Images: (Thumbnail) Blizzard_Entertainment • (Top) Installation 00

Cataclysm coming...

By Tom Chatfield

A wave hundreds of feet high is breaking, poised to sweep away the statue whose open arms greet visiting ships. "Booty Bay is going down," I whisper to my wife. "I'm not sure I'm going to like this," she replies.

They're not calling the forthcoming World of Warcraft expansion "Cataclysm" for nothing. My wife and I have been playing the game ever since beta: that is, for over six years. This October, Cataclysm's full cinematic intro finally went up online ahead of its launch on 7th December, and we sat together in my study watching it. To a booming orchestral score, the earth opened, and a beast not seen since 1995's Warcraft II crawled out to rain down apocalypse.

The two of us are long-term but fairly casual World of Warcraft players. We raid occasionally. We don't tend to get sucked into the story, or spend much time reading lore. Still, watching an enraged dragon--Deathwing the Destroyer; Neltharion to his friends--levelling swathes of this virtual world in a frenzy of fire was a surprisingly emotive experience. It also helped confirm at least two expansion purchases plus continued subscriptions, bolstering the more than one billion dollars the game's parent company Blizzard Activision receives in income each year from over twelve million subscribers. Why do we care so much? And what does it mean that we do?

The significance of Warcraft has little to do with the traditional reasons that make a fictional narrative, characters or place involving. We care because Warcraft's world--the land of Azeroth--is a place we have spent a serious amount of time visiting and experiencing, via a lovingly-crafted handful of avatars. We have met people there, built friendships, had a lot of fun, worked hard and explored. We've gone away and come back countless times. On our main characters alone, we've spent almost four months of real time there. This is a geography we know more intimately than almost any part of the real world outside of greater London. We don't have kids yet, but when we do, we may well end up playing this game with them.

Image: GT's screenshots & wallpapers

I've just turned thirty. I was ten years old when the very first website was created, by one Tim Berners-Lee on a system he'd recently devised called the "world wide web." I've got used to the fact that there's no such thing as a website older than me. Now, though, I'm contemplating the fact that I own, or at least hire, virtual beings that may themselves be ten years old by the time I get around to creating any real progeny. And this increasingly strikes me as strange; or, at least, as something new.

Persistent virtual worlds have been with us for a long time, in digital terms. The first shared graphical worlds date back to the 1980s. Ultima Online, the first true Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, launched in 1997 and is still being played today, with spruced-up graphics and some hefty nostalgia appeal on its side. What's got Warcraft where it is, though--controlling almost two-thirds of the paid-subscriptions MMO market--is a combination of skill and luck that has effectively reformulated on the fly a host of conventions about what such game-worlds can and should be for.

This struck me with particular force when I downloaded and began playing the game's major pre-Cataclysm update, Patch 4.0.1. Even players who don't shell out for the new Cataclysm content get what's in this: major revisions to the way the game's mechanics work, and to your characters' abilities. The patch impressed and excited me in a way I hadn't felt for a long time in Warcraft. For it seemed to mark the culmination of a sometimes hesitant process of refinement which--via 21 major patches, to date--has since the game launched seen it gradually homing in on a particularly potent notion of fun and player involvement.

This shift has meant a move away from wasteful complexity, and towards creating as many decisions as possible that players find meaningful. In blunter terms, it's about pulling psychological levers more effectively--and pulling these for more different types of people. To take a simple example of the latest developments, in one stroke patch 4 has eliminated a whole region of incidental "grinding," by removing the notion that characters need gradually to build up their skill with every different class of weapon. In the old days, every time your character went up a level a certain amount of time had to be poured into raising your skill with everything from daggers to staves to swords. It was a time sink, typical of the RPG genre. Blizzard's decision to dispense with it is just part of a continuing re-weighting of the game towards action and exploration, and away from time poured into bringing a character's stats up to scratch. They also, finally, got rid of ammunition for projectile weapons: an intense relief after six long years of running out of things to shoot at invariably inconvenient moments.

These relatively minor shifts have been combined in patch 4 with a major reduction in the amount players are required to do to keep their characters' abilities up-to-date. Rather than training an improved version of each spell or attack every few levels, things are now learned just once, then scale up automatically. There are fewer choices, too, when it comes to spending "talent points" on special abilities; while the choices here are more meaningfully differentiated. Rather than spending a total of 71 points on a mix of different abilities during the course of the game, you now have just 41--and can pick only one out of three specialised talent trees in which to invest all but 10 of these. Throughout the game, more is explained, and more is automated: the designers' own thinking is more clearly visible. A virtual world that six years ago felt esoteric, obtuse or just bloody-minded in places (running ten minutes in the form of a ghost in order to locate your corpse comes to mind) has become almost cosy. It no longer wants you walking for miles to locate a tiny object that can't be seen on a map, or slaying a hundred spiders to get one drop of poison. It wants you progressing, interacting, questing: knowing where the next objectives lie, and the ones after that.

Image: Installation 00

What all this marks is an evolution towards something designed for painless replay, exploration and social interaction, rather than something throwing time-sucking obstacles in the way of players griding their way towards the top. It's a profound shift for Massively Multiplayer Online games, psychologically as much as anything else. And one sign that Blizzard have got it right is the whining of old-school hardcore players. Through most of their history, MMOs remained very much in touch with their role-playing roots: games whose fundamental purpose was to offer tens or even hundreds of hours of progression for a character, allowing gamers of a certain mentality to grind their increasingly masochistic way towards a final state of game-beating power. If they were true masochists, they'd do it all over again; but the style was aimed firmly at a certain kind of geek for whom few things were more fun than near-endless skill-learning, re-learning, statistical analysis and stat re-balancing.

Paring away this process has been a long journey, and it's gone hand-in-hand with the realisation that having a permanent player community of over ten million players simply cannot revolve around eternal linear progressions. It has to mean doing interesting, sociable, varied things with a spectrum of characters. Above all, this means making somewhere that's fun simply to be, and that increasingly thinks of itself as an online destination as much as a game, complete with its own social structures, calendar of seasonal events, delightful incidentals and inexhaustible stock of repeatable daily tasks. What people themselves can do, should they wish, is extremely complex. But the tools at their disposal for doing things with: they keep on getting simpler.

