less what I figured, it’s just that the wording took me aback! I think I can agree there…while it’s not the MMO I ENJOY most right now, you certainly won’t be able to find one that strikes a better balance between polish and content.

  • All these WoW-haters crack me up. I mean, I have critiques of WoW as well and I’d also prefer to play something more along the lines of EQI or DAoC w/ an updated interface and graphics if I had the choice.

    But, when I read what some of WoW’s harshest critics have to say about it I just shake my head and ask myself, “Man, are we playing the same WoW?”

  • Hey Keen, I read your blog sometimes, but I see mostly things about new games and builds and the such. They are all about the combat, the spells, and the time. Are there any other games out there with a skill system like Runescape or Oblivion? I prefer the atmosphere, the econimic situation, and the need for different people to make up a fully functional group. I know this happens in games like WoW and the such, but these groups can fish, mine, buy and sell things, and others, + combat. You can see how I am striving for one of these games. Please tell me if there are any that you know of. Thanks

  • @Austin: You’re looking for something that does not exist in any newly created game. Some will claim they have it, but they have a mere shadow of the past.

    I too would like a sandbox’ish game that offers something other than combat as a means of gameplay. It’s the ‘virtual world’ feel rather than the game feel.

  • I’ve finished the Goblin starter zone and it was a lot of fun but I still felt more at home and more involved in the Worgen zone which was more epic and yet more personal.
    But then I’m English and the constant rain was more familiar than a tropical island!

    Did not mind the pop-culture references at all as they are constrained to that zone and only new Goblins will ever be truly immersed in those. It was probably a sandbox in which the designers were told to go nuts and let off steam.

  • Thanks Keen, i have seen these in the past. I have not found any so I turned to you. Thanks for telling me. Be sure to post a new thingie on your blog when one comes out!

  • @Austin: For what it’s worth, EVE Online allows you to effectively opt out of combat and become a full-time crafter (manufacturer or miner) or trader or politician, or whatnot — and there are extensive skills that support those career paths. But choosing those paths requires a lot of patience and an investment of months and months where you’re just not doing all that much, so it only appeals to a narrow demographic. In fact, to become good at those areas, you necessarily have to prioritize those skills over combat-related skills. What they’ve done with the economy there is remarkable — clearly a model for what is possible. It’s not perfect, but it’s the closest thing to player-driven economy that exists, complete with the ability to invest in new ventures and even commit various times of espionage and fraud. And the fact that there’s only one persistent universe is also noteworthy.

    Fallen Earth has a pretty good ‘virtual world’ feel too, although it’s just not polished at all at this point (not anywhere close, really), and, at least for me, the horrible client-server lag and ghosting made combat difficult if not impossible. I have a great connection, so I’m 100% confident the issues were on their end, not mine. Frankly, I could only tolerate a day or two of Fallen Earth before I got too frustrated with the bugs and overall lack of polish to continue playing — but there’s a raw foundation there that’s got some potential. Unfortunately, the players on there are out-and-out hostile at anyone voicing constructive criticism of their game or drawing comparisons to other games. They take anti-WoW to a whole new level.

    I don’t think anyone rational can dispute that WoW is the best themepark MMO that exists — I mean, there’s a reason why they have 12 million subscribers — and if you’ve ever played an MMO, you’ve probably played WoW at some point (and probably more than you’re willing to admit). What they do, they do really, really well. But you can’t satisfy everyone simultaneously, and I’m clearly not at the center of their target demographic (which seems younger and less serious than I would like). All criticism aside, it still appears to be the best, if not one of the only real options out there, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.

    My sense is that there’s a significant and persistent unmet demand for a more hardcore, old-school MMORPG with a significant RvR (but not necessarily solo PvP) element — call it DAoC 2.0 or EQ1.1 or whatever. I’m surprised a developer hasn’t taken a swing at that, rather than the approach that all the major studios seem to have taken of trying to out-WoW WoW (which realistically ain’t gonna happen anytime soon).

    As Keen has stated frequently on his blog, it’s astounding that developers seem unwilling or unable to learn from past mistakes and start with what’s clearly worked in the past, innovating over a proven foundation. Instead, they try to do something “revolutionary” (which has never been thought through thoroughly) and not surprising fall flat on their faces in the process.

    How much would it cost to simply re-create the feel of DAoC or EQ on a modern graphics engine? It just can’t be that much. You probably wouldn’t get a million subscribers, but you could probably get a solid 250K, with a development budget that’s a fraction of what’s being spent elsewhere — and then, like EVE, start growing steadily from there as you add subscribers over time.

