Editorial: Why One Should Play Cataclysm

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.

Your mind is weak, Jedi...
Excellent, my pupil. Convince them to buy more of my games.

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So I checked my most recent back-up of my interface and found it to be outdated.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.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
O hai, I brokeded ur world. Sorry lulz!

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.

10 comments

  1. I will be 85 tonight or tomorrow. I’ve been taking my time, completing all the zones, running instances, leveling professions, etc.

  2. @Lane: So have I. Herbalism/Alchemy/First Aid 525. Levelling Archaeology, completed all the instances several times, finishing Twilight Highlands now. Oh, and I only played for a couple of hours yesterday.

    You are very slow!

  3. -How long does it take to grind a level in WoW?

    @EP: I am as amazed as anyone!

  4. @SN: It took me two days to get to L.85. And I didn’t play much, honestly.

    So, not long at all! (Unless one is an ALLIANCE BABBY.)

  5. I was just wondering how MMO levelling compares to conventional levelling, seeing as they have to keep people coming back over an extended period of time …

  6. Back in the day before game companies wised up, they just had a bunch of computers using bots to do everything. Then came bot-detecting technology, and those started getting bans, which meant levelers had to evolve.

    Now, they play the game much like anyone else, but leveling speed is contingent on how much one has to do other than leveling. A leveler can simply play 10-12 hours straight and grind through everything relentlessly. After you’ve done the quests once it now no longer takes any time to do them a second time.

  7. @Lane: I think he is wondering about how normal people level, rather than how pay-for-levelling or such things work.

    @SN: It took me three days to complete 85. I did from 80-82 in a day, from 82-84 the following day. Then, I took a day off, and I did 84-85 on the last day.

    I did every quest in each zone, and also spent a considerable sum of time levelling my professions to the max level, and picking ENORMOUS buttloads of herbs (every time I saw one, I picked it, even if it meant going out of my way).

    At the end of the three days, my professions are maxed, I have obtained many achievements, and I never neglected my jousting either. I didn’t play all day or anything–just a few hours a day, with frequent breaks to prevent me getting headaches. In the evenings, I talked on Skype and screwed around. I also explored all of the new areas first, by flight, to fill in my maps and get achievements.

    So, I managed it in three days playing rather leisurely, without any rush at all. I think it is perfectly believeable that people were able to do it in the space of twenty-four hours, as seems to be the case.

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