Exploring This is World of Warcraft

I always enjoy the Carbot Animations videos about Blizzard products.  The ability to capture what is often the essence of something like Diablo with some simple animations, an absurdly familiar situation, and a few of the in-game sounds is amazing.

And the quality of the work has made the channel a success, leading to items in the official Blizzard store based off of the videos including the StarCraft Cartooned graphics pack for the remastered game.

But the most recent video… This is World of Warcraft… it is a bit of a punch in the gut.  It captures in its way the nostalgic experience of World of Warcraft and its move from early innocence to the state of the game today in a way that managed to make even me a bit misty eyed.

Back when I was much younger

This could be the Sayonara Norrath for WoW.  So take three minutes to watch it.

Did you watch it?  Because I am going to write about it.

The first cut response is how well it captures the arc of the game for many people, the early joy, making friends, conquering raids, and all the things we’ve heard.  The expansions come, and they’re good too, mostly, as they pile up.

The expansion pile

And Blizzard starts introducing new things like paid mounts, which are accepted enthusiastically by the fans.  But as time goes on and the game seems less unique and less special.  Our protagonist feels the world emptying out.  The magic is gone, sunk by Blizzard’s hamfisted handling of the game.

And then WoW Classic comes along and the world is special again.  But monetization creeps in and seeing the special packs and mounts in Burning Crusade Classic our protagonist feels lost and cheated by Blizzard again

Money invades the classic experience

They exit the game, ending the video.  The magic is dead.  Fade to black.

That is a pretty much on-point story that a lot of people tell, and such a punch in the gut that I have to wonder where the channel is headed.  It almost felt like a sign off.

So many feels.

But it really isn’t comparable to Sayonara Norrath.  That video, which pre-dates the launch of World of Warcraft, is about the memories of a guild that has decided to move on.  They have changed, the world has changed, and while they have many memories, those are in the past.

This is World of Warcraft is what you would get if the Mirage guild of Sayonara Norrath hung on for another fifteen years, trying to live EverQuest as it was back in the day, forever comparing the good old days to whatever expansion or update or free to play scheme or company change or special server Daybreak came up with.

So This is World of Warcraft feels like it heaps blame on Blizzard for wrecking what was once a happy and formative experience for many gamers… millions of gamers.  And I get that.  But I also question it.

I have been on about the static nature or subscription pricing lately… it was $15 a month back in 2004, it is still $15 a month here in 2021… and the unrealistic expectations of players.  The response to paying more is almost always negative.  The companies themselves are viewed as greedy and unresponsive… something that Activision Blizzard hasn’t helped with given the obscene compensation some of their senior execs get… and are often blamed for ruining our gaming experience through monetization.   Over in EVE Online players are up in arms… again… about CCP doing that as well.  We want our peak enjoyment at all times at the price we were paying back when my college age daughter was still in diapers.

How realistic is the expectation that World of Warcraft should feel as fresh and new now as it did back in 2004?  How, with eight expansions in the can now, was Blizz supposed to maintain that sense of simplicity and innocence while cranking out a full fledged expansion every other year?  And how, with subscriptions down and the cost of everything going up, were they supposed to be a viable business without finding another revenue stream?

How much of the fact that we don’t think WoW now feels like WoW of old is grounded in unrealistic expectations that a party should remain fun for fifteen years running?  Blizzard gave us something amazing in 2004 and we’re all kind of pissed off that it isn’t as amazing and as fun in 2021.  Is that realistic?  WoW is practically The Simpsons when it was 15; still something good there, but nothing like the first half a dozen seasons.

I can sit back and objectively dissect the faulty logic of our expectations, and yet I too feel them.  I just want the game to be as fun as it was back… whenever… and to feel that joy.  I am part of the problem too.  I see Sayonara Norrath and my first thought is always “Hey, I should go play that again!” and not “What a special time that was.”

So bravo to Carbot Animations for stirring up all these conflicting feelings.

I’m still playing Burning Crusade Classic.  I want to play it because it was, and still is, a good game. (And hey, it is only $15 a month!)  But part of me does want it to be 2007 or whenever, to feel like I did when I was that much younger.  It is a flaw in me, a flaw in many of us.  Letting go is hard and some of us won’t do it until we’re forced to.  It is complicated.

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13 thoughts on “Exploring This is World of Warcraft

  1. Arhanta

    That scene in front of Ragnaros, planning for 40 people, finally killing him, looting a crappy rogue belt with everyone shouting on TeamSpeak… I was there.