All successful MMOS--from Ultima to EVE via Everquest--have achieved something of this, of course. But World of Warcraft is, today, looking at once more accessible and more radically willing to keep remaking itself than any other game out there. In deciding not to generate another brand new piece of land for the Cataclysm expansion, moreover, but instead to integrate its changes into a landscape with which most players have a long emotional relationship, the game's creators have cannily embraced the fact that the game's environment itself--and what it means to people--is perhaps their greatest asset (just as, I'd argue, their decision to set previous expansions within new continents sealed off from the old world was both disappointing and damaging to the experience of playing the game).

Cataclysm also makes me think that pretty much everyone else creating similar games to World of Warcraft ought to be terrified. Because if it's possible to keep on reinventing a game this well, how can anybody else hope to tempt you away from a place so layered with experiences and memories, and so relentless in re-calibrating itself on the basis of its users' behaviour?

Image: rowanf

There's a larger lesson here about what the increasing maturity of digital culture itself signifies. For the idea that everything inexorably gets outdated within a few years--a given of not only the video games industry throughout more-or-less its entire existence, but many major online players too--no longer holds. Increasingly, the future is being shaped by existing products, not new ones: by hugely successful franchises--but also by companies who, having won vast communities of users, are devoting their increasingly expert energies to holding on to them.

Take the announcement two years ago that PopCap's hit casual game Bejewelled would be made available to World of Warcraft players via a downloadable add-on, allowing them to use the game within Warcraft itself rather than switching between two windows. Why compete with other kinds of game for attention, or attempt to out-design them, when you can simply collaborate? This ability to change, learn and absorb is characteristic of many of the most dominant digital companies of the moment, and it marks a determination to be superseded not from outside, but only by newer versions of themselves. Among other things, Cataclysm will boast a homage to PopCap's most famous recent hit, Plants vs. Zombies. World of Warcraft doesn't want you never to play anything else. It just wants you to know that, whatever you like and whatever you are like, there'll always be something in it for you.

This is what you can do with a persistent world, if you put your mind to it. For "persistent" really does mean what it says. You never really stop playing--just as you never really own the game or even your own characters in the first place. Stop your payments and your subscription will lapse. But your avatars will remain, neither aging nor decaying, waiting for you to reactivate them whenever you decide you're ready. As, no doubt, many thousands of people will be deciding to do at this very moment, as the urge to revisit a transformed version of the place they spent so many hours exploring all those years ago kicks in.

Nostalgia and novelty have long been the two most significant forces driving interactive entertainment--and they have always tended to pull us in two different directions. Today, though, within places like World of Warcraft, they are increasingly powerfully aligned. And this inherently conservative force is already having major consequences for just for the games industry, but for digital culture at large. We play games because their miniature worlds are places where everything makes sense: where effort brings rewards, where neither we nor the place ever grows old. The little Eden of Azeroth may be about to be transformed, but in an important sense it will always also remain the same. We should be both grateful for this, and--if we believe that change and innovation are the lifeblood of the web--a little afraid as well.

Tom Chatfield is an author, essayist, and arts and books editor at Prospect magazine. His book about the culture of video games, "Fun Inc.," is out now in the UK (Virgin), and is published in America on 15th November by Pegasus Books. Follow him on Twitter at @TomChatfield

Image: GT's screenshots & wallpapers

56 Responses to “Cataclysm Coming: how the WoW expansion will change MMO gaming”

  1. franko says:

    fantastic article. i’m so excited for Cataclysm… and scared at the same time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That was a good read, I’m also both excited and scared of all the changes, having spent so much time in this world since Vanilla.
    The changes to class abilities etc that came with the Lich King expansion was pretty exciting, but nothing as dramatic as what we’re getting for this next expansion. Before, we got new continents to explore, but this time everything we know about this world is about to change, and I think that’s a good thing. It wil bring back old players, entice new ones, and it will essentially put everyone back at the starting line, having to (to a certain extent) re-learn their class mechanics, the geography, basically forget all that we have learned from 5+ years of playing.

  3. CG says:

    WoW has refined their skinner box very well over the years.

    I played for many before finally quitting. Their RealID plan to integrate with Facebook and use real names on the Forums was too much. I value my privacy more than my entertainment so I quit then.

    Their most heinous invention was the Daily quest. Previously you could log in whenever you liked and continue working on whatever goal you had in mind until you got tired/bored and logged out.

    Dailies need to be completed each and every day. If you miss a day, you can’t catch up. The opportunity is lost. Now you can’t progress on your schedule, you have to progress on theirs. It was an insidious way to get the player base on every day. Once you’re on, it is so easy to find other things to do and before you know it, you’ve been on for hours.

    Ultimately it’s a very poor game. Your interaction with the environment is limited. The quests are laughable – go kill x monsters, collect y widgets or talk to person z; return for reward.

    The thing that kept me playing, and the part I still miss, is the people I met and played the game with. I miss them, but I’m happier with all the free time I have for other things now.

    • Anonymous says:

      the real name on the forums was removed, and the facebook integration is an option, not a requirement.

      Daily quests are definitely not necessary to do daily – they are something that can be done up to once per day for people that need something to do, but the only person who sets a “you must do this daily” requirement is the player, not the game. If you skip a day or a month from doing them, you’ll still be able to do them once you do feel inclined.

      It seems like you might have a different outlook of gaming, and may be looking for a different type of game. I disagree that its a poor game – it is rich in content, story line, (arguably) graphics, and interaction. You may not be able to run around and randomly kick over boxes and climb trees, but at least, like too many games out there, you can go an infinite number of directions, rather than just one, to progress in the game.

    • Flaminica says:

      I *was* looking forward to Cataclysm as well, “was” being the operative word.

      I also unsubscribed over RealID. Sometimes people have to say enough is enough, and my casual entertainment was not worth the violation of my privacy.

      There were other things:
      – The continual badgering to buy an authenticator to improve my account security while not stocking the Canadian authenticator in the Blizzard store. (I know – I checked every morning for four months.)
      – The fact that I’d even need an authenticator because of Blizzard’s abysmal track record at protecting their customer’s accounts from the continual onslaught of hackers. Of the friends with whom I’ve played, about 50% have been robbed at some point. This includes friends with authenticators.

      After RealID was dropped, Blizzard sent me a long grovelling apology email begging me to re-up. I haven’t and I never will. Sorry Blizz, it’s over. You do indeed have a fine Skinner box, but your players are jerks, your security sucks and I have better uses for 22Gbs of hard drive space. Hope you learned your lesson, but I doubt it.

