Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Motivation to Play

The other day, a co-worker wanted to chat about WoW.  She told me she had taken a character and gone to check out the new quests in Westfall but had been disappointed.  According to her, the quests required too much thought and guesswork.

"When I play after work," she said, "I play to relax, not to have to use my brain."

Of course, she emphasized, she enjoyed the challenge of raiding, but that was different.  She didn't want challenges in her questing.

"I'm just not sure I want to continue in Cataclysm, if the questing is going to be like this," she told me.  "I guess I'll give it a month and then decide."

I don't know what micro-expressions manifested themselves on my face, but I'm sure they displayed something to the effect of incredulity.  Sure, I don't like quests which make me beat my head against the wall, wondering what the objective is, but these days, few quests fall into that category.  After all, objectives now sparkle enough to be seen 50 feet away, and the Blizzard interface has the option to show the general location of objectives, as well as confirm the identity of the target mobs when mousing over them.  (She is still complaining about the demise of Questhelper, by the way.  She says the Blizzard interface isn't enough.  I'm not sure what she's talking about, as I think the Blizzard interface is more than adequate.  But I digress . . .)  If the quester is confused even slightly, websites like Thottbot or Wowhead are there to clear everything up.

I had flashbacks of reading multiple players' complaints on forums throughout Wrath that WoW had become too easy--that the developers had catered too much to "the casuals".  Considering that casual players still pay the same subscription, but may not actually use the resources as much as others, I would think they are better money-makers for Blizzard, so it would make sense they would work to appeal to casual players.  But I had heard the developers had listened to the less casual players, as well, when they worked on designing Cataclysm, adding more challenges.

Personally, I think that overall, Blizzard has done a pretty good job of finding ways to appeal to players with a variety of motivations to play.  (Obviously, or they wouldn't be up to . . . however many million subscribers now.)

The evening after I spoke with my co-worker, I took my Druid out to Westfall, to check things out.  I hadn't really considered working on Loremaster-type achievements, but I was curious to see what kinds of challenges she had faced and not enjoyed.  I found that, yes, many of the quests were linear, meaning that one quest led to another, rather than picking up a half-dozen quests to do at the same time.  And some of the earlier ones did not say exactly how you were supposed to accomplish them, which may be what frustrated my co-worker.  (They said something to the effect of "find the clue", without giving as much detail as, "kill the murlocs until you find the clue.")  But the story line quickly grabbed me, and before I knew it, midnight had come and I had to call it a night.

Unlike the previous quests, which had been something to the effect of, "We're in a war with the Defias, so kill a bunch of them.  By the way, pick up some food," there was more reason to fight things.  Sure, there was some food-gathering, but it was to feed the hungry refugees, and the drop rates were more sensible and consistent.  Sure, we picked up red bandanas, but it was to provide clues to a brutal murder.  There was more purpose to the quests and more cohesiveness to the storyline.

The next night, I went back to Westfall, even before I considered running a random to complete my Gnomeregan Exalted reputation.  I continued on with the quests, following the story to its conclusion, marvelling at the outcome, and getting the Westfall quest achievement.

I don't consider myself hard-core.  But nobody goes into healing if they do not like challenges in their game-play.  Even more, I do like a good mystery or puzzle, so the quest line I found was very satisfying to me.  (After all, I played the Myst games way back when--talk about beating your head against a wall.)  If this is the sort of thing we will be finding throughout Cataclysm, I suspect I will be paying much more attention to the lore than I have hitherto done.

I'm actually looking forward to doing more lore questing now.  Some, anyway.

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