World of Warcraft, often abbreviated as WoW, is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) by Blizzard Entertainment, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard. It is the fourth released game set in the fantasy Warcraft universe, which was first introduced by Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in1994. World of Warcraft takes place within the Warcraft world of Azeroth, approximately four years after the events at the conclusion of Blizzard's previous Warcraft release, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Blizzard Entertainment announced World of Warcraft on September 2, 2001. The game was released on November 23, 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise.
The first expansion set of the game, The Burning Crusade, was released on January 16, 2007. The second expansion set, Wrath of the Lich King, was released on November 13, 2008. The third expansion set, Cataclysm, was released on December 7, 2010. At BlizzCon in October 2010, lead producer J. Allen Brack announced that there would be a fourth expansion set for the game, even though the developers don't yet know what it will be about.
With more than 12 million subscribers as of October 2010, World of Warcraft is currently the world's most-subscribed MMORPG, and holds the Guinness World Record for the most popular MMORPG by subscribers. In April 2008, World of Warcraft was estimated to hold 62 percent of the MMORPG subscription market.
Starting a character or play session
As with other MMORPGs, players control a character avatar (also referred to as a toon) within a game world in third- or first-person view, exploring the landscape, fighting various monsters, completing quests, and interacting with non-player characters (NPCs) or other players. Also similar to other MMORPGs, World of Warcraft requires the player to pay for a subscription, either by buying prepaid game cards for a selected amount of playing time, or by using a credit or debit card to pay on a regular basis.
To enter the game, the player must select a realm—sometimes referred to as a server. Each realm acts as an individual copy of the game world, and falls into one of four categories. Realms are either player versus player (PvP), where open combat among players is more common, or player versus environment (PvE), where the gameplay is more focused on defeating monsters and completing quests. Roleplay (RP) and roleplay-PvP (RP-PVP) variants of both primary realm types are also available. Realms are also categorized by language, with in-game support in the language available.Players can make new characters on all realms, and it is also possible to move already established characters between realms for a fee.
To create a new character, in keeping with the storyline of previous Warcraft series games, players must choose between the opposing factions of Alliance or Horde. Characters from the opposing factions can perform rudimentary communication, but only members of the same faction can speak, mail, group, and share guilds. The player selects the new character's race, such as Orcs or Trolls for the Horde or Humans or Dwarves for the Alliance. Players must also select the class for the character, with choices such as mages, warriors, and priests available. Most classes, except for special "Hero classes", are limited to particular races.
As characters become more developed, they gain various talents and skills, requiring the player to further define the abilities of that character.Professions such as tailoring, blacksmithing, and mining can be learned. The three secondary skills, cooking, fishing, and first-aid, can also be learned by characters. On December 7, 2010, Archeology was added as a fourth skill characters could learn. Characters may also form and join guilds, allowing characters within the guild access to the guild's chat channel, the guild name and optionally allowing other features, including a guild tabard, guild bank, and dues.
Much of World of Warcraft play involves "questing". These quests, also called "tasks" or "missions", are usually available from NPCs. Quests usually reward the player with some combination of experience points, items, and in-game money. Quests also allow characters to gain access to new skills and abilities, and explore new areas. It is also through quests that much of the game's story is told, both through the quest's text and through scripted NPC actions. Quests are linked by a common theme, with each consecutive quest triggered by the completion of the previous, forming aquest chain. Quests commonly involve killing a number of creatures, gathering a certain number of resources, finding a difficult to locate object, speaking to various NPCs, visiting specific locations, interacting with objects in the world, or delivering an item from one place to another.
While a character can be played on its own, players can also group with others to tackle more challenging content. Most end-game challenges are designed in a way that they can only be overcome while in a group. In this way, character classes are used in specific roles within a group. World of Warcraft uses a "rested bonus" system, increasing the rate that a character can gain experience points after the player has spent time away from the game. When a character dies, it becomes a ghost—or wisp for Night Elf characters—at a nearby graveyard. Characters can be resurrected by other characters that have the ability, or can self-resurrect by moving from the graveyard to the place where they died. If a character is past level ten and they resurrect at a graveyard, the items equipped by the character degrade, requiring in-game money and a specialist NPC to repair them. Items that have degraded heavily become unusable until they are repaired. If the location of the character's body is unreachable, they can use a special "spirit healer" NPC to resurrect at the graveyard. When the spirit healer revives a character, items equipped by the character at that time are further degraded, and the character is significantly weakened by what is in-game called "resurrection sickness" for up to ten minutes, depending on the character's level. This "resurrection sickness" does not occur and item degradation is less severe if the character revives by locating its body, or is resurrected by another player through special items or spells.
