Archive for the ‘World of Warcraft’ Category

I recently gave into the pressure and took the plunge back into World of Warcraft last week. I must say, I’m quite impressed with the amount of sheer fun I’ve been having.

Before I go any further, I want to discuss why I gave up on WoW to begin with.

The year was 2004, a year that I remember as being a great year for MMORPG releases. Unfortunately, the novelty of these new games fizzled out for me real quick. As I was taking yet another break from Final Fantasy XI, I was looking forward to two highly revered titles: Everquest II and World of Warcraft.

Everquest II came first, and unfortunately, my PC couldn’t run it. As soon as I got off of Queen’s Colony, I found it hard to navigate. The lag was unbearable. The game was released with too high standards for its time. And to a 17 year old kid who was still in high school making a paltry 150 bucks a week at a part-time job, a brand new PC to replace the one I received as a gift just one year prior was out of the question. So it went back in the box, never to be seen until late 2009 (actually, it’s still in the box, because Steam had everything up to TSO on sale for 5 bucks.).

Shortly after Everquest II’s failure to captivate me (Ok, so it’s not totally the game’s fault, but SoE shares some of the blame in my opinion), I moved on to World of Warcraft. By the time WoW was released, I was already getting back in the groove of FFXI. I found my reason to play that game again, and was spending most of my free time on it. But this shiny new toy caught my attention, and like a typical kid with a new toy, I dove right in.

Unfortunately, like the kid with a new toy, the novelty wore off quickly. My stint in retail WoW only lasted 3 months, and in that time period I had amassed 2 level 60 characters (the level cap back then.) I had nothing to do. My Warlock and Rogue had reached the end of their journeys, and I was sick of sitting in the Undercity or Orgrimmar watching the text fly by my screen. PvP wasn’t much better. I always managed to find the 12 year old brats who cuss you and your mother if you killed them, and on the rare occasion I got killed, they decided to gloat like a 5 year old child. I can handle profanity and insults just fine, but I could not stand these people. They were annoying, arrogant, and ignorant. I hate children to begin with, and the fact that they were infiltrating online gaming pissed me off even more.

Of course, that isn’t to say I’m completely jaded. I was a kid when I was exposed to online gaming. At the ripe age of 12, I was exposed to my first online FPS. But it was my uncle who took me under his wing. He taught me an etiquette to online gaming. Friendly banter between opponents was ok. Telling them their mothers should’ve aborted them because they sniped them in mid-air is not ok. You always said “gg” (good game) once the match ended. And if you didn’t like the person, you settled it on the battlefield, not on their personal clan websites. And, finally, “You’re always, ALWAYS gracious to your server host, even if he is a complete dickhead.”

But these kids, kids not much older than I was, didn’t get it. Maybe I was lucky to have someone like my uncle at my side and teach me the ways of online gaming etiquette. I think the thing that pissed me off the most was these kids weren’t even willing to learn. I love to learn new things. In fact, in my every day life, I learn new things. I’m praised in my real life profession for my willingness and eagerness to learn something new. But these….children…didn’t even want to learn. And quite frankly, it pissed me off.

So I quit.

It wasn’t until 2007-2008 when I got back into World of Warcraft. Only this time, it wasn’t retail. Once again, I was disgruntled with FFXI, the way SE was handling things. My account was raided and looted, and despite the fact I had a request in to roll it back, it was taking them forever. (5 months, actually) I was bored and needed something to do. My buddy Ryan, whom I was in a linkshell in FFXI with, suggested we try WoW, on private realms.

WTF is a private realm, I wondered.

He basically explained to me that private realms were the equivalent of servers in Tribes, my first ever online FPS. They are privately run by people, like us. The obvious upside to this is no subscription fee. The downside? Well, since MMORPGs are constantly evolving, it’s practically impossible to have a completely up-to-date game. Not to mention that most private servers are run by script kiddies who couldn’t code their way out of a paper bag. (Not knocking it, just calling it like I see it.) So a lot of stuff is half-finished or completely not working.

So anyway, my buddy Ryan had a buddy that ran one of these private servers. We installed the game and signed up for the server.

What a mess.

The server, itself, was broken. The majority of the quests were auto-complete, so you could be level 70 within less than an hour. But we played and we had fun. We raided Black Temple most of the time. I met a lot of cool people on there that I still talk to to this day. We had a guild and everything. For being completely and utterly broken, it was a lot of fun.

Then the shitstorm happened. The GMs of the server started getting cocky, and the admin, Ryan’s friend, had finally had enough. He demoted them all. But now he needed a new team. At the suggestion of Ryan, I quickly became the new Junior GM.

Being a GM is not all its cracked up to be. First of all, it requires you to have 2 accounts. Secondly, actually “playing” on your GM account is strictly not allowed. And since our personal accounts were published on the website, you never had a moment’s peace, because as soon as you logged into your personal account, you had to answer yet another ticket about something stupid.

