Residual self-image

An old WoW partner of mine was thinking about getting back into the game, and soon we were talking about playing together again. We both had level 49 Night Elves on Dark Iron which we naturally figured we’d take out of retirement. This 49 is the most advanced character I have. My main had recently been a level 25 Blood Elf on Sargeras. (I couldn’t transfer the 49 over since he’s Alliance, and my Sargeras crew was Horde.)

Now, my life has been crazy for the past several weeks, with lots of travel, an unexpected move out-of-state, and my computer out of commission for a week to boot. With free time being scarce, and my ambitions about actually experincing the endgame one of these days, I was really looking forward to the 24-level boost.

So last week, we brought out the old guns — our 49’s. I logged in and materialized in Ironforge, which I hadn’t seen in years. Spent a while re-speccing our talent trees and re-organizing our action bars, since we hadn’t logged in since the talent wipe. Then it was a quick griffin ride to Burning Steppes, and there we were, ready to go.

We picked a quest and started marching across the map, dodging elementals and worgs on our way. And after about a minute, something strange happened.

“I’m bored,” I said to my friend. “This feels lame, and I don’t understand why.”
“Yeah, this doesn’t feel exciting,” she agreed, also puzzled.
“Let’s roll some new characters. I feel like I walked into the middle of a movie.”

And so we did. We now have a couple of level 16 Draenei, and by the time we’d turned in our first newbie quest I knew it had been the right decision. Everything felt fun, fresh, and exciting. Some of this is perhaps because of the fresh content — the Draenei homelands are beautiful. And some of it is because I like the process of achievement more than the result. I don’t enjoy powerleveling. I guess it’s the Explorer in me.

But in retrospect, I think the biggest disconnect was an identity discontinuity. I identify with my avatars a lot — I think all MMO players do, to some extent. There is an eight-month period of my life from 2005-2006 that is deeply and heavily imprinted on Peppermill, my 49. And stepping back into his shoes just didn’t feel right. Firing up the character was a little nostalgic, like driving by a house you grew up in as a child. But starting to play the character felt a little like I was living in the past. It put me in a different headspace, and it didn’t fit. 2005 James is not 2007 James.

As I write this, it brings to mind some points that Brandon Reinheart made about the Death Knight. (I’d link to the post, but his archive seems to be unavailable.) If Death Knights (or heroic classes in general) are more powerful than other classes, then you reach a point where you need to create a new character (a Death Knight) in order to advance. While this is fun to do sometimes, I don’t think it’s a good thing to steer people away from their main. They can build a strong sense of identity and emotional attachment without which the game is less fun.

13 thoughts on “Residual self-image”

  1. Returning to WOW has always been Plan B if LotRO or whatever other MMO doesn’t pan out. It would be weird to play my 67 hunter or my 49 priest again. I hadn’t thought of that before.

  2. In my City of Heroes supergroup, we seem to be almost entirely disconnected from our specific characters. What you play today is what you feel like playing today; if you have no strong preference, you take whatever role is needed after everyone else picks. We all have a stable of level-capped characters, so many characters see use in a week.

  3. It could be that you just don’t like WoW anymore. It’s not like the base gameplay has changed since release and you’ve already hit 49, meaning you’ve experienced probably over 100 hours of almost exactly the same button interactions (charge, rend, etc. repeat). Personally, I burned out on “traditional” style MMOs, it’s just too much work and not enough differentiation in the gameplay. I’d rather throw EVE on or play TF2 to get more instant gratification and less “input 60 days of your life in order to hit max level”. Then again, I could just be getting old and pessimistic about all these new fangled MMOs :p

  4. Seems like going back to WoW is becoming a trend. This one almost got me to reactivate my account after reading the first paragraph. I went, “hey why is everyone going back there.. I must be missing something!”. Good thing I read through your post – it reminded me that I HAVE tried going back on my level 60 and you’re right, it wasn’t fun and I have no intention of starting over for the nth time. But good luck to you and your friend. :)

  5. I somewhat agree that returning to a previously leveled toon isn’t as enjoyable. However, I also think it depends on the game. I somewhat recently tried exactly what you have. I went to my 43 Warlock and had no idea how to play him, and when I figured it out again, I didn’t even want to.

    When I recently returned to DAoC however, it was not the same. DAoC is thriving more than any other time in recent memory. I really recommend giving it a shot on the classic servers with a trial account.

  6. Not to worry about the heroic classes, they aren’t intended to be more powerful than the others. What makes them ‘Heroic’ is that they will start at higher level — I believe the current plan is for Death Knights to begin at level 55 — as well as the fact that you have to unlock them via quest(s) (which while originally planned for a level 80, they later decided to lower that; I don’t think it’s been nailed down yet, could be 55-60, might be up to 70).

  7. Heroic classes are not going to go over as well as I think blizzard believes. Only the truly hardcore will be willing to put their main on the back burner in exchange for a shiney new class. Sounds like some of the details have changed on them already (lower lvl quest than 80 to unlock) which may help. I just think when blizzard first talked about the idea of heroic classes (before the WotLK announcement) too many people had heroic classes in their minds as a upgrade to their mains and not as a separate character. For the very reasons you listed here there is no way I’m giving up on my main.

  8. @Zubon: I’ve probably only logged 10-20 hours of CoH play, but I have the sense I was more detached to my characters there than I usually was in games. Any ideas why this is? The world seems like it has less depth and variety, and I wonder if this has something to do with it.

    @Bonedead: Yeah, I was also turned off by the idea of relearning how to play my 49 hunter. But then what class is my new guy… a hunter. :-) It will, of course, be a gentle learning curve figuring out how to play him again, though.

  9. A lot of the satisfaction from rolling new characters doesn’t come from the fact they different from your main, it’s the fact that you get so may rewards for being low level, and then they move the carrot further and further until you’re pushing 8+ hours at level 50 to get the same reward less than an hour used to get you at level 5.

    This plan wouldn’t work unless you gradually moved the carrot away. Imagine a level 5 character needing 8 hours to complete level 5 and each quest took an hour each :p

  10. I just recently returned to wow for the maybe.. 5th time? And so far, it’s been the most fun I’ve had with the game since I started on release date.

    I’m not sure what it was that made this time different, maybe the fact that 70 casual players have goals to achieve now (though I had to GET TO 70 first), or maybe it’s just that I finally took enough time off to remember why I liked it in the 1st place.

    Either way, it’s all relative. What is fun for one person, is not for another. I don’t know how long this 2nd honeymoon will last, but for now I’m just enjoying it.

  11. I’m a high Explorer and I think a lot of it is the zones themselves. The low level zones, whether by design or nostalgia, draw me in far, far more. After the first time through, right around the mid-30s the world starts to feel dull and empty.

    I took my main to 70, loved it all, and am quite attached to her. I’ve abandoned three other chars at least temporarily around 40 and played over 20 different chars from 1-20. I still enjoy those early parts of the world the most. For whatever reason they feel to me like places where people live and stories happen.

  12. I reactivate WoW every once in awhile, just for a month. Most times I gain a level or so, but spend more time just reacquainting myself with Azeroth than questing and levelling .. I start to, and then it’s just not as fun as I remember.

    I do appreciate that my characters are always there waiting for me when I feel like a change of pace for a couple weeks from whatever I’ve been playing the most of lately.

Comments are closed.