Irregular Meditations

From the Mind of Mister Jones

March 18th, 2010

People always ask me the question, “Why are people addicted to World of Warcraft?”  Well, being a World of Warcraft player, I have an answer: It’s a fantasy role-playing game that allows millions of online players to share adventures and/or battle each other in a large interactive world. Role-playing games (or RPG) are defined as a game in which players assume the roles of characters (or avatars) in a fictional setting or world. The World of Warcraft is so vast, that it’s almost impossible to see and experience everything the game has to offer. Well, in this blog, I’ll break it down.

The Beginning

I love video games. As a kid, the 8-bit Nintendo was a huge part of my life. I played that thing all night until my parents dragged my ass to bed.

The game that started it all!

The very first fantasy role-playing game I ever played was the Legend of Zelda for 8-bit Nintendo. Questing for weapons, items and money (and the ability to save your game) just blew me away. I played this game many hours after school. Why? To beat Gannon, the end boss. After you kicked his ass, there was a “Second Quest” mode of Zelda. The dungeons were different, bosses were harder and it made the game more interesting (as it was slightly different). Again, the goal of the Second Quest was to defeat Gannon. After that, you beat the game.

As I got older my dad invested in a family x86 computer that ran GeoWorks Ensemble (not Windows), and as a bonus he bought a new video game⎯King’s Quest V (1990). This was my first fantasy-world role playing game for the PC. You couldn’t attack monsters, but you had the option to cast spells (magical powers) or throw objects at someone/something.

Quest for Glory I⎯So, You Want To Be a Hero? (remake 1991)

Just the ability to quest, find treasures or hidden items, talk to people and the ability to save multiple games was just amazing to me.  Dad and I would sit down in the evening 3-4 times a week and play for an hour or so. Together, we’d try to figure out what to do next from hints in the game. “Why do I keep freezing to death,” I asked my dad. “Oh, I bet you need to purchase that wool coat from town!” Dad said. What great memories!

A year or so later, a new game hit the shelves, Quest for Glory I, So You Want To Be A Hero (1991). This was even more challenging. Not only could you walk around the area  but you could battle monsters and demons, and collect items and weapons. It was pretty bad-ass! This game was almost like my new “Zelda” game. And just like Kings Quest V, you could move the mouse cursor around and click objects.

The new RPG feature added to Quest for Glory was you were allowed to choose a type of adventurer: Warrior, Mage or Thief. I always picked the warrior because destroying shit was amusing. I always died as a mage.

Elder Scrolls IV, Oblivion (2006)

High school and college approached and I stopped with RPG games. My main focus was first-person shooter games like Doom, Quake, Return to Castle Wolfenstien and Half Life.

After several years after college I discovered several new RPG video games. These were Grand Theft Auto and The Sims. They weren’t fantasy, but still fun.

Once I moved  back to Lawrence, I discovered a new fantasy game that I drooled over, Elder Scrolls IV-Oblivion. It was a single player game that had outstanding graphics. The only downfall was the player needed an intense $300 graphics card to run the game (unless played on the Xbox.) I played this game pretty regularly as again, you could choose a huge combination of characters: Warrior, Mage and Thief.

Then, a co-worker of mine told me I should sign up for World of Warcraft. “Oh shit, I’ve heard stories about this game,” I told him. Just the thought of playing this game made me think of the stereotype I’d become. But like any other video game that looked cool, I decided to give it a shot. After all, Blizzard (the developers of World of Warcraft) sucked me into the game with it’s selling point, “Try 14 days free!” Damn.

Warcraft backstory

Since 1994, Blizzard has developed a series of games that resided in the universe called Warcraft⎯starting with “Warcraft-Orcs and Humans” (1994). In this game you could create a town, workers, factories and an army of soldiers. Once your town was populated enough, you could attack the computer controlled Orc town (and vise-versa).

Warcraft-Orcs and Humans (1994)

It wasn’t a bad game. I loved dominating the map. One of the coolest feature added (and fairly new feature in gaming) was players connecting to each other via dial-up modem. I could call my friend across town and play verses or co-op (cooperative) over the phone-line. ID Software started this trend with Doom (1991) and Doom2 (1992) as you could have up to four players over a dial-up modem.

