Look, we all know that in a social MMO you have to deal with people, all kinds of people. That’s the point of the game, supposedly. If we didn’t want to be able to interact with others at some level, then we’d be playing Fable, or Neverwinter Nights, or Final Fantasy, or something.

But if you step back for a bit, I’d like for you to take a moment to think about the game we’re playing. 

From the time it began until it evolved into the current game we play, World of Warcraft has become one of the most incredibly deep single player RPGs in history.

I played Fable. I played Neverwinter Nights. I’ve played all of the old Forgotten Realms computer games, the Bard’s Tale series, the Final Fantasies and oh so many others. I’ve played many Real Time Strategy games also, in single player mode, such as Starcraft and Warcraft 1, 2 and 3, the Command and Conquer series, Warhammer 40k, and so on.

And I’d like to remind you that the defining characteristic of an engaging role playing game is not jsut a character you create, but also a storyline filled with adventure and mysteries to explore, to keep you going to see what’s next.

I played Warcraft 3′s single player mode not because I wanted to fight neat squad level tactical battles but because I wanted to see where the story carried me next. Same with Starcraft. It wasn’t an RPG, but it had that incredibly awesome story.

And soon enough, it was over.

I used to subscribe to damn near every gaming magazine around. All the time, the reviews and editorials would talk about built in play time as a measure of the games’ quality.

“Oh, it’s a great RPG, but it’ll seem short. 8 hours of gametime and you can be finished with the single player campaign. But the multiplayer is where it has replayability.”

Replayability. A game studio makes a game, maybe a FPS like Halo, with a single player storyline that takes a player about 8 to 10 hours to complete. Or an RPG that has a 40 hour playtime. After that, you’re either going to play the exact same game over, with the same character, with the exact same challenges and one fixed way of tackling it, or you can go skirmish against bots or other players in multiplayer PvP maps. or you can make a slightly different cahracter, with the same NPCs.

Or we get Knights of the Old Republic, which ‘revolutionizes’ the RPG by letting the game change depending on your choices. OMFG! What a concept! 

but the game still costs $50, or $55, or whatever they climb to depending on your console, and after 40 hours or so, pfft! Done.

But here in the game we so quickly come to take for granted, it is different.

When I played the game for the first time, there was no expansion. A lot of content we take for granted simply wasn’t there. And I have played for long enough that I still think of the expansion as the ‘brand new content’, even though I’ve been playing that new content for over a freaking YEAR!

Think about that. Think about the massive shift in our assumptions we make going from any other game to World of Warcraft.

When I started playing the game, I approached it knowing I was going to be playing solo. I approached it as a single player game. I knew no one else that played, and although I knew there were going to be other people playing the game, I also knew they would be scattered amongst many servers, and also I specifically selected a ‘low population’ server because at the time there were horrible issues on populated servers with queues to even get into the game.

Keep in mind, back then we had far less overall players than we do now, and most of them were on older servers. Kael’thas has always been a low population server, and when I started the ‘new server rush’ had already passed and folks were at end game, such as it was then. 

So I started playing the game, and the game was quite quiet. There was neve any sense of being crowded, certainly nothing like the conditions we face now. I was invited in my earliest levels to join a guild as it formed… The Bloodship, which had at it’s height I think about 20 players, most of whom were level 40 or higher when I was 15th, and left for higher progression guilds when I was hitting 50.  

Does any of this sound familiar?

I’m fairly certain few people start the game and are instantly invited into a large guild. If you’re lucky, you come into the game with a bunch of friends already there to help guide you over the rough patches.

No, I figure most folks started like I did, playing because it sounds cool, and you get sucked in. But for all the Massive part of it, you play for the first 30 or more levels in ‘single-player’ mode, and even past that point you’re probably not in a big guild.

My first character, played exclusively, I played for 6 solid months of adventuring, questing, and exploring before I hit level 60.

That is 6 months of single player content, played at my pace.

I read folks whine about what Blizzard owes them for their $15 a month, as though we are doing Blizzard a big favor for agreeing to pay anything for this game over and above the original $50 box price. And they are serious!

I can tell you truly, before World of Warcraft, I would get polled as to my buying habits every time I registered a new game.

“How many computer games do you buy a year: 1, 3-5, 6-10, 10+”

And it was always a “lol, 10+” answer, because I plopped down my money at least once a month, more often 2 or 3 times, for the next chunk of content I was going to blow through before tiring of it.

That’s a lot of money.

It’s been a long time since I bought a game, other than something for a group to play, such as the Wii or Guitar Hero. I just don’t buy single player games anymore, I don’t read gaming mags, and I don’t see the reason.

