Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye : WoW

My subscription to WoW runs out in a couple of days. I had a think about it this morning and decided to cancel.

On the one hand it's only a tenner a month and that's buried in the monthly credit card bill. I could leave it running and not notice. That would mean I could log in on a whim and play my Hunter or my Warlock or anyone else.

I could explore the changes wrought by the Cataclysm and adventure through Pandaria, which just about everyone seems to have re-assessed as one of WoW's highlights. I could try Pet Battles, take a look at my Garrison, get to 100 and open all those boxes in the bank. I could, eventually, buy Legion and join everyone else in what, by then, will be stale, old content, as we all wait another two years for whatever comes next.

The thing is, though, I'm  not playing WoW right now. I was playing, almost daily, for several weeks. Before the Invasions started I was happily leveling my Gnome Hunter and once the dreadnaughts started disgorging demons I was there every night along with everyone else, battling the hordes and soaking up the xp.

Once the invasions ended though, and I decided not to buy Legion just yet, I pretty much stopped logging in. Momentum carried me through the first few days, when I took the Hunter to begin what seemed to be the start of the main Pandaria questline but it felt flat and a little bit, well, dull.

After the excitement of the invasions, much though I complained about certain aspects of them at the time, the prospect of completing dozens, scores, hundreds of quests as a way of leveling up seemed strangely unappealing. After a couple of hubs I flew to The Timeless Isle, about which I'd read some good things on various blogs a year or two back.

Can I at least get a change of clothes before I go?

There I had fun for a while, running around killing mobs that dropped things that might be upgrades if only they were for my class. I bought a few items on the Auction House to fill in the slots the Invasions had missed. Briefly there was a future where I'd grind quests and gear up and Azeroth would be a place I lived...

And then I stopped logging in. Mostly I went on playing GW2, which I play for several hours every day and a lot of hours every weekend. DBG announced their expansion program, handed out Level 95s and fired up a double xp weekend so I went back to Norrath, both flavors. That made me remember I was paying a subscription that included DCUO so I got that fired up and I played last night, did a couple of levels and had a blast.

This morning, home all day with the house to myself, I thought about what I might play and a whole flurry of options presented themselves. All of the above for a start. Then there's the long list of MMOs I haven't logged into for a while but still think about logging into most days - Dragomon Hunter, Riders of Icarus, Dragon Nest, Rift, Landmark... And the ones I was in the middle of and enjoying and then dropped for no reason - Black Desert, Blade and Soul, ArcheAge...

As I was thinking it over I watched a little of MJ's First Look at Twin Saga. I considered downloading that. I thought about AdventureQuest going into Open Beta in a few weeks. And round about then it occurred to me that all of these options plus dozens more were available to me for free. Even the two EQs and DCUO, for which I do pay but don't have to.

My turn again!
And then I though some more and realized that not only could I also play WoW for free under the Starter Edition but that I would probably enjoy that more than playing "real" WoW in dribs and drabs, here and there. WoW is a great MMORPG. It has a vast wealth of content, a huge and fascinating world and something for everyone. Unfortunately, it also seems to have the vampiric ability to suck all the joy out of itself in remarkably short order.

It's been noticeable how the tone has changed as people progress through Legion. The initial reaction was almost universally positive. Gevlon may have been the only naysayer and even he doesn't find that much to complain about. And there could be a simple solution to the main issue he's highlighting: perhaps Gevlon's Girlfriend could follow Belghast's lead and start the conversational ball rolling herself - or Gevlon could sub up and make it his mission to Get Azeroth Chatting. I think we'd all like to see how that might pan out...

A month in, though, and some people are already over Legion, while some still plugging away wonder how much replayability there can be. The general theme seems to be that Legion was a very good expansion and well worth the cost for the solid 4-6 weeks of intense gameplay it offers. Thanks, Blizzard! We'll all get back to you when you have something new to offer.

I guess this works as a business strategy. I mean, any software developer that could spend two years developing a product and then sell 3.3 million copies in the first week would probably consider it a solid return on investment, wouldn't they?

Mark Jacobs would probably lay any malaise in the genre squarely at the feet of the change in payment models. Mark, of course, has always been dead set against the entire concept of Free-to-Play so he's just being consistent when he says subscription gaming "is the model I have always believed in". He's been around long enough to remember how, when the handful of MMOs that existed all had subscriptions, that in itself was seen as some weird aberration by the vastly larger community of non-MMO-playing gamers.

Even I might get a turn..and I'm an elf!

Still, you do have to wonder whether he might not have a point. If all the games on my want-to-play list used either the Buy to Play or Subscription model, would I have unsubbed from WoW an hour ago? Might I not have thought it better to pay one small monthly fee for access to a very big, polished, stable and reliable game and just stick at it rather than squirrel around all over the place trying this and that and the other for five minutes here, five minutes there?

