The Soapbox: Lies I was told about World of Warcraft

    
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A few months back, I was feeling restless in my MMO routine. Guild Wars 2 is my MMO “home,” so I’m always in that one, but I like to have one or two other MMOs to play on the side. For a while, that had been The Elder Scrolls Online, but the Greymoor expansion was really off-putting to me for whatever reason. Plus I’m sick of action combat. I wanted something tab-target. So I went through my list of MMOs. Lord of the Rings Online? I was still grumpy with them for last year’s server problems, lack of communication, and “mini-expansion” shenanigans. RIFT? It’s hard to get excited for a game that apparently has one foot in the grave. Star Wars The Old Republic? I just wasn’t feeling any of my class choices, which haven’t really changed since launch. The list goes on.

Then I read something about World of Warcraft’s leveling changes in 9.0, and I realized that it fixed a lot of the things that were keeping me out of this game. So I decided to give it a shot.

This is notable for me because I’ve never really played WoW. Sure, I’ve had plenty of friends who did, but for various reasons, it never really appealed to me. The first real experience I had playing the game was when I tried Classic back in 2019 when it launched, but I didn’t stick around for more than a month. In that time, I didn’t really bother with Retail because I was there to play with friends, who were there only for the Classic launch experience.

Now that I’ve been playing WoW for a few months, I’m starting to notice that there were a lot of things that I had been told about the game by players that I have found to be simply untrue. Here are a few of the highlights.

It’s super immersive

Sorry, I just don’t see it. The game world is fine, but I’m less attached to the characters in this game than I am to anyone in the games I mentioned at the top of this article. With no player agency in quests, not even as little as branching dialogue that eventually shepherds me back to the same story events, I feel more like I’m watching a movie than taking part in a story. It’s a good movie, but I wouldn’t call it more immersive than a wide variety of options available to me.

Often, when I talk to WoW fans about this topic, they bring up travel time. “I’m not as immersed in the world of Game X because I can just click a button and quick travel across the map in a second,” they say. “WoW’s travel time is great because it gives them a sense of the scope of the world.” This has never made sense to me because I still have to walk to the waypoint in Guild Wars 2 before I can use it, so I was given “a sense of the scope of the world” when I did that. If I’ve done that work before, why make me do it again, but on autopilot?

And you know what I usually do when I’m on an automount from one place to another? I tab out and surf the internet, or I get out my phone and play a game there. I can think of nothing more antithetical to game immersion than a system that makes me want to play a different game for a while. It just blows my mind that the mentality still exists that this is anything other than a built-in way for the game to stop you from actually playing or progressing to milk your subscription for longer.

Of course, when World of Warcraft launched in 2004, the MMO landscape looked very different. If you want to argue that WoW is super immersive for a game that launched in 2004, then I would have no trouble with that. But in a world where games like Star Wars The Old Republic and The Elder Scrolls Online exist? This game pales in comparison on that front.

It’s one, continuous, unified world

I know people who turn their noses up at Guild Wars 2, for example, because all of its zones are technically instanced, with big swirly portals and a loading screen separating areas. I’ve even seen some games boast about the fact that you can walk from sea to shining sea with no loading screens. Obviously, there are plenty of instance barriers when traveling to other continents and planets and alternate planes of reality, not to mention dungeon and raid instances, so this isn’t 100% true of WoW, but that’s a nitpick. Personally, though, I don’t really care. Loading screens don’t really bother me that much, especially now that SSDs are reasonably cheap.

The real irony is that I actually find some of the zone transitions more jarring and disunifying than many games that have loading screens between zones. Take these two screenshots, from the Broken Isles, a newer zone, taken a few seconds and a few feet apart:

There is a sudden and drastic change in the skybox and lighting, even music, and the terrain shifts suddenly from a forest to a charred volcanic hellscape. I would almost rather there be a loading screen here to maybe create the illusion that my character has travelled farther than a few feet and maybe this change was more gradual.

