World of Warcraft is a massively-multiplayer role-playing game being developed by Blizzard Entertainment. It’s due out for release... someday. My guess is Christmas, but Blizzard hasn’t made an announcement yet. If you don’t know anything about World of Warcraft, then there are literally hundreds of previews available out there, including two by me (see the links at the bottom of the page). In other words, I’m not going to describe World of Warcraft in full since you can get that sort of information elsewhere. Instead, I’m going to talk about what’s new since my last preview.|
In the last two months, Blizzard has added some things of note: auction houses, mounts, high level content, a “PvP” server, and more. They also raised the level limit to 50 (it will eventually be 60). Most notably missing from that list is the hunter class. That’s supposed to arrive the next time Blizzard releases a patch, which might happen this week. Over the next few paragraphs I’m going to describe and discuss the new things.
Starting at level 40, characters can spend 100 gold (a lot) and 400 skill points (sort of a lot) to learn riding and to buy a mount. The mounts are different for each race. Humans get horses, night elves get tigers, and orcs get wolves, to name but a few. If you want, you can buy a mount for a different race, but the skill point cost then goes up to 1000, which is quite a bit. Mounts allow you to move much more quickly, and so they’re extremely useful, but currently you’re not allowed to do most things (like fight) when you’re on a mount.
Previously, if players wanted to sell equipment, they had to chat in a “trade channel” and hope that people in their general area were interested in the object. Now there are official auction houses in the game, where you can drop off an object and set values like the duration of the auction and the minimum bid for the object. Other than some minor problems, like people being able to bid at the last second to “ninja” a winning bid, the auction houses have worked pretty well, and they’ve cut down on the spam you used to see because of the trade channel.
You can now send mail to other characters of the same faction (Horde or Alliance). And not only can you send messages, you can also send objects and gold, and even specify a COD amount. That means mail is usually used for selling objects to other people, or to transfer items between characters. Before, if you wanted to move an item between two of your own characters, you had to find a middleman, but now the mail system makes that sort of thing easy.
“PvP” stands for “player versus player,” but that designation is misleading at the moment. Currently, the PvP server is actually a faction versus faction server, where any player in the Horde can kill any player in the Alliance, and vice versa. Blizzard pretty much introduced this server without any restrictions, and so it has its fun moments, like when one faction tries to take over a town from the other, and it has its bad moments, like when high level players go to low level zones and kill characters who pretty much have no chance of defending themselves. I’m guessing Blizzard will eventually place restrictions to prevent these sorts of “gankings,” or at least support a variety of different servers, so players can find the one that suits their tastes.
High Level Content
The “world” part in World of Warcraft is made up of numerous distinct zones. The zone where you start out might be for levels 1-15, and then as you gain levels you find other zones more appropriate for you. Since Blizzard keeps increasing the level cap as they progress through the beta process, they’ve also added in some new zones, including such places as Tanaris (desert), the Hinterlands (forest), and Feralas (jungle). Each zone comes complete with a slew of quests, and so obviously more quests and equipment have been added as well.
There are also “instances.” An instance is a dungeon you enter that becomes specific to your group. That means you don’t have to compete with other groups of players to do anything there, and it means the enemies you need to kill are always loaded at the start. Instances also mean Blizzard’s servers can accommodate more people, since there is no crowding in instances.
During this phase of the beta, Blizzard has added some new instances. These include the overrun gnome factory at Gnomeregan, the Indiana Jones style dig site at Uldaman, and the troll and dragon infested sunken temple of Atal’Hakkar. Oddly, while the game starts out quest-oriented, by the end you can pretty much ignore quests and just repeatedly go into instances, since that’s where the best equipment and most difficult enemies can be found.
During my last preview I mentioned skill points, which players can use to learn tradeskills (such as mining and alchemy), and talent points, which players can use to enhance their combat abilities. At that time players could learn just about any tradeskill they wanted, and talents weren’t yet available. Now Blizzard has balanced the skill points much better (my level 50 character is only a miner and blacksmith), and talents are slowly making their way in. Currently, only mages and warriors have talents, and with the next patch supposedly rogues and priests will gain theirs as well.
World of Warcraft is shaping up pretty well. Blizzard still needs to introduce the hunter class, they need to finish creating the world, and they need to balance the classes. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but I think the balancing part in particular is going to be difficult. Not only does Blizzard have to weigh in how powerful classes are against NPC enemies in the game, they have to consider how well classes fight against each other. Right now mages, for example, can turn invisible, and that’s a huge bonus against other players. Should it stay? Should it go? My guess is Blizzard isn’t going to tune the classes too much until they all are implemented and have talents, and that might not be for months. I’m still projecting a Christmas release for the game, but I wouldn’t bet any money on it or anything.
Steven’s first preview:
Steven’s second preview:
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