I have never really liked World of Warcraft, even when I was testing it back in beta. I have tried the game out several times in some lame effort to give the game a chance. After all, there has to be some reason that so many players like it right? All the while I’ve had numerous fans of the game ask me, why exactly is it that I didn’t like it? And I didn’t have a reasonable answer to this question really. I mean the simple answer is just that the game is too easy, but that’s not usually sufficient to these players and it isn’t even the entire picture on my side anyway. Yeah it factors in, but I think an easy game can be overlooked if it is still fun. Yesterday, however, I finally came up with what I think is a fairly sufficient answer to this question.
The main reason that I don’t like WoW, I think, has to do with exploration, or the lack there of. Now this comes on several aspects so let me go through each.
First off, the game world itself just sucks. The art looks like a 5 year old ate crayons and then puked all over some tinker toys. This leaves me with an aesthetic in which I don’t want to see from the get go. Some people seem to enjoy looking at puke for hours on end, this is their own issue, I don’t get into such kinky things. I can deal with cute. I have many a cute game on my list of games that I own and love. Animal Crossing and De Blob for instance, but these games are extremely stylized in a cool way. I’ve never felt that World of Warcraft has had a good sense of style and thus the cuteness of it just never worked for me.
The other aspect of the world that I’ve never cared for was the Warcraft bit. I’ve never played Warcraft largely because I hate RTS games (I’ve always been a sucker for turn-based strategy) and so when Blizzard decided to take advantage of the “rich background,” they neglected to include people who knew nothing of it. I have had friends who have tried to explain in depth what happened in so and so previous games to make the reasoning for the way this area looks the way it does makes sense. You know what? I don’t care, it has no reasoning for me because I never played that game and there isn’t any way for me to find out that history without playing the game it seems. At least not in the early stages.
Truth be told, the quests in the game, before level 25 at least, are so abhorrently bad that you quickly just start clicking next through them because you can’t stand to read them. And don’t get me wrong, every MMO tends to be like this. But when you put such a large emphasis on the quests the way that World of Warcraft does, it highlights this problem. There isn’t any lore at all, or even any quest that is worth doing in the game outside of the fact that the quests give better xp or cool items. (Though I have heard that this isn’t even entirely true and that you still end up leveling faster without quests.) The lack of lore, to me, is a lack of exploration. I do quests so that I can learn something about the lore, but unfortunately the only lore that I tend to learn in WoW is that farmer John had some eggs stolen by some orcs, go kill orcs in xxx location until I find all five. This is not lore.
Speaking of quests, the fact that we are given exactly where to go is problematic as well. Yes, it makes the game easier, but more importantly it detracts from any sense of exploration that the game could otherwise have. Maybe this particular design philosophy was instituted into the game because realistically the game is a narrow narrow game. Like it’s single-player predecessors, the game wasn’t really designed as a world, it is fairly narrow in scope. You have a small valley to explore, in said valley there are 3 or 4 locations that are meant to fulfill all the quests in that area so the quest takes you to spot 1, 2, 3 or 4. Outside of that there isn’t anything left to explore anyway so why not tell people exactly which one to go to. The problem is that I don’t get the sense of exploration out of the quests that I feel I should. Quests should be about finding things, but in WoW it isn’t. How WoW sets up quests really isn’t that far off from what Anarchy Online did where you go to an instance and the dungeon is generated, you go through the crappy randomly created dungeon and tada you complete said quest. The problem was that it was uninteresting and lame to do it that way, the only difference in WoW is that now you get the added feature of random jack ass coming in and stealing your kill. Nice improvement.
The other real issue that I always had with WoW is the lack of ability to meet anyone. WoW has done such a good job creating a solo environment, that especially at the low levels, no one groups unless they are doing something specific or just hanging out with friends. Neither one of these cases lends itself to grouping with some random newb who is trying the game out. To make matters worse, most quests are fairly un-group friendly and so there really isn’t any reason to. The problem is who the hell plays an MMO to play alone? I certainly don’t. I get bored with single-player games after more than a half an hour or so if I don’t have someone to chat with, and so this really turned true with World of Warcraft.
Ultimately, between the lack of exploration and the lack of socialization, I got bored of WoW fairly quickly (within 30 levels which is only a week or two in WoW) and left every single time I tried it. WoW has some fairly good concepts spotted throughout it here and there (not many granted but like any game, it has its moments). But as far as I can tell, it pales in comparison to even the most basic of MMOs. I feel that one way that so many people have liked this game is that they went in with real world friends and so it never really was about the game in the first place, it was more about the friends hanging out and goofing off which if this was the case they are seriously wasting money. There are plenty of cheaper alternatives which are just as good if not better (such as Anarchy Online, Neverwinter Nights, or even the previous generation games like Asheron’s Call). I think the name brand holds a lot of sway too, though by name brand I don’t necessarily mean Warcraft, it probably has more to do with Blizzard.