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Gaming: Back to World of Warcraft

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World of Warcraft remains the only massive-multiplayer online game I’ve played. I originally started playing it pretty much as soon as it launched in Europe, not having much interest in it myself (I’m not a fan of online multiplayer in general) but taking part because my little brother was interested. Soon I was essentially addicted, spending all my free time playing it, and when I wasn’t playing it I was usually thinking about it. I stopped playing a couple of months after the launch of the first expansion pack, The Burning Crusade. It wasn’t a dramatic break, I didn’t force myself to walk away, I just lost interest. I was weary of the same monotonous quests despite the new setting, was currently enjoying gaming on my new Xbox 360 (where you were the centre of events, not an interchangeable grunt), discovered my account was days from renewal and cancelled my subscription.

At times I missed the camaraderie of my old guild or even simply the knowledge that there was this game where I always had something new to do, but I don’t regret severing ties with the game, it was the right decision at the time. Towards the end of last year I found myself wanting to play again and this year I resubscribed. Why? Well, it’s a combination of several things:

1) My nephew

He’s only ten years old but he enjoys gaming and is a big fan of ‘Let’s Play’ videos on Youtube, watching other people playing games and talking or joking about their progress. Even for people who hate the game or have no interest in it, World of Warcraft is too big to ignore completely so it inevitably comes up. He remembers that my brother and I used to play it but otherwise knows little about the game, and in the last year or so has asked several times if he could play it. I didn’t think he had the patience for an MMO but figured there was no harm in letting him see what it was about, if only to remove the mystery.

2) Phasing

One of the things that I was growing weary of with World of Warcraft was the static nature of the world. Absolutely nothing ever changed or was personal to you, because every quest and event had to take into account all the other people who could currently be doing the same thing or simply being in the same area. With the Wrath of the Lich King expansion Blizzard introduced something called phasing, which enabled them to alter the state of the area based on what quest you were doing, and only people who were in the same phase would see it.

One player could be walking through a deserted area to pick up a new quest, while a second player could be in a completely different phase, the same area under attack from a horde of enemies. It was something I’d thought about before as a way to counter the static nature of MMOs (while lacking the knowledge to know if it was even feasible), so hearing that Blizzard had actually pulled it off meant I’ve been itching to see it for a while now.

3) The cataclysm

Blizzard’s third expansion for the game, Cataclysm, saw them rebuilding the entire world that they had first made when the game launched in 2004, using the reappearance of Deathwing (last seen in the Beyond the Dark Portal expansion for Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness) as an in-universe reason for the world undergoing these changes, rifts opening in the ground, rivers overflowing and entire regions flooding. The actual reason was that parts of the world were showing their age and certain decisions made back then (when they were having to develop and launch an MMO) were limiting what Blizzard could do now.

A major issue was that the flying mounts introduced in The Burning Crusade could only be used in the new region of Outland, because Blizzard had developed the whole place with that in mind. Back on Azeroth Blizzard had created the world knowing that there were only certain viewpoints every area could be seen from, so they weren’t made to be viewed from all angles and the entire fiction of the setting would be undermined. Cataclysm gave them a reason to tidy up the world and, for the first time since it launched, advance the game’s timeline. World of Warcraft was no longer essentially the same place I left and I wanted to see how things had changed, returning to a familiar place to see just how much remained of the place I once knew.

So I’ve been back now for just about three months. The first thing I wanted to do was play the new races, goblin for Horde and worgen for Alliance, and each has an opening sequence and story that stopped at level thirteen, at which point each is recruited into their respective factions. I decided then to play every race again up to level thirteen, just to get a feel for their opening areas and see how their situations have advanced, and have now played through every opening zone and as every class. Over the next series of posts I’m going to rank each starting area in order of preference, starting with my least favourite. I’ll mostly be looking at things like the setting, the overall story that moves you forward, and the types of quests you’re given. The first will go up in about an hour, and then the rest should go up once a day for the next eleven days.

Once that’s all finished with I’ll decide which characters I want to continue with, which will primarily be based upon which classes I enjoyed the most and which paths I’ll need to take to see the entirety of the updated world. I don’t know that I’ll be sticking with World of Warcraft again for the long term, but there’s still plenty of Azeroth left for me to see before I leave again.

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