Setting aside the recycled cover fiasco with The Red Tree for a moment, I want to talk about World of Warcraft, and how my time with the game is growing short. I'll be playing for about another six weeks, then leaving WoW.
I've worked out an exit strategy. I'll finish getting my Loremaster title, and then that's it. And, by the way, as most of this entry will be devoted to how WoW has worked so hard the last couple of years screwing the pooch, I'll point out that Spooky and I were both within a hair's breadth of having Loremaster, when the Catacylsm expansion essentially undid all our progress, forcing us to start over. That's hundreds of hours each spent working towards the title (which is a pathetic example of time displacement, I am well aware).
I'll be going to Rift and LoTRO, as soon as I (hopefully) have a laptop later this spring. Spooky's on the Rift beta, and has been playing LoTRO, and they both look far superior to WoW. Rift is blowing my mind.
I did want to post a list of the particular things that have driven me, after three years of intensive WoW play, to jump ship. So, here goes:
1) Blizzard has chipped away at class abilities. Warlocks have lost a lot. Paladins even more. And it's still happening. Just last week, warlocks lost mana drain, a very important defensive spell for a class stuck in cloth armor. And, perhaps even worse than the chipping away, has been the inexplicable reorganization of abilities. Old spells have new names. It's beyond confusing.
2) Changing the talent specialization system. Now, you're forced to place all our talent points in one specialization, until you've spent 30 points, and only then can you place points in other specializations. The old ability to create hybrids has been severely hampered.
3) WoW, which was never a very bright bulb, is increasingly, pandering to the lowest common denominator. This has gotten so bad with the release of Cataclysm that I've come to think of it as the Beavis and Butthead of MMORPGs (and really, that should just be MMOG). It's an endless barrage of lame National Lampoon-style pop-culture satire, faux wit, and endless poop and fart jokes. WoW is now a game for fourteen year olds and forty year olds who never matured beyond fourteen. WoW is sunk almost as low as Second Life. And the game just gets easier, and easier, and easier...and easier. Mounts at Level 20, maps that hold your hand all the way to quests objectives, etc. I'm not even going to get into examples of racism and homophobia.
4) The homophobic hate speech in chat is only getting worse, and if anyone's trying to stop it, there's no evidence of that effort.
5) The game's penchant for forced socilaization and it's disinterest in solo players (or even groups of two or three) is worse than ever. It's aggressive. Sure, we have the random dungeon finder now, which is fine, if you want to take your chances on winding up with a bunch of teenage dounchebags.
6) Dungeons are essentially closed to solo players and small parties. You must be many levels (and sometimes entire expansions) beyond the dungeon's level to run them. And endgame is essentially closed to us.
7) The game has abandoned any pretense at being immerssive (see 3), if, indeed, it ever tried.
8) With Cataclysm, the last vestiges of a coherent ingame timeline has been lost. And the game's lore is, and has long been, utterly incoherent. It's Tolkien, Moorcock, Howard, etc. perverted to utter fucking nonsense. Contradictions are rife.
9) The obsession with mindless "achievements" is truly clogging up the gaming experience, and is one of very many transparent attempts to keep players online long after there's any truly engaging reason to play. I'd say it preys on the human propensity for obsession...but...no, I will say that.
10) WoW's barrage of holiday nonsense, which has never made any sense inworld, and which just keeps getting worse.
11) Watching Spooky play LoTRO, I see a much greater level of maturity among players, but this goes back to item 3.
12) One word: mini-games.
In short, I need a game that takes itself seriously. A joke here and there, fine. But WoW has become a really badly written spoof of sword & sorcery. I adore my main, Shaharrazad. I've been with her, as of this moment, 55 days, 15 minutes, and 35 seconds, since September 27th, 2008. I've invested a lot, in money and time. It's hard to let go of her, but I just can't take the idiots anymore, or the idiotic mess Blizzard has made of the game. Likely, I'll come back for expansions, for two or three week intervals, but that's it. Blizzard could have made it all right with Cataclysm; they did the exact opposite.
Shaharrazad, self-exiled Sin'dorei, servant of Sylvanas and Thrall, veteran of the war against the Burning Legion, the struggle against and defeat of Arthas and his Scourge, and the rise of Deathwing, is exhausted, and sees the world she fought for fall into the ruin and chaos. She will retreat soon to the peace and splendid cold of the Howling Fjord, and make a solitary life for herself in Northrend.