One inch deep but a million miles wide

Yesterday, I touched on some of the things I was doing in World of Warcraft that has me feeling like there is too little time for me to do everything I’d like to do.

It wasn’t meant as any kind of statement that there is too much content in WoW for anyone to feel bored, but that seemed to be how at least one person took it, and they wrote a great comment that brought me up short.

Syl of Raging Monkeys said, paraphrasing here, that from the point of view of someone that has one main character they love as their avatar in the game, there is very little to do other than raids and instances. Any new content feels gone the day after it comes out. Being able to do the same 5 quests on 10 alts does not equate to 50 quests worth of content anyway.

I wholeheartedly agree with you, Syl. I’m not saying there is tons of content to do, I’m saying there are tons of things I’m keeping busy doing.

Watch this next bit… I’m going to start rambling about the good old days. And yet, were they really all that good?

There was a time when my Druid was not just my main character, but my only character, just like Syl.

I know for people new to the game it may be hard to imagine, but there was a time when I played my first and only character for three months in Azeroth… just to get to level 60. No alts, no distractions, no other games.

I tackled everything at level, trying to take stuff on at Yellow or Orange difficulty for boosted XP rewards, and I scoured the land looking for more quests. What I didn’t do was try to rush to level, and I didn’t grind mobs. But I quested pretty consistently, and yep, three months.

When I look back on those days, and all the things that have changed since then, I do feel the changes were for the better. But the side effect of all those changes has removed the one thing that helped me love my Druid so much; I loved spending so much time in one zone doing quests that it began to feel as familiar as home. 

When you really think about it, the original pace of the game forced us to take time to advance. And when you spend a lot of time somewhere, you come to know it well.

Maybe you come to love it, maybe you come to loathe it, but damn it you know it!

Aside from the pace of earning XP from quests, and needing more XP then to advance to the next level, there were other reasons we were feet wet in zones for a long time.

We didn’t get mounts until much later, then. We spent 1 through 40 walking everywhere. We carefully planned our hearth settings, gathered and consolidated quests to need fewer trips, we did what we could, but we were slow moving mammals.

One aspect of that easy to forget is that when you’re on foot, it’s a LOT harder to just blast on through to where your quest objectives send you. When you’re on foot, you sneak in or you fight it all, and trying to run just got you dazed/slowed and eaten. You spent more time fighting your way to places.

Another aspect was fast mount speed cost a shitload of gold by old school prices. I knew a lot of people before Burning Crusade that raided, that simply couldn’t afford a thousand gold for an upgraded mount. They had repairs and enchants and crafting Flasks to spend money on instead. So even if you WERE 60, you could be running around and aggro bad guys, and they would be fast enough to catch your ass and knock you off your mount. Phase three… fight!

I still remember the moment I bought my Druid fast mount speed. I was still questing in Silithis, and I had a fast mount, and I was riding past mobs… and they couldn’t catch up to me in time to knock me off my riding cat! I swear to you, that moment I felt a surge of disdain blast right through me.. “Hah! Try to catch ME, mother-)&*(^er! My ass is OUTTA HERE! Nyah, nyah! Woot!”

Another reason I spent a lot of time in zones, time enough to get to know them very well, was that we were comparatively much weaker back then. Gear and talents were aimed at incremental upgrades. It was all additive. You’d get a +3 strength boost on an epic as compared to your best blue. It didn’t seem like much, but when all your gear had those little boosts, it all added up and made you far more effective.

With content balanced with that in mind, tackling 3 or 4 mobs at appropriate level was a hell of a challenge, and just traveling through mobs to get to a quest objective could take a while and some careful planning.

By the time I was done with a zone, I might have been frustrated at how long it all took, but I really knew the area well. I had spent enough time there to develop unique experiences that stayed with me as special events. And gaining a level or two felt like a big deal.

Even now, I can cast my mind back and call forth doing escort quests, orc stronghold invasions, and performing genocidal slaughter of centaurs in Desolace as if it happened to me, and not something that flitted past my eye on screen for a second and was gone.