My work hours prevented me from being on during normal play hours. I worked mostly late evenings/early nights (6pm-2am), so I was on from 3am onwards. A lot of Europeans played during that time, and their lack of English made it tough for them to read forums. So I had to answer tons of tickets, written in different languages. Soon, I gave up, and begged the admin to include somewhere that this was an English speaking server.

Soon, I was promoted to Senior GM, and eventually admin. I hired my own team of GMs, and that server was in top shape GM wise. (Coding-wise, it was still a mess.) Unfortunately, none of us had coding experience, nor was I allowed to give up server database access at whim. So it left me in a predicament. Broken server with awesome GM staff.

But people wanted the server to succeed. I wanted the server to succeed. Donations were flying in, to the tune of 5 grand a month. We were hoping for updated, faster servers. We were hoping for working code. We got none of the above.

A short time before the shitstorm, the admin promoted his BFF as server admin. On the spot. No application, no background check, not even a courtesy heads up to the rest of the team who has been doing his work for months. But we survived, for a bit. Until things started becoming fishy.

My one buddy, also a GM, Bezerk (we often called him Zerky), rang me up on Ventrilo one day. His account was no longer in existence. I start looking through the database, only to find his account was deleted. The logs showed that this newly appointed admin deleted this guy’s account. Zerky was the 3rd person to ever join the server. And his account was gone.

I reversed the damage, and sat and waited. Zerky logged in. We played for a bit. New admin logged in, saw Zerky logged in, deleted his account, and kicked him from the server. (Deletion won’t take affect until you’re kicked.) This went on for a few hours. Him deleting Zerky’s account, me restoring it. Until finally, I had enough and revoked his database access and banned his IP address from accessing it.

Apparently, this didn’t sit well with the admin, because he got into Ventrilo the very next day and attempted to rip me a new asshole. How dare I revoke his friend’s access? What right did I have? I was just a GM! I corrected him and said “No, I’m an admin. You made me an admin and this guy has been abusing his power since the day you made him admin.” (Turns out he kept deleting Zerky’s account because Zerky wiped the floor with him in a duel.) He told me not to revoke his power again, and reinstated him. Zerky got banned, for no reason whatsoever. And the shitstorm started.

My buddy Ryan started slipping me information about where the donation money was going. (He and the server admin were friends in real life.) The money, as it turned out, was going towards cocaine, heroine, alcohol, and a 16 grand engagement ring for the admin’s now ex-fiance.

I was livid. I spent many hours panhandling WoW style in game for those donations. I spent many hours trying to fix things, or create workarounds so the players would be happy. Hours upon hours I spent chasing down speed hackers the right way, instead of banning them on the spot.

I exposed the son-of-a-bitch on his server forums. I let everyone know where everyone’s hard-earned donation money went. I explained to them why they weren’t getting server upgrades, or updated code, or even Wrath of the Lich King. Because the admin and his girlfriend were snorting up their donation money up their noses. I asked the general question “How does a guy who works at a GAS STATION afford a 16 thousand dollar engagement ring for his girlfriend?” and backed it up with Facebook photos and posts. Not only that, but I had screenshots of the whole Zerky fiasco saved for a rainy day. And I pulled those out as the final “fuck you Kyle.” (The admin’s name is Kyle.)

I was banned, naturally, but not instantly. My post was erased. But it was too late, the damage was done. It was up a full 3 weeks before the admin finally logged into the website. It didn’t matter, though, because I went into the database and deleted my accounts. The admin’s friend was never given moderator access to the website (oops) and never bothered to inform the admin of the shit I posted (double oops). So everyone who logged in the website for the 3 weeks the post stayed up saw it.

The population of the server diminished. Soon, Kyle couldn’t afford the server and his coke/alcohol/heroine habit. Care to guess which one faded into obscurity? The server, of course.

Last I heard, Kyle and his fiance broke up, and he is still working at a gas station.

Anyway….

My retail and private experience in WoW flat out sucked. I don’t blame Blizzard for all of it, certainly not for my private server experience. It’s not Blizzard’s, or even World of Warcraft’s fault. But it still left a bad taste in my mouth. A really bad taste. Kind of like the taste you have in your mouth after you scarf a bag of Doritos and drink lots of alcohol, then vomit. That kind of taste. I just could never get back into World of Warcraft.

It wasn’t until early last week I got a text message from a near and dear friend of mine. We played FFXI together. We used to roleplay together (not THAT kind of roleplay. We were adventurers, afterall). Eventually, real life got too complicated for him and his wife (who was expecting their first child at the time). But we kept in contact through the years. (His wife eventually became one of my most closest girlfriends, actually.) He texted me with the great news that his wife, who is now expecting their third child, had her ultrasound today and it was a girl. I was at work, and knew that she was having her ultrasound (thank you, Facebook), but I didn’t expect to hear the results of it until after I came home. I congratulated him (especially since I knew they both wanted another girl), and the conversation turned towards video games.