Honestly, this isn’t a huge issue for me, but I’ve just heard so many WoW fans praise the game for having a continuous world that it was strange to finally play the game and find that I actually liked this less than the alternative.

The community is the best because the sub keeps out trolls

Listen, any time you have a large mass of people together in one place on the internet, there are going to be trolls (and I mean people who think it’s fun to be a jerk to others, not the Darkspear or Zandalari kind). We’ve all run across our fair share of these in all of our online worlds. But one of the ways that my WoW-playing friends often justified WoW’s subscription price versus free-to-play options was that WoW’s community was so great, and that the sub price served as a deterrent for people who just wanted to show up to be trolls.

Friends, that’s simply untrue. Stormwind and Orgrimmar trade chat are some of the most consistently vitriol-filled chat channels I’ve ever been a part of. I know they don’t represent the entire community; I’ve had my fair share of positive encounters with players as well. But I’m always amazed that every time I’m in a faction’s main city, trade chat is so consistently bad. Yes, I know I can turn it off, but at this point it’s almost a social experiment to see what percentage of the trade chat actually has to do with trade. (Spoiler: It’s a very low percentage.)

Some long-time players tell me this was better before server linking and cross-realm LFG because people supposedly remembered other players’ names and nobody wanted to risk a bad reputation, thereby making it harder to get into groups and guilds. Personally, I’m a bit skeptical of that. I can’t say I remember the name of the guy who posted something gross in chat yesterday, let alone six months ago. Maybe it’s true. I can’t say for sure because I wasn’t there, but I’m skeptical. All I know is, the toxic people are there now, and it’s no better than any free-to-play game I’ve ever been in.

Everyone is an elitist jerk

I’ve also been told, mostly by ex-WoW players, that everyone in the WoW community is an elitist jerk, and that if you don’t parse perfectly, they’ll kick you from the group/guild. Yes, this contradicts the above “the community is the best,” so obviously I knew at least one of these was a lie, but I’ve actually found both absolutist statements to be equally untrue.

I haven’t had years of experience with the group finder like some people, but I jump into regular or mythic dungeons when I feel like it. When I do, I’m always honest and up front with groups that I’m a WoW noob and don’t know the fights, and I have yet to be kicked once. Some groups are even kind enough to halt and briefly explain what mechanics to look out for beforehand. One that wasn’t was at least kind enough to point me to the Deadly Boss Mod addon, which warns you of upcoming mechanics with on-screen popups, which is usually enough for me to at least fake my way through encounters. I’m not in a guild, but I see plenty of them being advertised as newbie-and-casual-friendly. I don’t doubt that the high-end raiding scene has more than its fair share of snobs, but trade chat trolls aside, the average player seems to be a pretty normal, reasonable person as far as I can tell.

Endgame grouping is all there is to do

Raiding and M+ may be the favored endgame for many players, maybe even the majority of players, but there is so much more to do in this game! Have you tried pet battles? They’re like Pokémon inside an MMO! Gathering and crafting may not be the most profitable pastime these days, but there’s something relaxing about wandering aimlessly around the world in a zone, picking herbs or mining. Even more relaxing is the zen minigame that is fishing. I’ve had a lot of fun soloing old raids and dungeons with level capped characters for rare mounts/pets, transmog unlocks, raw gold, and disenchant fodder. And all of that is to say nothing of the mountains of story in this game (of varying levels of quality, to be fair) and how much fun I’ve had simply leveling alts. If you’re out of things to do in Retail, give Classic a spin.

If you like raiding and M+, that’s great! But if you don’t, I think there’s still a niche for you in this game, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Including the developers.

One thing that I’ve been told over and over about World of Warcraft was that it isn’t perfect, but it’s a very fun game with a lot to do. And that, as it turns out, is no lie. I’m still not sure how long I will be playing this game — there are so many other great MMOs out there! — but I’m glad for the time I’ve spent there.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively OP writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we’re spot on — or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!
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wildwinds

I’m still not sure how long I will be playing this game — there are so many other great MMOs out there! — but I’m glad for the time I’ve spent there.

