Yesterday, I published an opinion article about World of Warcraft, and received quite a bit of feedback from the community. And, as promised, today we have a response from one of our own WoW Zam staff members, Brian "Wordaen" Kincaid. Take a moment to read them both, and see what you think!
Well, Autumnkiss has some great points as a new WoW player. I remember my starting days in this game and I have to say, I do see some parallels in her mindset as compared to mine when I first started. The initial login is full of some oohs and ahh’s as you see the spectacular graphics and ease of movement in the game world.
Now, as is pretty common with all new players, she mentions the issue that we all run into at least once and usually more at the lower levels…your death in an MMO. Now, to be fair, running back to collect yourself after taking a beating is emasculating to any player but Blizzard has done something differently than other MMOs I have played, and that is the introduction of the Spirit Healer at strategic locations to ease that embarrassment somewhat. In addition to having one at all, the spirit healer does something in this game that no other game has so far. It offers you two choices – run to your corpse where you take a 10% durability hit and no exp loss or rez at the graveyard and take a 25% durability hit and lowered stats for 10 minutes. Either way, you are in ghost form while you make this decision and are protected from something that might think you are a tasty snack.
In some of my past games, such as the original Everquest (which I still play incidentally), not only is there the dreaded experience loss, which can even lead to losing your newly acquired level but you also have to do your corpse retrieval naked starting from your last bind spot. And that can seriously suck. Now, depending on the location you are bound at and where you died, this can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours and there is no spirit healer to give you the option of running as a ghost completely safe from aggro to where you bought the farm or rezzing right at the graveyard and starting from there. I vividly remember the days of running the wall in Kithicor forest at night because I couldn’t get a bind in East Karana or someplace and being bound in Kaladim, hoping to all the Gods of Everquest those decayed footmen wouldn’t spot me. In fact, I recall losing my level on my shaman not once but 3 times trying to recover my corpse before it occurred to me to bind closer…
Even more recently, in the original Guild Wars, every time you died, your damage and stats were lowered incrementally and coupled with an experience penalty you had to make up for to get back while you remained in the instanced area. The only way to bypass this was to either kill enough mobs to overwrite the death penalty or restart the instanced area you were in. If you were doing this solo with only henchmen, this could be extremely frustrating. Even grouped, if you wiped, it was a serious hassle and you still needed to collect your corpse. Personally, I prefer the option that is given in WoW over something of that sort after seeing some of the higher end content and being a “raider” of sorts.
Now, while you DO in fact take a durability hit on your armor either way, should you choose to use the spirit rez and “pop” right at the graveyard, the effects are considerably worse using this feature. Not only is the durability hit higher (25% as opposed to 10%) but you have all of your stats lowered for 10 minutes while you recuperate from this nasty death (which is very similar to the original D&D rules of resurrection). Fortunately, unlike most other MMOs, there is no level or experience loss regardless of how you choose to rez. To me, this is a serious improvement for gamers, since the standard sandbox game mentality is instant gratification and lowered difficulty to “progress” faster. Since I recently started EQ back up, I thought I would compare the two as a “newbie” and see exactly how different they are. So I rolled up a little necromancer and started heron her way. I also have a little mage on WoW that I have not done any “sharing with” from my higher level characters. On my Everquest character, I have now caused her to lose her level 3 times due to corpse retrievals and aggro from running to the locations where she died, which are all level appropriate or even a level lower. Now, I don’t really mind getting killed, it’s more of an inconvenience but I lost xp each time I died and had just recouped the lost xp after the corpse retrieval before I died again. Were this kind of penalty to be used in WoW, I think the current playerbase would be a lot different and they would not have the subscription numbers they do now.
And also, in the case of a PvP server, where you can be corpse camped and usually are by a much higher level player or group of players, having to run naked to your corpse provides a highly unfair advantage to the camping enemy player and can seriously frustrate even the most patient of players. If you add in durability loss and possible experience loss, that can literally make or break the game for some players. As I see it, Blizzard chose the lesser of two evils and gave players a small boost by allowing the use of a spirit healer and no experience loss here.
Now, Autumnkiss brings up a good point as to why you cannot choose where to revive at. Her thought is:“Why can't I have a choice of where to revive? Maybe I'm stubborn and want to continue again and again with the mobs I'm actively trying to beat, and in World of Warcraft, I have to run all the way back across the map to get where I was. I much prefer being able to choose the location of where I revive from a variety of areas around the map...Well, in that respect I do agree, spirit healers are often not in the best area, take Stranglethorn Vale and Stonetalon Mountains for example, absolutely horrendous graveyards given how some of the quests are laid out. And sometimes I do wish they were closer to where I am questing but honestly, compared to WoW even a year ago, there have been substantial improvements in their locations and the addition of both flight points and spirit healers for the players. Now again, the benefit to them, regardless of where they are placed, is that a run back from one typically takes less than 10 minutes, which is roughly half the time it would take a player to run for the first time from The Crossroads to Thunderbluff in Mulgore, generally speaking. And the entire time, the run back can be done in complete safety, as even if you are flagged for PvP the opposing side cannot touch you until you click the resurrect button. Now in fairness, if the player were to rez right there at the specific graveyard, then yes, the 10 minutes you would need to wait until your lowered stats recover can be a detriment to limited game play as well as the higher durability hit. From a personal standpoint as a long time vet of MMOs back to the PnP days, I prefer to spend that an extra few minutes running to a corpse in safety instead of taking three times as long trying to duck mobs while I am naked, taking an excessive durability/stat hit or losing my hard gained experience.
In WoW, there is no choice. There are Spirits in select areas around the world and that's it. You revive there. Period.”
