Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why Warcraft?

Such a simple question, Why is Warcraft your game of choice?  So why are there no simple answers?

Sure there are a lot of simple answers I have heard when people are asked that.  "It was my first game and I like it.", "I don't want to find something else because I still enjoy this.", "I like the people I play with."  But none of those answers and the hundreds of others like them say the whole story.

Even if you like the people you play with, if the game was really bad or you really disliked it, you would not keep playing.  Even if it was the first game of the type you played if it lost your interest you would not keep playing just because of that fact.

For every simple answer like that there is a simple counterargument that could basically say to the person, your answer is full of crap, now give me a real answer.  We all just fall back on those simple answers because they are easy to say, they roll off the tongue, they are what we are used to hearing from others all the time and as such we regurgitate them back when asked as if they were our answers too.

Something else has to keep you keep you playing, something that can not be summed up in just one simple basic line like "I like the people I play with."

While I can not speak for others I will try to explain a little about why I think it ends up being, and staying, my game of choice even if I do tend to complain about it quite often.

Color:

The game is quite easy on the eyes.  Bright, colorful, and while this might be the wrong word I'll also say soft.  The colors in the game are not in your face.  You can feel comfortable with them.  Another game I like, but do not play often, is Rift and its dark setting.  I do not like it.  The game is great, the colors are dismally horrible.  Things are hard to see, hard to navigate because of it, and I find myself often pausing to try to make things out.  As a person who is color blind this is even more difficult.

While it is true that I have had many color issues with warcraft thanks to me being color blind they are not all that often and most of the times I can usually figure out a way around it.  Warcraft itself added some ways, like when they put wood plies I need to collect on green grass I can barely see it if I do at all, but thanks to little sparkles, I can at least get an idea where it is so I can indeed find it.  Even in rift there have been times it showed me exactly where the item was and I still could not find it.

The soft I refer to is the fact that the colors seem to flow and match each other.  Forgive me if I am wrong, could be the color blind thing, but to me everything that is together looks like it belong together to me.  So many other games have color patterns that seem to clash, to not belong together, to have just been thrown in there without thought just so things had a color and not the color it was supposed to be.

Most other games I have tried fail at matching the color system, the smooth flow of it, that warcraft offers.  Marvel heroes, the new game I have been playing, is very color friendly as well, like warcraft, which in part could be a reason why I like it.  I might not play it much but it is surely a top option of something to play when I want a break because, in part, of the coloring system.

Power Progression:

The part of this I liked is gone from the game.  Sadly?  Can't say for sure being I can not experience it for the "first" time again so I do not know how people feel about it now but I loved how the power progression when starting the game first felt like.

Gaining levels which would unlock skills that I would be allowed to train in was a great system.  Then going and deciding which skills to buy, because I could not always afford them all, was an exciting bit of making my characters power progression really feel like I had a say in it.  Some abilities I would just skip over because I could not afford them now, others I would look down on the list and see how much I needed so I could make sure I could buy it the moment I reached that level.

I remember being so excited when I reached the level that opened up my training for an ability I wanted and stopping dead in my tracks from questing to hearth back to the city so I could train it ASAP.  Power progression was all in my own hands when I purchased my skills and I liked that feeling, I liked it a lot.

It was not only about buying your skills, or passing them up if you did not think you needed them at the moment, but we had skill points.  Another system that is now gone, but one of the reasons I loved the power progression of the game originally.

I often would let a few points build up because I did not really "need" to spend them right now and perhaps I might meet a task later on where having one of those abilities would be more useful than another.  I took every point spent in my talent tree with great consideration.  This was my power, my progression, and my decision, and I wanted to make sure I spent it on something I really needed.  As long as the quest mobs were dying I didn't actually need it.  Yet.  So I saved them.

I remember going back one time to train a skill I had passed up to save some money but now I needed it.  Or adding a talent point into something because I thought it would help me a little when I needed it.

