Loving To Hate WoW (Or Hating To Love It)

Every time I write a blog post about my amateur MMO design “theories” or commentaries about the industry, I usually find myself being quite negative towards World of Warcraft. I don’t insult it directly per se but I do find I usually talk about the “good ol’ days” of Everquest or about how much I love the sandbox nature of EVE Online more or even how Everquest 2 is just a plain better themepark MMORPG. I never gave that much of a second thought until now.

My brother's put on a lot of weight since starting WoW

My brother's put on a lot of weight since starting to play WoW

Recently I was starting to feel a little guilty about having a go at WoW all of the time and either poking it as an example of the things I don’t like about the industry or prodding it as an example of how it’s easy and casual nature offends my intellect. I’m not the only person to do this either. Plenty of bloggers deride WoW for not being challenging or being too simplistic and it only takes hinting at it’s name in a forum or global chat channel to spark off the mother of all of arguments. It’s almost as if liking the game somehow upsets the sensibilities of “real” MMO gamers.

WoW is by no means perfect and does have some genuine problems but, for the most part, it is actually a bloody good game and I haven’t come to that conclusion lightly. When it was released in 2004, I was an avid SOE fanboy and I a converted new recruit into the buggy EQ2 army. Even though I had played WoW in it’s beta, I was annoyed at how it got so much more attention and critical success that my beloved Everquest and it’s successor. I then spent the next four years harping on about how much better EQ2 was than WoW and how Blizzard just played it safe all of the time and never took a risk while the SOE boys were knocking their pans out daily to craft the amazing game they always envisaged.

And I was right. EQ2 is better than WoW. At least for me anyway (I won’t go into all of the details now as to why I think so). WoW is also too easy and too casual and pretty vacuous and lacking in the depth that I want from my perfect virtual world but that doesn’t matter one iota because it’s still a heck of a lot of fun.

I’ve realised that WoW doesn’t need to give me everything. It doesn’t need to fill me with, um, fulfillment or be the last MMO I ever play. I can just enjoy it for what it is and, considering I’ve been playing it for over a year now, it seems to be working. Other MMOs will come along that I like more or give me what I’m looking for but that’s OK, there’s no written rule saying I can’t like more than one for different reasons or change the games I play.

So is this me apologising for having the odd dig at World of Warcraft? Heck no. And is it going to stop me using it as an example of how things are declining in the industry? No way. I guess this is just a confession, my confession about how I love to hate WoW (and hate to love it).


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  1. JC says:

    I don’t really care one way or t’other about WoW. I look at it and it seems to have all the right elements. I’ve tried it out 2x. But it just doesn’t “do it” for me. No idea why, it just doesn’t.

    Conversely, EQ2 does.

    Still… I don’t think WoW’s a bad game, and I certainly won’t bash it. I simply prefer EQ2.

  2. It’s always fashionable to slam what is popular. When I read a lot on paper RPGing, the “real RPGers” always took potshots at D&D. MMO people love to hate WoW, as you point out. Now, Farmville is getting the heat for “not being a real game”.

    Part of the reason they are used is because so many people know it. I always said D&D was the lingua franca for discussing RPGs. Perhaps I hadn’t played your favorite obscure game, but relating a feature to D&D allowed us to discuss it anyway.

    The problem is that it can also lock us into certain patterns of thought. If all we compare things to is WoW (or D&D, or whatever), then we can get stuck in these patterns. So, there are obviously tradeoffs.

  3. Russ says:

    I have to say that WoW is the first and only MMO I’ve ever played. There are a few others I’d like to try, but haven’t for several reasons (time, money, having a Mac instead of PC). Being a regular reader of several blogs, both WoW-related and others, it’s been interesting to see the variety of points of view on the subject around the interwebs.

    My reading has lead me to desire to play a few other MMOs, but the negative commentary hasn’t dimmed my desire to play WoW, opened my eyes to how much WoW “sucks,” or anything like that. Intelligent conversation with divergent viewpoints is merely food for thought and discussion, unless a person is shallow enough to jump on/off a particular bandwagon based solely on someone else’s opinion.

    I know I don’t play a perfect game, but it is a game that challenges me, brings me enjoyment, and has caused me to develop friendships with the people I team up with whenever we raid or play together, which is often. It has real potential value on many fronts, unless it just doesn’t interest someone (or hold his/her interest), which is totally fine.

    As for your posts, they fit right in line with what I’m talking about. It’s good to read this one, but even if you stopped playing WoW, your posts would still be well-written and interesting, and it’s obvious that you approach writing, games and life with enthusiasm, a critical eye, and a sense of humor, which is great. :)

  4. Wonderwyrm says:

    The inherent problem with wow, is that it doesnt push forward, its pretty much locked in its progression, release an expansion, level up, raid, get loot. With all the money they have they could do so many cool things with that franchise, but its become so streamlined and easy.

    Theres no alternate advancement, no outfits like lotro, it just stays stagnant, it doesnt evolve or grow. Sure itll add new mounts and new vanity pets, woot!!!

    Look at EQ2 and lotro, they add new things with every major patch. Lotro added skirmishes recently, and before that item leveling.

    What does wow add? Another raid, with reskinned models, more loot, what will it add the next patch, another raid, more loot.

    • Carson says:

      Well, Wonderwyrm, WoW’s most recent patch added the cross-server dungeon finder, which imho has had more impact on the game than any feature I’ve seen patched into any MMO previously.

      And weren’t both those LOTRO features introduced in expansion packs? Not patches?

