Avoiding the Metagame Creates a Micro-journey in WoW

Coming in late to the Warlords of Draenor expansion has further validated a belief I have held since the early days of EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot: I have always been about the journey in MMORPGs. Instead of having a year+ of content ahead of me, I might have a matter of months. In that short period of time, I don’t have any desire to try and get the best gear or obtain all of the achievements, or even race to max out my Garrison. I can’t — I don’t have the time before Legion. My goal? See the content. That single goal has radically flipped this game upside down. Why? Because now I don’t care about the gear grind. What do I need to do to see the content? That’s all I care about.

That’s right Gul’dan, no hamster wheel for me this time!

Suddenly instead of worrying about min/maxing my daily quest completion rate, my gear score, or my Garrison companion gears and levels, all I need to do is work on participating in the activities I enjoy because that’s essentially enough to get me to the point where I can see all of the dungeons and complete all of the raids. I can have fun and progress at my own rate and easily enjoy the content. ::gasp:: WoW feels like a game and not a job.

When it comes to a game like WoW at the launch of an expansion or in the thick of things, that journey is almost nonexistent and at times I feel like I have to make the most out of what I’m playing in order to rub away some of what masks that adventure. Coming in late has afforded me that opportunity in a way that feels psychologically easier to swallow. Granted, this same way of playing is completely open and available to me at the start of an expansion as well…. it’s just harder for me to win that internal battle.

Imagine if this is how WoW was inherently designed. Technically, the argument could be made that WoW IS designed this way, and they’ve just placed a bunch of activities between you and “seeing the content,” but I guess to me the activities placed between me and the content take center stage and the “game” fails to be about “seeing the content” and becomes about “getting the highest iLvL possible” or in general focusing on the metagame.

TLDR: When focusing on the actual ‘game’ part of World of Warcraft, it’s quite enjoyable. Coming in late to the expansion has made that psychologically easier for me to (1) Identify, and (2) Stay focused on. I wish WoW would emphasize the ‘game’ over the ‘metagame’ from the top down in their design.

  • I really, really struggle with this when I join an expansion early on, though. How do you guys push through for so long? Eventually I run out of things to do if I don’t run on the wheel and chase the carrot.

    Seeing content in WoW is pretty easy. One can practically be carried through a LFR. Once I see the content, the only thing left is to gear up and do the harder versions of said said content for the same gear with only a higher iLvL.

    When that happens, I get all cynical and quit. Is there a trick to keep the game going without participating in the metagame?

    Note: I’m great at this in sandboxes where I can more or less make my own fun. I struggle to do that in themeparks.

  • But coming in late the dungeon experience is tamer. There is something to be said about starting heroic dungeons where most players are learning, and teaching others. That’s why I liked the challenge of the heroic dungeons in the beginning of Cataclysm.

    However, just like LFRs tend to be very touristy, coming in late to an expansion can be relaxing in almost everything. Either because other’s experience make them facerolls (like dungeons) or like you said, you don’t have TIME to grind all the grindy grinds you’d rather not grind.

  • The looking for raids are facerolls really. But they were fun, I had to do highmaul for Khadgars story.

    Im really holding off doing the foundry or the citadel until such time that khadgar sends me there!

    Ive also been working on an alt while I work my main 100 fury Warrior

  • I push from early expansion on because there is pretty much no min/maxing on my activities.

    I always level through every zone for loremaster because I want to absorb the story, even if it gets more and more over the top every expansion.

    At some point in this questing journey, I hit max level 2-3 zones early and start getting honor gear from battlegrounds. A webpage tells me which enchants I need, talents and glyphs I take by preference.

    As I don’t do rated pvp, I never worry about conquest gear. Even after 9 years, Arathi Basin is still fun.

    Next expansion, PVP gear won’t even be a thing, so woo! Casual battlegrounds and Rp!

  • @Keen I play pretty casually and still switch things up with different games. SWTOR has so much to do with 8 separate stories that I still have so much to do. But like I said, I don’t churn through it, I’ll play for a few weeks, then do something else for a couple weeks. When new content comes out, I’ll do it on my main, then go back to the other stories.

  • I have approached every single game like this for the past 5 years ago, and it has reignited my enjoyment to levels I hadn’t seen since I started playing games.

    I like the idea of simply going through the game, enjoying the experience, seeing the story, and ending up with whatever gear, rewards or achievements that may bring with it.

    I actually feel sorry for players that optimize the fun out of their play, only looking for the next number or checkbox to check.

  • There is a downside here, though. The game will inevitably not last me as long. I play 1-2 hours a night and I can tell you now I can finish what interests me in a month or two. Will my enjoyment increase? Tremendously. I’ll be looking for the next game sooner, though.

  • For sure… if you play a lot, playing like this conflicts with getting you into the game loops/systems they set up for endgame or repetitive play.

    In that case (in WoW’s case, or Rift or WildStar or any theme park worth it’s salt) I enjoy the non-combat progression activities like Archeology, Collections, etc. Some chances at cool rewards, and a way to stay engaged with the world, but not a slave to repetitive progression content on a treadmill.

    For me, I just play a lot less so it kind of works out, and even lets me play more than one MMO at a time – something I used to consider a failure! 🙂

  • As long as I can pay for my subscription by playing my way and earning in-game gold without it feeling like a job to keep it active, then I’ll be happy taking it super slow and logging in here and there.

  • This is what happened when I took a 2 year break from EQ2. I missed two expansions and the third was starting up as soon as I caught up. I got right back into the gear grind and have had to take a small break again.

  • Honestly, best part I enjoyed about WoD was leveling and questing… in Pandaria. It was such a breath of fresh air, I was honestly sad that I got through 1.5 zones and was level 90. I kept hearing about how great garrisons were so I pushed through, and again the leveling in WoD was good. I loved the exploring, but the zones didn’t pop like they did in Pandaria. I’ve been told that a lot of people didn’t like the panda expansion because it felt different, but honestly I thought it was a nice change of pace, yet still had the heart of WoW.

    WoD ended with such disappointment. Dungeons were plagued with bots. Battle Grounds plagued with bots. The fail PvP zone which you couldn’t get into. The LFR raids were so rushed and face smash that they weren’t fun. Garrisons became a chore, even going back to Pandaria felt empty and pointless after spending so many hours slaving away picking herbs and mining minerals, and sending followers on quests every 15 minutes.

    I’m on the fence for Return of Burning Crusade… I’ll see how I feel after Season 4 of Diablo 3 and Fallout 4.

  • Seems to me you are a perfect match with SWTOR, give it a go with that same mindset and you’ll have a blast playing it

  • The “rush to endgame” problem is solely on the game itself…because the endgame progression is full of caps and daily lockouts…the sooner you start to push the daily button the sooner you ll get the reward..thats a shame. I miss old MMOs that let us advance in our own pace..

    You could spend a week “smelling the flowers” and then the next week burn through content and advance your character however you like…but now, all MMOs have that daily job you must do if you want to stay competitive…

    Sure you can ignore it, and just spend a month of leveling and exploration and then play another mmo…but this is only viable if you always play alone…if you have a group of real life friends you play with, this is not an option.