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Author: Andy Largent Inside Mac Games
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doener != "dough-ner"

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Why WoW will wow you.

As a recent arrival onto the World of Warcraft beta scene, I can now say this will be the one that moves massively multiplayer online games into the mainstream. Forget that Everquest had millions at one point, that's irrelevant. I've tried EQ, Shadowbane, Lineage, WWIIOnline, and many others, and because Blizzard isn't afraid of the hard-core MMO'ers, they are going to win this race, mark my words.

1) N00b:
Newbies to the game are treated with respect. While many MMOs focus on what the hard-core guys are going to be doing when trying to level to 55 in a day, Blizzard has wiped the table clean and made the game *easy* to get into from the start.

Newbies aren't expected to magically know how to get around or who to talk with; a handy-dandy tutorial steps you through the basics in 10 minutes. You don't have to have a level 50 friend to give you armor, and if you happen to die, there's no heavy penalty. Blizzard also decided to hire a few UI designers and make sure the interface it easy to use, what a concept!

By putting *thought* into what the new player experience will be, and helping the more casual gamer get started, they are going to hook 100x the people of other MMOs.

2) Quests:
The concept of questing is simple: you spot someone with an exclamation mark above their head, get a quest from them, and look for someone with a question mark over their head to complete it. This makes getting through the first few levels fun, as it's not nearly as tedious as trying to kill a bunch of goblins over and over to get to level 20 and on to the "good stuff."

Questing also serves a purpose of easing a player out of the comfort zone. It requires you move around, and high-level quests will send players across the world to complete them. There's a great Q&A here on questing and why it rocks.

One of the biggest points to make about quests is that they give Blizzard a mechanism to reward players with experience and other goodies without the unhealthy camping around a monster to kill it and get its loot. It's a flexible system for them to easily add content and new layers to the game, and it will provide the means them to be successful.

3) Graphics:
Being able to use the Warcraft license instantly gives Blizzard not only millions of fans, but it also provides a "look" to the game. While it may seem cartoon-like at first, this distinguishes it from the bland orcs and wizards of the other fantasy MMOs.

It also provides an amazing sense of immersion for the players, as there is a *consistent* feel to the entire world. It's not a situation where Artist 1 does the players models and never talks with Artist 2 about how to make look like they fit together. Blizzard has the ultimate style guide already at their hands (and in the minds of their fans) and they are reaping the benefits.

One other thing I've amazed at, graphics-wise, is being able to play the damn game. I've got a mid-range G4 nowadays, but even at 1280x1024 the game is beautiful and playable! It's not so CPU or RAM-bound that it constantly feels like a slideshow, and while there are some slowdowns, overall I'm very pleased up to this point.

4) Telling-off the Hard-Core gamers:
By instituting programs like a mandatory resting system (to keep people from playing 24 hours a day), Blizzard is proving it's not scared of the "hard-core" gamers. They realize these guys are just nerds like everyone else, and if you push em around, they're not going to be able to do jack about it.

This doesn't mean there aren't going to be politics surrounding everything high-level in World of Warcraft, or that there still won't be hard-core gamers. What it does mean is that Blizzard won't be afraid to make the right cuts when necessary. If some level 60 guy gets in a huff and drops WoW for Everquest 2, all the better. Blizzard is doing what's best for *all* players in the game, and by helping out the casual guys who can't spend 18 hours a day on their character, they're going to get many more subscriptions.

So, suffice it to say I'm impressed. After an unsuccessful attempt to get the girl into an Undead character, my biggest concern is making sure I don't get too wrapped up in this one... :)

Posted on May 23, 2004 at 10:00 am
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