Game Review: World of Warcraft - The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Shawn Delahunty's picture

EDIT: An important correction was made to this post near the very end. Please scroll down for the full scoop.


The subtitle of this blog-post is an adaptation of an old, fairly well-known Zen Buddhist koan (profound question): "What is the sound of one-hand clapping?" It's not a real question in the classic sense, but instead is intended as a probing statement. It's meant to stimulate thinking on the part of the listener, to get them to ponder their full state of mind, state of being. True Zen practitioners would take a great while before answering, usually with something equally cryptic.

Since I was a kid though, I have had an immediate answer for this supposedly profound question. (I say "supposedly profound", not because I'm belittling Zen Buddhism, but because I've always been way too literal-minded. The question never struck me as being 'profound' in any sense.) My answer when asked that question? "Pointless."

At first blush, my answer may seem thought-provoking; as if someone had asked me, "How much is 7 minus 3?" and I answered, "Orange." This casual listener, perhaps slightly familiar with Zen Buddhism, might suppose that I was seriously attempting to probe the deeper-meanings of myself, my being, and how I relate to my universal "one-ness". They could be excused for thinking that I was attempting to give a 'profound, meaningful, inner answer' to the 'profound question'.

I hate to disappoint anybody, but here's what actually goes on in my head:

  1. Some person asks me, "What is the sound of one-hand clapping?"
  2. I immediately get a visual picture in my head of some vaguely cartoony doofus, standing there cross-eyed, drooling slightly, and miming the clapping action with one arm. Nowadays, that old mental image of mine gets mixed in with a generous helping of South Park. Now the poor sot, thrashing one arm, yells, "TIMMAYYY! Libbelow TIMMAY!" (For those not familiar with SouthPark, you'll need to go look him up.)

My glib answer of, "Pointless." ought to make more sense now. That's what one-handed clapping is to me.

So what does this mean with regards to World of WarCraft? Well, that's actually a longer story than it might at first seem. At the urging of folks here and in my real-life, I decided to try out WoW. It's hard to argue with the "FREE" part they just introduced, so what the heck, I decided to try the thing. I figured at the very least it might be good for a laugh; I had some bandwidth to burn--good thing too, this thing was STUPIDLY huge. 10+ GIGABYTES worth of huge. (Yeah, I've got a measly 3Mbit DSL. When I hear the crushing sound of money raining down on me, I'll splurge on an upgrade.)

So I set it downloading, watched it for a minute, and went to bed. In some ways, this was fuzzy nostalgia for me. I remember the early days of the public Internet, when 14.4-Kbit modems were "State of the Art". So this very much reminded me of those heady days, when downloading "UNBELIEVABLY HUGE, 5 and 6 MEGABYTE programs" was a big deal; something you had to plan your whole day around. (This was in the era when people could never reach me by phone, since the line was always busy.)

The next morning, I noted that the download was complete, and went on with my workday. That night, I took an hour to try it out.

As I've come to expect from Blizzard, the intro cinematic was terrific. I particularly liked the quality of the voice-over narration, as it instantly swept my imagination into an intriguing setting and established a mood as thick and juicy as a 1-inch thick, New York strip steak. While I was only peripherally familiar with the WarCraft universe, I found my mind whirling a bit with questions about how the grand story might unfold.

The second thing I noticed, before I even logged into my BattleNet account, was the AMAZING music for this game. I am a sucker for movie soundtracks and instrumental works; I commonly use them while coding, writing, drawing, and so forth. I enjoy it so much, in point of fact, that I'm listening to it right now as I write this post, with the WoW launcher just idling on another screen. (In case anyone is confused by that last statement, let me clarify: I run Linux for 99% of everything. I have done so personally and professionally for 16 years now. I have no less than 12 virtual screens up, all loaded with crap)

So far, so great. Time to play a bit.

As I'd never before played the game myself, only watched others do so, my initial preference was to, "play it safe." Hence I chose to run a human, male, 'Hunter' character type. I did so for a couple of good reasons:

  1. Male - Done mostly because I've already done the female role-playing thing in the past; fairly unconvincingly I might add.
  2. Human - Since I would be exploring wholly unfamiliar game-mechanics, stat-building (yeah, right), and skill-tree testing, I wanted to start with something that is at least partially known to me--human capabilities.
  3. Hunter - I actually picked this one for 2 separate reasons.
    • -- My overriding reason for this class selection was because you get a nifty little helper/pet. I wanted to explore solo, and knew from my past CRPG experience that I have a terrific talent for getting in WAY over my head. Rapidly. A loyal-but-dumb AI "monster-chomper" seemed like a good beginner's crutch.
    • -- Secondly, I have a preference for distance-attack tactics. I also flat-out just suck at running wizards. I don't know why, but I can kill them reliably before they have a chance to gain many levels. That meant I needed something that was good with a bow and arrow. In the Diablo series, this was the "Rogue" or "Amazon/Bow-azon" character type. The rogue-type in WoW seemed to harken back more closely to the D & D class designation of "Thief", dual-wielding daggers and all.
  4. "Normal" Difficulty - As I just wanted to poke around initially, with no sudden player or enemy attacks from anywhere, this seemed best.

