Anyone who knows anything about gaming knows that World of Warcraft is kind of a big deal in the MMO realm. Anyone who knows anything about World of Warcraft knows it’s most recent expansion, Warlords of Draenor, went live on November 13th, 2014. The launch met with a lot of criticism and issues (as most launches do) from numerous people, but I come today with a bit of a different experience. As a seasoned WoW veteran (I’ve been playing since vanilla), I had been through the four prior expansions. Let me tell you, if you could deal with The Burning Crusade expansion release, you could deal with anything. Many people groaned about everything that was wrong, but very few have talked about what was right with this release, and to be honest I personally had a very pleasant experience.
First of all, for all you non-beta players like me, nostalgia OVERLOAD! This piece has nothing to do with the actual release, but walking around Shadowmoon Valley and seeing the different characters from The Burning Crusade expansion really takes you back, and it feels great. I’m not going to lie, I became slightly giddy when a farmer told Akama they had no weapons to defend themselves, for Akama to essentially tell him, “Nonsense. Hand me those sickles.” The links between this expansion and The Burning Crusade are definitely a nod to the dedicated player base that have been around since that time frame, and I can say that I personally appreciate Blizzard doing that. Also, on a side note Grommash Hellscream looks like a total bad ass.
Now on to my impression.
My impression of the launch was positive. You may be saying or thinking, “What? You’re crazy?” No, in fact I’m not, and here’s why. First of all, I expected a few things, and avoided certain situations. Many people took off work or cut class, found baby sitters, told their significant others, “I love you and I’ll never forget you, but I’m about to go wreck some Iron Horde ass for about 96 hours straight.” I didn’t do that. I knew that earlier in the release there would be more issues, so I held off until after work to get started when many problems would already have cleared up. Second, before I even logged in I expected the dreaded queue. After each expansion, the server is always full and there is always a line to get into the game. Why is that? Of course there is a much higher volume of traffic with more players online concurrently, and more people trying to log in. It’s just one of those things in life that if you expect it, it’s really not that bad. Third, I researched what many problems were, how to fix them, and what to avoid. People were very public that certain quests were bugged, you could get stuck in flight paths going to certain locations, and garrisons could bug out or the garrison instance server would go down. So once I cleared Tanaan Jungle, I spent the rest of my time in Shadowmoon Valley and did some Garrison building sparingly. I quested through most of the zone, avoided flight paths (except for once), hoofed it practically everywhere, and I kept track of the bugged quests.
So what was the result? I had 2 occasions where my garrison wouldn’t load, once was the only time I flew to it, and I was stuck in flight. A simple re log fixed the issue and I continued on. The second time, I used my garrison hearth stone, it told me the instance servers were down, so I just mounted up and ran back. I had one disconnect, and the good thing about it was that it only sent me out to my character screen. Lucky me, right? I would wager a guess that I was disconnected since I was in my garrison and it’s very likely the instance server went down. I avoided the queue, got back in the game within a matter of seconds, no big deal. Now are you ready for this? That’s all that happened in my entire time of playing, which was around 4 or so hours (I know, I’m a filthy casual). This is just my experience, and I know others had much worse circumstances, but you can’t really go into an expansion and NOT expect connection, latency, and server issues on a game of this scale. It happens, and it’s virtually unavoidable. Those issues will clear up, and typically they will be resolved fairly quickly. In this case, many were and Blizzard has already put in hot fixes this morning (November 14th).
My last sentiment regarding the launch revolves around questing and leveling. These are usually the worst issues in expansions as they are something developers should be able to expect, predict, and avoid through proper programming and mechanics. In this regard, my hat’s off to Blizzard as they developed incredibly solid quest progression and have nearly perfected phasing in quest zones within Draenor. For those who don’t know what phasing is or what it means, it means as you’re in a zone, there are different phases of the zone (obviously), and those phases change seamlessly as you progress. You can only see other people in the same phase as you, and it cuts down on crowding issues as well as lack of quest mobs/items. In past expansions, there was always a LOT of trouble in the early questing zones. They were ridiculously overpopulated, and fighting for quest mob kills or looting quest items was utterly atrocious. The better choices in those situations were to either push forward to an area with less people, or just stop playing altogether and try again later. I never once felt I struggled to complete a quest because an area was overpopulated with other players, or under populated with quest items/mobs. That is a HUGE accomplishment and I just have to say kudos to Blizzard. Let’s do a happy dance to celebrate!
It may not have been perfect, but it’s hard to deny that it was a pretty damn good job on Blizzards part. On a side note, sorry Euro gamers. I know you all had it much worse than us Americans, but at least we thank you for being the guinea pigs to resolve a lot of our issues.