World of Warcraft contains a variety of mechanisms for PvP play. Players on PvE servers can opt to "flag" themselves, making themselves attackable to players of the opposite faction. Depending on the mode of the realm, PvP combat between members of opposing factions is possible at almost any time or location in the game word—the only exception being the starting zones, where the PvP"flag" must be enabled by the player wishing to fight against players of the opposite faction. PvE (called normal or RP) servers, by contrast, allow a player to choose whether or not to engage in combat against other players. On both server types, there are special areas of the world where free-for-all combat is permitted. Battlegrounds, for example, are similar to dungeons: only a set number of characters can enter a single battleground, but additional copies of the battleground can be made to accommodate additional players. Each battleground has a set objective, such as capturing a flag or defeating an opposing general, that must be completed in order to win the battleground. Competing in battlegrounds rewards the character with tokens and honor points that can be used to buy armor, weapons, and other general items that can aid a player in many areas of the game. Winners get more honor and tokens than losers. However, players also earn honor when they or nearby teammates kill players in a battleground.
World of Warcraft shares the Warcraft title with the Warcraft series of real-time strategy games, is set in that series' world of Azeroth, and has similar art direction. World of Warcraft contains traditional fantasy elements, such as gryphons, dragons, and elves; steam-powered automata and extreme engineering typical of steampunk; zombies, vampires, and other undead typical of horror; as well as time travel, spaceships, and alien worlds typical of science fiction.
World of Warcraft takes place in a 3D representation of the Warcraft universe that players can interact with through their characters. The game world initially consisted of the two continents in Azeroth:Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. Two separate expansions later added to the game's playable area the realm of Outland and the continent of Northrend. As a player explores new locations, different routes and means of transportion become available. Players can access "flight masters" in newly discovered locations to fly to previously discovered locations in other parts of the world. Players can also use boats, zeppelins, or portals to move from one continent to another. Although the game world remains relatively similar from day to day, seasonal events reflecting real world events—such as Halloween, Christmas, Children's Week, Easter, and Midsummer—have been represented in the game world. Locations also have variable weather including, among other things, rain, snow, and dust storms.
A number of facilities are available for characters while in towns and cities. In each major city, characters can access a bank in order to deposit items, such as treasure or crafted items. Each character has access to personal bank storage with the option to purchase additional storage space using in-game gold. Additionally, guild banks are available for use by members of a guild with restrictions being set by the guild leader. Auction houses are also available for players to buy and sell items to others in a similar way to online auction sites such as eBay. Players can also use mailboxes, which can be found in almost every town. Mailboxes are used to collect items won at auction, and to send messages, items, and in-game money to other characters.
Some of the challenges in World of Warcraft require players to group together to complete them. These usually take place in dungeons—also known as "instances"—that a group of characters can enter together. The term "instance" comes from each group or party having a separate copy, or instance, of the dungeon, complete with their own enemies to defeat and their own treasure or rewards. This allows a group to explore areas and complete quests without others interfering. Dungeons are spread over the game world and are designed for characters of varying progression. A typical dungeon will allow up to five characters to enter as part of a group. Some dungeons require more players to group together and form a "raid" of up to forty players to face some of the most difficult challenges. As well as dungeon-based raid challenges, several creatures exist in the normal game environment that are designed for raids to attack.
World of Warcraft requires a subscription fee to be paid to allow continued play, with options to pay in one month, three month or six month blocks, although timecards of varying length are available both online and from traditional retailers. Expansion packs are also available online, and are also available from traditional retailers. As the game client is the same regardless of the version of World of Warcraft the user owns, the option to purchase the expansion online was added as it allowed for a quick upgrade.