I remember with fondness the turning point in my feral Druid life, when I took on groups of mobs in Un’goro Crater because they were packed so tight, and developed a feral spec that drew deeply enough on Restoration that I could take Nature’s Swiftness. If it weren’t for how challenging the fights were then, there would have been no call for me to develop a fighting style where I could pull four raptors, burn one down in Cat while accepting the increased damage, switch to Bear and stun one to reduce incoming damage I’ll take in caster to two mobs worth, shift to caster, fire off a Nature’s Swiftness instant cast max level Healing Touch, shift back to Bear to grind them down to one left and then back to Cat to finish it off.

Three mobs, even four, and to still be alive at the end! That was some intense and satisfying fighting, and a true sense of accomplishment that lingers to this day. That was when I began to get a handle on how fun Feral could be if you lived it.

There, just like an old fool I rambled on about the good old days. Those days are long gone, and we have the game to deal with as it is now.

I drift off into into these things, and I think one reason is because I am having a very hard time convincing myself that everything today is rosy red.

I make alts, and they’re fun so long as the rush of possibility is still there. New alt, new name, maybe a new spec to play with, a new race combination, a new combination of professions.

The excitement only lasts while I can keep it different. The new content in Cataclysm is great, and I haven’t seen everything yet, but the closer I get any character to Outlands, the greater the dread grows.

What I try and avoid thinking about is how we have backed ourselves into a corner when it comes to new content.

The playerbase got Burning Crusade, and played it through and loved it. Once we got into end game raiding in Burning Crusade, where there were tons and tons of raids that had all these keys and attunements and quest chains and things to do before we were allowed to enter, we begged to have the leveling process accelerated so we could bring up a second character to help our groups out. DPS wanted to be able to have a Healer alt for when Gene can’t make it. Tanks wanted a DPS for when they felt burnt out.

There was so much to do at end game, we wanted to have extra characters to try and do it all. 

Well, now we’ve got it. The genie is long out of the bottle, the leveling experience is accelerated to ludicrous speed, and we can get alts up in weeks, not months.

But the acceleration applies to all PvE content outside of raids. And those of us with armies of alts long ago leveled them all most or all of the way there.

We’ve done Burning Crusade 8 times, Northrend 8 times, even Cataclysm 8 times.

Cataclysm feels more brutal to me than the others, and I think it’s because they gave us so much new in Azeroth. There is a limit to how much new content anyone can provide in an expansion, and the scope of what we got in Cataclysm was wonderful. It was more than I ever expected.

But it wasn’t quite enough in the end game to satisfy the need for new questing and adventuring.  

Blizzard has done a great job with Azeroth’s revamp, and the races/class combos, and the guild leveling, and the PvP, and even the raiding pace. They are fulfilling their promise of continuous new raiding and instancing content.

But Syl nails it on the head, that for those of us that want to take our main characters on an exciting new adventure, there just isn’t enough. Everything I’m doing is to distract me from that truth.

It is the adventuring that I love, and that calls to mind my favorite moments in the game over the years.

It is going new places with my Druid and seeing new things. In a perfect world, I’d be able to keep doing that with new questing content that came out as regularly as raids and instances. In a perfect world, there would be frequent mini-pack expansions of expanded worlds full of solo or two-person adventuring delight.

There would be $15 expansions of ‘pirate adventures’, and ’empire toppling’, and ‘lost civilization discovery’, the same as the D&D modules we used to buy from TSR. Things to keep you going for another couple of months of lateral adventuring at the same level and with new green level (or blue) quest rewards, leaving the epics to PvP and PvE raiders.

What keeps me from getting cranky about it, or seriously talking about it, is the simple fact that content for adventuring pleases one person at a time, and is only repeatable in that you can do it again with your alts. Content aimed at challenging a group of people can satisfy a whole lot of folks at once, and has a weekly reset timer.

It makes more economic sense to focus design team work on creating content that is inherently repeatable for a group.

