January 04, 2007

Another year come and gone

They go by so quickly these days. A sure sign that I am growing ever older.

This coming year is not yet clear, but there are a couple of things that seem to be changing. I have recently started playing the World of Warcraft trading card game. Much to my own surprise, I am finding it more enjoyable than Magic: the Gathering. Since the card game includes a bonus program that rewards ingame items in some circumstances, I broke down and bought a copy of the World of Warcraft Online client. My free month is about half over now, but the thing that scares me the most is not the possibility that Blizzard will be unable to honor my credit card. No, the thing that scares me is that they will.

I fought to avoid WoW for two full years. The sticking points, childish graphics and the worst customer support in the industry, still do not please me. Nonetheless, I cannot deny that the game is suprisingly high in entertainment value. I have experimented with half a dozen characters now and to my own surprise, this is the first RPG I have ever played where playing an ordinary fighter is both engaging and interactive! I have never enjoyed playing warriors or paladins because they were so limited in their versatility. The WoW warrior class, I am finding, can evolve into either an extraordinary damage dealer or a paladin-class tank. Both roles, or even something in between, are possible.

I tried a Druid, and found it extremely limited in the first ten ranks. I still have the character, so perhaps once I gain an animal form things will become more interesting, but at the moment, playing a warrior is much more entertaining. I tried a mage, and found that the mage-class in WoW is the weakest I have ever experimented with in my life. In every other game I have played, mages had various spells or skills to help them avoid direct combat. The WoW mage cannot fire off a spell, run a few steps, then turn and fire again. Mostly because getting turned around is such a complicated effort! I almost feel like I need a steering wheel just to reverse my character's POV! And recently I started a warlock, just for the heck of it, you know? I mean, I had tried everything else (except the paladin), so I might as well.

Oh, my. The warlock I made is only level 8, but already the character is more entertaining than a shaman, almost as sturdy as my warrior, and more engaging than my Druid. As I get into higher levels the warlock might turn out to be my favorite character. Only time will tell.

A few years back Wizards announced they were creating an online version of Magic. I hoped for a MMORPG style game, but instead, they recreated the card game, including the necessity of buying Magic cards at retail prices just in order to play. I cannot afford two card games, especially when one of them is not even real! Still, I tried, but their online store simply will not accept my credit card. As a result, I cannot buy cards, which means I cannot play.

And now WoW, which began as a MMORPG, offers a card game with the occaisional ingame bonus buried in amongst their booster packs.

Can anyone explain to me why a third-rate game maker like Blizzard was able to get it right the first time around while the top-notch gamemakers NC Soft and Wizards of the Coast have spent the past three years doing everything wrong?

This year has just begun, and sadly, there are already strong indications that I will forced to switch my loyalties from the companies I love to one I regard as a third-rate wannabe. I dunno. Maybe it is just that Blizzard was smart enough to learn from the other two's mistakes.