Blizzard’s Double-Edged Swords (a semi-return)
First off: I am not playing WoW again! I mean, I am a little bit, a few hours a week, but I’m not progression raiding or anything. I have a level 10 goblin! And I know where my bubble key is! That’s pretty much it.
Second off (what?): I miss writing here. I know I was a WoW blogger in my previous incarnation, but let this serve as official notice to anyone still following me that I intend to write about whatever game strikes my fancy.
(Oh, if you happened to get the last issue of the World of Warcraft magazine, I wrote the healing column. I am totally bragging about that because it’s pretty cool. Right now I’m working on an article for a future issue about going from “zero to hero” in Arenas that I think will be a fun read. Keep an eye out for it!)
My time away from the game has given me some perspective on it, I think. It’s amazing how quickly one adapts into ‘civilian’ life and things that seemed routine back in the day suddenly become strange and outlandish. My taste for progression raiding is certainly over. There are times when I can feel a twinge for it, but that’s mostly abstract competitiveness and not any real yen for raid content. In my natural habitat I have become truly casual, and the idea of spending even six hours a week in obligated game-playing gives me pause. That’s not to say that competitive raiding isn’t good, but at the end of the day I think it is no longer for me.
So here I am, fresh from the sunny elf-less void, and I have a few observations on the double-edged swords of WoW.
1. Too many numbers. I can imagine back in the day when Blizzard was developing WoW that making so much of the math available to the public seemed like a radical geek idea. And really, it was. I know plenty of folks — myself included — who deeply enjoyed burning the midnight oil calculating the exact efficiency increase between offhands. Heck, the Elitist Jerks community wouldn’t exist without mathcrafting! The problem is that by making those calculations available, they suddenly became mandatory.
As poor beleagured Ghostcrawler said in a recent post: “I’d love to have the discussion some time about how close two similar specs need to be before players will play the one that is most fun for them and not the one that does theoretical higher damage. Is it 5%? 1%? 0%?” It’s hard to defend playing the fun spec when the raw math is staring you in the face. In retrospect I wish WoW had held back some of the information to create a little fuzziness around that 5%.
2.Too many choices. WoW revolutionized the idea that an MMO can suit any lifestyle, and honestly now I think that was a critical mistake from the design perspective. Cross-server LFD? To hell with server community, or any community for that matter. Respecs whenever you want? No excuse not to be have a “perfect” spec in your back pocket. Addons to customize your UI? Gearscore!
To be fair, I feel a little silly demanding that MMO developers stop giving us so many options. And I am certainly not saying that progression raid guilds shouldn’t emphasize individual performance, although in all honesty I think most guilds that seriously raid make themselves crazy over that 5% damage difference when in fact it really only matters to Paragon and Premonition. Are we just not able to accept the great responsibility that comes with the great power of having a company attempt to cater to our every gameplay whim?
3. Too many people. So I have a confession to make. I didn’t reappear here entirely because of a love of writing. Recently someone I trusted as a person and as a guildie not only left our community (which is always sad but understandable) but attempted to pull the whole thing down with them on the way out. I will spare you the dramatic details, but suffice to say my retirement became “semi-” because I’ll be damned if I let the bad guy win. MMOs and other group games give us the opportunity to meet new people, make friends, and feel like part of something larger than ourselves. They also, occasionally, remind us that people can be dicks.
I guess really that’s my point for this whole piece, such as it is: perhaps Blizzard gave us the tools to be dicks to each other, but we’re the ones who use them.