Well, no. I didn't unsub to WoW because of the cost. I unsubbed because the gameplay in the Free Starter edition is, to my tastes, superior to the gameplay in the paid-for game. What's more, I would actually pay a subscription to have access to a WoW that went on being more like the Free Trial but without the restrictions. And I told Blizzard that in the "Why Are You Leaving Us?" box.

I'd like a simpler, slower, less gear-focused version of WoW. One where the concerns are small, the problems human-sized (or Gnome sized). Especially I'd like a version where you don't feel that every minute is vital for Progression of Your Character and a moment missed is a failure on your part to Do Your Job. I'd pay good money for that.

In short, WoW's free Starter Edition feels like play but paid-for WoW feels like work. That can't be the right way round, can it?

So for now I'm back to being a F2P scrub. Looking forward to it in fact. I've enjoyed my paid time and as I told Blizzard in my resignation note I'm "very likely" to re-subscribe at some point. But for now I'm done.




11 comments:

  1. Good news it it will always be there for when you want it. I hit 110 just recently (a bit behind the "times" and just started world quests - which are great. I haven't even hit second tier (4 per tier) style options for my artifacts. I am in the camp that I can probably play for months on my schedule.

    Bonus is, with little effort, you *can* play for free. I do a scan of the auction house, list the items I found/gained during the play session, and the game basically pays for it self. Even the posting of those items is automated through an addon.

    As you say, so much to enjoy - so many options! WoW requires some focus to move along at a good pace right now. I have never said this before about WoW, but currently, there seems to be too much to do. Of course that is a good thing.

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    1. After I finished this post I got my Warlock out, got him his flying licenses and a grifin, then had him tailor up a couple of dozen bags using all the cloth that was sitting in his bank. Then I spent nearly four hours making half a dozen new characters and going through all my old ones, mailing gold and bags from the old to the new.

      I had the new ones all buy several extra vault slots and the 100-slot material tab, except for the Worgen and the Panda who would have to get to level 12 to get to a banker. I'm nicely set up for runs to twenty on four or five classes and to see how much more I can still do on a couple of 20s.

      That should keep me busy for the rest of the year and get me a few blog posts!

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  2. I'm loving Legion, and share Isey's slower progress, but then I'm a slow consumer of content. I read not only the quest text, but also the "flavor" text on the vendor trash items that are collected from mobs, heh! There is so much to do for a questaholic like myself, I would gladly pay cash money for a quest log expander allowing me to pick up more of the quests that I stumble across out in the world.

    It is amazing how many folks are no longer paying for their subscriptions on the North American servers since Blizzard introduced the WoW Tokens, which was a stroke of genius on their part, not the least because they are essentially making $20 for each month of subscription time that a WoW Token is used for.

    While not an RP'er myself, I was struck by your comment on "a simpler, slower, less gear-focused version of WoW", which I've enjoyed encountering on the Wyrmrest Accord server in the North American region. No doubt other RP servers are like that, but there seems to be a number of folks who more casually run their characters outside of the Diablo-style loot and gear treadmill, as well as generate their own player created events. Which is in contrast to the Blizzard quests and cinematics/cutscenes in Legion which are top notch but definitely set you up as the best hope for repelling the demon incursion.

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    1. I have three Battlenet accounts. The one I was subbed to is my EU Alliance one and another has my US Horde character(s). The third has never actually been used. One thing I might do is use the third account to make a character on an RP server. You're not the first to say the atmosphere is different there.

      When I get to Legion, which I will eventually, that will be on my "real" account though. Probably.

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  3. Interestingly I've had the opposite happen. I was planning to let my sub lapse today, but I've been having so much fun I ran a few old raids to get the last bit of gold I need for another WoW token.

    That said, I still sympathize with a lot of what you're saying. High level WoW can often feel like a job, and you're very right when you say that WoW has great talent for sucking the fun out of itself.

    Right now I feel the good is outweighing the bad, but I definitely understand your point of view. Part of how I wound up with so many alts over the years was the desire to start over at low levels as a vacation from the endgame hamster wheel.

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    1. I did think about trying to keep the sub going by AH trading but again that's kind of like work. There was a period, probably a couple of years, where both Mrs Bhagpuss and I got heavily into making money in the Bazaar in EQ and while it was fun for a while in the end it became more of an obsession than a hobby. I think making gold in WoW would be less time-intensive (don't have to go round a couple of hundred vendors every day looking for valuables other players have traded to NPCs for a start) but I think it would still be too much to take on for a game I only plan on playing for an hour or so every third day.

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  4. "So for now I'm back to being a F2P scrub."

    Welcome back. Play FFXIV ;)

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    1. For free? How does that work? They have an endless free trial I missed?

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    2. Well no, I doubt they ever will. But then, I can keep budging you to re-sub to it =P

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  5. Kinda hijacking, but have you seen this delightful Yak's Bend shenanigans on WvW?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ0ITdbrJKc&feature=youtu.be

    -Ursan

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    1. Haha! I read the thread about it on the forum but I didn't watch the video. That's hilarious! Wish I'd been there for that.

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