World of Warcraft: It's Good to be King
by Meredith Watson (MerryQuiteContrary), OnRPG Journalist
The release of Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard's fourth expansion for the World of Warcraft, is looming on the horizon and with some potentially big MMO hitters soon to be released we have to ask; what is it that makes World of Warcraft so popular after seven plus years? Surely it isn't the graphics as WoW has been outshone in this department from the beginning. One could say Everquest II, which was released a month before WoW, has far superior graphics.
The simple answer is that WoW is fun. The animations are smooth and the combat is fluid. The player can move around while in combat seamlessly. The game world is vast with multiple zones to quest in. While the quests are linear the player doesn't feel as if he or she is playing on rails because there are different zones at any given level the player can quest in.
It is an easy game to learn yet hard to master and that is by design. The intricacies of WoW are not to be overlooked. There are forums dedicated to number crunching and min/maxing characters. There are players who spend an inordinate amount of time finding the best build for whatever role they are playing with whatever gear they are using. Other players go with cookie cutter builds and some could care less. There are games with more options in the talent building such as Rift's souls but WoW talents, as in other aspects of the game, caters to all types of players.
What WoW does better than any other game out there is the carrot on a stick approach (not to be confused with “carrot or the stick”). For example, when the player gets to level ten they get their first talent point. Level 20 sees the player's first mount and so on and so forth all the way to end game. Blizzard knows what makes players want to play and that is milestones. By the same token, WoW is also the master of instant gratification. WoW has become very accessible to the casual gamer but still supports its hardcore raiders. As soon as a player hits level 15 the dungeon finder opens to them making getting a group and rewards a breeze. Blizzard has also incorporated a raid and battleground finder so that anything the player wants to achieve in game is reasonably easy to attain with some effort and time.
For some players there is another aspect to WoW and that is its mod-ability. There are multiple sites dedicated to add ons and mods to aid performance as well as customizing the player's user interface. This in turn makes WoW feel as it if belongs to the player. By customizing the game's interface it has the player's personality stamped all over it adding to the immersion factor of the game.
While WoW has an intuitive, mod-able interface, linear quests, a versatile talent system and all the spit and polish an established game can have, one of WoW's main features for many of its current and returning players is the social aspect. The WoW community can be diverse ranging from the 70 year old grandfather to soldiers playing from Afghanistan to the middle aged housewife. There are tales of couples meeting, falling in love and getting married, whole guilds meeting in the real world or real life friends falling out over something that happened in the game. People from all walks of life play WoW with one common goal and that is to have fun. Ask any WoW player what their fondest memory is of the game and it is almost assured they will recite some story that included at least one other player.
Yes, its graphics are dated but there is a depth to WoW that is rarely matched in other MMOs.
Love it or loathe it, the World of Warcraft is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Blizzard has set the bar high for the genre by taking what its predecessors gave us and making it appealing for the masses. Yet Blizzard continues to see what is current in other MMOs and incorporate those things into WoW . Blizzard is always moving the game forward and keeping it contemporary.
Every game released in the last few years has been touted by some of the gaming community as being the “WoW killer” and while, no doubt, many WoW players have and will continue to try new games (they are gamers after all), no single game will ever be a “WoW killer”. So, for now, it is good to be king.