I have a game, a game that is alive in that it is always growing, always bringing something fresh and new, and above all a game that allows my characters to grow with it. I don’t see leaving anytime soon.

Just think about it. All the changes they’ve made to the game, all the new content, the tweaking of challenges, the addition of a second expansion soon, the addition of a new zone in the next patch…

My other point is, I have been reading an insane amount of crying because of how ‘easy’ Blizzard is making the game, and how this is somehow ruining the game for the end game raider, because more ‘casual’ players can get good gear or see higher level content without devoting their souls to raid 3 or more nights a week, every week, forever.

In the end, the arguments revolve around being angry that players can see content without needing to be part of a mob.  

But ignore the casual and hardcore bullshit for a minute. Think of the bar this sets, the heights that other game companies are now trying to match.

The point has come clear, if you want the long term success, the monthly fees, then the World of Warcraft model says, add more content. Keep the player coming back, not for mindless reputation grinding or 40 man raids, but for solid content that takes time to explore, and raids and events that a handful of friends can tackle together.

Make things accessible for more players to enjoy.

And with all of the new MMOs in the pipeline, it seems to be a lesson more companies are learning.

Whatever your short term problems with the game, your upset over badge rewards or accessibility of content, keep in mind the heart of what we do -

We are playing a massive game unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Over two years, and my interest is as strong as ever.

Cherish these moments, because we are living the golden age.

20 Responses to “I love my single player WoW”
  1. Bordektor says:

    Thats an interesting viewpoint, I hadn’t thought of it that way before.
    I made my main on Illidan when I started playing, so I was never privy to the smaller type of server. I also started playing the game on the very same day as several of my friends, so I had never really considered it a single-player RPG.

  2. Kirk says:

    Agreed. Allow me to put it in equivalent perspective.

    In 1974, I was part of a small group of high school freshmen/sophomores that had been playing games for a couple of years. Usually Third Reich or Diplomacy, sometimes another AH or SSR game, but every weekend for a few hours the same. old. games. Then one of the group brought this white box – 9x6x1 inch, three books and some odd-shaped dice. And not too long after that our weekends quit being the same old game. Oh, we’d still play the board games, but in terms of actual time devoted, nothing matched D&D.

    Nothing matched it because there was always something new being added – not a remake, but an expansion or two, some of which required advanced knowledge and time to handle and others that were just a quick weekend knockoff.

    Yep. I don’t think Blizzard’s quite reached the point of dominance that TSR had, but as you say it’s a lot closer than anyone else. Stuff for the top AND the bottom, and for solo AND group, added all the time. Even if the general outline is the same old game.

  3. Steve says:

    I found my first MMO several years back, “lineage1″ as soon as I realized that if I put time into this game people around the world would see that I had devoted my time to it.

    My mind was changed, I went from buying X-box games almost every week, to spending my time playing this MMO.

    Eventually I moved on to WoW. And have since fell in love with this game.

    -steve

  4. Messyah says:

    I generally hate questing. Kill quests I love. Objective quests are so-so. Collection quests annoy me to the point of contemplating murder. But for those of us who actually paid attention and READ the quest text, the story is actually very deep. So I do agree as well that WoW is actually a very well-designed RPG as much as it is an MMO, unlike so many competitors. I keep hearing how good “Age of Conan” looks, but I just know in my heart of hearts that it won’t be able to hold a candle to WoW.

    One thing that does bother me about the game is that the majority of end-game content demands that you rely on other people. Having to do 5-mans at lower levels was a great experience, and it was always easy to get 5 people together to do a dungeon. Then you get to Karazhan and it is a really fun place, but now you are counting on 9 other people. That gets a bit harder to do. Life beyond Karazhan has you relying on 24 other people and the organization of that can get pretty rough.

    I know with the “Wrath of the Lich King” expansion coming out, there will be a bunch of more solo content to do, and hopefully some 5-mans as well, but I wonder if yet again, it will leave us relying on 24 other people once more.

  5. Stobnor says:

    A bit of a twist on this…

    Does anyone “actually” play WoW solo?

    OK, you run about the world doing things with no “explicit” help from others – so you’re playing solo…

    But – if you use Thot, or WowHead, or WoWWiki (or even read B^3), then I’d contest that you’re not playing solo – you’re playing with the experience of others to advise you as to what’s where, etc…

    Thus, I “knew” that I should go to SMV and work hard on a couple of quest lines to get my Verdant Gloves and Manimals Cinch – equally I know that I need to keep running SV to get CE rep so I can claim my Earthwarden…

    OK, there are game guides online for every game – solo or multiplayer – but one of the things I like the most about WoW is that there is a huge community online – and such a massive amount of information available… The non-linear nature of WoW lends itself very readily to such information gathering and publication – were most other games have a number of “walkthroughs”, then they’re “done with”.