“So Jam told me you’re not too excited about us playing wow?”

A couple of months ago, I jokingly made fun of his wife on Facebook about playing WoW. Apparently, she told him and he remembered.

I told him I was actually considering going back with Cataclysm. The conversation turned into the usual. What server are you on? Horde or Alliance? Is there a recruit-a-friend program? Ect. He asked for my e-mail address and sent me a recruit-a-friend code. I downloaded the game, created my character (a Blood Elf Mage, of course), and started to play.

Honestly, I’m impressed.

People make fun of the “cartoony” graphics all the time. I used to be one of those people, until I realized the graphics in other games, games that looked more realistic (FFXI/FFXIV) weren’t that awesome, either. Everything in those games (FFXI, especially) was drab. Boring. Dull. The graphics in WoW are cartoony, yes, but isn’t it a FANTASY game? What’s wrong if a FANTASY world is colorful? Is it a crime if everything is bright, cheery, and in-your-face? No, not at all. It’s a fantasy world. No one argued with Bethesda when Mania in Oblivion was bright and in-your-face. (The Shivering Isles expansion pack. If you haven’t played it, go buy it. Now.)

As far as gameplay goes, people (aka haters) complain it’s too easy. Yes, it’s easy. The days of hardcore MMORPGs died with the original Everquest. People claim FFXI is hardcore. I disagree. Everything about FFXI is a timesink, and to me, timesink doesn’t mean hardcore. Doing the same instanced zone everyday for a straight year, and completing it, but never getting the one item I need (because drop rates are atrocious) is not “hard.” Needing a party of 5 other players to complete anything, and never getting one because you’re not playing the right class is not “hard.” Farming for hours on end for money because the “hardcore” linkshells drove up the prices of the one item you need is not “hard.” Leveling a craft to level 100 is not “hard.” None of these things are “hard.” They are just extremely time consuming. And that is how SE made their money, by creating a game of nothing but timesinks.

Blizzard takes a different approach. They actually give you content, which I like. I like being able to explore new areas. Completely new areas. Unlike SE, who rehashes the same areas over and over again, with harder mobs using the same design but different colors (Dynamis, Abyssea, the entire Wings of the Goddess expansion pack), and tries to call it “new content.” I like being able to get new pieces of gear. NEW pieces of gear. Not camp the same fucking mob since Rise of the Zilart (which was released in 2003) to get a fucking sword because the developer was too lazy to release anything remotely better.

The population doesn’t hurt, either. I’m constantly meeting new people. I like meeting new people.

There’s also something that Blizzard does that a lot of other developers don’t do: They give you reasons to return to your starting cities. With FFXI, the starter cities were a barren wasteland. Everyone hung out in Jeuno until Treasures of Aht Urghan was released, and then everyone and their mother was hanging out in Whitegate. In Everquest II, everyone hangs out in Paineel. Qeynos and Freeport are barren, except for World Events. There’s no reason to go there, really. But in WoW, I see loads of people in Silvermoon City, and there’s even more in Orgrimmar, the unofficial hangout spot for the Horde. Yea, there’s newer cities, like Shattrath, and Dalaran, but there’s still a population in the starter cities. These are the cities that started it all. There SHOULD be reasons to go back to them. But Blizzard is really the only developer I’ve seen that made a genuine effort to bring people back to those cities.

The simplicity of crafting in WoW is what I missed the most, probably. I don’t need to press a million buttons (Everquest II), and I don’t need to check my in-game clock to see if it’s the right day/moon phase and make sure I face the right direction to complete the craft (FFXI). Also, there’s no way to fail. In FFXI, the price for failing a craft can cost you MILLIONS of gil. Everquest II, it’s not as bad, but still equally frustrating. In WoW, you just need the materials. Is it unrealistic? Absolutely. Afterall, who successfully makes something 100% of the time? But does it avoid dreaded timesinks, a staple in most MMORPGs today? Yes, yes, and yes. The materials, for the most part, are easy to find, too, at least in the lower levels. (Unlike FFXI, where even low level materials were rare.) And I can level TWO crafts?! Sweet!

Overall, I’m having a lot of fun in WoW. It’s such a relief to log in for half an hour and actually get something accomplished. I can play in quick spurts and get quite a bit done. It’s such a change from FFXI, where you had to dedicate hours upon hours to get one thing accomplished, even if it was just attaining a level. Everquest II, while still near and dear to my heart, is starting to wear thin on me. (Mostly due to SoE’s push on the F2P business model of “milk the consumer for every penny they got via the Marketplace” and not due to the actual game mechanics themselves.)

One final note: The biggest benefit of WoW probably is the fact that both my boyfriend and I are enjoying it. It’s been almost a year since we played an online game together. (Not including the very short-lived FFXIV.) I quit FFXI over a year ago. He still plays, rarely, but I could never get him into Everquest II. But not we’re both enjoying WoW, which is great, because I don’t enjoy Bad Company 2 or World of Tanks all that much.