This mornings post is going to be a bit unusual as I did a thing last night that may or may not be nonsense. Lately I have been saying that it feels like I have disengaged faster with Battle for Azeroth than any of the expansions to date. However I do have a certain pattern of engaging and then eventually hitting a point where I bounce for awhile, and then eventually return to re-engage. It got me to wondering if I had any means of actually tracking this sequence. Since 2013 I had the record of my blog, because I tend to track how I am feeling about something pretty closely in the posts I am making. Another thing I have noticed is that Screenshots serve as forensic evidence for how I am feeling for a game. If I am checked out… I stop taking them… and with my copious archive of screenshots I was able to draw from that to determine my general take on a game at a given time. Additionally there are specific mental sign posts of events that happened that caused me to bounce like the release of specific games. All of these combined allowed me to create a shockingly accurate map of how engaged I was at a specific time.
Here is the table of data I managed to pull together. This morning I am going to step us through my history with World of Warcraft expansions, and go into some of my reasoning for pulling specific dates out of the air in regards to them. There is a simplified version of this data at the bottom of the post.
World of Warcraft: Vanilla
While I did not have a blog back then I have very clear marker posts for when my hype cycle with this game began, and when I checked out for the first time. I am bad about not deleting messages from gmail, and as such I have the original World of Warcraft Stress Test beta key invite email, providing me with the time stamp of when exactly the hype cycle began. The weekend of 8/20/2004 was significant for a couple of reasons… firstly the stress test but secondly it was my ten year high school reunion. I attended the cookout on that Friday night, was generally annoyed that people were still fighting about shit that happened at football games ten years earlier… and then opted to blow off the Saturday night festivities to stay at home and play World of Warcraft with my friends. From that weekend forward the hype was all too painfully real as we wound up feeming for another taste of that good good World of Warcrack. When I checked out the first time is honestly before I managed to hit level 60 in the game… and we wandered away to play with another group of our friends that had decided to go down the Everquest II route. The sign post in my memory there is that I got back in right around the launch of the Desert of Flames expansion, providing me with the date of disengagement around 9/13/2005. I came back towards the end of October and eventually found my way into the Late Night Raiders raid and the rest is history… but this first segment of time is an era before I hit the level cap and before I had a reason to stay engaged. Prior to World of Warcraft I was fairly notorious for not actually hitting the level cap in games before wandering away.
The Burning Crusade
The Burning Crusade is the era in which I became Belghast the Raid Tank and transitioned from being Lodin the Reluctant Hunter. I remember my hype cycle began around the opening of the TBC Beta circa 10/30/2006 and getting leaked bits of information coming out about the expansion and all of the interesting changes that were going to be made. As far as the disengagement happening… that occurred roughly 9/15/2007 when I got into the beta for Hellgate London and wound up all but stopping playing World of Warcraft to deeply engage with that game. I came back a few months later, but ultimately what I am trying to track is that moment when I first wandered away during an expansion cycle. I also weirdly do not have much in the way of screenshots for stuff that happened later in The Burning Crusade, so that leads me to believe that I was maybe just going through the motions a bit.
Wrath of the Lich King
Once again my hype began as the beta opened and information started trickling out about the expansion, so that places it starting somewhere around 7/15/2008. As far as disengaging… this expansion I stayed connected to it with an almost laser focus and didn’t really disconnect until around the launch of Ruby Sanctum which was extremely late in the content release schedule. I was in the raid leadership of the very active Duranub Raiding Company that formed towards the end of The Burning Crusade and continued on all of the way through downing The Lich King… and I am pretty sure we made more than a few Ruby Sanctum runs. Ultimately towards the end of Lich King I was going through a lot of bad times personally and fighting off a pretty nasty spiral of depression, which probably more than anything lead to me pulling back from the game. While Wrath happened there were a few times I was also playing another game… but never to the point of stopping playing World of Warcraft.
I really was not feeling this expansion from the start, as evidenced by the fact that I had pure hell finding any screenshots from this era. The hype of Cataclysm would have started sometime around Blizzcon, so I set the date for 10/23/2010 as that was the second day of Blizzcon that year. The expansion itself released in December of that year, and I found a blog post from 2/22/2011 stating that I was done with World of Warcraft, at the time I thought permanently. I was disillusioned with the game, my raiding circumstances, and used the release of Rift and its beta that I was in at the time as a life raft to get me the hell out of a situation where I was not happy at all. Now I came back to the game later, but as far as the moment of detachment… it was February and became more so in March and April as the release cycle for Rift ramped up. This was a serious enough split that I literally thought I was gone for good… handed over the keys to House Stalwart my guild and gave away my gold to friends thinking I wouldn’t need it.
