Monday, March 28, 2011

The End Game Dilemma: Unintended Consequences

It's been a while since I wrote my last post. Now ordinarily, it would be because I got swept up with real life commitments...but this one is different. Truth be told, I'm faced with a strange dilemma now when I log on - outside of my weekend raids, I simply don't know what to do. It's certainly not something I expected and yet here I am.

Curiosity led to me to analyse my thoughts further and I asked myself, well what did you do before? And why don't they work anymore? The answer to me, seems to be a cascade of unintended consequences that the cataclysmic changes to the game brought along peppered with a few other areas of disappointment for me as a player. Unintended consequences, usually undesirable ones, happen all the time everyday. We all have variations of stories where we fixed the water pipe in the house only to break the heater (or some such analogy - I have no clue how exactly these things work) - and it's not until this happens do we begin to see the connections between all of them.

To understand this better, I went back to looking at the things I usually like to do outside of raiding, and why they no longer offer the fun they once used to. Indulge my analysis, if you will...


So...what do I usually do outside of raiding? And why isn't it working for me anymore? And where do those unintended consequences play in?

Things to Do: My Experiences

Levelling an Alt


This is usually a great way for me to take a break from endgame things and simply relax as a lovely low level. It's also a great way to meet new people you would've otherwise never met. I levelled a shaman...all the way from 1 to 70 thus far, and my experience was rather different. I mostly quested as I liked exploring the new quests and lore and only did two or three random dungeons. It's very discouraging but I barely met a soul while questing let alone grouping up.

Levelling had a few new things added to the mix this time around - the phasing and linear questing style and while not quite as new but still recent, cross server LFD. I truly love the new quests and the fact that we can see the world progress. However, phasing had an unexpected result here...you were invisible to the few who were there as they were to you. But even if phasing wasn't an issue, this is assuming that people were questing. With the convenience of LFD, its entirely possible to stay in a capital city and dungeon your way through the levels.

Professions.

I expected Archaeology to keep me occupied but instead quite the opposite happened. It turned into a tedious activity - a war with the RNG and nothing else. I burned myself out getting Tyrande's Favourite Doll and the unfortunate result now is that I have almost all the rares with a few exceptions....and all the gold in Azeroth cannot make me pursue those remaining ones.

Achievements and Titles.

These have been a lot of fun for me and although I don't take it upon myself to get all the achievements ever possible, I do have a few favourites that I would like to get. It so happens, that I've already got them as achievement seeking was a big part of my gameplay in the months before the expansion. The ones I truly wanted to get were Loremaster, Seeker, and Guardian of Cenarius (being a druid and all!). Titles like "Insane in the Membrane" and "Salty" aren't really my forte, although if they had a sleep related title I'd be on it! =P I would dearly love to get "Justicar" and "of the Alliance" but to be perfectly honest, I feel like I have a higher chance of getting a vacation home in Venice. And this brings me to the other activity I like to engage in ocassionally...

PvP.

Alright, first things first. I'm not the best at this but I do like to kill some smelly orcs occasionally. I mean, who doesn't? And sometimes, I even succeed. So I gave it a shot and I'm at a loss. We had one case where all the druids were healers in the battleground...and so we had the very weird case of having too many healers? And it seems to be my sorry fate that if the universe makes a frost mage angry at me (which they usually are), I have few options but to pray and run. This is disheartening to me since in the past dying to someone meant that I learnt something about how to deal with them the next time around and got better at it. Perhaps I'm missing something but I couldn't come up with anything on how to save myself from a frost mage. Quite sad.

Random heroics.

These are mixed bag - they offer the convenience of running dungeons any time you want at the risk of dying numerous times and being insulted by strangers. I swore off these a long time ago and the few fantastic groups I get are far outnumbered by the jerks, in my experience. And we haven't even talked about the dps who queues as a tank yet. I don't know why they do, but they do.

Unintended Consequences

I made that list up there to help look at my options outside of raiding. I love my guild and our raids are immensely fun but the rest of the week seems surprisingly void of things to do. And this is a result of changes that brought in a lot of great stuff but at a cost that was unexpected.

Solo Leveling:
  • Phasing and linear questing had the social aspect take a huge hit. While levelling my alt there was little chance of impromptu roleplaying or grouping up. 
Jerks in LFD:
  • LFD hit the community as well on various levels. *Picks up cane and shakes it around* I remember days when I healed my way through my friends list. I found great tanks, friends and guilds that way. And while the older method of finding groups was hugely inconvenient, it did have a positive side. LFD's biggest selling point is it's convenience but it's anonymity does have an impact both at the lower levels and at endgame heroics. 
PvP Balance:
  • I know precious little about PvP but even to me, it seems to be the victim of balancing issues. It made me feel helpless in a way I hadn't before.
Archaeology Burnout:
  • Far from being engaging, this has turned into a tedious grind with few rewards, leaving me shuddering at the sight of a shovel.
I wrote this post with the intent of analysing what's going on from my experience in the best way I could. I think it's important to see the effects certain changes have had on the game in it's current state because sometimes connections aren't apparent until we see the things we do. For example, pre-Cataclysm I wouldn't have even imagined that phasing could have the kind of consequences I saw while levelling my alt. Things weren't perfect in the old days and they aren't perfect now either. However, thinking about these things perhaps helps us evaluate whether the cost was worth the result or not. Thanks for reading as always!

2 comments:

  1. A lot of people seem to be feeling the same way you do. I haven't reached that point yet, which might be because I'm still a relative newcomer to WoW, so there are a lot of old achievements, reps, pets and mounts that I could grind on my main, and I haven't geared up my alts yet. For me, it still feels like I don't have enough time to do everything that I want to do.

    However, I completely agree with you about the leveling process feeling more solitary. I'm currently leveling a Worgen Hunter, mainly by questing, and it seems like I'm the only person in the zone half the time. Which is kinda nice because of low competition for mobs and farming... but it's so weird. It's not just because of the phasing either - I'm in Outland now and there's just nobody there!

    And was Outland secretly nerfed? I mean, there just doesn't seem to be a NEED to group up anymore. Remember those elite giants in Hellfire Peninsula, the ones that the Druids send you off to kill, and which used to take at least a 3-man group to kill? I SOLOED them! So either Hunters are totally OP, my heirlooms are totally OP, or Outland has been greatly nerfed...

    Anyway, I also feel that some of the sense of community has been lost. The random dungeon finder means that we hardly ever meet new people from our own realms anymore, but I also think having 10s and 25s share a lockout contributes too. I used to do a lot of pug raids, and I met a lot of people on my server by doing so. Now I can't, because once my main gets locked, I'm locked. I'm thinking I need to gear up an alt so I can have contact with non-guildies through pugs again.

    Sorry for the epic comment length. I never know when to shut up. :)

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  2. I think you make some great points about LFD and the community here.

    Levelling in general seems to be insanely fast and easy - particularly with the additional cloak and helm heirlooms. Noone needs to group up and thus we rarely meet anyone. =( My shaman alt I mentioned is in Northrend now and it's still just as deserted there.

    The shared 10s and 25s is something that didn't occur to me to be honest but now that I think about it, I do remember having the night-before-reset PuG raids before the expansion hit, which always made for some fun and stress-free/low-expectations raiding. I always viewed it as a social event and a great chance to meet people outside the guild more than a raid lol.

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