World of Warcraft was first announced by Blizzard at the ECTS trade show in September 2001. Development of the game took roughly 4–5 years, and included extensive testing. The 3-D graphics in WoW use elements of the proprietary graphics engine originally used in Warcraft III. The game was designed to be an open environment where players are allowed to do what they please. Quests are optional and were designed to help guide players, allow character development, and to spread characters across different zones to try to avoid what developers called player collision. The game interface allows players to customize appearance and controls, and to install add-ons and other modifications.
World of Warcraft runs natively on both Macintosh and Windows platforms. Boxed copies of the game use a hybrid CD to install the game, eliminating the need for separate Mac and Windows retail products. The game allows all users to play together, regardless of their operating system. Although there is no official version for any other platform, support for World of Warcraft is present in Windows API implementations Wine and CrossOver allowing the game to be played under Linux and FreeBSD.
In the United States, Canada, and Europe, Blizzard distributes World of Warcraft via retail software packages. The software package includes 30 days of gameplay for no additional cost. In order to continue playing after the initial 30 days, additional play time must be purchased using a credit card or prepaid game card. The minimum gameplay duration that a player can purchase is 30 days using a credit card, or 60 using a prepaid game card. A player also has the option of purchasing three or six months of gameplay at once for a 6–15% discount. In Australia, the United States, and many European countries, video game stores commonly stock the trial version of World of Warcraft in DVD form, which includes the game and 14 days of gameplay, after which the player would have to upgrade to a retail account by supplying a valid credit card, or purchasing a game card as well as a retail copy of the game.
In South Korea, there is no software package or CD key requirement to activate the account. In order to play the game, however, players need to purchase time credits online via credit card or the ARS billing system. There are two kinds of time credits available: one where the player is billed based on the actual number of minutes that will be available, and one where the player can play the game for a number of days. In the former, time can be purchased in multiples of 5 hours or 30 hours, and in the latter, time can be purchased in multiples of 7 days, 1 month, or 3 months. As software packages are not required, expansion pack contents are available to all players on launch day.
In China, because a large number of the players do not own the computer they use to play games (e.g. Internet cafes), the CD keys required to create an account can be purchased independently of the software package. In order to play the game, players must also purchase prepaid game cards that can be played for 66 hours and 40 minutes. A monthly fee model is not available to players of this region. The Chinese government and NetEase, the licensee for World of Warcraft in China, have imposed a modification on Chinese versions of the game which places flesh on bare-boned skeletons and transforms dead character corpses into tidy graves. These changes were imposed by the Chinese government in an attempt to "promote a healthy and harmonious online game environment" in World of Warcraft. The Chinese government has also delayed release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, due to what it feels is objectionable content. NetEase took over licensing of World of Warcraft from The9 in June 2009 following the expiration of The9's contract, and were able to secure a launch for Wrath of the Lich King on August 31, 2010, nearly two years after its Western release.
The World of Warcraft Launcher (referred to in press releases and the menu bar as the "Blizzard Launcher") is a program designed to act as a starting point for World of Warcraft players. It provides a way to launch World of Warcraft and starts the Blizzard updater. It was first included with the version 1.8.3 patch. The 2.1.0 patch allowed for an option to bypass the use of the launcher. Features of the launcher include news and updates for World of Warcraft players, access to World of Warcraft's support website, access to the test version of World of Warcraft when it is available to test upcoming patches, updates to Warden, and updates to the updater itself. The 3.0.8 patch redesigned the launcher and added the ability to change the game settings from the launcher itself..
Patch 1.9.3 added native support for Intel-powered Macs, making World of Warcraft a universal application. As a result of this, the minimum supported Mac OS X version has been changed to 10.3.9;World of Warcraft version 1.9.3 and later will not launch on older versions of Mac OS X.
When new content is added to the game, official system requirements may change. In version 1.12.0 the requirements for Windows were increased from requiring 256 MB to 512 MB of RAM. OfficialWindows 98 technical support was dropped, but the game continued to run there until version 2.2.3.