      • Zizekian says:

        I also quit right before the sparkly horse/real ID fiascos… it was because my best friend that I played with got hacked, and then after spending over a week just trying to get a hold of tech support, he finally did and THOUGHT the issue was resolved, until they banned his account as soon as he logged in with his new authenticator. he didn’t feel like spending another week NOT being spoken to, and I quit as well. Almost got into EVE but going a more productive route instead… maybe some day I’ll find a new universe to call home, but WoW isn’t the game I originally fell in love with.

    • Rayonic says:

      @CG: Who the heck was forcing you to complete Daily Quests? Are you obsessive-compulsive? They’ve always been an optional way to progress and earn money at your own pace.

      RealID, besides being optional now, was only ever for the official WoW forums. Those forums are a chaotic cesspool anyway, so I hope they create some optional RealID-only forums on the side.

      And I have to laugh at “Ultimately it’s a very poor game.” Yes, a poor game that you played for years. You’re just trying to retroactively justify your recent decision to leave.

      • Beelzebuddy says:

        As long as we’re slinging accusations of bias, it sounds like you’re playing out a post-purchase rationalization of your experiences as well. Just because the forums are a cesspool doesn’t mean the RealID debacle wasn’t a callous disregard of their players’ privacy, nor does your disregard for your own privacy invalidate other peoples’ concerns about theirs.

        • Rayonic says:

          @Beelzebuddy: I actually stopped playing for social reasons earlier this year, but I don’t feel the psychological need to vilify the game. It is what it is. Your privacy concerns are a bit silly too — I mean, is anyone forced to post in those forums? Here’s a tip: If a service requires more information than you’re comfortable giving, don’t use that service.

          @CG: You can craft/buy a starter set, or run normal dungeons. Then run heroics to get more raid-ready. The progression path seems to get easier with every expansion. I mostly ran dailies for the gold, but there’s always the auction house and gathering professions for that too.

          I suppose most quests are filler, though they’ve nerfed leveling so much at this point that you can pick and choose what to do. It also helps if you enjoy killing things with your chosen class.

          Remember that when WoW first came out, one of its primary innovations was simply the fact that you could quest from 1 to 60 without resorting to killing the same monsters over and over for hours. (i.e. actual grinding)

      • CG says:

        @CG: Who the heck was forcing you to complete Daily Quests? Are you obsessive-compulsive? They’ve always been an optional way to progress and earn money at your own pace.

        If you wanted to progress in content (raids), the dailies are often required to do so for reputation or items to unlock content.

        And I have to laugh at “Ultimately it’s a very poor game.” Yes, a poor game that you played for years. You’re just trying to retroactively justify your recent decision to leave.

        No, I stayed with the game in spite of the poor quest based setup. Mostly because I wanted to hang with friends and this was a conveniently available common interest. You don’t play WoW for the scintillating quests; you play it because of the people.

        To make an analogy; I’d hang at a coffee shop with friends even if the coffee wasn’t great just to be with my friends. If the owner started putting in rules that I didn’t like, I’d stop going to the shop. I didn’t leave because the coffee was bad, but that doesn’t change the fact that the coffee was bad all along.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree and disagree. My wife and I also have been playing since beta. Your playstyle sounds very much like our own. However, it seems what you’ve taken away from WoW is different than our own.

    Generally, I think the populist approach to WoW in trying to be all things to all people – isn’t precisely being innovative in design. It’s being co-optive to all things in the attempt to show a facade of being all things to all people (in lieu of actually innovating and creating meaningful content for the players to interact with). In texture – it seems the game is less social than ever.

    One can endeavor in the mundane tasks of play and never interact with a single soul, even to the point they can hit level cap running anonymous Dungeonfinder PUGs with never a need to do anything requiring effort (and in many cases even knowing how to play ones class effectively).

    If you want to Raid – certainly it will require some interaction. You merely have to know your GearScore and have Vent so you can hear instructions on what to do (assuming you’ve never been to the encounter before – but *NEVER* say that you’ve never been, because most of the time you’ll get booted). It’s perfunctory to have at least WATCHED the encounter videos on YouTube to familiarize yourself with the encounter.

    Now of course not ALL Raids are like this. If you have a Guild then it doesn’t necessarily apply. What it does illustrate is the path of least resistance is *extremely* easy and quite common. Certainly there will be people that dispute this – but anecdotal evidence shows PUG’s killing Arthas pretty regularly (or at least working through ICC up to him) with the clarion Trade-Chat check of “GS and Vent required! Know the enounter or don’t bother!).

    Which leads me to another point: the design of WoW, six-years in, has become one of a meta-plot driven single-player game where it’s not the story of your character that matters. Who you are in WoW is irrelevant to the story the designers have concocted and given you a nice 4-wing instance to pursue at your leisure so you can see their cinematic of Blizzard’s heroes taking credit for your “work”.

    It’s not social. It’s LESS social. While I would never deny that the Ye Olde Schoole Games of Yore (EQ, UO, DaoC etc.) were better in terms of technical polish, they’re obviously not. The interaction that was generated by the public, even without the design of the game to dictate such: selling buffs, bindings, craft-trading, PUGS being limited to localization, Roleplaying (omg! remember that?), Casinos, and if your game allowed it – player housing, among other things that were by today’s WoW standards primitive, WERE something that demanded player interaction.

    Making things easy and accessible doesn’t make a better game. I think Blizzard has hit a pivotal point that all MMO’s get to (and I agree with your assessment that WoW got to its current standing via a little luck, a lot of cherrypicking, some damn fine art-direction, and good execution) – that there comes a time when the mechanics of the game, if not the meta-plot, becomes too overwrought. I’m not suspecting WoW will grow the market more. If anything – in trying to be all things to all people, the game’s further expansions (and I suspect Cataclysm will have shorter lifespan than Wrath, which most players I know agree was inferior to BC) will lessen that enthusiasm simply because there *is no new innovation* going on.

    It happens. I totally agree – that the MMO market has followed in WoW’s footsteps, and it’s doomed to fail in trying to imitate WoW because there’s little reason to play a WoW-Clone when WoW does the “WoW-thing” better than anything else, obviously.

    WoW isn’t ever going to “go away”. A glance at UO and EQ should be testament enough to that. What WoW has done is generated and legitimized the existence of “Gamers” in our culture. Most of the people that play WoW will always have the memories that this was their first MMO. But they will grow up and yearn for more. Many will stay satisfied. Technology will advance – and Cataclysm will be a footnote like Velious was for EQ etc. But some company will eventually make “that game” and a new exodus will occur. Until then – WoW will keep us happy.

