Monday, January 22, 2007

Quickshot Review of World of Warcraft

I signed up my wife and I for 10 day trial accounts and downloaded the client over the weekend.

Yes, I know it's been out for years. Yes, I know it has 8 million players so it hardly needs another review from me. But I treat this blog as my diary, so I'll fill it with whatever I choose. And anyway, maybe someone in the same situation as me will find it interesting.

What situation is that?

Well, I played Ultima Online, back in the day. Pretty much cost me a postgrad degree. I had played Legends of Kesmai ( and for a while, but only dabbled in text based. MUD's before that.

See these links for the history lesson:

Cured that addiction after a couple of years. Steered clear of Everquest, or EverCrack to its friends. After a while I found myself with enough time to play Dark Age of Camelot.
DAOC was interesting - a 3D version of Ultima Online, basically, with some good innovations. And that's how World of Warcraft appears to me, so far.

Loading of zones is much smoother, nearly completely eliminated. Combat is simplified, so lag affects your experience to a much smaller degree. In DAOC, you need to wait until your last shot was released to hit the button and trigger your next shot. If you were impatient, it cancelled your shot. Lag meant Australian players fired more slowly than US players, a significant disadvantage. World of Warcraft doesn't suffer from this anywhere near as badly.

There are servers nominated as Oceanic. They're still located in the US, but time-sensitive events on the server are set in our timezone. Maintenance is said to still occur in sync with US servers. That's an improvement, as well.

Also improved is the system for loot and experience from monsters. WoW calls it "tapping". If you are the first to damage a monster, you (and your group) will be the ones who gain experience and possible treasure from that monster. This prevents "kill stealing", and actually aids with people coming to your assistance, as they can be sure that they won't be accused of kill stealing.

Crafting, from the 2 or 3 times I've used it so far, seems to be much less annoying.
Speed is very good, given the modest hardware I'm using. Desktop is an old Socket A Athlon 2000, with a Radeon 9100 video card. Laptop is a Dell Latitude D610, 1.6 Ghz Celeron with a Radeon Mobility X300 video card. I haven't changed the video settings, except to increase the refresh rate to 85hz, so either the default settings are quite conservative or the game does a good job of choosing appropriate settings.

Downloading of the game and patches uses a peer-to-peer system, which would be good when a new patch is released. When downloading the client and older patches, there are few peers and Blizzard's server was slow.

So, lots of nice touches and improvements to the genre. And so there should be, a few years on and with such a huge player base to fund development.

What I'm struggling with, as a jaded MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) player, is this: Why should I get personally invested in World of Warcraft?

I haven't found the answer yet. With Legends of Kesmai it was graphical, online, persistent worlds. With Ultima Online it was a genuinely massive experience with a functioning economy. With Dark Age of Camelot it was three dimensional, first person. What does World of Warcraft bring that's new?

If you've never played a MMORPG or are looking for a change, then World of Warcraft is a fine example, probably the best. But if you've burned out on Dark Age of Camelot or Everquest, then after a day's play I haven't found a compelling reason to take up the habit again.

Maybe I will before I run of time in the 10 day trial.

My beautiful wife, having never played a MMORPG before, graciously agreed to give it a try and even went back for a second session. It hasn't exactly grabbed her attention either. "Is it just killing things over and over?" Possibly I made an error when I chose to be a Hunter and her a Priest. As a support class, she didn't get the adrenalin rush of actually doing something.

Also the Night Elves start a long way from anywhere else, so there wasn't a vibrant community to be part of. Lastly, we started on the newest server, so maybe the population is thinner and less developed than anywhere else. So the social, marketing or crafting aspects didn't jump out and grab her, either.


I forgot to mention that dungeons are instanced. When you enter a particular dungeon, a new copy is created just for your party, so you don't get people clearing everything out and leaving nothing, only to walk into an ambush on another occasion.

My friend Manaz asks:

"What I would like to know is if there is a functional and compelling crafting
economy, and how balanced PvP actually is. Do they have PvP for low levels, like
DAoC's battlegrounds? I loved the BGs in the end, could have some great battles
in there without fear of being spanked by a horde of highly effecient and fully
specced parties of PvP freaks."

Not sure about crafting. It's either perfect, or nerfed. Let's call it Nerfect. There is an excellent guide at Allakhazam.

In DAOC, and Ultima Online, the real money was to be made in crafting. Adventuring was a hobby supported by the hard grind of making thousands of useless objects. In WoW, it appears that crafting by itself is an expensive hobby if you buy the raw materials from vendors, but a good way to increase profits if you utilise the items acquired during regular adventuring. You don't lose resources when failing to craft something, you just have to try again. This is much less annoying for the player, and I guess it makes economy balancing easier for the designer.

There certainly are battlegrounds, grouped into level ranges. They appear to have different modes of play such as capture the flag, hold positions and kill the enemy general. Interestingly, they have minimum and maximum number of players on each side. Again this will keep things much more balanced, an improvement over DAOC's battlegrounds.

Trial accounts are limited to 20 levels, and the battlegrounds start at 21, so I won't get a chance to try them out during the trial. I'll give some crafting a go, now that I've got it worked out.


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