In our seventh installment of our weekly World of Warcraft Wisdom feature I begin a series looking back at the various expansions and their patches - today we look at the impact of the original MMO on a new player.
When I was in middle school in the 1980s I played pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons. I am not sure how many of you out there have played a pen and paper RPG, but it is rather different than the MMOs we have today. The pen and paper games could go on for days, usually depending on the Dungeon Master. We would gather at a friend's house and usually get a game started on Friday after school and play well into the night, drinking soda and eating all sorts of junk food. We would break around midnight and rejoin later on Saturday to finish the adventure.
The game was set up much like any instance group. We had a warrior, some damage from wizards, help from rogues, and of course the cleric for heals. I liked playing the rogue. There was something fun about the sneaky guy who could move in and out of shadows. The skills were a bit different than the rogue in World of Warcraft, but he was in many ways the same character. He could pick locks and was able to move ahead of the group. As the rogue moved ahead of the group, I rolled the dice to make sure my stealth held, and if my skills were high enough, in parallel with the roll of the dice, I could hear what may lurk behind a closed door.
Dungeons and Dragons is still around, though it has fallen to the wayside in favor of MMOs and other RPGs. It still lives in books, online, and groups who gather to roll the dice and bring their characters to life. Though I haven't played the game since my freshman year of high school, I have always harbored a love of fantasy.
I have been in Azeroth for about five years now. I think when I began, there were only 9 million users. There was so much for my eyes. I had taken a serious hiatus from technology for many years, but then bought a new Mac. Shortly after that, I heard about World of Warcraft and signed up.
Like so many, I was amazed. Like so many, I came close to addiction level and spent many an hour in Azeroth. I had made friends and was having a wonderful time escaping/avoiding life. What amazed me, and still does to this day, was not only the detail of the world - but how it all operated. I am still baffled at how an MMO works, how when I hit a button, a signal is sent through the air to my wireless router, from there a wire carries that signal to the modem, which sends it via wire to God knows where through God knows how many switches to arrive at a server located in some bunker in California; once the signal of my keystroke arrives at the server, a signal is bounced out and around to (potentially) many, many people, through many, many wires, including myself - through the same channels from which I had originally sent it, the signal returns to my house, and the resulting action from my keystroke happens on my screen and all those around my character. Go figure.
When I got the game, loaded it up, waited an hour or so for all of the updates to download, I entered Azeroth. While it was downloading, I did some reading in the manual about how to move, attack, saw the emotes part and figured those out, how to communicate with other players, and so on. Blizzard did a great job helping players get acclimated in the starting area - well enough that someone my age could figure it out quite easily. The starting quests, like many these days, were designed to teach the user how to play the game, the mechanics, how to train, and so on. What these starting areas did not do well on, though, was help the new player adjust to some of the more fun parts and other realities of the game: grouping and PVP. Either way, my goodness was it fun.
I remember my first visit to Iron Forge. With headphones on, the cavern came to life in ways I could have never imagined. I was so caught up in the design, I had to create other characters to visit their cities. All the cities were so vast and impressive, each had its own personality. I have come to the simple conclusion, that while all of the cities are wonderful, there is something (and this is from a die hard Horde person) about Stormwind. The details I found there just blew me away. Details from the bricks, layout, and feel. I felt like I was in France again. The doesn't mean that there isn't some eye candy in Under City, but compared to Stormwind, it just leaves a bit to be desired.
When I ventured out, I spent some time running about. With my first Undead character, I enjoyed the sound effects surrounding the starting area. When I left that area, I realized just what I had entered into. Blizzard has done a fine job in the setting. As a writer, I thoroughly enjoy when a piece of writing creates a sense of place. The beauty of Azeroth is in many manners just that: wherever you go, there is a distinct feel, a wonderful sense of place. When I got to Arathi Highlands, I was quickly reminded of the Scottish Highlands. The feel, colors, and details were a dead ringer.
As I look back to Dungeons and Dragons, I can't help but be amazed at how far gaming has come. I once struck up the nerve to hit an RP server. There, I wandered about Stormwind, thinking that they might be taking their role playing more seriously, just to watch the chat and "listen" to the language. I know many who played Dungeons and Dragons got into character for an evening of throwing dice and I wondered if WoW people did the same. I was not disappointed. Many will look at RPGers and say, "Egads, you are such a bunch of nerds!" While this may be true, but look at the amount of creativity that goes into creating this persona and maintaining it. I have to admit, while I don't RP well at all, it was fun in Stormwind, I felt transported to a different place altogether. My guess is that, due to the nature of heavy RP, that these servers have a stronger community than non-RP servers, due to the fact that they are putting so much effort into character and communication- the game almost becomes secondary.
In the last few years, Blizzard has done a fine job growing World of Warcraft. Many studies show that most MMOs fade rather quickly, what Blizzard has done well with Wow is to provide players options and something new just when the community needs it, this might be a full expansion, or a patch to add some new content. These next few weeks, I want to explore some of those expansions and the patches that accompanied them. Those things that keep so many of us running around in Azeroth.
As we venture together in a history of Azeroth and World of Warcraft, what hit you hardest when you first entered Azeroth?
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