Falling out of Love with Azeroth. Again.

I’m going to type this out, and then I’m going to look back on it, go “oh, how dreary…” and wonder why I didn’t write some dark poetry about the matter instead. I don’t intend to be so melodramatic, but the fact is that I feel I’ve been at this juncture many times before. Sure, the universe waxes and wanes; months or years pass; I’m on the wagon again, I’m off the wagon again. I don’t dislike World of Warcraft, or Blizzard, or generally most of what they’ve done with it, but like any long-term relationship, Azeroth and I are bound to hit some rough patches along the way.

That’s not to say that outside forces have not been actively intruding on our alone time, because they have — I’ve been working my day job a lot more than usual, while seeking to regain my social life several nights a week and dealing with lots of other more personal problems and stresses brought on by the rigors of just… well, trying to live. But that’s not the crux of it, and I’m not here to say that I feel my life is that much better for not spending a great deal of it plunked in front of my computer screen.

It’s more that I don’t feel that “alone time” is as interesting or valuable as it used to be. For all the content added in Cataclysm, I honestly find fewer and fewer aspects of the game that continue to appeal to me. Maybe that’s because so much of it has been streamlined — there’s a difference between increased convenience and catering to the lowest common denominator, a tightrope I feel Blizzard isn’t quite able to walk as well as it used to. With no challenge, no exploration, most content in a game (MMO or otherwise) is only fun the first time through by sheer virtue of its shiny newness.

This is the unfortunate downside of its current state: bulldoze through all the quests in a zone until you’re prompted to go the next one. There might be a lot of quests, but if you’ve done ’em once, you’ve done ’em a million times. I think the only entertainment I’ve ever really been able to squeeze out of leveling an alt is attempting to optimize my path to the level cap — how can I max out my XP bonus and what quests/activities will offer me the most experience in the least amount of time?

PvP? A big, fat meh. I enjoy competitive gaming to a degree, but I’ve never liked it enough in World of Warcraft for it to remain a selling point and my disappointment with the most recent additions to this side of the game is evident.

What else is there? Archaeology? Professions? Rare pet hunting (and, yes, I actually resorted to that for a couple of days recently, to no avail)? The one thing I hold any remaining interest in at the moment, raiding, is something I’ve been unable to do in at least a month. As much fun as a small, tight-knit guild can be, you’ve got to deal with the distinct possibility that losing just one key player completely destroys your setup. This person leaves, you can’t raid. You can’t raid, people lose morale, and even less start showing up. Eventually, you lose morale, too, and with it, all desire of playing World of Warcraft.

This is the dilemma I’m facing right now. Once again, yes, I’ve enjoyed going out, making new friends, and having real-life adventures. But I like my video games. I always have and always will, that isn’t going to change even if I must adjust my schedule just a little bit. There’s always the possibility of joining another guild, but that doesn’t quite feel right, either. I’ve been playing with most of these people for years. I know how they act and how they react under pressure; we mesh and we work well together when everybody is paying attention. Let’s face it, when you lose your guild, you lose your friends, and that’s what makes an MMO worth playing once you’ve taken a lap around the solo content. And this is the third… fourth… fifth time that it’s happened? A single man can only take so much!

Despite all these problems (and I admit some of them are certainly personal ones), I can’t help but feel there is a greater issue here. As I re-read the list of potential in-game activities above, I have to wonder why they aren’t any fun for me. Why don’t these activities (raiding aside) hold my attention? And I begin to realize that the blame can be placed squarely on Blizzard for creating a dull game. You don’t know how hard that is to admit. I like Blizzard games quite a bit, as I’m sure most of the people reading this do. But this is no simple criticism of recent patch notes or whining over a class nerfs, puerile acts that we see happen far too often. No, this is the sort of revelation that I can look at and say to myself, “Holy crap! I’ve felt like this for a very, very long time, and I was just afraid to admit it!”

