It's been quite a while since i've updated you on my World of Warcraft activities.
First of all, the move in October pretty much killed any play for a good month, and even then it's rare that I get more than about 10 hours of play in any given week. That may seem like quite a bit, but it's less than 2 hours a day. Considering that WoW is pretty much the *only* computer/video game I play at all anymore (other than a few social things on the Wii and Guitar Hero), that's not a huge surprise.
However, my numbers went way up in February, mostly because I finally have the office together, along with a new Mac Pro tower (just four cores, though), and thus a place to use a computer. The laptop has become my keyboard of choice for the band I'm in (more on that later), and it's nice to have a big screen and decent horsepower (and a passable graphics card, although the ATI 2600XT has some problems - wish I'd sprung for the NVidia 8800GT now).
The other big difference is that I haven't touched any of my alt characters since the move. Not once, not even my orc shammy Chanya (languishing, I believe, around level 40). Part of that is the faster leveling that characters do under an update from Blizzard, but mostly it's just that once I got my ride it's very hard to just walk anywhere. That, and I really wanted to see what Outland was like. It's like everything else, only on drugs.
OK, not exactly. I will say one thing - the gear totally rocks compared to what's in the original game. I doubled my armor value in about three days. After struggling to get to 100 gold for my mount, with not much better luck up to around level 58, I have gone through something like 700 gold in the last six levels, much of it spent on getting my rogue's Darkshadow armor set. There's a gnome rogue in the CCG who has this kit on, and it looks *really* cool. Hard to believe that I'm doing quests just to look good. The thing is that you spend a lot more time running around in the "old" world getting this stuff, and it's kind of a drag to have to come back from Outland, run to Gadgetzan on one end of one continent, then run to three different places all over the world to kill 24 mobs, then come back to Gadgetzan, just to find that you're heading back to Winterspring to spend 40 gold on a reagent, then back to Gadgetzan, then back to Ironforge.
That's a lot of running around. Makes me consider getting that extra 40% speed boost for an epic mount, although that costs around 500 gold. It won't take more than a level or two for me to get that much, but I suspect I'll be spending it just as fast. The other bummer is that I have to do group quests and raids for some of the stuff for my armor set, something I've never really enjoyed as much. I have friends trying to get me to try out EvE, but it's clear that you don't get very far in that game unless you are part of a large group, something that I don't want to have to deal with.
Anyway, Leonadril is at level 64 (just dinged today), and is doing a ton of questing in Zagaramarsh and Terokkar Forest in Outlands, along with the low-XP/gold armor set quests. Even though you get the swamp critters on acid effect of Zagramarsh, in fact you're still dealing with ogres and naga, plus a few other things. The graphics *are* very cool, and the quest design is pretty good, but so far the long quest chains that feel like you're roleplaying aren't there so much. I've skipped almost all of the dungeons in the game so far, just a couple that went to completion, and so far haven't done Hellfire Citadel. Here's hoping that I can get the Shadow armor from Blackrock Mountain without having to actually enter the instance, as rogues can usually get a lot further into heavily-mobbed areas through use of stealth, and can generally slide in, knock someone out, blind the other, shrink your target, throw a few other tricks their way, get him killed, get the loot, and vanish before dying.
I know a lot of people say that the best thing about MMORPGs is the fact that you *are* playing with others, but in WoW (at least) my experience has been that most people act like complete assh*les when they're in groups. I've had some luck with single players I've teamed up with for quick group quests, but the instances have, bar none, been complete failures other than the one I did in NW Tanaris (troll city), and even that we had to bail and wait for a few more players when three people decided it was taking too long after a whopping 15 minutes.
I can see that the luster is coming off of WoW, but at the same time I'm starting to consider what other MMORPG I'll pick up after. I would *love* a Lovecraftian horror MMORPG, but I don't think one is out there. I know there's a Conan RPG coming out soon, but I'm not sure I want to be in at the beginning of something like that. The one that looks good right now is Guild Wars, which doesn't require a monthly fee. It's PC only, but the Mac Pro can boot into XP (once I finally get an activated copy - I just don't think that $300 for an OS is a fair price, and the Mac-based emulators that don't require Windows itself don't support the level of graphics I'll need). Regardless, I'm a good two months away from dinging level 70 with Leonadril (he's a rogue gnome engineer/miner on the Drenden server, if anyone cares), and then the raid play doesn't really appeal to me, at least not at this point. By then I'll probably shift to GW and see how I like it, although I may try out a bunch of different "trial" acccounts at that point just to see what I'm missing.
At the same time, I consider WoW to have been by huge leaps and bound the most bang for the buck that I have ever gotten from a video/computer game. There are problems, sure, but in general the experience has been exactly the sort of thing that I enjoy/obsess over. I love the exploration element, the mission-based play, the ability to go in a variety of paths, the variety of areas and mobs, the way your character gains abilities and how that changes the way you play. It's really been a blast, and I'm remembering with great fondness and nostalgia for just one year ago when I spent three hours (!) loading the elebenty-hundred patchs for WoW, all of which was mostly forgotten when I stepped into Dun Mordan and heard the snow crunch under my feet. There are still some challenges left for Leonadril, and I'm sure I'll come back to Chanya at some point, but I'm feeling a little like I'm at the last 15 minutes of what has been a really good movie, one that I've been an active participant in, and the last bits will hopefully be the best ones.