Paeroka’s Ponderings: Railroading in MMOs

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnIt took me a long time until I could finally step into the Shadowlands expansion in World of Warcraft. And I am immediately longing for WoW Classic again (well, the Burning Crusade version of it). When I played my first MMO, World of Warcraft, I loved the exploration part. Just walking into one direction and finding a quest giver here or there. Or going into a quest hub, taking on as many quests as I could, and then deciding which direction to go, which quests to do and when to move on to the next quest hub, usually abandoning older quests to make space. It felt refreshing. I am finished with the Crossroads, now I am in Camp Taurajo! I don’t need the other quests anymore. Or deciding that I’d seen enough of the Crossroads and that I wanted to play in the Undead area instead.

Guild Wars 2 (the vanille maps, at least) was much better for me in that regard. With their map events and the hearts, it was even easier to just walk around the map, wherever I wanted to, and do events when I stumbled into them. I loved and still love this part in Guild Wars 2 and that is what I love about any MMO I ever played: Exploring the world! But at my own leisure – more or less. Most MMOs do have level restrictions, after all.

What I dislike is the feeling of being on rails which seems to be the norm in World of Warcraft. Maybe it will get better later, but the whole Maw part is an extremely negative example. Of course, I get that Blizzard wants to tell a story and that is fine. It serves as an introduction to the expansion. I get that and I know that it makes sense, but I still do not like it at all! Especially knowing that all my alts will have to go through it. You get one or two quests at the most, no flight points anywhere (of course, given the storyline!), so you feel forced to go through it. And you only get the next quest after you finished the current one. Nothing to choose, nothing to skip. In fact, you need to go through everything in order to unlock the expansion content. But it’s exactly the same for every character. And there is no need to walk left or right, backwards or forwards. You go exactly where the storyline wants you to go. Because in the end, World of Warcraft is telling you a story and they want you to follow it through. Step by step, preferably. The problem with this is simply that this is just not what I want!

Rumours say that they will announce the classic version of Burning Crusade in February, during Blizzconline. I can’t wait, because this was the expansion I enjoyed the most! And I want to re-experience this expansion. Of course, I may end up being disappointed in the end because nothing will truly be like it was back then – for instance, there is a definite lack of free time that wasn’t as prominent back then. But I already liked the “old questing system” in WoW Classic and I’m looking forward to going through Burning Crusade again.

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.


    1. Thanks for that information! :)

      I read somewhere that when you finish the Covenant story or something, you can do that. But I love playing my alts and switching between characters to spice things up instead of focusing on one character only. So, I would still have to finish one thing with one character first. And the Maw storyline has to be done every single time. It’s still a good change and sounds intersting to do it that way. It is just not what I enjoy and it doesn’t change that it’s different from what it used to be and I just prefer the old, classic, way of doing quests.


  1. I do find it ironic that Classic WoW is now considered to have such a freewheeling, open attitude to questing and to be so non-directive and non-linear in its gameplay. At the time it launched, among the gaming subculture I was part of, namely mmorpg players who didn’t give up the games they were playing to go play WoW instead, one of the main reasons often cited was exactly the opposite: that WoW was restrive, controlling, linear and lacked the freedom of action and choice we were all used to and determined to keep.

    I specifically remember things like the questgivers even having markers over their heads to tell you they had quests being considered as a complete abnegation of personal freedom for the player. And the basic concept of quest “hubs”, where you’d need to go to get a whole set of quests in a kind of package deal, was seen as turning the whole idea of adventuring into some kind of unholy cross between shopping and day-labor.

    The odd thing is that the longer I play these games, the more comfortable I become about just following the storyline put in front of me. The more freedom the game offers, the more it feels like I’m having to do a lot of the work. The inevitable downside of that, though, is that if the game tells you it’s all about the story, then when you get to the end of that story, you’re done. When we didn’t know what the story was, or even that there was a story, we weren’t done with the game until we’d seen everything. And that rarely happened.

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    1. Well, I did mention the level-restriction and I wasn’t talking about sandbox MMOs vs. MMOs like WoW. That’s two really different kinds of MMOs that it’s hard to make a comparison. But quest-&-level based MMOs seem to be getting even more restrictive.

      I don’t like being guided from one point to another. Not in MMOs, at least. I don’t want to follow this one storyline. When I want that, I play single-player RPGs, if at all, or rather action RPGs. And I want to have a different experience with each of my alts. So, if there is always the same one storyline and not a choice of lots of quests to do, then it feels stale and boring.


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