World of Warcraft:
First Impressions

By Shamus
on Jun 27, 2008
Filed under:
Game Reviews

This is going to be a strange series. WoW is a cultural phenomenon and the 800lb. gorilla of PC gaming. Ten million subscribers. (That number gets thrown around a lot. Is that concurrent, or all time? I ask because that number hasn’t changed in years. 10 million subscribers x $20 a month = fountain of eternal green.) I have no doubt there are people who read this site who played the game for months, got sick of it, quit, relapsed, quit again, got back into it when the expansion came out, hauled a few characters to level 70, tapered off, and now think of the game in terms of the distant past.

And here I am, going to come in and review this thing like I’m covering new ground. It’s crazy, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

As soon as I figure out where to start.

What should we discuss? The art? The gameplay? The races and sides? The player culture? The various servers? I keep looking for some approach to this series that will let me tame this deluge of information.

Some people become “addicted” to WoW, in the sense that they play, talk, and think about it more than they should. But other people seem to be able to take it or leave it in a responsible manner. As I feared, I’m the former, so it’s very important that I be exceptionally careful with this game.

The game isn’t what I expected. Detractors keep describing it as a level-grind, and I was thinking “Diablo II” type mob-killing and item harvesting. And that gameplay is indeed part of Wow. But saying this game is about leveling is like saying Grand Theft Auto is a game about driving. You certainly do a lot of it, but usually in pursuit of other, more interesting goals.

But let’s describe all the parts of the game for the benefit of those who haven’t played:

Ha! I’m joking. There are entire wikis out there dedicated to describing the game, and even at that they have bare spots and missing articles. No, what we’re going to do here is a very reckless, half-assed overview of the game:

This is the Titular “World” of Warcraft:

Want to see more? <a href="http://mapwow.com/">Check out the Google Earth style WoW map</a>. Even the tiny parts of the game are freaking <strong>huge</strong>.
Want to see more? Check out the Google Earth style WoW map. Even the tiny parts of the game are freaking huge.

This is the biggest gameworld I’ve ever explored. I don’t know if it’s the biggest ever or not, but I know it would require monumental effort to see it all.

The game extends the story of the classic RTS Warcraft into an MMO setting, which was pretty strange to me at first. In the past we’ve looked down on Azeroth from above, commanding armies and jumping around the map with a mouse. Now we have full access to the immense world hinted at in the strategy games, but we’re on foot.

As with Warcraft, there are two major warring factions: The Alliance and the Horde. The Alliance are the nice people: Ubiquitous Humans, Stout Dwarves, Adorable Gnomes, and Tree-hugging Night Elves. The Horde are supposedly evil, although their overall character is a bit out of focus. There’s the classic hulking, green-skinned Orcs. Then there’s the… Undead? Like, you can play as a zombie if you want? Then there are the Tauren, who are kind of bipedal bison-people, a nomadic and honorable tribal society. Given their temperament, they would actually fit in better with the Alliance, but the story explains how they ended up aligned with the Horde. Finally, there are the scrawny, bent trolls.

The Orcs have undergone the same treatment that Star Trek gave the Klingons: They retconned in a warrior culture and caste society to make their previously feral antagonists a bit deeper and more interesting.

You might think – as I did at first – that one of those islands is Horde and the other is Alliance, but actually the two sides are mixed together. Each race has their own “home” area on the map, but neither side dominates either island.

So the game works like this: You pick a side. (Horde or Alliance.) Then you pick a race and gender. Then you pick a character class. (Paladin, Mage, Rogue, etc.) Then you pick a name that hasn’t already been taken and (ideally) isn’t too idiotic or infantile. Then you enter the game.

Considering the size and scope of this game, it does an excellent job of easing you into it. Each race has their own unique starting area (Er. I think the Dwarves and Gnomes share the same start area, but don’t trouble me with trivialities or we’ll never get through this. Sheesh. Thank you.) but all the starting areas work the same.

After the race-specific opening cutscene / narration, you start off in what I call the “Playpen”. This is a semi-enclosed space that will keep you from accidentally blundering out of the tutorial zone without noticing. It’s generally a field with some very harmless creatures milling around. An NPC is right in front of you, and the first thing he’ll do is assign you a job of wiping out X number of the nearby creatures. The creatures don’t aggro (that is, they don’t attack you unless you attack them first) so the Playpen is about the safest place in the whole game. You’ll do a few small quests that will teach you how to get around and how to fight. About the time you hit level 3 – say, ten minutes or so – you’ll be given a quest to leave the playpen and go to a nearby city.

At this point the game has begun in earnest. Assuming you follow the quests given to you (although there’s nothing saying you have to) You’ll operate out of this city until you hit level ten. This city acts as a hub for the next several hours as you run quests that will send you further and further afield. As you complete quests you’ll learn more about the particular set of problems facing your race.

At level ten you gain a bunch of new abilities. You can’t really have a feel for a particular character class until you hit this point. The game actually gets slowly harder as you approach level nine, and at ten this pressure is released when you gain your new powers and the difficulty steps back down.

Once you reach 10 you’re sent to the next city, which once again acts as a hub where monsters become more powerful and dangerous the further away you get. As before, you’ll stick close to town for a few levels until you’re strong enough to face the monsters further out. At about level twenty the process repeats: New town, new foes, new hub of quests. Each town has it’s own look and feel, so moving on is a visual treat.

That’s as far as I’ve gone with the game. Doesn’t sound like much, I’m sure. The premise and the pacing are simple and obvious. But millions of people pay money each and every month to play the damn thing. I’m still on my first free month, but I can’t imagine canceling right now. So let’s just include me in that tally.

So far I’ve only described to two core components of the game: Questing and leveling. But if that was all there was to the game then I’d be getting tired of it by now, instead of becoming increasingly obsessed. Questing and leveling set the pace, but it’s the other player-initiated goals and activities that drive the player. (Which I’ll talk about in another post.)

