Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Little Touch Of Goblin In The Night : WoW

As yesterday's screenshot gallery rather unsubtly revealed, I've taken to playing a little World of Warcraft late of an evening. It's always been my habit to have a wind-down MMO or two on the go, something light that's amenable to playing in absent-minded 30-60 minute sessions right before bedtime.

Many games have filled that role over the years. Some were MMOs that only ever got an outing in that slot, others were previous favorites popping up in cameos to reprise their famous shticks. The first I can remember was The Realm, a venerable 2D MMO that predates even Ultima Online. I even paid a subscription for that one, although it was only something like $3 a month.

Other fondly-remembered late night specials included Endless Ages, Rubes of Eventide, Ferentus and NeoSteam but there have been many more that are harder to call to mind. Almost every MMO I've ever played "seriously" has passed on to an around-midnight afterlife. That's when the minor characters marooned on obscure EQ servers come out and  kill a few gnolls, or my Raki DIsciple sharpens his diplomatic skills in Vanguard.

What do you mean, I have to give him back? Don't you know who I am?
The so-far inexorable rise of the Free To Play model for MMOs has widened the available options for kick-back gaming to, well, almost everything ever made. The most notable opt-out from the trend is, of course, WoW.

I was a very late-comer to Azeroth indeed, arriving there for the first time about five years after everyone else. For me, WoW turned out to be something not dissimilar to  the classic three-monther. I forget how long I actually spent there. It could have been a month or two more, tailing off towards the end until it no longer seemed worthwhile paying the sub. Had that barrier to re-entry not been there I'd almost certainly have popped in and out ever since, but there it was so there I wasn't. 

Goblins. Surprisingly orderly queuers.
Then a week or two back I let slip an idle thought in a comment at TAGN, owning up to feeling a vague, weak but definitely tangible sense of nostalgia for WoW. I guess it shouldn't be that surprising. Mrs Bhagpuss and I had a more than passably good time there for a while. I had some characters to whom I felt genuine attached. And several bloggers I read regularly, like Wilhelm himself, Kaozz and Prinnie post screenshots and stories that keep my own memories seeming fresher than they otherwise might be.

Having outed myself as a WoW nostalgist of the mildest stripe, when Wilhelm pointed out that the first twenty levels of WoW can be had any day for the bargain price of nothing (something I knew but had been trying hard to supress) subsequent events became almost inevitable, if not immediately successful.

You want flies with that?
First I tried to revive my old account. That didn't go too well. The details I have written down didn't seem to tally with Blizzard's records although when I tried to merge them with a new Battlenet account they recognized them well enough to tell me they'd been merged already, something I dimly recall doing just before I quit.

Since the plan was to make new characters and play them for free, not get back to the old ones, it seemed a lot simpler just to start over so I made a new Battlenet account and from there everything went as smoothly as you might hope. WoW is a 22GB download now but Blizzard pumps fast and the client streams so playing the game is only a few minutes away from any rash decision you might make.

And speaking of those, first I made a Panda. I know. I think there was one on the log in screen or something. I don't really have an explanation. Or an excuse. Whatever, the Panda, a Hunter, got made and reached level four in very short order, by which time I'd seen enough to remind me that I have never much liked the Faux-Zen Monastery vibe in any MMO ever, so why would this be the exception?

The Cliche-o-meter's in the red, Cap'n. I dinna think she can tak' any more!

The second attempt, a Goblin, went much better, no surprise there. Goblins, gnomes, short talking animals, that's my comfort zone. The Goblin starting area, the Isle of Kezan, is a fascinating place, described in the Wiki as "a swarming cesspool of corruption, chaos, scheming, and invention", which is true as far as it goes. It's also genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and had I known I was going to be expelled from it so abruptly and terminally at around level five I would have taken a lot more trouble to explore it in depth. Never mind, I can do it over. The world can always use another goblin.

Don't make me choose!
Goblin #1, a Warlock, hit level 10 last night. Although I played a Warlock into the 40s last time around, I'd completely forgotten the whole "choose a specialization" thing that comes at tenth. Better do some research today so I can make a decision later tonight. That's one of the things about playing WoW that's beginning to come back to me - there always seemed to be decisions to be made about your character that required out-of-game research. For what ended up becoming the world's entry-level MMO and especially considering how far the gameplay has supposedly been ameliorated and idiot-proofed over the years, WoW has always surprised me by being a lot more complex and complicated than its reputation would suggest.

