Stormwind shell shock.

I think it was probably the point where a werewolf wearing a top hat and plate armour, and riding a ‘hilarious’ two-seat rickety rocket, had pulled up and hovered alongside my character on the entranceway to Stormwind that I realised that Azeroth was no longer for me. I had been standing there marvelling at the giant Christmas wreaths on the walls of Stormwind, which it has to be said, stood in stark contrast to the fractured ramparts which still glowed from the recent molten assault of the great dragon; the wreaths were so impossibly large that I wondered whether they were a by-product of the giant dragon itself, that perhaps it had simultaneously destroyed half of the human capital while decking other parts of it in festive decorations, as though I were witnessing the aftermath of some sort of screwed-up Azrothian edition of Pimp My Capital City. I pictured the dragon with fluttering eyelashes, hands clasped together and held against one cheek, as it admired its handiwork – elemental destruction set off beautifully against red bows and be-baubled Christmas trees.

New Wave Cataclysm, dharlink, ver’ popular in New York zis season.

Later, I stood in the midst of the fractured city – it having only recently avoided total annihilation by the narrowest of margins – and I watched the NPC winter revellers standing around in their hot pants and boob tubes; saw the line of gargantuan drake and dragon mounts blocking the doorway to the bank; observed the attempts at serious role-play by people who were constantly being blocked from one another’s sight as flying carpets, mammoths and naff-punk trikes were parked inconsiderately on top of them; gawked as characters with weapons large enough to cleave a moon in twain ran around in their underpants as they barked borderline racist /yells; and witnessed a female werewolf in a festive bikini performing the dance moves to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face on top of a nearby mailbox.

At which point my mind snapped. Okay, snapped more. Than usual.

It’s understandable, I suppose: the past year or more of my MMO time has been spent predominantly in Lord of the Rings Online, a quiet and considerate game with, on the whole, a quiet considerate community that stays respectful to the setting of Tolkien’s world, and where the most outlandish thing to happen is if someone in the Prancing Pony breaks out their lute and plays a particularly daring version of Muse’s Exogenesis Part Three. Some particularly salacious sort might even tap their foot to the rhythm. Heaven forefend if one of the female elven characters should flash an ankle at a passing dwarf, the whole server would be a-whisper with the scandal of it for weeks after. Of course it’s not that prudish in reality, but when you visit somewhere such as Azeroth, where the average armour outfit of a female character would be enough to make a veteran porn star blush and consider retiring from modern life to a convent, LotRO seems so terribly reserved. I suppose it’s the contrast that is so dramatic, like a lifelong member of the Amish being bundled into the back of a van and dumped in the middle of a Las Vegas casino (KiaSA lawyers are ready to speak to any TV executives interested in the rights to this new reality TV show, working title: Amishion Impossible); I’m sure spending any length of time in Azeroth would once again slowly desensitise me to the sheer ludicrous mania going on around every corner, but having unceremoniously dumped myself out the back of a van into the middle of Las Azeroth, I found myself forcibly repelled from the game.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with Azeroth, you understand, just like there’s nothing ostensibly wrong with Club 18-30 holidays, or college frat parties, it’s just that once you’ve lived a quieter more reserved life of gentle evenings with a nice glass of red and a good book in front of an open fireplace, it’s hard to go back to whipped cream and beer bongs and some strange man’s penis being repeatedly beaten against your forehead while someone screams in your ear to eat the green jelly out of the lady’s underpants faster. World of Warcraft seems to me to be the College Humour of the MMO world; whether it has always been this way, whether it has slowly developed into this parody of its former self, or whether my world view has changed over the years of playing MMOs and writing about them here, I’m not entirely sure. Did World of Warcraft create its community, or did the community twist World of Warcraft into the bizarre carnival of lunacy that it seems to have become? Perhaps one feeds upon the other, a curious Ouroboros of culture, unable to break away from the self-feeding spiral of one-upmanship in outrageousness.

All I know is that it seems that I have tired of eating green jelly with curly hairs in it, and these days much prefer my MMOs akin to quiet evenings spent with a good book.

18 thoughts on “Stormwind shell shock.

  1. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    Very interesting point of view. As I’ve said before, some people said that one great aspect of WoW is that it didn’t take itself too seriously. But, it looks like eventually that can come back around and be a bad thing again.

