In Darkest Knight

Where once I set to any new World of Warcraft information, such as this fresh bag of facts about the new Death Knight class, with the hopeless hunger of a hardcore Star Wars fan hearing there’s to be a novel about the secret origin of Moff Tarkin or something, now I only pick up stuff about patch content and the like in passing. I react in the same way I would to hearing about an old crush who I eventually learned wasn’t terribly interesting. Got a new haircut, has she? Yeah, I suppose she would make quite a good primary school teacher. A belly-button piercing? Really? With her stomach?

I am so over WoW, and have been for around half a year now. In retrospect, I blame the Burning Crusade.

While it was big and beautiful and thoroughly devoured all my spare time for several months, I think it also broke what I loved about Warcraft. Because everyone just ferried off to the same areas en masse as they climbed up the level ladder, and after that to the same instances and battlegrounds, there wasn’t much room for exploration and wild adventure. No tales of “did you hear about the two-headed ogre on the other continent?” “Have you done that quest with the hallucinogenic potions?” In WoW vanilla, at least for its first year, higher-level players were like seasoned sailors returning from far-flung corners of the uncharted ocean. Here be dragons, yetis and murlocs. None o’that now. Just one big sightseeing bus that everyone gets on together, receiving a stamp on their souvenir passport at each stop.

And so the numbers took over. With the simple joy of being in another world evaporating fast, the snobbish statisticians inhereted the game. In Outland, you’re defined only by the damage per second of your weapon or mana buff of your chestpiece. I had a miserable time in my last month or so, the Guild I was in pestering me to do this, upgrade that, attune for this place. Improve Those Numbers. It’s exactly what people want, of course. The days of a steady stream of new players are, I suspect, over as a result though. WoW’s no longer famed for its accessibility. It’s famed for the obsession of its players. While the mainstream press will cry that this obsession is something to do with avoiding reality or killing things in obscene numbers, actually it’s just about watching the numbers go up. It’s a remarkably overt way of feeling like you’re achieving something, which is why people get so hooked.

I’m not stupid enough to think I’ll never go back. It’ll happen, inevitably, with the next expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, and already dull sparks of interest are flickering in my jaded brain. I’ve been reading this discussion of the new Death Knight class on the official site (one of those faintly hilarious promotional pieces that pretends it’s journalism but it is really some guy answering his own questions), and where it talks about the importance of having another Tank class is where I leant forward to listen more closely.

One of my WoW problems is the rigidity of the group you need for an instanced dungeon. Gotta have a warrior, gotta have a priest, gotta have a mage. This made being five adventurers going off to vanquish evil incredibly difficult, as you ended up hanging around waiting for the right class to join your group, ignoring myriad requests from other folk, desperate to play but who didn’t fit the precise requirement. Sorry to bring it up again (especially as I’m not actually suggesting WoW change to be like it, which would be insane – I’m just making a point about how it affects the experience), but as I strongly suspect it’s going to be my game of the year, I can’t help but refer to Team Fortress 2 here. Need a medic or an engineer or a spy? Someone can just change to one, right there. No waiting, no begging, no losing horribly required.

The new Death Knight class means there’s a wider choice of tanks, and thus potentially more hope of finding a balanced pick-up group. “The design balance we’re aiming for is one where all the tank classes are equally good at tanking in general so that you can use whatever tank you happen to have for five-player content, but at the same time we want tanks to be clearly distinct so they excel in different ways in various raid encounters,” says the ‘World of Warcraft design team’ in the ‘interview’ (what, multiple mouths speaking in one freakish chorus?). “So our goal is to make the death knight a viable, fun tank that coexists with the current tanking classes without replacing them. Keep in mind that even though the death knight is a hero class, that doesn’t mean it is more powerful than the other classes, just that it will offer a very different playing experience.”

Promising. I just hope it means I have more chance of dropping occasionally into the game and having some fun, rather than having to play hour in, hour out in the hope that fun just happens to come along.

Edit – just found this recent interview with Blizzard’s Chris Metzen in which he admits “there was nothing really personal about” The Burning Crusade, and hopes to fix this with Lich King. Ooo. But… oh God. Just when I thought I was out…


  1. Thelps says:

    I miss WoW, but my guild was ranked very highly globally, so I probably just miss the fame of being the 2nd best guild on a server with the world number 1 guild on it (keep in mind that DOESN’T make my guild world number 2). Heck, that’s probably why I’m posting this. I was awesome at WoW.