    Interestingly most of that owes nothing to the monthly fee – it’s either done for the love of it, or paid for by advertising…

    One caveat to all of that is that I’ve not played any other MMORPGs – I ‘discovered’ WoW and got hooked… My wife would say that hooked is the right word, too – it does dominate my “spare” time.

    Just my (slightly different) point of view…

  6. Lameth says:

    @ BBB

    I can only add “Amen!”
    Few people realize how good we have it.

  7. Pablo says:

    Yes, I’m afraid it will Messyah. At least they have backed away from continuing to push 40-man content.

    I look at the easing of the casual player game this way: Everyone at end game cries for tanks and healers. It’s not uncommon for a 10-man Kara run to be wiped because they lack a third healer. If the casual game becomes more tolerable, then maybe more people would be willing to make the leap towards end game, and therefore more tanks and healers become available.

    I think/hope that blizzard is becoming more aware that even though they have 9-million players, and even though some guilds are huge, the logistics of getting 20, 25, and especially 40 players of the appropriate classes together at the same time is daunting at best. Those of you who play(ed) D&D, did you ever play a game with 20 players? 25? 40?? No, you probably played with no more than 5 or 6, except that time at the convention when you played with 10. I personally think these end game raids should be no bigger than that. All 25-man content really brings to the table is logistical complexity, elitism and exclusivity.

  8. Anna says:

    I was never a person to play video games much before Diablo II and Warcraft III, and so I didn’t really do the WoW thing for a long time out of fear that it would be just another “waste” and get old after a month. Here I am three years later still playing – so I suppose it’s not all bad! I know that part of this game’s staying power for me has been the RP community on Feathermoon – there’s always someone taking the lore and building their own stories out of it, which makes it all that much richer. Still, when I want to just get away from the “massive” part of it, my low level alts are still in the “solo game”. I get to have my cake and eat it too, and I’m very glad for that.

    And I’ve watched my husband, a typical new-game-a-month kind of guy, play this game with me for the last three years while other new games have sat unplayed or just barely been tinkered with, because he’s just not tired of WoW yet.

    I will say, though, that the “replayability” of Azeroth seems a lot higher than that of Outland – having just played a third character through the Outland zones, it doesn’t seem to have the richness that I still feel when playing alts in the “old world”. I’m really hoping that WotLK will bring some of that depth back into play.

  9. Pummra says:

    BBB–

    This is probably the best post I’ve read on your blog. And you have some great posts! You’ve gotten right to the heart of why basically the only game I play is WoW, and going on since release, no less. Sure, there was a time before BC where the game started to grow stale, and I found less to do with my 60 Hunter. Then, to pass the time, I just leveled alts. Heck, the number of alts I have is a testament to how truly great this game is.

    Thank you, Blizzard, for making it so I only have to pay 16 dollars a month for my gaming habit. I rarely even think of buying other games anymore, as I know I probably won’t play them. Even the “great” games that come out, like Bioshock and Mario Galaxy can only hold my interest for so long before I want to hop on WoW and get an SL group going!

  10. Dammerung says:

    Great read.

    Purty much summed up my feelings.

  11. Ralowae says:

    10/20/25/40 man content is not by its nature elitist, nor is it ruining the game for the casual player. It does require a higher devotion to the game, in time and effort, but you have to have content to the people that want that level of challenge. In my experience its some of the people that do that level of play that are elitest. I’m not saying all raiders are elitest pricks, just a select few that give the rest a bad name. I am glad 40 man raids are out. Anyone who plays AV knows how hard it is to get 40 people together and make teamwork happen.

