standing at the back in my sissy robe

July 29, 2009

Nostalgia Sceptic

Filed under: Sweets for the Sweet — Tamarind @ 12:27 pm

There’s a very charming topic over at Blog Azeroth at the moment, encouraging us all to nostalgia trip about the olden days. It’s a little strange, truthfully, because even as Perpetually Late to the Party Guy I do feel a sense of nostalgia … except it must be for something I never really knew. It’s like missing the days when Rome was a republic. Say what?

The truth is that WoW is an evolving game and a lot of the things we “remember” as being epic and awesome about vanilla are basically impractical and annoying now. Quests that take you from Tanaris to Winterspring to Un’goro to Winterspring to Tanaris to be BRD? Hah, you’d be lucky to get a group together for that these days. I do see the occasional self-styled nostalgia run (inevitably looking for a healer) but that’s about it. But when you have millions of players on the tread wheel at basically the same time, progressing at the same pace, I imagine BRD was tourist central (I aggroed an entire bar full of dorfs and all I got was this lousy T-shirt). Also immense world-spanning quests make more sense at level 40-50 when the level cap is 60, because end-game is just around the corner, and you have both time and inclination to do them. When the level cap is 80, you don’t want necessarily want to be straddling the globe like an uncomfortable Colossus – you want to be collecting monkey bollocks efficiently. Of course, it is human nature to resist change and to resent it, and to always assumes things were worse than they used to be, but I think we need to recognise that the WoW we are playing in 2009 is not the same WoW that was released in 2004.

(All the same, bring back CC, and stop reducing to everything to AoE fests!)

I am, however much I like to indulge it, suspicious of nostalgia. I sometimes think games deceive us. Like pregnancy. Okay, this analogy is more spurious than usual. But people I know who’ve had multiple children (not all at once, obviously) tell me that pregnancy plays terrible tricks on you. While you’re giving birth it’s the worst thing ever and you swear by all the saints and angels that you’re never going to put yourself through this hell again. And then, somehow, you forget… And I suspect that some of the experiences one remembers as being game-definingly great were actually frustrating and gruelling. It’s like when you finally find that piece of fucking aged gorilla sinew – yes, it feels fantastic (having found the sinew, I mean, not the sinew itself, I’m not sitting here with a piece of aged gorilla sinew, rubbing it gently over my body or anything… argh!) but it’s basically just a pleasurable sense of relief. I believe geekademics call this feeling in games aporia, although I think they should make more of the fact it is distinct from, y’know, actual fun.

I had something very similar happen to me between Morrowind and Oblivion. Morrowind was one of Those games for me. You know, the ones that make you misty eyed and lumpy throated, regardless of Actual Merit Of Game. There isn’t that much of a technical leap between Morrowind and Oblivion (although, of course, it is generally shinier) but between Daggerfall and Morrowind there’s, err, literally a world of difference. Morrowind achieves what Daggerfall suggested. There’s a lot the Elder Scrolls games don’t do so well, but in terms of creating an in-game space that feels vast and full of possibilities, they cannot be bettered (except, ironically, by WoW). So, anyway, there I was, rather miserable, and along came Morrowind. And the real world was kicking my arse so I lived in it for a while. I was, incidentally, residing at the time in a dank basement flat so I was, for a brief period, an archetypal gamer stereotype. Things got better, I finished Morrowind, life moved on…

Later, of course, Oblivion came out. I bought it in eagerness, tried to play and HATED it. It was so, err, NERFED. Fast travel? What kind of bullshit was that? Remember those halcyon days when a journey in Vvardenfell was a proper goddamn journey? Remember getting killed by cliff-racers on your way back to Balmora? Remember when exploring meant something? Remember when armour sets came with paldrons? Remember when medium armour was a skill? Those were experiences! That was the real deal.

So, naturally, I fired up Morrowind again. And, err, oh dear. How nostalgia had deceived me. Getting killed by an extremely high level cliff racers on your way to the first proper city in the game? So not fun! Being given quest directions like “the mine is west of the river to the south”? So not fun! Spending literally hours of real time wandering around the wilderness, lost and confused and terrified of cliff racers? So not fun!

This is the trick that nostalgia plays on us. It smoothes over real frustration with remembered satisfaction, blends aporia into pleasure. On the other hand, I think what we genuinely and fairly miss are the things we felt on the journey the first time we made it, regardless of things that frustrated us or were just inherently badly designed (walk across Tanaris, just try it). And I think this what’s worth remembering and worth celebrating.

