Property of Blizzard Entertainment
For our second out of class paper, we were tasked with writing a review of a movie, book, or video game. I know we are all surprised that I wrote mine on World of Warcraft.
I think it is important, not only for argument’s sake, that if you really enjoy something or agree with a particular point of view – you should be able to explain why and defend that point. It is basically the idea behind my whole Composition II class – make an argument and back it up. This applies to arguments as well as books, movies, video games, and other forms of entertainment. Do you you like the plot? Do you like the camera work/detail/art? Do you just like the blood and guts?
So for this piece, my argument is that WoW is a great game and why.
Cuz hopefully, after four years, there is a really good reason I am still playing, right?
World of Warcraft: The Undying MMO
“Nevermind my injuries, sister. It’s a miracle that any of us are alive! It didn’t look like you’d pull through; you’ve been in suspension for weeks. Something happened and the Exodar crashed. Many have died. But I’m relieved that you are alive, Effraeti. With you leading our efforts, I’m sure we’ll get to safety soon! Proenitus asked me to send you to him when you awoke. He’s waiting for you at the bottom of the hill. Just follow the path southwest.” These are the opening lines that greet a new Draenei character, spoken in the midst of a striking environment punctuated with bright colors. You enter the game, after a brief cinematic introducing your chosen race as outcasts fleeing through space, in the wreckage of a spaceship – your spaceship. You are surrounded by other Draenei – blue-skinned, horned, with hooves instead of feet, more resembling some sort of demon than any standard “good” fantasy race you can recall from memory – and begin your adventure by saving some of your injured companions while trying to contain the damaging chemicals leaking from your destroyed spaceship that are already beginning to mutate the local flora and fauna. This is the storyline that you are thrown into as a noble, exiled Draenei character. It is your introduction, along with hers (or his), to the fantasy world of Azeroth. Dragons are real and so is danger. It is your task to conquer all the challenges laid before you, increase in power, and to ultimately keep the world safe from demons, Old Gods, and other agents of destruction.
The purpose of World of Warcraft (WoW) is similar to that of most other video games – to entertain and to provide a sense of accomplishment and reward that keeps players interested. How well does it accomplish this goal? I say very well, and this is proven by the longevity of the game. Nine years and four expansions after its original release, WoW is still the most subscribed Massively Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), and even holds the Guinness World Record for the most popular MMORPG by subscribers. (“World of Warcraft”)
Why is WoW so popular? Well, the first reason is all of the options available to you.
To get you started on your adventures in WoW, the Draenei are just one of the many possible races you can choose, each race with its own unique story beginning. You can alternatively play a Worgen – a Human bitten by a werewolf-like creature and forced to adjust to a new dual-personality. Another race of former-Humans, the Forsaken, is a group of undead who gained sentience and then purpose by banding together and rising against their former creators. There are also the noble Tauren, a race resembling minotaurs, but possessing a peaceful and somewhat nomadic culture more akin to the Native Americans. The game also gives the options of some of the more standard fantasy races – Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Goblins, Trolls, Orcs, and of course Humans. Most recently added are the Pandaren, a peaceful, jolly Asian-based culture of humanoid pandas, bringing the total possible races to choose from to thirteen. The races are split into two factions, the Horde and the Alliance, and there is little communication or friendliness between the two sides.
The choice of classes is the same for both factions, though all races are limited in what classes they can choose. The classes in WoW are very diverse and range from Warriors and Rogues to Mages and Warlocks to Shaman and Priests, each with a different toolkit of abilities to get the job done. Some classes are purely for dealing damage to enemies, some are for tanking (meaning they draw all the attention of the enemy), and others are for healing allies. You can also choose whether you want to attack enemies from a distance (ranged) or get right up in their face (melee). (“Game Guide”)
World of Warcraft also gives players a wide range of activities. Some people think WoW is just about endgame raiding – getting to maximum level and killing bosses for loot – but there are many more things to do. There are people who only PvP (Player-versus-Player) – meaning they fight other players, usually in battlegrounds which are setup for that exact purpose. There are people who only PvE (Player-versus-Environment) – meaning they do quests and dungeons and game activities that pit them against computer-controlled monsters. There are people who most enjoy the crafting and social aspects of the game. I once played with a woman who looked at in-game crafting similar to knitting, but more enjoyable, because she could chat with others while doing it.
