WoW: The games we play

Actually we’re only playing one game right now: World of Warcraft. For those who don’t know it’s the new ultra-hyped (since its first announcement) MMORPG by Blizzard. I’ve been waiting for this game ever since they announced it some time between Diablo II and Warcraft III. The first screenshots published looked promising and the first tales about the game made me want to play. After all it’s a Blizzard game and I already loved Diablo (after some initial “Nooo that’s not my type of game!” and Warcraft III).

I am very biased so you cannot really call this post a review or something like that, let’s say it is a rant trying to explain why I don’t have time for blogposting.

So what do you want to know about the game?

Graphics
First the ‘weak’ point. The graphics aren’t the most brilliant ever (play EQ2 if you want that I’ve heard they go better graphics) but it runs smoothly on my 1.8Mhz with a GeForce 4. They have the typical Warcraft-style look everywhere. If you loved the Warcraft world, you’ll love World of Warcraft. High-end graphics though is really not what the game is about. But think how long you played Diablo II or Quake III even though these games were outdated and surpassed by better(-looking) ones.

Controls + UI
WoW has an easily configurable UI. You can write your own plugins in a scriptlanguage called Lua or install some of the many that are already available (oh yes and for the unknowing I’ll soon post a list of the ones I use, there’s also a good thread on UIs on the Interface Forum …). The controls are incredibly easy to learn and handle. I find it very relaxed to play the game unless I take my character to places that are too high-level. If I don’t play ‘heroes-die-young’-style, I can often lean back and watch.

Gameplay
I can of course only speak for night-elves, since I’ve only played one of those so far. But I believe it’s quite similar for other races.

You start out in a ‘beginner’s area, first thing you know you’re talking to some NPC with an exclamation mark on his head (well-known from WC3) . That’s your first quest which involves killing some beasts in the area. There’s a questlog that manages your quests, so you won’t forget them. One quest leads to another and another and while in the beginning you sometimes take some time to find some of the stuff required from a quest it becomes easier as you find out the way most quests work. You can always ask some other player in-game, the forums or thottbot (an absolutely cool WoW database with infos on just about everything you might want to know).

Fighting is pretty easy, you just click on the monster and start bashing away, if you have some special skills for combat just select them with mouse or hotkey and see the special effects. Most characters start out with one or two skills that or mostly already placed for you in the hotbar on the bottom of the screen. The first few monsters are nice and won’t attack you on their own, later you’ll have to be careful where you go (unless you’re a hunter you don’t get to see your surroundings so well that you’ll always know what waits behind the next tree).

You start collecting stuff, selling it and make money. Money is very hard come by in this game and you need it dearly. Don’t ever buy equipment from NPC dealers: they are terribly expensive, you’ll find better stuff half an hour later and you need your silver (or gold if you are higher level) for more important things.

Questing gives really good XP and your first six levels will pass quite fast. After you reach the level where the next area should be manageable for your character the quests will usually provide a pointer there. Then it is time to say goodbye to Teldrassil and move on the Aldrassil. You’ll find your first little town and more quests. There’ll be a tavern or inn and a mailbox for your in-game mail. You can send letters or packages to other characters. While letters arrive quickly, packages cost 30 copper to send and take an hour to arrive but you can send your other characters the equipement you want to give them. I also got several letters from NPCs I had done quests for and once even received a hint for an important new quest that was available to me in a letter, so check your mail regularly.

If you just follow the available quests in the area you are in, you can play for hours and hours, level up, get cool bonus equipment and money and generally have fun. Of course you can just leave the quests and bash some monsters but that is only half the fun of the game 🙂

On the other hand you can of course just start to explore the world (and it is large you’ll take forever to see everything!) – only beware that some areas will be too difficult for your current level and you’ll most probably die if you go there by yourself. Death isn’t really a problem in WoW, you’ll appear as a ghost on one of the area’s graveyards and there have the option to be raised by a ghost-healer (costs XP and breaks your equipment so you’ll have to repair it!) or just return to your corpse as a ghost and raise yourself. There are also several classes you can raise others (Paladins, Healers, Druids).

There’s so much more I could write about gameplay, I’ll leave that for future rants.

Character Development
First character creation: on creation time you cannot choose a lot of things for your character. First choose one of the available races from 4 races for each faction (alliance: humans, gnomes, dwarfs and night-elves, horde: orcs, taurens, trolls and undead) whether your character is female or male and then your class which are available depending on your chosen race. Then you can configure your looks for a bit and choose a name. Pleeeeeaaase choose a cool name and not something like ‘Drizztt’ or ‘Themagic’ or ‘l33tkiller’ or ‘Respawned’ or …. Blizzard does have a naming policy but sadly so far few parts of it seem to be enforced.