Round 1 - Newb On the Loose

I finished creating my very first WoW character, the game connected to whatever server it had recommended, and after a brief pause I found myself in front of a little cathedral or church. At which point I immediately did what I always do in a new RPG--ignore the 'obvious' thing you're supposed to do first. In this case, I found myself parked in front of some dude with a big, glowy, "Pay attention to me!" exclamation-point. My first instinct is to leave the poor sod standing there. I take the view, "Hey, it's my game bub. I'll play it my way." So I took off in a random, interesting-looking direction, and went exploring.

It turned out about as well as you might expect. Within minutes, I had accidentally walked up on a group of "Mangy Wolves". Within seconds I saw my pet get turned into a fur-pelt-carpet by a ravening wild wolf. Three seconds later I was laid out on the ground as a matching human-pelt-carpet. I can't say I was surprised, it happens to me a lot in new games.

What happened next though, I didn't expect at all. I clicked on the "Release Spirit" button. Suddenly, a bright flash filled the screen, and there I was, a translucent ghost, in a world turned to cool shades of black and white. I have to admit that was different; an extremely nice touch. I hadn't expected that game mechanic, but do like it very much. It's a slick, polished, well-thought out feature--just the kind of thing that Blizzard has shown themselves to excel at time after time.

I fooled about in the game as a ghost for a while, then decided to go find my body and resurrect. Popping back into full-color was an interesting experience. Still just messing about, I next cast the spell to resurrect my fuzzy wolf buddy. About 8 seconds after that event, he dies once more, and I get my ass eaten again. Hmm. Not doing so well. I figured that I might just get a clean start instead; something with a more "serious" role-playing name this time.

Round 2 - The Newb, Redux

Thus emboldened, I "re-roll" another character. (I'm using the term loosely here, as there isn't exacly much in the way of "STATS management" like a classic CRPG. WoW is very much like the old Amiga game, The Faery Tale in this regard. You just start the game with whatever stats are handed to you. Also like The Faery Tale, you raise your level/stats by whacking stuff over the head with whatever you happen to find laying around.) Done with my rebellious, punk rock attitude for the moment, I decide to "play by the rules" a little bit with this new guy.

So I re-enter game, talk to what-his-face at the church, and get the basic, "Go kill the big, mean, hairy rats/dogs/wargs/blargs/worms/whatevers" quest handed to all clueless newbs. Okey dokey, off I go. I kill low-level trash monsters, learning more about the interface as I do. I return to the fellow, click through the dialog to complete the quest, and...

He applauds.

My brain explodes.

"WHAT?!?!?"

I quite literally stared at the screen in mute, staggered, disbelief.

This NPC is... actually... applauding? (At this point, it would have been completely appropriate if a whole slew of "WTF?!?" thought-balloons had appeared over my character's head in-game.) I looked around, to see if the game was actuating an animation for someone else, one of the gaggle of other, slightly higher-level newbs running about, all busy killing little, furry, trashy, first-level, monster-y things.

Nope. This clown is definitely applauding me. Somehow, the designers felt that the very best thing the scripted in-game logic should do, is clap. I remember clearly thinking to myself, "This does not bode well."

No, I didn't give up on the game, though I was sorely tempted. I kept at it, an hour or two at a time. I will say that the quest rewards got less cheesy, and I took delight in some of the loot rewards. (I'm especially pleased with the 'auto comparison' which WoW does, when you highlight a quest's "potential reward item"--it's very easy to determine whether you should even consider a given item, or if you've already earned/bought/found better swag. +10 points to Blizzard for that.) I continued playing, a couple hours each night, until my grizzled hunter character reached level 14 or so. At that point I felt I had enough material to ponder over and write this review.

Round 3 - The Findings

Ok, I've officially played World of Warcraft now. What do I think? That's complicated.

On it's face, the game impressed me. It's a very different experience from my EverQuest days. For the most part, that is a fantastically good thing. The game world feels a lot less sparse. The interfaces are leaps and bounds ahead, and as slick and polished as I've seen--which, again, is one area where Blizzard has few peers. I greatly enjoyed exploring the different towns and parts of the world very much. I got a huge thrill when I finally figured out that I could catch a ride to other parts of the continent thanks to the "Rent-a-gryhpon Yellow-Beak Taxi Service." (Yes, it took me a while to figure this out. Yes, I'm a bit slow in that regard I suppose--I didn't read anything online, and I deliberately avoided chatting much with other players.) That part was so exciting I made some screenshots of the experience.

wow_gryphonrideHoly Crap! This is wicked cool!

Unlike a great number of folks, I found I was not put off by the "cartoon-y" art style. This was a pleasant surprise, as I'd gritted my teeth a bit going in. I'm no fan of anime by any stretch; I'd rather go donate blood or see a dentist, than be forced to watch or play or read something in the anime-style. Blech. Chalk it up to this; I played games back when on-screen characters resembled 4-color blobs made of fuzzy Legos, so I can overlook a lot with regards to artwork. If the gameplay is good, I can handle just about anything. Initially at least, I found WoW to have decent enough gameplay. The animations are also quite fun and decently well done, which goes a long way towards engendering believability and immersion.

All this sounds pretty positive, and I suppose it is. One problem; by the time I quit actively playing, a genuine dissatisfaction started to creep in. I grew less and less interested in the game. The source of this feeling has been hard to pin down. I knew from the beginning that the game wasn't going to provide an immersive story, so that wasn't the problem. I also knew that there was just about ZERO chance I would get enthralled by any "classic" role-playing. I honestly tried very, very hard not to judge the game for any of this. Part of that I accomplished by not engaging with other players, part came from playing on a NON-PvP server. So I didn't suffer from "griefing" or other player-induced irritations which had ruined the EverQuest experience.

