Dear Diary: 16th March 2010
Despite getting too comfortable with World Of Warcraft, future prospects look pale in comparison.
Coping with World of Warcraft using only the default interface has proved to be much less of a chore than I would have predicted. Now over a week into my renaissance with the game I've found that actually, you don't need a myriad of add-ons pumping statistics out of every orifice to function efficiently. Of course, there are a select few interface upgrades that would undoubtedly allow me shave seconds off more complex functions, but in my current frame of mind, I'm more than happy to trade perfection for the tedium of setting up the add-ons. As long as I can follow my Hunter shot priorities well enough to pull my weight in groups, I'm happy with my virgin setup.
Not that I've plucked up the courage to join a group yet, as I'm still pretty happy tinkering about with the achievements system, especially Argent Crusade daily quests up in Icecrown that tie in quite nicely with reputation increases. I'm all about efficiency if nothing else. However, after clicking the new statue in the centre of Dalaran and being treated to a video depicting the Lich King's, my interest in raiding has been reignited as I'm eager to experience the events leading up to the departure of the franchise's most famous protagonist.
I have a loosely defined plan to dabbling with a few heroic five man instances in the next week to obtain some respectable equipment before trying to convince some old friends to drag me round the ten and twenty-five man raid zones. Of course, I'll need to do my homework on the various encounters and find out where the items I want drop before I even take one step into an instance.
Although this sort of preparation is now an integral part of the WoW experience, it still makes me a little bit sad that absolutely everything in Blizzard's ever increasing world is so familiar. Thanks to a combination of data-mined patches, a voracious media network, teleportation abilities and flying mounts, every aspect of the game is accessible at a moments notice, resulting in the world feeling a lot more sterile than it did in the first few years after its release.
While I can see the benefits of being able to plan my character's development so precisely and knowing where to focus my effort when new content arrives, I would trade it all for the excitement of the unknown. I'd much rather use my intelligence and have to think on my feet when facing a new encounter than relying on tactical knowledge gleaned from diagrams sporting more arrows than a Robin Hood convention. It's probably too much to hope for that Cataclysm will be more protective of its secrets, as the level of information currently available is deemed as a human right by most of the community, but a boy can dream.
Despite my worries about data protection, having spent a week back with WoW has really hammered it home that the game is still head and shoulders above any other offering the genre has to present. My thankfully brief experiences with both Star Trek Online and Aion almost led me to believe that the two games were developed a decade ago rather than being launched a good five years after Blizzard first opened the doors to Azeroth. Looking down the line a little, I'm not really that optimistic about anything arriving in the near future either.
Although regularly championed as a WoW beater, from the videos and explanations that have done the rounds, I heavily suspect that The Old Republic will end up resembling several hundred-thousand concurrent games of Knights Of The Old Republic that just happen to be occurring in the same world. I just can't see how else Bioware are going to manage to combine a choice-driven plot with a persistent universe and still keep the focus on player interaction.
The only massively multiplayer game in the pipeline that looks like it might bring something new to the table is The Secret World which although being, as its name suggests, currently veiled in secrecy, demonstrates an aesthetic a million miles away from orcs and wizards or lasers and spacecraft. Of course, I do still harbour an unhealthy dose of Funcom fanboyism from my days in love with Anarchy Online, so I'll be the first to admit that I may end up eating humble pie with this prediction.
Despite our five year long on and off affair, I know in my heart that I'm ready to move on for good once a suitable alternative arrives. Unfortunately, the competition that Blizzard is facing looks poor even before the potential usurpers have shown their limitations. Perhaps I should just stop over analysing my prospects and hope that any day now I'll be swept off my feet out of the blue.
I'll let you know how it goes. Until next time diary.