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What optional means in World of Warcraft

Matthew Rossi

There are a few things I do in World of Warcraft. I raid. I do dungeons and scenarios for valor points and also to test out specs and gear optimization for use later in raids. I run LFR for gear to use as a stopgap in later raids, or to supplement my bad luck (for instance, I really really need a trinket). And I do a lot of older content, because I am a transmogrification junkie and I always have a hankering for a new look. Every few months, I get the urge to PvP because I remember the six months I spent PvPing at the end of Vanilla and the on and off arena days of The Burning Crusade with equal parts fondness and loathing, and when fondness overwhelms loathing I go give it another shot.

These are the things I do in World of Warcraft. Everything else, I either don't do, or I do haphazardly. I don't do cooking anymore at all -- I used to, but one look at the current state of cooking and how intertwined it seems to be with the Tillers completely soured me on it. I don't do the Tillers. I only do dailies until I no longer need the rep to buy something and then I never do them again. I have two professions that I like to keep maxed, but I rarely do anything with them for profit, I just have them for the raiding benefits. In short, I play World of Warcraft to kill things and to look good while I do it. And that's enough for me.

But I know it's not enough for everyone. Mists of Pandaria will be six months old this April 21st, and for a lot of people, it's the expansion that increased choices -- the expansion that expanded their options. And in fact, it did so for me, as well. Because one of the great things about options is that they are optional, and you can choose not to do them. So for me some of the greatest aspects of Mists of Pandaria have been all the things I haven't bothered to do.

Livid with obsessions
See, I don't collect pets, don't care about pet collecting, and I haven't done a single pet battle. The fact that I haven't had to has been one my greatest delights, because one of the things I do enjoy doing is farming older content for transmog drops. And in the process of creating pet battles, Blizzard went and put pets in some of these older raids that I'm farming anyway. Now, I don't care about a single one of those pets. But other people do, so if I need some help to run Naxx-25 it's easier to get, and if I get some pets while running AQ or MC I can put that pet up on the AH or even just give it to a friend. Because of the way the pet battle system works, I can learn the pet on Elune, then give it to a friend on Cenarion Circle or Norgannon.

The pet battle system has directly enriched my game experience despite, in fact because of, my complete and utter disinterest in it.

Similarly, I've long stopped doing the Kirin Tor Offensive quests. I do Klaxxi dailies when I feel low on lesser charms because I'll admit doing some dailies doesn't feel as optional as I'd like (Mogu Runes of Fate feel necessary, not optional) but I still make use of the Thunder Forges even though I've been a blacksmith since vanilla and I have the recipes for the BC weapons the reborn items were meant to replace (the ones I want, anyway). I'm making use of the forges to craft items for other people to use in transmog.

One of the elements of the expansion to date that I don't feel is as optional as it could, or should, be is the daily quest system. Daily quests work very well in providing lots for players to do, and I am fairly certain that their implementation throughout this expansion has taught Blizzard a great deal which can be used going forward. For me, patch 5.1 was the height of daily quest design for Mists and patch 5.2, while good, isn't quite as good. That being said, what really bothers me about dailies is that already mentioned lack of optionality about them. I need Mogu Runes of Fate to maximize my raiding viability, and so, I need to run dailies because it's pretty much the only way to get any Lesser Charm of Good Fortune much less the 90 or so I need every week. You could argue that technically, I don't need runes to raid, and that's true, but it's choosing between the best possible outcome and a less beneficial one. I can get three extra loot rolls, or not get three extra loot rolls. Which sounds better to you? Im not saying I want the Runes done away with - I'd just enjoy another way to procure them, similar to the way I can run a dungeon and a scenario a day and never do a single Order of the Cloud Serpent quest again. I hate those quests, and I love not doing them.

In the future I hope for more optional content like the Brawler's Guild (which I have never touched, and which has in no way positively or negatively affected me) or pet battles, stuff that I can take or leave and will probably leave. I like doing very specific things when I play World of Warcraft. Optional content that truly is optional benefits me indirectly by keeping players with different interests than mine going, keeps the game vibrant and alive, and has unforeseen benefits to me at odd and unexpected moments. I like when I get to choose not to do stuff almost as much as when I enjoy doing things. It makes what I like the more palatable, because it's all my choice to engage in it.

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