This article is long overdue, particularly because I haven’t played WoW in months. I’ve tried to write it several times, but it’s hard to capture all of my feelings about both the game and the genre and transmit it to you in a meaningful way. Plus, I’m lazy. Pimpin ain’t easy, yo.
Let me give you a bit of my MMO background. First, if you read this site and any of my postings, you know I crave connectivity. As a console RPG player, and an occasional table top gamer, I crave persistence. Although I love Final Fantasy and leveling my characters, I get frustrated with the fact that once they are topped out, the secrets of the game revealed and last boss beaten–they are done. These two factors together set me up to be an MMO junkie from the start. It was my destiny.
All the fun of a bad fantasy novel but worse for your eyes.
I began with MUDs–Gemstone III, Darkness Falls Crusade. In fact, DFC was one of the ways I got myself involved with Mythic Entertainment, a relationship that lasted a long time thanks to the generosity of a number of people at Mythic who I remain friends with to this day. MUDs gave me a taste of the throes of addiction I would ultimately face later in games. I remember my parents being furious at me for a $400 bill from AOL (back when AOL was hourly) from playing Gemstone. I was in 8th grade. Ultimately, however, MUDs could only be so much to me. They were, after all, text– in an age of graphics.
Fortunately, my wait for something better wasn’t to be long. When I heard about Ultima Online, I was intrigued. I had never really played the Ultima games, but that was irrelevant–the concept of an MMO was intoxicating. Needless to say, I was logged on the first night the game went live. Despite massive server lag and crashes, I was part of what would become a new generation of games, gamers… addicts.
From there I went into Everquest, getting into Phase III beta on account of being one of the first people with a cable modem. EQ was also addictive, giving me my first taste of truly irrational behavior over a video game–late nights, punching the wall in frustration and bruising my hand (true story), lying to my parents to play. I think anyone who ever has played an online game at home has experienced this exchange:
Parent: “Kid, come do the dishes, rake the leaves, feed your grandmother who’s locked in the attic!”
Kid: “But mooooooooooom, I’m playing an online game!”
Parent: “Can’t you pause it?”
Kid: “No, because I’m on the internet playing with 40 people at the same time who are relying on me!”
Parent: “(long, confused pause)…Do the dishes!”?
Kid: “But… I… goddamnit!”
I was in high school. And I was hooked (needless to say, unlike the playboy lifestyle I lead today, I wasn’t getting laid back them). But EQ got old: the leveling grind was boring, I wasn’t part of a guild that actually accomplished anything. The monotony got to me, and I burnt out and stopped playing. By then, it was junior year of college. Although EQ didn’t directly sabotage any of my relationships–I still had friends who I spent time with in the “real world,” I did later learn that it irked my then girlfriend. Shock. It was the first of many times I’d give up “real life” for the comforts of an MMO.
This enemy would make an excellent pie.
I picked up Asheron’s Call, but mainly to play with some college friends. I didn’t like the game. I played Dark Age of Camelot for awhile, enjoying the PvP aspect. But eventually the same sort of things got to me: monotonous leveling, a guild that didn’t go anywhere. PvP was fun, but I spent more time PvPing than leveling. As a result, I was generally out-leveled by my opponents, suffering a horrible death. Needless to say–I burnt out on DAOC too.
From there I stopped playing online games–and actually led a fairly normal life. During that period, I remember thinking back to the time when MMO’s so consumed my time. I wondered if I had outgrown that phase of my life. After all–I had graduated from college, gotten a job, and dated more women than I ever did in high school or college. Perhaps I had outgrown video games. I would soon learn that I hadn’t.
Like most people, I had enjoyed Warcraft III, but mostly played for custom maps, like DOTA. But, like everyone else, I heard about WoW, and it intrigued me. I was invited by a friend into a guild of former DFC players who were migrating to WoW. Their goal was PvP. Given the fun I had with PvP in Dark Age, I was intrigued at the opportunity of playing an MMO and having a strong guild base–something my previous MMO’s had lacked. I always thought in the right group, such a game would be more fun. So I decided to give WoW a whirl.
The week it came out, I was on vacation, so I missed some of the initial hiccups and insanity that occurred. It didn’t bother me that when I finally did log on, all of my guildmates were levels 20-30. After all, I was no longer the OCD gamer I had been in the past. WoW would just be a hobby. Yeah right. I was hooked. It started out fairly innocently. In fact, I was slow to level and behind much of my power leveling guild, the mighty Scions of Destiny.
It took me a long time to hit level 60–probably six months real time, 14 days played. In fact, it wasn’t until my guild was about to attempt Molten Core (the “ultimate” dungeon at the time) and needed level 60 players did I sprint to the finish. I was getting a bit bored, but end game content was intriguing. After all, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to be in a big guild.
Some background on my guild. As I mentioned, Scions was formed as a PvP guild. However, it quickly became apparent that Blizzard didn’t care about PvP. This was especially true in the game’s first year. So the Scions began to refocus as a PvE guild. First, we were forced to be second fiddle to a larger guild. But as time went by, Scions became a force on our server, Eredar. Eredar had a reputation of being “months behind” the other servers–our PvE accomplishments were limited. But the Scions teamed with another guild, The Guardians to accomplish great things.
Kazzak is nothing compared to Kazaam.
We killed Lord Kazzak top 5 in the world. Our kill on Nefarian was top 50 in the world. Recognition was truly ours when our kill on Cthun was 7th in the world, 4th in the US. Initially, we cleared Naxxramus content quite quickly, keeping us competitive (that’s dropped off, but I stopped playing during Naxx). We made Eredar relevant. Venificus, one of our raid leaders, programmed one of the most powerful raid tools in the game, RDX.
While at E3 this past year, a Blizzard rep I spoke to knew of both our guild and RDX. And most importantly–especially to me–we did all of this on a four night a week raid schedule (4 hours a night 3 times a week, 6 hours one). Most high end guilds raided 6 hours a night, as many times as 6 nights a week. We did all of this on a compact schedule that allowed our players to not only destroy video game content, but lead real lives as well.
Needless to say, I was finally where I could never be in Dark Age or EQ. I was a key player in a top guild. My guild was clearing content, and doing so in an efficient manner. I had never before experienced this level of accomplishment in an MMO. At times, because we were so ahead of the curve, we were fighting bosses few, if any, guilds in the world were battling. This is significant in a game of over 5 million players (or whatever the ridiculous number is today). As a result, the content was totally fresh–no FAQ’s, no strategy sites, nothing but our own skill and brains to lead us to victory. This was what made the experience so great: the freshness of the content. Trail blazing into uncharted territory. It made the grueling raid nights, dying to a boss 20 times in a row worth it–to see the boss fall before anyone else.