Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! This week hosts Holly and David reminisced about their time playing World of Warcraft, and go through a list of the various considerations which go into playing another MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online Game). And by another, we mean getting back into WoW. Are you still playing? Let us know!
Recently David and I have been intrigued with the recent release of the Legion expansion for World of Warcraft and it has gotten us thinking about playing again. We stopped playing over 5 years ago and have not looked back until recently. As we started looking more at playing World of Warcraft there were more and more things that kind of reminded me of what a drug dealer might do to get someone’s business again – and keep it.
As a quick disclaimer I understand that World of Warcraft can actually be addictive to people and there are some people who take it too far. This is meant to be a tongue in cheek look at our own journey potentially being drawn back into the fold.
We’ve been thinking a lot about World of Warcraft lately – more on that to come – but that had me looking back for related posts. I found this incredibly long essay about where games have gone with specialization of roles in role-playing games. Interesting to consider now a couple of years on – with D&D 5th Edition out and as a return to the older style of the game, and with Final Fantasy XV coming out and seemingly action-styled like Lightning Returns. Or to consider a game series like Dark Souls, which I have been playing a bit again lately, where with only one character to control – and the odds stacked heavily against you – you need to be ready for anything! If this all sounds interesting to you, I think my discussion holds up so give it a read! And just to warn again, it’s a long one!
This is a post idea I’ve had for a long time. My initial thought is this: lately I feel like there has been an increasing move towards specialization in characters in role playing games (RPGs). Meaning that before you often had characters who needed to be able to handle a multitude of situations, need to be able to heal and do damage and take a hit – all in one character, or all in each character.
However, that has been decreasing of late. Instead, we see the rise of roles like Tanking, Healer, and DPS. You see it in party-based online situations especially, and with the rise of MMORPGs, there’s a lot of this going on online and in big-name games people are putting a lot of time into. However, a further place you see this happening was in Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, which was built to in many ways play like an MMO.
So I will look a bit at both of those – MMOs and D&D 4th Edition – but what really has me thinking about this is that I now have an even better case study. the Final Fantasy games. In Final Fantasy XIII, they hit the most specialized that they ever have; however, in breaking away from that in Lightning Returns, they are moving back to a place where you have far more control over customizing your character. So have we hit the far extent of the trend? Are we moving back away from specialization? That’s the question I will close with!
I love my games. I love the social time of playing a game, for sure. And the challenge while playing, for sure. But there’s more than that for me.
I love my game systems.
I love my deck building, my RPG builds, my character creation, my army building. For many games, maybe for most that have this sort of external component, I spend as much or more time on these aspects than I do actually playing the game.
My early experience was probably just in playing party-based video game RPGs. Figuring out which party would be best, creating the characters, playing a bit… then deciding there was something missing, and heading back to the drawing board.
It carried on into Magic: the Gathering. We would play at lunch at school, and whenever we could sneak a game. So we played most days… and most nights, I was home, changing my deck, or building from scratch. I would rebuild to try to meet my friends’ challenges, or to try out some new card I got, to try some interesting-seeming combo, or just to try to take them by surprise. You change it that often, and you change it for all the reasons you might…
I moved on from Magic to Warhammer, where I was constantly building new armies, new lists. Sometimes, that drove my purchases… sometimes, my purchases led to my army building. Oh, so many of those armies never got played – unlike Magic, I wasn’t getting anything close to daily games. It’s hard, then, to decide what to actually bring to bear when you do finally get a game in…
From there I moved on to MMOs, to Final Fantasy XI and then even moreso to World of Warcraft. In FFXI, you could switch around jobs on your one character, but you also always needed to be working with your party… so I didn’t need to strategize too much, but did some between gaming sessions with friends. In WoW, I did a lot of playing with friends, but also plenty on my own. You played different jobs by playing different characters, so lots of characters… and even more characters that I dreamed up, built skill trees for, and planned out all the way to maximum level. A moving target, as they released patches and expansions and changed the game…
I have a really bad habit of always wanting to create new characters, no matter the game. It was a bad habit of mine when I used to play WoW, it was a huge habit when I was younger and played Morrowind, and I never got far in Oblivion because I always restarted. I think part of that was based in the pre-built characters, and wanting to try a different style of playing early in the game because I didn’t like the one I was playing or just out of curiosity. The only way to try a new style when I played those games was to start over.
It’s been talked about on the blog before, but I’ve been playing Skyrim (on PS3) again on and off recently, and I’ve been pushing myself to stay with the same character. One of the reasons I love Skyrim so much is because you actually can stick with the same character – while also trying out new styles of play whenever you want. The way that Skyrim lets you build any combination of character from the start is amazing. I love that you can level using any skill, and are as competent in them as you try to be. I started this game as a heavy armor wearing mage who stole anything and everything, but that turned into a light armor wearing conjurer who uses bows.
The addition of making skills Legendary upon maxing them out is another fantastic way of continuing to try new styles within the same game. To make myself stay with the same character, I’ve been resetting skills – even ones I use all the time (RIP my awesome sneakiness) to try new styles of play without giving into my awful character creation addiction. One can only escape from Helgen so many times before it gets old. This is challenging me to experiment and explore. I’m actually doing quests I thought were too tedious before to even try. I spent more time in Blackreach this time (if you’ve been there, you know how intensive it can be) because I wanted to experience more. I’ve been checking out the many hidden Easter Eggs and the Unmarked Locations, some of which are insanely cool and hilarious.
I’ve loved Skyrim since it came out. The gameplay is so much fun. The scenery is breathtaking. The characters are engaging and oftentimes hilarious (“I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee”). I think that’s part of the reason I could not get into Elder Scrolls Online. After Skyrim, it was such a letdown graphically, gameplay-wise, and in terms of story. Plus for me that was all coupled with the fact that I’m really over MMOs because people in general are the worst and I’d rather do my own thing. Skyrim, on the other hand, I can return to again and again. I’ll probably start a new character at some point, and try to challenge myself with different parameters, like no fast traveling at all, but for now I’m going to try to get through as much of the game as I can. It’s going to take me a while.