Why the hell is WoW Fun?

The other night, Wilhelm2451 (aka Vikund), Mrs. Potshot (aka Ula) and myself (aka Skronk) decided to try to get something done on our usual Saturday WoW Instance Night even though we were short handed. Wil has been chronicling our comprehensive tour of Azeroth for almost the last year. Hard to believe its been almost one year exactly since the Noob decided to ping me randomly about a mutual friend’s article on PlayOn. He has a good write up of our brief adventures as a threesome this last Saturday here.

I suspect Wil is cooking up a post about some of our conversations that night, which was a bit of an early night given that Mrs. Potshot and I are in the middle of the adventure that we call moving. We were kind of wiped. Still it was a good night. A very good night.

Nonetheless, I think I wont steal too much of his thunder (and I’m sure he’ll be a bit more thoughtful than I’ll be), but one of the questions that we bandied about after our sucessful outing was simply “Why is WoW so much fun?”

We didn’t take down Onyxia, or one-shot Drakk or finally conquer Illidian or BT. We just achieved a modest interim (not even a quest) goal that quiet frankly we didn’t think we were really able to do as a somewhat squishy threesome– to get the Mallet of Zul’Farrak– and had a blast doing it.

There was more than a bit of trepidation given our prior attempts. Before we were to log on at the appointed hour, Wil and I were Skype chatting:

Wilhelm2451: target for tonight?
Potshot: mullet mebbe?
Wilhelm2451: got mullet? Sure. Earl [Group Tank] about?
Potshot: anniversary
Potshot: apparently he’s sentimental
Wilhelm2451: Bungholio [Group Warlock] was going to be out of town. You [Holy Priest], me [Palladin] and Ula [Mage] enough for a mullet?
Potshot: oh. didn’t know aboot Bungholio.
Wilhelm2451: yeah, he mentioned that Thursday night. Skyped with him for a bit while comcast was giving you their good-bye present*
Potshot: lets apply the two wipe rule and give it the old jr college try
Wilhelm2451: heh, okie

*Don’t get me started…

So we went into it with the “or die trying” attitude, pretty much expecting that we would.

We had all been really wanting to love LotRO, but if we had any doubts about changing our focus back to WoW, this last Saturday sealed it. We simply had a blast doing a relatively mundane thing. Oh it was no Wake the Wife and Kids Moment, but still it was about two hours of pretty darned consistent and good fun.

The best we could come up with at the time was that all the “little things” and a few of the big seemed to make a big difference– at least to us. Your mileage may differ.

Despite Wilhelm’s assertion that at no time were we really in peril (spoken like someone who wasn’t the priest at the time…;)), there were a few tense moments when, short handed as we were, difficult choices were made as to whether to spend precious mana on DPS and finish the fight sooner, or spend it on healing and prolong the fight (and whether that kind of decision would come back to haunt us later).

One of the “bigger” things we mutually took note of was the apparent lack of sluggishness in WoW’s combat. Because of our small numbers, the respawn rate and our sapping strength because of a long day, we were pushing the pace a bit. And, with only three, a Pally, Holy Priest and Mage, the fights were taking a bit of time. So we kept pushing the pace both in fights and in between. I felt like I was constantly casting trying to do significant DPS and healing all the while. Wil and I being former high school “car guys” would describe it as “responsiveness.” You turn the wheel, shift gears or step on the gas and something happens fairly quickly with little delay. WoW does this. Many games do not.

This is definitely a style thing, but it cuts both ways. Both initiating combat actions AND responses are quicker giving combat a bit more “real time” visceral feel. LotRO and to some extent, EQ2 dont seem to have the same immediacy of combat gameplay. I feel I can actually “counter” offensive actions in something more like real time than in LotRO or EQ2.

Along with the million “small things” which have crept into the game since its release in 2004 such as the recent addition of sweeping buff/debuff timers, etc., Blizzard seems to have actually achieved the Baby Bear idiom of being “just right” in many things.

Travel seems neither too long nor too short. Repair costs are not terribly consequential, but durability is still relevant. Death is still a set back requiring a corpse run to avoid a time penalty (that most precious of all commodities) but not so much that you can’t take a few decent whacks at a goal with different strategies. Auctions, while far from perfect, still are not such an expensive undertaking that a reasonably vibrant if somewhat in efficient economy is maintained. The mail tax is relatively minor. Animations are somewhat smoother. And on and on.

Many find the whimsy and cartoonish nature of WoW too much to bear for the oh so serious real Fantasy MMO player. That’s certainly a style thing and one I’m frankly split on. However, if you pretty much ignore WoW’s community of ignoramuses, the wry wit that infuses much of WoW (which never takes itself too seriously), I find amusing and yes, a bit in synch with my own smart alecky sense of humor. Quite frankly, not unlike the Warner Brothers cartoons, I suspect many of the WoW “inside jokes” go flying above the heads of most of the subscriber base…

So, after nearly three years since release and still playing in Azeroth, we are finding WoW just a fun as it ever was. Why is that?

8 thoughts on “Why the hell is WoW Fun?”

  1. The ‘why is that’ somewhat simple. The pre-60 portion of WoW is fantastic. It’s balanced, creative, flexible, and above all else, entertaining at each step. Blizzard spent a lot of time crafting WoW, and it shows in the pre-60 content. It has that ‘blizard magic’ that games like Diablo and Starcraft also share. The content fits whatever style you take it at, which is were WoW fails once you cap-out. Once you reach the cap, your options are limited and each option has very clear time/effort requirements. I think thats why its so hard to hate WoW, because for 60 levels its perfect, and that level of perfections stays with you.

  2. and also because with the lives some of us currently have outside of gaming, the need is there to have a good time in such a short period of play.

    Blizzard seems to have actually achieved the Baby Bear idiom of being “just right” in many things.
    LOL – true though.

  3. Great story. The Burning Crusade can be fun as well if you set your sights on having a good time. The quests are laid out better as well. Hope you all get to 58 soon it will good to read what you are up to. I just hit 70 on my rogue this weekend after an insane leveling session. But it went by fast because I had fun

  4. Also the content past 60 is a little smoother, its level 70 where you have to make a choice about the game. That is the kicker. I would say 1-70 is a blast with friends.

  5. A few of us have 60+ characters on another server and have played through some of TBC, but I wonder if our little group will want to step through the Dark Portal before 60. I always thought 58 was a horrible design decision for Blizzard, not so much for the gear/balance issues, but because it trivialized so much solid content.

    I think the old endgame instances, Strat, Scholo, Dire Maul, UBRS, LBRS are probably best enjoyed at level with Azerothian gear. Not that TBC might not be fun, but there’s a lot of old-level cap content in Azeroth that becomes irrelevant once you start collecting New Green Better Than Old Purple gear from Outland.

    What made (and will make) those instances fun, IMHO, was that they were difficult but not impossible for casuals at the old cap.

    I guess I’m turning into a member of the Azerothian Society for Creative Anachronisms…

  6. The issue though, Tipa, is that the same group was playing LOTRO and not having nearly as much fun. There was something of a sigh of relief by a couple of us at the prospect of heading back to WoW. So this is more a look at, the friends aspect being equal, what makes WoW so good.

    I wrote the piece from the other side, which is “why isn’t LORTO more fun?”

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