The Battle for Azeroth: Resisting the Temptation

This post originally appeared on The Latest (on August 3, 2018).

I still don’t intend to play the new “World of Warcraft” expansion, but I’m starting to see how I might want to.

I wrote previously about how I wasn’t going to play World of Warcraft any more: the story had reached the point where it should end, and it always required too much time anyway. Besides, the next expansion evidently forces the “heroes” to be pawns in a tribalist conflict, which is just depressingly real-worldly.

Nevertheless…

The first time I got the feeling that playing the expansion might make sense after all was, curiously, when a certain character smiled grimly in the opening cinematic. I had seen the cinematic before. The first time, I was all but rolling my eyes. The second time, I thought it was just sad. But the third time, I eventually felt a positive surge of adrenaline.

Here’s why: However awful these events might be in-universe, the character smiling when her opponent made a good move reminded me of something else from a player’s perspective. Player-versus-player gameplay really is just a game with no life-and-death implications, and it offers an enjoyable challenge. I’m sure it has made me grin at the challenge more than once.

Another cinematic brought home the point that the writers are still perfectly aware of the irony and tragedy of the Horde–Alliance conflict and are working with that aspect in the story.

Still, this video posted on Facebook also brought out the other side of things. I took a brief glance at the comments visible underneath it. Someone was arguing about which side “started it”, apparently defending an in-universe action meant to be heinous. This is one thing I’ve never liked and that I’m afraid of: people really take to these imaginary sides, at least sometimes. I’ve seen someone remark “Never liked Alliance players, never will.”

I’m afraid people are probably at least a little serious with hateful, illogical rubbish like this. Sure, the sides are just what you pick when you create a character, but any kind of group seems to be good enough for tribal instincts.

Maybe the upcoming story has some potential to help some people see the folly of such division. Maybe it will even explore it deeply. That thought makes me want to go on playing.

However that may be, it’s still true that the story shouldn’t go on forever. It’s also true that it makes no sense to play the same game for over ten years, especially when it’s not half as good as other games out there. (I do acknowledge it could have made more sense to me if I had engaged in it differently, such as by keeping my hardware more up to date and properly focusing on aspects of the game like socialization and more advanced PvP.)

And do I have the time for something like this now? Absolutely not. Is it a good way to spend time overall? Nope. I’m going to miss that world, but I don’t see how going back could make sense.

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That’s Enough “World of Warcraft” for Me

This post originally appeared on The Latest. See also here for an earlier, longer take on the same topic.

As soon as I heard what the next expansion for World of Warcraft would be about, I got the feeling my days of playing the MMORPG were finally coming to an end. It was something of a relief, to be honest.

I started playing WoW back when there was only one expansion (The Burning Crusade), and a kind of addiction has kept me coming back for more, though I took at least two extended breaks. Battle for Azeroth will be the seventh expansion.

As an MMORPG, WoW is designed to give its players something to do in perpetuity. It cannot be finished; the best you can do is get to the point where you’re killing time within the game while waiting for the next expansion. There’s something perverse about this – it’s not even a great game, yet it’s fairly successfully designed to become a part of your life indefinitely.

As a game, WoW has a lot of things I like, but it’s also got clear flaws. Its addictive, repetitive gameplay counts as both something I like and a clear flaw. It is fairly clear to me that my wanting to go on playing such a game is an acquired preference (as the term goes, adaptive preference) in a mostly negative sense. I want to do it because I have already started doing it, but I would hardly want such a thing on more objective consideration. It wastes too much time, quite frankly.

I am hardly the only one to have noticed the weirdly addictive nature of this game and others like it.

So what about this next expansion? It’s not that the premise sounds truly terrible. (That would describe Mists of Pandaria, the fourth expansion.) Honestly, it’s more about the currently newest expansion, Legion.

I wrote a blog post when Legion was new about how the story should really end there. Very shortly put, Legion was about a fairly final confrontation between the mortal races and the Burning Legion, the major force of evil in the setting. I wrote that after that, there was no sense in continuing the story with something of less importance.

Yet, it doesn’t end there. Instead, what do we get in the next expansion? The different races start fighting each other, again.

I commend Blizzard for introducing a morally gray conflict in WoW, between the Horde and the Alliance, neither of which is really good or evil. It’s just two similar sides who keep coming into conflict due to a lack of mutual understanding and old prejudice. It’s much healthier, in a way, to show something so realistic rather than these endless stories about how your side is good and the other side is utterly evil.