I was struck by this last night, actually. Cowfriend and I were questing in Outland. We were in the Ruins of Sha’naar, gathering demonic essences, and there’s quite a nice little quest line there about the enslaved Dreghood. Usually what happens is that, once you kill their demonic masters, the Dreghood make joyful noises and escape, except sometimes, of course, they get caught in the cross fire and don’t. In which case they beat you about the head with their enslaved hands until you have no other choice but to, err, euthanise them. I like the Naladu arc so I’ve done this quest quite a few times, and I was pretty blasé about laying into the poor, innocent enslaved Dreghood whenever they got in my way. Cowfriend wasn’t. Really wasn’t. And that was when I realised: there would have been a time when I wouldn’t have been either. I’d like to blame the Prettiest Elf for this (he genuinely wouldn’t care) but it’s the first time I’ve caught myself making no attempt whatsoever to engage imaginatively with the game.

And, truthfully, I was saddened, and slightly ashamed.

But in the spirit of nostalgia here a couple of moments from my WoW journey.

The Perfect Place For a Picnic

Pass the dalaran sharp please!

Pass the dalaran sharp please!

The strange hunterly Cow at my side is not, in fact, Cowfriend, but the person who basically took me under his wing and taught me to play the game. He was my tour guide to Azeroth, when I was just a small, naïve druid far from home. And beside us, is our mighty tanking chicken: the redoubtable Clucksworthy. As you can see, we are having a celebratory picnic having downed our first devilsaur (big moment for me!). One of the things that never fails to amuse me about WoW is the ludicrous places you find yourself sitting down for a quick snack or a drink of spring water. On top of volcanoes. In the desert. Surrounded by hostile trolls. I can’t quite remember, but I do believe Comfrey has his Glowing Brightwood Staff strapped to his back, and I believe he’s sporting a lovingly hand-tailored Robe of Power. Yep, it was a good day for small cows.

I am Become Death, Destroyer of Parties

I’ve written before about the pleasures of blacktie instancing. In the good ol’ days we did, in fact, have a full, impeccably presented 5-man team. And here we are, raring to go, at RFD:

Dressed to kill

Dressed to kill

And here is Tam celebrating his triumph over the partying skeletons therein:

Priest Smites Fun

Priest Smites Fun

I think this was an important moment for Tam. He’s not a big fan of, y’know, fun.

Why I love WoW

Because it makes me feel like this:

Small cow, big world

Small cow, big world

And I guess when it doesn’t, all the nostalgia in the world won’t help.

48 Comments »

  1. Great points. I totally relate re: Morrowind and Oblivion, of course, and had almost the identical experience (“Ah, back in Morrowind, when right and left gloves were separate items….oh crud, my right and left gloves don’t match, this is going to drive me nuts.”) I also keep having this experience where I think, somewhere around level 50-52, “Okay, this toon, I’m absolutely not going to just take off for Outland and 58, I’m going to at least complete (in a level-appropriate way) the Plaguelands and Silithus, since they’re so relevant to Wrath’s storyline, I leveled my first toon after TBC dropped, and never got to experience the old end-game.” Inevitably, by level 56, I’m reminded of how god-awful annoying the Silithus quests and (many of) the EPL quests are (kill 30 Plaguebats, 15 diseased dogs or whatever they’re called, and bring back 20 pieces of carrion grub meat? Who knew Tirion Fordring was the Hemet Nesingwary of Lordaeron?). More than anything else, by that point, I want to head to Outland because I simply enjoy Hellfire Peninsula’s quests more.

    Comment by Kahleena — July 29, 2009 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

    • On a complete side-note, I didn’t do much in the Plaguelands on my Death Knight, so I never actually found Tirion Fordring in the EPL, which is kind of a shame because it always struck me as amusing that you could do his quests in the Plaguelands *after* Light’s Hope Chapel.

      I get the urge to do the Plaguelands because of the Lich-King connection, but there’s still this weirdly jarring situation where, in the middle of all the “zomg Arthas” furore sweeping Azeroth, you decide to head over to Outland for a ten-level holiday.

      “Arthas, I have battled your minions in the wreckage of Lordaeron, I have broken down the gates of Stratholme and slaughtered the cruel tutors of the Scholomance and now I am coming for *you* …

      Umm …

      Once I’ve got and dug around in Talbusk dung for a bit.”

      Comment by Temitope — July 29, 2009 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

      • Well, the Lich King has a very very slow fuse on his wrath.

        You could think of it as an extensive provisioning trip :)

        Comment by Tamarind — July 29, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

      • That always annoyed me. There’s absolutely no lore reason whatsoever why Death Knights are heading off to Outland. Your quest ends with “I’m joining the Horde/Alliance so that I can team up with them and defeat the Lich King!” and then you putter off to Outland for a while without being given ANY kind of explanation as to why.

        I’d imagine the only good reason why Death Knights didn’t start questing in the outside world at 68 instead of 58 is that they wanted to spread people out for the launch to keep the servers from failing. But seriously? They could have at least given me SOME kind of quest pointing me to Outland and telling me why I was going there immediately after being accepted by the Horde/Alliance.

        All I got was an “okay, now what?” kind of feeling as I stood there staring at my faction leader, without him giving me any quests whatsoever. The Death Knight starting zone is very polished, but that polish ends the moment you step out of it.

