5 Things It’s Easy to Forget About WoW

Having found myself with a lot of free time to kill lately, and since I’m now reviewing games again and needing one to review, I returned a few days ago to Azeroth, because it’s been about 4 years since my Blood Elf Affliction Warlock and Tauren Restoration Druid wrought havoc in 2v2 and 3v3 arenas, and that seemed as good a way as any to kill large blocks of time in a non-productive and non-destructive way.

It didn’t take long for certain… memories… to return. These are those memories.

1. The Average WoW Player is very, very stupid.

I can’t stress this enough, and, being an MMO, the stupidity of everyone around you starts bleeding into your experience. When you have to cooperate with other people to do battlegrounds and dungeons, and when the chance is approximately negative seventeen, of those people not watching JonTron videos, eating HotPockets, pooping into socks, going AFK, masturbating, and trying to remember to breathe, all at the same time,  the result is that stepping back into World of Warcraft, for any person of above average intellect, is like visiting a zoo wherein we keep all the stupid people.

Having a good PC and a fast Internet connection, I tend to zone into battlegrounds first. What I’ve learned is that as people begin to join me in the battleground, the chance immediately approaches 1 that those people are going to do exactly what people do in large groups: shit on themselves, flail blindly, and yell a lot.

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Re-adjusting to 4 years of changes is also a pain.

It’s honestly hard to believe, this many years after its initial release, that there are still people fighting on the roads in between battleground objectives–indefinitely. Considering, however, that the bulk of these players appear to be failed abortions that overcame the odds and miraculously learned how to semi-use a keyboard, it’s amazing that they have the focus to even queue into a battleground. So maybe we should cut them some slack.

I fully appreciate that it can be hard to become oriented to a new battleground that one has never done before, but that’s not what is happening here–and I’m still not entirely sure why there isn’t just one single battleground these idiots can queue into where the only purpose is to kill as many opposing players as possible. You could even put a flag in the middle that can’t actually be retrieved and provides no victory points, and it wouldn’t matter–they would crowd around the flag and attack each other for the duration of the battleground. This isn’t rocket science, though, and none of these battlegrounds take more than two minutes to figure out, with the possible exception of Strand of the Ancients–now lumped into an “epic battleground” that means queues for it never fill.

Although I haven’t gotten to the level cap yet, I do play a Resto/Guardian druid. I was back an entire 2 hours before I was tanking dungeons I’d never played through at all, and we’ll get back to that in a moment. My point here is that LFG produces a noticeably less stupid player than one will find in battlegrounds, presumably because idiocy in dungeons is punished by a swift removal from the group. There’s no way to kick dumb asses from battlegrounds, though. That 9 year old spazz whose keyboard has turned orange from Cheeto dust? Yeah. He’s gonna be with you the whole time. Unless you can trick him into typing /afk, make peace with watching him repeatedly throw himself into a fray with no healers around, die, and then repeat the process.

Considering even lab rats don’t demonstrate such self-destructive tendencies and bizarre inabilities to learn anything at all about anything ever, I think it’s a fair criticism that the average World of Warcraft player is less intelligent than an average white rat.

2. Wow is a skill-based game, but what WoW players know as “skill” others would call “the ability to not stand in fire.”

The Recount addon gives players something that was always going to be a problem: an objective metric to measure themselves against other players. Every DPS player wants to be at the top of the Recount chart, which basically means two things: getting gear, and never, ever moving. Ever. That fire that appeared under them? It’s the healer’s problem, not theirs, and if the healer can’t out-heal the fire that is supposed to kill them, then it’s a bad healer who needs to be replaced.

My first night back, literally my third time tanking a dungeon in four years, the healer and one of the melee DPS both whispered me thanking me for being an awesome tank. Presumably, this was because of my magical ability to turn mobs around and the marvelous mastery of a three button rotation. Seriously, at level 99, my Guardian Druid has half of his bar empty of abilities. And turning enemies so that rogues can attack their backs, and well as kiting said enemies out of fire and other ground hazards, used to be standard. It used to be just what tanks are expected to do. You were supposed to pay attention to your surroundings and aggro adds as soon as they appeared.

Yesterday in some dungeon I watched a boomkin get picked up by a bird and slowly but surely carried off the edge of the map and dropped into the abyss, where he died. Although I taunted the thing as soon as it appeared, charged it, and started smacking it, none of the DPS players were ever aware of its presence. They may not even be aware to this day that one of the players didn’t survive the fight. And if you’ve never played WoW, then it’s hard to explain this, but these things move slowly. Everything in World of Warcraft happens slowly. If an enemy is going to attack, there’s a full 5 second warning every time. “I’m swinging my axe soon!” the boss shouts.

“Okay!” shouts back the tank and healer.

“Can I AoE the axe for extra deeps?” shouts one DPS.

“Mmahd grrglg amga aufhak,” shouts another, whose mouth is full of Hot Pocket.

The third DPS says nothing, because he sees nothing beyond the Recount chart.

3. Blizzard knows EXACTLY who is playing their game.

In another dungeon while tanking, I got some sort of bomb placed on me. Being one of the few people who loved and appreciated the increased difficulty of Cataclysm Heroics (and who completed them before the nerf), I naturally backed away. Yes, I backpedaled. Backpedaling is a good quality in tanks, because your dps won’t stop attacking, and if you can’t damage the mobs, the dps will aggro them.

So with this ability on me that was going to cause a ton of damage, likely to everyone, I moved away from where we stood. Seeing the possibility that his Damage Done or DPS might go down in the chart, the Death Knight followed right behind them, refusing to cease attacking them for long enough that would be necessary to not be blown the hell up.