World of Warcraft has expanded massively, but only in the sense that it has added to its girth, and not to its height. For all of its iterative developments (advanced shadows/water effects, for example), the engine is still grossly over-aged. The number of quests available expands with each expansion, but the variations upon them remain primarily cosmetic or otherwise inconsequential. It reminds me of the more recent entries in the Ridge Racer series. Namco isn’t really great at creating new content for this long-running series and so the Grand Prix mode in the recent 3DS version is about the same as it was in the first PSP release several years ago — a large number of events used to disguise the fact that you’re really just racing the same fifteen (or so) tracks over and over again in different combinations, most of which are from past titles in the series.

In terms of World of Warcraft, a quest is a quest is a quest. The few new “types” introduced are far and few between because they’re harder to implement on an aging and incapable engine. And it hurts even more when you can tell where the development team has put in most of its effort, because you can easily tell when they don’t. For instance, there are some cool things that happen in Hyjal, but it was sort of hyped up like “yeah, you’re going to have to fight back against the minions of the fire realm and restore the lands that have been burned!” But in reality, there’s only one area that becomes partially regrown and it’s handled in a very clumsy way. No cutscene, no graceful transition. The whole change just sort of blinks into existence 5-10 seconds after you’ve completed the quest to enable it.

Likewise, the lore spreads outwards, but never feels like it significantly moves forward. As obsessive and protective as Blizzard (Metzen, especially) seems over Azeroth, there are unforgivable gaps and lapses in the storytelling. So many threads are often left hanging or, if resolved, in an unsatisfying way (and when they are resolved, it might be several years later). There has to be a more efficient and engaging way to do this. Instead of introducing tons of new characters, make better use of the ones you have, and let’s see them more frequently. So many of Azeroth’s heroes (and villains) feel like they’re just making a cameo whenever they show up, when they should be tightly bound to the plot. And if you insist on creating new ones, make them truly significant.

I’d also like to see the plot progress more organically, instead of in this piecemeal fashion linked directly to major content patches (most of which will only focus on a tiny parcel of the overall lore anyway).

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to seem like I’m just whining about things. It’s just that I see these issues as a threat to the virility of the game and its continued prosperity. When opinions shift on World of Warcraft these days, I feel like the peaks are getting shallower and the valleys are getting deeper. People may be momentarily swayed by positive changes, but the ones perceived as negative are all the more damning.

There are new titles out there, cresting on the horizon, that are finally starting to give the game some stiff competition. Don’t get me wrong, WoW is still an industry juggernaut, but all those labelled as its “killers” in the past have failed primarily on their poor development. Bugs, shallow content, and half-assed gameplay will destroy a competitor faster and easier that the mere presence of World of Warcraft, itself. But the new crop is in bloom — Rift, TERA, Guild Wars 2, to name a few — and it seems as though they have finally taken the sins of their predecessors to heart.

Once again, sorry for being so dreary, but if you’ve read to the end of this, then I imagine you might feel the same way, too. Or perhaps I’m simply trying to talk out and confirm some of the suspicions I’ve had of the genre for awhile now. After all, I’ve spent at least half of a decade playing WoW, and beyond their “shiny newness,” there’s no telling how quickly I may get tired of these new MMORPGs once I’ve experienced everything they have to offer.

Either way, the general level of quality, and ambition, is already much higher than it was just a couple of years ago, and for the first time, I can honestly say there may be another MMO out there that will get me to cancel my WoW subscription if my frustration with the state of the game doesn’t do so first.


  1. You’re definitly not the only one feelng it Ama. I’ve felt it too. Took a week off starting 04/01 and prepping myself mentally to come back. I’m ready but only time will tell HOW ready I am to stick it out.

    You’re right on one account: it’s all about your friends. Small guilds just don’t cut the mustard unless it’s a social guild. I’ve got to begin recruiting for mine and as a lvl 4.5 guild, Lord only knows how it’ll go. Loosing a guild’s direction is a horrible thing and the shared lockouts are only making things worse for guilds that want to do 10 & 25 man content.