        Comment by Kiryn — July 29, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

      • There is not much of a reason for anyone to go to Outland, except draenei and bloody blood elves.

        I think one thing at which WoW blatantly fails is to provide more tailored hooks. Everyone’s game experience is exactly the same, but for a few piddly class quests — many of which can be ignored now and the skills provided as a reward bought from the trainer. I think that is sad, and it makes no sense. An unbroken string of class and racial quests throughout the whole game would make the experience much more engaging. A human should go to Outland (or wherever) with a different motivation than a night elf or an orc. Race and class should matter. But, I speak as a roleplayer and not a grind-as-fast-as-you-can-so-you-can-start-the-all-important-endgame player for whom the game is made, sadly.

        Comment by Feralan — July 30, 2009 @ 8:55 am

      • Kiryn, I think you just nailed when I’ve never managed to get my DK beyond the end of the starting area. I mean, putting aside the fact that I have the soul of sissy-robe wearer, I always reach the precisely same point: DK, standing there, wondering what to do next. Being imaginatively engaged is an important part of playing WoW for me and actually DK on a Package Holiday to Outland doesn’t quite do it. It makes me wonder, actually, whether Blizzard should have bitten the bullet, had the DK starting area kick off at 65 and have you ejected into 70, ready for Northrend.

        Although the idea of trying to heal 4 clueless DKs through UK makes my toes curl.

        Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 10:48 am

      • Feralan, tailored hooks would be great, although I suspect it’s a pipe dream. To be honest, I tend to be more forgiving about what I expect from a MMO, in terms of story, than I would be of a single player game. Essentially in single player games, I want it to be *all about me* and I want the plot to be absolutely tailored to, well, the awesomeness of me :) But in an MMO, I think it’s rather the other way around – I think it’s up to me to involve myself in the story, and get infested in the quest lines, generic though they may be. (Again, this connects to my dislike of the Battle for the UC – very, very difficult to get involved with that, since all you could be was some kind of inadequate camp follower for Thrall).

        I also find it easiser to cherry pick interesting and involving quests now that the game is bigger and there’s more experience floating around. You don’t have to do every zone, you can reject quests that don’t seem to be in keeping with your personal goals and motivations. On the other hand, coming up with a sensible reason for a human to go to Outland is, as you say, incredibly difficult…

        Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

    • I think the Tirion “kill zem all” quest is vaguely justifiable because he’s testing you. It’s like in those pulpy fantasy novels when the brave young hero has to shovel manure or kill rats in a cellar or whatever to prove his heart is true and his sword arm strong. And once you’ve completed the test he does actually give you really interesting and heartrending stuff to do (albeit in Strat).

      It’s the gather 80 million termites quest that I don’t think M’Pocket Tank is every going forgive me for inflicting on her. Who’d have thought termites (TERMITES!) had a low drop rate. And getting up to the top left of of the map, through hordes and hordes, of violent, vicious undead is extremely difficult.

      I have to admit I really love Outland, especially compared to Northrend, but I do wonder if I’m deluding myself and Outland is basically my Morrowind.

      I did come back to Oblivion some time after it was released, modded the hell out of it so that it was basically Morrowind again and, err, then I really enjoyed it. Very enjoyable game :)

      Comment by Tamarind — July 29, 2009 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

  2. I’m struck by a single thought every time I see Tam posing for a picture, and it is this: What’s with the posture? Seriously, dude looks like he has a rod shoved up his… what is it you Brits call it? … arse? He really needs to learn to relax, maybe slouch a little from time to time. He’s way too uptight, and anyone that uptight scares me because they are inevitably on the verge of some sort of breakdown or murderous rampage.

    Ah now as for the actual topic of the post… I’m afraid I can’t comment much on the Nostalgia factor, seeing as how WoW was my first MMO and I’ve only been playing for about 6 months now (hence my blog title). But I do agree that humans have an amazing capacity for forgetting the painful aspects of any event or relationship, and only remembering the good parts. That’s why some people continually break up and get back together, only to remember, “Oh yeah, I broke up with this jerk for a reason!”

    Comment by Zaphind — July 29, 2009 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

    • I kind of like that about Tam. He’s a very angry, somewhat repressed person… you can tell just by looking at him. Of course, it’ll make more sense when I respec him Disc! Oh yeah! I did make him to be antidote to my super-nice cow. Also when I’m playing Tam I don’t feel guilty about being mean, snappish or sarcastic. I think he’d appreciate it. Besides, I think that of air pyschosis encourages people to treat him with respect. I mean, would you piss of a healer who looked at you like that? I don’t think so!

      Well, I don’t really have much to be nostalgic about either – I’ve been playing WoW for maybe a year? A year and a half a most.

      That’s slightly embarrassing, actually, considering in all that time I still haven’t got to 80 :)

      Comment by Tamarind — July 29, 2009 @ 4:22 pm | Reply

  3. Oooooh, I loved Morrowind, and was really disappointed with Oblivion. After Morrowind, I wanted to add, “I’m the NEREVARINE!” to my CV. After Oblivion, I just thought, “Meh. Now at least that Martin will shut up.”