But enough is enough. The story could have finished on a high note, but instead it drags on forever while we go from saving the world to tearing it apart. For me, this seems like the place to stop.

Of course, there’s still World of Warcraft Classic

World of Warcraft notes: Pira- er, Combat Rogue changes in Legion

WoW Combat to Pirate 4

Image source: Me.

Today, we’ll take a look at the revamped Combat Rogue, now being changed to Outlaw. Combat Rogues didn’t really have a clear theme before, so we took the opportunity to give them a much clearer one. Which is, uh, some kind of swordmaster or brawler we guess. We definitely weren’t thinking of some other cliché when we made this.

  • Outlaw rogues are the unscrupulous scoundrels of Azeroth. Operating outside the law, they bend the rules and distort the truth to get what they need, and also they like to sail the seven seas with their outlaw maties plundering treasure and going “arrr” a lot, but don’t read too much into that. The archetype has been inspired by such classic works as the outlaw-themed book Treasure Island and the more recent Outlaws of the Caribbean movies.
  • To further emphasize the “swordmaster” theme we’re going for here, we’re giving Outlaws the ability Pistol Shot. They still don’t use guns as weapons, mind you, but every swordmaster has to be ready to pull out a hidden blunderbuss, right?
  • One of the new talents is Cannonball Barrage, which causes an invisible ghost ship crewed by invisible ghost outlaws to fire cannonballs at your enemies. This also totally goes with the swordmaster… um… yeah, anyways.
  • We looked for more p- outlaw related concepts and found “parley“, so that’s an ability now too.
  • The ability Blade Flurry is renamed “Dead Man’s Chest” for no particular reason. Its function remains the same, though its icon is changed to a Jolly Roger.
  • Outlaw Rogues get a permanent buff that affects their speech in a way similar to drunkenness, except that instead of going “hic” occasionally, they randomly spout “ARRRRR”. The buff cannot be dispelled, ever.
  • After the pre-patch launches, every Outlaw Rogue will immediately begin a new obligatory questline where they have been shanghaied by the outlaws of Booty Bay and wake up on an outlaw ship. Your organs have also been harvested, so you get a permanent appearance change as you now have a peg leg, an eye patch, and a hook in place of a hand (you get a choice of left or right). During the questline, you’ll also gain a cool and unique new pet: a talkative parrot that follows you constantly and cannot be dismissed.

…Well, maybe not quite all of that, but that’s about how it feels.

(See here for more accurate information about the Outlaw Rogue if you like.)

Could this be the end of the World (of Warcraft)?

World of Warcraft: Legion logo

Blizzard Entertainment recently announced their (wait, let me count) sixth expansion for World of Warcraft, the most popular MMORPG and the highest-grossing game ever (according to Wikipedia). It’s a game where you keep on playing and keep on paying to play, apparently forever, as the world is always being expanded to give you more to waste your time on. Not only do they extend the story, they give you addictively boring stuff you need to keep doing regularly for eventual rewards when there’s nothing else going on. So it’s no wonder Blizzard keeps making new expansions to keep it going.

This causes some problems, though, at least insofar as the players are to imagine they’re epic heroes in an equally epic fantasy world. Continue reading

World of Warcraft has managed to become even more addictive

It’s hardly news that games such as World of Warcraft are addictive time-killers by nature. There’s an endless series of stuff you can do to “achieve” things. You can get better gear that makes your character more powerful in the game, or a new kind of dragon to ride and look cool, and a lot of other things and new versions of these same things over and over again. And for all this, you keep doing often rather repetitive stuff for hours and hours. At some point, they also added daily stuff to this which can’t be done all at once but where you can return every day to work a limited amount towards the same goal. And people actually play so much that eventually they’ll run out of stuff to do and then complain that there isn’t more for them to do when they’re already used to wasting hours of time in the game. I personally have quit playing the whole game for long periods more than once after having made a cost–benefit analysis against the time (and money) spent on it. Right now, I’m trying to just do the essentials — since it is a good game within limits — and then stop playing until the next big update.

My character standing in front of the command table in his garrison, being all important and stuff.

My character (centre) at the command table in his garrison, being all important and stuff.

Well, with the new expansion Warlords of Draenor, they’ve figured out a new way to keep people hooked, so that I’ve kept returning to check in on the game even at times when I have known I can’t spend a lot of time there. This new addition to addictiveness is based around the new feature of garrisons. Continue reading