    I’ve spent the day perusing Rift’s forums. Which is something I’d never thought I’d do. Funny thing is, to my bemusement, they’re already experiencing things it’s taken WoW over 6 years to experience. I tried Forsaken World…all meh.

    All in all, I’m not sure how I’m going to find Azeroth once I go back. I’m not sure if I’ll stick around. But in the end, for all the green grass searching I’ve done, Azeroth is home. The grass might be greener elsewhere, but DAMN, my Azerothian front lawn is the most comfortable I’ve been able to lay down on and just chill.

  2. Social hardships definitely make it harder to keep with the game. I’ve all but lost mine since moving way out of the time zone, and my motivation to play is waning. But then when I DO log in, I find stuff to keep me busy for hours. I could easily switch realms or just start anew on a European realm, but the trouble is I don’t WANT to find a new guild or make more friends in game. I like my current ones, if I could ever see them!!

  3. Yeah, Rift is… interesting. It’s a little light on the content in some areas, but I’d say they’ve done a better job handling end-game than other MMORPGs have at launch. And, of course, there are the ever-present rifts to keep things somewhat active (even if they can be tedious at times).

  4. @Pixie

    I can’t imagine being completely out of country playing on a US server. The fact i’m east coast playing on a midwest server is difficult enough for me. I really feel though, that Blizzard’s implementation of a 5 level difference between Wrath and Cata really dampened a lot of experience though and that feeds the ‘malaise’ a lot more than it normally would. We get to lvl 80, and it’s a directed bumrush to lvl 85 and…well…that’s about it really.

    Whether you raid or PvP, the journey to get to cap is SO short that players (at least in MY case anyway) burn out on what they enjoy that much quicker. The sense of excitement is gone through the leveling process and that’s a damn shame.

    I think the lesson Blizzard could/should take away from Cataclysm, if they take anything away at all is this: No matter what you have planned and how quickly you plan to release it, you NEED to allow for journey as well.

  5. You ever hear the term “too much of a good thing”?

    Try playing a console game for 5 years everyday and see how you feel. Nothing is wrong with the game, ya just use it too much.

  6. @Nextgener,

    you have a point about the game and the player ageing, but you’re very wrong (imo) stating that there’s nothing wrong with the game. I think the most glaring error that Blizzard made this expansion was reducing the leveling cap without re-expanding the xp gains through the lower levels.

    People are absolutely BLOWING through pre-cataclysm content, especially the revamped stuff which IS fantastic, without the benefit of BoA gear, guild xp gains, LFD etc…usually (and this is from perusing the forums) the general consensus is that a player without all the ‘extra experience items/perks’ gets through about 50% of an area before it’s grayed out. The linear questing is also a ‘double edged sword’ so to speak. Yes, the fact that we’re not shuttled back and forth between distant zones and continents for is a good thing, but at the same time, it’s the same linerality (not sure if it’s a word but I’m trademarking it anyway!) that creates a leveling tunnelvision which prevents player choice to a large degree. This is also evident in the Cataclysm zones.

    We won’t discuss phasing. Well, sure, we will. Do you know what I used to get a TON of pleasure out of? Helping friends/guildies learn and level. This is now impossible with the overuse of phasing.

    Hell, the fact that the importance of grouping while leveling (instances excluded) has been downplayed to encourage a bumrush to level cap encourages bad playing habits. Players aren’t encouraged to learn thoughout the leveling process. For instance, while I was working on my shaman before my break, at no point in time, was I required to CC an extra add that could’ve and SHOULD’VE destroyed me. This is HORRIBLE imo. What happend to encouraging players to learn and innovate? What happened to learning the importance of CC? What happend to your professions being important through the leveling process?

    TL.DR: You’re right about players/games ageing. I agree. BUT, Blizzard has made some very glaring mistakes with the overuse of phasing, the zone progression/experience gains, and dimishing the ‘learn as you go’ style of playing. It’s a shame and ultimately, causes the game to lose it’s unique flavor.