    Ahhh, nostalgia. I played MUDs for years, so when I wax nostalgic, I think things like, “Back in my day, we didn’t have graphics! We had spelling! And punctuation! And we had to know how to READ. Now… Die, fetcher!”

    Comment by Sharon — July 29, 2009 @ 4:06 pm | Reply

    • I quite liked Martin, actually, but then I have a softspot for the whole “priest with a dark past” / “reluctant princeling” theme. I was genuinely moved by the ending of Oblivion but partially because, having played all the Elder Scrolls games, having, in fact, grown up with them, it seemed weirdly personal. But I agree that Morrowind was generally much more satisfying. I did enjoy walking through towns and having people go “zomg! It’s the Nerevarine!” as I went by. Now that’s the way to live!

      Filthy Sw’it!

      I have utter Morrowind-nostalgia now and it’s all your fault :)

      Comment by Tamarind — July 29, 2009 @ 4:24 pm | Reply

    • Ahhh, text adventures. The good ol’ days.

      “Kill troll with sword.”

      “Light match then burn candle with match. Ring bell.”

      Comment by Zaphind — July 29, 2009 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

      • “Light match then burn candle with match” I can cope with. It’s “use the artichoke with the fruit bat to open the door” that fails to appeal…

        Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  4. I think you make a few great points here. The main thing about nostalgia, and certainly regarding this nostalgia about “the good old days” in WOW, is that it’s not so much that the content was different, but that you were.

    So there will be no going back to that, no matter how the developers might tweak, nerf or buff this or that in your gaming experience.

    I got involved with WOW near the tail end of Burning Crusade and got to Outland within the last weeks before the current expansion dropped. Playing through the old content does feel a bit like an extended archaeology jaunt. Especially when playing through the original end game you are constantly confronted with items that make you wonder, “Hmm… I wonder what this was for?”

    As Blizzard continues forward, I have to think that this issue of old content upon old content will have to be addressed. It doesn’t seem practical beyond a few expansions to have the majority of the game persisting like the very long spent end of an enormously large cigarette burning itself to ash.

    Comment by Garinow — July 29, 2009 @ 4:14 pm | Reply

    • Thank you kindly :) I hope that, as you say, even though the novelty cannot be recaptured, the joy of discovery and the pleasure of progress continue to have their own appeal. Although there is a tinge of melancholy in nostalgia there’s also something satisfying about looking over you shoulder and laughing at bit at your past ineptitude. I remember the first time I ever did Hillsbrad it totally and utterly kicked my ass. We did it but it was like the hardest thing … well … ever. But doing it on my second character I breezed through. “Has this got easier?” I asked, innocently. “No,” said my friend, laughing, “you’re just better at playing WoW.”

      An archaeology jaunt is an excellent way to describe it! I do really love it though when you find things (a pristine black diamond anybody?) and they seem alien and mysterious, slightly pointless and so very collectible. Nobody wants crusader enchants these days but I’m happy to report Tam has at least pair of righteous orbs sitting in the bank.

      Yes, I hope Blizzard will revisit old content, at least a little. I remember when they re-vitalised Dustwallow Marsh and that was truly awesome. I can see why developers probably don’t want to have to re-tread old ground again (it’s probably like sleeping with your ex after they’ve been out with someone else for a while) but if they don’t do something with Azshara I’ll … well … I’ll be really sad. It’s such a beautiful zone.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 29, 2009 @ 4:31 pm | Reply

      • Don’t bet that nobody wants Crusader enchants. You can’t put high-level (TBC or WOTLK) enchants on heirloom weapons or PvP twink weapons.

        Comment by Kahleena — July 29, 2009 @ 5:53 pm

      • Hopefully with a zone like Azshara that seems to be more or less a placeholder for a fully realized zone that is yet to be, we will see something fleshed out there in an upcoming expansion.

        Given the likely probability that WOW development will continue for at least a few years beyond 2010, I have to wonder if the current implementation of the “old world” will get blown away completely to facilitate more useful future development sooner rather than later. We might see phasing technology introduced at every stage of leveling progression (though how pervasive that might be is yet to be seen, I don’t think you’d want full phasing where the higher level characters were literally unable to see the lower level characters in their world).

        In the end there is new development for lower level characters, and then there is new development in pre-existing zones which is relevant to characters in the end game. I hope at the very least there can be some thought put into weaving the story of whatever current expansion is into the new territory it presents as well as into the landscape we have already come to appreciate.

        Comment by Garinow — July 29, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

      • But, Kahleena, then I’d have to give up my pair of righteous orbs…

        Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

      • I kind of get the feeling they’ve been meaning to “go back” to Azshara for, well, years…

        But, yes, you’re right, it’ll be interesting to see how WoW evolves over the next few years.