Buying our abilities, spending talent points, both gone from the game, but both where a huge factor in what made me fall in love with the game.  I liked that design and I am not exactly sure why they removed it or the logic to doing so. 

Perhaps it was my "type" of game player that liked that power progression on a character driven layer and the game was trying to attract a broader player based where this might be considered a bad thing.  That would be my guess, but either way, this is about me and the things that made me choose warcraft to start with.

I leveled all 10 classes back when that system was in place.  The 11th, a monk, never got to experience real character driven power progression like the other classes.  So while that type of power progression is gone, it worked for me.  I got to use it for all the classes, I got to enjoy it for all the classes, I got to experience what it really felt like to build a character for all the classes.  Maybe the new players like this way better, but I am not entirely sure I would look back on this talent system we have now as fondly and as something I liked about the game like I am currently doing about the old one now if I were only starting today.

Skill Build Up:

The old system of needing to train skills or the new system where they are just given to you, it starts out kind of slow and that allows you to jump right in and use everything from the get go because everything, well, isn't much.

Some games I have dabbled into over the past few years seem to throw a million things at you at once and want you to learn everything ASAP.  Sure I can handle it, if I wanted to, but when first trying a game out I do not really know if I want to yet so I like the take it slow to start mentality.

Even the newest game I picked up, marvel heroes, seems to throw you knee deep in stuff to do nearly instantly.  Admittedly there is not much of it, but all at once seems like too much too soon.  Let people get a fell for the basics before you talk about the other things.

The new system means we level a lot faster which means the skills come faster and I do not like that.  Again, as I can never feel that "new" feeling again I can not say for sure, but I believe it could get to the point that people do not get enough time to spend with their new skill before they start learning another.

When I started it was nothing of the sort.  I always had enough time to learn my new skill.  I never got something and suddenly got something else before I was even used to using the one new skill I had just learned.

Either way, even with the increased leveling speed, the skill build up for warcraft is much better than any of the skill build ups I have seen in other games.  I liked that in warcraft getting a new skill felt like a bonus whereas in some other games getting a new skill feels like "what now, I still have not figured out what to do with the last three I got".  It is a less is more situation, perhaps that should try to remember the less is more motto at max level.

Graphics:

I often hear people complain about the graphics in warcraft and question why are they complaining about one of the best aspects of the game.

While it might seem cartoonish in a way they are perfect for the game we are playing.  They are easier on graphic cards so it allows more people to play the game on lesser computers, to some degree, which is a good thing even if that is another story all together but they look nice. 

They do the job they are supposed to do by giving us a vehicle to play the game (our character) that looks and moves appropriately.  Lets just compare some of those games with the real life style of graphics and just watch them run when compared to a warcraft character.  The warcraft characters run perfectly for their shape, size, style and design whereas the real life characters seem stressed if anything while running.  Now take a moment to strafe and see how cleanly and naturally the warcraft characters do it, even if looking cartoonish while doing it, when compared to the real life characters that look like they would break a hip if anyone actually tried to move like that.

Call it cartoonish if you must, but you can never call warcrafts graphics bad.  They are perfect for what they do and they are balanced to make it look as if they should be doing what they do.  Which brings us to...

Ambiance:

The sound, the scene, the style, the balance, the graphics and all those little things thrown together give's warcraft excellent ambiance.

Warcraft, more than any other game of this genre that I have played, has mastered ambiance.  Every zone has a feeling and it conveys if excellently.  It is one of the reasons I say that the graphics are great.  Not because they are great on their own, but they are great because they work with the environment perfectly to create things that seem real even if it is fantasy and they do look somewhat cartoonish.

A dark and scary woods, like Duskwoods, comes off exactly as what it is supposed to and gives you the feel of it.  I have seen other games try to pull off that same thing and while the graphics might look better, the zone surely does not feel better.  I know I can not explain this to reach the importance of what the feel means to me, but I hope you understand what I mean by it.