  2. Melmoth Post author

    Well, it is just my point of view, and there are millions out there who clearly don’t share it, but perhaps, as I say, it’s down to my having been away from WoW for a while, and played a more… sober MMO in the interim.

    I do agree, however, that originally WoW had a good balance of subtle pop-culture references and didn’t take itself too seriously, the graphical style being one obvious area where the designers were brave and took the genre in a very different direction to what had come before.

    What I wonder is whether WoW has simply continued along the same path and I don’t find that path appealing any more, or whether it has actually changed, be it due to the culture surrounding it, or simply due to new designers coming on to the team and trying to mimic what they think the game was.

    It is quite hard to be objective about it, especially, as I said, because living in a place like Azeroth for any length of time generally desensitises one to that Azeroth. Much like the PuG behaviour that is accepted in WoW would probably horrify anyone who came to the genre through LotRO and hasn’t experienced an MMO community outside of that game; players in WoW are used to having to grit their teeth and erect psychological barriers every time they enter a dungeon instance.

  3. nugget


    This is so wonderful.

    If you guys ever write a book. Any book. I’m so buying.

    I sat here and giggled madly and spampasted things to people. XD

  4. Eliot

    I can’t help but think that this is another variant on the cliche that you can’t go home again, except that this time the reason you can’t go home is because you have lost that vital internal filter allowing you to tolerate home. Of course, there’s something to be said about why in the world you should need filters in the first place.

  5. Melmoth Post author

    @nugget: You’ll be pleased to know that we’ve decided to write that book!

    It’s going to be a hardback, 534 pages, with each page consisting of the word ‘sassafras’ repeated continuously across it in a delightful italic script.

    Although we don’t expect to sell many copies, we have it on good authority that one person has confirmed they’ll buy it regardless, and therefore at the bargain price of £129.86 we should find ourselves just about breaking even.


    @Eliot: It’s a splendid analogy, and an appropriate time of year to raise it. Much like going home to spend time with family at Christmas, everything starts out wonderful and fresh – seeing familiar faces brings back fond memories – but by the second or third day you remember why you always steer clear of Uncle Geoff, especially after he’s had a plate of sprouts, and you rapidly begin to tire of finding half of Great Aunty Mable’s back-hair in the plughole of the shower each morning.

  6. Tremayne

    I’m in a similar position, although I made the leap to LotRO earlier (before Wrath came out) and more because of the people than because of the game. I mean, I thought that Haris Pilton was maybe poking one hole too many in the fourth wall, but the main reasons I went were because I was getting sick of the Elitist Jerks / all hail the damage meters attitude that was taking over my guild, plus being tired of being the only bugger in Alterac Valley trying to WIN the sodding thing instead of “kill Belinda (sic) and lose fast”. Nothing I’ve seen in my brief visits back or talking to friends who still play WoW has made me regret that move.

    The thing is, LotRO still manages to have the occasional laugh at itself (like the Evendim Boar Quest), it’s just a lot cleverer about it than WoW. WoW not only can’t spell subtlety, it can’t even pronounce it – if they were comedians, WoW would be Norman Wisdom while LotRO is more like Bill Bailey (clever, whimsical and beardy). Which is fine – lots of people liked Norman Wisdom.

  7. Khaz

    I played WoW for 6 months in BC era when it was my first MMO ( I came late to the party, single player games played for more hours than MMO’s were my thing – Civ/HoMM) and while i thought the community was bad, i coped because i didnt know better.
    Then i tried Lotro, and it was like i found my true home. It was better in every single way that mattered to me – and one of the most notable was the community.
    While F2P was good for lotro in bringing in more people, and most of them have settled down into polite society, there are inevitably more bad apples, and it is quite noticeable in the areas where f2p have access to.
    And the store has brought a change in development priorities.
    The store is the same for both VIP and F2P, but as they have radically different needs it should reflect that, and it is a shame that it doesnt.
    The result is a lessening of the value of a subscription, as development is focussed on F2P needs.

    So, while lotro is still a haven from WoW, it’s been put on a flat bed truck and is driving toward it fast.

