Accepting World of Warcraft

Maybe you know the feeling of stumbling upon a line in a book or quote on a webpage, in a moment when it seems so fitting to your personal situation that it makes the hair on your neck stand erect. As if someone out there in the cosmic pattern of things reached out to you, echoing what you think or feel. As if that line had been written just for you, no matter how long ago or by whom.

I’m sucker for words and language. I carry a mental library of quotes and poems in my head and take them with me wherever I go, like precious jewels helping me on the way (“may it be a light for you in dark places”). In moments where a well-timed word hits me like a truck, I get the proverbial goosebumps. Some might consider me a geek because I play online games but oh, you’ve no idea where my real geekdom lies, it’s in literature.

It’s difficult times in WoW at the moment, for our own raidguild that is currently struggling to recruit and keep a 25man agenda going, but also on a larger scale many players and guilds currently ask uncomfortable, inevitable questions about themselves or the game. The ever-lasting dilemma of the “social and friendly guild” who’d still like to attract serious raiders, is one of them. Another is the old question about class balance in WoW versus identity and loss of immersion. Yet another that will always wind us up, is the question of accessibility in your mainstream MMO and how that has killed the sense of epic achievement for the average gamer – or to put it even more extremely, like Wolfshead does, has created the worst MMO community ever in the history of the genre.

While players will never agree on these matters (and it’s probably a good thing or WoW blogs would be posting a lot less), we can agree that Blizzard have changed the face of the MMO genre forever, by opening WoW to a mainstream audience with a low gaming background on average. The genre has taken a big shift and it’s true that compared to classic MMORPGs, WoW has simply decided to go down a new path, for better and for worse (I can easily think of improvements here too).
To sum it up for the oldschool players and all those concerned, vexed or outraged:

  • Yes, WoW allows for more casual play than any MMO before. It also has a lot less annoying timesinks, to be fair.
  • Yes, there’s not much “RPG” in WoW. 
  • Yes, WoW is very item/loot-centric, rather than lore-centric for example.
  • Yes, WoW favors bringing players rather than classes, thus inevitably gimping the identity associated with “class”. 
  • Yes, WoW is more solo-friendly and therefore, by design, enforces a lot less cooperation, a lot less “MM” in the MMO. This doesn’t mean it discourages cooperation.
  • Yes, so much freedom has probably lead to a wild mix of players in WoW of whom many do not actually care for the same values a classic online gamer cares for. They pay subscriptions too though.
  • Yes, all of us are subject to these changes, whether we like it or not.

I won’t disagree with any of that, I have been disillusioned with some of these aspects in WoW just like other, long-time gamers have. However, I am not grumpy anymore and I’m not disappointed by Cataclysm. I am in fact surprised that anyone would be: did you really expect Blizzard to change their trend of 6 years in the new expansion? Huh?

Which brings me back to the quote I read this morning. It’s doubly dear to me, for it is in fact taken from my alltime favourite fantasy series on which the name of my WoW avatar (and nickname of many years before), Syl, goes back. I haven’t read them in a while (I usually re-read them at least once or twice a year though), and this just seemed so fitting –

“Hope is the denial of reality. It is the carrot dangled before the draft horse to keep him plodding along in a vain attempt to reach it.”

“Are you saying we shouldn’t hope?”

“I’m saying we should remove the carrot and walk forward with our eyes open!” [M. Weis / T. Hickman; The Dragonlance Chronicles] 

If there’s something humankind is good at, then it’s the denial of what we don’t want to see or be. If we don’t accept reality a little longer, surely things won’t be quite as bad – maybe they will even magically change and adapt to our will. And while we’re doing this silly exercise, we lose something very precious: we lose time. Time to face the truth and act. Time to look for options maybe, that can still resolve our situation. Sometimes, living the dream is preferable to reality; reality however, is going to catch up sooner or later and when it does, it hurts doubly so.

I don’t believe in prolonging the inevitable. That said, judging when the “inevitable” applies, can be hard. I have colored glasses of my own, just like everyone else does, I am not the master of things to come. Yet, if I have to choose between accepting a sucky truth or standing around dreaming a little longer, I will always prefer the first option. Just like I would rather have you tell me how much I annoy you rather than blowing smoke up my ass (bring on the hate mail!). 

Removing the carrot

How does all this rambling lead to WoW? My message for the day goes to Wolfshead (whose critical articles I appreciate very much) and all the unhappy WoW players out there:

Time to face truth, friends. You’ve had 6 years now and surely, that is enough to accept and understand the basic concept of WoW. Years of proof have shown that WoW is not your classic MMORPG and that it will follow its own course in the future. The things that annoy you about it, they will only get “worse”. Blizzard does not care to serve an older definition of the genre. You can stop hoping now and face reality or you can be disappointed after every content patch or expansion. Why do this to yourself though? Why chase the carrot?