So here I am in WoW again. If my goal was to scratch that nostalgic itch then I seem to have shot wide. Playing a new race in an area I've never seen before is strapping on the scratch mitts with a vengeance. This is just the warm-up, though. WoW has a lot of races and I'm a low-level specialist, most at home in the starting areas of any MMO. For someone like me, who can't bear to see a character slot stand empty and is happiest pottering about getting characters decently dressed, WoW's endless trial looks like a perfect fit.

And it's free! Thanks Blizz!


  1. Unless you played quite recently before this, you hadn't "forgotten the whole "choose a specialization" thing" - it was only introduced this expansion! :D

    As someone who's been reading your comments on other blogs for a long time I find it interesting how you've gradually been warming up to WoW over the last couple of months in your own mind. You used to talk about how you never really got what the fuss was about, how it seemed pretty dull when you tried it etc., then your comments gradually became less and less negative, and now here you are, being positively nostalgic for it!

    It's like an inverse of your Rift comments, which used to talk about what a nice game it was, until they slowly became less and less enthusiastic and now you always say how dull it is.

    Just funny to observe! :)

  2. This is absolutely true and I am very aware of it. One of the reasons, quite possibly the main reason, I want to keep this blog going for a good, long while is so I can look back and see just how my own reactions, assessments and feelings change and develop over time. I always wanted to keep a diary but I've never been able to manage more than a couple of months. Blogging seems a lot easier to maintain, what with feedback and discussion, a much wider creative and quasi-journalistic brief and the ability to use illustrations.

    I still don't really see what the fuss is about WoW in the sense that while it's easy to explain why it built on the success of Everquest and commercially outshone the game on which it was modeled, I don't think anyone has yet convincingly explained why WoW was able to break out of the MMO niche and become the sales and pop cultural phenomenon that it was, and largely still is. If anyone knew just how that happened we'd have had "the next WoW" by now.

    Rift is an odd one. I often think I'm being unfair to it by saying how dull I find it now, but every time I try to play it I can feel my eyelids droop. I really, really liked it in beta and leveling up the first couple of times on two pretty crowded servers (back when you couldn't have Guardian and Defiant characters on the same server) was a lot of fun. I think what I mean is that everything post-50 is dull. I really, really didn't take to Storm Legion. Unfortunately that's all I see when I log in these days, what with all my characters being parked in SL zones.

    I should have stuck with my sub-20 characters in Rift Lite and never bought Storm Legion, really, but I didn't expect it to be so...boring. I should go back and play up a new character and remind myself what it was that I liked about Rift in the first place. If only I had 48 hours in a day I'd start tomorrow!

  3. As someone that's never played the game past level 5, I'm constantly tempted to go and give the game a fair shot. I just can't seem to get myself to do it though.

    1. Don't start as a Goblin, that's my advice! Not because their starting area isn't fun - it's enormous fun, positively hysterical at times. It's just doesn't appear to be in WoW at all, or even in an MMO. In fact it gives every appearance of being a standalone single-player comedy RPG. More to come on this in due course, no doubt.

      And I took the opportunity to add Ald Shot First to the blogroll. I'll be adding all the new NBI blogs for October as soon as I get around to it (tomorrow I hope) but yours is in already :)

  4. The need to go out of game has always been my pet peeve when it comes to things like skill trees and the like. Even now, with the simplified WoW version of specializations there are points where I am making choices but am not really given all the information I want.

    Of course, it varies per class. With my paladin, the three choices were essentially Tank/Healer/DPS. I could answer that one straight up. But your warlock screen looks like the choice is DPS, another form of DPS, and a third for of DPS, without a lot of data on what the long term implications mean.

    I suppose respecs are cheap, but I hate to rely on that in place of being able to make an informed choice the first time around.

    1. I'd so much rather have the necessary resources in-game, not only for lore and roleplaying reasons but because I have a terrible tendency to wander off into blogs and forums every time I tab out and forget what I was supposed be looking up. Then when I finally tab back I find I've been afk-kicked out of the game so I log back in as a different character or into another game entirely and whatever issue pulled me up in the first place just sits there like a time-bomb waiting to blow me up at a later date.

      All of which is why I often end up just closing my eyes and picking something, anything, in these situations and learning to regret it at my leisure.


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