        I’d be sorry if phasing became too widespread. I like my world populated with a range of folks, rather than arbitrarily broken down depending on level and progress.

        Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

  5. Wow what a great post, brought up some good memories. I think my best piece of nostalgia can never be beat. It was the first time I beat up some lazy peons with my young orc warrior. That was 5 years ago, and I’ve been playing ever since, but nothing really has ever came close to that joy, and wonderment.

    Comment by theerivs — July 29, 2009 @ 5:17 pm | Reply

    • Thank you kindly – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun to nostalgia trip, I have to admit. I remember the lazy peon quest! It’s so evocative of Warcraft III. Poor peons. It’s all “work work” for them. Starting life as as troll or orc is hard work though – Durotar is exceptionally vast and unforgiving compared to the fluffy Alliance starting areas.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:30 pm | Reply

  6. The type of nostalgia-lust that causes people to wax poetic for WoW of yore is why people keep making movies about suddenly finding themselves in high school again. But Tom Hanks’ girlfriend in “Big” (the reverse-high-school-teleport movie) got it right when she turned down the offer for youth – “I’ve been there before. It’s hard enough the first time.”

    If I could go back in time and fall in love with WoW all over again and feel that newness…well, I’m still not sure I would. Because each stage of a thing has its own beauty. Yes, I’ll never experience WoW for the very first time ever again, and it’s lovely to look back on it and remember with fondness the rather desperate way we leveled and how little we knew (and I look back on it often with a smile.) But the way I experience WoW now is pretty amazing too. I see content I’d never imagined before, have the freedom to level various different kinds of characters in various different kinds of ways because I’m familiar with the world and the many options in it, and I find new things that excite my interest all the time.

    I love WoW for the same reasons I love life. As you say, I always feel like a bit of a small cow in a big world – one which is constantly evolving and changing and yet always reminding me of Where-I’ve-Been (at the same time that I’m veering wildly towards Where-I’m-Going.)

    Also, it may be time to put down the aged gorilla sinew, sir. ;)

    Comment by wildgrowth — July 29, 2009 @ 6:07 pm | Reply

    • I think you’re right, people miss the romance and the feeling of newness and the pleasure of learning but the reality is certainly not something you’d really want to go back to. I sometimes think yearningly back on being an undergraduate and then remember what it was actually like to be 18 and desperately confused about everything….

      Sounds like you have absolutely the right balance between appreciating where you’ve come from, enjoying where you are, and looking forward to where you’re going, in life and in WoW :)

      *steps away from the aged gorilla sinew* But … but …

      Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:37 pm | Reply

  7. The dammed aged gorilla sinew! my god, I never did get that pesky stuff. And as for Morrowind… oh Morrowind…. how i love thee…. /sigh.

    I think my nostalgia in WoW is, though, not so much about content specifics (really, running around looking for that McGuffin was annoying), but as one commenter said, about *me*. I remember being absolutely chilled entering Desolace – omg! these things are too high level! This place is SCARY! Same with Thousand Needles with all those tall rock towers and blind corners… The thrill of the unknown is what I miss, and why I loved those last 10 levels to 80 – new content! Although, somehow, it wasn’t quite as thrilling at that point.

    Kind of makes me think I need a brand new game….? naw. :)

    Comment by lantanasham — July 29, 2009 @ 6:41 pm | Reply

    • I have killed an awful lot of geriatic gorillas. I think that’s actually the thing that bothers me most about the quest: is the sinew meant to be aged, or the gorilla?

      I think you’re right about WoW nostalgia being about the experiences of playing the game, rather than what you’re actually doing (ah, those days of collecting monkey toenails, we shall not see their like again … oh wait…) The thing about WoW is that it’s so vast that even though I’m now 78 (creeeeeping towards 80) there’s still a load of places I haven’t been, sights I haven’t seen. So to an extent it always retains a sense that the unknown might be just around the corner.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

  8. Having never played Morrowind, I quite enjoyed Oblivion — in the way that I am utterly crazy and obsessed with planning and spreadsheets, and Oblivion’s crazy leveling system gave me a good reason to plan out my character’s leveling path to the extreme.

    I’ve never actually played to the ending though, I tend to get tired of doing the 50 million quests I’ve already done over again because I had to start from the beginning for yet another random reason (this time, it’s because Khoa reformatted his computer and forgot to save my character data, AFTER I had gotten all of my stats maxed out by level 40. Sigh.)

    Comment by Kiryn — July 29, 2009 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

    • I have a small degree of spreadsheet love but not nearly to the same extent as you. The last game I remember reducing me to Excel was Wizardry 8, but that’s so Old School it’s practically requires an abbacus.

      Oblivion is quite fun as long as you ride the initial enthusiasm crest. It’s totally couter-intuitive because you starting playing and you’re like “wow, I can do anything”; unfortunately by the time you’ve realised that doing anything looks basically the same as everything else, and it’s all a bit pointless, you’ve motivation to actually complete the main plot.

