About a year ago, I came across a bundle of e-books on Humble Bundle by Boss Fights Books. At the time, I had no idea what these books were, what they entailed or who the authors were. I just knew that some of the games that were included in the bundle were Final Fantasy V, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound and World of Warcraft. That was enough for me, I bought them.
After a closer look, I found out that each book was a sort of personal chronicle of one game by a single author. Things like the games mechanics, or history, would be touched on to some degree, but it was largely about what that game meant to that particular author.
I started to dive into the World of Warcraft story, written by Daniel Lisi with the intention of reviewing it here. The further I got, the more I realized two things. The first, is that I felt like this book was not something I wanted to review. The stories that Daniel Lisi details are unique to himself. It feels disingenuous to criticize, or even praise his recollection.
The second thing I realized, is that Daniel’s experience largely mirrored my own. I didn’t go to the same extremes as he had. I didn’t lie to my parents and take off to a guild mates house for a weekend a few states away, but the pull that World of Warcraft held on me for a few years was something entirely relatable.
I wanted to take a stab at my own World of Warcraft story. It may not be as dramatic as Daniel’s experience, but I learned more about myself playing this video game than I ever realized while in the middle of that process as a teenager and young adult.
I’m going to break this down into a few sections. This section will go over the early stages of playing World of Warcraft all the way through dinging level 60 for the first time. Future sections will include raiding, the social aspect of guilds, bullying and overall conclusions.
Just as a side note, I usually try to be careful with the terminology used in my articles because I’m very aware that not everyone is as well versed, or a hardcore gamer. With World of Warcraft, it’s tough. I’m going to throw that out the window in some places. It’s not that important to know who a specific boss is or what a specific area means unless I go into further detail for context.
Alright then, the following is my experience with World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft released on November 23rd, 2004. At that time I was 17 years old, no girlfriend, though I had unknowingly been working with who would become just that a few months later. I was antisocial, had few close friends, and was picked on daily in school for being overweight.
Video games then, and even now for different reasons, were my escape. The world around me wasn’t compelling enough to keep my interest, so I fled to Hyrule, or Termina, or Mushroom Kingdom, or Sanctuary, or Azeroth instead. Besides new Nintendo releases here and there, Blizzard games had entirely taken over my gaming time. I had over a thousand hours into Diablo II, Starcraft: Brood War and Warcraft III combined by 2004.
The group of friends I did have shared a lot of those experiences. One friend in particular, played a lot of Diablo II with me, and we would have these magic find competitions. We would each do Mephisto runs over, and over, and over again and whoever found the item worth the most Stone’s of Jordan, won. We always invested equal time into the game, so there was never really a lopsided victor.
I still remember the days that he had his keyboard taken away from him for general behavior or low grades. Did that stop him from logging in to Diablo II after school? No. Instead, he opened a Word document, went onto the internet and found the letters of his password, pasted them in order in that document, then copied the entire password to type into Battle.net.
Life in general consisted of; wake up, go to school, go home, play Blizzard games until early morning, repeat. Warcraft III was of course in rotation with us. I remember the early days of ‘use map settings’ games such as Defense of the Ancients and more. We all knew that World of Warcraft was coming, and that all of us would be buying it and playing together.
Leading up to World of Warcraft, I had never played anything like it. I didn’t know, or care, what a MMO was, I just loved the Warcraft universe and Blizzard was a sure bet back then. To this day, I still throw on that first World of Warcraft cinematic that was released. It doesn’t even show the gameplay, but you knew it was going to be good. I didn’t realize back then how much the game would affect my life.
November 23rd, 2004 was a Tuesday. At 2:00pm, I got out of school. By 3:30pm I had purchased the game and headed back home. The next two hours included a riveting experience of swapping disks and staring at the installing bar, slowly watching the completion percentage creep up. Tuesday was a particularly bad day for World of Warcraft to release. I worked as a dishwasher at an old folks home from 5:00pm – 10:00pm that night, and that install time was not doing me any favors.
A half hour before needing to be at work, I was met with that glorious log in screen; the dark portal. I hopped on the agreed upon server by my friends and I, Archimonde, which was a Player vs. Player (PvP) server, and created my first MMO character, a human male Paladin named Kirov (inspired by Command & Conquer: Red Alert).
I recall two things from those first moments in the human starting area of Northshire Valley; the ridiculous amount of people, and dying. You have to remember that I had never played a MMO before. Playing games like Diablo II, you could just kill massive amounts of enemies at once, grab loot and move on. Attacking two boars as a vanilla release World of Warcraft Paladin as a player with zero experience in this genre was like a death knell ringing throughout that valley. After dying a few times, I understood the approach I needed to take. I completed a few quests then went off to work.