  5. Rezorrand says:

    For me, World of Warcraft’s artistic style is a major turn off. Candy colours and cartoon appearance with massive shoulder pads mixed together with ever so clichéd characters is somewhat of an immersion killer from the start. I can’t take the story nor other events seriously, when everything seems to be from a teenager’s power fantasy. Admitted, I play really wide variety of games (apart from most of the sports games), also including similar RPGs to WOW, I never enjoyed the stereotypic high-fantasy setting.

    As for the MMORPG’s and this article itself, I’m pleased to see that there’s improvement to be seen in the field. I’ve tried dozens of MMO’s in my life, but never really got into them. Main reason for this was the quests, combat and levelling. In all of the games the main purpose was to start the grinder and grind XP killing the same mobs over and over again until you were good enough to level up. Rinse and repeat a million times and you get the idea. If more MMOs had this kind of ever-changing world in them to keep things fresh, more focus on storyline instead of the same repeated quests, then I’d get hooked too.

    But seriously, 45,000HP (at maximum levels in WoW).. really? I’m sure there’s a better way to depict power than by simply adding zeroes behind one’s HP and MP bars. I’m not too fond of this one trend of escalating and not diversifying.

    • mellowknees says:

      I was just about to post the same thing – if WoW *looked* different, I’d probably play it. I know that sounds silly – but a HUGE part of playing an MMORPG is staring at the screen for hours and hours and hours at a time, and if it’s not visually appealing to the player, it’s hard to keep staring at it. You can have the most interesting, thought provoking, challenging and fun quests in the world, but if my character has an appearance that I consider to be too cartoony, I’m never going to be able to get into the game for the long haul.

      However, I will say this – this expansion sounds amazing and awesome. If I did play it, I am sure I would be all kinds of excited about it! I’ve played EQ and EQ2 (and other MMORPGs that I haven’t stuck with) since 1999, and I know how exciting the prospect of new content is!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Minor correction: Meridian59 was the first online 3D MMORPG, not Ultima Online. M59 was live in 1996 and had a five-figure player base at peak.

  7. ben says:

    Of all the times I’ve quit WoW (several), the reason seemed to be the same: it was too good. I found it very difficult to stop and do something else, even if something else was just to watch TV. So…I’m pretty jazzed for another excuse to dust off the old toons and do some exploring.

  8. Daedalus says:

    Escalating and not diversifying…it’d be interesting to see an MMO that abandons the depth-based “class/level” system in favor of a bredth-based “multiclass/skill” system, but it would mean structuring your pac-man pellets a little differently. Levels have an innate psychological thrust behind them.

    But techniques to ditch grind are interesting to me. I didn’t stop WoW (entirely) because of grind, but more because I couldn’t find a group to embrace me. Admittedly, I didn’t look very hard, but so much of the fun of the game relies on having a solid guild or group that you play with that, while there was “high grind,” I couldn’t keep up with the few groups I managed to form.

    It’s also interesting that they’re updating the old system instead of forcing a sequel. WoW is as much a platform as it is a game, and that’s interesting to me.

    I look forward to seeing the design genius forthcoming from Blizzard. They’re pretty good over there. ;)

  9. daneyul says:

    Unless the graphics have been overhauled to compete with games like Lord of the Rings online, or the level of global chat channels has risen beyond stoner talk, 24×7, I think I’ll pass.

  10. Brainspore says:

    We don’t have kids yet, but when we do, we may well end up playing this game with them.

    Take it from a recent parent: you won’t be playing video games at all, at least not for a while.

  11. Teufelaffe says:

    To those complaining about RealID, you do realize that you can completely ignore it and never reveal your personal information to anyone, right? While they toyed with the idea of forcing people to use their real names on the forums, that was unrelated to RealID and was quickly dropped. Also, specifically to Flaminicia, you are aware that they didn’t “drop” RealID? It’s still there, and it’s still *completely* optional. As for your friends getting hacked, that really sucks, but blaming Blizzard for your friends’ inability to avoid getting phished or infected with a virus/malware is a bit silly. At the end of the day, it was a failure on the user’s end that resulted in their account getting hacked, not Blizzard’s.

    @Daedalus: Asheron’s Call, while it did have a level system, most of your character’s abilities were skill based, and your skills improved through use and spending of experience points on them. Level was really only a measure of how powerful you *should* be…your character’s actual abilities operated independently of your character’s level. They didn’t even really have a class system. If you wanted to be really good with a sword, wear plate armor and cast spells, you worked on your skills to make that happen. Man, I really miss the gameplay of Asheron’s Call.

    • CG says:

      RealID wasn’t something they were toying around with when it was introduced. It was going to happen until a large number of people started dropping their subscriptions. RealID was going to be required in order to log into the Forums. Your choice was to not participate in the forums in if you valued your privacy.

      I know there were subsequent issues with Friend-of-Friend visibility, but I’m not sure of the current state of things. I did know you could turn it off, but a company that doesn’t see why the original plan for RealID was a bad one isn’t one I want to support. They’ll just try it again later (aka. The Facebook Privacy Doctrine).

    • Daedalus says:

      Yeah, the idea of that in video games is at least as old as the original Final Fantasy II, but it’s less-often explored. It presents its own challenges (such as exacerbating grind, influencing co-op play, etc.), and because it’s less-often explored, it’s rarer to find a system experimenting with solving these problems, especially when race/class/level solves all of them for you, and has a lot more work done on fixing its own problems!

      It’s something that deserves more thought, though. Imagine a game where your skills don’t advance at all — your HP is static, your Manna is the same always, your skill with weapons is always the same, and you are locked in. But you gain different powers. New defensive abilities, new weapons to use, new magical abilities that use manna differently…modifying a baseline rather than increasing it. I imagine such a system would be well-suited to a modern-setting game, too, though that’s just a gut feeling.

      • Beelzebuddy says:

        It’s something that deserves more thought, though. Imagine a game where your skills don’t advance at all — your HP is static, your Manna is the same always, your skill with weapons is always the same, and you are locked in. But you gain different powers. New defensive abilities, new weapons to use, new magical abilities that use manna differently…modifying a baseline rather than increasing it. I imagine such a system would be well-suited to a modern-setting game, too, though that’s just a gut feeling.