The other thing I keep in mind is, Blizzard does have another design team hard at work on a new MMO. They are trying to make something insanely awesome, something that will both blow us away, and at the same time not compete directly with those of us that love the myth and feel of WoW. So I don’t expect the same level of investment in WoW as I would if it was all they had on their plates. WoW revenues help to support new product development. How could it be any other way?

I guess all I’m coming around to say is, I can’t always get what I want, but if I try sometimes, I justmight find, I get what I need…. until something shiny comes along, or the new MMO comes out, or getting to know a good group of folks to play with changes the game experience itself in new ways.

Thank you very much for the thought provoking comment, Syl.

And have a great weekend!

21 thoughts on “One inch deep but a million miles wide

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  2. I know why Blizzard changed them, but I miss being able to spend time in the battlegrounds, at level, taking my time to learn my class. It was a great pause between questing, allowing me not to gear up (though it helped), but rather to take my time to figure out how things worked. It took me six months to get Cynwise to level 80, because I had a BG addiction. I’m okay with that. I got a lot out of the experience, and I’m in no rush to bring my next alt up to 85 as fast as I can.

    I’m enjoying the heck out of Cataclysm, but the replay value of leveling is kinda low. Not as low as raiding, but kinda low. So I’m parceling out the leveling zones between alts and my main, trying as best I can to keep focused on the thing that really does still excite me about this game – PvP.

    As for raiding? I might give it a go in 4.2 – there should be enough content then (between Firelands and the 4.1 raids) to keep me interested for a while.


  3. Makes me think… for pure “don’t have to change a thing” replayabilty.. every 15-30 minutes… Battlegrounds.

    Blizzard have their money (and then some) from WSG, AB & AV. Sure a little tweaking here and there… but how many people & how many hours have they consumed, while not constantly demanding developer time.

    but yes.. yes.. I agree… I’d love to do way more with Gnomeaggedon than the current “raid” limitation… instead 85 No. 3 is here, in a matter of weeks, already geared out and if not for the fact I rolled him to PvP, would already be neglected at best, deleted at worst.


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  5. BBB, you really brought back some good memories reading that wall of yours. And, in a way, you also made me realize way I don’t really love WoW like I used to back in Vanilla.

    We were slow, we were broke but man that game was FUN! I remember my “grinding for epic mount” like it was yesterday, spending hours and hours in Felwood, killing elementals to loot some rare mats to put on the AH, finding my first epic world drop, the Staff of Jordan. Or exterminating the entire population of black dragonkins in the Burning Steppes for days to craft my Black Dragonscale leather set for my hunter (who had some epics by then, but I had to get my hands on that set!). Kiting Teremus the Devourer to Stormwind back when it was doable and the dragon was a BOSS… not some rare weak thing…. Everything might look bothersome at first for those of you that started playing WoW more recently, but I miss those hard to do/get things that made WoW special back then. Everything is WAY too fast as it is now in Cata and it kinda kills the fun.

    I don’t know about you but I would like to see a “WoW Classic”, accessible only to those of us who’ve been playing since Vanilla, based on the Vanilla game. Classic quests, classic raids, classic classes, races and talents as well as classic PVP and it’s endless grind to the “Grand Marshall” title. Get back where skill was more important than gear. I would gladly spend time on that game rather than this way-too-fast-race-for-max-lvl game WoW as become.

    For me, WoW has always been two different games : the Leveling Part and the End-game part. As it stands now, the Leveling part seems like an obstacle to the end-game part rather than a preparation to it. It shouldn’t be that way… As I love to say to the young ones out there that started playing in WotLK who say that leveling takes way too long, what’s important is not where you go, it’s how you get there; end-game is fun, but the road to max level as to be even more exciting. But right now, I’m not convinced the Leveling part is quite that fun anymore…


  6. I really agree with you here BBB 🙂

    Tons of alts and I’m really loving replaying the areas I knew so well. I like how they changed the places and the stories and how the pace of the game now pretty much matches the content (although I have a lot of grey quests as well…). It’s different from how it was, and I liked it back then, but I also enjoy seeing how they redid it all. A great job I think.