Three optional expansions are currently available: World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, released in January 2007, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, released in November 2008, and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, released in December 2010. Players are not required to purchase the expansions to continue play. However, the expansion packs allow further leveling of characters beyond level 60 and access to newer content and areas. Characters cannot enter the additional regions without their respective expansion packs.
The soundtrack for World of Warcraft was composed and arranged by Jason Hayes, Tracy W. Bush, Derek Duke, and Glenn Stafford. It was released on November 23, 2004, together with the collector's edition of the game. It is also sold separately on one CD in the MP3 format.
January 12, 2011 Alfred Publishing produced an officially licensed sheet music series for vocalists, pianists, strings, and other instruments, "World of Warcraft Sheet Music Anthology" in solo and accompaniment formats with CD included: A Call to Arms; Garden of Life; Gates of the Black Temple; Intro Movie: Seasons of War; Invincible; Karazhan; Lament of the Highborne; Lion's Pride; Mountains of Thunder; Pig and Whistle; The Shaping of the World; Totems of the Grizzlemaw; And, Wrath of the Lich King (Main Title). Theses works also included four pages of collectable artwork, and vary by number of songs included.
|Edge||9 out of 10|
|Eurogamer||8 out of 10|
|Game Informer||9.5 out of 10|
|GamePro||4.5 out of 5|
|GameSpot||9.5 out of 10|
|IGN||9.1 out of 10|
|PC Gamer UK||94%|
World of Warcraft was almost universally praised by critics upon release, following a period of high anticipation before launch. Although the game follows a similar model to—and was noted for using many familiar concepts from—the roleplaying genre, the new approaches to reducing pauses between game encounters were well liked. A common example was the approach to character death. In some previous MMORPGs, a player would suffer a high penalty for character death; in World of Warcraft, a player is able to recover and start playing quickly. Combat was another area where "downtime", or pauses between play, was reduced. By allowing all character types to recover from damage taken, players can return to combat quickly. Reviewers felt that these changes in pacing would make the genre more accessible to casual players—those who play for short periods of time— while still having "deep" gameplay that would attract players of all levels of interest. The concept of a "rested bonus", or increasing the rate at which a player's character gains experience, was also welcomed as a way for players to quickly catch up with their friends in progression.
Questing was described as an integral part of the game, often being used to continue a storyline or lead the player through the game. The high number of quests in each location was popular, as well as the rewards for completing them. It was felt that the range of quests removed the need for a player to "grind", or carry out repetitive tasks, in order to advance their character. Quests also require players to explore every section of the game world, potentially causing problems for social gamers or roleplayers seeking somewhere quiet. Quests that required the player to collect items from the corpses of creatures they had killed were also unpopular; the low "drop rate", or chance of finding the items, makes them feel repetitive as a high number of creatures need to be killed to complete the quest. The large number of new players in a particular area meant that there were often no creatures to kill, or that players would have to wait and take turns to kill a particular creature in order to complete a quest. Some critics mentioned that the lack of quests that required players to group made the game feel as if it were designed for solo play. Others complained that some dungeon or instanced group quests were not friendly to new players, and could take several hours to complete. Upon release, a small number of quests had software bugs that made them impossible to complete.
Characters were felt to be implemented well, with each class appearing "viable and interesting", having unique and different mechanisms, and each of the races having a distinct look and feel. Character development was also liked, with the talent mechanism offering choice to players, and profession options being praised. Character customization options were felt to be low, but the detail of character models was praised.
The appearance of the game world was praised by critics. Most popular was the fact that a player could run from one end of the continent to the other without having to pause at a "loading screen" while part of the game is retrieved from storage. The environment was described as "breathtaking". Players found it difficult to become lost, and each area in the game world had a distinct look that blended from one to the next. Critics described the environment as "a careful blend of cartoon, fantasy art, and realism". The game was found to run smoothly on a range of computer systems,although some described it as basic, and mentioned that the bloom light rendering effect can blur things. One reviewer described the ability to fly over long stretches of scenery as "very atmospheric". The user interface was liked, being described as "simple", with tooltips helping to get the player started.
