Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The lagoon is lonely now

Do you remember Riplash Strand in Borean Tundra? Not? It was the place where you camped the mist wrapped beach in company with 200 other players, waiting for a certain naga to spawn so that you could kill him, thus helping a Captured Tuskarr Prisoner, who then would give you a quest.

The competition on this spot was insane. (And this is on a PvE server I can imagine how it must have been like at the PvP servers. It’s a wonder anyone managed to level at all). While waiting for the poor naga to make another futile try to survive more than a second, we all looked desperately for a mob to kill to keep our XP/hour rate. Time was precious and we all were eager to level up quickly. Idly standing waiting on the spot felt like a waste of time. But even though there normally are loads of Vikings running around in the area, there weren’t enough to keep us going. There was a quest where you had to kill a certain guy in a cave, and even though we partied to make it go a bit quicker, the chances were still pretty slim that someone in your party would be the first one to tag him.

A godforsaken place
Three months has passed and the other day I revisited the Riplash Strand for the first time since the release. I couldn’t believe my eyes. What used to be a crowded party room was now a godforsaken place with nothing but npc:s around. I could as well have been in Desolace or Azshara. This place had turned into one of those ghostlike places where the general chat is silent and no action whatsoever is going on, except for the one you cause yourself by attacking the mobs. My rogue alt killed the annoying naga spawn not only once, but maybe three or four times, since he came around and ganked me while I was killing other mobs. It felt strange and spooky, and to be honest I didn’t like it much.

It’s one thing to go fishing in a far-away area. It’s somewhat expected that you’ll be pretty lonely by the river and you can even enjoy the calmness, as I wrote about the other day. But to go questing is another matter. I don’t like to be completely alone where I quest. I don’t say that I like standing in the crowd at the release, but I certainly don’t like the opposite better.

A few people around will make the whole gaming experience so much more interesting. You can adore their pets, inspect their gear and talent builds and get ideas from it. You can party for group quests and you can grumble a bit when they’re a little bit quicker snatching the mobs that you both want. You can throw away a buff to them, just because you feel nice, and sometimes you may even chat a little bit.

The presence of other people adds clearly adds another dimension. They may be nice and friendly or annoying idiots, but at least they’re all for real – not programmed scripts, and therefore they’re always somewhat unpredictable. You never know what will happen next.

The wave is moving on
The lagoon is lonely now. I hadn’t thought it would go so quickly. It was somewhat expected that Outlands would become deserted (with the exception of the DK militia). But Northrend? Now? I guess it makes sense though – the first wave of levelling is over and perhaps people are still gearing up their mains and haven’t come around to start levelling their alts.

It’s the way this game works. There’s a lot of space for everyone, but we’re hardly spread out over the world. Most of us are members of a crowd, moving through the content like a wave. Still I can’t help feeling a little sad thinking about all the lonely spots in the game. There was a time when the yard outside of Karazhan was the meeting point for everyone. You ran into people you had once pugged with or ex-guildes, you hugged and waved happily and exchanged a few words before going in to see this week’s version of the Fall of the Maiden. Now she’s as deserted as Hogger, if not worse.

Time passes. Enjoy the party in Naxxramas while we have it. There will be a time when it will be deserted, when we’ve once again moved on to new and greener pastures.

PS. The title of this post isn’t my own. It’s shamelessly stolen from a book I stumbled upon 20 years ago, about the vanishing traditional lifestyle of the inhabitants of the Cook Islands, which are spread over a large area of the Pacific Ocean. The author Ronald Symes made a point about how the influence of the modern western way of life, brought there by tourism, not necessarily has improved the life quality of the islanders. It’s a beautiful book, although a little bit sad, bringing a farewell to something that is inevitably gone. The issue is double sided and there are no easy solutions to the dilemma of the effects of the colonization. But I won’t write anything more about it since it’s not WoW related. I just wanted to credit the author.


Faulsey said...

My very first experience with WoW was the trial - where I was assigned a Realm that was two days old. There were loads of other people in the starting zones. Thus, to me, the newbie zones are always places I envision should be heaving with crowds of players.

Now, whenever I roll a new character, the starting zones are almost empty - it's sort of sad actually, even though there's no real need to team up before level 10, it is something fun to do whilst learning your new class.

Devv said...

Great post, Larisa. You've managed to make me sentimental about a questing area that I didn't like to begin with. Very nice. =)

Anonymous said...

Now you see, as a late entrant to WoLK, I have the opposite impression.

I, of course, experienced the same desolate misty environment that your rogue did.

It was an abandoned place... I thought the atmosphere perfect. I dare say you have much more experience with snow/ice swept misty areas... doesn't "smell" of isolation, rather than overcrowding?

I am glad it wasn't spoilt by the hordes invading Northrend.

Klepsacovic said...

My experience does not seem to match yours, nor does my reaction or perception.

I have several alts in the 70 range and they've run into plenty of people. Certainly it's not like when I was leveling my paladin right after WotLK and everything was terribly crowded. Now I think there is a perfect feel: not empty, but a few people. For my paladin I enjoyed getting past the starting zone and seeing people only occasionally. They reminded me that this is a multi-player world, but they were infrequent enough to indicate that is it a large world and difficult to crowd.

