Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Buyer's Remorse : WoW

Last night, after months of toying with the idea, I re-subscribed to WoW. It happened suddenly and almost on a whim. I don't know quite yet whether I'm happy about that or not.

Playing on the excellent Veteran version of my old account means I've been looking at all my old characters idling away on the character select screen every time I log in. There's a big "Reactivate Now" button right in the field of view but until last night I've had no problems ignoring it.

These days every MMO's doing it, flashing up an offer or demand. Get this expansion, visit the cash shop, upgrade. GW2 is particularly determined to have everyone on the same HoT page; Daybreak Games really would like you to know they have an All Access plan you could be enjoying. It's visual noise. My brain automatically tunes it out

Here's a clue...
So what happened? Well, this. And this. And this. Need I go on?

Stargrace is musing over why her friends are all playing one game one minute and another the next and Syl is pondering the power of trends. So there's a lot of that going on but then there always is and yet I don't jump every train that passes through the station. What's different this time?

There's a theory to which I have long subscribed that says you can't con a satisfied mark. In order to sell someone something that person has to be feeling a lack. If they're happy with what they have then you need to spark a little fire of greed first before you can fan the flames.

 I've been meaning to check out the pre-Legion invasions ever since they began but somehow I couldn't find the time until last night. That somehow added a sense of urgency, a feeling I might miss out if I didn't get with the program.

Miss out on what? I wasn't quite sure. The first reports I read left me feeling it was a high-end event for people with max level characters but as dispatches from the front filtered in it became clear there were things happening at all levels. People kept making comparisons with Rift's rifts and GW2's zergs, talking about gaining levels and getting geared. My buttons weren't just being pressed: they were lighting up.

Please fasten your seat-belts. We may be experiencing some turbulence.

So last night, when my level 20 Gnome Hunter flew through Dun Morogh on a griffin to see the Imperial Battlecruiser of the Legion burning up the winter sky with green felfire, I felt more than a frisson of excitement. Excitement turned into exhilaration as the Mechanostrider carried her clanking down the long hill from Ironforge, straight into battle alongside the hard-pressed dwarves.

Blizzard have taken their own sweet time assimilating the changes to the genre brought about by Trion and ANet over the last half-decade but someone has clearly been taking notes. The Demon Invasion has all the classic hallmarks of the revolution in open access, non-competitive MMO gaming I for one have come not just to enjoy but to expect.

The huge demons scaled exactly to my young hunter's level. They stomped and stormed and raged in a most impressively raid-like fashion, attracting suitably raid-like swarms of players to oppose them. The air was filled with explosions, the sounds were ear-shatteringly loud. Dwarven NPCs, some of whom I actually recognized, rallied the troops with voice-acted exhortations. I fought, I died, I got credit.

Remind me who you are again?

For once WoW felt...modern. Well, modern-ish. I found it impressive, exciting - even immersive, despite the incongruous ubiquity of motorbikes.

I was having a great time but that doesn't explain why I decided to flip the switch and subscribe. Sadly, that can be explained in a single word: greed.

The first invasion rewarded me a smattering of the new currency and two Legion Chests, one small, one large. I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened them but out popped several Blue items, all of which were useable for my Hunter and all of which were huge upgrades. She put them on and I started to think. Always dangerous.

As I fought and died through a second invasion wave, watching the big xp numbers melt to nothing against the immutable bar of my Veteran Account Level 20 lock, I started to worry about waste. Yes, I was having fun. A lot of fun. But if I was playing my old Hunter who retired at 69, wouldn't I also be having fun but filling my leveling boots at the same time? And if getting great gear at level 20 feels good wouldn't getting great gear at level 70 feel even better?

Nunney Castle - what's left of it.

You'd think so, wouldn't you? And what does a WoW sub cost, after all? Ten quid. Mrs Bhagpuss and I went to Nunney Castle yesterday afternoon. It was a beautiful summer's day and although we hadn't planned to have lunch there it was so nice we grabbed a coke and a ciabatta at a pub. That cost exactly the price of a month's WoW sub - each.

So cost isn't a factor. I don't have any regrets over spending the money. Why, then, did I go to bed feeling I might have made the wrong decision?

It just might be that I really do prefer restrictive rulesets to "having it all". It's not a new concept for me. I definitely felt that the best balanced gameplay I ever experienced in EQ2 was on the revised version of the F2P "Silver" account. Having some restrictions tightened everything up in a way that felt both more manageable and rewarding than the full, Gold version seemed to provide.

Getting the gear upgrades from the Legion pre-event on the level-locked Hunter felt somehow as though I was winning a prize. Turns out that getting equivalent upgrades on a just-turned-seventy character, or on the high-thirties Warlock I woke up afterwards, feels a little bit like cheating.

Why's everyone in such a hurry?

Those characters took six months to get to where they were when they woke up. To have them almost instantly acquire better gear than they have ever seen, in a matter of seconds, didn't give me much of a buzz. If anything it came as a bit of a down.