I have many petty nitpicks with the game, but when it comes to the fundamental mechanics this thing is flawlessly executed. This is a robust and highly polished experience. Some people call it “the best game ever”. I’m careful about making those sorts of claims, although if I had to pick the “best game ever”, WoW would certainly be in the running. (And I’ve seen less than a tenth of it.) You can try out a free 10-day trial if you want to find out if you’re susceptible to its addictive properties. I do not advise you to do this, particularly if you have things you wish to accomplish in the next few months. I’m just saying you could.

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  1. Roger, FCD says:

    The 10-million number came out a few months ago, most of the subscribers pay a /hr. fee, as opposed to a monthly all-access fee.

    WoW currently has a bit > 5million US/European subscribers that pay the monthly fee.

  2. Luke Maciak says:

    Shamus, I did the 10 day trial some time ago and decided I can walk away from this game. And I did. For months I really did not think of it. I had this feeling that I beat the system – I played WoW and did not get sucked in.

    Then few weeks ago I developed this strange urge to get back into the game, and dust off my Tauren warrior. So far I resisted. But your blog posts are not helping me here. lol

    Also, Horde in this game doesn’t really seem evil. They simply have different goals, and different priorities. For example if you play as Tauren you will see Dwarfs opening mining camps all over your back yard, polluting the land, cutting the forests and etc. So as a brave Tauren fighter you go and kick their ass and become a hero for the local folk. Dwarfs probably see it as evil savage brutes raiding their businesses.

  3. MRL says:

    For a bit more Horde-side flavor:
    The undead are actually a splinter faction from the Scourge (the ‘bad guy’ undead that EVERYONE hates); Sylvanas Windrunner from Warcraft III managed to scrape together a good chunk of her mind, and broke free of the Scourge, and has been busily trying to awaken other undead as she goes.

    Of the Horde, the Undead are pretty much the closest to outright evil. There are a lot of NPCs of theirs who want to wipe out the Alliance (particularly humanity) outright – but in their favor, the rest of humanity sees ALL undead as horrible abominations that need to be slaughtered.

    The trolls in the Horde are pretty much the ONLY non-evil tribe of trolls – they were actually ostracized for not being xenophobic ENOUGH, and would have been driven into extinction if the orcs hadn’t saved them.

    And how the heck do you describe trolls as “scrawny”? When a male troll stands upright, he’s eight or nine feet tall!

  4. I play WoW, I get to max level, I run out of quests that aren’t “Do the same thing as the day before” and go back to EQ for a year or two :)

    WoW isn’t a grind. It’s not even CLOSE to a grind! A grind is sitting in the same point in a zone, or dungeon, pulling the same ten to thirty mobs over, and over, and over for hours to get experience. Sometimes loot is a bonus thrown into the pot.. but mostly, experience. EQ1 is the king of the grind.

  5. Fenix says:

    I have to say one thing. I hate WoW!

    I have played the game more than ten different times and quit each time. I quit because the game feels really repetitive and more boring than watching flys f*** after about 5 hours. However about once every month or so i get an urge to play it again.

    Now note I’m not part of the subscriber statistic. I did the free trial, then once payed for a month, then have frequented several free servers, and at one point I created my own server. Unfortunatly in between each of those time i had uninstalled the game vowing I would never play it again.
    Oh well. I’m just saying that if you don’t want to heavily invest in this game walk away and get hypnotherapy. (Hey it worked mostly in ctrl alt del)

    Speaking of which I’m prolly gonna do another free server if there aren’t any other games or good anime to distract me. Alone in the dark isn’t looking as good as I thought it would.

  6. Matthew says:

    I’m a huge, huge lore nerd, fair warning. Pretty much all of the races have, at one time, done something that would be considered “evil,” with the exception of the Tauren and the Draenei:

    Humans: Enslaved the orcs after Warcraft II and kept them in internment camps where they began to wither away as a people. Also, you had Stormwind’s decision to basically rebuild their city and then give a big “Eff You” to the peasants and crafters that contributed, instead of paying them.

    Dwarves: Pretty much the whole industrialized strip-mining thing that was mentioned before, taking land that doesn’t belong to them, etc. Otherwise, they’re not too bad.

    Gnomes: Not necessarily evil, but they did blight their own city into a poisonous wasteland.

    Night Elves: In my opinion, the race that has committed more evil acts than all of the races combined. The original invasion of the Burning Legion? Their fault. The explosion that destroyed most of the known world? Their fault again. Even the blood elves are runner-up compared to the chaos the night elves caused in their history.

    Orcs: Demonblooded bersekers for a while.

    Trolls: Cannibals, dark magic, summoned an evil god.

    Undead: Yeah, this one is… pretty obvious.

    Essentially what it boils down to is a much more political game with “shades of grey” on both sides. Certainly, races like the undead have more evil flavor, but it’s mixed with their desire to find their own path in their new existence. And really, aside from the mana-addiction and the semi-totalitarian “happiness is mandatory, citizen” from the Silvermoon guards, most of the blood elf quests just show that they’re trying to rebuild and reclaim their land.

    Now,it’s more about the politics of the factions than about the “good guys” vs. “bad guys.”

  7. coz says:

    Have fun with it.
    They have made leveling a lot easier since BC to help newbies get to level 70 faster. Made Elites into non Elites, easier Instances, and less mobs etc
    My hubby and I have been playing for over 3 years and still love it. Playing with someone helps a lot and we can chat about smiting Gnomes over dinner.
    We moved from Australia to the US last year so once a week we get up at 2am till 6am to raid with our Aussie Guild. Great way to catch up while smiting Gnomes.

    Horde much more interesting than Ally’s…
    Go Horde!!

  8. Clint says:

    If people are interested in World of Warcraft lore, http://www.wowwiki.com/Sargeras is a great place to start, as Sargeras is the lynchpin on which all of WoW history moves. I personally find it fascinating, and spent a couple of days reading up on all of the racial stories and major events and such. http://www.wowwiki.com/Timeline_(unofficial) is also a good way to find particular events.

    Clint

  9. Rubes says:

    Ugh. I’ve managed to stay away from WoW entirely, although I’ve occasionally had the urge to try it just so I know what everybody is talking about. So far I’ve resisted, but this is definitely not helping.