        That’s Guild Wars. Imagine if your WoW character only had eight hotkeys, and had to pick which skills to use with them. You work for versatility, not ability.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Is anyone else scared by the massive amounts of time consumed by games like WoW? I’m all for recreational gaming even at the hardcore level if that’s your thing (and you still get up to go to the bathroom, step outside, go to work etc.), but these games just seem too all consuming. Games have traditionally been something you can win at and perhaps replay once or twice – most RPG/Action Games – games you finish and then start again slowly perfecting your craft until you’ve fully explored what the game has to offer – Civ X – or games like Counterstrike or W(St)arcraft that most will play too much of but eventually say enough is enough.. but a game that offers a constantly evolving, massive world with no end in sight and a robust community? To me that’s when a really good thing becomes a harmful entity. That is unless you have some serious self control.

    • IPFREELY says:

      There are definitely elements of win. Yet, it’s not even a two sided coin, it’s more like a bajillion sided die.

  13. tinuviel says:

    I’ve only been playing since LK came out, but I agree with you on how the Warcraft ‘world’ sucks you in, and how it becomes familiar in a way. Playing with friends (all of a 30 year old plus demographic, several well into their 40s) that helped me pass the ‘noob’ learning curve quickly helped a ton too. ReadID is great as I could chat with friends across different servers as well.

    As for kids playing, my 8 year old daughter loves WoW. She’s gone from wandering Azeroth and begging Mom (me) for gold to buy vanity pets to taking her Death Knight up to level 71 by herself and DPSing in random dungeon groups. She’s as much into the lore and characters as I was into Star Wars at her age. I recall ‘being’ Darth Vader for several years of my young life, as much as she ‘is’ a druid/death knight/night saber stalker/insert toon-du-jour here. (yes, parents, her trade chat and swear filters are turned on by the way).

    After getting a sneak peek at the Beta, I’m actually excited to play again as well, as the graphics are just amazing, and being able to fly around places like Stormwind and Orgrimmar is a huge bonus. For now I’ll have to wait though, as my lastest child is only a few weeks old, and it’s hard to raid and breast feed at the same time (jesting, my account isn’t even currently active).

  14. Beelzebuddy says:

    If you’ve never played it, Guild Wars is a good example of a largely grind-free MMO. Your max level was 20, which could be attained in a day. Beyond that, the difference between characters are the skills they have and equip. Opportunities to grind were there, but largely for epenis only. Unfortunately the later expansions (Nightfall, EotN) included more and more mandatory grind as people began complaining that their skinner boxes were broken – they hit the lever once and all the peanuts come out, what the hell is up with that. Oh, and if you just want to pvp (which is really all there is to do in a game that old), you can make lvl 20 characters right off the bat.

    Guild Wars 2 promises to be more of the same, though as a player I’ve eaten the yellow snow too many times to take game devs or trufans at their word.

  15. mgfarrelly says:

    I’ve tried to play WoW twice. Both times I lasted about a week and a half before being bored silly. The grinding aspect of MMOs feels too much like work for me. When I play a game I want to be creating and enjoying, not fetching. I’ve stuck to pen and paper games more than online role-playing. I like the sandbox to be all my own.

    I get the appeal, and I enjoy reading essays like this from passionate fans who, perhaps, have more patience and persistence than I do. That they’ve created whole sub-cultures, communities, and relationships is wonderful to see.

    I have nothing but admiration for what Blizzard has accomplished. They are truly artists and have created an amazing persistent world.

  16. SB-129 says:

    warcraft ultimately cost me my marriage. it has cost others their educations and their careers – all that i have personally seen. if i had become addicted to a class A drug i would have got sympathy and treatment. looking back i would have rather become addicted to the drug than the game. i am not the only one. beware of its lure.

    • Decay says:

      I agree – it totally is something you can get addicted to. I quit a year ago, but have recently got back into it before Cata. I am rationing myself, but it’s tricky! It’s honestly the only thing I’ve ever been addicted to…

      And in opposition to the comments about the style above, I like it. I much prefer it over the dull realism of Guild Wards or the Lord of the Rings MMO. It’s got a bit of style about it, and the pop culture references dropped into the game are a nice touch.

    • IPFREELY says:

      Yeah, there seriously needs to be a 1 hour instructional video and test on how to RPG/game. “If you find yourself feeling sick do you?: A)Find some more ores. B)Drink a nice glass of water and yoga C)Consult your doctor.

  17. EarthtoGeoff says:

    I realize more people play WoW than any other MMORPG. But this does not differentiate the gameplay or set it above others currently on the market.

    The characters lack adequate customization in comparison to other games. Travel is annoying, in comparison to other games. And the graphics and storylines are on par with several other games on the market. (of course, all IMO.)

    Full disclosure: I play City of Heroes/Villains casually. So I just get frustrated when reading about these “breakthrough” WoW updates when games with smaller populations have already done them. (Not including the minigame PvZ stuff.)

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree. You can always tell when a WoW article is written by someone who plays WoW and never played much of anything else. Every one of those ‘innovations’ is something that’s been done in other games. UO was not the first MMO. There is some disagreement about which was the first, except that UO was NOT.

  18. cupcakecalamity says:

    I quit playing WoW over a year ago, (but only ended my subscription a few months ago, just in case!!!!!) and this article is making me ache to play again. :(

  19. Coherent says:

    Because if it’s possible to keep on reinventing a game this well, how can anybody else hope to tempt you away from a place so layered with experiences and memories, and so relentless in re-calibrating itself on the basis of its users’ behaviour?

    This is an interesting question, if simple to answer. It is in two parts: How can anyone else compete with the personal investment that your average MMO player has in the world of warcraft? And, How can they compete with Blizzard’s ability and willingness to change the entire game in the name of improving the player experience?

    The first question is pretty easy: Build a better game. I think we fail to remember sometimes that despite it’s successes and continued success, The World of Warcraft is not that good. It still misses the ideal player experience by a huge margin. Notice how narrow the goals are: Improved equipment to kill monsters with (or kill other players with)! That’s it. That’s the only motivation that the game offers. Of course there are other motivations to play the game, as with any MMO. But the only ultimate player goal is money and power.

