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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Game Play: World Of Warcraft

You might have heard of this one...

So I finally play this game after GameFly sends me a free guest disc. I've refused to go out and spend money on it as I assumed my conclusion would be that I didn't want to spend the monthly fee.

And sure enough ...

Look, I get that if you can make WoW a spoke on your social hub, it is probably quite a lot of fun. As someone who prefers to mostly solo and sometimes multiplay, though, the cost of a monthly upkeep just doesn't make much sense. Nothing in the guest pass convinced me otherwise. Yes, the graphics are fairly good. Yes, it has quite the solid interface.

But just how much can one go into an area, kill X number of Y, return with a pittance of gold, eventually level up and then repeat? Sure - I get that this is the model by which the whole MMO genre has made its fortune, but I had three different characters and I could barely tell the gameplay apart. Sure, that's in part because I got too bored to reach a high enough level to get more distinct skills ... but it's not like I want to pay rent to get that right.

And I'm not sold on some of the mechanics. Can someone explain to my why ghosts in Warcraft are so encumbered by gravity? They're ghosts. So when my druid fell off a cliff and died on a random tree branch ... my ghost waved helplessy as it fell past him, only to get stuck at the bottom. The guest pass didn't seem to have the auto-stuck feature enabled, so I had to ping a GM.

The GM tried to impress me with an temporary ninja costume and brief "flying" (read ... low gravity jumping) abilities. It didn't really work. And I think the ninja costume might have been because my mage was running around in skivvies to see if her defense skill would get raised.

I'm not saying WoW is a bad game - clearly it is a cornerstone of MMO's. It's the genre that annoys me.

As a footnote, I poked back into Dungeon Runners to see how it was faring. Honestly ... not well. They've tacked on a bunch of ads to free accounts and I can't say the gameplay has really gotten any better since the beta.

Guess it's back to poking at roguelikes for me...


sterno said...

Absolutely. I tried to get into a couple MMO's briefly, namely EVE, Anarchy online, and City of Heroes, and I just couldn't do it. Now, granted, if i had a big group of my friends playing, maybe I could. When I played PlanetSide I was bored to death with it, but I played it for probably another two years after that point because I found a good group of friends to play with. I miss that honestly, but I just can't see myself getting engaged enough to stick through the inherent tedium of it.

I can only kill so many hamsters before they get boring. Then I level up and eventually I'm smiting big creatures who, when I think about it for a bit, seem awfully reminiscent of the hamsters that were kicking my butt previously. There's little challenge to it, it's just a matter of learning the patterns of behavior, and leveling up sufficiently to smite. You are rewarded for marathon play, not skill.

I was able to get into PlanetSide because it was the only MMO game I found that actually required skill and rewarded strategy. Sure you could just throw yourself into a mass of enemy soldiers over and over again and die incessantly. But you could also sneak past them, go blow up their power supply, and totally ruin their day. THAT was fun.

The best part though was that being social and working as a team was absolutely powerful in the game. Take 18 guys and have them all do random things, no big deal. Take those same guys and fully man 6 bombers, and you would absolutely lay waste to an enemy (until they got it together to work together enough to throw some serious AA up).

It got repetitive after a point, like I said, but it actually took some skill to play and it rewarded outside the box thinking. It wasn't a mindless treadmill like most MMO games.

Patrick said...

You've pretty much nailed the enchantment that has thralled millions on the head. Except you've missed the essential cluster-fuck, the game is designed to be so time consuming and miresome because that keeps you renewing your 'scrip.

Then again, the global economy is a lot like world of warcraft.

You might like Skyrates, a very different kind of game.