Well, this is a surprise. After all these years of avoiding it like the plague, I’m giving World of Warcraft (WoW) a try. I’m still a little in shock about it myself, but I keep reassuring myself that I’m doing the right thing, if for dubious reasons:
- Given my claim to know about MMO design, I should really play WoW at some point
- …and on that note, I have in the past debated WoW’s design having not actually played it. Whilst Raph would understand, having credibility is a good thing
- I’ve lost many good friends to WoW in one form or another, so I’d like to confront their drug face-to-face
- Having played Ultima Online (UO) far too much in the past, fallen hopelessly in love for it, and yet hating it like a passion, I doubt any other MMO could come as close to UO’s darkside for getting me addicted
- …and my experimentations with Guild Wars * has shown that I’m mostly immune these days to MMO addiction
- …as have my playing around and running like the plague from Facebook ‘MMOs’, Runescape and Second Life (SL) (the later two of which I may have to write more about another time) – who would have thought it, UO may have cured me of MMOs!
- I happen to have some free time at the moment, a desire to play an RPG, and a yearning for fantasy landscapes. And sadly Ultima IX: Ascension has not magically became not-crap with age
- Most importantly, WoW is now free to play! Huzzah!
Since I claim to be playing WoW for academic purposes and not at all for personal enjoyment (oh no, of course not, whatever would give you that idea? Good heavens!), I’m going to be blogging my thoughts as I play through WoW’s free trial content. As previously mentioned, I think I’ve a pretty good idea about WoW, so I’ll be seeing how it compares to my impression of it, to the other MMOs I have played (UO, SL, Runescape, Guild Wars and various Facebook things), and what I know of product and game design.
WoW is currently trundling along installing itself in the background, but already I’ve noticed a few things:
Firstly, the WoW main website is pretty and has a good overview on what it feels like to play the game, but it is lacking in real figures and in-depth content. As a total geek and life-long roleplayer, I’m comfortable with hearing of “+2 epic kingslayers”, so I felt a little dumbed down to. I suppose this is good for getting more casual players involved, though! After digging around the site for a while, I found that I could no longer see the “Play for free!” link, which was a pain.
Once I had the link back, signing up was gloriously painless. I wish most games had a sign-up this straightforward. Few basic bits of details later, and I’ve downloaded the installer and received a welcome email explaining that I’ll need the details I just entered to log onto the game. There’s also a handy link to the free account limitations, which seemed fairly standard.
The installer itself looks very pretty which, whilst non-standard, helps you feel immediately immersed. I ignore the manual link for now and get the install going, then… wait, were’s the manual link gone?! Without being able to get to the manual in one click, I’m forced to rely on the internet for my new-game-information fix – more on that in a moment. The installer itself is tiny and downloads most game content, and is actually pretty swish. I can launch the game before it’s finished, making it quicker to get playing. As a long-time Steam user, I’m not used to this at all! Thumbs up, Blizzard!
So, the game is busy being schlurped** down the interweb pipes and I set about trying to learn all I can about my new
addictionobject-of-academic-study. As previously mentioned, the Blizzard site for WoW is short on game facts, and the beginner’s guide isn’t written for hardcore geeks. To be fair, most other games are exactly like this, too. Ultima Online has always relied heavily on UO Stratics to provide newbies with information. Second Life’s website looks and reads more like a realtor’s site – because they’re more in the business of virtual real estate than games, anyhow. Almost all Facebook games are as incomprehensible as they are boring (which they are). Runescape I recall had a fair amount of beginner information available, probably because of it’s younger audience and the need to get those free players hooked fast. I guess runescape can also cheat because it’s all about the ad revenue anyway***. Guildwars, however, beats everyone. There’s a great big obvious link to the Guild Wars Wiki, which is well-written, complete, and has starter guides.
The fascinating thing about the Guild Wars Wiki is that, despite being officially hosted, it is entirely community maintained. ArenaNet/NCSoft (the publishers of guildwars) really know how to generate a community around a game and keep it active and accessible. Blizzard, on the other hand, suck. Most of the major WoW wikis and blogs are awful things, that read like puff-pieces and are just impossible to understand. They also make the game sound entirely boring, which I’m really hoping it’s not.
The install is still underway, so I’m going to fire up Guild Wars to visit Nicholas the Traveler. So far it looks like WoW is living up to my expectations – all polish with little real substance. Well, we shall have to see….
* I originally accidentally typed “guidwars” here, and got images of an MMO based around Globally Unique IDentifiers. now that’s a MMO for coders! *ponders*
** Yes it is a word, because I say so
** Not actually true, but ads do cover the operating expenses for Jagex.