World of Warcraft is the latest MMORPG, like Everquest before it. That means it is an online roleplaying game that you play with hundreds of people, doing quests with them, killing them, trading items and so forth. It has a pay-per-month system ontop of the cost of buying the game, which is a standard $80 (or cheaper if you shop around). It is set in the world of warcraft, as the name suggests, which has up until now been fleshed out mostly through Warcraft 3. And it is the best thing human beings have created, beyond penicillin, beyond walking on the moon, better than the human genome project, tastier than krispy kremes, more addictive than crack.
When you begin the game you create a character, either Horde or Alliance. Depending on the realm (server), you are really joining a giant club that has its own varied but somehow shared values. You then get to pick race and a character, choose a profession and decide where you will put your talent points. When you first begin, the game is ridiculously simple – kill those guys. Every half an hour or so you level and you learn something new and eventually you leave the newbie area and join the more common areas. The game is beautifully gentle at introducing you into the game, yet allowing you to run or move anywhere if you just want to explore. Yet even at the beginning you feel it, this game has not been designed for human beings to play and have fun – it has been designed to be as addictive yet slow as possible (while still being fun).
The graphics are phenomenal. You will find others that disagree with this on the net, but I have always found them superb. I guess what is important is not that the creatures and effects sometimes look a bit dated, but that the terrain is so real that you actually want to explore simply to see what your monitor produces. To someone who hasn’t played a game like this that is a hard concept to explain, there is no way I could have explained it to myself a month ago, but it is that good. You play on, for an extra hour, or two, or ten, just to see what the next area looks like. And the bad guys you will be fighting and the new spells you have and the new parts of the game you have inch by inch discovered.
Dying generally costs you five minutes of running back to your corpse to pick it up and a very small amount of money in armour damage. If you can’t retrieve your body (if it is in an area that is too dangerous) you can respawn with a ten minute penalty. Again – this is not a computer game in the traditional sense. Blizzard are selling you fun by the month, and as such this is not a game that you have to conquer. The game has a variety of hooks so that if you get stuck, changing scene, tactics, or just leaving the game for a few hours will allow you to progress faster. You think you are being challenged, they have the challenge of seeing how thinly they can spread that challenge before you will get too frustrated and leave.
I have never played Everquest so I can’t compare its systems, but the instance system works very well. For the uninitiated, this means that when you enter a dungeon you are given your own private copy of it with your party. This solves issues of EverQuest large monsters are camped out waiting to respawn. Again there are a variety of methods that the game helps you organise these parties, yet while not compromising on their mission to keep you playing for as long as humanly possible. You would not believe how closely this game walks to becoming boring or frustrating yet still manages to keep you in your seat. There are moments after hours of gameplay when I have been punching my monitor, yet still I do not stop playing. I spoke with a person from work who has a level 60 character that took him 20 days to develop. That’s 20 days in the game – 480 hours of gameplay. For those of you playing along at home that is both year 12 physics and chemistry and then some.
The amount of lost productivity and sheer game hours in this game is hard to fathom. And the more you play, the more you become involved in the community, the more hooks it forms into your own life. This game is still relatively difficult to play – girls and the elderly play it but only the ones who were closet nerds anyway. 2.5 million people pay approximately $15US a month to play this, that appears to me to be around $40 million US a month that Blizzard is making from this. No doubt the virus like trial cd key system has helped proliferate this. But this game is not yet the one – 2.5 million worldwide is a significant portion of the gaming population but it is not yet critical mass. A game will come out on PS3 or Xbox 360 and it will have more depth than WoW but yet be easier for new players to get into. It will have strong fighting elements but also roleplaying and drama like The Sims. It will have a competitive aspect, but non-competitive non-gamers will be able to enjoy it because it is cute and involves some novel fun activity is very social. It will replace IM and email, and an entire generation will go missing addicted to it. It will become a social issue, how to deal with those addicted to theses games. Sound crazy? Similar things are already happening in South Korea. Also check out GaiaOnline.com
If you do decide to join the online ranks and play this forsaken game, god help you. You will find that the lag from Australia is barely an issue, only in some rare situations is it a problem. The biggest problem with the American servers is that most people who play on them are American and are therefore awake when we are generally asleep (and no – not the cool times to be awake either like 3am, the servers are most packed at 8am). I would advise you to install the co-ordinates addon and check GoblinWorkshop.com and ThottBot.com on almost every quest. I would also advise you buy a second computer. Often in WoW you just have to run a long distance, or do something boring, or wait while you catch a Zepplin. You will also definitely want the quest speedup text macro I got from here. You may also wish to investigate custom UI’s like Cosmo but I have not yet had a chance to try them myself.
This game is the worst thing and best thing that has ever happened to me. 10 leamas. My characters are “greatbambino” and “theonemoocha” (shared character with Nichole) on Khadgar.