    What I love about WoW is you can get deep into the story, feel like you’re playing in a living world, WITHOUT having to do that content. Sure, the Mount Hyjal raid is a key piece of WoW backstory. There’s also the quests in Kirin’Var Village in netherstorm that can almost totaly be solo’d. I enjoyed those, because as you run them you learn about the history of what happened in Netherstorm. There’s also a few quests that are meant to be solo’d, they’re in there for fun. There’s a Shadowmoon valley quest where you hide in a crate to easedrop on a fel orc. That’s a Metal Gear Solid reference, and I found it hilarious. There’s plenty of other nods to other games, like a quest chain that starts in Un’Goro that is a spoof/tribute to the Legend of Zelda games.
    And then you have the true story chains. There’s a quest chain in Nagrand, a massive one, that ends in Thrall himself riding into Garadar and you see a scripted scene where Thrall retells the story of the final battle where the orcish horde freed itself from the Burning Legion’s control. It pulls Garrosh Hellscream out of his emo depression and puts a finish on the whole Nagrand story(for the Horde perspective at lease). You end up doing most every Mag’Hari quest in Nagrand, you need help for a few group quests, and have to run the Auchenai crypts. You earn that moment, its my favorite moment I’ve had in game.
    I’m proud of pulling that off. Moreso than my Kara loot, or my s3 hunter axe, or any shiny piece of gear… I’m proud of what I have accomplished, not what I’ve looted or crafted. I’m in a bigger guild now, and we’re working on getting into that endgame content. The vast majority of my wow life has been in a small guild, with a few devoted friends, taking on Azeroth, and Outlands together. We’ve already planned to hit Northrend, and conquer its challenges together. I think the solo/small group play is where this game is strongest, and why WoW is beating every other mmo in existance.
    If you’re horde and interested in finishing that Nagrand chain, here’s the wowhead link for the final quest, and all the prereqs are in the comments: http://www.wowhead.com/?quest=10212

    I love WoW, and I’ll gladly pay $15 a month for my pass into the world that has the entertainment value of 2-4 $50+ games a month.
    See you all around Azeroth or Outlands,
    Ralowae and BlackTooth, Zangarmarsh

  12. Dammerung says:

    @The-post-that-was-just-there GAAAAAH! Gah gah gah. I hate laws based on liability, even if statistics show us that 50% of us would be safer if we wore pink shoes… it shouldn’t be illegal to weare blue shoes.

    Also that fireman show you just described… I’m not sure I would have caught the same undertones you did but looking at it the way you did makes me wonder about all the other things I think of as harmless, that could easily be spreading the message of don’t get involved, call the authorities.

  13. sonvar says:

    Yeah thats how it was for me too. I knew I wasn’t necessarily going to have help all the time nor did I expect. If there was a quest or two I got help on great but most of it was me figuring out how do I get this done myself. I do like some of the storylines in the game from quests but when you go through them the second time with an alt its not quite as gripping still good though.

  14. bigbearbutt says:

    Dammerung, I pulled that post because it was wildly off topic. And after writing it, my feelings and frustrations were lanced for the moment.

    After posting it, I just looked at it and had second thoughts because it so totally had nothing whatsoever to do with WoW.

    Now you have me wondering if that was dishonest, lol.

  15. Gwythire says:

    @BBB

    excellent sumup for the game :) nuff said, and may wotlk and beyond hold the same enchantments for us to see and walk through

  16. Dammerung says:

    @BBB ah… no worries… I’ve pulled stuff myself on occasion. I like the RL stuff especially the family stories because I’ve got the orclette and so its interesting for me, hence my reply…. I just got lucky and saw the post and was commenting on it when all of a sudden it wasn’t there ;P…

  17. Mama Druid says:

    Ah, man! I came here for the “worry about kids” post too! No, you aren’t crazy. But your young son will most certainly not pick up on what you did. He’ll be mesmerized by the heroic firefighter and maybe think he would like to be one too!

    It’s a great opportunity to talk to him about what the kid and lady could have done differently… relating it to him and his friends, or even the two of you.

    Like a good parent, you are viewing the program from the perspective of the message it’s sending to your son. However, if the boy or lady had ran across the street to warn the kids, then there’d be no need for Mr. Heroic Firefighter and no reason for the show.

  18. ChainTrap says:

    Spot on.

    I was intrigued to see you say that you used to subscribe to gaming magazines, and post-WoW have let that slide. I was exactly the same, and these days I don’t bother with the mags at all. Even more strangely, I used to be a relentless PC improver, upgrading my pc every couple of months to keep ahead of the curve so that the latest and greatest ran perfectly. I’ve not done any major upgrades to my PC since installing TBC, and I could swear that it has to do with not needing to.

    I don’t own a console, and am not likely to do so. I have bought two games since starting playing WoW, Football Manager 2008 (for a niice change of pace) and Warcraft 3 (to get to grips with the lore before WotLK), and neither of them have seen a great deal of play time!

  19. Yashima says:

    It’s a great game. But even the best games have some problems and many people like to focus on those forgetting all the good things.

    I’ve been playing for over 3 years now and there’s still so much to do.

    I am still sometimes buying other games and we do own a Wii …. but I rarely manage to finish the other games. It just never happens.

    I am just now re-discovering how cool it is to get a character to max-level and have so much fresh content before me – with that character. Of course I’ve done it all before with my main. But a new class … is so different.

  20. Pawan says:

    Great post!!

    -avid reader

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