  10. Tony says:

    I’ve always seen the Alliance as the bad guys, at least after the happenings in Warcraft 3 and its expansion, The Frozen Throne. Bunch of racist idiots.

    The Diablo-like Horde campaign in TFT showed the Horde starting to build their new home in Kalimdor, only to have the Alliance start ruining everything thanks to Whatsherface’s uncle or daddy, can’t remember which.

    As for what I saw during my one-year tenure in the World of Warcraft, everything seemed disappointingly cartoonish. WoW as a whole felt as something out of a Saturday morning cartoon. The old Warcraft games certainly had a bit (okay, a lot) of humor in them, but WoW seems like a Robin Williams stand-up session.

    That said, I liked WoW, at least the first 60 levels of it. Then came the end-game instances and destoyed the game for me. I simply can’t understand how people can spend hours and hours of their time inside those massive, boring caves.

  11. khorboth says:

    WoW is pretty large, but I don’t think it’s the largest.

    I think Star Wars: Galaxies counts even though they set it up as multiple worlds. I haven’t played recently, but it was lots and lots of room with NO content.

    Vanguard was also incredibly large and actually had quests to fill out most (60%) of the area.

  12. The Lone Duck says:

    The only thing I’d say is a bit of a flaw in the WoW game mechanics/design is the necessary lack of change. Let’s say you are trying to clear the rats out of a cellar, to crate an example. You might finish the quest, but there will eternally be rats in that cellar. You can never go back to find a tidy cellar. I’m no programmer, so I have no idea how you’d create that functionality for different players in an MMO environment. But that lack of impact, for me anyway, cheapened the impact of the quests. Admittedly, some of the new endgame quests have fixed that, like the quests to open up Ogrila. At this point, it’s done, and WoW is still a well-polished game. It will addict you for a time, and then it will pass. Of course, probably not before the next expansion…

  13. Zukhramm says:

    “The game isn’t what I expected. Detractors keep describing it as a level-grind, and I was thinking “Diablo II” type mob-killing and item harvesting. And that gameplay is indeed part of Wow. But saying this game is about leveling is like saying Grand Theft Auto is a game about driving. You certainly do a lot of it, but usually in pursuit of other, more interesting goals.”

    I must have missed those more interesting goals.

  14. Tony says:

    “I must have missed those more interesting goals.”

    True, though it may feel like there really is a lot to do when you’re new to the game.

    Then, after a few hours (days?) of playing, you finally realize that there’s nothing more to WoW than killing stuff. And taking their eyes or feet.

  15. Dev Null says:

    Yeah, I like the fact that its not really a good vs. evil game; it presents both sides as mixes of jerks and decent folk, and then runs you around for ages trying to get some number of the bazillion-and-a-half competing/coexisting factions to like you enough to sell you things. (Hey, its still an RPG; its all about the loot.)

  16. Psychoceramics says:

    Any time they cite a specific number of subscribers, they also claim that it’s the number of current subscribers. They aren’t counting canceled accounts.

    @Tony:
    the whole point was that neither side was evil. Just misguided individuals. Jaina isn’t the dick her father was. By your logic, I could brand the Horde evil just for the tiny demon worshiping cult in the bottom of Orgrimmar.

  17. Dovienya says:

    As a former lore nerd for Warcraft, I have a love/hate relationship with this game. On the one hand, you can be interact with pretty much anyone from the lore, befriend them or antagonize them, as well as explore a whole virtual world that’s had plenty of thought put into it. On the other hand, large parts of the lore are rewritten so as to make for the next big raid. The one that annoyed me the most was Illidan’s total loss of the character development he had in Frozen Throne; where before he had treated his allies and underlings with respect and even made peace with his brother and Tyrande, now he’s just a cookie-cutter megalomaniacal villain that spends his time being insane and waiting in his citadel for random adventuring party #334 to come and end his evil ways.

    Of course, I never played long enough to get up much past 40, so I haven’t participated in these high-end raids. Maybe if I was actually doing them myself I wouldn’t mind so much, although I’ve tried a few out on my brother’s characters and didn’t see what the big deal was. Eh, I just can’t stay interested in it long enough.

  18. Tony says:

    @Psychoceramics

    Bad writing on my part. Warcraft 3 expanded the lore a lot, since the first two Warcrafts were pretty much cliché tales of good vs. evil – at least from what I can remember. You’re right, it’s not so black and white anymore. I knew about Jaina, TFT just made it feel like she’s outnumbered in the good-people department.

    Eh, I babble. A pitiful way to save face, booyaka.

  19. Cybron says:

    I too missed the ‘interesting goals’ – everything pretty much seemed to revolve around killing things and taking their stuff, not as a side effect of pursuing your goals, but as the goal itself.

  20. DaveMc says:

    I picked up a two-week trial, tried it, and didn’t really get into it. This does not mean that anyone is wrong for liking it. It’s almost as if liking or not liking particular games is a matter of personal taste . . .

  21. you will see Dwarfs opening mining camps — well, you encounter the third party Venture company, which is the evil Ann Rand capitalist/polluters and a third faction, so to speak. And the non-aligned goblins. The way they’ve set things up, down to the undead as plague victims (the player character ones, vs. the other ones) is really well done.

    ________________

    have frequented several free servers ???

    How does that work?

    How do you use the WoW client to log on to one?

    ________________

    You might finish the quest, but there will eternally be rats in that cellar. You can never go back to find a tidy cellar. I’m no programmer, so I have no idea how you’d create that functionality for different players in an MMO environment

    You can do it with flags. They even have them for some encounters. The problem is that if you do that, then players who have finished the quest can’t help those who have not. The cooperative options in the game are valuable to many players who help each other level.

  22. Zukhramm says:

    “It’s almost as if liking or not liking particular games is a matter of personal taste”

    Trust me, it’s not!

  23. James says:

    While I wouldn’t say I’m hardcore about WoW, I did make a character on opening day, have been playing it off and on since and have experienced the vast majority of the game.

