Dr. Bob's minions tire away endlessly to help the good Doctor in the name of science,
but with what little downtime they get they would like to share with you fine people!
Warcraft. I've written about it before briefly, in reference to a brief bit about its film release in China making a ton of money where in the rest of the world it passed without a blip. But today I speak of the game itself, as this week it will be releasing the latest expansion "Legion", and later this year entering its thirteenth year of existence.
In the beginning...I WAS THERE! It was a dark age, that of Everquest, a game so horrid that I took the CD (!) out of the drive, snapped it in half, microwaved it, buried it in the ground and salted the earth, the gaming equivilent of Rasputin's death. Bad controlling games with poor graphics trying to escape the trappings laid down by things like Ultima Online and the old MUDS. Even Square Enix gave it a turn with Final Fantasy XI, but like all the other MMO's of that age, they were difficult to play and not easy to get into.
Blizzard, of Starcraft and Diablo, had another approach that seems silly now that nobody ever picked up on before. Why not just make the game easier to get into? Colorful graphics, easy controls, and a ton of quality of life improvements meant that the game instantly became a world wide phenomenon. Over the course of the next decade plus, the game would at its peak have around 12-13 million monthly paying subscribers (Though some of them were attributed to locations like Korea where there was no way to subscribe, and people instead play at internet cafes.)
In the game itself, you play one of the main races on Azeroth. Whether on Alliance or Horde, you adventure through the game, navigating on foot and mount through hundreds of quests scattered on two different continents. In the beginning you were just fighting random threats, left over from the first 3 games which were more standard RTS games. For the first year and a half or so, millions fought dragons and monsters, and loved every moment of it, despite some of its trappings feeling a bit quaint now.
Soon it was time for its first Expansion: The Burning Crusade. Beginning a theme of the main villians from the overall series returning, this brought players to the world that the Orcs came from: Draenor. Or as it was called now after it was essentially destroyed, Outlands. There a power-mad Illidan, an elf who had became crazed after his defeat at the hands of his rival, was gathering his power. There too our mounts learned to fly, which improved the game significantly. There were more improvements to raiding and dungeons, and unique lands like Zangermarsh, a swamp land of giant mushrooms. There were also two new races! The Alien Draenei, strong with mystical technology, and the beautiful yet cursed Blood Elves.
After that, The Lich King cometh. Wrath of the Lich King had us battle a main character from Warcraft 3, the fallen king Arthas who now commanded the army of the undead, holed away on the northern continent of Northrend. From his Icecrown Citadel he directed forces against the Alliance and the Horde, seeking to wipe them both out. At the same time though, there were more sinister forces at work. Northrend was also the home of an imprisoned 'Old God', a Cthulu type creature that worked dark magic through whispers and mind control. Placed in the elaborate tomb Ulduar by the Titans that shaped Azeroth, its evil ways shaped the landmasses and inhabitants, giving players potent foes to fight against. In addition, one of the most significant improvements to the game was introduced, with Achievements. Useless points that gave you nothing for accomplishing tasks that nobody would do otherwise became a significant driving force for the gamer base. There is a strong argument to be made that somehow gamifying real life could help motivations, but that is an argument for another post. This was the expansion that gave us the first Hero Class: The Death Knight, recently freed from the Lich King's control.
By this time, the original landmasses had been neglected in favor of the new worlds of Outland and Northrend. No more. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm was the return of Deathwing, a massive Dragon capable of rending the world asunder. With an explosive escape from an elemental plane, the old world was reconfigured, giving an excuse for new quests and completely redoing the leveling experience.
After Deathwing's defeat before he could destroy all of Azeroth came a brief respite from world ending terrors as the forces of the Alliance and Horde discovered the hidden continent of Pandaria, where Pandarens secluded themselves (It's on the back of a turtle!) Unfortunately there was another evil Old God there, which manifested as a black and white evil called "The Sha". It overtook Garrosh Hellscream, the leader of the Horde, and in the end Pandas joined forces with Azeroth's warriors to take him down.
Finally, before the new expansion, There was time travel. Spoilers! Garrosh escaped to an alternate reality in the past of Draenor and convinced his father NOT to join forces with the evil demons that encompass the Burning Legion, who have been trying to destroy Azeroth this entire time. The now empowered Orcs of Draenor, who this time did not destroy their lands, decide to invade Azeroth, so our warriors and mages and all the rest invade them in turn, to restore order. Befitting our status of the frequent saviors of Azeroth, we were promoted to Commanders and given our own Garrison to establish order, find treasures, and basically explore this alternate land.
Now, thirteen years later, we find ourselves facing off against the third invasion of the Burning Legion. Evil demons from dimensions and planes uncounted seeking only nothingness, led by a fallen Titan who murdered his bretheran. New World Quests that will constantly rotate and a New Hero class of Demon Hunter are only some of the improvements that the largest Expansion is bringing.
There's always talk about Warcraft's imminent death. But just this year it's still the #1 MMO in existence, it had a movie, and everyone is excited for what looks to be the best expansion yet. If you've never played before, it's time! FOR THE ALLIANCE!
Previously on Minion Musings...