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  • World of Warcraft: One Year Out

    World of Warcraft celebrated its one year anniversary over the holidays. Since its inception, the game has been a resounding success, reaching 6 million subscribers by early 2006.

    My own exposure to the game began with the File Planet Betas. At the time, I thought “Fun, but I can’t see subscribing to this”, and went on to my usual FPS ways.

    A year later, Blizzard decided to give players another look at the game, offering 10 and 14 day trials of World of Warcraft over the Thanksgiving Holiday.

    To be honest, many of the major titles of 2005 left me cold, so I was looking for a new obsession, but the idea of subscribing to a game still struck me as odd. I firmly believe in paying $30-60 as a gaming tithe, and having the company keep its nose out of my bank account until the inevitable sequel/expansion.

    Several players I respect in the Tactical Gamer Community asked me if I had downloaded the game, so I shrugged, said “Why not?”, and installed the game.

    That was a HUGE mistake.

    A Whole New World


    Azeroth, here I come!

    World of Warcraft is set in Azeroth, that same world that was the setting for the ground breaking and superlative Warcraft strategy game series.

    This mythology is key to the World Design of the game: two factions, the Alliance (Humans, Dwarves, Night Elves, and Gnomes) and the Horde (Tauren, Orcs, Trolls, Undead) have an uneasy truce, as a new evil is set to spread out across the land.

    Players can choose their side, and set out on a series of quests to rid the land of evil, set things to right, and generally become the hero you always dreamed of being. It’s a very successful setup.

    The first thing you notice, upon designing your character (“toon” as it is called), and entering the game, is how well produced the game is.

    Let’s start with the interface: it makes sense. The interface is a well balanced combination of elements from Warcraft and Diablo II. Players of either game would feel right at home in the collection of bars and windows that Blizzard has laid out for the player.


    Nice Interface!

    Then, you notice the World that they have set for your adventure: set in lush, somewhat cartoony hues, each quest leads you through a world that not only supports your actions, but seems to bolster the reality of the world. Compare this to the perfunctory buildings and textures of most other 3D games (yeah, I’m looking at you EA), and the difference is astounding.


    Adrielle In a Pensive (and Dead) Mood

    The game also sounds right. Every sound, from the sounds of the various adversaries, to the atmospheric music, is top flight, and only adds to the perceived realism and the player experience.

    Blizzard really went for broke on World of Warcraft, and in each of these details, it shows.

    Choose your own adventure

    World of Warcraft , like classic RPG titles like Morrowind, lets the user chose their own adventure.

    The initial choice of race and class, affect the initial set of quests and experiences. All classes are given a base set of training, and have three areas of skills (called talents) which the player can choose to develop over time. Class skills can be augmented over time by learning new weapon skills, training in new armor types, and learning to ride.

    In addition, you have the choice of 2 professions (Leatherworking, Blacksmithing, Alchemy, Herbalism, Mining, Enchanting), and 3 sub-professions (First Aid, Cooking, Fishing) to learn. Each of these has their own pros and cons, and allows you to use features of the environment to gain some extra cash for when those adversaries just won’t drop anything.

    The basic game play of World of Warcraft will be familiar to anyone that played Diablo II: get a quest, kill things, loot the body, turn the quest in, get another, and so on and so on. Like Diablo II, your kit and weapons tend to change over time as you get better drops, and sell the old stuff at a vendor, or in an auction house.

    It’s hardly revolutionary, but like Diablo II, the game is strangely addictive. Even if you are eliminating the 100th bear in a row, the grind is somehow engaging.


    Is that #99, or #100?

    And kill that 100th bear you will. I won’t say that there is a lack of diversity in adversaries in the game, because when I started listing the targets I have killed over the course of my 40 level journey, it was quite impressive.

    It is just that variety is not exactly evenly distributed. Killing bears, spiders, raptors, crocs, and cats of all sizes are the meat and potatoes of the questing life in World of Warcraft, punctuated by the odd humanoid or dragon quest.