That's not to say I did not interact at all. I actually did (and still do) spend a good bit of time parked on a nearby fence, observing the various duels and other group interactions. Occasionally I would even help out a newb character who was in over their head. As I jogged past someone in trouble, I would send a couple "slowing attack" arrows into the beastie that was roughing them up. I spent almost no time chatting though. If the newb character turned, to see who had intervened, I would have my avatar give a little wave; then I would continue onward.

But still, by the time I was closing in on level 15, the game became more and more boring to "play". Sure, I could entertain myself by going exploring, but actually "playing the game", leveling up my character, learning more of my profession/secondary skills, following quests, etc., all failed to hold my interest.

For a while, the closest I could get to describing it was this; it felt like "grinding". Even when tackling tougher monsters, at levels higher than I should have attempted, it felt that way. Despite trying to give myself a real challenge in that sense, I was still bored. No amount of thinking about it seemed to clear out the logjam in my head. I'd done my best to leave my preconceived notions and previous biases out of it. Why the hell was the game not in the least bit FUN?

Round 4 - The Root Problem

The answer came to me, ironically, while I was wandering around inside the World of Warcraft. I was just wandering through some wilderness, as I'm prone to do in these games, peeking over hills, watching the various beasties walk around. I swam across a small stream, and as I climbed out on the shore, the sounds of voices and battle grew louder. Out of curiosity, I cautiously crept up the small hill, and looked around a convenient tree. (Although, honestly, when has anyone met "an inconvenient tree"?)

There was a small group of four players, all attacking some "boss" monster. The bodies of the slain minion-monsters were laying around. The battle was raging along pretty well, with flashes of spell effects, the clang of steel ringing across the grotto. Eventually, the boss monster let out a groan and flopped over in a dramatic death animation. The small group of players gathered round for a minute, then all dashed off together. I started backing away, still mostly bored. Then as I saw the corpses all begin to fade out, I noticed another group of folks moving around in the distance, and slowly start inching closer.

They were waiting for the "boss re-spawn". And then the answer hit me; I knew why I was utterly bored.

Immersion. Believability. Suspension of disbelief. All of that was gone. Whatever I did in the game, no matter how cool or clever, it didn't frickin' matter. Not one little bit. This was part of my beef with EverQuest. And though not my biggest complaint at that time, I now realize that it had contributed far more to my dissatisfaction than any griefer.

The real problem I find with WoW?

It has a "Persistent Gameworld". And not in a good way.

The "Persistent Gameworld" term is often used to describe a game-world which, "Remains alive and vibrant, with even minute details like changing weather and seasons, even when you personally are logged off." (I'm borrowing various bits of marketing hyperbole here, to put together that quote.) Companies have touted it since Ultima Online was first announced; probably even before that.

I went into WoW with that notion in the back of my mind. What I found instead, was a world that was less "persistent", and more "unchanging", "unalterable", and "forever static". Nothing I did, can or will make one whit of difference. No matter how many times I clear a section of woods, the 'Mangy Wolves' will return. No matter how many times I slay the dragon, if I stand there long enough it will fade out, and then return.

Round 5 - Epilogue

This all brings me back to the subtitle for this blog-post, "The sound of one hand clapping" and my overly literal response, "Pointless." That, ultimately, is what I found to be my opinion of World of Warcraft. The game itself, feels utterly pointless to me; futile. There is no reward. There is no lasting emotional experience.


EDIT: A big apology and disclaimer.
In the interests of decency, honesty, and proper forthright citation, I've decided that I must insert a clarification here to my original post. As pointed out in the comments below, Matt Barton has previously used the "amusement park" analogy which immediately follows this corrective edit. While I don't specifically remember reading it, it is entirely possible... nay, probable, that I did in fact read what he wrote. That concept was almost certainly in the back of my head when I had my in-game "epiphany".

This improper appropriation was in no way intentional. Chalk it up to being overly tired when I finished typing up the original post. I sincerely apologize for my plagiarism of his idea.

As such, all credit for the cleverness and originality of the concept (and I really do think it's quite clever...) belongs to the good Doctor Barton. I commend him for not being snarky, rude, or irate with me, as I well deserve. (I also thank him for not smacking me upside the head with something heavy, rusty, and pointy.)


Playing World of Warcraft actually does not feel like "playing a Role-Playing game" at all. It feels instead like I'm on the, "World of Warcraft Ride", at Disneyland. That's the best description really--I feel like I'm in an amusement park; not a real, breathing, living world. Just like at Disney, the ride can be entertaining, even exciting or exhilarating--for a short time. From a technical standpoint, the whole thing is unbelievable; it's literally breathtaking in the smoothness, and polish, and cleverness, and careful attention to every feasible detail of the experience. But after you pass by, if you turn your head and look behind the car, you can see all the animatronics "resetting back to first-positions"--the next carload of tourists will be coming through at any moment after all.

That, I think, is what I meant in some earlier posts when I wrote about "Meaningfulness". WoW, and the other MMORPGs which I've tried or seen, just aren't MEANINGFUL. An RPG should matter. My characters, my behaviors, my actions, should matter. In WoW they don't. More to the point, they can't. And that's inherent in the very core design of the "game". Hence, for the foreseeable future, I will keep playing my much-beloved CRPGs.

