Welcome to World of Warcraft
– by Beatrice Smartt
Some of you may recall that in my last piece (apologies for the long gap between pieces) I mentioned Soldak’s Depths Of Peril being compared to World Of Warcraft. Hence, I thought I ought to try it out and see what the fuss was about, especially in lieu of the patches and expansions being made available in the game – and the buzz over the upcoming newest changes and additions to characters coming later this year with Cataclysm.
I began my foray into WOW skeptically, having considered it a game for emo teens with nothing more appropriate in mind than to piss their parents off by wiling hours away in front of the computer GAMING instead of working on homework. I soon was proven wrong, as I became exceedingly absorbed into the fascinating game environment – rich graphics such as purple forests laden with peaceful nymphs and devastating monsters perfectly complemented with a non-annoying soundtrack. Not just a game for teens, it spans age groups from kids to seniors, waitresses to those deployed in the army to retirees, all of whom have found an engaging world to play in, an escape from the RL (real life) grind.
And while similar in objectives to DOP, World of Warcraft truly is its own animal. The game has spawned its own subculture, complete with quirky characters, rebels, and the odd idiot who attempts to ruin the experience for everyone else. Just based on several conversations with the gamers and through a lot of reading what people post in trade chat (there are various chat options available in game), the ages, political opinions and intelligence levels of the people playing are mind boggling – in both good and bad ways;) But as with any subculture these are balanced by the game experience its self within the world known as WOW.
Beginning with simple quests, one designs one’s customizable character, or “toon”, to adventure into the amazingly expansive world that features three continents and two factions, Alliance or Horde, with the eventual aim of taking on the game’s biggest bosses. The Alliance characters by race include human, dwarf, gnome, draeni, and night elf, while class selection includes priest, mage, warlock, rogue, paladin, warrior, druid, hunter, shaman, and death knight, with the exception of shaman and death knight, only allowable within draeni race, and hunter or druid, only allowable within night elf race. Horde faction includes some of the same classes with racial differences, such as night elf race known as blood elf, and includes Orc, Undead, and Tauren.
One may select several skills such as fishing, cooking and first aid to assist in maintaining health, for instance, as well as select two professions, including inscripton, alchemy, mining, jewelcrafting, engineering, tailoring, and many more, which will also prove invaluable to keeping one’s pockets lined with the gold necessary to repair, buy mounts, and pay for training, trading items in trade chat or at the auction house. Sounds simple enough, but this gamer needed several months to experiment with the different characters and classes as well as available professions to find ones I felt most comfortable with, and which left me capable of overcoming the various elite bosses and trickier quest completions.
First. a note on skills and professions: I advise taking up all of the skills available, fishing and cooking being compatible together, and first aid assisting in healing.
Especially for those classes (warrior, mage, warlock) who are not gifted in healing, eating and bandaging will do wonders to keep you and your party questing with you alive and well. As far as professions, there are some classes that are more gifted in some than others, so I suggest doing a bit of research on your character and class first to determine what set of professions would work best for you.
For instance, a character who can only wear leather would do well to take up skinning and leather working, while one who can only wear mail might enjoy mining and blacksmithing. Another consideration is that certain professions give benefits after a certain level is gained, not found within others – for instance, an herbalism profession will grant one “Lifeblood”, an instant health bonus, and mining will garner “Toughness” – an extra layer of skin essentially. Further sites to explore these options are listed towards the end of this piece, or simply by Googling.
Now you may find that the idea of being a death knight [the scary looking dude pictured at the top of the page – ed.]– a character unavailable to experiment with until reaching the level of 55 – one of the strongest one could choose; however, after some further experimentation with that toon, I am feeling most inclined to sticking with the paladin class. Beginning with a human warrior and working my way through priest, mage, warlock to paladin, as well as trying the night elf hunter and draeni shaman and druid, and death knight, I have found no other toon as capable in both strength, armor capabilities, and healing, as the paladin, particularly to either solo quest with or to lead or “tank” dungeons or instances – the more difficult areas located within the games. I have also experimented with the Horde side, the “evil” faction given as an option when creating the toons, and while the Horde characters do have some advantages over Alliance in that they seem to be given almost four levels of strengths over the Alliance side, I personally have felt more comfortable with the general attitude and quests of the Alliance perspective.
While the death knight (or DK) has certain advantages to other classes in that it begins as a level 55, I selected the option to play paladin more frequently. The healing abilities as well as the ability to resurrect one’s dead companions is a definite plus to this toons’ capabilities, but the ability to wear plate armor and delve out some powerful spells are also attributes that are extremely hard to argue against in terms of it being a favourite class to select.
While some classes/characters are limited to leather or mail, as in night elf hunter (only able to wear mail armor after level 40 and not plate armor), or cloth as in mage, priest or warlock, the paladin can put on mail immediately, giving it the advantage in armor where others are lacking in anything more than spell power.
Hunters are indeed given a pet to fight with them (a selection of pets for various purposes can be found at petopia.com), and warlocks are given minions (such as the sexy succubus whose apparel and behaviour suggest her to be a dominatrix, and who whips the enemy into submission and death), giving these classes an advantage over other classes such as mages, priests or shamans who rely on spells and healing for their survival. I have enjoyed experimenting with each class and have found a suitable purpose for each within a party or group scenario – which one is encouraged to engage in for the completion of quests and the forging of bonds both within and without a guild.