    What I do miss on my main, is the great story lines. Back in Vanilla, you could plan long chains of adventures. The T0.5 upgrades, the Linken quest chain was looooong, you had the Darrowshire quest chains etc. Lots of things to keep you busy at max level while not raiding. I miss that in Cataclysm (and LK as well btw). I hardly spend time on my main outside of raiding, which is a shame. I like to play my main (my Druid ofc) for good reason, so I’d love to spend more time with him. But alas, there is not much max level content…

    Back to the alts I guess 🙂
    (and when those are done, I might even start some new chars from the other faction, see the game from a new perspective yet again 🙂 And without the gold and heirlooms. So much to see still, but not on my druid…)


  7. Bear is a wise bear!

    Where Cataclysm really and truly broke for me, non-community wise, was the talent trees.

    I know, I know, they’re only ‘new’ to me because I went back after a 2-3 year break for Cataclysm.

    But the ‘new’ talent trees killed any desire I had to explore. I am a tinkering nugget by nature. I loved making ridiculous specs that turned out to be surprisingly (sometimes even ridiculously) good at what they did.

    The new talent trees took that toy away from me. And it was my favouritest toy. And with the new talent trees, a baby adventurous druid growing up can no longer have your WOOOHOOOOO experience with Nature’s Swiftness.

    Just one more big loss amongst other big losses.

    I’m glad what I’m currently playing, while a WoW-Clone, doesn’t follow WoW’s new talent trees, because it means that if I logic out something, it may look silly on paper to someone who hasn’t seen the logic, but in actual play – it’s pure joy.


  8. Ah, remember how exciting it was to get that first level 40 mount (not that I could afford it at level 40!)? Thanks for the nostalgia. I definitely remember those moments on my hunter, taking on multiple mobs through careful use of traps, pet aggro, FD, etc. Heck, I remember those moments on the two alts I had in vanilla (shadow priest and feral druid). Nice memories. 🙂


  9. Since killing arthas, and completing the story arc that began so long ago in Warcraft 3, I have been in a tailspin in terms of my interest in wow. I tried taking a break and played other things, but wow really is the best at what it does.

    So I came back and piddled around on my former mains … but didn’t get the urge to play and progress and advance yet again. I tried creating yet another alt with countless heirlooms and outrageously deep pockets, and while it was a pleasant shocking less geared, higher level players, the novelty eventually wore off.

    So I tried something new… and so far I’ve been loving it:

    I started a new toon on a new (low pop) realm,no gold (no DK sugar parent),no heirlooms, no existing friends to help me. I’m playing a class that i’ve never played before… and i’m not doing research to min-max…

    I’ve essentially made myself a noob.

    And while this seems like “just another although” all over again… I prefer to see it as the wow experience of a newcomer – and THAT is, in my mind, what Blizzard continues to do better than anyone else.


    • I had never thought of that, but its a fantastic idea! Right after reading this I got 4 good friends from Vanilla to go along with it. We are switching sides and realms and starting from scratch. SO for its been a ton of fun and well worth the relative struggle


  10. I feel ya about the “there just isn’t enough. Everything I’m doing is to distract me from that truth.”

    There isn’t ENOUGH… they split content updates between revamp and new zones. AND… legacy players are playing 1/2 content on 1/4 of the advancement progression Cata originally planned (no path of titans that would have given our maxes more adventures… no full 10 levels either)

    Frankly Rift is at least 50 levels of distraction as opposed to 5. But still I am starting to wonder WONDER in BIG BOLD letters have MMOs in their current form… Jumped the Shark?

    Are we experiencing the end days of Multiplayer in it’s current form and we are just a few months away from the Facebook barbarians storming into our Roman cities??? I’m really starting to wonder… because social gaming is starting to take a life of it’s own… and no one will be able to ignore it any longer. Time was I thought Blizz and other quality game devs could just stick to their knitting and make great games the people will pay premium money for.