    • Gordon says:

      I’d agree for that for a long time WoW never really pushed the boat out with anything innovative, new or risky but recently they’ve certainly stepped their game up. The cross server dungeon finder is an example of an excellent tool that will probably because a necessity in newer MMOs. Likewise the Cataclysm expansion just looks fantastic and really takes the game in a new and exciting direction.

      • Carson says:

        Yeah, the important thing about the cross-server dungeon finder, to my mind, is that while everyone gets wrapped up in arguing about whether games need to be more solo-friendly or more group-centric, not too many developers are doing much about actually making it easier for habitually solo players to get into group play. Most just use carrots and sticks.

        I think Mythic understood this issue with WAR, hence the public quests and open parties. And I think Blizzard is starting to understand it (after years of just putting good loot in raids and calling that encouragement enough). I’d like to see more evidence that other developers do.

        • Gordon says:

          I adored the Public Quests in WAR but it obviously had flaws as it required a good sized player base and community to make them work. I think WAR over used the events and should’ve restricted them to more heavily populated areas and made them feel more epic.

          I loved their Open Parties system too and would like to see that again in a game in which quests weren’t just for soloers but also for groups.

  5. Wonderwyrm says:

    And just to add, I think wow has single handedly ruined the mmo industry, every game that comes out has to be like it, or no one plays it.

  6. Wow doesn’t give me a sense of fulfillment anymore. Being able to log on and have fun with my friends, however, does. Because all of my friends play WoW and none of them play my preferred MMO (Warhammer Online), I play WoW, too. Right now I am in one of those phases that borders on burnout again, but I do thoroughly enjoy playing the game and PvPing when I have a chance with my buddy. WoW’s not a bad game. It’s really not. It’s just a game that once you’ve played it for 5 years solid, there’s not a lot of newness to discover.

    Long sent me a trial for STO I am going to give a shot when I get the time, and I hear that there have been a lot of quality console games released in the last…35 or so years that I’ve missed while playing WoW. I may have to get them a real shot over the summer.

    • Gordon says:

      I’d agree with the friends point. I think I’m enjoying WoW a lot more now because I’m playing it with good friends rather than solo. I would probably enjoy any MMO a lot if I played it with them.

  7. Longasc says:

    I tell you the state of WoW nowadays in a paradox:

    People believe…
    1. WoW is the best MMO ever
    2. yet they are bored while doing their daily chores for the x-th time like automatons

    The game has apparently become too big to fail. It has become a part of pop culture. Upcoming Blizzard games are already celebrated before people have even played them.

    The dungeon finder got universal praise. It is indeed a wonderful tool. Yet it also highlighted the new nature of dungeon running: Gogo, get badges. Are there still people who have not thrice the amount of badges to buy anything possible several times?

    Dungeon running and dailies became the game. The world has taken a backseat. WoW is not the only MMO with this problem, LOTRO’s current Mirkwood endgame is 1 raid and three of the most mind numbingly dull dungeons ever designed. You run them for… badges and rare drops! :>

    I request a rename: Raidcraft, Dungeoncraft, Dungeons & Dailies – whatever.

    Before someone gets the idea, “this is how it has always been”… I have to disagree:

    I was so excited for WOTLK. As it finally arrived, the beautiful world was so quickly reduced to a facade and the dungeon running for badges and Naxx running started.

    I tell you, this “boss fight” stuff has to stop. Karazhan might have killed guilds due to difficulty, but it felt so much better to me, even on speed runs, than the dull boss after boss fighting of the new Naxx. Not to mention the dungeons: AoE galore. My Warlock had to use Rain of Fire to keep up in damage with the tanks. Sheeping and crowd control became unnecessary.

    So, that’s WoW today:
    - boss fights in dungeons/raids
    - mass mob bashing in dungeons/raids
    - optional “hard mode” achievements, often the “kill the boss in the most stupid way we could imagine” kind

    But clearly, WoW is the best game ever and beyond any criticism. I must clearly be wrong that I no longer had the desire to play WoW for ages by now. Someone please tell me why I personally fail and don’t love this game anymore. /sarcasm.

    • Gordon says:

      I agree that WoW has a HUGE amount of issues and has certainly been detrimental to the industry with a knock-on affect due to it’s success. I think everyone tires of WoW at some stage and then turns to resent it. I guess I’m still in the honeymoon period :) But that’s not going to stop me slagging it off :P

  8. Mojeaux says:

    I hate WoW, not because it sucks per se, but because of what it did to evert MMO that came after it.

    It was such a huge success that every developer felt that in order to achieve such success they had to ape WoW. And now, we’re basically stuck with a bunch of WoW clones out there.

    I truly loved the original EQ and to SOME extent, EQ2, but my hopes were pinned on Vanguard being my next big MMO. Unfortunately, though it had potential, it was a complete and utter failure due to poor management decisions. One of the biggest being that those who held the purse strings decided that the game wasn’t Wow’esque enough and demanded a complete revision of the game in mid-development.

    So yeah, I hate WoW, not because it sucks, but perhaps because of it’s overwhelming success..?

  9. Wonderwyrm says:

    Longasc hit the nail on the head!

  10. Tesh says:

    WoW has issues, and it’s not a perfect game, but it does some things right, and is fun in fits and spurts. I have no hesitation to give credit where credit is due… or denigration when deserved. WoW is just a big target, for either case.

  11. [...] month I wrote about how Everquest 2 is a better game than World of Warcraft and this is one of the many reasons why. I played on Darathar and Nagafen (the EQ2 European and US [...]

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