    Over time, players will exhaust their initial area’s quests, and be prompted to go to another Alliance or Horde strongholds to pick up additional quests. It’s not exactly subtle: you get to the end of one quest chain, and the quest giver says “the quest continues in X” which happens to be halfway across Azeroth. They don’t say how to get there either, but those are minor quibbles I think: the game is about the experience

    That said, World of Warcraft lets the player have 20 active quests at any given time, so each time the player logs into the game, they have a whole variety of potential adventures to pick up from last game session.

    There is no real penalty for accepting or rejecting quests: you can take in quests above and below your toon’s level, or abandon them for something else intriguing along the way. In 3 months of play, I have only found 1 quest chain that could not be restarted, and even that was minor.

    So between the class and professions chosen, the kit used, and the choice of quests, World of Warcraft really allows the player to define their own adventure, one decision at a time.

    But Wait, There’s More!

    Blizzard knows: questing from level 1 to level 60 would simply bore the player to death, and result in few, if any, recurring subscriptions.

    To remedy this, Blizzard has added two features to keep players occupied: Team Death Match (Battlegrounds) and Co-op (Grouping). Ok, WoW addicts might bristle at that characterization, but that is what they are.

    Starting at level 10, players have the option of joining in a dungeon crawl or other adventure as a team. After 10 levels of questing solo, it dawns on you that Blizzard, has, in many respects, designed the game as a cooperative experience.

    Now, if you read the manual (who does that these days?) you will see that players can join groups right from the start: simply invite someone to join you on your quest and you and your teammates are off and running. These early instances are just Blizzard’s way of saying: “Hey, did you know you could do this?”

    Instances take you off your main server into a dedicated server which hosts the dungeon instance. Once you are in, it’s your team against whatever adversaries that the server is scripted to throw at you. It is not the least bit easy, and requires team execution and communication to succeed.

    When players ask “How does World of Warcraft fit into Tactical Gamer”, this is what the Guild points at. World of Warcraft is a superlative game for players that want to execute as a team. As players level and the challenges become greater, grouping together and executing as a cohesive unit becomes a critical aspect of the game.

    This point is driven home around level 25, when players are introduced to player v. player. Again, you can duel with players and attack players on the opposing faction from day 1: For players on your own team, you can challenge them to a duel, and for opposing players, all you have to do is walk up to them and give them a good hit. I really should read the manual!

    Attacking players of the opposing faction causes your player v. player flag to trigger, and at that point, on a server where this is not turned on by default, you are now fair game for anyone else that has that flag enabled. At times, this is a harrowing experience, particularly if you triggered the flag near an opposition stronghold, and you are alone. Not that that has ever happened to me.


    A Warrior Falls: TG does PvP at Crossroads

    If you aren’t on a player v. player server, Blizzard introduces the player to the concept via Battlegrounds. You get a quest, and enter the Battleground with other Alliance and Horde players, and see if you and your haphazard army can achieve your goals.

    Game play in these battles largely revolves around assault or capture the flag, so like Counterstrike Source, you need to execute as a team to get the objective accomplished. Early on, the experience is not unlike playing on PCS Server 1: a few players know what they are doing, and the rest are sort of flailing around. As players level and the battles become more complicated, it is not uncommon to see coordinating strikes, the healing or resurrecting of the fallen, or strategy calling.

    At level 50, you get access to Alterac Valley, a 40 v. 40 full on battle, complete with cavalry, missions, and air strikes. If you think Battlefield 2 is a great warfare title, wait until you see this.

    So on top of a superlative action RPG, they have grafted enough multiplayer components to keep team players and tacticians occupied.

    Surprisingly, it works.

    Life Starts at 60
    (Thanks to Luna and Beep for the content, Luna for the images)

    After a couple of months of questing, I’m told the real fun begins. I haven’t leveled that far yet, but have been sitting in teamspeak with those who are, pestering the hell out them.

    Here’s what they report:

    Starting around level 52, the game begins to shift focus.

    First, there is increasing need for specialization of your character. Your primary weapon, armor, skills, and talents, all become massively important going forward. Instead of questing, players begin to hunt down specific weapons and sets of armor.

    If you played Diablo II, you remember the concept: certain sets of armor give the player a stat, magic, or resistance bonuses if the set is complete. Like Diablo II, incomplete sets give a fraction of that bonus, but are still worthwhile.