  • Now you’ve got me thinking about giving EVE Online another go. I focused on trading last time and managed to work my way up into a nice industrial trading ship doing nothing but moving goods from areas of excess supply to areas of excess demand. Then I got overconfident and tried to make some more lucrative runs through low-sec (low-security or PvP) space and promptly got my rear-end handed to me in spectacular fashion. While a painful lesson, it’s one of my fondest MMO memories ever. I vividly recall nervously making two sequential jumps through hostile low-sec gates into an otherwise inaccessible sector and almost wetting myself when I came out of warp right into the middle of a well-organized blockade that wasn’t there moments before when I had scouted it (sneaky bastards!). I even tried to negotiate my way out of it, but they blew up my ship and then podded me for good measure — and I totally deserved it.

    Although it was a significant financial setback (as it should be), the unfortunate consequence was that I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to advance much further without joining a similarly well-organized corporation (aka guild) that could provide armed escorts for my trading vessel, and, at the time, that just seemed like too much work…

  • @Sisyphean

    It sounds like you haven’t tried WoW since the last patch a few months back. All specs get their signature ability at level 10. No more flailing around being a mere shadow of the spec you will eventually be, EVERYONE can do something cool at level 10.

  • @Russ: You’re making me want to try EvE again, too… 🙁 You bastard! I think I’ve done like 3 trials at this point, but it’s just never stuck. Maybe when they add the ability to walk around outside your ship; as sad as it is, one of my main sticking points is that I don’t like just “being a ship” all the time.

    Also, the time commitment is just more than I can handle. You got me thinking back to my last trial, when I took a break from doing some combat missions to fly a couple easy trading runs like you describe. I made good money, sure, but I must have spent more than an hour just watching my trading frigate automatically jump from gate to gate through perfectly safe space (I was too much of a newb to try anything more dangerous).

    It’s just not a dense enough experience for me. There’s a ton of fun to be had, but it’s padded by so much “empty” time, where you’re just watching your ship fly on autopilot, or a laser chip away at an asteroid. I have great respect and affection for the game, and occasionally read some story about a massive corp-run event that gets me all interested in playing again, but when I actually think about trying to commit to the game, I hit the brick wall of reality. 🙂

    @ Caleb: I have not, you’re totally right. It’s one of the reasons that I’m tempted to resub to WoW for a month, just to try leveling a new character (I’m not particularly interested in either of the new races, so I don’t even need to buy Cata).

    My reservation is this: Is the new Azeroth quest content really so interesting, that when I get to 60 I can just say “Man, that was worth it. I have some memorable experiences of leveling 1-60, now I can stop before I make myself want to jump out a window by doing 60-80 for the 5th time”. If the questing by itself isn’t good enough, are the new class designs interesting enough to be engaging through all that content?

    Historically the answers have been a resounding “no”. That content was only “worth doing” in the context of getting to end game where the “good stuff” was found – for me that was PvP, meaning it wasn’t even particularly good stuff. Which raises other issues – if I only played up to level 60? Sure, I could PvP, every 8 levels or so for a few hours; but my gear would be crappy, my spec would be meant for leveling and not PvP, and I’d be stuck doing the same two battlegrounds I’ve been doing for the past 6 years.

    Or am I wrong? Are the new battlegrounds for Cata available to characters below level 80? And why not, I wonder?

  • It also can’t be stressed how much the low hardware entry point helps WoW. That is becoming less and less important as better technology becomes progressively more inexpensive.

    WoW’s place atop the MMO pyramid right now was the result of a perfect storm of factors working in Blizzard’s favor. That’s not to say Blizzard got lucky, they were the catalyst for a lot of those factors themselves. Brilliant company, most of the time.

  • @Sisyphean – Your post was a bit sobering — thanks for taking the wind out of my sails! I haven’t played EVE Online all that much in total – I think I went about 3-4 months or so – but there were big swaths of game play in there that were (upon further reflection) extremely, extremely boring. You can autopilot around policed space in relative (but not complete) safety, but it’s much faster (I’d wager 3-4x faster) to manually pilot your ship — and speed is of the essence in getting the best trading deals. That said, spending two or three hours doing nothing but jumping from gate to gate to gate to gate to gate to gate to a particular base in a particular system to snap up a good deal… and then spending 45 minutes flying to some other system to sell what you just bought just isn’t all that satisfying. I can only imagine how boring mining would be. At least with trading, there was some element of trying to beat the competition to the deals. And there were at least a handful of times where someone tried to ambush my ship (only after scanning it to see that it was loaded to the hilt with millions of ISK worth of expensive cargo) in policed space — which really only works if the person flying the trade vessel is AFK and on autopilot. If they’re AFK and not paying attention (and thus unable to activate defense systems), there’s just enough time for an organized group to blow them up, loot their trade cargo, and warp out before the interstellar police arrive.