    P.S – your capcha’s are the best ever : clinchpooper :)

  8. NowIamTree

    Having moved from LotRO to WoW – for more raid content and the game mechanics – although I don’t intend to give WoW up, I do sometimes long for the subtleties in the former. I can cope with Dogs in Hats – comedy calendar anyone? – but I think it’s the trade chat and general chat that does it for me. Although I wonder if that’s brought about by the general atmosphere in game? And a part of me is struggling with all the cut scenes – what are they trying to be, Dragon Age: Cataclysm?

  9. Bri

    I’ve been personally wondering what it is about this latest incarnation of a game I’ve enjoyed for years that has left me disinterested so quickly after an expansion. I think you’ve nailed it. I think WoW has finally jumped the shark.

  10. Tesh

    I can’t take WoW seriously, which is sad because I wanted to when I first saw it advertised many moons ago, but at the same time, I really like tooling around Azeroth as a Tauren on a Goblin Rocket Trike.

    Then again, I’m the sort that loves the old Mission Impossible, A-Team, Star Wars and even Star Treks more than the recent Serious Bznss versions. I don’t seek out games to ponder the dark vagaries of existentialism in digital worlds, I play them to have fun.

    I just turn off the chat channels. *shrug*

  11. AyAitch

    How do you do it, Melmoth? How do you make such amazing, hilarious posts? I wish I had a tenth the ability to make myself laugh that you do. Then I’d giggle all the time, and the world would be great.

  12. Melmoth Post author

    Overdosing on Monty Python as a child and a desperate desire to prevent myself from going insane as an adult, I think.

    Thanks for the kind words.

  13. Bronte

    Mel, if you don’t write a book in the next few years, I will find out where you live, break your legs, drag you to a cabin by the mountainside, and go all Misery on your ass.

    Seriously though, I sympathize with your viewpoint, although I might not agree with it. See, for me, the “community” is really the people I choose to play with. Sure there is the occasional dickbag who ruins it for you, but a lot of my experience is dictated by the company that I keep, and that company is wonderful. Second, a lot of what you talk about here is, well, aesthetics and semantics. I don’t mind if my mount is a gryphon and the guy next to me has his rocket out. Not that rocket. You perv. Or if there are giant wreathes on the walls of a city that recently went through near annihilation. Or any of it. For me, hanging out with players that I have played with for the last 6 years is important, and that is the primary reason i keep coming back to WoW.

    Anti-spam word: clinchpooper (again? – that’s like the third time!)

  14. Edd

    It’s funny that one mention of WoW in LotRO turns the chat into a raving, vitriolic cess pit of hate.

  15. coppertopper

    Yep you’ve nailed why I can’t come back to this game. I was thinking seriously about it for Cataclysm, but saw a beta video of the goblin starting area and all of a sudden a Harley-like motorcycle came up some steps into a bank. And that’s when I realized how much that sort of exploitation of a fantasy game world with modern amenities bothered me. I truly hope those in charge of LOTRO pay attention to posts like this.

  16. Melmoth Post author

    @Bronte: Y’see, authors always avoid the age old question “Where do you get the motivation to write?”, and now I see it’s because the answer is “Wait until someone threatens to break your legs” and they don’t want everyone getting in on the act.

    Fair point, if you have a decent group of people to play with then the game is but background music in a bar. I find that the game world very much matters to me, I’m a very RP sort of MMORPG person, I guess.

    No idea why the captcha AI keeps saying clinchpooper to you, maybe it likes you?

    @Edd: Same in any game I’m afraid, and generally something used purposefully by flamebaiters, although I’ll admit that such talk has markedly increased in LotRO since it went F2P. The Rift beta channels were filled with nothing but that, alas. As much as people can’t resist raising it as a topic, there seems to be an equal number who can’t resist taking the bait.

    @coppertopper: It certainly bothers some of us more than others; I just hope that there’s room out there for at least one serious (mature?) fantasy MMO, and happily, LotRO fills that niche quite nicely at the moment.

  17. Avocet

    Never played WoW, been playing LOTRO constantly since beta. The first thing I did was find a Kinship of older folks for when the game went live. We can be silly, but we’re not jackasses. It suits me.

    Of course, I’m now in the second half-century of my life, so I may not be representative of the average MMOer. My female heroes and villains in superhero MMOs tend to show liitle (or even no) skin (they’re also rare; I tend to stick to characters of my own sex–no females in LOTRO!). I’m sure that says something about me. Perhaps one of you could tell me what that would be.

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