On November 23rd, 2004 Blizzard Entertainment released World of Warcraft. I remember the day well because it marked the 10th anniversary of the original Warcraft. Long before, our very own Timothy Magana was going on and on about how I should have pre-ordered it, and how it would be a game I wouldn’t want to miss out on. To give you a little more background info, Timothy is a hardcore PC gamer and adores his MMORPGs. At the time we used to chat every evening about Nintendo, Blizzard and other game companies we were both into. We were both big fans of Warcraft III so he was surprised I showed little to no interest in WoW. At the time he was playing and talking about EverQuest on a daily basis, and would tell me about how he had played the game for years and how it was a ‘true game for true gamers’. For whatever reason I never bothered with any massively multiplayer online role-playing game before. I was much more interested in console games and PC games like Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, Half-Life, etc. I figured I didn’t have the time or the interest to stick with one game for ages and ages, which is all I ever heard about MMOs, that they required a significant amount of time to enjoy.
That was 2004.
Exactly one month ago today Timothy finally convinced me to give WoW a try. He can be very persuasive when he wants to be…either that or a big nag. I didn’t have anything else to do at the time, and this summer has been a complete washout for new releases that I was interested in. I figured if I was going to jump in and try this out, I might as well pick up the two expansions that weren’t included in the “vanilla” version of WoW (which now also includes the first expansion, The Burning Crusade). So after the lengthy download, and armed with a nice cold beverage, me and my early 2006 MacBook Pro decided it was time to finally experience the World of Warcraft.
Once my download was complete I had a ton of options I had to shift through. I needed to select a server, so I picked the one Timothy plays on (Uther), and then needed a character name. That proved to be rather difficult because virtually every name you could think of was already taken, and you can’t use numbers for names. That’s logical. So after some thinking, I decided on Righ, like Right without the T. This fit the character I was making too, a Worgen, which is basically a werewolf. I then needed to pick a class, which Timothy helped me choose. See I knew virtually nothing about this game, so all of these choices like which race I would select, what class I would play as, etc. were based entirely on Tim’s suggestions. He said if I wanted to experience a class that was advanced and allowed me to mix and match how I played; a Druid would fit my needs perfectly. So that’s what I ended up with, a Worgen Druid named Righ.
From there I was shocked to learn that you start off in a closed area. See I always thought MMOs were something like GTA except without a character-driven story. In other words, you are just dropped off in some open-world and left to find quests and that was about it. Boy was I wrong. The opening area sets up your character’s place within this giant world. So for me, it was all about my home village being attacked by a group of Worgens. After a solid ten hours (!) of taking on new quests, reading through the rich lore, which pushes you along at a nice brisk pace and walks you through the game’s various battle systems, you come to the story’s conclusion. In my case, my character was bitten by a Worgen and therefore transformed into one. His home village being all but destroyed, he finds himself in Darnassus, one of the capital cities in Kilimdor (the giant western continent of Azeroth). I couldn’t believe just how much storyline there was in those first hours, and also how the game was so user-friendly. Sure it might not have always been like that, but I’m experiencing this some seven years and change after the original release.
Once I hit Darnassus that’s when the game opened up, however the story continued. I knew my place within the world, and I had many choices to make moving forward. I needed to select trades to learn, which could be used to make special items, or to sell goods on the auction house for much-needed gold. I also learned cooking and first aid skills, which aid in making healing and boosting items. All of this took days to come to terms with, but at no point did I ever find it overwhelming, which was one of my biggest fears going in.
After taking the first few quests, which led me all around the opening area, I started to come to terms with the way the game works. It’s essentially a series of giant landmasses called zones, which are level-based. In other words if you’re level 12, you’re going to spend your time in the level 10 to 15 zone, and no further or you’re going to get destroyed Dragon Quest style. So that’s primarily what I did, lots and lots of quests before moving on to the next zone.
After my first few days, Timothy came online and started showing me some of the other capital cities in the Eastern Kingdoms, which blew my mind. Never before had I ever seen a videogame this massive. I was spending on average between five and eight hours per zone reading through all the lore, taking on quests and just exploring everything the game had to offer. When Tim showed me the other continent I realized why people were playing this game for close to a decade now, because it’s just so bloody huge. Think GTA but maybe five thousand times larger. No joke, it really is gargantuan.
After maybe a week or so Tim started explaining how other aspects of the game work from taking on daily quests, to earning reputation with the various cities. By doing this you unlock more features, mounts, quests, etc. Mounts were something that excited me greatly because at first I found my character walked extremely slowly. By the time I hit level 20 I was able to purchase a mount, which was just great because it allowed me to explore quicker. Sure the increase wasn’t astronomical, but it was just enough to make me happy. I hit a nice speed boost when I reached level 40, and finally the ability to fly when I hit 60. This progression ensured I always wanted to keep playing, to keep pushing forward just a little bit longer. At level 70 I was awarded the best gift of all, a drastic 280% increase in flying speed! What’s not to love about that? I’ve heard things get even crazier when you hit level 80.
