DDO: On being a newbie

September 21, 2009 at 5:40 pm (Exile in DDOville, Navel-Gazing)

So, my little error in my first couple of posts (re: the character limit) made me think about how, no matter what new classes/races WoW releases, no matter what buffs and nerfs each class gets, what new content is released, or for that matter, no matter how long my little hiatus lasts, when it comes to World of Warcraft, I will never again be a newbie (I will leave aside the question of whether I can be, or am, a noob, as that’s a very different taxonomy, as all will agree).

In some ways, this is a plus.  There are some questions to which I would just as soon not have to spend long stretches of time trying to find an answer – basic questions like character limits, or how to turn off my helmet so I can’t see it (yes, some problems are universal, including ugly-ass helms that don’t mesh with the rest of your outfit).  These are not questions which preserve a sense of mystery, they are questions which interfere with one’s immersion in the game.

On the other hand, even in new content in WoW, I have a pretty good idea how my warlock, for example, will fare against most enemies.  I’m unlikely to be surprised, except in very high end raid content.  In DDO, on the other hand, I find myself approaching adventure instances (I’ll cover that later – if you’re familiar with Guild Wars, then questing seems to largely work that way) with real trepidation.  Not only not knowing what’s around the corner, but seeing that group of three or four enemies and realizing I’m genuinely not sure I can handle them.  My grasp of my class’s mechanics are shaky enough that I’m not entirely sure what my best strategy against a particular mob or party of mobs is.  I find myself asking myself “what if I try this?”

And it’s fun.  When my efforts to solve an underwater puzzle of sorts were running up against an absurdly short breath-timer, I decided on an experiment, and took off my armor.  Surprise surprise – when you’re not wearing heavy armor made of metal, you swim better, and can hold your breath longer.  I felt a sense of accomplishment and discovery.  This is a sort of thing that is hard for a game you’ve been playing for ages to accomplish.

Now, to be sure, WoW is a far better game.  That is already pretty clear ot me – in terms of game stability, graphic/sound quality, certain choices the programmers made (for example, any happiness I may have had about Star Wars: The Old Republic being fully-voiced have gone away, as DDO has made clear exactly how annoying excessive voice acting in a video game can be – bad voice acting, anyway, and the line between good and bad voice acting can be awfully slim).  Nevertheless, even though DDO is, by any reasonable measure (except one, which I’ll discuss in another post), an inferior game, I find myself intrigued by it in a way WoW hasn’t intrigued me since at least WotLK’s launch, or perhaps my first time setting foot in a raid.  And certain things, like my first boat trip to the city of Stormreach (which I just took) are exciting in a way I don’t remember seeing since the gates of Stormwind first came into view on my first character.  That first glimpse of something that is, in scope, vaster than anything I’ve yet seen in-game.

Some, of course, are not fond of the mystery.  I’m clearly not the only person giving DDO a shot right now, and I admit that every time I see somebody named Pwnsnubs asking “Where’s the skeletal mage?” (don’t ask) in General chat, a bit of me dies inside.  You’re only going to be able to discover the skeletal mage once.  Enjoy it, forcryingoutloud.

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