Over the next few years, Blizzard created Warcraft II and III (each having their own expansion pack released later). Over the span of 9 years, the game developers had created a pretty cool fantasy story revolving around the Warcraft universe. Finally in 2004, the story elements and multiplayer features would be included in the new online version of Warcraft, “World of Warcraft.”

World of Warcraft

Well, what the hell is World of Warcraft? World of Warcraft is an MMORPG. What is that? MMORPG is an acronym for “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game.” Meaning not just a handful of players but thousands of players could play this game online, all at the same time. One Realm (a server computer) could host 10,000 to 15,000 players. People from all over the world can play together, all at the same time. Pretty nerdy huh? Now take the Realm and add 199 more. That’s right. Blizzard said World of Warcraft now has around 200 realms, all with thousands of players (you cannot interact with players on another realm). Jesus Christ that a lot of people playing this game.

Let’s create a character and see why this game is so addicting.

The game offers ten playable races, ten playable classes, multiple professions, thousands of quests, multiple modes of transportation, an extensive storyline and four realm types for different styles of playing. Damn.

Faction

There are two types of factions in the game: the Alliance and the Horde. Characters of different factions aren’t allowed to exchange chat. Some villages and towns are friendly to one faction while hostile to the other. If an Alliance approaches a horde town, the townspeople (and sometimes horde players) could attack and kill the alliance player. I always find it fun to locate and kill a horde quest-giver. This really pisses off the horde character as he can’t receive or turn in his quests. It works both ways too. ;)

Race

Now it’s time to choose a race. You’re allowed to choose Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, Night Elves, Draenei, Orcs, Troll, Tauren, Undead and Blood Elves (male and female). Each of the races have unique racial traits and playable classes. Not every race can have the same class that others can.

Classes

After choosing a race, you’re allowed to select a class for your player. You can pick Warrior, Paladin, Mage, Warlock, Druid, Shaman, Hunter, Priest, Rogue or a Death Knight. Each class has their own unique play style and each come with three talent specs. If your desire is to perform magic and suck the life out of a person, then a Mage or Warlock would be perfect. Other players like to squash a monsters head with a mace while wearing heavy, protective armor. In this case a Warrior, Paladin or Death Knight would be ideal. Sometimes you just want sneak around and back-stab other enemies or poison them until they die. This would be a Rogue. I chose a Paladin. I wear heavy armor and I pack a strong punch in healing. Healing is the ability to restore health for other players (and myself) in small increments. If a fellow player is dying from a monster, I can start a healing process and restore his health. This is useful when working together.

Exploring the Big-Ass World

Elynn Forest, mid-morning

Hastrel, in his early years

Hastrel, in his early years

Now that my awesome character is created, he will begin in the race’s starting area. Since your character is starting out, he has nothing to his name. You need to begin questing to acquire weapons and armor. Quest-givers are located all around your starting zone. They instruct your character to clean up shit, kill that infestation of wolves, or deliver a package. Whatever the task might be, this gains you experience points. As a level-1 character, you won’t be able to do much damage since you’re inexperienced at life but as you level up, you gain new spells, more health and your attack power increases. Every monster you encounter in a starting zone will range between level-1 and level-4. By the time you reach level-4, everything around you is easy to destroy.

The entire world is composed of monsters, creatures and humans of all shapes and sizes. Each quest is unique. You gain experience at almost everything you do.

Map of Elwynn Forest

It won’t be long before your level is higher and are allowed to move out of the starting area and into the main zone. As an example, if your character is human, you would start in an area called Northshire Valley. This area is located in the Elwynn Forest zone, a large forest like area that consists of wolves, bears and large spiders. The town you’ll explore in Elwynn Forest (when you’re a higher level) is Goldshire, next to Stormwind Castle. Stormwind is the capital city of the humans. Everything you need, from vendors with food and drink to class trainers, weapon shops and an auction house (which allows you to sell to and buy items from other players of your faction), resides in Stormwind.

After you reach level-10, it’s time to move to the next zone. Just west of Elynn Forest is Westfall. Westfall is a very brown and orange zone. If I had to guess the season here, I’d say fall. All trees are dead, grass is brown and there are bales of hay everywhere. Feels like late October here.