Thanks for reading everybody. Next time, I'll be taking you on a trip into the dim, murky past; a time when, "Men were MEN", and "Computers had really big, chunky, blurry, kinda awful looking pixels. Mostly greenish ones." Sounds fun right? Well it should be! We'll look at one of my earliest CRPG experiences, thanks to the magic of emulation. (And I'll try to figure out why the heck the silly thing still holds my interest, almost 30 years on.)

Cheers to you all, and keep your "Drinking Horns of Enormous Thirst Quenching +8" at the ready!

- Shawn (no longer "The Mysterious 'S'" or "Bitsweep" or any of that other hoo-haa...)

Comments

Anonymous (not verified)
Wonderful comments, very well

Wonderful comments, very well thought out.
I share a lot with your ideas. These are my main reasons for not playing MMORPGS anymore.

Thanks for sharing your views, and I look forward to your retro RPG experiences and games.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Hi, Shawn. I'd recommend

Hi, Shawn. I'd recommend trying an "instance" using the dungeon finder tool (I think that's what it is called). Your feelings may change after you've done a couple of those, assuming you don't end up with a terrible group. In my experience, the groups at the low level dungeons tend to be more "noobie" and thus fun to play with. I'm not sure if you can use the tool with the free account though, but do check it out.

Otherwise, your experience is eerily similar to mine. I did have the advantage of having an elite player as a friend on the same server to help me out and give advice, but it was basically the same. Your post reminds me of how carefully scripted the game is. I always make a game of trying to accomplish quests as efficiently as possible, trying to see how fast I can complete them by a process of consolidation and effective combat. The hunter is a great class for soloing because you can practice making the pet run around gathering up and tanking multiple mobs as you mow them down with your bow or gun. It is a bit difficult to get this right, though, so people use the term "huntard" to refer to hunters. If you can't control your pet, it can run around and cause bad trouble for your groups in instances. General advice is if you don't know how to keep it from attacking mobs (aggroing) by itself, just dismiss it and use your ranged attacks only. It isn't hard to learn how to turn off these modes though.

If you put some thought into planning your quests, you can knock out two or three at once and then cash them all in. You can afford to be a bit choosy, too, omitting quests that would take too long. The ones I always drop are of the "get X rare drops," where you have to gather say 3 wolf tails from mangy wolves. However, only about 1 in 5 wolves will drop a tail. This kind of quest can end up taking hours if you're unlucky, so I avoid them. I also try to avoid quests that involve going underwater, since that can slow you down. It's also best to pick quests that are close together and not bother going way off just to do one quest. Some areas are better than others; the orcs are the worst IMO because the "barrens" zone requires a LOT of running around. The human starting zone is my favorite by far.

My friend had similar reservations about the game; he complained endlessly about how people weren't really socializing or role-playing, and for some reason he hated the idea that you had to do dungeons in a group (he wanted to solo them). He also complained about what you said about the game world; he wanted to "make a difference." The comparison to an amusement park is apt. Sure, the themed roller coaster might tell you you're about to duel a dragon, but it says that to every group that rides it.

The "story" of WOW is really your character's story. You can make a lot of it up yourself. I try to invent personalities for my characters. I made my tauren warrior exceedingly polite, for instance, and made my undead rogue a joker with a grim sense of humor. I'd also buy lots of beer in the game and have him drinking that just for kicks. With my hunter, I got an alligator for a pet and claimed he was from the distant land of Louisiana and spoke with a cajun accent.

But anyway, there's four different incentives you're likely to feel as you progress. The strongest is the new abilities that are always just a few levels or skill points away. These will usually have an impact on how you play, so the combat doesn't get too repetitive. The next incentive is loot. You never really know what could drop from any creature. On at least three occasions, I've had epic (purple) drops from green (common) mobs. It doesn't happen often, but just knowing that it COULD happen at any moment is enough to keep it interesting. The third incentive is honing your skills, researching and experimenting to get better at your class. You might do some research and suddenly find yourself annihilating mobs that before were slaughtering you. The fourth incentive is exploration. Azeroth is HUGE, and there are lots of really interesting places to explore. Probably my favorites are Booty Bay (Stranglethorn Vale), Dalaran (a floating city), Grizzly Hills, and Sholazar Basin. Lots of fun memories from those places. Nothing could beat Stormwind and Iron Forge, though. Those places are incredible. I also love the undead city, Undercity.

The other players dueling and such--ignore that riffraff is my advice. There are lots of kids running around that are irritating at best. Generally anybody out of the blue challenging you to a duel, asking you to join their guild, or whatever is a great candidate for the IGNORE function. Good, level-headed people are hard to find, but they are there. It's better to do some work online, looking up guilds on your server and seeing what they have to offer. The best ones usually have an application process and perhaps a forum. I like these because you can get a sense of their personalities by browsing the posts. There are lots of very good people on WOW if you take the trouble to find them, and of course you'll have to show THEM that you're not an idiot or griefer yourself. You should join a guild soon, though, since there are lots of bonuses for doing so (not just social). They've added a whole new guild leveling system so it's best to get started soon.

http://www.guildportal.com/Search.aspx?Game=36

Good place to get started.

n/a
Shawn Delahunty
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Joined: 08/01/2011
Will look at the guild bits

Many thanks Matt for the input and insights and link about the guild leveling.