Can you name a few of those other great MMOs for me? I feel like the MMO world has gotten pretty stagnant, the golden age of MMOs has passed and what we’re left with is a slowly withering crop of old games.

So if you can point me at an MMO that still has life in it, I’d appreciate that (not WoW though, not ready to go back yet).

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Holden Nagata

i don’t know who you talked to about WoW but… wow. the last 3 points especially make me want to smack whoever told you that. transmog runs are on every single “what to do at max level” list you trip over. WoW’s trade chat is held up as the bad standard for general chat.

Alyn
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Alyn

May good points here. No other mmo has had so much written or said about it, in my opinion. It’s an elder statesman now. I have both praised and canned it. It will go down in history as THAT mmo that almost everyone played at one time or another.

Now, it seems as though it is a shadow of it’s glorified status in the gaming world. All things must pass, though. I salute the grand old game, and walk away satisfied that I played.

Time for something different.

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TomTurtle

I’d look more to Blizzard’s poor handling of game design and player support to help explain its poor community more than the fact that it’s subscription-based.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

I mean, the game as it used to exist was fun. (I haven’t played since a monthish after Cata). But just because you didn’t PERSONALLY experience any of these, doesn’t mean they ‘don’t exist’, which is the perfunctory intention of your article here. To rationalize away other people’s experiences and give people a reason to come on over.

Personally, I would’ve probably kept playing for a few more years, but the company that runs it earned a boycott from me after many years of their attitude problem (“We know better than you do, what you want.”), and they need an ‘attitude adjustment’ by being deprived of my funding for that.

Just because there’s a fool born every minute for them to take advantage of, doesn’t mean everyone must remain a fool. Yes, great, you fell for it. Now you too can be a ‘part of the masses’. Not sure what the joy is there. But I get the desire to push against what other people think/do, so go ahead and do you. Eventually things will click for you too, many years down the road, after some thing they do to something you love about it.

Yes, I’m sure there is plenty to enjoy there still. But it’s the people you’re funding with it that is the problem. They don’t care one whit about you (Or most anyone else) and will use you and discard you as refuse.

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Devi1_May_Cry

I’ve played WoW since The Burning Crusade. (If you’re a WoW n00b, that’s the first expansion.) That’s 14 years.

Let’s use a metaphor for WoW. WoW is a lot like a food truck that became unbelievably popular. The food truck was started by a chef who worked at a popular hole-in-the-wall. Nobody knew her name, but they liked the hole-in-the-wall, and when the chef struck out on her own, she had an overnight hit on her hands and a massive following.

The food truck served Korean barbecue tacos. It wasn’t an original idea, but their marketing was good, the food was very well-executed, and it brought customers far and wide who had never been customers of food trucks or Korean barbecue. The food truck became so popular, it attracted national press, won James Beard awards and Michelin stars, and it became hard to keep up with demand. Everyone had an opinion on why the food was so good and what made it work.

The new customers irritated the old customers, who didn’t like that a lot of them were there just to take selfies of themselves and post the selfies to Instagram and Facebook. The food truck spawned two more food trucks and spread them out in the same city. At each truck, they are serving 300 customers every day. Some of the customers feel the quality has changed; others think it’s the same quality they’ve enjoyed twice a week for years and keep returning.

Then the food truck introduced more food, such as paella, dim sum, and poutine. People had a hard time understanding how paella, dim sum, and poutine were related to Korean barbecue tacos. Then, the food truck made the very controversial decision to revamp its award-winning recipe for Korean barbecue. The chefs started cooking the barbecue the night before, freezing it, and bringing it to the truck the next day. Some old-time customers are outraged. Some think it’s great, that the quality hasn’t changed, perhaps even gotten better.