    So far though I’ve liked Shamus’ view on it; I’m a bit concerned that the responses to his posts might fall under the typical stigma of WoW discussion (Some love, some hate, both sides will argue until they’re proven right…) so far that hasn’t been the case. At least mostly. :)

    It’s really interesting however to see a well delivered review, from the viewpoint of someone new, of a game I’ve spent so much time playing and know very well. Its refreshing, to say the least.

    Cheers,

  24. Rebby says:

    I’ve played WoW for almost 3 years now and for me the social aspects of the game are what kept me, not the game itself – though the game is good. Because if i wanted to just play a game I probably wouldn’t choose an MMO. I’ve been in several guilds, done a bunch of end game raiding and it was the ‘friendships’ (if you can call them friendships, since they’re online based) i got from it that i’ve kept. My most recent guild finally broke up and I quit playing – my boyfriend and I have tried 2x to get back into the game but it’s just not the same. I guess what I’m trying to say is the social interactions are what make this game so great. Yes the graphics are good, the lore is incredible (mostly due to the other warcraft games), and although the quests can get frustrating (especially quests where you’re gathering loot from mobs) they’re still interesting and good and you can start multiple characters because each experience will be different depending on faction, race, and class, but the like I said, it was the social experience that was the best.

  25. Kevin says:

    You’re crackin’ me up. Glad you’re enjoying it too, mate!

  26. Sitte says:

    I know myself well enough to stay away from WOW. There is no way I could ever have a healthy relationship with that game.

    Thanks to Enas Yorl’s comment to me a couple of days ago, I decided to check out if my characters still existed. Victory! My big necro did, plus a few of my mules!

    Of course, the reinstall also caused me to realize that the ladder was just reset a couple of weeks ago. It’s kind of a golden age on Diablo 2 on BNet right now – the first time that I can remember there being a 100% dupe-free environment!

  27. DaveJ says:

    “there’s nothing more to WoW than killing stuff”

    Unless you count crafting, building reputation with various factions, and (game) world events.

    There are even a fair number of quests that are more collection and/or delivery than “go kill stuff”. However, most of the quests involve mayhem (as do most RPGs).

    And if you grow tired of the level grind, you can always venture into the PvP aspects where you kill for honor (which is a type of quasi-currency) instead of XP & loot.

  28. Lukasa says:

    I contend your statement about biggest game world ever, and I cite as my evidence EVE Online. 5000 star systems, each of which with things to do. That’s pretty damn big.

  29. Fenix says:

    have frequented several free servers ???

    How does that work?

    How do you use the WoW client to log on to one?

    —————————————————

    It’s easy after you do the first one. If you look it up its not that hard to find. Just be wary, quality varies.

  30. Clint says:

    I’ll agree with Rebby that it’s the social aspect of the game that appeals to me — in my opinion, WoW kinda sucks as a single-player game.

    However, it makes an excellent graphical chatroom, and gives you lots of common objectives that you can work with people towards.

  31. Tony says:

    “Unless you count crafting, building reputation with various factions, and (game) world events.”

    Crafting, as far as I remember, consists of you running around killing critters and searching for veins. Then you make the items and.. that’s it. You probably already have better stuff than the things you create. True, crafting can be fun for RP reasons, but I never got much out if it. Never tried jewelcrafting, though. My reputation farming stopped when I realized that I needed something like 2000 wool cloth to get to the next reputation level. I know there may be other ways to get reputation, but I only found the a) kill-stuff-to-get-a-few-points-of-rep and b) kill-stuff-to-get-items-to-exchange-for-rep ways. Both took ages.

    I agree that the world events are fun, especially on the RP servers.

    “There are even a fair number of quests that are more collection and/or delivery than “go kill stuff”. However, most of the quests involve mayhem (as do most RPGs).”

    True, but they’re not that fun to play. I prefer a “kill 15 wolves” quest over the horrible “kill a hundred murlocks to get 15 murlock eyes” quests any day. True, there are a few quests where you get the item from the quest giver and then just fly to the objective, but they are few and far between.

    “And if you grow tired of the level grind, you can always venture into the PvP aspects where you kill for honor (which is a type of quasi-currency) instead of XP & loot.”

    This is something that I found to be fun – for a few hours. Then I realized that what I did didn’t really matter, so I quit.

    Damn. I really have a love/hate relationship with MMO’s. I’ve played LOTRO for a month now, and it’s already starting to grow stale.

  32. Drew says:

    I think it all depends on what you’re looking for. I myself love rolling alts in WoW, playing them for a while, then I somehow always get sucked back to playing one of my 70s and leave the alt to rot. But there are so many good quests along the way. Sure, maybe most of them involve killing, but if you read the quest text and pay attention to WHY you’re doing the killing, it can become substantially more interesting and enjoyable. Take, for example, the timed “hunt” quests in Loch Modan. Here you have a few very straightforward quests: Kill X birds, kill Y boars, kill a bear. If that’s all you look at, indeed, the game could get pretty tedious. If, however, you realize that the first two quests are a challenge from a cocky hunter who thinks he’s the greatest thing to happen to the world, and then the third quest is to terrify him by showing him you’ve killed a bear that nearly killed him, well, that’s a lot more satisfying. At least, it is for me.

  33. qrter says:

    I’ve still never heard anything about this game that makes it sound like fun, including this post.

    Another problem for me has always been the art design of the game, it just looks awful to me – I’m not talking about “quality of graphics”, I’m talking about the designs themselves.

  34. Eric C says:

    Gotta chime in and agree with your closing comments. It’s one of my top 3 favourite games all-time, and definitely a contender for the top spot.

  35. Karl says:

    Hmm. Yeah, I was heavily into WoW for months as I levelled (and levelled alts), but it wore off. As the time per level became longer and longer and the time between getting new skills similarly, the sense of progression waned and I felt like I was just playing the same way I’d played for days and would be playing this way for the foreseeable future; ie. I’d have my attack routine all worked out, whatever it was, something like Cat Form, Prowl, Shred, Fast-attack thingy, Claw, Claw, Finisherthingy or whatever, the point being it was the same sequence every time because I’d figured that was optimal.