I'll have to see if any of that is covered by the Freebie account. (My wife and I just dropped a _boatload_ of cash on books and some fixtures/shelves at the Borders closeout fire-sale... so nothing is getting bought for a while. That's why I got so excited by the GOG UltimaIV freebie.) At some point I might consider playing the paid-for version of WoW for a couple of months, but that is really dubious. With all the work I've got lined up for the next 6-12 months, I have precious little free time--it would take me months of time to get any character to a decent level, and I'd be basically just be throwing money away.

When you've got a minute, I did have a couple questions. I am curious about your characters.
(1) How long, on average did it take you to max them out?
(2) How "hard" was it to max each of them out?
(3) Why did you stop with each of them? (In a previous forum post, you described your disinterest-engage-hyper-burnout pattern for playing.) Was the feeling the same with each character, or did things unfold differently? I'm specifically curious about gameplay elements which may have affected your mood, your impression of the game, your satisfaction with your character & options, that kind of thing.
(4) Like you I create mental "backstories" for all my characters, and treat the game as an ongoing story about my character. How common do you think this is? In your conversation with your friends in the game, has that kind of thing been discussed?

I really thought I was a pretty rare bird in that regard, as a lot of the tabletop gamers I've known have been pretty elitist and disparaged my video-game RPG playing, and the very few authors (mostly part-timers & amateurs) whom I've talked with, all felt that "using a videogame for a basis of a story" was idiotic. Whenever I tried to point out Shadowkeep by Alan Dean Foster as an example, they just laughed and derided him as a "hack". Yes, he's made a living writing 'novelizations' of movies, screenplays, and the like. Shadowkeep was based on an old RPG from Trillium, and although I never could find a copy of the game, I actually liked the book. He's not Tolstoy, but he does have a slick, non-intrusive style--makes for a fast & easy read.

Enjoy the long weekend!

n/a
clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
time
bitsweep wrote:

When you've got a minute, I did have a couple questions. I am curious about your characters.
(1) How long, on average did it take you to max them out?
(2) How "hard" was it to max each of them out?
(3) Why did you stop with each of them? (In a previous forum post, you described your disinterest-engage-hyper-burnout pattern for playing.) Was the feeling the same with each character, or did things unfold differently? I'm specifically curious about gameplay elements which may have affected your mood, your impression of the game, your satisfaction with your character & options, that kind of thing.
(4) Like you I create mental "backstories" for all my characters, and treat the game as an ongoing story about my character. How common do you think this is? In your conversation with your friends in the game, has that kind of thing been discussed?

Enjoy the long weekend!

I can answer these, but before I do.. I AM THE IDEAL MMORPG ADDICT.. IF i want to do something (level fast) I do.. and sometimes dont do alot of the stuff I should (clean house, yard work, etcc... and before you go.. oh no a filthy gamer like the stereo types on tv are.. My house would never fit that.. to 99% of the people.. just me.. a magazine laying by the couch is ... not good) :) I really started with Muds in the mid 80's on comuserve Island of Kinsami? all text and adicte I was.. and if you rember Compuserve prices.. it was ugly for a fresh;y employed person.. I qickly canceled cable and the like so my money could be used for comuserve. I then moved to a game called Drakken (sorry you could play it up till a year or so ago for free, but I cant find it now, some game from Kim Possilbe (cartoon) is all the searchs hit :( ) it was 100% tile based, but all the Player characters where others.. Think Ultimas with much fancier tiles, on the scale of the gold box.. all online.. It was awsome.. real parties.. and since it was early days people where not all assHats.. but again it was $6 and hour to play.. i has $200 bill monthly.. About tht time Lucas arts release habitat? again i had interest.. but it was missing something. Soon Q-link had Serria Realms? it was like a Kings Quest game.. but with many others.. it was alos fun, but was missing something. and of Course Neverwinter nights ( gold box like again) and not related to Bio ware.. Air Warrrior.. Meridian 59... teh first to use sudo 3D and highly addictive too. Cyberstrike.. Gemstone III.. Shadow of yarbuis,.. yes i played them all... many (if not all of those) on a modem..

The first game to really grab me was EQ though.. and I knpw somebody is saying waht about Ultima!... i playe Ultima, and liked it but it was really just a fancier verison of Drakken, Neverwinter Nights, etc.. so it was .. eh.. it was also the first game where asshats started to show up. it was the first game to show me people with no lives could make the game unplesent for anybody they chose. This aspect of Ultima turned me off quite a bit. The PvP chihc was new (sorta) was of the unbalaned type, nobody ever intiiated combat unless they new they could one shot you.. never a fair fight.. and I DO MEAN NEVER.. whats the point.. Ultima alos introduced me to Kill stealing.. something that was quite common.. All in all Ultima should be credited with creating griefers. it was the first game that let the players police the game.. and We all know we .. when left alon on the internet are not the best we can be.. in fact quite a few are about as bad as they can be.

But back ot EQ.. true 3D world, real danger.. I know nowdays (even myslef) teh death penelty in EQ was harsh.. but back then.. it was perfect, you felt danger.. many zones had a few random mobs you had to watch out for.. they would kill you instantly.. As I say nowdays.. nobody would like it "wa wa i died and have to walk to my corpse for 5 mnutes"... but when EQ was new.. it really was part of the dangerous new world we where in.. For me it made me play my best. There was no pointer to my corpse.. if I died I had to know where.. or all my gear was gone.. again, no way the players would stand for that today.. but bakc then.. it was awsome.. in fact some character clases could "hunt" your corpse.. of course if they where nice or you had some coin :) it was simply the most imersive game I had ever played.

and with its HUGE success ( funny to say that now).. of almost a million players.. it was the jewel all the MMORPG wanna bes targeted.. non could sustain it .. untill WoW.. so that some long winded backgroud.. Im a MMORPG addict.. I play them all .