    So no player housing, no deep and personal story interaction, no detailed crafts, no ability to affect the world at all in a personal or even collective way, and most unfortunately, no interesting and interactive cross-fertilization of personal motivations, such as questing and raiding for rare hides so that you can craft an potent and attractive totem for the front lawn of your guild’s fortress which has been attacked by ghouls that are stealing gold out of the guild’s treasure room.

    Blizzard is afraid of cross-pollinating motivations like this; they’ve had opportunities to do it, and rejected them every time. This is probably a smart move on their part, they’ve become the crack ninja squad of motivation refinement. They only do one motivation, and they’re the absolute best of the best. But should someone else dare to mix motivations more successfully, they could definitely do some real damage to Blizzard’s user base.

    So the second question: How could someone compete against Blizzard give Blizz’s ability and willingness to change their user experience? Much more challenging! If someone showed how to do it, I’m pretty sure Blizz would simply borrow the principles and use themselves. They’re smart and flexible, which is why they’re so good.

    On a personal note, I really enjoyed this article, I think it brought to light several very interesting facets that I believe are very pertinent.

  20. Anonymous says:

    All of the game mechanic updates that you like (with the exception of the talent tree revamp) are already present in many other MMOs.
    One particularly poignant example would be Lord of the Rings Online, which has often been called a “WoW clone”. While they aren’t completely revamping the world that they have, they’ve already avoided many of the grinds you complained about.
    Once you buy a skill, you have it permanently, and it upgrades with level, without having to pay for it.
    Again, the game doesn’t have ammo requirements. When you have a bow, you shoot it. You don’t run out of arrows.
    There is no weapon skill grinding. Some classes get a skill for “advanced proficiency” in a weapon, but there is no extra grind required.
    And over time, they have set out to reduce other meaningless grinds as well.
    Most “vendor trash” items in the game were consolidated into a much more manageable number, and stack sizes were increased so that people don’t have to visit a vendor every five minutes. They recently put a cap on virtues (something like talents, but affecting main statistics). Instead of getting randomly dropped set pieces from raids and instances, they switched to barter tokens that you can trade in for the item you want (sometimes even something that used to be from another instance).
    They also have a pretty decent storyline.

    But on the other hand, if you want a world that changes on a day-to-day basis, there is EVE Online.

    Nothing that WoW is doing in Cataclysm will change MMO gaming, but it will liklely change “WoW gaming”.

    Whatever you do though, just play games that you enjoy.

  21. Mikey says:

    My wife and I have been playing WoW since about a week after it’s release. We played pretty heavily for a couple of years, then quit, once BC came out we played for a while, and then when Lich King came out we played for another year. We are very casual players, we don’t raid or do anything that requires too much work or study.

    WoW may not be the best game from a hardcore perspective but it’s really fun. If it wasn’t fun, how could anyone justify the amount of time that people spend playing. I look forward to evening where we can sit down, get on vent with our friends and run around beating up mobs and other players.

    We recently started playing again to get warmed up and back into the swing for Cataclysm, but also to make sure we see everything that we had never seen before. Because we were never raiders, we never went into some areas…now that we are 20 lvls above those areas we can go in and see what we missed. I know a lot of these places will be destroyed in the near future.

    And I really am going to miss Booty Bay if they really wreck it like they show in the trailer.

  22. cjovalle says:

    My wife and I also started playing together at WoW launch (I did beta, but she didn’t have a chance to) and played for a bit more than a year. We also played awhile when BC came out, and then rejoined about a year ago and have been playing ever since. We consider ourselves relatively casual players (and there’s a term that can mean many things), and we now play on the librarian guild over on the Aerie Peak server. We do get to raid and do some end content.

    We do have fun there. She loves to collect pets and achievements, and we got several of our friends to rejoin. We liked the WotLK changes in making traveling easier and making it so that smaller, more casual guilds can get to end game content. We’re hoping Cataclysm doesn’t change that too much. ^^

    Blizzard has done some things I haven’t been happy with. RealID, copyright lawsuits, the GBLT mess a few years back- but they’ve responded to at least some of those cases in appropriate ways. They could do better.

    Guild drama always took its toll, but luckily the librarian crowd is more laid-back. ^_^

  23. Forteto says:

    As a relativly unserious and un-aweinspiring gamer, I was never able to get into WOW. I saw my friends playing, thought PvP look cool, tried playing, realized I need insane amount of time to play and left. I do pay and play other MMORPGS, but they tend to be less serious things then this. For example, adventure quests worlds(AQW for its players) but it tend to be a less serious and dedicated game. I also have played a decent amount of other small RPG’s, but I’ve found myself bored by them. Personally, I have found somthing odd about games that are big or take themself to seriously. They get very boring. Its no fun being a level 12 noob, with no items, watching a level 80 ride on his Generic Impressive Adjective Dragon of somthing or otherness.

    Personally, I think that game should eventulally gravitate to things like paralell kingdoms on the ipod or minecraft. In both games players make the scenery. I personally feel that real games will be game were players make the game, and the idea. In paralell kingdom, the biggest trade post in the game was made by a very dedicated player. There is no story or quests. The only goal are goals that the player sets for themself. Level grinding is impossible. In fact the game as a whole feels like it shouldn’t work but instead it a masterpeice of player interaction. Unlike other games, you can’t play it without people. You want shade metal? Find a metalurgist. Player co-operation is crucial because at the max level you can’t do everything. You still need to do other stuff with players. Same with the weekly hats, (leaderbored awards). Player co-operation is essential to obtain them, despite the fact that only ONE person gets the award. It a intesting idea.

  24. Coherent says:

    I absolutely play WoW. I haven’t played in about 6 months, but I intend to buy Cataclysm and play it. All of these comments seem to miss the point, that MMO’s and WoW in general are a generational activity that bridges the gap – He plays it, his kid will probably play it, and his character will live on. The generation that matters is the youngest – they’ll grow up playing WoW all their life, and they’ll make MMO’s truly great because it will be a part of their life.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I was addicted to WoW for a while. I ended up quitting the game because raids were always in the evenings, and I was having to work a lot of evenings. At that time, I had lots of free time in the afternoons, but nobody ever raided at that time, so it wasn’t worth the money to me. I got tired of getting on in the afternoon and not having anybody to talk to or play with. Now I do iPhone games and, for my RPG fix, Dragon Age: Origins. With a crazy schedule like mine, single-player games that can be started or stopped at any time are the most appealing.

