WoW: A beginner’s guide to what World of Warcraft is all about
THERE are currently over 12 million people that play World of Warcraft (more commonly known as WoW by its fans). That’s the size of a small country. Wow.
A community of that magnitude is worthy of recognition in my books. I have always been hesitant about entering this online realm – concerned that I would have to sign away a portion of my life if I did.
However, I have always been curious to know what the appeal is and how the game ropes in so many players – many of which spend the majority of their waking hours living in this virtual world. I scoured all the websites, forums and wikis dedicated to the game and thought I’d share what I found regarding this thriving fantasy world.
What is World of Warcraft
WoW is known as a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) in which thousands of players can interact within the same virtual world. Players assume the roles of Warcraft heroes as they explore, adventure, undertake game quests and interact with one another in the Warcraft universe known as Azeroth.
WoW has a massive visual appeal and since its release in 2004, has received rave reviews and won numerous awards all over the world. These include Best PC Game, Best Multiplayer Game, Best RPG and Most Addictive Game. It was also honoured at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for advancing the art form of MMORPG games. Critics have described the WoW environment as a careful blend of cartoon, fantasy art, and realism.
Who lives in WoW
What distinguishes WoW from other virtual online worlds such as Second Life, is that it is pure fantasy. It has more of a Lord of the Rings vibe rather than being a replica of real human living.
Players can choose between ten races, such as dwarves, orcs, humans and elves each of which have unique racial traits. There is something of a racial divide among the races as they are separated into two warring factions: the Alliance and the Horde. A description from the WoW website reads:
“Characters can only talk, group, and create guilds with players from their own faction. Certain zones and cities in the world are also friendly to one faction while hostile to the other. Additionally, certain quests can only be completed by members of one faction and not the other” – www.worldofwarcraft.com
It’s almost like a virtual apartheid.
Making a living in WoW
Players can take on primary and secondary professions in WoW when not adventuring and completing quests. These professions fall into three categories, namely gathering, production, and service. Players can contribute to the World’s thriving economy, or just keep themselves occupied with jobs that range from jewel-crafting and tailoring to cooking and alchemy.
The WoW universe is vast – literally continental in size. The game features an advanced flying transportation network and players can make use of public transport to get around. NPCs can buy tickets to ride flying mounts such as mythical Gryphons and Dragon hawks. The flight paths are specifically designed to delight passengers with entertaining sights and glimpses of new regions and unexplored territory.
There is even a virtual banking system that exists in WoW. Players are able to deposit items into banks and each character has access to personal bank storage with the option to purchase additional storage space using in-game gold.
Auction houses are available for players to buy and sell items to others in a similar way to online auction websites such as eBay. There is even a postal system whereby mailboxes can be used to collect items won at auctions or used to send messages, items and even in-game money to other players.
Advertising in WoW
As with other MMORPGs, companies have emerged offering to sell virtual gold and associated services. However, due to spam advertising abuse, several companies have since been banned from using any WoW chat or communication to advertise any business or sell any services relating to WoW. The game has also been known to advertise unrelated products, such as Toyota trucks.
Corrupted blood plague incident
As part of a cruel social experiment, a ‘deadly’ disease known as the “corrupted blood plague” was unleashed into WoW in 2005, which quickly spread between interacting players. The plague so closely resembled the outbreak of real-world epidemics that scientists are currently looking at ways that online games such as WoW can model human behavior during outbreaks by allowing researchers to more accurately predict how diseases spread amongst a population.
WoW is known to be frighteningly addictive. In 2009 an article titled “10 Most Bizarre Gaming Incidents” reported the case of a young Chinese girl who died of exhaustion after playing the game for several days straight. An online funeral followed. Relationships have ended and online feuds have broken out as a result of the game, so a non-addictive personality is certainly recommended if you wish to venture forth into the world of Azeroth…
Interesting WoW facts
- Development of WoW took roughly 4-5 years including extensive testing
- Players have the option of selling their user accounts once their character is well equipped and experienced. The highest recorded WoW account trade was for £5000 (roughly R55 000).
- The game reflects real world events such as Halloween, Christmas and Easter. Different locations also have variable weather, such as rain, snow, dust storms and many more.
- When a character dies it becomes a ghost at a nearby graveyard. Characters can be resurrected by other NPCs that have the ability, or can self-resurrect by moving from the graveyard to the place where they died.
- The Chinese government imposed a modification on Chinese versions of the game which transforms dead character corpses into tidy graves and places flesh on bare-boned skeletons.
- Quests reward the player with experience points, items, and/or in-game money. It is also through quests that much of the game’s story is told.
- WoW players are invited to participate in the virtual community in creative ways. Activities include creating fan artwork and comic strip style storytelling.
World of Warcraft requires the player to pay for a subscription, either by buying game cards for a pre-selected amount of playing time, or by using a credit or debit card to pay on a regular basis.
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