    And yes, it was fun reading quest texts, but as the months of playing went on it became harder and harder to ignore that the upshot of most every quest is that I have to go kill 20 of whatever re-skinned boar or vulture or bear or Orc is wandering around this particular zone. I gave up around Zangarmarsh. Played lots and lots of alts though, I love starter zones. Very dense plot there and the new skills come thick & fast. My playstyle would change every few minutes, then every hour or so, then every few hours, and so on until I got to 20 or 30 and it got boring again… :(

    I’m sure the social stuff really helps. I always tried to avoid PUGs, had too many bad experiences with them, so I only grouped when my IRL friends were on. I guess Shamus will enjoy it all much more being on an RP server with a cool guild…

  36. Gahaz says:

    Yes, WoW is full of “Kill X number of mobs for their eyes”, but if you are skipping the quest text, the flavor of the area, and discovering where they are, then you are missing out on the enjoyment of even these quests.

    You sound like an old vet with multi 70s going through the game again. A new player, all the way up to 70, will find the exploration and discovery aspects of these quests interesting enough.

  37. Bouks says:

    Tony @31 –

    It sounds like you haven’t played WoW since before the Burning Crusade expansion, because that’s an accurate description of the crafting & reputation systems then… but not now.

    High-level crafting can make items as good as are found in the end-game raid dungeons, and some crafted items are near best-of-type. To get the very best patterns and some of the materials for them you probably have to be in those dungeons anyway, but you’re no longer hoping that it will drop this time and that you’ll win the roll. And crafted gear is one of the best ways to get geared up to begin the end-game raiding – some of the pre-raid patterns make gear that is the best you can get pre-raiding. It’s no longer a sad joke.

    Reputation is the biggest change in the game. It used to be almost useless; now it unlocks new quests, new items and crafting patterns from vendors, and the ability to enter new end-game content. Reputation has become the new driver of the end-game hamster wheel, as much or even more than gear. And you no longer earn it by turning in huge piles of cloth; you get it by completing quests for that faction, turning in faction-specific items, and running specific dungeons that are associated with that faction. It’s a major improvement over original WoW; to see it in action early, roll a Blood Elf character. New quests in the second zone are unlocked at each stage of reputation with that “town” (Tranquilien), and if you complete all the quests in the zone you get to the top reputation level and the vendor has some gear available that is quite excellent for your character level.

    I’m not much of a PvP type myself, but for those that like it there are several types of PvP and it has also improved. There’s general world PvP, which you can opt out of on non-PvP servers by not setting your PvP flag, where you kill each other as you go about your daily business. There are battlefields, where there are now 4 different games, each in their own field (different variations on capture-the-flag, hold objectives for resources, and kill the opposing boss). And now there is arena combat in 2, 3, & 5 person teams, which is very different from battlefields and in which each player is critical to his team.

    This is way more than I intended to write, but may be interesting to some. :-) At least, it tosses out a few facts to weigh against the opinions.

    As my own opinion, I have to say that Blizzard has gone a long way since the original release to make the game playable and fun to a lot of different playstyles. You can get to the fundamental RPG goal of top level & epic gear by a lot of different paths. And the instance design has improved immeasurably from the dark caves of Blackrock Spire; the new designs are much more interesting and frequently beautiful.

  38. Katy says:

    I’m currently “seeking employment” (I’m not a bum, I swear!) but while I wait by the phone after sending out my resume, I play WoW… for HOURS. I’ve gotten to level 62 in 5 weeks. That’s no record, but it’s pretty fast, I’ve heard.

    So far, I enjoy being at the top end of my bracket (such as 48-49 or 58-59) and playing the PvP battlegrounds. Lots of people say that they hate Warsong Gulch, but I think if you go into it knowing that it really might be a 30- or 40-minute game, you can still enjoy it. I almost like it when the other side turtles up with their flag! I also love Arathi Basin and I’d say most people like this one the most, if not the second-most. I haven’t done much in Alterac Valley, but will once I hit 68. Haven’t tried Eye of the Storm at all yet, either.

    Anyway, I wanted to say that players have talked to me about an imbalance with these battlegrounds in that Horde would win AB and WSG far more than 50% of the time, while Alliance would win AV more often. One guy I talked to said that he had played Alliance characters for over a year and really built up his anti-Horde sentiments before he finally tried a Horde character on a PvE server. The Allies apparently hate the imbalance with a fervor! O_O On top of this, the rules in AV were changed in such a way that Horde began to win more often, meaning that Horde was getting more honor and marks in those three battlegrounds, so then the Allies REALLY hated the Horde.

    This guy’s guess as to why this happened was this: Alliance have access to better PvE gear that allows them to accomplish PvE goals faster than Horde, which was what allowed them to win so much in AV (it used to be players vs. opposite-faction NPCs). Horde, however, somehow tend to have access to better PvP gear and also somehow tend to attract players that have better teamwork. I’ve certainly noticed myself that in WSG and AB, Horde has won 8 times out of 10.

    It’s so weird!!!

  39. Dys says:

    When I first started playing wow, I was hooked. Literally, the thing has some kind of power like nothing I ever experienced before. The constant need to level, to quest, to move forward in any one of the spheres that make up the game and your character is incredible.

    As time goes by you build an immunity though, there’s less urge to see new things when you’ve seen them before. When I reached 60 on my first character I just stopped. There was no longer anywhere to go or anything to do and the game became pointless.

    When the Burning Crusade appeared, I started playing again, hit 70 and had the same problem. At that point a friend of mine persuaded me to join a raiding guild. Playing wow solo is missing the vast majority of the game. Every server is full of morons, but if you find a decent guild which filters them out, you end up with a group of smart, dedicated, skilled players. Having others who share your experience of the game is crucial to enjoying it past a certain point.

    By the way, which server are you on? Inquiring minds want to know.

  40. Shamus says:

    Dys:

    You can read about my guild, server, and characters here:

    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1733

  41. Hawkstrike says:

    Shamus:

    If you haven’t already, you really need to read the Looking For Group comic:

    http://www.lfgcomic.com/

  42. Nurgh says:

    The world feels large, although it isn’t. http://www.viddler.com//simple_on_site/a10494c4 is a description of how “big” it really is, and an unintentional comment about how much too much time people spend playing Warcraft.

