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The following is a portion of a scene from the movie Bladerunner:

Holden: You’re in a desert, walking along when –
Leon: What one?
Holden: What?
Leon: What desert?
Holden: Doesn’t matter what desert it is, it’s completely hypothetical.
Leon: Well, how come I’d be there?
Holden: Maybe you’re fed up. Maybe you just wanted to get away from it all. Anyway. You’re in a desert, walking along when you look down and you see a tortoise, Leon. It’s crawling toward you.

I was listening to Stardancer’s piece on the latest episode of Epic Dolls just last night, specifically the part about role-playing your character and having a reason to be in a particular zone other than the fact that the last quest brought you there.

In terms of role-playing, that’s absolutely necessary. Without it, your answer to the question of “What brings you here?” would always be something like:

“Well, I was on a journey to help with the defense of the land when some woman stopped me and asked me to help her get some meat for her pie.”

“Is she a relative of yours?”

“Well, no.”

“So you traveled weeks to get here to the coast in order to catch crabs to make pie for a woman you don’t even know?”

“Seems that way. Oh, but wait, also some guy lost his watch in a house about fifty miles from here. He said it’s surrounded by wolves.”

“A watch?”

“Well, it’s more of a family heirloom.”

“You’re going to risk being eaten by wolves to get a watch for some guy? Where does he live?”

“I’m not sure. I met him on the road.”

“You’re a strange person.”

So, if you’re a role-player, why would you have ended up in whatever zone you’re in? Would your character really have traveled to the other side of the world because he or she cared about some goblins who needed parts to make a racing car? Would your character really swim through murloc-infested waters just so two lovers can make out together in the woods?

Or is it more consistent with your character that he or she might be there because they’ve heard that the coast has the most beautiful beaches in all of Azeroth? Because you’ve heard that the dwarves in the mountains there make the most potent ale? Or is it because you committed a horrible crime in the last area you were in and there is a bounty on your head?

DreadsteedI was checking out Arren’s latest post over on Through the Eyes of Death today. He discusses the recent announcements about the upcoming changes in patch 3.2, many of which will make leveling 1-70 faster than ever.

I agree with him that most of the reason is that everybody has “been there, done that” and there’s no sense prolonging the pain anymore. People are just trying to get to Northrend content as fast as possible. Nobody cares about how Edwin Van Cleef was screwed by the nobility of Stormwind. Nobody cares why the worgen are in Duskwood or how they got there. In fact, much of vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade has been made moot by Wrath of the Lich King anyway. I think another reason is that Blizzard’s next expansion will include at least ten more levels. We’re talking about having to level grind to 90 and doing most of it in lands that are now pointless. Illidan’s dead – why are we in Outland again?

But I digress, as usual.

I wanted to talk about what it was like when we used to have to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. Arrens mentioned the warlock in his post, which sparked this post of my own because my first class was a warlock. I remember the “good old days”, as it were. Both warlock mount quests were very exciting, but my second epic mount dreadsteed quest was memorable because the chain was so long and it was actually “epic”. At the same time, it was also very frustrating.

When it came down to the instance runs in the end, it was even more difficult because you had to find four other people willing to help you who had no reason to except love for common man. After a couple of weeks of hard work, sweat, crying, contemplations of suicide, and hundreds of gold spent at the auction house, I was finally able to saddle up the dreadsteed.

Back then you weren’t really a warlock if you were level 60 for any length of time and you didn’t have your dreadsteed. You were just a poor warlock impersonator, a wannabe. Getting your dreadsteed was your warlock club card. I suspect that paladins had the same thing going on with their epic mount and perhaps druid with the epic flight form.

Rose-colored glasses? Probably. There is a lot about vanilla WoW that was quite terrible – let’s just be blunt. I remember many quests, as Arrens mentioned, that were just a hassle. You’d run all over creation for a quest that really wasn’t very interesting and, in the end, you ended up with 2000 experience points for your trouble. In the forty minutes it took you to complete the quest you could have made four times that amount of experience just grinding pig men or something.

I think it’s human nature for us to embellish some of our memories, even the ones that maybe don’t deserve embellishing. Or maybe those are the ones that need to be cleaned up the most. I remember the wars that took place between Southshore and Tarren Mill. There was nothing to be gained from that but corpse runs. And sure, I remember when my warlock, after some brutal battleground sessions, was able to finally get the title of Knight. And that was when they were using the rating system; you couldn’t just hoard honor points. Now when you look at the title, it sounds awesome and fear-inspiring. But when you think about the hell you went through to get it, was it really all that fun?

So I think much of the QQing is for nostalgia’s sake. Will a new player have the same amount of appreciation for his brand new flaming dreadsteed as we did years ago? Maybe, maybe not. But the game has evolved now.

Does anyone remember getting up on Saturday morning to watch the Superfriends or Scooby Doo in the 70s? I do. I’d get a giant bowl of plain Cheerios (no fancy stuff back then) and set up camp in front of the television. That was great fun. Would I force my kids to watch an episode of the old Superfriends? Wonder Twin powers activate? That was beyond lame. If I’d had Justice League in 1978 my brain would have probably exploded.