Instead of going to bed excited at the thought of another session the next day that might power those characters through a few levels and see them smartly dressed in new armor, I found myself wondering  whether I should just write off the cost of the subscription, mothball the account for a month and play on my other, free account instead.

I'm not going to do that, although I might play the free account as well, if time permits. The decision's made and I'll carry on and make the best of it. I expect the negative feelings will dissipate quite quickly as I get back into the swing of having characters who can progress past twenty.

One thing the whole experience did emphasize for me is just how much I would like slower leveling in WoW. I loved playing my Gnome Hunter up to twenty but it probably took not much more than three or four hours, if that. It's not just too fast - it's insanely too fast.

Umm...can I get some back-up here? I'm only level twenty.

What's needed is variable, player-controlled leveling speed. That's something I would pay a subscription to have. In the meantime I'm thinking of taking my Gnome Hunter to talk to Behsten in Stormwind to get her level locked at 20. That way I can enjoy the invasions, gear her up and also have her earn gold, all the time knowing that when I cancel the subscription she can return to her Veteran status and still be able to come out to play.

Meanwhile, I might make another Gnome Hunter to level up further. If there's one thing Blizzard isn't stingy about it's character slots. And leveling up another character certainly isn't going to take very long. As to whether I buy the Legion expansion, I'm still undecided. Let's see how much use I actually make of this sub over the next couple of weeks.

Right now, though, I'm going to log in and kill some Demons. I can feel that Buyer's Remorse fading already.

15 comments:

  1. I've talked with other players who compare the invasions to Rift. Its definitely satisfying. Fortunately, its an event. Catch up levels, and catch up gear and maybe a companion pet for good measure. I wouldn't want this to be a big part of the game.

    Fortunately its not what Legion is like. Lots of different types of content. Story based quests, side quests, storied end game zone, profession quests, etc.

    As for slower leveling, Blizzard agrees. In a Legion Dev Update Liveblog back in May their lead designer Ion Hazzikostas called the experience broken. Given how the current invasions not only scale the monsters level, but the gear as well, it would be very cool to see older content revamped.

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    1. I think faster leveling would have been okay if they hadn't just kept making it faster and faster still. Lord only knows what it must be like with Heirlooms and RAF. Whether the clock can ever be wound back I doubt but I guess having everything just adjust to your character's level is a way of avoiding the issue altogether that might just work.

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  2. " ... and I started to think. Always dangerous."

    Heh, heh! Gnomes and mechanicals are, to me, one of the premier attractions of WoW, but I also enjoy their hardware friendly stylized "Grimm's Fairy Tale" art style. Blizzard, to me, has some of the best graphic artists in the business ... modeling, animation, textures, it all works for me. :)

    I was one of those suffering from Orc fatigue, so along with Gnome Hunters and the wardrobe transmog upgrade in Legion I'm also glad to see an expansion with demons and all the zones being level appropriate. :)

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  3. Oh, if you are playing on a US account, and you do make another Gnome Hunter as you are considering, I'll suggest for your consideration the US-Wyrmrest Accord realm. While I'm not a RP'er myself, I appreciate the option to enjoy player created "content" on an active RP realm. While I am with friends on a different realm, I also have a Gnome on US-Wyrmrest Accord for "Gnomeregan Forever" membership fun (http://www.gnome4ever.shivtr.com/). :)

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    1. For some arcane historical reason I'm on an EU account for WoW. I think it was because I bought the original box in a physical store and it was an EU edition. I would never have opted for an EU account from choice. With the current invisible-merge tech I have no real idea what server I am on although nominally I think it's called Kilrogg or something like that. I never see anyone with my server name running about but I'm not even sure if it shows up for people on the same one.

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    2. I had recalled that you both, due to circumstance/preference, were usually on US realms. :)

      I know that there is a primarily Gnome guild on the EU side, Gnomeregan Forever EU (http://gnomer4ever.eu/), but I really don't know anything about them or their server, Nordrassil.

      My hazy understanding is that members of your own realm do not show a realm/server tag, but that others do. I know it's complicated in that not only does WoW have cross-realm zones but that we also have "Connected Realms" now in WoW, which essentially means that the number of available character slots for guild membership and such are multiplied for realms that were not so high in population that they are now linked. (http://wow.gamepedia.com/Connected_Realms#General_information)

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  4. I hold to my conviction that returning to WoW is rarely a rational decision. ;) I've done it too with WoD and it didn't pay out - but for an instance there was that huge community feeling again that WoW still has (for better or worse), the nostalgia and yeah peer "pressure"/trend. I am already fed up by everyone talking about Legion honestly but it also has that subtle pull of COMEBACKTOMEEEE tugging at my subconscious like an unnerving siren song. But I know better now, I know Azeroth has stopped being a place for me many years ago and I know why.

    And having it all is the gratification of the short-sighted. You prefer restrictions and slow progress because you know superior MMO design favors the long run, always.

