World of Warcraft Beginner’s Guide (Part I)

When playing World of Warcraft, I’ve found that many people have heard of the game, but few know how it actually works. Maybe they’ve seen parodies of the game on TV, or they have a friend that plays while they look over their shoulder. You can’t really get a feel for the game, though, without playing it.
Yet some people may be scared of the game because of what they’ve heard. So I’ve created this series of articles to set the record straight. Let’s start with what Warcraft is and what it’s not.

The original Warcraft is a game created by Blizzard Entertainment. It was initially designed to be a standalone game, that one could play by oneself, with no internet connection necessary. It was a Fantasy Role-Playing-Game, RPG for short. It is set in the world of Azeroth. The standalone game lasted through 3 different versions, which told various stories that became the Warcraft lore.

After Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne came out, Blizzard Entertainment (Blizzard for short) started working on the World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft took the land of Azeroth and turned it into a 3-D MMORPG. MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Role-Playing-Game. Massively Multiplayer as in more than 10 million subscribers, the largest such subscriber base ever.

The game lets you select from different races, and within those races, different classes. Each race is part of one of two factions: Alliance, or Horde, which are constantly at war with each other. The Alliance races as of this writing are: Human, Dwarf, Gnome, Night Elf, Drenei and Worgen. The Horde races are: Orc, Troll, Tauren, Undead, Blood Elf and Goblin.

The various classes are: Paladin, Warrior, Death Knight, Hunter, Shaman, Rogue, Druid, Warlock, Mage and Priest. Each has its own armor class, which will be covered later. Not all races can play all classes. For instance, there are no Undead Paladins.

Before you create a character to play, you can select the server on which to play, the race, class, and customize the appearance of the character. You can either make up a name yourself, or you can have the system generate a random name. With 10 million subscribers, though, it’s tough to come up with a new name that isn’t already taken.

Game play is relatively simple, if not always easy. The game is written for Windows and Mac OS X. You control the game using either the keyboard or the mouse, or both as is the case most of the time. Each class has different spells or attacks that can be used in combat, and you are given quests that reward you with copper, silver or gold coins, which can be used to purchase a wide variety of items. You can also get items which you can wear, which can enhance your ability to fight. You also get experience, or XP, not only from turning in completed quests, but for killing the creatures, or MOBs, that the quest wants you to kill. When you get a certain amount of experience, your level increases.

In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the level cap is 85. It seems a little daunting at first to think that you have to go from level 1 to level 85, but the experience if leveling can actually be enjoyable, and very quick, depending on what options you take when first starting. Blizzard has what’s called Recruit-a-friend, which can triple the experience you get. That option also lets you play with a friend, who may or may not already know the game.

In fact, most players in the game play because their friends do. I know that’s true in my case. I started playing the game because a friend thought I’d enjoy it, and she was right. I love the fact that you can immerse yourself into a character, and into a whole new world. There are no built-in limits on how long you play, which can be both a blessing and a curse, but as with all things potentially addictive, moderation is the best way to play.

I also love the fact that I can play the game alone, if I choose, and still get the same enjoyment as when playing with friends. When possible, I love to play at night, because whatever time of day it is in the time zone your server is in, that’s what time it is in game, and you can see the sun go down in Azeroth just as well as in real life. I’ve spent some time looking at the moon in that game (and sometimes howling at it if I’m playing a Worgen), and just sitting on a hilltop taking it all in. I’ve never played a game where everything feels so real.

So with that said, let me go into what World of Warcraft is not. It’s not really a game for young children. There is simulated bloodshed and violence everywhere. Player versus Player combat can be frightening for adults, let alone children. The chat channels are often R-rated. However if you play the game with your children and limit their exposure to chat, it can be an enjoyable game for all ages. I’ve read where the CEO of Blizzard Entertainment, Chris Metzen, allows his 8-year-old daughter to play, under his supervision.

Most of the players are in their teens, though a few old-timers like myself play it as well. It is male-dominated, but a few females play. I know 3 personally, plus others that I’ve met through guilds.

Warcraft is not free, well, not exactly. The game itself costs $20US for the first game (“Vanilla WoW”) and the first expansion (“Burning Crusade”). That is enough to get your feet wet with the World of Warcraft. If you like the game, two more expansions await you, plus others down the line. But each expansion costs money. The basic game comes with 30 days of game play, but once that 30 days is up, you have to pay $15/month to continue playing.

Blizzard does offer a free trial of the game, where you can play up to level 20, with limitations built-in to entice you to buy the game and subscribe.

Warcraft is not playable without an internet connection. The standalone version are, but not the 3-D world. And if you have an iffy connection or a slow computer, your experience may not be as enjoyable as you’d like it to be. Many internet providers will “throttle” the connections of Warcraft players, slowing you down further. Check with your internet provider to see if they do this.

All-in-all, though, World of Warcraft is an enjoyable, if somewhat addictive, online game that gives you thousands of quests, rewards and opportunities to leave real-life behind for a few hours. I find it far more entertaining, for instance, than a movie, and it’s cheaper too!

In the next installment of the Beginner’s guide to the World of Warcraft, we’ll take a close look at the different races available in Azeroth.