A funny thing happened the other day: Pleasance stopped getting XP. I was doing quests that should have given her experience, and the game reported them as if they did, but the progress bar that forms a major and oft-consulted part of the game UI remained resolutely stuck at one percent of the way to the next level. It was most puzzling until I realized what had happened: Pleasance had reached the level cap for trial accounts. I considered switching to Oleari for the next couple of days, but I felt like I was on a roll and wanted to keep going. It strikes me that this is something Blizzard planned out pretty well: trial accounts are capped at level 20, which is also a pretty major upgrade point. Among other things, level 20 is when you can learn to ride, a not inconsiderable time-saver and status symbol. Warlocks in particular get a demonic horse with flaming hooves for free at level 20. So, that’s one way the game goads you into taking things farther (and faster).
So anyway, I’m a paid-up citizen of Azeroth now, albeit still just vanilla WoW without any burning crusades or anything. Upgrading to a paid account also solved another little mystery: the mystery of why RealID didn’t work as advertised. RealID is what Blizzard calls the ability to contact your friends by their email address, and it’s another thing that’s not available to trial accounts. There are probably good reasons for this involving privacy concerns and/or fraud prevention. Even with the rules as they stand, I’ve already experienced one rather pathetic in-game phishing attempt. Someone with a character name involving the word “Blizzard” whispered a grammatically weird message to me, asserting that there had been complaints about me and that my account would be suspended if I didn’t visit a certain URL. Anyway, now that I can easily contact the few friends I have who are actively playing (and whose character names I find it difficult to remember), I might actually make good on my repeated promises to try out some group play. Just, you know, don’t take my word for this until it’s phrased in the past tense.
Now, I’ve already asserted that the WoW payment model is outside the boundaries of the Oath. But now that I’ve actually had a full week (including two weekends) of experience with the game, I’m wondering if it might be more appropriate to consider the purchase of the game as subject to the Oath, and just leave off the monthly payments. Despite what I said before, this game actually feels somewhat finishable (if rather large) — just following the game’s lead and doing quests as they’re presented to you results in a good sense of progress, and there’s got to be a point where that progress stops. Even if Blizzard is constantly tweaking the content, the quest tree as a whole forms a single coherent story with world-altering effects, similar to those found in single-player CRPGs. It wouldn’t be stretching things far to describe this game as having a single-player campaign mode. It’s just a single-player campaign with the peculiar feature that other players occasionally run by. And certainly there are and have been other games on the Stack that were mainly intended as multiplayer, but which I’ve only attempted to play alone. (Red Alert is a good example.) But I have yet to make up my mind about this.