Identifying why you’re having fun, to me, is less important than simply having fun. It’s like those people who state that their life goal is “just to be happy”. But being happy isn’t a goal; it’s a side effect of living well, and something that you only tend to think about when happiness becomes scarce. Perhaps my more explicit look into the design of my favourite game has happened because I’ve subconsciously been less content with it in general. I suspect I’ve started to look more deeply at WoW over time because, underneath it all, I just don’t enjoy it as much as I used to.
When push comes to shove, I think I’m looking for that fairy dust that made me love WoW at a time when I simply knew that the fairy dust was there.
So, back to being negative again?
Heh, I know how the opening paragraph comes across; but this honestly has nothing to do with me delving back into slating WoW again. This is my attempt at figuring out why my love affair with the game has lost some of its lustre and how I think the problem can be solved.
I suppose an analogy would help, but there aren’t that many that are relevant – it’s kind of like eating your favourite food and then one day realising that it’s just not making you feel that “MMMMMMM!” factor it used to. It’s prudent to go through the ingredients to see if anything has changed enough to mess with the overall flavour; perhaps there’s not quite enough spices, or the dish has been over seasoned. But ultimately, something has changed and you only care about it now because what you were eating doesn’t quite hit the spot it used to.
Of course, maybe you’re just a bit fed up eating the same thing and want something new?
Anyway, against this backdrop we have the work of the awesome Cynwise (author of the incredible Cataclysm warlock dissertation that should be required reading amongst all game developers) and one of her latest posts regarding what she terms being locked into a class. Her overall premise is that in the world of the RPG, WoW is the exact opposite of normal expectations in regards to your character. Ordinarily, your class is the one thing that’s mutable over time in a conventional RPG, as anyone can change their life’s path and learn new skills. What’s not mutable is your race, gender or any other physical or mental limitations that you have no judgement over. In WoW, this is turned on its head – you CAN change absolutely everything about yourself, with the sole exception of your class.
In traditional RPG’s, you can change the things that matter, but not the things that don’t.
In WoW, you can change the things that don’t matter, but not the things that do.
Ignoring the discussion revolving around how technically difficult it would be to do a paid class change (short answer: not very), another part of Cyn’s post works around the attachment that a player has to their character. In a great many cases, the avatar of an individual player is their link to the world they inhabit. Depending on level of immersion and how much love or attention goes into said avatar, it’s very common for a player to become hugely attached to their chosen toon. The epic quests you completed, the powerful weapons you acquired, the monstrous battles you won and the faithful friends you made along the way; the fact is, no amount of easy levelling or account-wide achievements can ever replace the emotional attachment many players build with their characters. And if you’re unlucky enough to be stuck with a character you no longer enjoy, it can be very difficult to resolve.
For me, Zellviren was my first ever character in the game and he’s been my main character throughout. I’ve practically always tanked despite some dabbling with Arms, and the masses of people I’ve met and kept in contact with still all know me as “Zell” unless they use my real name. My blog has been running for the better part of three years, and my entire online persona is based around the fact that I play a Protection warrior and always have.
And as a final accompaniment to all of this word-salad, my guild doesn’t want me to play a warrior come Mists of Pandaria. The guild master essentially doesn’t value the class and sees no benefit in having more than one. He’s right. There really is no benefit in having more than one. And despite all the time invested, all the memories, all the blogs and all the history… I’m finding myself not particularly wanting to play my warrior anymore, either.
Wait… How did it come to this?
It’s not easy to pinpoint, or to explain, and I’ve spoken of rerolling before. I just feel that warriors have become an ugly and dysfunctional class, not unlike warlocks, but with a far greater crisis of identity. No spec, and no environment, presents warriors as a coherent package that a player will resonate with at the character selection screen.