The Journey to Level 60
The next few days were a test of endurance. Servers were hardly up for an entire week and I could not have picked a worse class to begin my MMO journey than a paladin in World of Warcraft. It was sluggish, clunky and the opposite of what I was wanting to experience for hundreds of hours with my friends. I stuck with him though, at least for a little while. After a few months, I made a switch. Kirov, the noble defender of Azeroth would now occupy the top slot on my character select screen for years without getting much more play time.
Enter Neurotica, named after the Meshuggah song of the same name. My second attempt at a character was a female human shadow priest. Why did I choose this specific combination? I can’t remember. It was likely just as simple as the image of a female priest in shadow form looked much cooler and much more threatening than the male form. Looking back now, the idea of a shadow priest being threatening as a human is really just hilarious, but I’ll get into why that is later on when talking about PvP.
My experience completely flipped. I began having fun. Leveling was smooth and the game felt like it was opening up to me. I started soaking in as much as I could learn about the lore, professions, quest areas and everything else World of Warcraft had to offer.
Professions: While my friends were opting to take on expensive professions like Enchanting or Tailoring, I wanted to earn gold so that I could buy a mount. Herbalism would occupy hundreds of hours from this point forward and I genuinely loved every minute of it. My first real experience of this was in Loch Modan.
Loch Modan is a zone that is set up with two pieces of land on the left and right sides of a large loch. I would traverse to the East side of the map and look out for Mageroyal and Briarthron because there was a chance that Swiftthistle could drop from gathering those herbs. While Briarthorn sold decently on its own, Swiftthistle was the real money maker. I would often sell full stacks of Swifttistle for over 5 gold/stack. To compare, your first mount cost 100 gold between the actual mount and training to ride your mount at level 40. I had well over that amount by the time I hit level 40 because of my obsession with gathering herbs for hours on end.
Looking back on my World of Warcraft experience, gathering materials primarily through herbalism, mining and fishing became cathartic and it provided something to do when you just didn’t want to kill monsters or be stressed. Some of my fondest memories include the seemingly tedious task of running around maps for hours and filling your bags up with herbs.
Dungeons: Even though I was leveling as a shadow priest and taking mostly shadow tree skills, I opted to heal my group of friends in dungeons. Outside of myself as the healer, we had a Dwarf Warrior as a tank and three DPS slots consisting of a Dwarf Paladin, a second Dwarf Warrior (who commonly wielded a shovel ‘for fun’) and a Gnome Mage. This core group of five lasted for around a year before the shovel wielding warrior dropped off for greener pastures. The other four of us would play together for years.
This is really where my core World of Warcraft experience came from. We all went to high school together which gave us every opportunity to talk about the game, what we were doing, what we wanted to do and strategizing to maximize our characters. In game, we did everything from Battlegrounds to questing to dungeons and eventually to raiding.
I can still starkly remember those times that we “snuck” into Orgrimmar just to try Ragefire Chasm, the hours spent getting lost in the Wailing Caverns or tons of attempts to get the Robes of the Lich from Amnennar in Razorfen Downs.
PvP Server: Leveling to 60 was quite the experience as a human shadow priest. I largely felt defenseless and vulnerable, especially on a PvP server. Undead rogues became the bane of my existence every time I tried to log on and level.
Back then, priests basically had one main defensive maneuver called Psychic Scream. When an enemy or player is near you, hitting Psychic Scream causes them to run around without control for eight seconds. This would typically be enough time to get on your mount and run away, or join up with your friends if they were around. Unfortunately, all undead characters had a skill called Will of the Forsaken, which immediately removed that effect and allowed that player to reach you and kill you. This happened to me hundreds of times while playing as my priest and eventually was the catalyst to creating Doink, the Gnome Rogue, Horde Ganker, Bully, that I will talk about later.
Dinging 60: Eventually, after months of playing, we all reached level 60 in a similar time span. I remember taking a screenshot of when I hit level 60 to capture the moment, but after the great cleansing I went through a few years later, all of the screenshots I had were gone. I really wish I remember where I was for that first level 60, but it hasn’t come to me throughout this writing experience.
Knowing me, it was unceremonious and was probably somewhere in Eastern Plaguelands or Blackrock Spire while doing a quest. While hitting your first max level character is special, we all know that really, it was just the beginning.
The real World of Warcraft experience can now begin.
Next Sunday, I’ll be publishing Part II of this article; Molten Core and Beyond, where predictably I talk about Molten Core, raiding, friendship, Burning Crusade and more.
Thanks for reading.