A couple of years ago, a month or two into Cataclysm’s launch, I decided I was finally done with World of Warcraft. After six or seven years playing on and off, two years straight for the last stretch, I was feeling burnt out. I’d raided all throught WotLK, and when we started raiding Cataclysm, I found myself more drawn to the new, shinier MMOs on the horizon than I did the content we were trying to best.
So I left WoW, moved on to Rift, TOR, TERA, a handful of other MMOs, and never really looked back. Even though none of the newer MMOs “stuck” for me the way WoW had, I didn’t feel a pull to go back. WoW was showing its age and I wanted to move forward, not backwards.
One of my biggest gripes as Cataclysm came out, and then Mists of Panderia, was that while WoW’s overall art aesthetic was moving forward (more detailed models, much higher resolution textures), the player characters, the models that you arguably look at the most while you played, remained stuck in 2005, with super low polygon counts and rough, blurred textures.
And no matter how cool the new armor you got was, it was still plastered onto an increasingly dated character model.
Graphics aren’t necessarily everything in a game, but they are important. And I feel they’re especially important (for me) in MMOs, games which typically ask you to spend hundreds of hours in-game staring at your little digital puppet.
So for the past couple of years, Wildstar has been my most anticipated MMO. It’s got great style, great humor, it’s got a sci-fi vibe to it, it looks to sport combat closer to TERA than other target-based MMOs… I’ve been excited for it, to say the least. It’s my hope that Wildstar is my next long-term MMO (though I will admit that EQNext entered the list at a close second earlier this year). I figured all I had to do is wait patiently for Wildstar.
However this past weekend, Blizzard announced ‘Warlords of Draenor’, a new expansion for WoW, with more levels, new areas (or rather, old areas at a different point in time), etc. The standard stuff for an expansion. And… that they were finally redoing the character models.
They’ve only showed a few examples, but I feel they’re perfectly straddling a very fine line… they’ve updated the look of the characters, bumped the polygon count way up, added crisper textures with better detail and shading… yet they’ve kept the overall style of the races completely intact.
Something as simple as upgrading the graphics like this, in an older MMO, can often make it feel like an entirely new game. So I found myself feeling something I hadn’t felt in years; interest in playing World of Warcraft.
Now, that’s not saying I’m going to play WoW again, but I certainly felt the tug. And a lot of it may just be nostalgia, for which the shiny new characters are simply a gateway. I enjoyed WoW while I played it, and more importantly, I made a lot of great friends during my last stint in the game, running a fantastic guild and raiding weekly. Many of those friends I kept in touch with after we left WoW (though we were never quite able to settle down in another MMO).
So I have a lot of very fond memories of WoW. I suspect that if I went back, even a fresh coat of paint probably wouldn’t mask the game’s underlying age for very long. Nostalgia can be strong stuff, but I’m not sure it’s strong enough to keep me there for any length of time.
For now I’ll hold out for Wildstar, and hope that it comes out before WoW’s expansion, and before my resolve is truly tested.