    Sad thing is though, I can’t shake the fact that really all I did was put way, way more time in than the next guy. This characterised my last year of WoW, while as the year before that was an adventure of exploration and new experiences. After you hit the level cap and move on to raiding content it starts to feel more like being a professional athlete required to put in a minimum number of training hours a day, constantly aware that if you don’;t you’re letting your guild down.

    Anyway, Wrath of the Lich King looks really, really interesting, and I appreciate Blizzard’s efforts to give people more options on group setup, but WoW’s divide between the casual player and the hardcore raider has grown so vast that it will have to impact the number of subscribers eventually.

  2. Martin Coxall says:

    I lost interest in WoW because of BC too.

    The thing is, the dungeons and raids in BC was top-notch, but you had to sit through SOOOO much solo gather-collect quest inanity that by level 64 I was losing the will to live. I know that part of what made WoW successful was that much of it was easy to solo, but Blizzard have overdone it. There will be a cruel irony if its metric shitload of endless and distinctly fun-free solo bollock eventually finishes it off.

    Uncharitably, I would say that Blizzard needs other MMOs to steal new ideas off of, and unfortunately for them, the next generation of MMOs isn’t due to hit until March 2008.

  3. Andrew Farrell says:

    Yeah, but that means that WoW will probably be able to start picking gems from their bones by September 2008.

  4. Jim Rossignol says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to copy Eve.

  5. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Nice article, sums up what ive been trying to explain to my guildmates for ages. WHY DID YOU QUIT? Because of the LADDER of PROGRESSION. The main problem was everyone went to hellfire first, then zangarmarsh, then terrokar. In WoW, you could get two characters to 60 without doing any of the zones in the same order pretty much – i’ve never quested in Un’Goro, for instance, and only when I tried a horde char did I find out properly about 1000 needles. And I have 3 level 60s!

    Havent played in months, but as you say, the new expansion may draw me back for a gander

  6. Kelduum says:

    Well, at least in Eve Online, new expansions with extra content and shiny stuff (new graphics engine is next!) doesnt cost you extra :D

    Plus, leaving for a while isnt too bad, as skills actually train even when you arent paying for the account, and of course, the well-organised noob-swarm of 1 day old characters can take still down the 4 year old player with a little direction.

    Although, it would be interesting to see if someone could successfully copy Eve – I think it may be very difficult, if not impossible, due to the player driven economy requiring a substantial number of people to kick-start (which is a massive factor of Eve).

  7. Nuyan says:

    “I’m still waiting for someone to copy Eve.”

    Me too. I’m done with games like WoW that don’t even feel like real MMO’s to me. The first big developer to embrace the sandbox concept with at the same time “very fun to play” gameplay will be the next big MMO.

    In the meantime I’ll continue to play Eve Online.

  8. Battlechick says:

    This is exactly why I am finding WoW so frustrating at the moment. My guild spends all its time levelling up to 70, attuning for Kara and then jumping ship to a new guild because some of us actually just want to explore and have fun. The joy and, dare I say it, the innocence has gone. Currently, every quest in my log is either a dungeon or a 5 person group, which makes it nigh on impossible to do anything on my own and getting a pick up group together, omg, it’s just hard work… I think I’m going to defect back to my second love, Guild Wars.

  9. Kast says:

    I’ve recently started playing WoW properly and really am not interested in instances and guilds. I just want to explore beautiful landscapes and go to distant lands. I’ve snuck through Aschenvale at level 20, dodging ?? Burning Legion demons and the like just to admire the scenery. The whole competative side of WoW can ruin a pleasant walk in the park.

  10. Martin Coxall says:

    In the end, I found playing on a private server, with the XP and rep and cash turned up 15-fold or so makes WoW a game that feels far less like work.

    So what MMOs should I be playing whilst waiting for Conan and Warhammer?

  11. Homunculus says:

    what, multiple mouths speaking in one freakish chorus?


  12. Del Boy says:

    I’ve started Wow for the first time using the 10-day trial.

    Envy me everyone, envy me!

  13. drunkymonkey says:

    I’ve recently found myself back into WoW. I have a level 23 character, a gnome mage, on a RP server, and it’s a whole lot of (familiar) fun, once again. I stopped playing for four months back in May, but returning has been easy, without stress, and like returning to an old friend.

    But to be honest, I couldn’t care less for WotLK