  7. In Rift, you can level completely through Rift’s alone. That’s a Choice.

    In Wow, you can level through questing or bg’s OR completing the whole area to get the storyline if your interested. That’s a Choice.

    You can go to any major city to check out the sign after you level to see if a new area has opened up for you, be on the continent or not. That’s a Choice.

    You can level via BG’s Or Dungeons if you favor them. That’s a Choice.

    The Job of an MMO is to Enforce decisions, not impose a player to do everything on a forced path. In fact, blizzard has opened up More paths via the XP gains they can give. IF your forced to create a profession, do a BG, and quest in an entire zone just too level, that’s bad design.

    As for phasing, they fixed that problem by allowing the group leader to be in the current phasing zone. It’s also only used in select high level areas, and in moderation.

    Lastly, CC is meant for High end purpose. It doesn’t posses a Point until it’s Meant to be utilized. The same goes for other talent trees and flying mounts.

    Player’s Learn through there mistakes, blizzard isn’t a leap frog product. (or crabby)

  8. All I know is that when SW:TOR releases, I’m giving it a solid 2 month investment. If I’m hooked, I’ll be 100% quitting WoW. If I’m not hooked in 2 months, then I won’t be hooked at all.

    I agree with most of your statements, Ama. It’s something that I’ve been running into. With real life complications, and some simple in-games ones, the only thing I like to do is raid – but my sprouting guild is having some slight difficulties downing anything other than Argaloth.

    and if NONE of it happens? Fallen Earth/Global Agenda, here I come!

  9. While I don’t think I’ll give SW:ToR a go, I have (I think anyway) made a decision that I’m going to give Cataclysm till the end of expansion and see where it goes. If it can’t hold my interests, I believe I’m gonna call it done and done with games altogether.

    Maybe it’s the rose colored glasses syndrome. I’ve seen people come and go for various reasons, a friend or two I play with pass away, the demise of the ‘small guild’ etc. While a large part of it IS me personally, I think Blizzard has done more than their fair share of damaging what used to be a vibrant and unique community.

    There is still time though. Perhaps Blizzard has something up their sleeve to really grab people by the horns and wrangle us all back in. I hope so anyway.

  10. I feel your pain.
    I’ve been playing for two years and it was GREAT when I started. I looked forward to an unending supply of quests and an insane amount of lore. I dove in and suddenly found I needed friends in game to keep it interesting and I made then. I would quest and level with them, and explore and side quest alone. It was good fun. Different areas were slightly to drastically different. The look of certain areas seem to reflect certain tones of the story being told there. Then there was bonus weird stuff thrown in with no explanation. Just cool sights.
    Soon I moved on to the Burning Crusade. God I hated the first zone. The uneven terran was weird for me to navigate, and the quests were pretty darned hard. But it seemed like it was to be the trial set in place and a cool new world to explore. And talk about NEW! Zangamarsh was amazing. All of the creatures felt fresh. It really felt like you were in a new game world. My biggest complaint with BC was how easy, INSANLY easy it was to level through. I used about three and a half zones, IF THAT and was ready for northrend. I felt cheated.. But I swore id go back later on and explore.
    Wrath of the Lich King. WoW…. This is where everyone was… Being out in BC felt REALLY lonely sometimes where as there were always people around in NR. I finally had to compete for items and quests. It first it was frustrating, but it was a lot fun. There was lots new to do. The environments felt familiar but were also very new. They made it feel like Azeroth, but just a new unexplored wild version of it. While I was annoyed about seeing regular bears pose a challenge to me, it was still worth it. Most of it was fresh, really fresh. And WOW talk about having to level grind. I had to go to pretty much every zone in NR to finally hit 80. It felt like an achievement. It really did. Then Heroic dungeons opened up. Which felt a tad repetitive, but since there were more people around to play them, they quickly grew to become more fun. Then came Dallies, and the argent tournament. Jousting?!?! And the ability to go back to previous parts of Azeroth and just dominate and just quest for lore’s sake. OMG it was fun. Loremaster was my goal. Exploring every nook and cranny of outland was my in game dream. Getting to raid was really fun.
    After going for loremaster I came to appreciate the new quest area highlights in maps. It wasn’t needed as much in NR as it was DESPERATLY needed in the old world. Google helped me through lots of those old convoluted questlines. Finding Tiorn Fordrin in Eastern Plagulands and doing his quest line felt awesome. Lormaster was an insanely difficult but rewarding achievement. Getting the diplomat achievement sucked…. But again its an achievement. And outland. WoW outland.. Why aren’t we using that amazing place more often even today? Like really? Pretty much before Cat. Hit I had don’t almost everything and seen everything. Sadly my raiding guild decided to boot me as their main tank right as we reached Arthas so I was never able to beat him. Soon after though it seems that idea wasn’t popular since they seemed to collapse. Thankfully I kept my “real guild” who were just casual but friends who I would quest with and just raided as the main tank for another guild. I’m happy I never left my real guild for them. After that happened I decided to stop playing for a bit and get a social life. Joined some book clubs and other clubs, dated like crazy, met my girlfriend and just enjoyed life outside of wow. With the lack of new content it was east to take a break.

