Monday, October 24, 2011

This Is What I Think Of When I Think Of Wow: WoW


I started replying to Brian over at Psychochild's Blog and my reply grew so long I thought I'd move it over here. He's mulling over the various reveals from Blizzcon and it got me thinking about my own non-relationship with Blizzard.

I find the whole Blizzard cult a bit strange. I'd been playing MMOs for several years before I ever even heard the name and when I did it was in the context of people in Everquest chat channels talking very disparagingly about Diablo, which seemed to be some game that thought it was an MMO but really wasn't.

Ski Lift Other Side
I picked up the impression that it was very much a second-rate entertainment compared to EQ or DAOC and largely forgot about it. I have only the vaguest memories of hearing about WoW before it was released. Again, I'd never even heard of Warcraft, let alone played it. Only a couple of people in my then quite extensive circle of EQ guildmates and channel buddies had any interest in it. It barely got mentioned. All the talk was about EQ2.

I did the EQ2 beta, played there from launch for six months and pretty much didn't notice WoW was even happening. It was only when EQ2 was in freefall and almost everyone I knew had given up on it that I began to hear that some of the people who'd left had gone to try this new MMO, World of Warcraft. I didn't, though. I went back to Everquest for another year.
Never leave a goblin in charge of your boat

After a while it became impossible not to be aware of WoW, even if you didn't play MMOs. I picked up a lot of background information on Blizzard and the games they'd made because now all of that was constantly referenced whenever people discussed MMOs. I began to understand the significance of their move into the genre in a way I hadn't done at the time. But I still had no desire to play any of their games.

It wasn't until 2009 that Mrs Bhagpuss and I finally downloaded the trial and stepped out into Azeroth. We'd run through just about every other MMO we could think of and were in a lull. WoW was pretty much the last AAA MMO we hadn't tried at that point and frankly we weren't expecting much.

So was a very pleasant surprise to discover that we liked WoW a lot. Great art direction, a big, interesting explorable world, amusing characters, smooth, enjoyable gameplay. We had fun for three or four months, and then we were done. Neither of us ever reached the level cap. Burning Crusade and WotLK content wasn't a patch on Vanilla content and the prospect of end-game was utterly unappealing. Still, a very nice MMO while it lasted.
Took me the best part of a week to get this shot!

I guess I still don't really know much about the Blizzard Universe even now. I'm quite surprised by the fuss these pandas have caused. Panda monks are hardly a new concept, after all. You don't even have to go outside the genre to find them; EQ2's had pandas for a couple of years now, although not as a playable race. I don't like pandas much. Not the real ones in their evolutionary dead-end nor imaginary ones in Chinese hats. They are pretty dull animals and the fictional versions are generally dull too, but I can't see why they'd send anyone into such a lather he'd delete all his characters and put the video on YouTube.

Why Pandas should be any more a jump the shark moment than space goats mystifies me. When I first played WoW the single weirdest part were the Tauren. Bipedal dairy cows as a playable race? Really? But I didn't grow up with the lore. I guess it's like boiling a frog except this time someone at Blizard turned the heat up just that bit too fast and some of the frogs jumped out of the pot.

Even now that I've played WoW and have a clearer idea how deeply enmeshed in PC gaming culture Blizzard's worlds are, I still don't have that vital emotional connection. I'm curious to see Titan, of course. Anyone interested in MMOs would have to be. But I'm more interested in the ripples in the pond after Blizzard tosses in a boulder than I am in the boulder itself.

And I won't be playing Diablo III.


  1. It shows how powerful one's first MMO can be I guess. I tried EQ2(X) early this year for the first time. I like the game, think it has bags of content and potential and some truly wonderful systems. But all of my friends who I nagged into trying it reacted the same - that it's "just like WoW but with poor graphics and animations".

    Whether that's justified or not they are used to the WoW experience and universe and another will not easily replace it.

    For you I guess it's the inverse as Everquest (in one form or another) has been your main world of fantasy for a long time.

    As for the Panda thing I think it is rather silly. That said I did find it jarring for some reason to see bipedal frogs in Everquest - I can't say why as it was more a gut-reaction than a well thought out opinion...

  2. I think you're right. I'd say there are three hidden influences that color how I react to a new MMO: AD&D 2nd Edition (my first tabletop rpg), Eye of the Beholder (my first 3d cRPG) and Everquest. Those experiences provide some kind of unconscious benchmark.

    Baldur's Gate used to be in there somewhere, too but it seems be fading out.


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