    Once you have 2 or 3 “set pieces”, you can begin to think about “Endgame”. Endgame is….well, Luna said it best:

    Originally posted by “Luna”
    These are 20-40 man instances that put your team up against the biggest, baddest creatures out there. There are 6 end game instances, and they are only for groups of 20-40 people: Molten Core, Onyxia's Lair, Blackwing Lair, Zul'Gurub, Ahn'Quiraj 20 and Ahn'Quiraj 40. In most of these instances, there are 8 or more bosses to kill. The exception is Onyxia, who is by herself, and itching to kick your arse.

    Onyxia is so RUDE. She doesn't even get up to greet her guests!

    You are going to need the bonuses that the set pieces give you.

    All in all, between the preparation for endgame, and the actual endgame, there is a lot of content to work through. Indeed, once you reach level 60, the game is just beginning.


    TG! Once More Into The Breach!

    Patches? We Don’t Need No Stinking Patches!

    One thing that Blizzard really has down, as opposed to other game companies that I have encountered, is balancing the need for new content, while patching and tweaking the existing game. EA and other developers really need to take notes.

    World of Warcraft is under continual development. The new patch (1.10), for example, will rebalance the Priest, add a new armor set, and add weather to Azeroth. Prior patches added endgame content and rebalanced other classes.

    Weather really doesn’t seem like much, admittedly, but it would really help with the general environment. I’m sure it struck more that one person as odd that while there is always snow on the ground outside Iron Forge, it never actually snows.

    What’s Next?

    With 6 million users, a monthly income that is more than many third world nations, and endless Game of the Year awards, and you would think that Blizzard would be ready to rest on its laurels. Not so!

    Sometime in 2006, Blizzard will release The Burning Crusade. Details on just what is going to go into the expansion are sketchy, but some of what Blizzard is planning are:
    • An increase in the level cap to 70
    • Two new playable races, including the magical Blood Elves
    • New starting zones in Quel'Thalas and beyond
    • The entire new continent of Outland, reachable through the Dark Portal
    • Many new high-level dungeons to explore in Azeroth, Outland, and elsewhere
    • New flying mounts in Outland
    • Many new and dangerous monsters, including epic world bosses
    • Hundreds of new quests
    • Hundreds of new items
    • A new profession: Jewelcrafting
    • Socketed items
    Some of these are much needed changes, and some are just nice additions. The addition of Socketed Weapons really puts the final nail in the Diablo III coffin, but I doubt anyone will really notice.

    Welcome to the Suck

    Every game has its flaws, and World of Warcraft is no exception. I think, overall, the game has it right about 90% of the time.

    A common ding on the game is that after a year or so of game play, the game can be repetitive. Since the game play is essentially the same as that as Diablo II, we are talking continuous left mouse button clicks since 1999!

    I do have a few criticisms to share.

    First, when you log in, you first go through an authentication server, which checks your account, and presumably sees if you’ve paid up. All perfectly acceptable, but there aren’t enough of them: increasingly, I have been unable to connect to the authentication server, and when I have, authentication has been slow.

    What should be the most painless step of the login process is apparently quite difficult. Kicks and stalls when authenticating are increasingly common, and if you get kicked, there is no auto-rejoin. You have to reconnect manually until an Authentication Server slot opens, and you can get processed. Counterstrike Source has had server auto-rejoin since 2003: it can’t be that hard to implement!

    The next step when logging in is choosing your character. By default, the login processes opens the Character Selection screen to the toon you played last.

    Perfectly fine if you play on only one server, but if you do not, not all of the characters you play are on that screen: you have to hunt them down by switching servers.

    That is cumbersome, to my mind: all my characters, regardless of server, should be on one page, allowing easy access to how I want to play the game that day.

    Once you get into the game, there are some areas of the server which are bugged, and may cause you to get kicked from the server you are playing on.

    Maybe I am naive, but I should not expect a connection drop at $15 per month, and if the connection does drop for some reason, one of two things should happen: either 1.) the server drops me immediately out of the server, returning me to my Character Selection screen, or 2.) the game automatically reconnects me to the game, and returns me to the point where my connection was severed.