Because I’m playing as a Worgen Druid I was able to transform into various beast forms when I hit these levels as well, which was great because again, it made me feel as though I was constantly making progress and jumping up another 20 levels didn’t seem so out of reach. It also made me feel distinct and important, because virtually everyone else I saw in the world had mounts, only a few of us were able to actually transform into creatures ourselves.
After a while the questing does get to you, I mean there are only so many different types of quests you can do right? I’ve got to hand it to Blizzard though; they sure packed in as much variety as they could think of. From Plants vs. Zombies type of quests to races, fights and everything in-between, there are likely 5 billion quests in this game, and while they all repeat after a while, the variety is extremely impressive considering just how many quests there are. That said, after a while you’ll likely tire of questing, and that’s where dungeons come into play. This is something Tim also showed me when I hit level 20 or so. By queuing for a dungeon I was able to take part in instances, basically closed off dungeons that no one but a five-man team can take part in. This completely changed the dynamic of the game because you need to work together in order to survive. Enemies are significantly tougher, but the rewards are equally great. The average queue time for a dungeon was between five and ten minutes, but you continue to quest and explore as you’re in the queue so you don’t even see the time pass by. After a short period of time, a prompt pops up on the screen letting you know you’re about to enter the dungeon. Finish the roughly 30-minute dungeon, and bam you’re right back where you left off. How awesome is that?
Dungeons are where you start to come to terms with the group aspect of the game, and they also ease you into the social portion of the game. You’ll talk to these random strangers, and eventually build up confidence as you level up. Eventually you can take part in arena matches, player versus player zones where it’s all out madness, and the infamous raids. Raids are legendary from what I hear. You need to be max level in order to take part in them, and equip yourself with some of the best weapons and armor in the game or you won’t stand a chance. Essentially a raid is where a group, sometimes 25, get together to take on a massive dungeon, could be hours long, and eventually pummel bosses that are simply epic. Doing this alone is not an option, heck doing this in a small raid group may prove impossible. Raids are what keep you glued to WoW long after you’ve finished the game.
Blizzard was able to do this by introducing various forms of currency. Sure gold is the standard, but there are also Justice, Heroic, and Conquest points. Each of these are earned by either taking part in a raid, high level dungeons and arena matches. They can then be traded in for the highest quality armor and weapons the game has to offer. It takes months to earn enough points to actually buy something, and Blizzard limits the amount of points you can get. For example, if you’re looking to buy some of the older raid equipment you’re going to need Justice points, which are the ones awarded by taking part in dungeons past level 70. The thing is, you can only earn around 100 points per week. The cheapest piece of equipment you can buy is 500 JP, and the max is 5,000JP. Do the math, that means it’s going to take you a minimum of five weeks before you can buy anything! Now that’s how you keep players come back for more.
There are also countless other social events to take part in. My first was the Darkmoon Faire. These are events, if you will, which Blizzard sets up throughout the year. There are events for every major holiday, and there are simply monthly events, like the Darkmoon Faire. At these events there are special daily quests, like the awesome fishing dailies, where you will earn another form of currency. Typically you receive tickets or tokens from completing these special quests, which you can bank until you have enough to buy something sweet from one of the vendors. What I love is how the game naturally adjusts to these events. For example, a lot of NPCs in the major cities begin to talk about the Faire, and you’re always reminded to go and check it out. There’s even a new area of the game that opens up just for players to take part in these events.
If all of this wasn’t enough, there are many different social aspects to the game, most of which are getting enhanced moving forward. For now you have all your trades you can work on, there are countless daily quests; there are dungeons, raids and yes, the classic quests. There are also achievements, which unlock epic mounts, and other goodies. Some of these achievements take months or even years to complete, but like everything in this game, the time you put in is greatly rewarded later on. With the latest expansion coming up on September 25th, all of these areas will see a major facelift. Blizzard is adding a Pokémon-style pet battle system where up to three wild pets can be captured and fought. They’re adding a farm a la Farmville, and so much more. The social scene is only going to continue to grow moving forward.
By mixing and matching quests and dungeons, taking part in as many different events as I can, and just taking my time to let this mysterious world unfold I’ve been able to get all the way to level 79 in only four weeks. I have now subscribed for three more months because I really want to experience everything else the game has to offer including raids, all the special events and more. I’ve also pre-ordered the Digital Deluxe edition of Mists of Pandaria, and simply can’t wait to explore every nook and cranny of the new continent.
I can now say that my biggest regret of this past generation is missing out on this excellent game. It’s well worth the $15 a month it costs, and for anyone who isn’t sure if an MMO is for them, I highly recommend you go ahead and give this one a try. There’s currently a free-to-play option that lasts for a month or until you hit level 20. Whatever the case, give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.