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Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft continues

Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 17:09


At this point, we have all heard of Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft. With around 12 million subscribers, World of Warcraft is far and away the largest Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) in the world. It is quite likely that you, your brother or sister, mom or dad, cousin or friend has played WoW at one time or another. It has gone beyond a game played by a select few, to something people of every situation spend significant parts of their lives doing. To many, however, its depth and breadth of the complexity of the game, compounded by jargon like “MMORPG” make it extremely difficult for the uninitiated to understand friends talking about WoW.

Players in World of Warcraft control a character, also known as an “avatar,” who is one of many entities in the fantasy world called Azeroth.  This character can talk, trade, or fight with any of the computer controlled characters (NPC’s) or other player controlled characters (PC’s). The player is given quests from NPC’s, designated by an exclamation point over their head. The completion of these tasks yields rewards like in game money or items like armor and other useful consumable items (loot) or experience points (XP). Experience points are key to the game, once enough have been collected, the player’s character advances a level. Increasing one’s level increases statistics governing how well one completes quests and unlocks new abilities, such as being able to sneak around unseen.

Each level is progressively more difficult to achieve, but the player is more capable of achieving it. This process of completing quests, gaining XP, and leveling up is the fundamental gameplay of WoW.

Many games beyond MMORPGs use this basic gameplay structure, but the key to WoW’s popularity is the “Massively Multiplayer” element. The world that players inhabit can hold thousands players simultaneously. Even when any one individual player is not in game, the world persists without him. The sun rises and sets every day and the year even has a holiday calendar. “Noblegarden” falls around Easter, “Hallow’s End” around Halloween, and “Feast of Winter’s Vale” around Christmas.

The world changes as new content is added and events mark the advancement of the history of the world. Any one player has a friend’s list where they can chat and trade with people they meet in either the real world or in the game world. The most interesting quests and the best rewards come from group quests that everyone performs together. Each individual character has a “class” that determines what they will specialize in while in group situations. Players can take hits from enemies (tanks), hit enemies back (DPS), or even heal (healers) making coordination and strategy key to completing the most difficult quests.

Group quests can take as few as five people or as many as 40. In-game organizations founded and managed by guilds are used to organize people and provide a support network of resources and knowledge. It is this social, collaborative nature of World of Warcraft that people find so appealing. The same thing that makes Facebook so appealing. It is providing of a social space for people to fill themselves that makes WoW so successful, keeping people in things to do together while attracting those who want to participate in a new and different way with friends.

After its release date in 2004, WoW has constantly added content and refined what already existed. Six years of doing so has built a large amount of complexity into the game. This depth is daunting to the newcomer, and the difference in quality between earlier and later content is profound. However, in late 2010 or early 2011, Blizzard plans to release its third major expansion, Cataclysm. Cataclysm will be a remake of the original content of the game, making it much more friendly to newcomers and enjoyable for veterans. If you have wanted to pick the game up, or were discouraged by older versions of the game, Cataclysm will be an opportunity for new and old alike to experience WoW again.

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