      Oblivion is an extremely pretty world to play in. The world of Morrowind is rather more alien and interesting though.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:51 pm | Reply

      • Mainly what I loved about Oblivion was how backwards it was.

        Mobs get stronger when you level, so leveling up is suddenly a bad thing you want to avoid.

        Following this logic, your major skills make you level up, so you want to make your major skills things that you don’t want to ever use, things that you will never even use accidentally.

        I always made it my personal goal to make that guy at the beginning of the game take one look at my custom-made class and say “Oh? I would never have guessed!”

        I mean, I understand that the idea is that you’re specializing your character and you gain levels from doing what you want to do, getting stats in areas that will help your playstyle, but the game really punishes you for that.

        Comment by Kiryn — July 30, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

      • Hehe, yes, you’re right. I believe I’ve read of attempts to play the game entirely as a level 1 character because the scaling issues as well.

        The other thing that always used to amuse the hell out of me was the sheer number of bandits sitting around, robbing passers-by for what must surely be coppers and cheese, but wearing extremely expensive sets of full daedric armour.

        Come on guys! You can retire from the life of crime!

        Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

  9. But it was sad. Seriously. I want to use my tank skills for unseating evil demon lords, not squishing innocent slaves. (Even if said slaves are hitting you in the face.)

    Ethical tanking. It’s like ethical banking. Expensive, but worth it – and you get bonus fairtrade coffee.

    Comment by Claire — July 29, 2009 @ 10:07 pm | Reply

    • I’m sorry I asked you tank unethically… but the Prettiest Elf was having his hair mussed by slaves. Where are your priorities!? :)

      Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

  10. Fie upon thee! Old Word content was great, GREAT I tell you, you Philistines! It was buried under some absolute dross, I grant you that, but to this day the best questlines I ever completed were all Old World content. Sure, I had to struggle through the god-awful Redridge Mountains and where-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-go-now-I’m-lvl33-and finished-in-north-STV-phase (thank God for the new Dustwallow marsh quest hubs!) and that is definitely where Outland and Northrend have the advantage. Blades Edge Mountains may suck donkey balls, but you can usally skip it completely and go straight to Netherstorm or Shadowmoon Valley without pausing for breath if you complete Hellfire > Zangarmarsh > Terrokar > Nagrand. Equally in Northrend if you do Borean Tundra AND Howling Fjord before heading to Dragonblight you can happily skip Grizzly Hills or Zul’Drak on the way to Sholozar and Storm Peaks without running out of things to do. I personally didn’t like Zul’drak much and only completed it on my frist toon. I happen to love Grizzly Hills, but I know plenty of folks who have it the other way around.

    The point is you’re not struggling for meaningful content to provide the xp you need. If you come across a godawful “collect 10 bears asses” quest in Outland or Northrend you just skip it and move on to something more interesting. Back in vanilla WoW if you skipped boring quests and zones you didn’t like you were very likely to stay stuck at level 34 forever. Or you gave up and went to Desolace. Even that isn’t an issue in the Old World now with the reduced xp requirement and increased xp gains per level. There’s still some awesome quests in the Old World that people no longer get to see, simply because they hit level 58, head straight to the Dark Portal and only ever see the Old World again when they need a trip to the Auction House or a class trainer. Mages don’t even need to see class trainers, we have them in Dalaran!

    Hands up anyone who’s done For Love and Family all the way through to the end? Killed Razelikh the Defiler at the end of the Fallen Hero of the Horde quest chain (quest content in Ashzara, dammit!!) Rescued Marshall Windsor and unmasked Lady Katrana Prestor as Onyxia, brood mother of the Black Dragonflight? Recovered the Shadowforge Key and attuned themselves to Molten Core? Rescued Sharpbeak? Recovered all of the Ancient Troll Tablets and accidentally unleashed Hakkar the Blood God upon the world (biggest “oops” moment ever)? All top quality questlines that no-one does anymore because they take a bit of effort and it’s less efficient to do them than it is to skip, move to the next zone and get to 80.

    There’s a lot of dross in Old World content, no argument there, but there are some gems too, and no-one needs to do them to get to 80, so no-one does. And that’s a shame.

    Comment by pewpewlazerz — July 29, 2009 @ 10:14 pm | Reply

    • My heavens, another spirited defense. Have at ye, Sirrah.

      I’m absolutely not dissing Old World content, I wouldn’t do that, I love the Old World and a lot of WoW playtime is spent doing random crap other people might not see the point of doing. I was merely trying to emphasize, as you yourself admit, that the streamlining makes WoW a much more accessible and, let’s be honest, interesting game.

      Also I kind of feel that progressing through the world shouldn’t have a “bowl of sprouts” aspect to it. If some players want to power to 80 mindlessly, paying attention to nothing, and not uncovering some of WoW’s amazing quests and wonderful experiences, that’s kind of … their … loss? They shouldn’t *have* to do it – that of sort of mindset isn’t going to appreciate it anyway. Ultimately how much “effort” you want to put into anything is a personal choice.

