How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Grind Part 1: It’s Who You Know

One of the benefits to my adding of random gewgaws on the blog last week was finally setting up Xfire to monitor my gaming box. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you can see what I’ve been up to lately. Oh heck, I’ll save you the scroll: I’ve been playing World of Warcraft.

Specifically, I’ve been trying to catch up to my Uberwife, she of the many level 60s all in post-BWL gear. Her main dual wields a Perdition’s Blade and a Gutgore Ripper and her stat bonuses can only be described in imaginary numbers. Yet, in what can only be described as true love, she actually wants me to catch up to her so we can stare at CTRaid output together.

The problem, now, is that I am a permanewbie. As in, I constantly reroll. I *always* reroll. I am *never* happy with my avatar; I am always thinking that some other mystical combination of class and race and starting location and server will be the Magic Number Combination that will unlock the keys to happiness or something. The first game where I actually achieved maximum level (aside from Ultima Online, where you could cap out a character from breathing hard) was Dark Age of Camelot, and that only because guilds managed to get powerlevelling down to a science. Don’t ask what realm rank I achieved though, because you’ll only laugh. (Oh, OK. RR3, on a nightshade.)

However, my wife finally discovered something that would break the permanewbie conundrum – a secret concoction of bribery and guilt. Oddly enough, this is also what powers most marriages, so it works out rather well as a system. So she has been raining quest hellfire and damnation down upon my character, who is only peripherally along for the ride. Last weekend we finished up Felwood, did all of Winterspring, Sunken Temple (with some help) and all the necessary paperwork for Blackrock Depths.

My little character is now level 57. This is attracting no little attention. When our guild leader noticed, he blinked, and said over Vent, “wait a minute. Scott has a character over level 20?” My wife helpfully said that I was free to tell him to bite me. (I did, using Shakespeare).

So, I’m taking mental notes as I progress. I’ve always said, although more from observation than experience, that World of Warcraft’s endgame isn’t organic to the rest of the polished experience, but a grafted patchwork that causes people to hit a brick wall and halt all progress. So is that holding up to my personal experience? Well, yes and no.

No, because clearly I am advancing. However, I’m doing it with a support network worthy of Delta Force TEAM AWESOME. Most players of WoW are not married to someone equipped with the best gear in the game and willing to spend an awe-inspiring amout of time making sure you get your dinky little quests done. I’m also in a guild that is currently doing AQ40 regularly, so sneaking into Molten Core sometime and getting uberrific stuff probably won’t be an issue, since I’m given to understand most of what I need is being disenchanted anyway. So my World of Warcraft character is kind of the George W. Bush of Azeroth. He may like to think he’s getting through life on his own merits, but it helped when someone helpfully leaned on the King of Ironforge to get him out of Gnomeregan National Guard patrol duty.

My experience with what most people see as the game – pickup groups – has been, post level 40, unremittingly bad. People in “pugs” simply don’t know how to play. I mean, they’re so bad at the game that *I* know that they’re bad at the game. Without the social connections of knowing people who can help you bypass this, I never would have gotten through ANY instances save MAYBE Deadmines. I know, because, as mentioned, I didn’t clear Sunken Temple finally until this weekend, at 57. Note that Sunken Temple is aimed at high-40s players. I tried doing the dungeon with multiple pick up groups over a week and a half before swallowing my pride and finally asking my guild meekly for help, at which time four of them blew through the whole thing in about an hour. It’s an entirely different game.

Much of this I blame on WoW missing some key social tools (such as a working Looking for Group tool), but to be honest most games tend to ignore these tools when they exist anyway. But if I didn’t have the out-of-game social connection to this guild (aka “honey, if I make dinner tonight will you PLEASE get me Onyxia keyed?”) then I’m pretty sure my WoW career would have ended at level 30.

Tune in next week, when your erstwhile hero discovers the joy of BRD/BRS and other arcane abbreviations.