    Now it appears that ALL US MMO players will NEVER EVER be completely satisfied with ANY MMO offering. First Person Shooter gamers, Fantasy MMO players and Facebook players ARE all disparate demographics AND any game company is going to have to cater to the biggest potential market to survive…

    Hmmm… wonder what demographic is the biggest.


  11. mmm your food for thought moments have me slowing down my alts (and main tbh) even just in tiny ways to force myself to read the actual quests. It’s amazing how much is out there. I’ve got way too many alts for my own good started thanks to wanting to know if the game would feel different if I ran it as a mage rather than a hybrid kitty/tree (as you could back then) or would a pally heals make the game feel dif and so on. None have followed the exact same route through their levels some focus more on pvp others on pve, some on one continent or the other others on a mix … each route has brought its own little gems 🙂 that my main ‘does not mind having sisters’


  12. I think it’s better to do content half as fast rather than twice, and it sounds like you agree. With the hybrids being so versatile, especially with dual-specs, do we really need so many max-level alts? I don’t think so. I think we’d all have a lot more fun with fewer alts, but with more fun playing those alts.


    • ^ This.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love my alts. But now and then, I start thinking I might have too many of them 😛

      As far as the ‘Old Days’, it does feel like most of my baby alts level too fast now. I can barely get through the first quest hub before all the mobs in the zone have turned green. And while it is nice being able to pick which zone to go next, without feeling like I have to do all of them to get enough xp for the next zones, it would be nice to get the whole way through Ashenvale or Silverpine before all the quests turn grey.


      And then on the other hand, I can’t get my new death knight done with Outlands fast enough. : But that’s just because I don’t really like the place, except for Nagrand.


  13. Heh, well I’m glad my comment served as food for thought – I certainly didn’t intend to spoil your fun while you still have it. 🙂 but I always felt that my wow mates, for all their wonderful reasons given (“I play ten alts because that makes me a better player / understand this complex game better” ummm riiight, and any version thereof), first and foremost spent so much time with alts to “justify” playing so much wow. or in other words, to find something to do because they were so bored (that was usually, when I would go PVP). I’m not claiming they had no fun with that either, I know they did, but they also loved their mains. I always opposed playing an alt myself for my own reasons (of immersion mostly), but the longer I did, the more so I also did it out of spite. I played and raided with Syl for almost 6 years straight. Had I wanted not to play a priest, I would have rolled something else.

    And I do agree with a lot you say here – to pick up on one particular line: “And yet, were they really all that good?” I don’t think it was all that good myself. vanilla hype is something to be careful about, although I am clearly a nostalgic veteran myself. but I know where the ‘rosy’ in my memories comes from.
    yet a lot WAS different then, and you already gave most of the reasons why; everything took longer – be it travel, be it money making, be it grouping and clearing places or just quests, be it grinding for raid consumables or res gear, or other ‘time sinks’. it was not nearly as solo-friendly and leveling up was actual ‘content’, not some nuisance to breeze through. and of course we were simply less experienced, and we had less mods and guides in place.
    many of these things were continuously removed, ‘improved’, ‘polished out’ of the game. I don’t think I need to mention today’s LFG tool on top of it all.
    So, I can’t agree that they continuously made the game better in all respects. many things surely, but not all. more convenient doesn’t always equal better – especially if you’re still thinking about the lines of immersion.

    I do get your point about the focus on the cooperative and repeatable content of the game, such as instances ofc; repeating such is more attractive than repeating the same story or quest and you cannot repeat the ‘discovery’ of a place. also, people raid for loot. so, it does make sense for the devs – it’s easier, more efficient in terms of ‘design effort vs. outcome’-ratio, altogether more ‘convenient’. oddly enough it’s still not working, if the current state of the game and its player numbers are any indicator. it can’t be lack of raids or loot that’s currently driving masses from cataclysm.

