Warlords of Draenor was relased¬†at some point in the last couple months and somehow I now find myself at level 97 playing Pokemons and managing my garrison.¬†About a week in I realized, to my own shock and surprise, that I was having fun. Notice the lack of “the airquotes”. Real, honest, fun. It is occurring! I hadn’t logged in since mid-tier raiding in Lich King, so I’m coming at the game having avoided the mild catastrosuck of Cataclysm and the demonstrably bad-for-business Pandaria. I’m struck by just how many things have changed for the better in subtle, wonderful ways.

After 10 years there have been numerous major changes to gameplay *ahem* talents but what has really made the difference for me is the little quality of life things. Mounts, costumes and vanity pets have always been my bailiwick. No idea why, it’s just something I enjoy. Some people farm gold or crafting mats for hours on end, some people PvP, but I spent my non-raiding time trying to find new outfits or minis or what are now referred to as “toys”. I frequently bound my hardcore combat macros with reusable visual items. My FoK macro used a firework, for example. Mounts and pets are now account-wide, so every character (based on riding skills/level) has access to all the vanity items you’ve spent time unlocking regardless of faction or server. Costumes, aka the Transmogrification system, is still an absolute joke but they are committed to making a change. Apparently there are confirmed blue-posts stating that the void bank/transmog system is just a placeholder for something coming in the first “major” patch post-WoD. If the attention to detail and quality of life improvements I’ve seen are any indication of what is to come, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one. Maybe, just maybe, and unlike the W* team over at Carbine, they will actually heed the lessons of truly wonderful costuming systems like DCUO or GW2 and let people just PLAY. We’re talking about appearances here, not game-changing statistical variances or abilities. Costumes are the personification of a purely “because it’s FUN” system.

I didn’t always feel this way about BlizzActivision. I don’t think I would have been willing to give them the benefit of anything 4 years ago. By the time I quit WoW I had nothing but contempt for the path the development of the game was going down and it honestly felt like the development team had sat down one day and described “types of gamers” playing WoW and decided that the my type was no longer welcome. It’s not a good feeling as a consumer and certainly not something that a developer should ever want to see happen… well, outside of the gold-farming/hax/abusive bigot crowds anyway — we can all do with less of those in our hobby.

Who knows how long the honeymoon will last. The guild popped a couple bosses in Highmaul last night on our first raid. I’ll see how I feel about things when I’m back in the thick of it again. My leisure time is not what it once was and, truly, I’m not the same person I was when this adventure began.

I’d have some pics to link, but leveling gear is fugly beyond belief. There are some wicked-cool polearms, though.