On the other hand I love that Dalaran is packed. Shattrath felt weird with people all spread out except clusters near inns and BGs. Orgrimmar and Ironforge also feel good since people tend to congregate near the entrance, bank, and AH, all of which are very close to each other, causing people to naturally congregate and create a busy feel without truly being packed. Those two cities make me optimistic because they are really just the same they were three years ago, and that means that the wave doesn't have to always pass by.

Gevlon said...

I love the empty lands.

Back than when the first wave leveled, I ran away from all crawded areas. Went to the back of Borrean (close to Solozar), and in the moment I hit 71 ran to Dragonblight. At 73 ran to Grizzly. Just away from the others. I leveled pretty fast due to the lack of competition.

Flawlless of Spirande Stormakt, Kul Tiras said...

Ha.. I Thought you had stopped posting or Quit WoW or something.. but it turned out it was just your normal RSS-feed that was broken :)

I'm using the feedburner one now, so all's good :)

I've finally made a mage, lvl 7 now.

Be Happy.

Esdras said...

Its a bit funny being in empty lands.

I am leveling my death knight mining and skinning and then in wetlands mining i done a /who and kept checking and for just over 20 mins i was the only one there ona Friday night.

Carra said...

It does have one benefit: faster levelling.

Although I didn't have much troubles at launch (I started 3 days after launch and as a DK). DK starting area was a bit crowded but didn't really slow me down a lot. And by levelling to 61 in the plaguelands, I skipped the outland rush. In fact, I played in a deserted zone (plaguelands) just to level faster.

Seeing the zones deserted is a bit sad though. You see as many lvl 80s in the old world as you see people who still level a character.

Anonymous said...

Having just finished my second Northrend level grind, I have to agree that the difference is startling. Mobs that I had to queue for hours to get a chance at, nodes that I would have waded hip deep through Hordies to even ping for my Gatherer mod and quest items that should have been labelled 'legendary' for how difficult they were to get are now all easily acessable.

It's nice, it's relaxing and it allowed me to savour a bit more of the quest and world content than I did the first time around when I was ruthlessly battling my server for very limited quest resources.

Darraxus said...

This never really affected me as I took the less traveled road and started in Howling Fjorde. It didnt have all the problems of everyone starting in Borean.

Dw-redux said...

I have become hardned and cold now it seems. Whenever i come to a quest hub and its empty i /cheer.
I think it was bacause i levelled my death knight right at the launch of Wrath.
You have no idea of how many 2i R iz plate doin pewpew" kiddies who rolled DK's. Not to mention those (im guessing) of the youngest demographic in this game, who had to wait for christmas to get their expansion, and had nothing to do but fly around in outland and harras us non-flying dk's.
I even had a guy come to the spot where i was waiting for a mob spawn. refuse to party up for the kill only to tag the mob and do a /lol at me.
After this i stopped feeling good about having other people level up near me. -even guildies.

Larísa said...

@Faulsey: Yeah, I guess most new rollers roll a DK this days... I imagine EP is pretty crowded. I haven't yet started a DK so I'll wait and see.

@Devv: thanks!

@Gnomeaggedon: yeah, I don't want it to be crowded. But a little company doesn't hurt. Yesterday I got that for a while. I soloed a 2-man-q (yay!!! Rogue rocks!) and just as I finished a paladin came by. I offered to help her when the named mob had respawned and then we did another group q together and chatted a bit. (It turned out she was familiar with my guild). We ended up on each others friends list. It's those meetings that I miss when the area is too empty.

@Klepsacovic: Oh I wish I hadn't all those lag problems. If so I'm convinced I'd just love Dalaran. As it is now I sort of shiver every time I'm forced to go there.

@Gevlon: You ARE a lonely wolf aren't you?

@Flawlless: I'm alive and as hooked at WoW as ever! I hope everything's fine back at KT. Don't hesitate to come by and say hi! (you don't have to roll a lvl 1 this days, you have the DK option!)

@Esdras: I've never done that - checked how many people are in my zone at the moment. Should do that at some point. Maybe I was less lonely than I thought.

@Carra: probably yes, but I'm not entirely sure that it always goes quicker. Some group quests are soloable but there surely are times when you wish there were people around.

@Oriniwen: yeah, it definitly is relaxing if you're in the right mood.

@Darraxus: I did both the areas, following Jame's guides. But yeah BT was probably a bit special.

@Dw-Redux: oh you really sound a bit bitter. You must have had some very bad experiences. But seriously an MMO without other players around isn't really an MMO?

Dw-redux said...

I get all my MMO socializing done in raids, guild-chat and dungeon crawls. When im questing i like my mobs untagged.
So i guess its a matter of when you want people around you. Do you want them around when they are just an annoince or when you -together- can build something up and reach those higher goals through team-play.
I don't need my mmo to be filled to the brim with people *all* the time :)

Captain The First said...

I spend an hour in trade chat and have heard enough inane chatter to carry me through 10 completely empty zones.

I rather like my socializing events being a 'choice' than having to put up with some schmuck who thinks it's amusing to sit on my bobber while I fish in azshara :P

Maybe someday you too will enjoy the good graces of becoming completely jaded hehe