    What actually happens is that once your connection has been lost, you are dropped back to the initial login screen: you have to log back in, reauthenticate, reselect your character, etc. Many times, you have to wait for your character to be reset, since, as far as the server is concerned, your character is still in the game.

    I don’t think either resetting the player, or restoring the player to their last known position is all that hard to implement: it’s already done on the front end during Character Selection, so all that would need to occur is have the same script run if a connection is lost.

    I don’t think that these criticisms should dissuade players from buying the game, but they are important negative marks on what could have been a 10/10 title.

    Maybe it’s 10/10 for the game, and 8 or 9/10 for server and process management.

    Conclusion

    It’s really hard to sum up World of Warcraft simply. Just describing the game has already taken 5 pages. Players of other Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Gamers will see little new, so in that sense, it’s hardly revolutionary.

    Then again, in an era when game developers refuse to take risks, Blizzard raided their back catalog, and, to borrow a phrase from baseball, swung for the fences.

    World of Warcraft is a superlative action RPG, with enough team oriented gaming and tactics to keep a Tactical Gamer occupied for quite some time. Other than the aforementioned server issues, there is little to dissuade someone from buying this game.

    Get a copy of World of Warcraft, and play out the first 30 days. It’s a huge mistake, but you will not be sorry.
    Last edited by Mateo; 04-07-2006, 04:24 PM.

  • #2
    Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

    The UI is one of those things that's not so obvious as a big win over other games. Blizzard implements it in a combination of XML and the LUA scripting language, and encourages users to extend it to create new UI elements. The WoW signature you see on the forums is generated by collecting data from the game using a custom LUA script and then uploading that to the TG website. The same data is used to update TG's guild page. WoW is a complicated game, and there are tons of custom addons to manage the complexity. And if you can't find one you need, it's not that hard to write one yourself.
    Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

    snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

    Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

      You forgot the horrendous grind from level 40 to 60. Its a major time sink and its rather boring. After the umpteenth time running Scarlet Monastery my will wilted. Good game but I'm liking EVE online better.


      99. A smiley face is not used to mark a minefield.
      100. Claymore mines are not filled with yummy candy, and it is wrong to tell new soldiers that they are.
      101. I am not allowed to mount a bayonet on a crew-served weapon.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

        I have no doubt that WoW is an excellent game to the point of becoming addicting.

        Which is exactly why I won't buy it.

        I'll stick with BF2 where there is no persistent universe....

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

          While WoW has outstanding production values and the game is incredibly fun from 1 to 60, the end-game is pretty terrible. You either raid for hours on end to get some item or you try their pathetic take on PvP. I personally can't stand MMOs that don't have good team-based PvP, and unfortunately no MMOs ever have had good PvP except Dark Age of Camelot.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

            Originally posted by Spartan25
            You forgot the horrendous grind from level 40 to 60. Its a major time sink and its rather boring. After the umpteenth time running Scarlet Monastery my will wilted. Good game but I'm liking EVE online better.
            It is a grind, HOWEVER, I don't think you are really at a loss for what to do.

            Lots of quests, plenty of instances....it's actually a challenge. I'm at 45 right now, and I have run SM exactly once: I got my sheild, and completed the quest, so now I can move on to something else.

            It also helps to have quests in a bunch of different areas to quest in in case you get "area burnout" which I am highly susceptible to.

            I have EVE, but have yet to set up an account....maybe I will do a review of that next!

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

              Originally posted by Spartan25
              You forgot the horrendous grind from level 40 to 60. Its a major time sink and its rather boring. After the umpteenth time running Scarlet Monastery my will wilted. Good game but I'm liking EVE online better.
              My first character went to SM a grand total of 3 times before reaching level 60. I spent the majority of my 40-55 laying waste to Un'Goro, Tanaris, & Highlands. 55-60, well that was a self induced grind -- which I think is the cause of the majority of the grinds in WoW. There are multiple zones that cater to each level plateau the trick is to not do every quest a single area has to offer all at the same time and to not drag your feet in an area if you don't have a reason for ebing there (i.e. quest). If you do, it's not the game forcing you to grind....
              ~~ Veritas simplex oratio est ~~
              No matter how far a wizard goes, he will always come back for his hat. --T. Pratchett

