In light of the announcement of World of Warcraft Classic, everybody’s abuzz with WoW nostalgia, so I thought it would be fun to re-post my very first thoughts about WoW Vanilla from 2006.
World of Warcraft
October 10, 2006
Inspired by the recent episode of South Park, and being bored with FlatOut2, I finally installed my trial version of World of Warcraft yesterday, which I’d gotten with a video card about a year ago I think. I’ve been trying to stay away from MMORPGs because, as South Park indicated, you really can’t play them competitively unless you’re willing to join some kind of guild and give up your life, and really, what’s the point in playing a game if not to win? :) But I’ve heard repeatedly that WoW was particularly good for so-called “casual gamers” and people who liked solo adventuring, so I gave it a shot.
First of all, installation is not for the faint of heart. It took about two hours to complete the installation and updates. It was roughly like installing Windows. I should have expected that, but it was still annoying. Especially the part where you have to forward some ports to help the silly peer-to-peer update downloader.
Once I was in the game, I was immediately struck by the physical similarities to Asheron’s Call (the first one - I didn’t play the second one). The running mechanics are the same, the falling mechanics are the same (the way you sort of blink back and forth between the falling stance and the running stance when you go down a steep slope). If they’re not the same engine (and there is no mention of it that I can find), Blizzard clearly modeled their engine to work like Turbine’s engine. This is not necessarily a bad thing, btw, I was just expecting something, well, different.
Gameplay is about the same as Asheron’s Call, too. And this is a criticism. Because at first, your focus is basically on getting the hell away from the starting town as fast as humanly possible, before the n00b stupidity plague infects your brain too much.
All the standard n00bs are represented: The people standing around begging for weapons and armor, the people standing around begging to know where quest items and places are, the people standing around trying to sell their useless wares they crafted, and the ever-popular people begging to team up for adventure. I frown on such people because all you have to do is get off your lazy butt and explore the world a little bit to find the information you need.
All the standard n00b exploiters are there too, like the people selling items at ridiculous prices and the people talking about how stupid n00bs are (those people invariably end every chat line with “lol”: “u noobs r so stoopid lol”).
Which brings me to all the people who act like asses when you put them in a virtual 3D environment: The people who run around with no clothes on, the people who talk about how drunk they are all the time, the people with dirty names, etc. We didn’t have dancing in AC, but you’ll see plenty of it in WoW: There’s usually a group of people in town just standing around dancing. (As a bonus, at the local inn, you can almost always find one or more people standing on tables dancing with no clothes on.) It’s funny for a few seconds, then it’s just stupid. For those people, the game is essentially a glorified $15/month chat client.
Moving on. So far, I can say that the claims of satisfying solo adventuring are rather exaggerated, at least through level 8. I don’t know where the whole “instancing” thing is supposed to be. I guess that’s only for the high level people. In my adventuring, I had to deal with plenty of the standard lot of n00bs and dorks hanging around with me in the Farigold Mine (or whatever it was called). Those most hated dorks of all were there too: The people trying to steal your kills. I hate those people. Hate them, hate them, hate them. At least in WoW you are assured that you get the loot from your kill if you do the most damage. But it is so annoying to share the experience points with some twink running around with a super-weapon and no clothes. And there was only one Goldtooth Kobold dude that everyone was trying to kill for a quest item, so there was the obligatory “circular firing squad” crowd hanging around his area waiting for him to spawn. In a nutshell, it’s the usual crowd of fellow questers in every quest area fighting for the same quest items, just like in Asheron’s Call. Lame.
On the plus side, it was worth a lot of experience to do the quests, so at least you don’t have to stand around repetitively killing monsters all day to gain experience. (Though you’ll get much better loot that way.) Unfortunately, it takes forever to complete the quests because you have to run all over the countryside (and contend with the other dorky questers), so I’m not sure it’s really worth it. You just have to figure on X amount of hours of gaming to acheive level Y, no matter what you do.
Overall, I can’t figure out why it’s so popular. Through level 8, it’s almost exactly the same as Asheron’s Call from, like, six or seven years ago. It’s fun if you’re bored I guess, but you’ll still be spending a lot of time wading through hordes of idiot gamers, and staring mindlessly at the screen while running from place to place.
I give it a 3… out of 5.
World of Warcraft Addendum
October 11, 2006
Addendum: So I go to login to WoW last night to see how many levels I can acheive with a 14-day trial account, and it says the server is full and I have to wait in a queue for some 30 minutes to get in! You have got to be kidding me. That seals the deal. There is no way I’m going to pay $15/month for the privilege of not being able to get on the freakin’ server! That is just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. I’d much rather play in severe lag than not be able to get in at all.
You can pick another server to play on, but, of course, you have to start a brand new character. Remembering that the Chinese symbol for “crisis” is the same as the one for “opportunity,” I took the opportunity to try out a gnome rogue who looks a little bit like Mario. It was actually kind of fun waddling around killing wolves, and not very crowded up in the snowy mountains. It was more fun than starting out as the human warrior, actually. There aren’t as many gnomes running around without clothes, at least. :) And I only saw one person with “spooge” in his name. Maybe it’s just because it was a new server.
One thing that’s different from Asheron’s Call… it’s way easier to start from scratch in WoW. There’s not much danger of dying from any of the early monsters; they don’t even attack unless you attack them first.
World of Warcraft Redux
October 23, 2006
Perhaps this was inevitable, but in the absence of anything better to play, I’m reversing my stance on World of Warcraft. It’s grown on me like an infectious fungus, so I paid the $20 activation fee so I could keep playing past the free trial period.
I got my original human warrior up to level 14, but I was having a lot of difficulty soloing in Westfall against the stupid Defias mages that shoot freakin 75 point fireballs at you, and against those stupid Murloc frog creatures at the coastline that gang up on you with their pet crabs. Soloing more than one monster near your own level is almost impossible in WoW, unless maybe you have a huge stash of healing potions, which being a new player I obviously don’t. Anyway, those obstacles brought my ability to complete quests to a screeching halt, so I started thinking about a new character template.
I did a little web research and found that hunters and warlocks are the most recommended classes for solo play, because of their ability to use combat pets. So I started a new floppy-eared night elf hunter.
In a nutshell, a hunter with a pet just plain rocks for solo adventuring. It’s a huge improvement over the warrior, and I can’t imagine life without a pet now. I send my pet owl to attack a monster, then stand back and fire arrows from a distance while the monster battles my owl, and I don’t get a scratch. It’s awesome. This is no wimpy owl, either — it can dish out some damage. Between the two of us, the poor monster is usually dead in seconds. Most of the time, the owl can handle itself just fine even without my help. If I end up fighting multiple monsters, I’ll direct the owl to fight (and distract) one monster while I fight the other, and the owl usually kills his monster before I finish mine.