World of Warcraft was a MMORPG launched in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment. It was based on the Warcraft universe that was developed by Blizzard’s earlier Warcraft Games titled Warcraft: Orc & Humans, Warcraft II, and Warcraft III. These games progressed a storyline that involved Humans and Orcs raging War against each other, and eventually forming alliances with other tribes. The Humans led the faction called the “Alliance”, and the orcs led the faction called the “Horde”. These games were what is known as RTS (Real-Time Strategy) and revolved around gathering resources to produce troops and meet objectives to proceed through the games story. Players would play through the story and as both factions and see how the story plays out from both perspectives. The game played very similar to Blizzard’s Starcraft, which had a sci-fi theme instead of Warcraft’s fantasy theme, however followed the same idea of resource gathering, creating troops, and eliminating enemies to accomplish goals. Warcraft III differed from the previous Blizzard RTS titles by allowing the players to also control Hero units that were capable of leveling up and earning abilities.
World of Warcraft picked up where the expansion of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne left off story wise. Unlike its predecessors, it was not and RTS, and players were able to for the first time create Avatars and freely explore the world in which Warcraft took place, Azeoroth. There were 8 races that players could choose from when the game launched. Like the previous games, these races were split into their respective factions to which they owed their alliance. The Alliance consisted of the Humans, Dwarves, Night Elves, and Gnomes. The Horde featured the Orcs, The Forsaken (The Undead, former humans who broke free of control), Tauren (cow-like humanoids), and Trolls. The existence of an established fan-base for the series helped fuel its popularity, alongside the reputation of Blizzard for developing great games. Unlike previous MMO launches that focused on utilizing the most advanced graphics and time demanding player progression, Blizzard instead promoted the ideas of accessibility and reaching a wider audience than gearing themselves towards hard-core gamers. This method has defined their model ever since, has been further employed and developed through further game updates and expansions, and achieved such a level of success that it has heavy influenced the development of other MMO’s that seek to either reproduce the success that World of Warcraft generated, or at least grab a piece of the action. World of Warcraft holds the record for largest paid-subscription player base at 12 million concurrent subscribers, which it achieved in 20101. It currently has around 7 million concurrent subscribers2.
World of Warcraft featured a great storyline to compel players to explore all of the content the interactions regarding dungeons and raids in the game was a strong reason the game was so popular. Players could travel to a large variety of dungeons located throughout the world with their friends or strangers they met by finding each other at the entrances of the dungeons or forming the parties within major cities and heading out from there. This required communication and interaction between players in order to find the proper levels, classes, and desired dungeons to attempt, and then players had the fun of traveling through the lands to arrive at the dungeons. Players could also be “summoned” to the dungeons if at least two of the party members were at the entrance. At the very least, two players had to make the journey through the land. There was also quests available at every town to aid the players in leveling up, and some even divulged more of the story (many were “kill 10 rats, because rats are bad” and serve no value to the purpose… unless they added the line “and pose a threat to the alliance!” of course). Players were promptly rewarded with experience, currency, and loot for their ventures out into the wild and for servicing the NPCs in the various towns. Unlike Lineage 2 which mainly revolved around killing creatures for experience to level up, World of Warcraft relied on its quest system. Being given a reason and additional reward for killing 100 orcs was an appealing idea at the time, the alternative in Lineage 2 being just to wander into the woods and do it for no other reason than that they are there.
As players progressed in levels, they were able to buy new skills and abilities with the currency they acquired, and also to level up “occupations” or “jobs” such as blacksmithing, alchemy, tailoring, and others that served as means to producing rare materials or items for players that they could then use on themselves, or sell on the market to bring in additional money. Some things players could buy from NPCs that were quite useful were “Mounts”, which allowed players to ride animals through World of Warcraft and travel at much higher speeds than if on foot. These mounts cost money, and the abilities to use them also cost money. It was/is also possible to acquire them through other means, such as quests or rare events.
As World of Warcraft relied on the “holy trinity” (groups requiring a class to handle creatures aggression *Tank*, classes to cause high damage *Damage Dealers* (they were called Damage Dealers, or DD for short in Lineage 2; in other MMORPGS, including WoW, they are called *Damage Per Second classes*, or DPS for short), and a class to be the *Healer* and heal the members in the party; Only by working together could they achieve this goal). Lineage 2 was quite strict in this sense, as Tank classes dealt very little damage, however could manage a large amount of foes. Because of this, leveling alone was very difficult. It was also difficult for buff classes (Classes that cast spells to enhance players abilities) and healing classes, as these classes were designed to strengthen other players and not necessarily themselves, so they too relied on others. Damage Dealer classes could solo, but by having buffers to strengthen them or tanks to handle the aggression, they could be much more efficient. World of Warcraft on the other hand made it so the classes could be viable in most areas and completely capable of leveling on their own. Healers not only healed, but had offensive and defensive spells too. The healers often served as the buffers as well, though each class of healer had slightly different abilities. World of Warcraft had 8 classes, Lineage 2 had over 40. In raid type settings, you often needed several tanks and healers, where-as normal parties only required one of each to complete the “holy trinity”.
I did not play raids in the original version of WoW, but I was informed that they used to consist of 40 people. This system was later revamped, and raids now consist of 10-man and 25-man variations, the 25-man variations being more difficult, thus requiring more people, and offering greater rewards. A standard party could consist of 5 people, and dungeons are usually attempted with 5 people unless they are of a higher level than the dungeon is designed for. These dungeons and raids were areas players could go and face more difficult creatures for additional rewards, and it often required memorizing paths, boss fights, and when to use certain abilities. Where in normal content, forgetting to use an ability was often a mistake that required an additional second or two to correct, in dungeons and raids these could easily result in the deaths of everyone involved.
(I don’t want to make it a habit of posting game videos, but these could not be done justice with just screenshots)
World of Warcraft 40-man raid
Lineage 2 Raid (way more than 40 people)
Players were able to sell their items to one another using the auction house. Each major city had NPC’s which players could go to to either sell their goods or purchase others. They could purchase or sell nearly everything that wasn’t “bind on acquire”. “Bind on acquire” gear was often high end gear that players could not trade once they picked it up. Some gear was labeled “bind on equip”, and once you put it on your avatar, you could no longer sell or trade it. This was very different from Lineage 2, in which any gear you picked up and used you could later resell. This meant that any gear you invested money into was not a complete waste, as you could later resell the gear and recoup your money, or even turn a profit. Another aspect of Lineage 2 that was different was there were no auction houses, all sales were conducted either by discussing it live, or by setting up a “shop” in which your avatar sat on the ground, displayed a message in purple that you could customize, and players could right click on you and see items you had selected in your inventory to be sold, for the prices you had set them to be sold out. The opposite could be done in order to buy needed items as well.
I have given a general outline on how features of World of Warcraft, and how it compares to other examples I am intimately familiar with (so, Lineage 2). In part 2, I go on to talk of my personal experiences in my fonder days of World of Warcraft, and in part 3 I will discuss my brief return to World of Warcraft, and my opinion on its declining state, and the state of MMORPGs as a whole.