    I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Paladins on fire around Baron Geddon. I watched Arcane Missiles in the dark near Majordomo Executus. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to log out.

    (nah, I will probably still be there when they unplug the servers)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. bhagpuss

    I watched the video when it popped up on MassivelyOP and I thought it was… a bit sentimental. Not being invested in WoW the way those who were there at the start might be, it seemed to say something about Blizzard’s inept handling of the franchise but more about unrealistic player expectations.

    Then I read Gnomecore’s post on it, which looked at thiongs from the viewpoint of a commited Retail player who actively dislikes Classic and while I don’t share his opinions on the retro version of the game I think he makes a good argument for why Retail still works for a lot of people – it’s as much because of the specific changes in the video as in spite of them. Retail’s woes mostly lie elsewhere.

    Finally I read this post, which just about hits the nail on the head. Blizzard wants to make money and players don’t want to give it to them. The days when Blizzard wanted to make great games and players wanted to pay them to do it are long gone. Now both sides are locked in a bitter passive-aggressive co-dependency that neither wants to own.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @bhagpuss – I try not to get into the retail vs classic wars unless they come find me. I play retail when the mood strikes, but not enough to keep up with the burning issues of the day. Classic is simple fun and its success helps keep the whole franchise going. Things would not be better for WoW now if classic had not launched when BfA was faltering.

    I am perhaps less anti-Blizz than some people when it comes to monetization, though I have certainly been critical in the past. In part that is because over in the EVE Online sphere monetization has become an ongoing source of player outrage, which is what got me on the whole subscription pricing realization. I am just tired of the constant thing about corporate greed from players who haven’t a clue what anything costs. I was linked from the LOTRO forums by a very angry player there who was insisting that SSG could totally do LOTRO Classic, fully faithful recreation of 2007 if they were not such greedy liars. The link went the post on the EG7 presentation about Daybreak which showed LOTRO had made $9.9 million so far in 2020, because that was apparently a lot of money to their thinking. I hate to burst their bubble about things like rent, payroll, data centers, and the license fee they have to pay to Tolkien Enterprises, which I would bet is a percentage of gross with a minimum amount. For a game that made $100 million just seven years back, $9.9 million by the third quarter, so maybe $14 million for the full year, seems like a pretty far slide.

    Anyway, I am both less and more susceptible to nostalgia. WoW was hardly a starting point for me for video games, or even online video games. I want to play because it is fun, and I have proven to myself that I won’t log in if I am not having fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. zaphod6502

    WoW was my first proper introduction to online communities. As an introvert it allowed me to interact with people and be someone I would not otherwise have been in real life. For that I will always have fond memories of my original WoW experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Shintar

    The feelings invoked by that Carbot video, especially the portrayal of the transition from early, innocent joy to disillusionment, reminded me a lot of Pint’s “Doomin” – not sure if you’ve seen it. I think the similarities support your point that people can come away feeling burnt out or disappointed with the game regardless of anything that Blizzard does… though that doesn’t make the trends highlighted in the Carbot video less accurate I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tremayne

    There’s probably a whole “lost innocence” thing about reactions to how WoW has changed over the years, and people’s ages are going to factor into that. Somebody who was 16 when they played WoW at launch, and it was their first MMO, will be in their mid-thirties now and both they and their life have changed immeasurably over that time. Without a certain level of self-knowledge, it’s easy to put everything on “WoW has changed” over “I have changed”. Others of us were already in our mid-thirties when WoW launched, and came from games that were already several years into a lifecycle, and had seen things go from the initial early days where everything was new into the later phases where the “best” way to do things is known and several expansions have piled on. Perspectives will naturally differ.

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  7. Archey

    I like the video a lot, because it does what a work of art should: lay out the issues in a compelling way, but leave open to interpretation what it all means. There are any number of things one could take away from it, as evidenced by even this small comment section.

    Personally I wasn’t too fussed about the special packs for TBC, even as a purist, though the hearth animation is a tad egregious. And reading here and thinking about sub prices and their staticity has made that even more so. But for me the video did bring home why I fell out of love with retail: the “buy a skip to the end” mentality, whether that takes the form of cash or (maybe more controversially) mechanics like raid finder.

    Either way, good post and good conversation about it.

