Tuesday, April 11, 2006

... and Goodbye Warcraft

At the beginning of this week, I ended an era of gameplaying nerdery.

I cancelled my World of Warcraft account.

Like any good thing, it wasn't going to last forever. I guess I'm most surprised by just how difficult the decision really turned out to be. I mean, it's a game right?

Well, the tricky, and perhaps nefarious, thing about a game like this is that you build relationships with real people. Real people that you sort of get to know and enjoy hanging out with. Had I not met some of the people that I spent time playing this game with, I almost certainly would have cancelled several months ago.

When I'm honest with myself, the game stopped being really fun almost a week after I hit the maximum level. At that point, there are two options available to you: engage in combat with other players (which I have zero interest in), or form up teams of 20-40 people and go kill the biggest and baddest of pixelated bosses the game has to offer. When you do that, you'll get some cool stuff. If you do it again, you'll get more cool stuff. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Frankly, to me that's boring. If I wanted to run on a treadmill, I'd buy a treadmill and actually lose weight instead of sitting there gaining it in front of my computer screen. And if you look at me lately, you'll know that getting on the treadmill is obviously not on the top of my list of priorities.

What a game like this needs to keep me entertained for years (and I'm sure every software company out there is waiting with baited breath for this declaration) is a real ongoing story where players actually have an impact. Warcraft is not designed that way. Why should it be? In the words of the developers themselves, it makes more business sense to design a raid dungeon that can be repeated ad nauseam forever and ever than it does to spend the same amount of time designing a one-time server event.

And guess what? It's a business model that is working well. Warcraft has over 6 million players at this point. That's an awful lot of money.

Warcraft does have a rich history, and the story does move along a little bit now and then. But at no point do you ever feel like anything you are doing actually has a real, tangible effect on the game universe. If you kill a big dragon, he'll be back in a couple of days.

For the loser like me though that cares more about a compelling story than the next piece of gear you can get, there does appear to be an interesting game on the horizon. The game is called Seed, and it has dynamically generated plots and stories... at least, that is the ambition. The game is currently in beta, and now that Win XP is booting on my Mac, I have been lucky enough to have an invitation extended to me as a beta tester. Whether the game delivers on its promises remains to be seen, but I'm hopeful.

And hey, if nothing else, Warcraft did allow me to make a couple of new friends in real life, including a new member of our weekly D&D game. So I guess, in the end, it was money well spent.


Dan Cross said...

How is life without WoW, after you've had some time for reflection? ;)

robustyoungsoul said...

It has a lot more sunlight.

Nosferatu! said...

Doesn't that burn a bit, though?