One thing that’s not always obvious (and, personally, this was one of my biggest hurdles) was understanding why one should even run Westholme at all. Many times it’s long, it’s difficult, and you’re not always sure what the rewards might be – not the greatest sell on the surface. Allow me to be an ambassador for a bit, and let you know about why this zone even exists in the first place.
It’s the best place to get skill-ups.
While people with intellectual curiosity will learn from a number of endeavors and activities, making the choice to even go to Westholme primes your brain to learn. While eventually you’re gearing up for whatever your end-game content is, you can’t very well show up with low stats, insufficient skills or missing abilities. Westholme, by its very nature, will put you in uncomfortable places and situations – one where you must learn, adapt and grow to get past the next boss and proceed. The more enjoyable zones typically are easier, and won’t require you to level-up important skills or abilities since you can coast by pretty smoothly.
Whether you’re trying to trying to get the first boss down in the “Weight Loss Chasms” or getting the epic cheevos on “Employment Citadel,” all of this is so you can do something you want – something that you hope get achieve, feel or receive after you’ve geared up for it.
You can have fun here, but it’s up to you to find it.
Let me share an anecdote of my own on this. While I’d wanted to be a game designer for a long time, making that happen had difficulties – I had no car, very little money and was 90-120 minutes away from all the game development studios in my area. After speaking to some friends and getting sage advice, I’d gotten a job at Microsoft doing QA on the X360 launch (and as a PC gamer, this is not the most exciting thing in the world to me!) in hopes that I’d get the aforementioned skill-ups. This is a job that involves playing the same content over and over trying to make the AI do something it did once-every-1000 times, writing technical reports on how to functionally reproduce the bug, and other very rote tasks – waking up at 5:30am still being something I never hope to do again.
But in the end, I had a blast.
The way I managed that was to focus on enjoying myself while I knew I had a grind ahead of me. “How does this AI work behind the scenes – if I learn more about that, I can write better bugs and get a skill-up!” “When talking with the developers, can I learn more about their intent so I can see the thought processes of their design?” For anyone who’s passionate about a subject, this is a fun mental space to be in. That perspective turned what could be seen as a pretty unfulfilling job and made it enriching – thereby keeping me focused on getting those skill-ups. So if I was going to log in and run Westholme (to get those sweet gains!) dammit I was determined to make it enjoyable. And that perspective has no small part in having been able to build a successful career out of it.
Because the alternatives are far worse.
Even if it sucks sometimes, the alternatives to running it are much worse in the medium-long term. Alternatives are:
* Don’t do endgame at all (ie: screw around at the expense of not accomplishing what you want to).
* Grind on zones that you’re way over-leveled for (you can feel powerful, but you won’t get any XP).
* Keep ressing at the Graveyard instead of waking up at the Inn (via having a dissatisfaction with your level, spec and class).
To me, these all seem like way worse alternatives to just getting it done and getting sweet loot! Maybe you want to be a better artist, or write a book. Maybe you want to start a family but have a hard time finding someone, maybe you want to be an indie developer – who knows. I will say, though, zero of things we tend to actually desire are resultant of avoiding Westholme.
Overall, Westholme is defined by hard work and, many times, deferred rewards. However, Westholme is an important, valuable place to get comfortable with as we’ll all have to go back at some point to get better gear, level up, or practice our class a little more. At the end, all this gets you to a bit closer to Ultimatopia – a concept that I’ll go into deeper in a future post.