World of Warcraft Informations

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Blizzard isn't exactly known for innovation. So, it's no surprise that its upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game doesn't differ dramatically from similar games like EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot. But Blizzard is known for taking proven models and refining them into multimillion-selling games. So, it's also no surprise that World of Warcraft, though still inchoate, looks like one of the sleekest and most accessible MMORPGs since the genre began. This is going to be one of those, "If you only play one massively multiplayer game all year...!" deals.

Unlike Sony's Star Wars: Galaxies, which took some risky and, ahem, controversial approaches, World of Warcraft is playing it safe. Even if you've only so much as sampled a MMOG, you'll feel at ease here.

You start off choosing one of eight races, each with a handful of classes available. The character models for your body are based on your choice of class -- priests have robes, warriors wear armor, and females have get-ups that tastefully avoid tacky cleavage. There are robust customization options for your face, allowing you to change obvious things like hair style and color, as well as the not-so-obvious like your tauren's horns or whether your undead mage's lower jaw has fallen off yet.

Once in the game, the controls are familiar and streamlined. You can move and look around, and pop off a spell or two with aplomb. A task bar along the bottom of the screen gives access to spells and abilities, either via hotkey or by clicking the icons. Colored bars besides your character portrait represent hit points and mana. A simple mini-map shows the surrounding countryside, while a world map can always be accessed to show your location in a zone.

A purple line along the bottom of the screen tracks the progress towards your character's next level. Although it's not obtrusive, its prominent position drives home an important point: World of Warcraft is still very much a "level treadmill," the term this genre uses when no goal exists other than to advance your character. It's worth noting, however, that Blizzard's popular Diablo series used the same mechanic. Blizzard demonstrated with that game how to minimize the sense of futility with careful use of pacing and rewards, and World of Warcraft appears to be very much based on that model.

An important element of World of Warcraft's design is that the quests driving the gameplay are short and focused. Players are sometimes tasked with delivering an item ("FedEx quests"), but more often their job is to collect a handful of specific items earned by killing monsters. These monsters are rarely far away, there's no time limit on most quests, and players can have multiple quests active. Early quests are easy to accomplish without gathering a party of players. For the tougher ones, finding a group shouldn't be difficult, as the majority of quests aren't specific to a race or class; if anything, areas that get "over-camped" may be a big problem when the game opens to the public.

Dying gives you the choice of turning into a ghost and setting out to reclaim your body, or sacrificing some experience points to instantly resurrect at the last town you visited. Because the quests are brief -- and because the rewards are specific and often give you a choice of items -- there's a steady pace and a greater sense of involvement.

All this means it's simple to log on and log off with a sense of accomplishment. The quest system allows the game to be played in short bursts, which has the insidious side effect of making you play the game for long stretches, consisting of one short burst after the other.

As characters level up, they earn talent points, which can be spent increasing attributes and advancing the potency of spells and abilities. As a separate aspect of character development, you also get points for use towards trade skills. These allow you to gather resources and create items to equip or sell. For instance, you can learn mining to gather ore and then blacksmithing to turn it into weapons and armor. This element of a massively multiplayer game, known as crafting, is a prominent part of World of Warcraft, but it doesn't require sacrificing other elements of character development. As an example, if you're a mage, you don't have to use points for mixing potions that might otherwise have been used to improve your spell casting.

Although the character classes consist of the usual suspects, many have unique play mechanics. While magic users have the typical pool of mana used for spell casting, warriors build up "rage" to activate special skills, which is earned in combat. The rogue uses a system of building up markers with successful attacks, and then releasing them with devastating combo moves. These unique techniques will make World of Warcraft the kind of game where players will want to try each class before hunkering down with a favorite.

One hallmark of Blizzard's games is the amount of personality they're able to wring from them. This is no exception. The world is a lush variety of bright colors and distinctive artwork, from the frosty mountains of the gnomes' homeland to the cavernous dwarven city to the dark faerie forest of the night elves. The characters' animations and voice work are often memorable and amusing. World of Warcraft looks great and is easily one of the best-looking MMORPGs out there. Oh, and two words: gnome dancing. You'll see.

There are several areas of World of Warcraft that are still a big question mark. The good and evil races will form some basis for player vs. player combat, but it's not clear how Blizzard will implement this. WoW doesn't currently do anything to drive players into groups, so it's not obvious what sort of communities will spring up and how much the game will require interaction with other players. MMOs also have to balance their appeal for casual players at lower levels and give constant new content to dedicated players who quickly power up to the maximum level. Economy can also be tricky, struggling with inflation, resource distribution, and overcrowding.

Of course, with so much of the game in great shape at this early stage, Blizzard has the luxury of concentrating on the really thorny problems from here on out. World of Warcraft may be the same old wheel, but it has a really practical tire and some super sweet rims. Tortured metaphors aside, even if you're fed up with massively multiplayer RPGs, get ready to become immersed again when World of Warcraft launches.

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