Overall, there is a large amount of realism in the game, even with the fantasy style and Autumnkiss has some good points about these. Similar to some other MMOs, the game requires the use of food, drink and potions to survive, excel or simply perform some tasks at a better than normal speed. Spell casters regain mana faster, warriors regain health faster and all players benefit from potions both in general game play and specific group settings, such as raids or running to an instance.
She mentions her dislike of slow running prior to mount level. I have to say I do agree with that myself. Running is a serious pain in the keister in any game. I miss Spirit of Wolf that was available to Shaman, Beastlords and Rangers in EQ but honestly, this statement of hers I have to agree with 100%:“…In EQII, players can make or purchase totems that will grant the user a limited run-speed buff. It's magical, for sure... but I think I prefer the actuality of natural speed. Yes, I know... once you're level 30 and all that jazz. And there are some potions that you can buy. But still, for total immersion, natural run-speed is the way to go in my book. And even if you're not seeking immersion, at least you'll appreciate that mount or potion all the more once you're able to have it!Rather than artificially enhance players like other games have and thus lower the accomplishment factor for some things like a mount or travel form (available to druids and shaman only) Blizzard has opted to instead add in some carefully staggered movement increasing abilities or skills. Player have to be specific levels or skill levels to utilize certain things which helps keep the majority of the game on a more equal footing in that regard. And like I said, while I will always miss my “Spirit of Wolf” from my EQ days, I still feel that keeping a few things on a realistic level, such as run speed and eating/drinking, give the game a more immersive feel and keep it from being simply a “button mashing” type of MMO.
For example, in Anarchy Online, I am not required to eat or drink, sleep or rest in any fashion and to me that detracts from “getting into” my character. To me, that character is just a collection of 1’s and 0’s and I really feel little or no affinity with the character or “pride” when I accomplish something with it. I felt very similar with characters I played in Guild Wars and some other MMOs. Now, in EQ and WoW, there is a definite feeling of accomplishment when you achieve something, as it takes real work to get to a certain point, such as a required level for wolf form (for shaman) or a reputation level with a certain faction for a specific enchant or piece of armor. All of these little things allow me to “feel” pride in my character and what I have accomplished in a game on him/her.
Of course, the basic thing is also that having to use my virtual legs for so many levels and getting run down by people all the time does make me more appreciative when I do reach the level I can get that mount.
Now, since we are on the subject of realism in gaming, the aspect of, as Autumnkiss says,“…regenerating health and power by sitting to eat and drink is another quality that, while annoying, is still based somewhat on reality. Granted, in today's society we tend to eat on the run…”I do kind of like the aspect of having to eat and drink to regain health/mana but it is extremely irritating to not be able to do this while on the move. Now in the middle of a fight I can kind of agree with because really, I wouldn’t be eating a cheeseburger while something wanted to kick my teeth in but if I am walking, why can I not eat or drink something? I can drink a potion in game so why is that ok but food isn’t?
“But in truth, in the time of the world in which we choose to play, this was not the case. People ate while sitting down. Even in Lord of the Rings, Frodo sat to eat his elven bread with his buddy Samwise, and the ever-plotting Golem.”
Now, as any new player will attest, the quest system is one of the biggest draws to a game, matched only by PvP and crafting. And in this regard, WoW is no different. There is a lot of lore and a decent storyline surrounding many of the quests for both Horde and Alliance players. Now Autumnkiss states she does find the scrolling quest text a tad cumbersome and is not as big on the lore as some gamers are. The nice thing here is that there is an option to bypass the quest text if you are like me and really don’t care how much information Guard Sillyman needs to tell you so you can go get the chrome plated peanut butter serinigating valve from Manny the Ogre. You can go to your game options and check the “instant quest text” option. Voila, no more endless scrolling and waiting.
Now, I’m not a big fan of the scrolling quest text either but having played on role-playing, PvP and regular servers, I have found that if you are really into role-playing your character, this option gives you a lot more immersion and really lets you get into the “meat” of the game. Overall, I really think Blizzard has done a great job incorporating that into the quests and giving the players a sense of the conflict that is just under the surface, waiting to boil over.
And, in order to make it easier to do the quests and, in general, make your way around the worlds of Azeroth and Outland, Blizzard has one of the best map systems available “out of the box” for gamers in WoW. I agree with Autumnkiss when she says that “…The fashion in which it is presented to the player is very friendly and pleasing to the eye, as it doesn't force you to remember where things are, it just shows you.” But I also agree that, from a starting player standpoint, it can be very frustrating having to grab add-ons to do some of the more mundane things in game, such as herbalism or mining. But I think that this is more a product of the overall gaming mindset of instant gratification, as other games did not have anything of the sort and, for the most part, still don’t. Heck, in Lord of the Rings Online, you can skin your interface to look a little different but there are no add-ons allowed. Have a question on a quest or where something drops? Better hope Allakhazam’s or some other fansite has a user submission or you are kind of dead in the water. Blizzard has the take that allowing users to modify the client side data improves player appreciation and leads to prolonged subscription rates by allowing the myriad of add-ons. Many users like Autumnkiss do indeed prefer, as she words it, “…a bit of ease to my game play as I have limited time with each title I get involved in.”
Now, while I like the map system compared to most of the other games I have played, it would be nice to have more customization possible without the need for add-ons, such as marking where you find nodes or where quest mobs are and tie it in to the account itself in the form of .lua data so if you have alts who have not yet done a quest etc, then you can easily refer back to it. Blizzard does continue to refine and streamline the game options however so who knows; maybe they will incorporate some of that in later patches.
Brian "Wordaen" Kincaid
Senior Content Manager
World of Warcraft Allakhazam