Thursday, May 23, 2013

Faffing away!

I've borrowed that word from Tome of the Ancient, as it is a perfect descriptor for what I've been doing in WoW this past week. Apparently my attention span is so abysmally short these days that I can't be bothered to play a single character for more than an hour at a time. So I've been bouncing back and forth between Wapsi, my current go-to decently geared level 90, and whatever leveling toon I feel like hanging out with. For example, I decided to work on my Loremaster Northrend zones with my feral druid (above), who has been sitting at level 70 since MoP dropped. Questing as feral is fun, especially with heirlooms, so I figured I would run around as a kitty for awhile until the dreary questing in Dragonblight drives me screaming to another toon in a sunnier zone. Before doing so, however, I needed to do some transmogging and buy some glyphs and buy her fast flight form etc etc. This tinkering and preparation is one of the things I like about playing many alts.

Wapsi oh Wapsi! Hitting bugs in the face with Stormstrike feels so good! Wapsi has been through both Ahn'Qiraj raids twice now, and is halfway to exalted with Cenarion Circle for her Guardian of Cenarius title. She's beaten the bugs until they exploded with goodies that she turned in to the quest givers at the entrance for her lovely new outfit.

Bug mounts! Bummer that she can't use them outside of the raids, they're pretty sweet. She got all of the colors, including the red one for the achievement.

For once, I felt like doing some new patch stuff as soon as it was available. Wapsi went on the new 5.3  scenarios and into Durotar and the Barrens at the bidding of Lorewalker Cho, and by the end of the evening had a nice new pair of boots. This is what I have been asking for- a little more frequent reward for effort in game. Grind + RNG is the motivation killer.

It was interesting to return to Horde territory with Wapsi, having recently defected from that faction. It felt good to work with the Darkspear trolls plotting Garrosh's overthrow, but even though I've turned my back on the Horde this expansion, I still think Orgrimmar is a more beautiful city than Stormwind. I miss the red and orange and brown color palette, the zeppelins, the tauren and trolls and blood elves. But I don't think the future looks too good for my favorite city, and I'm curious to see who the new Horde leader and capital city will be at expansion's end.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Achievements ahoy!

And now Kalimdor and Cataclysm zones are completed for Loremaster! My baby night elf warrior Marrion finally finished up Desolace and I was happy to get her out of there. For the previous loremaster zones, I've often finished up the questlines to see what happened, but the Desolace questline seemed awfully scattered and I was just ready to be done with it. In contrast, I really enjoyed Darkshore and Stonetalon Mountains. Playing through them as a night elf I felt particularly invested in the story of the destruction wrought upon their lands seemingly from all sides. 

Having done their part for Loremaster in the old world, my lowbie warrior and hunter will now be hitting the dungeon queues and working on their professions until they can make the journey to Outland at level 58.

My other achievements this week were with Wapsi, because after struggling through leveling and getting ganked on the PVP server my lowbies are on, it was nice to run around on a geared toon and without fear of sneaky Hordies.

Wapsi's working on her farm to finish getting to exalted with the mainland Pandaria factions. It'll take awhile but I'll take it over the dailies. She's halfway through honored with Kirin Tor Offensive so she'll want to finish a few dailies with them as well as running ToT LFR for Shado-Pan Assault. I'm in no hurry to get her through this content, but I will do it eventually to see how the story plays out.

Wapsi also finished up the final questline she had left in Valley of the Four Winds- the Nesingwary quests. I hated them. The Nesingwary quests of the past have always been notorious for asking you to kill lots and lots of harmless creatures, but this iteration seemed particularly bloodthirsty and meaningless. So having completed the Valley quests for the achievement, I can safely say I'll never be visiting Nesingwary in Pandaria again.

I've been wanting to get the Guardian of Cenarius title for awhile too, and since Wapsi already reached exalted with the Cenarion Expedition for the hippogryph mount, she's now working for the Cenarion Circle in Silithus. She completed the Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj this week, and I'm going to try the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj although as an intended 40-man raid I assume it will be much more difficult. Still, the Ruins were a faceroll so I'm hoping she can get through most of it.

I've been enjoying logging in each evening and just playing however I feel. Having a bunch of alts means that each one of them offers a little something different, so I'm still feeling like I have a lot that I want to do. Getting out of the endgame grind for awhile was a good choice for me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

WoW losing subscribers

Down 1.3 million in just the last quarter, according to MMO Champion. I've read a lot of blogs today that discuss the meaning and implications of this decline, and for the first time the majority of comments don't consider this a minor loss for a game with a still-heathy subscriber base. Players of all types seem to be considering that WoW may not be healthy right now. What differs, however, are opinions regarding the cause. Everyone seems to be discontented with a slightly different aspect of the game as it stands now.

Speaking for myself, I have felt over the course of this expansion that endgame play is enjoyable only in small bouts. Rep grinds and dailies + the RNG of LFR make level 90 play feel too much like a job. Perhaps others feel this way too, as reflected by the statement, also on MMO Champion, that many players charge through content and then unsubscribe until something new is released. The current endgame model cultivates burnout.

I still play in part because WoW is the best MMO option for a Mac user, but primarily because I love the lore and the visual aesthetics of Azeroth. I love the way the game interlocks with the book and comic series, and I think this is completely unique among the current MMOs. Due to this fact, WoW is also the first game I have ever played where I have been able to become personally invested in my characters, a feeling that builds as they explore the vast world from the starting zone to Pandaria. I really enjoy acquiring new skills and better gear, as well as improving my own skill through leveling. I am a 40-something woman with a stable career and home life, with bills to pay and pets to feed, and the role this game plays as an outlet for my imagination plays a big role in my day-to-day stress relief. But this feeling is lost when my toons reach level 90, and I feel they are no longer exploring but slogging through repetitious tasks for little reward. Just like a job, and a crappy one at that! Soon I give up on them and start another toon so I can return to feeling like a simple adventurer out in the world but destined for bigger things.