The zones in warcraft just feel right.  From the graphics to the music to the background to the structures, it all adds up to making a zone really feel like the zone they intended it to be.

Quests:

No really, I like the quests.  I like the idea that while leveling it always seemed like there was something to do, like someone needed me, like what I did mattered even if we did not see the world change around us like we would in a single player game.

When leveling my first character I often found myself finishing a quest hub before moving to the next even if I had gotten a lead in to go somewhere else.  I felt as if I had a job to complete and it needed to be completed before I moved on.

Then there were the quests that lead you all over the world.  A massive waste of time when you are trying to level quickly, but a massive epic feeling when the world is still all new to you and it is your first time ever doing them. 

I love and hated those quests at the same time.  I hated the travel but loved the experience I had while traveling.  The key quests that had me collecting a million things from places all over the world, the epic hunter bow quest that had me visit the four corners of the world, the scepter of the shifting sands quest even if the gates had been opened already, all these quests and so many more where amazingly detailed and I loved them.

I liked traveling the world while doing these as it made me feel like a real adventurer.  I was going to zones I had never been to before, meeting people I had never met before, collecting items I did not know existed, and even needed help from other players that had professions I had never even thought were worth considering.

It was the questing, combined with everything else I mentioned above, that made me love the game and made me feel as if I were really a hero walking the roads around the world we know as azeroth.

One note however, doing them all the second time never felt the same.  It was only that first time through that really made me fall in love with the game.  Once I reached max level and the game become something different questing no longer held that place of wonder in my heart. 

I guess that is how things work, but nothing will ever replace that first impression, those feelings, the exploration and wonder of the epic quest line when you are first leveling.  Too bad all those quests are gone. 

Does a new player still enjoy the feelings from questing that I did?  I will never know, but I do know that is why warcraft is for me.  Why?  Because that feeling, even if I can never replicate it, is why I fell in love with the game and it is why I play.  Hoping for that next feeling like that, chasing the next high if you will.

Why warcraft?  Because memories are powerful.

16 comments:

  1. I don't like dark zones. If I'd chosen to roll a night elf first rather than a human I would never have stuck with the game. Humans might get bashed for being boring but Elwynn Forest is a much nicer opening zone in my opinion. Although having said that if I'd gone Horde and rolled a Blood Elf I never would have gone Alliance, their starting zone is gorgeous. The colours of the leaves on the trees, the water, just everything. Isle of Quel'danas is one of my favourite places in the game to go, just sit and enjoy.

    Hmm I've typed out a lot, an awful lot in response to this and it's just too much. Basically it's not the game that kept me playing. If I haven't been recruited by my friend I would never have left the starting zone, you do not want to know how many times I died in Elwynn Forest. I learned to loathe questing, it seemed that it was all busywork, and those "collect x things" quests especially sucked. I can see this deer has a head but it says it doesn't, talk about annoying. I definitely didn't feel heroic, or like it had any purpose. If my friend hadn't levelled with me to level 73 I would never have got past level 30 something probably if that.

    Achievements are something else that kept me interested. When my friends left me to go kill the Lich King, and had no time for me in game, I fell on achievements as something to do. Before I ran out of them I swapped classes to something that suited me better. I was starting to get fed up of these when I made some in game friends, and got introduced to raiding. Raiding = more achievements in my mind and it's been that which has kept me going up till a little while ago.

    What has kept me subscribed for the last few months has been the in game friends I've made. Also lack of anything else to do. I have some health issues and so I'm home all day every day. If I don't fill some of the time I'd go even more crazy.

    I've been increasingly playing other things though. My closest in game friends are also playing other games with me, or I talk to them in other ways. I am starting to wonder if my guild collapses whether that would be it for me. I have 17040 achievement points, outside of PvP and Mists raiding there's very few left to get. I don't care about gear, the collecting grind is starting to feel pointless, when you have hundreds and hundreds of pets and mounts what's the point?