It’s just the evolution of WoW. We remember its past fondly. But comparing vanilla WoW to Wrath of the Lich King is almost exactly like comparing the Superfriends to Justice League.

The night that the bluffwatchers brought Zane Cinderhoof’s corpse back to Thunder Bluff was the second worst night in Elsinne Starsong’s relatively short lifetime.

Zane Cinderhoof was a young tauren carpenter who was responsible for much of the upkeep on Thunder Bluff’s Elder Rise. While Elsinne rested in Elder Rise some months back, recovering from injury, she befriended Zane, who was often nearby making repairs on various tauren structures. The tauren had a strong oral tradition, and Elsinne would be amazed at how much knowledge the young Zane retained.

Zane and his younger brother Iram had recently taken the perilous journey from Mulgore to Desolace to buy a couple of tamed kodo beasts from the goblins. They had taken a couple of bluffwatchers with them for safety, but only at their mother’s insistence. A few hours before reaching their destination, the group was ambushed by a group of centaur.

For her brief seventy-two years of life, centaur were little more than mythical creatures to Elsinne. This was so until she landed on Kalimdor and saw them for the first time. She was horrified by their hateful spite and capacity for brutality as she watched them from safety during her wanderings through the Barrens and Thousand Needles.

These centaur had been exceptionally savage. Attacking the tauren group from behind, they made easy work of the younger Iram Cinderhoof. Barely an adolescent, he was unable to put up much of a fight. The centaur had taken hold of Zane before the bluffwatchers had time to react. There had been six centaur, but they were not able to match the abilities of the two bluffwatchers that remained. Two centaur were killed before the others fled. Iram was no longer recognizable; the inflamed stomping of the centaur had mangled him. Zane had been run through several times with incompetently fashioned spears. Out of dignity, they buried Iram where he was slain.

Elves were often very prejudiced towards others and, after leaving Silvermoon, Elsinne fought very hard to remain free of that elf inclination. She watched the bluffwatchers through tears as they carried Zane’s body to his mother’s door. She listened in anguish as the mother’s cries pierced the night air. Perhaps all of Mulgore heard her.

Elsinne was there when Arthas marched on Quel’Thalas. But she knew that the Lich King’s minions were nothing more than mindless puppets. Elsinne was no fan of the Scourge, but she had no deep seated hatred for them. They were weak, poor souls under the control of an insane human. She could destroy Scourge on sight, but there would be no emotion behind it, just necessity. But these horrible centaur, they did this of their own free will. The rumors of their boundless ferocity were true.

The tears gradually stopped flowing, and suddenly Elsinne felt heavy with heat within her breast. This was the fever of hatred, unadulterated abhorrence that Elsinne had never felt before.

My entry into the online role-playing world started in 1997 with a MUD(multi user dungeon) called Jedimud. It’s very loosely Star Wars themed and I had a fun time playing it for the two years I was involved with it. I had one real-life friend that played and I made two or three in-game friends that later became real-life friends – we lived in the same city. Like modern MMOs, the game had the potential of being a huge time sink. The in-game goals were primarily leveling and, once capped, getting gear. This meant running bosses over and over and over with your guild mates until you got the pieces you needed to move on to the next level (which, like WoW, could take weeks). The game is still up and running, and I do log in every once in a while with my character. Surprisingly, there are still people who play that I remember from twelve years ago.

Not too long after I quit Jedimud, I discovered Everquest. It seemed overwhelming to me at first. Even from the beginning, the game required enormous amounts of time from me and I wasn’t prepared to sit through that while not having any friends to socialize with. Somewhat frustrated, I stopped the online gaming altogether at that point.

Fast forward to late 2003. I don’t know why I did it; it was mostly on a whim. I bought Final Fantasy XI for my PS2. It was immediately enjoyable. I was able to convince a real-life friend that it was an interesting game and she signed up as well. We played the game for a while. I spent an insane amount of time crafting. I spent almost even more time killing things. At least until it became unbearable.

The straw that broke the camels back? Waiting around for five hours trying to get a party together for no reason other than to grind experience. Not to fight a boss battle or for some epic quest. Just level grinding. It was a nightmare. And on those days where you found a good party, you felt obliged to grind with them for hours because who knew when you would ever find a decent group again. And don’t even get me started on leveling down. The person who came up with that idea should have been fed his own eyes. I would quit FFXI early in 2005.

Earlier in 2004, I had tried the World of Warcraft beta, but I hated it. I don’t even remember why, really. I made a human rogue, started questing in Northshire Abbey, and lost interest after about an hour. I went back to FFXI.

Now I was gameless. I had heard of EVE Online so I signed up. I really enjoyed EVE Online for a while but mining for ore became stale after a while and I decided to move on. To this day, however, I will still say that EVE Online has the best MMO community I have ever gamed with.

By this time it was the fall of 2005, World of Warcraft had grown in its popularity. I decided I would try it again. I made a warrior. I hated him. I stopped playing WoW again by the end of September.