Your starting attributes are based on your race. Further attribute increases for each level are based on your class. No choice for you there. If you want to max out some attributes you can do that only with your choice of equipment.

But you also got skills. At each new level you can go to your class’s trainer and learn some new skills. Well no at every second level (2,4,6,… you get it) you can buy new skills. The skills become more expensive with time but I have so far bought all that were available to me. It’s all a question of money in any event, you don’t have to learn any skills but well that’s your choice.

For some very important skills most classes must complete certain quests. Sadly not all classes and quests seem to be complete yet: I had a nice quest to complete to obtain my bear form as a druid and I also had a pretty long quest to learn how to cure poison and there’s still a pretty hefty quest to obtain my water form but yesterday I simply bought the cat form for 9 copper! Anyway those are quests you should complete as soon as you’re strong enough because the skills gained are definitely worth it.

After you reach level 10 (60 is the current levelcap) you get something new: one talent point per level. Those talents are a bit similar to the Diablo Skill Trees. You got three talent trees with talents that are supporting your skills usually. For example I have a some attack skill and there is a talent that improves that attack skill.

Last but not least no MMORPG may lack trade skills. Trade skills are skills with which you can gather resources (Herbalism, mining, skinning) or produce equipment (alchemy,tailoring, leather working, enchanting, cooking). In WoW there are two types of trade skills “profession trades” of which you may have only two and the “extras2 that everybody can have in addition (first aid, cooking, fishing). Trade skills are a lot of fun I find, because you learn quite fast to produce things that are really valuable to you or even other players in the game.

For both talents and trade skills you always have the option to “unlearn” stuff you have learned and found to be a bad choice for your character. “Unlearning” costs money, and more if you do it again and more …. but it prevents you from having to throw out a character because you didn’t know in the beginning which talents would fit your play-style best.

So far I have found that each class has some unique super-cool abilities that make me want to play that class. My absolute favorite so far is the hunter who can see the beasts surrounding him on the minimap and can so easily navigate or scout through dangerous terrain in which all other classes are blind. My main character is a druid. Druids are IMHO a very fun class to play because they are able to do everything but nothing perfect and they can shape-shift. Paladins have auras just like they had in Diablo II. Rogues are cool because they can sneak around unseen, use poison and have a nice combo-point mechanic reminiscent of the assassins in Diablo II.

Oh and no: there is no “hardcore” mode as in Diablo 😉

Community + Groupplay
The people seem quite nice and more grown up than I expected so far. Of course there are always some counterexamples but less than in for example in Diablo I think. Most people are helpful and do not interfere with others. The game has a couple of mechanics in play that prevent the worst anyway: loot for example. Only you can loot the monster you killed. As the killer counts that character who made the first hit against a monster. You can see easily wether it is ‘your’ monster you are killing if the selected monster’s namebar is red. If it is grey you are helping somebody else to some loot and XP. Many people help others kill the monsters if they see that some character is nearly getting killed. Sometimes when you think you’ll be dead any second some nice player heals you or takes one of the monsters off your back. There are also helpful skills called “buffs” that you can play on any friendly character and I cast them on random people sometimes as do many others. So don’t be surprised if you walk around and all of a sudden some symbol springs up near your minimap: just a nice player walking by 😉

You can of course also form a party to quest and kill together. So far I have most always made a team with Rolland. Doesn’t matter where he is in the WoW world we can still be a party. If he is nearby and we are actually playing together XP and loot are shared. Loot is shared with a round-robin system by default but that’s configurable AFAIK. We have also formed ad-hoc parties for certain quests. Yesterday we were doing a quest that seemed pretty tough and somebody else was doing the same quest, so we asked him to join and together succeeded easily where we would have failed otherwise separately. After the quest we disbanded the party and everyone said ‘G’bye’ and went back to their own game.

There’s no need to party. You can always just play for yourself and regard other players just as ‘lag’-causers and monster killers that kill of the stuff you are looking for. That sometimes happens but usually monsters re-spawn fast enough.

Of course game mechanics cannot prevent all problems that might occur in an MMORPG and the first generation of MMORPGs had its share of problems I’ve heard (yes and seen in UO). I think Blizzard built on that experience and they made a terrific game that’s fun to play.

So here’s my long rant, lots of things missing, many details untold. There’s so much to this game that I’ll go back and play some now. Hope to see you in Darnassus or Ironforge!

PS: Always log out in an Inn or Tavern, when you are rested monster kills give 200% XP! Yeah one does log out sometimes.

PPS: some wow links I found useful can be found with my del.icio.us