(1) How long, on average did it take you to max them out?

I can go from 1 to 80 (i still have not done much with the new expansion except play the new races tomid 70's... about 6 of them (ya addiction is tough nut to break) in about 7 days some hours.. (personal best) This is 100% solo and maxumisine effort and quests.. Normaly it takes me 2-3 weeks of gametime.. but I run some instance for gear and such.. most of it 75 plus... as ijn the 70 and hbelow levels you will replace gear so fast it wont matter. I dont use Herlooms (if oyu rech a certina level ones, you can "gift" your other characters equipment that scles with levels and grants bonus exp so the next trip is much easier and faster.. i think the average time for a herloomed charater is maybe 2-3 days played time.. with teh bonust 20-35% exp.

(2) How "hard" was it to max each of them out?

that really depends on class.. A pure healer is a bit harder then say a hunter or Lock (a hunter/lock really does have a built in mini tank) but they have skill tree's (unholy) for priests that make them damage machines. I think this would really depend on your play style... to this day I cant level a rogue with any skill... I alos suck a bit with a pure tank.. WoW has changed so much sine it was released, no class is "hard" to level anymore.. but they all take time depending on your skill.. Hunter, Warlock are probebly the simplest.. Pally is maybe next.. Death Knigth... well they start at 60 so you just kipped 60 levels) Druids if you can wrap your head around the multi class feature ( druid is baskicly a Tank, healer, rogue all wrapped into one, )..

(3) Why did you stop with each of them? (In a previous forum post, you described your disinterest-engage-hyper-burnout pattern for playing.) Was the feeling the same with each character, or did things unfold differently? I'm specifically curious about gameplay elements which may have affected your mood, your impression of the game, your satisfaction with your character & options, that kind of thing.

I have never stopped with any.. the nature of WoW is that thre is alwasy one more carrot on the end of the stick.. be it crafting, gear, titles, achivements (holy xbox baman)... thre is alwasy something to do with thm if oyu want. I do tend to love my Hunters.. i have at least 6 or 7 all maxed in gear (80)... and Im pretty sure I hve at least 2-3 of ech other class that way too.. now that a new expansion came out.. they all need 5 more levels and lots of gear, skils, etc.. I ahve one character ( my very first) that has all the vanity pets, all the mounts, al the achievments.. all the titles... etc.. (take that with a grain of salt, there are some that take 100's of hours I have skipped, and so on, so "ALL" is not the correct term) Im sure somday I will fire her up and make the trek to 85 and so on..

(4) Like you I create mental "backstories" for all my characters, and treat the game as an ongoing story about my character. How common do you think this is? In your conversation with your friends in the game, has that kind of thing been discussed?

I dont do this.. but I do form attachments for specific ones.. My first characte is still my favorite.. i have spent $50 at least 2X (probebly more) to move her to other servers when guilds try to get in on "fresh" servers... ego's bah.. i would hav stayed where i was, but guilds are guilds..

I read all this an i still think you dont care for the game but are searching for some justification to play.. I love the game, and hate the people ( sometimes) but if you have tried it and dont care for it, dont feel bad.. I would say one thing.. As an Ex EQ junkie, when WoW came out I HATED it.. it was sppon feed to easy, cartoony etc.. but with time I came to enjoy it.. and still do.. If there was a glimmer of fun, try it again.. get one character to 20.. if you are not having some kind of fun let it go.. not everybody is made to play these types of games.

One last thing.. depending on time zones /playtime.. I do run yahoo MSG.. would give you my name and if you wanted a little help/ guidance would sure login and play abit. I would have no problom deleting a character and startign new ( you can only have 50!!!! and yes i have um all maxed.. and (said with a low voice, I have 2 accounts active so i have 100 spots all filled.. not a one under level 50.. did i mention i was an addict?) i would be happy to play some with ya.. just com along to help kill and let you do the "figureing out" or whatever.. I enjoy playing with new players.. its sorta like playing the first time again.. in some mild sence. Of course you may jut prefer teh first levels as a myslef time.. no worries either.. taking at your own pace is a good thing.

Rowdy Rob
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Some of my answers to Bitsweep

I am not a hardcore CRPG'er, but since you're a budding game designer, I thought maybe some answers from a "common casual" gamer might be useful, plus it's fun for me to answer..

bitsweep wrote:

When you've got a minute, I did have a couple questions. I am curious about your characters.
(1) How long, on average did it take you to max them out?

Never came close to maxing out a character. In "Perfect World," I made it to level 13 before quitting. In WoW, level 5 (currently). D&D Online seemed to have, by far, the best single-player experience, but I think I only made it to level 4 before quitting.

bitsweep wrote:

(2) How "hard" was it to max each of them out?

With my casual play style, it would take months to come close to maxing out.

bitsweep wrote:

(3) Why did you stop with each of them? (In a previous forum post, you described your disinterest-engage-hyper-burnout pattern for playing.) Was the feeling the same with each character, or did things unfold differently? I'm specifically curious about gameplay elements which may have affected your mood, your impression of the game, your satisfaction with your character & options, that kind of thing.

