I want to see the Cataclysm.
Yes, it’s WoW, not my favorite game, and I still detest the sub model… but I want to see what an old game world does to revitalize itself, especially since I called for a revitalization of the “old world” way back before it was announced. I want to see whether it works out or not, especially since CAT has the potential to splinter the playerbase in new and interesting ways. TBC and Wrath split people off into the expansions, but CAT is touching nearly everything, so I’m curious to see what it winds up doing.
Note that I’m not saying “I want to jump on the WoW bandwagon” so much as “I want to understand CAT’s ramifications and take a look around at the shiny new world”. Because, well… those guys really do make pretty worlds.
At any rate, I find myself approaching that exploration in a way eerily similar to the way I approached BattleTech ages ago. Y’see, back then, I read up on ‘Mech specs and all sorts of tech, then built myself the perfect ‘Mech that would allow me to tinker with as much of the game as possible. Yes, it was a Mad Cat. Imagine that. I also dabbled a bit with Lance design (five-unit battle squad) so I could play around with different combat roles and see what the different weight classes had to offer in a group setting. (Mad Cat, Firemoth, Vulture and Raven looking for Kodiak, PST…) It was my ideal BattleTech party, an A-Team of hardened mercenaries, geared to handle any mission. Of course, this was all on paper, since I didn’t have anyone to play with. I was just digging into the game mechanics and exploring possibilities in my mind. And, y’know… I liked it.
So now I find myself in a curious position of trying the same thing with WoW characters. I’m pontificating the best race/class matrix to see as much of the game as I can. I already have the Tauren Druid covered with Padgi (my only highish level character at 52), but who to pick for the Priest? Who should be the Shaman? Do I care about role-playing potential or my traditional counterculture trend of choosing the underrepresented combos? (Dwarven Rogue? Whee!) How many cool sounding unique names can I come up with? How can I see as many starting areas as possible, and tinker with as many class mechanics as possible in the one month I’ve allotted myself to play? (And yes, it would be awesome if I could run with a self-driven posse like I can in GW, just me and my Heroes, er, Alts, under script control, prowling the world with me, myself and I.) How can I distribute professions to make my little team as self-sufficient as possible? How will I ever survive without Heirloom gear? (Gasp!)
Of course it’s dorky to plan ahead that way, but when I’m not free to just go tinker in the game (thanks to the subscription model… *spit*), I tinker with possibilities beforehand so I can hit the ground running. I’m even considering that WoWPro leveling addon (tut, tut) to maximize my ability to go places, since darn near everything is level-gated to one degree or another. (Now, if I could have a flying mount at level 1, that would solve a LOT of problems.)
And then I stop and wonder… wait, whut? Why?
Why should I overplot my potential experience and potentially even follow a glowing yellow arrow once I actually am playing? I love to go off the rails, and I believe that offers the best game experience. Sure, I’m plotting all this to facilitate exploring, but it’s like a vacation that is planned to the minute. There’s no room for spontaneity, for discovery off the beaten track. I always hated those sort of vacations as a kid. If I wanted a schedule, I’d go back to school, thanks.
Answering myself, I came up with the following: “Self, you’re plotting and planning, exploring the potential because that’s all you can do at present. Your’e deriving fun from one of the only exploration avenues open to you without actually playing the game. You’re also trying to maximize the value you’ll get out of the limited time you know you’ll have.”
That Self, he’s a pretty hard-headed guy, but even he saw the wisdom in that supposition. He admitted to spending more time exploring the WoW wiki than actually playing the game over the last five years. He admitted to spending time trying to help BBB plan his latest Raid event and doing promo art for it, even though he’s not likely to actually be in-game for the thing (again, sub model *spit*… let me pony up $2 or something for the single day event and I’d do it, and maybe sneak in a bit of Gnome and Troll events). He admitted to spending more time than is probably warranted thinking about WoW’s game design and how to make it better.
And then he reminded me that: “If the flibberdygibbit thing didn’t have a blubberblinkin’ subscription, I’d already be playing and experimenting in-game, and this would all be academic.”
At that point, sensing something of a mildly hostile stalemate, my real life alt stepped in to remind us all that there are other games to play that don’t have subs (holding Wizard 101 up as a fine example, quietly shuffling that game’s alts to the side), and other things that really should be done before any sort of gaming in the first place. Everyone grumbled a bit, but ultimately agreed.
And so, my alt puzzle settled… for now… I’m painting illustrations for a children’s book my mother wrote. I’m as yet undecided whether it’s a good thing I’m using the computer to paint since it keeps the thing busy and therefore not-gaming, or whether it’s a bad thing to be using the computer since games are only an Alt-Tab away, and Recettear is on my thumb drive…