This weekend I started up World of Warcraft again. For those who haven't played World of Warcraft before, there's basically two sides to the conflict -- the Alliance, made up of the so-called "pretty" races (Human, Gnome, Dwarf, NightElf) and the Horde, made up of the "ugly" races (Tauren, Troll, Undead, Orc). I've spent the majority of my time playing on the Alliance side, so this time, I decided to play on Horde side, as an Undead Warrior. When you start off the game, you get a couple of quests to start with. Nothing too big, and nothing too epic. They're fairly easy, and typically along the lines of "bring me this item" or "kill this monster".
Each race has their own starting area, and their own quests associated with that starting area. The Humans start in a Monastery, and begin by killing wolves, kobolds and bandits. The Dwarves and Gnomes start in a ice-covered Valley and begin by killing wolves, troggs and trolls. The Night Elves begin in a big tree city, and begin by killing panthers, pigs, imps and spiders. The Orcs and Trolls start in a desert, and begin by killing pigs, scorpions and imps. The Tauren begin in the plains by killing ostriches and quillboars (spiky pig-men). The Undead begin in a crypt and start by killing zombies and skeletons.
While starting off the Undead seem pretty darn heroic compared to their counterparts, you leave the town feeling pretty good about yourself -- you've got your levels, you've got your skills, and you're on a quest to deliver a message to the Innkeeper at Brill.
As you run your way to Brill, you encounter a Deathguard who gives you your first quest outside the starting area. Your task? Raid the Human farms nearby and steal some Pumpkins and bring them to Brill.
The next NPC I run into on the road wants me to collect weeds.
At this point, my Warrior is confused. As part of the great Horde army, he's now a a thief stealing pumpkins and a gardener collecting weeds. Where's the epic fantasy in that? Given that the Alliance races spent so much time killing Trolls, Orcs, Tauren and Undead, I was hoping for equal time to kill Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes. Sadly, it just doesn't happen very often that the townspeople want you killing other sentients -- they'd rather you save them from the wild ostriches and the bears.
Once I get into the next village (Brill), I receive a slew of quests, including:
- "Get me the correct weeds"
- "Steal me a book"
- "Kill some bats"
- "Kill some puppies"
- "Kill some zombies"
- "Kill some named zombies"
- "Kill some undead gnolls"
- "Kill some ghosts"
- "Kill some low-level humans dressed in red"
- "Kill some Murlocs and bring me their fins"
- "Kill some human warriors dressed in red and a named human"
- "Kill some human priests dressed in red and a named human"
- "Kill a named human and his two bodyguards who are dressed in red"
- "Give this poisoned drink to the dwarf"
- "Give this magic drink to the human"
- "Go to the next town"
None of these are class-specific quests, mind you -- they're for every class, every Horde character, not just the Warrior.
What bothers me about these quests is that because a player doesn't have to do any particular quest, they've been designed to be disposable -- sometime they have some emotes or animations tied to the quest completion, but more often than not the NPC says the equivalent of "Thank you. Here's some xp and some copper."
While the Alliance have many multi-part quests which form a greater narrative (Westfall - Defias and Van Cleef, Scythe of Elune, Duskwood quests, The Missing Diplomat), the Horde has nothing of the sort (that I've seen up to level 35).
The goal of the game is to get to the raid-level content, where you and your 40 to 50 guildmates can spend 4 hours clearing a dungeon, wipe, do a 2 hour corpse recovery/buffing session, wipe during the corpse recovery, and try to make it to the final boss which hopefully the guild manages to kill and then fight over the phat lewt drops.
Some people really like raiding and the challenge of raiding. Coming from EverQuest, I was part of a guild that was very special-ops -- while other guilds were very much about throwing massive numbers of people against the creature (a "technique" known as "zerging"), we were very much about taking down the same huge creatures with small groups of people who knew how to play very well. It's working as part of a well-oiled machine that I miss -- all the raid stuff was really quite frustrating at times, but still a very exciting and new experience which is why I'm not at all surprised that this new experience is what attracts people to WoW.
Revisiting WoW has made me realize that while I like the achievement aspects of the game, having the game on a monthly subscription fee makes me feel as if I really should be playing constantly to get my money's worth out of it, and there are other games I want to be playing besides just WoW.