There are also mini-games within the game, the most popular of them being pet battles. Pet battles allow you to train and level small pets and fight them against other pets. For how simple the system is, it is very rewarding. It provides a quick game with quick results, and is nice for when your game time is short.
This plethora of choices is only the tip of the iceberg, though, as they say nothing about how captivating the stories within World of Warcraft are. It is a vast world with a vast number of different peoples and stories. Many of the stories, like much fantasy fiction, are based on the myths and folklore of the many cultures of the world. Numerous writers on the Blizzard team lend their talent to the story, creating a rich environment and interesting characters worth caring about. WoW illustrates symbolism through the contrasting relations between the Light (Good) and the Burning Legion (Evil); the Titans (Order) and the Old Gods (Chaos); and then with the more literal Sha, who embody the manifestation of the worst emotions within us (Jealousy, Anger, Fear, Pride, etc.). The NPCs (Non-Player Characters), the characters within WoW with whom you interact while increasing your knowledge and power, are all dynamic characters with backgrounds and emotions and motivations. Over the near-two decades of the Warcraft story, many of these characters have seen personal development and not all of it good.
The best example of this character development is Prince Arthas Menethil. Heir to the throne of Lordaeron and a Paladin of the Holy Light in training, Arthas is a tragic character similar to Darth Vader of the Star Wars series. (“Star Wars”) He tried desperately to do all the right things, but eventually became consumed by his obsessions. Arthas started himself down a dark path, killing both his father and his mentor, and ultimately becoming the evil Lich King and trying to overrun the whole of Azeroth with his undead army. It was heroes, like those you create in WoW, who stopped him. (“Arthas Menethil”)
Another example of a character who has grown over time is Jaina Proudmoore. Jaina extricated herself from her racist father, and chose a path of diplomacy between the Alliance and the Horde, making a good friend of Horde’s Orc leader, Thrall. After Thrall passed leadership to Garrosh, all of the work done between the two factions came crashing down in the moment when Garrosh dropped a mana-bomb on Jaina’s own home, Theramore. It nearly broke Jaina, who had spent so many years convincing the Alliance’s leaders to seek peace with the Horde. Her trust of the Horde, the Orcs, and particularly the young Warchief Garrosh, was shattered. (“Jaina Proudmoore”)
In fact, Garrosh himself is a good example of WoW’s foreshadowing. Throughout the entirety of Cataclysm (the third expansion) and Mists of Pandaria (the current expansion), Garrosh has grown increasingly hostile toward the Alliance and anyone who stands in the way of his goals. Small peeks of his madness and megalomania, as well as the atrocious things he was doing under the mantle of Warchief finally led to a combined strike by the Alliance and the Horde to stop Garrosh. It was discovered he followed eerily in the footsteps of his father in corrupting orcs with fel (demonic) energy and eventually sought to awaken an Old God to assist him in taking over Azeroth. (“Garrosh Hellscream”)
These characters, these stories, are much of what drives my personal interest. I add my own characters’ stories to theirs, building off them and ultimately improving my own gaming experience by coming to understand what motivates my characters. I enjoy reading this story information – this lore – both inside and outside of the game.
