Monday, December 6, 2010

On Cataclysm Eve, A WoW blog.

As I write this, it's less than 4 hours to go until World of WarCraft: Cataclysm launches, and, yes, I, a man dangerously close to the age of 50, am actually counting the hours. Some might call this sad--I call it a testament to the power of WoW, six years after its launch.

Think about that for a second. Because, in videogame time, 6 years is an eternity. For reference, the year that WoW launched, 2004, was also the year of Half-Life 2, Ninja Gaiden, and Halo 2--one console generation behind. Even more significant, most MMOs flatten out or just slowly die of attrition after a few years. But WoW, incredibly, just keeps getting bigger.

And, yes, like everyone else, I've had long periods (sometimes over a year at a time) in which I burn out and bail and swear I'm never coming back. And during those periods when I *am* out, I always feel a sense of liberation, because I can *finally* play all those games that WoW prevented me from playing. Because WoW is a cruel and demanding mistress. You can't be heavily into WoW *and* be playing other games, because there is always simply to much to do in WoW once you willingly invest yourself. Playing other games feels like a betrayal, as well as a waste of time, when, really, you should be in WoW working on your gear--or whatever.

But the reason we keep coming back--or at least the reason *I* keep coming back--is just that it's just such a goddamn good game. And, yeah yeah, MMOs might not be yer cuppa joe, and that's all good. If you're not convinced yet, I certainly can't and won't now. I'm mainly talking to the converted here. And yeah, it's gotten easier over the years too, even though, for certain really old-school folks (and I'm not talking about myself, because I lived through the hell that was earlier MMOs) it already started out too easy. But for those of us already in the congregation, you know what I'm talking about. WoW is the Disneyland of MMOs. And some of us happen to love Disneyland. Even when we're pushing 50.

This particular expansion is drawing many of us back (and until a month ago I had been off for about 16 months), because Blizzard's Chris Metzen and gang are fulfilling a promise that they announced years ago, before they had even figured out a way to make it possible: They're fundamentally changing the entire old game world, forever. If you've already patched up the game prior to tonight's launch, you've actually seen a great chunk of it already: Almost all the old zones are redone, revamped, changed forever, thanks to the cataclysmic event of the expansion's title--and changed, of course, with all the things that Blizzard learned about how to make their game better over the course of the past 6 years. As a design decision, it's a simple but brilliant one. I mean, there was no way I was ever going to want to quest again in Wetlands, The Barrens, and, god forbid, Stranglethorn Vale again. But now? I can't wait to see what they've done with it all.

When I first wrote about World of WarCraft way before it first launched, in the first magazine story ever published about it (see what I did there--I'm bragging!), I was marveling at how Blizzard was so smartly rewriting the rules of what an MMO could do by actually making it easy and accessible for its players, with such then-revolutionary and now seemingly banal ideas as the now-ubiquitous question marks over quest givers in-game zone maps. In the old days, ya see, you had to figure all that out for yourself. Even the notion of "quests," while present in some MMOs, was not really fleshed out. Mostly you just logged into the world and, well, good luck to you. Was that fun? Often, yes. Very much so. Some of my experiences in EverQuest, the long-ago former king of MMOs, remain among my fondest gaming memories, exactly because of the kind of hardcore, unforgiving bullshit it put us through. For you players who "grew up" on WoW, EverQuest was---well, I'm not going to say it was our "'Nam", because that would be both moronic and disrespectful, but let's just say it makes WoW look like just the kind of "baby game" its detractors accuse it of being.

But the proof is in the numbers. WoW beat them all back then, and continues to beat them all now. The number of MMOs (many of them dubbed "WoW killers" either by their creators, publishers, or the media) that have come and gone in the 6 years of WoW's unrivaled reign is long and sad. What's amazing is not one of them--including the ones still fumbling along with whatever loyal fanbase they've scrounged together--has ever even come close to competing on WoW's level. And what's even more amazing than that is that WoW has deserved it. Blizzard has kept the game alive and vibrant and fun and funny for six long years, and, with Cataclysm, they're doing it again. It's a dangerous drug, this WoW thing. But, me? I'm lining up with the rest of the addicts, happily waiting for my new fix.


Tim Douglas said...

Damn it, Jeff. I just got started on my housework as a distraction from Cataclysm's launch and now you've pulled me right back to my computer!