But there was something about World of Warcraft that kept calling me. I am not sure what it was (hopefully it was not Kil’jaeden). November rolled around and the voices that had been calling me urged me to try WoW just one more time. Fine.

I rolled a warlock this time and things would never be the same. The powerful claws of WoW pulled me in where I would never escape again. I loved my warlock. I would not play another character for fifteen months. The Burning Crusade came out and, after my warlock hit 70, I decided I’d try another character. Enter the druid – the new love of my life. I liked it even more than my warlock. After level capping the druid, I would play many, many, different characters on many different realms (I still hate warrior). but I never gave the Horde side a chance.

I sit here now, playing with my blood elf Elsinne and loving the game, even as a lowly level 37 rogue. But I wonder now, after four years, how much life World of Warcraft has left. Or how much life do I have left in World of Warcraft? When they raise the level cap to 90 (you know they will do it), will I love those ten levels as much as I did the last? Will it start to wear on me? You know what they say about all good things.

And whether it’s me who leaves WoW in the end or WoW that leaves me, what then? It’s been pretty much my only hobby since 2005. Honestly, when it ends, I don’t think I want to tackle another MMO. I think I might be done with the whole MMO scene after this. It’s not because I think WoW is the pinnacle of perfection, but because I think I’ve honestly had as much fun as one can have in an online video game and I probably need to try some other things in the real world before I die.

Fear me.

Fear me.

Elsinne is level 25 now and getting closer and closer to her first Horde ground mount. I would say that I’m excited, but I’m not.

Way back in vanilla WoW, I remember taking my first level 40 all the way out to Ratchet to get her spectacular felsteed. The fire pony was beyond awesome. Later, one of my night elves would get a kitty. It was beautiful. My paladin’s shiny mount reflected the sun into people’s eyes as they looked upon it in awe, possibly envy. Eventually, I would create a death knight and feel much love for the deathcharger, especially the ghoulish scream it would make when it was summoned. There would be many more mounts to follow as I would accumulate more PvP and reputation mounts. Some were more impressive than others.

Then I go to the Horde side. My first ground mount will be … a chicken. I should be thankful, I know. Running around the Barrens or Ashenvale on foot can be a bit tiresome. But … a chicken? Not one of the lions that are all over Eversong Woods and Ghostlands? Not even a turtle? A chicken? I never thought I would hear myself say that I would rather have a mechanostrider but … I’d rather have a mechanostrider. Sure hawkstrider sounds cool, but just look at it!

The recent departure of Big Red Kitty caused me to do some serious reflection about World of Warcraft. I had not yet reached the point that I was ignoring or neglecting family members while making podcasts and videos or raiding (Raiding? What’s that?). But I had reached the point where I would be flying around Storm Peaks on my green proto drake (Thanks, Oracles!) hunting for the time-lost proto drake.

Why?

Wasn’t the time-lost proto drake exactly the same as the green proto drake except that it wasn’t green but more time-lost colored? Was it really necessary that I run through the Scholomance quest chain in order to get the skeleton key so that I could read that one last book and get the Well Read achievement? Why did I go all the way back out to Netherstorm to buy pets for some goofy pet collecting achievement? Lord have mercy, Jesus, how many days in a row did I brave shark infested waters to feed fish to the lazy and horribly ugly sea lion so that it could find it’s equally hideous mate? I don’t even want to talk about how long I sat there trying to fish up Old Ironjaw (I finally did!). I took the death knight out to Westfall to hunt down Edwin Van Cleef. For ten lousy achievement points.

My reflection brought me to this conclusion: None of these things were at all fun for me. None of these things changed the game one bit. I enjoy [most of] World of Warcraft, but it was high time I cut out things that were largely unnecessary and unenjoyable wastes of time.

It was then that I decided to start over. From scratch.

I created a brand new blood elf rogue on Earthen Ring. I’ve never seriously tried horde before. I played an orc hunter once to about level 24 or so on another server, but most of that time was spent in the barren wasteland known as, well, the Barrens, and I don’t think even that was enough experience to let me know what playing on the horde side is really like. I have no horde characters on this server and no way to be a sugar daddy to myself. I’m going to have to earn everything.

And I am earning it without the use of professions. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, my rogue is only going to be able to do first aid. No skinning, no mining, no herbalism. No dressmaking, no meth labs, no way to make bendy straws. My rogue is going to exist entirely off of what she finds lying around and nifty quest rewards. I am going even further out on a limb by not leveling in a combat spec. I once got a gnome rogue to level 30 with a combat spec in what would be the most boring 30 levels of my WoW career. Nope, this time I am going assassination. I know, I know. It doesn’t have the sustained DPS that’s recommended for leveling. But playing a combat rogue to me just doesn’t seem very … rogueish. It’s more pirate-ish. And I don’t want to be a pirate (though they do get cool hats).

I’m not doing anything in this game that I don’t want to anymore. I don’t need to grind rep for vanity pets. I don’t need the extra special shoulders from the So-and-so faction, especially since all my characters end up in PvP anyway.

So if you’re on Earthen Ring and you see a lonely blood elf rogue slithering around happily hunting for quest targets, that’s me.

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