Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pros and Cons of Soloing In WoW

And now for the final installment in my year-end survey of my solo MMORPG's, this time taking on WoW. As with Monday's rundown of LOTRO and yesterday's summary of EQ2, this entry will cover three things I like, one thing that detracts from the experience, and a bottom line.

Three Things that WoW Does Best

Group Accessibility

It may seem strange for a solo player rundown to discuss group content so prominently, but the fact is that WoW's accessible group game is a huge asset to the time-crunched player who might want to fit in a dungeon on occasion. Between dungeons that are no longer tuned for a single digit percentage of the population and the game's new highly touted random cross-server group-finder, it has never been easier to sneak in a dungeon run.

Content Variety

WoW's massive revenue has brought massive production values, and Blizzard has put those numbers to good use. Between two factions and neutral content, you can probably get three separate characters to the level cap without repeating quests, excepting perhaps a dead zone around the late 40's and early 50's that's probably going to be fixed in the expansion.

Meanwhile, while all three games offer the standard kill and loot quests, Blizzard's more recent content includes some more impressive technology that provides a welcome change of pace. Players can drive vehicles and ride dragons into battle. They can take part in military campaigns that unfold before them as they complete quests. And, perhaps most importantly, next year's expansion promises to bring all of these advances down to the game's oft-neglected early levels.

Throw in PVP (a neglected, endgame-only activity in LOTRO, and completely unavailable on most EQ2 servers) and the previously mentioned random dungeons and players can always find a change of pace in WoW if they're getting tired of doing the same types of quests over and over again.

Convenience

Would you like your cosmetic pets, your mounts, and your currencies to be filed away in special tabs where they won't take up space? How about one-click dual specs anywhere in the world, accompanied by an outfit manager that comes with the default UI? How about an instant teleport to that dungeon if/when the group finally assembles, so you can actually do something with your time while awaiting a healer? How about player-controlled flying mounts so you can skip over any or all terrain and enemies you don't feel like dealing with?

Speaking of travel, the Argent Tournament rewards allow players to teleport to the grounds and summon remote bank access anywhere in the world. Even your alts can live their lives in luxury with scaling account-bound heirlooms and earlier access to flight.

For better or worse - personally, I don't think that all of the above are necessarily for the best, and some would vote down all of them - Blizzard has been doing as much as they can to make your stay in the World (of Warcraft) more convenient.

One Thing That Detracts From the WoW Solo Experience: Trivialization of the Non-Raid Endgame

When Wrath launched, there was a legitimate space for solo daily quests in the endgame progression. They may not have been supremely challenging, but they offered good rewards; the player who did dailies would advance faster than the player who only played when they had a dungeon group. Today you can buy the minimal blue gear needed to join the random dungeon zerg and skip over three tiers of itemization in a fraction of the time it takes to reach exalted with a single faction. Daily quests are only worth the time if you want to fly around Northrend while waiting for your random dungeon group to form.

Speaking of the random dungeon group, the bribe of daily frost emblems has been enough to draw massively overgeared raiders into 5-man content that's multiple tiers below their current accomplishments. Even on the day the patch arrived, my random dungeon group was overgeared and familiar with the strategies for all of the fights. You won't be waiting long to get a group, and you won't be waiting much longer to breeze through the content without much in the way of challenge.

The random dungeon finder is a great addition to the genre for players who want to complete group content while leveling, and for players who want to gear up for future raid content. Unlike Wrath's launch, however, the current tier raid content that actually requires the new gear is not tuned to be puggable - if I wanted to raid, my schedule and lack of experience would be much greater barriers than my current gear. With no challenge in running the content, no need to obtain the rewards, and the company of random strangers who probably won't say anything unless it's to complain about someone's gearscore, I just don't see the point in playing a level 80 character in WoW that you don't intend to raid with.

The Bottom Line

Perhaps it's no coincidence that the game which brought solo play to the genre has the greatest variety and diversity of solo experiences. Even where other games come close - I'd be torn over whether to recommend WoW or LOTRO to someone who wanted to play a single character solo from one to the cap - WoW delivers comparable quality AND significantly more quantity AND support for PVP and group content.

WoW may or may not be the best at any one thing, but it's above average in just about everything. That ability to appeal to multiple playstyles may be an under-rated part of the game's lasting appeal and popularity. With all of that money, Blizzard actually is able to make a little something for everyone.

1 comment:

Keith said...

"With no challenge in running the content, no need to obtain the rewards, and the company of random strangers who probably won't say anything unless it's to complain about someone's gearscore, I just don't see the point in playing a level 80 character in WoW that you don't intend to raid with."


Amen.

The other players is what kills Wow for me. If we are all ahead of the content then why does gear score matter for heroics or starting raids?

Also with everyone insta dungeon running, I found it harder to get PUG raids, and alot more people with token gear that did not represent their ability. (frost emblem gear with low dps).