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WoW has spoiled me

Say what you want about the certain pitfalls of WoW; I for one will be right there with you, because we all know that it’s not the perfect game. Perfect of course being a relative term, so really it can never ever be perfect for everyone. But that aside, there are a lot of things WoW has done right. Some are more obvious and have been covered in plenty of detail on other blogs, things such as polish, end game, quests, graphics, etc. However, there are three aspects about WoW that I have yet to see successfully copied in any other MMO, and surprisingly these are generally the biggest reasons I don’t leave the game. Friendships aside of course.

1. Race Variety

The first time I was exposed to WoW was when my brother was showing me a male tauren he was playing on a trial account. I gave him a funny look and asked incredulously “Are you playing a minotaur?”

Now, of course, it is no secret that taurens have grown on me and have in fact become my very favorite race. And as I’m on Horde so often, the stranger of the other races have grown on me as well. I’ve come to love the courage and honor of the muscle-bound orcs, the bright colours and quirks of the wiry trolls, and the sheer force of will and cold execution of the decayed Forsaken. Goblins are still a little too new for me to have grown fond of them, with the exception of a guild member who can do an absolutely hilarious male goblin voice. And blood elves…well, let’s just say that being on a RP server, I’ve seen way too many of them.

I really have nothing against the Alliance beyond some friendly jabs, but I do find when I play them, it feels rather…bland. Before the addition of worgen and draenei, the Alliance was largely composed of what I would consider standard fantasy races. And I will say that in the past, I would have been more than happy to be able to play some sort of elf. But now that I’ve had a taste of something new and exotic, I’m finding it difficult to go back to the old standard.

For example, like many bloggers, I’ve taken the Rift MMO for a test drive. While there were many things that I found exciting and interesting, the lack of diversity in the races always bothered me. The Guardians have the standard humans, elves, and dwarves, which honestly I expected anyways. But even the “different” Defiant have…well, another type of humans, another type of elves, and some sort of human-elemental hybrid. Are these really all the choices I get? Why is it, that in so many fantasy games, it’s next to impossible to roll something that doesn’t look like a modified human?

It’s games like these that make me wistful for my tauren hunter, my troll shaman, or my orc warrior. Variety is the spice of life, isn’t it?

2. The Ability to Customize and Streamline

You can ask Kazi for confirmation about this: if I can’t change something to be the way that I like it, it bugs me. And if I can change it, oh I definitely will do it. I haven’t looked at the default UI in months and I’ve spent hours upon hours examining new addons and tweaking them to be/do exactly what I want them to.

And I still have tweaking to do

And macros, I love my macros. As someone who spends all day sitting at a computer and typing for work, I want to not spend my time spamming the same buttons over and over again in my free time. I have macros on all my characters and they are used liberally. As someone who has never been good at “combos” (I’ve always had to look down at my keys or buttons), I am at least good at pressing certain buttons a lot. Any game with macros immensely improves my output.

In the majority of MMOs I’ve tried, the UI is essentially unmovable and uncustomizable, the ability to create macros is nowhere to be found, and good luck finding “legal” addons/mods. I did notice that Rift improved slightly on this by allowing you to unlock and move around each piece of the UI. However, last I heard, you can only have one ability per macro. What’s really the point of having macros then?

3. Music and sounds

In all likeliness, I can’t see this being a game breaker if the above two requirements are met. It does however affect my game play more than most truly realize.

Frankly, I don’t know how so many people play WoW with their music off. Sure, I have it turned down low enough that I can hear my guildmates chatting over Mumble, but I never have it off. I’m neither a musician nor a musical connoisseur, but I still love music. Listening to a particular piece of music can change my entire mood. If I want to get pumped and excited, I listen to some upbeat rock. If I want to calm myself, some smoothing Celtic or classical pieces do the trick. Any good song will have my soul singing.

My MP3 player is loaded up with every WoW soundtrack and I enjoy listening to just about every single track. My very favorite is Nightsong, a song that begins with some calm soothing melodies, and then the rumbling drums kick in and I can just feel the heroes riding forth to honorable battle. That piece is featured in some areas of Mount Hyjal.

A close second is Totems of the Grizzlemaw, featuring a very soulful fiddle piece. There were times when I would fly out to Grizzly Hills, crank up the volume, and just let the music take me away.

Then of course we have the background music of some pivotal events, such as Arthas, My Son (played in the Lich King death cinematic) and the ever popular Lament of the Highbourne. These aren’t even taking into account the multitude of background tracks that didn’t even make it onto the official soundtrack CDs, such as the tauren tavern music.

Music gives so much to a game, just like it does in movies. Watch any movie that has no background music and you will notice the difference. It can build up suspense and a feeling of dread, fill you with honor and purpose, or soothe your weary bones after a long day of fighting. I have the firm belief that without music, WoW is only half the game it’s meant to be.

That’s not to say that other games don’t have their beautiful music. I can still remember playing Ocarina of Time and never ever getting tired of hearing Epona’s song play. But WoW, in my opinion, has some of the most amazing soundtracks I have ever heard in a game. I don’t believe I would be so enthralled by the game without it.

Is there anyone else who’s drawn to some of the less prominent features of WoW? If so, what are they and how do they affect you?