    I play for the social aspect. My guild’s made of people who have met each other in the real world. I’ve met many of the people I raid with.

    Blizzard has been doing, in my opinion, very good things to the game. Dungeons start out being a challenge to get to (attunement) and very difficult. The first groups through them get to show off the results of their work. As time passes on, though, Blizzard introduces items which can be achieved (with work) outside those instances and are of equivalent quality. Witness the recent couple rounds of badge loot, much of which is equivalent to the second-to-highest raid dungeon level. Meanwhile, the bosses get slightly nerfed (or simply “fixed” or “better tuned”) and eventually the attunement is removed. Reputation becomes easier to get. Mounts become available at lower level.

    All of these serve to make the high-end content, eventually, available to people who are not the top 5% of their server. People who don’t play quite so often.

    Yes, the world is very static. The real changes are additions – new land here, new quests there. Blizzard has made one of their goals (approximately) that the person who entered game today could do, largely, all the quests someone who started day one did.

    I do like the fact that the Warcraft world feels big. Unless I make special arrangements, to go somewhere I have to hop on a bird and fly, and it takes time. No network of NPCs whose goal is to instantly place me elsewhere – that kind of teleportation destroyed Dark Age of Camelot’s sense of “space” for me.

  43. Aaron Nowack says:

    I believe I mentioned this briefly in an earlier comment, but the Draenei and Blood Elf starting zones (from Burning Crusade) are generally believed to be far superior to the starting zones for the original races. (As are the other Burning Crusade zones, but that’s a less direct comparison, as there weren’t any zones of the same level in the original game.)

    If/when you get Burning Crusade (assuming you haven’t already), I’d recommend creating a Blood Elf or Draenei, if only to play through those new zones. The contrast between those zones and the original starting zones shows a lot about the MMO design lessons Blizzard learned from the experience of making and running classic WoW.

    The difference in the endgames is also staggering and interesting, but the Level 60 endgame is dead now, and isn’t readily available for comparison. (And even if you could get 40 people together at Level 60 to go through some of it, the changes in the talent trees and the game make it almost unrecognizable.)

  44. Sitte says:

    Sorry to be off topic again (I can’t stop talking about Diablo2 for some reason)

    but
    OMG

    http://www.diabloii.net/n/667423/diablo-3-announcement-at-wwi

  45. Aiken Drum says:

    Long time reader, rare time poster. I was drawn to this site a number of years back when googling stuff about System Shock 2 and found a superb breakdown of the game. I’ve been coming back every few days since then. I think I posted once in defence of some acerbic, abusive and cynical observer of the human state.

    On topic. Heh. Where to start? I’ve been playing WoW for three and a bit years, nearly four I guess now. What has kept me playing? That’s an easy question to answer. The people. The chance to find new peeps, get to know them and forge friendships that extend out of the game, that to me is a bigger draw than the game itself.

    I’m an oddity among the players I know. I only have one level 70 character, I prefer to specialise. Though before the expansion hit I had been raiding as a priest, hunter and paladin, now I have only a gnommer rogue, And I play the delicate ballet of aggro, DPS, CC, guild leader and raid leader. In the two years I have led my guild (The Twenty Third Patrol – EU SWC), I have experienced a rollercoaster ride of fun, emo breakups, fun, vociferous arguments, fun, dry patches, fun, occasional burnout and yes, more fun. I remain true to our Guild Rules after all this;

    1 – No Drama
    2 – Don’t be an Arsehat
    3 – Obey rules 1 and 2

    These have been the core premises on which the 23rd has been built and still hold today.

    The people in our guild, I treasure them. They are my friends. Some I knew from our tabletop PnP game, some are associated relatives, and others I have met through slow and careful recruitment. They are the reason I still play, the reason I still find the game fun after all this time. The people come and go, those I am not geographically tied to will always drift.

    But there is a solid unbreakable core of us who were all playing WoW on different servers who decided to get together and enjoy this phenomenon that Blizzard has crafted. To my wife (Bretta), my best friend (Dhamon), his family (Kaz, Lafox, Shangaan), the solid friends in the 23rd I have made (Lilamayi, Elindrel, Vermilion, Pippie, the Naughty Step Inhabitant) and those outside (Avlee, Paeony, Froppi), to all these people, thank you. Blizzard created the platform, but you made it worth staying.

    EDIT – teh tpyoes and paragraphs

  46. noneofcon says:

    Just for reference, here is a (recent?) EVE map

    http://eve-galactech.com/map.htm

    Each dot is a system.

  47. Gahaz says:

    noneofcon,

    And each system is full of very little to see that’s pleasing and full of the same user unfriendly aspects of the entire game.

    EVE is huge, but you never feel like you actually go any where. Here is hoping someone will make a Sci-fi flight MMO that is fun and entertaining.

    Not to mention EVE uses the same right click and watch things die system all MMOs use. If I am piloting a ship, I want dogfights.

  48. John Alexander says:

    I tried WoW a while ago, but didn’t find any people I really liked to hang out with. Or, to be more specific, ones that were around often enough to keep me in the game. I long for companions in games (even faceless NPC’s, like Call of Duty and its soldiers), and without them, any game grows stale for me, and WoW was no exception.

    I’m an avid player of EVE, but not because the games itself is superior (I’d put them at about the same level), but because three of my friends said I should join their Corp, so I did. I have a few friends playing both now, but since I’ve been on EVE for almost a year, I have made other friends there.

    In the end, I suppose WoW isn’t really that great; it’s the people that make an MMO, and I didn’t find them on WoW. Not that I COULDN’T, but that I DIDN’T. It’s not the WoW’s fault I have friends who play other games.

  49. gabs says:

    “there’s nothing more to WoW than killing stuff”

    Unless you count a nightly trip running around the barrens with 3 friends you’ve never met before trying to kill some stuff… an amazing experience, especially if they’re 3 people you can rp with in front of a beautiful backdrop. It was simply amazing. None of us had any clue where to look, but it was just magical. Well, enough of that, anything you play is what you make it to be.

  50. http://www.crimsonwow.org/ and the like are truly bizarre.

