Tuesday, September 3, 2019

WoW Classic: Getting Comfy Edition

My gauntlet of social obligations are completed and have left me feeling ... dehydrated. And in surprisingly good spirits. My ability to operate socially can be limited. A couple hours here and there and I can be one smooth operator. But anything more extended than a night out and my batteries quickly drain to zero.

So today (and much of last night) are when I revert to my beloved shut-in status. A cloudy mid-60s mood has taken over the Casa de Everwake. I have a campfire scented candle rolling, a plate of hotdish leftovers, and a Tauren Warrior who just completed the Barrens at the dizzying level of 22.

Right now WoW Classic is very much in my wheelhouse. It's familiar, it feels good to play it, it feels good to have a goal in my life that both feels important and without real consequences. There are very few experiences that can consistently bring me into the mental state of flow.

The feeling of just "locking in" to a task and pushing until I reach my goal or have my flow broken is a feeling that I've been chasing all my life. I guess I'm a flow junkie. I think everyone knows what I'm talking about, although I'm sure we all experience it much differently and from different sources.

Unfortunately for me, I tend to receive this flow from experiences I can't always recapture at will. Growing up it often came from sporting events, baseball in particular. But when I decided against pursuing the sport in college those opportunities dried up (slow pitch softball beer leagues don't really hit the same spot). Writing once served that place for me as well, but doing something professionally, particularly under the duress of the 2010 Great Recession, knocked a lot of the enjoyment out of that for me.

And playing World of Warcraft used to get me there as well. For me, WoW has unraveled in a lot of ways. The story lines no longer interest me, thematically the world feels bland and uninspired, and the sociability of the whole thing isn't. But at some point the beautiful second to second gameplay just took a nose dive. It's hard to get a handle on exactly when that happened. The obvious perpetrator is the ability prune. Classes simply got too simple to be interesting anymore. And while that's true to an extent, playing Classic is proof that for most specs the day to day overworld rotations are more complex in retail than they are live.

But they are not more fun.

They are more complicated, but to me they also feel way more fiddly. Every DPS class seems to have some form of combo points or some standard "Long Cooldown > DoT > Medium Cooldown > Situational Ability > Filler" rotation. The pacing to every fight in retail simply feels off. Fights either take too long or aren't long enough. Rotations are either glorified quick-time events or brain dead stupid. Classic, for whatever reason, seems to be interesting with every mob I engage. (Except for Ret Paladins. They were always boring to play.) I'm sure there are other outside factors affecting this feeling, but moment to moment Classic just feels better. 

These "core gameplay loops" don't have to be complicated: at their core Mario games are about pressing A to jump. I think WoW Classic rotations are just complicated enough to be interesting while being somewhat brainless enough that you can multitask watching Netflix or chatting with others. WoW Retail asks enough from you to make multitasking difficult, but isn't interesting enough to complete hold your attention.

When I originally played WoW, I leveled while chatting with friends on AOL Instant Messenger or while chatting with my college roommates as I played on my laptop. Nowadays I play while talking to my wife or watching a Twitch stream. WoW Classic hits that sweet spot for me in so many different ways that no development team could ever really be expected to accommodate. But I'm glad I got an opportunity to get my flow back.

3 comments:

  1. Welcome back! And while not much of a candle person, I feel a sudden need to add 'Campfire scented' to my collection of household candles stat.

    The character play styles of Classic vs. Retail is interesting though. There is much I really appreciate about Classic, but the rotations is not part of that. (While acknowledging I'm still quite low level, so don't at all have all my skills yet.)

    I would go so far as to agree at least that the current BfA implementations are not the best we've seen -- but I'd replace the Classic setup with some of the other expansions variants we've seen in a heartbeat.

    For all WoD's content faults for example, Disc Priest was *super* fun to play.

    For Prot Warrior I don't even need to go that far -- simply give me heroic throw and the ability to spec Charge into working in Defensive stance from Wrath and I could probably settle. The Cata skills (incl. taking Heroic Strike / Cleave) off GCD would be nice too I guess, but not necessary.

    Anyway! This all being a long winded way of saying, over WoW's history we've had better spec / play styles available to us than either what BFA or Classic offers.

    If I could have Classic with the best of the class skill set options... Holy moly what a world it would be.

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    1. I totally agree that rotations hit the peak probably around MoP/Cataclysm. But for me I feel that's more true about content other than leveling. Classic rotations while leveling up feel great. Raiding and PVPing in Classic are going to feel terrible most likely.

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  2. This is such a good post. You hit a bunch of nails squarely on the head. Two things I want to call out and agree wholeheartedly with:

    "it feels good to have a goal in my life that both feels important and without real consequences". That's a perfect one-line summary of why I've been playing MMORPGs for twenty years.

    "Writing once served that place for me as well, but doing something professionally, particularly under the duress of the 2010 Great Recession, knocked a lot of the enjoyment out of that for me."

    The usual advice you hear given about finding a career is to turn something you love into a source of income. Might work for some people but I think it's the kiss of death. I had a number of opportunities in my 20s to move into paid employment writing about comics and other things I loved at the time. I thought about it and chose not to take up any of them. I saw how friends and acquaintances who did take up those chances changed and I didn't want any of it.

    If someone wanted to pay me for writing whatever I felt like writing, whenever i felt like writing it, then fine. I'd take that. But writing to someone else's order is a fast way to fall out of love with writing at all, at least for me.

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