    Still Warcraft keeps me. You might disagree that it's the real reason but it is the fact that it was my first ever game (and I do mean first ever), it's a game that I know people in. I log in to talk, or to raid with people now, not to just play, it's a social thing and about the only social interaction I get. Achievements too, the Pavlovian conditioning, to keep me striving till I got them all, or at least the ones possible for me to get.

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    1. I don't disagree but I do believe that there is something more to it.

      It is like an addiction, first ever or not, there is something unspoken in the background that made you feel good about they game and you keep playing to try to get that feeling again.

      At least that is what I believe is the backbone of everyones playing.

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    2. Well my addiction would be achievements then, and sometimes when the going gets tough just sheer refusal to let people down.

      It's not the graphics, as they are what they are. I like more realistic graphics just as well like Swtor. I don't find the animations odd in that game, it is what it is. Graphics are like window dressing. The only part I dislike is dark zones. I hated having to spend so much time in the Isle of Thunder, much too dark for my taste. I like to be able to see what I'm doing. I guess that's a legacy of before I turned nameplates on, in dark zones I could trip over mobs without realising and I hated that.

      Gameplay is more important than graphics and I suppose the gameplay was easy enough to get into, approachable if you will. My friend did have to give me a lesson but after that I managed to play on my own, and over the years experience and practice have improved my skills.

      It was literally my first ever game really. I'd played a couple of point and click CSI games, but that's it. I never had a console, and if I ever went to my cousins/friends where they did, I was only allowed to play for a minute before I was shown to be useless and it was taken away. I never could get a handle on all the buttons.

      You talked about power progression. I disagree, perhaps because I joined in Wrath. I just spammed the train button until they were trained, I put my talent points where my friend told me too. I was annoyed at having to go back to town to train every time, except I was a mage then so I could make portals and have my hs where I was questing.

      I like the new talent system as there's an actual situational choice. Most of the time it's dead obvious what one you have to choose for that situation, but sometimes you can decide for yourself and what works for your gameplay. I don't miss the old talents at all and I hope they never come back.

      I also don't miss training as like I said I just spammed the train button, there was nothing to it but wasted time for me. What I do like is the slow ramp up of abilities, you start with one, then you get another one etc. so this enabled me to learn all the buttons. Whereas whenever I'd tried before to play a game I guess I'd just got thrown in the deep end.

      Plus what James said below, about habit, social interaction, feeling useful helping others. I agree with that. I like Swtor but I play that solo so in the end I always come back to Warcraft.

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    3. I used to be addicted to achievements but a few of them this expansion, like the one to not get hit by anything for the golden lotus one, have made me loose my desire a little.

      After doing the GL dailies for 3 straight weeks, even when I did not need the rep any longer, and never seeing that quest so I could get the achievement I kind of have come to a "fuck that" mentality about it.

      An achievement I have to waste a ton of time to try to get and it might not even be the daily? Yeah, "fuck that" is the appropriate response. It is the only achievement in the quest section I do not have and I am not going to do the GL dailies every day just to see that is not the daily for the day and I wasted my time any longer.

      The talent system will have the lovers and the haters. For me it felt like I was learning something when it was a choice more than when it is just given to me.

      The social aspect means a lot. It is why I do not play rift often, no one to play with, or marvel heroes often, no one to play with. And at this stage in my gaming life I have no desire to go around and make new friends. I'll just stick where the ones I have already are. So it does have a huge impact.

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  2. For me the just about everything in the game is still new I just started playing in November a Night Elf hunter and other than my accidental 3 day leveling experience in Blackfathom Deeps I did not set foot in a dungeon I completed every quest possible in every place I went.I just finished leveling a Death Knight and while this time I dungeoned leveled her it was all still new to me I had never been in these dungeons and I found myself still questing in new places I had not been so for now for me everything in the game is still quite new I have classes to try and a healer to make and level and lots of places I have not been yet

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    1. You are in that great place in the game, where everything is still new and exciting and the love, or addiction to the game if you will, is first formed.

