For as long as I’ve played, I’ve heard the phrase that ‘your game experience may vary’, based on the fact that however the game may be coded, much of how we experience the game is flavored by events beyond Blizzard’s expectations and outside of Blizzard’s control.
Or does anyone think erotic role-play in the Deeprun Tram tunnels was part of the original design doc? Anyone?
Think about it, you’re wandering round, exploring this massive world, you take the Deeprun Tram one day and see the windows opening out to the bottom of a seafloor. Wow! That was cool, but it was there and gone in the wink of an eye. You decide to walk down the tram tunnel to get a closer look, see if you can make out any features that would help you locate that spot from outside the game.
It’s vanilla, you don’t know the Tram is instanced and doesn’t actually look out on the game world.
You walk your way down the tunnel, and as you round the corner, there before you revealed in the shimmering greenish-blue light of the water are two figures, both engaged in some heavy /saying.
Booya! You done been ERPed.
If you got ganked with a facefull of ERP, your game experience MIGHT have varied.
So much of the social part of the game is out of Blizzard’s control, and when they have tried to implement some form of spanking on individuals or guilds that were doing things they didn’t want in their game environment, they’ve seen some heavy media interest.
World of Warcraft has long left the realm of a privately-owned game in the eyes of the media. It’s an alternate world where our subscription fee pays the taxes of our citizenship. When a group of Azerothian citizens get their behavior addressed by the Blizzard government, it’s reported as censorship.
I don’t recall reading the World of Warcraft Bill of Rights… oh wait, EULA. Mayhap I did.
Regardless, there is the legal reality and the media fiction. In law the EULA holds sway, but in the court of public opinion any attempt at restraint or coercion of guild behavior based on what we consider real world discrimination gets high visibility.
I’m not saying that is wrong, I’m using it as an example of how far past being a typical video game World of Warcraft has become. We treat it as a real place we go to, and we bring our baggage with us. We invest in it our expectations for a real world, and we bring it to life.
We call it logging in, but we could just as easily call it stepping over.
My point in bringing all of this up, other than rehashing what we already know, is that there is more than the social that changes our online experience.
How this game plays is powerfully affected by how successful you are in PvE raiding or PvP battlegrounds/arenas.
No, I know, obvious, but to me the difference has never been more stark than in the release of the Timeless Isles.
In the Timeless Isles, our power level has a new baseline, and any fresh character reaching level 90 can take a quick flight and reap the iLevel 496 storm.
In any other place in the world, that iLevel 496 gear is going to make you a contendor. Questing will be easier, dealing with adds on your farm will be trivial, even dealing with the occasional mob aggro while farming or pursuing Archeaology becomes so much easier.
But the isles itself assume that baseline of gear, and ups the intensity.
The Isles are a challenge and a half for any new player to make their way just to reach those chests for the new gear.
But what about the player that started raiding with success in the first week of patch 5.4, has their legendary cloak and is already pushing iLevel 550 or higher even without heroic modes?
A fifty point gear gap doesn’t sound like much, does it? Well, yes, yes it does.
I go to the Timeless Isle on a character that has iLevel 496 – 510, and it’s a struggle, a challenge, and I look for grouping opportunities. I don’t start shit with elites or rares, I watch my step, and getting two elites like the tigers or gulp frogs on me is a sure sign of impending doom. I follow the herd for the larger rares, and if Garnia were to spawn while I was all alone, no sense pulling at iLevel 496, I’m not going to survive that massive bolt of destruction more than twice.
But on my main, the character I am raiding on…
Game experience may vary wildly from baseline. Ridiculously.
The experience is night and day. The entire Isle opens up it’s possibilities, and anything can be soloed (except probably Evermaw, and really… why would you want to go that alone? Ugh.)
When your gear is from current raiding, Garnia is just another enemy to destroy as soon as she appears. The Scary Sprite encounter becomes a race to see how many you can get to spawn in the shortest possible time, using all out AoE to bring a few hundred enemies to your feet in a heap.
It’s liberating, but at the same time it’s an eye opener.
Going there on a squishy iLevel 496 character can get frustrating, but it’s also a tense stalk through a wild world filled with danger. You’ve got to be on your guard, hunting your prey while always aware that the prey might be you. It’s thrilling to be at risk, that thrill is part of the reward. But you have to accept a slower pace.
On a raiding or powerful PvP character, it becomes a blistering trek at high speed to get to the next rare spawn point, with some minor feelings of irritation when that tiger pounces you and you have to take a second to swat it down.
Both are fun ways to play, but both are vastly different experiences.
With such a wide disparity in power levels from baseline to raid, that is why I love the Burdens of Eternity as drops comparable to, and even more powerful than LFR gear (aside from it being random stats).
In a perfect world, everybody should be able to experience that shift in power.
Oh sure, people who raid and are working hard get there first, but their reward is they got there first. Raiding in my opinion shouldn’t confer ‘first class citizen’ status forever.
Put another way, non-raiding players aren’t second class or low class, and it’s nice that even without LFR you can enjoy the game and work towards those Burdens, becoming ever more powerful. Feeling for yourself the way things become less tense and you become more the master of your environment.
There isn’t a roadblock between you and the feeling of POWA! except how much time you spend doing things that bring you Timeless Coins to buy your 476 weapons and Burden upgrades.
Sure you have to raid in some way to get through the Legendary cloak quest, but even without it, nobody will stay at that starter baseline forever so long as they take part and play.
It’s amazing. I’ve seen so many people chugging away on alts now, just since the release of patch 5.4, leveling and questing on abandoned characters. Heck, I’ve seen a definite increase in people starting characters on the opposite faction now, somewhere fresh and new. That promise of gear at the end is a compelling incentive to a fresh start.
Game experience may vary. Damn well right it does, in every way. Great friends or all alone, asshats in guilds or way cool juniors. Tense ventures into uncharted territory or brutal domination of all who oppose you.
How can anyone sit back and make the claim ‘I played that game and it sucks’, without first clarifying which of the games World of Warcraft can be that they’re talking about?