Ginia makes a valid point, for a Canadian. And a (former?) Hordie.
World of Warcraft requires a time investment, much like any social activity, if one wants to be “good” at it. And for some of us, being good at stuff like that is important to our identities.
As a case study, let us look at what happened to me last night. It is a morality tale about the wisdom of back-ups.
Many of my longtime readers know my fondness for tinkering with my user interface, because I am better at it than the game designers. I prefer a stripped-down, minimalist interface that actually allows me to improve my playing. As such, with the start of a new expansion, my choice of a new class to play as my main (the Death Knight), and fresh
new add-ons, I built everything from the groud up with the release of Patch 4.0.3a.
Only to have it all inexplicably vanish last night. Every profile of every addon, every panel or piece of custom art just vanished in to the ether.
I was angry. That represented hours of time lost, a not inconsiderable amount of effort, and even the loss of some artistry.
So I checked my most recent back-up of my interface and found it to be outdated. I always meant to back up, but I never got around to it.
So, I sat in a leveling zone, patiently re-tinkering with my UI, cutting it down, steamlining it, and overall refining it while I watched guild chat fly by with messages like, “Oh, ding, I’m at level 84!” and “look at this sweet dungeon drop I just got!” and “hey, I’m finally at level 85!”
It was really, really discouraging. At one point, I nearly logged off, deleted my characters, and canceled my account because I felt like, as an officer in the guild, I owed it to the new recruits and more junior members to be a leader, to be at the forefront, to be better-geared, and to show them the way, rather than sheepishly asking them for help with quests.
Thankfully, my fit of pique and hubris was quickly quelled by my fellow officers, who reminded me that the awesome thing about a social game is playing with people you enjoy, and having fun doing it. I still plan on pushing content as hard as I can to make my guild one of the best on the server, but I will not lose sight of what my time investment is really all about: having fun with friends.
Having fun and being proficient are not mutually-exclusive aims. Sure, some things will require effort (“work”), like being present for runs, getting gear, balancing statistics, and so forth, but Blizzard has been working hard at streamlining some of these “un-fun” parts of the game. Questing, although terribly linear in the expansion, flows
quite naturally and nothing feels like a chore. With the change in gear statistics, however, even gearing is simpler. The barrier for entry in terms of time investment has been lowered, much like it was in Wrath, but the skill level required to play well has been increased.
Consider the evolution of the game as a see-saw between these two extremes. Vanilla WoW principally required a huge time investment, because that is just how MMOs were made “back in the day.” They were niche games for nerdy shut-ins, but not the otaku shut-ins that make up Lusipurr’s readership. The Burning Crusade
lowered the time investment slightly, but also increased the skill required, to the point where only a few classes and specs were readily viable. Wrath solved these problems by making the game far too easy, and with no time barrier or skill barriers to entry, everyone got a taste of the good life. Those of us that put in the time and developed the skill felt a little jilted, but came up with new ways of measuring our ability.
Now, Cataclysm has changed that. The time-barrier to entry is small and will always be small (thanks to the justice/valor/honor point system). Casual players can quickly and easily access most portions of the game. But, if my experiences with the new 5-mans are any indication, skill is back in a big way, baby. With simplified systems, designers have made the game less math-y and more related to skill.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Greatfather Winter, and this year he brought you just what you wanted: a game where it is easy and fun to play with friends, and to be the best if you so desire, even if you lose an entire night’s worth of play and watch everyone zip past you because you just had to get that kgPanel to the right width so that it was perfectly centered on your screen.