Yeah, I apologize… I tried to make a joke here. All of you know this song, right?
I always loved it and felt like it somehow as a video gamer when I started playing World of Warcraft. Join me on another chapter of «this guy’s awesome thoughts». See you inside.
What can I say? I’m an addict. A controlled but addicted WoW player. I think it was around 2007, shortly after updating my PC and my internet connection, that I was very intrigued about games like Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot and that new breed of games called MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Program Game). At that very moment Blizzard opened the first WoW spanish servers and translated the full game client.
I remember downloading the client directly from the website and getting the two week trial period. My previous most played game was another of several Blizzard master pieces: Diablo 2 and its expansions. I can’t remember how many hours but in my own personal hardcore gaming playing rank it was a lot, the game I have played the most for a huge difference. But that was going to change very soon…
[I will write about my history as a video gamer in another post soon.]
I played an amazon character in Diablo 2 (and Diablo 1 too). I have some strange and worrying eagerness to play female characters and if possible with a range weapon, more specifically, a bow (not guns, not crossbows). So the decision to start playing WoW was easy: nigh elf female hunter. Easy but regrettable (I speak now as an orc/troll).
This happened in 2007 and today, 2015, I’m still playing. Eight years this far. So you can guess what happened after the two week trial period. Since then I have my up and downs, softcore and hardcore times but it’s really hard (if not impossible) to totally quit WoW. Let me try to explain how the game works and try to explain why is so hard to stop playing.
Two confronted factions: horde and alliance. Same history as always: good versus bad, you choose who is who. Every faction is composed by several races (how your character will look like) and within every race you can choose between several classes that basically will define your game experience. Every class can fulfill one or more roles of these three: tank, healer and dps. Tanks is the guy who gets hit with superior armor and shields whose play style is focus in actively diminishing the amount of damage you receive. The healer is the guy who brings up the life of the rest and its own when it goes down by some damage ability of the enemies. The dps (damage per second) are the guys who bring down the bad guys.
But I knew nothing about this when I started. That is the MMO part of the MMORPG and I was just looking a new version of Diablo 2 which had online but I didn’t try and liked very much. So when I started playing WoW I just expected a solo mode game with some new fantasy added and not a social gaming experience. When I created my character I started what is known as leveling. You start as a naked level one character and as you go killing enemies and completing missions you earn experience and money. There are several zones each one suited for a level range in which players can keep leveling without being frustrated by too easy or too difficult content. So you start moving around the online world, discovering zones, bosses and having a good time.
WoW is built upon the fact that every time you kill a mob or complete a quest you have a chance to improve your equipment that lets you resist more damage, heal more damage or provide more damage. And while you are doing this very same thing, one day you someone tells you (you have the ability to talk, whisper, yield, and even global channels to talk everyone in a zone) to join a guild. A guild is like a permanent group of people who decide to play together every time they log in. Being in a guild allows you to have a general guild chat where you can talk to the people and socialize which create personal bounds between the guild members. But as you can imagine leveling is not a very cooperative experience so the developers though about a way to make interaction to be a really superior group experience an they gave us the dungeons which provides you with superior gear reward.
Dungeons are designed to be played by 5 different characters and all three roles have to be fulfilled to be able to finish the challenges and get the rewards. A dungeon is designed like a road or a path that most of the time is quite linear filled with groups of mobs that you have to kill to reach the bosses that are strong mobs with special abilities that require some specific group strategies to be defeated.
This is good but not enough because usually guilds are composed by lots of people. Because of this Blizzard gave us raids, big dungeons for 40, 25 or 10 persons at the same time. In raids you need one to four tanks, about seven to eleven healers and the rest dps. And that’s when the true game start. Once you get maximum level you cannot level anymore so you start raiding and that’s when you can really get the most of your class. WoW at this point is a matter of control, reaction, optimization and class knowledge. The better you are the better you perform and if you play with people of that quality you can get the raid reward, let’s call it loot.
Dungeons and raids are called instances in a programing/coding way. Every time you join a raid/dungeon a new instance is created so your group can beat the bosses inside independently of everyone else on the server and the other server. But, once you have finished it can you replay it? Yes, of course but you a have a reset timer and, to keep it simple, a dungeon save resets every day and a raid save resets every week, during that time you can go inside again with the same group and try to finish the challenges.
A week, a full week can be necessary to finish a raid challenge and even not finishing it at all. For instance, we are now in patch 6.1 (this means 6 expansions this far and the first big patch of this expansion) and we are on Blackrock Foundry and we play it every week. We, the 10 million WoW subscribers (1,5 Catalonias at the same time). There are hundreds of servers, hundreds of guilds on every server and hundreds of characters on every guild (main and alts) and every month they pay around 13€ for being able to play. And within that time they log in and try to complete some challenges.
Apart form that along these years Blizzard has developed other activities within the game like collecting items, player vs player zones, pet battles and a lot of other stuff surrounding the main idea of the game to keep the players enthusiastic about coming back every day. And they have done a great job. So great that are lots of cases of young (and not so young) guys without control over the amount of hours they play, It’s a good entertainment but it can be to time consuming… And this is when we come back to the part of «killed the video game star».
MMORPGs are a different kind of games. What they provide is impossible to attain by other means. People like people. People like challenges. And both things together with a well implemented and balanced platform is the key for Blizzard’s success. Since I started playing WoW I easily get bored of console videogames. As I started playing WoW I was playing Animal Crossing in the first Nintendo DS and I quit. I got myself a Xbox360 around 2010 and I played quite some time to superb games like Mass Effect or Skyrim but apart form really good games for a short time every now and then I go back to WoW. Worst thing as I already said is that WoW is very time consuming. You can log with one of your several characters and when you realize an hour has passed. It’s common to say between the people who play it that once you have your daily stuff done an hour has gone by. Blizzard is so smart that they have developed some kind of homework you have to do to improve your gear or get more rewards on a daily basis. Blizzard needs us to be willing to play the game daily. The more they give us the more interested we are, the more we attract our fiends to play, the more they earn.
Don’t think about system expenses, invoices, bills… just raw numbers:
13€/month x 10.000.000 users = 130.000.000€/month (WTF!)
The strange thing is that WoW even it has had it’s expansions, improvements and so is a 11 year old game and it has faced very few opponents on its race for the #1 MMORPG. None has been able to stand a fight for more that three months because:
insert-random-game-name-here is not WoW
I can’t see the end to the World of Warcraft hegemony coming shortly and I will be enjoying it in a soft core manner, on a good horde server in a small two day raiding guild, although I only play on Mondays with the alts for 3 hours with this badass guys: Keerum and Wanaka. But next March 25th I will be getting my PS4 with Bloodborne, just to be completely incoherent.
Gorgeous piece of art…