I quit because I got tired of "kill 10 giant beetles" and "collect 10 mushrooms" type quests. The quests struck me more like scavenger hunts than story-building achievements. WoW seems a bit better at making the quests seem plot-worthy, but still.... scavenger hunts (so far).

With so many games to play, mood is definitely a factor. With no online compatriots to play with, there's little compulsion to play these games regularly over a well-designed single-player game, of which there are many to choose from.

bitsweep wrote:

(4) Like you I create mental "backstories" for all my characters, and treat the game as an ongoing story about my character. How common do you think this is? In your conversation with your friends in the game, has that kind of thing been discussed?

I've never done this. I don't think it's ever even occured to me to do create a backstory. I accept the player the game gives me, and build my attachment from there. I play these games primarily as "videogames," and not "role playing games."

I take the above back.... I do kinda role-play, but I think of the character I'm playing as ME!! *I* am the one swinging the sword. I am in the game! And I know my own backstory ;-)

Matt Barton
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Answers
bitsweep wrote:

When you've got a minute, I did have a couple questions. I am curious about your characters.
(1) How long, on average did it take you to max them out?
(2) How "hard" was it to max each of them out?
(3) Why did you stop with each of them? (In a previous forum post, you described your disinterest-engage-hyper-burnout pattern for playing.) Was the feeling the same with each character, or did things unfold differently? I'm specifically curious about gameplay elements which may have affected your mood, your impression of the game, your satisfaction with your character & options, that kind of thing.
(4) Like you I create mental "backstories" for all my characters, and treat the game as an ongoing story about my character. How common do you think this is? In your conversation with your friends in the game, has that kind of thing been discussed?

1. It generally takes me about 3-4 weeks, I'd say, depending on how focused I am. If I'm really focused I could probably do it in a week. But other stuff tends to come up. I guess I might be able to do it in a week like Clok if my life depended on it. :)

2. The warriors were the toughest IMO. Mages are a breeze because they kill stuff quickly and have lots of ways to get out of trouble. Rogues and any class without good ranged attacks tend to take longer because it takes me longer to gather the baddies. But rogues and druids have one killer ability--stealth. They can essentially turn invisible and sneak through a dungeon just to get the treasure or kill the boss; you can save a lot of time that way by avoiding all the trash.

My hunter took me longer because I was so curious about all the different pets and such. But once you get the hang out of it, you can really level quickly since you are basically two characters in one.

I have two healers that are fun to play, but not fun to level. You can dual spec easily and cheaply now, which helps, though.

3. I usually stopped when I hit 85 and had good to decent gear on them. Plus I'd want to spend some time on the other faction (horde or alliance). I know most people say the game doesn't really get good until you max out your levels and gear, but for me that just gets tedious. Gearing and especially leveling up new classes are the thrill for me. Eventually the diminishing returns on that just gets too small, where you're running an instance or raid fifty times just to get one piece of gear with a negligible upgrade on it.

Usually what happens to make me quit is that I get my feelings hurt good and proper. They might be assholes, or they might just be snubbing me or something. Either way, I get depressed and angry. It's supposed to be a game, fun times and all that, but it's hard not to take stuff personally sometimes. If you're booted out of a group because you don't heal fast enough, or not tanking good enough, or not doing enough dps...A lot of groups will kick you to the curb.

I've described the feeling as being at a party with people, thinking everyone is having a good time, but suddenly they (out of the blue it seems to you) demand that YOU leave and not come back, ever. At first you're just stunned, like being slapped on the face, but then you start feeling bad about yourself. You can rationalize it any way you want, but it's very painful for a sensitive guy like me to endure.

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clok1966
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people
Matt Barton wrote:

3. I usually stopped when I hit 85 and had good to decent gear on them. Plus I'd want to spend some time on the other faction (horde or alliance). I know most people say the game doesn't really get good until you max out your levels and gear, but for me that just gets tedious. Gearing and especially leveling up new classes are the thrill for me. Eventually the diminishing returns on that just gets too small, where you're running an instance or raid fifty times just to get one piece of gear with a negligible upgrade on it.

Usually what happens to make me quit is that I get my feelings hurt good and proper. They might be assholes, or they might just be snubbing me or something. Either way, I get depressed and angry. It's supposed to be a game, fun times and all that, but it's hard not to take stuff personally sometimes. If you're booted out of a group because you don't heal fast enough, or not tanking good enough, or not doing enough dps...A lot of groups will kick you to the curb.

I've described the feeling as being at a party with people, thinking everyone is having a good time, but suddenly they (out of the blue it seems to you) demand that YOU leave and not come back, ever. At first you're just stunned, like being slapped on the face, but then you start feeling bad about yourself. You can rationalize it any way you want, but it's very painful for a sensitive guy like me to endure.

100% agree.. at 85 when everybody seems to "love " the game I getr bored.. running that same instacne over and over for a few pieces of equipment.. bah... I like ot see the end level stuff, but once i have... I head off to noob land and start over.. I am one of the few who doesnt mind starting over.

