Monday, September 30, 2013

WoW Insider Community Blog Topic: What's your most and least favorite expansions?

Fresh on tap: my opinions! Free pat on the head if you can name the beer I'm pouring above.

People have differing tastes. For instance, I can't stand beets. My SO, on the other hand, doesn't mind them at all. Now, there's nothing wrong with beets on their own. There's also nothing wrong with someone else's affinity for beets. A ton of factors may come into play when explaining the why's and the how's, but she can't fault me for not liking beets, and I can't fault her for liking them.

Same goes for WoW expansions. This week doesn't ask for the best and worst WoW expansions (how would one even qualify that, anyway), but rather your favorite/least favorite WoW expansion. Which one you liked/disliked the most. So there are no controversial or wrong answers here. If you liked Cataclysm the most, don't worry about satisfying other players' incredulity by trying to explain the why's. Your reasons are good enough for you.

I've loved each expansion for what they were, some more than others. But this week's top asks for the favorite and the least favorite. And my reasoning for the choices. Here goes...

Favorite: The Burning Crusade

I wasn't a progression raider, nor a top-tier PvPer. Having started my WoW journey less than a year before the Burning Crusade was released, I considered myself pretty wet behind the ears. I was stoked that was could fly (though I, along with Ghostcrawler, wonder whether that was the right move). It was the expansion where I first asked the question: what does it mean when people say 'hit-capped?' I was fortunate enough to find a Kara pug or two.

Then, there was the whole pre-expansion event that told players something was definitely happening, that this world was indeed much, much larger than Azeroth---for me, this world was already big enough! This expansion also came before the Looking-for-Everything random grouping tools that were introduced in WotLK and Cataclysm. Oh! You needed keys in order to access heroic-level dungeons. And those dungeons were an actual challenge, and though not quite on-par with the difficulty level of MoP Challenge Modes, they most definitely required more coordination and player skill when compared to the average heroic dungeon in MoP.

While in principle, the "everyone, all-access, all-the-time" approach sounds good, in practice I find it quite ugly. BC wasn't simply hitting max level, equipping a set of PvP gear, the pressing a button to queue for a heroic. You had to work a little to get to the content. Prove yourself, even. And there was some sense of accomplishment in that, I'd argue. Also, when you grouped with others for a heroic Hellfire Ramparts it was safe to assume they, like you, had been around the block.

I also unknowingly began my slow journey to gold-cap during the Burning Crusade when I began to sell Arcanite Bars with reckless abandon. I suppose with the Burning Crusade, I learned a lot about the game that I hadn't before, as well as had my first small taste of end-game content. And I loved it. While I could've easily written as much about why WotLK was my favorite expansion, when I really sit down and think about it, the Burning Crusade still had me in that special state of awe only a true, genuine noob can experience. And there's something about that I dearly, dearly miss.

Least Favorite: I don't have one

I've been sitting here for the past hour and a half trying to put this post together and can't come up with anything valid for this section. Perhaps noteworthy is that I originally chose WotLK as my favorite expansion, albeit for different reasons altogether. But both my favorite and my original least-favorite had been deemed so based on the nature of one aspect of the game: the positive social interaction I experienced within each expansion.

See, I don't think there's anything Blizzard can do to make a "best" expansion again. The "why" is the same reason I originally chose MoP as my least-favorite expansion: the random-grouping tools in-game have made community building rare, perhaps a thing of the past. In fact, it turns out that some people pay (or have mommy, daddy, or a significant other pay) a monthly fee so they can work towards making other people's in-game lives as unpleasant and uncomfortable as possible. 

Until Blizzard does something about the trollish, hateful and vitriolic aspect of the player-base, I don't think I'll ever enjoy an expansion like I did Burning Crusade. Having to shout in trade to fill that last dungeon slot, or finishing a grind to gain access to heroic-level dungeons (or raids) via a key were most definitely, at times, pains-in-the-ass. But it did foster a sense of community. You were tethered to your server (barring a costly transfer), which meant your reputation could actually matter. Was I perhaps labeled as "Clueless" in the Burning Crusade? Surely, but I made sure not to make the "Asshole" list. 

Granted, there's still a vibrant, awesome community in this game, I'm aware. I participate in a section of it on Twitter and at WoW Insider. This year at Blizzcon, not only am I eagerly awaiting news of Warcraft's new expansion, but I'm hoping Blizzard also addresses what they have in mind for the sub-section of the player-base who can't seem to contribute anything positive to their fellow players. Following a 6-month subscription renewal this summer, I removed my credit card info from My time is up come January 2014, and any return may very well depend on what Blizzard has to say about an issue that's becoming increasingly important to me. 

My tolerance for the dredges of humanity being able to foment general unpleasantness in Azeroth is reaching its breaking point. Don't get me wrong; I still love the game dearly. I'm just a little sad to think that my best days in WoW are far, far behind me. 

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