Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Hour With World of Warcraft

My sister has been having persistent issues with WoW such as Blue Screens of Death, crashes to the desktop, etc. At this point I think it has to do with the particular combination of hardware in her computer, since no amount of software updates have managed to take care of it. The annoying thing about them is that the problems never seem to happen immediately. My sister plays for an hour or more, and then it will suddenly crash. It's hard to test if my ministrations have had any effect. A few days ago, I went over to her house to take another crack at the problem. Instead of trying some things and then leaving immediately, I decided to try playing and see if I could reproduce the problem. The added bonus to this was that it kept me from having to help my sister with frantic preparations for a Christmas party the day after.

My sister has commented on the fact that I seem to know a decent amount about the game even though I had never played. This is because of the massive number of gaming sites I read. I'm bound to pick things up as time goes on. I've also learned things just listening to my sister talk about the game. But as with any game, you have to play to really be able to talk about it. At least now I can say I've played it.

I rushed through the character creation process because I just wanted to get in and start playing. I chose to play as a Tauren, a race that looks like a bunch of Minotaurs. I pretty much chose them because I had never heard of them while reading things about the game. Since I rushed through the screens, I missed the part that let me choose my class, so I ended up being a straight up warrior. My guy had a big two handed hammer on his back, which I figured I could live with. After a short, though unskippable, cutscene describing the Taurens, I found myself in the middle of a small village made up of tents with various merchants inside. Guards wandered around, along with other new and low-level characters like me. In front of me was another Tauren with far more elaborate clothing than what I was wearing. He also happened to have a gold exclamation point floating above his head. I figured that this meant I could talk or interact with him in some way. I was right, and he gave me my first quest!

As far as RPG quests go, this was about as stereotypical as you could get. Bring back seven feathers and seven of something else from the creatures wandering the nearby plain. I don't remember what they were called, but it doesn't really matter. The first thing I think is "Why seven?" Is that a special number? Why not ten? Or fifteen? It seemed somewhat arbitrary. So I go forth from the village, ready to pillage the countryside. I encounter my first creature and attack. My first encounter with combat in the game was less than satisfying. The animations were relatively simple, and there was no sense of weight or impact when you hit your foe. It seemed to be somewhat turn based since I would attack, then the creature, then me again, and so on. He fell beneath the blows of my hammer nonetheless and I searched its corpse for the items I needed. Yay, a feather! But not the other item I needed (I can't remember what else I was supposed to find). But I did get a couple cracked eggs! So I needed to kill more than just seven. I understood right away that this was a grind. Keep killing hapless monsters until I get what I need and, hopefully, level up in the process.

Eventually I killed enough creatures to get what I needed and headed back to the village. The guy was pleased and let me choose a piece of armor for myself. It seemed like a pretty good upgrade, and he had another quest for me. Kill ten cougars and bring back their furs! Ugh. Ok. So I went and did that. At one point my health was somewhat low, and a person with a higher level druid character wandered by and healed me. I thought that was nice of him. He had nothing to gain by it as far as I knew. I brought back the required number of furs and got another piece of armor. I was given a new quest to go find a missing woman who had wandered from the village.

Instead of following through with that right away, I started exploring the village and selling the various bits of crap I had accumulated from my monster massacre. I was able to get a few nice weapons. I also saw several characters wandering around with the gold exclamation point floating above their head, so I got a few more quests. There was another kill this many of that quest, but one person wanted me to deliver a package to a town to the north. Another person wanted me to go speak to a hermit to begin my rite of passage in the tribe. So I had a few options available to me now. I started off after the missing woman and found her nearby at a well. I walked back to the quest giver, but apparently I didn't read carefully when I was talking to her and was supposed to give him a pitcher of water. So I walked back to the old woman, got the pitcher, and walked back and delivered it.

The first couple of quests were less than inspiring, but once I finished the missing woman quest I started to get sucked in more. I began looking for the village to the north to deliver my package. While wandering the countryside I killed random beasts that I encountered, many of them more formidable than what I had encountered previously. I learned how to use some spells to help me out, and it was a real rush to take out a level 7 monster with my level 2 Tauren. I started gaining experience and leveling up. After delivering the package and selling more stuff, I started to finally notice what it was about the game that makes it more of a lifestyle for some people. Getting new gear and money for each quest was nice. The rewards were immediate. The little jingle and animation that played when I leveled up became something I looked forward to. The quests were short and relatively easy to accomplish, at least up to that point. I started thinking to myself "one more quest" or "one more monster."

It was at that point that I stopped.

I had quickly grasped the interface and gameplay mechanics, and it was slightly disturbing to see how little time it took for the game to sink its hooks in my brain. I've had this happen with a couple games in the past, and they usually kept me up into the wee hours of the morning. I didn't think my sister would appreciate me hanging out in her basement all night. So I walked away wanting more, which is what I suppose the game's developers were hoping for. I have no intention of setting up my own account. I can't see myself paying every month to play a game. However I can now say I spent some time playing the game, and came away with mostly good impressions. It was an interesting experience.

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