And you hit the nail on he head.. WoW has one HUGE problem that will never go away.. true in WoW and elsewhere.. REAL PEOPLE. Its been talked about 1000 of times.. when behind a screen people totally forget manners And with WoW they become bored.. they play that UBER COOL DK to 85 , get all thier gear and all that is left is to make others lives hard.. you suck, why didnt youXXX, every noob knows it.. etc.. I have seen it done to others and had it done to me.. I am pretty imune to it.. I'm alwasy more concerend my complaing will hurt sombody elese feelings.. I really only lose it when sombody is to blind thay cant see the truth.. in a group fo 5 and one compalines about my ( or sombody elses playstyle) and everybody in group disagrees with them.. and they just keep on about it ignoring all others suggestins they may not be right.. that gets to me.. it shouldnt.. but it does. I know I will never agree with everybody I dont mind. We live (some of us) in a country where the long view matters none, just tomorrow, so throw it all away to be happy today.. you would think we all need ot grow some thinck skins soon.. our our kids will need it.. .. and how i got ont that.. I will never know... sorry..

WoW has alot of human interaction.. you will take the good (some) with the bad (lots) if you can.. you may find some fun in there.

Rowdy Rob
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Excellent commentary, Bitsweep/Shawn

You made it further into the game than I did; I stopped playing at level 5 with the intention of going back at a later date, which I never did. By the way, that was a very well-put explanation of "meaningfulness" in a CRPG. I finally "get" where you're coming from now, and I can definitely see your point.

bitsweep wrote:

For a while, the closest I could get to describing it was this; it felt like "grinding". Even when tackling tougher monsters, at levels higher than I should have attempted, it felt that way. Despite trying to give myself a real challenge in that sense, I was still bored. No amount of thinking about it seemed to clear out the logjam in my head. I'd done my best to leave my preconceived notions and previous biases out of it. Why the hell was the game not in the least bit FUN?

I have run into this problem in many CRPG's, single-player or MMO. The "grind" starts to get to you, becoming more chore than play. Adding to this problem is the "walking from point A to point B" time-sink, and I tend to get bored way before I come close to completing a CRPG. It's very rare that a CRPG will hold my interest to the point of "completion."

MMO's compound this problem by not having a compelling story or overall goal to keep your interest. Your goal is to "level up" and get cool gear. Of course, the multiplayer camaraderie is supposed to add some compulsion to the game, but if you're a "solo" type like me, that's not much of an incentive.

bitsweep wrote:

Playing World of Warcraft actually does not feel like "playing a Role-Playing game" at all. It feels instead like I'm on the, "World of Warcraft Ride", at Disneyland.

Excellent analogy! I hadn't thought of it that way, but in retrospect, my experiences with "respawning goals" fits the "ride" feeling exactly. In fact, I chronicled my first-time play of WoW recently, which ended with me "waiting in line" for the "ride" to reset(!), complete with someone asking "who hasn't gone yet?" If you care to, you can read of my experiences in this thread:

http://www.armchairarcade.com/neo/node/4176

bitsweep wrote:

That, I think, is what I meant in some earlier posts when I wrote about "Meaningfulness". WoW, and the other MMORPGs which I've tried or seen, just aren't MEANINGFUL. An RPG should matter. My characters, my behaviors, my actions, should matter. In WoW they don't. More to the point, they can't. And that's inherent in the very core design of the "game". Hence, for the foreseeable future, I will keep playing my much-beloved CRPGs.

Thanks for a well-written and intriguing post, with lots of things to ponder. Single-player CRPG's give one the feeling of being a unique hero, whereas in MMO's, one is just another face in the crowd on a long ride.

We could, of course, discuss such high-minded philosophical ideas like "why is one illusion more meaningful/pointless than the other?", but I won't start that one.... ;-)

Matt Barton
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You guys have probably seen

You guys have probably seen them, but here are my Matt Chats on WOW:

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I read it all and agree with

I read it all and agree with what you are saying, hard to disagree with well thought out comments. I think MMORPG's are really differnt to ALL people. But the simple fact is.. "multiplayer", if you dont indulge in taht part of the game, you are missing the whole point.. Like playing AD&D being all the players and the DM.. one person.. not the point and rather boring. These experiances are ment to be "multiplayer", sure WoW has proved the solo game style does appeal to many ( myslef included) and most new games make sure you can. Hunter was a wise choice.. one of thebest solo centric characters int eh game.. unforntatly as most solo players use them they ahve a bad rep in groups... Many players never bother grouping till end game when they have to.. and they dont know how to.. hence Huntard name. If you ahve not interest in interacting with people you are probebly going to have much more fun in the singel player RPGs available.. Nothing Wrong with that...we all like differnt things.. WoW was designed with groups in mind.. solo was an option for those times you couldnt get them, so you didnt sit on your thumbs. YOu will never get a complete SOLO feeling from WoW, it was never ment to be that.. so expecting it in some meaningfull form.. wont happen.

One thing i disagree on.. you mention the part about Boss respawns. i really dont see any differnce between this and a singel player game where you save before openin a chest of a big fight so if you mess up you can redo.. not much imersion there either... just two ways of takeing you out of the game experiance.

I will say one thing there ARE heavy RPG guilds in WoW.. to the point its annoying.. as I was in one. They will kick oyu out of guild if oyu dont lay in character.. all dungeons are run like AD&D.. no rush (eevn when you have done them 100's of times) all items are dolled out to the guild and then distrubuted. I tired to find a in bettween.. but had no luck.. it was all or nothing. But they are out their..

excellent well thouhgt out read..

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