Archive for the ‘WoW’ Category

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So, About WoW…

July 25, 2007

Yeah, instead of quitting, I just got my dwarf to level 61. Maybe when he hits level 70 I’ll stop playing. Or something.

But what happens to Boar if I quit?

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Do I Quit WoW?

July 16, 2007

So. Should I quit World of Warcraft? I haven’t played in a couple of months now, and when I log on to kill an hour with my weird alien shaman, Airiksandir, I just look at my quest list and think to myself, “I really don’t want to do all these damned Strangethorn quests again.” It’s the same stuff again. But I’ve got 25 gold to spend, and I still haven’t seen most of the Outlands (is that what it’s called?).

The lvl 60+ zones don’t seem real well built to me. Shattrath City is an ugly bore, and the wilderness is overcrowded with monsters that really punish exploration, it feels like. But the Draenei starting area was magnificently well put together. The first 20 levels with my new character were great fun, all over again. But do I want to pay $15 a month to drag that dude to a higher level for no reason? Shouldn’t I be playing with my 360, instead? I’ve hardly touched that thing.

(And of course, right after I log in with my riffing-on-Russian-named character, I see a Draenei named Vassili Zaytsev and slap myself in the forehead. Why didn’t I think of that?)

Music: Nine Black Alps, “Cosmopolitan”

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WoW and the Armory

March 5, 2007

Apparently every character on every World of Warcraft server is now online at Blizzard’s beta Armory site — including mine. For some reason, it feels weird to me to have my character’s statistics out there for all the world to see. There was something about requiring other players to sidle up next to mine in the game world and “inspect” my dwarf, if they wanted to get a good look, that felt like it was part of the vague authenticity of the setting. Now my character isn’t a mysterious stranger to anyone, isn’t a passerby to anyone, isn’t part of a breathing imaginary world granting background depth to anyone in what is really a pretty shallow game experience.

Instead, now my character is just another googlable (sic) commodity on the internet, another Thottbot-able factor in the game world, no more mysterious or separate from the automated mobs of the fantasy landscape than anything else. It’s the same for your character. I see you on the boat to Auberdine, now, and I drop your name into a search field and regard you as little more than a build. One more mechanical hurdle goes up between me and the process of imagining that some unique tale stretches behind your blue character, his broken horns, his magical shield, his green tabard.

At the same time, you’re dropping my name into a search field, looking at my inefficient talent specs, out-of-date equipment and under-developed Fishing skill and deciding that I’m a useless goober. Your mysterious stranger turns to me as the sparkling surface of the Forgotten Sea slides by in the windy background, the surf shifting against the ship’s creaking hull, and he says, “OMG u spec suk n00b!” And then, like a flag torn free of its pole in the oceanic wind, the last shred of wonder in the world of Warcraft goes fluttering away.

The geekish fascination of having all of the game’s player characters visible from the outside world is undeniable. The Armory site is like a porthole through which we can all look in at the fishes — it’s a window between the imaginary world we share by choice and the real world we share by default. It heightens the sense that we’re all playing the same game and sharing the same experience. That’s kind of marvelous.

And yet, fuck that. The advantage of the jillion identical servers in the game is that the world feels a little more cozy, despite the eight million asshats running around (myself included) repeating the same (desperate! mighty! heroic!) quests (that only you can do! you’re our only hope! at last, our savior!) over and again. Blizzard’s content creators have put forward a lot of effort to help us feel like we’re experiencing our own unique adventures, even though we have to ignore a lot of little cues to the contrary. It’s a happy illusion. The Armory site undermines that. No, not in a big way, but in a big enough way that it’s a symptom of what has been an ongoing issue for me with World of Warcraft: It has become primarily a spectator sport.

With every expansion, update and revision, it seems like the focus of the game drifts further toward becoming a virtual gladiatorial match between look-alike avatars of obsessive competitors. The Armory becomes part of the 24-hour sports-channel giving you constant updates on the players. Does this bother me only because I don’t play at the level of the pros? Probably.

But you can’t deny that some of the special magic is lost I find out that my silly dwarf hunter is just a line item on three pages of characters named Glasgow, or that your blue-skinned, long-tailed Russian space-alien is just one of twelve pages of Rasputins.

Music: Ladytron, “Beauty*2”