    Then Cat hit.
    After reading the new WoW books I was more than ready. I had the expansion downloaded and got going when it happened…. And was let down. What the hell happened to the story? What is wrong with the horde? THEY ARE THE BAD GUYS NOW. There is no hemming and hawing it… they are just evil… and it makes no sense. Wait why am I at war with them here, here and here but there, there, and there we need to work together. But not in certain parts of there and there. There they need to die… What? Where was the new landscapes and models? New types of quests. ALL OF IT IS RECYCLED! WHY DID I PAY FOR THIS? Wait, why is it so easy? It took me four days of half ass playing to hit 85…. What the hell? I thought I played Linear games before but this takes it to a whole new level.. Gone are the days of exploring and finding hidden quest givers. Gone are the cross continent massive stories. Gone is the wonder of what might be over there. Why? Because if im not told to go there, there isn’t anything there…. What the hell?
    Yes I understand that after getting loremaster pre Cat I would have done just about everything. But when I see the new Loremaster being a hand held fisher price shadow of its former self I’m damn pissed. Where is my original content? Like really? Most of it seems to be Outland rip-offs, or vanilla toons leveled up.
    My guild, my poor guild of hardcore lifeless players who have toons over every class have pretty much just stopped playing. They too are sick of the super easy PvE and the retardedly punishing dungeons. Its just not fun anymore. Sometimes you want to run those things with guildies for fun. Not be punished. Say what you will about the ability to blast through NR instances, but damnit admit that they were original and fun. Hell they even fixed the Occulus before cat hit. Now what? Stonecore, tornado filled zones of annoyance?
    There is almost nothing original here and it shows. There is no wonder if its more of the same. I feel ripped off by blizzard. I see no reason to Level grind rep when the story line tells me I’m these people friggin savior! What the hell do you mean Im not exalted by you? I just saved your entire way of life! The last 5 super easy hours of game play I was the Duke Nukem of this place and now you expect me to Grind rep?
    This should have been several free patches released over time with a better story attached. Fleshing out the why and the how. Not an expansion I dropped hard earned dollars for. I call BS and I quit wow.
    This is Bernardojune of the Alliance, Signing off.
    F.U. Blizzard. F.U.

  11. GASP! WALL-O-TXT! . . .



    dude im 100% with you there. except i have a huge feeling since im a super fanboy of SW, im going to give it more time. though i doupt i will ever 100% quit WoW, due to the fact that i have invested so much time and patience with the damn cursed thing. dont get me wront i love the game, but yes there comes a time when you just get burnt out on the same ole same ole.

    Great post Amatera.

  12. @Vayder

    As you said, some of us are getting burnt out. I have a feeling that’s the double-edged sword of MMOs. After one or two, a lot of people just get burned out. I know I definitely am.

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