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  8. Pingback: WoW Classic: Already feeling the reduced difficulty | Hardcore Casual

  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Tremayne – My daughter, who grew up playing WoW with me back in the day, said she doesn’t want to play classic because those memories are very important to her and replaying the game doesn’t feel like something that would enhance them. Our ages clearly play into our response. WoW represents a large about of her lifetime while for me it is one in a series of games that I have fond memories for.

    @Archey – Yeah, I am kind of okay with the monetization. I can’t say that the swarm of lizard mounts makes me happy, but they aren’t killing the nostalgia buzz too badly. And I still get to play for that same 2004 subscription price. Per my above response, I suspect it would impact my daughter’s enjoyment much more so.

    As for falling out of love with retail, I am bad with my own expectations. I want to feel all the fun and joy of the game as I had previously, but also want new and interesting experiences. That is a pretty tall order for Blizz to fulfill. Still, I have managed to play through all of the expansions so far, I just don’t always bother doing all the extra bits and often wait for the mid-to-late-expansion catch-up phase, then go unlock flying and do the tour.

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  10. Nogamara

    Yeah, the first part of the video is spot on but the second part feels a little unfair. This is coming from someone who enjoyed Shadowlands and the first raid and maybe burned out a little on it. Also neither Shadowlands nor BfA were the best expansions ever, but they weren’t bad either. Those “cash grabs” don’t annoy me at all, but maybe I’m simply not interested in what other people do, maybe I should stick to single player games after all?

    Maybe it’s really that despite playing WoW for 10 years (since 2005, with a long break) it wasn’t as transformative for me and thus also the “bad” things weren’t as soul-crushing, just eliciting a small or moderate sigh, then continuing on to have fun with the parts I like…

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  11. Nosy Gamer

    There has been a lot of videos lately either nostalgic like this or asking Blizzard to do better. The No King Rules Forever video from Bellular Gaming really hits because it compares Retail WoW to my current main game FFXIV. And then there are all the videos coming from the current wave of WoW refugees and their playthroughs. It’s actually kind of sad to watch.

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  12. Seraphgrim

    I haven’t touched WoW in a very long time. I spent a loooooot of time with it coming out of high school but I got fed up with guild/raid drama every expansion and finally dropped out midway through Cataclysm. I always kept an eye on it after I left though, seeing the news and keeping abreast of what was happening. I came back when a friend convinced me to try out Warlords of Draenor, and after playing for about a year or two, I dropped out really quickly a couple months into Legion. I didn’t even bother reading any of the news after that – I check in periodically when there’s a new expansion announcement or something to see the cool cinematics, but I haven’t a clue about what’s happening and I haven’t the slightest desire to pick it back up again.

    Maybe I’m not being fair, but I feel like I can’t stand either the player base or the developers anymore. The community has a relentless toxicity that is spearheaded by the elite and mindlessly parroted by a huge portion of the “normal” players. “The absolute top end mage does 1.2% more DPS than a top end warlock, so warlocks are trash and Blizzard you HAVE TO buff them because everyone knows they’re trash” kind of BS when that only matters at the world-first level and everyone could make bigger gains by getting out of the fire. At best, when the community isn’t being overwhelmingly toxic, it’s simply benign, as players function as NPC’s for your LFG runs.

    And what does that virulently toxic community get? Catered to by developers who responded to feedback for “bring the player not the class” and imposed class homogenization, then responding to feedback for “improved class identity” and made the classes different, then responding to feedback for “bring the player not the class” and imposed class homogenization, then… A schizophrenic development team that has not seemed to have a coherent overall vision of the game’s direction, or at least a willingness to follow through on that direction, for over 15 years.

    As I said, maybe I’m not being fair, but I feel like at this point, they deserve each other. I would be happy to simply ignore Blizzard at this point (a company I was a huge mark for, for a good 15+ years) and the toxic community they’ve helped create. Unfortunately, one of the impacts of WoW’s success is that other communities and other developers think that they have to have the same toxic relationship as the WoW community and Blizzard Entertainment. As a result, the same thing bleeds into other games, especially MMOs, and that’s a big part of why I’ve not invested into another MMO since walking away from WoW.

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  13. Seraphgrim

    And all of that said – it is undeniable that part of the problem is me. I’m not who I was in 2004 when I got into the original beta, or even who I was at any other point when I played the game. But where I might feel like picking it up and dropping into something familiar for some good fuzzy nostalgic feelings, between the community and the company, they sure make it easy to not feel good, fuzzy, or nostalgic.

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