From the traditional RPG viewpoint, the warrior is more of an archetype than a specialized class, and you can see how that evolves across the other plate melee. A death knight is a powerful warrior who once served the Lich King and now harnesses Necromantic magic in battle. A paladin is also a powerful warrior, but one who is infused with the Holy Light to bolster allies. A warrior is a powerful warrior… But that’s it. The identity of the class just sort of stops before it evolves, and this shines through in the gameplay. If you pick up and play a rogue, you get what you expect – a stealthy and lethal assassin. Should you go for a mage, you’re entering the world of a flamboyant and unpredictable spellcaster. If you plump for a warrior, you might expect a powerful yet relentless weapon-wielder; what you get is a down-tuned damage bot with severe dependency issues.
While it might be an oversimplification to simply say that warriors are a poor man’s everything, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. There’s no in-game aptitude that warriors aren’t second rate at, yet they retain old design ideals of being balanced against strengths and weaknesses in a world where nobody else is. Every class has a way of covering or countering their weaknesses, often to the point where it’s not a weakness at all. Warriors are not granted this courtesy. Worse, there remains a painful skill floor (particularly in PvP) which doesn’t helpfully introduce people to the class, and an ever-lowering skill ceiling where there’s literally no pay off for mastering your warrior. That, however, is not unique.
What’s unique is that warriors now feel like a class hamstrung by today’s design intent being yesterday’s temporary solution; a series of sticking plasters being sold as class features.
We get it; you hate your warrior. Reroll and move on.
The thing is, I don’t hate warriors.
In fact, I still feel very affectionately for the class, and part of my frustration arises from the fact that it could be wonderful. Underneath all the bandages and peering through all the cracks, there is the nucleus of something great.
The reckless abandon of Charge or Heroic Leap.
The barely contained primal fury of Enrage.
The bone crunching power of Colossus Smash.
The battle hardened desperation of Last Stand.
Ultimately, the pulsing heartbeat of the warrior class remains ever present under the mountain of cheques and balances that have been piled on top to curtail it. Nothing is more frustrating than looking at Mists of Pandaria, an expansion I think has a lot of potential, and coming to the conclusion that I might not want to play it because I’ve come to dislike my class. It’s painful, but the truth often is:
Warriors are less fun in beta than they are on live in all three specs.
In fact, it’s probably no coincidence that the refined beast that was the WotLK Protection warrior was my favourite time with my favourite class, as that was the last time I FELT like a warrior. In vanilla, the class was overpowered and in The Burning Crusade I didn’t really understand how competitive play worked (code for “I was a baddie”). Yet, in WotLK, I played a warrior with a well defined identity and one that played the way I felt the class should. It was a relentless physical monster that you couldn’t pin down and, under the right circumstances, hit like a truck. The fact is that I enjoyed playing it less in Cataclysm and am enjoying it even less in Pandaria thanks to the endless stream of unnecessary changes and fixes that have haunted the class for far too long.
And liking your class is important. Man, it’s so important. In a “theme park” MMO, where there’s a multitude of rides to tickle your fancy, the vehicle you use to access the rides is the most vital part of the experience. No matter how good those attractions are, what you’re riding in can make or break the enjoyment. And while I used to career around in the shiniest of brand new dodgems with my warrior, I’m now stuck on the rollercoaster with a car someone’s been sick in.
No matter how good the ride, I can still smell puke.
So what do you suggest for those feeling this way?
These Days, Bon Jovi would tell us to just Keep the Faith. Hell, we’ve been Living on a Prayer for a long time now, but We Weren’t Born to Follow. Ultimately, It’s My Life and I want warriors to pump back up to the 7800° Fahrenheit they used to sit at. The current MoP development is a case of Destination Anywhere while, really, it’s time to lay the class down in a Bed of Roses.
I don’t think anything less than an almost complete overhaul is going to do the trick. In my mind, warriors are getting less fun and more neutered with each passing expansion, and there’s not a lot that I’ve seen, read or tested that makes me think otherwise. Our strengths are continuously reined in to stop us over performing, while long-standing and crippling weaknesses are left alone in order to tip the hat to a less constrained past. The developers are stuck with a historical predisposition toward managing failure.
For me, it’s drawing board time.
I love my warrior and I don’t regret any of the time spent playing with it. But I feel like I have no choice but to abandon the class if we don’t start seeing some real innovation come down the pipelines.