Joining a guild is definitely a good plan, and is free within the game rules. There are many guilds listed on guildportal.com and other WOW-affiliated sites such as wowstead, found simply by googling WOW guilds. I have experimented with a few different guilds and have found that the size and style of guild one joins with is really a personal decision based on the game style one prefers to play. Some guilds only allow certain levels to join, such as 80+, with the purpose of raiding larger dungeons or instances (to complete the tougher of the quests one can be assigned, or simply found by selecting the “dungeon finder” option on the lower part of the screen), and tackling the insane bosses one will encounter at higher levels. Other guilds allow for all levels, and rely on everyone within them to help assist their members in leveling up. Some are just simply there to assist in whatever manner they can in one’s overall enjoyment of the game. Whichever type of guild you choose, you are always free to leave and try something different if the fit isn’t working for you.
Same goes with a party or group situation – one should never hesitate to leave if someone is being rude or otherwise wrecking the overall enjoyment of the game or the particular quest or dungeon one is working on at the time. Bottom line, just because there are kids playing the game doesn’t mean the kids are as immature as the adults can be at times, so never judge a gamer by their age. Basic respect for others is a must within a social gaming situation, and a rule I would hope people utilize in their day-to-day lives as much as in their social gaming.
Speaking of the social gaming institution, if I may call it that, this was also my first foray into that style. I would definitely change a few things concerning privacy issues; as with any social online community, I want my privacy settings set how I want them to be set, not how the game has them. For instance, on Facebook or Myspace, I can block anyone whom I do not wish to have contact me, and I cannot be contacted by anyone under the age of 18. Within WOW’s current privacy setup, as I uncomfortably discovered LATE one night (around 2:30 am), a 12-year-old boy was hitting on me… and I had no idea his age til he told me! (Awkward!)
So I would like to see some limitations to the ages of people I play with at late hours. The game can get sexual at times as can players, within a fantasy world surrounded by scantily dressed or otherwise attractive toons, all mutually adventuring into lush landscapes and dangerous scenarios. It is sure, a bit strange, but these toons can be very sexy and I imagine there are not just a few people who’ve developed fetishes for the characters of WOW. Thankfully there are some options via curse.com that allow for further guarding of your privacy, such as “Infinite Ignore” whereby one can block players from contacting you – lots of great add-ons found there, and worth a scroll through to customize your gaming experience.
In terms of game controls, the only complaint as a Mac laptop user is found within the use of right mouse – and there is a LOT of right mouse usage required in the game. Right-clickable items are a hassle to get open, and involve a bit of octopus-ian maneuvering with one’s hands – left shift, control, option, command. If the game devs would allow for laptop configuration whereby one could simply set a key to right click, such as, um, I dunno, “R”? – it would make the game all that much more enjoyable.
Some things to consider if you do decide to try the game: it comes with a free ten-day trial, for both The Lich King and The Burning Crusade, so one can decide from there the sort of commitment one wishes to make to the game. I would highly recommend beginning with The Lich King and adding The Burning Crusade expansion pack once you reach level 20, so you can adventure further into the games’ perimeters. I would also recommend a minimum of six months’ subscription, as you will undoubtedly need at least that much time to understand the game, your character or characters (you can have up to ten characters per realm), and develop relations within a guild or friends to play with.
There is so much to learn about the game and one’s characters, that this time is truly well spent doing just that – a few other resources to help along the way are wowwiki, wowhead and thotbot, and for advice on character builds or “spec” (where you place your talent pool – talents being awarded every level after level 10), elitistjerks.com. There are some good options available right at the Blizzard.com site when you sign up, such as if you decide to start out as Horde and want to switch factions to Alliance, you may do so, or you may change your toon’s appearance or name, or even move them to a different server or “realm”, should you find the one you first landed in to be a bit crowded. Options abound if you’ve got the dough.
In terms of paying for the game, it is actually a very reasonable amount if one decides to commit to at least several hours of play per week. The options include prepaid time, all the way up to one year’s subscription unlimited play time. I selected a six-month plan, which after buying Wrath Of The Lich King and the expansion pack of The Burning Crusade (at a cost of approximately $50), works out to about $15 a month. For a game which is one of the most expansive designs and engaging environments I’ve experienced, and one in which I am extremely doubtful I’ll become bored with, I would say that is entertainment value at it‘s highest – especially considering that most games I’ve paid $20 for have lasted in entertainment value for less than one month by the time I’ve completed it.
And if you wanted another plus, there are always new quests to complete during special festivities that occur within the game – Christmas, Valentines, any RL (real life) occasion has it’s own version of the festivity occurring within the game, as well as other festival activities unique to the game, such as the Lunar Festival (ended March 7), wherein one collects coins from the elders of the various villages and kingdoms and celebrates with firecrackers and festival attire, or the always entertaining Darkmoon Faire where one can stuff themselves on such gourmet fare as a gnoll dog or crispy frog. YUM!! (The next DMFaire begins April 4 and I know I’ll be there for my fortune reading.)
And one last bit of advice: to the parents out there who want to let their kids give it a whirl, PLEASE look into the parental controls options available for free from Blizzard entertainment when you sign up. As an aunt whose 11-year-old nephew plays WOW, I want to reiterate this point. There are creepy people out there that might not find it slightly “amusing” that your kid was hitting on them in the middle of the night. Use your parental smarts always when it comes to the Internet.
And happy WOW-ing!