In the games I play, I'm looking for a beautiful world full of novelty and excitement, where I can imagine I'm part of a larger unfolding story. Leveling through Azeroth provides that in spades. If I engage in a grind where the novelty is lacking, I at least want it to provide reliable rewards at least every time I am able to log in each day and devote my time to the task. Questing is excellent for that, but repetitive dailies are not, and LFR failbags are definitely not.

I'm finally working seriously on Loremaster right now because adventuring and exploring all of Azeroth is more appealing to me than doing one more daily quest, even though I've just barely touched the Isle of Thunder story on my level 90s. And I've already thought more than once that when I have that title, aside from checking out some of the older raids, I might be about done with what I want to achieve in this game. Once I've explored everything in the world, and if new content continues to consist of endless repetitions at endgame, I find it hard to see my interest in the game being sustained.

It's hard to offer potential solutions to these issues in my gameplay, because as I said at the beginning, everyone enjoys different things, and based on this, everyone has different ideas for what needs to be changed.

So again, I speak only for myself in saying that the number one thing that would improve my enjoyment of endgame would be to increase the frequency of rewards. Each day when I complete my dailies with one faction, I want to get a letter from Jaina or Taran Zhu, like we got during the Shieldwall/Dominance story, but including some substantial reward (as in, not 28G 50S). Each LFR I complete with no drops I want a similar letter. I want to feel a sense of accomplishment, both in terms of participating in the story and in terms of acquiring something that will help my toon do her job in conquering evil.

The novelty issue is more difficult. The current model of frequent patches consisting of repetitive content is a recipe for burnout and is clearly not working. Switching among alts might keep things fresh, but despite the changes made for alts grinding faction rep, it's still a long haul and coupled with the frequency of running a week's worth of LFR without a single drop, and the gating of faction rewards with valor as well as rep, not an enjoyable way to spend one's gaming time for more than one toon. The endgame content as it stands is just not repeatable. There are few options for generating novelty across multiple toons, but realizing there are limits to just how much new content Blizzard can put out, I just hope that someone smarter than me (and smarter than the current dev team) figures out how to put a new shine on the endgame.

That's about all I have on the topic. I'll be merrily playing my Loremaster team through the upcoming weeks, and then we'll see where I go from there.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The state of my game

I'm still playing WoW, still looking forward to my couple of hours each evening to dive into Azeroth and away from the cares of the real world. But I've shifted my gameplay in a few significant ways.

First off, I'm turning my back on the Horde until Garrosh is gone, or until I feel like playing a toon I can think of as being somewhat accepting of Garrosh's activities. My death knight, blood elf warrior or orc warlock perhaps. I couldn't imagine Wapsi, as a tauren, not being disgusted by the events of the Dominance Offensive storyline. So she joined my shadow priest and my other Alliance toons as a Horde defector.

Soon after arriving in Stormwind, Wapsi finally got her sha-touched weapon and moved on to the Isle of Thunder. But there she stalled. I still don't feel like doing dailies. I still don't feel like running LFRs for 8 hours a week for on average 0-1 drops. Add in 3 more level 90 alts and that's 3 times more of stuff I don't really like to do, at least not right now. I needed a change.

I've been reading a lot of lore lately. Tides of War was great, and it made me dislike the Horde even more, if not for being outright evil then for letting Garrosh go on and doing little aside from muttering in the background. I began to really identify with the Alliance heroes, especially Jaina and Varian and Anduin. I am anxiously awaiting their final clash with Garrosh at the end of this expansion.

Although I was more interested in playing Alliance than ever before, I couldn't get into my partially leveled toon. I wanted to experience the Alliance from the ground up, savoring the lore along the way. So I rolled a new toon on a faraway, low population PVP server, no money, no heirlooms, just making my way in the world of the Alliance, where the Horde is only the enemy.

Anamosa may or may not have taken the Worgen curse willingly. But as a hunter, she finds that her new animal side greatly enhances her bond with her pets, and with her prey.

Oh, how I wish that hunters wore mail from the start, as her low-level quest rewards are perfect for a hunter out exploring the dangerous world! At least the vicious stable of pets she's tamed will always be with her.

Anamosa and two more toons I will be creating soon will be picking up the remaining zones I need for the loremaster achievement. I'm hoping I won't poop out on that goal like I have before, and that questing through zones here and there on different alts will keep it from becoming a grind.

Last night Anamosa ran all over Kalimdor picking up flight paths on her way to Feralas for her next bout of questing. I had a blast mining ore, taming pets, seeing the sights, and ganking the occasional forsaken rogue who shouldn't have picked a fight with me. I have to say that at the moment, playing on a PVP server is pretty fun. It heightens the feeling of being out in a dangerous world full of conflict, and as for the level 90 griefers, I'm keeping a little book so that Anamosa can visit them sometime down the road! And there might be one tauren druid who will be getting a few letters from a level 1 goblin...

I'm trying to notice all of the little things too. After paying a lot more attention to the Anamosa's Gilnean history, I like seeing the the night elves and worgen are allied together throughout the world. Anamosa can always find a fellow worgen at a night elf outpost. Here's Jeffrey Gregarius and his pet cat Spaz, which made me smile.

I'm immersed in all that I love about WoW again!