Tuesday, March 10, 2009

LK is the same WoW

Gosh, I'm glad we've stopped calling LK "WotLK".

So the WoW, Casually blog (a blog stunningly started by a moonkin shortly after I pitched "Confessions" to wowinsider.com. Hrm) answers a reader mail titled, "Returning to WoW as a casual". The letter writer asks for some direction when s/he comes back. The answer he gets is horrible. Horrible. Essentially all of the advice is nonspecific. I want to know, eg, the best quest line for my level 70.99999 druid, not that I should be in a guild, or that I should randomly change servers (TWF?), make a death knight (not too exciting aside from meeting the LK), or to create alts. Give me a freaking break. Seriously, I know the guy asks, "how to start over in WoW for a returning casual player. Or starting WoW for the first time for that matter," but this was supposed to be a LK specific answer, right? I should buy the expansion to make alts? If they're not a Death Knight, there's nothing about the expansion that changes my toon experience. Great advice. $40 for nothing. And for now, I'll excuse the self-serving suggestion to "read in your spare time". Look, I barely have time to play as it is. The last thing I want to do is spend more time reading Thott, WoWHead, wowinsider, and WoWWiki.

Probably the worst part of "Casually's" answer reveals more about the issue with LK than the blog, however. Here's another "helpful" point for those returning.

Northrend is awesome

If you do have a level 68, even if you don't end up staying on that realm or with that character, you are going to want to experience the Northrend content as soon as possible. There are new and varied quest types, the lore is rich and compelling and the scenery is breathtaking. And don't avoid instances as you level up. They now take less than an hour, making it feasible even for casuals to find a group and complete.

Issues with "WoW, Casually" again are not providing specifics -- What in particular is breaktaking about the scenery? Which instances should I take in? For BC, I could say that Nagraad was particularly good looking, or that Shadow Labs was one instance I found especially enjoyable. The points in "Casually's" answer aren't invalid -- Howling Fjords looks pretty good (the burning boat in the sky is a neat touch, and Utgarde updates the traditional WoW architecture in an enjoyable way) and the instances are enjoyable so far. Utagrde's blast furnance and the Nexus' Matrix stylings are pretty kewl. This is why I prefer the style of this blog. When I'm playing, it's what one casual gamer is doing to make his game interesting. Maybe it'll work for you.

So on to the LK issues revealed in the answer. What specifically about about the LK lore is rich and compelling? This is where LK lets us down. I want there to be an obvious reason to play the game, and this lack isn't "Casually's" fault. I want to feel like my questing is part of something larger. I want to stumble into an artifact that gets me sucked into the storyline, like the Illidari-Bane Mageblade quests, but on a much larger scale.

(I'll talk more about a potential answer later, but as a hint, Braben and Bell do a very good job of fleshing out a world with a random number generator.)

Both expansions to WoW start in exactly the same way. You're in some fortress that's under attack. In LK, there are not one, but TWO fortresses where you can relive this awesome experience! One is attacked by demon-like mobs, the other by wacky lumberjacking giants with dogs who spawn quicker than you can skin them. No, literally; about half the time, the worg corpse has vanished before I could skin them. And my goal is to kill 'em. Kill the giants. Kill the fools in the mine below the land near the fortress (BC and LK). Sprinkle bombs on hotspots on your map. Fuuuuuuhn stuff.

This unimaginative, bare bones storyline style questing doesn't engage me. Kill x of y does not engage me, and hardly makes for "varied quest types". Convert x of y scarecrows back to happy threshers does not engage me. Taking the Clefthoof model, changing the horn a bit, and putting them back into herds where only the alpha male aggros so that you can slap the same content with slight variation back into the game does not engage me.

Blizzard needs to stop sitting on their laurels and remake the WoW experience. There should be direction and obvious arguments for an old player to come back, and answers obvious enough for someone who specializes in getting casual gamers to play to name specifics for why those players should come back and stick around. With LK, I don't see those, and neither does Robin. I appreciated the free 10-day hit of heroin, and it might be plenty to make my jonesing strong enough me to play a few more months, but LK is the same WoW.

I'm going to remain disappointed until WoW brings back story (I'd probably be more accurate to say brings it and stop at that). Nothing's stopping them but themselves.

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