  26. Anonymous says:

    There is one thing that has kept me interested in WoW for years, and for my friends and I it is what keeps the game interesting. We play on an RP server. While some might argue that it isn’t the best venue for RP (and that’s actually been acknowledge by Chris Metzen) it doesn’t change the fact that we establish characters with backgrounds and rich histories, have involved storylines and do far more than just run around looking for that next gear piece.

    I honestly couldn’t imagine playing the game if I was limited to dungeons, dailies, and raiding. It would be so boring!

  27. hpavc says:

    The PVE vs PVE balance issues are really taxing me and the over reliance on gearscore for even the most trivial content is quite poor.

    I really have high hopes for the next installment of battlenet allowing us to group/raid with friends cross battlegroup/server on demand, versus randoms.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I’m an MMO guy way back from UO, most IT people played some kind of online MMO or MUD’s. I played both and still MMO almost every day. I beta tested Wow for 6 months, (I haven’t missed an e3 in years) at that time I thought it not only very stable but very fun to play (to lvl 50). I loved my Paladin. However Wow, it was a ridiculous grind, far more so then any of it’s predecessors; EQ, UO, DAOC etc, I played them all for hours, months, years. Wow had More grind to LvL up then was even remotely reasonable and 10 more levels with each expansion? I spent a year leveling up my first warlock and rolled that tune the day of launch. I gave up shortly after the 3rd expansion.

    I wanted to explore other content, play the other side and other classes on both sides but still play end game PvP. You couldn’t do that furthermore just to keep your one toon geared up and PK-able was a god dam full time freaking job. Only High School and middle school kids could put that kind of time into playing. I’ve heard they changed that, who cares I’m not going back to find out.

    The look of the game was cartoon-ish and ugly, I did’t like the look like almost everyone I know. Wow brought the absolute bottom feeders of the gaming world to the MMOLRPG world and they’ve never left. They’ve infested other MMO’s like the creeping death, go play aion for a week or any other MMO for that matter. I now have to listen to a bunch of neurotic pubescent ass-hats starting arguments across who zones for upwards of an hour, wth are the Mods? WTH are their perents! Out watching old Chuck Norris movies no doubt.

    The whole of the time I was regularly playing Wow I was thinking to myself “this game isn’t fun” but how could 12 million players dig it so much? I figured I just hadn’t gotten to the good stuff yet, hence the carrot on the fishing pole hanging above bugs bunnies head. There was no uber content plus I was playing a Warlock! The most OP’d toon in the game at the time and I was still not having a good time. I leveled up a Hunter to Lvl 70, I was board out of my mind. All of this on a full PvP server, PK is my play style. I still to this day don’t get why so many people adore Wow, for me it was a long instance grind day after day.

    Sadly I also think next to Aion, Wow had the absolute best and most balanced PvP ever. If you were the better player (at least in the frost 18 months) you were going to win a 1 vs 1 battle. Every class (almost) could defend itself against any other class evenly. You just had to be polished enough to know what tot do against each type and have good gear. This was before the Gear issue got out of control. Also, I’m not advocating Aion. it’s the worst MMO I’ve ever players although Wow is second.

    AT the end of the day I don’t buy that 12 million people play Wow, that’s a bunch of hog wash. They wouldn’t be making such such a huge change if they were making money hand over fist like they were 4 years ago. What they are doing to game play is a huge change, companies only do that when they’re not running up to expectations by top management. They and the community can toss around that figure all they want, it’s baloney.

    I’ve been back playing DAOC again for 6 months. The PvP isn’t all that because lets face it the software is over 3 years older them Wow, but it’s there’s lots of people playing on the Ywains and I’m having fun. If I’m not having fun in a year I will try something else. The point is no grind and lots of content including PvP is FTW! for this guy.

    • Anonymous says:

      “…Wow had the absolute best and most balanced PvP ever. If you were the better player (at least in the frost 18 months) you were going to win a 1 vs 1 battle. Every class (almost) could defend itself against any other class evenly. You just had to be polished enough to know what tot do against each type and have good gear. This was before the Gear issue got out of control.”

      It has been stated time and time again for the past six years that the game was never balanced around 1v1. 1v1 has always been a case of rock, paper, scissors.

      If you had to grind more in WoW then you did in Aion, I’m wondering if you ever even -played- Aion. It took more XP to level from 22-23 in Aion than it did from 79-80 in WoW. And let me tell you, once you ran out of quests (which was PDQ) there was nothing to do in Aion but grind – but that’s typical for a Korean MMO. If you had to grind anything, at any point in WoW, it was self-inflicted, not required to level (*cough* Furbolg rep).

      The beauty to WoW’s “cartoon” looks it that the game has always been accessible. When other games were trying to stress systems, WoW was a game that any reasonable system could play (even on dialup during Vanilla!). While the system requirements move up with every expansion, it’s still playable by a broad range of gamers, even if the system they own isn’t top notch.

      The fact that they have done a ground up rebuild of the old world (which, as a beta tester let me tell you is AMAZING) shows that they’re not content to sit and let old content rot. Do you know what happens to MMOs typically? With each new expansion, the old content dies. 1-60 WoW was just that – dead. It was something that you chewed through as fast as you could (Recruit-A-Friend, 3x XP) to get to BC, which you also blazed through, to race to Northrend to get your latest character to cap and geared. To think that it’s not a sound financial move to give players who have been with you for the better part of six YEARS an incentive to start new characters and continue playing, then I don’t know what you would consider a viable business strategy. What they’ve done is -smart-. While there will be a large population going to 85 immediately, you’re going to see a resurgence in low levels and I’d wager that they’ll see a large upswing in subscriptions, too. This will be the perfect time for people who have been playing to get new people involved.

      Failing to adapt is fatal in just about any venture, and the gutsy move they’re making by tearing up the content that everyone knows by heart and tossing in (iirc) 5000 new quests is going to pay off.

