Do you remember way, way back a game that got so popular it penetrated the public consciousness and ran a celebrity-laden ad campaign? Mr. T remembers. The most surprising thing about those ads were that they came out in 2007, four years after World of Warcraft had been released.
Yes, World of Warcraft. Maligned, loved, decried and deconstructed but always known. WoW is many things to many people. While it is most definitely still alive today I will speak of it in the past tense. That's because WoW, for me, is in the past. It was a good time but it was also a unique time, like that first kiss or the first time I did a backflip. You may relive the memory but you don't need to recapture it. You already have it, right there. Yes this is a nostalgia laden post.
Before going any further let's put it in context. I don't remember exactly when I started. A WoW expert might be able to identify it as between the time when the oceans drank plainstriding and the years of the rise of Blackwing Lair. It was an age undreamed of. More specifically it was probably August 2005. I wasn't that interested in WoW when I started out. It was a fairly awkward game with a lot of rough edges. One of those rough edges were druids.
Let me tell you about druids. A druid in WoW was able to change their shape. They could become a giant bear, able to shrug off attacks. They could turn into a lion and rend their enemies to shreds. They could even turn into a seal, able to swim the ocean depths and hold their breath indefinitely. It was when I started a druid that WoW captured my imagination. Before then the characters available to play had seemed fairly mundane. They were mages and warriors and thieves who did things like shoot fireballs or hit people with a sword. To me a druid was revolutionary. I could sneak up on enemies unseen, plunge through the waves without fear and race the dunes of Tanaris without ever tiring. I didn't have to do these things alone either because September 2005 was when I started playing on a new server. Defias Brotherhood.
Let me tell you about Defias Brotherhood. Up until the advent of this new kind of server I'd mostly played alone, talking to people little, joining up with them even less. The DB server changed all that. It was a new kind of server for WoW, an RP-PvP server. What that meant was it was for Roleplayers but for Roleplayers who wanted to fight in the war between Alliance players and Horde players. This new combination was the advent of a whole new game for me. I would meet an orc, questing in the deep jungle. We would hail each other, tell each other news of distant lands and do all that silly RP stuff. And then out of nowhere we'd be attacked. A dwarven rogue would leap from the shadows, trying to end our lives. In the maelstrom of battle a friendship would be forged and when myself and the orc stood victorious we would, through the medium of these characters agree to join together and begin an epic quest to kill ten gorillas. Not that exciting maybe but what WoW lacked in imagination for quests it made up for in its environments.
Let me tell you about environments. WoW's artstyle was heavily stylised. Simple, boxy models with bold, striking colours. It had the advantages of both standing out on the shelf and being fairly low-end on the computational demands. If there's one fair criticism of WoW it's that it's a Theme Park. The landmass of the world can be crossed in a couple of hours, less if you don't get attacked along the way. The designers worked with their tools though. Every area is different, with its own story. The environments varied vastly, even inside a single area such that you could travel between lush jungle and demon infested ruins with it managing to feel consistent. The variety was amped up for the expansions, where the designers were able to dedicate more time to making areas unique. Which leads me to my point.
Yes my point. This was originally going to be a self-contained post, describing both my history of WoW and itself through the magic of screenshots. However as I looked at it I realised that the environs of WoW and my exploration of them is a far larger topic which deserves its own space. So over the next few weeks I'm going to go on a tour of WoW. As I go I hope to unearth some of my own history, as well as thoughts and criticisms of a game so old such thoughts are irrelevant.
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