World of Warcraft, Part 1

This series of posts writen for the Emerald Dream forums tries to walk through the design of World of Warcraft and Emerald Dream. We will explore how WoW is designed and where guilds fit into that design. We will also take a look at how guilds should be organized based on similarities to real world organizations. Finally, we will take a look at Emerald Dream and its structure with a focus on understanding why it is designed the way it is. Hopefully, by the end of this series, everyone will have a better understanding of how everything works and how they can best fit in. We want everyone to feel that they are part of a family.

The World of Warcraft is fairly large. It’s not as large as some other MMORPGs at this point, but it is also a lot younger. For it’s age, there’s a lot there. If you look at all of the areas, instances, professions, classes, and other content that Blizzard has put into the game, you will realize that only two areas remain for the guild to work towards right now: Onyxia and Molten Core. Everything else in the game is available to us for our progression. I don’t count the non-instanced world raid targets because they are not used for any progression. They would fit between Onyxia and MC, I think.

Each character in WoW begins at level 1 and is completed leveling at 60. Blizzard has designed the levels, instances, tradeskills, quests, and character skills so that they are balanced and complementary throughout the leveling phase of a character’s life. For example, you can make leather armor for a level 15 with recipes around a skill of 75 with leather that is skinned from beasts around level 15. The actual skill required might be a little higher to give people motivation to move on to the next levels, but the general idea holds. This is why it can be tedious to bring a skill up to par when it has languished for too many levels: you have to go back to lower levels with little or no experience gain to get the materials needed to bring the skill up.

While we are leveling, the game gives us a few skills or increases the power of those skills little by little so we can grow with them. The genius of Blizzard is that all the classes learn different skills at different times, yet remain relatively well balanced throughout the leveling phase. A group of five that can work through Blackfathom Deeps will be able to work through The Deadmines, Razorfen Kraul, Mauradon, and other instances as they level together.

It is important that you not try to bypass content in the game. Blizzard put it there for a reason: so you can know how to play your character well when you hit 60 and do the large targets such as Onyxia. Everything beforehand is training and preparation. Each instance has a lesson for you, be it how to manage your pet as a hunter, how to coordinate with others in the group, or how to recognize and handle particular types of mobs.

Battlegrounds are a wonderful place to learn your class inside and out. Even with all of the wonderful programming that Blizzard could throw at the mobs, they are all easily conquerable once the trick is figured out. People are not quite as easy. In battlegrounds, you have to rely on everything you have learned. You have to rely on your teammates. You have to be alert and ready for anything that might happen. You have to be looking outward and seeing everything that is going on, weighing potentials, making quick judgement calls. It gets the adrenaline rushing, but it’s also a place where you can learn quickly.

Once you hit 60, your leveling days are over. You no longer care about experience. You no longer learn any new skills, spells, or abilities. You no longer make new selections in your talent tree unless you redo it, for a fee. Now, you only do quests for the faction and awards. You only run instances to learn how to work in larger groups and get equipped for the next level of instances with larger groups, to get equipped for the next level of instances, which happen to be the 40 person raids (Onyxia, Molten Core).

Even at 60, there is a progression of instances to work through. You will want to begin in Scholomance or Stratholm, though the gear in Scholomance is better suited for those wanting to use it for Stratholm. The gear in Stratholm helps you when you are running Blackrock Depth and Lower Blackrock Spire. The equipment in LBRS helps when you run the Upper Blackrock Spire. Equipment from all of these will be helpful when going up against Onyxia or Molten Core. Skipping any of these can result in an underequipped character that is not contributing as much to the raid as they could be.

One of the other important differences between the time before level 60 and the time at level 60 is that there are a large number of quests that drive the character through the world. Once you hit level 60, a lot of those quests dry up. There’s no longer a new zone to go to. You’ve been to them all. The game does not provide a steady, fairly well-defined guide on what to do next. You have reached the point in the game where you are expected to find your own enjoyment in the game without relying on Blizzard as much as you did in the lower levels.

Looking back, we can see that the time before level 60 is similar to the time spent in childhood and early adulthood going through school and hopefully learning something that will help us later in life. Once we hit 60, we have graduated. We have left home. We don’t have parents telling us when we need to get up or go to bed, when to eat, or when to study. But we know that we need to continue to do those things, so we must discipline ourselves. We must find our own motivation for playing the game. We must realize where our weaknesses are and try to strengthen them.

When we begin joining the raids, we have taken the first step into our new employment after graduation. We hope we can remember all the lessons we learned. We realize that if we did, we’d fail because there’s never time to remember them and consciously apply them. We now must learn how to play by the seat of our pants: by gut, instinct, pure luck. We must learn how to work as part of a larger structure than our lab or homework group. We now realize that our success could depend on a lot of other people, and that a lot of other people might be depending on our success.

If we have joined an organized group of people by this point, which we would have in the real world, that organization would be the guild, which I will cover more in the next post.