Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Affair

I love you more than Dungeon Master.

Dungeon Master was the game that first introduced to me the concept of gaming 'addiction.' It was 1987, I was living with Mr Alt in our first house, and the Amiga was the gaming 'console' of choice. This was 'real time' playing, spell crafting, and 'farming' for the first time. Screamer Slices. Oh the continued destruction of those to level up your character. We still talk fondly about our first adventures in joint gaming, staying up sometimes all night for progress... except I was already being unfaithful. Yes, even in those early days there was another game, something else that occupied my time. Sim City. You were my secret pleasure, the diversion I'd return to when Mr Alt finally went to bed. I know all about being a many-game girl. I've been practising that talent for three decades now.

When people start talking about WOW Killers and there only being one MMO in their life, I always find this idea mildly amusing as a result.

Must investigate Offline mode this week.

There is an incredible amount of choice for gamers in the 2010's, often dizzying when it comes to sharing an experience with other people. It is ironic therefore that so many seem to spend so much time complaining about the other individuals they play with, or lamenting the fact they can only 'manage' one major MMO title at a time. I suspect a lot of this is one of the remaining hangovers from the early days of Warcraft when, if you wanted to complete anything with a bunch of people, it would take all day. Literally. You'd have to commit yourself to vast swathes of time just to make a small amount of progress. The first Raid Alliance I belonged to, for instance, would raid on Sundays from 3pm until 9pm and, if we were lucky, we'd get a half clear of Molten Core. Pulling a PuG Group to kill the Quest Spawn mob in Silithus would take between two to three hours just to get the numbers together. A UBRS Group was 90 minutes on a good day.

The major benefit of progress in Gaming generally has been the ability to do what you want a lot faster than you were ever able to do before. However, the most effective and consistent form of gating content remained as it did back in the days of the the first grid-based 3D realtime action role-playing video games. If you wanted to level, you needed to put in the hours... until Warcraft changed the landscape. One of the most enduring legacies of this game, like it or not, was the concept of paying someone else to level your character whilst you went away and did something else. My first ever encounter with Gold Farming and 'power levelling' was via a player we'd recruited in a PuG Group. He told us he was going to leave the Guild for a week because he was off to Cornwall, and immediately the alarm bells rang. I searched for his character the following day and there he was online at 8am, and he didn't log off for the entire week. The Virtual Economy isn't exclusive to Warcraft, and the fact that Blizzard has finally caved and offered people (effectively) their own levelling service really isn't a surprise after a decade. What still persists however is the assertion that the only way to 'beat' this MMO is to find a game that finally destroys its domination of the market.

The thing is, there will never be a WoW Killer. The only people who have the opportunity to do that are Blizzard themselves.

It's not you, it's them :D

I've reviewed betas of two non-Blizzard games this week and the response from my readers has been very interesting. There appears to be a clear divide between those who think that if you talk about Warcraft you shouldn't discuss anything else and those who are happy to embrace all of the possibilities. As a writer I've always been told that the best way to improve my own work is to read as much as I can of other people's, and I think the same must be true of game designers. I really can't see Blizzard staff only playing their own games either, and although it is rarely spoken about I have seen at least one member of staff state they do indulge in other pleasures. However, I doubt you'll ever see mention of anything considered as direct competition, but somewhere in Blizzard HQ someone ought to have both Wildstar and Landmark on their machines if only to see what the other guys are up to. Gaming is a constantly evolving process, after all.

Needless to say, in this quiet time whilst there is no news, I'm still in-game. I Flexed last night and my Guild's about to undergo some changes next week in an attempt to get more people involved in the quiet time before the new Expansion which normally involves people leaving and not arriving. We're hoping to buck the trend and have a constant flow of participation all the way up to Warlords, something that's not really happened at any point previously. In the meantime, I'll freely admit I'm seeing other MMO's, but my heart still steadfastly remains the property of Azeroth and it's dependencies. I'll be here until they turn off the Servers, and long may the game be the focus of my efforts...

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