All creatures and quests in Westfall are slightly harder. For instance, quest-giver Farmer Furlbrow wants you to retrieve his pocket watch from the wardrobe in his farmhouse at the pumpkin farm. Sounds easy right? Well, the farmhouse is guarded by the Defias Brotherhood, a group of bandits that roam Westfall. They can be easy to kill, but the group of 7 that surround Furlbrow’s farmhouse is a bitch to pass through. New enemies and creatures lurk about in Westfall.

After the many hours of questing, you’ll eventually reach level-15. By now you’ll have receive a quest from Gryan Stoutmantle to kill Edwin VanCleef. This Defias leader resides in the Deadmines, vast tunnels under Westfall. This dungeon-type area is commonly referred to as an instance. Throughout the entire game, you’ll be asked to run an instance in that particular zone. Instances require five players and can be fun if your teammates aren’t peckerheads. They consist of monsters and heavily geared enemies who drop, when killed, nicer than average treasures.

Gear

Human Paladin, Level-80 (Tier 10)

Now let me take a moment and describe the different gear colors:

  • GREY (poor)⎯Trash, you can sell this shit to make money.
  • WHITE (common)⎯White gear is usually purchased from vendors for the first 5 levels.
  • GREEN (uncommon)⎯This type of gear has stats (added numbers that benefit the player’s overall performance). Depending what class you are, green gear will have stats that can benefit your specific character.
  • BLUE (rare)⎯Like green gear, but with better stats.
  • PURPLE (epic)⎯This gear will arrive around Level-40 and has the best stats.

Confused as fuck yet? I still am. The game is based around math calculations. Stats will increase your abilities. Monsters will die faster and that new fire spell your Mage just received can now explode heads.

After you return from Deadmines and turn in all quests, you’ve probably hit level-18. Now its time to move to the next zone. See why it can be addicting? The curiosity stimulates your brain on what adventures lies next? “Well these quests didn’t take as long as I thought. I’ll keep questing!” says your brain.

Questing in Borean Tundra

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Other things you can do

Professions

Not only can you quest and get better gear from instances, but you are allowed two Professions. This can range from Blacksmithing, Enchanting, Leatherworking and Tailoring. These help you make your own gear or improve what you already have.

Secondary professions consist of first aid, cooking or fishing.

Talent Points

Each class has the ability to choose one talent from three available talents builds. Talent points are one of the main ways to customize your character’s playstyle.

For example, I have a Paladin. There are three types of talents I can create for him: Holy, Protection or Retribution. Holy allows me to heal a group for survival in a hard instance. Protection allows me to take on 3-5 monsters at once and not die, but kill slowly and protect other players. Retribution allows my paladin to basically kill anything I see quickly.

I reached Level 80, now what?

Rogue, Level-80 (Tier 10)

Well, I hit the maximum level in the game, am I done? The answer is no. What Blizzard doesn’t tell you, is when you hit level-80, you’re only halfway through what the game offers. What else could there be?

Good question! At level 80, you now have to build up your gear. All of that BLUE and PURPLE shit you are wearing that took fucking forever to receive⎯be prepared to replace it. All of it. There are still bad guys to kill, but you need better gear to kill them. Then better gear to kill the bad guy after him.

Raiding

World of Warcraft offers a new set of games for your new level-80. This is called a raid. Remember the 5-player instances? Well a raid is a very hard instance that requires either 10 or 25 players. Some of the raids aren’t accessible if your gear is too low. This is why gear replacement is necessary. You keep killing progressively harder enemies to get better gear.

Raiding Lord Marrowgar in Icecrown Citadel

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End game

Finally, you kill the last boss but even that isn’t the end. More gear, more bosses, more instances. Blizzard will release another expansion pack in the fall of 2010 that will allow players to reach level-85.

Sometimes you can’t always raid with other players. What else can you do in the game?

Well some people, like myself, starts a new level-1 character of a different race and class. Each race and class have different spells, stories, quests and starting zones.

The World of Warcraft is too fucking big! This is why people play the game so damn much. There is so much you can do within this one game. Why play something else?

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