MMORPGS: World of Warcraft
By Stefan Pratter
If you're into computer games, you probably have heard of World of Warcraft, the latest hit produced by Blizzard Entertainment, and you're probably aware what an MMORPG is. If you're not, let me explain it quickly. A MMORPG is a massivly multiplayer online roleplaying game that allows thousands of players to play in a persistent game world.
World of Warcraft currently entertains close to 7 million people world wide. It has drawn many of the mmorpg veterans but also introduced a lot of new people to the genre. Why is world of warcraft so successful? Well. I think it comes down to more than one thing.
First of MMORPGs are usually not that easy to get into, often the player is presented with a awkward interface, tons of options and a lot of things going on around them in general the first time the log onto the game. Blizzard has done a pretty solid job in keeping the interface simple and stupid, allowing even newbie players to get into it at a quick pace. Hints and Tips help guide the true MMORPG newbie along as well. When the developers of the game created the interface, and gameplay in general their goal was for it to be easy to get into it, but to be hard to master.
They have definitely accomplished the first part, the second part can be argued about. What defines a good player in an MMORPG basically comes down to two things.
1) Does he know his character and the abilities
2) Does he pay attention
There are no twitch skills involved, and in my opinion if you're looking for a competitive game, current mmorpgs - including WoW - are not the place to look at. If you want skill-based competition stick to RTS and FPS games.
The second thing that makes wow so successful is most likely the name of the producer and their huge fan-base - which they deserve by all means - after having released such great games as the diablo and warcraft series, which were all huge hits.
Let's get to the review part :)
Like every MMORPG or MUD out there the journey always begins with the character creation. You get to pick your site - alliance or horde , your race and a few visual features. Character customization is definitely one of the game's weakest points, the diversity and amount of features to select and change for character remind of Everquest which was released almost 8 years ago. You get to chose
* between a handful of faces
* skin tone
* between a handful of haircuts
* between a handful of facial hair styles
* hair color
It is probably not a huge deal, and its certainly nothing game breaking, a bit more would have been nice though.
As you take your first steps within WoW, getting used to the user interface, you will quickly notice that the game is very quest driven. You can earn most of your character's experience via quests, you will still be grinding mobs for exp once in a while though.
The starting quests also lead you along nicely, out of the starting area to the bigger towns and into the deep dungeons
The amount of detail that was put into the world of warcraft is amazing and stunning. The cartoony style may not be everyone's cup of tea, but whether you like it or not you cannot dismiss that the world has a lot of character. It is filled with content too, and you will find yourself stumbling from point of interest to point of interest.
The dungeon instances, which are zones that belong to you and your group, while pretty linear most of the time are also amazingly done. The boss encounters are fun, and the best loot is gotten from doing instance runs. The dungeon instances are supposed to be the group part of the game (aside from pvp) and it would be unwise to enter them alone unless you're like 20 levels stronger than the mobs inside the dungeon.
The way to 60, and beyond
Most people I've talked to tell me they have the most fun leveling their characters to level 60, because it is quick paced most of the time, and only slows down rarely. The quests are done well, and there is just so much to discover.
Once you hit 60 you're basically stuck with three things to do though
a) do instance runs (raids) for items
b) grind monsters for money
Now this might sound as if it should be enough. But the core problem is this: there is no character advancement beyond 60 other than getting items. These items are gotten by raiding elite dungeons with your guild, playing the bazaar game or by gaining rank while pvping.
Right now, if you're a raider, you raid so you can raid more. There is no reason to take that super dagger of stabbing into a normal 5 man dungeons and just carnage stuff left and right, other than for the sake of carnageing - is that even a word.
The game at this point, 2 years after its release, direly needs some alternate advancement, luckily the expansion (The Burning Crusade) is right around the corner, so that should help out some for now.
This is were i have an axe to grind, so pardon my rant
Ever since wow was released , the game has had severe sever stability issues. I guess they did not expect the kind of amount of people to buy the game back then and got surprised. Not a big deal, most of the MMORPGs face server issues the first few days of the game's release, even if is not as popular as wow.
But even after 2 years of development it is sad and annoying to see that the same server problems still exist, while not as severe, and the servers need to go down for maintenance weekly.
We all know it, Blizzard likes to do things correctly, and they always take their time. The thing is, that this is a MMORPG. People need to be handed new content almost constantly, waiting 3-4 months between content updates that deliver content that was promised to be in the game when it was released just seems weak. Then again i can certainly appreciate the amount of work that must be needed to create the content. It wouldn't be so bad if there was actually some way of alternative character advancement.
This review may sound a bit harsh and don't get me wrong, WoW is an amazing game, and what the artists did is just mind boggling. I leveled 3 characters to level 60, and as i was progressing along through the vastly different world zones of the game there was always this thought on mind.
Wow is an amazing online world, but it is as if they do nothing with it. Where is the dynamic world, that i imagined when i first read about WoW in 2002. There has been a world event of the opening of a raid instance that involved the players gathering resources for a month or two and then battling in a war like scenario to unlock the dungeon. While this is definitely a step in the right direction it is not enough. Next generation MMORPGs need to be developed with dynamic behavior in mind. The world needs to change and feel less static.
World of warcraft is a great game, and you will definitely enjoy leveling your character. After that it is uncertain, you will have to see for yourself. Doing raid instances can be fun, unless you don't like to rely on people. PVP can be fun too if you're into that kind of thing. Heck, even trying to amass huge amounts of virtual money can be fun to some people.