The bomb went off, and I didn’t even notice it.

In Wrath, that shit would have caused a death. In Cata, it probably would have caused a wipe. In BFA, it doesn’t seem to actually do anything, to the point that it’s no longer a big deal to stand in the fire. It just doesn’t hurt. This is presumably a response to the evolutionary mutation affecting DPS players that have caused the fingers on their hands to merge into seal flippers, making it difficult for them to do such complicated things as getting out of fire, and the awareness of literally everyone that DPS players do this.

It also turned out, in aforementioned dungeon where a boomkin slowly and painstakingly was carried off the cliff by a bird at a rate that came close to passing the speed at which a McDonald’s hamburger grows mold, that our healer was AFK. Like through the whole thing. He put himself to follow one of the DPS players, didn’t say a word, and went AFK. I never noticed. It’s just part of my rotation to use Survival Instincts to self-heal, to the extent that I finish most dungeons about 1% behind the healer in terms of Healing Done, so an absent healer wasn’t a big deal. I normally use the first group of enemies to gauge the group’s damage and healing capabilities, and then I pull groups accordingly. If their DPS is slow or it seems the healer is having a hard time, I take it slow.

So that’s the state of World of Warcraft now, apparently. Appropriate level dungeons can be completed with an AFK healer. I’d venture the statement that one tank and one DPS could complete appropriate level dungeons, though it might take them a bit of time to tear through everything. It has to be easy, though, because, as we mentioned earlier, to the average WoW player, moving out of the fire is something only legendary players are capable of, so the real skill level of the average player is somewhere between a 3 year old wildly pressing buttons in Mortal Kombat, and that same 3 year old after they’ve grown bored, set the controller on the ground, and walked away.

4. Leveling sucks.

Since the last expansion I played was part of Warlords of Draenor, I’m faced with the task of leveling my main (affliction warlock) from 100 to 120, my secondary from 93 to 120, and other lesser characters (gathering characters, basically) from 85~ to 120. There is absolutely nothing video game related that is less appealing. If you told me that reaching level 120 caused Blizzard to immediately send 5 MDMA-filled prostitutes to my house, it wouldn’t do much to mitigate the extremely dull trek from basically any level to 120. The notion of leveling from 1 to 120 is unequivocally something I will never, ever do again.

There is no fun way to do this. If you’re not a tank or healer, the dungeon queues take forever. The battlegrounds are filled with people for whom successfully tying their shoes is a noteworthy event. Raids take forever and will be a waste of time for anything below the level cap. Quests are often slow, requiring one and a long journey before an additional 3 can be unlocked. The questing system has been streamlined to such a degree that it can’t possibly be fun; it’s too predictable. Go to quest hub, get three quests, all of which have their objectives in the same area, complete them, turn them in. Get another three quests. Repeat until someone sends you to the next hub. That’s how it goes, from level 1 to level 58, then it’s interesting from 58 to 78, and then you’re back into post-WOTLK questing.

Even getting started on these expansion questlines is starting to take a long time. There is so much talking and so many unskippable movies that simply getting to

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Legion’s contained a freaking scenario. Now, these are like mini-dungeons, except they’re as much event-based as progression-based, so you can’t simply run to the end and be done with it. No, you have to listen to Vol’Jin prattle on for nineteen hours. And while some of the story developments are pretty good, that doesn’t really do much to diminish the “Level Cap Goal” in every player’s eyes. That’s the light at the end of the tunnel. And all these dumb things are roadblocks in the way.

Perhaps Blizzard doesn’t know their playerbase so well, after all. They continue to put movies inside of dungeons, even though if you don’t immediately close out of it, you’re going to be left behind, and likely kicked from the instance. Why do they continue to do it?

5. As a game, WoW sucks.

It really does. Character development is as basic as character development can get and still offer choices. I’m still kinda irritated that the only one of my characters who has filled four bars with abilities and macros is my affliction warlock. While that’s fitting because affliction is supposed to be a relatively complicated spec, it would be nice if I had other things to do when I was tanking, besides pressing whatever one of four buttons happens to be lit up.

In most games, you can become better through planning, strategizing, thinking, and, yes, mastery of playing it. No one should suggest that any RPG can ever produce the same caliber of gameplay skill as something like The Binding of Isaac or Super Meat Boy, but there’s still a qualitative difference between a player new to Final Fantasy X and a player who has beaten it nine times. The confusion of avatar strength with player skill is not a new phenomenon for RPGs, but it basically goes like this: the in-game character becomes more powerful, but the person playing hasn’t necessarily gotten any better at the game. The numbers behind the game have changed, which means enemies die faster and the avatars live longer. That’s pretty standard for RPGs, though there is some room for some modicum of skill in some of them. It’s just not common.

World of Warcraft obfuscates this by being gear-based. However much aforementioned idiots will protest, World of Warcraft is completely gear-based, except in high-end PvP, where all players are equally geared and the only thing that matters is one group of players is better (or luckier) than others. But becoming geared powerfully requires a massive time investment, which leads to a sense of false achievement. Having invested so much time in gear and the game, they have to convince themselves that they’re good at it, and they’re not topping the DPS charts because Blizzard is kind to their class this xpac, or because they have an extra 16 Haste that, yes, translates directly into increased damage.

But how much skill does it really take for a Cheetoh and Hot Pocket-filled bag of stupidity to use their hand-flipper to press Frostbolt forty-seven thousand times?

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