For most, the story is best experienced through the quests in WoW, and there are many quests that tell stories both large and small and in varying ways. One of my favorite questlines is led by a pacifist Ogre named Lunk. Throughout the entire quest chain, he coaxes you to accomplish your goals without killing. The alternatives he uses are both effective and amusing. Lunk rides spiders, sits on Dwarves until they fall asleep, and dances to help you as you quest with him. (Navimie) Another amusing questline is the one including Maximillian of Northshire, a Paladin who is the perfect anti-hero. He more often creates worse situations by trying to better them, including throwing a damsel to “safety” (with unfortunate results), aiding another who is no true “damsel” but a male mage in a robe, and “saving” a third from her pet parrot. (Yogscast) There are also quests that tell stories while breaking up the sameness of fetch and kill quests, like the Naz’jar Battlemaiden questline. You attune yourself to an old shattered dagger, and experience the battles fought by the Naga (a race of hostile mer-people). It does a very good job of pulling you into the story and telling the history not in something you read, but something you do. (“Visions of the Past”)
Stories are good for captivating your audience, but when it comes to video games, you really need more to keep people playing. Single-player games are mostly static, with a set beginning and ending. Once you beat the game, you might replay it once or twice, but more than likely you will go find a new game with new challenges and new rewards. MMO’s, however, are always evolving. Playing an MMO means you can expect new, updated content on a continuous basis.
The biggest questions with online games and the release of new content are “how much?” and “how often?” Over the past nine years, the MMO market has changed, and WoW has been learning to change with it. Gamers absorb current content faster and expect new content more often than ever before. One critic, a writer on MMORPG.com, calls these players, appropriately, “content locusts.” (Parsley) I am in agreement that MMO’s should not be purely about racing to the endgame, at the detriment of all else in the game, but the endgame is very important. I achieved burnout in MMO’s with less endgame than WoW far faster, even when content in WoW was releasing slower. The increased rate of new content in Mists of Pandaria has been noticeable and, I believe, successful – in one year of the current expansion, WoW is on its third raiding tier. Blizzard has pushed forward a steady release of update patches, basically creating a pattern of alternately one raid patch with one patch of other content. So not only are they keeping their raiders happy, but also those players who do not raid.
This leads to the main reason WoW is still the biggest MMORPG after so many years – many people may criticize and say otherwise, but Blizzard listens to their players. They have evolved the classes. They have evolved the story. They have evolved their schedule for new content. They have evolved the game.
WoW is still popular after nine years, because it gives its players lots of choices, a good story, and regular new content. World of Warcraft has its critics, but most of them point to the single fact of the game’s older graphics and gaming engine. Personally, I think Blizzard has done a fantastic job of giving us new and more beautiful zones, monsters, dungeons, and boss encounters, especially in the most recent expansion. There is also talk of further improving the game’s graphics by updating the skins on the playable characters, a welcome change that is in process and coming in the near future. (Grace)
I believe this adequately describes the formula for Blizzard’s success with World of Warcraft, and it is one that will continue into the foreseeable future.
“Arthas Menethil.” WoWWiki. Web. 11 October 2013.
“Game Guide.” World of Warcraft Official Game Site. Blizzard Entertainment. Web. 11 October 2013.
“Garrosh Hellscream.” WoWWiki. Web. 11 October 2013.
Grace, Olivia. “Character Model Rework 25% Complete.” WoW Insider. 24 August 2013. Web. 11 October 2013.
“Jaina Proudmoore.” WoWWiki. Web. 11 October 2013.
Navimie. “Navimie Says, ‘Lunk, I Like Your Style.’” The Daily Frostwolf. 20 March 2012. Web. 11 October 2013.
Parsley, Isabelle. “Player Perspectives: Content Locusts Killed My MMO.” MMORPG. 27 January 2012. Web. 11 October 2013.
“Star Wars.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 11 October 2013.
“Visions of the Past: The Invasion of Vashj’ir.” Wowhead. Web. 11 October 2013.
“World of Warcraft.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 11 October 2013.
Yogscast Lewis & Simon. “Warcraft – Cataclysm: Maximillian of Northshire: Absolutely Best Quest Ever – Un’Goro Crater.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 19 November 2010. Web. 11 October 2013.
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This paper includes content referring to worlds and characters in World of Warcraft.
Awaiting the Muse by Jamie Roman AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.