The game's audio was well received, particularly the background music. By assigning music to different areas of the game world, reviewers felt that the fantasy style added to the player's immersion,and that the replay value was increased. The sounds and voices used by characters and NPCs, as well as the overall sound effects, were felt to add a "personality" to the game.
World of Warcraft won several awards from critics upon release, including Editor's Choice awards. In addition, it won several annual awards from the media, being described as the best game in the role-playing and MMORPG genres. The graphics and audio were also praised in the annual awards, with the cartoonish style and overall sound makeup being noted. The game was also awarded Best Mac OS X Entertainment Product at the 2005 Apple Design Awards. World of Warcraft was recognised at the 2005 Spike TV Video Game Awards where it won Best PC Game, Best Multiplayer Game, Best RPG, and Most Addictive Game. In 2008, World of Warcraft was honoured—along with Neverwinter Nights and EverQuest—at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for advancing the art form of MMORPG games. In 2009, Game Informer ranked World of Warcraft 11th on their list of "The Top 200 Games of All Time".
World of Warcraft was the best-selling PC game of 2005 and 2006. As of January 22, 2008, World of Warcraft has more than 10 million subscribers worldwide, with more than 2 million subscribers in Europe, more than 2.5 million in North America, and about 5.5 million in Asia.
Less than two months after beginning operation of World of Warcraft in China on September 19, 2009, NetEase was ordered to immediately stop charging players and to cease accepting registrations. A press estimate indicated that, if World of Warcraft were shut down in China, the loss of subscribers would cause Activision Blizzard's shares to fall from 65 cents per share to 60 cents per share.
Corrupted Blood plague incident
The Corrupted Blood plague incident was one of the first events to affect entire servers. Patch 1.7 saw the opening of Zul'Gurub, the game's first 20-player raid dungeon where players faced off against a tribe of trolls under the sway of the god Hakkar the Soulflayer. Upon engaging Hakkar, players were stricken by a debuff called "Corrupted Blood" which would periodically sap their life. The disease was also passed on to other players simply by being near infected players. Originally this malady was confined within the Zul'Gurub instance, but it made its way into the outside world by way of hunter pets or warlock minions that contracted the disease.
Within hours, Corrupted Blood had completely infected major cities because of their high player concentrations. Low-level players were killed in seconds by the high-damage disease. Eventually Blizzard fixed the issue so that the plague could not exist outside of Zul'Gurub.
The Corrupted Blood plague so closely resembled the outbreak of real-world epidemics that scientists are currently looking at ways MMORPGs or other massively distributed systems can model human behavior during outbreaks. The reaction of players to the plague closely resembled previously hard-to-model aspects of human behavior that may allow researchers to more accurately predict how diseases and outbreaks spread amongst a population.
When players create World of Warcraft accounts, they are asked to choose a username and password. Afterward, whenever they play World of Warcraft, they are asked to supply the same username and password in full. This is also the case when using account management facilities online. This type of authentication is vulnerable to keystroke logging. While this is not unique to World of Warcraftand is common to many MMORPGs, the game has been directly targeted with trojans being specifically crafted to capture account login details. Attacks have been reported as early as May 2006, although they may extend as far back as July 30, 2005. The game does, however, allow players to save their account name to the program to allow the player to only have to type their password.
In September 2006, reports emerged of spoof World of Warcraft game advice websites that contained malware. Vulnerable computers would be infected through their web browsers, downloading a program that would then relay back account information. Blizzard's account support teams experienced high demand during this episode, stating that many users had been affected. Claims were also made that telephone support was closed for isolated periods due to the volume of calls and resulting queues. In April 2007, attacks evolved to take advantage of further exploits involving animated cursors, with multiple websites being used. Security researcher group Symantec released a report stating that a compromised World of Warcraft account was worth US$10 on the black market, compared to US$6 to US$12 for a compromised computer (correct as of March 2007). In February 2008, phishing emails were distributed requesting that users validate their account information using a fake version of the World of Warcraft account management pages. In June 2008, Blizzard announced the Blizzard Authenticator, available as a hardware security token or mobile application that provides two factor security. The token generates a one-time password based code that the player supplies when logging on. The password, used in addition to the user's own password, is only valid for a couple minutes, thus providing extra security against keylogging malware.
