In a recent conversation on what types of reward GW2 may offer players at max level and whether it will be enough to satisfy more reward-driven players, it dawned on me how much I’ve changed my outlook or rather my expectations towards certain aspects of MMOs – since WoW. Now, overall I certainly haven’t changed my mind, I still love the genre for the same reasons: a vast world, beautiful fantasy settings, secrets to explore, character development and real people to meet on the way. Yet there are aspects I’ve fundamentally changed my opinion on or rather my wishes in; maybe I should say that they’ve been satisfied to a point where I no longer appreciate them. And WoW has certainly much to do with it.
I’ve never been a particularly reward-driven player, or rather I would say I’ve never cared so much for items. Items and reward are not the same thing although they usually coincide, especially in MMOs as item-centric as WoW. I play for challenge, for that feeling of accomplishment first and I play for the team; shinies are nice in addition but they lose all value if there are no requirements and restrictions. That’s when I feel “rewarded”, when I overcame an obstacle with others – these are the things we take with us. I would argue that there are actually a lot more players playing for the reward of challenge than realize it – but then, I guess it’s a valid point that if GW2 offered nothing for all the collectors and achievers, that would hurt its popularity. Item drops are of course not the only way to satisfy in this department: I expect them to come up with special dyes, lots of cosmetic items and things like titles or rare pets. If that creates enough opportunities to “show off” in the game I can’t tell, but whoever expects to collect tier/pvp sets and weapons in abundance will get disappointed in GW2.
Personally I couldn’t care less. Whatever value I might ever have put in rare gear or upgrades has been completely and utterly smashed by WoW. To say that I got tired and sick of loot wouldn’t do matters justice. Mind, I still like cosmetics and GW2 offers plenty of that plus the great dye system; but whether I own anything special, expensive or best-in-slot is the least concern in my mind. I loved how my bags hardly ever filled up last beta (and yes…I know about that ‘deposit collectible’ feature….now), give me less loot ArenaNet!
So, that’s my number one for the list of “things that WoW changed for me”. Of course there’s more –
1) Item / gear rewards;
See reasons explained above.
2) Raids and endgame;
Raiding was a big motivator for me to play WoW. I did little else in vanilla and never stopped raiding until Cataclysm. WoW was obviously very focused on its raiding endgame by design, but I simply loved the big scale raids, coordinating so many people, the teamwork, the whole guild effort involved.
The present: These days I loathe the idea of raiding – the whole organisation, the downtimes due to numbers, the headache that is recruitment. I want a close-knit team of a few good men ready to roll in a few minutes. I want content to be accessible for a small group of quality rather than a big ass raid.
3) Roles and healing;
There’s never been a more passionate priest or healing coordinator than myself in WoW. That is the one thing I can say with confidence. I’ve played my holy priest through 6 years of WoW and countless raids that I coordinated. I loved being a healer, being needed support, having that sort of responsibility.
The present: I haven’t played a healer, not even a support class ever since WoW – not in Rift or any other game I dabbled at since. I love my aggressive pyromancer in GW2 and if anyone’s ever going to ask me to join their group just for healing rains, they can drop dead! Oh sweet, sweet mob-centric gameplay, oh sweet not carrying anybody! As for the holy trinity in general, I doubt I need to repeat here how great I think it’s missing in GW2. I prefer to be recruited for playing well rather than for being a role. So far I’ve seen zero indication that GW2 enforces any type of stricter group or spec setup. People have been asking a lot of things in general chat this beta but they haven’t asked for tanks and healers. Healing, control and ressing is everybody’s job or nobody’s.
I’ve spent unimaginable amounts of time writing guides on raid specs, reading up on stats and talent builds during my time as a raider and coordinator. There wasn’t much freedom there for me; the WoW endgame raid scene was big on things like cookie cutters, optimization and meters.
The present in frank: I don’t give a shit what spec is best and I choose my traits as I go. In fact, I love experimenting and I’ll play whatever is the most FUN and efficient to ME. I won’t ever respec again for anyone but myself.
I always liked the idea of a mount, that loyal companion carrying me through the world. I’m fairly traditional in that I prefer horses plain and simple (alternatively a ferocious tiger is okay too), stuff like giant turtles, spiders and erm….green polar bears with shades just seems weird. When WoW introduced flying mounts I was in heaven……at first.
The present: I don’t miss a ground mount in GW2 and I certainly never want to play a classic MMO again with flying mounts. I’ve missed being on foot in WoW, that sense of distance and all the chance encounters. And yes, I could’ve walked through Azeroth and yes occasionally I used a waypoint in GW2 – still, grouping and raiding as much as I did in WoW, getting everyone to wait for me wasn’t an option. It’s also simply a different feeling if the game leaves you no option but to be on foot. As for flying mounts, they were so fast and so convenient, one must wonder what the whole zone design and all the mobs below were designed for. To be rushed through once while leveling and never return?
These are mainly the things I came up with when thinking about all the ways WoW changed my preferences. One can certainly argue that some of the change is due to the effect of time; I’ve been there done that for a very long time, I moved on to wanting different. And while that may play a part, I still don’t think it’s the main factor but rather the way how these aspects were designed and realized in WoW: I might not feel so sick of loot today if WoW hadn’t pledged itself to putting every candy-store out there out of business. I might be less tired of big raids if….literally everything in terms of grouping, recruitment and social control hadn’t gone down the drain ever since WotLK and LFG. I might still enjoy healing had there not been such a rigid focus on roles that left healers with nothing much to do but staring at healthbars and getting most of the blame by lolkids. I might still be interested in what an ideal spec is if I wasn’t so full of spite for anything resembling a cookie-cutter. And I might still find joy in mounts had not every player in WoW run around with one million gazillion mounts to choose from that would all run, fly, crawl, hover and whatever else at five-hundred percent LUDICROUS SPEED (or however much it is by now).
Yes…..I actually might!
Time for some questions!
It would be most intriguing to hear how other longterm ex-WoW players think about the effects WoW had on them (or alternatively another MMO you’ve played a lot), how it might have changed their outlook or wishes for MMOs to come. So, what about you?
Do you think WoW has changed you as a player? In what ways?
Do you think extreme experiences (burnout) have to do with it or is it just boreout / want for new?
How much of the ‘blame’ would you attribute to game design, how much to your personal playstyle choices?
Have your expectations towards a new game changed due to WoW or another MMO you’ve played?
Do you wish for different things in GW2 than you used to wish for?
I realize in retrospective that this could be an excellent meta-topic to share and debate among a wider circle of bloggers, to examine all the dis-/similarities and get a more universal look at the impact WoW has had on the current MMO player base. Ever since the WoW era, many have moved on to blogging about different games but WoW is still a common denominator among us. Well, maybe someone else will take up these questions sometime.
[UPDATE: Since there’s already been few reactions by other bloggers asking to write their own take on this topic (which is awesome), I will definitely make a follow-up post with a list of all responses in a couple of days. Let me know in the comments / on twitter if you’re writing your own post (if you haven’t already), I’d loathe to miss somebody. Thanks – I look forward to some great posts and/or comments!]