      Enjoy it, it is the best time ever exploring things and doing things for the first time.

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  3. Half because it's good, the other half - habbit.

    It's good because it fills several needs of mine. It's fun most of the times. It's a time investment when I need time wasted. It's a distraction when I need to stop thinking of other things. It allows me to feel good about myself being useful to a group of people. Also makes me happy to feel like I protect those people. It's good social environment though it's probably a little too mixed for my own good. Ticking things off lists like achievements, collecting pets and so on is a little like my other RL collection hobbies (I collect / buy a lot of things, like knives, sunglasses, caps and so on).

    And habbit... I got used to it. I got used to that feeling I get when I raid. Used to seeing my char a few times a week. Used to reading about the game. Used to try to plan and optimize. Used to logging on TS and talking to those people. Used to so many little things, it would feel slightly empty if I gave it all up. I think.


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    1. Habit is a huge part of it for everyone I am sure. We get used to thinks we like and we would feel as if something were missing if it were not there for us.

      As odd as it sounds, I think I would miss some of the people I talk to in game as much as I would a real life friend if I suddenly lost contact with them because I have gotten into the habit of them always being there.

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    1. Seems like you really get the feeling for a zone like I do most of the time. I think they do an amazing job conveying the zone to the player, at least in vanilla areas. Not as much as the expansions went on, but even the later zones are still better than what you see in other games.

      It would be cool if you could still get the ram, that is about as rare as rare can get. I still have a few items that start quests in my bank but the quests are no more. Even have the one that starts the hunter epic bow quest. Yes, I had an extra, and I will never throw it away even if it is useless now.

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    1. WoW sure is like a drug, it is an addiction of sorts. At least that is how I feel about it. I play because I am addicted, because the beginning times gave me such a great feeling, a high, and I continue to play just to see if I can feel that awesome high again.

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  6. I didn't get started with WoW until late WotLK,so perhaps I missed a lot of the stuff you old timers had. However, the wonder you described I could really relate too. WoW was really my first big computer game. I mean, I had played a few RPGs on SNES, but absolutely nothing like WoW. When I started as a noob Nelf, I recall the island of teldrassil feeling kind of boring. "that's it?" i remember thinking, "there are millions of people playing this game, and it's all on this little island?". At some point (level five maybe) you get the quest that tells you to fly to Darnassus, and as I flew on my first hippogryph, I found myself in complete awe of this huge city with amazing architecture and so many npcs and other players, things to do and vendors to browse. Then I thought "Oh, wow, this is really a big game, look at this city". It still hadn't occurred to me to zoom out on the map any more.

    I continued to have experiences like that for at least the first 30 or so levels. And I think that really has a big effect on why I play wow: the sense of wonder.

    I felt that this expansion too, getting the gates to the Vale open was a great experience, especially as one of the first few (well, first few dozen) to get into the Vale, even though I was still too low level to do anything there, it was a big event, and felt magical, like you were on a journey.

    It seems a lot of people who play wow (at least on my server) wish they would take the RP out of MMORPG, but I feel like that's what makes it different from just selecting numbers in a math equation (which I also enjoy, but for different reasons). The journey, the awe and the wonder are what make it a fun game.

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    1. That very first moment when you realize how small you really are in such a huge world is amazing isn't it. I remember the first time I saw a big city and a bigger world and immediately thought, holy crap this game is huge, and I never realized how little of if I had seen even at that point.

      The journey is what makes the game exciting, I agree. Even if I do rush to level usually and always cap on day one, I always go back and experience everything little thing I can in its entirety because it is really great.

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  7. The music. My wife quit many years ago but was lying on the bed behind me playing some insipid online word-game when she commented: "My god, I miss that music: real music!"

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    1. Very nice connection. Sounds can be a powerful memory agent.

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