    But I should probably apologize for the WoT at this point (merely returning the favour, hehe!) – and a good weekend to you! =)


  14. [..]is the simple fact that content for adventuring pleases one person at a time, and is only repeatable in that you can do it again with your alts. Content aimed at challenging a group of people can satisfy a whole lot of folks at once, and has a weekly reset timer.
    It makes more economic sense to focus design team work on creating content that is inherently repeatable for a group.

    I don’t understand this. The solo content is done by lots of folk at once as well, they just don’t do it together …


    • No problem Nils, my reasoning is as follows;

      A quest consists of a piece of story/lore wrapped around an objective, and when the objective is completed you are rewarded with additional story/lore and perhaps other rewards in the form of money, reputation, items or fun things (like Withers?).

      Once a quest has been completed by a character, unless it is a daily quest, it’s done. That character cannot repeat that quest. That part of story/lore cannot be experienced again, except by playing through it with an alt.

      Most quests require a framework to hang them on. A person to provide the quest. A place for that person to stay and be found. Another place where the objective can be found. To add quests to the game, either new locations need to be created, or new instanced versions of pre-existing areas need to be supported.

      If new areas are created, there is still a certain density of quests that you can populate the place with before you get to the point that every single mob, NPC, area or object in that zone had quests tied to them. So you end up, even with instancing, on an upper limit to how many quests you can have per area before you must go make more areas to populate with quests, quests your character can only do once and cannot revisit.

      Raids, however, are static areas that are not necessarily tied to quests. They can be, but the purpose is not to provide adventuring through story progression/addition of lore, but to provide adventure through battle. And each week, the static area is reset, the dead rise once again, and your group can fight ’em all once more.

      Blizzard has shown they ARE trying to invest in additional story options, most recently by phasing Stranglethorn Vale for the Troll Dungeon quest chains. They are able to add another new layer of quest chains on top of the previous layer, with new mobs, objectives, even places, re-using an area that we’d already done.

      But for someone trying to task a design team to create the most content possible for the largest group of players in the shortest period of time that will last as long as possible, creating a single static area filled with mobs that are there to be killed, and then reset and killed again, week after week after week, is a clearer investment of assets than creating an entirely new region or layer, populating it with mobs, quests, NPCs, items and objects, al knowing that once it is played through once, the next time it is seen by that player it will have a reduced value because the main reward, advancement of story or lore, has been experienced before.

      You know, maybe I should have made this a blog post. Should I post this as a follow up? I’m just trying to explain my thinking a little more, and if more people share your disagreement with me, it would probably be better to give them a better chance to reply and share their insight to where I have gone astray by posting it.


      • I didn’t disagree. I just didn’t understand 🙂
        Thanks for the clarification. I have but one question left: Wouldn’t daily quests be equally successful providing content as raids ?


  15. “There would be $15 expansions of ‘pirate adventures’, and ‘empire toppling’, and ‘lost civilization discovery’, the same as the D&D modules we used to buy from TSR. Things to keep you going for another couple of months of lateral adventuring at the same level and with new green level (or blue) quest rewards, leaving the epics to PvP and PvE raiders.”

    This would be awesome. I’ve tried all the classes and races (Though not all the new 1-60 zones) and I’ve pretty much settled in on three “mains” that now sit at 85. I’m not a big PvP enthusiast and my work schedule prohibits raiding. So after a month of logging in, looking around Orgimmar, and logging out again, I decided to suspend my account.

    If level 85 modules were available (especially if they were instanced, so my wife and I could play together in peace) I would go for it.

    Too late for WoW, but maybe it’s something Blizz can put into the next MMO.


  16. One more reason to charge for content, methinketh, rather than time (sub model) or widgets (item shop model). And horizontal progression (so we’re not all bunched up at the endgame). And dynamic content.

    …yeah, not going to happen. Not in WoW, anyway.

    But hey, I heard echoes of my own experience in your description of Feral fighting. That’s still something I do, it’s just that it’s not a baseline anymore, I go looking for fights where the Druid’s inherent flexibility is a strength. It’s a ton of fun when it all clicks, and shifting is part of combat, not just something you do when you respec.


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