The food truck introduces new tacos–carnitas, Chinese char siu, Hawaiian spam. The reception to each new taco is mixed. They start to lose customers. The food trucks have now been open for years, and other trends have emerged in the culinary scene, such as “pop up restaurants.” The food truck owners think it would be fun to have a “pop up food truck” from time to time. This doesn’t work.

They start selling merch—T-shirts and coozies to keep your drinks cold when you visit the food truck. The merch doesn’t affect the taste of the food, but some people don’t think the food truck should be engaged in selling merch at all.

The food truck is bought out by the biggest restaurateur in town. The restaurateur starts putting huge quotas on the food trucks. They need to serve 500 customers a day each. He doesn’t care how the food trucks do it. They just need to do it. The food trucks make these quotas, but the workers are still fired. Turnover is high.

So once upon a time you had an innovative food truck everyone loved, but the food truck engaged in some practices to stay relevant that its long-time fans aren’t sure they liked, started selling merch that alienated some of their customers, changed their basic recipe, introduced new products met with lukewarm reception, and were bought out by a thug who believed in quantity over quality.

That’s how I see the current state of WoW and why I think it’s not as good or as popular as it used to be.

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Bruno Brito

I’m going to be honest with you, as a longtime WoW player too, i don’t see how it was that good. It really wasn’t much beyond mediocrily decent. Most classes in War3 didn’t fit class design in WoW. Several things were different. The game was a better Everquest. WoW was great because we didn’t had anything better.

Now, gameplay wise, i won’t lie, the game is tight. No MMO still has the tight gameplay WoW has. Most tripleA MMOs have terrible combat issues like animation-canceling, skills bugging out, de-syncing, etc etc.

Honestly that was for me the biggest impact of WoW: Making gameplay really tight and game interface/world building simple and charming. Because the game itself? Oh boy, mediocre.

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Munchmeat2

That’s how I see the current state of WoW and why I think it’s not as good or as popular as it used to be.

This is why I think Classic did so well and is still doing pretty well! The older versions of the game are just more fun, warts and all!

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Rodney Perry

Now I’m hungry….

TeoSC2
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TeoSC2

This is the weirdest list. Where did you get these “lies” from? Maybe WoW in the past can apply to some of these things, but not Retail WoW. Immersive? That’s subjective af. Community trolls? Yeah right, they’re everywhere. Elitist jerks? That’s just gamers in general. WoW isn’t filled with elitist jerks, it’s just filled with jerks.

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Sarah Cushaway

WoW hasn’t been immersive for at least a decade. It’s more and more a pseudo-mobile esport and less an MMORPG.

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Tobasco da Gama

Some long-time players tell me this was better before server linking and cross-realm LFG because people supposedly remembered other players’ names and nobody wanted to risk a bad reputation, thereby making it harder to get into groups and guilds. Personally, I’m a bit skeptical of that.

The “Barrens Chat” meme definitely predates any of those features.

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styopa

“I still have to walk to the waypoint in Guild Wars 2 before I can use it”
Wut?

a) you can use any discovered waypoint by just opening the map and clicking on it
b) if GW2 is your home, I find it hard to believe you don’t have at least a handful of various mounts. Who “walks”?

And no, who told you WoW Retail was immersive? That’s one of the last adjectives I’d use for an MMO that’s about as engaging today. as a side-scrolling platformer.

Loading screens: yes, surprise, new WoW was built with little to no respect for the old. /shock. I sincerely believe Blizz generally wishes former expansions would just go away. But Gw2 constant and ridiculous loading screens aren’t better. ANet – maybe think about using those other CPU cores? Or (shock) offloading that work to I dunno, the video card?
Seriously man, I can’t take you seriously if you don’t admit that the loading screen time for Lion’s Arch – ostensibly THE HUB OF HUBS – is ridiculous.

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Bruno Brito

“I still have to walk to the waypoint in Guild Wars 2 before I can use it”
Wut?

He means you need to discover the WP before being able to use it to that location.

Which was how WoW FPs worked before.