Damn you and your enjoyable blog posts!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how this one game has change my life for the better. I've met friends for life, went to concerts with guildies, and hopefully attend a wedding with a WoW couple that was in my guild. I've taken breaks too but you keep going back into it for the experience.

Nathan Zibin said...

I really wish I could be in line getting the game with everyone else, but I deleted my characters last month so that I wouldn't. It's tough, but I'll get through. Have fun nerding it up in the new Azeroth!

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with ya Jeff. I'll be 46 next month and WoW, for me, is the culmination of playing computer games going back to SSI's 'Battles of Napoleon' in 89. It is simply the best game I've ever sunk 5 years into and I keep coming back for more.

Chris Dunkley said...

It's certainly drawn me back.

Mostly because my favourite part of WOW has always been exploring new lands and this expansion has made that a possibility for the first 60 levels again.

Hopefully it rekindles some of that feeling I had on my first run through six years ago.

Anonymous said...

Reading this brings me back to the days of Legendary Thread. I began playing wow because my brother introduced it to me my Freshmen year of high school. I began looking for ways to be around wow even when not playing it and I found LT. Through Legendary Thread I got curious as to this likable Jeff Green dude and began listening to Gfw radio. Through all of this I really began to look up to you Jeff. Not because you work in the crazy awesome video game industry, it's because you were always just a really honest, nice, geeky guy who did what he loved and wasn't afraid to be himself even if others may not approve.

Years later it's now finals week here at The Ohio State university. I'm studying like crazy and I wish I had the time to get back into wow. I haven't played consistently in a few years, but I am sure I will find my way back. But more important than my inevitable return to wow is the chance that once upon a time i discovered a man who I now look up to, and who I follow and root for in the sane ways as some people follow sports and athletes. But I get even more satisfaction from watching your successes because they are real and impactful, and most of all, they give me hope that I can actually spend my life doing what I dream!

Mad props to you Jeff! Keep doing what you are doing because it is working! Oh and congrats on Popcap!!!


Anonymous said...


Ish-ne-alo por-ah!

Cairne Bloodhoof, RIP

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff,

I was hoping to get your take on the following NY Times article:

The article is an interesting read about how computer games can be so engaging, but I gotta tell you, I bristle at the mention that playing WoW or any other computer game for a few hours a week is a waste of my time. I don't see a difference between what I do and a guy who has season tickets for a football or baseball team. Except that the guy with season tickets is given a pass on his "waste of time".

Thanks for your blog update.

Donald said...

I was wondering when you'd get around to talking about Cataclysm.

I remember reading your articles about WoW from CGW, and was hoping you'd say something about the new expansion.

I guess good things come to those who wait. :)

Mike said...

rophiI'm right there with you, Jeff. I fell back off the wagon (or is that on the wagon!?!?) yesterday so waiting for the game to update today...sigh.
I love WOW but I do wonder if a large part of its ongoing success is due to the strength of the relationships have with other players as opposed to whether it's a better game than, say, LOTRO.
I'm glad to see you're blogging again.

Keith said...

You're right...EverQuest wasn't our Nam.

Ultima Online was our Nam.... =)

Chris Walkener said...

Jeff, I've been away from this game for as long as you have, for reasons I can't even remember now, but this post is pulling me back in!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I can't believe that Green can still right... write more than fifty words at a time (I thought Twitter had ruined him by turning him into some class of zombie) - and, wow, I really shouldn't be complaining - but, wow, am I ever getting sick of reading about WoW. Never played it, don't intend to. Too cartoony pour moi.

Anyway, I'm so glad, Green, that you seem to have remembered what a paragraph is (tip: the Enter key is your friend) - just don't go another ten years without blogging please.

See ya later, bitch!

The Goose

Stephen said...

What server are you on? We could start an old fogies guild.

Tristessa said...

Hey...I didn't see you dropped some blogs on us!

I don't play WOW, so I guess I don't really have anything to say, except: Good to see a blog here again! =P

dithadder said...

I think what may be going on here is that the MMO genre favors natural monopolies like the power industry does. Here the relevant fact isn't that economies of scale grow all the way to the sky, favoring the largest entity, but that people want to play the MMO everyone else is playing, favoring the largest entity. Not saying WoW's not a great game, because it is.

Brian said...

I'm glad to know that Eggbert is still out there...somewhere.

Billy said...

New zones with satisfying stories and varied quests are the best to date. more review :