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.