    Surely those have to be illegal?

  51. Veloxyll says:

    They’re against the TOU. but whether or not that makes them illegal is up to the courts to decide.

    As for EVE. sure it’s a big galaxy/universe/whatever. But it’s all SPACE. The vast majority of WoW’s territory has actual stuff in it.

  52. Derek K. says:

    @Katy: It was in WSG that I first leaned that, deep in her heart, my wife really likes to beat up other people. It was a pretty startling (and in very geeky way, sexy) revelation.

    Now we play Team Fortress 2 together.

    @”All you do is kill stuff.”: Yes. And all people in books do is talk. WoW ain’t brilliant any more. WoW is still amazingly well done, and best of breed.

    There’s going to be a new generation, and they will change MMOs. But you know? I’ve played some of those. There’s something to be said for getting 3 people together and killing the hell out of some uppity gnomes. Some times I want great adventure and innovation. Sometimes I wanna WoW it up. ;)

  53. Psychoceramics says:

    @all you do is kill stuff:
    isn’t that the primary objective of most games, regardless of genre?

    I know I’m not knitting mittens in CounterStrike.

  54. Cthulhu says:

    Speaking of killing stuff…

    Blizzard has announced Diablo III.

    ’nuff said.

  55. ShadowDragon8685 says:

    What really annoys me about WoW, the thing that will ever prevent me from trying it, even if someone else offers to fully pay my subscription for as long as I want…

    In the name of PvP, they took the story they forged at the end of Warcraft III and heaved it out the window.

    At the end of Warcraft 3, for those who don’t know (yes, all two of you), a grand alliance has formed; Orcs, Humans, and Night Elves stand aligned against the Undead, who, being driven by their demonic masters, intend to scour the world of life so the demons can feed. Only this last stand of humans, orcs, and night elves prevent it from happening.

    In the Frozen Throne campaign, Prince Arthas, who used to be a human hero until he took up a cursed sword that made him basically the bad guy Chosen One, traveled to the Icecrown Glacier and merged with the Undead Big Bad Evil Guy. That was the *culmination* of TFT, you lead the Big Bad Evil Guy to victory.

    Arthas is still up there, having merged with the Lich King, and with Anub’arak and Kel’Thuzzad at his command, as well as any number of undead still loyal to him (as opposed to those undead whose loyalties were stolen by the Dark Ranger girl whose name I can’t be arsed to remember.)

    Now, there is a legitimate, credible threat to the fate of the world at the top of the frozen north. He intends to claim the world as an unending tide of the undead. Orcs, humans, night elves, dwarves, gnomes, it dosen’t matter. Arthas’ army is enormous, and it’s ranks are bolstered every time a living warrior falls. Literally.

    So, given the face of this very credible threat to the fate of the world, the allies who once stood before a demonic onslaught and saved the world once already decide to fracture into warring camps for no reason except that they used to be enemies and Blizzard wants PvP in their game.

    THAT is why I will never, ever, EVER, touch WoW. I’ll wait for Warcraft 4.

  56. Gahaz says:

    ShadowDragon8685:

    Actullay thats not how its explained at all. You must be forgetting that there was nothing but competitive PvP when the game was still young and no “World” PvP even exsisted. It was coming down to hero vs. hero, that certain Orc held a grudge and would strike out against an Alliance hero.

    As the lore progressed in the game, which they are constantly progressing a story through patches, discoveries were made that the factions claimed for their own that then developed into the PvP server lore explanation.

    Now with BC the story starts as joined forces again but soon the Alliance moves to seize these new lands for their own kingdom, but the Horde see it as the orcs Homeland and does not belong to the Alliance.

    Remember that PvP was an after thought in WoW. It has developed alot more but it no longer has anything to do with the story they are putting forth. Its arena based, again, its now competitive PvP, not war.

    WoW was completely PvE for months after the release.

  57. Flying Dutchman says:

    It is most definitely a game one can get lost in. I dabbled on a friend’s account for a while, playing Troll Hunter and Human Paladin.

    I did get bored with the “get me 10 x boar meat, so that I can make a pie”-nonsense.
    I understand it gets more exciting later on, but add the foolishness of those with whom you have to share the world and their annoying behavior, and I decided to dump the game. My friend is still completely immersed in it, especially the raiding aspect of the game.

  58. K says:

    You are writing exactly what I feel: Wow is, at it’s core, near flawless. Sure, we all have nitpicks, and issues and bugs, but when you get down to it, it’s about as good as games get right now.

    I really do compare any game that is released to WoW to choose if it is worth playing. If I can safely say that WoW is far better (even after spending 130 days (!) in there, I’ve seen all), then I’m not even going to bother to pick it up.

    But I’m on hiatus since August ’07 due to being far away from home. I will probably go back to the game when I get home into my timezone again.

  59. Chad Mercer says:

    I was a Collector’s Edition purchaser of WoW, having played extensively in Beta. (Yes, I made the mistake of playing a Paladin to 56 at launch, but still…) I played WoW (far too much) for six months after launch, and then gave it up because my wife made me. :)

    However, I have found that LOTRO is a FAR better game for me. My wife will play it, because it’s a lot easier for “non-gamers” (yes, really). The travel is better–it’s a lot easier to get around the major cities (they make more sense) and the fast travel options are indispensable.

    Also, I guess I’m a graphics junkie–the graphics are fantastic on a reasonably powerful machine and absolutely mind-blowing on a high-end rig.

    Just for giggles, I turned on my “Burning Crusade” trial this weekend, and after a full day of downloading (why not just send me to a REAL torrent server?!) I still hold to my statement. WoW is a good game. It’s fun, it’s cute, it’s engaging.

    But I personally believe that nearly anyone that tries LOTRO (and is objective–if that’s really possible) will find it to be superior to WoW in every way EXCEPT the UI. (Which is my biggest contention with Turbine–their UIs are not as good as they could be. And because they don’t allow people to modify them…)

    Anyway, just my $0.02. If you’re gonna play MMOs, at least check out the best one out there. (At least until Warhammer ships.) :)

  60. Matt C. says:

    WoW, for me, was rush that turned into an addiction that lasted well after the enjoyment stopped. This gets kind of melodramatic near the end. Sorry.

