Prepare for… the feels.
Every so often I have a recurring dream in which I’m back in college — either I’ve never left (and am in my… 20th year) or I’m returning after a long, long absence. In both cases, I usually find myself in the dream bewildered at this place that’s moved on without me and scrambling to try to figure out what’s what.
That’s what returning to World of Warcraft after four or so years is like. Everyone’s like “garrison this!” or “pet battles that!” and I’m like, “What the heck’s a transmog? How do I move between continents? Has my UI mated and had baby buttons all over the place?” And it’s this uncanny mix of the familiar and the alien that unnerves me.
“Wait a second,” you mutter to your monitor. “Is Syp playing WoW? Should I be worried that the sky is about to turn blood red and frogs will begin pouring out of my faucet?” Well, yes, but that’s completely unrelated to me, I swear.
Me coming back to WoW isn’t what you think… not really. I’m not back for the expansion. I’m back because the incessant chatter of other friends and bloggers about the expansion got me really missing my old character and the feels of the game. So I subbed up for a month to take my old main — the original Syp — out for a spin. To see if any of the magic is left. Purely on a casual basis, you understand.
Some days I feel like Voldemort, splitting my soul ever-further across a raft of games. I actually do have a new strategy with that — actually, more of a clean-up effort. Over on the right-hand side of the blog is a section in which I list my current (more or less) roster of games with one (and only one) character that I’m playing there, along with my current goals. It serves as a nice reminder for me what I’m doing where as well as to hopefully help readers see what I’m up to.
With Syp the Warlock, this will either be a brief flirtation or a get-to-know-the-game-again tour. Yeah, I could boost to 90 with the expansion, but I’m not shelling out $50 for something I might not be playing in a month… and why should I jump up there anyway? Syp started a journey back in 2006 and it seems unfair to take shortcuts.
Anyway, my initial login was absolutely surreal. Syp was right where I left her, having just entered into Northrend (my previous Wrath experience was mostly centered around my Hunter, so Syp never got to go past level 70). She was actually sitting in her engineer-crafted flying machine, making me wonder if she’s been sitting in that thing for four years now, worried if her unseen master would ever return.
My goal for that evening was to clean up my bags, poke through the updated interface, reach out to friends, and get my hotbar in order. Try to formulate something like a working spell rotation. Man, things have changed since I was blasting with her through Kara. Nostalgia can be just as bitter as it can be sweet, especially when you realize how much time has passed. I loved this little Gnome so much.
I had to get back to Stormwind to reset my specialization (for some reason, she was specced affliction even though I usually went demonology), and let me tell you, that was an adventure. An adventure in “I totally forget how to get there.” I must have wandered all over this keep, looking for some NPC to magically whisk me away. Then I remembered the boats, smacked my forehead, and made a journey back to the basement of the Slaughtered Lamb. At least this place hadn’t changed that much.
I’ve never been back to college since I graduated. I’ve often felt that when you leave a place, you should leave it and not keep looking back. But maybe there’s a soft part in me that can’t help it, which is why I sheepishly logged in to see my Gnome once more, even if it’s only for one night.
I guess in the broad scheme of things, you’re either a Gnome lover or a Gnome hater. Everyone I meet is firmly in one of these camps, with little indifference to be seen. What is so polarizing about these wee wunderkind? People who love them are really affectionate toward them and proud of pint-sized power. And people who hate them are almost gleeful in stating it, feeling almost as strongly about it as I do Elves.
Personally, I’m a fan of Gnomes. The original Syp was a World of Warcraft Gnome Warlock, and I never got bored of being two-feet-nothing and taking down dungeon bosses with dark magicks and a giant demonic bodyguard.
We Gnome lovers are quite aware of the fact that even though Blizzard created them for WoW, the devs over there are in the “hate ‘em” camp, big-time. This week we got even more proof with one of the most bizarre videos from the studio that is supposedly about the new character models but in reality is a dev straight-up torturing a gnome for two minutes.
I’m not even joking. I took screenshots.
The video starts with what I’ll admit is a kind of scary image of a Gnome creeping up on a flower as if that flower is about to be deflowered. Plucked. Uprooted. Darn it, I mean it in a very non-sexual way, so just trust me on that.
The Gnome screams in fright, also wondering why he’s nearly naked. I want to point out that this is one of those videos where the choice of gender is obviously deliberate. It’s uncomfortable enough with a boy Gnome here. A girl Gnome put in this situation and played for laughs would probably earn Blizzard a social justice nerdstorm of epic proportions.
The dev uses his cursor to start stretching the Gnome’s arms as he screams in panic and/or pain. I have to state here that I’m not exaggerating anything; it’s kind of as disturbing as it sounds. The arm snaps back to form the new model, then same with the other arm and his legs.
All during this, the creepy dev is sitting there with this dead expression on his face, sipping coffee while he listens to the screams and whimpers.
Then the Gnome is happy, supposedly because of his new look but probably because he’s not being subjected to the Spanish Inquisition any longer.
Humor? Uhh… no, not really. Nightmare fuel, definitely.
For kicks, I broke down some of the generic fantasy mishmash zone names in WoW into a chart so that they could be rearranged to make even MORE generic fantasy mishmash zone names. Blizzard, you may pay me for this service at any time, as I’ve saved you a small fortune in paying your writers.
And for fun, a fan cover of the theme done on a church organ in Germany:
“Over the past four years (Cataclysm launched at the very tail end of year six) [World of Warcraft] has lost an extraordinary number of subscribers. Its growth has stalled. This is a stark reversal when the game was in an upward trend for the first six years of its lifespan. Why is that? What’s changed its fortunes so thoroughly?”