      The point is that these days there’s much choice available in how and where you level. You can actually do stuff you like, and ignore stuff you don’t. Now, at least, I can experience that content if I want to.

      After your fantastic post on this very subject, I’m totally heading to Molten Core one of these days.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 1:09 pm | Reply

  11. I LOVED Daggerfall. One of the first games I played where you could truly go anywhere in the world at any time. Played the heck out of it… until it developed an annoying habit of crashing constantly.

    Oh, and thanks are in order for that aged gorilla sinew visual, ’cause now I KNOW what my nightmares will look like for the next two weeks….

    Comment by Mugician13 — July 29, 2009 @ 11:00 pm | Reply

    • Yes, I must have been about 14 when Daggerfall came it and it totally blew my mind. I know the entire world was basically the same and the quest to get the unicorn horn was bugged to hell and back, but it felt like a place of endless possibility (a bit like WoW actually). I suppose, since such a lot of it was randomly generated, in a way it was. God, that 3D map was terrible… the amount of times I’d be hopelessly lost in some sprawling endless dungeon looking for a werewolf…

      And I do apologise most sincerely for the aged gorilla sinew.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:59 pm | Reply

  12. I loved Morrowind a great deal. I loved Oblivion (with the requisite mods and I don’t mean OOO) in a different way. In all honesty I’m only playing WoW at all to fill in the time until Elder Scrolls V comes out.

    Comment by Hanford — July 29, 2009 @ 11:46 pm | Reply

    • Is there even going to be an Elder Scrolls V? I mean, given that they destroyed the Imperial Line….

      Let’s do Elderscrolls geeking – what do you consider the requisite mods? I had so many I can barely remember them, to be honest…

      Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

      • I believe there’s going to be an Elder Scrolls V. Most people think it’s going to be Skyrim.

        Requisite mods? Like you I’ve got hundreds. I suppose that the ones I’d consider generally essential for any character I make are not that many. Chase Camara Mod, which makes the third-person camera work like Morrowind’s (so it’s actually playable); some sort of “stop every bandit wearing glass” mod (I’ve always used Jarol’s – it’s just a loot table tweak, but it works without overcomplicating things); Quest Award Levelling which does what it says; Robert’s Male Body Replacer (there always needs to be some sort of “better bodies” replacement for Bethesda’s horrible models). NoLoad and NoGlow.

        But over and above that are all the content mods which added so much to my character’s “character” and kept me playing for so long. The pet shop that provided my first guy with his dog. A mod that put in a whole fletching and armour crafting system that allowed my now Knight-Priest to start his career as a hunter and craftsman in the woodlands. From a werewolf suit for my Battlemage, to an entire quest-line that ended up with my High Elf ruling the empire in the name of Dagon. In the end I started modding things in myself, so e.g. that my Dark Elf arcanist could have a real ancestor spirit to summon.

        This has turned into a blog post, and it’s not even about WoW. I’d better stop now.

        Comment by Hanford — July 30, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

      • I’ve always been afraid “Elder Scrolls V” would be an MMO, sort of like KotOR III is going to be. The cash cow is too hard to resist. If so, that would be too bad. Single-player (and moddable) strike me as non-negotiable aspects of Elder Scrolls play (though I probably consider “moddable” essential only because my first ES game was Morrowind – I didn’t play Daggerfall when it came out, and if you don’t have nostalgia backing you up, it’s hard to play through Daggerfall (to say nothing of Arena) nowadays, even if you can get it working on a modern computer – I’ve tried.)

        Re: mods, for Oblivion, most of my mods are graphics enhancers of one sort of another, or things that fix aspects of the game I consider broken (OOO, fixing the official downloaded content so you don’t automatically get half a dozen quests, deeds, etc. the moment you leave the sewers). Morrowind, I sampled a much wider variety of mods. I loved mods with companions that had stories attached – it was very reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate II, or Knights of the Old Republic, which were just amazing RPGs. Player housing was always a big one with Morrowind, as it had none. Various graphics enhancers so the people looked more like people. I had a great time with “Necessities of Morrowind”, which introduced cooking, as well as the requirement that you eat. Made long trips into the volcanic wilderness all the more interesting.

        Comment by Kahleena — July 30, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

      • Skyrim? Hmmmm… interesting. I think part of the reason I loved Morrowind so much was that I always play a Dark Elf so, for once, it made a kind of sense and felt like it was genuinely about me.

        Generally I’m wary of actual content mods, especially story stuff, because a lot of the time it’s very hit and miss, and you can usually see the seams where they’ve joined it up with the original game.

        I’m impressed that you did modding of your own though. I’m far too lazy for that kind of thing :)

        I always wished they’d made more of that Ancestor Spirit spell… it was always such a cool idea but a pointless waste of time in practice.

        Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

      • An Elder Scrolls MMO would be really weird … it almost feels like an MMO now, to be honest. It would be a world full of bouncing, flower picking players. Oh wait.

        BGII and KOTOR are some of my favourite games of all time, they had wonderful NPCs, and really fantastic stories. I go back to them every now and then and still enjoy them – which, to be fair, is something you definitely can’t do with Daggerfall. It was amazing when it came out for its ambition but unless you have the nostalgia factor … actually … even if you do have the nostalgia factor it’s not a pleasant return. It has not aged well or gracefully.

        Next time I play Morrowind I am totally going to track down Necessities of Morrowind. Now, not only will I be worrying about getting killed by cliff racers, but I’ll hungry while I’m doing it…

        Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

  13. I dont get Nostalgia for the old quests. I try to blast through vanilla and BC content as quickly as possible. The thing I get nostalgia for is when running 5 mans all the time actually seemed to mean something. I ran Strat and Scholo a million times pre BC and had great fun with 4 other friends. I guess its the social aspect I miss. I suppose I will be pretty happy for the emblem change next patch.

    Comment by Darraxus — July 30, 2009 @ 2:58 am | Reply

    • I think I was trying to say in my post that it’s not the content, so much, that I miss so much as the feelings of newness and excitement, and the people you met along the way. I miss my old 5-manning group like crazy. Who else would run RFD with me in blacktie? /mourn. But, hey, here’s to good times to come *raises a glass* :)

      Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

  14. I didn’t get the whole Light’s Chapel thing, as a Death Knight.
    One minute we are the Lich King’s shock troops, doing our best to kill all them do-gooders, and the next thing we’ve thrown in the towel and joined the other side. WTF happened??
    Then after that we are bumbling round Zangarmarsh fetching fish for some Draenei cos it’s too far from Telredor to the lake for him to bother catching them himself, mkay?
    W T F?

    Comment by *vlad* — July 30, 2009 @ 1:44 pm | Reply

    • You were struck by a terminal case of Being A Player Character, a tragic disease that afflicts many in Azeroth, leading to a range of peculiar behaviours :)

      The whole DK Goes To Outland plot is totally absurd when you take a step back from it.

      Comment by Tamarind — July 30, 2009 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

  15. I think nostalgia has its place, I “suffer” from it myself.

    You make a good point when you say that the game should offer both a fast path for the “ZOMG my guild will start raiding 2 days after release! MUST POWAHLVL!!!!!!” people, and a more engaging leisurely one for us slowpokes who like to smell the roses, or the talbuk dung even. And yes, some features of old WoW were a bit of a pain. I for one am happy that mount costs and level requirements will be lowered, for example, because while running around on your own feet, hooves and paws for 39 levels may keep you in shape but it leads to some annoyance too. Especially in certain zones. Barrens, Desolace and STV, I am looking at you.

    Something I am undecided about is attunements and key quests. I like them, as I like many complex long storylines with a sort of epic feel. So I do miss them in Wrath. On the other hand, you can now grab a friend or alt for any place as long as they meet the level requirement. More accessability, but a more generic feel and less of a sense of accomplishment. What I don’t really miss are the reputation requirements for heroics, though — they kind of made sense because TBC heroics were a totally different kettle of fish than the AoE-fest walkovers we get now, but higher reputation does not necessarily translate into better gear, and it was a pain when the only available fifth for your hopeful group realized they were about five instance trips short of being able to help you.

    Still … I think “good old days” isn’t an unmerited feeling. Vanilla WoW did have some really nice questlines (TBC too) that sadly now go mostly overlooked or have even been removed (Onyxia attunement? Stupid punk brat “king” getting the credit for our efforts, grr). Challenging ones, too, and some good instances (Scholomance!). It also had a lot of variety, from frozen mountains to deserts. And of course, it was still a fresh experience for us. Everything was new and shiny and exciting. Your first greenie, your first elite monster, your first talent point, your first pet (for the hunters), your first shapeshift (for the druids, or the collectors), your first rare item, your first instance, your first time on an air taxi, your first time visiting the big city, your first mount, your first successful auction …

    Expansions cannot recreate that. Yes, flying on my own for the very first time (main’s a druid so hello stormcrow at 68!) or stepping through the Dark Portal or sailing into the Howling Fjord were definite “Wow!” moments too. But we get jaded. Regardless of how good or bad old or new content is, the sense of wonder keeps dwindling.

    That is why I hope there will be no more expansions. A new, fresh game would be better. And, it would solve the problem of fun old content being delegated to the trash heap and merely skimmed over on the race to the vaunted “endgame”.

    Comment by Feralan — July 30, 2009 @ 3:44 pm | Reply

    • Ugh, forgive the typos and mangled sentences, just woke from a nap with a big ol’ headache. In particular, “for the collectors” should have gone into the pet bracket.

      Comment by Feralan — July 30, 2009 @ 3:46 pm | Reply


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