Thanks for the invitation to the public beta of Warlords of Draenor. When I saw the invitation email in my iPhone I initially thought it was just another phishing attempt to get my Battle.net ID and password. However, this time I didn’t see any suspicious links in the content, so I went ahead and logged in to my account and confirmed that yes, there it was:
Without thinking much about it I installed the client and downloaded the content, then gave it a try for a few minutes. Yes, it looks fantastic. However, this time I’m not staying. Azeroth won’t be seeing me again anytime soon.
I started playing World of Warcraft in 2007, just after the release of the Burning Crusade expansion. The beauty of the game instantly captured me: my character (Baruchan, named after one of my hamsters) was a happy low-level human paladin running around Elwynn Forest, stopping everywhere to look at the trees, the creeks, the farms, the guard towers… Of course, that also implied killing (and getting killed by) murlocs, kobolds, giant spiders and the occasional Defias bandit. As Baruchan leveled up I took him to new zones: Westfall, Duskwood, Stranglethorn Vale, Badlands, Dustwallow Marsh… Azeroth always had something new to see: sometimes beautiful valleys and magical forests, sometimes dangerous ravines ravaged by fire and lava-filled caves.
Baruchan traveled throughout Azeroth and made friends. One of them was Auronn, a night elf druid. Our characters leveled together from level 50 all the way to level 80. They went through the Dark Portal in Blasted Lands within days from each other, and ran past all the Outland and Northrend content together. We became friends in real life, even though we have never met in person.
I deleted Baruchan at the end of 2008 and left World of Warcraft, only to return a few months later and start over again, this time playing two characters at the same time: Baruchan, reincarnated as a Draenei paladin, and Lunachan, a night elf druid. Again, I leveled both characters together all the way to level 80, and then through the Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria expansions to level 90. World of Warcraft kept me interested for a very long time.
All of this changed last year, the moment I put on the Oculus Rift for the first time. I wasn’t looking at a character in the screen anymore, but instead I was right there in the middle of the action myself. No more talking about game characters in the third person!
These last few months I’ve barely touched World of Warcraft because I don’t find it interesting anymore. I know of many veteran players who have left because they are annoyed that the mechanics have been dumbed down to appeal to more casual players. I understand how they feel, but I don’t share their concerns. To me, WoW’s appeal was still the beauty and variety of its content, and to that regard the last expansion had been fantastic, with incredibly beautiful areas to explore and quest. What has killed traditional games for me is the immersion achieved by the Rift. Even the blocky landscapes of Minecraft (with the puke-inducing Minecrift plugin adding virtual reality support) beat the shit out of anything we have ever experienced in World of Warcraft.
I would love to go back to Azeroth, but that won’t happen unless Blizzard adds support for the Oculus Rift.
Yes, the Oculus Rift’s resolution is still low, even in the DK2. Yes, all these wires around your head are annoying. Yes, software support is still limited and buggy. And yet, the overall experience more than compensates for all these issues, all of them understandable if you consider that we’re talking about beta software running on development hardware that hasn’t been released to the general public yet.
Nowadays I’m spending some of my free time playing the beta of Elite: Dangerous. The original game was released in 1984 for several 8-bit computer platforms. In it, you pilot a space ship and have a lot of freedom to do whatever you want: make money by hunting criminals, haul cargo from one space port to another, be a pirate and attack traders to steal their cargo, fight other ships in conflict zones…
In Elite: Dangerous I’m a trader. My ship is a freighter and I move cargo from one place to another for nice profits. It may sound boring, but I find it very relaxing to go into space and travel to a different star system to sell my merchandise. To me it feels exactly the same as driving a car in the highway at night: all your senses are focused in the driving, and all the concerns about the outside world dissapear for a while.
Notice what changed: when I talked about World of Warcraft I talk about what my character did, but in Elite: Dangerous I explain what I do. The Oculus Rift really makes me feel I’m there, and this is why traditional games aren’t interesting to me anymore.
I’m sorry, Blizzard. It’s over.
Now you’ll have to excuse me. I have a hundred tons of fish in my cargo hold and I have to go sell it somewhere before it starts to smell…