    Unfortunately, I’m still flailing around trying to decide what to invest some time in. I’ve been reading that Age of Conan has gotten a lot better (I didn’t stick around after the first month) and, in contrast to my perceptions, some people seem to think that Warhammer has gotten a lot better (to the point that it’s supposed to be satisfying RvR at the end-game). Do I believe those people enough to invest time in those games, particularly the time required to grind up to the level cap in Warhammer? I’m not sure. That’s a big problem with Warhammer — it might be the case that the end-game RvR is good, but is it good enough for me to have to suffer through the grind to decide for myself? That’s horrible game design. If they want to make it an RvR game, then just get rid of all the PvE stuff and drop everybody into the end-game RvR zones on equal footing…

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide whether the MMORPGs that have been released in the past couple of years have been unusually bad (or unfinished), or whether it’s that I’ve gotten a lot more discriminating (perhaps because WoW raised the bar of what I consider acceptable). I tried virtually all of the old MMORPGS, and I don’t remember any of them truly sucking. Sure, I liked some more than others, but I remember pretty much everything I tried as being reasonably satisfying. Asheron’s Call 2 was a good time, for at least a while — and that got shut down in fairly short order. Same with Tabula Rasa — although I didn’t maintain my subscription after a couple of months of playing, I was genuinely surprised when they pulled the plug. Is there no middle ground between subscriptions and F2P? Tabula Rasa wasn’t worth $15 a month, but they probably could have gotten $5 out of me for a long time without much in the way of new content…

    In the interim, I’ll probably keep dabbling with Global Agenda. I’m actively considering buying a booster pack, despite swearing that I wasn’t going to do that when I bought the game originally.

  • I think Keen made an insightful, if insidious comment about WoW earlier (the cake analogy). You might not like everything about it (I don’t know anyone who does), but at least you know more or less what you’re getting at this point…

  • What always gets me with EvE is reading things like Pirate blogs or tales of inter-corp warfare. EvE clearly has these moments of awesomeness, but as was said earlier in the comments you really need to be in a small corp at minimum to have them happen with any regularity. I just don’t know that I have time for it, I’ve gotten so spoiled by playing games like TF2 where I can just come and go as I please, and don’t feel any responsibility to help or interact with guildmates…

    Although, I never knew you could save that much time by manually navigating in EvE – I assume by that you mean manually selecting the jump gate and choosing “warp within 1KM of location…” sort of thing?

    As to your questions about WAR and AoC, perhaps someone else can help you there – I’ve tried the “hey try us out again” deals for both those games in the past couple months, but neither grabbed me at all. Granted, I never got past level 10 in either, but I just wasn’t impressed enough by the class design and combat mechanics/fluidity to put any more time into them.

    I’m curious to try DDO and LotRO at some point, and I think I’m about ready to cave and try leveling a new character in WoW for a bit, just so I can say I’ve seen the new world design… but other than that, I’ve been pretty MMO free myself. Nothing I know of out there that’s captured my interest.

    For anyone who’s leveled a new character in WoW post 4.0, are there any particularly good starting areas that shouldn’t be missed other than the Goblin/Worgen ones? Any classes that have been particularly fun to level in their new incarnations?

  • @Sisyphean:

    That is a bit of a fine line you want to walk haha. And I mean that in the sense that the new content is SO fun that you will want to keep playing, not that you will feel like you have to continue a chore. It is 100% worth it now.

    I leveled a paladin from 1-58 since the patch hit, and I was legitimately enjoyed it. Not because it would mean I would eventually have a high level paladin. I was honest to god conflicted if I wanted to keep leveling him or if I wanted to immediately turn around and start a new level 1. It was that fun by itself. My account went down, so I did nothing, but I can’t emphasize it enough that leveling now is just fun, not “preparation for fun eventually”

    Still, I guess I should say it WAS worth it. WoW classic was selling for $5 last week, which was an incredible deal, but it looks like it is back up to $20 now. Maybe still worth it, but isn’t immediately obviously worth it.

  • Thanks Russ. I think I’ll try this new game out. Trading is more my thing, if you get my drift. Especially with a group.