By all means do criticize; but winding yourself up over fundamental aspects of the game is waste of breath. You need to accept they are there, and there to stay. You won’t change Blizzard’s mind. It might hurt to accept it, but: WoW is not designed to suit you – and it’s not personal. Once more with feeling:

WoW is not designed to suit you!

I remember back in vanilla WoW, I had a few classic gamer buddies all leaving the game sometime before TBC hit, for the same reason: “This game is only about loot. This game is not our MMORPG.” They figured that out 5 years ago and they were consequent about it. WoW failed to be what die-hard UO, EQ or DAoC players were looking for – and so they left. They’re playing other games now, like EVE Online which is possibly the geekiest and most elitist MMO out there at the moment. And it’s sandbox. And the devs do not care one bit about players whining that things are too hard.

You can make the same choice, the customer’s ultimate statement: stop paying. Or you can accept reality and still enjoy the few aspects in WoW you care about, if there are any.

Personally, I am done making myself unhappy: I choose to take WoW for what it is in Cataclysm. I know that WoW is a chatroom with epics, I know it’s a world of collectors and whiners, I know it’s a parodist fantasy world at best, the Discworld of its genre.
WoW will never be my perfect MMORPG; but it still holds some attraction for me and things I enjoy doing, like exploring a shiny world or raiding with friends I’ve known for years. I can live with that and kiss my carrot goodbye. I can probably even accept the reality of 10man raiding, if that is what the future holds for Adrenaline. I will go into it with open eyes and make the best out of it, just like we always have. For now, we’re evaluating our options.

P.S. To all those who were crossing their fingers on behalf of my loot luck after my last posting, I can update you that Lady RNG has of course not changed her mind about my case (thanks though!). I have however successfully “farmed” the auction house since then and finally added that Oozeling to my collection. Accepting reality ftw.


  1. This is a really well-written post and I feel like I can’t write anything near as good in a reply (so I’m not even trying to make it sound good!)

    I do quite enjoy WoW myself. Sure there are aspects that are less fun, but I accept them because the things I do enjoy about the game outweights them.

    One of the main things I enjoy about it is playing with my friends. I realise that I don’t meet new friends as much these days and maybe in other games it would be encourages, but for me – as a player – WoW works out fine.

    I can understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I for example tried Aion, Conan and Warhammer and while I found them fairly enjoyable I eventually decided they weren’t what I wanted to play, so I stopped. That doesn’t mean I go around and say they are bad games. They’re just not my games.

    Regarding the guild, I wish you all the best. To me recruitment in general seems slow, not only for 25 man. We’re trying to recruit a couple of people for our 10 man (we’re actually on the same server as you) and people just don’t seem too interested. Judging from the many recruitment messages I see as well other 10 mans seem to have similar problems. Maybe WoW has become too casual, I couldn’t say.

    I do hope that we can all find the members that we need to do what we want.

    And if my guild gives up maybe you’ll suddenly see applications en masse on your forums *lol*

    PS Lady RNG hasn’t changed her mind about me either, and I ended up forking out 15k gold or so to buy the last 3 mounts I needed for my 100 mounts achievement (since I got not a single drop mount grrrrrrr)

  2. I wrote it before:
    We should stop critizising WoW for what it is not and applaud it for what it is: A collection of minigames, losely hold together by loot, gold and guilds.

    To ask for more immersion or ‘world’ or community or RPG in WoW is like asking for more character customization in Tetris.

    This is also the reason I still play WoW: The minigames are fun, good gameplay.

    But I anxiously await the day a polished AAA MMORPG virtual world is created. And trust me: This day will come. It may take a few more years, maybe a decade or two, but it will come.

  3. “like EVE Online which is possibly the geekiest and most elitist MMO out there at the moment.”

    actually, the formula is:
    “don’t fly what you can’t lose.”

    i love eve.


  4. @Saga

    Haha, it seems we’re both in the Lady’s bad book then! But at least we can thwart her a little and buy some of the stuff with gowld – eat that RNG!

    And indeed, I’ve seen so many recruitment posts and blogs lately, everyone is struggling to find people. Hopefully things are going to look up for us all soon – in our case it would probably be a case of being short for 25, but still too many for 10.
    but who knows what’s gonna happen… best of luck to you too, and you know where to find us, right? ;D

    @ Nils

    sounds great, but when – WHEN is the big question! I don’t see it happen anytime soon, we’ll all be in our 40ies when that happens or something, lol! 🙁

    I am also really curious about Blizzard’s next project – apparently ‘MMOFPS’ is quite a hot rumor, but somehow I have a hard time believing that. it’s probably also wrong to look for another Blizzard title for that AAA MMORPG we all crave. I don’t trust them to deliver that.

  5. @Syl:

    Richard Bartle put it like this:

    Good ideas will always get a second chance to enter the paradigm, it’s just that “wait a quarter of your life for it to happen” thing that’s a little depressing.