Blizzard makes use of a system known as Warden on the Windows version of the game in order to detect third-party programs, such as botting software, allowing World of Warcraft to be played unattended. There has been some controversy as to the legality of Warden. Warden uses techniques similar to anti-virus software in order to analyze other running software on the players' PCs, as well as the file system. However, unlike most anti-virus software, it sends a portion of this information back to Blizzard, which caused privacy advocates to accuse it of being spyware. One example of the information Warden collects is the title of every window open on the system while WoW is running. Blizzard has not stated what information is passed by Warden over the Internet, or if that information is encrypted, so it is entirely possible that this information is passed over the Internet back to Blizzard. On the other hand, many gamers responded positively to the development, stating that they supported the technology if it resulted in fewer cases of cheating. Blizzard's use of Warden was stated in the Terms of Agreement (TOA).
The Warden's existence was acknowledged in March 2008, during the opening legal proceedings against MDY Industries. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Arizona, and also listed Michael Donnelly as a defendant. Donnelly was included in the suit as the creator of MMO Glider, software that can automatically play many tasks in the game. Blizzard claimed the software is an infringement of its copyright and software license agreement, stating that "Glider use severely harms the WoW gaming experience for other players by altering the balance of play, disrupting the social and immersive aspects of the game, and undermining the in-game economy." Donnelly claims to have sold 100,000 copies of the $25 software.
On July 6, 2010, Blizzard Entertainment announced that on its forums for all games, users' accounts will display their real names tied to their accounts. Blizzard announced the change following an agreement with Facebook to allow Facebook to connect persons who choose to become friends to share their real identity (Real ID, as Blizzard calls the feature). The integration of the feature to the forums on the Blizzard Entertainment sites has raised concerns amongst fans of the many game series Blizzard has created over the years.
In response to the concerns, Blizzard released an updated statement on July 9, 2010, announcing that the Real ID integration with the official forums was being canceled.
Sale of virtual goods in the real world
As with other MMORPGs, companies have emerged offering to sell virtual gold and associated services. After Blizzard started offering free trial gameplay accounts, players noticed an increase in spamfrom bots advertising these services. One study shows that this problem is particularly prevalent on the European realms, with gold being over 14 times more expensive to buy on US realms than their European counterparts.
In patch 2.1, Blizzard responded to this by adding additional anti-spam mechanics including whisper throttling and the report spam function. Additionally, trial accounts are prevented from speaking in the public chat channels (although they may speak to players within range or whisper to other players that have first whispered to them), participating in in-game trades, and using the Auction House and the mail feature, among other limitations.
In May 2007, Blizzard filed a complaint against In Game Dollar LLC (trading as peons4hire) in US federal court. In February 2008, the parties filed a consent decree in which In Game Dollar agreed to refrain from using any World of Warcraft chat or communication to advertise any business or sell any services relating to World of Warcraft.
As characters progress in World of Warcraft and take on some of the toughest challenges, many of the rewards received are bound to that character and cannot be traded, generating a market for the trading of accounts with well-equipped characters. The highest noted World of Warcraft account trade was for £5000 (€7000, US$9,900) in early September 2007.
The practice of buying or selling gold in World of Warcraft has generated significant controversy. On February 21, 2008, Blizzard released a statement concerning the consequences of buying gold. Blizzard reported that an "alarmingly high" proportion of all gold bought originates from "hacked" accounts. The article also stated that customers who had paid for character leveling services had found their accounts compromised months later, with all items stripped and sold for virtual gold. The article noted that leveling service companies often used "disruptive hacks ... which can cause realm performance and stability issues".
In addition to playing the game itself and conversing on discussion forums provided by Blizzard, World of Warcraft players often participate in the virtual community in creative ways, including fan artwork and comic strip style storytelling.
Blizzard garnered criticism for its decision in January 2006 to ban guilds from advertising sexual orientation preferences. The incident occurred after several players were cited for "harassment" after advocating a group that was a gay-straight alliance. Blizzard later reversed the decision to issue warnings to players promoting LGBT-friendly guilds.
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