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...|
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.