  6. An absolutely fantastic read, thanks Nils!
    The whole paradox of short- and longterm results affecting each other and perpetuating the problem, is baffling – and so true. kinda sad though that you basically cannot expect your average MMO player to think outside “right now”…but we’ve indeed seen that so many times in WoW, people calling for changes and nerfs and then complaining about the same things later on – “well, this is what you wanted!”

    he makes a good point about the difference to regular gaming too; while BigN is doing its best to produce mainstream games and get everyone in front of the TV, a large part of console and PC games are still very much a niche and elitist environment. MMOs obviously have the big issue that they need to entertain for years while staying the same product and creating a large part of their income via subs.

  7. Completely, sadly, true. But what’s a lost (as in wandering, not quitting) customer to do? If we stop bitching constantly other companies might think we are perfectly happy with WoW and keep making awful clones. On the other hand, the rage-quit posts just encourage awful opposite reactions to WoW, which end up equally unsuitable but in a different way.

  8. Can I say, you’ve picked one of my most favouritest quotes from Lord of the Rings there 😉

    Great post. Nothing to add, really, but completely agree!

  9. I’ll avoid the obvious political question, but go for a political angle anyway. I have a cousin who works in D.C. under one of my Senators. She has noted that individual letters to the office are flatly ignored, it’s only large movements that draw any attention at all. (Though those are often ignored too, as with the TARP opposition.)

    I can’t help but think it’s similar in MMO design. These beasts are designed for “the masses” just by their nature. They need critical mass to sustain a profitable monetary reaction. That almost inevitably means going with the flow of large motions, not the static of grumpy bloggers or forum trolls.

    Witness the RealID kerfluffle, for one. That had a lot of people up in arms, and even some big media outlets noticed. That prompted change. Fuss about class balance, nerfs, or even railroading haven’t hit that critical mass and probably never will.

    So what do we do? Write to our Senator, er, favorite Blue poster? Nah, that’s a waste of everyone’s time. Write on blogs? Sure, if it helps vent, but unless you’re reaching many *thousands* of sympathetic readers who also pick up on the memo and get the rabble roused, don’t expect anything to come of it.

    Especially with something as big as WoW, it takes something significant to change the inertia of the beast. You can fight it or go with the flow… or leave it alone… but never think that you can change it without a few hundred thousand of your best friends along, pocketbook in hand. That’s just the way things function, for better or worse.

  10. @ Kleps

    A constructive rant or critique always serves a purpose. and your right of course, shutting up is not the way to go either – someone out there needs to know that plenty of WoW gamers are waiting on something more. it’s really about the “how” though, rage-quitting is such an emotional act that nobody can take it seriously, and the underlying message (which might be justified) is basically lost.

    @ Sionel

    Thanks muchly! =)
    and indeed, it’s one of those lines that can still give me goosebumps after watching the trilogy for god knows how many times, hehe..


    Can only nod in agreement there, of course. I think it’s obvious that from a financial PoV, Blizzard is doing what’s best for business by listening to the majority. they certainly don’t need to care for unhappy individuals that leave the game, or even the top 5% of the serious raiding bracket in WoW – it’s not those people who make the game a success.

    it’s a wonder that they still bother to even design more ‘hardcore’ raid content for so few (though we’ve obviously seen that decrease continuously too). It wouldnt surprise me, if the next WoW expansion features no more 25man at all.
    they don’t need to cater to us. they do what’s best for them. hence my line that the game is not there to suit us, as much as we’d like it. if it can’t suit everyone (which nothing and nobody can), it needs to suit ‘as many as possible’.

    and like the Gamasutra article says, they’ll even implement clear crappy longterm content, if it satiates the people of “RIGHT NOW”.

  11. Very well written post, will be adding this blog to my bookmarks right away!

    I’m surprised to hear from yourself and other commenters that guilds are finding it difficult to recruit right now. I would have thought that now would be the time to be getting into a good guild to raid and do heroics. That’s certainly what I’m looking to do. Although I did hit level 85 pretty late, perhaps I missed the boat… o_O

  12. @ Newb and Jayd

    Thanks guys!
    And I really don’t think you need to worry about having missed the boat, Jayd – plenty of guilds will be ready to snatch you as soon as you start looking. I’m surprised too (and worried) that we face this issues so early into the expansion and it’s winter, too….doesn’t make me look forward to the summer period which is usually a lot tougher for radiguilds. =/

  13. I’m surprised the hardcore raiders are still complaining. Most of the cancellations I’ve seen — including mine — are because the content has become more difficult than we would enjoy (and this will remain true even after the recent half-hearted nerfs.)

    From my point of view, it certainly doesn’t look like Blizzard has been trying to maximize shareholder value. Most raiders never finished ICC on normal mode, even with the 30% buff, and yet here we are with first tier raids in which the encounters are arguably harder. What did they expect their bad-to-mediocre customers to do instead of raiding — archaeology?

    Something went terribly wrong in the development of Cataclysm, and Blizzard appears to be making few of its customers, good or bad, truly happy.

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