By JediMaster 13 Comments
I took a break from video game consoles this last September to try my hand at PC gaming. (I must admit, the prospect of using an entire keyboard to maneuver a character when my experience with gaming peripherals had been limited to joystick controllers for over two decades, was intimidating.) I upgraded my computer's graphics card, power supply, RAM, keyboard, mouse, and bolted up the diving board stairs and jumped off into the deep end.
Now, I'll be the first to admit I was drawn in by the flashy advertisements, the overwhelming number of users, and the massive environment that comprises World of Warcraft. Yes, I am a sucker. Warcraft, as far as I was and am concerned is sort of like the Harry Potter bastard child of PC gaming (hype much?). There are probably hundreds of other amazing titles (Crysis) that I could have chosen to purchase and probably would have enjoyed, but, how could I ignore Warcraft's 11.5 million user base? When 4 out of 5 doctor's recommend a particular brand of toothpaste, I use it. Why should this be any different? Furthermore, I wanted an experience all together different from the rich single player modes my consoles all ready offer me. Granted, I have played several multiplayer games on my Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, from Guitar Hero to Tiger Woods to Gears of War, but felt multiplayer was lacking that extra something. Never in my time on Xbox Live or the Playstation Network did I feel that I was actually part of a gaming community – more like I was in a queue with a bunch of antisocial people who had been thrust together for the sole purpose of proving superior gaming skill. Warcraft proved to be more than advertisements and hype by creating the community my consoles could not, and for this reason, I am happy this was my first PC game experience.
Just like the real world, Warcraft has its fair share of punks, know-it-alls, spammers, idiots, and slackers. But for every one of these people, there are at least 10 or 20 other people who are well mannered, love gaming, have jobs and families, and are eager to play the game with other polite gamers. Warcraft is a lot like Myspace or Facebook, or even Gamespot, in that it will allow you to connect with others who have similar interests and hobbies.
However, because Warcraft is an interactive 3D experience, where you can use voice chat and emotes, it is a much richer communications experience than what you will find on Myspace or even your video game console. The difference between platform multiplayer and Warcraft multiplayer is perhaps best represented by the Guild system which allows players to form a cooperative ensemble, kind of like a club. Some guilds stay reasonably small (around 20 or 30 people) and some are quite large (100+). There are advantages and disadvantages to the various sizes. Larger groups are more likely to perform 25-man dungeon raids together, but people tend to know less about one another are more "game focused". Smaller groups tend to be closer knit, often have multiple players from a single household, or friends from the same town, and tend to be a more social group. The pitfall of smaller groups is they often have more drama. Whichever type of guild you join, chances are you will have gotten to know numerous people over the course of several weeks. Therefore, there is a sense of belonging, camaraderie, dedication, and commitment which feels altogether absent from platform gaming.In other words, the entire time you play Warcraft, you are making friends and, potentially, enemies.
Communication as a lower level character is not as rich or enticing as that of a higher level character, but it is possible. Many of my Warcraft friends have other friends that they've been playing with since their first day in the game. Friend networking is also beneficial when you have a hard quest to complete, don't know how to obtain items, or just need general advice. More often than not, people help people playing the game and many enjoy doing so. The Warcraft community is unlike any community I have seen in any other game and with the right communications skills, is one of the single best ways to connect with other gamers.
The game itself is rich with content and is not entirely unlike other RPG's such as The Elder Scrolls or Mass Effect. Its greatest pitfall is that quests often feel repetitive and a great deal of the game is spent grinding through levels. However, the world that is Warcraft is constantly changing. New gear, items, and dungeons are regularly available through patches, and with the implementation of the achievement system (similar to the 360) there is always something new to do. What keeps users coming back to this game despite its repetitive qualities is the community. Obtaining gear upgrades from a 25 man dungeon is sort of like sporting a BMW through town. Furthermore, co-operative play with friends who help you get that special sword or helmet is incredibly rewarding. Gone are the days of obtaining that long sought after sword alone in your living room, where you stifle your cheer because it seems rather ridiculous to be applauding yourself by yourself. There is a reason 11.5 million people have subscribed to Warcraft and aren't playing another installment of Rainbow Six multiplayer on the Xbox 360. I hope that console game developers are looking at the success of Warcraft and trying to figure out a way to implement more community-esque multiplayer.
I am looking forward to news regarding The Old Republic MMORPG from Bioware at E3. While many other MMORPG's have tried to capture the Warcraft audience, most have been unsuccessful (Warhammer Online). Where The Old Republic may convert Warcraft subscribers is in story and deviation from the repetitive formula – something Bioware has been very successful with over the years. Only time will tell.
For those of you who have yet to take the Warcraft plunge, either because of some bizarre nonconformist value which dictates you should not play what everyone else is playing, or because like me, you have little PC gaming experience – avoid Warcraft no longer! That is, unless of course, you hate interacting with people, can't stand role-playing games, have no desire to explore an open ended world rich with story and atmosphere, or can't afford the monthly subscribers fee. No, Warcraft is not a perfect game, but it is an engaging communication experience.