  29. JhmL says:

    The font used in the article is really hard to read >.<

  30. Anonymous says:

    Typo: “while the choices here are are more meaningfully differentiated”

    If you’re a more traditional roleplayer,you can still play online: is a “virtual tabletop” for pen-and-paper RPGs

  31. YLT says:

    I really found this article interesting. People that have played WoW for a long time have gotten attached to land that hasn’t really changed since it was first created. I started playing WoW a few months before WoLK came out and so I did not get to experience the way things were as a 70 when it was the highest level. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to do all the raids and instances that I had always heard people doing in Trade Chat but I got over it when I discovered all the new and exciting things there was to do in the new expansion. Since I began playing there have been a lot of good and bad changes to the game. There were a number of changes in the WoLK expansion but that was nothing compared to what is happening in the Cata expansion. When the new pre-Cata patch came out not to long ago I saw a lot of changes I thought were really cool and a lot of changes I was really not happy about. In my opinion Blizzard is going the wrong way with WoW they are trying to make it too easy. Blizzard hasn’t really shown that they know the difference between difficult and inconvienent. A perfect example of something that Blizzard keeps making easier is the leveling process. Even when I started playing a couple of years ago leveling was incredibly and now they’ve made it so easy it’s almost not fun starting a new character. However, on the other hand Blizzard has made things a lot more convienent in terms of leveling because now you only have to learn attacks once and you don’t have to go out of your way to go better your attacks every other level. There are a bunch more things that frustrated me about the updates and one is how the got rid of tree form for druids. Druids are shapeshifters and tree form was a very popular form and I know I was looking forward to leveling up my druid and getting it. If anything they should be giving druids new forms to mess around with, not taking them away. I’ve heard that one of the reasons they got rid of tree form was because people were complaining about not seeing their gear but what about moonkin, cat, and bear form, it’s all the same situation. Instead of just taking it away they should make it an option to either show them in the form or not just like they do with helm or cloak. Anyways there were a lot of good updates and a lot of ones that I didn’t agree with but that’s just me.

  32. YLT says:

    I was in a rush and messed up the “Even when I started playing” line. It should be “incredibly easy”.
    Sorry LMAO

  33. Anonymous says:

    I played since day one.
    I will stop now before Cataclysm.
    The things that made playing fun are gone
    Its faster faster pussycat kill kill now
    no more searching for things, everything is blinking now on the map.
    Where is the fun of finding a hidden quest when you see quest in the map ?
    I feel cheated, I played five years to have the game destroyed around me.
    the endgame content is all that´s importent.
    I seem to be the only player me who never use the engame content.

    With only 20 min free time to play a day, you cannot raid, cant do dungeons, all my fun was exploring and exploring vanished forever.

  34. Anonymous says:

    This article was both interesting and quite eloquent. In the last paragraph the author brought up the driving forces of nostalgia and novelty. Have a look at that paragraph again, when you get a chance. It is interesting to me because it highlights a couple of things I hadn’t really consciously thought about with the upcoming expansion and WoW in general.

    I have always been cognizant of the nostalgia inherent within WoW, but it has taken two forms, passive and active. Active nostalgia has been created through references to previous games. The first two expansions are each examples of this. The first directly ties into lore from Warcraft, Warcraft II, and Warcraft III. The second continues the story started in Warcraft III and was billed in some quarters as a return to Northrend. The voice scripts for the Orc Peons is again designed to specifically reference that in the previous iterations of the Warcraft mythos. Internal WoW nostalgia has been far more passive and superficial. The creation of alt characters is both an act of novelty and one of nostalgia on the player’s part. Why play a human again? Because it returns you to Elwynn Forest and the gentle, pastoral music and sunny glades you spent your first levels in. And then you progress on to Westfall, a thorn in your side on your first time and no better this. The reuse of characters and families like Hemet Nesingwary and Gryn Stoutmantle are fairly small superficial details which certainly are nostalgic, but are not game-changing. A less enjoyable form of internal nostalgia has certainly persisted regarding the various changes in skills, but. but I feel that a mechanical nostalgia is far less satisfying.

    Cataclysm is, I think, the first expansion that is being studiedly and internally nostalgic. By destroying the world that players know, it creates a class of player who know what the world was like before. They will not only feel personal nostalgia, but will create a culture of nostalgia in which people talk about how things used to be, for better or worse. But more than that there is a trend in the patches leading up to the expansion and in the upcoming expansion to create nostalgia for entry-level WoW experiences. The creation of a lvl-80 Onyxia raid was a first step in this direction, and the revamping of entry-level dungeons for high level players seems to be following in that same vein.

    I just think that it is interesting and that it was not necessarily addressed in the article that the nostalgia of WoW has been fairly outwardly directed and that this upcoming patch seems to be a breaking point (pardon the pun) after which a true nostalgia internal to WoW will be created. I feel that this is a far truer sense of nostalgia than has been possible in WoW, since there has not been a melancholic aspect to the nostalgia, but rather merely a set of references. With the upheaval of Cataclysm, players will return to places they know and not be able to experience them as they were

    Nostalgia encompasses a sense of longing and loss, and I think that it is both a brave and a necessary choice to include those emotions in a game that has lasted so long. It creates a more full and varied emotional experience, which is far more important the mechanical experience.

    Thanks again for the article!


  35. Doug Tableman says:

    Glad you liked the review. Both this article and parts of Fun Inc. really made me want to try WoW again, but I just never really got into it before. Do you have any tips for a newbie to have more fun with the game?

  36. Tom Chatfield says:

    Doug—glad to see you’re following me around the web! My only real tips for WoW are to play with friends, to talk to people, to team up, and not to take it too seriously. Oh, and toy around with classes until you find a play style you like. Don’t know why, but I can’t stand playing hunters. Rogues take zero skill, which may be why I like them so much…

  37. Anonymous says:

    Looks like a groovy expansion. Do you think we’ll be able to win the game now?

  38. Gregory Bloom says:

    Okay, the article got me stoked enough to look into blowing the dust off my ancient WoW account and seeing what all this fooforaw is about. Come to find out, to bring my WoW client up-to-date they have a deal to get me the expansions plus a pre-purchase of Cataclysm for only $87.98. Of course, I’d also have to re-attach their $15/month leech on the side of my neck.

    My curiosity isn’t that great. Maybe when they go the way of Lord of the Rings Online or Guild Wars and become free-to-play I’ll have another look. Thanks, anyway.

  39. Anonymous says:

    WoW lost interest for me after 5 years of playing because things became boring. Not easy, just repetitive. Less grinding? I don’t think so. Raids have become grinds. How many times do we have to kill the same boss. 10-man, 25-man, 10-man heroic, 25-man heroic – all on the same boss just a little harder. Boring. I’m not coming back for Cata though I have to admit I wouldn’t mind looking around. I’ll be back to MMORPGs in the Spring with SWTOR and see what they can do. At least it’ll be different. I enjoyed WOW and I still remember many adventures into many and varied places with lots of good people. But enough already.

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