SAR: Solo or Die (and Other Lessons I Learned in WoW)

I like to think that everything in life is a learning experience; the good, the bad, and the ugly all go into shaping how we see the world – or virtual world, as the case may be. When I sat down to write this article, I asked myself: what have games taught me? Leadership? Nah, not really; I leave that to the guild leaders. Social skills? Maybe, but then again, I don’t think I ever really lacked in that department. Then it hit me: I was looking at my personal life when I should be looking at the genre. Since I, and presumably most of this generation, cut their teeth on WoW, let’s start there.

In no particular order, I present you with Solo or Die (and Other Lessons I Learned in WoW):

Waiting for Murlocs: a lonely man's game

Lesson #1: Solo or Die

If there’s one thing WoW should be known for, it’s making questing a solo experience. Before it hit the scene, people played together from the get-go. I mean, yeah, there were some people who did things on their own, but, well, they were just weird. WoW turned that idea on its head, however, and released with a set of quests that would take the lone ranger all the way to the level cap. Apparently, they didn’t think the message was clear enough because they took it a step further by actively punishing people who wanted to group up to do their quests. With a resounding voice, Blizzard pointed to the 5-mans and said LET THERE BE GROUPS and flicked the stray parties from the face of Azeroth.

But, hey, maybe we needed it. I’m certainly not going to argue the merits of forced grouping.

In what could be argued as either blessing or curse, the message hit home with the industry and solo paths from birth to end-cap became the standard. Punitive measures against happy-go-lucky groupers are commonplace in many of the most popular games and the rigid group vs. solo content dichotomy has never been more prevalent. The side-effect is that any new game that hopes to earn the last of its triple-As has to offer a solo path.

Take it or leave it, WoW made soloing a standard.

Lesson #2: The REAL Game Begins at the Level Cap

While WoW didn’t invent raiding, they sure made it the forefront of MMO gaming. It’s kind of funny because, looking at the game’s history, you have to wonder whether they ever intended that to be the case. The game certainly didn’t launch prepared to meet those expectations. Be that as it may, WoW made raiding a household term for its audience.

More than that, it clearly defined how you were supposed to play the game. It goes something like this: 1) make a character; 2) do some crap; 3) profit begin raiding. With a whole generation of MMO players experiencing this expectation, very few know any different. For most, what to do at the end dictates their motivation to get there. That’s probably why the forums of upcoming MMOs are often flooded with “what’s the endgame” posts before the game even hits beta.

The background for my new fansite.

For what it’s worth, I kind of enjoy leveling. No raid leaders telling ME 50-DKP minus, thankyouverymuch.

Lesson #3: Playing the Game is Only Half the Battle

Wow, have you guys noticed how many WoW sites there are? I mean, holy crap, there must be a hundred or something. Not that it matters much since I only go to WoW.com and the forums for the occasional troll-roll, but, jeez, you’d think people were making money off it or something.

All that aside, the first time I left WoW I felt the gap in my online to-do list. Seriously, I’d sit at work and try to find the LotRO equivalent of WoW.com. You know what I found? Mmodb. THAT IS NOT WOW.COM. GIVE ME WOW.COM. BUT MAKE IT LOTRO.COM. NO WAIT, LORDOFTHETRO.COM BECAUSE SOMEONE DIDN’T REALIZE ABBREVIATIONS ARE FOR BLOG SITES ONLY. DUH, YOU JERKFACE NUBHATS. RECRUIT-A-FRIEND-RESURRECTION-SCROLL-SAY-WHAAAT?

If there’s one thing the huge community surrounding the game provides, it’s stuff to do when you can’t play the game. Databases, blogs, and forums galore give you all your meta gaming needs.

As a side note: the LotRO Combo Blog provides a nice alternative to the should-have-been lotro.com.

Lesson #4: If the Game Doesn’t Tell You, You’re Doing it Wrong.

Here’s the deal: every game should tell you where to go always. No, I mean always. If there isn’t at least two quests leading you to the next on-your-way-to-80 zone, you haven’t looked hard enough. Modern day WoW players know what I’m talking about. I don’t think there’s a single zone that doesn’t end up with a big CONTINUE —> arrow at some point. See, Double Dragon had it right, after all.

A buff by any other name: affirmative action.

Take FFXIV for example. There’s a game without neon directionals. And you know what happens, people hate it! They call it harsh, and unforgiving, and old school. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that quest just said “go to the Phrontistery.” It doesn’t get much clearer than Phrontistery, people. Pull out your malm-stick and get cracking.

Lesson #5: We Demand Equal Rights!

Finally, the last lesson WoW taught me is that Affirmative Action has it’s place in online gaming. Don’t give me any of this “we need a shaman” business. Take the player, not the class. You classist. Yeah, I said it. What’s next, no trolls? Take a second to remember the people who died quit, why don’t you. They left so every class can do every role equally (I’m looking at you, Druids). I salute those fine people for sacrificing themselves to the cause.

WoW has ensured that buffs and nerfs are part of our daily lives. It’s ensured that every time either happens, people will be pissed and ragequit. The game doesn’t matter here. Ragequitting is a universal truth, kind of like SPAM or those little tiny hot dogs you see at office parties. Some things you just can’t question.

And so, as lifelong learners, we come to the end of today’s lessons. For tonight’s homework, I leave you with this question: why is character customization important when everything gets covered with armor anyways? Bonus points to those who explain the importance of choosing a certain race.

Class dismissed!

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