              <---- You know you're getting old when you rely on your forum meta-data to remind you how old you are.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

                I hadn't thought about it before Mateo's comment, but the likening to co-op play in FPS games is a good one. Most of the game is player versus environment (ie. AI characters) and PvE is very similar to playing Quake in co-op mode. It's one of the things I missed in more recent games.
                Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

                snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

                Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

                  I think it's important to really drive home the difference between 1-59 and level 60. It's a completely different game. I had fun levelling my character up to 60: chatting with my guild, doing a few instances, taking quests and earning XP and stuff. When you get to 60, there are only 2 ways to get better items: PvP or large instances. PvP is a zillion hours of grinding for reputation with someone like the league of Arathor, and when you're done you get like 1 item. Instances are really popular, but you run the same ones over and over and over and over and over just to get like a 5% chance of an item you need to drop, and THEN you have to roll for it with your group. Plus, instances take like 2-3 hours from log in to finish, and if you have to go anytime during that, you don't get any reward at all.

                  From levels 1-59, I could log in, play for half an hour or for two hours, and log out with a more powerful character. He might have gained a level, or maybe he found a new, better item. At level 60, I'm basically stuck. I can't scrape together 3 hours in a row to play; other people need the computer, and that's really a long time to just sit there and do nothing. It wouldn't be so bad if those were an awesome 3 hours, but there's really only like half an hour of challenge; the rest is just waiting or menial fighting with junk mobs that have a zillion health.

                  So just be careful: you might be having tons of fun for now, but the game changes significantly, and you may or may not be able to keep up. The moral of the story is play at least one dude to 60 before you review it :D

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

                    Yarrrr.
                    I've got a 60 toon. I still manage to log on and find things to do... constantly. whether it's helping people out, or going and trying to do some new challenge that i think of myself.

                    1 man UBRS for the win!
                    _________________



                    I'm planning on respeccing to Irritation pretty soon. Granted, I'll lose the burst DPS from Pissing People Off Outright, but I'll get DoT's and higher damage through AoE's.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

                      Originally posted by TychoCelchuuu
                      I think it's important to really drive home the difference between 1-59 and level 60. It's a completely different game. I had fun levelling my character up to 60: chatting with my guild, doing a few instances, taking quests and earning XP and stuff. When you get to 60, there are only 2 ways to get better items: PvP or large instances. PvP is a zillion hours of grinding for reputation with someone like the league of Arathor, and when you're done you get like 1 item. Instances are really popular, but you run the same ones over and over and over and over and over just to get like a 5% chance of an item you need to drop, and THEN you have to roll for it with your group. Plus, instances take like 2-3 hours from log in to finish, and if you have to go anytime during that, you don't get any reward at all.

                      From levels 1-59, I could log in, play for half an hour or for two hours, and log out with a more powerful character. He might have gained a level, or maybe he found a new, better item. At level 60, I'm basically stuck. I can't scrape together 3 hours in a row to play; other people need the computer, and that's really a long time to just sit there and do nothing. It wouldn't be so bad if those were an awesome 3 hours, but there's really only like half an hour of challenge; the rest is just waiting or menial fighting with junk mobs that have a zillion health.

                      So just be careful: you might be having tons of fun for now, but the game changes significantly, and you may or may not be able to keep up. The moral of the story is play at least one dude to 60 before you review it :D
                      Just think: when Burning Steppes drops, all those 60s are going to be right back in the levelling phase! Should be fun to watch!:icon19:

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

                        you mean Burning Crusades? Burning Steppes is a zone with dragons and such.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

                          Originally posted by Phantom
                          you mean Burning Crusades? Burning Steppes is a zone with dragons and such.
                          Yeah, that's what I meant!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: World of Warcraft: One Year Out

                            Originally posted by TG_Mateo
                            TG! Once More Into The Breach!
                            It's actually 'unto' :)


                            "Who put the fun in dysfunctional? I." - Aesop Rock

                            "Cuz you can choose to say 'Good morning, God! =)' or 'Good God, morning! =(" - Blackalicious

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              please dont

                              please dont start playing this game, do yourself a favor, no offense, just my opinion




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