    At first I was amazed at the huge and beautiful environments to explore. I felt like my questing was advancing a plot that effected the world on a larger scale each time.
    At this point guilds were something I didn’t even consider; I’m having fun so why do I need one?
    The friends that invited me to start playing are on regularly enough that I’ve always got someone to talk to and to help me out.

    Later I started really working on professions in the hopes of making something cool for my character. I quickly realized that I was going to need to ask one of my friends for help since all of the cool stuff requires materials you can only get from other professions (or the auction house). Tracking down ore deposits wasn’t exactly engaging, but I could do it while questing so it wasn’t a problem.
    Guilds at this stage are becoming a good idea, but the trick is finding one with intelligent people willing to help a lowbie that can’t contribute as much back.
    Friends now log less time what with school, jobs, dating. Life, you know?

    Later still I found myself compulsively mining ore that wouldn’t get me skill points so that I can refine it into material that can be sold in order to buy something else that can be blah blah blah. Questing is now grinding on one group of monsters for hours to build up my reputation with one group of NPC monsters. Why? I enjoy nothing about this but I still don’t quit.
    My guild these days is lower than me on average. The higher level characters aren’t on (at least not when I am) and most of them seem to be barely sentient 12-15 year olds.
    I once had friends that played on this server. I think they’re still alive somewhere.

    At the end I’d log on thinking I’d get something done. Tonight I’ll get past this slow part and then it will be awesome again. Four hours later I’d sign off and go to bed wondering why I was wasting my life on something I now actively resented. I think the dreams are what finally got me to stop. Having Goldshire as the backdrop to my dreams, only dreaming of being my Pally, that was what made me realize that I needed to stop. Two weeks after that I decided to stop playing anyway and actually do something about it.
    I quit the absentee guild I’d somehow become the owner of.
    I liquidated most of my stuff and split all of the gold and materials between the two friends that still had active accounts. I kept one set of gear that didn’t look like I’d gotten dressed in the dark, rode up the Ironforge Airport and effectively had a funeral.

    As an adult I have quit cigarettes and WoW. I don’t really miss either addiction but I do have brief moments when each one is tempting. It’d be just as easy to log on and start playing the same character again as to drive up to the store and buy a pack of cigarettes. I just need to remind myself what I’m getting back by staying away.

  61. Dys says:

    Looks like Matt C has made the one true criticism of Wow. It is, dangerously, addictive.

    Shamus, I keep forgetting you’re a Yank. I’m in the UK, so I play on EU servers, and you can’t get there from here, as they say. Shame, I would have liked to chat about your experiences as a newbie.

    For all those EVE fans… I played it, it’s not bad. I’m glad you enjoy it. But it is, in my opinion in the final summation… a game for accountants. (Also I’m too chicken to go outside Empire space with my head full of implants.)

  62. Jeff says:

    And how the heck do you describe trolls as “scrawny”? When a male troll stands upright, he’s eight or nine feet tall!
    I can’t comment as I haven’t actually seen them, but “nine feet tall” and “scrawny” are not contradictory statements.

    Then, after a few hours (days?) of playing, you finally realize that there’s nothing more to WoW than killing stuff. And taking their eyes or feet.
    What about making creatures poop and then going through the poop?
    The guy from GUComics made a few on that one. Apparently now you get the Stanky spell effect on your afterwards.
    The grind of ‘Daily Quests’ does seem very annoying.

    The story in Guild Wars does seem very nice. Short of dificult missions where I grup with higher level players (not so much a function of rawpower from higher levels as they know what they’re doing) I’ve been playing it as a single player game, and it’s been working.

    …if I had to pick the “best game ever”, WoW would certainly be in the running.
    I’d never support that, because it lacks one major thing.
    Closure.
    Unlike Planescape: Torment, Knights of the Old Republic, Ghost Recon: Advance Warfighter, Call of Duty 4, System Shock (1/2), Babylon 5 (the show), Jade Empire, Deus Ex, etc., it doesn’t end. When you’re done with the game, it will never because you’re satisfied, only because you don’t want to play it anymore. (See Matt’s story.)

    …and then there’s the other type of closure, the type you get after paying off your mortgage. You’re never done paying. Bah.

  63. Simply Simon says:

    I enjoyed that game a lot. for a while.

    I first saw it at a friends house and thought that it looked awesome. I bought it and started to read the manual and found the little amount of backstory there interesting. I started as a gnome rogue, and took the profession engineer.
    As long as you had something to do and was old where to go, it was extremely fun. I played it nearly non stop and felt that the exploring was fun, the killing satisfying and the questing contributing to something.

    When I reached level 27-28 in wetlands the levelling stopped of a little, and i found myself grinding murlocs that was conveniently placed by the city until I reached level thirty.
    By then I had no quest telling me where to go and decided to continue on by the road that had led to where I was going until then.
    The next area was infested by horde players and hardly had any place to take quests in for the alliance. So I tried grouping for dungeons instead. The backstory was interesting so I thought I’d go rescue my gnomes home town. I found that unsatisfying aswell, since it didn’t matter what I did, since the instance would reset.
    By level 32 I realised I was bored. so a scraped the gnome and started a dwarf paladin on the server a lot of my friends was playing on. I got to level 32 on him as well.
    I went back to playing my gnome. I got to level 45.
    I started to play on a nightelf druid on my friends server and had fun until level 47. Then the expansion came out.

    The expansion really was what killed the game for me;
    The legendary weapons wasn’t good enough to waste time getting anymore.
    The good pvp system was replaced with a decent pvp system.
    the new zone didn’t offer anything new.
    The LFG channel was replaced with a LFG system, which made less people go to instances.
    All the cool new armour sets looks plastic somehow.
    All the new raid dungeons was smaller then the previous ones.
    The items of epic quality was no longer hard to get, and therefore was nothing to brag about any more.
    the backstory got a little confusing and illogical in an attempt to work in the new races.
    The new armour sets was more glow and shine than armour.

    Afterwards I’m kind of glad I stopped playing it.

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