For Mists of Pandaria we had to rely on the forensic evidence of screenshots to determine a time table because the expansion launched during a drought in content on my blog. Namely 9/11/2012 was one of the darkest days in my life, because some work related events happened that lead to about six months worth of hell for me personally. So based on my screenshots I can see that I re-engaged with World of Warcraft in general about a month before the release of Pandaria on 8/22/2012, and then the screenshots stop around 10/30/2012 which syncs up with my memory of not being in for long. Ultimately Pandaria was a tale of false starts, with the raid I was attempting to help get started… failed miserably and I simply did not have the mental fortitude to stick it out. It was a group largely based around familiar connections, and with it a lot of non-responsive players… including an off tank at the time that was seemingly incapable of pulling off a boss swap mechanic. We never made it past the first boss of the expansion, and I found myself checking out hard with the last screenshots being taken on Halloween from a costume contest event that my friend Rae was hosting. I remember logging back in for that, but having not played much prior to it… or not at all after it. Of course I eventually came back as the above screenshot is from a Throne of Thunder raid, but again we are tracking the moment of initial disengagement.
Warlords of Draenor
With Warlords of Draenor… it brought forth the first expansion I publicly stated that I would not be playing. I got into the beta process for it early on and I was not feeling it… mostly because my then main the Death Knight felt awful to play. However Blizzcon is a constant in my hype cycle and watching it around 11/08/2014 managed to stir enough excitement to get me to log back in… at which point I was drug through Siege of Orgrimmar and luckily had a tanking friendly heirloom weapon drop. This expansion saw my return to raiding as the weird Protection Warrior DPS spec, and I loved it… it was basically everything I had ever wanted warrior dps to be… smashing things with a giant shield. I miss the hell out of Gladiator stance. Once again I can rely on blog posts to tell me at which point I started to check out and write posts about being disappointed in Warlords of Draenor, and the first of these that I was able to find was 3/27/2015 which is probably about when in my memory I was trying to get out of the game. I remember we downed Blackhand once… took a break… and then that was when I ran for the hills.
I remember originally referring to Legion as the expansion of things left on the cutting room floor from other expansions. I was not super hyped about it, that is until the pre-legion events started and I managed to use them to power level an army of alts. Based on my blog posts I started talking about World of Warcraft again around 7/21/2016 and then similarly started talking about my frustrations with it around 11/23/2016. Once again I was raiding, this time as a tank and remember checking out part of the way through Nighthold. I remember Legion very fondly, as when I checked out it was just that my life really couldn’t support attending a raid, and not so much a desire to not be raiding. I played this off and on but my first break was in November, and when I came back I largely played Horde side.
Battle for Azeroth
I was super not excited about Battle for Azeroth because I did not like the concept of a forced Red vs Blue narrative. However based on blog posts I returned to World of Warcraft around 7/30/2018 and was dinking around on alts like my High Mountain Tauren Monk just prior to the launch. I did very little in the way of prep, but was pleasantly surprised at how engaging the story was. The first strike against the expansion was how generally awful Protection Warrior felt, which lead me to refocus around my Demon Hunter as a viable tanking option… but also made it feel like I lost the first week and same change of progress… and was effectively permanently behind the curve. Finally upon cresting the 340 gear mark… it just felt like I didn’t have much opportunity for improvement other than raiding, and with the switch to Horde as main… my raiding options were limited to the Sunday night outing which was bad for me timing wise. The systems in Battle for Azeroth just feel unrewarding… which has lead me to the point of the last several weeks where I have been making posts dissecting them… the first of them on 9/17/2018.
Charting the Data
Ultimately I ignored the hype cycle since it didn’t seem to make much of a different upon the longevity of my play time, and instead focused on the time from launch of an expansion to the time I first bounced. The above is this data in bar chart form. I am not terribly shocked that the period in which I was the most engaged was Wrath of the Lich King because for me at least this was the golden era of raiding and guild leadership. Weirdly enough I remembered in my mind bouncing faster from Vanilla than I actually did… but staying engaged longer in Burning Crusade. Regardless those first three expansions were prime wow time, and had some fairly meaty engagement periods for me personally. Cataclysm I stuck it out longer than I remembered it… Pandaria I bounced way faster than I remembered… and then I was completely shocked at how much time I seem to have been engaged during Warlords of Draenor. So much so that I would have sworn I had been engaged longer with Legion, because in my memory I remember that time much more fondly. Last we have Battle for Azeroth which as the data shows is in fact my fastest time to disengage from a World of Warcraft expansion.
So what does this data mean? Not a whole lot given that this is my personal trend with World of Warcraft expansions. The truth is… it might be the lack of an active raid that caused the quick detach from Pandaria and Battle for Azeroth. In Panda I was technically making attempts but seeing no success, and in BfA the timing has kept us from pulling anything together. I’ve said a few times that I thought I needed a raid to anchor me in the expansion, and I will admit a lot of my engagement time in TBC and Wrath was due to the fact that I felt like I HAD to be there as Guild Leader. Once I stopped leading guilds in World of Warcraft, I also lost a big chunk of my reason for sticking it out. All of that said… I think the expansions themselves bear some responsibility as well. Wrath of the Lich King as far as I am concerned is the true golden era of World of Warcraft… not Vanilla. The numbers seem to agree with this stance, and most of the times I remember most fondly are from this period of gaming. I think World of Warcraft for me personally has been a series of me attempting to recapture the magic from that era and failing. In any case I thought this might make for an interesting post.