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World of Warcraft

Though not many people played the original Warcraft I, pretty much everyone who grew up playing PC games in the mid-90’s has heard of Warcraft II.  It was the premiere real-time strategy game of the time, and was the first to be wildly popular for multiplayer gaming against several live opponents at once.  Indeed, Battle.net (and Kali, its predecessor) was the textbook gaming network that would influence the development of Steam and Bungie.net a full decade later!

With the recent release of Warcraft III, the series received a major facelift into full 3D models and environments.  The Warcraft story arc also received the latest installment in the long running epic tale of humans versus the horde. 

But when World of Warcraft was announced, it left many people scratching their heads.  An RPG game based on Warcraft?  You’re talking about the popular strategy game, right?  To make things even more mysterious, the World of Warcraft RPG was slated as a massively multiplayer online RPG or MMORPG, in the same vein as other big persistent-world projects like Dark Ages of Camelot, Everquest, and City of Heroes.

Luckily for Blizzard Entertainment, their reputation as a serious game developer that is known for making games for the real PC gamer deflected most of the early criticism against the project.

When the features were revealed, the public began to really foam at the mouth.  World of Warcraft promises to bring MMORPGs to the next level with immersive single-player story elements and large-scale multiplayer battles all wrapped into a large world that you could spend hours trying to walk across.

The setup for the game is quite simple.  Players purchase an account and can begin playing immediately after they’ve installed and registered.  The first thing you have to do is create a character.  The basic delineation is between the forces of good (led by the humans) and the forces of evil (led by the orcs).  Each alliance has multiple races that all have unique character abilities.  Every racial class is based on classes previously released in the Warcraft series.

From what the media has been able to tell so far in the several beta tests so far, the land of Warcraft is huge.  Players can spend hours exploring the countryside on the back of a dragon or various other ’mounts’.  Special areas of the map are designated as war zones where players can openly attack other players.  The other regions of the map are reserved for single-player or multi-player party quests into various dungeons and towns.

Who would have thought that a classic RTS game would make for such a promising MMORPG?  Only time will tell if WOW is truly a leader in the genre or just another gimmick in a category with hundreds of them.