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    1. I've believed for years that MMOs should give players most of the control over leveling speed. If people want to click a button in character create and come out max level then let them. I very much like the slider in EQ2 that allows you to funnel your xp either to leveling or to AA or any combination you prefer. Plus you can switch xp off entirely. And you can mentor and chronomentor and xp potions are widespread and there are a few other ways to alter your leveling speed up or down...

      Sometimes I want go explosively fast, sometimes I want to go soporifically slow but always I want to have some say in the matter.

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    2. Exactly. I want that slider bar, at the least, in every other game.

      -- 7rlsy

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    3. I think WoW would benefit from taking a hint from gw2 here. Leveling fast isn't an issue, it's the zones and quests feeling useless half way through them that is an issue. The gw2 system giving you XP and rewards for your level regardless of what you are doing eliminates this issue entirely.

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  5. Don't worry, buyer's remorse with WoW (re)subs is pretty common, my friends and I have had it very often, primarily because we get quickly reminded why we stopped our subs in the first place.

    Like I said elsewhere, a thing with buying Legion (let alone a pre-sale) is that it is something of a vote of confidence in the Dev team and the direction they have and are taking WoW, especially now that subscriber numbers are both no more mentioned (possibly due to the incoming drop from their Chinese partner switching to actual subs instead of that 'one paid hour last month is a sub' crap) and downplayed ('it's all cyclical, it's normal to lose half your player base in a month or so'). I always wondered about the later, looking at e.g. the books you'd think that happy subscribers and those subscribers buying Shop stuff is what bring in the gravy esp. if you consider they give the expansions for free in China and soon everywhere else since Cata.

    Note that soon enough they'll give out free Legion Trials (every three months or so), which equates to 10 days of full sub for free and the only limitation being you can't advance over 100 - which won't matter with the Zone Scaling.

    Technicalities aside, I 'get' the greed/bribe factor. It's how they kept most of their subs in WoD (the Garrisons could easily provide more gold per month than most players saw in their whole WoW career put together), it's what keeps the Boosting industry up (and with it 'legitimizes' the amount of attention the Devs lavish on the content that provides the special mounts etc.), and the whole 'keeping up with the joneses' factor adds in the type of urgency esp. Bartle Achievers like.

    Personally I hate it, as a.o.t. it's used to defend the removal of perfectly good content (an even bigger crime considering WoW's utterly glacial content development pase) and it sucks out the joy of just enjoying the game and gameworld.

    But yeah, the Invasion Gear (especially the Warforged version) is stupid-good and so part of me wants to risk my sub-21 Twinks on it ('don't need a sub anyway'), and some coveted Toys and Wardrobe pieces being available again for a short time does wurm into my brain ('it's just one sub you'd need').

    So I'm trying the Aleister Crowley therapy, and downloaded LotRO again. I could even recover my Codemasters' account.

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    1. Well, I've played a session every day so far so at least I'm getting my money's worth - although I was playing most days on the free account so maybe not. And I have two characters getting very nicely geared, which will be useful even if I don't get Legion - still undecided on that. I don't regret subbing for this month but I don't think it's likely to carry on for too long after. We'll see. Maybe I will wait for one of those inevitable Free Trials.

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    2. As you know, the big expenditure for WoW is the monthly sub, followed by the cost of the expansions. If you are considering an account on the US realms then, as Netherlands says, it's my understanding that now is as good a time as any if you decide to purchase the expansion as well as starting a new Gnome Hunter, since Blizzard is heavily discounting the entire game prior to Legion.

      While not on the scale of the GW2 giveaway, it's my understanding that for $20 you get all the expansions up to Legion (levels 1-100) as well as a month of subscription time, https://us.battle.net/shop/en/product/world-of-warcraft .

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  6. The cheapest option is the BattleChest, which nowadyas is everything but the latest Expansion. It is often at sale for 5 Euro/5$, generally around Thanksgiving and X-Mass, and whenever the subs have just taken a dive.

    Note that you can use the various Refer A Friend mechanics on a new WoW client on your own name, including on the same BattleNet Account (up to 8 clients per B-net Account). These include the Reffering Account getting a month of playtime in case the Referal subs for a month or more (other bonusses are given too, like an extra month paid by the Referal gets the Referring Account a mount or pet of choice - picking one of the two seat flying mounts is recommended).

    As a side-note, WoW uses 'bribes' a lot, not just on its general player base but also with things like the Nostalrius team and once-critical YT celebrities like WoWCrendor and Ian Beckman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9mdFWE_BUY )

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    1. Thanks both. It's astonishingly complicated purchase structure for a video game, I think. I have no intention of getting a new US account - I already have a Free-to-20 US account so I'd upgrade that if I ever was going to do it but at this stage I can't see that I'd want to - I'll just stick with the EU one if I'm going to sub at all. That said, since all expansions bar Legion are included with the base game, if I do see it on sale for $5 I might just buy it for the US account for the hell of it.

      I had idly thought of RaFing myself but it would only be worth it if I was actually planning on playing a lot. Might happen one day though. Certainly if Mrs Bhagpuss ever decides to give WoW another try we will probably set something up along those lines.

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