When I first heard that there would be a Warcraft MMO, I was definitely psyched, as all I would do with Warcraft 3 was create hero maps (where 1-2 heros kill everything and act as protagonists, etc.). The first screenshots and video footage only fueled the fire of my excitement. Especially the footage of players exploring with torches, it felt like it would actually be about adventuring and a very real, cyber-world. Sadly, when it came out and I received it as a present, I had to wait for a computer that could play it (and that took another few months). Suffice to say I had blue balls waiting for the game and that first day I stepped in as an orc rogue, I had that perfect, tingly feeling of immersion.
The game continued joyfully, but I slowly learned about how gear, stats and levels are all that matter. At first, I looked for the best looking armor with the highest armor class, however I was shocked to see my damage meters falling. I quickly realized my folly. And this is where the game stopped being an immersive experience; once it became about getting the gear, the stats, the levels, grinding, I didn't look at the world with the same awe. I found I didn't have a guild or committed friends to play with, and playing that character became less and less interesting. I wanted to roleplay him as a pirate, but I found that having chosen a PvP server, I was out of luck.
I had created another character (one I had used as an NPC in D&D and was essentially comic relief), a gnomish fury-spec warrior, on an RP-PVP server. I worked up quickly and in my early levels befriended another player who got me into a low level RP guild. We had fun for awhile, but one day I logged on to find all my friends in the guild had left! Thankfully I got ahold of my first friend and he helped me into the guild that I would stay with until I stopped playing less than a year ago. I had an immense amount of fun playing with these people for this breadth of time and they opened up that new level of immersion in the game. I mean to say, this immersion has nothing to do with the game world, other than it being a backdrop, but rather with the social interactions and experiences with the people that I played with.
I played for a long time, and the more I did, the more it became apparent that the game itself was terribly flawed. The systems perpetuating power by the grind established became more concrete and nagging. Annoying choices made by the devs over balancing and nerfing and overpowering loomed overhead. I cannot say did not enjoy farming, but it was only made tolerable when I had a guildmate and friend alongside to chat with.
The expansion came out and my candor was reignited, although my respect for the lore was quickly diminishing. I slaved over my machine to pump up my level and gear. As pvp options began to open up (the arena, mostly) I found that was my calling and I pursued it to the point that it was the only thing I was doing at the very end. One thing in particular made me extremely angry was that the devs kept pushing talent trees into archetypes; I played a fury-spec warrior my entire career and focused on pvp, HOWEVER the devs decided that fury was the raid-dps build and arms was for pvp. I didn't want to change my playstyle and I felt it was stupid to make my ideal character into something it wasn't. I became more and more frustrated.
I decided WoW wasn't for me anymore, but remembered to keep in touch with my guild.
In the end, I sold my account for $300.
- Other human beings: THIS is why, I now realize, I kept playing the game for so long.
- Warcraft universe: It was interesting exploring the world that I had become attached to from high above and in lore.
- Static world: nothing ever changed once it was implemented.
- Class/level/gear-based system: impossible to balance, perpetuated the grind and ganking. New content always made the old obsolete; you could never get something unique that "looked good" and allowed you to be competitive. In the end, everyone is trying to get the same "best" item. Classes were quickly pidgeonholed by their talent choices and had essentially 3 or less ways to focus: pvp, pve-dps or pve-tank/heal.
- Lack of immersion: the static world full of pop culture references didn't pull you in, it was the people you played with and the "need" for new and better items.
- Combat/PvP: Although relatively fast-paced, it was all about figuring out a system of abilities to use and their cooldowns, rinse and repeat. Many times crowd control makes PvP into a game of "who's actually in control of their character the longest". Arena battles were terribly biased to those with "perfect group/talent makeups". Real player skill doesn't have enough effect.
- PvE/AI: The AI was dumb. it was so dumb. And annoying. It always hit and walked around in circles unless you strayed near. It never noticed its friends being "pulled" or how the squishy wizard doing damage to it seemed less dangerous than that plate-wearin' warrior. The scripted encounters became monotonous and stressful at the same time, as you were forced to execute repetitive strategies perfectly.
- Sexism: I mean come the hell on. If I want to fap, I'll surf the web. Skimpy bikini-plate enforces a male-centric gaming culture and this is so goddamn wrong.
- More, I'm sure.
The game itself is addictive, but for the wrong reasons. The gameplay, although well paced, is repetitive, unbalanced and a grind. For me, World of Warcraft was only really worth it for the friends I made, and even then I eventually felt a need to escape to something different.